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Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) Practitioners Share Their Stories

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Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) is a movement that allows its practitioners to potentially retire far earlier than the conventional age of 65, by saving vigilantly and practicing major discipline. I thought it’d be helpful and inspiring to compile stories from people who have achieved FIRE or are getting there fast, and put out the following query:

Looking to hear from practitioners of the FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) movement. How old are you, what’s your strategy been, what progress have you made and what advice do you have for others? The more detail you can share in your story the better. We’ll publish your submission in a big round-up article about FIRE stories intended to inspire and/or help people getting started with FIRE.

We’ll be adding more stories as they come in. There is much to learn from some of the stories below, but the bottom line is that you do not need to be a super high earner to achieve FIRE. It’s invigorating to see how many people from all different walks of life, backgrounds and work histories have achieved their financial goals. Some grind away at a job and save relentlessly, some start a business, some might have a stroke of luck and some do a combination of these things. There’s no one single way to achieve FIRE, but the key in all stories, more so even than earning a lot of money, is being disciplined and putting away as much as you can.

I strongly recommend have a read through some of the stories below. The main money-makers for people have been the following:

  • Real estate investment
  • Stock investments (and especially dividend income)
  • House hacking (renting other rooms in your house while you live there to pay all your mortgage or rent)
  • Freelancing (often in addition to main work)
  • Starting an online business

I utilize three areas currently to try to reach FIRE by the age of 45 while raising two young children: Rental Real Estate, Stock Market Investments, and my company sponsored 401(k) plan. How I plan for these to allow me to retire early is by creating cashflow and appreciation from now until I'm 45. I'm still working and contributing to each of them currently, and then from age 45 to 59 1/2 years old, my 401(k) should continue to appreciate while I draw from the other investments.

Rental Real Estate - Currently, I have one rental property in a B class neighborhood with highly rated schools. I bought it near the lows of the market and have seen it appreciate over $60,000 so far. Due to the stable and growing local economy, top-rated school zones, and a safe area, this home is able to command premium rental rates. I plan to expand the rental business in this area as there is still an influx of people moving into the city, which should help to continue to boost cash flow and appreciation. I am very familiar with the local area. I would not have a problem managing these from out of state when I eventually relocate as I know the city, have property management and resources in place to take care of the properties and will be returning to the area to visit family and on holidays. You'll see that we plan to relocate in the future to a LCOL area, at which point I will be able to accelerate the rental business.

Stock Market Investments - I currently invest in a taxable brokerage account $732 a month, like clockwork. This is automatic, and transfers are made from my checking account to the brokerage account every Monday for $183. I then allow the money to accrue in my account until there is a market pullback. Recently due to the substantial pullback at the end of February due to Coronavirus fears, I deposited a more significant amount to deploy as market conditions seem to be oversold, and fear is in the streets. These investments are both long term and short term, and I will access this cash reserve when I find rental properties that meet my criteria to place down payments of 20%.

401(k) Plan - I have been maxing out my 401(k) plan for the last several years. I currently contribute around $1,150 per month pretax and $400 per month in my ROTH account so that I can take distributions tax-free come retirement. I also get a 4% company match, which is generously vested immediately with my current employer. I use this account mainly as a backup plan. I could contribute less to this plan and accelerate the rental real estate business quicker. However, I like to invest with some caution and take more calculated risks. My 401(k) is mainly a backup plan, and I don't take it into account for my FIRE numbers. It's there in case I massively screw up on the FIRE plan I will still be able to retire comfortably, albeit at an older age. I should have just around $1,000,000 in the account at the age of 45 if I keep my current investing schedule and don't make any changes assuming an average of a 7% annual return in the markets. I can't access the account until I'm age 59 1/2, which will give it an additional 14 years to grow and by then should have amassed around $2,500,000 again using 7% historical annual market returns. This should be enough to sufficiently ride out retirement even without any other investments working in my favor, as it should provide around $100,000 in retirement income if I withdraw at 4%. By then, I plan to have my future Florida or South Carolina house paid in full, and the kids will hopefully be creating a great future for themselves at that point, so my costs will be drastically lower than today.

