Finding FI Interview #37: Jay Ceezy Made it Look Easy

Michael QuanBeliefs, Education, FI / FIRE, How to, Interviews, Misc2 Comments

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Welcome to the Finding FI interview series where we highlight and learn from individuals focused on achieving financial independence and the strategies they are using.  Everyone is at different stages of their FI / FIRE (financial independence, retire early) journey, so let’s learn from their personal stories and be inspired.


Finding FI Interview #37

Today I have a special guest, Jay Ceezy, to share his FIRE story and wisdom... Jay doesn’t have a blog but enjoys reading them and adding his voice to the discussion which we bloggers appreciate. So, let’s get to it!

Finding FI Question #1

What’s your story?

 

I’m 60 and my wife of 29 years is 62.
We’ve been fully FIREd nine years, and eased into it with reduced schedules and work-from-home assignments.
We had a false start, and 2008 derailed us while we reassessed our risk tolerance.
Like our host Michael Quan, I’m also a fan of Tony Robbins.  I read ‘Unlimited Power‘ in the early ’90s, not expecting much.  It hit me just right, at the right time.  Books and working in the yard bring me peace, and a good night’s sleep.
The latest book I’ve completed is “The F.I.R.E. Planner” by Michael Quan, read it straight through in three hours and highly recommend it.

Michael here – Tune in readers, Jay Ceezy has been at early retirement for nearly a decade. If there’s one thing that I’ve done right over the years, it’s taking wisdom from others and applying it into my own life as best I can.    

Finding FI Question #2

What types of routines and/or life hacks do you use?

Hacks I appreciate involve respecting people’s time, both mine and theirs.

If I am meeting up with a friend, I prepare so we can have a great conversation.  After we meet, I’ll send a follow-up e-mail informally summarizing our topics, complimenting them on good news shared, wishing good luck for plans shared, etc.  Then I save the e-mail I sent and review it next time we meet up.  We all forget things, and just a few minutes of recap effort can make it a productive and fun conversation that doesn’t cover the same ground.

If there is a phone conversation involved, I pick a day/time I am calling and an alternate.  This gives them two chances to connect, instead of playing ‘phone tag’ forever.

Here’s another, I bring a book when I go to meet with someone.  This way, I’m occupied doing something enjoyable while waiting.  I always arrive early, because I want to respect other’s time.  I learned these from comedian Nick Arnette.

If a friend or neighbor has a continuing complaint or topic and I’ve heard it enough, or someone tells a story to me several times, the hack is to say “let me stop you there.  Is there anything new to your problem (or story)?  Because we have had this conversation, and I have no new ideas for you.”  This is from Scott Adams in his great book, “How To Fail At Almost Everything, And Still Win Big.”

When someone approaches with an opinion (or question that is really an entry point to deliver their opinion) just Smile, Nod and Agree.  Stay out of fights and arguments.  These are ‘status’ disputes, a waste of time, and really don’t make anyone’s life better.  Keep it moving.  And don’t be an idiot, pay your taxes.  This is from the @BowtiedBull.

Interacting with law enforcement – The goal is safety, theirs and yours.  If you are pulled over, turn off your engine, roll down your driver and passenger window and turn on our cab light.  Put your empty hands where they can see them, because man is the only animal that kills with their hands.  I put both empty hands out the window, because their dash camera will record this.  Let them lead the conversation, give simple answers.  They pulled you over, not the other way around, so your conversation is not of equals.  If they ask you to identify yourself, do it.  They want to be ‘right’ just like you do.  Here is something you can use…if you can make them laugh, they will let you off with a warning or a fix-it ticket.  Their days are stressful, and laughter is an involuntary but pleasant physical reaction of surprise.  Stay out of bars after 10pm.  Stay off the road after 11pm.  I learned this from a Ventura County Sheriff training officer who prefers to be unnamed.

Lastly, if I do share a joke, idea, or something I read, I try my best to credit the source.  This accomplishes two things: it keeps others from misunderstanding that I’m trying to present another’s creation as my own, and it also is important that something I repeat be acknowledged to have value for the creator.  I learned this from comedian Todd Glass.

Michael here – These are the most respectful hacks I’ve had to date! You have great respect for others and I’m sure this is reflected in your deep relationships with others. Hmmm… not sure what I’ll do to make a cop laugh… fart nervously!?  

