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An Interview With The Man Who Never Needed a Real Job

Dear Mr. Money Mustache…

I’d like to retire soon. I’ve had a good career and the numbers say I’m just over the threshold, but I’m still afraid.

It would help if I had a solid plan for what to do after retirement – perhaps even make some money eventually. Because I think it would help boost my confidence to pull the plug at the old law office. But as an attorney, I’m trained to see the pitfalls of everything and frankly I’m afraid.

How do all of you fearless Mustachians just go out and start businesses and make money, when it is so hard to get started – so many details and contingencies to account for?

– the Skittish Scottsdale Solicitor

Dear SSS,

To answer a question like yours, it sometimes helps to look at a role model who has some of the traits you would like to cultivate in yourself. So this seems like the perfect time to share a story I have been wanting to tell here on MMM for at least five years. And the funny part about this tale is that it keeps getting more interesting, the longer I wait to share it.

It is the story of my long-time friend Luc, who has earned a reputation in our own community as the honey badger of entrepreneurship.

The Honey Badger

Luc takes a brief rest from digging out 30 tons of dirt from his own basement and hand-pouring a new foundation while his son supervises.

From painting houses to raising edible insects, selling handmade pine coffins to writing  and shooting his own feature length film in Scotland, all while never becoming too proud to take a literal Shit Shower while cleaning the sewer lines in his own rental properties, Luc’s story never fails to amaze. And it can be especially useful for those of us on the other end of the spectrum – wannabe entrepreneurs who are still hesitating to open our first small business checking account.

This story is a great financial lesson as well. Luc’s family* has gone from zero to financial independence without the benefit of the easy tech salaries that got my own household there back in the mid 2000s. Like most of us, they have seen windfalls and setbacks over the years, but the biggest factor in getting them to a better financial place has been continuing to get the work done, while choosing not to squander all of the proceeds on an ever bigger lifestyle.

So from this interview I’m hoping you will pick up both some inspiration for continued down-to-earth hard work, and a perspective to just go out and try new things, especially in the area of entrepreneurship.

If you do it right, there is upside waiting around every corner. So let’s get into the questions!

The Man Who Never Got a Real Job

MMM: The first moment we met was in July 2005, when I had just retired and we bought our first house in old-town Longmont, with a baby on the way. Walking through my new backyard, I immediately noticed two thirtysomething dudes in dirty clothes, working up on the roof of the old garage on your side of the fence. And I thought to myself, “These are my type of people!”, and walked over to meet you.

What was going on in your life at that moment, in both life and business?

Luc: Well, considering our daughter was born nine months later, it was near the end of one phase and the beginning of the next. At the time, my primary business was a house painting company that I had started in the late ‘90s, after my biology degree wasn’t enough to get me a job at a pet store (in Boulder you need advanced degrees for that sort of thing).

I had worked pretty hard to get that painting company up and running, starting as a one-man show, then employing as many as 18 people at one point. It was a good gig in that I had a lot of free time to work on other projects in the winters, and even went back and got my Master’s degree along the way.

By 2005, though, I had severely downsized the company and I was back to a small crew. I was beginning to think about what I wanted to be when I grew up.

One project we started that year was buying and quickly fixing up a house a few blocks from our place on a street called Carolina Avenue. This was primarily achieved by leveraging the equity we had built up in our first house. I still own and rent out that place (which you subsequently helped me do a more extensive renovation on).

MMM: So then we both had these children born at almost the same time, and all six people in our two families became friends. We both started helping each other with construction projects, but when Longmont denied my building permit application to expand our tiny 600 square foot house, I decided to move out and turn that one into a rental, and move into a bigger place a few blocks away. What was the catalyst that made you leave the little leafy paradise of that street? (and yes I realize this is a leading question :-))

Luc: The first thing is that old Happy Street is a pretty busy street, and with a young daughter, we thought it might be nice to live on a quieter stretch. One day my wife and I went for a walk and picked our favorite blocks in the neighborhood. There happened to be a “beautiful” old fixer upper for sale on one of those blocks, and within a few days we were under contract.

That we were willing to take the plunge so quickly was largely because of you and your construction company. At the time, I hadn’t done any extensive remodels, but because you were willing to help me out, I figured we could make it work.

At the time, my wife was certain that it would be a fix-and-flip and there was no way she would actually live in the house. Because it started out in such bad shape, it was hard to imagine it ever becoming a nice family home, but it really did in the end. So we we moved in at the beginning of 2008 and here I sit, typing away in the office.

The Rental Real Estate Projects

MMM: So, our biggest collaborations over the years have been in fixing up houses, often rental houses that one of us owned (okay most of them were yours.) We started with The Foreclosure Project  in 2011, then went back and did a major upgrade to one of your other places here in town. Most recently we did The Atwood Project, which was the inspiration for my post on Installing your own furnace.

How has your experience been in owning single family rental houses, while doing your own management and maintenance? Is it a reasonable return on your investment and labor?

Luc: There are a lot of real estate/rental experts in the Mustachian fold – I am not one of them, but real estate is the main reason we’re now financially independent.

We bought our first house in 1999 with $5000 from my dad and a $3000 courtesy check from Chase. We chose the house because it had a mother-in-law basement, with its own entry and kitchen – we went from paying over $900/mo in rent to having a tenant and paying around $300/mo toward our own house. We were fortunate enough that soon thereafter Longmont housing prices had a nice little bounce.

In 2003 I took out a home equity line of credit and we bought a condo in Fort Collins. A realtor soccer friend had given me a handy little spreadsheet that detailed all the ways to make money from real estate, and at the time it was hard to find cash flow properties in Longmont.

In hindsight, that first condo was a mistake. It was an hour commute to deal with any issues, it wasn’t a place I had much emotional attachment to, and it didn’t attract tenants who cared about it – it was a soulless investment. Nonetheless, we held it for over ten years, and finally saw some significant appreciation in the last few years (and it gave me my first taste of YouTube success with a video on How To Finish a Subfloor.)

I sold the condominium on Craigslist in 2015 and did a 1031 exchange for the Atwood Project – probably the most soulful investment I’ve made.

The lesson I learned from that first condo was that I wanted properties that were in my neighborhood, that I cared about, and that, when fixed up, made our community nicer. And of course they had to make money, too. Again, I was lucky enough that all those things were achievable here in Old Town Longmont, even through the recession.

Over the years, we leveraged our way into four rental properties in Old Town (moving into our current place along the way and turning that original home into a two-unit rental). The cash flow alone allowed me to spend less time painting and more on other pursuits. And my wife was able to move her teaching career down to half-time.

In 2016, I spent an average of under 10 hours per property – over the whole year – on maintenance and administration. Yes, there are occasional shit showers when cleaning out an old lead P trap, but most of it is more pleasant than that.

After finishing up the remodel work on the fourth and final property, we had 100% occupancy in all places and pulled in about $92,000 in rent; $36,000 after expenses.

Meanwhile, our longer term gamble on the livability of Old Town has paid off, as home prices have more than doubled here in the last several years, leaving us with equity close to $1.5 million (including the home we live in). The best example is the Foreclosure Project, which we bought for $113,500 in 2011, put about $25K into it, and is now worth over $300K.

To take some of that appreciation money off of the table, I chose to sell the most expensive of these houses last year, and re-invest the cash into standard stock market investments.

This is where MMM will probably caution you that not all real estate investment will go so well.

Building DIY Electric Cars

Although it’s no Tesla, this little homemade contraption was my first peek at the world of electric cars.

MMM: One of the most technically impressive things to me, was the time you read a book on converting an old gas-powered GEO Metro econobox car into an electric vehicle (EV), using basically a trunkload of golf cart batteries. And then decided to team up with a friend and try the same thing yourselves.

Not being auto mechanics yourselves, what possessed you to do this? And did it turn out to be a good business idea in the end?

Luc: Ha, this was a terrible business idea. I can remember sitting in the office of the City of Longmont fleet manager, trying to convince him to let us convert some of their gas pickups to electric; Fox News was blaring in the background and he was staring daggers at me. Needless to say, we didn’t get that gig, and that was probably a good thing, considering we didn’t have the expertise or capital to pull off truly decent EV conversions.

We did do a couple GEO conversions and an old Ford pickup, which was a lot of fun, but they were novelties more than anything. That was 2009, and it was an exciting time in the electric vehicle world. Lithium batteries were becoming more reliable and less expensive, the movie Who Killed The Electric Car? had come out a few years prior, Tesla was starting to make some waves, and of course addressing climate change was becoming more urgent. I wanted to do something meaningful, and I thought electric cars were the future of transportation. The cash flow I was getting from rentals had given me more free time. And I’m slightly crazy, so why not start an EV business?

At the time, Colorado had an amazing incentive for people to buy EVs. One of my favorite parts was arguing with the clueless administrator of the law for months, and then lobbying for sensible changes and clarification when they wrote the new law.

We spun off a new company, Boulder Hybrid Conversions, with two other guys (with more EV expertise), in which we converted Priuses to plug-in hybrids by upgrading them to a larger battery.

Meanwhile, largely thanks to my partner, our original business morphed from being a handcrafted car conversion hobby, to a reseller of electric car batteries and other components. It became one of the larger businesses of this type in the country, grossing over $1 million a year. I had a lot of other ideas for how we could expand the business, but my partner didn’t see it, so he ended up buying me out for about $125,000 (which, for all the time I put into the biz, turned out to be decent but not extravagant hourly compensation).

