A FIRE-Side Chat with Fritz from The Retirement Manifesto

Fire Side Chat Retirement Manifesto

Hello folks! I have something special for you today, a FIRE-side chat with Fritz from The Retirement Manifesto! The FIRE-side chat is an interview series I’ve started to share the journey toward FIRE (Financial Independence Retiring Early) from others. I’m a believer that personal finance is personal and it is important to find our own path toward FIRE. I think hearing from others is a great way to help us formulate our own ideas and our own path.

Today I welcome Fritz who is just a year away from reaching FIRE! He’s a man of great perspective and its a pleasure having him.

So without further ado, let’s hear from Fritz from The Retirement Manifesto!

Introduction Questions:

First, tell me a little bit about yourself. Who you are and what’s your story?

Thanks, JW, for inviting me to sit by your FIRE for a chat. June’s getting kind of warm here in Georgia for a fire, but I’m game! Forgive me as I move my chair back a few feet from the flames…

I’m a 54-year-old Commodity Trader, who will be retiring in June 2018 at Age 55. I’ve been writing about our journey through “The Red Zone” for the past two years at The Retirement Manifesto.

I’ve been married to my first wife for 29 years, and have a wonderful 22-year-old daughter who’s getting married this summer. Our swan has left the nest, and we’re looking forward to our retirement in the mountains of North Georgia, with our 3 canine kids. Here’s a picture of us at our mountain cabin:

When did your interest in personal finance begin? Did your parents have an active role in your financial literacy growing up?

I remember as a child counting the change in my piggy bank and stacking the coins into piles of $1 for easier counting, so I’d guess you could say I’ve had an interest in this stuff since ~age 5!!.

My parents were both teachers, so I grew up “modest middle class” in a small town in Michigan. My Dad has long been my inspiration, and I wrote 18 Lessons I Learned From My Dad – A Tribute in honor of all that he’s taught me. He’s special to me, and I treasure our relationship.

At what point did you learn about and begin your FIRE journey?

I’ve been saving aggressively since I started my corporate career in 1985, just 6 weeks after college graduation. In the back of my mind, I’ve always expected I’d retire “a bit” early.

In my late 40’s, I really started putting the projections together and built some spreadsheets (like this Retirement Cash Flow Model) to fine tune the numbers. It was at that time that I locked into my target of FIRE by my mid-50’s.

I became a 401(k) Millionaire in March 2013 (a nice present on my 50th birthday), and am on track to retire in June 2018 at the age of 55.

FIRE Journey Questions:

Where are you currently on your path toward FIRE? Just starting, retired already, or somewhere in the middle?

I’m in the final mile of a marathon that’s lasted for 32 years. My legs are tired, but I can see the FInish line. Technically, I’m “Financially Independent” now (run your personal FI Score here), but am planning on working “One More Year” as a contingency hedge against rising health care costs. In June 2018, I’ll “FIRE”.

I’ll be buying private health insurance for 10 years, so the risk of inflationary pressure is a concern. Better to work one additional year now, and know hope I’ll never have to work another day in my life.

If you are already in FIRE, reflect on your path and if there were any things you would change if you had to do it again? Or conversely, what would you make sure you do again on your journey?

Since I’m “FI”, but not “RE”, I think it’s worth mentioning “Why The Delay”?

I had an Uncle who FIRE’d at Age 54. Talking to him several years later, he told me, “Make sure before you leave that you’re really, really ready. You’ll never replace the income you’re earning during your peak career earning years of your early 50’s”. I took it to heart and felt the small sacrifice of “One More Year” was a price I was willing to pay to minimize the risk of regrets in the future.

Tell me how you would consider your FIRE journey to be unique.

Ironically, in the FIRE community, the oddity is that I’m old. Most FIRE advocates are targeting their 30 – 40’s. I’ll be 55 when I FIRE. However, I think there are a LOT of folks (Baby Boomers!) who need to learn the lessons that FIRE advocates can teach us. If you’re Too Late in saving for your retirement, you should try to apply the principles of FIRE as a catch-up strategy.

I use my blog as a means of reaching folks in their 50’s – 60’s as they prepare for retirement. I think of myself as a “bridge” between the younger FIRE community and older folks who need to learn some lessons. In the FIRE blogging community, that’s a bit of a niche. There’s a real need, and I enjoy the challenge.

