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If the Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) movement appeals to you, than chances are high you’re chomping at the bit to reach that ultimate goal of being able to quit your job and have time to do what you really want to do – or what you feel called to do, if it isn’t your present position and isn’t feasible to accomplish while you’re holding down a job.

But you also may be wondering if your desire isn’t a pie-in-the-sky dream. Or one that you can’t realistically achieve for at least fifteen years.

As long as we’re talking about being realistic, let’s do that for a moment: if you’re a parent and have more than four children, and/or live in one of the most expensive areas in your nation, and/or someone in your immediate family has a health problem that’s constantly resulting in more medical bills than you insurance will cover (I’m talking a congenital issue, or a problem that can’t be reconciled with a lifestyle change, such as ongoing rehabilitation from a terrible accident), and/or you refuse to make temporary sacrifices to achieve your goals more quickly, you probably will need at least fifteen years to reach your goal of early retirement.

Or, it may simply not be possible.

Understand, as well, that this eight-year goal assumes that you have no debt beyond a mortgage. It doesn’t include the time it might take for you to pay off all your debt.

If you’re single and not making more than the average annual income, it’s possible, but will take a lot more work than if you were married. Not that you should marry for monetary reasons. Just sayin’. 😉

That disappointing disclaimer out of the way, you accumulate half a million dollars in under ten years the same way you work toward any big financial goal: by living beneath your means, and investing every single cent you save every single month. It’s just that, with a goal as big as the one I’m talking about, you need to save a nice chunk of change on a monthly basis, and be sure to invest the right way.

“But is $500,000 enough?”

That depends on your household expenses, and the level of luxury you want once you “retire.” Economists estimate that the general cost of living will have doubled thirty years from now. That means that you need to take out an annual amount that will ensure that the nest egg will continue to grow such that it will have doubled in thirty years.

If you’re planning to withdraw the same percentage of that sum every year that it grows – say, ten percent – you’re going to find yourself in the poorhouse within three decades.

For most people, especially parents raising children, $500,000 won’t be enough. That is, unless you’re planning to live in a shack in the middle of a national forest and live off the land.

However, half a million is enough to allow you to get out of the rat race. With an automatic $25,000 flowing from your investments every year, you have more work options. You can find a less stressful part-time job to fill in the gap. Or you can start your own micro-business.

How much money do you need to save?

WARNING: At first glance, the figure I’m about to throw at you will likely make you balk. And/or laugh. Convinced that there’s no possible way you could go from zero to half a million dollars in eight years.

I ask you to hang with me. Because after I provide the figure, I’m going to tell you how it’s possible.

A quick visit to the Money Chimp website and a few minutes messing around with the compound interest calculator, and I discovered that if you can invest $40,000 per year for eight years, making an average of ten percent interest, you’ll have over $500,000 at the end of those eight years.

“Forty thousand dollars a year!! Where in the %#$@ am I supposed to get an extra forty thousand dollars every single blasted year??!!”

See, I knew you were going to get upset. Sit down, take a deep breath, and let me walk you through a couple of scenarios. Actually, three scenarios.

Scenario #1.

The first scenario is one in which you have a job with a $60,000+ take-home pay. Depending on whether you have a spouse or children, and where you live, you may be able to keep your expenditures down to around $20,000 per year. If you’re making that much money, your company probably provides decent health insurance coverage.

If you have a mortgage? You’ll need to be bringing home over $70,000 per year in order to stash away $40K every twelve months.

Scenario #2.

Are you married and you both have jobs? Depending on your respective salaries and  you’re willing to live frugally for a few years, saving that jaw-dropping amount should be a relative piece of cake. This can even work if you have a small handful of children.

Scenario #3: A job, and an online business.

Among some couples, one goes off to a job while the other homeschools the children and works an online business. Or both couples have an online business and take turns caring for the children. It takes a year or two of really buckling down to start making serious money from an online business model, but it can be done.

Click here for a really awesome and thorough post about how to set up a blog, and begin to make money from it.

How to invest wisely and safely

You don’t want to invest the F.I.R.E. way.


