My name is Matt and welcome to my blog on pursuing financial independence!

Together with my fiancée, I’m distilling down money strategies that have helped us go from living paycheck to paycheck, to now saving over 40% of our after-tax income.

It wasn’t always easy for us. I remember looking at my net worth near the end of 2013 and seeing I had a negative savings rate. My fiancée was in a similar position, actually much worse due to a nasty fraud event. That was our rock bottom and we’ve been slowly been crawling our way out since.

For more on our story, check out our recap here as told on The Huffington Post. For more on my individual journey with personal finance, check out my first post ever on Distilled Dollar.

About Us – What We Do for a Living

I’m a licensed CPA and my fiancée is an operations manager. I used to work in public accounting at a Big Four accounting firm. I now work in industry and get to enjoy my nights and weekends again. 🙂

We live in Chicago, which is an expensive place to live, but we find ways to be frugal. We love to travel but we tend to enjoy staycations. That leaves us more time with our two cats anyway!

Our Cats

My other hobbies include reading a book a week and training for triathlons. Funny enough, thanks to audiobooks, my two hobbies then to overlap quite a bit.

About Us – Distilled Dollar

I officially launched Distilled Dollar in March of 2016 as a way to connect with like minded individuals and as a way to enhance our own journey.

Another reason I launched the site was because of my fiancée’s suggestion. We had talked through so many difficult money issues early in our relationship that she encouraged me to share some of the same ideas online. She also understood it this site is a healthier outlet for my personal finance obsession. She no longer has to hear me talking her ear off about HSA’s and Charlie Munger quotes.

Naturally, this site serves as a public place where you’ll witness our own mistakes and blunders.

Together, we can upgrade our financial lifestyles as we internalize what the Romans wrote so many years ago: “From the errors of others, a wise man corrects his own.”

If you haven’t already done so, check out why I became interested in personal finance and why I created this blog!

If you’re interested in book reviews or ways to learn more about financial independence, then check out my top 5 book recommendations.

Lastly, as part of the many books, essays, and speeches I’ve learned from over the years, I’ve also collected memorable quotes that have helped me on my path to financial independence. Check out the quotes here!

If you haven’t already done so, introduce yourself in the comments below or in the comment section of my own introduction. If you would like to see any topic in particular, or if you have a specific book you want me to read, comment below or contact me directly.

– Matt

17 comments… add one
  • ThirtySomething Mar 10, 2016, 3:36 pm

    Can you fix the link in the above about your journey? I’m a fellow CPA who got out of big 4 after a decade. Looking to plan for the future and excited to hear your thoughts.

  • Distilled Dollar Mar 10, 2016, 7:21 pm

    The link has been fixed. Thanks for letting me know.

    Let me know if you’re looking for any topics in particular for me to write about.

    • ThirtySomething Mar 11, 2016, 8:33 am

      Always curious about the intersection of relationships and money – And how couples agree on a financial plan. Look forward to reading your blog.

  • Preston @TheDrunkMillionaire Apr 4, 2016, 11:41 am

    Great blog Matt! Looks like you are fellow Illinoisian (unfortunately). After reading your journey, it sounds like we have similar stories. I look forward to following your blog!

    • Distilled Dollar Apr 5, 2016, 7:25 am

      Thanks Preston!

      I actually subscribed to your blog a few days ago and have seen some articles before that. Obviously, I’m a huge fan of your theme!

  • Happy Frugaler Apr 5, 2016, 5:02 pm

    Looking forward to reading what you write.

    A fellow accountant, in Canada, who worked at KPMG for ~ 10 years and now industry for 5 years.

    We also blog about our journey to financial independence and the thinking along the way and look forward to the learning.

  • Fortune Cookie Millennial Apr 22, 2016, 8:43 am


    Saw your comment on 1500Days and decided to pay a visit. I’m pleasantly surprised that we are both based in Chicago and around the same age! Looking forward to your new posts!


    • Distilled Dollar Apr 22, 2016, 6:32 pm

      Nice! I noticed your blog is just getting started, so I’m also looking forward to seeing another Chicago perspective!

  • Martin - Get FIRE'd asap Apr 22, 2016, 7:07 pm

    Hey there Matt, nice to meet you. Looking forward to your posts. I also started my own blog in March along similar lines. Although I’m further down the FIRE track, I got the motivation to share my thoughts and ideas on how I got here but more importantly, help others do the same. I hope you’ll check me out getfiredasap.com. Cheers M

    • Distilled Dollar Apr 22, 2016, 7:56 pm

      Hey Martin, thanks for the comment! I checked out the site and it looks great. I’m looking forward to seeing more posts as well.

  • KH Apr 23, 2016, 10:29 pm

    Hi, I just found your site today.
    You mention that “financial independence” in your 30’s is your aim.
    Can you please explain, or point me to a link where you may have already explained, what you mean by “financial independence”?
    I think there are a lot of ways to interpret that phrase. To me, it always meant “never having to work and not worrying about money ever again”.

