Hello folks! I have something special for you today, a FIRE-side chat with Roadrunner from A Road to a Million! 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.
So without further ado, let’s hear from Roadrunner!
First, tell me a little bit about yourself. Who you are and what’s your story?
I’m in my 30s and I live in the Netherlands with my wife and my 1 year old daughter. We’re quite an international family. I was born and raised in Eastern-Europe and my wife is Chinese. We met here and both consider the Netherlands as our home now.
I love traveling, being out in nature, drink good wine and eat delicious food. And working on my blog of course 🙂
When did your interest in personal finance begin? Did your parents have an active role in your financial literacy growing up?
My parents were raised under the communist era. That time things like early retirement, personal finance and other “capitalist” things were let’s say… strongly discouraged. Most of the people in their generation had (or still having) some difficulties getting used to the financial challenges of our times. From this perspective it is actually me who is trying to help them out when it comes to financial questions.
On the other hand they have made a great impact on where I am today. They put a great attention to my education, during my teenage years I even had a chance to spend some time in the UK and US. Looking back, they have supported me even beyond their power, which I will always be grateful for.
At what point did you learn about and begin your FIRE journey?
My real FIRE journey has started about 2 years ago. I was always interested in finances but I have made a lot of mistakes at the beginning. The main reasons of these were lack of knowledge and impatience (not a good combination :)).
Than I gradually started to take things seriously. I spent a lot of time surfing the internet for long term investment strategies. I came across some FIRE blogs and I was fascinated by the stories of those who have already reached financial independence. The things I read were real eye openers and from there onward it was no question what I need to do.
FIRE Journey Questions:
Where are you currently on your path toward FIRE? Just starting, retired already, or somewhere in the middle?
I started saving and investing specifically for the purpose of FIRE at the beginning of 2016, so I’m quite in an early stage. On my blog I’m posting monthly updates on the progress.
If you are still on the road to FIRE, when do you expect to reach your goal and what’s your strategy to achieve it?
I think I still need around 15 years to achieve the FIRE status. I see many people in the FIRE community who made it much earlier, at the same time unfortunately most of the people never do. The plan in a nutshell is very simple: I save, invest and reinvest. I want to establish multiple income streams over the years therefore I invest both in dividend stocks, ETFs, bonds and I’m planning to buy my first rental property this year.
If you are interested to read about the more detailed plan, I invite you to read my post about how am I planning to achieve financial independence. It will be very interesting to read it back in a few years and check how the reality is vs the plan. You can also always check out my most up to date portfolio on my site.
Of course it would be possible to reach FIRE many years earlier, but to be honest I am the kind of person who would like to enjoy life on the way, plus having families all over the world (who we of course want to visit every now and then) also doesn’t help to push our saving rate above a certain level.
Tell me how you would consider your FIRE journey to be unique.
I believe everyone’s journey is unique in its own way. Looking around in the FIRE community and also seeing the visitor statistics of my blog, US seem to dominate. So I think making this journey from Europe is already kind of unique. It is also a bit sad, as nowadays it is only a matter of decision what you want to do with your financial life. You have all the tools and resources to invest in anything you want, no matter where you are in the world (well, almost…). I think we in Europe have a lot to catch up.
Because I live in Europe I would like to show some more international aspects to my readers, and at the same time I hope I will also reach out more people from this part of the world in order to show them this kind of financial lifestyle.
Strategizing FIRE Questions:
What has been your primary motivation to reach FIRE?
My primary motivation is to provide both financial and emotional safety for my family. You can earn a fortune but it doesn’t mean much if the price of it is to work always late or be on the road all the time. Also, you can be together with them a lot, but if at the same time you have financial difficulties, it can be quite stressful. As soon as you are financially independent, you don’t need to worry about any of these.
Another important factor is the constantly increasing retirement age. If I chose the “normal” lifestyle, by the time I can officially retire, I will be 70. Thank you, but I rather start engineering my own future.
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?
I always have a direction in my mind, but I can’t say I always had a good idea which exact road should I take to get there. Looking back I have definitely made some good decisions that helped me to be where I am now:
- I started to learn English at a young age. This has definitely opened a lot of doors
- I had a good education that led me to my first job which has really started my career
- I have chosen the best partner as my wife. We are always on the same page on the major aspects of life (including finances). The journey is much easier (and enjoyable) this way.
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’m retiring to a life where I can spend my time with the people I love, have the freedom to do the things I like and be at the place where I want to be.
If you think about it, almost all our life are determined my our jobs when we are employees. Even the time outside of working hours. You can’t do a lot of things or go to places just because next day you have to be at work. I’m retiring to a life dominated by the freedom of choice.
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?
At the expected time of our retirement my kid(s) will still be at school age. Even though I would love to start just travelling around the world, I don’t think it would be feasible to do it until they go to university.
Afterwards I would prefer travelling as much as possible. Going to Thailand, Indonesia or maybe the Caribbean when it’s cold and dark here, be in Tuscany during the harvest season, spend a few months in China, going for a long Christmas to my part of the family.
By that time I hope we would already have no mortgage on our house here, plus we will have one or two rentals. From the rental fees plus the other passive income streams of our portfolio I think it will be an affordable lifestyle. Traveling will be a major part, but I definitely want to keep a fixed place to go HOME to.
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?
I think both are equally important. The first step is to have a proper budget and set a reasonable threshold for the monthly spending. Once it is done, you should concentrate on maximizing your income, preferably from various streams. Anything extra goes towards savings.
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?
Graduating from a good university and getting a job at an international company are the earliest, but probably the two most important milestones on my journey toward FIRE. I probably couldn’t make any of the later achievements without these (or at least it would’ve been much harder).
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?
Travelling is definitely number 1 both in terms of enjoyment and costs. It costs nearly one of our monthly net salary to go to China and see that side of the family. In addition besides of family visits I also like to travel just to see the world.
You can imagine that without these expenses reaching FIRE would be much faster, but this is something I would never give up on.
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 would probably do the same with $1 million as I would do with $10k: invest it the same way as I am doing now. Another aspect of winning $1 million would be that my story of “The Road to One Million” would be somewhat shorter and more boring 🙂
If you asked this question after I already reached financial independence, my answer would be somewhat different and I would give a significant part of it to charities.
What is your favorite finance and non-finance related book, podcast, magazine, blog, etc and why?
I have quite a few blogs in my Feedly that I regularly follow. It is hard to name a favorite. I hardly ever miss reading Sam’s writings on Financial Samurai, I love the style of the posts on Millennial Revolution, Mustard Seed Money has some great articles, and I cannot not mention two other personal finance blogs from the Netherlands: Cheesy Finance and Divnomics.
What advice would you give to folks considering or just starting their journey toward FIRE?
For those who only considering I would strongly recommend one thing: start now! No matter how small you start with, in a few years you will be thankful to yourself. My biggest regret is that I didn’t start this much earlier.
It doesn’t matter how much are you into finances. Even if you have zero knowledge or interest, you can still put your savings into some low cost index ETF like VTI. The key is to start it as early as you can.
For those who have just started I would say no matter what the future brings, don’t give up! At the beginning you might be discouraged by the low returns. Also, during your life you will experience a few bear markets. But no matter what, just stick to your own plan and you will see the results!
If you are a fellow blogger, where can I find you?
You can find me on my blog, The Road to One Million. I’m pretty sure I have a contact page there 🙂
Thanks for sitting down and chatting, Roadrunner! I had a great time!
I hope you give A Road to a Million 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