This Former Engineer Retired At 33 With Zero Passive Income Streams And His Net Worth Nearly Doubled In Six Years

Justin McCurry doesn’t like much on his schedule. At most, he sets one thing to do a day. On Monday, that might be volunteering. On Wednesday, it’s likely grocery shopping. On Friday, there’s a good chance he’ll be playing tennis with his wife.

The rest of the time? It’s up to him. Pursuing a hobby, playing video games, doing yard work. It’s not the typical schedule for a 39 year-old with three kids. But that’s what McCurry has done since officially retiring as a transportation engineer in 2013.

In about a decade, he and his wife, Kaisorn, saw their portfolio balloon from a few thousand dollars to $1.3 million, yet neither of them had a job that paid close to six figures. And what’s particularly unusual about McCurry’s journey: He never had a passive income stream – other than his investment portfolio – that helped buffer his paycheck, boosting his ability to save. Instead, he did it all through cutting back and finding intelligent ways to squeeze savings, without sacrificing his lifestyle.

“I realized I had more paycheck than expenses,” said McCurry. “I just knew that saving money was probably a good thing,” as he tried to figure out what to do with the leftover funds each month.

When bloggers and FIRE (financially independent, retire early) voices talk about stepping away from the day job in their 30s and 40s, it’s also often coupled with side gigs that bring in dough, such as real estate or businesses that they built. It serves as a much-welcomed security blanket when managing a retirement that could stretch 50 years or more. For McCurry, though, it wasn’t about passive income streams or growing a sizable real estate portfolio. From 2004 to 2013, he and his wife lived on one income while essentially stashing away the other.

In the meantime, they had three kids, bought a house and have traveled the world.

Don’t Get Overwhelmed by the Size of It All

When McCurry first started saving, he looked at how long he would need to retire, and came up with a number that would let him step away from the job 20 years later. Even though he never was a big spender, the number seemed daunting.

“Knowing I would have to chug away for a decade or two,” said McCurry, “it’s almost like a pie in the sky.”

It made it difficult for him to see the benefits at first because that number was so large and the timeframe so long. This isn’t much different than when people set out for retirement on 40-year timeframes.

Researchers have found that the more someone connects with their future-self, meaning can view their future self with the same empathy and concern as their current self, the more they will save.

This ability to connect with the future self may be easier on this shortened timeframe. But it’s not guaranteed.

For McCurry, it became easier to handle as he continued to refine his plan, saving more than he and his wife ever expected they could. Then, after a few years, he started seeing the impact of compound interest.

He would place around $60,000 in the portfolio in a year, while the investments would return $100,000. McCurry soon realized that his 20-year plan had shrunk in half.

Cut Your Taxes

One of the most important ways McCurry saved was on taxes. At one point, he took the family’s joint income of $150,000, and managed to realize a tax hit of just $150.

His wife maxed out her 401k as well, while also doing the same in a health savings account and a flexible spending account. He then used a series of deductions, from the standard one to exemptions to child credits to reduce that income line to $28,950, leaving just a $150 tax liability.

McCurry took the approach that the tax breaks providing a discount to his savings. At the time, he would invest around $60,000 a year in tax-advantaged accounts. With that money, he locked in about $15,000 in tax breaks. That $60,000 investment, in actuality, only cost him around $45,000 if you count the tax break.

“It’s a little easier to save $45,000 versus $60,000,” McCurry said.

Design For the Worst Case Scenarios

One reason that McCurry’s timeframe shifted from 20 years to 10, despite lacking an additional income source, was simply because of the amount of buying he did when times looked bleak in 2007 through 2009.

He’s not like many in the FIRE world, constantly checking the portfolio, feeling the joy as the dollars increased, bringing him one step closer to quitting the day job. Instead, he mostly checks the accounts once a quarter, figuring out where he stands and if he needs any adjustments to his contributions.

“The last quarter in 2007, I noticed huge drops in our net worth,” remembered McCurry.

It didn’t deter him.

“I put as much as I could into the stock market each month, knowing I’m buying these shares at half or a third from where they were,” he added. “It was a buying opportunity of a lifetime.”

When the stocks began to turn in 2009, then his net worth went into hyper-drive. Since stepping away with $1.3 million, he’s now worth over $2.1 million, largely due to the fact that he now earns a little income from his blog, (which means he doesn’t have to tap as much investment income) and the performance of his investments through a decade-long bull run.

But McCurry is savvy enough to realize the market will pull back at some point.

That’s where he taps his engineering muscle. As an engineer, you always prepare for the worst-case scenario. If what you’re building works under that scenario, then it will work, theoretically, in all other cases. When he looks at his portfolio, if the market drops 40%, then it would reach the levels he started with when he first retired.

He might spend a little less, but with a 3.25% rate of withdrawal from his investments, his family would be “totally fine,” he said.

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I’ve written about personal finance for Fortune, MONEY, CNBC and many others. I also authored The Everything Guide to Investing in Cryptocurrencies.

Source: This Former Engineer Retired At 33 With Zero Passive Income Streams And His Net Worth Nearly Doubled In Six Years


10 Things Successful Entrepreneurs Never Tolerate

10 Things Successful Entrepreneurs Never Tolerate

Successful people do things differently. If you study those who excel in business, you’ll find a whole litany of common characteristics. These traits help put them on a path to success by creating positive habits. Successful people dare to dream. They dare to venture outside of their comfort zone, and they push themselves — and those around them — to new heights.

But did you ever stop to think about the things successful people don’t do? This list is just as important. Detrimental behaviors can counteract all those positive traits and turn them into a negative.

