People are Basically Creative – Featuring Michelle from Savvy History

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Today is another interview in my series, “People are Basically…”  If you want to be considered for a feature in this series reach out to me, here.

I’m excited to introduce Michelle to you. She runs the website Savvy History and her tagline is financial independence for the creative class. That is certainly fitting for Michelle!

Currently, I’m working on completing an interview on creativity for Michelle’s website. It has me thinking about the ways in which I am.

For the purposes of this article Financial Independence has been shortened to FI.

Anyway, without further ado, here is Michelle…

People are Basically Creative

My name is Michelle from the band and blog Savvy History.  I am a 32-year old living in the Midwest with my husband Adam and our 9-month-old boy.  I am a middle school teacher and my husband is a programming engineer in the music department at a local college.  We both make about the same at our day jobs (being in education, you can imagine it isn’t much).

We’ve always had side-hustles, however; from remodeling houses to teaching guitar lessons.  We’ve cut back on our side hustles since having our little one, but we still make music taking true stories from the past and presenting them as songs. At one point in our lives, we were both full-time musicians.  When we decided to start a family, we wanted to work locally in a way that didn’t involve touring.

Did you go to college?

Yes. I obtained an associate’s degree in education at 20.  Then I took time away from school to be a musician.  I went back to finish my bachelor’s in special education at 26.  I recently finished my master’s with an emphasis on gifted psychology.  Furthermore, I specialize in bibliotherapy, high systemizing populations (twice-exceptional students), and The Theory of Positive Disintegration.

My husband graduated from high school early in order to tour nationally when his band was discovered and signed to a label.  Eventually, he wasn’t interested in being a career musician anymore.  He still wanted music to be a part of his life and was able to land his current position working at a liberal arts college.  This college has a dominant music department, some entertaining touring acts, and one free class for him per semester. Sound engineering and programming are skills he developed over time.  They were looking for someone with a degree, but he got the position with relevant experience.  He’s also remodeled a lot of houses with no specific training, but he learns as he goes and asks a lot of questions. [Deanna here, they sounds like a growth-minded, creative couple for sure!]

Do you have any debt?

We don’t have any debt.  We paid off our mortgage in October.  Moreover, we have avoided debt by making deliberate choices from a young age, living frugally, and remodeling houses.  For example, I never took out any student loans because I worked my way through college and paid as I went.  I took longer than most people and chose the most affordable schools I could.  It wasn’t glamorous or socially rewarding (I lived at home during community college and never once lived in a dorm), but it worked for me as far as utility goes.

As for housing, our first home was a foreclosure with a lot of cat smells.  We weren’t afraid to figure out the remodeling process.  Luckily, we had a lot of supportive friends we could turn to.  We also Youtubed a lot of things!

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve faced in life?

No matter how I look at this question, I realize the biggest obstacle I’ve faced has been my mind.  When I was younger, I probably would have had a different answer (like a death in the family, anorexia, or lack of support with schooling), but time has taught me I’ve had a pretty blessed life as a healthy person in a country with a lot of resources to meet my basic needs.

There are times when life still throws an overwhelming amount at me, but I’m constantly challenging my perceptions, trying to understand what I can control and what I can’t, learning from others, and surrounding myself with healthy and interesting people.  I’ve learned to make a friend with my mind and accept my quirks.  That doesn’t sound like an obstacle, but for me, it took a long time. [Deanna here again, yep overcoming the battlefield of the mind has been a big one for me too!]

Do you know what your purpose is?

Ever since I was young and aware, I’ve been driven by larger questions like this.  I’ve recently learned my purpose is constantly changing and will continue to change depending on the task at hand and if I can give my best self to it.  When I reduce it down, I really want to die feeling like I’ve helped more than I’ve harmed.  I’m working on what this looks like on a normal day.  I don’t know what it means all the time (to help and not harm) and I’ll certainly never know if I’ve pulled it off!  That’s for the beings I encounter to decide.

