The United States is the Land of Opportunity for people all over the world, and today’s interviewee and her husband took full advantage of that fact.
Now that they have all the money they’ll ever need, they’re returning to their roots in their late 30s, spending time in Europe where they grew up with plans to potentially set down roots there, eventually.
With their newfound free time, they’re catching up with family and seeking adventure. They recently hiked Mount Kiliminjaro. This Life Jumper duo plans to focus on continued learning, finding purpose, and for him, continuing some casual work with startups.
If you’re interested in participating in one of three interview series, please download the most appropriate form for your life situation: FIRE Starter, FIRE Crossroads, or Post-FI Notes. To see other posts in the series, visit our Q&A archive.
Getting to Know You
You’re financially independent. About how much does your household spend in a typical year? How much could you spend while still abiding by the 4% rule?
Our budget is $65,000 a year (including $20,000 for traveling), which represents 2.45% withdrawal rate. We planned to have a 3.5% SWR but then COVID happened, and we wanted to wait until we could travel. We earned and saved more money during that year than during any other year!
During COVID, we further reduced our rate to the current 2.45%. With the 4% rule, we could potentially spend ~$106,000. Additionally, after “FIREing,” we reduced our expenses by becoming nomads and leaving California for our home countries in Europe.
Tell us about your household. How many people and at what ages? Are you supporting anyone outside of your home? Where do you live?
We are DINKs (when we had dual incomes), aged 38 and 37. Before becoming FIRE’d we used to live in Southern California and we have since become nomads, spending time in Europe (where we are originally from).
Our goal is to travel around the world for the next 3-4 years and then settle down in southern Europe, perhaps Portugal due to their favorable expat taxation. What we are clear on is that we won’t settle until we find the right place…it’s discovery time!
Are you still working? In what career? Did your work schedule or attitude towards work change once you knew you were FI?
We quit our jobs in July of 2021, and right now we are not actively producing income, although we do have several startups that we are working on. We want to take our time to find out what makes us happy!
We knew we were FI one year before actually quitting our jobs and we set a date then. The most difficult part was having discussions with our managers about our long-term goals and projects within the company while we knew there was no “long-term”. We let them know more than 2 months in advance…I couldn’t wait to share it with them!
My husband was working for his employer on projects that had a 2-3 year timeline. So even though he always was committed to being a contributor until his last day, it was inevitable for him to feel more detached when discussing details that would become relevant after he would have left.
Was financial independence a long-term goal of yours? Did you think you might retire early or be able to do so when you first got started in your career?
Until I found the ChooseFI podcast, I actually never even thought retiring before 65 was a possibility. After hearing so many stories of people and families retiring before their 40s while earning way less than we did, the FIRE spark lit! If they could do it, we could do it too.
For my husband, financial independence has been his goal for more than a decade. So much so that it was one of the main reasons why he decided to move to the US to pursue it through his startups. He thought that if he could sell jsut one of those for a big enough amount, he would have achieved his financial goal and then kept working on his projects with no money pressure.
This is why when I told him what I had discovered and shared the Trinity study, I knew I was finding fertile ground. We then put together a financial plan to save money and create the wealth we needed.
One of the first steps was to understand what brings us joy to make sure we didn’t make the path to FIRE painful or a sacrifice. We started saving money and investing more aggressively, always making sure we were budgeting for what brings us joy!
We reached our FI number just before COVID, which would have given us a 3.5% SWR. Nevertheless, we waited to quit our jobs for one more year until we could travel back to Europe (and created some buffer along the way).
How is your nest egg invested? Approximately what percentage is allocated to stocks, bonds, real estate, and alternatives?
- 50% in real estate (passive investments in syndications and notes)
- 30% IRAs (all in stock market)
- 10% stock market (taxable account)
- 10% cryptocurrencies (originally invested <1% but it became 10% with current market value)
- We do not have anything invested in bonds
Are your investments primarily in tax-deferred, Roth, or “taxable” post-tax accounts?
Our investments are ~70% “taxable” accounts (including real estate), ~25% tax-deferred and ~5% Roth. We are planning to convert some of our tax-deferred money to Roth taking advantage of our low tax brackets now that we do not have earned income. Our goal is to have the majority of our retirement plans in a Roth IRA account in 10 years.
Do you have investments in an HSA? How about 529 Plans?
We do have a legacy HSA account that we are investing in the market (i.e. not using to actively pay for medical expenses). We can’t contribute anymore but we are not spending our contributions and letting them grow.
What has been your best investment?
I think my personal best investment has been my first job in a world top consulting firm and my MBA. Those two “investments” opened so many doors that allowed me to reach higher salaries than I would have been able to land without them.
Financially, it’s probably investing in Ethereum several years ago at $40 with the current value above $4,000. Unfortunately, we didn’t invest a great amount back then!
