Are You A Financial Tough Guy?

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I know a Financial Tough Guy.  He just pulled off an early retirement last year, and made some real “tough guy” moves to make it happen.  GeoArbitrage!?  Yep, he and his wife did it, moving from high priced New York to low priced Charlotte, NC to be able to retire early.  Pretty tough.

He and his wife write about their Groovy Life of financial toughness over at Freedom Is Groovy, and I consider them friends.  Today, Mr. Groovy shares some reflections on how he became a Financial Tough Guy.  His words are worth reading, written as they are in his “oh so groovy” and unique way of writing.

The Good Rats as a model of Financial Independence?  You’ll only see that from someone as groovy as Mr. Groovy himself.  The ultimate hippy financial tough guy.  Enjoy!


Reflections of a Financial Tough Guy

When I was growing up on Long Island in the late 1970s, my favorite band was a local bar band called the Good Rats. And without a doubt, my favorite Rat song was Tough Guys. If you care to listen to the song that greatly stimulated my fifteen-year-old brain, here it is.

For those of you too busy to listen, or not interested in hearing rats singing….here’s the relevant chorus:

Tough guys,
Always been my kind of man,
Doin’ the things that I can’t,
Tough guys.

Admittedly, the Rats aren’t for everyone. But look at it from the perspective of a fifteen-year-old Long Island boy. The band was named after rodents. The lead singer was a guy called Peppi Marchello. And they freakin’ had a great song about something a lot of fifteen-year-old boys aspired to be—tough guys.

I certainly wanted to be a tough guy. I loved the big-screen tough guys—Eastwood, De Niro, Stallone, Douglas, and George C. Scott. I loved the real-life tough guys too—Jack LambertJack TatumJoe FrazierWillis Reed, and Dave Schultz. But the town I grew up in wasn’t exactly conducive to honing one’s grit. It was way too idyllic. No vice. No poverty. No hoodlums. Just a lot of nice Jewish kids prepping for the SAT.

Of course, I could have become a tough guy.

But becoming a tough guy in such a benign environment seemed rather pointless. I didn’t want to lord over future accountants and dentists. I wanted to right wrongs. I wanted to clobber the bad guys. So I just had to face reality. My environment conspired against me. My dreams of becoming a tough guy were never going to be fulfilled.

Or were they?

The Birth of a Financial Tough Guy

Once I moved down to Charlotte ten years ago, something changed. As my financial security grew, my financial timidity waned.

The first indication of this came in 2008 when Mrs. G. and I bought our 2004 Camry from a dealership. After agreeing upon a price, and after informing the salesperson I would be paying cash, I did something I never would have done back in New York. I told the salesperson that when I came to pick up the car, two things were going to happen. I was going to hand him a check, and he was going to hand me the keys. That’s it. I didn’t want to waste my time with another guy at the dealership trying to sell me a warranty I didn’t want. I then told him that those terms weren’t negotiable, and if he couldn’t make it happen, I would take my business elsewhere. He made it happen. Cash talks.

My financial timidity waned. I did things I've never done before. Cash Talks. Click To Tweet

A couple of years after buying the Camry, our back-up vehicle, a 1997 Jeep, began having issues with its horn. It wouldn’t work. And apparently a vehicle can’t pass a state inspection without a functioning horn. So I took it to a mechanic and he told me it would cost over a $1,000 to fix. And, again, I did something I never would have done back in New York. Because I never owned two vehicles before! I told the mechanic, “Screw it. I’m not spending a thousand bucks to fix a horn. I’d rather sell the Jeep for parts.” I thanked the mechanic for his time and turned to exit the shop. But before I got to the door, that $1,000 repair bill suddenly dropped to $300. He miraculously found a used version of the part he needed for the repair. Imagine that.

I Go Bold!

From 2012 on, my financial boldness really picked up. It started soon after I read a book called Wired For War. The book had mentioned two cutting-edge companies: Aerovironment (drones) and iRobot (robots). I looked up their stock prices and saw they were both trading for under $20. I brought this to the attention of Mrs. Groovy and suggested that they might make a nice speculative trade. She agreed and we invested an insane amount in each company: $25,000. It was absurd. But I didn’t care. I had a two-year emergency fund and was more than half way to the Mustachean Threshold. And in the end, it all worked out. A year later, both stocks had doubled in price and Mrs. Groovy and I walked away with a $55K capital gain.

