From Paper Boy to Engineering Manager to Early Retiree

Imagine early retirement as a well cooked meal.  The recipe calls for healthy doses of earned income and a liberal application of spending less than you make.  Place those savings into a good asset allocation.  Mix ingredients well and let simmer for a decade or two.  Voila!  Early retirement on a platter.  If only you could find that dish in the frozen section of the grocery store or at a drive thru window near you!

You can’t retire early without a decent working history.  Throughout the last two decades, I’ve had twenty different jobs.  The earliest ones didn’t pay particularly well, but my compensation generally increased as I gained more experience.  Join me on this autobiographical odyssey through my working years.


My career path


1. Paper boy, age 12.

I delivered a few hundred freebie advertising papers to houses around the neighborhood once a week for $7.50. I had to fold the newspapers, stuff them in bags, and then carry them around the neighborhood. It was a few hours worth of work for not a lot of money. I only lasted a few months.


2. Mowing lawns and raking leaves, age 12-15.

I mowed the neighbor’s yard and raked the leaves, sometimes with my brother’s help. We got around $20 for a couple hours worth of work. Way better than the paper boy job.


3. Sub sandwich chef at Jersey Mike’s, age 16.

The pay started at $5.25 per hour (the minimum wage) and I ended at $5.50 (and overtime paid at time and a half!). Making subs and running the grill was incredibly fun. Washing dishes, mopping floors, and scrubbing equipment wasn’t. I didn’t make it a whole year. I did, however, become the first Jersey Mike’s drive through operator in the entire world.


4. Rodman on a land surveying crew, age 17.

$6 per hour plus time and a half for overtime. This job was my solution to summer boredom before starting my senior year of high school. By this time, I had decided to study civil engineering in college and figured working on a land surveying crew would be good practical experience and bolster my resume. Working 10 to 12 hour days in the hot, humid North Carolina summers wasn’t fun, but getting paid time and a half on the 10-20 hours of overtime each week was very fun (at least for my wallet)! I recall being very, very, very tired each day after work that summer.

How I felt at the end of the day.
How I felt at the end of the day.


5. Recreation aide at a community center, age 17-18.

$6 per hour. I answered the phone, booked classes for visitors, and made sure the doors were locked before I left. Most of the time I sat at the front desk shooting the breeze or finishing my homework. I also had free access to the weight room which I used quite a bit before or after work. I left this job after about eight months when I started full time studies in college.


6. Disc Jockey at the college radio station, age 18-19.

$15 for a two to three hour on air shift. Ummm, get paid to listen to music and occasionally say stuff? Sign me up! I also volunteered to man the controls during baseball and basketball game broadcasts. $30 for around two hours work and all I had to do was play an advertisement and station identification once an hour (= work on homework 57 minutes out of every hour or play video games or whatever).


7. Production Manager and seat on the Board of Directors at the college radio station, age 19.

$200 per month. I managed to not screw up the DJ’ing too bad so I added the Production Manager gig in addition to my on air broadcasts. I made a few station promos and advertisements and got paid to play around in a professional recording studio a few hours per month.


8. Student ambassador for the International Special Olympics, age 19.

$800 plus free room and board. I spent a few weeks living in the college dorms and doing maybe an hour of work each day getting people from all over the world settled into the dorms. I had to be available for a few hours at a time but didn’t really do a whole lot.


9. Participant in a summer program studying transportation and the environment, age 19.

$500 (?) living stipend plus room and board for two weeks. Getting paid to learn stuff. We even went to Pittsburgh for a week for some conference and stayed at a swanky Hilton. You might notice a recurring theme here. Decent money for very little work while doing somewhat interesting things.


10. College instructor, Intro to Engineering, age 19. $25/hour for a few hours per week. I taught the freshman course introducing students to the College of Engineering. Students took machines apart and figured out how they worked.


11.  Engineering intern, University Facilities department, age 19.  $10/hr for 10-20 hours per week.  I played with a bunch of tech gear and software to help the university manage their parking inventory and physical infrastructure.  The boss was pretty cool.


