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(Note 7.2018: This post is out of date now in a number of ways – I’ve shifted my focus, changed the site name and URL, and refined my approach. But – I’m leaving the content as is to document where it all started. Thanks for reading!)
After spending decades with my head down giving everything I had to education and not paying much attention to my personal financial future, I suddenly had an epiphany. It freed me in ways I’d never imagined. I want to share that with others. So, I’m starting an educator FI blog.
One of the leadership books that changed my approach to leading school staff was Simon Sinek’s fabulous Start with Why. I highly recommend the full read, but the crystal version is this: If you want to motivate people to change, start with why they (or you) should want to change. This comes before the what, when, or how. So, it’s appropriate that for my very first blog post, I talk about the why of this blog.
Why Another Financial Independence Blog?
In the past 18 months I’ve read a lot of FI / FIRE blogs. Virtually every one of them that began in the last 3 years has a similar question in a first post. And, you know what? Every one of them was valuable to me in some way. The variety of perspectives isn’t a problem with the financial independence movement, it’s a feature.
Despite the huge variety, I never found one that fully spoke to me. The extreme frugality section, while interesting and helpful, doesn’t exactly capture my family’s goals. However, everyone should spend at least some time with Mr. Money Mustache.
I was personally inspired by reading the Millionaire interviews at ESI Money. They had a variety of people, earning a variety of salaries, with a variety of goals who used different investments to reach their higher net worth. These weren’t always people carving out a $30k/year spending lifestyle. (Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!) I binged on these stories, looking for tips and tricks.
Though not my profession, I came to really value White Coat Investor‘s analysis and direct voice. I appreciate his commitment to his profession and colleagues most of all. His fellow doctors are incredibly lucky to have someone looking out for them. And ultimately, that made me realize that I wasn’t seeing anything specific to my profession: education leaders.
I loved this tweet by Military Dollar about micro-niches! We should be able to generalize the journey to a certain extent.
That said, even she is writing from a specific perspective. And in my 18 months of reading everything I could find and building my plan, I’d mostly pulled from those writing about other professions.
There were a few writing specifically from the
Why Education Leaders?
They’re my people. And they deserve better. While teachers are, in general, respected by the public, school administrators are often reviled. Administrators are an easy target. Those trying to make political names label them a waste of public dollars. Teachers associations attack them as a bargaining tactic. Some people hate them due to discipline they experienced in school.
Every profession has it’s jerks. (Check out this a**hole.) And, we definitely should push every dollar we can into direct service to the classrooms.
But, and this may actually be the most controversial thing I ever say on this blog: The vast majority of school leaders are incredibly talented, dedicated people who are sacrificing because they believe they can make an impact on students.
School Leadership Matters
Teachers will tell you how important it is to have a good principal. A strong district administration is directly correlated with improvements in outcomes for students. Parents know how different a school feels with an effective principal. And my life was personally impacted, both positively and negatively, by principals during my childhood.
And it’s getting harder to make sure we have good leaders serving our students and educators. The best school leaders love teaching – and it often just doesn’t make sense to step from teaching into leadership. The societal pressures have never been higher. You don’t receive adequate training. And it can take a heavy toll on your personal life. Good leaders often have other options. I can’t blame them for taking them.
But the work matters. There are financial benefits that can make a difference. We can support each other. Financial independence gives you options, and the power to approach the work in a different way. When I was close to burnout, it made a huge difference for me.
And I want to share it. Because, maybe it can keep a good principal supporting great teachers. Maybe it will enable a neighborhood to keep a beloved school leader. Perhaps a good superintendent can resist public pressure because she doesn’t need to fear her firing. Maybe those things add up to make a difference for a whole lot of students.
This is my why: Financial Independence for Education Leaders.
Let me get a bit more specific about what you can expect from this blog as a reader. (And coincidentally, be specific about how I’ll hold myself accountable.)
The content will definitely have an education flavor, but is potentially useful for anyone who chooses to read and apply. I’m hoping to engage school leaders, but not only school leaders. Much of what I’m applying to my own personal journey came from reading non-educator journeys.
Though I’m currently working at the district level, the principalship is where my heart is. It’s the most important level in school leadership. Most people, students, teachers, and families, interact most with the school principal. Great principals support others. So, I’ll be Principal F(inancial) I(ndependence) for this blog.
Two reasons: First, one bad habit in education is to believe context determines outcome. By being non-specific, I’m hoping it will enable people to place themselves in their state, district, or personal context more freely.
Second, we are public servants. I currently serve a small community and board. I do not want my work on this blog to lead others to question my commitment to impacting our students. Thank you for respecting that.
Those things said: I will be transparent about everything that isn’t personally identifiable. While I may tweak some personally identifiable details, I will not distort the content. Everything I write will be true.
No plan survives contact with the readers. I think that’s the quote, right? Anyway, as I start out I plan to write in the following categories:
Our Journey will capture our journey from clueless to crystal clear about my F.I. path. My hope here is that I can pull together what I experienced into a coherent plan of action that let’s others jump start their journey. I’ve loved my learning, but can see already how much farther I’d be if clarity had come a year earlier, let alone five or ten years. I’ll write this out over the three months of my blog so I can get started. Once I get it done, I’ll create a free summary document. If this sounds like something you might want, sign up here.
Financial Independence Lessons: One of the joys of working in education is working with kids and the crazy, funny, and inspiring things they do. I want to share, and invite others to share, their experiences. I’ll lightly tie these back to FI. Sometimes it’s nice to think about the journey without reading a dense investment analysis post.
Publishing schedule – My plan is to create two posts a week to be published on Monday and Thursday. I may find I have the time and energy to do more, but I will always publish on Monday and Thursday.
Sharing – I plan to link liberally to others writing about the search for financial independence. I’ve personally benefited from so many different perspectives. I also believe deeply in shared leadership and networks of improvement. I don’t care if I push potential readers elsewhere. If that works for them – great. Which leads to my final point…
It’s Not about the Money
I know that on many sites “start a blog” is part of the income side of the journey. In fact, next to the ubiquitous “why another financial blog?” posts, “How to Start a Blog” blog posts may be the second most common! These can be helpful to readers, and provide a great affiliate income for some blogs.
I didn’t start Principal F.I. (now EducatorFI)as an income stream. In fact, in much the same way that financial independence has helped free me from some of the stress of my job, the clear freedom of not needing to make money from this blog allows me to make clean decisions about what I write.
I will use ads and affiliate links to help pay some of the operation cost. I don’t expect to make much because I’m very intentionally not treating it like a business. Should it ever become profitable, which seems unlikely, I will create a charitable donation statement and give a healthy portion of profits away to charities that align with my educational mission of closing achievement gaps for traditionally under-served populations.
Also, I pledge to not write a “how to start a blog” post for at least a year! Ha!
There you go – my why for Principal F.I. |Financial Independence for Education Leaders. Thanks for joining me on this journey and my mission to help others free themselves from stress and compromises by achieving financial independence. Click here, to read more about the start of my personal journey.