Yep, that’s what I said. Investing only in a total stock market index fund is not much safer than Dave Ramsey’s pet investment strategy of mutual funds – though I know from experience that some are more stable than others during a stock market shake-up.

If you want to be sure not to lose a third of your nest egg during a global pandemic, housing crisis, or Presidential election, you want to invest in a portfolio that has proven itself consistently strong while bringing consistently high returns over the past few decades.

I am primarily talking about the Ivy Portfolio. Click here to read my post that describes it in detail. The second best way to invest is using the Permanent Portfolio. Click here to read up on that.

Since the Ivy Portfolio brings higher returns than the Permanent Portfolio (three to four percent more per year on average), but the Permanent Portfolio is less reliant on the stock market, you might want to invest, say, two-thirds of your money the Ivy Portfolio way, and the remaining third the Permanent Portfolio way.

No guarantees, but

Understand that this post is not intended as financial advice, and if it were, it certainly wouldn’t be professional. I can’t guarantee any particular outcome, no matter how conscientious you are about making the wisest decisions possible and taking consistent action.

Whatever actions you take as a result of reading this article, you and you alone shall be held responsible for the consequences of such actions. I hope the consequences have you ultimately shouting for joy and wanting to hug me for writing this post.

But I can’t guarantee anything. After all, life does happen. And will.

Still, even if you can’t save up $500,000 in eight years, I hope you now realize that with some thrift and wisdom, you can still be much better off financially by that time than most of the people you know.


A healthy diet for children looks similar to a healthy diet for adults. Only, more of it. Growing children need more calories.

But, like adults, not just any kind of calorie. Nutrient-dense calories.

However, if you’re reading this article, chances are high that your children haven’t been eating nutrient-dense foods. They’ve been eating more junk foods than you want to think about. And if they’re over the age of eight or nine, if they haven’t become downright addicted to certain unhealthy foods like cookies, chips, candy bars, and fast food fare, they will have developed a fondness for them such that they don’t want to give them up!

The reason? Either you modeled such unhealthy eating, or they saw other people gorging on such foods and begged to eat the same until they wore you out and you gave in, hoping that when they got older, their tastes would gravitate toward healthier choices.

And now you realize that probably won’t be the case.

So here you are, wanting to feed your family more nutritious foods, but facing resistance at every turn.

I can’t guarantee the following steps will bring about complete conversions. And it won’t be a short or easy road. But hopefully, if you follow the steps your children will eventually start to appreciate the flavor of more natural foods, and voluntarily lessen their consumption of junk foods to some extent.

The first step in knowing what a healthy diet for children truly looks like, is to check out a book on healthy eating, like my book, Simple Diet, Beautiful You. Once you have those principles well in hand, you can begin to implement the following steps.

And, yes, as the title indicates, these steps will work on yourself and (hopefully) stubborn spouses, as well. 😉

Step one: Give everyone a heads-up.

Don’t all of a sudden start forcing everyone to start dinner with a large salad and give up all their sugary snacks without them having any foreknowledge of it. Get the whole family together and…


Yes, apologize. Tell them you’re sorry that you’ve been neglecting your duties as their caregiver by allowing them to eat foods that will have a negative impact on their health in the future if they don’t change their habits.

Then, with as much enthusiasm as you can muster, as genuinely as you can express that enthusiasm, let them know that you’re going to be slowly introducing healthier snacks and meals. Be quick to assure them that they won’t have to give up all their favorite junk foods, and that what you’re going to be serving them will still be tasty.

Step two: Educate your children.

And your spouse, if necessary. Have them watch food-based documentaries, such as Forks Over Knives, Super-Size Me, and Fat, Sick, And Nearly Dead. Together, read any one of the number of anti-sugar books available. Talk about what you all have learned. Make sure to emphasize that while children and young adults often seem to be able to get away with eating unhealthy food without consequences, when they hit middle-age – and sometimes before – the consequences can be terrible, even life-threatening.

Step three: Replace conventional store-bought cookies with a better option.

