As 2018 comes to a close, I wanted to reflect on the first year of Financial Toolbelt. It has been amazing to build tools, write some (hopefully) helpful content, and begin to make a dent in the universe.
About 3 years ago, I became interested in personal finance. I had amassed a bit of credit card debt and was slowly working my way out of it. I wasn't getting rid of the debt as fast as I wanted and looked online for resources to help me. This is when I stumbled across the financial independence community. I had known FIRE by concept, but never really had a specific word for it. Finding a community focused on helping each other grow and build wealth was an eye opener.
After reading most of the major blogs and forums (Mr. Money Moustache, /r/financialindepence, Rockstar Finance, etc.) I started to take my finances more seriously. I buckled down and paid off my credit card debt and was able to pay it all off! The feeling of the last payment was indescribable.
While this was all happening, I began working as a software developer. Over time I realized I wanted to start building tools for the community which had improved my life so much. This was where the initial idea for Financial Toolbelt came along. It wasn't particularly novel of an idea, but I thought I could put my own spin on calculators, tools, and content for this community. I wanted to leverage my skills as a developer to provide valuable tools others could use.
In late 2017, I joined WIP. It's a community of makers from around the world working to build their own projects and products. I had been a part of the community for a bit before deciding to work on Financial Toolbelt. The community was one of the biggest sources of inspiration and feedback in the early iterations. As I was building the WIP community was instrumental in keeping me on track, fighting feature creep, and giving valuable feedback. If you are a maker, consider joining WIP.
My first to-do on WIP
The first calculator I built is still the most popular, the Financial Independence Early Retirement Calculator. Before launching I felt like I needed to have a couple of other calculators. I built the side hustle and the credit card debt calculator before showing my site to anyone publicly.
First version of retirement calculator
To launch my product I submitted FT to Product Hunt. I was really nervous to do so, but the launch went great. I think I received somewhere around 350 upvotes on launch day and it now has 542 total upvotes. I got some great feedback from launching and it helped me overcome my fear of launching something "unfinished". My big takeaway from the launch is just ship your product. There is always something to be improved on. If you wait for perfect, you'll never launch.
After the launch, I continued to write more content and added another 4 calculators throughout the year.
In September 2018 I attended the infamous Fincon. Fincon is a conference full of financial bloggers, influencers, and companies. I met some incredibly inspiring people and learned a lot about how to try and build this site. I think the best part about the conference was meeting people, making some friends, and learning from those who have already done it. There aren't many places where you can grab dinner with someone and talk about travel hacking, best lazy portfolio allocations, and affiliate marketing all in one meal.
While most people were bloggers, but there was a good amount of people there to hang out and make friends. It was really refreshing to see people just passionate about FIRE and wanting to connect. That is what makes this community so cool. You can come from all walks of life and still forge your own path to FIRE.
In 2019, my main goal for FT is to ramp up content production. I am trying my best to write a post a day and build more calculators. I would love any suggestions for new tools that should exist and don't already. I want to provide as useful of information as possible in a digestible format.
Another goal is to launch some sort of goals / tracking software. I have a prototype of this built. Think Mint/Personal Capital, but solely based on FIRE. I'm not sure if there is demand for this, so I will be testing with readers and smaller groups. If you are interested let me know!