It is not about money

FIRE and money

For the last couple of months I’ve read a lot of different FIRE blogs. From new, fresh ones, to pretty old-timers and iconic bloggers.

Unfortunately, almost every post I’ve read was about the same topic. And this topic was money.

Dah… FIRE stands for Finencial Independence Retire Early. What else can FIRE bloggers talk about?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind money. And I definitely don’t mind talking about money. But people tend to forget that money is just a tool for something else, something bigger.

It’s not about money.

Generally speaking the word “retirement” has its own negative aftertaste if you wish. People don’t like it. Plainly it means you’ve worked the whole life and now you’re old. I don’t like this word either.

Don’t live just for money

I’ve been living in Russia for the most of my life and in my motherland this word is even worse than a curse. It means you’re almost dead and living below the poverty level.

Early Retirement in addition to Financial Independence is different. It changes the whole aftertaste of this ugly and unpleasant word “retirement”, at least it does it for me. It changes the whole perspective of my life from “Have to” to “Want to”.

FIRE is not about money, no. Money is just a tool, that gives you FREEDOM. Freedom to chose.

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Smile and wave, boys! Smile and wave

To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing.
Elbert Hubbart*

I am really sorry but you will be criticized in your life. If you’re planning to do something different there will be people mocking, criticizing and hating you. This is the way of the world.

Some people will never be satisfied. No matter what you do it will be either too much or too little.

Learning from criticism

When I lived in Russia I heard these a lot, “Don’t stand out. Be like everyone!” or “You have nothing to do or what?

As soon as you start doing something different with your life, as soon as you start spreading the word, you will be attacked by critics. You’re a lucky person if the only critics you receive is the constructive one from your family and friends. At least these people have your best interest at heart. But even this can be painful and overwhelming too.

We are all different, and for some weird reasons I can easily deal with criticism coming from my friends and family. Maybe it is a sign of maturity.

You will be criticized and hated by people you have never heard about. Sometimes, even your friends and family get in on the action.

It’s easier, at least for me, to deal with those who have your best interest at heart. And I didn’t say it’s easy. I said it’s easier. Continue reading

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How much time do you spend in traffic?

In Soviet traffic…

It’s been always funny when local people (we live in San Francisco Bay Area) tell us that the traffic is awful. You have no idea how awful traffic looks like. While you’re in traffic here you are still moving and not stuck from bumper to bumper.

When we lived in Moscow (Russia) we used to spend from 1.5 to 3 hours in traffic every day. And I mean IN TRAFFIC, where you car is moving with the speed of a turtle and you have no other options.

45 minutes from home to work wasn’t that bad.

After we got married we rented an apartment in the outskirt of Moscow. Every morning we had to spend 40 minutes to 1 hour to commute to work. And every evening we had to spend the same amount of time to commute back home.

OK, let me explain you something. I don’t know about other cities in Russia, but in Moscow standard average travel time from home to work is 1 hr. It’s an average. That means someone spends less and someone more.

We were average people, spending average time in traffic. There was at least one benefit: we could read a lot of books while we used public transportation. Continue reading

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A story about one financial mistake

I am not that smart as I used to think

Have you been in a situation when you thought you did something smart, but it ended up pretty stupid?

Oh, you have done it as well. Nice, I am not the only one.

When I started working on this post my original plan was to tell you about smart decision we made last February. But after all calculations it turned out to be not so smart anymore. So, I had only two options here:

  1. Delete draft and pretend this has never happened. – Bad choice.
  2. Write a new post, tell you about our mistake, and learn the lesson. – Good, but painful.

In reality though, I had only one option – write this post and tell you the whole story.

Rent in Silicon Valley

We live in one of the most expensive area in the country. Area, where you can see more Teslas on the streets than regular cars. Area, where millionaires usually wear T-shirt and flip-flops instead of a business suit.

We live in Silicon Valley.

You know the rent situation is bad when your colleagues and friends share this video with you.

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Living The American Dream – Millionaire Before 50

The United States has always attracted people from all over the world. It’s been a dream land for many. People come to America every day in hope for better life for themselves and their families. All these families have a unique reason for immigration but at the same time they have a lot in common.

This blog is my story, a first generation immigrant from Russia. But there are also a lot of  other immigrants with interesting stories and  I would like to share them with you.

Today I would like to introduce you Menard a 45 years old immigrant from Philippines.