For my husband, his best investment was also his MBA, which allowed him to grow his career quickly and land highly paid positions in multinational companies while he was working on his startups on the side.
He also can’t stop reminding me that moving to the US was a key part of our journey to FIRE. Our job opportunities paid way above the European ones, and there’s a daring mentality and exposure to investment opportunities that would have not have been possible somewhere else.
Your worst investment?
Our worst “investment” was the purchase of our primary residency. We believed it would greatly increase in value, which it did, but we were not conscious of all the other expenses we would have incurred (e.g. property taxes including Mello Roos, real estate agents commissions, cost of opportunity on the down payment, etc.).
We made little money on the sale and definitely much less ao than if we had invested that money in the market (or real estate not considered primary residence) and rent. We sold the house after 3 years of owning it and then went back to renting.
What do you like to do with your free time? How much free time do you have these days?
Honestly, we do not have much free time yet as we have been visiting our families and taking on some adventures like hiking in the Alps and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
I want to spend my time now playing sports (my next goal is to run a half marathon), read all the books I have pending, and start writing more on our website, The Life Jumpers blog. An additional field I want to invest in and develop is mental wellness (e.g. meditation, mental exercise, etc…).
One key area that we both enjoy is learning. I’m starting to study history and my husband is starting several online classes on subjects that he always found interesting but never enough to make them his career, like cosmology.
We are keeping ourselves busy!
Do you enjoy travel? Tell us about a favorite trip you’ve taken.
We love traveling and that is and always has been our biggest expense. When we started our FIRE journey we reviewed all our expenses to understand if we were overspending. The first thing we did was to discuss what was really important to us and made us happy. Traveling was my number one source of joy so we decided not to touch that budget.
One of the best trips that we have taken is to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. It has been not only a physical achievement but also a demonstration that if you want it, you can have it. We trained for 10 months and went from 0 to 5.895 meters! We are really proud of ourselves. 🙂
Do you incorporate giving (money or time) into your post-FI life?
I haven’t incorporated the “giving” part yet though I’m planning on joining the Red Cross and WWF in the near future to give back to society.
My husband has been volunteering in coaching young professionals to help them find their career direction, hoping that it will help their financial goals, just as it worked out for us!
If retired, do you miss work? Do you get bored?
We have only been retired for a few months but I have already gotten used to not working! What I’m enjoying the most is not dreading Mondays. 😂 Now, every day is as good as any other. Another plus is that we now have the flexibility to do stuff during “low season” or on weekdays when nobody goes, like going to museums or the theatre.
When we just retired I thought I would get bored. Now I don’t find enough time during the day to do everything that I want! I’m spending time with my family whom I hadn’t seen due to COVID, going to expositions, theatre, taking courses on subjects I’ve always enjoyed (like Egypt) and much more. Just loving it!
I don’t think my husband will ever be “retired,” at least not with the meaning people usually attribute to that word. He has had his side projects ever since I’ve known him, whether it’s research on scientific subjects or tinkering with new technologies. I say he is always working, he says that’s not work if no one is telling you what to do or not do.
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What advice do you have for others hoping to achieve the financial success you’ve found?
- Make sure you understand what really makes you happy and discuss it with your partner/family (if applicable). You might be surprised!
- Start thinking “do I really need it”? (we now sleep on every money decision)
- Owning a house is not necessarily the way to go.
- Don’t forget to enjoy the journey.
- Visualize what your after-FIRE life will look like and what are the things you think you will value the most. That will keep your decision-making focused and your spirit motivated.
Finally, is there anything under the sun that you’d like some help with? The hive mind would be happy to weigh in.
I would love to learn about how everybody found their “purpose” and discovered what they wanted to do with their lives.
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I thank today’s interviewee for sharing their story, and I’ve shared my feedback privately with them. I wouldn’t want my opinions to influence yours. Please give your take and answer any questions they have had in the space below!
Again, if you’d like to partake in a future Q&A, please download a FIRE Starter, FIRE Crossroads, or Post-FI Notes interview form.
2 thoughts on “Post FI Notes 011: Up Kilimanjaro & Back to Europe for Good in Their 30s”
I think for most of us purpose is something we find by trying on hats, so to speak. It would be great if it just found us, and maybe that happens for some, but the doing of things, the experience is what leads most of us to it. I’m finding a new one in my 40s and it never would have happened had I not actually tried it. Congratulations on your success!
Great interview, I’m off to read your post on climbing Mount Kilimanjaro now! Regarding finding purpose, that is something I am still trying to figure out. For me, I know that it has something to do with sharing knowledge with others, which is why I blog. But even that isn’t quite enough. Thus, I have been looking into volunteer opportunities as of late, as I think that what I desire most is a sense of community where I can help others learn and grow through human interaction. If I have any advice on finding your purpose, I think it takes trying many things until something clicks. So, don’t hesitate to put yourself in awkward and unpleasant situations!