An interview with Byron Tully

I had the pleasure of connecting with Byron Tully, an accomplished author of the ‘Old Money’ book series.

“The Old Money series details how anyone from any background can adopt the values, priorities, and habits of America’s upper class in order to live a richer life. These entertaining and informative works reveals for the Core Values that shape the discreet–but truly affluent–Old Money way of life. Tully offers time-tested advice on everything from clothes and cars to finances and furnishings. The Old Money Book shows you how you really can Live Better While Spending Less.”

Byron Tulley

Byron Tully is a full time writer, and has created awesome streams of passive income through his literature. Whilst many of us in the FIRE community might see his fairly conservative investment approach as quite different to the FIRE movement as a whole, I think he offers quite valuable insights into the world of how old money conservatively manage their investments.

the old money book

About Byron Tully

Do you have a blog or website? www.theoldmoneybook.com

Where can we find you on social media? Twitter @theoldmoneybook, Linkedin as Byron Tully.

How old are you? I’m 62 years old.

What is your marital status? Married.

Do you have kids/family? No children.

Where do you live? Paris, France.

How was your childhood, and Was your family wealthy, middle class or low-income? Happy, disciplined, austere. Wealthy.

How did you learn about finances and at what age did you “get it”? I was raised to be discreet and budget-conscious. I rebelled against that for awhile, but then, when I married my wife, I realized that I had to start paying attention.

Who inspired you to excel in life? Who are your heroes? Writers, generally. Voltaire, Michel de Montaigne, Robert Louis Stevenson. Lafayette is my greatest hero.

How do you think differently than the average person when it comes to money? I tend to purchase fewer things, spend less overall, and live better than most people. I also think that cash on hand is an underrated concept today.

Do you have any favorite money tools and resources you recommend (books, podcasts, apps etc)? I recommend The Millionaire Next Door most often.

Do you give to charity? Why or why not? If you do, what percent of time/money do you give? Yes, absolutely. I’m involved with a private foundation that supports underprivileged students. So it’s time and money.

Byrons career

Did you pursue tertiary education (if yes can you please explain)? Oh, I famously turned down a full scholarship to Brown University. Not a move I’d recommend.

What is your current job? Writer.

What is your annual income? I prefer not to answer.

How have your earnings grown – What was your starting income, how did you grow this and where are you now? As a writer, it’s always from the bottom and sometimes going up from there. But you never know from year to year.

Would you recommend people to pursue the same career path? Would you choose a different job if you could go back? No. You can’t encourage someone to be a writer. You’re either born with the disease or you’re not. If you have literary talent, then you have a huge amount of work ahead of you, not just the writing, but finding your medium, your genre, your market, your audience. Not to mention how to support yourself as you pursue those.

What tips do you have for others who want to grow their career-related income? Look for opportunities to learn as you earn. Large companies can offer you stability and exposure to industry-leading standards. Small companies can offer you opportunity for fast-track growth. So you have to weigh your options.

What does your work-life balance look like? It varies. There is no balance when I’m working on a project. When I’ve completed a first draft, then some balance comes back into play. Plus, I live in Paris, so there’s always encouragement to take a deep breath and appreciate life.

Do you have any sources of income besides your career? If so, can you list them, how much you earn with each, and how you developed them? I live on royalties and have other dividend income. That’s as much as I’d like to say.

What is your (your family’s) annual spending? Under US $100,000 per year.

Can you break-down the main categories this spending relates to? Rent and travel. Our food bills are greatly reduced because we are vegetarians.

Do you have a budget? If so, how do you implement it? We don’t really have a budget. We are simply very aware of what we spend money on. And if an expenditure is going to be over $100.00, my wife and I sit down and talk about it.

What percentage of your gross income do you save and how has that changed over time? Money is stacking up all the time because we really pick and choose our luxuries and haven’t created an unsustainable lifestyle. I’d say our saving’s rate is about 30% right now, but I’m not sure.

What is your favourite thing to splurge on? Charvet shirts.

Byrons Investing strategy

 What has been your investment strategy/philosophy? If you can’t afford to lose it, don’t invest it. Always have cash on hand. Avoid big risks.

What has been your best investment? Writing and publishing books. I have money coming in every month, regardless of my commitment to work.

What has been your worst investment? The very few times I’ve taken someone’s suggestion on a stock to buy.

What’s been your overall return? I have no way of knowing. Sorry.

How often do you monitor/review your portfolio? Twice a year.

Byrons Net Worth

What are the main assets that make up your net worth and any debt that offsets this? We have no debt. We have about ten years worth of living expenses in cash. We have a few conservative investments.

How did you accumulate your net worth? Inheritance and writing.

What has been the biggest contributor to your net wealth? Writing.

What has been the biggest detractor to your net wealth? Some people say we could have taken more risks.

What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your net worth? I continue to write and publish books and we never spend more than we earn. We save money every month.

What money mistakes did you make that we can learn from? This may sound strange, but the biggest money mistake you can make is not doing what you love for a living. Why? Because you will find yourself buying things and wasting money as you try to fill up the emotional hole. If you do what you’re here on earth to do, regardless of how much or how little it pays, you’ll be happy. You won’t need to fill your life up with things. You’ll spend less, have more options, and be richer all the way around.

How has your spouse or family impacted your net worth? My wife has been a tremendous asset. She’s from Boston. She watches every penny, whereas I tend to simply be mindful of our cash flow in a general way.

Byrons Plans

Do you have a target net worth you are trying to attain for FIRE, will you quit working when you reach this? No, I have no target net worth.

What are your retirement plans? I will never retire.

Are there any issues in retirement that concern you? My concerns are that I won’t have all the time I need to do all the writing I want to do. I’m also concerned that the US dollar will not be as strong in the future. Therefore, we tend to hold some of our assets in euros.

Conclusion


Whilst Byron’s approach to finances might seem overly conservative to many in the FIRE community, he provides some key lessons which we can learn from.

What first struck me was Byron’s key use of his writing business – a major time investment in something he is passionate about to produce an ongoing passive income which he can rely on to cover his lifestyle expenses – a key concept of the FIRE movement, and something that can be achieved by creating assets and businesses.

What secondly struck me was of course, his focus on wealth preservation. Whilst we are often duped by conventional media marketing into thinking being affluent equates to excessive consumption, the truth of the matter is that societies wealthy and ruling elite did not become, and do not preserve their wealth, by wasting it or throwing it away. Old money knows how to preserve their wealth, and some of the best secrets of this upper class society include all the best tips and tricks in making that wealth provide the best life whilst going the furthest (for example, there is a reason most wealthy families use family trusts and company structures…)

Finally, the third biggest take-away for me was in Byron’s passion. He clearly has a love for writing, and has no conventional plans to retire. As a published author, Byron was able to turn his love of writing into a career – one which he could turn the ‘tap on and off’ and work as much or as little as he likes. Many might even phrase it that through his writing, Byron was able to retire a long time ago and simply work on his passion projects!

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