As mentioned above, my wife and I also plan to leave our HCOL area in the next 5-7 years and go to a cheaper state. We have had our eye on Florida and South Carolina as options as they both offer warmer climates and easy access to beaches. Florida's real estate has begun to appreciate quicker than I had hoped prior to us moving there, but there are still deals to be found for a primary residence. Both Florida and South Carolina also offer good areas to purchase rental properties at drastically lower prices than my current city. If we sell in 5 years and move, we should be able to pull out $155,000 in equity after all closing fees. This will allow us to put around a 50-60% down payment on the house in a cheaper area. Our payments will be substantially lower at that point, the kids will be out of daycare, which will save me over $1700 a month alone, and I will be able to ramp up the rental real estate business.

Since my FIRE plans involve cash flow from rental properties, I don't have a solid number that I need to have to account for withdraws. Many FIRE enthusiasts have a number in their brokerage accounts they need to reach to withdraw at 4% to be able to cover their expenses. I expect that I will need an income of $3,300 per month at age 45, calculating for inflation to cover all costs. Currently, I'm about 18% of the way to my goal in monthly passive income. I've also recently started my website to open up another income stream, which is showing promising results. Just my plan alone should cover these costs and my wife doesn't have any plans to retire early. She wants to continue to work so her income will also be able to cover our costs should we need it. At the age of 45, I plan to have $1,000,000 in my 401(k) that will continue to accrue until age 59 1/2. If the rental properties and stock market money bring in enough that I don't need to touch this money, I will continue to let it grow as long as possible before accessing it or being forced to withdraw from it due to required minimum distributions. I also plan to have 8-10 rental properties in the portfolio each cash flowing after all expenses and withholdings of $250+ per month for an income of $2,000- $2,500 per month at age 45. My brokerage account should be somewhere between $200,000 - $300,000 by the age of 45 and be bringing in dividend income as well as appreciation in the range of $1,700 - $ 2,200 per month for a total of $3,700 - $4,700 in passive income each month. With the relocation to the cheaper area and a lower housing and childcare cost in the near future, these numbers could drastically change to the upside. This is based on my HCOL area. If Florida continues to appreciate at current rates, then in 5 years with my estimated downpayment, my mortgage payment should only be around $900, which is much lower than my current mortgage of $2,200. With the passive income streams sending me cash every month, I will be able to comfortably retire early at age 45 in sunny and warmer Florida or South Carolina. If all works out correctly, when I can also withdraw from my 401(k) I'll be in a very good position to travel more as that will open up a large amount of money to access each month. I can't wait to be sitting on the beach, with my shades on, a book in one hand and a drink in the other!

I will likely continue to work on gig work, my website, and other avenues to create more passive income in retirement as I don't see myself just sitting around the house. I also teach my kids about money and investing, even though they're young. My main goal is to be able to leave my children a large sum of money in the future and for them to carry the torch. Many families lose their wealth by the second generation due to living above average lifestyles and subsidizing their kids throughout their adult life. I plan to teach my kids about money and one day help my kids teach their children so we can begin to create sustainable generational wealth. I always wished one of my ancestors started this tradition, so I've decided that I'll be the one to get our family started down the right path. Frugality and persistence can go a long way, long enough for generations to benefit from the acts of those before them, as long as each generation acts responsibly and learns how to manage their wealth.

--Jared, 30Sum.com

PERMALINK: https://outwittrade.com/fire-stories#jared

Hello, my name is John Frigo, 31, and I'm into the fire movement. I've always kind of been into the FIRE lifestyle before even knowing it was a thing or a movement. I've always just kind of naturally been frugal and have always had a side hustle and always been trying to find ways to increase my income.

The Fire lifestyle is fairly easy for me as there's just not a whole lot of material stuff that appeals to me. I'm not really into cars, I don't really care about fashion, I don't play video games or have any expensive hobbies. I like to ride my bike, I like to paddleboard, I like going to the beach and camping, mainly free stuff or cheap stuff. Outside of enjoying food, weed and travel, I don't really spend money on much.

Two of the things that moved me forward the most were buying my first home at a young age and house hacking with a couple friends. Now again, now house hacking is a big term and a strategy, back when I did it it wasn't really a thing, it just made sense to do. I knew I'd likely live with friends as roomates so figured rather than giving money to a landlord I'd buy a house and be the one making money and building equity. I bought a house in my early 20's, had 2 buddies move in with me and we lived together for 3-4 years. I got to live for free and got to build equity, they got cheap rent ie $400 per month, and it worked out all around. I still have that property as a cash flowing rental today though I no longer live there but that gave me a big head start.

