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What do you get when you combine the myth of the poor teacher with the myth of starving artist? You get myth-busting Savvy History!
She’s got her financial life under control and a clear plan for the future. Her site Savvy History is one of the most creative and interesting out there. It’s not just a blog, it’s also a band!
Three of our first four Educator on FI/RE interviews were with high school teachers. They were all great AND I want to provide as much variety as possible. So, I’m thrilled to bring you an interview with a middle school teacher this week.
Now, you’re in great hands with Savvy History. Here’s her interview!
Tell us about you.
I’m a middle school teacher named Michelle from the blog and band Savvy History. The other half of Savvy History is my husband Adam. He is a bassist and full-time sound technician at the local college. We specialize in taking true stories from the past and presenting them as educational songs with a story.
We also have a busy and spunky 9-month old. This has changed the way we approach our jobs and side-hustles. For example, we are not interested in being touring musicians anymore, but we hope to record our songs and put them online instead of performing live. In addition, we don’t plan on remodeling another house until our boy is in school!
I started blogging because I have formally and informally studied gifted education along with the mental health needs of individuals with high potential. I am drawn to the under-explored connection FI has to gifted psychology. I could be wrong, but I think a lot of FI seekers are deep-thinking high-achieving individuals.
In short, I believe independent musicians (and teachers) can have a healthy relationship with money and bring a healthy dose of creativity into their lives.
What do/did you like most about working in education?
I live in a small town with a liberal arts college. A lot of people are interconnected, and this makes socializing easy for an introvert like me. This may be a surprising answer to my favorite part about education, but I really enjoy most of the adults I work with! My husband and I have made so many awesome friends that are teachers. They are well-balanced, aware, truth-seeking, fun, and friendly people with huge hearts. We are a social unit on a mission to improve our community each and every day. It makes life meaningful to know we are doing work that matters, and we have others to turn to when situations are difficult.
What do/did you like least?
What I like least about education is somewhat insidious and difficult to describe. The reason I went into education involves my own love of learning and my desire to give such an experience to others. However, busy work and mandatory meetings are stacking up year after year, making it more difficult for educators to connect with why they first went into teaching. In many industries, for each new requirement coming from on high, no old requirement is taken away. This doesn’t seem sustainable.
What is your Why of Financial Independence? (Why are you learning about or seeking FI?)
I want to be someone who always has the mental and physical energy to smile at people, be decent and kind, be a good mother, and be an amazing wife. If anyone or anything gets in the way of my ability to do those things or gets in the way of my creativity, I want the freedom to leave or change it up.
I have set my life up like this for a long time to some degree or another because I value having options. For example, I’ve always kept a lot of savings on hand. I have found creating reasonable options works when it comes to well-being.
- FI Curious – Just learning and becoming interested in financial independence
- Future FI – On the path, but still learning. Destined for financial independence!
- FI Success – Financially independent!
I am on the path to FI and still learning every day from numerous blogs and podcasts. My husband and I have been aware of FI for about four years. We’ve actually made choices that work against it to some degree (like obtaining a bigger house and having a child), but I know how extremely passionate I can be when I love an idea or philosophy, so we are still moving along just fine and in it for the long run while enjoying ourselves.
Share any financial numbers you are comfortable sharing:
I blog in a “semi-anonymous” fashion, so I won’t get too specific here (even though I know specificity is where all the fun happens)!
We are in our early 30s with our house paid off and zero debt. If we count our house, we are 1/3 of our way to “lean” FI. We have obviously not pulled this off solely on my teaching income! Never acquiring college debt by always making the most affordable college choice and going through school slowly while working helped.
Most notably, my husband and I have always had side hustles and tried to save half our income (even with some pretty crummy jobs in the past or while being full-time musicians). Playing music and teaching guitar have at times pulled in as much (or more) as my after-tax teaching income. My husband has some great carpentry skills so we have remodeled houses. In addition, we maximize our retirement work options and have Vanguard Roth IRAs on the side.
Tell us about your path to FI.
What are your successes/wins?
To take a broader perspective, one of my wins was finding a person with similar values to share my life with. Together we have settled in a beautiful and progressive community. In essence, we are easily satisfied and enjoy our day to day lives. There’s not a lot to “take a vacation” from. This alone has been huge in helping us be content while saving money.
What are your challenges?
We have a lot of options for future side hustles since having our son, but we haven’t narrowed in on pushing one to the forefront. We know we could remodel more houses, but we want to wait until our son is older. I’m sitting on a pile of 30+ history songs I have written, but I haven’t recorded them yet. I want a larger vision of what I can do with them online instead of touring. I don’t plan to leave in the summer to play shows like I did in the past. I’d miss my town and boy too much! For a start, I plan to blog about these conundrums as I try to solve them. I think it will help me understand myself more and sort out my thoughts.
I suppose we are adjusting as new parents. It is a challenge in relation to FI. Our expenses have gone up and our earning potential on the side is still a mystery to us.
What is your long-term goal? Do you have a FI target?
As of now, we should be able to retire very comfortably at 55 if we stay on the same path. This is when I will receive my pension (if it is still in place). We also have an alternative future vision if it is gone (one reason why we have Roth IRAs on the side). This target is still fluid depending on how many houses we remodel, if we have rentals, if we have a second child, if we have a successful side-business, the cost of health insurance, etc.
If you become financially independent will you:
- Retire early?
- Continue to work in education? (How/why?)
- Do something different?
Is retiring at 55 early? Probably not to the FI community, but I suppose it will be decades from now! I can see myself subbing on the side no matter what in order to stay in touch with the community and get out and about each day. I really love the idea of running my own education-related business from home (maybe history songs, maybe bibliotherapy), but I also see the value of an in-person social network stemming from my career.
Tell us about a short-term goal you’re working towards.
At this time, I hope to write a lot more and be more creative because it brings me joy. I hope to write songs, write articles, and find a way to utilize these skills online in the short-term and possibly long-term. For this year, I hope to offer at least one blog post a week, one Instagram post a day, and start recording some songs over the summer.
We are also working on saving $5,000 this year to specifically use on a three-seasons porch my husband plans to build over the summer. We have done numerous housing projects, but now I hope to document them more specifically and write about them in one of our blog categories.
Who/what inspires you?
I am inspired by everyone on a mission to think for themselves while humbly analyzing the complexity of such a task. I am energized daily by numerous writers, podcasters, and children I encounter. I am also enthused about life whenever I have a really good book to read.
What’s something you want to say to other educators about financial independence?
No matter where you are starting at, striving for FI doesn’t hurt. Even if you think your income is too low, there are a lot of positives about teaching (including summers to build up a business if you are interested). I have friends who are photographers, friends who are expert teachers holding their own workshops, friends who are yoga teachers, etc. It could make you a happier and healthier human being to obtain FI through a variety of interests, and this will benefit anyone you go around (including your students).
Is there anything you’d like to get feedback on from the community?
I really love writing historically themed music. I’m paid decently to travel and play shows, but I’m actually a homebody who’d prefer to stay home. Any advice for how to “take it online?”
If you want to listen to a live recording of a few of the history songs, you can check them out here. Feedback would be very much appreciated.
Also, does anyone have experience starting a multi-age book club or podcast listening group? I really hope to someday!
Where can readers reach you if they want to connect?
www.savvyhistory.com is the best way to connect. You can find out more about our journey to FI and our music there.
The combination of creativity and personal finance is fascinating! Please give Michelle feedback in the comments below and definitely check out Savvy History.
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