Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Who do you choose as your teachers?

Being a teacher is a funny thing at times. Our job is to basically impart the knowledge that’s in our heads to those of the kids’, while showing them how to discover things on their own and also, while we’re at it, to impart a lifelong love of learning.

All in 48-minute chunks of time. Too easy.

I’m currently teaching my year 9 English students how to do comparative writing. It’s a fairly demanding task, where they select 2 short stories that deal with a certain theme,(Relationships, Personal Growth or Change), and they write an essay on how each story examines the theme through 3 of these lenses: setting, characterisation, meaning or the authors’ choices in the language they used.

The kids need to compare the two stories in each paragraph – there’s no easy-peasy look at one story in the first paragraph, then the second story in the second paragraph and then one final paragraph comparing the two. Oh no! Each of the three paragraphs has the two stories in them, comparing a lens through which the theme is explored.

It’s a leap for 15-year-olds to do this and some of them are panicking. Their exam is in a week.

Explaining how to do something new is a bit like sifting flour. You have to work at it a bit until all the flour is through the holes. During the first explanation of how to write this task, a certain percentage of the kids ‘got ‘it. They may be kids who are already ahead of the game in my subject. Often, they’re the kids who process information in a similar way that I do, so my way of explaining meshes with how they already think and so it makes sense.

The next time I ran through how to do this task, I tried to do it a bit differently. I used words and phrases that I hadn’t used the first time, and this, plus the repetition of the concepts, meant that more kids understood how to write it.

This left the stragglers. The kids who either choose not to listen because they don’t want to do it, the chronic procrastinators or the kids who are genuinely wanting to do well but they simply can’t seem to grasp how to put this essay together.

With these kids in mind, I typed up 5 of the best comparative essays year 9 kids have written and I let my current classes read them. Some kids need a concrete example of what to do before they feel confident in giving something a go for themselves.

Sometimes you learn best by observing how other people do it. Sometimes, the best way to learn is by doing, as I wrote about in this post about my students learning to dance. Learning about how to handle money is exactly the same.

Am I the only one, or did everyone’s feed reader explode with new blogs when you first found the FI blogging niche? For around eight years I was into knitting, gardening, humorous and quilting blogs, but within a couple of months, it was all MONEY! THE 4% RULE! F.U. MONEY! RETIRE EARLY!

I was reading everything I could lay my hands on. I was like a human sponge, soaking up every post into my brain that I could. At first, it was all new and exciting, particularly for someone as afraid of numbers as I am.

But then, after a few months, the bones of the material began to be a bit repetitive. After all, there’s only so many times you can read, “Lower your expenses, spend less than you earn and invest the surplus wisely” before you realise that you’ve heard this message before.

However, that’s not really the whole story, is it? If the simplicity of the message is all that people need, we could probably read “The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement” and never need to read another thing. It was written in 2012, for heaven’s sake! Why are there so many bloggers out there that have sprung up in the years between then and now?

It’s obvious, isn’t it? It’s not just a simple matter of laying out the information and expecting people to instantly understand and immediately begin to apply the concepts. If that was true then there’d be about 7 blog posts about FI/RE and they’d exist in perpetuity.

It’s the storyteller that makes the difference. It’s that magical moment when someone reads a post that resonates with them and the concept becomes clear. It’s even more powerful when the post prods someone into action.

The thing is – this connection happens between all kinds of different people. It’s not a ‘one size fits all’.

There’s an FI blogger (who shall remain nameless) who’s huge in this niche. People love them and billions (probably) of people read them every day. Lord knows I’ve tried but I can’t get into them. Does that make their writing less valid? Of course not! It just means that the way they write doesn’t hit a chord within me. It doesn’t affect them at all and it doesn’t affect me. I just tiptoed silently away and chose to read other people who DO resonate with me.

The core actions of the FI movement are so simple. There’s really nothing to them. Quite frankly, they’re boring. It’s when people weave them through the accounts of their lives and explain and teach what they’ve done that it all becomes interesting.

Some people like everything laid out in front of them – total transparency with income, outgoings, investment decisions and debt. Slide a post with a spreadsheet and multiple graphs in front of them and they’ll gurgle with joy.

Others are more caught up with lists. A blog post with a title like “The 4 essential points for getting out of debt” and they’ll click onto it faster than a politician’s promise on election day. Some people love to tick things off a mental checklist.

Other people are more tied to the narrative. Humans are hard-wired to like stories and some people prefer to see the FI concepts in action, with bloggers sharing their personal stories of how they used (or abused) the concepts in their own lives. Read a blog like this for long enough and you’ll start to feel a relationship with the writer. You follow along with the stories they share about their lives and maybe feel, “If s/he can do it, so can I!”

