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Pursuing Freedom Interview #11 – TJ Pridonoff


I have another awesome story to share with you this week! Today’s Pursuing Freedom Interview is TJ Pridonoff! TJ is about to make a major lifestyle shift and take off to explore the United States.  His plan sounds exciting and I’m excited to follow his journey! Check out his story below to find out how he is able to do it!

TJ – Take it away!

Give us your 30 second elevator pitch. What is your story?

I have a story that I’ve definitely never read about on the internet before. My hope is that by sharing my story – of course, that I don’t sound like a super spoiled brat – but I also hope that others with similarly privileged origin stories might feel comfortable to share their own ‘good fortune’ stories, because it’s not as if good fortune is some sort of guarantee that someone is going to make good money choices throughout their own adult lives, and really, people should be proud of their money accomplishments regardless of where they came from, rather than go through the beginning of adulthood full of money shame just because many of your friends had to incur student debt and you didn’t.

The short version is that I’m a third generation member of a military officer family who had started a small business in the manufacturing sector after military retirement. I’ve been with the company off and on for the last seven years (plus a few Winter Breaks and Summers in college!). It’s never been intended to be a forever career. We all agreed that it has been starting to feel like it was time for me to move on, and so in March 2017, I’m going to leave my job, turn off that primary income stream, and embark on a road trip throughout the lower 48 of America. A lot of people will go to Asia or South America, but I guess you could say that I have a chip on my shoulder to prove that we can in fact explore our own country fairly inexpensively.

Since I literally have all the time I want (that is, until the road trip allocated money runs out), I am actually going to strategically place some extended stays to break up the exhaustion feeling of constantly being on the road.  Also to wait for the warm weather to catch up with me. March is still pretty cold in a lot of places I want to go! If the money lasts longer than anticipated, I could keep traveling, but if I fall in love with a city along the way, I could set roots somewhere new, which is exciting to think about.  

I’ve actually already booked my first ever AirBNB experience. I found an 1880’s Adobe house in Albuquerque, New Mexico and I’ll be paying $521 for 28 nights, and since that second B in AirBNB stands for breakfast, I’m pretty sure I just scored a private bedroom for 28 nights and a breakfast for 28 mornings for less than $19/day. Free wifi, kitchen privileges, the place even has a pool and spa. Which sounds a lot better than my current $975 expense for ½ of a Southern California two bedroom apartment when you add in the utilities.

Take us back to when it all started.  When did you have your money epiphany?

Do you remember all those “Get Paid To Read E-mails” companies back in the early 2000’s where you’d get paid for clicking links to websites? I was totally the 16 year Sophomore in high school clicking all those links in the morning before driving off to High School. I’ve been financially aware for as long as I can remember. I still made some boneheaded decisions along the way. Like those get paid to read e-mails. Never saw a penny because I never had much of a downline, which is where all the money was made. I vowed never to attempt to make money on the internet again. That stubbornness lasted for almost 14 years. Actually, I’m still pretty stubborn about monetization. I have some affiliate links on my blog, but I haven’t generated any revenue on my blog. I started reading personal financial blogs at age 24 in 2009 and I taught myself how to invest around the same time.

People normally only share the good things in their lives. What is the biggest money struggle you have had to overcome (or are still working on)?

I’d generally say my biggest struggle is obsessing over saving money too much. I’ve been so focused on FIRE these past couple years that I really let a lot of my life fly by me. I’d turn people down for social opportunities because I didn’t want to spend the money. At what point do we have enough to stop mindlessly chasing more of it and be okay with spending some of it? I’m about 7-8 years away from being financially independent in the traditional sense if I were to continue forging ahead with a healthy savings rate, but I’m only 31 years old, i have at least two more productive decades left to earn that “7-8 years of income” on my own terms. I’m currently single with no major life obligations. If you’re not content with how you’re spending 40 hours (or more) per week of your life, and you have a solid investment portfolio built up for the future, why not give a less traveled path an honest try ?  

What is your proudest financial moment?

In financial terms, I would say that I was the proudest when I hit six figures across my retirement accounts. Being involved with a family business without a safe harbor 401(k) plan, I have had some major limitations on what I can contribute that most people would not ever have to worry about, so it was a major accomplishment.  It has been seven years since i first contributed to a retirement account and I actually didn’t hit six figures in tax advantaged space until this year.

We don’t want to be always looking in the past. Currently, what is your main financial focus this year and how do you plan to achieve it?

Right now I’m saving up cash for my extended road trip, which is a separate savings accounts from my long term investment portfolio or retirement accounts. I’ll reach my goal in part thanks to my recent decision to start cooking rather than eat out every meal (for health reasons, but it’s conveniently financially beneficial as well), as well as not investing any new money into equities. That includes my year-end dividends. It is an extremely weird feeling to me because for years I have just thrown whatever I possibly can into equities, and I’ve been rewarded for that, but now I’m willingly parking a growing sum of cash in a 1% savings account.

