Becoming an Iron Man and How Strong Relationships Create Wealth

This is a story on how I became an Iron Man in 2016 and how strong relationships create wealth.

In short, some time ago I quit a project the same day I started it, but then was inspired to try again by my fiancée. She helped me cross the finish line.

By working as a team, we are better off. That’s how relationships should work; we support, encourage, and inspire each other. In turn, as we each grow, the relationship grows and the overall pie gets bigger.

As you read the article, think of a project you or your significant other might be working on . Ask yourself if you have been supporting each other.

The time invested in supporting someone else is minimal, but it was time invested nonetheless, which makes it of great value.

Lastly, before I start the story, this project of mine started out as a way to achieve a 1% increase in our savings for 2016. Before you scoff at something as little as 1%, consider the fact that this minor increase might lead to retiring several years earlier. Click the link in the last sentence to see how the numbers break down.

I encourage you to see what we saw and identify the 1% opportunities in your life. Think about how you can support each other towards becoming stronger together.

Spoiler alert: this story ends well for us and we succeed, but that’s not the story. The story is HOW we got there.

Allegory of the Iron

I was on the phone with my mom one day — something she refers to as a “rare event”.

In between some small talk here and there, she told me that their iron is a bit old so they just picked up a new one.


A light bulb went off in my head.

I ask my mom to let me have the old iron and she agreed.

I decide, at that moment, that that was another opportunity to boost my savings by 1%. I would now start ironing all of my work clothes.

As a licensed CPA working in a professional environment, I’m expected to wear a certain type of clothing. While the Midwesterner in me prefers to wear a t-shirt with sandals and listen to Jack Johnson, the CPA has to button up a nice shirt and shine his shoes.

Back to the task at hand; deciding to iron and actually ironing are two very different things.

Saying you’re going to try something new is easy. You see someone else doing it and the task might look easy. You think, “Oh, that’s easy, anyone could do that. You know what? I’m going to do that.”

But remember, at this stage, it was just an idea. I had not actually ironed a shirt yet.

Fast forward to that fateful Sunday morning. The morning I’ve since redubbed, Iron Dawn. (queue dramatic theme music)

I woke up and was happy to get started. I set up the ironing board which had just arrived days earlier from Amazon.

For some reason, the loud sound made by opening up the iron board made me think that ironing might be a loud activity. I was naive and didn’t know ironing is extremely quiet. As a safety precaution,, I put down the iron, and decided to wait until after my fiancée woke up.

I was already fiddling my thumbs and stalling in my new pursuit.

When one can not do, one writes about doing. So, in an attempt to stay productive,, I decided to write a preemptive article on how ironing is great and has led to a new 1% increase in our savings rate.

Anyone ever heard that saying about not counting your chickens before they hatch? Well.

Expecting that ironing would be easy, I dove into writing based off of how I expected I would feel later in the day, having had just accomplished a task that would make us financially stronger at the end of 2016.

Fast forward a few hours and my fiancée finally stirred awake. It was now safe to make noise, so, I got to ironing!

Turned out, I didn’t have a clue of where to start. I turned to, YouTube tutorials on how to iron a shirt. Still seemed simple. Easy. Or so I thought.

My first shirt was a massive struggle.

The very first press across the collar led to a big wrinkle near the edge. I tried to fix it, but that only made it worse.

I took a deep breathe and tried the sleeve. It was going okay, until I somehow didn’t straighten the shirt underneath and ended up with three big wrinkles across the shoulder area.

This went on and on for 45 minutes. Mistake after mistake. The end result looked like garbage.

(Looking back at it now, I’m not sure how I spent that much time ironing one shirt. It takes me about five minutes a shirt now.)

I stared back at my half wrinkled, half ironed shirt and felt confusion and frustration. What had appeared to be a simple task in theory, was turning into a disaster in practice.

My unrelenting optimism was moving fast into the “relent, ASAP,” category.

I tried two more shirts, but got the same results. The shirts weren’t even remotely close to being ready for an office environment.