Finding FI Question #3

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?
Love this question, and have recently evolved in my perspective. This is a great example of “the stories we tell ourselves.” Early relationship with money was one of ‘scarcity.’ It is still awful to think about.
My recollection is that I rarely had money. My brothers remember it differently, and say I always had money. Perfect example of a ‘story we tell ourselves.’
Today, we tell ourselves a story that we have ‘freedom’, and our time is our own. Beginning of 2021, our net worth consisted of mostly conservative CDs. Past few months we now have 12% in Crypto, kind of a mindset adjustment for us but the ‘freedom’ allows for this risk.

Michael here – That’s quite the mindset shift to give from CDs to 12% crypto! Hopefully, you caught some nice downswings. I’ve got about 0.0005% in crypto. 😉  

Finding FI Question #4

Who taught or influenced you about money when you were growing up? What was the impact?
My father was wonderful.  The best thing he ever did was say ‘no’ to my childish requests for nonsense items.
My parents kept their four children occupied (2.5 hours total each school day on the bus) and broke.  Occupied and broke, we didn’t have time or money for drugs, or undesirable associates.
They mastered the art of the Happy Life.

Michael here – Your parents sound amazing. It’s funny, I felt broke myself when I was growing up. Similar to you, I never veered towards drugs or other undesirables.  

Finding FI Question #5

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

Not really.  We are private people, and my family is pretty low-key on this in the best way.  I’ve made myself available to be helpful to their money goals, but find the few family-and-friends that want to approach this subject are not serious about changing.  They don’t like to hear, and lecture me about “reasons.”  They want the ‘secret handshake’ and I think they know the truth but are embarrassed that decades have gone by without them taking action.  I just smile, nod, and agree.

People sometimes use money to flex on each other, and I never let it get that far.

I have always been a saver, and a senior work colleague, who observed my interest, helped me focus on a strategy when I was in my early 30s.  He introduced me to mutual funds, especially index funds.  It takes a long time to save enough money so that it can throw off significant returns.  Most people take no action and meander their way through the ‘Birth, School, Work, Death’ checklist without a plan.  My plan was always to have the longest distance between Work and Death.  So far, so good.

Michael here – Your reasoning is quite sound. But I still want to know the secret handshake!

Looks like your long-term strategy has paid off nicely.   

Finding FI Question #6

What is something about yourself that only your closest family and friends know about?

I was an NCAA D1 tennis player, #1 singles and #1 doubles for four years, and have played in seven countries.

I did professional standup comedy for seven years, and have run 12 marathons in under four hours.

Revealing those things to people I don’t know well is unhelpful.  These things were interests of mine for a while, not anymore, but I’m grateful for the experiences.

Michael here – Fascinating, Jay Ceezy! I’m a big tennis fan and my former IT company used to provide help desk support for the USTA. You sound like an amazing athlete.  

 

fatFIRE

Finding FI Question #7

What is your household net worth? Income?
Our NW is $3.5 million, and our annual income works out to $180K.  We spend about $60K as a baseline and take larger outlays (car, roof, medical, etc.) as they come.

Michael here – I’ll bet that NW is bigger now since you wrote this interview piece. 😉

$60K has a nice ring to it… nice work.   

Finding FI Question #8

When did you first hear about FI/RE?
My wife and I were both surprised to learn as I am filling out this interview, that the term originates from the early ‘90s and Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez’ book “Your Money or Your Life.”
I read it back then upon a recommendation from a friend and was pleasantly surprised that a materially minimalist approach could be a potential path for us.
We have been pursuing FI/RE without having the vocabulary term for it, since we got married in 1992.  A goal like that should be discussed and agreed upon by any couple.  Our master spreadsheet begins in 1996 at $330K NW.
Michael here – Yes, YMYL is a fabulous book and it sounds like you’ve taken it to heart. I love that your master spreadsheet begins in 1996 at just a tenth of your current NW. 

Finding FI Question #9

Do you believe sacrifice is necessary in order to achieve FI? Why, or Why not?

FI is within everyone’s reach with minimal sacrifice, with a little planning and enough time.  Scott Adams emphasizes ‘systems over goals’ and a work life of four decades combined with systematic investment into low-cost index funds and various can turn into comfortable Financial Independence.

It is the RE that can be a challenge, and takes sacrifice.  For most of our contemporaries, it is a ‘dream’ and never gets defined to the plan/system/goal stage.

We have seen a few people we know hit a spot of luck and the best among them express gratitude for their inheritance and their forbearers’ work and planning.

Michael here – Love it. As you know I truly believe FIRE is accessible to anyone who takes the time to do the work and plan strategically. And you’re right, if you don’t have anything to RE to, then maybe you should work a little more… and it doesn’t have to be in your field of “expertise” especially when you reach FI.

