Welcome back to the Introvert Interview series. The fifth interview in this series is from Time in the Market. In his own words, he’s taking an easy path to financial independence. He’s not overly frugal. His goal is to save enough to give himself the option to get out of the grind while he’s still young enough to enjoy life.
He sounds like very much like myself, wanting to spend as much time as he can with his dog and minimizing time doing unfulfilling work.
Welcome! Please tell us about yourself.
I recently turned 34 and have been in a relationship with my awesome soon to be wife for about four years. She’s 28 and we’re planning our wedding right now which is a few months away.
I’m originally from Poland. My family came over when I was ten and settled in Connecticut.
I’m still in the northeast in a high cost of living area. We are total pet people and have a Goldendoodle, Teddy and a bunny named Bun Bun. Bun Bun even had a post on my blog for April 1st so now Teddy is jealous and might have to get one too.
I like being a homebody, reading, board games, hiking, wasting time on the internet and writing. We also recently got a rowing machine so I’m trying to get in shape as well before our honeymoon.
Why do you identify as an introvert?
My favorite thing to do on a weekday is to be in bed by 9:30 pm with a good book. That’s not why I’m an introvert but I thought you should know that I live my life like a retiree already.
As far as the introvert part goes, crowds and events with a lot of people just tire me out. I feel completely exhausted when I must be around a large group of people for an extended period. That doesn’t mean that my nails haven’t been cut in months, I pee in jars and hiss at the sight of the sun! It just means that I prefer to stay in when I can and when I need to recharge. I’m still socially capable when needed.
When I do go out, I enjoy smaller gatherings and prefer not to stay out too late. My favorite things to do are either going for a hike and enjoying nature or play some board games with a small group of friends. I’m not the type of person to spend a night out at a crowded bar or go to clubs.
Where are you in your FI journey?
I’m maybe 40% of the way there, give or take. I really have no long-term net worth goal and am just taking it day by day and saving as much as I can each pay period.
One of the things I was excited about this year was hitting $500k which seemed so out of reach a few years ago. The cool part about that is that my annual salary in the 10 years I’ve been working was $70k per year so it’s great that I was able to achieve such a high total on that salary.
It shows that you don’t have to earn $300k/year to get on this early retirement train.
The $500k milestone was recent and the stock market has been flat since then, so it hasn’t moved much. I do an update that helps me direct future contributions based on my asset allocation and track where I am.
The portfolio makes up a good portion of my net worth since I don’t own any property yet. We are looking for our first home right now, but everything sucks!
I do have some savings beyond that for a down payment and an emergency fund, but the portfolio is ~90% of my overall net worth.
I track and set my short term goals on my blog because I think writing down goals and tracking them definitely helps as a motivator. I’ve seen much better results in all aspects of my finances since I started working on the blog. I started the blog to keep track of my journey and motivate myself and it’s worked great in that regard.
My long-term goal is to retire before 45 so I still a few more working years ahead of me. The good thing right now is that I don’t hate my job, so I got that going for me which is nice.
Do you think your introversion motivated you to pursue FI?
I think so. One of the things that’s appealing to me about early retirement is the ability to choose your own path. Right now, a lot of us are working in a 9 to 5 job that may not suit our personality. Being to escape that and do your own thing would be great. I may not hate my job now but having the flexibility to quit in a few years or take a year off and look for something different in case I do will be great.
Tell us about your career
I work as a team lead in the underwriting department of a consulting firm. We mainly deal with medical insurance for our clients. I started at this company right out of college in 2008 before the financial crisis and was lucky not to get laid off. My initial salary was $45k and has grown decently since then after a few promotions. The team lead position means I essentially manage a small team of underwriters alongside my director.
I took the role about two years ago after being an individual contributor for 8 years. I was nervous at first since it required more interaction with external and internal parties, but it’s limited in scope, so I do well with it.
Like I mentioned before, my average gross income in the 10 years I’ve worked has been $70k/year.
Does your introversion have an impact on your occupation choice?
I think it does. One of the things I wanted to avoid is a high-stress competitive job field and this certainly fits that mold. I graduated college with a finance degree but some of the jobs in that field just wouldn’t fit my personality well, so I went with something less stressful and competitive.
Even as a team lead, I only interact with a small group of people in my day to day role and that works for me since I can develop more meaningful relationships with those people. Beyond that, it’s a lot of math and spreadsheet analytics which I enjoy and that’s probably one of the reasons I’ve stayed there for quite some time.