A few years after this I also started an online business which I ultimately wound up leaving my dead end low paying job to pursue fulltime. I went from making about $13 per hour to well into the six figures per year and I eventually sold that business about a year back and moved on to other things. After selling my business I took six months off to travel a bit, hangout with my dogs, try my hand at freelancing and worked on some passion projects. I eventually got bored and got frustrated that my net worth was just kinda going sideways instead of growing like I was used to. I also was kind of unfulfilled with what I was doing which wasn't a whole lot and went back to work.

I wound up taking an in house job as a Digital Marketing Lead. I really enjoy what I do, like the people I work with, and would like to stay here for another year or two at least. Down the road I'd like to maybe move to a warmer climate, travel a bit more and possibly start another business.

--John Frigo, My Supplement Store

PERMALINK: https://outwittrade.com/fire-stories#john

My husband and I are in our mid 30s and started our FIRE journey in January 2018. I work in healthcare and he's in law enforcement. Prior to discovering FIRE, we were knee deep in debt and living paycheck to paycheck. We did have decent income, but we made countless of money mistakes and had more bills than we could handle.

At first I was a little skeptical about the FIRE movement as I didn't think it was possible. As I learned more about the math behind it and the strategies, I realized that this was something we could achieve even living in a HCOL city.

We focused on optimizing our three biggest expenses which were housing, transportation, and food. I think the most important thing when getting started with FIRE is keeping an open mind and welcoming change.

First, we sold our house and started renting again. This also allowed us to pay off our $50k consumer debt and lower our housing cost by more than half.

We sold our cars and motorcycles. Currently, we share one fuel efficient car that we bought used in cash.

We also cut our food/grocery expense by cooking more at home, bringing our lunches to work, and being more intentional. We still enjoy dining out with friends and families.

By making these changes and implementing simple money principles, we are now able to save on average 50% of our income. Last year, we saved and invested over $100k.

FIRE may have a different meaning for everyone, but for me and my husband it would afford us more time to do things we enjoy and design our lives without or with very little constraints. We are still five years away from our FIRE number, but in the end, achieving FIRE would lead to better versions of us. We want to make a difference in our community, help others in need, and leave this world a better place.

--Krizelle, The Minted Latte

PERMALINK: https://outwittrade.com/fire-stories#krizelle

I'm 28, my wife is 27 and we've been working towards FI for about 5 years now, ever since I stumbled upon Mr. Money Mustache. I read one post a day for about two years.

We have 2 kids and planning to have 3-5. Just want to be free by 40 and do what I want (probably still work).

We have downsized from a 2400 sq ft home to a 1250 sq ft condo, moved from Utah to Alabama, and I have career hopped 4 times in 5 years and increased my income 50% in the process.

I work in IT, I am a money coach and blogger. My wife stays at home and has co founded a pest control company. She does the marketing and lots of the office work. She also teaches piano when we are not quarantined. We love ping pong (our dinner table is a ping pong table), cycling, and playing music.

I grew up in a home where money was a source of contention. My dad worked hard but not as hard as my mom spent. I remember my mom crying as my dad cut up credit cards over a garbage can. We had many toys but I didn’t care about most of them.

My mom memorized the card numbers. Eventually they divorced and my mom robbed my sister and I’s savings accounts to get breast implants. I was 15, my sister 12. About 4 or 5k was taken away. We threatened to sue before getting it back.

I worked really hard in school and summer jobs and graduated debt free from a inexpensive private school. We also used Trusts strategically to allow me to get subsidized loans despite making a lot in college.

From random little side hustles, to picking up coins from the drive thru, the one time I dumpster dived, I’m pretty into money. Mostly passive index funds, Roth accounts and a little bit of play money. I’m into crowdfunded real estate, tradelines and cash back apps. We are planning to have 3 or 4 long term rentals in the next 5-10 years, still saving for a down payment and learning.

We don't budget but save about 50% of our income. We keep an open mind and try lots of new things.

Advice to others would be to learn a little about finance (I suggest 1 financial article a week) and make sure you're not neglecting that aspect of your life. So many people are ignorant and stay ignorant, only to find they are behind on their savings and about to have a midlife crisis.

--James Stuart, FrugalStu.com

PERMALINK: https://outwittrade.com/fire-stories#james

I was working towards FIRE for several years, but then realized that what I truly wanted was not really to *retire*, but rather to have more control over my time, the ability to travel (not just for the sake of traveling - my wife's family lives in Japan, so that's one reason), a different type of work (I loved my job as a community pharmacist, but was also getting bored), and the excitement of owning my own business, getting clients, and earning my own income.

