Hello folks! I have something special for you today…introducing A FIRE-side Chat! And to start things off I have a special guest, Steve from ThinkSaveRetire. This is a new 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. That is why I think hearing from others as we share a journey toward FIRE is a great way to help us formulate our own ideas and our own path. So without further ado, let’s hear from Steve!
A FIRE-side Chat with Steve @ ThinkSaveRetire
First, tell me a little bit about yourself. Who you are and what’s your story?
I am a 35 year old information technology guy who blogs at ThinkSaveRetire.com. Over the years of working in corporate America, I steadily grew dissatisfied with the daily grind of building a career and letting my money control me. Though I had the nicer things in life (sports car, motorcycle, house in the suburbs), I was not happy with my life. I needed to make a change. Now we live in a 200 square foot trailer with our two dogs and love every minute of it.
When did your interest in personal finance begin? Did your parents have an active role in your financial literacy growing up?
My interest in personal finance didn’t really begin until I decided that early retirement was possible. Before that point, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to my financial situation. I did maintain a budget, but I routinely cheated it, too. Though I saved some (often only the bare minimum), I was a financial mess.
My parents taught me how to budget. Compared to many, I had quite a bit of financial literacy taught to me as a child. But, that doesn’t mean I accepted that financial advice…well, until later in life, that is!
At what point did you learn about and begin your FIRE journey?
It was just a couple of years ago. Once I grew dissatisfied with my life enough, I began to read quite a bit and got more familiar with the concept of financial independence and early retirement. Once I understood that early retirement was possible (yes, even for me!), I began to chart my course full steam ahead. The rest, as they say, is history. Of course, I recount some of this history on the blog. 🙂
FIRE Journey Questions:
Where are you currently on your path toward FIRE? Just starting, retired already, or somewhere in the middle?
I’m retiring in December. My wife will retire at the end of March, 2017. Basically, we are rounding third.
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?
December, 2016. Strategy is very simple – just save as much as possible. Our retirement goals are time based, not necessarily money based. Whatever we have at the time will be enough!
Tell me how you would consider your FIRE journey to be unique.
Honestly, it’s not all that unique. We are taking a very typical route to early retirement by saving as much as we can with two salaries. Our post-retirement lifestyle of living full-time in an Airstream, however, might be a little more unique (okay, a LOT more!). Our extreme early retirement dates are enabled by our post-retirement lifestyle that includes this very frugal living arrangement. No more utilities. No more rent unless we actually choose to stay in a campground. Our goal is to find as many free camping areas as we can (on BLM land, for example) to keep our costs low in retirement.
Strategizing FIRE Questions:
What has been your primary motivation to reach FIRE?
Dissatisfaction from building careers in corporate America was the primary motivator for me. Thereafter, a reprioritization to building a life routed in freedom has propelled us further down this road. We want out of the corporate grind, and fast!
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?
For us, it’s about nature. We love to hike and will do quite a bit of that once we have the luxury of planning our entire day around what we actually want to do. We also have our creative pursuits that will fill much of our time, including the growth of our financial blog (ThinkSaveRetire.com) as well as our sister YouTube channel (A Streamin’ Life). We would love to create a documentary while on the road about what it is like to live full-time in an Airstream (or RV in general).
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?
100% nomadic living in an Airstream RV. In the short term we will travel around the U.S. In the future, we do plan on traveling around the world (but not in the RV). Our international travels will need to wait until our rescued dogs are no longer with us.
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 like to take the easy route, which is definitely cutting expenses. We have found that we just don’t need that much to feel satisfied…far less than we thought we did before our FIRE adventures.
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?
We downsized from two homes into a 200 square foot RV. This change has streamlined our expenses and has given us the confidence to make this move (literally!). Being 100% debt free is an amazing feeling that has certainly upped the ante a bit with wealth building and planning for our future.
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?
I love going out to eat. I love the environment. People are generally happy and smiling. Friends or family are often at the same table. Everybody is having a good time. We have significantly curtailed our restaurant budget, but this is definitely the area that I tend to spend money on to enjoy.
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?
At the moment, we’d invest 100% of our after-tax “winnings” and continue on with our plans as if we didn’t win a dime. That means I would continue working until December 23rd of this year and my wife would remain on the job (because she told her boss that she would) through March of next year. We would definitely enjoy watching all that extra money grow in the market, providing beautiful life-blood for our post-retirement adventures!
What is your favorite finance and non-finance related book, podcast, magazine, blog, etc and why?
My favorite would have to be “The Millionaire Next Door”. It does such a nice job proving that millionaires are all around us. They are generally frugal, too. They wear regular clothes and drive regular cars. In fact, for MOST of us, living frugally is HOW we amass those fortunes. Driving around in debt and a German luxury car doesn’t make us rich. It only makes us appear rich – well, at least appear rich to those of us who haven’t read “The Millionaire Next Door”.
What advice would you give to folks considering or just starting their journey toward FIRE?
You must WANT early retirement. You cannot half-ass such a huge step in your financial life. I had half-assed this in a previous life and I’m now working longer because of it. If you want early retirement bad enough, you will make it happen. Regardless of your income or financial standing, this lifestyle is achievable by anyone. It may not be easy. It may take many, many years to make happen. But, it is possible. You can achieve this lifestyle. The only requirement is that you WANT IT, and want it bad.
If you are a fellow blogger, where can I find you?
I blog over at ThinkSaveRetire.com. You will also find me on Twitter (@thinksaveretire) and YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCa0lCH2dpXz_GfvQaTWay9w).
Thanks for sitting down and chatting today, Steve! Look for more FIRE-side chats to be featured here in the future.