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Another new guy
Old 08-11-2005, 08:25 PM   #1
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Another new guy

I've been reading these forums for a couple of weeks. Lots of interesting stories and situations.

I'm 31, my wife of nine years turns 31 next month. I'm a computer programmer who has been fortunate enough to be an hourly consultant at the same gig for six years. We are in our third month of business ownership (bought an existing women's exercise franchise), which she runs. 4 cats, no kids yet (still haven't decided), live in the suburbs west of Philadelphia.

Our "portfolio" looks like:
$325,000 house (bought seven years ago), debt free
$100,000 business equity ($300k value, $200k business debt)
$140,000 in retirement accounts (401k, 403b, SIMPLE IRA, Roth IRA)
---
$575,000

Our income is kind of up in the air. The business may end up being a huge mistake unless (as we expect) membership picks up at the end of summer/beginning of the school year. If it doesn't, the business value will decrease. Regardless, our combine income will probably be at least $165k per year.

I've spent a fair amount of time recently figuring out our expenses, and it looks like we are spending around $4500/month. We're frugal for the most part, though I am driving a 2005 BMW 330i. Last year we saved (invested, reduced debt) around $68k. My retirement goal is $1.8 mil in liquid assets.

I'm also mulling over buying a business for myself in a couple years. The idea of that would be to find something that I could eventually phase myself out of and get into a 10-hour/week or so semi-retirement. Or possibly a seasonal business. I don't like full work weeks.

Our investment strategy is:
1) Take advantage of tax-advantaged accounts (max 401k, Roth IRA, Health Savings Account)
2) Debt reduction
3) Vanguard Index funds

So, our short-term goal is eliminating the business loan (which, for convenience is a HELOC). It might be a bit conservative to work at eliminating debt before dropping money in the stock market, but my wife and I are both much more comfortable when we are debt-free. As a result, asset allocation is not really a priority for me.

I think that's about it. I'm looking to retire/semi-retire ASAP, though due to the business and personal preference we won't move from this area to speed that up. I realized very early on (high school) that I was not interested in wasting my time working my whole life, though I've worked regularly (except college school year) since I was 10 (family dairy farm, I was treated as a normal employee).

I look forward to discussing strategies and ideas, and I'm fairly sure I'll never write a longer post than this one.
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Re: Another new guy
Old 08-11-2005, 09:05 PM   #2
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Re: Another new guy

Welcome to the board, Kronk! Sounds like you're well on your way.

Sleeping at night is more important than financial leverage, especially if you're concerned about the fitness center. You would think that the franchise would run some sort of network (or, gee, I dunno, maybe a discussion board?) for all the franchisees to share their ideas. That's how our tae kwon do dojang got the idea to start women's kickboxing classes, which have turned into great cash flow and a way to suck entire families into the martial arts.

Or maybe the weather's just too nice for anyone to want to pay money to sweat indoors. In which case you'll be raking it in by November...
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Re: Another new guy
Old 08-11-2005, 09:24 PM   #3
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Re: Another new guy

General consensus is that the summer months are really tough for membership numbers, and they tend to swing up in the fall. At this point, though, I'm not sweating it. We purchased it, and the only thing we can do is our best to make it (more) profitable. We obviously have enough income that even if it tanks it won't irreparably kill our finances. And yes, Curves for Women (and all associated trademarks) does have message boards of its own.

Our dojang's kickboxing classes are co-ed, though I haven't partaken in that. I'm a 1st dan in TKD, and I usually end up at the dojang 4 times per week. Tomorrow night is a long night... assistant instructor in the adult beginner class, then a Hapkido class (4th gup), followed by a black belt TKD class. I'll be there from around 4:30 to 8:30.

I saw you mention practicing poomsae in another thread. Taeguks or Palgwes?
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Re: Another new guy
Old 08-11-2005, 09:26 PM   #4
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Re: Another new guy

Cool job. Seems like it is being taken over by the franchises, i.e Gold's Gym.
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Re: Another new guy
Old 08-11-2005, 09:41 PM   #5
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Re: Another new guy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kronk
Our dojang's kickboxing classes are co-ed, though I haven't partaken in that.* * I'm a 1st dan in TKD, and I usually end up at the dojang 4 times per week.* Tomorrow night is a long night... assistant instructor in the adult beginner class, then a Hapkido class (4th gup), followed by a black belt TKD class.* I'll be there from around 4:30 to 8:30.

