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Please welcome Ms. ONL from Our Next Life as our guest for today’s Financial Literacy Chronicles.  This is Day 28 of 30 in the Financial Literacy Month interview series here on Enwealthen.

Please tell me a little bit about yourself and your blog.

I go by the temporary pseudonym Ms. ONL, which stands for Our Next Life, the blog I write about my husband’s and my journey to early retirement later this year. Once we quit our jobs, we’ll drop the anonymity and can start going by our actual names!

The blog chronicles the steps we’re taking to prepare ourselves for early retirement at the ages of 38 and 41, and goes beyond the strictly financial stuff to talk about how to define ourselves after we leave our careers, how we’ll keep a sense of purpose, and what sorts of adventures we want to plan for ourselves.

Always say please and thank you.

But we also delve deeply into the financial stuff, especially debunking myths like the one that it will be easy to go back to work after a long hiatus if your early retirement plan doesn’t work out, or that you can just wing it with health insurance.

We’re like that little angel sitting on your shoulder reminding you to be thorough in your planning and have realistic backup plans, but we’re also huge cheerleaders for people in all stages of their journey toward financial independence.

Mr & Mrs ONL in the snow

Can you share your most impactful money memory from your childhood?

My mom worked in commission-based sales for a long time, and every time she made a big sale, she’d take me out for a happy meal, or sometimes would buy me something bigger like whatever sneakers happened to be cool at that moment.

It definitely taught me that money is for treating yourself, not for saving, and it wasn’t until I was well into my 20s that I realized how much that little act on her part – a kind and generous one at that! – had negatively impacted me. I had to make the conscious choice, and sometimes have to keep reminding myself of it, that I’m much happier saving that money than on spending it on frivolous treats and “rewards.”

The reward will be all the years in our 40s and 50s when we’re not working!

We all receive financial advice from people in our lives.  What’s the most interesting or useful financial advice you’ve received from your community?

You know how sometimes you learn more working for bad bosses than working for good ones, at least in terms of realizing how not to do things?

I think it’s been similar in terms of financial advice, receiving bad advice that forced us to think through what’s actually right for us.

Lots of our friends and colleagues take the approach of buying as much house as they can afford, treating themselves to luxury travel or of throwing money at problems rather than trying to be resourceful in solving them, and seeing that has crystallized for us that we are comfortable following a different path.

So though the banks would have happily lent us more, we were happy buying only as much house as we could easily afford on only one of our incomes, and we always try DIY solutions first before calling in the pros. I still travel a lot for work so get some free perks that make our travel a little fancier than it would otherwise be, but we certainly aren’t willing to pay more for the privilege.

I have several personal finance books I regularly give to friends and family.  What are your 3 favorite fundamental personal finance books you often gift to others?

It’s so funny that we all do this!

The three I lend out again and again are Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin, the Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley, and How to Retire Early by Robert and Robin Charlton.

All three were super helpful to us, and we encourage everyone to read them!

What financial literacy education did you receive in school?  If you had a magic wand, what would you change to improve that?

Not much!

Maybe how to balance a checkbook? And that’s not even really a thing anymore.

Given how omnipresent debt is, I wish school had taught us how debt works, what interest rates really equate to, how long it takes to pay something off making only the minimum payment, and how long those student loans will stick with you.

I was definitely that 18-year-old who viewed credit cards and student loans as free money – if only I’d had better education on that!

There are so many blogs on the internet, what are 3 of your favorite blogs that instill financial literacy, either by word or action?

I love the mission behind Bravely, the new financial literacy site started by Kara Perez, and have been a big fan of Dear Debt and Melanie’s continual encouragement to help people pay off their debt. For those who are already pretty financially savvy, nobody tops the Mad Fientist’s breakdown of more complex financial topics in the financial independence realm.

There is no downside to becoming financially secure

I like to keep inspirational quotes around the house to remind me of what’s important.  Do you have a favorite money quote you use to inspire your financial life?

It’s not a money quote, but I keep a framed print right next to my computer monitor that says “Always say please and thank you.”

It’s a good reminder to be kind to everyone, not to get entitled, and to be grateful.

Achieving early retirement is a big deal. You’ve had to save at a high rate for many years, which could seem impossible to some people. What advice would you give those who aren’t sure if early retirement is really attainable for them?

I think if we’d focused from the beginning on how much we would eventually need to save up, we would have been too intimidated to start. So instead we just set yearly savings goals, and each year raised the bar a little bit to save more than we had the year before.

A huge part of that was made possible by automatically saving any pay increases and bonuses we got, and a smaller part of it was continually finding areas where we could spend a little less. But after you’ve been investing for a few years, you start to see that the markets themselves contribute a good portion of your gains, and that combined with increasing savings gives you this wonderful momentum that starts to make the truly big, audacious financial goals seem possible.

And, there is no downside to becoming financially secure or financially independent, so even if you fall short of an early retirement goal, the very worst thing that could happen is you’re in great financial shape overall and have more freedom and security than most people will ever have.

Thanks for contributing to Financial Literacy Month here on Enwealthen, Ms. ONL!

Ms. Our Next Life blogs about early retirement, financial independence, happiness and adventure at Our Next Life. She and Mr. ONL will be unmasking themselves when they retire at ages 38 and 41 later this year. You can also follow their adventures on Twitter and Instagram.

Readers, please share your thoughts on Ms. ONL’s experiences, any additional questions you have, and suggestions for who else you’d like to see interviewed in the comments below.  And please do share this with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  Thanks!

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