Episode 28: A FIRE Success Story with Dan Shaw House of FI Community Member

Finding Inspiration

Sometimes, on this FIRE Journey, we need a little inspiration.  We need to hear the stories of others that are ahead of us – those that are willing to reach back and lend a helping hand or a thoughtful word.  We need to feel a connection to another person in a similar situation that is doing the extraordinary in order to change their financial path.

Today we are sharing our interview with Dan Shaw, a member of the House of FI private group.  Dan recently FIREd with his wife and his two little girls.


Here is a copy of the post he shared when he reached his FIRE goal:

“Four years ago, watching my girls play in the surf at Lake Michigan, after some world-class bullshit at work, I made myself a promise that I would retire as soon as I possibly could. I never would have dreamed that I could get there in just four years. FIRE’d today!”

In delving further, Dan shared that there was one thing he was missing all along – it was the practice of being frugal.  Frugality proved to be the final piece of the puzzle that allowed him to spark the FIRE.

I had the rentals, had the max saving at 66%, had the side hustle remodeling real estate, had the puffed-up 403b, but was still blowing through money like a sailor on shore leave. I grew up poor, so cutting back was just like putting on an old, comfortable suit again. Flipping that one last switch has now bought me 6 years at home with my oldest, and 10 (!) years at home with my youngest.
…The FIRE is spreading all around us!….. ? ? ?”

His words speak for themselves, and because of that, we had to invite him onto the show to learn more about his story.  

We hope, after listening, you are inspired to take action!

Dan’s Early Money Story

Dan remembers his childhood in Maine and Georgia fondly, even though his family grew up poor.  In his early years he was home-schooled by his mother, but as he grew older, he eventually made his way in to public school.  His parents were “average” with money, but his strongest impressions are of the fact that they led with strong moral values about being a good person, and about the importance of education.

Still, poor was poor. Early on, Dan knew that in order to access the education that was gravely important to his values, he would need to find a way to cover the cost.

He worked hard and was rewarded with scholarships for his undergraduate degree. In Grad school Dan pursued mastery of the English language, a degree that is often referred to as a poor investment choice. In order to offset the cost of his degree, worked as a Teaching Assistant and then as an Adjunct Professor for the English Program, which afforded him tuition benefits as well as a $16,000 stipend.

Who Says You Can’t Make Money With An English Degree?

Dan studied English, and Dan’s salary nearly reached $200,000 in the corporate world of Standardized Testing. He is not the only one that is putting his liberal arts degree to excellent use. There are 6-figure bloggers, there are editors, there are content creators that are using their love of words to increase their financial income to impressive levels.

In the world of Financial Independence we often point out that getting out of debt and reaching FIRE is made easier by the “size of your shovel” – meaning the amount of money you make. In Dan’s case, this is true, but the revelation to be had here is not that high income earners can reach FI more quickly. The revelation is that no matter what size your income, you must, Must, MUST make the right decisions – you MUST tell your money where to go.

Let’s be clear. While having a HUGE “financial shovel” can certainly rescue you from big debt, it can also lead you deeper into a bigger hole.

Real Estate Investor Clause

Dan’s Holy Grail advice for rental real estate or landlord law:

The Real Estate Professional Qualification changed Dan’s tax situation from not ideal to fully optimized. This provision works if you can qualify for the three requirements:

  1. RE Professionals must spend more than half your time on real estate
  2. You must meet the 750-hour rule for the year
  3. You must have 5% ownership in the real estate business/entities

Qualifying means you are allowed to take deductions in the current year as active deductions against income – not as passive deductions that are limited and carry over to the following years.

ACT/SAT Tips From Behind The Scenes

  1. Take the test early. Many students start taking them in sophomore or even freshman year to start preparing themselves for their best showing as a junior or senior.
  2. Take the test more than once. Familiarity helps settle the nerves.
  3. Work on time management strategies, specifically for test taking.
  4. Test scores do not account for everything. They are a component of a larger picture. Show your best self in terms of grades, activities and leadership.

What’s Next in FIRE

What would you do if you reached FIRE early in life, with a family of 4? How would you choose your priorities? Dan has set his post FIRE goals, and they include the following:

1. Radical Self Care – taking care of his home, his family and his body!

2. Redirect attention from a company and millions of students, to what he can do for his family, how he can focus his energy into making their home life all that it can be.

3. Finishing up home projects including a backyard fire pit and a basement upgrade.

Dan on the Final Questions:

Money Lesson:

Dan’s folks taught him important lessons about hard work and working smart.  He also learned the concept of “finding your customer and serving their interests” which creates value for them.

Life Hacks:

  1. Remodeling houses has allowed for the acquisition of stable real estate investments.
  2. Find you tribe – a group that you can talk shop with! This helps you to stay focused on what is truly meaningful to you.

Where can people find you:

House of FI Facebook group!

Listen to last week’s House of FI Episode with Tela Holcomb

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