Welcome back to the Introvert Interview series. Today, we are fortunate to have Mr. Shirts from Stop Ironing Shirts. He and his wife are in their mid-30’s. They achieved Financial Independence at 34 and plan on fully retiring at 36. Mr. Shirts has worked for a large financial institution since graduating college at 21 and moved through the ranks from a management trainee to running a large team/division. His wife practiced as a veterinarian before retiring at 33.
If you want to be interviewed for the series, contact me and tell me why you’d be great! Be sure to sign-up for email updates to never miss an insightful interview.
Hello Mr. Shirts. Thank you for the Introvert Interview Number 2.
Thanks for the interview; it’s a different perspective to respond to a Financial Independence interview from the viewpoint of an introvert!
You’re welcome. Please tell us about yourself.
I’m 36 years old and have been married since 22. We don’t have any kids yet and currently live in the state of Texas. I run a little blog over at www.stopironingshirts.com.
Great blog name. Where did it come from?
I’ve always had to wear dress shirts for my job. I couldn’t come to grips with the costs of the cleaners, so once a month or so I found myself laundering and ironing a basket full of shirts. I just can’t find any joy in doing that. Now that I’m approaching retirement, I’m looking forward to the day I stop ironing shirts.
Why do you identify as an introvert?
I’ve identified as an introvert in a number of ways. I’ve taken the Myers Briggs test a couple of times for work and identified as an introvert, even when I was trying to trick it in my initial interview. Who wants an introvert for sales?
I’ve also noticed little nuisances; I’m more likely to walk by someone without saying anything at work, not because I want to be rude, but because I don’t have anything to say. I also have lived in both large and small cities for work, I much prefer the larger cities while working so I can “disappear” on the weekends and not have the surprise of seeing someone I know professionally when I’m not “mentally prepared” for it.
Where are you in your FI journey?
We reached our “Lean FIRE” number a couple of years ago, but I’m within a year from leaving my full-time job. My better half is also pretty introverted and she stopped practicing veterinary medicine almost four years ago when I took a big career move. We’re just trying to enjoy the final 10 1/2 months of our current location and figure out what is next.
Do you think your introversion motivated you to pursue FI?
I would lean yes. I enjoy people, but don’t enjoy the level of forced interaction that comes with my chosen career. I feel completely exhausted at the end of many days to the point of having no voice, its pretty draining.
Tell us about your career.
I work in financial services, specifically commercial banking. We loan money to privately held businesses. I currently lead a team of nine people and have progressed within the same company over the past fourteen years. Income in my current position varies between $250k and $350k depending on annual bonus and stock price based on equity compensation, although I only recently made it to that level of earnings.
Did your introversion have an impact on your occupation choice?
I originally tried to major in computer science, but was pretty bad at it. I switched over to finance, which was more spreadsheets and less programming and I thought I would be a financial analyst. Somehow through all this I ended up in a bank’s training program where the first job out was front-line sales and relationship management. I grew up pretty broke and I wasn’t about to go back there, so I figured out how to do it.
Does your introversion have an impact on your career?
It was interesting; the business development side of the job was tough. Who likes cold calling businesses for appointments or showing up to networking events where you don’t know anyone? That’s not enjoyable at all.
Three years into the job I was advised to go work for a certain manager, and then I suddenly had a leader who was an introvert himself. He understood me and started coaching me effectively.
I ended up being the type of salesperson who could figure out problems others couldn’t, then when I got a “deal” in, I was so excited to work on it and have the “me” time. I would work on the transaction non-stop and was A LOT faster than my competitors. I started winning more business and then I had clients making introductions for me.
Introversion to me looked like I enjoyed one-on-one interactions, but always struggled with larger groups. When one client would make an introduction for me to another company, I was walking in with credibility and enjoyed showing people what I knew on deals.
I eventually developed self-awareness of my strengths and weaknesses. I’m making a choice not to peruse the next level of my career for many reasons, one of which is the level of interaction and the social responsibilities required with the job.
Did/does your introversion have an impact on your professional network?
Early on, this was a detriment. Interestingly I now see it as an advantage. I enjoy one-on-one interaction and have always made it a point to stay in touch with people. Text messages are also a great invention. When I have a little bit of down time I always send nice messages to people I haven’t talked to in a while. This keeps my professional network strong, but it was a trained skill.
Has your introversion impacted your relationships with coworkers, clients, business partners, etc.?
I figured out I was a lot better one-on-one than in groups so I invested more time with people. You leave an impact on people, positive or negative, based on how they walk away from interacting with you. I’m someone a lot of people come to for advice and I’m always diplomatic and helpful to them. In a large company, you have to find the right balance of political correctness and being yourself and people appreciate it.
