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006: Achieving Financial Independence (and Happiness) in Your 30s with Brandon, the Mad Fientist

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Who is The Mad Fientist?

Brandon Mad Fientist with WifeThe Mad Fientist (aka Brandon) is a computer programmer and highly accomplished “fientist” (a word he made up himself) originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

He’s now living in Glasgow, Scotland, his wife’s hometown.

He achieved his personal financial independence number a couple of years ago at the age of 32.

Brandon has shared his journey towards financial independence on his site MadFientist.com, and now continues to share his post-FI journey on the site and popular podcast under the same name.

When he’s not concocting financial experiments or researching tax-avoidance strategies, Brandon enjoys writing software, traveling, playing hockey, skiing, and drinking fancy beer with friends and family.

Listen on to find out how much Brandon saved up to reach financial independence and what actually happened when he reached it. Stick around after the interview for my biggest takeaways.

Listen to This Episode with The Mad Fientist

I hope you enjoyed that. A big thank you to Brandon for giving us the gold today.

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Show Notes

[4:44] The one thing Brandon does (and others don’t) that has helped him be successful.
[5:20] How being a software developer and engineer helped him be efficient and not waste his money.
[5:48] The importance of arranging money so that it contributed to his happiness.
[6:24] Specific ways they stopped wasting money and became more efficient.
[9:34] The moment he realized he wanted to master his money.
[11:45] The power of simple math in saving and investing.
[13:11] The first big goal Brandon set for himself.
[14:23] How the Early Retirement Extreme (ERE) philosophy impacted Brandon’s thinking.
[28:36] Practical steps he took to save 70-80% of his income (such as taking the free bus to work).
[31:06] Mistakes he made with extreme saving.
[32:50] Key advice: don’t trade today’s happiness for tomorrow’s happiness–work on happiness the whole time.
[39:04] How Brandon and his wife were able to travel the world so cheaply.
[39:50] What Brandon did with the money he saved.
[43:18] How he and his wife reconciled their different approaches to financial independence.
[49:50] The big goals they have set for themselves and how they are achieving them.

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Links/Terms/Concepts from the Show

3 Takeaways from My Interview with Brandon

1. Trading today’s happiness for tomorrow’s happiness makes no sense.

Brandon admittedly took it too far in his last few years saving for FI. His happiness was taking a back seat to his hyper-efficiency with money. The result: he experienced depression right when he should have been the happiest.

The opposite is also true: it doesn’t make sense to trade tomorrow’s happiness for today’s. Have you found the right place on the spectrum of living for today or tomorrow?

2. Never (completely) trust anyone else with your money.

Brandon shared a bad experience with a financial planner he’d worked with. He thought it was smart move at the time. But as his own financial knowledge grew, he started to realize he’d be better off managing his own money. His mistake cost him, given the restrictive account setup he had there in the UK.

I’m actually very much in favor of using a financial advisor. Even though I don’t use one myself (except for a one-off checkup every five years or so), they can be a great sounding board and help give you a different perspective. But they should never replace your own financial knowledge. You should never view a financial advisor as an excuse to turn a blind eye towards your money.

3. What motivates you may not motivate your spouse.

And that’s okay. Brandon is the natural saver and his wife Jill is the natural spender. Brandon mentioned an article his wife wrote explaining her conversion to the financial independence mindset. I read it, and it’s great. In the letter, she credits Brandon’s honeymoon question of “What’s the perfect life?” for helping her become more of a saver and more interested in a version of financial independence that worked for her.

Getting on the same page as your spouse about your finances can take some time. Remember that what motivates you may not be the thing that’s going to motivate your spouse.

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This show is part of the FinCon Podcast Network and was produced by Steve Stewart.

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