The secrets of financial freedom: An interview with the millionaire next door

Today is the last day of Financial Literacy Month. To tie everything together, I thought it would be fun to share an interview my real millionaire next door, a man we’ll call John. He used the basic tenets of money management to build wealth and to retire early. Here’s how I described John when I first wrote about him last year:

John is a 71-year-old retired shop teacher who lives in a modest ranch house on half an acre, the same house he’s had for over forty years. He has an old barn filled with salvaged lumber, outdated appliances, and who knows what else. When he’s around, he drives a junkie 25-year-old station wagon. But most of the time, he’s not around.

He spends his winters in New Zealand helping friends on a dairy farm. His summers are spent fishing in Alaska. For a couple of months each year, he’s home, puttering in the yard. Year-round, he rents his house to boarders. He leads a very active retirement.

John’s story was popular with Get Rich Slowly readers, and many of you asked me to interview him. I had to wait for him to return from New Zealand, but earlier this month, the opportunity finally presented itself. John agreed to sit down for a chat.

“I want to take you to lunch at the Chinese place up the street,” I told him.

“What the hell for?” he asked.

“Just to be nice,” I said. “To thank you for taking the time to speak with me.”

“I don’t need that,” he said. “Save your money. Let’s just sit at your dinner table.” And so we did.

In the Beginning

Before John left for New Zealand just after Christmas, I mentioned the idea of an interview. He liked the notion, so on his flight home at the end of March, he made some notes about his financial philosophy. “These are my secrets to financial freedom,” he told me, showing me what he had jotted on the back of an envelope. “This is what I did to get where I am today.”

“I’m ready,” I said. I had a yellow legal pad and a Bic pen. I motioned for him to continue.

“It was interesting to do this,” John said. “It’s really the story of your website. The real secret is to spend less than you earn. I don’t care how much you earn, you spend less than you earn.”

I laughed. “My readers aren’t going to like that,” I said. “There’s a vocal group that complains that personal finance writers are always preaching ‘spend less than you earn’.”

“It’s not funny,” John said. “Because that’s the secret. They don’t have to like it, they just have to do it.”

“Right,” I said. “There are no magic bullets. There are no special shortcuts. Now, before we get started, can you tell us a little bit about your background?”

“Well, I’m retired,” John said. “I’m 72 years old. I spent twenty years as a shop teacher at a junior high school. I retired at 58. Before that, I did other things. I worked as a carpenter for eight years, and I spent six or seven years working in the juvenile court system.”

“Did you have good financial habits growing up?” I asked.

“Yeah, I really did. My family had a lot of money. We owned a big hardware store. But I saw money wasn’t the key to happiness. There were other families that were happier that had far less. But I’m grateful for having grown up with a solid financial background.”

On Frugality

“What advice do you have for people who want to spend less?” I asked.

“Well, I made this list,” John said, pointing to his old envelope. “I listed all of the things I do. First of all, people should learn what a kilowatt hour is. A kilowatt hour is a thousand watts burned for an hour. All of these appliances left on standby draw power. And don’t leave your lights on.” John gave me a look.

I was sheepish. The lights were on in the bathroom and the kitchen, but we were sitting in the dining room. I got up to turn them off while he continued speaking.

“Learn to figure your own power bill and know why it is what it is. People should learn about electrical use. That’s a drain on your monthly budget. Every penny saved on electricity is a penny you can use for something else.”

“No smoking or alcohol consumption,” he continued. “This has nothing to do with morals and health — okay, maybe health — it’s all about the money. I see people with a cigarette in their mouth, and I think, ‘That’s 25 cents!'” I laughed.

“Don’t have a credit card without autopay. And if you have a credit card, you should benefit from it. I use a credit card for everything I can, but I get things back from that.”

“Like air miles?” I asked.

“Exactly,” John said. “Air miles or a cash rebate. And I have my bank automatically pay the bill every month.”

“Next is food,” he said. “I think people’s eating habits are hell-bent on spending money.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I offered to take you to lunch while we talked.”

“I know, but I don’t need that gesture. I appreciate it, but that’s money that could be spent on other things. Like your new car!

“You don’t have to spend a lot on food,” John continued. “When I go to the grocery store — which is rarely — I don’t know how anyone could afford to feed a family on that stuff. It seems outrageously expensive. People need to learn to cook from raw ingredients.

“But where do you get the raw ingredients?” I asked.

“From the farmers market! Or Costco! You don’t need the little individual servings. That’s crazy. You have to be creative. Part of the problem is that you need to buy a freezer. Or look,” he said, waving his hand at Kris’ seedlings. “Over there are your tomato starts. Those cost you what? 50 cents? You’ll get 50 dollars of fruit from those! Plus I buy what I can in bulk.”

“Eating in-season food is important. It’s less expensive and it’s better quality. I also like this eating close to home thing. That’s neat.”

“Kris makes her own granola,” I offered.

“Yeah,” he said. “Exactly. But nobody advertises that. Nobody advertises ‘make your own granola’. Again, it makes sense to own a freezer. The electrical use of a freezer is pretty tiny. That’d be an interesting article for you, J.D. How much electricity does a freezer use versus how much you save by buying in bulk? People don’t understand about electrical use. They have a foggy notion about it.”

“Yeah, I have this device called a Kill-a-Watt,” I said. “It measures electricity use. But I’ve never checked our freezer.”

“Here’s another thing,” John said. “It’s okay to buy used. There’s nobody advertising to be thrifty. There’s nobody advertising to go to Goodwill. That’s not where the profit is. People have to get permission to buy used from somewhere else, because they’re not going to get it from advertising. I buy all sorts of stuff used, but especially cars. I bought my minivan off Craigslist.”

“How did that work?” I asked.

“It worked great,” John said.

“I bought my Mini Cooper used,” I said, “but I didn’t do it as well as I could have. I didn’t take it to a mechanic, for example.”

“I took my car to two mechanics. I wanted to be sure.”

He rattled off a few more tips. “Do your own home repairs. Use the library more — movies and books, and it’s totally free. I think that’s great. Remember: A dollar spent will never produce dividends. Money spent is gone and will never earn you anything.”

On Investing

“That’s a good transition,” I said. “Let’s talk about your approach to investing.”

“I advise people to look for good investments. Take some time to do research. And think outside the box. I just re-opened my account with Reliable Credit. They offer 4%, which keeps up with inflation.” Reliable Credit is a nearby consumer finance company. But it’s not a bank. They take deposits from people like John and they loan them to high-risk clients. They do a lot of used car loans.

“The thing that worries me about Reliable Credit is that they’re not insured. There’s no FDIC insurance,” I said.

“Doesn’t bother me,” John said. “I’m not putting a whole lot in there. It’s just part of my money.”

“What would happen if you lost it all?”

“Not a big deal. I own my home. I have a guaranteed pension. I have no debt. That’s the key. Because I’ve done these other things, I can afford to take some risk. A lot of people can’t.”

“What about your other investments?” I asked.

“If you’re going to do stocks, diversify your stock holdings,” John said. “But for me, no-load mutual funds are the only way to go. To give anybody 3-4% of your money off the top is insane. It used to be I wasn’t aware how much I was paying. Once I figured it out, I thought, ‘Shit, I can make these mistakes myself. Why should I pay anybody to do it for me?'”

“I invested in small-cap funds at Columbia here in Portland. What a great move that was. Those did very well. I tracked their growth in the newspaper. Every week I drew a graph. I plotted the weekly high and the low and where it closed. I had to keep making new pages for my records because it was growing so much. I didn’t mind,” he said, laughing. “Back in the olden days, if I wasn’t getting 20% a year, I looked someplace else. But I can’t hold that up as an example — although it may happen again if things get turned around, once this economy corrects itself.”

“Does this economy worry you?” I asked.

“No. I don’t have to worry about it. I don’t need the income. I’m debt-free. If I was retired and had a mortgage or other debt, or if I had health problems, it would worry me. To my mind, even if you invest and it goes to hell, it’s still better than nothing. The odds of that are pretty slim, though, especially if you diversify.”

“What are your financial goals?” I asked.

“I used to say that when I reached $100,000 I would have arrived. But I got there so fast, I just kept going. Some people plan for retirement, but I didn’t plan. I did go to investment workshops — free workshops — that were put on for the teachers, and I learned from them. You’d be surprised at how few people showed up to them. Nobody cared.”

“When did you start to save?” I asked.

“It must have been 30 or 35 years ago,” John said. “And I’m glad I did. I think there are people who still don’t take advantage of tax-advantaged savings and investments accounts. I did this as soon as I could. I was amazed at how many teachers didn’t take advantage of this. That’s crazy.”

On Choosing a Lifestyle

John looked back down at his list. “Here’s another thing,” he said. “Volunteer to help others. I really think that’s an important personal lifestyle choice. It feels good to me. I used to do scouting. I had a Boy Scout troop for fifteen years.”

“You know, scouting was important for me when I was a boy,” I said. “I think it can be a great experience.”

“Sure it can,” John said. “When I was growing up, a lot of people shared things with me. It feels good to be in a place to be able to share myself now.”

“What kind of things do you share?”

“Well you know I rent the house, but it’s basically at cost. I don’t charge much at all. I host guests on my boat [in Alaska] at no charge. I do my work in New Zealand. Earlier today I picked up some sheet metal. I went and bought some scrap sheet metal and I took it in to Franklin High School. I took it to their metal shop. They can really make use of that.”

“What do you splurge on?” I asked. I’ve seen the things John owns. They’re very functional. He doesn’t have a lot that I would consider “fun”.