Boulder Hybrid Conversions became Boulder Hybrids, specializing in hybrid and EV maintenance and repair. One partner bought the rest of us out, and he continues to grow that business. I now own a 2013 Nissan Leaf and a 2015 Prius wagon (my off-road vehicle) and one share of Tesla, and I look forward to the day when I can buy an autonomous mini-van that will safely transport my family and me to Wisconsin overnight while we sleep.

Dead Pine Trees for Dead Bodies

A handcrafted biodegradeable coffin takes shape in the handcrafted workshop. (image credit: Mat Bobby / Longmont Colony)

MMM:

One day, I got an email from you that said, “Well, I’ve done it again – decided to start yet another business. Building coffins from reclaimed beetle-killed pine planks”

So we both reviewed the simple plans from a book you had found in the library, built a prototype of this Dracula-style “toe pincher” coffin, and then you photographed it and put up a website. I gladly worked alongside you because I like hanging out and building things, but I remember thinking, “Luc’s really gone off the deep end here  – who is going to buy our DIY coffins??”

What was the motivation and the eventual fate of that coffin venture?

Luc: I started Nature’s Casket in 2009 for the same reasons I started the EV business: to do something meaningful for the environment. And because it was different and exciting. And because I wanted to help my brother with more hours when we had downtime from painting. All the remodel work we had done meant I had most of the woodworking equipment I needed to build coffins. And it was nice to have some technical, logistical, and, hell, labor support from old MMM to get it going.

The green burial movement, already well-established in the U.K., had been growing in the U.S., largely as a result of the Ramsey Creek Preserve,   a conservation burial ground that conserves the land in a natural state. Green burial is traditional burial: simple and environmentally friendly (none of the swimming pools full of formaldehyde that are pumped into cadavers, no unsustainably harvested wood, stamped metal caskets, toxic paints, concrete vaults, or pesticides and copious water for manicured cemeteries).

Here in Colorado, the pine beetle epidemic was devastating our lodgepole pine forests, but leaving a lot of dead trees with beautiful blue grain (from a fungus that feeds on the beetle’s waste).

With some support from Karen Van Vuuren, who runs a nonprofit helping families direct their own funerals (and has now started The Natural Funeral), I was able to start getting the word out and selling a few caskets here and there. And it turns out that the media is really interested in things like death and beetlekill wood.

The Denver Post ran a front page article on my business in 2010 – many people saved that article, and when they’re ready, I get a call for a casket (to this day I’m still getting calls from that article). The New York Times mentioned Nature’s Casket (they never contacted me, so my mom was the first one to tell me about that). The Wall Street Journal sent a guy out to do a piece on beetle kill (I wasn’t mentioned in the article, but had a lot of time in the accompanying video). National Geographic sent one of their photographers out to take photos of the caskets at a funeral, but we didn’t make the magazine. There was also a nice story in Longmont’s Times Call newspaper.

Soon I was shipping coffins around the country. One of the most interesting gigs was when we built and reinforced eleven oversized caskets (with MMM on welding and metalworking support) that could hold up to a ton; these were for the reinterment of a 19th Century family cemetery in Virginia that was being moved to make room for a high school football stadium (most of the remains were biodegraded, so they included all the dirt from each plot).

This is where I should mention that I’m kind of success-averse. Nature’s Casket could have been a large business with an industrial shop and a storage warehouse if I had pursued that path. Instead I stopped shipping (too onerous and stressful) and ceased most advertising. Now it’s just a local business, and I average less than one casket a month – it’s still quite rewarding, but there are other projects to focus on.

Miscellaneous Mini Businesses and Pursuits

MMM:

Scattered in among these years were a few smaller things. The time you started designing your own greeting cards and printing them on fancy textured recycled paper. Then there was Simple Brew Kits, which was just assembling the required components for converting good grocery store cider into booze. A photography pursuit that started with just taking your daughter to over twenty of Longmont beautiful parks and ended up culminating in a show at the city’s museum.

Oh! And then of course the time you went to Scotland with two friends and some quickly researched photo equipment and shot a feature length film that ended up in the Front Range Film Festival – despite the fact that none of you had any experience or training in filmmaking. What was that all about?

Luc: Recycled Greeting Cards was actually born in the late ‘90s, around the time I started the painting biz. At one point I had pretty high hopes for RGC, even attending the National Stationery Exhibit in New York. That business was mostly a failure, although I have one loyal business customer who still buys a thousand or so cards a year.

Simple Brew Kits was a business I started for a blog post that I never published titled “How To Start A Business In One Day.” And that’s essentially what I did, filling out all the paperwork and putting up the website in a day. I didn’t sell many, though, until your post about the business, after which I was suddenly inundated with hundreds of orders. That slowly tapered off, and recently I decided to shut it down for good. Again my success aversion won the day. But we made a lot of fun (and some disgusting) drinks out of that whole deal, and I’ll still occasionally bust out some fermented cider or grape juice.

The photography gig was a byproduct of becoming a parent. My daughter was born in the spring of 2006. After my wife’s maternity leave, I became a stay-at-home dad off and on for a couple years. I wanted a project that would get us outside, but that would also provide me with something exciting. I decided we would visit each one of Longmont’s city parks and take pictures. I just had a little point-and-click dealio, but it took decent pictures.

A few years and thousands of pictures later, I chose one photo from each park and submitted the project to the Longmont Museum. To my surprise, they accepted the show, and even helped me publish a book of the photos. It was a gratifying experience and has led to more photography projects – something I’ll continue to pursue.

The Scotland film, Carve The Runes, came from an idea I had many years ago to get a group of friends together, rent a castle in Scotland, and produce a music album (despite having no musical talent). Over time, the idea morphed into making a film instead. I was able to convince my brother Isaac and a good friend, Ian, that this was in fact a realistic and good idea.

And so, in 2015, we spent ten days traveling around Scotland, filming and, well, just filming – we didn’t have time for anything else. I had envisioned some time for fly fishing and golfing in between shoots, but damn, making a movie is hard.

The film is about two brothers, one of whom has a terminal illness and goes to visit his brother in Scotland, where he’s doing climate change-related research. The basic idea for the film was laid out beforehand, but most of the script was written on the fly (I didn’t think we would use a script). Ian was cinematographer/sound guy/key grip/best boy, and maybe more important, moral support. We didn’t sleep much, and we drank a lot of scotch. It took us a couple years, but we finally finished post-production at the beginning of 2018.

We submitted it to a number of film festivals, and were happy to be accepted into our local Front Range Film Festival, where we won Best Feature (out of a limited selection). The acting and cinematography are suspect, but the soundtrack (friends and acquaintances) and screenplay, if I may say so, are legit; I’d love it if we could remake this with some real producers and actors (Francos, Afflecks, are you reading this? Or maybe the leads should be sisters).

A Quixotic Urban Oasis and the Big Dig

A few thousand pounds of concrete? all in a morning’s work.

MMM:

Surely the most concentrated demonstrations of your varied efforts and interests is in your own house. Because we restored it together from its original tippy skeleton into a solid and classy residence. But then a few years later went on to add a two story addition all the way up from the hand-dug structural piers. And then to build the garage workshop which has turned into an enviable hobbit-like enclave of living and productivity, both inside and out.

But all of this pales in comparison to the most recent upgrade, the Big Dig where you hand-dug about 60,000 pounds of concrete and soil out of your own basement (with occasional help from a beer-fueled team of other local Dads) to upgrade it from the typical Victorian house storage cellar into a very functional Man Cave complete with golf simulator and workout room.

What has driven you to go so far, when some people won’t even change a furnace filter? Any downsides and pitfalls?

Luc’s Hobbit-esque backyard oasis and workshop/garage, carved from an area that was originally just weeds and concrete.

Luc: I have labeled myself an eclectic: someone who loves to continually explore new ideas and embark on new adventures. The peril is getting so wrapped up in the novelty component that one never finishes anything – what I call dilettantism. This is part of my success aversion: I love to get a project or a business up and running, but it’s hard to continue to find it rewarding once it becomes quotidian. Routine is anathema to eclectics. Most of my projects reach a level of fruition that’s satisfactory to me, but I still think I can strike a balance that leaves things more complete.

To use my house as a metaphor, I’ve completed a number of satisfying projects (with a lot of help from people like you (mostly you, in fact)), but in the meantime many of the details have been overlooked: we need a new kitchen faucet, a toilet needs to be re-seated, I could organize the cookware situation better (and oh, by the way, I should probably spend a little more time with the family).

In the mid-aughts, I was working on figuring out what I wanted to be when I grew up – I decided to embrace my eclectic nature. Now in the late teens, I’m realizing I need to fine tune that to incorporate more focus, responsibility, meticulousness and perseverance.

Physical Fitness and Doing Experiments On Yourself

MMM: Another unusual trait I’ve noticed is that you seem to operate in extremes. You can eat a plate of cookies or drink a bottle of wine in one sitting, but then also go for three days straight with zero food during a fast. You’ve tried a variety of 30-day experiments in different eating styles, following them up with weigh-ins and blood tests to see how they affect your good and bad cholesterol counts. You adopted weight training and have stuck with it for many years now.

This is different from my own approach, where I eat roughly the same thing year after year, making only small tweaks – like I lift heavier barbells and eat more carbs if I want to gain weight, and cut out beer and go to bed hungry when I need to lose fat.

Have you noticed anything about the Human body and what makes it function best? Any advice for people who are prone to binging, on getting control of their eating and drinking habits?