I know for a fact too that I want a mid-career break at some point; my wife and I might move to Japan for a year during this break, and I've also thought about applying for a Fulbright during that time. A regular job will not give me those options.

I landed on medical writing, and I previously had been doing it as a hobby, where I made $3,000 in 2017, to $6,000 in 2018, to almost $19,000 in 2019. I am on track to make probably $25,000 this year. More importantly, I gained financial security not by saving but by increasing my earning potential should I lose my job.

That, combined with me working on reducing my expenses earlier (from studying FIRE), allowed me to go part-time at my pharmacist job (3 days/week); when I did, I was moved out of a dispensing role and into more of a consulting role, so I got an amazing deal: I own my time entirely 2 days/week, and the other 3 days I work for my current employer I get to work on a wide variety of projects in quality, finance, medication safety, compliance, operations, etc. Basically I'm the guy that fixes stuff, and I love that job!

--Alex Evans, Pharmacy Compliance Specialists, LLC

PERMALINK: https://outwittrade.com/fire-stories#alex

When I graduated from college, I took on a very standard job to help me chip away slowly at my $60,000 of debt. As far as I saw it, carrying a ton of student debt was normal, especially in my group of friends who all finished studying at around the time same time. So being this deep in the red at the start of my working life was nothing to worry about, right?

But one day I stumbled across an article that plainly explained that debt was not normal. It described how, with interest piling on top of the initial amount, this can quickly spiral out of control.

And it also showed how followers of the FIRE movement were inventing a new normal, one that saw them reclaiming control of their finances and achieving the holy grail: financial independence and early retirement. I was instantly hooked.

I began devouring every article, book and podcast I could find on financial matters. JL Collins' Stock Series was particularly good for explaining how a few investment choices involving the simple index fund and the magic of compound interest could change my financial life.

Most of these articles had a few simple concepts in common and are the same ideas that I teach people through my own personal finance website today. That is, building wealth comes down to only two things:

- Spend less than you earn

- Make your money work for you

For me, I used these same ideas to power my way through wiping out my own debt. I cut my spending right back so that I was saving 60% of my income. Then, once I'd paid off my student loans, I pushed everything I could into low-cost index funds.

Given I was in my late 20s at the time, calculations showed that the compounding value of these investments would give more than enough time for me to secure my financial future.

The result of all this is that I'm now 33 with a portfolio in the mid-six figures range. And I was well on track to reach financial independence and, if I chose to, retire early by age 36.

Unfortunately, the current economic situation has shifted these plans a bit, so it's now more likely that this target date will be delayed by a few years. A crash was, however, inevitable, so I see this as a good chance to test both my financial resolve and the strength of my portfolio to see how it gets through to the other side.

The situation hasn't, however, changed my strategy of continuing to invest regularly in broad market index funds, like those that track the S&P 500.

And for those looking to pursue their own FIRE goals, I tell them to do exactly the same thing I did - and continue to do.

--Anna Barker, LogicalDollar

PERMALINK: https://outwittrade.com/fire-stories#anna

I'm 39 and my wife is 36. Our FIRE strategy has three broad prongs: real estate, stocks, and my business SparkRental.

We invest for real estate for immediate (and ongoing) income, tax advantages, and protection against inflation. Rental properties' yield usually rises over time, and much faster than inflation, particularly if you use leverage (loans/other people's money). The cash flow is predictable as a long-term average, even if it fluctuates month-to-month with expenses like repairs. Beyond rental properties, we also invest in REITs (both public and private), and private notes to other investors.

We invest in stocks for diversification, liquidity, and long-term growth. My stock investments are nearly 100% automated, with regular contributions and broad investments in passive index funds, managed by a robo-advisor. (I use Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, which is free with at least $5,000 invested.) That automation frees up my time for the real estate investments, which require more work.

Finally, my business SparkRental will eventually become a source of passive income as well. Right now my partner and I work full time to grow it, and we're adding staff members. We offer both educational services and online property management software, with our mission to help everyday people build passive income from rental properties on the side of their full-time job.

Eventually it will reach a point where my partner and I can gradually delegate more and more of our responsibilities to our managers, and ultimately hire a CEO.

