Financially Alert Friends – Interview #4 with Mr. 1500

Michael QuanBeliefs, Education, How to, Investment, Misc38 Comments

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I have a very special guest featured today… he’s sharp, he’s funny, and he’s a hands-on family man… yes, it’s the one and only Mr. 1500!!

Mr. 1500 runs a personal finance blog that chronicles his journey towards FIRE.  Many of you have probably heard of him already, so I was grateful that he agreed to do this special interview for you all.  He’s the real deal folks!  He’s dealt with debt firsthand, and come out on top by consistently practicing sound financial disciplines.  He’s already a millionaire and just around the corner to an early retirement.

I had the good fortune of meeting Mr. 1500 a few months ago while he was vacationing in San Diego with this family.  (Thanks to Dom @ Gen Y Finance Guy for setting that up.)  He’s a great overall guy, and now my friend.  So, without further adieu…

Table of Contents

Walk me through how and why you started your personal finance blog? Was the decision easy or hard, why? What’s your core message you’re trying to share?

I started the blog for two reasons:

  1. I wanted to document my path to early retirement. I thought that it would be awesome to be transparent and share my journey with the world, numbers and all. What better way to be accountable?
  2. I enjoy writing. Wait, I love to write. I even thought about studying journalism in school before I settled on biology and chemistry.

Oh, and I have a 3rd reason that wasn’t so apparent when I started, but it may be the best one of all. I think it’s really awesome being able to engage with, learn and meet so many awesome folks. The personal finance community is filled with a fantastic group of people. I wish we all lived in the same town.

The last picture I took in 2015

My street.

The decision to start the blog was easy for me, but my wife didn’t agree. She told me that I’d run out of stuff to write about. 38+ months later, I’ve published about 500 posts and I still enjoy blogging as much as the day I started. My best material is still bottled up in my brain. When I have enough time (post-job), I’ll unleash the posts I’ve been dreaming about for years.

My core message is that once you have your priorities in order, you don’t need to spend weekends at the mall living a consumer nightmare to be happy.

Life is good when we’re building, creating, growing and spending quality time with great people.

Little Miss 1500 concentrates on her rock pile this past weekend at Rocky Mountain National Park

Little Miss 1500 concentrates on her rock pile this past weekend at Rocky Mountain National Park.

Life is better when we have options. Even if you love your job now, a day may come when you don’t. Or, you may discover another passion like travel or woodworking which you can’t fully pursue with a full-time job.

Never forget that the best part of having of money is that it frees you from having to worry about it. Life is best when you can make decisions without money being part of the equation.

Describe your past relationship with money. How has it evolved into your present views today? How do you want it to change in the future?

I’ve always been a saver and frugal. For me, it’s always been about efficiency. Why waste this or that when I can use it again? Why live in a massive house if I’m not going to use most of the space in it? Why drive a car with a 400 horsepower engine when 130 will get me everywhere I need to go?

Mr. 1500 dream car

Yes, I admit that I want this. But, that is a completely ridiculous thing to own.

I’m pretty much where I need to be now. Sometimes, I still dream about silly stuff like owning a nice car, but for the most part, those desires are behind me.

Describe 1 empowering belief you have about money and how it positively affected your life. On the flip side, describe 1 disempowering belief about money (past or present). What has been the effect on your financial goals?

The power of compound interest is amazing. I remember the days when I was excited when my portfolio went up $100. Now, I have days where it goes up $20,000. Those big numbers just make you want to save more. It is incredibly motivating.

Go pennies go!

Compound interest in action.

On the bad side, I see people every day going broke because they are living for someone else. “We must upgrade our car because so and so at work just did.” Keeping up with the Joneses is a recipe for financial failure.

Who taught or influenced you about money when you were growing up? What was the impact?

My parents were (and still are) horrible with money (“Hey kids, we bought a timeshare!”). Luckily, I figured this out early on and vowed not to repeat their mistakes. So, their bad behavior positively influenced me.

My maternal grandparents, being children of the Great Depression, were frugal and savers though. Almost every time I saw my grandmother, she’d sneer at me and say, “Save your money!” That stuck.

When my grandparents passed away, my parents were shocked that they died with $400,000 in the bank. My parents thought that was a fortune. It took about 2 or 3 years for them to plow through the whole thing with little to show for it.

What is your favorite personal finance book? What’s the best actionable takeaway you got from it?

The Millionaire Next Door woke me up. It taught me what real wealth looks like. The ones who are truly wealthy don’t drive fancy cars or live in huge homes. They live a modest life of stealth wealth.

Top row: the image of a millionaire. Bottom row, the reality.

Top row: the image of a millionaire. Bottom row: the reality.