In 2013 my company closed the Charlotte office. It allowed me to work remotely because it didn’t know what the heck I did. In 2014, it wanted to know. So every month I would fly to Dallas and show the programmers what I did. I knew I was a dead man walking, but I didn’t care. In fact, when they couldn’t figure out how to write the SQL code to transfer the final component of my job to Dallas, I spent a weekend writing it for them.

Again, I was super cooperative and super helpful because I didn’t care. My emergency fund was just as robust and I was even closer to the Mustachean Threshold. But my co-workers in Dallas didn’t know that. They thought I was the coolest guy around. After all, I was helping them build the gallows to hang me. And because they admired my intrepidness, they were determined to help me. Two weeks before my last day, they got wind of an opening in our company’s Midwest region. A week later I was flown to Chicago for an interview. A day after the interview, I was offered the job. My new boss told me she never heard such glowing reviews.

Just before I started flying to Dallas on a monthly basis, I got another stock idea. While surfing the net, I came across an article in the MIT Technology Review about an impending lithium shortage. I then did a little online research and discovered a publicly traded lithium concern in Nevada called Western Lithium. It was trading for $0.17 a share. I brought the MIT Technology Review article and Western Lithium to the attention of Mrs. Groovy and suggested that Western Lithium might do even more for our net worth than Aerovironment and iRobot did. She agreed. So over the course of 2014 and 2015, we threw nearly $24K at Western Lithium. We now own 72,000 shares of a penny stock, which is freakin’ nuts. But right now I look like a genius. Western Lithium has since merged with an Argentinian lithium company and is now called Lithium Americas. It’s trading at $0.78 a share.

Let me conclude with one more financial swashbuckling story.

About a month ago, I was getting the tires on the Camry replaced, and the mechanic told me that the engine mounts were close to failure and needed to be replaced. He also told me the job would cost over a thousand dollars. I immediately said no. I didn’t even know what the eff engine mounts were. They weren’t getting replaced. When they blew up, I would get a new car.

Now, I realize that driving around with ready-to-explode engine mounts isn’t nearly as daring as throwing $24K at unproven lithium miners. But I included this story because this was when it finally hit me:

I am a tough guy.

Not a tough guy in a pugilistic sense, but in a pecuniary sense. I am a FINANCIAL TOUGH GUY. My emergency fund and growing net worth have allowed me to grow one impressive set of cojones.

I am a financial tough guy. My emergency fund and growing $$ have allowed me to grow some.... Click To Tweet

So hooray for me. A childhood dream has been realized. And, now, whenever I hear Peppi belt out the following lines, I know he’s singing about me.

“Tough guys. Always been my kind of men. Just doing the things that I can’t.”

Final Thoughts

Okay, let’s be real. Telling a mechanic that I’m not going to replace the engine mounts is not nearly as cool as beating the crap out of some bully. I get that. But at this point in my life, I’m taking it. It’s the closest I’m getting to being a real tough guy.

And don’t worry about my tough-guy status going to my head. I know my place. In fact, I’m not even the toughest member of the household. That distinction easily belongs to Mrs. Groovy. When the markets dropped five percent over two days last week after the Brexit vote, I suggested to Mrs. Groovy that it was probably a good time to move $10K out of cash and into the market. Without hesitation, Mrs. Groovy said:

“Wimp. Put $20K in.”

 

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29 comments

  1. Great stories!

    IT is indeed true that with increase net worth, you can become more boldly in everything you do.

    A few weeks ago, Ms ATL actually negotiated a 10 pct discount on our new glasses and got thrown in a free sunglass for me… Nice move…

    1. It never hurts to negotiate from a position of strength, as Ms ATL so amply demonstrated. Just another reason why living paycheck-to-paycheck is so detrimental to one’s long term financial health. Kudos to you and Ms ATL. It’s always great hearing from other financial tough guys. Cheers.

  2. When the engine mounts go you’ll feel it in the form of significantly increased vibration in the front end along with potentially a pull of the car in the direction of the mount.

    I tend to think of myself as a financial tough guy each time I win out on a negotiation for a lower cost from a big company. That being said the true sign for me is pushing work for a pay raise. That’s next on the list this year.

    1. Thanks for the engine mount tip. It was diagnosed with that problem two inspections ago. No sign of an increased vibration or a pull yet. Oddly, enough, when I got the Camry inspected by the same mechanic a few months ago, he said nothing about the engine mounts. Oh, well. I’ll continue to take my chances. All I want is another three years out of Lucy. Good luck on the pay raise, my friend. Although something tells me your boss know you’re a financial tough guy and he won’t mess with you. Keep us posted.