Luc: Oscar Wilde, perhaps after bingeing on absinthe, said “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” That was kind of my motto for much of my youth, and it fits well with the eclectic personality. But if you only practice moderation in moderation, I discovered, you tend to feel like shit a lot and you weigh about 20 pounds more than you should. I’ve modified the motto to Everything in moderation, including gluttony.

I think everybody’s different in terms of what works best for them to stay in shape and feel healthy, but there are some common threads. In our simple carb-y society, one of the easiest ways to eat better is to cut out most simple carbs (but, if you’re like me, allow yourself an occasional plate of cookies).

After all my fasting and intermittent fasting and super low fat and super low carb and alcohol temperance experimenting (and reading the research), I’ve come to a few fairly simple conclusions. First, a low glycemic diet (like the Mediterranean diet) seems to be the best. And eating within a fairly small window each day, say from noon to 6, is healthy. Of course, less alcohol on a daily basis is good.

With the new gym, I plan to have a regular but varied workout that includes weightlifting and short bursts of intense cardio on the bike. And, for eclectics like me, mixing it up and allowing myself to occasionally break the rules is key to continued success.

The YouTube Channel and Online Pursuits

At some point, I remember you started documenting your projects on YouTube. This has grown into a bit of a “channel” where at least one of your videos has over 100,000 views.

I have always hesitated to put up videos myself, because so much of YouTube is slickly produced and well-edited today and I am shy to put up my amateur work – much like the fearful theme that started us off on this whole article today. But you didn’t seem to care, and you just did it, and now the channel is out there.

How has your YouTubing experience been and do you have advice for anyone else? How hard would it be for a YT channel to become a successful business?

Luc: Ha ha, yes, the YouTube project has been quite an adventure. Currently there are three videos with over 100,000 views, including the Atwood remodel video, with over 750,000 views (you’re in that video – how does it feel to be a rock star?). What’s funny is the Atwood video was really poorly produced, yet it still somehow went semi-viral in the spring of 2017, spiking from an average of about 400 views a day to a peak of 21,000 views. That tapered off over the next year and a half, but I’ve made almost $1500 on that video. I’ve been trying to push the traffic from that vid to an updated and better produced version of the video, with limited success.

Like a lot of my other projects, the YouTube project has been a gung ho endeavor, jumping in with both feet in spite of limited skill and experience. A more well-thought out plan, executed with better focus, may have lead to more success. Then again, it might not have gotten off the ground if I had been too cautious.

In my newly grown up and focused life-phase, I hope to grow the channel into one that attracts more subscribers and maybe even provides enough income to buy more than a meal out on the town every month. Still, I have to keep that eclectic feel – I mean who doesn’t want to see everything from remodel work to creative pumpkin carving to insect eating to casket building to Trump parody to crazy body hair shaving? I have about 30 projects in the can as we speak, just waiting to be edited and uploaded.

(MMM note: did you catch that? Thirty projects we haven’t even mentioned in this article, including the time he tried to earn a Guinness world record by carving a 27 foot “Mustache” into his own body hair?)

The best advice I can give to aspiring YouTubers is don’t have a shaky camera – man does that drive people nuts, as I’ve been told again and again by people who watch the original Atwood video (there’s a lot of anger out there, as you well know, MMM). There’s something to be said for the amateur folksiness of YouTube, but there’s a balance between unwatchability and being too slickly produced (I’m still working on finding it). I’m probably the wrong guy to ask about what people want to see, but I imagine it’s pretty much anything you have an interest in, as long as the video is useful or entertaining.

Financial Independence and What’s Next?

Neighbourhood friends sampling Luc’s Sauteed Crickets at a party

MMM: As the years have gone on, you’ve remained a self-employed person and never stopped working hard on things. But I have noticed your work progressing from hardcore grinding out of professional painting jobs near the beginning, to more eclectic stuff now that is less income oriented. For example, the time you raised edible insects in your basement and researched and wrote an academic paper on how good it would be for the world if we switched some of the rich world’s meat consumption over to nutritionally superior stuff like cricket flour or bee brood. Not a lot of money in that type of thing, at least not to pay this month’s grocery bills.

What has been your secret to this decreased pressure on income making, and would you say you have a better work-life balance now than you had back in 2005?

Luc: Primarily because of my real estate investments, I’m fortunate enough to be in a position where most of my projects don’t need to make money. To me, the end goal in life is fulfillment, and the only way to achieve fulfillment is by making the world a better place, whether through service to the community, producing beautiful works of art, fighting for peace and justice in the world, writing a blog that denounces materialism and promotes sustainable living (wink wink), or just by being a good person to those around you.

A lot of my projects still focus on things that improve my own life, but more and more I hope to work on projects that help others, from the hyperlocal (being a better father and husband and friend) to the local (being more involved in our community) to the global. On the local front, one project you and I have worked on a little together is trying to get more solar power in Longmont. On the global level, I’ve been working with my father, E.G., on The Cooperative Society Project, a decades-long project that looks at the potential for humans to make the transition to a new stage of human interaction: one driven by cooperation rather than conflict.

The way I see it, the beauty of financial independence isn’t freedom from work, it’s the freedom to work on a fulfilling life.

An Afterword from MMM:

So this is a long article. What does it have to do with YOU and your own financial independence?

I have wanted to share these tales because they’re a great example of the idea of living with less fear. The neat thing about Luc’s entrepreneurial ventures is that he is willing to do things, even if he’s not skilled or experienced at them.  They often don’t pan out, and that’s okay, because it’s okay to fail. In most cases, failure is just a lesson that leaves you further ahead than when you started, with some great stories to show for it too.

But to minimize the damage of failure and maximize the chance of success in entrepreneurship, Luc and I have both noticed a pattern over these thirteen years:

  • Start Small and Just Sell Something – most failed businesses start with borrowing and risk. Instead, you should find a customer first and get them interested in buying your stuff. Only after the sales come, should you reinvest some of this money into a bigger business.
  • Hard Work Can Save You from your Mistakes – when you’re getting started in anything, you will make expensive mistakes. But you can dig in harder and correct them and learn from them.  You need to be willing to launch the business out of your spare room, be your own janitor, and make late night runs to the supply store or the post office to get those shipments out. Plenty of time for kicking back and gathering passive income later on, once the business is profitable
  • Keep Life Simple, Frugal and Stay Focused – a business takes time to build and it takes a while for it to start producing money. But if you enjoy it as your source of entertainment, it will naturally get the time it needs: Spend your weekends in the workshop instead of the golf course or the ski hill. And if you let go of material desires, you won’t be nearly as hungry for money. So while a $20,000 per year hobby business won’t even cover the lease payments on your neighbour’s pickup trucks, it may be more than enough to keep you well fed and happy, for life.

If you’ve got a lifestyle business that you love, feel free to share it in the comments beow and inspire the other people reading alongside you.

* In this article I profile Luc, but he is of course part of a hardworking and resilient family of four. His wife is also a friend of mine and an equally wonderful person, but I have kept this story just focused on Luc in the interest of the privacy of the rest of the family. 

Further Reading:

Poppa’s Cottage YouTube Channel

Poppa’s Cottage Blog

Updated Atwood Remodel Video

Carve The Runes Trailer

How To Build A Coffin Video

Portraits of Longmont Parks

The Potential For Entomophagy To Address Undernutrition

 

  • Merry November 8, 2018, 8:45 am

    If the definition of eccentric serial entrepreneur doesn’t describe this guy then nothing is going to describe this guy! Fantastic read, Luc the honey badger, just might be a guiding spirit animal for me and all the other crazy kids out there.

    People thought I lost my mind when I started making soap in my college dorm room…

    Reply
  • Olivia November 8, 2018, 8:49 am

    Wow, he really crafted some awesome DIY building/construction projects.

    It’s super cool how many people you see in the FIRE world DIY their own places. Basically you’re paying yourself all that expensive labor and it’s tax free (if you live there).

    The hobbit garden is super cute!

    Reply
  • Accidental FIRE November 8, 2018, 9:23 am

    Wow, he sounds like a Tim Ferriss-type guy, but with more of a handy-man and construction-type skillset.

    My lifestyle business is selling graphic designs and doing custom design work such as logos etc. It’s really fun, so I don’t really consider it work. Right now it makes me $300-$400 a month and I’m hoping to grow that. But even if it doesn’t grow it’s fun and I’m FI, so I don’t really need the money :)

    Reply
  • Monster November 8, 2018, 9:28 am

    I too find myself inspired often but with a success aversion. Perhaps I should call it a completion aversion! No projects seem to get finished before I’m interested in something else. Luc really put together some great projects. Great article MMM.

    Reply
  • MarciaB November 8, 2018, 9:32 am

    Such fun and cool business projects!

    I’m putting out a call to anyone in the Portland Oregon area who is crazy/fun/entrepreneurial like this – if you want to start up a business, I’ll set up and keep your books for you (for free!). Consider it my contribution to the cause (and my idea of a good time!).

    Reply
    • Troy November 10, 2018, 1:08 am

      Right on Marcia! I’m in Portland, and don’t have any crazy ideas at the moment, but I’m going to look you up as a fellow Portland Mustachian!

      Reply
  • Fred Lee November 8, 2018, 9:45 am

    Thanks for the interesting article. Your friend’s willingness to pursue.. everything.. is admirable. I suspect most of us fall into the ‘dilettante’ camp. I’ve always wondered how easily one can shift gears from a dabbler to a do-er. Or that may be the wrong question; perhaps more aptly stated how often do people successfully shift gears.