Ideally, bake the cookies yourself. If it’s within your budget, order einkorn multi-purpose flour and use that, as it is the ancestor of all wheats and has hardly any gluten in it.

Whatever kind of flour you use, look for recipes that replace the butter/vegetable shortening in cookies, at least in part, with applesauce or mashed bananas. And butter is always a better choice than shortening, which is very high in the heart-attack-causing trans fats. Reduce the sugar in the recipe by about a third.

If you don’t have a lot of time to bake cookies, make it a weekend project when the kids help you.

At the very least, start purchasing cookies from a health-food store which have no trans fats and more natural sources of sugar.

Step four: Gradually ease desserts out of your meal plans.

If your family are dessert eaters, replace the usual sugary concoction two nights a week with a mix of berries and sliced bananas, along with a homemade cookie or two. Every two weeks, subtract one more night of unhealthy desserts, replacing it with fruit. When you’re down to eating fruit and cookies for dessert five nights a week, start pulling away the cookies, one night at a time. For dessert on the other two nights, search for healthier replacements for what you usually serve. Whether you eventually completely eliminate the conventional desserts, or eliminate dessert-eating altogether, is something your family needs to decide on.

If you do decide to transition away from eating dessert, make sure you encourage everyone to get enough to eat of the main meal.

Step five: Reduce eating out.

Okay, if you’re reading this during the COVID-19 pandemic (when I’m writing it), that’s a no-brainer. Not a whole lot of people are eating out at restaurants right now, even if the area where you live has “opened up” non-essential businesses. So perhaps you’ve already discovered the joys (and money-saving benefits) of homemade meals.

On the other hand, take-out has been allowed during the pandemic. If your family frequently takes advantage of that convenience, gradually reduce the number of nights you do so.

Start working on this step somewhere in the middle of transitioning away from desserts.

Step six: Start offering healthy snacks.

Click here for ten ideas for healthy snacks for kids. Do it gradually, starting with maybe once a day, two to three times a week, until at least one of the snacks every day is a healthy choice.

Step seven: Don’t restock unhealthy snacks.

As your family’s supply of processed snacks runs out, don’t restock them.

Yes, you’ll probably get whining. And resistance. Deal with it. You’re the caregiver. Act like it, and put your foot down. It’s your job to train your children in good habits and right ways of thinking.

If you give your children an allowance, tell them that from now on, they can use that money to buy junk food if they really want it. But you are no longer going to stock such items in the pantry.

Step eight: Serve more vegetables with dinner.

And make them as appealing as you can. For example, color the salad as much as possible with tomatoes, grated carrots, bell pepper, etc, and provide tasty salad dressings.

Provide a variety of sauces – soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, barbecue sauce, salsa – with which to top steamed or stir-fried veggies.

Step nine: Redo breakfast.

If your kids regularly consume pastries – doughnuts, Pop Tarts, sweet rolls, etc. – for breakfast, that needs to stop. Yesterday. No more.

Dried cereals, even those labeled “natural” or “organic,” or (falsely) claiming to contain 100% of daily vitamins and minerals, though better than the sweet pastries (the unsweetened cereals, that is), are still not the healthiest breakfast choice.

Sprouted grain toast with nut butter and a fruit spread, smoothies made with fruit and seeds or nuts, eggs with fruit and/or sprouted grain toast, oatmeal or rice topped with sliced banana and maybe a sprinkling of cinnamon – they all provide better nutrition than the Standard American Breakfast, and are tasty as well as filling.

Step ten: Make dinners simple.

Ease back on indigestion-causing dishes such as heavy pasta-meat combos and meat-laden sandwiches. Instead, serve a simply-cooked meat with potatoes or rice with a salad and/or some sort of steamed vegetables.

Of course, if you’re vegan or vegetarian, use non-animal protein foods instead of meat.

Speaking of that…

Step eleven: Introduce plant-based meals.

At least twice a week, serve up a dish that is 100% plant-based. If you make them tasty with herbs, spices, and/or sauces, your children might be surprised at how much they like them. Click here for five easy vegan recipes to get you started.

