Category Archives: Money Management

Podcast: How an Entrepreneur achieved Lifestyle Freedom

Steve Miller Entrpreneur

Jordon Bryant of ChambersDS App Academy just published this podcast with Steve Miller, who built a multi-million dollar software business and sold it in 2009 and retired. After being retired for several years and traveling the world, Steve is now creating mobile apps in between time he spends golfing, boating, cycling and keeping fit.

Ways To Listen To This Episode

About Steve Miller

The guest for this podcast is Steve Miller, an entrepreneur who built the multi-million dollar Pragmatic software and sold it to AutomatedQA, which is now SmartBear Software, in 2009. He has over 24 years of experience in software development, project management, and software architecture.

Here are the highlights of the conversation with Steve:
  • 1:23 : Steve gives us a peak in his consulting days with Microsoft and how this influenced him in forming his previous company, Pragmatic Software.
  • 3:21 : The solutions, features and benefits of their software, and the pivots they had made to fully develop their company including branding and building up clients to make the business viable. These strategies resulted to winning awards and, in turn, made them more attractive to other companies.
  • 06:16 : How they ended up being acquired by creating strategic partnerships and pre-planning integrations with other vendors with products complimentary to theirs. We also discuss the value exchange that happens during cross promotions and partnerships, not only in terms of revenue, but also when it comes to building relationships.
  • 08:46 : We dig into how he came up with a SMART exit strategy and how he ensured that this buyout plan came into fruition. Steve shares the timelines, starting out by identifying the list of companies which would be a good fit, narrowing them down, reaching out to form a relationship to those which remained as potential candidates and finally achieving the goal of being acquired.
  • 12:07 : Steve explains what a buyout earn out is, as well as the things that companies are looking for before doing acquisitions. He adds that they are not just interested in the product but also, they are interested on what you will bring into the table. As someone who knows your product well, they would look at you to be there to support the transition initially. He also shared pay out terms during their buyout and how they exceeded revenue targets which resulted to bonuses.
  • 14:04 : What Steve is currently doing with his free time including travelling, exploring his hobbies, and finally deciding to enter the mobile app development world.
  • 15:10 : His amusing story of how losing his iPad spurred his genius and resulted to his first app creation, aMemoryJog. He also talks about how travel can change perspectives and about his long-term plans.
  • 18:41 : The structures Steve had in place when he started working with aMemoryJog starting from looking at the competitive landscape, creating a business plan after his analysis, and documenting his processes along the way.
  • 23:53 : Apart from looking at the App Store, Steve also shared his other validation techniques such as having the app reviewed with friends and family and leveraging on his network.
  • 25:21 : How detailing his specifications helped him in landing a good price and using oDesk and Elance services for his app development needs. Steve also shares advice to people seeking development.
  • 27:57 : Steve’s other marketing efforts including reaching out to bloggers to tap them to become beta testers in different silos to get feedback. He also shares how he plans to reach out to them using a template with a YouTube video and how he tracks response rates.
  • 36:10 : Other key take aways that Steve had learned from his first app that he will be applying for the second: driving social virality through sharing capability and establishing good PR.

Rapid Fire Questions

  • Would you put more emphasis on the idea or the execution? How would you weigh each of them why?
    • Everybody has an idea for an app so for me it’s 10% idea, 90% execution.
  • What is your biggest learning lesson on your journey so far?
    • It’s good to localize but you can localize too early.
  • What is your favorite business book?
  • What is your favorite app?
  • What is the coolest thing that you are working on right now that you want everyone to know about?

Links From The Episode

Connect With Our Guest

Advertisements

aMemoryJog Free Password Manager App is finally available in the App Store!

For those of you following my blog, you know that I retired a couple of years ago but decided to embark on a new software business in my spare time. It’s a lifestyle business that allows me to work when I am inspired or when it is cold or rainy and can’t get out and do something outside (like golf, cycle or hike).

Over the past year, I have been working on my first project — an iPhone app that tracks passwords, reward cards and other easy-to-forget stuff.  I am happy to say that as of today, it is finally available in the Apple App Store! I have both a free and paid version of the app, you can download either one here:

These work with both iPhone and iPad. The web edition works with any PC or Mac.

So what does it do?

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video must be worth at least 2 thousand. Watch this 1 minute video to see aMemoryJog in action.

Can I ask a big Favor?

Further in the blog I will discuss more about how the app works. But before we get too far, can I ask a favor? Now that aMemoryJog is in the Apple App Store, can I kindly ask that you download the FREE edition here (assuming you have an iPhone)?