The fancy lifestyle is lived by people who need to demonstrate status. They have McMansions and cars with fancy badges, but deep down, they’re probably on the verge of financial disaster.

What are your top 3 favorite personal finance blogs, and why?

Mr. Money Mustache: This is the blog that told me that it’s OK to retire before your 62. Jim Collins shows you how to invest properly.

Mad Fientist: This guy writes about actionable financial moves that will make you a better investor and saver.

I know all three of these bloggers and they are exactly what you’d expect from reading their blogs. All three are fine people who I’d be happy to have a beer with any day of the week.

Describe one investment type/class that excites you the most, and why?

Tech stocks!! I’m a computer programmer and LOVE technology. Vanguard’s technology fund, VGT, has about $100,000 of my money.


However, I firmly believe that the right choice for almost everyone is the good old total market index fund. This is where new money gets invested these days.

How much passive income would you need per month to live happily ever after? What would life look like for you at this level?

I need about $3,000/month currently. $1,000 pays for the mortgage and $2,000 pays for everything else. In 12 years, the picture changes a bit when my mortgage is paid off.

At the current $3,000 level, my family and I will live a pretty great life, especially post work:

  • What we don’t do makes the big difference. We have a modest home and our cars each have over 100,000 miles on them. A cheap mortgage and no car payments go a long way.
  • However, we don’t live a super frugal life. We go out to eat occasionally, drink good beer, see movies and have fancy bicycles.
  • Post work, we’ll take pretty great vacations. I look forward to slow travel; spending a relaxing month at a destination instead of a hurried week.
mr. 1500 digs

Our home, not quite finished…

Do you discuss money or financial matters with friends and family? Why, or why not?

I try to, but my message falls on deaf ears. No one wants to hear about it. Sometimes they pretend to, but then I’ll have conversation like this one courtesy of my 29 year old sister:

  • Sister: I bought a new car!
  • Me: Why?? Your old one was paid off and had low miles.
  • Sister: I wanted the hatchback version. I don’t mind 5 years of payments to get the hatchback.

She’ll never get it.

Tell us something about yourself that only your closest family and friends know about.

I laugh hysterically at farts jokes. Sorry, but true.

Oh, and another one, I CANNOT STAND IT when someone chews with their mouth open. Man oh man, nothing drives me crazier than people who do this. I have to leave the room.

I recently learned that there is a name for this; misophonia. Someone once told me that in certain cultures, people chew with their mouths open to compliment the cook. Please tell me where these cultures exist so that I never, ever go there.

Elective Questions (Choose 2 to Answer)

Illustrate a time you made (or saved) money that was so impactful it launched you into a state of euphoria (ie. It made you REALLY happy!).

The day I became a millionaire was pretty great. I was in Chicago (my home city) at the time and walked around numb for a good hour.

Chicago, from Northerly Island

Chicago, from Northerly Island

Less than 2 decades early, I was up to my eyeballs in debt ($60,000!). I worked my ass off and now live an incredible life.

To put this in perspective, I’ll tell you a little story. I bought some Google stock when it IPO’d and it’s done very well. At one point a long time ago, it was worth about $25,000. I told one of my sisters about it and her eyes glazed over with disbelief. She mentioned something about me being rich.

Really little sister? $25,000 is rich?? Come on now. Get with it.

No one in my family has any idea that I’m really worth about 1.3 million.

Imagine a poor kid that grew up with no advantages in life. Suddenly he walks up to you asking for your best financial advice, but you only have a few minutes. What would you say?

Work. Your. Ass! OFF!!! The most important thing is to work hard and good, no matter what you’re doing. Get all As in school. When you start your first job, work harder than that guy in the cube next to you. Impress your boss. Get promoted. Save that money.

Recognize the incredible value of time and options.

I’ll leave you with some important words. Never forget them. Tattoo them on your forearm if you have to. Ready? Here they are:

You can either work for money or let money work for you.

Take the second option. Live free.

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38 Comments on “Financially Alert Friends – Interview #4 with Mr. 1500”

  1. It’s amazing what we can learn from other people’s bad choices. Thanks for doing this interview. Nice to see blogs I like collide.

    1. Yes, definitely saves time!

      It’s easy for me to keep good company in the personal finance community… Mr. 1500 is one of the very BEST. 🙂

  2. Great interview Michael and Mr. 1500. I literally LOL’d about how his parents are horrible with money too. I think I have that beat – my parents have THREE timeshares. THREE!!! Their original plan was to gift two of those to me and my brother when we got older. I said OH HECK NO! 🙂

    It’s sad that we can talk to our friends and family about money. I feel like my fellow bloggers are the only ones that can relate to a lot of what I go through!

