1. When did you first get the idea to write your book, and how long did the process take your from idea to publication?
Hmm, I don't remember exactly when the idea first hit me, but it was in my head for many years. Like many folks, I was so busy with work, school, and family life that I only recently decided to sit down and actually start writing. Once I started, Rich Little Piggy was published the following year (2015).
2. How did you come up with the title of Rich Little Piggy?
That was a fun process. It took a while to figure out a theme for the book. I didn't want it to be the usual, dry, boring stuff that normally comes to mind when people think about personal finance. I definitely wanted the book to be a simple, easy read and not cluttered with complex stuff that everyday people will simply tune out. None of that gobbledy-gook is necessary to achieve financial success. In fact, to some people, the title can be a bit misleading in the sense they may think of a spoiled, "rich pig" of a person. When you read the book, you'll instantly realize the true meaning of what it really means to be a rich little piggy.
3. In a nutshell, what are some factors that allowed you to retire at the age of 43?
Simple answer--hard work and saving. I also believe that any able-bodied person can do the same. Like many folks, I come from loving but humble beginnings. In 1988, I left high school and joined the military, earning $630 per month. I loved military service, but wow, you sure don't get paid as much as the private sector. There were many years of working 40-60 hours per week while simultaneously taking a full-time college load at night and on weekends. My college education opened many doors to great job opportunities after I left the military. Throw in deployments and moving at least 15 times, I kept pretty busy. The moving taught me valuable life skills and a lot about real estate (both renting and buying). It also taught me to move to where the jobs were. Don't wait for things to happen--make them happen.
Make no mistake, I did not do it alone. I got married in 2004 and my wife has been my partner since 2004. She's the hardest working person I know and also worked day and night to earn her masters degree, which also opened up many great jobs opportunities for her. Some people choose work or school--we did both at the same time, while also moving and having kids. It was far from easy and did I mention hard work? However, it was definitely worth it! Neither one of us are special or privileged in any way; we simply worked hard for many years, saving as much money as we could along the way. Real estate helped, too. Our savings is critical to early retirement and happened because we always lived below our means. It's also critical to ensure your entire financial house is in order (not just savings). We relied on the total picture--no debt, emergency fund, savings, careers, insurance, education, and more. But that's it: many years in a nutshell.
4. What are some aspects of your own experience that you feel are most helpful to other people when it comes to making decisions in their own (financial) lives?
Step one is to wake up. Have a plan. I don't mean that in a derogatory way, but too many people just wander aimlessly through life with no purpose or goals. Financially speaking, here's the thing--follow a written budget. Just that alone will practically force you to think intentionally about how you spend your money. Sample goals might include earning a degree, paying off debt, buying a house, or investing for retirement. Those are over-simplified and Rich Little Piggy shows you how to set SMART goals, but you get the idea.
Step two is to act! It's been said that you can have excuses or results, not both. Nobody is going to hand you financial success on a silver platter. Not your parents, your neighbors, your boss, and certainly not the government. You must act on your goals. Yes, this is easier said than done, but the payoff is well worth it! If you need help, just look around you. Besides books like Rich Little Piggy, there are thousands more. There are hundreds of FREE personal finance blogs, websites, TV/radio shows, and courses that will teach you how to manage money. Claiming you don't know how to handle money is an excuse--do your research. But remember, it's about more than just money. Do these two things (have a plan and act) for success with your finances.
5. Why do you think so many Americans are in debt, and what can we do as individuals (and a society) to encourage debt-free living?
If I knew the answer to WHY so many Americans are in debt, I'd be considered a genius (or a psychic)! I simply don't know. I'd guess the reasons are many and varied. My favorite guess is that PEOPLE DON'T FOLLOW A WRITTEN BUDGET. A budget is not a silver bullet for avoiding debt, but it sure does help--if done properly! It forces you to "see" where your money is going every month and encourages you to make intentional choices with your money. Experts will give us all kinds of reasons, statistics, and surveys about why people are in debt. Quite frankly, I don't care why--I'm about fixing things. Even if you knew why, you'd educate that person on how not to do it again. So, instead of guessing a million different reasons, simply cut to the chase and educate people on how not to live in debt. If they choose not to, that's their choice. At least they know. They have nobody to blame but themselves.
So, what can we do about it and how can we encourage debt-free living? Plenty! I do know that living in debt is NOT a necessity. That much I do know. There are plenty of excuses, but not many real reasons to live in debt. It starts with you. It starts by following a financial blueprint and living at least within, but ideally below, your means. Don't worry about the Joneses! Also, way too many people think of minimum wage as a goal, and not a starting point. We all start somewhere. My somewhere was mowing lawns and washing dishes as a teenager. Whatever your salary is today, it should be more next year--make it happen. Whatever your education level is today, it should be higher next year--make it happen.
Some people say they can't make ends meet every month. Well, after you've cut expenses to the bone, your only other option is to increase your income. Chapter 2 of Rich Little Piggy provides many ways to grow your income. However, it's up to individuals. You must be willing to sacrifice and put in the hard work. So, set the example for others to follow. Live debt-free yourself. Educate your children, family, and friends. Heck, that's why I started my movement! So, even if you don't buy the book, "Like & Share" my Facebook page, read and share my blog. This is how we get each other out from this huge debt load--one dollar at a time. Together, let's make it happen. Join the movement--become a rich little piggy!