Reviews can really help an app do well in the app store. If you like the app, can you leave a review in the app store? If you don’t like it, send me an email (support@amemoryjog.com) and let me know what you dislike about it so I can fix it.

Why a Password Manager App?

I bet you have lots of passwords and keeping track of them can be difficult. Maybe you are keeping your passwords in Excel or a notebook — not very secure. Hopefully you don’t use the same password on every website because if someone learns that password, it could be disastrous.

Using a password manager app like aMemoryJog safeguards your passwords with 256-bit encryption (similar to what most banks use). As you store the password for each website, it allows you to tap the website and it auto-fills the stored userid and password. That way you can use really strong passwords for each website but don’t have to remember them.

aMemoryJog Free Password app

aMemoryJog Password Manager – Web and iPhone editions

What if my iPhone is Stolen?

Last year, over 3.1 million smart phones were stolen and an alarming number of them did not have a passcode. If your phone is stolen and your passwords are stored in a spreadsheet or notes area on the phone, your passwords are at risk of being compromised.

A while back, I was at the gym and left my iPad on a bench for a couple of minutes. When I returned, you guessed it, it was gone. For days I worried about someone logging into my secure websites and it made me think that there must be some way to protect them.

aMemoryJog will do that. If you are using aMemoryJog on your iPhone and it is lost or stolen, you can log into the aMemoryJog web site and remotely shut down the aMemoryJog password database that’s on your phone. When the thief tries to log in, it detects it has been stolen and erases all of the passwords from the app.  See this video to see how it works.

Can I get a Discount on the Pro edition?

If you like the free app so much that you would like to upgrade to the paid (Pro) edition, wait until Thursday March 26, 2015 — I am going to offer it for half price for 30 days (it will be $4.99 instead of $9.99), so just click here to download the app after then and it will be half price.  Here are the advantages of upgrading to the Pro edition:

  • No Ads – The pesky ads go away
  • Recycle Bin – You can un-delete any deleted records
  • Backup and Restore – Safeguard your passwords by backing them up to the cloud
  • Free web edition – You can access the web edition for free
  • Remote Self Destruct – Wipe out your passwords if your phone is lost or stolen
  • Being Cool – It’s cool to support our hard work

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think about the new app.

Goals for 2015: Self, Family, Others

Most years I make goals but I do them silently. This year I am publishing my goals because I’ve found in the past that you have more accountability when others know what you’re up to.

For example, I told all my friends in 2013 that I was planning to cycle 50 miles by training for 7 weeks. Knowing that my friends would be asking me about my progress, I accomplished the task in 6 weeks. In 2014, I repeated this task with my youngest son (Ryan) and we did it much faster than I did in 2013 (we trimmed 45 minutes off my 2013 time).

I also used this technique when we built our business. We would set goals in January and tied year-end team bonuses to those goals. Each month we would meet to discuss the progress and ideas to help us stay on track to those goals. It worked really well.

2015 Mission

My mission for 2015 is to become more balanced. After much self-reflection, I’ve come to believe that being balanced is a function of 3 areas of my life:

Goal Balance: Self, Family, Others

2015 Goals

For a goal to be meaningful, it must meet this criteria:

  • It must have a time frame (by the end of year, etc.)
  • It must be attainable (if your goal is to become incredibly handsome and even your Mom thinks you’re dog ugly, this might be an unattainable goal)
  • It must be measurable (do something [x] number of times)


SELF

  1. Learn to draw better – By end of year, produce 5 drawings I am proud of.
  2. Learn Photoshop better – By end of year, produce 5 photo-edited pictures I would happily hang in our home.
  3. Stay in Shape – By end of year, workout at least 100 times.
  4. Become a better friend – By the end of year, communicate regularly with at least 8 friends (outside of my family).
  5. Learn to cook – By end of year, be able to cook at least 10 meals that I would confidently serve to others.

OK, I hear you saying “how self-centered” to start with SELF first. I firmly believe that you can’t help others until you help yourself, so that is why I list it first. So shut up :).

LEARN TO DRAW AND PHOTOSHOP BETTER

I’ve always loved to draw but quite frankly, I’m not very good. Like anything else, I think I can learn some techniques to help. Ditto with Photoshop, it would be cool to experiment more with black and white photo editing.

Photos by Steve Miller

STAY IN SHAPE

I’ve never had issues staying in shape, I normally work out 3-5 times a week (whether it be weight training, cycling, hiking or golfing) but it is good to keep that in the forefront of my goals. In the past year, I’ve cycled over 2,000 miles!