I saw you mention practicing poomsae in another thread.* Taeguks or Palgwes?
WTF taeguks. 17 months into it I'm a blue belt (6th keub), about halfway to black belt, with the fun half still ahead of me. Last week I stepped up from the beginner adult class to the advanced. I've about doubled my ibuprofen consumption but I've finally started to groove my hook kicks.

I guess our dojang's kickboxing classes could be co-ed but I've never seen a guy in them. They must want to step straight into the TKD classes. (Our sabumnim probably steers the guys that way so that the women don't have to put up with them in the kickboxing class.) Our local Curves franchises seem pretty cramped for space, so I guess it'd be tough to have all the kickboxing equipment at hand.

I'm probably preaching to the choir, but if you've made it this far in tae kwon do then you won't have any trouble achieving your ER goals.
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Re: Another new guy
Old 08-11-2005, 09:54 PM   #6
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Re: Another new guy

There might well be parallels between martial arts pursuits and achieving ER.

Actually, I split my TKD training. I studied for several years, progressed rapidly, got to a red belt (we count ranks away from black in our school, so that was 2nd gup). I was out of shape (6', 250), and didn't want to put the work in. Several years after I stopped, my dad passed away the day before his 59th birthday (in 2001). I started jogging, eating better, and took TKD back up again 2 years ago. I now fluctuate between 190 and 195 and am in the best shape of my life. We are WTF as well and are members of WOMAF (World Oriental Martial Arts Federation).

My problem has always been having enough time to pursue all the hobbies I'm interested in. Ah, retirement...
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Re: Another new guy
Old 08-11-2005, 11:37 PM   #7
 
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Re: Another new guy

I know of a great software business you could buy!
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Re: Another new guy
Old 08-12-2005, 12:36 AM   #8
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Re: Another new guy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kronk
I've been reading these forums for a couple of weeks.* Lots of interesting stories and situations.

I'm 31, my wife of nine years turns 31 next month.* I'm a computer programmer who has been fortunate enough to be an hourly consultant at the same gig for six years.* We are in our third month of business ownership (bought an existing women's exercise franchise), which she runs.* 4 cats, no kids yet (still haven't decided), live in the suburbs west of Philadelphia.

Our "portfolio" looks like:
$325,000 house (bought seven years ago), debt free
$100,000 business equity ($300k value, $200k business debt)
$140,000 in retirement accounts (401k, 403b, SIMPLE IRA, Roth IRA)
---
$575,000

Our income is kind of up in the air.* The business may end up being a huge mistake unless (as we expect) membership picks up at the end of summer/beginning of the school year.* If it doesn't, the business value will decrease.* Regardless, our combine income will probably be at least $165k per year.

I've spent a fair amount of time recently figuring out our expenses, and it looks like we are spending around $4500/month.* We're frugal for the most part, though I am driving a 2005 BMW 330i.* Last year we saved (invested, reduced debt) around $68k.* My retirement goal is $1.8 mil in liquid assets.

I'm also mulling over buying a business for myself in a couple years.* The idea of that would be to find something that I could eventually phase myself out of and get into a 10-hour/week or so semi-retirement.* Or possibly a seasonal business.* I don't like full work weeks.

Our investment strategy is:
1) Take advantage of tax-advantaged accounts (max 401k, Roth IRA, Health Savings Account)
2) Debt reduction
3) Vanguard Index funds

So, our short-term goal is eliminating the business loan (which, for convenience is a HELOC).* It might be a bit conservative to work at eliminating debt before dropping money in the stock market, but my wife and I are both much more comfortable when we are debt-free.* As a result, asset allocation is not really a priority for me.

I think that's about it.* I'm looking to retire/semi-retire ASAP, though due to the business and personal preference we won't move from this area to speed that up.* I realized very early on (high school) that I was not interested in wasting my time working my whole life, though I've worked regularly (except college school year) since I was 10 (family dairy farm, I was treated as a normal employee).

I look forward to discussing strategies and ideas, and I'm fairly sure I'll never write a longer post than this one.
I think it's a fine first post. Sure beats "My wife and I are both 40, make
a combined 100K and own our house. What should we do?" I've seen some like that.

Your net worth is already higher than mine (ours?) ever was in my lifetime.
And.......your plan (except the not moving part)_is roughly what I did.
I have not worked a lick since June, 1998. You're in great shape.