  3. Great interview guys! I love the quote at the end too – so, so true. I wish I had started investing while I was in college but better in my 20s than not at all.

  4. Nice interview! How are you going to explain your retirement that’s coming up soon, to your family, since it sounds like they have no idea? Are you worried about your sister begging you for help?

  5. Great interview. Your cost of living is really good. Nice job with your net worth as well.
    Your advice is spot on. Anyone just starting out need to work as hard as they can and learn all about finance.

  6. Incredible meeting Michael and much obliged for sharing Mr. 1500. Your energy for composing is an incredible thing, that genuinely all individuals could profit by regardless of the fact that they just did this in a diary. There is steady proof in the force of sharing ones story as the composed word, and how it builds your strength in both great times and in terrible.

  7. Man loving these interviews and agree that Mr 1500 is ridiculously funny! 🙂
    The thing I enjoyed most about the interview is his mention of the 8th wonder of the world “compound growth”.. I’m certainly keen one of these day to become one of your interviewees although have a bit of a way to go to get there

    Cheers Mike and Mr 1500! 🙂

      1. Hey man! Would be honoured to be on your blog..
        I’ll give you the heads up once I’m able to (due to not particularly wanting to disclose due to where I work) however sure you aren’t going anywhere 😉

  8. I think that’s the first picture I’ve seen of your house, looks really nice. Those are the colors I want to paint my house someday. “I try to, but my message falls on deaf ears.” I just wrote a blog post on my thoughts on why that happens, I’m really curious what people think. I wrote it for fellow finance bloggers that run into the same issues I do when trying to teach financial values to others.

    1. I read your post Kyle… interesting! I don’t know if I complete agree with the introvert/extrovert correlation, but certainly the focus on near term gratification vs. long term is undeniable. Most people know what to do, they simply just choose not to do it.

  9. Great interview Michael and thanks for sharing Mr. 1500. Your passion for writing is a great thing, that honestly all people could benefit from even if they just chose to do this in a journal. There is supportive evidence in the power of sharing ones story in the form of the written word, and how it increases your resilience in both good times and in bad.

    As most of us who enjoy the process of interacting with new and fascinating people, which honestly I have discovered to be a large part of the enjoyment since starting a blog, when it comes down to it you have to enjoy the process and yields a lot of unforeseen benefits.

    Here is story I read earlier this year on a guy that has been writing everyday since 1964, but keeps it in a private journal. Its pretty awesome stuff, even if he decided not to share it with the world

    link to story:

    1. I love being in good company (PF blogger community) of those who love to write and share! Mr. 1500 is a fantastic writer and I continue to learn from him. 🙂

  10. “You can either work for money or let money work for you.”

    I love this quote. But I have to say that I look forward to the day when I can clone myself and do both at the same time in a never ending cycle. Imagine the compounding that could take place with an army of cash and and army of you…but I would be the general that did whatever the F*ck I want.

    It would be like your penny picture but with me and money at the same time. I wonder which one I could compound faster 🙂

    I just hope it doesn’t turn out like that multiplicity movie where each additional clone experiences degradation…at some point it may just become a burden.

    Okay, you convinced me just let money work for me!

    Great interview!



    1. Dom, if you cloned yourself, do you think you’d work even harder knowing you’d have to out work yourself to “stay ahead”… trippy…haha.

  11. Ooops, the exclamation points were supposed to be for mattattack08 who chews with his mouth open. You can change Matt! Do it! 🙂

    Ambertreeleaves: I am chick magnet in that picture. I’ll bet even you found me attractive, Admit it!

  12. Super Geeky picture. This will be my mental picture of you going forward!

    It is funny how a brother and sister can be so different with money matters. Even more to see how good habits can skip a generation. I have my frugal life style from my mom.

    1. Isn’t it interesting how siblings can live in a near identical environment, yet come out with completely different perspectives on money?

  13. Great interview. My wife hates it when people chew with their mouths open. I am part corgis so I used to devour my food, mouth wide open. She broke me of that habit (for the most part). Work your ass off is great advice. I’ve got to constantly remind myself of that. It’s just so easy to be lazy sometimes. =)

    1. Like Mr. 1500 said, you can do it Matt!! 🙂

      I’ll let you in on a little secret. Being lazy and working your ass off are both easy to do (once they are habits).

  14. Thanks so much Michael for sharing your fine piece of Internet real estate with me. I look forward to seeing you again in San Diego later this year!

    1. Yes, indeed!

      BTW, I’m so impressed that you’ve written 500 posts. That’s a nice target for me to shoot for someday. So glad to hear you love writing the blog as much as you did in the beginning. It shows! 🙂

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