I had wasted two hours on a Sunday morning and all I had to show for it was three lousy, half wrinkled shirts.

So, I did what any sophisticated adult man would do when faced with the toughest of obstacles, such as ironing…

I laid on the couch and put my head in the pillow.

Sulking on the Couch

It was over. Back to the cleaners and back to my spending ways.

How Strong Relationships Create Wealth

Now that I’ve painted a vivid picture of my defeat, here’s my favorite part of the story, and it has nothing to do with me at all.

While I was ironing, my fiancée decided to get a headstart on editing articles for the blog. She noticed that I had already written an article about ironing, so she decided to read it.

She then understood what I had set out to accomplish and — from the sounds of frustration coming from the living room — she understood that I had gotten way ahead of myself. I had hashed it all out without knowing how much of a struggle it would actually be for me.

While I was laying there, she came over to ask how it was going. She could tell I was defeated. I have a pretty obvious “defeated” face.

“I can’t do it, it is taking me too much time and the shirts don’t even look good.”

“You’re learning. You’ll figure it out, you always do.”

“This is not worth it. I’m not sure why I even started.” (I mentioned I was defeated, right?)

This next moment of the story is when two amazing things happened.

First, I realized the blog was an incredible investment that massively increased the level of communication between us as it related to our finances.

And, second, because my fiancée understood why I wanted to iron and why I wanted to increase our savings rate, she decided to invest her own time in finding a solution.

She reminded me what I had set out to accomplish in the first place. She told me to take my mind off it for a bit as she researched ironing.

After a brief intermission, she shared a few tips and tricks about ironing with me. Turns out, she’s always right, and that ironing with Starch Spray makes all the difference.

Most importantly, she understood me and was there to encourage me. She reminded me of what I was trying to accomplish and invested her own time to demonstrate that it was also important to her.

We became stronger in that moment than either of us could have been otherwise.

She made a run to CVS and picked up good ‘ol fashion Niagra Starch Spray.  I gave ironing another chance, and while I still struggled, eventually the process began to speed up and get easier.

Most importantly, it felt like we had broken the atmosphere. I first heard that analogy when a co worker was describing how a rocket will use up over 90% of its fuel to head into space. All the energy is used to break the grip gravity has on us.

Much like that rocket, the initial grip of not knowing how to do something was gone.

I had become Iron Man.

End Scene.

The End

Now of course, this allegory is just one tiny example of one tiny event in our lives. Ironing is MUCH easier than many of the actual tough obstacles we face in our lives.

But, this example of us working together to support one another helped set the tone for the rest of our year, and, now that we’re engaged, the rest of our lives.

This is one extra brick in our palace of confidence when it comes to personal finance. Feeling secure and feeling free with our budget is no small thing. With all that extra confidence this year, you can see why we think personal finance is SEXY!!

A few nasty components to this story.

As with all personal finance success stories (and yes, every 1% is a big success in the Distilled Dollar home), we can expect some folks to snicker at our efforts.

Some might say I was privileged to begin with. That not everyone is born with access to a free iron.

Some might say they don’t have the same opportunity. That ironing would never do them any good since they only wear t-shirts and polos in their casual work environment.

Some might say their partner is too busy watching TV. That they don’t have time to check in on them.

Some might say they’re too proud. That they can’t ask for help. That they’ll figure it out on their own.

We say that’s nonsense.

Pursuing financial independence at an early age is an uncommon path, riddled with naysayers. Just focus on what you’re doing and look for ways to help each other.

I went in a different direction with my storytelling on this one, so let me know what you thought of the delivery in the comments below. Also, share your 1% stories on how small events lead to big impacts down the road to your financial well-being.