I hope to reach financial independence within the next three years, with six figures in passive investment income. But the timeline doesn't matter as much to me as most people; my wife and I plan to continue working indefinitely. We'll just increasingly do so on our own terms, with money becoming less relevant as a factor affecting our decisions and lifestyle.

--Brian Davis, SparkRental

PERMALINK: https://outwittrade.com/fire-stories#brian

I'm 34 years old and hung up my fob and khakis back in 2013 when I was 27. The $300,000 or so I had saved up at the time wasn't enough for traditional FIRE (if traditional FIRE exists), so I called it my pretirement.' I sold everything, put my money to good use in the markets, took off for a factory reset and upgrade, then did all sorts of (ad)ventures to put my new skills and enthusiasm to the test. I partnered in a company that exported frozen blueberries to Mexico, started up a business that made protein powder and a coconut oil alternative from insects, and co-owned a hostel. Seven years later, I now have significantly more savings, tons of memories and stories to tell, a career I love and have no dreams of retiring (or pretiring) from, and a generally fuller life.

My Advice:

1) Don't wait. Take the risk as soon as you have the financial flexibility to live financially worry-free for a few years.

2) Do a full factory reset and restart. Shut down all obligations, travel for an indefinite period to cool down, then upgrade your abilities by learning meta-skills you can put to the test.

3) Set a big broad goal to provide direction.

4) Put your new powers and rekindled enthusiasm to the test.

5) Get real. You're inevitably going to screw up (i.e plot twists). Learn from your mistakes to correct the image you have of yourself and alter course accordingly. If you don't you'll end up begging for the job you pretired from.

6) Play the long game. With patience and long-term focus, anyone can find themselves upon a fulfilling vocation to un-retire from.

--Chris Blachut, The Unconventional Route

PERMALINK: https://outwittrade.com/fire-stories#chris

I'm 31 years old and am just past the halfway point on the journey to the magical FIRE number. However, as much as I was obsessed with the planning and calculations of how to shave off a month or two before I could be done working, the more relaxed about everything I feel now. Life becomes much easier when you have F-You money and don't need to worry about money on an existential level anymore. When I was approaching the halfway point a year ago I had a long conversation with my wife and realized that I could either continue working for four more years in a job that was physically and mentally exhausting and then be completely done working for the rest of my life at the age of 34 OR just pull the trigger right then and probably delaying the FIRE date, but having a much more sustainable path to get there. Also, with me quitting my job our savings rate only dropped from 72% to 59% thanks to our decent incomes and very low expenses. My main advice for people is to make sure they find a sustainable and enjoyable way to reach FIRE, because it really is true that if you're not happy on your path there you won't magically become happy at the destination either.

--Daniel Penzing, Maze of our Lives

PERMALINK: https://outwittrade.com/fire-stories#daniel

My name is Marco Sison. I retired early five years ago at age 41 and have been slow-traveling the world perpetually to over 40+ countries since. By not having a permanent address, I have been able to cut my retirement expenses by over 70% versus living in the US.

NOMADIC FIRE APPROACH TO RETIREMENT: I combined the lifestyle concept of digital nomad-ism with the financial principles of the FIRE movement. Nomadic FIRE uses overseas travel to countries with a lower cost of living than the US to maximize FIRE savings. This concept is called Geographic Arbitrage or geo-arbitrage.

Geo-arbitrage means earning my retirement savings in US dollars, but spending the money in low cost of living countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Colombia, Bulgaria, etc. Low cost of living countries offer me more spending power for my dollar. Instead of dealing with ridiculously high rent and food costs in cities like San Francisco or New York, I spend a fraction of the cost for a beautiful apartment on an SE Asian beach in Bali or an exciting European capital city like Bucharest or Prague.

Geo-Arbitrage is the strongest engine to achieve FIRE. In some countries, my cost of living is 75% less than in the US.

My Tips to Help Others Reduce Their Living Expenses:

My total 2019 expenses were roughly $12,000 annually. That breaks down to only $1000 per month, even while traveling to 13 countries. By using a house hacking combination of co-living and housesitting, I reduced my housing expenses to approximately $225 per month.

Co-Living: In Medellin, Colombia, my girlfriend and I were co-living with six digital nomads in a giant 8-room house with leather furniture, big screen tv, in-home gym, multiple balconies, and a roof deck for only $275 per month. The co-living house was in a desirable hipster neighborhood near parks, coffee shops, shopping, and nightlife.

