Sean Cooper Guest Post: How I Paid Off My Mortgage In Just 3 years

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FIRECracker is Canada's youngest retiree. She used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, but instead of drowning in debt, she rejected home ownership. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her and her husband to retire at 31 and travel the world. Their story has been featured on CBC, the Huffington Post, CNBC, BNN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. To date, it is the most shared story in CBC history and their viral video on CBC's On the Money has garnered 4.5 Million views.
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In the spirit of spot-lighting people who made it by buying real-estate, I’d like to present to you, fellow Torontonian and expert hustler, Sean Cooper.

Sean first caught the attention of the media, by paying off his $255,000 mortgage in just 3 years by working 3 jobs and living frugally.

Now he’s hard at work on his book “Burn Your Mortgage: The Simple, Powerful Path to Financial Freedom”, coming to bookstore near you on March 1, 2017.

Take it away, Sean!

sean-cooper-mortgage-burning

I rant non-stop about the unaffordability of housing in Toronto, but in your case, you managed to murder your mortgage in just 3 years and come out ahead! How has that experience been like for you?

I’m not going to lie. It wasn’t easy, but it was well worth it. The biggest worry of many people is how they’re going to pay their mortgage if they lose their job. That’s no longer a concern for me. It feels like the weight of the world has been lifted off of my shoulders.

I never planned to pay off my mortgage in 3 years. In fact, when I bought my house I signed up for a 5-year fixed rate mortgage. But when my career started to take off as a personal finance journalist, I decided to focus on paying off my biggest debt, my mortgage. Whenever I’d get a cheque, I’d make a lump sum payment on my mortgage. By doing this, I was able to pay off a 30 year mortgage in just 3 years.

Most people can’t pay off their mortgage off in 3 years like me, but there are simple things you can do to reach mortgage freedom sooner. You don’t have to give up the things you love like your iPhone and Starbucks. You just have to be smart on the big purchases like a home and car and make paying off your mortgage your top priority.

I use you all the time as the shiny example of someone, with an average salary, who managed to boost it to 100K/year with your insane hustling. Can you tell us a bit about what that was like?

It was a busy time to say the least. Besides holding down a full-time job as a senior pension analyst, I worked as a personal finance journalist and as a meat department clerk at a supermarket (and I’m a vegetarian, so that shows how determined I was to pay off my mortgage early). If that wasn’t enough, I was also a landlord. I typically worked upwards of 80 hours a week. What kept me going was that I knew I wasn’t going to do this forever. I saw it as short-term pain for long-term gain. By working super hard for 3 years, I could enjoy a lifetime of financial freedom.

What advice would you give to others trying to hustle and make more money?

Many people say that they’re too busy for side hustle. While that may be true for some, for many it’s simply not. It’s all about putting your free time to good use. Instead of binge-watching Game of Thrones on Netflix on weekends, why not earn some extra money on the side?

The sharing economy has made it easier than ever to make money. You can become an Uber driver, rent out your place on Airbnb, open a restaurant in your home, housesit, dog walk and the list goes on. Look a unique skill that you have and figure out how you can leverage it to make money. For example, if you’re a straight A’s student in university, earn some extra money by tutoring. If you’re a skilled photographer, take photos at special events like weddings.

A lot of people think side hustle is risky. I see it differently. Having one full-time job is risky. If you lose your job, 100% of your income is gone – poof! By earning streams of income, you’re better protected. If one of those streams dries up, you can always find others. Although it wasn’t glamorous, I held onto my part-time job at the supermarket for so many years because I knew I could always bump up my hours to help pay down my mortgage if I ever lost my full-time job. This helped me sleep a lot better at night.

Not since the Salem Witch Trials have three people (namely, you, me and Wanderer) been flamed so hard on CBC News. I’ve read so many comments/e-mails from haters that I can predict what they’re going to say now. Fun times. What was that like for you and how did you deal with all the haters?

Our views on homeownership may be different, but we all share a common goal: financial independence. I believe we got a lot of backlash since we aren’t the typical “lazy and entitled” millennials the media likes to portray. In fact, we got so much hate that CBC wrote two follow up articles on it.