12. Research assistant, age 19-20.  $13/hr for 10-20 hours per week, plus full time during the summer when I wasn’t globetrotting.  I helped a few professors with whatever research projects they were pursuing.  The one I recall the most involved developing ways to evaluate the efficiency of public transportation systems (automated routing technology, interactive voice response phone information and dispatch system).


13. Honors program researcher, age 20.  $3,000 grant for a semester to write a research paper on a research topic I already had to study for class. Probably 60 to 100 hours worth of work ($30-50/hr).


14. Research Engineer, age 20-21.  $18/hr full time during the summer between engineering undergrad and law school.  Nice five minute walk from my apartment.


15. Summer intern, Attorney General’s office, age 21-22.  $0/hr.  I worked for free and had a horrible 40 minute commute.  At least parking was free in downtown.  I hatched and launched my little business venture while being underutilized at this “job”.


16. Entrepreneur, engineering data collection services, age 22-23.  $40 per billable hour.  Most of the jobs were smallish and paid $400-500.  But one project came with a $42,000 fee and we only spent about $12,000 on labor, leaving us with a $30,000 profit. That led to a very busy month (and $30,000 for our new house fund).


17. Legal intern, City Attorney’s office, age 22.

$10/hr for six weeks full time.  Pretty cool variety of legal topics and cases and an interesting cast of coworkers.


18. Legal intern, small town private law firm, age 22.

$22/hr for six weeks full time.  The only job I’ve ever held outside of Raleigh.  This job helped me realize I didn’t want to practice law.  Or maybe I realized working in general just wasn’t that much fun?


19. Engineer, small engineering consulting firm, age 23-30.

$48,000 to $64,000 per year.  Where I discovered the concept of early retirement.  The pay was high enough to cover our living expenses and leave plenty at the end of the month to max out 401k’s and IRA’s and put a little in a taxable brokerage account.  The job itself wasn’t so bad and offered a bit of variety at first.  Since I rarely put in more than 40 hours per week, the per-hour earnings rate was excellent for a newly minted engineer (not so much later in my career).

This is the kind of hard work I like these days. Toilet paper forts don't build themselves after all.
One of my best projects.


20. Engineering manager / project engineer, toll road authority, age 30-33.

$68,000 to $69,000 per year.  This job was completely different from my previous job in terms of work-related tasks, and combined my engineering, legal, and financial interests to produce a job that I liked at times.  At first anyway.  Eventually the state Department of Transportation took over my employer.  The job turned into exactly what you can imagine a job in a huge, largely inept bureaucracy would be like where the executives are political appointees (in fact or in practice).  The view from my penthouse suite office was pretty decent and the ten minute commute wasn’t bad at all.


21. Early retiree, age 33.

$32,000+ per year for the first couple of years.  Then we gave ourselves a raise to $40,000 per year as our portfolio grew in size.

This job is my favorite and I hope to never be forced out of this position.  The job can be strenuous at times but mostly allows me to do whatever I want whenever I want.  The boss can be a real hard ass at times, but that’s the case just about everywhere.


Thoughts on working

As you can guess from the general topics on my blog, I’m a big fan of not working.  Work can be intrinsically rewarding, however I think most people pursue work for the instrumental purpose of acquiring money.  General interests guided me to the jobs I found, but I wouldn’t have done them without the money (or the expectation that the job would lead to better jobs down the road).

I don’t think I’m in the minority on this.  I’ve seen broad surveys that show 75-80% of people think about quitting their job at least weekly and the same percentage don’t like their jobs.  If you took the pay and the need to provide materially for one’s self and one’s family out of the equation, that number would surely rise.

The best source of knowledge on our opinions of working and jobs in general comes from Studs Terkel’s “Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do“.  It’s been a while since I read it, but from what I recall the Pulitzer Prize-winning Terkel asks a few questions of dozens of interviewees and then lets them spill their guts about their jobs.