The point is – there’s such a smorgasbörd of options for people to partake from. There’s a wealth of information all stemming from the 3 key steps:

1. Cut your expenses.

2. Spend less than you earn.

3. Invest the surplus wisely.

Exactly like my poor little year 9’s grappling with their comparison essays, we all arrive on this learning path to FI with key skills to grasp. The skills to master in our financial lives are different with everyone, but the key to success is to find the material that is packaged in a way that speaks to you and then run with it.

If I had to name 3 FI blogs that, when I see them pop up in my feed reader I click on them instantly, they’d be The Escape Artist; jlcollinsnh and Lifelong Shuffle. They speak numbers and investing and all that dry stuff in ways that I enjoy reading – it’s like taking medicine with a lolly chaser to take the bad taste away.

Just wondering. I’ve named 3 blogs. What would yours be?




  1. PrincipalFI

    There is so much I love about this post. The dead-on description of effective teaching and differentiation for students. The exact same cycle I went through with FIRE blogs, AND the fact that there is a massive one that doesn’t resonate with me. I feel almost guilty starting up a new one, except that I don’t need to make money from it and maybe it will make a difference for SOMEONE who hasn’t quite clicked yet.

    To your blog question: My three new ones (I would have named Jl Collins too):
    For the math and analysis aspect you mentioned:
    I enjoy the millionaire series because of the variety of perspectives:
    The heavy emphasis on giving:

    • Frogdancer Jones

      You’ve picked some great blogs. 🙂 I love your reason for starting a blog – pretty much the same reasonong that I had.

  2. Aussie HIFIRE

    Apart from the obvious candidates of yourself and myself, my 3 favourite Aussie bloggers would be Aussie Firebug, Smart Money Australia and the FI Explorer. Overseas I like The Frugalwoods, Get Rich Slowly and Financial Samurai.

    • Frogdancer Jones

      I haven’t caught up with your 2nd and 3rd Aussie bloggers. I’ll get onto it tomorrow! ________________________________

  3. tuppennysfireplace

    Gosh, I have read sooo many FI/FIRE blogs over the years. I read MMM back when he’d be posting less than a year and Get Rich Slowly when it was first owned by J D Roth. If I had to pick 3 now (but I’d like more please!) it would be MsZiYou, The Escape Artist and Frugalwoods.
    Thanks for introducing me to Lifelong Shuffle – not found that one before. Off to read more now.

    • Frogdancer Jones

      There’s a few Australian bloggers who are producing great content. Pat the Shuffler is one of them. ?? ________________________________

      • Jaybeenz

        Ha! I had that meme as my screensaver for a while, the students loved it! Also have one that shows a still from hidden figures with lots of equations on it, and the caption teachers trying to change the seating plan without making things worse. They also love that one!
        Guess we’re laughing with each other????

        • Frogdancer Jones

          Better than sobbing in each others’ arms!!

  4. Kristen

    Yep, choosing teachers is an evolving process. After getting the basics down from the white/male/software developer/wife-still-works/lives-in-Colorado set, I was ready to expand, particularly to female authors with some life experience. I still read 1500 Days for the dinosaurs and updates on all their adventures, but I’ve happily added the Frugalwoods and Frogdancer Jones (thanks to 1500 Days for the 10 questions post) for the storytelling and examples on how to do specific types of projects for less cost. There are a few others mixed in as well, but the instructions said 3 🙂

    • Frogdancer Jones

      Feel free to expand on the list! I’m not sure if my current renovations class as doing it ‘for less cost’, but I’m sure that it’s quality work and I’ll never have to do it again. (Fingers crossed!!)

  5. Chris

    There are heaps to choose from, but one I like not mentioned above is Millennial Revolution. MMM and JL Collins are the other two must reads.

    Not FI related, but close… I read Greater Fool daily (Canadian focused, but still interesting) and Raptitude whenever he posts. His second ever post (How To Keep Life Fresh For Free) has been life-changing for me since I read it.

    The Aussie ones are starting to get good thanks to your good self, HIFIRE, Strong Money, Aussie Firebug and Pat the Shuffler. No shortage of good content in the posts and the comments!

    • Frogdancer Jones

      So many good bloggers and writers… so little time. We’re really lucky to live in a world where the internet is so available. ?? ________________________________

  6. chasingfiredownunder

    Ha! I just got a new suggestion from your list – The Escape Artist isn’t one I have heard of before!
    I also read Lifelong Shuffle, also Strong Money Australia and Aussie Firebug. I enjoy the maths aspects of blogs as well as the personal journeys! I do find that there is never a blog which “fits perfectly” with my goals and philosophy (hence recently starting my own) but by reading a variety I get exposure to several aspects from each that resonate with me.
    JL Collins is one that I am working my way through because it certainly is a good resource. It’s slow going though because I am the kind of blog reader that likes to read all the comments and get to see different people’s takes on the blog content — and JL Collins has a LOT of readers!
    And now, your blog! I am really enjoying it and am definitely becoming a subscriber 🙂

  7. chasingfiredownunder

    Ooh I forgot to include Aussie HIFIRE!

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