Menard blogs over at and has a lot of stories to share with all of us. My favorite post are What 20 years in America has taught me about money and Rich Mom, Poor Dad: a tribute to my mom who saved us all

I asked Menard if he would like to be the first  featured person in my series of posts and surprisingly he said yes.*

immigrant millionaire

Way to go, Menard! Way to go!

Without further ado then, let’s start our interview.

Introduce yourself and tell us about your blog.

Millionaire Before 50 himself

My name is Menard. I’m a 45 years old software engineer who blogs semi-anonymously @ It’s a blog about getting rich through sound handling of personal finances. My niche is dual-income immigrant families with kids and regular jobs.

I picked the domain name because it’s S.M.A.R.T. — The name is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based. Being a millionaire before the age of 50 is a realistic and achievable goal for most people.

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Don’t let your past define your future.

What about your future?
Charles Kettering future

Can you answer just one question? What does you future look like? We all dream sometimes about the future and think how great it would be to learn or do something, like learn how to play tennis or a musical instrument. Or something like this, “It would be awesome to become FI in 10 years”.

And then this “but” word comes with all the excuses you can imagine:

  • Yes, but I don’t have these skills.
  • Yes, but I’ve never done it before.
  • Yes, but I have tried and it hadn’t worked, so I will fail again.
  • Yes, but I am not given this.
  • Yes, but etc*.

All this excuses come from our past. Why is that? Why does your past define your future?

Have you ever been in a situation like this: you wake up in the morning, and  just opened your eyes. You see your spouse lying next to you. It’s morning, she is slipping and hasn’t said a word to you but you already feel something to her. And this something comes from your past. You had a great evening and night yesterday; you fall asleep together and it was great – you feel love and tenderness. Or maybe you had a huge fight, maybe you had a big argument last night about something. You open your eyes and see her, and immediately your feeling would be completely different. All these feelings also came to you from you past.

That’s how almost all the people live. They live in the present that came from their past. And their future is nothing but the reflection of their past decisions. Their past defines their future.

Our past controls our present and future

This scheme shows that your present was defined by your past. And your current present defines or forms your future. It’s like sitting on a train that goes from point A to point B and there’s no way to get somewhere else. You final destination is already known and projected at the beginning of your journey. Continue reading

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May 2017 Net Worth Update – $111,013.60

Disclaimer about our Net Worth
We don’t have any deb, non whatsoever. But we use credit cards to earn some miles and get signup bonuses; we paid the whole balance every month. We own a car and a motorcycle, but we do not include the value of these vehicles in our Net Worth. The same for our kids 529s.

May 2017 Update

Welcome to our May 2017 Net Worth update. This is the second time when we are sharing our underwear financial status, and I am still a little bit nervous.

May was a great month for us. The biggest and most important thing that happened in May was my baptism. It was a big a serious decision for me because I had been “baptized” before being a 6 month old baby in a Russian Orthodox church. I’m from a place where evangelical churches (Baptist churches especially) have been persecuted all the time, and word “evangelical” was and still is identical to “sect”, it took me almost 3 years to take this step. And on May 21st, 2017 it happened, I was baptized in the name of the Lord. Hooray.

In April we moved from an apartment to a duplex that has a small, tiny-tiny backyard. It’s really small, but enough to plant some greens & vegetables and we Mrs. FR did. I was reluctant to this idea just because it required some initial investments aka spendings for tools, soil fertilizers and seeds. But my wife, being a wise woman, did it anyway. And now we are growing 5 tomatoes (one of them is volunteer), couple of bell peppers (also volunteers), cucumbers, greens and daisies.

Do you see these tomato cages? I got them for free.

May and the whole summer is usually pretty crazy at work. May was the last month before WWDC. Thousands of people have been working really hard to make the fellow Apple fans and app developers happy and excited about the new features for iOS, MacOS and WatchOS.

And I almost forgot about my 4 years “Ameri-versary”. Yes, it’s been 4 years since I’ve come to the States. You can read a story about my first paycheck in America.

Net Worth Update

And now it’s time for our net worth update. Since April 2017 we made significant progress and our Net Worth became $111,013.60 (+8,676.38) Continue reading

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How to budget the Russian way

Everyone needs a budget.

family budget

Recently I wrote a post You Need A Budget where I explained why you need a budget for every month for the rest of your life.