Cycling 50 miles

BECOME A BETTER FRIEND

It’s so easy to lose touch with friends. Sure, Facebook is fine for keeping track of what your acquaintances are up to but how many of those relationships are you really growing? I plan to make a dedicated effort to communicate more frequently with my top 8 friends.

LEARN TO COOK

My wife is an incredible cook and so are both my sons. I admit it, I’m a bit of a slacker. But no more, I am going to learn to cook and I might even invite you over for a meal.



FAMILY

  1. Continue our Travels – By end of year, vacation at least 60 days
  2. Be More Fiscally Responsible – By end of year, reduce our retirement draw to a safe withdrawal rate (4%-5%) or less
  3. Solidify Our Home – By end of year, sell our condo and start the construction of our new home

CONTINUE OUR TRAVELS

We will continue to take short trips in the USA this year. Traveling internationally will be more challenging now that we have our dog (Katie) back. There are lots of great places to visit in the states, so we plan to visit some more areas (like North Carolina, Savannah, St. Simons Islands, Tybee Island, etc.)

Vacationing in 2015

BE MORE FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE

In our first 2 years of retirement, we were learning the ropes and getting our sea legs. Any competent financial adviser will tell you that if you withdraw 4% or less from your retirement funds per year, you can live on that amount for the rest of your life. In fact, there is a great article on that here.

Luckily, the stock market has gone gang busters since we retired in 2009 and our net worth is higher now than the day we retired. But I know that this will not be the case forever, so it is important to reduce our draw to the safe withdrawal rate of 4% – 5% per year.

In Business 101, you learn that increased profitability is affected in 2 ways: By earning more or spending less. We can use that same principle here to reduce our yearly draw. We can make money outside of the retirement draw and/or we can reduce our expenses.

In 2015, I will be launching at least 2 mobile apps and they should be producing income that should affect the bottom line. We are also reducing our monthly spending. Since October, we’ve reduced our spending by 40% over that same time period in 2013. Wow, that will affect the bottom line! How did we do it? We simply made a budget and tracked it weekly. Each week, my wife and I review our progress and make changes according to how we are doing. Simple move, big results!

SOLIDIFY OUR HOME

The value of our condo has increased by about 38% since we purchased it in 2011 so we feel this is a good time to sell it and roll that money into a house. We purchased a lot (only a block from the ocean) and plan to build on it as soon as the condo sells. We are looking forward to being in a home once again too.



OTHERS

  1. Give Back by Volunteering – By end of year, volunteer at least 30 days
  2. Give Back Financially – By end of year, anonymously donate to 4 needy families.

GIVE BACK BY VOLUNTEERING

I was first exposed to Habitat for Humanity in Denver, when one of my sons and I volunteered. I’ve connected with the Walton County Habitat for Humanity and have already started volunteering. What a great organization, it is great to see the impact the volunteers are making. I look forward to volunteering here and other places in 2015.

Volunteering at Habitat for Humanity

GIVE BACK FINANCIALLY

I would prefer to donate to families we learn about than to blindly donate to an organization. I am sure that most charitable organizations do a great job of getting the funds to people in need but I do know that a good portion of the funds go to service the positions held by members of the organization (salaries, expenses, etc.).

In my opinion, finding needy families and giving directly to them anonymously is a better alternative. We can find families through volunteering, churches, and through hearing of them from friends and family.

Tracking Your Goals

As someone who appreciates software, I am tracking my goal progress using software. The software I use is called GoalsOnTrack. The thing I like about it is that it allows me to put my goals in, track tasks associated with the goals and gives me a visual indicator as I complete the goal. If you are interested in learning more about it, visit http://www.GoalsOnTrack.

Goals On Track

Let Me Hear from You!

Leave a comment with what your 2015 goals are, I would love to hear from you!

Follow This Blog via Email

If you are viewing this blog post from the Internet or someone else forwarded it to you, you can receive an email each time we post a blog by simply signing up for the email. To do that, look at the sidebar to the right of this post (it says “FOLLOW BLOG VIA EMAIL”). Type your email in there and tap FOLLOW.

Also, if you would like to follow my blog about my app business, go to http://www.aMemoryJog.com/Blog.

Thanks!

