Each night before I go to sleep I lie in bed and type out a short journal entry on my phone. Sometimes these journals are lengthy paragraphs and other times they’re only a couple sentences. I basically just write about what’s going on in my life and any thoughts I have about my current situation. I have been doing this for the past 18 months and it’s so interesting and entertaining for me to look back on these entries and see what was going through my head at the time.
I keep these journal entries in the “Notes” app of my iPhone in a folder called “Days”:
Over the past 12 months I started my first ever internship, transitioned into my first ever full-time job, started a blog, finished my Master’s in statistics, experimented with side hustling, contributed to a 401(k), experienced the pitfalls of corporate life, and switched full-time jobs for the first time ever. Fortunately for me, and hopefully somewhat interesting for you, I documented every step of the way.
Here’s a recap of my life over the past 12 months as told through my nightly journal. All of these entries are real and they’re all unedited. I only removed the names of people and companies for anonymity.
Aug 21, 2016
I published my first blog post ever today. I think it turned out decent. I know there’s thousands of personal finance blogs out there already, but I think I have a unique take on finance. I want to talk about how philosophy, psychology, and work ethic are all deeply intertwined with finance, I just have to figure out how to communicate my ideas. I have no clue how to get visitors to come to the blog but I plan on posting at least once a week, probably on the weekends. It’s also cool that I got the domain fourpillarfreedom.com, I feel like that’s a pretty memorable name.
Aug 28, 2016
Today was my first day ever being a full-time employee in my life. It’s a weird feeling. It’s definitely the start of a new chapter. What’s funny is I have no idea how long I’ll be a full-time employee. It could be five years if I rack up an insane amount of cash these next few years or it could be closer to twenty years. I have no clue, but I do know the journey to conquering my finances is officially in the beginning stages. For the first time ever I am making real money.
I set up 30% of each paycheck to go straight to my 401(k), which will max out the contribution over the coming year. I told _______ this, which turned out to be a huge mistake. He told _______ and she asked me why I was contributing so much. She also told me to be careful saving that much because I won’t have as much cash available to “buy a house”. I didn’t tell her I have no plans of buying a house anytime soon or maybe ever. Lesson learned today: don’t share your financial decisions with coworkers.
September 17, 2016
Categorical analysis is kicking my ass. The class is so boring but I literally have no option but to stick it out. It’s too late to switch into a different class. Honestly all I can do is just put my head down and truck through the homework even though it’s so damn time consuming. I think _______ will curve the grades at the end of the semester since there’s only 4 people in the class.
October 23, 2016
I HAVE to figure out a way to make money online. This is the only way I could ever be location-independent and not be tied to an employer. What skills do I possess? I know statistics. I can tutor people in it and make money somehow through that. What if I just find hundreds of people who need help with stats online and just get paid through PayPal or something. If I make enough money this way I could literally just make money with a laptop and travel wherever I want and travel hack.
Ok here’s an idea, I could buy online websites and build them up and make them more successful. Then I could resell them. The only problem is it takes time and between work and class I already have no life.
November 10, 2016
DUDE MY EARLY RETIREMENT GRID JUST GOT FEATURED ON ROCKSTAR FINANCE HAHAHAHA WHAT. WHAT. HOW. This is insane. This morning I checked out the site and saw it featured as the number one article and literally just sat at my desk in my room and stared at it for like 10 minutes without moving. Today alone I had over 2,000 views on the blog. I’m just in shock. The motivation I have right now to improve the blog and write is sky high. I’m so pumped right now to make more visualizations and write more articles about personal finance and psychology and whatever else.
November 16, 2016
THE EARLY RETIREMENT GRID JUST GOT POSTED ON BUSINESS INSIDER AND LIFEHACKER. I don’t even know what to say. I got over 20,000 page views JUST TODAY. Incredible. Over 30 new subscribers today. This is crazy.
I really need to make an “About” page and an “Archives” page so people can easily read all my articles to date. I need a new layout for the blog too. The content is fine but the site looks awful. I need to buckle down and actually figure out how to make it look decent.
November 25, 2016
The hype has died down on the blog. It’s somewhat deflating when you experience the high of having your blog featured all over the biggest media sources in existence and then you go back to being a normal blog that no one cares about. But this just means I have to focus on putting out high quality content on a regular basis. Just keep writing. Keep documenting your financial journey. Consistency is all that matters.
December 1, 2016
Found out today that I failed one of the parts of my comprehensive Master’s exam. I’m just down right now. It fucking sucks. It’s hard as hell and if I don’t pass it in the spring I’ll have to wait another year to take it again. I seriously just have to spend a ridiculous amount of time studying. I don’t know what else to do.