I didn’t let the hater get to me. These are people posting anonymously online. I have yet to have anyone say anything mean to me in person. I find what worked best for me when dealing with negative commentary was to keep my original goal in mind – which was to inspire people and show them that homeownership is still possible.

The haters have said things like “he’s going to work himself into an early grave”, “he obviously has no friends because he works all the time”, “I could pay off my mortgage too, but I don’t want live in my basement and eat Kraft dinner all the time. That’s no way to live”.

What do you say to those comments? How do you manage to keep hustling like a boss and balance it with time off to enjoy life?

The media’s portrayal of me couldn’t be further from the truth. I may have been focused on paying off my mortgage, but I didn’t eat Kraft dinner at every meal and never go out with friends. I may have been busy, but I made time for the people and things that mattered most. I’m just like any other 20-something year old – I enjoyed drinks with friends on Friday night and went out to the movies – but in moderation (I wasn’t buying rounds of drinks for everyone). What set me apart was my determination and drive to own a home and pay it off quickly. My motto is, you only get one life to live, so make the most of it.

You did a lot of research and number crunching before you bought your house. What advice do you have for readers looking to purchase their first home?

The single biggest mistake I see first-time homebuyers make is buying “too much” home. Just because the bank approves you to spend $800K on a home, doesn’t mean that you should. Your banker or real estate agent aren’t going to tell you to spend less on a home – that’s up to you. You might be able to find a home with most of the things on your wish list and only end up spending $750K.

Many property virgins are surprised to discover buying a home comes with a lot more expenses than renting. Before making an offer, take the time to crunch the numbers. Prepare a budget for the home you want to own. Budget for all the expenses that come along with homeownership – mortgage payments, utilities, home insurance, property taxes, repairs and maintenance. Aim to spend 37% or below (42% or below in pricey cities like Toronto and Vancouver) of your gross monthly income on housing-related expenses and other debts.

It’s better to find out your mortgage payments would be too onerous before you buy a home than after. If your mortgage payments would squeeze you financially and leave you little leftover at the end of the month to save toward retirement, let alone have fun, consider buying a smaller home or moving slightly further out. You don’t have to go out and buy a house right away; consider buying something more affordable like a condo.

You also rented out the top floor of your house and lived in the basement to pay off your mortgage faster. Can you tell us about your experience being a landlord? And would you recommend it as a way to pay off the mortgage faster?
Renting out the top floor and living in the basement was a no-brainer for me. I did the math and it just made sense. By renting out the upstairs instead of the basement, I could earn double the rent. If I had rented out the basement, I’d only earn $800 per month, but if I rented out the upstairs I could earn about $1,600 per month. Besides, I’m just one person living in a 3-bedroom house. I wouldn’t know what to do with all that space.

While this living arrangement worked for me, it’s doesn’t make sense for everyone. For example if you’re a family with kids, it probably doesn’t make sense to live in the basement. You’re better off living upstairs and renting out the basement. That way you can still earn some extra income to pay down your mortgage sooner.

A lot of first-time homebuyers can’t afford houses right away and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you buy a condo, you can still be a landlord, but you just have to be a little more creative. Instead of renting out your basement, you can rent out a bedroom to a roommate.

Airbnb is another way to money from the space you live in. Just make sure you’re fine with the added responsibility. Being an Airbnb host is a lot like running a hotel. Cities and condo boards aren’t the biggest fan of Airbnb, so this can complicated matters, as well.

Since the price of houses has gone way beyond their price range, Millennials are now considering condos as a way to get into the market. What are your thoughts about condos?

In big cities like Toronto and Vancouver, buying a house just isn’t realistic for most first-time homebuyers. I think condos are a good way to get your foot into the real estate market and start building equity, when done right. If you’ve grown in house all your life, it can take some time to adjust to the condo lifestyle. Living in a condo doesn’t have as much freedom as living in a house. There are pros and cons for condos. You don’t have to worry major repairs since your condo fees cover those (most of the time), but your condo fees can skyrocket if the condo board is incompetent.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming living in a condo is the same as a house. Some people are suited for the condo lifestyle, others aren’t. Really do your homework, especially when buying pre-construction. You want your condo to be a good long-term investment, not be hard to sell in a slow real estate market.