JG
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Re: Another new guy
Old 08-12-2005, 07:49 AM   #9
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Re: Another new guy

Welcome, you sound like an interesting guy and again, thanks for the details, it helps everyone to know how people are getting there. I am impressed with you having your house paid off at such a young age.
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Re: Another new guy
Old 08-12-2005, 08:52 AM   #10
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Re: Another new guy

Maddy, thanks, paying off the house was a major accomplishment. We got some odd looks from relatives who never considered that that sort of thing was even possible. We have been helped significantly by rising house prices in our area, so we paid $195k for the house 7 years ago. Of course, we've dropped $30k into renovations (new siding, new windows, large screen porch, new furnace) in the meantime.

Al, somehow I think I want to get out of the software industry. Oh, and I'm a fellow low brass player as well, though I've always suffered from lack of focus. I have played tuba (primarily), trombone, euphonium, French Horn, trumpet, cello, and piano. My wife takes this more seriously than I do; she plays only French Horn, but she plays it very well (and is in 2 orchestras and a Gilbert & Sullivan pit orchestra). We have a music room that contains: a piano, a Bb tuba, an Eb tuba, an Eb sousaphone, a trombone, a euphonium, two french horns, two trumpets, a synthesizer, a bugle, a guitar, and an antique rotary valve flugelhorn.

Now if only I had the time and motivation to play those instruments. The only thing I play for fun is piano. And I really stink at all of them. I took up cello for a year, but my wife convinced me to rent instead of buy, guessing correctly that I wouldn't stick with it.
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Re: Another new guy
Old 08-12-2005, 10:37 AM   #11
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Re: Another new guy

Welcome! Between the BMW, brass chops and the Tae Kwon Do, you sound like you've got a good life going on! Sounds like you'll have a ton to add to the board. You know, I have a friend who at one point got 2nd at nationals in Tae Kwon Do, but it's my understanding there are different associations, so take that FWIW. He went opposite of you, though, used to be skinny as a rail, now he hasn't been to lessons in years and is about 260 lbs (6 feet tall).

I'm 6' 2" and at one point reached 250 lbs, took up running races and triathlons and I'm down to ~190lbs. feel great. I truly believe there is some sort of mind/body connection, I think since I've been taking care of the body, other aspects of my life have improved as well (including the urge to ER).

(now before all you LBYMers get on me for the BMW=good life comment, I just mean it reflects a balance between living for today and planning for tomorrow. :P )
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Re: Another new guy
Old 08-12-2005, 12:21 PM   #12
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Re: Another new guy

I've never been particularly interested in tournament competition. The value I get out of martial arts is personal satisfaction in knowing when I have performed a form well or I have mastered a new combination. I judge myself, and a trophy (or lack thereof) wouldn't change things for me. That said, I doubt I'd do extraordinarily well in tournaments anyway, so maybe that's cheap rationalization.

I agree with the mind/body thing. I peaked at 260, and felt sluggish. At 193 (this morning), I feel much better about myself, except when the job is particularly beating me down.

The spending/saving balance is something that I am concerned about, actually. I got the BMW after we paid off the house. We drive cars into the ground, so it is possible I'll be driving the same car 10 years from now. Thought of that way, it isn't (necessarily) all that extravagent. But I do enjoy having a nice car during the hour per day I'm in it.

Other than that, though, my wife and I sometimes have conversations about "forcing" ourselves to spend more money. Usually we come back with the fact that spending more won't make us more happy. Or that there are reasons other than money to not do something. I'd like to travel overseas more, but she doesn't really like the living-from-a-suitcase and the overall stress of making connections, etc. We'd think about getting a housecleaner, but it is disconcerting displaying your dirty laundry (so to speak) to outsiders. We do have someone mow the lawn, since I'd rather be at work for an hour than spend an hour mowing.

Other than that, we don't have a lot of things we want to spend money on. Sometimes it feels like we've got too much of a laser focus on saving, but then we can't think of things that would make us happier.
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Re: Homes & gardens...
Old 08-12-2005, 01:00 PM   #13
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Re: Homes & gardens...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kronk
I've never been particularly interested in tournament competition.* The value I get out of martial arts is personal satisfaction in knowing when I have performed a form well or I have mastered a new combination.* I judge myself, and a trophy (or lack thereof) wouldn't change things for me.* That said, I doubt I'd do extraordinarily well in tournaments anyway, so maybe that's cheap rationalization.
I've only done one tournament so far but I think that competitors make better judges, both sparring & poomse, and competition has taught our kid a lot about life.* But I agree that you spend a lot of time waiting around.* We have an Army officer in our dojang who's a third dan and who just made the military team-- he needs to medal in his weight class to make the military's full-time training program for the Olympic trials.* If he doesn't medal then he's looking at a second tour in Afghanistan... so he's pretty motivated when we spar (ouch).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kronk
Other than that, though, my wife and I sometimes have conversations about "forcing" ourselves to spend more money.* Usually we come back with the fact that spending more won't make us more happy.*
I like forcing ourselves to spend more money on good investments, even if it's just scoring a high CD rate or buying another chunk of an ETF.*