  3. Nice! We too have had success walking away from things like car negotiations. When you’re paying cash, you are painfully aware that it is your money, and if it’s not right, we respectfully leave. No drama. Often the dealer calls back about a week later amazingly able to meet our price.

    1. “When you’re paying cash, you are painfully aware that it is your money, and if it’s not right, we respectfully leave.”

      What a great quote. And what a great realization. It’s amazing how powerful it is to know what you want and what you’re not willing to sacrifice for it. Once you develop this mindset/skill, you’re the one in control. Salespeople, as you so amply demonstrated, usually come crawling back to you with their tails between their legs. Nice job, Jen. I love it.

  4. The most powerful word in negotiation is “no”. No explanation. Just ….. “no”. Politely, of course.

    It has amazed me that being close to FI (in ways, I am….but I continue to work as it allows me to do some fun stuff…)….opens up so much.

    “We need you to work this weekend…” (in a former life, under contract…I had to…now….”no”.)

    “You must take call”……(now…”no”.)

    Amazingly, they still call and want me…and I go, on my terms.

    1. Ah, the power of no. I think it was Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby, who came up with the “f**k yeah!” decision tool. Unless he was really excited about a proposition, be it business or otherwise, he would say “no.” Sadly, I came to this philosophy rather late in life. And as you have discovered, you can say “no” a lot and still be liked, still be needed. Love your style, planedoc. It’s always great hearing from people who live life on their terms. Bravo, my friend.

    2. Hey Planedoc, I negotiate professionally for a living, and your comment is spot on: “The most powerful word in negotiation is “no”. No explanation. Just ….. “no”.

      It’s amazing how, even among people who negotiate for a living, that simple technique still proves incredibly powerful, and hard to overcome for the other side of the table. Great advise, Tough Guy!

  5. Great story. Just shows what financial security does for you. It allows you to take more risks if you want to without the fear of it really hurting you. If those stock picks didn’t work out, you still would have been fine. But they did and you were able to take a chance on them because you were financially secure. Nice work and thanks for sharing.

    1. Without a doubt, GFY. If you’re the least bit curious or driven, you’ll soon discover that there’s opportunity all around you. The real secret sauce is having the ability to take advantage of that opportunity. Those mired in debt and living paycheck-to-paycheck will have less opportunity to take advantage of opportunity. Those with little debt and lots of savings will confront so much actionable opportunity their heads will spin. I could be wrong, but I truly believe this is the main reason the rich get richer. It’s not so much that the system is rigged in their favor–although a convincing case could be made for that argument–it’s because they have the means to seize the opportunities they come across and take risks. This is just one more reason that any sentient adult American should be pursuing financial independence. Thanks for stopping by, GFY. I really appreciate your thoughts.

  6. The feeling of having an emergency fund can’t be overestimated! I find the psychology of your co-workers endorsing you as the ultimate in positive proof. That must have been real fun.

    Well played and inspiring to hear. Let everyone know that Mr. and Mrs. G. are not to be messed with!

  7. Nice to see you here Mr G! I find that we are normally hesitant whenever we are doing something for the first time, we tend to think of what could go wrong, especially in the markets. However after the first try at doing this new stuff, it gets easier after that. I’m definitely not a financial tough guy yet, still working hard to get there!

  8. I couldn’t agree more. The Mr and I have a totally different mindset now that we are on our way to FI. Rather than feeling forced to spend time or money on things, we now have control and decide when something is worth spending time or money on. Its empowering! Financial Tough Guys and Gals Unite!!

  9. Nothing like being called a wimp by your lady! 😉 I love that Mrs. G is pushing you to throw more in – knowing you have her behind you makes you more of a tough guy…even in the non financial sense!!

  10. Great job on overcoming your fears. I find that fears are usually over exaggerated, yet we ignore the fears the risks that already surround us in everyday life and underestimate those risks.

  11. This is a really good article. I could certainly take some lessons from here. I’ve gotten better at dealing with questionable repairs at the mechanics over the years and just recently turned down a $1000 offer to fix my fuel gauge which no longer works in my 2008 Sante Fe with over 130K miles on it. Certainly more room for improvement on my part.

    Good luck on the penny stock. Hope it goes to $5!!

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