103 | The Trades Path to FI – Captain DIY

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103 Captain DIY

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Looking for the best credit card to start earning travel rewards points? The Chase Sapphire Preferred is our pick. With a 50,000 point signup bonus (after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months), the $95 annual fee waived the first year, and ultra-flexible points (transfers to 13 airlines & hotels!), this is our top choice!

Tinian Crawford, blogger at DIY2FI and licensed electrician, talks about his path to licensure, the advantages of trade jobs and his transition to pursuing financial independence.

  • What jobs are represented in the FI community?
  • Base salary for an electrician is $70 minimum.
  • Many people go to trade school in high school or immediately after, so there’s very little financial education in the trade-work community.
  • Tinian’s father built his childhood house, and Tinian was enlisted to help with construction projects on their property.
  • Does Tinian find value in the graphic design education he received in community college?
  • Tinian’s first job was building signs – many of which were lighted signs – which piqued his interest learning about electrical work.
  • What education do you need to start electrician licensure training?
  • Tinian’s one-year program cost $25k.
  • To be fully licensed, an electrician has to do a 5-year apprenticeship.
  • Making $70 an hour comes when you work for yourself.
  • Do most electricians jump right into owning their own business?
  • Tinian’s recommendation: stick with a contractor you can learn from for your day job, and start taking jobs on the side.
  • Additional trade jobs that would be great for FI:
    • Garden landscaping and design
    • Plumbing
  • Tinian’s wife suggested that they save $20k by the time their first child was born.
  • In order to avoid high childcare costs, Tinian and his wife split their schedules as much as possible.
  • Tinian hopes to leave his day job at some point, but still needs to learn more about managing benefits and figuring out exactly how much he needs to support his family.
  • In order to prepare for leaving a day job, it’s important to identify how much life will cost after the change.
  • Beginning their investing with a local financial advisor and a socially conscious portfolio was a mistake for Tinian.


Links to resources mentioned in this episode:


DIYCaptain – Twitter

Burrito Bowl Diaries

“Eliminating the Excuse” – Saving Sherpa


11 thoughts on “103 | The Trades Path to FI – Captain DIY

  1. Great episode. Just wanted to add that I am an apprentice electrician in Minnesota. I have been working in the field while doing an electrical associates degree. The wages I have encountered have been much higher than what your guest discussed. I have heard of his number during the beginning of the recession, but the labor market for electricians had really tightened up. I will be graduating this next month and starting full time as an 2nd year apprentice at 22 dollars, a 401-k, dental, health and some paid vacation. Trades are definitely a path to independence if you can learn how to be frugal and use your skills.

    • Conor, thanks so much for the feedback, and I’m glad you enjoyed the episode!
      My numbers were from 2007, so I am very glad to hear that they have improved dramatically since then! I also did my apprenticeship at a very small shop, which surely had an impact on the benefits package.
      I’m sure you’re doing just fine with your apprenticeship (you are listening to Choose FI, after all), but if you have any questions or anything, feel free to reach out to me either by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @DiyCaptain.

  2. Hey guys. First off. Thank you! Your podcast is life changing. I wanted to mention some things in reference to the captain diy episode. I am a self employed general contractor and have been since I was 24. I’m currently 35. Before I was a licensed contractor, I worked for numerous different contractors. I grew up in the construction trade so I may have had a bit of a head start. However I would like to expand
    on the process of becoming a successful trades person. One can accomplish this with very little out of pocket upfront. If going to the MEP trades (mechanical,electrical,plumbing) you almost have to take the trade school route either through union or private. However if one wants to do trades such as tile, carpentry, flooring, roofing, etc… it’s really a hands on education that you will get paid to do with nothing out of pocket but some small hand tool costs. First step is bucking up and getting ready for a tough ride. It will be exhausting and trying of anyone’s work ethic. But if one has the backbone to not back down all you have to do is show confidence and a strong will to learn and pay attention to detail. If one can stick with it, sky’s the limit. As a young adult, I personally chose to take employment with several different specialty contractors each year. I would work for a tile setter for 3 months, check. Carpenter for 3 months, check. Roofer for 3 months, check. Etc. etc… after 2-3 years of doing this, I felt very confident in my skills to start my own business as a GC offering full home renovation. Of course there were trials but after a few years of good reputation and hard work, I am turning down more work than I can take. Long story short, one can get into the trades with little to no money upfront and get paid while learning. I strongly recommend the trades to young ppl as we are seeing a swift decline in young ppl in the trades. Most don’t want to put in the hard work and time. But if you can handle it, it will give back.
    Thanks so much again guys.