Finding a Post-Retirement Muse

Eliminating Post-Retirement Boredom

In my March 8, 2013 blog, I talked about how I stumbled onto an idea when we stopped at a hotel and forgot my Hilton’s rewards card. As I was checking in, they asked me for my loyalty card number and I could not remember it. I thought man, if I could have that info on my phone I could easily retrieve it and not miss any loyalty points. That spawned an idea to create an app that could house all my loyalty cards, website passwords and any other personal information that is useful to have at my fingertips.

Well, I just finished the first version of this. It is called aMemoryJog because it literally jogs your memory if you forget passwords, account information (bank, credit card, loyalty, frequent flyer accounts), or anything else you have a hard time remembering. For me to be comfortable using it, I knew it had to be secure, so I implemented 256-bit AES encryption, the same level of encryption most banks use.

If you want to try it, point your browser to http://www.aMemoryJog.com and click the Free 30 Day Account button. This version works from your web browser, so you can use it from your PC, Mac, iPad or any other tablet. You can even use it from your smartphone but I will be creating a smartphone optimized version for the iPhone, Android and Windows phones in the near future — a version that will make using it on a smaller screen much easier.

If you are just curious how it works, watch the YouTube video: http://youtu.be/26flOLCj6uk.

Why Start Another Business?

You may be wondering why I would start another business after I just retired just over a year ago. In short, I wanted to stay mentally sharp, occupy my time between traveling and hobbies, and generating additional cash to further fund our retirement never hurts.

Have you ever read the book by Tim Ferriss called “The 4-Hour Workweek“? If not, you should pick it up, it is a great book. It talks about how to optimize your workload to gain maximum efficiency with the least amount of time spent doing it. He talks about creating a “muse” — a business that is so optimized that it requires minimal effort. So that is what this project is for me — my muse.

When I started thinking seriously about doing this, I jotted down the goals of my muse:

  • It must be inexpensive to start
  • It must have low overhead
  • It must be accessible anywhere in the world, because we like to travel
  • It must allow me to work and play as little or as much as I like (I have lots of hobbies and love to play)

A software business fit the bill perfectly.With a strong software architecture and programming background, I could do all the programming. With no need for a physical office, my overhead costs would be low. If it ever becomes too much work, I know I can easily outsource the programming and/or support.

Other Early Retirees With Muses

As we were working towards early retirement, we were inspired by a couple of early retirees. The first was Billy and Akaisha Kaderli (http://retireearlylifestyle.com/). They retired at the age of 38! After traveling extensively for a couple of years, they began to amass tons of travel knowledge. So they wrote a series of books to aid other early retirees and travelers. Their book The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement is a great read. So this is a labor of love for them and their muse.

Another example is Robert (Bob) and Robin Charlton. They retired at 43 years old. After a few years of retirement, they wrote a book called How To Retire Early: Your Guide to Getting Rich Slowly and Retiring on Less. What a great book, and this is their muse.

What’s Next for Us?

We will spend the next few months visiting our boys at CSU in Fort Collins, Colorado, spending Christmas, New Years, and most of January there. I plan to ski on some of my favorite Colorado mountains, spend lots of time with our boys, and mountain bike as much as possible. As inspiration strikes, I will begin working on the iPhone version of aMemoryJog with hopes of finishing that by early Spring.

Reflecting on my First Year of Retirement

A Year has Passed Since I Retired

Wow, a full year has passed since I said goodbye to a twice monthly paycheck, corporate meetings, and working long hours.  My retirement anniversary was August 1 and it was celebrated silently while on a cruise to Alaska.  Pretty fitting, to be traveling on my retirement anniversary seeing that we have been traveling for about 7 of the past 12 months.

Lots of Traveling in the Past 12 Months

The past year has been pretty eventful.  We’ve visited the Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu, eaten fresh lobster directly from fishing boats in the Bahamas, and visited spectacular national parks (including Yosemite, Sequoia NP, Yellowstone NP, and Denali NP).   We’ve meandered in the Pacific Northwest, seeing lots of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.  And we cruised the beautiful Alaskan coast and saw awe-inspiring glaciers crumbling into the sea.