“Some people would say that buying a boat is a splurge,” he said. “But I bought that boat right. I bought it for less than market value. I’ve taken care of it. I’ll get a lot more use out of it.”

“I guess I could eliminate a couple thousand dollars airfare getting to New Zealand and back, but I spend very little money when I get there. If I spend a couple hundred dollars in New Zealand, I’d be surprised.”

“How do you keep your costs so low there?”

“I work on farms. I’m part of Willing Workers on Organic Farms. You travel to someplace and do work on their farms for them. They provide room and board. Sometimes they take you to do local stuff. This year I got to see sheepdog trials. That was fun. Anyhow, I do carpentry work. I build stuff and fix things. There are four farms I go to, about three weeks at a time, and I do what needs done.”

He paused for a moment and smiled. “But Alaska is just for fun.”

“How long have you been doing this now?”

“I’ve been doing this for about fifteen years, ever since I was retired. Back when I was 58.”

Reader Questions

We’d come to the end of John’s list, but we weren’t finished yet. “I told some of my readers that I was going to interview you,” I said. “They sent in some questions. Would you be willing to answer them?”

“Sure. Of course.”

“Annie Blue wants to know how money affects your daily happiness.”

“Well,” he said. “I can buy whatever I want. Not need, but want. I just don’t want very much. I always have $100 in my pocket, but I don’t piss it away. I don’t stop for coffee. I seldom eat out.”

“I understand why people buy things,” he said, “I like to buy things, too. There’s a certain satisfaction in looking at the things you’ve accumulated. It’s like an affirmation that you’re doing things right. So you surround yourself with things that make you think you’re doing well — but they’re not necessary. That’s one of the advantages of being older. People just leave you alone to do what you want.”

“Next,” I said, “Suburban Dollar wants to know what advice you’d give to a 30-year-old.”

“Spend less than you earn. This is true whether you’re on welfare or a millionaire. And remember: wealth is created by investing money, not by working longer and harder.”

“Here’s another thing,” he said. “Remember that when you’re raising kids and stuff, that’s really hard. The demands on your money are so great. But you’ve got to be willing to say no. So much money is pissed away to keep kids happy.” (John has grown children. He’s speaking from experience.)

“Here’s a final question from Bill in Detroit,” I said. “He wants to know if outer wealth causes inner wealth. Or is it the other way around? Or are they completely disconnected?”

“There’s a lot of personal power from personal spending,” John said. “If I’m feeling down in the dumps, going out and buying something gives me a lift. But I’m aware of that. I’m aware of how it makes me feel and it helps me to not do it.”

“I think it all has to do with how you feel about yourself,” John said. “I learned long ago that it was okay to spend less than I earned. It wasn’t going to kill me. And I learned that by doing so, I felt really good about myself. I still do. I’m happy. I feel really comfortable.”

I thanked John for answering my questions, and we walked out to look at the vegetable garden. He admired our onions and peas and asparagus. We discussed whether it was time to rototill. At last, we shook hands and said our farewells. I was headed to California in the morning, and he was off to Alaska. He’ll be there until about the time his grapes are ready to harvest in September. I’ll miss him while he’s gone. But if I’m lucky, I just might get to spend a week with him on his boat this summer, catching a glimpse of what early retirement is like.

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There are 143 comments to "The secrets of financial freedom: An interview with the millionaire next door".

  1. Aman@BullsBattleBears says 30 April 2009 at 05:12

    great interview. He showed that there is no real magical way to financial freedom. So many people buy books/DVDs when the underlying message is the same…live within/below your means and amazing things will happen….for one, you will be debt free…you will also have left over money that you can save/invest/clear off debts…heh..unbelievable that some have never hear of this concept.

  2. Fish Finder says 30 April 2009 at 05:16

    It always comes back to the basic, do it yourself ways. Giving back also goes hand in hand with wealth. Nice interview…like the boat!

  3. Adam Baker says 30 April 2009 at 05:17

    “I can buy whatever I want. Not need, but want. I just don’t want very much.”

    What an awesome, awesome story. I love hearing the straight talking words of wisdom from an older generation. I was surprised he said he had only been investing for 30-35 years, I thought he was going to say 50. That’s inspiring for those people who think it’s too late to start investing. Anything matters.

    This is my ultimate goal. To be debt-free, recession proof, and to have to the ability to buy, but not a big want to buy. He’s simply an inspiring example of how to do things right.

    Thanks, J.D. for taking the time to interview him and share it with us. Awesome stuff!

  4. Writer's Coin says 30 April 2009 at 05:17

    This was great! Thanks JD. Spending less than you make has almost turned into a cliché, but that’s because it is the magic pill.

  5. Jeff Kinney says 30 April 2009 at 05:22

    JD, Great interview. Very matter of fact. Your neighbor has figured it out. I am both proud of him, and somewhat jealous. I would be interested if he had a defining moment that steered him down this path, or if it was just reflective thinking and his own priorities?

  6. Beth @ Smart Family Tips says 30 April 2009 at 05:25

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post. So many people think that spending less than you earn and being frugal is about having to go without the things you want. It’s great to read this interview and see that John, though he’s made a habit of both, is very content and has everything he needs AND wants. He also has the freedom to DO what he wants.

  7. Amy says 30 April 2009 at 05:37

    Great interview! Thanks for posting this JD! I really appreciate the point John made: “wealth is created by investing money, not by working longer and harder.”
    This gives me some much needed affirmation that it’s good, no, SAVVY and SMART to live on less so I can save more. That sure goes against the grain of what’s advertised to us on a daily basis.

  8. Will Crowthers says 30 April 2009 at 05:37

    Awesome interview!! I love the distinction between need and want so many people see this as a blurry area, but its pretty straight-forward if you site down and think about it. Speaking of the Millionaire Next Door, its also an outstanding book:

    The other part I liked about the interview and the book is that it truly shows that the fundamentals work. If your expenses are less then your income – you actually save money! 🙂

  9. Holly says 30 April 2009 at 05:42

    Just as I suspected…someone like my own father who retired at 52…travels, has a pension, saved for a rainy day, and didn’t give in to the whims of his wants (or the kids’ wants). It’s nice to be in a place where you have no pressure to keep up w/the rat race. I guess this explains why I’ve always said to my mother that I wished I was a senior–so that I could let my hair go gray, wear whatever was suitable/comfortable, and have the satisfaction of living for a larger purpose than the pursuit of the almighty dollar!

  10. Chris Wilson says 30 April 2009 at 05:55

    Great stuff, J.D.! John is a great example of someone to aspire to be.

    Excellent post and I enjoyed every bit. I could have kept reading forever and I’m sure you could talk to him for a long time…he certainly does know/understand a lot about a lot!

  11. Britt says 30 April 2009 at 05:56

    Awesome post. He reminds me a lot of my grandfather in his financial philosophies.

  12. Jason B says 30 April 2009 at 05:57

    One thing he touched on was health, which you’ve talked about previously. He may be retired, but he’s active doing carpentry, working in the yard, and helping people out. His lifestyle is one that uses his body, so he stays healthy. Eating all that fresh, local food helps too!

  13. Wise Money Matters says 30 April 2009 at 06:11

    Great interview. This guy obviously knows what he’s talking about. It’s funny that the simplest way to get rich is spend less than you earn. We all know that but few of us practice it.

  14. Kevin says 30 April 2009 at 06:14

    Great Post! I seldom read blog posts this long, but I read every word of this one. Your neighbor lives the way I try to live. (I’m 38.) I’m not as handy around the house as he is, but this post confirms for me that I’m on the right path. Of course I still have lots of areas for improvement. And I never get tired of “spend less than you earn.” Most people just can’t earn more at will.

    Nice job.

  15. Keith says 30 April 2009 at 06:31

    Loved the interview. What a compelling story. Inspiring to a 30-year old starting on the the path!

  16. Todd @ The Personal Finance Playbook says 30 April 2009 at 06:46

    Thanks for your time John. Great interview J.D.

  17. Dave Farquhar says 30 April 2009 at 06:54

    Brilliant. I especially liked the part about electricity usage. I know that’s my weak point and something I really need to work on. I’m probably wasting at least a dollar a day.

    And he’s right about the status symbols and not worrying about what other people think. People think I’m nuts for driving a six-year-old car (it’s paid for) and shopping at thrift stores and estate sales. But I’m 34 years old and have no mortgage and no car payment. They can laugh all they want, because my single biggest monthly expense is probably that stupid electric bill.

    Thanks for posting this, and thanks to John for sitting down and talking with you.

  18. Snowy Heron says 30 April 2009 at 07:02

    This is one of the best posts I’ve seen. I wish I had known this stuff when I was younger. I wasn’t crazy or anything, but I wasn’t as smart as this guy was. Thank goodness for people like John!

  19. Bob says 30 April 2009 at 07:08

    Another great article. It may be old news for your readers; but, you can never be reminded enough. Especially from someone who is a role model and has the t-shirt.

  20. KS says 30 April 2009 at 07:11

    Fabulous! Thank you for posting this. When I’m grumbling about something or other, usually money, my husband points out, “Hey, just think: we have the money to do ANYTHING WE WANT.” And he’s right – we just don’t want very much! This post was a good reminder of that.

  21. I Was Broke. Now I'm Not. says 30 April 2009 at 07:18

    Outstanding example. Great interview. I could read stories like this all day.