The majority of subjects fall somewhere on the spectrum from indifferent to apathetic toward their jobs with a few downright hating their occupation.  The only jobs that really offered a lot of positives to the employee tended to have creative elements, power and authority, or autonomy (or some combination of those traits).  The interviews happened over four decades ago, but you would never know it other than the occasional reference to typewriters or other obsolete technologies.

From the twenty jobs I’ve had, I can’t say that I hated or loved any of them.  All of them came with highs and lows.  Some provided a lot of money for nearly zero effort (DJ’ing the baseball and basketball games, for example).  Others had really fun parts (making subs and running the grill at the sub shop; playing with new technologies as a toll road engineer), but each job came with negatives.  I can’t say I was unhappy to work in any of the jobs, but I can’t say I’m really sad to leave them behind, either.



What’s your take on working?  Did you ever really love a high-paying job?  Did you work mostly for the money or for love of your occupation?



photo credit: slworking2 @ flickr

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  1. I really identified with your long list of jobs. I too have had more jobs than I can probably count on BOTH my fingers and my toes. Everything from short order cook to scuba instructor to non-profit CEO. And, I must confess, I really, really loved a couple of those jobs.

    I stumbled/lucked into a job as an assistant tv commercials producer when I was 19. Loved it, loved it. Too much responsibility, too soon. Got canned, but went on to NYC to become a copywriter for a while.

    Towards the end of my working career, I created a position for myself as a coral reef researcher and instructor of research volunteers. Loved it, loved it. But the pernicious deterioration of those reefs, which I now was unable to stop seeing in front of me, was too much for me. So, my next “career move” was to find a way to reach earlier retirement as soon as I could. Which I did.

    Thanks for the article.

  2. You got PAID to be a college dj?? We competed for the chance to do that stuff for free! I bet you had a plum time spot too huh??

    1. Yeah, we had a pretty good budget at the station and actually paid regular DJ’s. That’s what being a 25,000 watt college radio station is all about. 🙂 I had to take the less popular shifts at first (like 10 am to noon during the week) as there were more senior DJ’s that had first pick on the schedule. But it doesn’t take long to get seniority at a college radio station.

  3. ROG,

    Nice diverse list of jobs. I still remember as a kid going from neighbor to neighbor trying to get work mowing yards and raking leaves for $5. Just enough enough money to buy a couple of comics and a snowcone. Looking back, those were some great times! When I got to high school and started sacking groceries, that is when I knew what the “grind” was all about.


    1. I think I converted yards mowed into video games. $20 would buy an older one or maybe 1/2 or 1/3 of a new one.

      The physical labor jobs made me realize I wanted to be the one directing the action from the air conditioned truck or an office instead of hauling a 40 pound satchel of wood stakes, bush axe, rod and metal detector through mosquito infested swamps with poison ivy, briers, and snakes nipping at my ankles.

  4. My list of jobs is not nearly as long as yours. But my favorite was helping my grandfather ‘count the money’ for the vending business he owned. Guess I’ve loved money from the get-go. I started by running the green money and finally graduated to running the whole she-bang. It’s pretty interesting to count nearly $10,000 in cash – mostly coins – every day.

    But following school, I entered the glamorous world of consulting civil engineering. At first, I thought it was great. I had great co-workers and some fabulous projects. But the interesting projects have dried up. And now that job has just become a means to the end of early retirement. I am locked in for roughly five more years before reaching our goal. Right now, the job is tolerable, bolstered by the knowledge that my salary is a huge advantage to reaching ER sooner. Mr. Maroon feels very similar. We shall see how it might change in the next couple years…

      1. I studied Civil Engineering at university and always thought that’s what I’d be doing with my life, but got seduced by the world of finance and have been a consultant at a professional services firm for the last 10 years. Somehow I got lucky and have really enjoyed it for the most part – partly because the work involves working out the ‘value’ of businesses and other assets, something closely tied to my other passion for investing. But the thing that’s really made me enjoy it lately is the autonomy I’m given, and the great people I work with. I’d much prefer to have the option of retiring in 3 years (which I certainly don’t at this point!), but so far I’m managing to find aspects of the work I enjoy. I know it won’t last though – especially if I keep climbing the ladder….

