Back on January 30, 2015, 300 posts ago, I launched this blog with an unassuming post titled “hiya,” because I was all about lowercase in those early days. It was light on details, and featured a pic from one of our favorite places. At the time, the only idea I had for the blog was to document our journey to early retirement, which we’d set at a target date of December 31, 2017, several years sooner than our original goal of late 2020. But one thing I promised in that very first post was that we’d drop the “whole anonymous charade” just as soon as we could without jeopardizing our early retirement plans.
And today, I finally get to make good on that promise!
I’m 100 percent sure that when I started this little project, I was not imagining that we’d have friends around the world as a result of it, or that there’d actually be people excited about learning our identities. I thought it would just make the writing less awkward to be able to avoid euphemisms and pseudonyms. But thanks to YOU reading, and to everyone who’s emailed, commented or messaged us on social, this actually feels like a big moment. And an ever-so-slightly scary moment, because before, you could imagine whatever you wanted behind those emoji masks. Now, though, it’s just us, flaws and all.
But I still can’t wait to share everything, so here’s just a quick rundown on what you should know before we pull off those masks:
- We’ve been at this aggressive savings game for about six years, but didn’t start from zero, and have done the bulk of the saving in the last four years,
- We use a bunch of financial strategies in combination, but the not-rocket-science core of it is living well below our means, not inflating our lifestyles even when pay goes up, and buying way under what we could technically “afford” on the big items like housing and cars, all boosted in a big way by above average salaries, and
- We know how lucky we are to be able to do this at all. Truly. It still doesn’t feel real, and we’re so grateful.
What You Guessed
A few weeks ago, we had a contest to guess some of our basic details, and the biggest question was what western U.S. state we live in. The guesses clustered around one state in particular:
Colorado was the clear favorite by a healthy margin!
For occupation, another surprise: despite dropping hints that we are not in tech or IT, a bunch of you still think we are. (Are we dirty tricksters? Maybe. Or maybe it’s just those professions being so over-represented among financial independence bloggers.) And for those who’ve picked up on all the mentions of consulting, the consensus is clear: you believe we are management consultants, most likely working for Big Four firms.
I’ll share more of your guesses — including some goooood comedy — next week when we also reveal the contest winners.
But were your guesses correct? Keep reading to find out!
Introducing the Humans Behind the Emoji Masks!
Imaginary drumroll please! It’s time to take off those masks.
I’ll go first. Hiya! I’m Tanja, pronounced like “Tonya” but with a higher level of difficulty. (Yep, my name is like a quadruple axel.) And here I am at golden hour in our neighborhood, in a puffy vest, because vests are the best:
And say hello to Mark, my wholesome-looking but not-actually-wholesome partner in crime:
From now on those emoji-less photos will look more like this, with us smirking at ourselves, because we think we’re hilarious.
Or maybe more like this, like the time we fought the incredibly tiny Godzilla statue in Tokyo. Because we’re hilarious.
The emoji masks have suited us well precisely because they’re so goofy. And I threw in the Godzilla pic to say that that goofiness isn’t going anywhere. That’s who we are.
Introducing Our (Ta)Home!
Colorado was by far the most popular state guess, but of the folks who didn’t guess Colorado, a high percentage of you guessed correctly… sort of! The most popular locality guess was Lake Tahoe, Nevada. (I’ll guess that that’s because Nevada has no income tax, so folks who guess Tahoe would assume we’d choose based on taxes.)
We live across the state line, though, in North Lake Tahoe, California. (Stay tuned for a post next week on why we think California is a great state to retire in.)
Don’t think of California when you think mountains? I’ll help you out! Here’s a shot of my favorite mountains on the planet, California’s Sierra Nevada, from the air:
And here’s that photo again from our very first post, of the California 14er Mt. Russell, with Mt. Whitney (which you may recall from 4th grade geography as the tallest mountain in the lower 48) just off frame to the left. That sexy white granite is a hallmark of the Sierra. (<– Pro tip: “Sierra” is already plural. No need to say “Sierras.”)
But let’s talk about this incredible place we get to call home, the northern Sierra region around Lake Tahoe, the second deepest lake in the U.S. and the largest alpine lake in North America.
Actually, no. Let’s just look at it, because it speaks for itself.
And yes, there is room for goofiness even at such a majestic place, like this gem from our DIY reveal photo shoot:
Busted, Mark. Busted.
Here’s a view of the lake on a much bluer day, from up high:
The mountains outside of the Tahoe basin are wonderful, too, like this view from Castle Peak at sunrise:
The mountains in the Tahoe sierra aren’t super tall like in the Eastern Sierra (that’s where the 14ers live), but they’re plenty big (10,000ish feet) for lots of adventures. And the Eastern Sierra are just a few hours away.
For most of the time we’ve lived here, we’ve called the duo resort of Squaw Valley USA (home of the 1960 Winter Olympics) and Alpine Meadows our ski home. And seriously, you can’t beat this view driving into Squaw:
And what Alpine lacks in dramatic valley entrance, it makes up for with Tahoe views, secret powder stashes and the best vibe.
Squaw is especially pleasing viewed through (or reflected on) ski goggles.
Our Soon-to-Be-Completed Careers
Ever noticed that lots of photos of DC managed to creep into our posts? There’s a good reason for that!
We’re now wrapping up careers in political and social cause consulting, me in communications and media, and Mark in public opinion research. Very DC jobs that we’ve loved doing for all these years, and have been fortunate to get to do from afar. We’ll miss so much about them, but we’re thrilled for the next chapter to begin.
(And DC folks — keep reading! We’ve got something especially for you.)