Does your introversion have an impact on your career?
Yes, although it’s not just introversion that limits my career prospects. A lot of it is a personal choice. One of the key factors for me in sticking with a job is a good work/life balance and my job has that in droves. I’ve noticed a lot of the people that have been promoted to director and higher are a lot more outgoing/social than I am, but they also spend a lot more time at work so it’s hard to tell which has more of an impact.
One of the things I forced myself to do in my late 20s is to be more outgoing and that translated to bigger raises and a promotion at work. Taking on some traits of an extrovert certainly helped me get noticed by upper management and eventually get offered a team lead role. Still, there’s only so much an introvert can do when it comes to that area and I didn’t want to distance myself too much from the person I really am.
I did notice, however, that faking it till you make it is a real thing as my social interactions have become easier in the recent years.
Still, I’m the type of guy who wants to be in the office as little as possible and that doesn’t necessarily translate to becoming a rising star in the company.
The problem with rising through the ranks is that you often must face out to a lot more people and travel too. I like my small team and am not sure I want anything bigger.
Does your introversion have an impact on your professional network?
I’m not sure mainly because I don’t have much of a professional network. Hmm, in that sense maybe it has! Our company culture isn’t one where we all go out every night to have drinks as most people head home after work. That works for me!
The relationships I have with the small group of people I work with are great but then I don’t have much of a relationship with people outside that group. That’s one of the things with being an introvert, you can certainly be social in small doses but it’s hard to break out of that and do it on a global scale.
Has your introversion impacted your relationships with co-workers, clients, business partners, etc.?
I think an introvert can come off as shy or stand-offish. I try my best not to be that way but it’s often hard to force myself to engage people socially since that’s not my nature. Most of my relationships with my co-workers and bosses are good but many are very surface level professional relationships.
My group of friends is small as well, and I think that’s common with introverts. I prefer time alone and if I’m going to do something with a group of friends, I want it time well spent.
I think that translated into my work when I first started my career, I wasn’t as open to new relationships as I am now and that may have led me to come off as a bit of a dick. I worked on that and worked on my social anxiety as well and tried my best change that aspect of my personality.
I’ve noticed a much warmer response from my bosses and the people I work with in the past few years as I became more approachable. It’s one of the reasons I was promoted to a team lead role after being an individual contributor for many years.
Based on your experience, what advice would you give to someone more introverted?
Fake it till you make it. As I mentioned taking on some extrovert traits helped me a lot. It’s not necessary for every industry and it depends on your managers but the reality is that a lot of extrovert traits are better suited to certain higher paying roles especially once you get into management.
What is your FI strategy?
My FI strategy is to earn as much as I can while maintaining a good work/life balance. I get in at 8:30 am and leave at 4:30 pm right now and that’s perfect for me. I can make more in a higher up role but then I’d have to work more too and I’m not sure I want that. I may have an opportunity for a promotion soon and that’s something I’ll have to think about.
I also write a little bit on the side although I haven’t published anything in the past year. Still, I get about $30-$50/month in residual income from stories selling on Amazon or Apple. I plan to get back to that eventually but have been busy with my blog.
The blog is monetized with ads and I plan to expand that is it grows but the blog isn’t anywhere close to being profitable as I only started being consistent with it recently. On top of that, I didn’t start the blog as a money-making venture and plan to donate at least 50% of the profits (if I ever have any) to charitable causes
I try to aim for a savings rate close to 50%. I haven’t done a great job with that recently but the tracking I do on the blog has certainly allowed me to see where I was falling short and improve my savings rate. I track my expenses and savings rate every month and hope to be over 50% consistently soon. It’s going to be hard this year with the wedding and honeymoon expenses though!
One thing that’s important to me when it comes to saving is that I don’t want to limit myself too much. We only have one life and I don’t want to be miserable now while saving for the future. Luckily, I’m the type of person who’s happy without a lot of stuff as most of the things I enjoy in life are free. That means a high savings rate comes naturally but I still won’t limit myself when it comes to spending on something that’ll really improve my quality of life.
The idea is to build the life I want, live it not and save for it so I can live it later too.
My investment strategy is entirely based on the stock market. I revisit my asset allocation every year and see if I want to make changes but have stuck to the original asset allocation that I developed in 2008.