A couple of weeks ago I had an after lunch conversation with my colleague about money, budgeting and investment. I love this type of conversations as you can learn a lot even from broke people too. When I asked him about their groceries budget his answer was, “I don’t know yet. I have to check”.

What do you mean you have to check?”, – I asked him back?, “Don’t you budget for groceries as well?” After a series of questions and answers the picture became clearer. It turned out that by the end of every month my colleague launches his Mint account and checks how much money he has spent on groceries, housing, transportation etc*

There should have been one of these “In Soviet Russia…” jokes, but I couldn’t come up with anything.

I do understand that every person can have his own way of budgeting – whatever works the best. But at the same time, I think checking your spending afterwords and calling this budgeting isn’t right. Why? Just because you spent it already, the money are gone, what’s the point?

Budget like Russians.

Mrs. FR and I decided to share with you our way for budgeting: lets do it the Russian way. Are you ready?

In Soviet Russia you don’t mess up with budgets. Budget messes up with you.

In our family we live on a previous month income. What does it mean? It means that for May budget, for example, we used our April income. For this June budget we’ve used money we earned in May. Why is that? There are two reason why we budget this way:

  1. It makes our emergency fund even stronger.
  2. Nobody knows what’s going to happen, and nobody knows how much money you’ll take home this month. You could be fired and instead of bringing $4,000 you will bring $2,000 only and your budget will become a mess.

Budgeting this way a little bit harder, because in the beginning you have to save up enough to cover your future expenses for the whole month. But after you’d got that money saved, it becomes much easier and more convenient. Continue reading

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First paycheck in the States

Today I’d like to tell you a story about my first paycheck in the States.

I landed in Los Angeles on May 31st, 2013 (Yay, it’s been exactly 4 years). There I went through immigration process and took a flight to San Francisco. It’s been 4 years since we moved to the States and people still ask me if it was scary to move to the new country, and there’s no simple answer for that.

This plane brought me to the States

I remember the very first feeling of fear:  I was sitting on a plane that was about to take off and even greater feeling of fear came. I finally realized that we had sold everything and I am flying to a new country. The country where we don’t have anyone and anything, the country where people speak the language I barely know. Honestly if I had a chance I would have jumped out of the plane, but I hadn’t.

I arrived on Friday and on the next Monday, June 3rd I started Software Quality Assurance courses that I had found while had been in Russia. My plan was to take these course and find a job in 3 months. Why 3 moths? Because we had money for 3 months only.  And if I wouldn’t find a job we would have been in trouble.

Back in 2013 I even had hair

First two months were crazy, I spent 14 hours at the school every day. Came home at midnight, did my homework until 1AM and went to bed exhausted and excited at the same time. 

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Pay yourself first! What do you mean?

I have to confess. It’s serious and I hope you will support me. I have been living in the States for almost 4 years and I still don’t understand the concept of “Your mama” jokes. I mean, I understand them and sometimes they are funny, but I still can’t use them appropriate and in time.

There are a lot of things I either don’t understand or don’t know where and how to use them. Being an immigrant with pure poor English I can tell you a lot of funny stories that have happened with me; as I call them “lost in translation” stories. But today I would like to talk about one figure of speech all of us have heard bazillion times.

Pay Yourself First

I couldn’t grasp the meaning of this saying for a long time. I was asking myself, “What do they mean by saying this?” When I got a paycheck I was making sure that I am taking care about four walls of necessities first:

  • Groceries – you can’t leave without food
  • Utilities – you need water and electricity in your house
  • Rent/Mortgage – you need a place to live
  • Transportation – you need to go to and from work. We realized really quick that public transportation sucks. At least in our area.

After covering these expenses I was trying to set aside as much for investment as possible:

  • Roth IRAs – We were aiming to maxing out two Roth IRA in 2017 year.
  • Kids 529 accounts – $175 for each kid goes directly to 529 account
  • Taxable Investment – Saving for a house was and still is a big priority for us; $25,000 saved so far.

And only after doing these I was covering other expenses. And every month, I am not exaggerating here, every month preparing a budget I was thinking about this holy grail of personal finance – pay yourself first. Until the last week, when it hit on my regular afternoon walk.

Pre-tax investments/withdrawals

As a Christian and US-Resident I believe that our duty is to make sure we pay as less taxes as possible. And of course I am talking about legal ways only. My main responsibility is to make sure Uncle Sam gets less money from me and I and my family get more.

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