Sean, you have a book coming out. I knew you were famous but not “I-have-a-book-coming-out” famous! Tell us about that.

After my story went viral, so many people reached out to me for home-buying advice that I decided to write a book. There quite a few books on real estate, but most of them are written in financial jargon and read like a textbook. I wanted to write a book that’s not only educational, but enjoyable to read. My book isn’t the typical personal finance book. You won’t find any financial jargon, but what you will find is plenty of celebrity references and pop culture.

Burn Your Mortgage: The Simple, Powerful Path to Financial Freedom will be released globally on March 1, 2017, and it will be available for sale in bookstores and other retail outlets across Canada. Inspired by my real-life experience paying off my mortgage on a Toronto home in 3 years, my book offers a practical, realistic approach to becoming a debt-free homeowner at a challenging time when real estate prices are making headlines across Canada. Anyone who wants to own a home – young or old – or is already a homeowner and wants to pay it off sooner will enjoy it.

What are your plans for the future? Will you continue renting out the top floor?

It’s hard to tell what the future has in store. I’ll see what opportunities present themselves once my book is released. I’d like to get married one day and start a family, but I’m still looking for Ms. Right. I plan to keep writing as a personal finance journalist. I’m also planning to speak at colleges and universities and share my story to show how homeownership is still possible for the younger generation. A lot of people have reached out to me, asking for advice on homeownership. Instead of being a money coach, I’ve decided to focus on home-buying and mortgages and call myself a mortgage-burning expert. I plan to help others pay off their mortgage sooner by offering one-on-one coaching. I also plan to offer online courses in the coming months.

Yes, I will keep living in the basement and renting out the top floor for the time being. Until it makes sense to move upstairs, I’m perfectly content living in the basement. I have amazing tenants, so I have no good reason to move upstairs.

If you could jump into a DeLorean, would you do anything differently?
Your 20’s is the best time of your life. Even if you’re single, you can still have a good time. Cherish and make the most of this time, but don’t lose sight of your financial priorities, such as paying off student debt, buying a home or starting a own business. Wouldn’t you rather be living in a paid off home in your 30’s than living in your parent’s basement?
My biggest regret is not doing a better job of achieving a work-life balance. Instead of paying off my mortgage in 3 years, I could have had more fun and still managed to pay it off in only 5 or 6 years. But as the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. Now that my mortgage is paid off and I’ve achieved financial freedom, I’ve got the rest of my life to enjoy. I’m not stuck sitting in a cubicle for the next 35 years taking orders from the man (or woman – it’s 2016, I want to be politically correct). I can do everything I’ve always wanted to – travel, volunteer and go swimming with the sharks – all because I paid off my mortgage sooner. Don’t you think that’s worth the short-term sacrifice? I do.

Author Bio:

Sean Cooper is the author of the upcoming book, Burn Your Mortgage: The Simple, Powerful Path to Financial Freedom. He bought his first house when he was only 27 in Toronto and paid off his mortgage in just 3 years by age 30. An in-demand Financial Journalist and Personal Finance and Mortgage-Burning Expert, his articles and blogs have been featured in publications such as the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, Financial Post, Tangerine: Forward Thinking blog and MoneySense. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanCooperWrite.

*****

Wow, what an inspiration. I can honestly say, Sean is probably the hardest working man in Toronto. What do you think? Has he inspired you to murder your mortgage?

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37 thoughts on “Sean Cooper Guest Post: How I Paid Off My Mortgage In Just 3 years”

  1. Something doesn’t add up here. The article says Sean made $100K per year. Assuming this is all employment, rental and consulting income, that works out to about $75K after tax.

    $75K after tax, times three years, works out to $225K. Yet he claims to have paid off a $255K mortgage in that time. That’s a shortfall of $30K, and that’s before paying for anything out – property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, groceries, transportation, etc.

    Is it $100K after tax? Even if it is, by the time he pays off his mortgage principle ($255K), the home repairs he mentions in another blog ($25K), mortgage interest (~$10K), property taxes (~$9K), utilities (~$3K), insurance (~$3K), he’s still left with a shortfall – and he still hasn’t paid for his groceries, transportation, or anything else.