    As I slowly approach my own “early retirement” I’ve thought about this a lot. There are times when months go by and I feel I have little to show for it. Other times a flurry of activity results in something I am proud of. I don’t know yet how to move into a mode where I feel productive more often than not, which is probably why I still work my day job, where at least I know I provide value.

    Reply
    • Andreas November 8, 2018, 11:07 am

      This is interesting! I have the same approach, and trying to find what will make me more hands on. I am making progress, and doing things but always feel it is not enough. Been watching ton of motivational speakers on youtube/ted talks but it really did not affect me until “Just do it”.

      One that made me more active was Mel Robins video about no one is coming to save you. It is all up to you, the individual reading this. This approach, at least for me made me into someone start making stuff to push myself forward.

      Not easy, but it works!

      Reply
    • Ann Stanley November 10, 2018, 7:35 pm

      Two things that work for me.
      1. Small steps.
      2 Have 6 core activities that I circulate through – I can neglect one or another for a while without guilt because I always come back to it. (for me they are gardening, meditation, yoga, writing, minimalism, service)

      Reply
  • Cubert November 8, 2018, 9:47 am

    Very inspirational interview. I couldn’t agree more with the notion of stepping out and a making things happen. You may fail, but if you learn from mistakes and contain your risks, you’d be surprised what you can accomplish.

    I was scared $hitless buying our first single family rental, but by numbers 3 and 4, I knew the ropes. And I’m still learning home mechanics as a DIY property manager. Happy that the only p-trap nastiness was a wig’s worth of aged long hair. GROSS.

    “Eclectic” is a good description of someone who gets bored, but only after having dove deep into the hobby before moving on to the next shiny object. The main thing is no matter what side business or hobby you take on, be sure to carve out plenty of time for your family. I’ve spent a few weekends heads-down on projects while the wife is left to deal with crazy kids. That’s not really fair at all.

    Reply
  • Carl November 8, 2018, 9:57 am

    And people like this are why I stay in Longmont.

    Reply
    • Cubert November 8, 2018, 10:39 am

      We have them in Minneapolis too, but the radon prevents a good number of basement digs.

      Reply
      • Luc November 9, 2018, 9:22 am

        We have radon issues here in Longmont, too. Not sure what the regulations are in Minneapolis, but I installed a radon mitigation system before I poured the floor in the basement (see, I’m not all Honey Badger), and our radon numbers are down to around 1 pCi/L – so it’s far better than before. And it was fairly easy and cheap to install, especially once the old concrete was ripped out. The basement vid will be forthcoming in the next couple months.

        Reply
      • Ashley November 9, 2018, 12:48 pm

        Houses in the front range often need radon mitigation too. The bentonite soil makes digging a PITA….

        Reply
  • Gregory Corning November 8, 2018, 10:07 am

    While he seems a fascinating and inspiring man, Luc’s story is, in my opinion, a very poor example for the Skittish Scottsdale Solicitor. People like SSS (and like me) look at someone like Luc, or like you, and feel we could *never* be like you, the “crazy/fun/entrepreneurial” types. We just don’t have that kind of character! You and Luc are bold; we’re by nature cautious, and crave security, stability, and safety. (Yes, I know you bold types also get scared, have doubts, and so on; but I am sure your doubts are *nothing* like the gut-devouring fears that us cautious types experience on contemplating a new venture.)
    A better way to encourage people like us is to tell the stories of other scaredy-cat people like us who, after spending too long thinking and worrying, somehow got the push (maybe from a friend or a supportive group) and managed to step out on the ice.

    Reply
    • Fred Lee November 8, 2018, 10:22 am

      I concur with this assessment. My hunch is that Luc and MMM have been serial entrepreneurs since childhood. For those of us who have spent a career at a 9-5 job (well, sometimes 7-7) trying to move into this phase is a real challenge. What do you do? Where do you start?

      Of course the answer is… you just do. You just start. Something, anything. In my case that means I need to spend less time watching youtube videos and reading blogs of people doing cool things, and go do my own cool things. I’ve always been bee-curious, maybe it’s time to just get a hive and figure it out. I’m car-curious as well. Maybe buy an old used Subaru and start hacking on it.

      But I agree that it’s tough to find inspiration for the more cautious among us.

      Reply
    • Brian Bailey November 8, 2018, 11:23 am

      As a member of that most risk-averse profession – law – and being a generally risk-averse person, my answer has been to disengage from the work world more slowly. Cut down to an 80% schedule. Then maybe 50%. Use the extra time to start your “lifestyle business” or dabble in other pursuits. Watch a little income roll in and gain a little confidence while you work the numbers to figure out when FIRE is right for you. Then cut the cord to the old job and jump in to the new life.

      Full disclosure: I’m not yet completely through the process I outlined above, but I’m pretty far along. And not every employer will let its people ratchet down their time like that (props to many BigLaw firms for giving associates and counsel a lot of flexibility). But it never hurts to try, and if you can make it work I think it’s a pretty smooth transition from worker-bee to full-FIRE.

      Reply
      • AC November 8, 2018, 1:18 pm

        I agree with Brian. My path is looking much more like a gradual downsize which I’m actually okay with because I mostly like my job, I’m paid well, I have excellent benefits, and I get to work from home. Right now I work four days a week. Maybe I could go down to three but it would be hard to do much meaningful work in my field at three unless I was in a job share which has its own set of headaches. I don’t know where it will all land eventually but I *think* I like the idea of ultimately doing independent contractor work in my same field. A number of years ago I met a nurse who only works here for a certain number of months out of the year. She and her husband head south where it’s warm for the winter and then come back up here. Because they always need nurses, she always has a job when she comes back and they live cheaply during the winter. I knew another woman who did editing work but only between the hours of 10 pm and 3 am. She wanted to have time her family. It worked out really well for us because she would edit our work at night and it would be in our inbox the next morning and she seemed to be fine with little sleep and lots of time to do personal stuff.

        Reply
    • Marcia November 8, 2018, 1:50 pm

      This was my first thought, being that I’m someone who craves security also.

      But I must say, one other good thing to take out of it is this: diversification.

      I’m an engineer, but I’ve always had a lot of “interests”. It means I’m not an expert in anything – that also means that in my day job I do a bit of everything. That’s certainly job security there. And as I age and get tired – I still occasionally force myself to learn new things at work, so I don’t forget how to learn new things.

      In my real life, I also like many things. Example: fitness. I like to bike, run, swim, and lift. Will these ever turn into a side job? Probably not but you never know.

      I also like to sew – quilt, crochet. I’m a pretty great cook.

      My husband is similar – he likes to build things – furniture, etc. Combined we have some decent DIY skills Which because we are risk averse will unlikely ever turn us into entrepreneurs. BUT – just fixing your own stuff is helpful and saves $. (To be honest, in the past people have paid me to hem their pants, or make a baby blanket or quilt for them.)

      There are benefits to being willing to learn and try new things – that may never end up with a side job or a regular job.

      Reply
      • TO_Ont November 8, 2018, 8:52 pm

        There are so many benefits to learning things and having more skills and doing things for yourself. Does everything always have to be about making money? I hope not!

        Reply
    • Luc November 9, 2018, 9:35 am

      I think that’s a good point, Gregory. I could have done a better job specifically addressing SSS’s concerns. My wife is much more in the cautious category. One thing I’ve helped her with is not fretting too much about every little potential consequence of trying something new. And, in turn, she has helped me to be more grounded. There is a balance between always diving right in (without assessing the depth of the pool) and never dipping your toe in the water. I wrote a post about trying to find this balance: I call it quarter-assedness. You don’t want to run around doing everything half-assed, but at the same time, you don’t want to be so afraid to bare a little ass that nothing ever gets done. My goal is to show a little less ass; for more cautious folks, it may be to show a little more.

      Reply
    • The Frugal Joker November 10, 2018, 1:08 am

      Luc had many irons in the FIRE but don’t get discouraged if you can’t relate. Just pick one business idea where you have passion and see potential. A trick that worked for me was to give every business idea you have a number from 0-100 and pursuit only business ideas from 90 and above. This helped me overcome years of procrastination, as I managed to exactly find out what business idea I was most excited for.

      Reply
    • CWR November 10, 2018, 9:34 pm

      I agree. Plus a lot of us just don’t have those kind of skills as Luc or MMM. Now that I have my own place I am trying to do things on my own and let me tell you, every single thing I have tried has taken 3-5x times longer than the online tutorials say. And this is things as simple as changing faucets that just never end up that simple. I can’t imagine doing these complex things that aren’t easy to remedy when you fuck it up. I also don’t really have any skills that I can see making a business out of.

      Essentially I think for some of us the assurance that we will still somehow make money in retirement isn’t really true which could be where the cautious attitude comes from. I am fortunate to be in nursing so in 15 years I would theoretically have the bare minimum I need to FIRE (although after the market just lost an entire years gain who knows!). I then will probably go to part time (3 days every 2 weeks) for at least a few years before going PRN (1 day a week) which odds are I will stay at until official retirement age. I need to know I can always go back to work if something happens. The nice thing is, depending on how much insurance costs are, I can probably live off a PRN salary alone. Which means my retirement fund can just sit there and grow and make me my cautious mind feel more secure.

