Who the heck is 5am Joel?

by Joel - Published May 8, 2020

surfer waiting on the beach

Good morning, all! Nice to meet you, I’m Joel. I’m the new guy.

Hang on a sec, where is J. Money?

As J announced earlier this week, he’s slowly stepping away from blogging here. He’ll be passing the reins over to me starting in June. 😬

Good news though, J’s not going too far!… He just extended his contract with Soapbox (the peeps who own this blog) and they have some “Rockstar-sized projects in the works. More info on that soon – you’re gonna LOVE it! :)

Passing the torch:

Before I share my story, I want to take a quick moment to recognize J and all he’s done for the community. (And will continue to do!)

J. Money is a true personal finance legend. He’s an inspiration to thousands of bloggers and millions of investors. J is kind, encouraging, and one of the most authentic people I know. Blogging on this site for over a decade, he’s never said a bad word about anybody.

In 2008, J set out to make a million dollars. But he ended up making a million friends. He learned and shared a million lessons. He gave away a million prizes, helped make and raise millions for others, and coached millions of beginners.

We owe him a million thank you’s.

Just last month, J and I were joking around and he said, “maybe I should just give away all my money to my readers as a big prize and then start this journey all over again from zero”… He was obviously joking, but this is the kind of thought that J’s wacky and generous brain comes up with. This is how much LOVE he has for all you guys and how much he wants to help others in life.

What a guy! Seriously, he’s irreplaceable. 

OK, enough with the emotional stuff. Let’s talk about the future of Budgets!

The show must go on.

My name is Joel and I’ll be the new guy behind the blog going forward. While I’m certainly very excited to be blogging here, I’m also pretty nervous… I’ve never done anything like this before. But, that’s the EXACT reason why I agreed to do it. Life has taught me that tackling big and scary things will lead to some pretty amazing places.

Taking over this blog is a huge responsibility for me, and it’s more public than I ever thought I’d be in life. I was serious when I said that J$ is irreplaceable… I cannot write or run the blog exactly the way he did. Nobody can. But, what I can do is bring a fun new perspective and voice to this site. I promise I’ll try my hardest for you guys, and prove my dedication. Give it time, I’ll grow on you :)

I’m sure you have a ton of questions about who I am and my background… I’ll start off with some main Q&A’s below. If there’s anything I miss – just ask – and I’ll be sharing more stories over time.

Age, Location, Family, Background info… WHO ARE YOU!?

I’m 35 years old and live in California. I’m married to my best friend (wife and me in the pic below) and we have a hyperactive German shepherd dog named Cooper. No kids (yet?), we are like one of those annoying happy couples that don’t know how to grow up. Quick story of how I met my wife here.

I was born and raised in Australia, and moved to the US when I was 22. This means I have a hybrid Aussie/US accent that’s sometimes hard for people to understand. If you want to hear what I sound like, I was recently on the How To Money Podcast, Episode 154!

My work career has mostly been in sales. While very lucrative and interesting, I’m not sure if it’s the line of work I want to be in forever. So, in early 2018 I left my last sales job to take a sabbatical and explore other options. I’m now freelancing, traveling, volunteering, and blogging! As for personal hobbies, I love surfing, brewing beer, and riding my motorbike.

Are you gonna share monthly Net Worth reports?

Similar to what J$ mentioned in his last net worth update, I have loved ones and investment partners that would prefer me not track my net worth online. Currently, my investment portfolio is about ~50% real estate (I’m part owner in 9 x rental props and private partnerships), and it’s difficult to regularly and accurately calculate my net worth. Even if I was to make full net worth updates they would be long, complex, and probably not relevant to 90% of readers.

That being said, I think it’s only fair to be transparent with stories and numbers when writing about personal finance. This Budgets blog was built on a foundation of transparency, and I will abide by that. So I’ll try to share as much as possible about my projects, numbers and examples based on my personal assets in posts going forward.

Where are you on your path to Financial Independence?

My current situation is best described as “Coast FIRE”. Basically, my wife and I have accumulated enough assets that, if left alone, will continue to grow and get us to financial independence within probably 5-7 years. As long as we don’t withdraw from our portfolio, reaching FI is inevitable.