Long Island, Bahamas

Deans Blue Hole in Long Island, Bahamas

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

The Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands

What I’ve Learned Since Retiring a Year Ago

Looking back on my first year, I have learned a few things and am sure to learn and rethink things as time progresses:

  • Off the Hook.  Before I retired, I normally received hundreds of emails, conducted presentations, received numerous phone calls and led meetings every day.  Now I get almost no phone calls and a handful of emails daily.  No one seems to need me anymore ;).
  • From Blue to Rosey.  After we took our first 3 month of travels and settled back in for a few months, I felt a little down. Anyone that knows me knows that I am a really upbeat optimist and rarely do I get down.  After a bit of research, I learned that it is actually normal — it is called post retirement depression.  Never anticipated that one!  Once I knew what it was, I filled my day with fun things to do and it passed.
  • Slow is the New Fast.  I’ve learned to slow down.  When driving, there is no need to speed or rush from one thing to another. This is strange when I think how I used to run around like a chicken with his head cut off.  It is pretty cool to simply live in the moment in a more calm way and not rush about.
  • Humpday Smumpday.  Everyday is a weekend.  You can do things when others are working, no more fighting crowds. However, I do miss the anticipation that used to build as the week progressed.  I remember getting excited for hump day (only a couple more days to go before the weekend) and how special Friday afternoon felt when I left work.   I have to admit that I miss that.  Most days I don’t even know what day of the week it is because they all feel the same.
  • Boredom is Self-Inflicted. I get asked a lot “are you bored to death?”. Nope. I figure if I am bored then I am not using my creative juices to find fun things to do to fill the day.  I sleep in, don’t have to rush through my daily workout, ride my bike a lot more than I ever have, play golf, fish, and boat. I find new places to take pictures, and I keep myself sharp by learning new skills.
  • Chill Out! A few months into retirement, I started freaking out about money. Will we outlast our nest egg? Will the stock market perform well? Should I get a job? After all the hard work we put into gaining financial independence, I was still worrying about money and not allowing myself to enjoy retirement. Then I came to an epiphany. I remembered a co-worker from the past that said that people drive themselves batty worrying about sh*t that never materializes. He called it “chasing ghosts”. I decided to stop chasing ghosts and start enjoying every minute of my retirement.
  • The Yearn to Learn.  I have learned Spanish a little better than before (but still a work in progress).  I have learned more about photography.  I’ve spent more time reading and researching interesting things. I learned new programming languages (ASP.NET, C#, AJAX) and am working on a product that be used via the web, tablet or phone.  So if any of those ghosts I was initially chasing come to fruition, I can always find a job with my new skills. Too bad my golf game still sucks :).
  • Come out and Play. When working, my friends and I would plan to play golf on the weekend, play racquetball in the mornings, etc. When you retire, many of your friends are working during the week so you can’t just call them up and ask them to hit the links with you when the mood strikes. On top of that, we moved, so we had to find new friends. So you have to meet new friends that are retired (or semi-retired) and learn to enjoy new things on your own.
  • Boyz 2 Men. Our retirement coincided with our boys going off to college and living on their own. Our boys have become men. It has been fun watching them discover their own strengths, struggle a bit, and course-correct when needed. For us, the hardest part is not having them around the house. With Skype and texting, it is easy to stay in touch, but we still miss them everyday.

I am looking forward to another year of retirement, continuing to find my way, and learning new things.

How to Retire Early

I don’t normally promote other people’s books or wares but I have a friend (Bob and Robin Charlton) that just published a book entitled “How to Retire Early: Your Guide to Getting Rich Slowly and Retiring on Less“.  This book is sensational.

Sensational Book

I’ve known Bob and Robin for several years now and they are a great couple.  They retired the old-fashioned way at only 43 years old – they saved almost a million dollars in just over 12 years. And they did not have huge salaries — many of you will make more than they did during their working years.   I am not nearly as frugal as they are, but it is amazing what can be done to retire early if you really put your mind to it.

Enough said.  If you want to be inspired by a couple that bares all with a financial transparency that you have never seen before, you have to read this book.  They are fully open about what they had, how they made their money, and how you can do the same to retire early.

It is on sale at Amazon, here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/How-To-Retire-Early-Retiring/dp/1482653729/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1365809963&sr=8-1&keywords=retire+early.

Enjoy!

RetireEarlyLifestyle.com interviews Steve and Lynn Miller

Image

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli have been a big inspiration for us.  They retired at 38 years old and continue to travel the world. They have a website called Retire Early Lifestyle and have authored several books, our favorite is The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement.  We purchased that book many years ago as we were planning our retirement and it was insightful.

A few weeks ago, Billy and Akaisha interviewed us and posted the interview on their website at this location: http://retireearlylifestyle.com/miller_interview.htm.

 

Below are the questions they asked us along with our answers:

Retire Early Lifestyle (REL): Could you tell us a little about yourselves?

Steve and Lynn Miller: Our names are Steve and Lynn Miller and for years we have been following advice from many early retirees including Billy and Akaisha. We sold our software business in 2009 and both are fully retired in 2012 at ages 50 and 52. Our kids are going off to college in the fall of 2012 so we plan to feed our wanderlust by traveling most of the year.