    • Corey, thanks so much for your feedback to the episode! I love hearing about the different ways people learn their trade skills.
      You’re absolutely spot on with the idea of the non-licensed trades; they are a fantastic way for someone to get their skills and make some good money without having to do the schooling. The fact that you were so methodical about it with such a solid a lucrative end goal is so cool to hear about!
      I am hearing more and more from customers that they can’t get a single plumber to help them, or they have been calling carpenters for days without a single reply because everyone is too busy. This major decline in trades workers is going to seriously hurt, and those that are smart enough to catch on and jump in will definitely see some real benefits. I’m already hearing stories about companies offering better and better benefits packages, along with well-paid on-the-job training programs to try to incentivize people to learn trade skills.
      People need to know, especially those with high-school age children, what a boon a career in the trades can be!

  3. Hey guys, loved the episode. I heard Tinian on BP and was happy to here about him again on Choose FI. I’m an electrician in Washington state and started almost 4 years ago. I started making $11 an hour in a rural area now take home about $48 an hour plus some retirement in Seattle. In Washington (at the time, legislation has changed recently) all I had to do to become a journeymen was to have certain amount of specific hours in the field and in a class room and then pass a written test. I could take classes anywhere they were provided and usually cost between $99- $119.

    I hope to here more from the FIRE community about the trades path to FI as I’m just starting on this journey.

    Thanks for all the info you have put out,
    The FIRE is spreading!

    • Hi Rob, great to hear from you!
      It sounds like they are making it fairly simple to get licensed over there, which is fantastic! Hopefully more young people will realize the incredible benefits of a career in the trades!
      If you check out my blog at diy2fi.com, you’ll see more articles relating to the trades as a lucrative path to FI, along with a bunch of other stuff. I haven’t seen too many other blogs out there writing about this, but hopefully more are coming!

  4. I’ve been listening off an on since episode 1, and like where you have gone with this episode.

    I don’t work for a traditional building trade, but nevertheless am a tradesman. I have been working in the special events and tradeshow world for 15 years now, and this is an example of the many manual trades-oriented jobs that exist out there that don’t even require formal licensing or training. I started out just applying for a job with a local event decorator, and found out that there is a whole world of carpentry, lighting design, rigging/climbing, etc, that is required to put on high level events around the country.

    Most workers start out with one company, and then dance around, eventually freelancing for the best pay and jobs. Your reputation is what drives your career. I have gotten to travel extensively around the country for events, but was able to maintain a steady local schedule in between. I have learned how to operate heavy equipment, hand and power tools, build elaborate sets in the shop and on-site, and work with large teams on very tight deadlines (like finish in 6 hours). It’s a lot of fun and very hard work. This is no 9-5! You work when needed, and until the job is finished. Often days are 12+ hours, and sometimes can stretch beyond 24 hours with naps at the hotel. Most people in this business with 3-5 years of experience can earn $20-$40/hour depending on your field. Much more will be made through overtime rates during busy season. Winters are spent lounging.

    A defect within the trade work world is the carrying-over of some old guild rules: unions, licenses, prevailing wages, contract bidding, seniority, etc. This can stymie a newcomer under a wet blanket of red tape. Stick to the non-union route and you can avoid much of it. The construction industry, as Tinian mentioned, brings apprentices on at ok wages (normally 40% of the journeyman rate), but often does not offer the hours required to level up to higher wages and seniority. Often, apprentices are laid off for periods of time that can be 6 months or longer. Everything is quite rigidly controlled in order to keep the supply of labor low and wages high. My recommendation is to start young (like high school/college young), and just apply for work with local builders or contractors (or your local stage and lighting company!). You will learn on the job, and when it comes time to look at licensing, it will be cake.

    The best aspect of this path is that you get to build things everyday. When you hang it up and head home, you have something tangible and as perfect as you could make it. The end result is satisfaction and pride.

    • Wow, this is a really interesting take on the trades that I had never thought of before! But now that you mention it, I have a friend from high school who has spent the last decade or so as a professional rigger. He has cleaned the outside of the Space Needle, set up safety ropes for bridge inspectors, and all kinds of other really cool stuff, and he gets paid to travel the country doing it!
      Thanks so much for bringing this aspect to light for all of us!

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