Strategizing FIRE Questions:

What has been your primary motivation to reach FIRE?

There’s more to life than work. My wife and I both want to spend “quality years” doing the things we want to do, while we’re still physically able to do them. We’re planning on traveling for 6 months/year in a 5th wheel, and spending the balance of the year in our mountain community in the North Georgia mountains (just a few miles from the starting point of the Appalachian Trail).

What has been your greatest success in the “engineering” your life path or lifestyle? Or are you more of the “go with the flow” type?

My biggest success has been in managing the “Income” side of the FIRE equation. Many folks focus on reducing their costs, but there’s a much bigger advantage to be gained if you can maximize your income. I’ve been intentional in advancing my career as rapidly as possible, and have been modestly successful in a 3-decade career in Corporate America.

I can’t remember where I heard this first, but I hold dear the advice that it is important to “retire to” something rather than “retiring from” something. What will you be retiring to?

I’ve spent a lot of time considering this concept on my blog, and agree that “To” should be the focus. While I do enjoy the prospect of no longer having to work (“From”), I get more excitement about the things we’ll be able to do when I’m no longer held hostage by the need to be at work Mon-Fri. I’ve developed a Retirement Bucket List, and am spending a lot of time during my final “working year” developing my Purpose for retirement.

The primary focus in retirement will be travel, “giving back” and working on my blog. I’m also planning on expanding my blog into photography, video and potentially a podcast. I love the FIRE community, and expect my friends in the FI world (like The Swans!) will be a source of some socialization in my retirement years. (Note from the Swan: You betcha!)

What will your housing situation be like in retirement? Do you plan on moving to a low cost area, to the beach or mountains? Or will you become nomadic, traveling the world more freely?

We’ve recently moved to our second retirement cabin in 13 months. Seems crazy, but we’re being intentional and are attempting to move our retirement from “Good To Great”. I wrote about the logic behind the second move in How To Move Your Retirement From Good To Great, which is one of my most popular posts. We’ll be a bit nomadic (6 months/year), but have decided “full time wandering” is a bit too much for us. Therefore, we’re also establishing roots in our mountain town, and getting established in some good community charity work. While we’re on the road, we may also work a few seasonal jobs (e.g., National Parks) for the experience and socialization, rather than for the money.

Here’s a picture of my new office in the “Great Cabin”, which we moved into on May 26, 2017:

Wealth Creation Questions:

Retiring early is quite an extraordinary feat…and requires some pretty extraordinary behaviors to rapidly create wealth. In your focus on wealth creation, do you tend to gravitate toward making more money or arresting expenses?

While we’ve always been fiscally conservative, we’ve definitely more focused on the “making more money” side of the equation. I wrote about my early career in a guest post on Budgets Are Sexy (see How To Be A 401K Millionaire), where I explained the steps I took to accelerate my career. I would encourage folks to do everything possible to maximize their earnings, as the compounding effect significantly outweighs anything you can do on the “Cost Cutting” side of the equation.

What has been one of your biggest successes in either advancing your career to make more money or taking control on the expense side to progress on your journey toward FIRE?

The biggest step I took in advancing my career was having a willingness to step outside my comfort zone, and intentionally seeking roles outside my area of expertise. The following is an actual note I wrote to myself 20 years ago, just before moving from a sales role into an operational role (a major shift in my career, and the one move which I now view as having the most positive impact on my overall career):

While controlling expenses are important, you still need to live and enjoy life. What is one or two of your favorite areas to spend money on?

We’ve always made it a priority to travel extensively during my career. It helps that I have TONS of miles (Yep, I’m a “Million Miler” with Delta!), and we’ve never paid for an international flight. While it’s often “politically incorrect” in Corporate America to take 2 consecutive weeks, we’ve done it on numerous occasions, and have created memories for our daughter that will last a lifetime.

We’ve also been willing to invest in hobbies and personal interests that make life more exciting. We bought a 26′ camper when our daughter was born and camped in it for 15 years before selling it to a friend for below market value. I also like to run organized road races and don’t hesitate to buy new Asics whenever I see them on sale.

It’s important to keep a balance between living life now while saving for the future. FI in 10 years isn’t worth sacrificing the next 10 years of your life. Enjoy life a little now, while also saving for tomorrow.