    1. He rented out the top floor of his house for $1600/mo. He might not be including that in his income. And having someone else pay for part of that $255k would definitely help. The interest on the mortgage wouldn’t have been very much if he paid it off in just three years, so his principal plus interest cost wouldn’t have been much higher than $255k.

    2. I wonder if the 100k figure does not include rental income? Since he is renting it out at 1600/month, that would be an additional 1600 x 12 x 3 = 57,600 going towards the mortgage (I assume he was able to apply various tax deductions so the amount of tax paid on this amount was minimal). Still doesn’t leave much for living expenses though. I’d definitely be interested in seeing a more detailed breakdown of the math–although to be honest, I still don’t think I could replicate his lifestyle. (For one thing, I would definitely be extremely burnt out if I worked 80 hours/week and I don’t think that would be healthy for me…kudos to him for managing that though).

    3. I did a profile of Sean on Financial Samurai in December 2015 about how he did it.

      This is what Sean did:

      * Lived in his basement and rented out the upstairs portion of his house, which contains three bedrooms.

      * Lived off ramen noodles, Kraft dinner specials, and water mostly.

      * Regularly worked 70-100 hours a week as a pension analyst, freelance writer, and as a part-time meat department clerk at his local grocery store.

      * Generated a total annual income of ~$100,000 net, comprised of $55,000 from his FT job, $18,600 from rental income before expenses, and ~$40,000 in freelance income.

      * Had discretionary expenses of $9,600/year, i.e., $800/month excluding his mortgage.

      * Paid $850 a week to his mortgage ($700+ to principal), and had total expenses of roughly $60,000 a year. Mortgage rate was 3.04% for 5 years. Doing the math, he therefore used 100% of the remaining $40,000 a year to pay down his mortgage = ~$120,000 over three years, and the remaining $130,000 of his mortgage was paid down monthly at a rate of over $3,000 in principal a month.

      * Didn’t go on vacation.

      * Didn’t go out with his buddies to eat our drink for three years. His most exciting vacation was a 24 hour bus ride to Wisconsin.

      * Didn’t go on dates and did not have a girlfriend.

      If you want to check out the chart of his expenses, it is in my post linked here.

      1. Financial Samurai, thanks for the details. (To be clear, the rest of this post is addressed to Sean, not to you).

        It sounds like Sean`s income (rounding up to the nearest thousand) was $114K annually. Let`s assume he has enough deductions to make his rental income tax-free. He`d therefore need to pay tax on $95K per year. In Ontario, that works out to about $23K. Take out other statutory withholdings (CPP and EI) and that`s another $3K. So his take-home income is $114K – $23K – $3K = $88K.

        Therefore, over three years, his take-home income was approximately $264K.

        Financial Samurai said he had $9,600 annually in discretionary expenses (I didn`t see a link, but I assume this would cover food, clothing, transportation, etc). So that`s $29K over three years.

        Property taxes, for a house in that price range in Toronto, would be around $3K annually ($9K total). Even if 90% of the mortgage payments go towards interest, that`s still another $1K annually ($3K total). On another blog (Million Dollar Journey), he wrote repeatedly about having to spend $25k in one-time repairs. Then let`s say it`s another $3K annually ($9K total) for utilities and insurance.

        Doing the math, his take home income is $264K over three years. His expenses are $72K (29 + 9 + 3 + 25 + 9). That leaves him with $189K, yet he managed to pay off a $255K mortgage.

        If I calculated that he had $245K after taxes and expenses, I wouldn`t be making a big fuss out of this. I know there are inherent uncertainties and estimations that go into this. But we`re not off by $10K. We`re off by $66K, more than one-quarter the amount of the mortgage!

        Assuming that the starting point (the mortgage was $255K) and the ending point (it was paid in three years) are true, there must be some other source of money to explain this discrepancy. Sean`s costs are just about as low as they can possibly be, so I don`t think the discrepancy arises there. I suspect – and this is only speculation, but is consistent with the numbers – that Sean is either significantly under-reporting his income, or there`s an external source of funds (lottery win or inheritance?)