Housesitting: In Vienna, Austria, we spent three months housesitting a studio in the city center *at no cost to us. The owner was doing some light renovations and needed new pictures of the studio to use for their future rental and Airbnb listings. My girlfriend is a travel photographer, and we staged a photo shoot in addition to watching and maintaining the owner's house.

Healthcare Savings: Healthcare costs are a significant savings living overseas. In most cases, I pay for local healthcare costs out of pocket (no insurance), but the savings are mind-blowing. As an example, my knee MRI in the Philippines cost me $200 vs. $1500 - $2000 in the US. A DEXA and bone density scan in Colombia costs $25 vs. $150 - $250 in the US. My emergency room visit for ten stitches, and drugs in Thailand was less than $12.

If any significant emergencies happen, I have international medical insurance as my safety net. My insurance covers me WORLDWIDE (except the US) is $680 per year. To compare, a silver level high deductible plan in the US would cost me close to $6,000 a year.

--Marco Sison, Nomadic FIRE

PERMALINK: https://outwittrade.com/fire-stories#marco

My family of 4 have been happy FIRE practitioners even though we live in an expensive city (Toronto, Canada). Cost of living is high and my very young kids don't make it any easier on me but it's been worth it.

I'll also admit I'm a little bit (or a lot) time-obsessed. Everything I do in my life is timed (which drives my wife nuts) and if it's not yielding an amazing hourly return I ditch it. It drives my wife nuts but it makes for some unique posts.

My goal is to help busy people who don't have time to stock pick or coupon their way to success. Most people feel time-deprived and I pay attention to it a little too much so I can help those people VERY well.

I'm currently 34 and have been FIRE'd for almost 2 years, plus my wife is approaching 4 years without a real job. Truth be told, we still work minimally part-time but it's optional and we think it makes our lives better yet still counts as retirement. I liked my job, I just didn't like having to do so much of it, so now I work 1-day a week.

I keep all my work benefits, get some money and have an escape route back to the working world if I ever needed it. I doubt I ever will but now during COVID-2020 I don't have a worry in the world (except obvious health concerns).

- I don't care if I lose my job since I have a passive income.

- My investments could disappear since I have access to a job.

- The stock market is irrelevant to me since I have a lot of rentals.

I feel like I have discovered an early retirement hack. Plus, it's nearly impossible to get stressed at work when you don't have to show up the next day.

My strategy?

The key to every FIRE journey is learning to save but I just do it through motivating myself and knowing how to talk to people. budgets are no fun so my wife and I hate them. Plus they take-up time which I mentioned I watch a bit too much. Instead, we just have a strategy to motivate ourselves and keep on target.

My investing strategy is primarily as a direct but passive rental real estate investor. Rental houses represent a great early retirement vehicle because they naturally inflation-adjust themselves and can generate huge returns either in cash or appreciation.

The rest of my money is in index funds. I used to be a die-hard direct stock trader then one day I realized that an index fund I had forgotten about in my portfolio was matching my multi-year returns, WITH NO EFFORT! I competed with it for 2 years then became an index investing convert.

Now I couldn't be happier.

What do I do now that I'm retired?

I blog. That takes too much time, to be honest, but it's my favorite hobby at the moment. Otherwise, I have 2 little kids so 50% of my day is jumping in muddy puddles or something similar.

Is it a productive time? Absolutely not, but I couldn't imagine a better way to spend my days. We also travel a lot and get up to strange projects that always seem smarter than they are when we are starting out.

--Leif Kristjansen, FiveYearFIREescape.com

PERMALINK: https://outwittrade.com/fire-stories#leif

I’m 36 and I achieved leanFIRE at 33 years old. I’m working toward fatFIRE currently through a combination of real estate investing, investing in ETFs and mutual funds, earning and burning credit cards points, and extreme frugality - the same methods I used to get to leanFIRE. I also work in a full-time position with FinanceBuzz (by choice! Health insurance is a huge perk and I love what I do, so I choose to continue working). Although the FIRE lifestyle isn’t for everyone, almost anyone can do it with discipline and focus.

It's important to understand that you don’t need to be high earner to FIRE. A common misconception among people starting out in the FIRE community is that you have to make a lot of money to embrace this lifestyle. This isn’t true at all, but truthfully, it of course accelerates the process.