  22. KC says 30 April 2009 at 07:25

    You are lucky to have a neighbor like that. He has some good advice that applies to just about anyone – like live beneath your means. But my favorite part was referring to load mutual funds ‘Shit, I can make these mistakes myself. Why should I pay anybody to do it for me?’” Great advice!

  23. MoneyBeagle says 30 April 2009 at 07:36

    Great stuff! None of the advice is new but to hear it in action from someone that put it to the test is great. And it also shows that you don’t need to make a ton of money to build wealth. It’s all about using your head.

    Thanks for putting all the hard work in writing this up. I think it will help a lot of people.

  24. seawallrunner says 30 April 2009 at 07:39

    “First of all, people should learn what a kilowatt hour is. A kilowatt hour is a thousand watts burned for an hour. All of these appliances left on standby draw power. Learn to figure your own power bill and know why it is what it is. People should learn about electrical use. That’s a drain on your monthly budget. Every penny saved on electricity is a penny you can use for something else.”

    Excellent advice !!

    Last year I did just that. I reviewed the previous year’s hydroelectric bills and made small behavioral changes (turn off the lights in rooms that I was not using, turn off the computer at night, turn off the heat when I was not at home, and only turn it back on – in the winter – in the room that I was in).

    By doing this, I saved an astonishing 50% on my annual bill. I will continue conserving energy, it’s great for my bank balance, and good for the environment too.

  25. Alison Wiley says 30 April 2009 at 07:51

    I admire John’s disciplined and focused life. U.S. households in particular have a great deal to learn from him.

    I disagree with him, though, on “A dollar spent will never produce dividends. Money spent is gone and will never earn you anything.” Not the case. I just made a $400 discretionary purchase that will yield dividends for me and four others for years:

  26. Michele says 30 April 2009 at 08:01

    Loved the interview. I feel like I live a similar life, although I am only 41. My basic philosophy is to live on less than I earn and to save/invest the rest. I try to tell people that I have no secrets to having saved a lot of money. It’s all living on less than I earn. It sounds like your neighbor is living the good life.

  27. Leah says 30 April 2009 at 08:06

    I love this post — I’m even sending it to my boyfriend! Especially key is the part about electric. My roommates leave lights on all the time (we don’t pay for our electric), and it drives me crazy. Just because they’re not wasting our money doesn’t mean they aren’t wasting money in general.

    My proudest frugal moment was receiving a monthly power bill for $15 last summer. My roommate at the time and I decided not to use AC, we unplugged all appliances when we weren’t using them (microwave, TV, etc), and we opened up the blinds on our picture window instead of using lights to illuminate the room. We used our cellphones as our alarm clocks and didn’t blow-dry our hair. We shut down our computers when we didn’t need them. It was miraculous to see how much electricity we could save, and it honestly didn’t take that much effort.

  28. michael says 30 April 2009 at 08:14

    Well this is how I live too.. always have for some reason.. and I have acumulated quite a bit.. however, this guy has a huge advantage over what those of us working in industry dont have.. a graunteed pension.. probably some sort of health care too.. (retired teacher) I dont have that and never will.. therefore I feel stuck.

  29. scott says 30 April 2009 at 08:18

    Excellent interview . I really like the part about electricity. I didn’t recognize how much I was wasting electricity/power until my old grandpa corrected me. He’s a guy that grew up in the depression in west texas in a family where he had to share shoes with his brother and sister. Amazing paradigm shift when you’re raised in that environment. Great job.

  30. Alex says 30 April 2009 at 08:29

    What a great interview. It’s always nice to have the opinion of real people rather than financial “gurus.” Very practical advice. Thanks for the post!

  31. No Debt Plan says 30 April 2009 at 08:44

    One of the best posts I’ve read in a while. Great interview.

    So the obvious question is, as bloggers we get the “what else can you do other than spend less than you earn” … nothing. Spend. Less. Than. You. Earn.


  32. Wilhelm Scream says 30 April 2009 at 08:51

    Wow, this is a fantastic post. John is fascinating.

  33. Jessica says 30 April 2009 at 09:04

    Very interesting read. Thanks to you and to your neighbor!

  34. partgypsy says 30 April 2009 at 09:17

    He is an inspiring guy. He reminds me of my greek grandmother, who was a big influence to me. Like John she was very frugal (in the 1950’s she saved $40K while working in a sweatshop). She wanted for nothing yet had no wants. The second thing was she kept busy doing worthwhile things with her time, cooking and cleaning, church, her grandchildren, gardening, visiting her sister. I think that’s a key to a healthy and happy long life.

  35. Kevin says 30 April 2009 at 09:17

    Thanks, J.D., I really enjoyed this interview.

    That said, he clearly had several advantages that our generation will not have (largely because his generation ruined the party for us).

    1. He has a guaranteed pension. Like Michael (#28) pointed out, pensions are the exception nowadays, not the rule. Our generation has to save up a MUCH bigger pile of assets to make up for the disappearance of pensions.

    2. Cheap housing. Sounds like John paid his house off long ago. Good for him, but I’ll bet his mortgage was never in the 6 figures, even at the very beginning. Housing prices have skyrocketed since he bought his house.

    3. He was investing aggressively during the biggest market runup in history. John himself even admitted that he’d grown so used to 20% annual returns on his investment, that he’d come to expect them regularly. In contrast, I’m 10 years into my investing experience, and I’ve seen an inflation-adjusted growth of roughly zero percent since I started in 1999.

    4. Rich parents. “My family had a lot of money.” At age 72, I think it’s safe to assume that by now he’s received a significant inheritance.

    5. Favourable Social Security. John had the advantage of retiring when Social Security was much more generous than it will be when we retire. Our generation can expect the double-whammy of an increase in the retirement age and a cut to the benefits by the time we’re old enough to consider claiming it.

    All that said, John still offered a lot of valuable advice and was right on the money with his insight. It was really interesting to read these thoughts straight from the mouth of someone who’s actually LIVING it, and not just talking about it or theorizing about it.

  36. Linear Girl says 30 April 2009 at 09:18

    Thanks to your neighbor for sharing his story. It’s great to see that my philosophy toward getting rich slowly has worked for someone else. I hope to be where he is in another 30 years.

    I spent a summer working on farms in Washington and California with World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms and there are WWOOF organizations all over the world doing the same things. I met people from France and Denmark, learned a ton about farming and gardening, and it was incredibly low cost. The Danish women I met take a one month vacation every year to a foreign country – they work half the time on a WWOOF farm and then travel the rest of the time. I highly recommend checking out if you’re interested in it.

  37. Moneymonk says 30 April 2009 at 09:21

    “wealth is created by investing money, not by working longer and harder.”

    Wow, I have to use this one

  38. SystemError says 30 April 2009 at 09:21


    I was going mention something about the pension as well. Since the private sector has abandoned pensions for speculative 401k and other options, it’s hard to have this kind of security in other places besides government workers (and some union jobs). So a choice to work 20 years for low pay for the govt. or military, and then get a guaranteed pension for life, or perhaps even for your spouse may be a good financial decision in the long run. It’s a good advantage this person has. I don’t think he would be in the same position if he spent his whole life as a carpenter (probably self employed).

  39. Garry - thisimprovedlife says 30 April 2009 at 09:22

    Great interview.
    It is amazing that the simple rules are the ones that work, like spend less than you earn.
    I think buying local produce is a great idea and it is one of the things my wife and I do regulary, we have certainly noticed how much less we spend as compared to going to the supermarket.

  40. Michael E. says 30 April 2009 at 09:34

    Nobody mentioned this, but has ‘John’ ever been married?

  41. Rita Bradley says 30 April 2009 at 09:37

    This might be your best article yet. Thanks so much JD.

  42. RenaissanceTrophyWife says 30 April 2009 at 09:39

    What a fantastic interview!

    Good insight from #35 kevin, I was thinking along the same lines… however the distillation of his financial success into a few simple guidelines is quite helpful to hear. PF bloggers say the same thing, because it works. Not necessarily sexy, but true.

    I particularly like his point on giving back to the community. Even as a poor student it made me feel good to be able to help someone else, whether with a small donation of money, items, or time. You can’t buy that. Thanks for sharing this with us, JD!

  43. Jason says 30 April 2009 at 10:01

    GREAT stuff … I really enjoyed this interview. Ill come back to this as a reference in the future.

  44. Tim says 30 April 2009 at 10:09

    The guy’s pension is HUGE advantage. A $20,000 after-tax pension payment is like having a half-million in the bank. A smart investing strategy for the future is to have one spouse try to get a job that comes with a pension.

  45. PT Money says 30 April 2009 at 10:09

    Facinating read, JD. It’s not that often I get to enjoy an article like this one. Well done. He seems like a great guy. Cudos to you for getting to know him and talk to him about his success. I definitely want to be where he is one day. Maybe not doing those exact things, but pretty close. That’s why I’m working hard on getting my finances straight and living my life right. Loved the name of the boat too: Prime Time!

  46. KS says 30 April 2009 at 10:15

    Just wanted to say I liked @alisonwylie’s comment that a dollar spent can bring dividends – investing it in a cause you believe in, or helping out someone who could use it, etc. Wish there was more here and at GRS in general about that kind of “investing” and what it means for personal finance.

  47. Erica Douglass says 30 April 2009 at 10:16

    Hi J.D.,

    First, this is a great interview, and I’m not meaning to take away from it. BUT…my practical side says that there is far more to that pension than he is willing to talk about.

    Many people of his generation not only received more in their pension than they put in (plus a reasonable rate of return), but are actually receiving more than their total salary ever MADE in their entire lifetime!