I’m mostly in index funds but about 30% my portfolio is individual stocks which have done very well for me.
I tend to avoid real estate simply because I like to keep it simple.
What does your ideal day look like?
Wake up early with the rising sun and spend a bit of time on the internet catching up on articles (i.e, memes on Reddit) before my wife wakes up as she’s a late sleeper. I’d make us a nice breakfast then we’d take a long walk with the dog.
I like structure so at this point I might head out to a personal office and work a bit on my hobbies. We’re big fans of brunch so maybe we’ll head out a grab a bite to eat around noon or just stay in and eat lunch.
The rest depends on the weather. If it’s nice then take a ride down to the beach and/or a park and spend time enjoying the day and walking before heading home for dinner. Otherwise, stay in, snuggle and watch some TV or read a nice book in my rocking chair.
Before going to bed, I’d probably go through emails, answer questions and work on my hobbies again – maybe get a workout in as well.
What are three things you want to do more of when you reach FI?
I want to cook more elaborate meals as often I’m just making something simple to save time.
I’d like to spend time on my blog focusing more on the fun articles now that I don’t have to track my monthly progress that much.
Travel would be good as well especially if we have more time to spend there. We visit one or two places a year right now and expanding that would be great. One of the things I hate about travel is the actual travel time and how short our trips are in relation to that. Having no job to go back to would mean we could take a month-long trip and not worry about it.
What are three new things you want to learn/relearn when you reach FI?
I’d like to pick up photography although I may do that soon as I’ve been thinking of getting a nice camera.
I already do a lot of reading, but I want to expand that as well, maybe pick up a bunch of cookbooks and work on improving my cooking.
I’d like to do more charity work as well and spend more time on causes that help others. One thing that I’d be interested in is helping people with financial literacy. The blog does that in a way, but it’d be much more impactful on a personal level.
What is one actionable that extroverts should understand about introverts?
We are not socially awkward weirdos who can’t hold a conversation. We’re simply people who prefer to stay in and don’t enjoy going out as much as you do.
People are always surprised when I want to go home after a day’s work and don’t want to spend all night drinking beer with my team. Guys, I just spent all day with you and I have a loving wife at home I want to spend time with. My dog also requires pets!
What is one actionable thing that introverts should understand about extroverts?
Extroverts enjoy being out as much as you enjoy being in and they’re not at the happy hour on Friday night because they want to avoid their home life. They just recharge from the work day in a different way than I do and that’s cool.
What is the financial move that has had the most positive impact on your journey that others can learn from?
Whenever you get your first job and get a 401(k), set the percentage to something like 10-20% (make sure you can cover the necessities like rent and food with that number). Your first paycheck will have a forced saving mechanism built into it and you’ll get used to living on a certain dollar amount.
It’s much easier to spend money when it hits your bank account and if what’s hitting your bank account is money after you’ve saved 10-20% then it’s easy to just forget about that money you’re saving. Any raises you get will automatically increase your dollars saved as well. Once you have that going and take advantage of the power of compounding, you’ll be good be in a pretty spot.
What money mistakes have you made that others can learn from?
I played around with options a bit and that’s never a great idea unless you get lucky. It’s an easy way to lose a few hundred bucks quickly. The risk here is that you’ll have a hit or two where you’ll get a 1000%+ return and get really enamored with the “potential” of hitting it rich and ignore the fact that your shot at hitting 0 is much larger.
What is the one thing you wish you had known or would like to know more about when it comes to introversion and personal finance?
The reality is that you’ll need to fake it at times. Introverts aren’t often the best social butterflies but those type of behaviors are important in many industries for career prospects. It can be tiring for us introverts to do it but it’s not the end of the world. If it helps you advance your career, earn more, save more and retire earlier then it’s totally worth it. You might even find that you don’t hate it as much as you thought you might.
- My neck is super sore because all I did while reading this was nod in agreement. Spend time with dog, check. Get home to a great book, check. A desire for a low competitive work environment, check.
- Note that career success followed an effort to be slightly more extroverted. I 100% agree that being just a little more self-aware and trying to be slightly more engaged with coworkers will have a much greater positive impact than the small effort you need to put out.
- This is the third interview in a row where we have had someone making amazing progress towards FI with income below six figures.
- Lastly, great Caddyshack reference.
Thank you Time in the Market!
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.