We talk with a business owner who was once struggling with millions of dollars in debt but was eventually able to sell his business, re-write his career (he is now a business coach), and get a new handle on his time.
Another guest retired with her husband in 2012. Together, they took on adventures and traveled all over. Financial independence made all the difference, allowing them to experience as much of the world as possible—something that turned out to be even more important, as her husband passed away a few years following early retirement.
A third couple left their high-paying jobs at the height of their earning potential to travel the world together, and they could not be more thrilled with their decision (or excited about life!).
And finally, we interview the CTO of ChooseFI, William, who was able to retire early, overcome the loss of his wife, and use his financial freedom to pursue the job of his dreams with a great company—and provide for his children. He’s joined by Kerry Chavalier.
These stories highlight the importance of achieving financial independence and using it to make the most of our lives.
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Whitney: Hey, everybody, we are live here at Camp phi in Joshua Tree, which is so exciting because the weather’s amazing and some really interesting groups here too. I didn’t realize that this retreat center was very eclectic. I don’t know. But we’re having a really good time. So we have been exploring, connecting meeting some incredible people and just hearing some great stories so today we’re going to bring you some really, really fun stories, all about financial independence and I think you guys are going to enjoy it.
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Whitney: So I’m here joined with my co host, Doc G and Scott trench super stoked to have you guys stuck.
Doc G: So what’s up CampFI: Southwest?
audience: What’s up.
Doc G: That is some volume. So today we are going to talk about life after fire and Whitney I’m wondering do you consider yourself fire? And if you do, what does life look like after fire for you?
Whitney: So I love this question because I think it’s different for everybody. My own personal definition of becoming financially independent is getting to the point where you don’t have to go to work because you rely on the money you get to go to work because you truly care about it. So for me personally, I actually am more on the financial independent retire, never plan and I hope to always do what I do today.
Doc G: Yet, you know, there are now a million different acronyms. We have the fire movement, but retire early, never retire optional. A lot of people are deciding to pursue financial independence but not necessarily leave the workplace. Today we’re going to interview a bunch of people, some of them which have left the workplace. Scott to I’d like to ask you the same question. Do you consider yourself fire? And what do you think post fire life looks like for you?
Scott: Yeah, sure. So first of all, welcome to the bigger pockets, podcast. I have enough passive income to support my current lifestyle. But I am going to get married next year and I hope to start a family and I think that I’m going to need substantially more passive income to kind of provide a lifestyle downstream that my family would want. So I haven’t figured that out. I haven’t a chance to model that out or figure out exactly what I want there. So I’m continuing to build up my asset base and passive income. And I think it will take some time to kind of figure out what that moving target exactly looks like. But in the meantime, I just absolutely love my job at the privilege of being CEO and president of bigger pockets, calm and helping millions of people move toward financial freedom through Real Estate so I’m thrilled with my current position, I’m going to keep going and aggressively executing my current investing and wealth accumulation plan.
Doc G: Awesome. So of course listening to us podcasters is one thing, but the point of CampFI is to actually talk to all of you non podcasters and see what life after financial independence retire early is going to be like for you. So we have William and Kerry here. And so my question is simple. What does life look like after fire? And tell us a little bit about some of the challenges?
William: Okay, so similar to what’s already been mentioned, I’m financially independent. I retired from corporate America about a year and a half ago and I still am passionate about programming. I still wanted to have productive use of my skills. And so I looked around at communities that I wanted to help out. And yeah, so I started working with ChooseFI and so am I retired? Am I not retired? I’m it’s a hard question. I mean, I’m What I’m doing with ChooseFI is not for the money. It’s because I like building the community. I like interfacing with the community and I’m happy.
Doc G: And tell us a little bit about the challenges. We all look forward to fire. And it’s this big goal for us. But everything isn’t perfect all the time. Tell us about some of the challenges you face?
William: Figuring out what I want to do with my day is a big one. I mean, so one of the nice things about fire or my position right now is like totally get, total autonomy over how I spend my time. So there are things that need to happen. There are goals I want to accomplish that I want to build for the community, but varying Okay, do I work on the urgent but not critical? Do I want to work on the long term project that’s going to be impactful but there’s no looming deadline for that. Just figuring out what I want to work on and try and get the most use of my time. And then just the normal like I need to mow my yard. But that’s not the funnest thing to do right now kind of thing.