        And wow, what a list of jobs! I’ve only had 3 different jobs in my life so far…

  5. I so did not get paid to be a DJ for my college radio station! Here I did it for free! But it was a lot of fun. I had a talk show about art called “State Of The Arts” (I thought I was super clever) and I’m pretty sure I had about 5 listeners. But I digress…

    I’m with you on not particularly enjoying traditional jobs. Mostly, I prefer for my time to be my own. I enjoy working on projects that are meaningful to me, but I like to dictate my own terms–not be stuck in a cubicle from 9-5. You’re making me jealous… can’t wait to join you in early retirement!

    1. I’m a little jealous of the “I love my job” types. My perfect job wouldn’t require me to show up ever. The pay would be really high. I could do whatever I want whenever I want to. I might produce something that’s profitable or I might not. So far I haven’t found that perfect job so I’m going with my back up plan – early retirement.

      1. Is it better to have loved and lost? I had an amazing R&D job for ~6 years with good pay, a ton of autonomy, interesting tech, and a great sense of accomplishment at being a world expert on something. But things change… our customers hit a rough patch in their business and couldn’t afford our development program any more.

        Pretty glad I was on the FI path when a job I loved turned into a job I wanted to escape from.

        1. That’s a huge benefit to saving for FI even if you love your job. The job can change just as easily as your idea of a perfect lifestyle. Having the investments or assets to make you FI turns work into something you do if you want. Did you end up finding a good replacement job or declare FI and leave the workforce completely?

          1. No, I ended up taking a high paying but much more typical job, satisfaction-wise. I don’t really love the work the way I used to, but my coworkers are nice and I’ve strung together a few consecutive 70+% savings rate months. So, I’m about 40% to FI today and grinding it out…

  6. I loved my previous job, and it was relatively high paying. There were of course bad times and stressful times, but the good outweighed the bad. I’m still on the fence about the new job. I’m enjoying it, but disliking the commute and disliking still living with my mom (the commute will improve a little when we move to our own place). I’ve only been here 6 months, and that’s not enough time for me to get completely settled yet and decide I like it. I think enjoying the people you work with is as much, if not more important than the work you are doing.

    1. The coworkers can definitely make or break a job. I left my second to last job partly because all of the cool coworkers resigned, got laid off during the Great Recession, or transferred to other branch offices. Going into work each day, handing out the obligatory “hey, how ya doin?” to everyone, then sitting down at your desk for eight hours of mostly solitary work.

  7. Thanks for sharing. I feel a little better knowing there are others out there who have had as many jobs as me. My favorite was probably as a bank teller. Little pay but got to play with money every day and gave me time to start planning my finances early and got me in the right money mindset. If only I would have stayed on that money master plan path and not derailed in my mid-20s. Live and learn! Looking forward to the time when my days are mine and no one else’s.

    1. All that money flowing through your hands but none of it is yours – must be a strong motivator to figure out how all those people got all that money in the first place.

    1. No, but I need to pull one of those posts together. 🙂 I have the rough data from 2004 to present already in my net worth spreadsheet so it’s just a matter of reshaping it to fit into a blog post. 2004 to early 2009 were relatively boring years (from $44k to $250k-ish net worth) with April 2009 to 2013 seeing our NW grow by a million bucks over the roughly five year period. Obviously investment gains played a huge role in NW growth those last five years.

      1. Plus 1 on TLV’s suggestion for a future post. I like seeing how it all happened. I also agree with one of your above comments about the “I love my job types” I’m a bit jealous too. It is expensive living in NYC, but I think that pulling the trigger on early FI is doable if I find something I’m passionate about even though it pays less. The job description of your perfect job sounds great to me…sign me up!

        1. I’ll take that request under advisement! 🙂

          The semi-retirement or early FIRE on a budget is a good lifestyle shift, too, if that’s what you’re thinking of. Save up 60-80% of what you need and then find something you’re passionate about that’s enjoyable and at a slower pace. If, for example, you need $40k/yr to live on, and you have a portfolio than provides $32k, then all you need to do is make $8k/yr. That’s minimum wage at half time employment. Or 10 hrs/wk at $15/hr.