Financial freedom means something a little different to everyone.  What is your definition of financial freedom?

My definition of financial freedom is when you feel in control of your TIME. If you’re reading a FIRE blog, you most likely are resourceful enough to find a new way to replenish your lost money, but you can never ever replenish lost time.

There is more to life than just money. In your freetime, what can you be found doing?

Right now, most of my free time has been spent developing my blog. But my hobbies generally include hiking, kayaking, canoeing, playing team sports, playing guitar, going to classical concerts, jazz clubs, trying ethnic foods, superhero TV and movies (but not the terrible recent DC Comics films), watching NHL and other sports. I’m easily entertained and I’m always looking for new friends! If any reader has an available couch or some floor space (..or even just a free hour to spend at a bar or coffee shop), I’d love to meet you while I’m on the road!

Time is our most precious non-renewable resource.  What actions are you taking to make sure you are living the life you want to live (your remarkable life)?

I’m hoping that by quitting the job and downsizing my possessions to what will fit in a Honda Civic Coupe, that I’ll be able to lose a lot of the distractions and really discover what i’m truly passionate about. But hey, if that doesn’t happen, it will still be a good conversation starter.

Imagine that someone just starting on their financial journey reaches out to you.  What books or resources would you recommend to them?

My favorite personal financial book is without a doubt How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free: Retirement Wisdom That You Won’t Get from Your Financial Advisor. It has absolutely nothing to do with investment strategies, but everything to do with how to live a mindful life in retirement – at any age.

When I was starting out investing, one of my favorite books was Bill Schultheis’s Coffeehouse Investor. It’s very accessible and generally lacking of technobabble jargon, and would be happy to suggest that book to beginners.

If there was one thing you could ask the people reading this to do, what would it be?

Think critically about what you really want out of life. Don’t just follow the crowd because it’s easier.

Where can people get in contact with you? (ex. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc)

At this time, I only have the blog and Twitter.

Twitter is  @ TJPridonoff. I’m super active at conversing on Twitter, though not super active at continually tweeting my blog posts. I’m so close to 2,000 followers, so you should totally follow me so that you can boost my ego.


Thanks TJ! If you are interested in participating in Pursuing Freedom Interviews, let me know through my contact page!

This post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure.

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  1. Mr. Groovy Mr. Groovy

    Awesome! Great hearing from T.J. Thank you for sharing this interview, Thias. So much wisdom in the interview I don’t know where to begin. Love the book suggestions. Love the “don’t follow the crowd because it’s easier” advice. And of love this pearl of wisdom: “[Y]ou most likely are resourceful enough to find a new way to replenish your lost money, but you can never ever replenish lost time.” Hey, T.J., if your travels ever bring you to North Carolina, give me a shout. Mrs. G and I would love to have coffee or a beer with you. Thanks again to both of you. This interview was a perfect way to start my weekend. Cheers.

    • Thanks, Mr. Groovy! NC is definitely on the list to travel to and it would be fun to catch up with you and Mrs. Groovy. Justin at Root of Good keeps tweeting the dirt cheap condo prices and I’ve certainly paid attention. As a permanent residence, the east coast would be tough being on the opposite side of the country from my family, but it would certainly be doable as both me and my family can afford cross country visits, but it would certainly be a big adjustment from living a 20 minute drive away from your parents.
      TJ recently posted…It Pays Dividends – Pursuing FreedomMy Profile

  2. Cool to know more of your background story TJ. Sounds like a good deal in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It made me think of Breaking Bad right away lol. I like that you’re starting with so much better of a plan and purpose than I did with my year off. Mine was almost unexpected so I’m looking forward to reading about your road trip. I definitely agree with your thoughts on FF and being in control of your own time. Lets meet for a beer if your road trip ever leads you near Toronto lol Keep it up man and thanks for featuring him Thias.
    Graham @ Reverse The Crush recently posted…YTD Dividend Income UpdateMy Profile

    • …and this is where my obliviousness to modern pop culture shines through. 😀 I’ve never seen Breaking Bad!

      The tough part about logistically planning the road trip is that there are so many places that would be ideal to visit during the spring and summer months due to weather and climate. I’d like to spend some time in Ontario and Quebec, as I feel like I’ve already seen the highlights of Alberta and BC (except Vancouver Island), but I don’t know if I will be able to fit it all in. The current exchange rate certainly supports the idea of spending some time in Canada though.
      TJ recently posted…Experiences vs Things is a False Dichotomy (…and the Evolution of My Relationship With the Internet….)My Profile

  3. I really enjoyed this interview. Although I have never spoken a lot with TJ, I quite often see his avi show up on my twitter timeline. It was interesting getting to learn some of his background especially since it isn’t the usual type of story. I hope he gets to visit a lot of great places on his journey. Thanks for sharing!
    More Dividends recently posted…Simply Investing Report Review and InterviewMy Profile

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