    I would really liked to have seen you drill into these numbers. Without them, it’s a feel-good emotional story, but to find out how much he made in salary plus how much his pension is plus whether it covers healthcare — you might be amazed at these numbers.

    He was a public school teacher; his “guaranteed” pension comes out of your pocket as a taxpayer. Most states have so sorely underfunded their pensions that it will take billions in federal dollars to make up the loss.

    Did you know the Oregon pension system (which your friend participates in) is underfunded to the tune of $18 billion?

    Did you know all Oregon public employees hired before 1996 are guaranteed an 8 percent return on their pension accounts? (From the same article)

    How do you think he would be feeling right now if he had a 401(k) invested in the stock market like our generation will have to? Perhaps not so rosy.

    California just raised its state sales and income tax to deal with underfunded pensions. Eventually, Oregon will have to do the same.

    Being frugal is all well and good…but you have to understand that his pension that *you* guarantee at 8%/year is cause for most of his wealth.


  48. KF says 30 April 2009 at 10:24

    Regardless, your neighbor would be financially secure because he’s figured out the basics, he can distinguish needs from wants, he avoids acting based on pure consumerism and marketing, he spends less than he earns, and he doesn’t live to make others (his kids, strangers, etc) happy via money.

    However, I wish this interview had gotten more into the numbers. For example, I wonder how much of this man’s wealth came from family/inheritance. I wonder if he got out of the market at the right time and locked in unrealistic gains of 20% + annually or if he, too, has taken a hit in the recent market. I wonder how his pension compares to what he earned and what today’s pensions look like. Maybe you can do a second interview!

  49. Nick says 30 April 2009 at 10:28

    Great article. I disagree with the people who are claiming that he had an advantage over them with a pension, paid off house, etc. I think these are the sort of people that will always claim things are out of their reach instead of saving sensibly in a retirement account or saving up for a down payment on an AFFORDABLE house.

    It was a good read because it also reminded me of a couple things. I bought a used book off Amazon for $6 this past week and thought it was a pretty good deal! When reading the bit about the library, I checked the county library system – 8 copies and all are on the shelves! D’oh! It’s only $6, but $6 I didn’t have to spend.

    I’m also now reconsidering my friend’s birthday dinner. They chose a restaurant where plates are upwards of $40 and everyone is expected to pay their own. I certainly can afford it within my monthly ‘fun’ budget, but now I wonder if it is really worth it?

    And lastly, I wish I could’ve bought a used car, but when I bought there was a shortage of efficient/small used cars (due to high gas prices), so I got a good deal on a new car instead. Unfortunately the old car just didn’t last long enough and left me looking for a car at the wrong time in the market.

  50. Snowballer says 30 April 2009 at 10:38

    Well we can’t begrudge him for taking advantage of the unique circumstances his life presented him.

    But that’s life people. You can’t control if you catch the breaks or the skids. All you control is how you react to them.

    Plus, we don’t know what else this man has been through. I’ve met some people with a lot of money who live miserable lives (such as a woman who will live in horrible, terminal pain until she dies). That’s obviously not the case here I’m just saying walk a mile in his shoes.

    This is still a good story though because even without his good fortune, the man’s principles and ideas are good for anyone. And give him some credit, he freely admits that he has had advantages.

    I liked it. I doubt I will ever recreate this man’s success but it’s nice to know that someone’s done it before.

  51. Moneyblogga says 30 April 2009 at 10:40

    “I understand why people buy things,” he said, “I like to buy things, too. There’s a certain satisfaction in looking at the things you’ve accumulated. It’s like an affirmation that you’re doing things right. So you surround yourself with things that make you think you’re doing well – but they’re not necessary. That’s one of the advantages of being older. People just leave you alone to do what you want.”

    I like the idea of that. Pearls of wisdom from someone who’s “done it”.

  52. J.D. says 30 April 2009 at 10:41

    @Erica (#47)
    That article is wrong. Yes, the Oregon pension system is in trouble, but this statement is inaccurate (or incomplete): “All Oregon public employees hired before 1996 are guaranteed an 8 percent return on their pension accounts.”

    I don’t know the exact details of the PERS system, but my wife has been a member since 1993. First she was a high school physics teacher and now she works for the state government. At the time she was hired, she had the choice of a guaranteed 8% or a plan that let her play the market. I’m not sure when the guaranteed 8% pension started (or why on earth it was ever allowed — what were they thinking?), but it closed in 1996 and no new money has been allowed into it. Whatever your principal was in 1996, that’s what it is today. But it still generates an 8% guaranteed return. Which, again, is ludicrous.

    Still, I agree that it would be interesting to know what John’s income from his pension is. I’ll see if he’s willing to share it next time I talk to him. This doesn’t bother me, though. The pension income does not affect the fact that he accumulated his wealth through sound investing habits and a dedication to frugality. He’s probably the thriftiest person I know!

  53. Jean says 30 April 2009 at 10:42

    JD, it’s posts like this that set you apart – excellent and gracious interview. I applaud your neighbor for discussing so much of his story. Personally, I feel pressing him to share “numbers” (salary, etc.) would be inappropriate and invasive toward him more than helpful to readers. Besides, YOU gotta live next to this guy 🙂

    Seriously, again, you’ve done a GREAT job, JD.

    ps: Enjoy that Mini C – you’ve earned it.

  54. Chett says 30 April 2009 at 10:43


    I teach and it is true pensions are a nice reliable source of income after you retire. You made the statement “Being frugal is all well and good…but you have to understand that his pension that *you* guarantee at 8%/year is cause for most of his wealth.” But that is a small part of it. I know retired teachers who had to pick up a second career to pay for the expenses they still had after retirement. They continued to consume, purchase, finance, at or above their income levels. Friends of mine who have retired from the military are in the same boat. Pensions are great, but if you are spending all you make, pension or not, you’ll have a tough time ever reaching financial security.

  55. J.D. says 30 April 2009 at 10:49

    I forgot to add: Yes, John was married at one time. I know that he’s now divorced, but I haven’t probed into that area of his life, and I’m not likely to do so.

  56. Dave says 30 April 2009 at 10:53

    How can I hook up with John for some fishing in Alaska?

  57. Diana says 30 April 2009 at 10:58

    Fantastic interview, thank you.So much commonsense. I “needed” to hear all that, to be reminded. Again.

  58. CB says 30 April 2009 at 11:44

    Most private companies switched to 401-Ks. Was this during the Reagan era? Who benefited from this switch really?

    people don’t know enough about the workings of the stock market to invest their own money, and even if they did, have to make educated guesses. I’ve “owned” a small number of shares in companies that sold their “crown jewels” to a bigger company, and only the top executives benefited. Eighty-five percent of market moves come from big investment firms. Much of the activity is “creative” ways to make money by betting on market movement.

    My current 401-K plan is unmatched and has a limited set of funds in which I can invest. Even the money market fund is not guaranteed, but at least I get a tax deduction. That was the only gain I had.

    Getting rid of pensions and moving jobs overseas created more “wealth” for corporations who followed that route, and gave more money for traders to play games with. What we need is a structural change in our economy. One that values people and is pointed towards sustainability.

    What if all the “vanished” money in the current bubbles had gone towards educating our population (so we didn’t have to import workers in higher-wage industries)? Gone towards rebuilding our infrastructure? Re-invented prisons so that people had a chance–and put the yearly cost of going to an Ivy League school that prisoners cost in my state into eliminating poverty.

    Gone towards health care for all, and education as to how to live a healthy life? And so on.

  59. Sam says 30 April 2009 at 11:45

    Great advice and intersting perspective. But and this is really a big but he has a “guaranteed pension” which clearly gives him a security most of us won’t ever know. We can do all the right things for retirement planning but our “pension” won’t be guaranteed.

  60. Mrs. Moderntightwad says 30 April 2009 at 11:48

    Thank you so much J.D. This was very much the right information at the right time for me. Please thank John for his candor and openness. His comments made me laugh, but I take them very seriously. Walking your own path is really the only way to personal success.

  61. says 30 April 2009 at 11:50

    Great! Great!! GREAT interview!!! So often we get involved in the actual theory of it all without actually getting advice from someone that’s BEEN there DONE that.

    Great site. Keep up the good work.

  62. Sam says 30 April 2009 at 11:52

    I see others picked up on the pension issues as well, pensions are majorly underfunded here in Florida as well and many small cities will likely be bankrupt by their pension obligations. I don’t begrudge this fellow’s pension, my Grandpa, Dad and Father-in-law all have pensions. My point is that my generation (Gen X) just doesn’t have that option and that opens up a big unfunded hole in the retirement calcualations.

  63. finance girl says 30 April 2009 at 12:12

    Defined Benefit plans (of which a pension can be) are not the Holy Grail some of you may think they are. First of all, you have to work at said job for a significant number of years, and it can take at least 5 years to vest, and vesting doesn’t necessarily mean much except that you will get ‘something’ when you retire.

    Comparison between defined contribution and defined benefit here:

  64. Davy says 30 April 2009 at 12:12

    This was an awesome post — I really enjoyed it. John sounds like an amazing person and is living a wonderful life. Thanks to both of you!

  65. Brandon says 30 April 2009 at 12:17

    I’d like to offer a correction. This is something I see frequently and it worries me.

    The library is *not* free. Different public libraries are funded in different ways, but there is a cost and you pay it, usually as a tax of some kind.

    The free notion worries me because we value what we pay for and it’s easy to take a free thing for granted or believe it requires nothing from you.

