Going Vertical

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Going Vertical

Jeff’s got a great analogy about Space Shuttle take-offs v Navy Jet Fighters – when was the last time that you actually got to fly one of those things, Jeff? – that tells you a lot about how he thinks!

What advice can you give Jeff from your perspective, be it stratospheric, strictly earthbound, or anywhere in between?


I’m sure Adrian advocates an aggressive vertical takeoff profile, given the picture he chose to use of the space shuttle taking flight.

My typical launch profile is a bit different than that of the Space Shuttle.  I’m used to starting from a standstill, checking the instruments, stroking the afterburners, taking level flight to build speed, and then pulling up to start a climb.  I’ve been launching this way for about 17 years now.  Not just professionally as a Naval Aviator, but also financially.

However, I think I’ve may have stayed in ground effect for a bit too long financially and its now time to pull back on the stick, load up the “Gs” and take things vertical.

But there’s more to going vertical than just honking on a big ‘ol pull on the control stick.  Pull too little or too late and you might not clear the trees at the end of the runway.  Pull too much, too quickly or too soon and you could decelerate rapidly causing you to peak out lower than you intended.  There’s a science to looking cool.

The struggle I am having in our experiment is one of changing old habits.  I’m finding that old investing habits can be hard to break, especially those that you believe have been good ones.

I have been a typical retirement account poster child.  I use ’em and I max ’em out.  And I haven’t done too bad along the way.  I’m on track to be comfortable later in life, not having to work until I die, nor rely upon the charity of my children.

But being comfortable in 27 years is not why I’m here.  I want to find a time machine to shave 17 years off that clock.

Let’s take a closer look at where things sit right now and determine if I have enough airspeed on this baby to take her vertical.


Adrian made a nice graphic at the top of the page capturing my monthly income statement.  Before I add a little more detail, I have a small confession to make first.

Those numbers reflect what life will look like in May 2009.  My pay is still fluctuating from my recent move and won’t settle out completely until I officially “check in” to my new command on May first.

Monthly after tax income: $12,501 (made up of my paycheck and rental income)

Monthly expenses: $9,512 (made up of living expenses and two mortgages)

Monthly savings: $2,989

My surplus is normally divvied up between a 401K, two Roth IRA’s, two 529 college accounts, and cash savings.  However, right now everything is being funneled into money market savings to replenish my cash reserves and cushion the unforeseen expenses that come with a move.


Reviewing my net worth profile yields the following:

Total assets: $1,355,253 (two houses, two cars, one boat, cash savings, and several retirement accounts)

Total liabilities: $753,755 (two mortgages, one short term bridge loan tied to my home)

Net worth: $601,498 (this is a new all time high for me)


Reviewing all these numbers helps me understand some of my hesitation and reluctance to step away from my past investing practices.  Things don’t feel broke.

Adding to this hesitation are concerns for those who rely upon me.  I have a wife and two kids that are depending upon the course I chart.

What if I make a misstep in this experiment?

What if I lose it all trying something new?

Failure is not an option.

If I’m going to pull back on the stick the right amount, I have some more work to do in order to determine how much “pull” is enough.

But I’m committed to this and have been laying the ground work necessary to begin shifting my investment portfolio from mutual funds to a concentrated selection of individual stocks so that I can take this baby vertical.

Keep your eyes on the sky.

I’ll be the one with my hair on fire.

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Reader Comments

You know, I didn’t even think to consider my rental property rent received on my income side, then add that mortgage to my expense side. Right now i’m breaking even on the payments vs the mortgage and just getting the tax breaks.

You’ve definitely done well over your career, but I certainly know the feeling of needing to really “take off”. I too have had my nose to the grindstone since I left for the Army at 18, virtually with no breaks in focus, concentration and a growth mind-set, but even with all the years of work and dedication, I still see myself retiring ‘comfortably’ in my 60’s instead of being wealthy in my 40’s if I don’t take the action that i’m now taking.

It’s time for us to get busy!

Scott, that’s a great point…”what do you want to be, comfortable in your 60s or wealthy in your 40s?”

One of the key points this experiment has forced me to evaluate is whether my investing practices will lead me to be 60 and comfy or 40 and wealthy.

It’s been a difficult process of self-evaluation and identifying the need for change, but I think I’m on the 60 and comfy path.

I’m hopeful to begin the necessary transformation soon.

I hope so Jeff, it will be good seeing you at the top! 🙂

Jeff, I can imagine how you may be hesitant to diverge from the typical retirement formula being that you have dependents. I can only imagine because I don’t have the experience, it must be tough.
But, after sitting down with your wife and getting her on board, ridding yourself of the fear of failure is imperative in successful investing. Failure to do so will only impair your judgment.

I’m not sure if mentioning specific company’s is appropriate for this blog, but if you or anyone else ever want to talk stocks, drop me a line at jaushwa@gmail.com, we can trade ideas.

Josh, thanks for the offer and great advice.

@ Jeff – I think the first thing that you – or anyone – needs to do is to reevaluate your Life’s Purpose, hence Number/Date.

You have to decide how important it really is to you to hit it … if not 100% critical, then change either/or Number/Date until it IS 100% critical.

There can be no alternatives here: ‘comfy’ has to mean you’ve reached your Number/Date … ‘discomfort’ has to mean that you’ve missed it. It’s as simple as that …


Because ‘difficult’ decisions will come about all the time, and you (as in: you, me, anybody) will take the ‘easy / comfy’ road every time .. we will defer the pain.

So, what we need to do is USE THE PAIN to our advantage by choosing a Number/Date that is too painful to miss.

So, what is that Number/Date for you, Jeff? Has it changed recently? Is it likely to change if you miss a couple of hurdles?

Done?! Great: Now, let’s move on to the next part of the equation …

Does this mean that you should stop investing in your ‘tax advantaged retirement vehicles’?

I don’t know!

What I do know is this:

1. It’s really important to have a back up plan and / or a safety net. Just because we have to suit up and fly that jet, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t carry a chute (we just don’t want to HAVE to use it).

2. However, I suspect that at some stage, you’ll be looking for somewhere to get some money to fuel your Growth Engine (whatever that may be to get you to your Number by your Date … from memory, for you, this will be a business of some sort?). This MAY entail making some big decisions as to where / how to get the money:

e.g. Sell a property? Refinance your house? Hock the kids? Sell you soul (to a bank or partner)? Or, horror of horrors …

Stop contributing to your ‘retirement plan/s’ and / or sell out of them partially/entirely.

Until that time, if you really feel it ain’t broke, then by all means don’t fix it 🙂