I’ve personally never earned a six figure salary, and my wife is a stay at home dog mom, but we're happy with where we live and our overall lifestyle. FIRE gives us the freedom to make choices.

If you're interested in pursuing FIRE, start out with the mentality to first reach leanFIRE. This is when your passive monthly income exceeds your monthly expenses. This is attainable for many and helps put good habits in place early on.

Once you've reached that, then you can set your sights on fatFIRE. FatFIRE for me is making $12,000/month in passive income, which is about 5x my monthly expenses. That number is different for everyone. Take a deep dive into your finances to find your own numbers. Having this information in front of you will keep you focused on your goals.

Also make sure to take advantage of opportunities when they arise. Especially given the current economic climate, there could be a number of opportunities in the next few months for those who are in a good financial position.

Stay focused on your goals and commit to the lifestyle. FIRE is possible for anyone.

--Brandon Neth, FinanceBuzz

PERMALINK: https://outwittrade.com/fire-stories#brandon

My name is Chris Lopez and I just turned 38 years old with a wife and two young girls. At 25 I escaped the rat race (Rich Dad Poor Dad was all the rage back then!) I was an early adopter of internet marketing. I rode the trends and built a couple of great lifestyle businesses generating recurring income on monthly subscriptions from informational products, physical products, and a subscription to our marketing software. My recurring income far exceeded my personal expenses. The business required very little time. It was great!

There were two problems: (1) lifestyle inflation and (2) not investing nearly enough money into real assets such as stocks and real estate. Long story short, I built an amazing lifestyle business, but business income is not the same as investment income. Lesson learned.

Fast forward to today. My FIRE goals are different than most others that I meet. Living a very frugal lifestyle nor escaping a job I hate are NOT my goals. My target FIRE income is higher than many people’s current incomes. Plus, I don’t understand why people have jobs they hate. If I don’t like something, I start a new business that fits my interest and is fun to me. I then outsource the parts of the business that I do not like. I plan on doing this for the rest of my life as I enjoy the creation process.

I don’t budget and I don’t worry about the small expenses. Rather, the big expenses get my attention. We buy used cars with cash. Our monthly living expenses are reduced by $2,000 to $2,500 a month by having my mother in law lives with us. We bought a house and converted the basement to a mother in law suite apartment. We save a tremendous amount on daycare costs and shared living expenses.

The majority of time and energy goes into building my Realtor business. Years ago I became an investor-friendly real estate agent. I’ve had a blast building the business. I’m helping many achieve the FIRE goals through house hacking and traditional investing. Plus it funds my own real estate purchases. Every quarter, I pull money out of the business to buy real estate and stocks.

The majority of my investment money goes into buying rental properties at a 20 to 25% downpayment range. I prefer real estate over active stock investing because it’s much easier to achieve great returns. I’m often seeing 15 to 25% IRR returns. You don’t see those returns in the stock market. My goal is to buy one to two rental properties a year. I live and invest in Denver. Our down payments range from $50k and higher. I’m not a fan of out of state investing. As the equity builds, I’ll either do a cash-out refinance or sell and conduct a 1031 exchange to leverage up. I hold high cash reserves of 6 months PITI (plus HOA if there is one) for each property plus a general reserve fund of about $15,000. High cash reserves ensure that I can handle any market or tenant issues. Holding on the for the long term is what builds wealth.

I’m a 100% passive stock market investor. I spent a few years in my 20’s day trading the stock and FOREX markets. It’s tough! The same time invested in building a business or real estate investing has much higher returns. My stock investing is modeled after Warren Buffet’s advice of investing 90% into an S&P 500 fund and 10% into a high-quality bond fund. Right now we fund an HSA account and various ROTH versions of retirement accounts (our AGI phases us out of the normal ROTH IRA’s.) With taxes historically low, I’d rather pay the tax man today, not in the future.

My plan is to keep scaling my businesses and investing. It’s a game I can play for the rest of my life!

--Chris Lopez, Denver Metro Investment Group

PERMALINK: https://outwittrade.com/fire-stories#chris

Finally, for some excellent money tips to help you achieve FIRE sooner, we recommend having a browse through MoneyMagpie.com and reading this excellent FIRE article.

Katie Holmes

I am the lead editor of OutwitTrade and an accomplished data analyst, writer and internet marketer. These days I spend a lot of my time organizing community discussions here, writing content, and outreaching to different people.
Katie Holmes

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