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kronk
We'd think about getting a housecleaner, but it is disconcerting displaying your dirty laundry (so to speak) to outsiders.* We do have someone mow the lawn, since I'd rather be at work for an hour than spend an hour mowing.*
The housecleaners have seen it all.* I doubt they'd be scared by anything short of blood-sucking parasites or infectious medical waste.*

We know people who never cleaned their clutter, let alone dusted or vacuumed (think of the HGTV show "Clean Sweep") so they hired a housecleaner to solve their problems.* Eventually they realized that they were spending more time picking up for the housecleaner the night before than if they had learned how to minimize the messes in the first place.* Most housecleaners prefer to come weekly instead of once or twice a month so that pickup becomes a weekly hassle routine.* And once the homeowners learned how to minimize the messes, they realized that the housecleaner was being paid to buff a house that really didn't need that much cleaning.* The Speed Cleaning book made a huge difference in our house, and it'll make an even bigger difference when we can convince our kid to read it.

I feel the same way about yard services.* Unless the yard is mostly gravel or low-maintenance xeriscaping, the blow 'n' go guys are likely to spread weeds with their power tools and create an endless cycle of work for themselves make the problems worse.* In the long run it might be cheaper to landscape for low/no maintenance or to figure out a way to let things run wild without annoying your neighbors.

The problem with working for a living is that you rarely have the time or energy to sit back and analyze these home/garden lifestyle issues to pick the hassle-free cost-effective solutions.* Luckily we have this discussion board!
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Re: Another new guy
Old 08-12-2005, 03:10 PM   #14
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Re: Another new guy

Not sure if what I said was grammatically clear. I am not a judge at tournaments. I meant that I critique myself, and am not particularly interested in having others judge me in a tournament setting. I do agree that judges should have a lot of experience competing.

Yeah, I'm sure the housecleaners have seen it all. But it is still weird having someone else in your house doing work like that. Maybe I'd get used to it. Actually, I probably would, I wouldn't ever be willing to give it up.
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Re: Another new guy
Old 08-12-2005, 03:23 PM   #15
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Re: Another new guy

We had the same debate, ended up yes on gardener, no on housecleaner. It came down to no matter how hard I tried, my yard looked terrible, now it looks great. But I don't want anybody touching my underwear!
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Re: Another new guy
Old 08-12-2005, 05:14 PM   #16
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Re: Another new guy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kronk

Yeah, I'm sure the housecleaners have seen it all.* But it is still weird having someone else in your house doing work like that.* Maybe I'd get used to it.* Actually, I probably would, I wouldn't ever be willing to give it up.*
That's kind of how I felt and then my DH finally convinced me. It's well worth it since I'd rather spend my weekend relaxing than cleaning the toilet Our cleaning lady comes in every two weeks and dusts, vacuums, cleans all of the bathrooms and generally tidies everything up. It's awesome.
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Old 06-27-2006, 09:17 PM   #17
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Back from the aether

So, in some ways it is painful reading this thread. I've just recently caught up reading a bunch of posts, since it was too depressing to read this forum for a while.

The business turned out to be a huge mistake. Membership has continued to fall. We've still got a bit of an operating profit on it (unlike many similar clubs in the area), but lifestyle-wise, it has been a disaster. DW has been very stressed and unhappy over the last year. We tried to make a go of it, but now we are attempting to sell it.

We're still personally in okay financial shape. I'm 32, DW is 31 now. At the end of the selling process (presuming we find a buyer), we're aiming for $200k in retirement funds, $375k in unencumbered residence, no vehicle debt, but very little (if any) non-retirement savings. RE has been pushed back 3-4 years, though 45-47 is still possible. FI-RE has been depressing, since we've been treading water at best, and really actually moving backwards.