        I’m not out to attack Sean and would like to think I’m open-minded. If there’s an error in my math or assumptions, let me know. But based on what I’ve seen so far, these numbers aren’t even close to being accurate.

        1. One of the skills in writing is to keep things a mystery. To keep readers debating on their own without answering the question fully.

          This is something I need to work on in 2017 where I don’t respond to comments as often on my site.

          You can click my handle in the above comment if you want to read more details.

          Sam

  2. I think it’s incredible what Sean was able to do. While not everybody will readily use this path to FIRE, by spotlighting different paths, hopefully people can use all this experience to navigate their own. To be critical of either of your decisions is ignorant. It’s choices. And sacrifices. We get to choose which ones we will make. Congrats on your achievements.

  3. This is awesome. I love seeing people willing to get out there and hustle, even doing things that some people would think are “beneath” them. There are a lot of people who aren’t willing to work extra jobs or rent out parts of their house because they think they’re too good to do that. But here’s a guy who was a senior pension analyst who’s willing to do these type of things. I get the same looks when I’m renting out a room on airbnb or making bike deliveries. There’s an idea that, because I’m in a good career, I shouldn’t have to do any of these extra gigs. And they’re right, myself or a guy like Sean here doesn’t have to do these gigs. He does them because he wants to. And he’s doing them for a reason.

    Awesome to see that mortgage crushed. Must be great.

    1. I think you guys are amazing in your hustle and grit. So many people turn up their noses at jobs that are “beneath” them, but in the end, it really is worth it once you become financially free. Short term pain for long term gain. You guys are both inspirational!

  4. I met him at FinCon! We were sitting next to each other and was cool to run into him in person 🙂 I’ve read his story a number of times already but never gets old… Also love that you’re featuring those who do go through real estate to hit independence!

    1. *sigh* I wish I could’ve been there with you guys at FinCon. But instead, I was all the way on the other side of the world in Vietnam. Oh well.

      Planning on going to FinCon 2017 though! You going?

  5. It is truly amazing what a person can accomplish when they put their mind to it and are not afraid of hard work or sacrifice. Sean deserves our praise and all the accolades we can muster. I would hire him in a New York minute.

    His story reminds me of when I was young and trying to obtain my CA designation. I was working in a “sweatshop” firm that required you to work two evenings a week and Saturdays (with no overtime pay) as an articling student. I was going to university two nights a week and that left me Fridays and Sundays to do my homework and visit with friends. I can distinctly remember taking my books with me when going to a dinner party with friends and multitasking by both reading and carrying on a conversation. What “fun” times. I did that for close to three long years. Was the hard work and sacrifice worth it? Hell yes!!!, that CA designation translated eventually into a salary of more than $650,000 per year….People who have drive and ambition will always be envied by those who covet what they have achieved but are themselves unwilling to do the hard work. Those are the haters….

  6. I read Sean’s story when it first came out in the news. What a tremendous job he did. Now he has plenty of freedom to do the things he wants. Happy to see FIRECracker highlighting some real estate success stories!

    I’m in a similar boat but the difference is that right after I paid off my mortgage I bought a second property and am letting the first property pay for it (all expenses – mortgage, property tax, interest). This way I have a greater stake in our booming market while still young and will have more retirement options.

    Due to this blog I’m now invested in ETFs. I wish I had started at least 7 years ago!

  7. “What a mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve”. His efforts and determination are definitely praiseworthy, even if I might disagree with his path towards FI.

    It would also be helpful to know if his financial blogging is sufficient to pay for his monthly expenses, or he has other sources of income. Is he doing anything to grow them? Or is the book an exercise in providing for that? While buying out his home may have been great for him, most of us are better off not putting all our eggs into one basket.

    1. He mentioned that the financial blogging is bringing in $30-60K/year but it fluctuates. He also worked in a grocery store and gets rent from his tenants.

      So, although I do agree that he could use more diversification on the investment side, he does a good job diversifying his income sources.

  8. The great thing is, I don’t think Sean will ever regret his sacrifice to buy the property and paid off quickly. Now so much of his cash flow is just gravy that can be used to invest in other more liquid instruments if desired.

    Hard-working savings never gets old when you can benefit from the results for the rest your life.