      Reply
  • david gobel November 8, 2018, 10:48 am

    Hi MMM, . I am now on my third retirement LOL Over the course of the last 18 years, I’ve developed a non-profit/for profit that has as it’s goal “making 90 the new 50 by 2030I started by looking in the mirror one day and asking, what’s the most valuable thing I could do in the next 20 years? So, by now we are successfully pursuing what I’ve felt is the most important element of early retirement – making it possible to stay healthy and vibrant for many many many decades. I’ve been a fan of your blog from the beginning, and thought that now that longevity is becoming a respectable scientific and clinical enterprise, you might find it interesting to hear the story. In any case, I continue to love your contribution to everyone to not waste their lives doing what other people make them do for money.

    Reply
  • That Frugal Pharmacist November 8, 2018, 10:54 am

    Wow. This makes me wonder how many opportunities I’ve passed up over the years.

    I’m definitely afraid of failure. I’m between jobs at the moment, and trying to put myself out there a bit more. That includes being willing to do things that don’t fit my professional image of myself.

    Two weeks ago I picked up a client for some home organizing work at a generous $40 an hour. It should be an ongoing gig and I know they need more than just home organizing.

    It’s a great way for me test out a market I had already been thinking about for some time; in home support from a pharmacist. That’s not why I was “hired” but the need is there and I can get a better feel for how I could market myself to others.

    I’ve also taken to selling mushrooms I pick this year. It’s been a fun learning experience seeing how the restaurants want this handled.

    My husband sounds a bit like Luc (not that he’s starting businesses)- he’s more interested in learning and producing than making money. Even though there are things he’s done that we both know he would have no problem selling, craftwork isn’t as fun to him if it’s purely a money making adventure. It loses a bit of its soul.

    Congrats to Luc- I’ll try to keep this in mind whenever an opportunity comes up. If I can – go for it – it’s ok to fail, or move on, eventually.

    Reply
  • Brian Bailey November 8, 2018, 11:10 am

    For me, the first attempt at a “lifestyle business” has been solar installation. It blends a few things that are intrinsically good from my point of view: meeting new people (clients) who generally share similar values regarding energy and the environment; nerdy engineering-type work designing solar systems, which are all unique in their way; spending time outside doing and supervising installations; and creating direct benefit to my community and beyond by helping create clean power.

    Although I still maintain a legal practice focused on patents and intellectual property – my original “regular business” – I’ve been enjoying the solar installation biz. One of the main benefits of not relying on the business for income is that I get to be absolutely focused on getting a client exactly what he or she wants, without any pressure to up-sell or close the deal. I can spend time educating clients on the intersection between investment, financial return, and meeting personal goals for a solar system.

    In the long run my lack of focus on income will serve the local solar industry well because none of my clients will come away feeling like they’ve been sold a bill of goods. I believe that if you follow you passion with a focus on business acumen but WITHOUT a focus on income, the income has a way of catching up. It’s just good business to operate that way, and people like good business. Exhibit A: mrmoneymustache.com.

    Reply
  • Gerard November 8, 2018, 11:13 am

    Decades ago I helped start and run a small record company, and the advice at the end (start small, work hard, keep it simple) basically sums up why we were (somewhat) successful when so many small labels aren’t. Maybe I’d suggest a couple more things: be nice to people, and either do things yourself or use a professional (not the in-between “my friend’s bass player’s partner always thought they were pretty good at art” album cover design).

    Reply
  • Jeremy Stone November 8, 2018, 11:22 am

    Nice interview! Poppa’s blog is great, too! Good writer with a good sense of humor.

    Reply
    • Luc November 9, 2018, 9:41 am

      Thanks! I have literally tens of followers of my blog. Appreciate it.

      Reply
  • BC Kowalski November 8, 2018, 11:43 am

    My current side hustle is photography – also part of my main job as a journalist. As I built my skills and as I keep building relationships more side work comes in including a regular gig with a men’s clothing store, my most lucrative client.

    Things I’ve learned:

    Charge what you’re worth. Sure, you’ll get no’s, and that’s ok. The folks who say yes will be more serious clients. When I upped my rates, I started weeding out the flakes.

    Work hard, and fast. Photogs are notorious for taking forever turning around photos. I tell my clients when they can expect the photos, and that’s the LATEST they get them. It’s usually much sooner.

    Be patient. It takes time to build clientele and word of mouth can be slow but very effective. In this business where everyone today had a camera, reputation means more than ever.

    I’m sure I could think of others but I think MMM nailed it above – work hard, find your customers first before investing too much (I only started buying serious studio gear when I knew I’d have a regular client to use them), and be patient.

    Reply
  • Mr. Tako November 8, 2018, 11:53 am

    What a cool guy! I can see why you guys are friends. :)

    I have this little theory that FIRE people so much more interesting compared to our 9 to 5 working counterparts. We’re actually out there doing stuff!

    Luc is the perfect example of this idea in practice.

    Reply
    • Cubert November 8, 2018, 11:55 am

      You’re not suggesting that non-FIRE people are boring, are you? (said the middle manager from his cozy cubicle surrounds…)

      Reply
  • TO_Ont November 8, 2018, 11:53 am

    To me this is an article about non-traditional job paths rather than one about retirement or about financial independence.

    It’s certainly cool, and it’s a great reminder that the school-training-career path is only one of many, and that the horror stories your teachers told you in school about how you would end up miserable if you didn’t buckle down and follow the path are not true, and that there is a place out there for that hyper or daydreaming kid who hates school…

    But to me, not really relevant to financial independence per se. If you happen to be frustrated by more structured jobs and crave something more self-directed, this is a great role model. If entrepreneurship seems like an annoying and frustrating chore and the jobs and workplaces that far more excite you are within more structured groups… Or if your hobbies are non-lucrative and the idea of trying to change them into something moneymaking makes you sad…. Well then none of this sounds particularly fun or enjoyable or like something you wouldn’t regret quitting your enjoyable job with nice coworkers for and your free time to do things that don’t make money, if it meant you had to live like this :).

    Cool all the same to show all the possibilities out there.

    Reply
    • TO_Ont November 8, 2018, 11:59 am

      I mean actual financial independence sounds awesome. Quitting a good job to be an entrepreneur sounds like the opposite of fun, and to me personally would feel like a big step backwards rather than forwards.

      Different personalities crave different things.

      I have been self employed, and yeah, there were bits of it that were fun, but by far the most enjoyable part was when I finally got a good job I enjoyed and got to quit my ‘self-employment’ life.

      It was a great experience to have for a while, to know that I can do it, and made me fear unemployment less, but it also made me really really appreciate my 9-5 job once I got it.

      Reply
    • Kelly Monaghan November 9, 2018, 12:43 pm

      I agree, TO_Ont. At one point I thought perhaps FIRE needs to be changed to FIWYAOED (Financial Independence Working Your Ass Off Every Day). Of course, a point that is not stressed in this article is that, if they wished, Luc and MMM could spend their days doing nothing but reading library books and taking long walks and not need any additional income, but still . . .

      Reply
      • TO_Ont November 9, 2018, 1:05 pm

        To me it’s weird that people seem to think all their is to life is either making money or just sitting around.

        If I didn’t need money I could fill my days with projects so so so easily.

        Challenging, engrossing projects.

        There is a near infinite amount of volunteer and charity work to do. Of any level of challenge. In so many areas.

        There are more courses and skills and creative projects I would find fascinating and intrinsically valuable than I could possibly do in a lifetime.

        The idea of quitting an enjoyable job and having free time and using it all on… other moneymaking things… just seems to me so amazingly depressing and wasteful and unimaginative!

        Moneymaking things are already getting done! Everyone is doing those things. You can do moneymaking things without being financially independent! If you actually have money to live on, how could you waste all that freedom and potential time on just another job?

        (A job that BTW, sounds to me less fun and more stressful than my 9-5 job where other people with different interests actually do all the crappy parts of my projects so I get to focus on the cool stuff).

        For me it would defeat the whole purpose of saving money in the first place.

        Reply
        • Kelly Monaghan November 9, 2018, 11:04 pm

          Once again, TO_Ont, I’m in agreement.

          Reply
  • Young FIRE Knight November 8, 2018, 12:45 pm

    What a fascinating life. That’s the dream: to be able to pursuit, try, and fail at new things without having to worry about not having enough money to provide for yourself or family. That’s why we all should be working towards Financial Independence!

    The media portrays it all wrong in that people are leaving their jobs after becoming Financially Independent to sit around doing nothing. A life of fulfillment will always involve work of some kind – it’s just best to make it work that you actually ENJOY doing :)

    Reply
  • Andy November 8, 2018, 12:56 pm

    This guy is awesome and the real deal when it pertains to serial entrepreneurship. Thank you for sharing and it’s an inspiration to all of us who are working towards the same goals.

    Reply
  • Victoria November 8, 2018, 1:34 pm

    I am so thrilled to read about Luc. I have this book by Barbara Sher, called “Refuse to Choose”, half-read in my library. I had gotten it because, while trained as an architect, I always wanted to do so many other things, and ideas are always percolating in my mind. Luc is the epitome of the type Sher describes in her book. I am particularly intrigued by Luc’s example of using rental property to sustain a fulfilling life of experimenting/experiencing.

    I think for many people, the doing part is about building up bravery. And you have to start small and take baby steps towards getting brave. Doing things you’re afraid of is a skill – the more you practice, the better you get. It takes a lot of time to build that skill, and then, in order not to lose it, you have to keep doing it, sometimes falling back a few steps (failing) before moving forward again.

    Reply
    • Luc November 9, 2018, 9:49 am

      Yes, Victoria, I read “Refuse to Choose” when I was figuring out what I wanted to be when I grow up. That, and “Renaissance Soul” by Margaret Lobenstine, helped me see that I was an eclectic, and that that was what I wanted to be when I grew up. Both very helpful books for those of us with this personality.