    In Multnomah County we have one of the best libraries in the country, but here in Oregon and across the nation libraries are being closed. Libraries need your support and your value, whether that’s funding, promotion, use, volunteer, etc.

    Your library is not free, but it is an excellent value.

  66. Ralph says 30 April 2009 at 12:35

    What an amazing story. This was a great read. I have this desire to forward this to everyone I know and tell them…look it can be simple…:Just do it”

    thanks for this

  67. Leanne says 30 April 2009 at 12:40

    Thanks for the interview; I particularly appreciated one aspect of what John had to say–that sometimes you have to look at the big picture to sort out the benefits of any individual action.

    In particular, I’m thinking about these comments: “Part of the problem is that you need to buy a freezer…. Eating in-season food is important. It’s less expensive and it’s better quality…. But nobody advertises that…. Again, it makes sense to own a freezer. The electrical use of a freezer is pretty tiny. That’d be an interesting article for you, J.D. How much electricity does a freezer use versus how much you save by buying in bulk?”

    We just had an energy audit done, and one of the first things the auditor mentioned was that we ought to consider getting rid of our freezer. That struck me immediately as a baby/bathwater kind of solution!

  68. Samantha says 30 April 2009 at 12:41

    This really spoke to me. I love how simple and down-to-earth it is, especially in our economic downturn in a society that celebrates spending, spending, spending. I really hope to look for ways to alter my life to his ways.

  69. Corporate Barbarian says 30 April 2009 at 12:51

    I like his thinking outside the box for a person of his age. He could have settled into a traditional retirement, but chose to volunteer his time. The basic spend less than you earn seems to be a common thread for frugal millionaires.

  70. pinoytrader says 30 April 2009 at 12:54

    Thanks for a very informative blogsite J.D.

    First, I would like to say that for most of us, your neighbor might be the wrong financial bar to measure ourselves with. He belongs to a bygone era where jobs/pension/benefits were everyone’s right not a privilege. It sounds like he lived alone so he was able to lived the thrifty life he wanted. As for most readers of this blog who have children, after all the basic necessities were paid off, there might not be enough to invest or save.

    I believe that what we should advocate living reasonable within budget and wealth bulding.

    I posted a long while back comparing a saver vs. and earner.


  71. ben says 30 April 2009 at 13:01

    Thanks, JD, for a motivating article. I was particularly encouraged that John had only been investing about 30-35 years (about age 40). This gives me some hope because I didn’t get my act together until I was 30. I have been concerned that I started too late to reap the rewards of investing.

    John showed it’s never too late as long as you live by simple principles.

    Dave Ramsey said last week in his Town Hall for Hope that he hopes this current recession changes people’s financial attitudes the way the Great Depression did for that generation.

    I think John is a great example of Dave’s mantra: “Live like no one else so later you can live like no one else.”

  72. Damian says 30 April 2009 at 13:06

    Loved this post.

    I think it’s interesting that so many people are mentioning the pension as an issue with this article.

    To me it seems like John’s sound strategies would have paid off with or without the pension. Maybe he would have retired later. Maybe he would have invested more in secure funds, maxed out tax deffered retirement contributions.

    He is a millionaire next door because he spent less than he earned. Not because he has a pension. The pension was only one influence into his financial choices.

  73. Dave says 30 April 2009 at 13:26

    JD – great post, very interesting reading. It’s been interesting looking at the comments and seeing what people took away from it. The part I liked best was his response to your offer to buy him lunch:

    “What the hell for?” he asked.

    “I don’t need that,” he said. “Save your money. Let’s just sit at your dinner table.” And so we did.”

    That sums it up in a nutshell for me.

    I also wanted to comment about the price of his house. I worked with an older guy back in the early 80s and remember him proudly announcing he’d just made his last mortgage payment – about $400. After congratulations from everyone, somebody said something like “Wow, I wish I could find a house for that amount today!” He pointed out that he was 20-some years older than us, and we had no kids, while he had 1 daughter in college and another about to enter college. Also, he said that at the time he bought the house, his payments were just as big a percentage of his pay as our home payments were today. Your neighbor may have bought his house for significantly less money than you paid for yours, but he was probably making significantly less money at that time also.

  74. Kevin says 30 April 2009 at 13:37

    @Dave (#70): That’s a cute story, but the data doesn’t bear it out. There’s plenty of research that clearly shows that housing costs have crept up as a percentage of our take-home income over time.

  75. Aniruddha says 30 April 2009 at 14:00

    Nice interview … it’s so motivating to hear people living worry-free after retiremnt when I have just started to earn. Another reason I will try even harder to be frugal 🙂

  76. repo2riches says 30 April 2009 at 14:41

    Awesome post! Thank you for taking the time to share this interview. “A dollar spent will never produce dividends.” That statement really got me thinking in a new direction. A paradigm shift really!!! Thanks again…P

  77. Troy says 30 April 2009 at 14:58

    nice interview…however

    72 years old and lots of money. Most 72 year old’s “should” have lots of money. $250 per month for 35yrs at 10% interest is $1M.

    Now a 32 year old neighbor that is a self-made millionaire is to me more impressive because that neighbor didn’t have the luxury of time. It took abnormal effort.

    I’m not saying your neighbor didn’t work hard or hasn’t accomplished success, I am saying that it takes far less effort to put away a little bit for a long time during an unprecendented bull run and come out a millionaire.

    Getting rich isn’t difficult or hard. It is very simple. That is what his main points were. Pay attention. To everything.

  78. Jennifer @ Money Saver 101 says 30 April 2009 at 15:03

    What a wonderful interview! This guy really knows what he’s talking about, and he seems like the type of person you can just sit and talk with. He seems laid back in the interview. I like that.

    SPEND LESS THAN YOU EARN! It’s so simple, folks!

  79. Brenda says 30 April 2009 at 15:04

    I really enjoyed reading this one. I’d love to see more interviews in the future from people like John.

    Thank you for interviewing him for us! 😀

  80. Jennifer says 30 April 2009 at 15:07

    Very inspiring! I wish he was my neighbor!

    I liked everything he said, especially:
    “wealth is created by investing money, not by working longer and harder.”

    Thanks for posting this! 🙂

  81. DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad says 30 April 2009 at 18:21

    Awesome post! A blueprint for success.

  82. hina says 30 April 2009 at 18:37

    interesting post…reminded me of a quote:

    “Mr. Micawber was waiting for me within the gate, and we went up to his room (top story but one), and cried very much. He solemnly conjured me, I remember, to take warning by his fate; and to observe that if a man had twenty pounds a-year for his income, and spent nineteen pounds nineteen shillings and sixpence, he would be happy, but that if he spent twenty pounds one he would be miserable.”
    David Copperfield by Charles Dickens 1850

  83. Cynthia says 30 April 2009 at 18:40

    Isn’t it refreshing and frustrating all at the same time to hear John’s advice? Yes, the basic principle of spend less than you earn is the foundation of personal finance. And yet, so many of us have (or had) a hard time following that axiom…

  84. J Cook says 30 April 2009 at 18:44

    What a wonderful piece, uplifting and inspirational. Keep up the good work!

  85. SeekingLemonade says 30 April 2009 at 19:12

    >>The guy’s pension is HUGE advantage. A $20,000 after-tax pension payment is like having a half-million in the bank.

    It’s even better than that:

    A $20,000 after-tax pension payment is like having a half-million in the bank that you never will draw down on the principal.

  86. Kris says 30 April 2009 at 19:25
    A good retirement program and other benefits are often the “sweetener” to make up for lower take-home pay and demanding working conditions. As schools cut long-term benefits, keeping excellent teachers may get increasingly difficult. I don’t begrudge this guy a penny of his pension; he spent twenty years in rooms full of junior high kids with power tools.
  87. Chett says 30 April 2009 at 19:49



  88. Hogan says 30 April 2009 at 20:53

    Thanks so much for interviewing your neighbor, J.D! It gives me hope, seeing as I will most likely be entering the public school sector as a teacher in a couple of years! Please send your neighbor my thanks and best wishes for future great visits to NZ and AK!

  89. ldk says 30 April 2009 at 21:19

    Outstanding post and interview and interesting “comment” reading as well.

    In support of your neighbour, J.D., I would suggest that my husband and I, as 38 year old ‘millionaires next door’ with nary a pension in sight, would give the exact same advice.

    Offense gets the glory but Defense wins championships.


  90. Jimbo says 30 April 2009 at 21:22

    There is little point to saving a bunch of money if you have no one to share it with as seems to be the case with John.

  91. Hugh says 30 April 2009 at 22:07

    Overall, I really liked John and the article. I am doing fine financially and when I read an article such as this I feel I can do a better job spending less. But at the same time why do I want an early retirement if it means my boys can’t have a better childhood (and hopefully lives/jobs) then mine if I can afford it? My childhood was not bad, but my parent worked blue collar jobs that were not high paying and with long hours, so I basically raised myself. They were also super savers. Saving money was the most important thing in their lives.
    I am in my mid 30’s with a paid off house and no debt (I was Dave Ramsey before I even knew who he was). I don’t think it is bad to spend money on summer camps and swim/tennis lessons for my kids if I can afford it. Even though we live in a nice pretty big house, we want to save and buy a smaller but most likely much more expensive house for better schools. As for the garden, you have to factor in the time to do that kind of stuff. Again I rather spend time with my kids than a garden.
    I really did enjoy the interview and agree with most of the advice John gave. I just wanted to chime in and say pinching every penny possible sounds great, but there has to be a balance.

  92. TODD says 30 April 2009 at 22:33

    Nice Work!!!