Currently, our savings rate is 0%. We are making just enough personal income to cover our annual expenses. While I’d love to be socking away more money into investments, I’m intentionally slowing down my path to FI. I’m far more concerned with answering the “What the heck do I want to do with the rest of my life?” question, rather than the “How quickly can I retire?” question. Does this make sense? More to come on this!

What’s with the “5AM” Joel?

About 4 years ago I started getting up every morning at 5am. It started as one of those 30 day challenges, but after the challenge was over I just never stopped. I got addicted. I started noticing major improvements in my work, health, relationships and happiness in life. While getting out of bed at 5am kind of sucks each morning, I continue to do it because the pros outweigh the cons.

I run a small personal website/blog where I send out a *short* daily message at 5am each morning. I write about happiness, positivity and learning to be a better human. Been doing this for over 1000 days now! You can check out all the archives here if interested: 5AM Joel Daily Emails

What are your goals for blogging here?

For me, this site has always been about the community. Sharing cool ideas, sharing lessons learned, and making money a FUN topic to talk about! So we’ll still continue the raffles, giveaways, community and guest posts, etc. on this site.

I’m not big on how-to guides or step by step instructions on how to live life. I believe everyone’s path to financial independence is slightly different, and I’m excited to share more about mine. And learn about yours!

Alright, that’s it for now. Ask me anything in the comments. You’ll hear again from J next week.

Have a wicked weekend!

– Joel

[Photo by Alex King]

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rachael May 8, 2020 at 6:23 am

Hi 5amJ! Being a big fan of J$’s daily blogging emails, I admit I wasn’t elated to hear that someone else would be taking over, but I was reassured when J$ said he hand-picked you as his successor. If this is a sample of your future quality, then I’ll stay on as a subscriber. Welcome to my inbox. :)


2 5am Joel May 8, 2020 at 8:17 am

Hey Rachel!

I felt exactly the same when J announced that he sold the website last year. I almost unsubscribed that very day. But I hung on cause I love the blog and community (and J never actually left). Then I get a random email one day asking for a phone call, and I was like “are you kidding? Nobody will ever replace J!”. But after talking with him and learning more about the future, it was never about “replacing” J Money, it was more about continuing his legacy and making personal finance fun for more people.

Thanks for giving me a chance! More to come :)

– Joel


3 Jennifer May 8, 2020 at 6:45 am

Thanks for helping us keep our eye on the ball. I love your 5am blog and look forward to this one as well!

– – 530amJenn


4 5am Joel May 8, 2020 at 8:19 am

Thanks Jenn :) 5:30 – thats awesome!


5 Gretttman May 8, 2020 at 6:56 am

It is sad to see J leave. I am sure 5 AM will do just fine. However, I came here because it was fun watching J grow over the years personally and professionally/financially. Once he sold the blog and stopped his NW updates, he became less relatable and I read the blog less frequently. While I congratulate him on his success, I hope to find a blog out there that I can relate to again. For me, the formula for success of this blog was: A good hearted young guy quits his job…doesn’t have much money…starts a blog….writes stories about himself….and does something very people do…posts his NW updates on a monthly basis to motivate others. He did this with good hearted humor.

I wish 5AM success but I won’t be reading (at least not often). There are plenty of bloggers out there who have tons of rental properties who have achieved success at a young age. My desire is to find someone who is still trying to get to that point.


6 5am Joel May 8, 2020 at 8:34 am

Hey Gretttman, sorry to hear this. It was definitely fun watching J build his own unique journey through life, sharing it all step by step. (actually the journey isn’t over for him – his next project will be equally as quirky, and he’s starting completely out of his comfort zone again). As for finding someone else to follow, the new Soapbox project will expose & promote hundreds of beginner bloggers and re investors and you’ll be able to find a variety of people that you might be able to relate to there.
Cheers! -Joel


7 J. Money May 8, 2020 at 8:35 am

I will admit the journey was a lot more fun than crossing the finish line :) Those first few years of figuring it all out and sharing away was the highlight of my blogging career! Hitting $1MIL has been nice, but not nearly as exciting – or life changing – as that first half of the journey…

Thanks for being along for the ride and reading over the years… We had some good times!