      Reply
  • Janet November 8, 2018, 1:51 pm

    Great interview! Loved the read!

    Reply
  • FI-nancial Planner November 8, 2018, 1:58 pm

    As a financial planner, speaking to SSS’s concerns, there are two aspects of the leap to quitting your job and living a life outside of the corporate grind. Firstly is the financial aspect. The number can be run and “prove” that it is possible. CFPs do that part all the time, find one that understands FIRE if you want to have a backstop on your own calculations.

    The bigger issue is the mental game, which this article elaborates on quite well.
    I see this often with clients as they approach retirement. The financial picture looks great but they can’t leave their [corporate] job because they’re afraid of what’s ahead or they can’t bear to lose their identity which was their job. I think this community has members who are more likely to identify with FI than their job, but nonetheless it’s a significant change in mindset and a scary leap.

    The final point of the article about not being afraid of failure really hits home. I have heard this quote of “what’s the worst case scenario” from Alan Moore of XYPN (a group of financial planners starting their own businesses). His point is that if you go start your own company and fail at it, you can always go back to what you were doing before, maybe at a different firm. **That’s you’re current scenario!** Therefore, you have nothing to lose by trying to go out on your own. Worst case scenario with FI is you leave and fail or hate it and just go back to the corporate grind, probably wiser for your troubles.

    Reply
  • Laurel November 8, 2018, 2:30 pm

    18 years ago I was looking for a creative outlet with no intention at all of trying to sell anything. I took a two hour jewelry making class. I started making necklaces for myself, but when I wore them to work, coworkers started to buy them. So much, that I decided to get a business license. Then I started researching places to sell it at. My first two shows, I sold nothing! But I kept trying and eventually found the type of show that was better for me. I started selling and selling and was doing so well I was able to afford to go part time at my job! I was making more money selling my jewelry! Then 2008 came along, and sales dropped and more people started making jewelry. I still did ok, but way less than before. Now my goal is to sell enough to pay for my housekeeper and gas! I saved enough from my “real” job, that I don’t need the money from the jewelry anymore. But I love my customers and still having a creative outlet. I would encourage everyone to find something you’re interested in and just see where it takes you. Since I never had any intention to begin with for creating a business, if it hadn’t turned out the way it did, I’d still have a creative outlet. And it still amazes me that I’m still doing it after 18 years. In December I’m retiring from my “real” job, but will continue my jewelry. Who knew!!!

    Reply
  • Jerry Hegarty November 8, 2018, 2:50 pm

    Love the term ‘honey badger of entrepreneurship’. My latest project is with my son, we make Turmeric infused chocolates that taste great and are good for you. We just finished a first pass website on Shopify and actually have had a few orders, at this point its been mostly friends & family. The coolest thing is that they really work, several people (all with some level of athritis) swear by taking one a day ! We now need to figure out how to supply chocolates by subscription ;-)

    Thanks for everything you do with this blog, etc. It’s been a game changer for me. We now have a cabin we built ourselves and rent on Airbnb, have been paying off our primary mortgage “like our hair is on fire!” & just started this chocolate company. If I lived anywhere near Longmont I’d love to raise a pint with you at the HQ – Cheers !

    Reply
  • Mark November 8, 2018, 3:19 pm

    Another great article in a long series of examples! Love that a film was created while traveling in Scotland! I look forward to reading this each time it comes out! Your advice and that of your colleagues is invaluable toward living the life toward which we aspire! I became motivated enough to retire early (not as early as you) and pursue my passion, and now I have created an award-winning mockumentary and TV series pilot and look forward to each day to further this creative endeavor. Thanks so much for inspiring us all!

    Reply
  • dharma bum November 8, 2018, 3:28 pm

    Another entertaining and insightful post.
    This one sure had a lot of detail.
    Interestingly enough (or maybe just an amusing coincidence), I am currently residing temporarily in Scottsdale.
    This is one of my retirement “projects”.
    Arizona is such a fantastic place to be this time of year. The weather is awesome, and I am hiking daily, swimming, traveling, photographing, walking, exploring, and just soaking it all in. The scenery, geography, and topography in this neck of the woods is spectacularly awesome!
    FI and the advice of MMM has given me the opportunity to pursue retirement “projects’ of varying sorts at varying times.
    It does not necessarily have to be about starting businesses solely to earn income.
    It is about doing what you want to do when you want to do it.
    I now have the time to pursue hobbies and to earn skills (plumbing, carpentry, construction, etc.) that I didn’t have time for when I was in the rat race.
    It is about enjoying your life, and not going through every day wishing that you were somewhere else doing something different, and resenting every waking moment.
    If you have prepared for FIRE, have abandoned the “consumption for consumption’s sake” lifestyle, are not obsessed with materialism, and can engage your creative side in the pursuit of myriad activities, then there is nothing to fear about taking the plunge.
    Just do it.
    That’s the advice I received from MMM when I wrote to him about my fear and apprehension several years ago.
    I now live the Mustachian life, and have never looked back.

    Reply
  • Kathy Ormiston November 8, 2018, 3:35 pm

    I think more of these stories of older people who been financially independent for awhile would be helpful to people working toward financial independence. I am 57 and retired at 45. There have been some bumps in the road and some helpful windfalls. They’ve all been manageable because I have a pretty simple lifestyle. Last year I ended my gardening business because of its toll on my body. I moved to a cheaper city and am in the process of renting out a room on Airbnb. My health insurance is currently at $1 a month. I think the entrepreneur mindset is about being willing to make changes and doing whatever dirty work needs to be done. In my case, washing a lot of sheets.

    Reply
  • bob, frugal as dirt. November 8, 2018, 5:03 pm

    As an aside, there is a tremendously wealthy man, Mike Keiser who started Recycled Paper Greetings in Chicago in 1971 and now owns Bandon Dunes, a renown set of Scottish Styled courses on the Oregon Coast. WHo knew Greeting Cards could be big bucks!

    Reply
    • Luc November 9, 2018, 9:56 am

      Ha, that’s funny – my greeting card biz, Recycled Greeting Cards, was occasionally confused with Recycled Paper Greetings (similar name, very different style, much much much less sales). I got to play Bandon Dunes last year (and Sand Valley this year) – didn’t realize there was a connection with the greeting card biz.

      Reply
  • Zack November 8, 2018, 5:03 pm

    Wow, Luc sounds like a cool guy! Thanks for the article. This would’ve been particularly helpful 15 years ago! I always used to wonder how some people could be so entrepreneurial, I just wanted a stable 9-5 job, but as I get older, side hustles become more and more appealing and the barriers to entry have vanished. Now I dream of relying solely on my various side hustles!

    Reply
  • Gordo November 8, 2018, 5:28 pm

    It would be nice to do more interviews with people that found some sweet work from home gig where the income is high but worktime requirement is low (Tim Ferris type, 4 hour work week). A friend of mine is doing 6 figures in sales from a goofy online food business netting 80k/yr…

    Reply
  • GoSusGo November 8, 2018, 5:42 pm

    Hey Luc – Can I get a copy of that spreadsheet your realtor friend shared with you those long years ago? You know, the one about various ways of making money in RE? I have one rental property and am looking to grow that part of my life but can use all the input I can get. Thanks!

    Reply
  • Nathan November 8, 2018, 5:51 pm

    Really inspiring article! I’m working to build my eBay business and hope to support myself with it eventually. I need to build more confidence with my own home renovations and make my home a good rental income when the time comes to move.

    Reply
  • Billy Rogers November 8, 2018, 6:51 pm

    I quit my job a little over a year ago (at age 44) after having started a side business. I’m now making more than I was at my old job (78k). I agree with the advice don’t spend a lot of money getting started, test the idea and see if you can actually make some sales first before putting money into your new business. I have been reading MMM for years and it has really inspired me and opened my mind to possibilities I didn’t know existed. I started with Dave Ramsey and got on a budget about 10 years ago and then graduated to MMM. I was saving as much as I could but I realized it was still going to be years before savings and rental property income would allow me to quit my job, so I found a business I could start with a low amount of capital and worked on it for almost two years before I quit my day job where I was working with people who treated me with very little respect. I put up with it for years just to get the paycheck, and It feels amazing not to have to do that anymore. My business doesn’t require much time and is mostly done online. My days are now my own and I feel almost as if I’ve been released from prison.

    Reply
  • Eiman November 8, 2018, 6:51 pm

    So true on so many fronts. We are currently taking 20 days with our 3-year-old son in New Zealand. I am not retired but taking 2 months in between jobs. I would not be able to do this without being financially secure.

    As for hobbies, most of mine have made no money. My blog makes a little bit, but the rest are just for fun and my own enjoyment of pursuing things. Lockpicking, yoga, banjo playing, simple electronics…all are fun and will get more time as my son grows older.

    Reply
    • Ms Blaise November 11, 2018, 1:27 am

      Hope you are enjoying NZ Eiman. Sorry about the apocalyptic weather this week!

      Reply
  • Jerry D November 8, 2018, 7:06 pm

    Great read! I have been a member or the precariat my whole life and I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I have done everything from collecting cans to practicing law. At present I am a dog handler and intend to work until I die with my boots on. Jerry

    Reply
  • Evie November 8, 2018, 9:05 pm

    My lifestyle businesses began as side gigs about 2 years pre-FIRE, and are now successful niche businesses. I do skilled agricultural labor (hoof trimming, lambing, ranch handing, and sheep, alpaca, and lama shearing) and love it. I can do as much or as little as I’d like in any given year.