REL: When do you plan to retire?

Millers: Lynn retired at age 50 in 2009 when we sold our business. As part of the purchase agreement, I (Steve) stayed on with the acquiring company until June 2012 when I began consulting a few hours a week for the final transition. On August 1, 2012, I fully retire at age 50.

REL: When did you know you were ready to retire and what motivated you?

Millers: We began planning our retirement the day we started our business in 1998. Part of our business plan was to build a business that could fuel our retirement when our kids were ready to go off to college. We were motivated to retire early because we love to travel and wanted to experience more travel while we were young and agile.

Image

With our Tahitian Guide

REL: We understand that you have children. How did that affect your pursuit of retirement?

Millers: We have 2 wonderful boys that are 17 and 18 years old. Both are going off to college at the same time, as our younger son graduated high school in 3 years. It certainly raises the bar of costs because kids are not cheap! When considering retirement, we did not want them to be saddled with debt when exiting college so we invested in a tax savings Colorado 529 plan as well as a Fidelity college account that covers their first 4 years of school. Our youngest son wants to be a doctor, so he elected to go to an in-state school to reduce his costs, so he can probably stretch the amount we invested into about 6 to 8 years of school. They have been working all summer saving up for daily college expenses not covered by our planning.

REL: Do you have a home base? Will you stay put in the same location or move?

Millers: Yes, we have been vacationing in the Florida emerald coast for over 20 years and although we lived in Denver during most of our kid’s childhood, we could see ourselves living in Florida. When the housing bubble burst, we took advantage of that and purchased a short-sale condo in Florida in 2011 for a great price. We permanently moved from Denver to our Florida condo in June 2012 and we love it. We plan to stay here for a few years but have always had wandering feet, so the jury’s out on how long we will stay put in this home base.

REL: What has been your greatest challenge on your road to Early Retirement? Your biggest lesson? What were your fears and obstacles before making the leap? Did the fears and obstacles pan out or were they replaced with others?

Millers: Neither Lynn nor I came from wealthy families and we did not think we could retire early while working for someone else, so we decided our best shot at achieving it would be to build a business that we could sell. We started our software business in 1998 with a $10,000 investment, without any outside capital and maintained 100% ownership of the company. This allowed us to sell when the opportunity presented itself. Our biggest fear was that we had all of our eggs in one basket – if our business failed, so did our dream of early retirement. In hindsight, that pressure was what we needed to keep our costs low and our eye on the ball.

Image

In Saint Lucia with a new friend named “Small J” and his girlfriend

 REL: Do you have any advice for someone looking to retire in this current economic environment?

Millers: I would offer the same advice you guys have been offering for years. Live simply, eliminate your debts, don’t try to keep up with the Jones’ (the Jones’ are probably broke), and have a written plan that outlines the nuts and bolts of how you will achieve your dream of retirement. This is not the first time the economy has been in flux. We grew our business even thru 911 in 2001 when most businesses were going under. We sold our business in 2009 after the market began to crumble in 2008. So don’t allow yourself to blame the economy or anything else, stay positive, follow your plan and enjoy life along the way.

REL: Being 50 you have much of your life in front of you. What style of retirement are you looking to create? Do you have goals? A 3-5 year plan? Or are you looking for a care-free lifestyle?

Millers: I personally think 50 is the ideal age to retire because you are still young and can take on the challenges of travel. We have committed to staying fit so that we can enjoy this lifestyle for a long time. Our goal for the next 3-5 years is to travel in 3 month stints and return to our home base when the kids return from college breaks and summer vacations. I love to write, so I will chronicle our travels on our travel blog. We are looking for a care-free lifestyle; that is why we purchased a condo that we can lock up and leave in a moment’s notice. We do have an 8 year old black lab that we are using home sitters to take care of while we are on the road, but we are looking for a good home for her in order for us to become more nimble. Do you know of any couples that want a sweet lab?

REL: Where have you traveled to longer than 2 weeks? Are you looking to scratch below the surface in your retirement travels? Will your sons join you on your travel adventures?

Millers: We have always traveled a lot; we have visited over 19 countries thus far. Our boys also enjoy traveling; actively since they were a couple of years old.  As business owners, we were able to travel more than 2 weeks at a time, we spent a month here in Florida a few years ago with the kids. The boys will continue to travel with us on college breaks and vacations but most likely these will be shorter trips.