    I think I can say that if you ever have kids, then you’d better add at LEAST 10 years to your “financial independence” age you’re aiming for if you don’t have kids.

    The little I’ve read from your site so far, I can see that we generally follow the same thoughts about how to save money. I can say from experience that keeping expenses low is one of the best ways to ensure that you will have enough to be “financially independent”, however you define that term.

    I once thought I could possibly be able to cut out of work by age 50, but the cost of “not working”, i.e. health insurance, makes that dream much more difficult to achieve.
    Also, you’ve definitely got to go through phases as you save up for “financial independence”. For the longest time, I concentrated on “saving”, which basically meant growth/capital appreciation. But only in the past five years or so did I realize that, yes, I do still want growth/capital appreciation, but probably about ten years before you call it quits, you should at least start getting some of your portfolio to generate income.
    I only wish I had moved some assets into dividend growers starting about 10 years ago, so I’d at least have enough monthly income to cover most fixed expenses each month. I haven’t given up on growth stocks yet, it’s just that I am working on increasing the average cash coming in so it moves closer to fixed expenses.

    BTW, my wife have WAY too much sitting in bank accounts (several years of income), so there’s still a long way to go to increase not only the cash income in the form of dividends, but also growth issues that can really bolster the net worth.

    • Distilled Dollar Apr 24, 2016, 10:46 am

      I would define “Financial Independence,” as having enough income from assets to cover our expenses. Once we reach that point, would it make sense to us to say that we’re FI.

      I have a similar post on phases of financial independence here, but you’ll see I don’t detail investments, so I’ll try to recap that here.

      Our investment strategy is essentially to put ~95%+ of our portfolio into the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index. The remaining aspect of that portfolio is the cash found in our emergency fund. Given a long timeline and a large tolerance to risk, we’re comfortable with a strong % equity position.

      Do you mind detailing where you get the 10 year number for kids? I ask as it would help me understand where you’re coming from when you say 10 years.

      From what I’ve seen in the personal finance environment, the cost of children is largely in housing, childcare, and education. Some of these costs can be alleviated given an early retirement scenario. 529’s can be funded from day 1 and we would benefit from compound interest to offset the cost of college, childcare is self-explanatory if we both don’t need to go to a 9-5, etc.

      If we calculated our baseline costs of food, housing, medical, etc. in our current lifestyle, then our FI date could possibly be as close as 32. Our date is set for 35 which includes a slightly higher levels of living than we’re experiencing now. Another factor is that our savings rate is increasing as our income is rising, so our lifestyle inflation is possibly as low as 10-20% compared to what our income appreciation is. Given we’re saving at a rate near 50% today, I would expect us to be saving at least 70% by 32, with a large portion of our ‘expenses’ going into mortgage payments.

      As for the last portion of your comment, regarding diversifying your asset allocation away from non-income generating equities and more towards dividend stocks or bonds, I would have to tackle those questions in a much longer comment response!

      In short, I agree that cash flows become just as important as where net worth is. I have a few strategies between taxable accounts and real estate, but I haven’t detailed these yet as I’ve been focusing on maxing our pre-tax accounts first.

      If you have any more specific questions, feel free to email me or I can just check back later to see if you left another comment!

      Thanks for taking the time to leave your comment, KH!

  • Dr.J @ MedSchool Financial May 7, 2016, 10:10 am

    Hey Matt, I lived in Chicago for a brief stint and think the summers there are great. Look forward to learning more as the journey and story evolves.

    Best regards,

    • Distilled Dollar May 10, 2016, 6:00 am

      Too bad the Chicago summer only lasts about two weeks!

      Thanks for swinging by and I look forward to seeing more comments from you as well.

  • A4L @ acctng4life.com Jun 15, 2016, 10:18 pm

    Hey Matt, I’ve been following you a bit on Twitter, but I didn’t come check out your “About” section until now. It sounds like you’re just a few years ahead of me! I’m just a year and a half into my accounting career. It’s crazy how you can learn so much about money/finance in school, but have none of it help you when it comes to personal finance. Like you, I’m just starting out trying to read as much as possible and soak it all up. I’m looking forward to diving into more of your posts!

    • Distilled Dollar Jun 19, 2016, 10:38 am

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a few comments!

      For me, it was especially interesting to learn such in depth financial theories but none of it was applied to personal finance. Looking back at it, that wasn’t the universities job, so I’m glad they left that area as a blank slate to which I was able to fill in on my own.

      As for reading more books, definitely check out my “Book Reviews,” page, in particular the free pdf or audio link for The Way to Wealth by Benjamin Franklin. By far, my favorite piece on personal finance and its only ~20 minutes.

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