    1. Absolutely. In Sean’s case, because he carefully crunched the numbers, and made the much needed sacrifices to pay off his mortgage, his path to FI worked out great for him.

  9. Guys like Sean and folks like You and Wanderer are and should be inspirations to anyone and everyone. Do the math, make some good long term decisions, save and invest and have alot of control over your overall life. I am very proud of all of your accomplishments. I have always saved and invested since getting my first real job 30 years ago; and it has really served me well…the FI you have achieved is a gift that will continue to give…

    1. Thanks! And good for you for saving and investing for the past 30 years! Hard work definitely pays off in the long run. Worth it!

  10. Thank you for all the supportive comments. I just wanted to clarify my income and expenses. Despite an annual salary of $55,000 when I paid off my mortgage in September 2015, I was able to pay off my mortgage in three years by age 30 through side hustle. I got the idea from the host of HGTV’s Income Property, Scott McGillivray, to live in the basement of my house and rent out the upstairs, earning $18,600 per year in rental income. By renting out half my home, half my housing related costs (mortgage interest, utilities, home insurance and property taxes) are tax deductible. I also worked part-time at a grocery store once a week, earning $5,000 per year.

    I’ve received a few questions about how I was able to pay down my mortgage so quickly. It was mainly through my freelance income. I tend to be conservative with my estimate of freelance income, as it can vary a lot from month to month. For example, some months I earn $2,000, while others I earn $5,000+. For 2014, I ended up earning over $60,000 in freelance income (including my full-time job and rental income, I made over $130,000 before taxes in 2014). To help offset the taxes payable on this income, I claim home office expenses and maximize my RRSP contributions each year.

    Through freelance income, I’ve been able to maximize the prepayment privileges on my mortgage. I made accelerated mortgage payments of $850 per week (most of this money went toward principal since my mortgage rate was only 3.04 percent). I also made a total of $38,250 in lump sum payments each year (15 percent of my original mortgage balance of $255,00); this money went straight toward the principal on my mortgage. I made lump sum payments whenever I received rent from my tenants or freelance writing cheques.

    While I was paying off my mortgage, I lived super frugally, cutting my expenses to a bare minimum. The two most costly expenses for most after mortgage/rent are food and transportation. I spent only $100 per month on groceries (it helps that I’m a vegetarian). I also spent less than $1,000 a year on transportation by cycling to work.

    I hope that clears everything up. Thanks again for the lovely comments 🙂

    1. Saying you’re “conservative” when it comes to estimating freelance income doesn’t make sense. From a budgeting/cash flow standpoint, sure, you might want to be conservative when estimating future income. But why would you be conservative when reporting income you’ve already earned? Wouldn’t you want to be accurate, rather than conservative? Under-reporting your income creates issues that cause people to doubt your story.

      In the first post, I assumed you made $119K per year. That resulted in a deficit of $66K (over three years). You’re now saying that you made $130K per year. That’s an extra $11K per year before tax. That works out to $33K over three years before tax. After subtracting tax at 40%, you’re left with an extra $20K over three years, so you’re still missing $46K. That’s still a substantial shortfall!

      You said you claimed RRSP and home office deductions. I checked Financial Samurai’s blog (turns out my estimates for your expenses were pretty close and, if anything, a bit too low). According to the blog, you made $540 in monthly RRSP contributions. That works out to $6,480 each year. That reduces your taxes by roughly $2,600 each year. So that’s $8K over three years.

      For the home office expenses, you can only claim mortgage interest (which you’ve said is virtually nil) – not mortgage principle payments. In my first post, I estimated your total expenditure on home repairs, mortgage interest, property taxes, utilities and insurance was $50K over three years. You can only claim the percentage (generally on a per square foot basis) that you actually work in. Given that you rent out the majority of your home, I doubt you can claim much more than 10%. That gives you $5K in deductions spread over three years ($2K in tax savings over those three years).

      So we’re still left with a shortfall of $66K (from my initial post) – $20K (increasing your income to $130K) – $8K (RRSP deductions) – $2K (home office deductions). We still have a deficit of $36K – a significant amount.