REL: What will you do about transportation? Do you own a car? Will you continue to keep your own transport?

Millers: Both Lynn and I each have a car but we are finding that we really need only one car now that I am retired. We plan to sell her car later this year. We are not sure we are ready to fully let go of a car but I can certainly see the financial allure of doing so. I guess time will tell.

Image

Where we stayed in Bora, Bora, shot from our helicopter ride

REL: What will you do about healthcare? Are you open to medical tourism?

Millers: We purchased a catastrophic plan from Florida Blue that covers all routine visits, dental, vision and other preventative care. However, if either of us go into the hospital, there is a $10,000 deductible for that. We are healthy and have not been hospitalized in many years, so I think this is a good option for us. The cost for Lynn and I came out to about $300 per month. When we were considering college costs, we found that college health care plans for the boys ran about $4000 to cover both of them. Once I found that out, we elected to add them to our Florida Blue account which raised our premiums to just under $500 per month, so this was a much better deal than electing to get the on-campus health care. We are certainly open to medical tourism, especially after reading your articles about the cost differences.

Image

Our boys and Lynn in Antigua, Caribbean Islands

REL: How do you plan to manage your finances while on the road?

Miller: We use Quicken to pull in all transactions from our bank accounts, Fidelity Investments, college accounts, and credit cards. I download this information every few days, categorize our spending, and inspect our net worth. We use your method of daily cost averaging, so I update our daily spending to net worth spreadsheet every 7 to 10 days. Our bank has online banking and bill pay, so we will use that to pay bills without the need for checks. We plan to use our Capital One rewards card because it is easy to redeem the rewards online. Based on your suggestion, we will try to keep on hand about $200 in small denominations of US dollars for times when we need quick cash.

REL: Can you share with us anything about your portfolio? Did the market declines affect your retirement nest egg?

Millers: We manage our portfolio using Fidelity and we have a well balanced portfolio consisting of mutual funds and bond funds that include domestic bonds, large and small cap stocks, international stocks and cash. We review our portfolio for re-allocation yearly to ensure we are consistent with our desired asset allocation. Since we are retired, we wanted to protect ourselves from short term market losses so we keep 1 year of expenses in cash, 1 year in bonds, and 3 years in low risk money funds. This provides about 5 years of protection so that we are not inclined to sell securities for living expenses when the market is down. We replenish these funds when the market is doing well. As far as the 2008 market collapse, we actually received most of our nest egg in 2009/2010/2011 when stocks were on sale, so it actually worked out well for us.

Image

Swimming with the sting rays in Antigua

REL: What do you plan to budget annually for your retirement?

Millers: We plan to withdraw between 4% – 5% of our net worth annually for our retirement budget. This equates to a little less than our take home pay prior to retirement.

REL: Share with us your best money-saving secrets.

Millers: I really like the Capital One rewards card. You get 1% back on travel related spending and half that on other spending. Redeeming the money is quick and easy, redeeming from the website takes seconds. We use that card for almost everything we buy and I pay that card off weekly. That is a little obsession of mine; I hate debt and paying it off weekly suits me fine. We also do not carry debt of any kind. Our condo and cars are fully paid off and we carry no consumer debt. As they say, they have never foreclosed on a house that was fully paid off!

REL: What are your greatest passions in life?

Millers: I love traveling, hanging with my wife and kids, golfing, boating, photography, blogging, spending time with friends and making new ones. I love anything adventurous.

REL: Tell us about your greatest personal success, not necessarily finance related.

Millers: Raising our sons has been our greatest accomplishment. Our boys are bright, respectful, and adventurous and they still like to hang out with mom and dad. I am also fortunate to be one of the first people in our family lineage to complete college and we have a lot of pride in building a business that allowed us to realize our dream of early retirement without any outside financial backing.

REL: If you had just 5 years to live, what would you accomplish or do with your time?

Millers: I would do exactly what we are planning to do. Travel extensively, spend time with our boys, make new friends and just enjoy life. I can also see volunteering our time as the opportunities arise.

REL: Where are you going next?

Millers: After we get our boys checked into college in August, we will spend a week in Maine and Nova Scotia. Then we are planning a 3 month excursion that takes us to Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, Peru, Machu Picchu, and Belize. Look out world, here we come!

Steve and Lynn Miller retired at age 50 and now spend their time traveling, making new friends and enjoying the adventures of life. Their travels are chronicled at WeBeTripping.com, so feel free to sign up for their travel blog.