Whitney: So William, I’m really curious. Everyone has a different way of discovering financial independence. What was your journey to financial independence? How’d you actually learn about the community in general?
William: So early on my late wife and I wanted to, we knew we wanted to retire early. The plan, even before we had kids was have our kids get them out of the house. And then we spend some time traveling and working on our what we wanted to do for fun. And a lot of that was visiting monuments and visiting Well, yeah, national parks and things like that. And so we didn’t know there was a community I mean, she and I just did the standard like or save a lot of our money that we had like max out our 401K’s and 403B’s, and then six years ago, she passed away and her assets were combined it my assets, and I’ve mentioned it before, it’s like achieving fire in the worst possible way. So after that it was a period of a lot of changes in my life, I needed to figure out what I wanted to do moving forward. I still enjoyed working. So I continued working for another five years in my corporate job until the point where I felt it was hard for me to like, be the father, I wanted to be while still balancing a corporate job that had expectations to my time.
Scott: The fact that you were financially independent, I think, I wonder how did that help you find and get a great job at this awesome business shoes at fire where you were a C suite team member in that kind of how did that contribute to that and how does that help you as a team member be more productive or maybe more vocal or is there an advantage to being fire in the workplace that you’re finding?
William: Yeah, so just the fact that they get the total and unvarnished truth, me all the time. I mean, I’m not dependent on the paycheck in order to do put food on my table and take care of my family and things like that. So if somebody comes up with a bad idea, and I say it’s a bad idea, there’s no second thought about it. And people understand that I’m there because that’s what I’m excited about doing. If there are things I’m not excited about doing, I’ll either say, Hey, is there anybody else that we can give this to? Or is this something that we really need to be doing? I mean, a lot of it is the freedom to speak your mind without consideration to what the financial impacts might be.
Doc G: And William, you’ve been open about the fact that you have children with some special needs. Tell us a little bit about how your life after fire is different, and your interactions with them.
William: So first is the fact that like, I’m there when they get off the bus, or I’m at home when they get off the bus every day. So they come in, and I help them with homework as needed. I mean, it’s the standard kind of stay at home dad. Luxury of Being able to be an attentive parent, because I can schedule my day time or like what I work. Obviously, Brad and Jonathan don’t care when I’m actually getting things done. So after they’ve gone to bed or while they’re at school, that’s kind of my prime time and that was one of the main reasons. It’s not like my corporate job was unpleasant. The main thing was just the lack of flexibility with timing.
Doc G: So Kerry, tell us how you and William met.
Kerry: Actually William and I met online and it’s really funny because I said a number of times I threw caution to the wind in a lot of ways. My background is that I have a PhD in counseling and worked as a college professor up until six years ago, ironically to when I was divorced and found out 17 years into this there were other problems within the marriage, certainly, but ultimately found out that there was a lot of financial infidelity along with other things and didn’t even start at Ground Zero and my divorce, I found out that there was a lot of debt that I had no idea about, and a lot of things and so starting over as a single mom and with a daughter who also has a disability, I have a daughter with a physical disability who’s now 21 and a 10 year old son for my marriage. And, um, so dating was always very funny anyway, and I think a lot of people looked at it, as you know, taking on this single mom, we oftentimes get this thing that people think we’re looking for a dad for our kids, I was not looking for that, or we’re looking for somebody to rescue us financially. And that certainly wasn’t who I was. But that William and we laugh because he and I are both very active in the singles seeking professional are seeking financial independence. And we always just caught simplify. But anyway, it’s funny because we’re on there and people have all these things that could they talk about, like, when you’re dating, how do you bring up financial independence? And I’m like, Well, I guess if you’re William on your second date with somebody, you make them watch a trailer about a movie that’s going to come out. Yeah.