Finding FI Question #10

What are your favorite FI or FIRE websites, podcasts, blogs, etc.?

The main three are:

who exposed me to our host Financially Alert.  All encouraged me to write guest posts, found at the links.  My knowledge of the PF blogging community is incomplete but there always seems to be something new and interesting.  I like the subject and community, it is supportive and easier to discuss money online than in real life.  So, I keep hanging around the comment sections, like a winery dog.:-)

Lastly, here is some great advice given to me over the years, maybe readers will find of interest.

  • Men, get competence in the “Four Gs”: Grill, Guns, Garden, Garage – just know how to grill a burger or steak, how to safely unload a gun you may unexpectedly encounter, how to grow a tomato plant, and how to change a tire if you have to.  You don’t have to like these things or even do them physically.  Just know how to find the YouTube video that will help you handle these real life problems.  All other real life problems for men are related to the Four Gs, as are the solutions.
  • Watch out for social activities that wind up focused on vices (smoking cigars, drinking, gambling, other).  Softball, old-man-bands, spectator sports i.e. spending the day in front of the big-screen watching a bunch of millionaires chase a leather ball, etc.
  • Justice is zero-sum.  Social Justice is not Just, but is also zero-sum.  Politics is zero-sum.
  • Keep your hands off of boys, girls, and other people’s personal property. Advice from my Jr. High Dean of Boys, Mr. Midyett.

Here are some items for which I have changed my perspective, over time.

Believed these, but now do not.

  • There is someone for everyone, and true love will find you.
  • Just work hard and follow the rules, and the money will come.
  • Pay your dues, and eventually you will obtain love, money and happiness.
  • If you treat people the way you want to be treated, they will do the same.
  • Facts are more persuasive than feelings.

Did not believe these, but now do.

  • Prison is to incarcerate and protect the public, not to rehabilitate the criminal.
  • People are not born good, goodness must be taught.
  • Evil is real.  Good is real.  Bravery is saying the difference, and Cowardice is denying the difference.
  • ‘Joker’ is a story about child molester Arthur Fleck, not a misunderstood anti-hero.
  • Charles Bronson is hilarious, and knows it. Steven Seagal is hilarious, and doesn’t know it.
  • Tom Cruise is the greatest actor of our time.

Michael here – I love that you reserve the right to change your mind over time, and you’re not ashamed to share it. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with us.

Readers, what is your favorite takeaway from Jay Ceezy’s story?

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2 Comments on “Finding FI Interview #37: Jay Ceezy Made it Look Easy”

  1. Michael, thanks for the opportunity to share some thoughts! Your questions are fun and thought-provoking. Happy your book continues to add 5-star reviews, it really is a worthwhile investment for anybody who enjoys the F.I.R.E. personal finance community.

  2. Two questions on this, asked elsewhere and answered here to keep it in one place!

    Interesting to see you go 12% of NW into Crypto and would love to know your thought process and how you landed at that level of allocation. Are you in more than BTC?

    The decision to move into the Crypto space happened within a few months, after looking into it for a few years. Long story short, there are some drastic changes being implemented in the financial system that are destroying currency value. With interest rates at ZIRP for 13 years, a proposed $6 Trillion budget, UBI and MMT now considered serious economic theory, there are no longer possibilities for ‘rate normalization.’ With 5% y-o-y inflation (search it, and blow your mind!) appearing as a response to permanent structural increases to government spending, what had been safe acceptable returns are now clearly negative. Biflation is now gone!:-) Equities can no longer be valued with traditional fundamental metrics, and I liken them to ‘collectibles’ now where art, baseball cards, fine wine, NFTs and comic books are traded between Boomers and Pension funds; the value is whatever somebody else will pay. I can’t explain it, and now there is no place else to go.

    So. I’m about 50/50 into BTC and ETH. I can take a whack at 12% and have it go to zero, and my life will not change. But! After watching all pretense of fiscal responsibility abandoned by the Federal Reserve and elected officials, who signaled currency will be created in perpetuity to support (mostly government) Pension obligations and banks, it doesn’t seem prudent to expect continued value when the Fed can print unlimited dollars. Crypto is limited at the top for each coin, so the only way to ‘increase supply’ is to create another alt-coin. I picked the top two. And, are events scheduled later this year that will expand users and utilization.