Based on your experience, what career/occupation/entrepreneurial advice would you give to someone more introverted?
I would tell people not to be afraid of sales. There are things that are more difficult, but you also posses the ability to listen. Getting the one-on-one appointment may be tougher for you, but if you listen to what the potential customer needs and respond thoughtfully, you’ll be successful. It elevated my income above my wildest dreams and allowed me to reach FI before turning 35.
What is your FI strategy?
We’ve always avoided lifestyle inflation and lived on our starting salaries, so savings started accelerating quickly. Right now I’m in the “rest and vest” phase, trying not to get too stressed out over work and waiting for one final stock vesting to hit before riding into retirement.
One of the challenges in my profession is I have restrictions in my job from participating in private business activity. I’m looking forward to hobby entrepreneurship in the future.
I’m feeling pretty good on our savings rate, it runs 60% or so of gross income, which isn’t bad with another 20% going to taxes.
I’m pretty boring when it comes to investments, with over two-thirds of our holdings sitting in index funds. I mainly focus on asset allocation. There are some individual stock positions. The only one that I’m really attached to is Costco (a slight obsession with the company), but we are slowly whittling these down to a smaller percentage of the pipeline through donations to a donor advised fund, primarily buying index funds for new purchases, and slowly harvesting some capital gains.
What does your ideal day look like?
That’s what I’m looking most forward to figuring out. I’ve been a workaholic since turning 16 and turned up the gas when I graduated college at 21. I plan on taking at least the first six months or more off just to figure that out.
What are three things you want to do more of when you reach FI?
I can’t name just three…
Fish, write, volunteer (two causes we’re pretty passionate about), take up skiing again, travel, learn to surf, hobby entrepreneurship, venture investing, run a marathon…and so much more. I’ve been a workaholic with many minor hobbies.
What are three new things you want to learn/relearn when you reach FI?
I may try to finish up my CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) Designation. Otherwise I really don’t know. That’s a great question. I’ve kind of been enjoying typing 15 plus years of my inner money-nerd into a computer too.
What is one actionable thing that extroverts should understand about introverts?
I think this is more of a comment I’ll make about leadership. If you are extroverted and leading a group of people including introverted people, then you need to take pauses and occasionally coax people’s opinions out of them. You also can’t be afraid to call people and ask for their feedback one-on-one.
What is one actionable thing that introverts should understand about extroverts?
I’m going to use the experience of my father-in-law, who’s extremely extroverted and surrounded by introverts. The fact someone “thinks out loud” can’t offend you. He thinks “out loud” all the time, which can irritate people around him. I just learned that’s part of his thought process and to roll with it. It’s not good or bad, it’s just different than how I process thought.
What is the financial move that has had the most positive impact on your journey that others can learn from?
I’ll answer this with two:
1) Staying with the same company in an industry where people jump around. The pyramid gets very narrow in large companies and there are multiple people qualified for the leadership jobs that come available, making the deciding factor trust. How much do the people higher up trust you to run a multi-million dollar line of business for their company? That trust is earned over time and you don’t get to this level by jumping between employers every three years.
2) Avoid lifestyle inflation. It’s such a basic answer, but we were perfectly happy living on a couple thousand dollars a month plus our housing expense. We never really changed that and saved our pay increases. This is something in life I like to say, “It’s difficult, but its not complicated”.
What money mistakes have you made that others can learn from?
Don’t buy more house than you can afford and buy the house close to your employer. I lost $70,000 on a $250,000 house over seven years and signed myself up for a grueling commute. We didn’t need a five-bedroom house at 26. It still seems absurd and set us back at least a year in our FI journey.
What is the one thing you wish you had known when it comes to introversion and success?
It took me a long time to learn self-awareness of my introversion. You always have to be aware of how your actions impact others and adapt to be successful.
Thank you Mr. Shirts!
Thank you for the interview opportunity. I enjoyed this!
My key takeaways from the interview are:
- This is the second interview in a row where the high performing individual worried his introversion impacted the interview process.
- It is a false premise that introverts are not good at sales, business development or fundraising. We develop solid relationships and reputations that lead to referrals.
- Solving people’s problems is what wins business and jobs.
- Also for the second time we’ve seen that understanding introversion is key to individual career success because you can employ strategies to put yourself into situations where you can thrive.
- Introverts like people but we don’t enjoy forced interaction.
- Find introverted mentors to learn from (like this blog and interview series).
- Building relationships is a skill you can learn.
- Extroverts “think out loud” just as we process internally. Have patience with it and accept it.
- Avoiding lifestyle inflation and the compounding effect of staying in the same company can earn your freedom in the your late thirties.
If you want to be interviewed for the series, contact me and tell me why you’d be a great subject! Be sure to sign-up for email updates to never miss an insightful interview.