For instance, successful people are known for being hardworking risk-takers who find inspiration in the world around them. They are also known to be voracious readers. But what happens if those people allow themselves to become mired in anger, stymied by inaction or wrapped up in toxic relationships? They flounder.

To help you truly understand what gives a high-achieving entrepreneur that edge, here are the 10 things successful people never tolerate in themselves and in those around them.

1. Inaction.

Successful entrepreneurs don’t sit around on their butts. They would never tolerate inertia, nor would they allow themselves to linger in their comfort zone. They are constantly striving toward something. Successful people are rarely bored, because they are always exploring something new.

Apathy and laziness will drag you down like a rock tied to your leg in the middle of a lake. Successful entrepreneurs know that time is the most valuable resource they have because it is not renewable. Life is too short to waste in inaction or being a couch potato. True leaders focus on what they can do, right now, and how they can keep moving forward.

2. Being average.

Successful entrepreneurs never settle for being ordinary — they are constantly pushing themselves to reach new goals. Simply put, mediocrity is never acceptable. Successful people aren’t looking for a routine life; they rail against monotony and always strive to keep things fresh and interesting. Often this means they are always making changes to their routine.

Even small changes can get the brain going and spur creativity. They are constantly looking for ways to rise above the humdrum and the familiar. They are looking to push boundaries, and they have the flexible mindset to do so. They are willing to make tough choices and put in the hard work to reach beyond the mundane and attain their dreams.

 3. Habitual negativity.

Those who are focused on achieving success do not waste time complaining and they have no tolerance for whining and negativity in others. Successful entrepreneurs avoid negativity because they know it will only hold them back in the long run. Nothing good comes from complaining.

Bellyaching is pointless unless you actually do something about it. If you don’t like something, find a way to change it. Take charge of a situation and find a solution or workaround. Negativity only wastes time and creates a toxic environment, neither of which is constructive.

4. Giving up (at least not without a fight).

People who give up too quickly or don’t have the grit to stick with something often don’t believe in themselves. However, successful entrepreneurs know that you don’t always have to be the most talented, richest or smartest person in the room.

You can be all of those things and never achieve your end goals. What matters is persistence. Having the perseverance to keep plodding away will take you further than anything else. One must be willing to persist in the face of adversity and be willing to commit to long-term goals. Successful leaders expect nothing less from themselves and those around them.

5. Dishonesty

Successful people understand the importance of living an honest and authentic life. Dishonesty clouds reality and judgment, and ultimately impedes your ability to make good decisions. In the broader picture, dishonesty is often a succession of small compromises that eventually cause you to devalue those things you hold dear.

This goes hand in hand with a refusal to tolerate situations or people that compromise your integrity. When you live with compromised integrity, or allow people into your life or business who have questionable practices or business ethics, it can slowly chip away at your self-respect and eat away at your principles.

6. Toxic relationships.

If the people you are with are belligerent and difficult, dragging you down with hostility, then you are wasting valuable energy and emotional resources on them. Successful people don’t allow themselves to become mired in toxic relationships. They keep their focus firmly on solving problems.

If they have to deal with a negative or toxic personality, they learn to rise above and take control of the situation. They set boundaries. They distance themselves. They redirect conversations or simply ignore negative people. Those who are focused on achieving success know they don’t have the time or energy to deal with complainers or get sucked into a negative emotional spiral.

7. Wastefulness.

Slackers are never successful. This is because they waste time, money and energy. It takes hard work over the long haul to achieve success. There is no room for undisciplined or wasteful practices. Unhealthy habits will weigh you down and ultimately add to your stress level. Successful people avoid careless, extravagant or destructive practices, because they know such habits throw valuable resources down the drain.

Clean up the clutter, get yourself organized and only keep the things you use. You will feel more capable, clearheaded and energetic if you practice healthy habits, such as eating well, getting enough sleep and keeping your work and living space organized.

8. Bloated sense of self-pride.

It’s nearly impossible to achieve true success if you believe the world revolves around you. Self-centered people lose their effectiveness because they believe everything is about them. Successful people stay humble and open-minded. They know the focus needs to stay on their business, their customers and the quality of their product.

Remember, there is a difference between having a bloated sense of self-pride and having confidence in yourself, your abilities and your team. People who are arrogant have lost the ability to see their own flaws. They are misguided because they believe they are better than the rest but are not necessarily willing to put in the work to support that belief.

Confident and self-reliant entrepreneurs have worked tirelessly to understand their business so that they can make informed decisions and take action, but they are still able to listen to others and hear other points of view.

9. Ambivalence and indecision.

How many successful entrepreneurs do you know who would be described as confused or indecisive? None. That’s because successful people know that nothing will sabotage your career or your life like indecision. Successful people recognize that hesitation will kill their business. There simply isn’t room to be ambivalent about your goals. Successful people do not have time or patience for those who dwell in uncertainty.

To achieve success, you must put aside fear and doubt. You must pick a course and stick to it. You will likely deal with failure and adversity along the way. Successful people learn from those mistakes and correct their course, but they always keep going.

10. Acting out of anger.

Anger, hatred and animosity — these emotions are paralyzing, overwhelming and toxic to a work environment. We all feel these emotions at times, but successful people learn to focus the energy of their anger on fixing a problem. If they are feeling anger or annoyance, they do something to fix the situation.

They do their best not to take it out on those around them. No one wants to be a human punching bag. No one wants to bear the brunt of someone’s resentment or rage. Successful people expect more from themselves and would never tolerate that kind of behavior from those around them.

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