    Reply
    • Patrick November 9, 2018, 12:27 am

      Wow, that’s certainly an unusual trade! I’m curious, how do you get away with doing as much or as little of it as you’d like? Strangely, one of the fears I’d have starting a business is of it becoming more successful than I want and becoming a burden (most small business owners say it demands 110% of their time and is a ton of work). How do you scale up/down without your clients being angry and/or leaving?

      It sounds like Luc had the same issue a few times and either had a partner to take over, or just shut down the business. Which is great, but I’m not sure all types of businesses are conducive to that?

      Reply
      • Evie November 9, 2018, 9:47 am

        I do as much or as little as I’d like by taking only the jobs I want to take, and referring the others out to folks trying to build their own businesses, in the same trade. It makes sense for those customers and workers to be near each other, for their long-term relationship (i.e. they’ll have a consistent labor provider, nearby). Essentially, I just don’t scale, maintaining a pretty steady amount of work for myself each year and referring the rest out to others, who appreciate it. If there were ever a year in which I wanted more money, I’d just add more new folks or refer less work out.

        I keep my existing clients but do not add very many each year. Usually, this means I take the jobs nearest me (for the least amount of driving), or far away in some beautiful place, what I call “vacation jobs.” I’ll get to work in the Great Basin or a national forest in Montana or Idaho or something, and it’s technically a write-off.

        Reply
  • Married to a Swabian November 9, 2018, 5:19 am

    Very interesting post, MMM. Wish we lived in Longmont sometimes! I too, have a somewhat eclectic approach to life – makes things more fun interesting. ;) I read a great book a couple of years ago, “The Unsettling of America” by Wendell Berry. Berry is also an eclectic: Kentucky farmer, poet, essayist and professor. He writes eloquently about the need to return to small scale farming: diversity, it turns out, is by far the healthiest for our food, soil and culture. Modern monoculture farming strips the land of nutrients and is bad for the environment. One could argue that being a Jack of all trades is similarly healthy for people! The mind and body are stimulated by facing and solving new sets of problems every day… Henry Ford May have driven down the cost of car production with the first assembly lines, but he sure as hell didn’t improve the well-being of those doing the same repetitive job day after day.

    Reply
  • Rebecca November 9, 2018, 8:58 am

    This is by far one of my favorite articles written by you. Too bad Luc’s married. :( This is the best line: “The way I see it, the beauty of financial independence isn’t freedom from work, it’s the freedom to work on a fulfilling life.” What a philosophy to live by?! And by learning about Luc, I learned about myself. I’m totally an eclectic because I too am “… someone who loves to continually explore new ideas and embark on new adventures.”

    Reply
  • Nate G November 9, 2018, 9:25 am

    Great post MMM and Luc!
    My wife and I are working toward FIRE and have 3-4 years left. I’m bored with working at a public university, and have really enjoyed rehabbing our 2 rental properties. I’ve received a few compliments on our renovations and a few people asking if I could do some remodeling/handyman work for them. As soon as I finish up our current property (2 bath renos this winter) I plan to get a business license and take a stab at a side-hustle remodeling business, hopefully 2-3 projects a month, as well as flipping 1 property a year. If it goes well, I’m looking forward to transitioning to this line of blue-collar work and leaving my white-collar work behind forever!
    Thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply
  • CL November 9, 2018, 10:01 am

    I really enjoyed this blog post, because I love seeing how serial entrepreneurs do it. Edible cricket flour should be more popular than it is; one of my friends and I were looking up baking cricket muffins, which we were completely willing to eat, but the cost of cricket flour is absurd.

    It also sounds like Luc would’ve been better off exiting a bunch of his businesses as they were about to become something bigger. He didn’t have to make those decisions based on money, though, which helped.

    Reply
  • Jeff November 9, 2018, 10:45 am

    I used to have a similar “problem” to Luc’s. I’ve tried tons of professions… everything from flight instruction to giving guitar lessons to software development. All of which I got bored with in short order. I’m now a real estate broker, which only takes up about 10 hours a week for me.

    I’m financially independent. I really don’t need to work, but I do because I think it would be stupid to turn down the easy money that real estate brings in, especially when then time burden is so small

    But here’s my real problem. I lack the motivation to do much of anything these days. Maybe it’s because I don’t *have* to do anything, maybe it’s because I’m depressed (my worldview is that this is a depressing place. I read the news). I’d really love to try to make a difference for the environment, for the betterment of mankind, but I don’t think anything I would/could do would make a bit of difference. Mankind is going to continue overpopulating this beautiful planet until the planet can’t bear the load any longer. And by then, the place will be trashed.

    I don’t drink or use drugs. I’m a pretty well-adjusted person. I go for hour-long walks every day. But the present state of the world gets me down. I’d work my ass off if I thought it would make a difference. But I truly don’t believe it would.

    Any advice?

    Reply
    • dharma bum November 9, 2018, 4:46 pm

      I used to have the exact same outlook on life as you currently seem to have:
      Depressed
      Cynical
      Unmotivated
      Hopeless
      Why Bother attitude

      Here’s my advice:
      Stop reading, watching, or listening to the news. Period.
      Stop watching cable television.
      Start exercising regularly. Run, Lift weights, do pullups. (You don’t need to join a gym.)
      Read up on and learn about Buddhism, Taoism, and Zen.
      Listen to Sam Harris podcasts.
      Take up occasional drinking. Lighten up. have a beer or two and/or a glass or two of wine every now and again.
      Smoke a joint. (If you’re worried, do it in a legalized state, or come on up to Canada where it’s all legal now.)
      Go hiking in beautiful areas (mountains and forests).
      Let go of your attachment to the ideas of being able to “make a difference” or “save the world”.
      Did I mention study Buddhism, Taoism, and Zen?
      Read all of the books on MMM’s reading list.
      Lighten up brother.

      Reply
      • Jeff November 10, 2018, 7:17 am

        Hey Dharma and Married,

        Thanks for the advice.

        I should clarify… I’m not anti-alcohol, nor anti-pot. I do a little of each occasionally (maybe three times a month). My point was that I don’t have a substance abuse problem.

        And I have read a little about Buddhism. Enough to know that grasping for pleasure and pushing away pain lead to suffering. Maybe I should do more reading.

        I agree, watching the news is bad. And I had tuned out for most of 2018. But with the recent election I felt it was important to tune in a little. And honestly, I’m more than a little worried for this country. Is it irresponsible to completely tune out and ignore the shitshow that is going on around us (even though I’m personally doing what I can)?

        I think it comes down to MMM’s point of having meaningful work in order to be happy. And I definitely don’t have that because of my cynical, unmotivated attitude (thanks, Dharma, I like your choice of words). But how do you find meaningful work when you’re cynical and unmotivated? It’s a catch-22.

        -jeff

        Reply
        • dharma bum November 10, 2018, 9:55 am

          The surest way to alleviate cynicism and lack of motivation is to help others.
          You must lose your ego.
          There is no self.
          Put the interests and well being of others ahead of your own selfish desires.
          Volunteer for an organization. Assist those in need whenever and however you can.
          Find meaning by uplifting others.
          You will begin to feel fulfilled and useful.

          “The sage does not hoard. The more he helps others, the more he benefits himself, The more he gives to others, the more he gets himself. The Way of Heaven does one good but never does one harm. The Way of the sage is to act but not to compete.” ~ Lao Tzu

          On another note: Paying more attention to the “elections” is a mug’s game. They ultimately mean nothing. The political game is a shit show. A sucker’s play. It is a circus of fools. It is a form of bad entertainment for the ignorant masses. The politicians are having their own party, along with the news media, the advertising business, the lobbyists, the talk shows, the press conferences, and so on. It is all totally meaningless. Life goes on, notwithstanding who is in office. It’s a vicious circle, with ever changing players.
          Look back at the last 75 years of American political history. It’s a roller coaster. It ebbs and flows. Some decent years, some horrible years. A never ending war of meaningless partisan rhetoric. It is like horrible fast food for the brain. It rots your mind.

          Time to wake up and see through it all. See the reality. Ignore the sideshow that is politics
          .
          It is simply a confederacy of dunces.

          Reply
    • Married to a Swabian November 10, 2018, 5:29 am

      It’s hard to not pay attention to the news … kinda like not looking at a train wreck. I agree with dharma bum, it’s best to leave it off ( we cut cable years ago).

      The Steven Covey advice of expanding your circle of influence while reducing your circle of concern is a big one. I have to remind myself of this on a daily basis!

      Volunteering always gives me a boost – at habitat for humanity, canvassing for the election, working a food pantry. Meeting new folks and helping out can be a true happiness builder.
      One person can make a big difference in the world. Supporting a cause you believe in can make a difference – support with your time, not just money.

      Mentoring young people can make a huge difference! Whether your own children or other kids / young adults.
      Sometimes we old folks are too stuck in our ways, but help a youngster learn something new or start thinking about how to solve just one problem in the world and THAT could pay dividends for Mankind for generations. ;)

      Reply
      • Andreas November 11, 2018, 5:25 am

        I feel with Jeff. I try to not watch the news but every other month I get a grasp of something horrible, and there I am again, worried, anxious etc. If I read something awful, I get so influenced/affected it takes me days before my mind is reset. Tried once going without external input for a month, and by jesus I almost felt happy for the first time in years. Isnt that something? Very hard for me to keep away from it all. And that makes everything feel so hopeless.

        The fear is everywhere and it is exhausting!

