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He got a late start on his career and financial goals, but he's making a comeback.

4 minute read

Rybo from Hard Come, Easy Go! and his family live in a 1,500-square foot home. They also live off one salary because he and his wife decided that homeschooling their children would work out best for them. They are frugal and Rybo saves 32 percent of his gross pay, currently has a pension, and a no-match 401(k).

Sounds decent, right? But Rybo struggled for the longest time (and still does), and admits he is partly to blame.

“I attended college for three years but did not complete the degree program,” recalls Rybo. “That put me on the slow track to my career where I needed to gain work experience to get in.”

Finding a job that generated more money became his primary problem. But he did catch a break. “My career is in IT, but I got there the round-about way,” says Rybo. “I initially worked shifts for an alarm company for several years after my college stint. While there, the VP said they needed a customer database application for the company and basically handed me the how-to manual to develop it.” He succeeded.

His finances were also taking the “slow track.” Early on, he didn’t save much. When he started, his investments didn’t work out very well, especially when the Dotcom market crashed in early 2000. “When the Dotcom market crashed, I was counted among the disillusioned, and I languished in investment la-la land for many years while life took over.”

Financial mistakes and discoveries

During this time, Rybo drove junk cars. He says, “I drove the cheapest car around while everyone else had something decent. I’ve even burned up in the summer heat without an AC unit, almost reaching heat-stroke levels. I’ve also struggled with older cars that were a mechanical nuisance costing me thousands in repairs.”

These junk cars were a bad influence on future decisions. When he started making a little money as he progressed as an IT professional, he began following the Joneses. “Once I could afford something better, I had a ‘thing’ against cheap cars that lead to the worst financial mistakes I’ve made — purchasing mid-sized vehicles that were in the mid-to-upper $20k range, which saddled me with debt.”

In 2006, his family downsized into their 1,500-square foot home and then the recession hit. Luckily for Rybo, his “lack of an investment plan meant I didn’t lose much money this time around.” Fast-forward six years and something changed in 2012: He found the Bogleheads forum. It’s made up of ordinary investors, who follow the teachings of Vanguard founder Jack Bogle.

He also discovered something else: “I learned more clearly about living below your means, which we were consciously doing by default, but not with as much purpose. We budgeted for a time to get a handle on where our money was spent, so we haven’t been in the red due to mortgage and auto loans for some time.”

The impetus for Hard Come, Easy Go!

Rybo and his family continue with their financial issues. As he says, major budget busters come at you from all angles and he’s right. They have struggled with major medical bills, auto insurance (now that his daughter’s driving), a fifty-mile commute each way, and other daily expenses. His continued financial frustrations, even though they live a smart, frugal life, made him start his blog in 2017 — partly as a response to the other personal finance blogs on the web.

“There are a lot of great blogs out there already, and I enjoy reading their insights into personal finance,” says Rybo. “But, unlike most of the popular voices out there, we don’t have a lot of extra money or income to reach financial independence any time soon.”

His blog focuses on subjects and situations that those who are in a financial dog fight confront almost daily. “For some of us, we struggle a lot to save (and some cannot save at all), and if the advice from other personal finance blogs isn’t applicable to our particular situation, it seems like there is a lack of empathy.”

Rybo connects with that audience, although he heartily welcomes visitors from all financial levels. He discusses the “realistic choices” he and his readers can make to improve their financial situation. For example, Rybo commutes 50 miles each way. Some would say downsize and move closer to your job. But in reality, his office is deeper in the city where the cost of living is more expensive. So, he and his family make do and cut other expenses.

I asked Rybo for some financial advice for our readers. He gladly replied:

  • Start early, if you can help it, in your career and learning about financial responsibility. That’s time spent on progressing toward financial independence and developing better discipline.
  • If you choose a lifestyle that relies on one income, know that it’s going to be more difficult unless you make a lot of money. And you simply can’t compare your situation with your two-income colleagues in your salary range, even if they aren’t frugal.
  • Life can throw weird curve-balls that cause you to make financial mistakes. If you don’t understand finances, you might get swept away. You may even react and over-steer, making bad decisions under pressure. And once you’ve made the wrong financial decision for a major item, many times you don’t get a second chance

Rybo also offers some cool savings tips in his Cofferhouse section. But I’m ending our time with him with this quote I found on his website from the Greek philosopher Epictetus: “Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”

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About the Author

Brian Bienkowski

Brian Bienkowski

Brian Bienkowski has been writing about personal finance for over 15 years covering debt recovery, fraud, and credit topics. He has worked on several personal finance books and guides that help consumers navigate the US credit system. When he’s away from the keyboard he enjoys craft beer and fishing – and once enjoyed a cold Sweet Water IPA after catching a sailfish.

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