What is your investment/retirement strategy?

Our strategy is complex and simple at the same time.  For one, my husband and I are on the same page about remaining debt free and saving as much money as possible while staying happy and flexible.  We have similar values and we are friends with some fun frugal people (dog walking is an event for us along with potlucks).  If we can’t make an item (or for services, find a way to do it ourselves), we consider buying it used.  We rarely buy anything new outside the realm of need.

He saves enough for retirement to get his match at work, I have a non-negotiable amount taken out in order to have a pension at 55, and we both have VTSAX Roth IRAs on the side with Vanguard.  After our little boy starts school, we will probably purchase some rental properties, but we’re not sure.  A lot of this depends on if we have a second child.  We are thinking through that carefully at the moment!

At this point, we honestly plan to work at our careers until 55 unless they become unenjoyable for some reason.  We find this to be a very realistic and responsible goal.  Furthermore, we always hope to be working on something and we don’t see ourselves officially quitting work.  We have a lot of business ideas “saved up” for retirement (and we consider 55 to still be early, even if it means we’re not “true-blue” FI)!

What else would you like to share?

Thanks for bringing mental health to the forefront of the FI movement Deanna.  You’ve inspired several people!

How do you give back?

My husband especially has a passion for beings in this world that have no voice (like animals).  We’ve adopted pets, fostered pets, found homes for pets, provided group dog walks for numerous isolated dogs, and Adam has even worked for Austin Pets Alive as an adoption counselor when we were in Austin, TX.  We can’t stand the idea of homeless pets.

As for me, I find teaching to be a profession that provides countless opportunities to formally and informally provide for children and contribute to the community.  I was really impacted by a few of my teachers growing up, and I try to hold them in my mind and hope I can have the same impact on someone someday.

Additionally, I always strive to be the kind of person that can greet everyone with a smile and ask how they are doing (just in case it’s a day where no one else has done that for them).  I know there are times when people can be really low or really down on themselves, and just encountering kindness at the right moment can be underrated.

Closing Thoughts

I’m so impressed at the choices this young couple has made even from early on. I just love how they bought a foreclosed house and figured things out! That is certainly indicative of a growth mindset. Furthermore, I’m inspired by their desire to give back whether it be through teaching, adopting pets and making music.

I’m humbled and honored that this amazing woman says I’ve inspired several people.

Alright, what questions do you have for Michelle?

9 thoughts on “People are Basically Creative – Featuring Michelle from Savvy History”

  1. nice interview. i like the way they’re figuring it out as they go. we’re dog people in my house and i strongly agree that a kind word when you’re out and about in the world can go a long ways sometimes. i see an old lady who barely speaks english pretty regularly on the dog walk. you don’t really need language to see her light up like a christmas tree when we stop to say hello.

    1. Thank you, Freddy. I appreciate the thoughtful comment.

      I agree it doesn’t take much to be kind to others. We all can speak the language of kindness. 🙂

    2. Hello Freddy,

      Thank you for the kind thoughts! I completely agree about the power of a friendly random person. I smile a lot on my dog walks too. I like your short story about the lady you encounter. Smiling is a universal language!

    1. Thanks Financial Pilgrimage! We’re doing a deck project this summer. We’ll go into our housing history around that time. I need to have Adam start posting since he tackles that realm! Slowly but surely, we’ll get there:)

  2. Deanna this is such an insightful series! I’m noticing a trend of folks getting through college without taking on debt. Obviously it’s not easy as your guest mentioned but it is possible. I’m not sure if that is intentional or not but I find it fascinating.
    Thank you!!

    1. Interesting connection Tim. I worked at a Goodwill, a Walmart, a 3M factory, and I sold sweetcorn. Then I realized I could actually make more money playing music and teaching guitar lessons. The decision to be self-employed really helped me work around my class schedules, work more overall, and accelerate my total experience.

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