    Keep up the good posts and topics as I try to read this site of yours daily. It gives me hope things could turn around if more people could understand, “Simple is Good!”

    If I would have understood this when I finished college 15yrs ago, I would be a lot better off both mentally and finacially, rather in the recovery mode that I am in now.

    Thanks again for the interview/articles from both you and the other readers!

  93. Kevin says 01 May 2009 at 05:05

    @Kris (#86):

    “A good retirement program and other benefits are often the “sweetener” to make up for lower take-home pay and demanding working conditions.”

    With all due respect, isn’t 2 months of vacation every summer enough of a sweetener?

    I get 2 WEEKS, not 2 months. And no pension at all.

  94. Eric Friese says 01 May 2009 at 06:33

    Fantastic post JD, I really enjoyed this.

  95. Eugene Krabs says 01 May 2009 at 07:11

    Great story, and good work!

  96. Troy says 01 May 2009 at 07:30


    Sorry. No disrespect, but here is the truth regarding the “lower take home pay” myth.

    Average teacher works 7 hrs per day 36 weeks per year. Off during summer, holidays, and spring break. 4 months total.

    That totals 1260 per year. Average of a typical 40hr per week 50 weeks per year (with 2 weeks vacation) normal job is 2000 hrs per year.

    Teachers work 63% of a normal full time profession.

    Average teacher salary in Oregon according to the NEA in 2003-2004 was $49,169. Add to that full benefits, an amazing union FULL pension which allows this extremely rare group the priveledge to NOT be required to contribute to social security (at least in Missouri they don’t) and the facts become clear.

    This $49K salary for 63% time is equivalent to $67,361 per year for any other comparable degreed profession. In 2004. It is undoubtedly higher now.

    That is higher than a typical engineer, accountant, police officer, fireman and way above the median income in virtually any county or state in the US.

    This “teachers don’t get paid well” myth is just that. They work hard, deserve every penny they earn, and are highly respected as they should be, but they are VERY well paid.

  97. Michael says 01 May 2009 at 08:04

    I really enjoyed this post. Thanks, JD.

  98. Beth says 01 May 2009 at 08:10

    Can John adpot me? Or marry me?

  99. partgypsy says 01 May 2009 at 08:16

    Troy, for example North Carolina salaries for teachers are right around the middle of the pack- half are paid more, half are paid LESS, for 2006-2007 average pay for teachers with at least 3 years of experience: $30,930. Those are paid more often work in areas with high property taxes, effectively making them overpriced to actually live where they work.

    I know teachers are not well paid because my mother was one. She worked in Illinois. At the time she retired if she received a teachers retirement (which was equivelant to 30K for 20 years of part time work) she could NOT also receive social security, even though she paid into it from non-teaching jobs and was eligible due to her spouses income.
    You are obviously not a teacher or know one, because you would know that they have to do alot of education to even for the job which they have to pay for out of pocket, and continue their trainings and certifications (and the training keeps changing!). There is also alot of preparatory work, grading, and other beurecratic paperwork that are uncompensated hours. You can also throw in that as most schools are underfunded many teachers pay for school supplies out of their own pocket in order to provide for their students.
    Not everyone can cut it as a teacher, and for those that do and serve their community in this way, they should be thanked.

  100. Kris says 01 May 2009 at 08:18

    No offense taken, but I feel your basic premise is flawed. When you say a teacher works 7 hours a day, that is the time that the students are there and she is responsible for active instruction. It’s like saying that you are going to do 7 hours of public speaking, but we won’t count any of your preparation time as “work”. A teacher arrives earlier and leaves later, so let’s give a conservative estimate of 1 hour on each side. During this time she must plan lessons, set up activities, grade papers, do hall duty, help students who are struggling or who missed class, call parents, and meet with colleagues. Our school calendar for teachers runs from the last week of August to mid-June (10 weeks off, not 16).
    Sure, we all know of teachers who just pop in a video and shortchange the students, but those are the exception, not the rule.
    As Jd, said, I taught high school for 8 years. There’s no way I could go back, now that I’m older and used to working only 40 hours/week. My average teaching work week was 55 hours (about 8 of those on the weekend). With a chemistry degree, I could have earned 50% more right out of college if I had chosen the private sector.
    If teaching really was the goldmine you suggest, we wouldn’t have a teacher-retention problem. In truth, even with the summer vacation and the solid benefits, teaching’s demands are far more than its monetary rewards. Most teachers I know are in it because they believe in kids and educational service, not for the money.

  101. SG says 01 May 2009 at 08:24

    @Troy: Echoing Kris here. My educator friends would beg to differ with the old summers/holidays off argument. Their jobs don’t stop during the hours when the kids aren’t in school — they have to do professional development courses and continuing education classes, come in during the summer and holidays for planning meetings and sessions, and go to conferences. Before and after the school day they sit through (often boring) faculty meetings, and take work home to grade on nights and weekends…they don’t just get to clock off and leave work behind them when the bell rings, like many a cube farm worker.

    As for comparatively good pay rates, how many teachers pay for classroom supplies out of their own pockets in these penny-pinching days? Almost no reimbursement there, unless the district or school is swimming in cash.

  102. Teacher J says 01 May 2009 at 08:37

    I’d like to meet a teacher that only works “7 hours per day 36 weeks per year.”

    Are you kidding?

    This kind of attitude boils my pot!

  103. LO says 01 May 2009 at 09:47

    What a great article! But there is one thing I would like to know. Does he pay for health insurance? I know that can go from $500 to $1000 a month for people that age. Is he able to afford health insurance or does he goes without it?

  104. SRM says 01 May 2009 at 10:02

    Hey JD,

    I was wondering if you had any more insight on the kind of meal planning or grocery shopping that Jon and his family did. I live in VT, and while we have plenty of farmstands and farmers markets, and their quality is superb, I can’t say that the price is any lower than the grocery store. If you don’t have room for a garden, what are some of John’s tips for saving?

  105. SRM says 01 May 2009 at 10:03

    Oh, and Troy – I’m looking forward to a summer of waiting tables, since I teach. With a masters degree. And yes, I spend less than I make.

    36 hours… I’m still laughing over that one!

  106. Karen says 01 May 2009 at 10:42

    I’m sorry, but I’m not impressed with this guy’s life philosophy at all. What a grim life, what a grumpy guy…ugh!

    It’s quite clear that anyone can be financially responsible and retire comfortably. No, it doesn’t help much to be be a life-long self-righteous grumpus who rejects all small treats like a social lunch or a cup of coffee, and who feels free to scold strangers about tiny things like leaving their lights on!

    To achieve financial freedom, the number one rule is figure out what you need to do to be employed at a steady job with good salary and benefits, and then do it. Number two: spend less than you earn.

    Saving trivial amounts of money by going to ridiculous extremes and by denying yourself *your entire life* the pleasure of even one lunch with friends or a cup of coffee and a donut? You’ll only gain self-righteousness but not much cash.

  107. a teacher too says 01 May 2009 at 10:48

    As a teacher in a large urban school district on the East coast, I find it ludicrous that anyone would assume that this man became rich because of his “cushy” job as a public school teacher. I’ve never heard of any teacher retiring rich based solely on their pension. My salary is less than half that of all of my friends who chose to work in the private sector, I pay into my health care and social security, and my mandatory pension contribution is automatically removed from my check each week. I enjoy children and I enjoy teaching, but between the below-average salary and dealing with the needs of 90+ teenagers every day, there is nothing about the job that feels “cushy” to anyone I know.

  108. BB says 01 May 2009 at 10:52

    I’m reading the comment posted by people, and at this point I’m actually amused by all the teacher/pension/who has what advantage back and forth chatter. Life isnt’ fair. It’s a fact – everyone does not have the same chance at wealth in life. Those people who want to use the excuse – oh but he has a pension, or inheritence, or whatever, and therefore will do better than me are MISSING the BIG PICTURE.
    It doesn’t matter how much you have (whether it’s money, brains, talent, charisma, health) it’s making the most of what you have – and being happy with what that amount is. JD, this was an excellent article, and John is an excellent example of that philosophy.
    It is challanging to people to seperate wants and needs, and to be willing to recognize WHY you want something. We would much rather sit back and make excuses for why our lives aren’t as good as someone else’s and that it’s completely out of our control. The challange is to take control – to own your decisions.

  109. Tara Owens says 01 May 2009 at 10:54

    I don’t know why so many readers are getting hung up on his “guaranteed” pension. I think we can all agree that the auto industry workers thought they had a guaranteed pension, as well…is anything ever really “guartanteed”? This pension is surely only one part of his investment portfolio. The most important issue here is to make permanent habits toward living frugally, and making long term diversified investments… which this man has obviously done!

  110. getagrip says 01 May 2009 at 11:14

    Just a point about folks talking about pensions and how that’s guaranteed income that you won’t have. When this guy started working there were no IRAs, Roth IRAs, 401Ks, or 529s or tuition plans for college.

    There were pensions and savings/investments.

    In essense, he thought about, learned about, and then used what was reasonably available to him.

    You can bitch about not having a pension, or think about and reasonably use what’s available to you.

    What I find funny is that when I started working out of college federal and state pensions were mocked in private industry as being pitiful, and often used as the “poor” comparison to the private company’s offering. Yet now people think they’re some kind of holy grail for retirement and whine about how unfair they are.