Master Distiller

14 comments… add one
  • Vicki@Make Smarter Decisions Oct 14, 2016, 5:54 am

    Love the story Matt! Amazing what a little “synergy” can do. Our 1% moment is my husband moving from “needing” Starbucks coffee to now cold-brewing coffee at home and LOVING it. It’s much less expensive and much less acidic too (he struggles with reflux at times). A win-win 🙂

    • Distilled Dollar Oct 14, 2016, 7:13 am

      That’s awesome! Cold brew is on my list for the “home/lifestyle improvements” that we have planned.

  • Jay Oct 14, 2016, 7:07 am

    Great story Matt. I’m surprised your first shirt was such a struggle, but glad you have the hang of it now. And it’s great that your partner was able to support you like that. Having someone like that on your team makes all the difference – particularly in helping you bounce back from challenges. Thanks again for sharing and have a great weekend!

    • Distilled Dollar Oct 14, 2016, 7:14 am

      I’m also surprised! Looking back on it now, it reminds me of the first few times I had to put in contact lenses. It would take me half an hour to do something that takes me 15 seconds today.

      Thanks for the comment and enjoy the weekend as well Jay!

  • Abandoned Cubicle Oct 14, 2016, 9:19 am

    I know the feeling! I still hate ironing. For a number of years I had a service pick up my shirts every week. I was spending about $45 a month on that non-sense.

    Lucky today that I can get away with golf shirts during the warmer months. In the fall and winter, I’ll pull a light sweater over a dress shirt to avoid having to iron. 😀

    • Distilled Dollar Oct 14, 2016, 3:11 pm

      Hah! I’ve done that a few times when I wake up and realize, “oh no, I don’t have any ironed shirts!” The quick sweater works like a charm.

  • Financial Panther Oct 14, 2016, 10:04 am

    This is a great little story about working together with your partner. Our 1% moment has probably been Ms. FP cutting my hair. When I think about it, I was spending 20 to 25 bucks every month on haircuts that I never really liked. And wasting my time sitting around to get my hair cut. Originally started having Ms. FP cut my hair because I wanted to save time, but it’s also led up to sneaky savings without us realizing it. Think you’d go with the cut your own hair approach?

    • Distilled Dollar Oct 14, 2016, 4:06 pm

      Nice! We are one step ahead as my fiancee cuts my hair. For a short period, she stopped, but we’re back on the “she cuts my hair” train. I joke about cutting her hair, to which she wouldn’t allow, haha. Her mom actually cuts her hair so we end up needing to budget $0 for haircuts now.

  • PatientWealthBuilder Oct 14, 2016, 10:10 pm

    I have been there. I gave up ironing and my wife hates it too much and has too much else on her plate. So we gave in and take clothes to the cleaners. We actually have a hard time even making it there! It’s tough when your profession requires a certain level of clothing – but the benefits outweigh the costs for now. Interesting post

    • Distilled Dollar Oct 14, 2016, 10:27 pm

      Def take a second look and see if it makes sense. I was in a similar situation where the time it took to go to the cleaners and back ended up being about 15 minutes MORE than just doing it myself at home. I used to multi task on my way to the cleaners by making phone calls or emails related to work, but now I basically multi task by listenin to an audiobook.

      Saving time, money & learning something new. Despite all those positive factors staring me in the face, I barely built up the habit, so I hear you! Best of luck!

  • Finance Solver Oct 15, 2016, 3:19 pm

    I love the humor. “Some might say I was privileged to begin with. That not everyone is born with access to a free iron.” ha!

    I remember my first time learning how to iron.. It was in a hotel room that I was in and I ended up burning the carpet… That’s when I decided to never iron something for myself ever again.

    • Distilled Dollar Oct 16, 2016, 10:51 am

      Nooo! Haha, hopefully my story inspires you to give it a second try! 🙂

  • Your First Million Oct 16, 2016, 2:03 pm

    Working as a team makes a huge difference! Sharing expenses and having double the income is a fast track to building wealth. This is a post and it outlines exactly how my wife and I did it together.

    • Distilled Dollar Oct 16, 2016, 4:22 pm

      Thanks for the comment – it is always nice to see what our current habits will lead to in the long run! 🙂

Leave a Comment