What happens when you love dogs but are mildly allergic to them, and also happen to be a selective cheapskate? You get the tiniest, least fluffy dogs you can find! (Less dander! Less food to buy! Fewer times to board them!)
Meet our tiny hurricanes of spazzy ridiculousness, Pico and Oly.
Their names reveal that the big city we most recently lived in was Los Angeles (Pico and Olympic are big artery streets that we always lived fairly close to).
Pico is the friendlier of the two, a likely miniature pinscher or min pin/chihuahua mix, but also the much dumber one. Here’s one of many times he got stuck in that toy.
And Oly has appointed himself my protector. Don’t let that tiny 3 pound body fool you — he’s one heck of a guard dog.
And while we’re on the subject of dogs, here’s the time I met Desiree’s dog Jacob (you know her from Half Banked), sans emoji:
More About Us
We’ll share lots more about us in the months to come, but here are a few extra fun facts, courtesy of Twitter friends who asked good questions.
How has it been telling real life friends and family about our plans?
We’ve told our closest friends our plans for years, so there hasn’t been any big reveal with them. But many have said some version this year of “Oh, you’re really doing that, huh?” We choose not to take that in a bad way, because we know it’s a surprise when people achieve huge life goals, even if they’ve been talking about them for years. As for the more extended friend circles? We’ll keep you posted! We haven’t done a Facebook blast or anything else, so we expect the news to leak out slowly.
What will we do differently with the blog now?
There are a gajillion posts I’ve wanted to write but haven’t been able to because they were so specific, like why we think the usual advice to avoid so-called high tax states like ours misses the point for early retirees in particular, and how teaching yoga — my side hustle for many years — is a scam that has many similarities to multilevel marketing. (Stay tuned for both posts!) As for what else will change? Not much! Or at least not much now that we’re open about who we are. But things could definitely change next year when we’re retired and have more time. We can’t wait to find out!
What would we have done differently with the anonymity? Are we glad to reveal our identities?
For the most part, I think I got the anonymous thing figured out, and recently learned a few more tips that would have made me even better at it. (I’ll blog about this soon, too.) And YES, so glad to finally blog as myself, and as us! The double life was stressful!
Any near misses on anonymity?
Thank goodness no!
What was the inflection point that accelerated our careers?
No good answer on this one! By staying with the same companies for a loooong time — 19+ years for Mark, 15+ for me — we’ve moved up incrementally over time, and haven’t made any big moves or jumps that, alone, made a huge difference. But because we can look back and see tremendous growth within the same companies, we’re huge believers that compound interest works in earnings as well as in savings. If you can keep getting steady raises, the difference it makes over time is huge. And of course it goes without saying that we’ve always worked hard, invested ourselves in our companies and their growth, and been willing to go above and beyond. We made ourselves as promotable as possible!
Did we have any setbacks along the way?
We’ve benefited from truly bonkers market growth during our accumulation years, and have been ahead of schedule on saving these last few. So we feel like the setback is yet to come, when the current market correction comes. But no, we can’t believe how lucky we are not just to have gotten to do this, but for it to have been mostly a waiting game, and not a case of overcoming any great obstacles. Of course, the biggest obstacle to saving a lot is often just not believing it’s possible. And given the high spending lives we were living before we got on this path (#balleryears), I’d say the biggest hurdle we overcame was making the mindset shift at the outset that we could either spend our money in the present moment for fleeting joy, or we could bank it for the future and buy back decades of our lives. We’re so glad we got to a place where we could be stoked to do the latter.
A fun fact about me that I’ve never shared here before is that I’ve always dreamed of doing radio professionally. I ran my high school radio station, DJed late night jazz programming at the local public radio station in my home town in high school, did college radio, interned at NPR and KQED, and then tried like crazy to get a job at NPR after college. That was before the Joan Kroc money, though, and they had job openings approximately never. So my dream didn’t come true then.
But now, it’s different. Podcasts are now a thing, and I don’t actually need to make a living at podcasting to make it worthwhile. And that’s why I’m so stoked to finally share that I’m starting a podcast!
The Fairer Cents
The first podcast you’ll be able to listen to if you’re interested is a big departure from this blog. My friend Kara Perez, whom you may know from Bravely (@bravelygo), and I wanted to do a podcast talking about women and money that’s a bit different than what’s already out there, focusing less on financial advice, and more on the deeper discussions we need to have collectively if we want to change the landscape.
Not gonna lie… I’m slightly obsessed with our cover art. Shout out to Nick Mendez for the photos that delivered perfectly on our vision, and for keeping us entertained! Hit him up if you’re in Portland and need photography.
The Fairer Cents launches November 8 on iTunes, Stitcher and all the podcast places, and I’ll update the link here as soon as you can subscribe! In the meantime, you can follow us on Twitter at @fairercents and read more about the show at TheFairerCents.com.
Something we’re stoked to start doing now that our identities aren’t a secret is host meetups on our travels (and locally in Tahoe, of course). I’ve added a sidebar category to keep the schedule front and center, and we’re currently working on three (DC, Denver, NYC), with many more to come once we lock down our retirement travel schedules.
Didn’t get enough with the reveal here? You’re in luck! You can find us in lots of other places today! Find us on:
Plus one of my favorite posts ever is up on Bravely today.
Because what kind of communications strategist would I be if I couldn’t pull off a mini PR blitz on our reveal day?! Big thanks to Angela Moore and Elizabeth O’Brien for so generously playing along!
Over to You!
Lay it all on us! Any surprises? Anything you called correctly and wanna take credit? Any Qs we can answer for you? Anything else? The floor is yours! Let’s chat in the comments! And as always, thank you for reading and for your support. It means so much to us!
This is our only post this week. Back at ya next week (with info on the contest winners!) after FinCon!