    Given that you get about 50-70% of your salary for dedicating yourself for 30-40 years respectively to a career, that you can’t collect social security with most of these pensions (which can replace 15-20% of salary when retiring), that you did pay some percentage of money out of your salary into most of these, that you’re chums in private industry were and are typically making 10-30% more than you, that once you retire they typically index the cost of living increases so they lose against annual inflation and slowly draw down your real buying power, I don’t think it’s as “great” a deal as people think it is.

    Its always easy to point to the “advantages” those who have succeeded have as why they seem to have succeeded. But as others have said, in the end the same basic lessons keep coming through, and there are those that succeed in every generation using those lessons.

  111. tamarind says 01 May 2009 at 11:33

    @96 Troy

    You’re partially right and those are important “perks” to being a teacher. But it seems you’re underestimating the grading and planning that teachers do “off the school day clock”, the mandatory professional development hours during time off, the parents’ nights and other frequent school events, assorted meetings, emailing and phone conversations with parents after the school day etc.

    I know very few teachers who really get anywhere near the vacation time you are talking about. I would estimate it to be more like 75%-80% of the hours of other jobs. Plus, if you took out the non-productive down time I see in most other professions of web-surfing, coffee breaks, etc. that just aren’t available to teachers, you’d have a worse “time quotient.”

    But, that said, I accept your basic position that the idea of teaching being a low-paid profession isn’t a foregone conclusion.

  112. Catherine says 01 May 2009 at 11:39

    Hi JD,
    I have been reading your blog a while and this story reminds me of my grade school shop teacher at George School in St. Johns.
    If this person is that person. I would love to tell him that I still have the bookcase I made in that class (hard maple) and I still use the skills of innovation and making do I learned with him. I live in Alaska now, I would love it if you would pass my email on to him. BTW I remember learning to code basic on cassette drives from this man too. Thank you.

  113. Troy says 01 May 2009 at 12:08

    From MO DESE (Dept of Secondary Education)

    “Local boards must adopt school calendars which provide at least 174 days and 1,044 hours of instruction for all pupils in grades 1-12; and, at least 174 days and 522 hours for all pupils in kindergarten”

    I understand most teachers put in extra time for career development, continuing education, preparation, etc. But so do most other degreed professions, including both mine and my wifes. Lots of professions bring work home with them and have meetings. It’s part of most professioinal jobs.

    And my point was solely about the compensation, not the work or effort or commitment.

    Teachers enjoy one of the best pensions in the world. Teachers in Missouri can retire as early as 25 years in, while most retire with 30 years (avg age 52-55) with 80-100% pre-retirement salary. Guaranteed for life. There is simply nothing that comes close.

    They have their own separate retirement system outside of social security, and it is unbeliveable. And Teachers enjoy a fantastic schedule, typically with breaks for summer, holidays, and spring. This may not be your schedule, but it is common here.

    Just so I am using facts and not opinions or emotions, I checked the upcoming 08-09 calandar for our childrens school district. 179 teacher working days, which includes 2 full day workshops and 3 half day parent teacher conference days.

    There are 11 weeks off between the end of school in Mid-May 09, and the beginning of School in Late August 09. There are also 19 days off (xmas, new years, thanksgiving, labor day, etc) throughout the school year, which equates to 3.8 weeks. So approximately 15 weeks off. I was close in my prevoius post. 52 weeks minus 15 = 37 working weeks per year. Close again.

    The current average MO teacher salary is $38,971, ranking us 43rd out of 50 states. The US average is 46,597. All accourding to BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  114. Des says 01 May 2009 at 13:09

    I have to back Troy up here, career development is part of any professional’s schedule. It is not unique to teachers.

  115. Mike says 01 May 2009 at 13:44

    Thank you, John and JD, for this awesome post. So much good advice, wisdom, and experience to learn from.

    Having a sweet guaranteed pension certainly doesn’t hurt John’s situation. However, it would be easy for John, or anyone, to piss that away keeping up with the Jones’ if he wasn’t responsible with his money.

    Kudos to you John, and enjoy the fruits of your efforts!

  116. Troy says 01 May 2009 at 15:00

    Here is another example.

    After retirement, most teachers get health benefits along with their pension and at working rates.

    My relatives retired as lifetime teachers from a neighboring state with full pensions after 30 years of service last year. They recieve over 90% of their previous best three years salary. They are 53 yrs old. They each get over 50K from their pensions annually. Six figure guaranteed for life retirment income with full health insurance.

    Upon moving to our State, they resumed teaching under our states Teacher retirement plan, which is completely separate and does not affect their current pension. It wasn’t difficult for them to find a job, with their experience and since education is usually one of the largest employers of virtually every town large or small in the US. It is the one consistent employer everywhere.

    So, they both work together in the same school district and with their experience each earn 50K+ with their new contract. New pension system, no social security.

    $200K+ household income. 2 pensions. 53 years old. 15-16 weeks off per year, most of it in the summer where they can enjoy their lakehome. Doing what they love. Both K-12 Art Teachers.

    Underpaid? Not necessarily.

  117. JB says 01 May 2009 at 19:09

    Taking three years away from the classroom to sell books, my learning curve was steep. I made almost triple my classroom salary; PLUS several great bonuses, PLUS being sent to every type of extended learning that I requested (with my lunch/dinner and hotel room paid for), PLUS a computer , auto and a gas card, PLUS my 401 was well contributed to. I could have easily retired in half the time on what I was making. How did I miss this opportunity before? And the RESPECT! Wow! No one throws a pencil across the room,missing the mean kid, and hits me? No parent cusses me out for their child not earning a good grade? Amazing!
    No matter what the money was, I missed the students (but not the parents). I returned to a classroom, untenured.
    Sure, I may make $40,000 a year- in my 24th year of teaching- when I “only” teach 182 days. Sure, this summer I get to pay for my own training in DC to history come alive so only the best will be repeated. After all, it is my “time off”. Sure, my son makes more than I do, one year out of college. Sure, I could retire at 30 years, IF I had stayed in the same town and never left the district. Sure, I am privileged to sit and listen to an overpaid trainer tell me how to make sure “your child” is not bullied when “you” are at work and they are home alone on Monday.Sure, my old postition calls and offers me $300. a day to simply BE that over paid trainer.
    The forty year dream of shaping the future keeps me going back to the classroom.
    Ah, Troy, there are some things in life you should not step in. Here is hoping you never have this debate with your children’s teacher, especially when you child has been exceptionally obnoxious.
    Look around, dear Troy, the reason your relatives have a job is because the 28-45 year olds have abandoned the “boon dongle” of the “great paying” classroom. The 46-60 year olds are staying because they are finally making enough to live off of.
    You think you could cut it? Come on out! Try subbing for a day! Make sure you have a strong bladder. No leaving the room once the students arrive!

  118. JB says 01 May 2009 at 19:17

    BTW- enjoyed the article. Here is hoping John takes pleasure in his frugal lifestyle for many years to come.

  119. Naomi says 01 May 2009 at 19:49

    For monitoring your electricity there is a device called a clipsal cent-a-meter, it is installed on your electricity meter and sends a wireless signal to a LCD monitor and shows you in real time how much electricity you are using per dollar or per kilowatt for your entire house. It was invented in Australia so I’m unsure whether it is compatible with North American electricity systems, maybe something to look into?

    But you can do things like set up an alarm to go off if your electricity goes over a certain amount. It pretty much saves you 20% on your bills straight away.

  120. DJS says 02 May 2009 at 06:05

    I’m glad John mentioned better use of electricity as a money-saving tip. I work for an electric utility and I’m astounded at how few people we serve actually consider their daily power use. Those who don’t can’t understand why their monthly bill is so high.

    Electricity in most parts of country is truly inexpensive and a great bargain–but not if we waste it. And the cost of a kilowatt-hour could soar in the future, depending on what Congress does to address climate change.

    Check out and your local electricity provider’s Web site for energy-saving advice. In my opinion, exploring ways to reduce utility costs is as important as any other financial advice you might seek.

  121. Funny about Money says 02 May 2009 at 07:21

    Hmmm…. “Spend less than you earn,” eh? It’s no wonder the government and industry don’t want us to know about this. If everyone pulled that stunt, we’d all retire by our early 50s and commerce would grind to a standstill. 😉

    Best interview-type post I’ve read on the net, anywhere. Thanks, J.D.!

  122. Greg says 03 May 2009 at 07:39

    Great interview!! You mentioned he has grown children. It would be interesting to sit down and talk to one of them and hear their story as well. Just out of curiosity to see if it runs in the family or not. Just my personal observation, but it seems that people who are smart with money from an early age tend to come from parents who taught them how to manage money. I know mine sure didn’t, and I made tons of mistakes in my 20s and early 30s that I’m struggling to make up for now.

  123. Cathy says 03 May 2009 at 11:16

    This is now my new favorite article at GRS, Trent. Thank you so much for sharing, and thank John for us too!

  124. Cathy says 03 May 2009 at 11:18

    Doh! I meant JD. I realized my mistake the second I hit the Submit button and tried to hit stop, but it was too late. And there’s no edit button! Sorry! *blush*

  125. Angelo Bertolli says 03 May 2009 at 13:03

    Sounds to me like his big advice should be “make 20% interest on your investments every year” instead of “spend less than you earn.” He was really lucky. Of course you should invest, but no one should expect 20% returns consistently.

  126. gfe-gluten free easily says 03 May 2009 at 13:20

    I’ve been waiting for this interview and enjoyed it, J.D. Thanks. It really doesn’t have to be rocket science.