      Do you see why I find your story suspicious? Your explanations for the shortfall, upon closer scrutiny, just don’t add up. Sean’s story is inspiring, but the math just doesn’t make sense.

      1. hey Bob, why all the scepticism? if he says he paid off the mortgage then that’s what he did.

        you crunching all the numbers makes you sound like a curmudgeon. any ulterior motives or you just jealous that he did it.

        1. What an odd comment. This blog is all about skepticism! The two authors are skeptical about conventional financial wisdom, and are wealthier and wiser as a result.

          This is a blog where the authors keep talking about “mathing that shit up” to better understand the financial world. That’s exactly what I’ve done – refining my analysis as new information comes in – and the numbers still don’t work.

          Have you read the comments to the CBC article? Sean has people who seem to genuinely dislike him – that’s sad. Even if they don’t agree with his life choices, they have no right to question how he chose to spend three years of his life. I don’t dislike Sean – I just think the numbers he’s reporting don’t add up. Big difference – and nothing personal.

          Sean makes money from his freelance writing about finance, and is about to release a book. I think he has a moral obligation (though, admittedly, not a legal one) to present clear, accurate information. If my analysis is wrong – tell me. But I won’t apologize for asking for clarifications to inaccurate information – especially when the person providing that information has a financial incentive to “sell” a specific narrative.

          I’m not jealous of Sean. I paid off my mortgage at a younger age than he did – so I know it’s possible – and I did it while dating and travelling – so I did it in a much more enjoyable way than he did. There’s no jealousy – just skepticism founded in inconsistent numbers.

          1. I have no personal vested interest in any of these people or how they live regarding their finances. Sean already answered you saying that his freelance income fluctuates, and that he spends $100 a month on food and doesn’t own a car. Your estimates of his property tax, utilities could be off, you don’t have his exact numbers.

            Just the tone of your comments seem odd, like you have some vendetta.

            1. I like solving puzzles. Sometimes, those puzzles are finance or math based. When I find an inconsistency, I want to dig deeper and understand it. In this case, the question is whether the math makes sense – nothing more, nothing less.

              My problem is those explanations don’t make sense. Yes, his income might fluctuate from month to month – but wouldn’t he know, and therefore be able to tell us accurately, how much he made over the course of a year? His expenses were listed in detail on Financial Samurai’s (excellent) blog, and my initial estimates were very close to what was reported.

              Like I said, I have no vendetta against Sean – a person who I’ve never met. My issue is with the numbers – nothing against Sean personally.

      2. I actually just did a recap of all the new money I spent on investments and paying down my mortgage in 2016. I’ll publish it sometime in December. But one of the big takeaways is that I invested or pay down Way more than I thought I would based on my income.

        I started asking myself, “how could this be?” And one of the keys is that when you earn freelance income, you earn gross income before taxes. So what I did was fully invest practically all my freelance income into investments or paying down debt as soon as I earned it. When the time comes to pay my taxes on my freelance incomeonce a year, then I do so with new savings that I have created.

        I’m assuming I’m going to have a tax liability, but maybe not because of my mortgage interest adduction’s, property tax deduction, and my W-2 income deductions where I claim zero.

        I think we are all able to surprise her cells with how much we can actually invest, save, and pay down debt. We underestimate our abilities in other words. Just like we over estimat I think we are all able to surprise her cells with how much we can actually invest, save, and pay down debt. We underestimate our abilities in other words. Just like some underestimate how much they are actually eating every day, and wonder why they gain weight.

        Sam

  11. Your 20’s is the best time of your life. Thankfully that isn’t true or all of us old geezers who are 30 and up would be living boring lives. I loved this article until I got to that sentence. Great wisdom and an appreciation for what truly matters in life (i.e. not drinking at bars and partying) comes with age (at least for many people). I wish we here in the West would show more reverance for age, spirituality and selflessness and less obsession with youth, material culture and the ego.

  12. In response to questions about the tally. Many people -at some point- have felt the frustration of seeing their credit card bill for the month and it is more than they think they spent, only to find that it is correct after reviewing all of the transactions. Funny thing is, the same thing happens on the road to FI, paying off a house, or having another financial goal. Looking back, I often feel that it couldn’t add up, until I look at all the transactions.

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