December 3, 2016
This is the biggest funk I’ve been in in a long time. Classes suck, I have no free time, work is pointless, and I literally have no choice but to just keep working. It’s times like this where I just have to grind. There’s nothing else to do. There’s nothing else I even can do. Put in the work that nobody else wants to. Wake up when nobody else wants to. Grind, grind, grind. Every time I get in these funks I just put my head down and work. Nothing new.
The semester ends in two weeks and I can’t wait. Hopefully I can read this entry a year from now and laugh at how absurd this all is. I’m probably overreacting. It just feels like I’m making no progress in any direction.
December 20, 2016
Hallelujah, the semester from hell is over and I squeaked out two A’s and a B. I’ll take it. One more semester until I have my Master’s. Let’s get it.
January 11, 2017
MAJOR MILESTONE TODAY: I posted an ad on Craigslist for Stats Tutoring last week and some woman emailed me asking for help. I just got paid 25 bucks for tutoring this woman at the library. She’s in an Intro to Stats class and I think we’re going to meet once a week now for tutoring. I felt slightly uncomfortable taking cash from her, but I did help her with something she was struggling with so it was fair.
This is the first time I have ever gone out and been paid for doing something outside of an employed job. Maybe all entrepreneurs feel this weird discomfort accepting money from people after providing a service. Either way, I think this could be the start of a real way to earn money on the side.
January 24, 2017
What sucks about having a 9-5 job is that I love all the people I work with, but the work itself and the commute is so time consuming. I don’t think I’m meant to spend a huge chunk of my time here on this earth sitting at a cubicle.
February 8, 2017
ANOTHER MAJOR MILESTONE: I literally just figured out how to reach tons of people for stats tutoring through Facebook. Just search for posts about “stats tutoring” and reach out to anyone who posts about it. I made over $400 this week alone by doing this!!! Holy crap. This is huge. What if this is the way to quit my day job and just tutor full time? Also I’m charging people $40 per hour now and most are fine with it. I can’t believe it. This could be the best side hustle of all time.
February 20, 2017
I JUST FOUND OUT I PASSED MY COMPREHENSIVE MASTER’S EXAM HAHAHA YES. YES. YES. LET’S GO BABY. LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL AGAIN. I GET TO GRADUATE ON SCHEDULE.
March 20, 2017
I just put ads on the blog for the first time ever. I don’t expect it to make much money, but it could generate like 20 bucks a month. It might ramp up over time too. I have no idea what to expect, but it’s something new I’m trying.
March 24, 2017
The past month I’ve literally been spending so much time trying to make a presence on Pinterest. I read about this woman who uses Pinterest to drive 100,000 page views to her blog per month and makes a full time living from it. But I’ve realized a couple shortfalls to this approach.
First of all, most people who land on a blog through Pinterest don’t actually stick around the blog, leave comments, or explore other articles. It’s almost like traffic that doesn’t even matter.
Second, I literally hate making pictures for my blog posts and trying to gain a following on Pinterest. It just takes away from time where I could be writing instead. I’m done with Pinterest. I’m focusing entirely on writing content that matters. Screw everything else.
May 5, 2017
I have officially graduated college with my Master’s. My life is pretty wide open at this point – the possibilities are really endless as to what I can do and where I can go. I talked to some woman on the phone today about a job as a data analyst at _______. It pays at least $75,000, which is way more than my current salary of $52,000. I’m going to explore this path and just see where it goes.
May 29, 2017
I’m done holding out for a pay raise from _______. It’s pretty obvious it’s not gonna happen. I can’t just sit around here forever twiddling my thumbs. I’m throwing my resume in the direction of tons of different employers tomorrow morning. It’s time to make a move.
June 29, 2017
I LANDED THE JOB AT _______ TODAY. It’s definitely exciting, it pays $80k a year which is a huge income boost but it also means I’ll be moving out so I’ll have more expenses than ever before. I have mixed feelings honestly. I think I’ll be a little homesick. But it’s also the start of a new chapter and my life will never be the same starting one month from now. This is the start of forever. It’s scary and exciting. But I’m ready.
Zach is the author behind Four Pillar Freedom, a blog that teaches you how to build wealth and gain freedom in life.
Zach's favorite free financial tool he's been using since 2015 to manage his net worth is Personal Capital. Each month he uses their free Investment Checkup tool and Retirement Planner to track his investments and ensure that he's on the fast track to financial freedom.
Although the bulk of his net worth is invested in index funds, his favorite place to invest in individual stocks is M1 Finance, a site that allows you to build a custom portfolio of stocks for free.
His favorite way to save money each month on his recurring bills is by using Trim, a free financial app that negotiates lower cable, internet, and phone bills with any provider on your behalf.
His favorite place to find new personal finance articles to read is Collecting Wisdom, a site that collects the best personal finance articles floating around the web on a daily basis.
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