    Regarding the debate on the cushiness of a teaching job, as a former teacher, I have to say that the “walk a mile in my shoes” expression definitely applies. Although I’ve worked long hours in jobs since, nothing has ever been as demanding as teaching. As other teachers have shared those summers off are largely a myth. Yes, you are not at school, but there’s training/recertification, prep for next year, and just a general need for decompression when you can get it, due to the exhausting school year. The teachers who can make it to the retirement stage are fewer and fewer. And, while salaries can be compared to other positions, there are other factors than the hourly wage reality check that others mentioned. When I taught school, the insurance premiums I paid for our family were higher than any other job I’ve had. So, there’s much more than meets the eye. But, as the teacher who went back said, I still miss the kids to this day and feel a bit guilty about leaving. I’ve considered going back several times, but all my friends who remain as teachers say, NO, don’t do it! The demands have increased dramatically over the years. Most wonder if they’ll be able to make it through each year.

    Last, as I saw a friend retire from a govt job this past week after 31 years, I thought to myself, “See if you had stayed with teaching or the same job all these years, you could be doing the same.” BUT, I was not willing to make the concessions needed to do that. And, I don’t regret my decisions. My years have been better spent and more enjoyable than if I’d stayed in one position that whole time. I daresay I’d be a worn out person if I had with no energy to enjoy my retirement much.


  127. fern says 05 May 2009 at 08:42

    Nice post, but i have to disagree on a few items.

    Most importantly, I would never advocate putting your money in a non-FDIC-insured account, even by way of illustration.

    Two, i also make my own granola, but to keep it from tasting like sawdust, you need to add something sweet. I like dried fruit, like dried apricots and dried apples, but dried fruits are very expensive and i’ve often wondered if i’m really saving much. Although i do it as much becus mine tastes better than store-bought.

    Finally, just an observation: a lot of people around your friend’s age benefitted greatly from the 14-year-long bull market of 1983 to 1997. They just had good timing and didn’t have to work as hard to save their money as Generation Y people will in this economy.

  128. Nobody says 05 May 2009 at 09:07

    “Steady plodding brings prosperity; hasty speculation brings poverty.”
    Proverbs 21:5/The Living Bible

  129. Linear Girl says 05 May 2009 at 09:56

    BB @ 108 – I just wanted to second your comments. This discussion reminds me of a line I remember from Richard Bach’s Illusions, “argue for your limitations and sure enough they’re yours.” (Quote may not be quite right; I havent read it for 25 years or so.)

    John’s philosophy is great and while my life will never be identical to his, I can apply his theories to the extent appropriate to my circumstances. Again, JD, thanks to you and John for a terrific post.

  130. mattyfu says 17 May 2009 at 16:46

    Great post. Timeless advice, I’d LOVE to see a good look at the cost savings of modern appliances, for instance if I knew that buying or *cough*financing*cough* a new fridge (vs my 80’s clunker) would be reasonably offset by the powerbill savings I would feel a lot less miserable about the up front cost or financing fees. As a 25 year old homeowner I can honestly say that it’s a lot easier to save for a vacation than it is to save for a fridge 🙂

  131. Angela says 19 September 2009 at 14:27

    Hi JD – I really enjoyed this post. It’s a great reminder of what I can be doing better financially. I’m a new reader, and I’ll definitely be back. Looking forward to checking out your archives! Thanks!

  132. Pesky Observations says 24 October 2009 at 21:09

    To everyone talking about a pension – you too can have a low paying job with a nice government pension. That’s always been available. (Check out usajobs website.) If you don’t have one, that’s your own fault. You should have thought ahead and positioned yourself for a job like that. Too bad, so sad now.

    I have to say, John’s advice is right on. I’m always amazed when people start talking about not wanting to live the way John lives just to save money. Or they want to talk about “balance”. Everyone has their own balance when it comes to money. The point is, the more you spend, the less you have to invest and to take care of future expenses. Period. If you don’t want to make the sacrifices necessary to become financially independent in your 50’s (or earlier) then ok. Maybe you can become the next $500ker next door. But posting something about “balance” on a post like this when talking about smart $$$ moves (as opposed to smart moves concerning other things in life) is moronic.

    Furthermore, I appreciate it when people are frank with their friends (as John was) about needing to save money. This is not called being a jerk. This is called being a good influence on your friends. Keeping up with the Jones’ was, is and always will be one of the main drivers behind irresponsible spending. If you think you are immune to what the Jones’ have, you are kidding yourself. Don’t even post that. To some degree or another we all struggle with it, some more successfully than others.

    Actually, I wish that everyone would actively encourage their friends to cut spending, avoid flashy or expensive gifts – especially “just because” gifts, and exert peer pressure focused on helping the person do the right thing financially. I respect people like that and so does anyone with common sense.

    This was a great post – very enjoyable and encouraging. Thank you JD for posting this.

  133. Millionaire Next Door says 02 November 2009 at 14:29

    What a fantastic story. This would be a great submission for Dr. Thomas J Stanley’s “Millionaire Next Door” stories he publishes in his blog!

  134. lakshmipathy says 12 December 2009 at 03:07

    I am thankful to you JD for sharing your interview with john . I enjoyed this line
    “Wealth is created by investing money, not by working longer and harder”

  135. Kasule Kenneth says 01 January 2010 at 01:57

    Dear JD,

    I have been reading your blog for the last six months. I am amazed at how people manage to steer them selves to finacial freedom. I am residing in Uganda one of the African countries and this article has been of greet use to me at the beginning of 2010. I am sure if I stick to this philosophy of John I will be a victor.

  136. Rebecca Saxton says 01 January 2010 at 12:57

    WOW! Thank you, thank you, thank you, for publishing such a fantastic interview. My husband and I are digging our way to financial freedom and our main principle: Spend less than you make.

    Thank you again for such a terrific, heart felt interview. And please, thank John for his time and sharing.

    For those stuck on what a teacher makes or doesnt make, you’ve totally lost the sentiment of this interview. We all have choices in life. If you dont like the one you made to become a teacher, make a different choice.

  137. dunkelblau says 02 January 2010 at 19:43

    Excellent story. The importance of saving during flush years is critical.
    Here’s the other side of that coin–

    “I went from making $180,000 to relying on food stamps,” she said. “Without that government program, I wouldn’t be able to feed my children.”

  138. Chris says 05 January 2010 at 23:49

    I am going to be a Wall Street banker and rob people like John here, good luck with your investments… I know I am going to enjoy them 😉

  139. nyxmoxie says 27 June 2010 at 15:35

    For the most part I enjoyed reading this article, he sounds like a smart guy, however I don’t think its wrong to go out and splurge once awhile especially if you have savings and no debt.

    It seems that his splurges are different from most people. He bought a sailboat, he likes to go to Alaska and NZ, etc. That’s what is fun to him. I respect that about him. I like his advice, a lot of people seem to criticize him because he came from a wealthy family, he has a pension, his house is paid off.

    Even if you didn’t have all that then its possible to get ahead, I really believe that. The thing is that most people choose to live in very expensive places where housing, transportation, food, daily living is expensive.

    People don’t have to live in expensive cities like NYC or San Francisco, I live in Omaha, and you can find an affordable house here for like 90k-150k.

    If you choose to live in a more affordable area then you can save more, salaries in Omaha for professionals are the same as the rest of the country, but since life here is more affordable people can have more freedom to save, invest, and have more comforts.

    Omaha isn’t very exciting but that’s why people stay here because its affordable. When it comes to vacations, people do go elsewhere most definitely but then they come back from their vacations and are able to save and lead comfortable lives.

    Life is all about choices, your neighbor made his choices, life doesn’t have to be some never ending rat race, it sounds to me like your neighbor is more free than anyone else. Good for him. =)

    p.s. warren buffet lives in Omaha, lol, I find that hilarious he can live anywhere he wants but he lives in omaha, i don’t agree with all of WB’s decisions, but its clear that just because one is wealthy they don’t have to throw away their money and I like that.

  140. chris says 06 January 2011 at 09:26

    Nice article. I thought at first maybe you were interviewing my dad who is the exact same age and also a retired shop teacher.

    However, my dad did not have parents that ran a hardwear store nor does he have a boat. He does volunteer (a whole bunch) and travel (on a smaller scale mostly to see some of his grandkids aka my kids).

    Troy a few people got some sweetheart deals, but the bulk of retiring teacher just get whatever the formula for their state dictates and maybe a year of salary and/or year of health care. In the district I work in retires just get the privilege to pay COBRA (which if crazy expensive IMO). Nearly everyone that retires from my employeer takes a year off and then gets another job until they are old enough to get Medicare and Social Security. A few with spouses that still work full time do truly retire from paid work completely, but they are the minority.

  141. A King's Life says 13 February 2012 at 05:17

    It’s been interesting reading the impassioned comments ranging from “great, simple advice” to assuming he has not led a “fun” life because he doesn’t go out for coffee.

    The responses give a clue on the perception people have about spending money and also a little peak into their own view of money.

    Certainly, money is there to be enjoyed…we work hard for it and we get to choose how to spend it. Some choose to enjoy it later by saving it. Some choose to enjoy it now by spending it now. Ultimately, it’s a choice.

    So, LATER, when you are complaining that you don’t have enough money…remember that you enjoyed it a while back.

    And for those that chose to save it for later, enjoy the freedom that it has allowed you to have.

    Everything is a choice. There are pros and cons to everything, so you make the choice.

  142. Craig says 24 February 2018 at 04:53

    Still an incredibly indpiring read. Glad you shared it again. I hope John’s still going strong

  143. Debbie says 30 March 2018 at 17:20

    Great read. So glad you shared it again. Would love to have him as a neighbor.

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