8 5am Joel May 8, 2020 at 8:46 am

J, it’s not too late to give away all your cash and start agian. Just sayin’ that option is still open :)


9 J. Money May 8, 2020 at 10:50 am

At least then I can share my net worths again!!! ;)


10 mobilehomegurl May 8, 2020 at 8:32 am

Welcome Joel! I’m a longtime reader of J and blogger friend. It’s sad to see him leave but exciting to see what other new things he’ll be doing. Glad you’ll be taking over especially since you’re a real estate investor. Would be great to hear your experiences and stories in that area. I specialize in mobile home investing. Looking forward to reading more! :)


11 5am Joel May 8, 2020 at 8:43 am

Hey Rachel! Yes, I’ll share some real estate stories over time. I never got into mobile homes or mobile parks… I always felt I learned about them too late in the game (I know that’s just an excuse). I just checked out your site and am looking forward to learning more about your story too!
– Joel


12 Ms. Liz May 8, 2020 at 10:21 am

Welcome Joel!

I just read about how you met your wife and your approach to attitude and happiness matches mine! I love how J creates community in each of his endeavors and am sure you’ll do the same.

This ex-blogger/early retiree is cheering you on!


13 5am Joel May 8, 2020 at 11:37 am

Thanks Liz! Appreciate the support and love that you have a positive attitude too. It makes all the difference :)
Have a good one,
– Joel


14 Brian Winch May 8, 2020 at 10:44 am

Welcome aboard Joel.


15 5am Joel May 8, 2020 at 11:38 am

Cheers, Brian!


16 [email protected] May 8, 2020 at 11:01 am

J$ was one of a few sites that got me started on the idea of FIRE about four years ago. I read financial books and magazines and didn’t realize there was bloggers on FIRE. I never had a game plan on when I was going to retire from my current work, however, my wife and I were on the path to FI. This site, along with a couple of others, helped us realize that we can RE and to take the leap. Life is too short. We plan to do so in three years @54 and 52.

Being from Northern California, not sure I can relate to the LA guy. Ha ha. I have read your posts on your other site before and look forward to your posts here.


17 J. Money May 8, 2020 at 12:58 pm

Oh wow – HUGE adventure coming up for you! Early congrats!! So glad the site helped you over the years! :)


18 5am Joel May 8, 2020 at 1:17 pm

Hey! Totally agree with the “life is too short” mindset and glad to hear you are on track to retire early! Congrats! Northern Cali is like a whole different state :) My wife and I are in LA to be closer to family but not sure if it’s our forever place.


19 Lonelle May 8, 2020 at 11:31 am

Welcome Joel, I am a fellow Californian. I am not all that interested in rental property as we plan to move out of California in the next 4 years (3 years 11 months!! Yea). I will definitely miss the climb with J$, but am interested in what else you can bring us!


20 5am Joel May 8, 2020 at 11:46 am

Hey Lonelle! TBH I’m not that interested in rental properties anymore either. Ha! When I landed in the USA I was a hungry young hustler and was dazzled by real estate discussions and opportunities. But over time I started studying “simpler” paths to growing wealth I slowed down my RE goals and projects.
Enjoy California while you’re still here!
– Joel


21 Lisa O May 8, 2020 at 11:35 am

Welcome Joel! You have some shoes to fill to keep this community happy. I have been a reader of J$ for several years and just love his outlook on finances and how he puts it into words.
Good Luck……


22 5am Joel May 8, 2020 at 11:54 am

Yep, it’s a massive task convincing a mob of people to be happy about a change they never asked for. I’m going to tackle it the only way I know how… To be myself and try my absolute hardest in everything I do.
Have a great weekend, Lisa!
– Joel


23 Kara May 8, 2020 at 1:32 pm

Welcome, Joel! As a reader of both J$ and Joel for the last few years, I don’t doubt for one second that J$ picked the perfect successor. Joel’s positive energy and inspirational emails sent out each morning are a great way to start the day. I am looking forward to seeing what Joel brings to Budgets are Sexy. Best of luck to you, Joel! Thanks for the ride, J$!


24 5am Joel May 8, 2020 at 4:03 pm

Thanks Kara! Very nice of you to say, and thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!
– Joel


25 stephanie t May 8, 2020 at 2:42 pm

Long time reader of J$, and somewhat newbie to 5AMJoel. I agree with Kara above; I’m looking forward to more fun, motivation, and growth here.
J$…please do some guest spots. I’ll die without them! (Okay, maybe a little over-dramatic but you get the idea).