This debacle has taught us several things:
1. DW is not good at being self-employeed. And her ESFJ personality type does not lend itself to the thick skin a service-oriented business owner needs.
2. We hate debt. We're never going to voluntarily take it on again.
3. I should probably not be a business owner, either - I hate dealing with things that go wrong. And things invariably go wrong.


On to the more fun stuff. Nords, I read about your knee. Sorry to hear about that. I'm now a 2nd dan TKD, I'll be taking a 1st dan Hapkido test next month, and I have recently started Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu as well. So I'm doing martial arts six days a week. We'll see how long I can keep doing this until my body gives out.

Kronk
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Re: Another new guy
Old 06-28-2006, 10:14 AM   #18
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Re: Another new guy

Welcome back, Kronk. Sounds like you guys have paid a high tuition for a graduate degree from the School of Business Learning.

If there's anything good about the experience, it's that you've answered your personal "What if?" questions. And your spouse has business experience that has to be useful somewhere. I think that failure teaches a heckuva lot more than success and you guys have a bunch of lessons learned to contribute...

Our sabumnim has been running his dojang (actually the subsidiary site for the main boss' dojang) for nearly five years now, and it's just hitting critical mass with over 100 students. He's paying the bills and even has a little left over for himself. In six months he's taking over the lease next door, knocking down the walls, and doubling the floor space.

My knees will be fine, or at least as good as they used to be before this happened. I just got back from the orthopedic surgeon, who sees the solution in terms of neither. Very strange guy but advice I can work with, especially since I'll be back on the mats next month. I'll post more in the other thread.
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Re: Another new guy
Old 06-29-2006, 06:54 AM   #19
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Re: Another new guy

Kronk,
I remember reading your original posts last year (there aren't a lot of small business owners who tend to post here). Sorry to hear about the struggles, but I admire your posting about it. In hind sight do you think there were tell tale signs when you bought the exercise franchise indicating that membership might drop off? How long was it operating before you bought it, and was membership increasing during that time? Did you get to see a detailed financial history before you bought? Maybe previous bloated membership numbers? Had your wife worked for a small business prior to taking this on?

I have a small hi-tech equipment business in the semiconductor industry (15 employees, three VC investors) and over the last 6 years we've almost gone under at least half a dozen times. I'll admit that you do need relatively thick skin, a lot of perseverence, and tolerance for things going wrong. I sure wouldn't feel bad about not quite succeeding, especially in the first year of ownership. Tell you the truth, I don't anyone who really "succeeded" in the first year. I hate to advise your wife to stick it out if she is stressing so much but if there is a way to reduce the stress and give it some more time to evolve by trying some new things.......we'll just something to think about. Good luck. I'm sure you'll do fine.

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Re: Another new guy
Old 06-29-2006, 05:45 PM   #20
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Re: Another new guy

Membership was already dropping when we purchased it. We expected a further drop, but thought it would stabilize at a slightly lower level, which we based our offer on. But it dropped much farther. I guess one possible lesson is not to go after falling knives. Still, we had confidence in the brand, as well as confidence that a bit more active marketing would stem the tide. I still believe we had accurate financial records, so there was nothing hazy about the transaction itself. And, no, DW hadn't worked for a small business before. The idea was that we were coming into an established business with a full-time manager who ran the daily operations of the club. DW's role would be expanding the membership list, and light overseeing. Well, a month into ownership, the manager gave notice. DW's work load jumped, and she has trouble delegating at times.

In my mind, succeeding with a business purchase is different than succeeding with a business startup. For us, our ROI is abysmal, which == failure. Plus there's the quality of life issue. Believe me, we gave this as much of a go as we could. I'd come home from my 8 hour day and be in a bit of dread that I'd find DW in tears. And I haven't enjoyed going in to the club to fix machines, and taking care of some of the financial aspects of the company. Perhaps we could find a way to make it less onerous, but this is one where I believe we're better off cutting our losses and getting out. And at this point if she gets a job pulling in $35k plus benefits and we don't have $800/month in debt payments, we're going to make up the loss faster than sticking it out.

I'm a bit of a chance-taker by personality, but I think this experience is going to temper my enthusiasm for throwing large sums of money around. I'll probably still consider doing something business-wise, but I'll definitely be more cautious. Maybe in 15-20 years I'll open my own dojang if I'm still as into martial arts.
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New guy ERd in Thailand Lancelot Hi, I am... 25 04-23-2004 08:34 PM

 

 
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