        Reply
        • Married to a Swabian November 11, 2018, 6:05 am

          War is Peace
          Freedom is Slavery
          Ignorance is Strength

          Reply
    • Kiev November 12, 2018, 12:53 am

      First I have to say that I really like dharma_bum´s comments in general. You are already FI. This is fantastic. I would recommend you to focus on your local environment. Give a sh* on news about the country. You as a person can bring in your part in your local community. If you like cycling you may attend a group to make your region more friendly for cyclists. Urban gardening projects etc. There are so many things you can support. If you support it in person this brings much more happiness to you than spending just money. I do not smoke pot. This is an experience I have made in my youth. I do not think that drugs may help you in getting happy. You may also read about the Stoics philosophy. I would recommend you “A guide to the guide life” by Seneca.

      Reply
    • Luc November 12, 2018, 9:31 am

      I think Dharma Bum’s advice to help others is the key to living a fulfilling life. I wrote a post about this: http://www.poppascottage.com/poppas-notes-nicomachean-ethics-and-eudaimonia/

      It might also be helpful to step back and see that, in many very meaningful ways, the world is getting better: reduced poverty, reduced hunger, increased access to education, empowerment of women. As dire as climate change seems, there are even some hopeful advances there. Check out “Enlightenment Now” by Steven Pinker, “Factfulness” by Hans Rosling, and our book “The Cooperative Society” by E.G. and Luc Nadeau. Incrementally, we can all make a difference.

      Reply
    • Gordo November 12, 2018, 2:01 pm

      See: https://www.ted.com/talks/steven_pinker_is_the_world_getting_better_or_worse_a_look_at_the_numbers
      You may also benefit from reading “How to Change your Mind” (Pollack)

      Reply
  • Tim November 9, 2018, 8:38 pm

    Love me some MMM articles to re-ignite the fire within. I love those last few points. Spot on. I started taking my love of landscape photography to the next level a few years ago concurrently with our journey to become financially independent. It feeds my need to be creative with my desire to be outside. My weekends are spent in the saddle processing pictures rather than up on the slopes. I legally set it up as a business last year. It most definitely takes time and effort. And it’s slow going. But my go forward costs are low. I camp. I use credit card miles on the rare flights I take. I bring my own food. I sometimes sleep in the back of my coupe. Everything is tax deductible. I’m going to start offering tours/workshops next year and it won’t cost me much investment at all with a huge upside in the future. Hell, if I end up making $20k a year on my “hobby” business, I’d be thrilled and my financial independence gets accelerated. Plus I already know what I’ll be doing in “retirement.”

    Check out timcanfieldphotography on Instagram or my website if interested. You may or may not also be treated to a mustache.

    Reply
  • James November 10, 2018, 5:33 am

    Great post! I was wondering where I could learn more about the eating schedule research that Luc talked about. There is so much conflicting diet advice out there, but he seems like the kind of guy that is good at synthesizing research. Thanks for any leads!

    Reply
    • dharma bum November 10, 2018, 10:01 am

      Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.
      Exercise regularly.
      Problem solved.

      This is NOT complicated. Ignore the diet advice in the media. The diet industry is one of the world’s largest scams.

      https://michaelpollan.com/reviews/how-to-eat/

      Reply
      • James November 12, 2018, 6:07 am

        Thanks, but that does not answer the question I asked.

        I finally found the right keywords to search on google. It is called TRF – time-restricted feeding.

        Reply
        • Luc November 12, 2018, 9:40 am

          James, glad you found some info on that. I don’t have any specific papers to point you toward. One thing I can say, though, is intermittent fasting (or time-restricted eating) are not enough, in and of themselves, to be a healthy eater, at least for me. I went for a couple months on the time-restricted diet, but eating whatever I wanted, and while it was better than the whatever-whenever diet, it wasn’t until I also curbed simple carbs that I began to see more significant results. This was, of course, combined with daily exercise. Good luck to you!

          Reply
          • James November 12, 2018, 11:54 am

            Thanks!

            Reply
  • Brent November 10, 2018, 9:44 am

    Couldn’t agree more. The hardest part of a small business is starting it. My fiancee and I started a travel agency purely to get discounts when we traveled. That has actually turned into a lucrative side hustle for us and has helped us speed up paying off her student loans. As we look forward, it may even become a full time gig.

    Irrational fear is what often stops us from living our best lives. Feel free to check us out at JourneyGenies.com

    Reply
  • John N November 10, 2018, 2:06 pm

    I FIRED 3 years ago at age 57. If you need/want a side gig, go for it. Personally I’m loving having every day as a vacation, an opportunity to relax, do nothing, and be grateful for this miracle of existence :)

    Reply
  • Ms Blaise November 11, 2018, 1:43 am

    I really enjoyed this article, and last month’s one too. As an English Lit major, I find all the engineering culture foreign and fascinating. And as an ex teacher of boys, I can recognise the MMM/Luc type – always busy with the next project or idea, gathering up a crew and making it work etc. Great reading!

    Reply
  • Charles November 11, 2018, 9:52 am

    Luc sounds very similar to myself and the underlying financial freedom is coming from his investments in real estate. I too, simultaneously invested in real estate (slow investing) while I tried many different businesses.

    At the end of the day, it was my continued investment in real estate that allowed me to retire whenever I want.

    I started when I was 25 years old. I got my real estate license so I could be the buyers agent nd get the 3% commission, and used that commission for the down payment.

    The next year I did it again. The next year again. Then sold the 2 condos and bought a house. Then sold the house and bought 3 houses. Then sold the houses and bought an office building. Then sold the office building and bought a much larger office building. Then 2 more. Then a hotel. Last year I sold the hotel and bought apartments.

    All the while paying ZERO taxes by doing 1031 exchanges.

    Real estate is the greatest wealth building, and most tax advantaged, investment in the country, in my opinion.

    Invest early and stay the course!

    Reply
  • Becca November 11, 2018, 12:02 pm

    I know that details about his wife were left out for privacy, not to distort the story, but it does seem that her income and support may have paved the way for this. It seems as though for a while she was a full-time teacher, probably carrying the health insurance? This doesn’t diminish his accomplishment, but let’s give kudos to the teamwork of marriage!

    Reply
    • Luc November 12, 2018, 9:52 am

      Yes, having a spouse with a steady paycheck provided a lot of stability for us (our paychecks at the end of the year were similar, but mine fluctuated pretty wildly from month to month). Even though my wife works in the public school system, the health insurance was quite costly for the family, so we mostly used private insurance (up until last year, when prices rose enough to finally justify going through her employer plan).

      And yes, my wife also provided a lot of moral support – not always easy for a more cautious person. I’m grateful for that support.

      Reply
  • Guido November 11, 2018, 5:09 pm

    As a long time serial entrepreneur working towards FIRE, the idea of becoming an entrepreneur in retirement seems to me to be an appalling idea!

    Work really hard so you can then… work really hard again? How is that being “retired”?

    I can understand why Luc seeks to avoid success. Success might be the worst thing to happen in retirement…many customers dependent, sometimes disagreeable, many employees dependent, with families to feed and you responsible for them, endless hours addressing a crisis or an opportunity, fighting government, regulators and litigators all trying to take what you saved…yes there are certainly perks and it is fun to do what you entirely choose, but there are some severe potential downsides not being mentioned here.

    I think it is important to be “useful”, even in retirement. But entrepreneurship has its hazards, the main being potential for complete financial ruin.

    I think the concept might appeal to employed persons who have not quite yet saved enough, and who wish to semi-retire. But I suggest that type of thought is illogical, why would you exit a lucrative profession or field to join one that you are entirely unfamiliar with and take a risk of not earning anything or having losses? Unless your job is making you ill, why would you just not stick to your knitting, what you are good at, what you are established in and which you probably already earn a fairly high wage at and reach your required retirement number much more quickly and safely? Then exit.

    Sure you can dabble later, but entrepreneurship is fundamentally risky, especially for novices.

    Sure I have been successful, sure I have had fun, but yes in earlier days I have also been bankrupt. That can be part of the game and regardless of skill and experience, there are always some unforeseen or uncontrollable risks. Your personal assets are generally at risk. Why would I deliberately expose myself to that when I might be at a stage in life where I am taking my winning chips off the table and walking away to enjoy the fruits?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 11, 2018, 5:49 pm

      Hi Guido,

      Yeah, I can certainly relate to ALL of your thoughts about what entrepreneurship CAN be (because my first post-retirement business felt like that).

      But what we were both missing was the idea of the “lifestyle business” – which is how I live and work now, as does Luc. Which is where you do only activities that you would do for FREE anyway. And you never let the presence of money determine what you choose to do with your time. But you allow some of them to generate money, if it happens naturally.

      This way, you get the benefits of soul-sustaining work, plus extra income if you enjoy it.

      Reply
  • Michael November 12, 2018, 9:00 am

    Luc,
    I’m curious about the “2015 Prius wagon (my off-road vehicle)” comment. Did you raise it a few inches or make other mods to it? Would love it if they had more clearance so I could make it to more trailheads (or just not bottom out on the potholes around here!).

    Reply
    • Luc November 12, 2018, 10:02 am

      Actually, I was just joking about the off-road part. We do put snow tires on it in the winter and use it as our mountain vehicle, and it works great. But, yes, I think the clearance would be a problem in real off-road situations.

      That said, I like your idea of doing a mod. If anybody would know about Prius modifications, it’s my old business partner Paul at Boulder Hybrids. Shoot him an email.

      Reply

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