  8. Really enjoyed this post. Nice to be able to compare earnings to someone who has achieved FI. After undergrad, a master’s, and a year with AmeriCorp I started a real job at 25 making $50,000. Feel like grad school and the AmeriCorps year put me behind. But, three years later I am up to $63,000 to $67,000 depending on my bonus. Seeing a similar wage really helps reinforce that this crazy FI dream of mine is possible. This may be elsewhere on the site, but what percentage of your gross income were you saving during the accumulation years?

    1. Yeah, I feel like the 3 years I spent in law school were kind of a waste too from a straight financial standpoint. I could have earned my professional engineer license 3 years earlier and jumped to the $60k+ salary bracket that came with the PE license 3 years earlier. Plus 3 years of solid earnings I could have had instead of law school. Not that retiring at 33 or retiring at 30 are drastically different in the grand scheme of life.

      I’ve mentioned my savings rate somewhere I’m sure, but I can rehash it here. Roughly 40-50% starting out and then it climbed to 70-80% in our last couple of years.

  9. ROG – at least you can’t say you didn’t give trying to find a job you loved enough effort! I have had far less jobs but luckily I found a job I loved at campground (RVs, tents, cabins, etc.) during high school which I kept through the first part of college. I got to spend my time doing manual labor with friends, seeing an array of high school girls who would be forced to go camping by their parents, meet people from all over North America, and learn a bunch of trades. Unfortunately that job would not pay as much as an accountant, or offer health insurance, or benefits at all 🙂

    1. That campground job doesn’t sound half bad. But if you had to do it year round in the worst of winter and under the blazing sun of summer (depending on where you are), it could get old pretty quick. I always think how fortunate I am that I don’t have to labor outside 9-10 hours/day when the weather is really bad (though some spring or fall days a little outside work doesn’t sound too displeasing!).

  10. Your path sounds similar to mine, except you’ve got a few years on me. How were you able to save up as much as you did in those years? Did your spouse make more money than you each year? I guess this is one instance where my partner’s lower income really hurts our bottom line.

    Guess I just have a few more years left after all… Cheers!

    1. We saved about half our income starting out and increased that to 70-80% the last few years. And we didn’t pay a lot of tax ever (here’s an example: $150 tax on $150,000 income).

      Mrs. RootofGood started out making less than me and eventually eclipsed my salary in the last couple of years.

      1. Yeah, my partner works as a school teacher and makes substantially less than me. At least she’s now able to more or less support herself. We also haven’t married yet nor do we have kids, so perhaps in the future if any of that happens it would lead to something more similar to what you posited.

  11. I fall somewhere in between the “love my job” and “hate my job” crowd. My work is pretty rewarding as a physical therapist. I get to help people daily, work in a fun environment, make decent money and having been at my job for 10+ years I’ve accumulated a lot of autonomy, vacation time and other benefits in addition to $. That said, working in a service industry, you never really have control of your time and there is little room to ever gain more control unless you transition to the administrative side which I already hate that portion of what I do. My early retirement plan will likely be to initially work part-time, fill-in work, seasonal/travel jobs, etc to keep my feet in it and enjoy the good parts, and limit financial risks of ER while giving me far greater control of my time to do what I really want when I want.

    1. Sounds like a good exit plan. I’m a little envious of you guys in the healthcare industry in that you seem to have better part time or fill-in work compared to engineering where it’s basically either full time (which can be 50+ hrs/wk) or freelance. I’ve only seen one job posting for half time work in my field.

  12. Gaining Experience has more weight than education I feel, and you had both. I feel most jobs are tedious, and after a certain point repetitive. So it comes with no surprise that many people cant stand them. Save hard and get out like Justin did. This is my plan, and I hope to make it a reality soon.

    1. Some jobs start out with a lot of novel, fun tasks mixed with administrative stuff that isn’t as much fun. Eventually the shine wears off and your left with showing up at 9 am for a paycheck. I always tried to learn everything I could at each job though.