You can do it!

Children under the age of seven are generally pretty flexible and open when it comes to trying out new foods and eating lifestyles. Over the age of seven? Meh, not so much.

But if you slowly incorporate the above steps over the period of a few months, I believe you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how well your family as a whole will be eating, as well as how much more willing your children are to choose healthy foods over junk foods.


It’s hard to find healthy snacks for kids. You’re not going to find them on the shelves of most grocery stores, that’s for sure!

But if you’ve got a few extra minutes, it’s easy to make sure that your children get the calories their growing bodies need in a way that’s both nutritious and delicious. Not every child will appreciate all of the following ideas, but there should be a few that yours will appreciate.

You might wonder why most of the snacks are on the sweet side. The reason: children tend to prefer sweets because they need the carbohydrates, and they are instinctively wary of bitter foods (such as greens) because way back when, they didn’t know if they might be toxic. There’s nothing wrong with satisfying a craving for sweets, as long as the sweet taste comes in the form of something that you can pick off a tree or from the ground!

Note also that most of the snacks are ones which most children over the age of seven can be taught to prepare themselves. Ah, the bliss of being a mother with self-sufficient children!

Now, onto the ten healthy snack ideas for kids.

#1: Bugs On A Log.

Fill the cavity of a celery stalk with nut butter and stick raisins into the butter.

#2: Stuffed dates.

This snack works best with Medjool dates, because of their size. However, other dates will do as well.

Cut a slit into the top of each date, or rip it open with your finger, and pull out the pit. Replace the pit with either a whole almond (for older children) or a teaspoon or so of nut butter.

#3: Einkorn crackers.

I don’t mean to promote brands here, but I don’t know of any other company that sells crackers made with einkorn flour except Jovial. They may be available at your local health food store; you can also find them online.

Einkorn is the ancestor of all wheat, and because it has therefore not been hybridized, it is extremely low in gluten. Because einkorn growers are rare, the flour and the products made from them are pricier than those made from modern wheat. If you’re on a budget, you might want to either skip this one or offer it only occasionally.

Top with nut butter or fruit spread as desired.

#4: Carrot sticks with ketchup

If you can find or make a dairy-free dip that isn’t full of junk ingredients, we can call that healthy, as well. (Check out this recipe for cashew dipLOOKFOR.)

Your child may be fine with plain carrots. Those who don’t gravitate toward veggies in general will probably appreciate some sort of dip. Also, late spring through early fall the carrots available in grocery stores are bitter because they’ve been in storage for so long. Adding the ketchup therefore makes them more palatable.

Buy ketchup that doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup, by the way. 😉

#5: Bananasicles

This one’s too easy. Peel a banana, mash it up with a fork, stick it into ice cube trays or empty yogurt cups, and insert popsicle sticks. Freeze until frozen solid.

If you have a blender, you can make fruitsicles of any kind.

#6: Apple Pinwheels

If you have a picky eater, peel the apple. Otherwise, leave the peel on because it’s the most nutritious part of the fruit!

Slice it into quarters and cut out the seeds, then cut the quarters even more thinly. Arrange on a plate in the shape of a pinwheel. In the center, put a blob of nut butter or a stack ofl banana slices.

#7: Smoothie.

I feel like I’m cheating just to mention this. Everyone knows about smoothies. Still, blender-owning parents are letting their kids munch on processed sweets instead of providing them with nutrient-dense sweets. So I feel that it’s worth a mention.

If you have even an inexpensive, run-of-the-mill blender you can make a smoothie with fresh fruit and a bit of water or non-dairy milk in just a couple of minutes. If the snacker wants it cold, put it in the freezer for about half an hour.

Of course, if you have a high-power blender, you can put in frozen solid fruit pieces and have a cold smoothie in just a couple of minutes.

#8: Coconut milk yogurt.

There are several brands out there. Find one with the least amount of added sugar/the most natural sugar. Better yet, buy plain yogurt and add honey, date sugar, and/or mashed up fruit to it.

