We never set a goal to be debt free and we never set a goal to be retired early.
I never knew what the acronym FIRE meant either (Financially Independent Retired Early) – well not until a week ago when I finally got a Twitter account.
I was completely oblivious to the vibrant community on Twitter focusing on financial freedom, personal debt reduction, and early retirement.
They have budget ideas, money saving tips, investment strategies, and common sense approaches to earning more money.
It’s been fun reading all the different stories as they unfold in real-time.
Some of these bloggers have developed friendships and business partnerships even though they’re thousands of miles away from each other.
Some have already retired, and some are still planning their retirement.
And a lot of them talk about this thing called a “Side Hustle“, which is another term I’d never heard of (a second stream of income besides a day job).
The sheer amount of what I don’t know never ceases to amaze me.
However, regardless of my ignorance I’ve always had the same dream these bloggers do – freedom.
It Was Like A Jail Sentence
When I was a child all I wanted to do was be left alone.
I was blissfully content to be working on a little project in the dirt area of our back yard. Used to love making roads with popsicle sticks for the power poles and string for power lines.
I was a happy kid.
But when it was time to start grade one I was petrified at the thought of being stuck in a room surrounded by other children – being told when and what I was going to do.
I couldn’t sleep and couldn’t eat knowing I was going to be “sent off” to school soon – I begged my parents to stop the madness.
I just couldn’t understand why I would have to leave my family and be alone with all those strangers. No matter what my mother told me I felt something was very wrong with the world.
Within months of starting grade one I was moved into a class for “special children” which was comprised of kids who needed extra attention.
That, along with my Forrest Gump style leg braces (born with congenital hips) I became a perfect target for the “less enlightened” students.
To me it was like a jail sentence.
I swore I would someday be free. Free to be alone and never do anything someone else told me to do.
Free to sleep when I felt sleepy, eat when I was hungry, play when I wanted to play, and wear whatever clothing I wanted.
A Plan For Freedom
I decided I was going to become a famous musician and live the American Dream.
Not only was I going to be free to do whatever I wanted with my time, I would also show those little bastards how wrong they were treating me the way they did.
I was going to prove to them that I was the special one and they could all eat my…..dust.
The Fantasy Of Freedom
By the time my teenage years approached I was living in a complete fantasy world. I believed I was just putting in time with the annoying herd until I would FINALLY be released.
I discovered marijuana and alcohol which further helped me float away into my fantasy life – my bright future as a rich and famous musician.
When I was done with school I left home with a band and moved to Vancouver.
I was determined to “make it”.
It never happened.
The cold, thick hand of fate bitch slapped me for five long years.
I lived well below the poverty line sharing low rent apartments with other drugged up and delusion people.
I got to meet every type of unsavory person you get to meet when you’re poor in a big city. I got used to the smell of urine in the hallways and the sounds of domestic abuse on the other side of my wall.
My neighbors were prostitutes, fourth generation welfare recipients, pimps, drug dealers, and thieves.
It was a stone groove baby.
The Lucky One
I was finally starting to face the fact that I wasn’t going to be a successful musician, and I ended up going to doctors for anxiety, depression, and agoraphobia.
I wasn’t a great date.
But compared to my neighbors I was the lucky one.
Unlike the people I lived amongst, I had a get-out-of-poverty-card in my back pocket the entire time.
One that I never thought I would need to play.
I had sober loving parents.
My father drove down to Vancouver from their home in Port Hardy, B.C. in his small Ford Courier truck.
I remember him packing all my stuff into the back of the truck and tying it down with the same multi-colored rope he always had in the basement. A special make of rope only used by B.C. Tel (British Columbia Telephone company) employees.
As soon as I saw him tying the rope I began to cry.
He was here to save me.
When I got home they got me on a special diet because I was emaciated. I started to gain some weight back and I was starting to feel better.
My father got me a job in aviation working in an old hanger in Coal Harbour. I got to work mostly on my own which was perfect for me.
My parents then made the tough love call and asked me to leave their house six months later. They helped me find a small bachelors apartment and I moved out.
Eventually I began to accept working full time for a living, but I didn’t like it.
I still thought the concept of working forty hours a week for someone else was nuts – but this time I didn’t have a plan to change it.
There was no WAY I was going to live in poverty again.
For the next decade I worked as an aircraft mechanic, playing in part time bands, and moving from city to city wherever I could find work. Those were good days.