26 J. Money May 8, 2020 at 4:18 pm

Deal ;)


27 5am Joel May 8, 2020 at 4:09 pm

Hey Steph! J can’t stay away from this site… (Actually I’m still waiting for him to tell me this has all been one big joke and he’s really going to stay.) He’ll be posting here still for sure.
– Joel


28 Liz May 8, 2020 at 9:01 pm

Hey Joel, welcome! Been following both you and J$ for a couple years now, and while I’m sad to see J$’s departure from the site, I don’t believe that there’s anyone more suitable to continue his legacy, and your posts and daily emails are solid proof of that. Congrats on your first post, and I’m looking forward to all future ones!

J$, thank you so much for everything you’ve given this community. Hope to see you around at least sometimes!


29 5am Joel May 9, 2020 at 11:19 am

Cheers Liz! Been loving your replies and comments over the years. And glad to hear you’re blogging again too! Chat soon,
– Joel


30 Francis May 10, 2020 at 6:43 pm

Thanks for the bio. I’m certain that you’ll bring value and a new twist to the site.
FI Blogging has changed drastically over the past two years as many bloggers that hit FIRE have moved into their 3rd stage of rocket telemetry, hit escape velocity and in some cases, cashed out and moved onto other things. That’s living example of the gig economy. Nothing wrong with that and something that I can identify with.
So, I’ll be stopping by everyday and watching how things evolve and will ride along.


31 5am Joel May 11, 2020 at 9:58 am

Thanks Francis. Yep there’s been a shift over the past few years. FI bloggers are similar in a lot of ways, but also a very diverse group. It’s interesting to see who does what after achieving FI.


32 Mandy May 11, 2020 at 12:15 am

Welcome aboard! Can’t wait to read more!


33 5am Joel May 11, 2020 at 10:01 am

Thanks Mandy! Chat soon!


34 Gwen @ Fiery Millennials May 12, 2020 at 8:15 am

I think Budgets Are Sexy should throw an online party to celebrate all that J$ has done and welcome Joel! What better way to make the transition than with some tasty brews and lots of good cheer? We’ll miss your voice around here J$ but I have no doubt we’ll hear from you regularly in some fashion. As for Joel…. Welcome! My friend! So excited to hear more from you!! This gonna be dope! :)


35 5am Joel May 12, 2020 at 10:57 am

Thanks Gwen. Definitely on board with a virtual party of some sort to celebrate J$ and all he’s done!


36 J. Money May 13, 2020 at 5:43 pm

Haha… I’ll run it up the flagpole at Headquarters and see where it gets us ;)

In the meantime, virtual beers on me!! As much as you can drink!


37 Erika May 15, 2020 at 9:20 pm

Cool! I live in Los Angeles, too! I’ve been a big fan of this website for a long time, so curious to see it in new hands. :)


38 Joel May 16, 2020 at 10:39 am

Awesome! Maybe I’ll meet you one day at a local FI meet-up.
Cheers! Joel.


39 Deanna @ Recovering Women Wealth May 16, 2020 at 2:22 am

Heyyy, welcome to your new home and congrats!! I didn’t know you were Aussie. Anyway, I’ve only been on the PF scene since early 2018 but I’ve followed J$ for about a year now and have certainly read some of your stuff too. It sounds likely a lovely transition of growth for both of you! I”m excited see it all unfold…


40 Joel May 16, 2020 at 10:47 am

Thanks Deanna. I read some of your stuff back in your Fiology days! You and I actually have a similar story – in that I started 5amjoel as more of a finance focussed journey talking about FI… but slowly over time I realized I enjoyed writing more about personal development and helping people with happiness.
For this site I’ll be focussing on finance based content (I love helping people with money stuff), but it’s heavily interlinked with personal development and mental health :)
Have a great weekend,


41 Deanna @ Recovering Women Wealth May 17, 2020 at 8:44 am

Oh I didn’t know that. Pretty cool :)


42 Alicia May 29, 2020 at 3:19 am

Looking forward to reading more :) I live in Temecula, not too far from LA so I’m very curious to read about the financial journey of someone locally who isn’t one of the fake pencil-sharpening/teacher couples with a million dollar new home budget lol!


43 Joel O'Leary May 30, 2020 at 9:26 am

Haha. I gave up on the idea of owning a home in LA the second I moved here. My wife and I will happily rent forever. That’s why I started investing in Texas rental properties. You can own 4 houses in Texas for the price of 1 in LA. And they produce more income :)


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