  13. That really is a nice list of diverse jobs, must have been interesting!

    Taking money out of the equation, there are few jobs that I would still do – my current one included.

    Another great post, tell that hardass boss to chill out and give you a raise!

  14. I loved the fact you were teaching college at the age 19. I started when I was 22…and first time I stepped into the classroom I knew what I wanted to do forever. I do want FI, but I think I will always teach. The life of the mind is fantastic.

    1. It was kind of cool to be in front of the class at a relatively early age. 🙂 I ended up teaching in the graduate school at UNC for a few weeks per semester once I became a practicing engineer (my consulting firm paid for my time). Very awesome to connect with students who were interested in what I was talking about (noise engineering and traffic modeling).

    1. Dear kids: find something that makes you happy enough and pays fairly well. No job or career will be perfect, but you might as well get paid well in exchange for 8+ hours of your life every day.

      Specifically, I’m guiding them toward STEM related careers. One wants to be a college professor, which is a good starting point although a very competitive field in most academic disciplines. She’s in 4th grade so we’ll see how all that changes over time.

      They have mentioned teaching at the k-12 level, but I suggested that might not be a great idea if they plan on remaining in North Carolina given the horribly low teacher pay ($35k-ish which includes a COL adjustment in this county, other areas of the state make less).

      In reality, I think just about any career path can lead to contentment and some degree of financial security. It’s just a matter of how long the journey to FI takes.

  15. I think innately we all need to work, but if you take money out of the equation…what we pursue as work could possible change. I just started reading the book “Bold” and I tend to agree with the 3 ingredients that says will lead to fulfillment and thus success:

    1) Autonomy

    2) Mastery

    3) and Purpose

    I think we all want the FREEDOM to do what we want, when we want, and with whom we want (autonomy). Innately we all want to be good at something (mastery). And we need to have a reason for doing what were doing (purpose).

    To me the thought of not working sounds like torture. I am the type of guy that is always on overdrive. Until I have that side hustle I can turn in the main hustle I continue to work on mastering the work/life blend…at least until I can make the Break.


    1. I get 1 and 2. Autonomy = freedom to make your own decisions and be responsible for the consequences. Mastery = figuring it all out and being great at something.

      Purpose really seems to be a more elusive ethereal concept that I don’t necessarily think you have to have in order to live a fulfilling life. I certainly didn’t seek “purpose” at any of the jobs I chose (though helping at the special olympics might come pretty close). It’s hard to phrase this correctly, but I’m afraid if I spent a lot of time searching for purpose, I’d miss out on serendipitously falling into a pursuit that I actually enjoy and provides autonomy and opportunity for mastery.

      I kind of get the type A personality of “always on overdrive”. I have a hard time sitting still and doing absolutely nothing, but no trouble at all sitting and reading an engaging book for a few hours or watching an interesting documentary. Is reading a book and thinking about it and enjoying it an “activity” or something one does to fill the void between other “real” productive activities? I’d say the latter – a valid pursuit in its own right. I guess your individual take on leisure pursuits and how you fill your free time will shape whether you want to retire early and how you spend your time if you are early retired.

  16. It was refreshing to see that you never had a super high income job and still managed to pull it off. Impressive!

  17. I’m a big fan of not working. It’s the best job I’ve ever had

    I inherently prefer doing things without needing to tie an income to them. Externally imposed schedules, work hours, location, some of the coworkers, politics, etc… had a tendency to remove the fun from a job, even if I loved the work

  18. It must have been an adventure having all those different jobs. I’m glad to see people who’ve reached FI and now are ‘retired’ so early, enjoying life. I do not enjoy my work and am looking forward to doing something else, but right now it pays ok money. I don’t think I will retire early, like you, but I’m hoping to at least be able to own a business or two and have some passive income, so I can make my own schedule and be able to travel more with my spouse. Freedom is important to me, and I do not enjoy working for a corporation, having a set schedule and having superiors to listen to. I would trade a lower paying alternative for the higher-paid ’employee’ status.