    While each dollar has equal value in the market, each dollar has a different value to me personally. The first dollar of my net worth has a much greater value than the last dollar of my net worth. I bought it, took it off the platform with a cold-storage-wallet, and am forgetting it for 10 years. It could be life-changing. Nothing else I’m doing can do that. So, it is a nice ‘maybe.’

    What makes you say Joker is about a kiddie diddler?

    I liked the movie and hated sociopath Arthur Fleck. Subtext took awhile to sink in, and source material ‘Killing Joke’ addresses this. Look at his interactions with children. On the bus (“stop bothering my child!”). Neighbor Sophie’s child, who pulls closer to her mother in the elevator. In the hospital. Children’s hospital ward, dropping a gun on the floor? Arthur putting his fingers in the mouth of young Bruce Wayne, and immediately the butler recognizes Fleck as a danger. The other clowns, “they don’t like you, you make them feel uncomfortable.” People know that something isn’t right and Fleck is a danger.

    Fleck is an ‘unreliable narrator’, with lots of fantastical imaginings and disconnects between reality and (his) reality, i.e. he imagines his “friend” gives him a gun out of concern for Fleck’s safety. But in reality, he asked to buy the gun. He has no connection to his neighbor Sophie, despite his attempt at humor and imagined intimate interactions. Sophie’s little girl moves behind her mom when Arthur talks to her.

    The soundtrack is stunning. Every song has a connection to a dysfunctional (or worse) situation. The “Hey Song” by child m*lester Gary Glitter. “Smile” was written by child m*lester Charlie Chaplin, who met his second wife when she was eight, and his mother was committed to an insane asylum. “White Room” by child m*lester Eric Clapton, who grew up thinking his mother was his sister, and left his 4-year-old son alone with a window open, and won a Grammy. “Everybody Plays The Fool” sung by Cuba Gooding, Sr. who abandoned his family. “Slap That Bass” by Fred Astaire, what do you think those lyrics are about? Seriously, every song, check the composers, singers, that was very carefully chosen music.

    There is plenty online, I’m certainly not the first person to notice the ‘diddler’ subtext. Two more items just came to mind: 1) Frank Sinatra had two songs on the soundtrack, in addition to the ones I noted. Sinatra, like Clapton, was raised by his grandmother who he thought was his mother because she was raising his mother who was really Sinatra’s sister. Got all that? Oedipal, and no father in the picture. Sinatra’s grandmother, who he thought was his mother, was also a back-room abortionist in addition to being a bookie. Lots of unsavory types passing through Casa Sinatra, who knows what happened when they were left alone with little Francis? 95% of people won’t put the soundtrack together as subtext, and screenwriter/director Todd Phillips (who is married to Susana Hoffs of the Bangles) loves music and has a vast knowledge, so… 2) the comedy club Arthur Fleck performed at was Pogo’s. Another ‘easter egg’, Pogo the Clown was John Wayne Gacy’s performing name. You might remember Gacy r*ped and killed 33 young men and boys and buried them under his house. The creator of the Pogo comic strip was Walt Kelly, who was a stalker like Arthur Fleck who imagines a relationship with neighbor Sophie. Kelly died in 1973, and is known for the Pogo wisdom “we have met the enemy and he is us!” Fits with the mental illness and nihilism of Arthur Fleck.

    Jack Nicholson was also raised by his grandmother, all the while thinking she was his mother. Remember his role in 1990 in ‘Batman’? A hint? How about this one…Cesar Romero, the Joker from the Batman tv show in the ’60s. He was a dancer. And a comedian. Uh huh.

    Look at the 3 min. Youtube clip where Arthur Fleck meets young Bruce Wayne. It is a seduction, with a ‘lovable tramp Charlie Chaplin dance’ and a phallic ‘magic trick’ with a burst of ‘flowers’ (surprise!). and Fleck STICKS HIS FINGERS IN THE KID’S MOUTH! The lighting, the music, the whole tone of the scene is rightly scary. “It’s okay, I’m a good guy!” What exactly is Arthur Fleck afraid that Alfred might think of him?

    When we consider Arthur’s troubled mother Penny, and how mothers with young children sometimes use them to attract and keep men who are diddlers, and how she nicknamed him ‘Happy’ because young Arthur just ‘made everyone happy’ what does that mean? What does Arthur mean, exactly, when he claims to want to make young Bruce ‘smile’? Arthur has never been ‘happy’ and his Arkham records show him to have been m*lested as a child. The lyrics to ‘Smile’ written by child m*lester Charlie Chaplin are horrifying when applied to a young Arthur Fleck. Wow! The ‘creepy’ doesn’t stop with this movie!

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