#9: Sprouted grain bread with all-fruit spread or vegan cheese

Yes, the sprouted grain breads contain gluten. And a child with a highly sensitive digestive system may not do well with whole grains. But if not, many adults who don’t do well with regular whole-wheat bread can digest the sprouted grain breads just find.

Ezekiel 4:9 tortillas, by the way, don’t contain added gluten like that brand of bread does.

#10: Oven potato chips/fries

Regarding the peel, note what I said about apples above.

Slice potatoes as thinly as you can manage, or cut them into French fry shapes. Lightly coat a silicone (Teflon is toxic!!) baking sheet with coconut oil or olive oil.

Place the potato pieces on the sheet. Using a pastry brush, brush a light coating of olive oil over them. Then sprinkle the pieces with salt.

Put in an oven that’s been pre-heated to 350 degrees. Bake until golden brown on top.

I’m not going to give you a time, because that depends on how thickly you cut the potatoes. Check them at the five-minute mark, and every two minutes after.

Bonus snacks

If your child likes dark chocolate, a square or two of it a day is a luxurious snack that brings with it several potential health benefits as well as a smattering of nutrients.

I mentioned einkorn crackers above. If you enjoy baking, why not find a source of einkorn flour and replace that with your usual bleached, modern-wheat flour when you make cookies and such?

Please note!

To reduce the risk of cavity development, have your children thoroughly rinse their mouths out with water every time they eat, whether snack or meal.

And because flour-based products and dried fruit tend to stick to the molars, you may want to limit how much they eat these kinds of snacks…unless they’re willing to brush their teeth a few minutes after finishing eating them.

Why not you, too?

These healthy snacks for kids are just as healthy for adults! If you’re in the habit of grabbing processed snacks between meals, replace them with some of these instead. You might be pleasantly surprised with how easily you can transition into a healthier way of eating.

To help you even further, I wrote a book entitled Simple Diet, Beautiful You. Click here to check it out.


Original Song: “What If”

Words and music copyright 2019 by Emily Josephine. All rights reserved. Lyrics below the video.

She was on the point of slittin’ her wrists,
All her hopes and dreams caught up in the mist
Of despair.

When a stranger came and spoke in her ear
The very words she needed to hear
To keep living.

What if, what if?
What if you decided to be that one
To speak love and hope, to bring back the sun
To a lost and desperate soul?
What if?

A foster child, he felt so much pain
That as a youth he saw the local street gang
His only way out.

But then a teacher nurtured his innate gift,
Pulling him back from the edge of the cliff
With a word.

What if, what if?
What if you decided to be that one
To speak love and hope, to bring back the sun
To a lost and desperate soul?
What if?

She was gonna run; she didn’t know
That her young body might end being sold
And ravaged.

But before she could leave, a friend grabbed her hand,
And showed her how she could give her mom and dad
Another chance.

What if, what if?
What if you decided to be that one
To speak love and hope, to bring back the sun
To a lost and desperate soul?
What if?

He’d hit the bottle, and then hit his wife.
He knew it was wrong, but couldn’t hold back the strife
Inside him.

Until one day a man who’d been in his shoes
Sat down with him and helped him to choose
A new and better way.

What if, what if?
What if you decided to be that one
To speak love and hope, to bring back the sun
To a lost and desperate soul?
What if?

What if everyone who listens to this song begins to encourage one person every day?
And what if each of those who receive that encouragement begin to encourage one person every day?
Our words and our actions go out much farther than we can imagine, let alone see.
Just think of some of the possibilities.

Maybe someone who would have otherwise turned criminal, would instead become an active and beloved volunteer in his hometown.
Maybe someone with an embittered heart would finally experience the freedom of forgiving.
Maybe someone who would have been killed in a drive-by shooting, would instead live a long and happy and fulfilling life.

Maybe the incidences of mental illness would plummet,
Chronic disease would become a rarity, and…
Prisons would begin to empty?
I know – it all sounds like a pipe dream.


What if, what if?
What if you decided to be that one
To speak love and hope, to bring back the sun
To a lost and desperate soul?
What if?