Odds of Becoming a Millionaire

I recently read an issue of Money magazine whose headline story was “How to reach $1 Million“.   I found it very interesting because it discussed several ways for reaching the status of millionaire and it said that the odds were one in 12.  For us mathematicians, that puts you at less than a 10% chance of pulling it off (8.33% chance sounds slightly more intimidating than one in 12).

A Million Dollars is not what it used to be

According to Money magazine, the main outlets for becoming a millionaire are from real estate, owning and selling a business, investing, climbing the corporate ladder, and becoming a super saver that lives on beans and rice, water and nothing much more than that.

I meet people all the time that have dreams of retiring early, making their own way and living the good life.  I think the biggest things that keep them from their dream is fear and risk of failure, so instead of pursuing their dream, they play it safe.   My wife always says if it were easy, everyone would do it.  She’s right — it takes lots of hard work, sacrifice and resilience.   So let’s talk about 3 strategies:

  1. Risk mitigation
  2. Realizing your fears
  3. Sweat equity

Risk Mitigation
So how do we mitigate risk?  First, identify the risk(s).  For us, building a new software business without any outside funding carried the risk of running out of money from being unprofitable which meant we would not be able to carry on.  To mitigate that risk, I continued software consulting as I was building the business — that brought in the required cash flow needed to fund the business until it was self-sustaining.   Even as Lynn did our company financials, she worked outside of our company to help fund our cash flow.

Taken at Shell Island, Panama City Beach

Realizing your Fears
We get freaked out about all kinds of stuff.  What happens if I don’t make it?  What happens if the economy tanks?  What happens if someone sues us?  Fear is not a bad thing — it keeps you in check and helps you make hard decisions.   The best way to come to grips with your fear is to plan for the worst case.

  • What would have happened if our software business model was wrong and unprofitable?  I would have went back to consulting and been just fine.
  • What happens if the economy tanks?  Well, it did in 2001 and 2008 and we came out fine.  We did it by refocusing and leaning out our expenses.   We even sold our larger house and more expensive cars, replaced by a smaller house and much older (paid off) cars to lean out our expenses — so that we could plow more money into the business.  That’s the commitment level that’s needed.
  • What happens if someone sues us?  We had good contracts in place with each of our clients and we owned an umbrella insurance policy to protect our personal assets from this type of risk.

Sweat Equity
As my wife says — if it were easy every one would do it.  It’s true, it takes a lot of really hard work and sacrifices.  When times were lean, we did more of the work rather than sub-contracting it out.   At times, we did our own marketing, Google search engine optimization, website design and refresh, programming, and helped with sales.  We renegotiated contracts for better rates, reduced our expenses, and kept laser focused on our daily cash flow and financial statements.  When times were good, we banked money to prepare for the rough patches.  All of this took much more than your normal 40 hour work week.  But we always celebrated our successes and spent quality memory-building vacations with our kids.

So how much is enough to retire?
Most people are not sure about how much it takes to retire.  It’s really a simple formula and depends on how much you need to live on from year to year.  You can figure it out from 2 different angles:

  • Do I have enough now to retire?  Take the amount you have saved up and multiple it by 4% and then by 5%.  That gives you the range you can live on because to ensure that you won’t have to work again, you need to keep your expenses within that range of spending per year.  If you had $1 million, that means you could spend between $40,000 and $50,000 per year and should not run out of money.  A million dollars is not what it used to be, but I know many early retirees that are living on that level of income without any hardship, travelling constantly and are enjoying life to the fullest.  Don’t believe it? Check out http://www.RetireEarlyLifestyle.com — Billy and Akaisha retired at 38 years old and are now in their late 50’s and live a very exciting life on less than $40,000 per year.
  • How much will I need to retire?  Figure out the amount you need to withdraw per year and multiple it by 20 and then by 25 and that gives you the range ($40,000 per year times 25 equals $1 million for the conservative range and $50,000 times 20 gives you $1 million for the slightly aggressive range).

Conclusion
Don’t let fear rule your life.  Create a plan, list and manage the risks, and move forward.  As an aside — I found a really good website that explains investing in layman’s terms.  It was written by early retirees Kevin and Valerie Cooper: http://coopsecondact.wordpress.com/investing-101/.  I hope you find it helpful.

About Us
Steve and Lynn Miller reached financial independence in 2012 at age 50 and now enjoy traveling, fitness, cycling, photography and lots of other hobbies. In his spare time, Steve develops mobile apps. His latest project is an app that allows you to countdown the days to retirement or financial independence: http://www.CountUsDown.com/Retirement.