  19. I haven’t had nearly as many jobs as you, wow! The great thing about having a lot of different jobs throughout your career though is they help you focus into a niche that works the best for you. Which you’ve accomplished!

    As for me, I actually like working. Not 60-80 hours a week like I used to on bad weeks, but 30-40 feels really good. I like having flexible control over my schedule as an “early retiree” myself, but I don’t really consider myself fully retired even though I quit my day job. I am working on building my passive income streams though so that I can make my way towards 20-30 hours a week.

    1. Sounds like you’re working toward a great position that keeps you active and engaged yet doesn’t absorb all your waking hours. It’s too bad more main stream jobs don’t allow flexible schedules. You would probably see a lot more happy employees and more productive employees.

  20. You’ve definitely got the best job now – that’s for sure!
    My take on working is this: I think like you said, most people work a typical 9-5 because they have a family to support, or themselves to support and they have debts they need to pay off.

    Do most people work at jobs that they love? I don’t think so. They do it just to pay the bills.

    I think that only a small percent of people actually have the drive and discipline it takes to become successful as an entrepreneur. It takes a certain level of passion and sacrifice to pursue an idea on your own and see it all the way through to fruition. At times, this can be even harder than working a 9-5 because the hours are longer, and you have to find ways to keep pushing yourself even when you may feel like giving up.

    When you work a 9-5, after a while, you may end up on “autopilot’ and you just go through the motions. Next thing you know, 20-30 years have passed by, you’ve earned a few salary increases, a few bonuses here and there…and you look back wishing that you probably spent your time doing something that you REALLY enjoyed instead

    I studied Engineering also, and ended up working as an Electrical Engineer throughout my career. At first, I was really interested in it. I really enjoyed learning about new tech, figuring out how things worked, etc..etc.

    Then I got my first job, and that quickly and abruptly wiped the good taste out of my mouth. Kind of like what happens when you don’t realize the milk has expired and you take that first sip. Yeah..kinda like that.

    Your story is very inspiring and motivating. It makes me believe that if you can do it – so can I!
    Thank you for sharing!

    1. Go for it, Ryan!

      I think a lot of people start out enamored of a particular career field or opportunity. Then once they jump in knee deep at an actual job, they realize the day to day work is very different than what they thought it would be!

  21. Thanks for the boost of confidence Justin!

    Looking back on my life..when I was in my mid-20’s..I definitely over estimated how rich I’d be by a certain age and definitely under estimated how long it would take me. LOL.

    Young and foolish I suppose.

    I know now that slow and steady wins the race. I know I’m on the right path. I have no debt and roughly about 40% of our household income goes towards investments. I just wish I was more aggressive with my investing when I first started working, I would’ve been further ahead than I am right now.

    I see that from age 23-30 is when your income really took a jump.
    Is that when you started investing really aggressively?
    Or were you always saving up for early retirement from before then?

    1. I think we had a net worth of $44k in December 2004 when I started tracking net worth. So not a lot of investing before I finished college in 2004. Although we did each have a few years of IRA contributions by 2004 I think (funded by part time work and Mrs. RoG’s ~1 year of work in between undergrad and grad school).

      Once we got the full time post-college jobs, that is when we cranked the savings up to 11.

  22. Hi Justin, great blog! Just curious how you paid for college? Your article on how you became a millionaire in ten years stated that you and your wife both graduated with no debt, wondering how that was accomplished. Thanks!

    1. We actually graduated law school with slightly over $100,000 in federal student loans. Unfortunately we didn’t figure out a way to graduate completely debt free, however we did manage to save a portion of the funds we received from the student loans (building a business and paying the mortgage on the condo we bought when I was in law school).

      1. Ah, that makes sense! I’m going to try and follow your financial lead. I’m in school now and starting from scratch, but your story has really motivated me, much appreciated. Happy holidays, and congrats on your success!

  23. My take on working?
    “Work” in Spanish is “Trabajo” which comes from the Latin “tripalium”. Tri = three, palium = stakes, or an instrument to immobilize and torture slaves.
    Does that answer your question? 😉

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