The Wrap-Up:

If you won the lottery or received a large inheritance to the tune of $1 million or so, what would you do with it and why?

I’d donate $100k to our church, buy a new F250 ($60k), a brand new 36′ 5th wheel ($50k) and throw the $790,000 balance into low-cost index funds at Vanguard.

Oh, and I’d also retire today instead of waiting one more year!

Bottom Line: it wouldn’t change my life, other than give us a one year jump on our FIRE date!

What is your favorite finance and non-finance related book, podcast, magazine, blog, etc and why?

Podcasts (I listen to a LOT of podcasts!):

  • Financial: Radical Personal Finance, Stacking Benjamins, The Retirement Answer Man, DoughRoller, Money For The Rest Of Us, Retirement Starts Today
  • Non-Financial – Ted Talks, Mike Rowe’s The Way I Heard It, The Tim Ferriss Show

Books: (I don’t read many books, more magazines)

  • Financial: Dana Anspach’s Control Your Retirement Destiny (the best book I’ve read on retirement readiness)
  • Non-Financial: Pencils Of Promise (A story that will stir your desire to do some good for the world).

What advice would you give to folks considering or just starting their journey toward FIRE?

Start early. If you’re “older” and haven’t started, start now. You can’t ignore the power of compounding (The Most Powerful Force In The Universe), and giving your $$ time to grow is the biggest single factor in when you’ll achieve FIRE. Also, take control of your personal finances. Take time to learn about it, and track your personal situation as closely as possible (I’ve got a free Net Worth template you can use here).

Where can I find you?

My blog is the best place to start: The Retirement Manifesto

You can also find me at:

  • Twitter: @RetireManifesto (Click Here)
  • Facebook: TheRetirementManifesto (Click Here)
  • Instagram: The_Retirement_Manifesto (Click Here)

 

Thanks for sitting down and chatting, Fritz! It’s always great hearing from you and I appreciate you sharing your perspective.

I hope you give The Retirement Manifesto a follow and check out his blog. Look for more FIRE-Side chats to be featured here in the future. And if you are interested in a FIRE-Side chat yourself, give me a shout.

Thanks for taking a look!

The Green Swan

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19 Comments

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Dave. Ironically, my post next week is on the One More Year Syndrome! Need to get that last Touchdown! 372 Days to go……

  1. 55 is plenty young! In most countries outside of the US, FIRE is a super foreign concept. I might even venture to guess, we’re the only country where people save so much money in equities to fund their retirement. I grew up in Asia and Eastern Europe, and that’s a foreign concept in both places.

    1. Interesting perspective, Tim. I suspect both regions also have a much stronger “government pension” system than the USA? I always enjoy cultural comparison. You’re fortunate to have lived it. Too few people appreciate the complexities.

      1. Yeah they do, and medical and all that is practically free. But the concept of retirement, especially early retirement, I think, is a bit more foreign. And investing in stocks for sure is an uncommmon thing. Especially in Asian countries, cash and real estate is what people gravitate towards.

  2. One year to go must be a great feeling. Our current goal is to retire around 50 to 51, which as you mention, seems old compared to today’s FIRE crowd. We are financially conservative and I want to increase the probability that we will not need to return to work if we don’t want to. Unknown health insurance costs on the private market is one thing that has probably pushed our FIRE date out a bit.

    My retirement bucket list seems to keep getting longer as the days go by. Just finished reading a book on hiking the Appalachian trail. So maybe I’ll be in your neck of the woods one day as I start off at Springer Mountain.

    1. Did you read A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson? Because he’s hilarious and that book is great. I’ve read many of his books, they all are superb!

    2. Hiking the AT is an awesome bucket list item. A friend of mind did it a few years ago @ Age53. Funny, like the “FIRE” community, most folks on the trail are young, but they all walk the same path. He made it, and is now doing the PCT. Also, agree w JW, read A Walk In The Woods!

  3. Vintage Fritz. I love this guy. A middle-aged oracle of wisdom being featured on a young oracle of wisdom’s website. Couldn’t ask for a better way to start my weekend. Thank you both.

  4. Thx for the interview. I never knew you were a double millionaire.

    I take Fritz as the example for myself 10 years from now. A lot can be learnt from his story.

    In our life now, travel is also important. We are willing to spend money on it.
    2 weeks holiday is fine in Belgium. That is why I go for 5 this summer!

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