At one point I got married for a few years but it failed – we divorced and I claimed personal bankruptcy.
And then it happened.
A True Love – A True Friend
Her name is Betty and we’ve been married since 2000.
She helped me through a lot of issues. I started on medication for my anxiety, stopped playing in bands, quit smoking marijuana, and stopped wasting money.
The clouds were parting, the sun was warming, and I had never been happier.
But I still had a dream to pursue. I still wanted financial freedom.
The Sonic Boom
Not long after, Canadian Airlines closed the base in Saskatoon where Betty and I worked, and we were transferred to Calgary.
Within six months my job was gone.
During my last shift at the Calgary base I used the company computer to search the web using Google.
I typed in the search field:
“I want to work at home on my computer”
It was like a sonic boom. Everything had changed.
Now when I looked at web pages all I could see was money moving from mouse click to mouse click.
I knew this was it……I had found it.
Soon I was starting my first websites.
They were horrific by today’s standards but I remember getting my first organic click just because I misspelled a word (in those days the search engines didn’t correct for spelling so if you spelled something wrong you could get some hits).
Family and friends thought I was flying away again into a new world of delusion.
But I kept at it and I discovered a way of making consistent profit.
I created ads on the Yahoo search engine and when people landed on my ugly little websites some of the visitors clicked my Google AdSense ads (it’s called Adsense arbitrage – doesn’t really work anymore).
What we got paid by Google was more that what we paid Yahoo.
We made it!
We had accumulated some big debts.
We weren’t making that much in the beginning and debt just climbed and climbed as earnings were less than the cost of our bills.
But we could taste what freedom might be like.
Betty was now working for a different airline while I worked 18 hour days 7 days a week writing content.
Then we thought….if we can make this much money with two websites, why not make four websites.
So we did, and soon after Betty suggested we get more aggressive with our advertising.
She has more guts than I do (I was just too afraid to spend a lot of money on Yahoo traffic) so she took over.
She was a natural and she was aggressive.
She watched all the keyword bids like a hawk and did what I call the Price Is Right Maneuver. She would wait until our competition finished setting their keyword bids and then she would login and out bid them by one penny.
She doubled our income, then tripled our income, then quit her job too.
We REALLY made it.
The Shrinking Debt
As our income grew our debt started dwindling.
We didn’t spend any extra money because we were so busy working, and we didn’t want to get distracted – we knew we were on the path to financial freedom.
A few years later Yahoo was bought out by Bing and we could no longer get traffic to our ugly little websites.
We had to start over.
Luckily I had a feeling it was coming and had been publishing content on blogs for years before we lost the PPC traffic – so when Yahoo gave us the punt we still had enough organic traffic to easily pay the bills.
Later on we sold the house in Calgary, bought a smaller house in Saskatoon and settled down for good. The move enabled us to pay off the mortgage, the RV, and our SUV.
A few years later Betty sold the RV for $38,000 and that started our cash-on-hand nest egg. We still have $250,000 in RRSPs and mutual funds we started back in the early days working for the airlines.
Life After Debt
Everything is different. We don’t feel like we’ll have to go back and “work for the man” again.
We know we would never be employees again. If our Internet business collapsed for some reason we would find some kind of self employment gig to grow.
Losing our freedom is not an option. If we have to sell the house and down size again we will. If we have to live in a trailer we will. All that matters is we’re together and we’re free.
And we still don’t have a date set for retirement. We have plans on how to save for the possibility that we can’t work anymore, but by constantly creating more passive income streams we should always have something coming in to bolster our old age pension and RRSP withdrawals.
As long we have the ability to think straight and create content we will keep doing it.
I still love the feel of a cheap keyboard under my fingers and I will never again choose a hobby that costs money over a hobby that makes money.
I Never Would Have Made It Without Her
In my case I never would have achieved financial freedom if it wasn’t for my second wife Betty.
It was her loving support and confidence in me that made the difference.
It NEVER would have happened without her.
So this is something I stress with all the people who visit my sister sites looking for financial help – choose your spouse carefully.
Make sure you communicate with your love partner and be fair with each other. You’re all each other have. You’re a team and that team must be protected at all costs.
Brent Truitt is a full time Internet marketer and part time blogger who lives in Canada and the United States. You can connect with him on Twitter @IAmBrentTruitt