So I had no idea what this was and he was still he was finishing up corporate life then and I have to admit like at the time I was like I have no idea what this guy is talking about but this sounds really cool and so I jokingly say that for me I think I’ve had the mindset for a very long time I just didn’t, I’m starting over have a huge set I can just right before we started the spot I said yeah, I think like behaviorally I didn’t really have to change I’ve always been for going is Yeah, but you have an earning problem. I’m like, well get compared to the tech bro. I suppose I do. But you know, it’s not really been that it was a huge setback and starting over and so really, you didn’t have to sell me on any of that and you believing in how I focus my life around my values has always been there and how I prioritise my time. It’s just that now I’ve had to start all over again financially to do that, but just make it interesting. I think that the two of us as well like what we like to do has been different because honestly like if William would have taken me out to somewhere really fancy and spend a bunch of money on our first day was like that was a huge waste of time or We’re not gift people we talked to I remember when he first said something about love languages and I thought nobody outside the counseling world talks about that, really. He knew his love language and neither one of us is it GIFs it’s always spending quality time and service and so that works very well in the fire community. Like I would really love that, you know, William does things like comes over and fix this something in my house or he’s mentioned mowing the yard and I had to laugh because he was gone at one point maybe to con or something, and I mowed his yard while he was gone and he was like, why did you do that? I can remember the game of [inaudible 00:13:34] but that’s my active service thing like and loving to do that. So…
William: I love that she comes over and plays board games. And yeah, there’s a lot of things that we do and just to spend time together without necessarily having to spend a lot of money.
Kerry: Yeah, we are 2.7 miles apart where we live, but I think the challenge for us and I was sharing that with somebody today is before when I was dating, it’s very funny because I have a daughter who Well, you know, she was 14 when I was divorced and I had to really think about that I had to have a caregiver for my daughter and a caregiver for my son. So I’m spending about $30 an hour to go out on a date with you, so you better be worth it. And so it was very funny for me, like I literally would sometimes go like, wow, that was huge waste of money, and never wants to ever have a guy that ever thought about the fact you and I always would offer to split or anything else like that. Dude, already, I’m $30 in the hole for the first hour with you. So when I met William, it was really funny. And I always say, looking back, it’s like you did what? Because I met him on the fly when we talked quite a while and I said, it’s again funny of being online and talk and he was like, Can I call you? Am like nobody calls anybody, I like that. We talked on the phone and we talked to quite a bit and then we met sort of on the fly and we went to dinner and he said, Would you like to come back to my house and for most people that would sound really like he was up to something shady, he’s just as very matter of fact, I knew about his voice. He said, I’m really ending the time that I can leave my boys alone. But I still want to have a conversation with you and so I did. I met as kids on the first night, but we have always been very aware like now he has to have caregivers for his son and sons. And so we do look at our time differently that way. Like, we find ways of having your all the dates, those are really exciting, but we shopped together a lot.
Whitney: So I have a follow up question to this because I think it’s really interesting to hear when you are a caregiver, how that potentially changes your financial independent plan. So how do you guys factor in that? How do you actually calculate how do you project How do you plan for Caregiving in your financial life?
William: Well, for me, it was a hard decision. I mean, every year I was in corporate America, that was another year safety that got basically that could be added on to their assets that they would inherit after I passed away. And the reality is, they will probably never match my earning potential. So for me to walk away from my high paying job, when I knew that they probably wouldn’t be able to accomplish a similar job was a hard decision. But the way that I mentally accounted for it was when my wife passed away, we had an insurance policy. So I’ve in my head, that insurance policy is allocated to them. So that along with the earnings from it, should see them both comfortably through their lives. And then the assets that my wife and I had built up for our retirement, I consider as my money. So when those assets became something where I could live off of without jeopardizing their future, that’s when I felt like I could walk away.
Kerry: And I think the other thing that’s different for us and thinking about caregiving is that for me because I did not have the finances, I have taken not advantage but I know about a lot of opportunities that I’ve said to William at times, like, wait, you can apply for this through the county DD or whatever. And he’s like you can What? And it’s just funny because for him, it’s been, he hasn’t had to do that. But I do think for him, it’s like, yes, you can afford to pay for that. But honestly, there are some resources out there for your boys that beyond when they get a little older they’re going to want to have because no matter what happens, like things that they can have access to that maybe he hasn’t gotten into, because he financially didn’t need to, or just didn’t know in some ways and so different things that they do.
Doc G: We’re going to call up Tim in a moment. But before we do, Kerry, I just want to ask you the same question. I started with William, what is life after fire look like to you? And are there any specific worries you have?
Kerry: I think for me, I don’t even think about the [00:17:46](Re) part of it. And so I’ve shared with some that I have made a big change in that I was a college professor before and aligning my values for one thing I taught our masters and doctoral students and I was there until 10 o’clock at night. Often and I come home, my kids were in bed, and I would get them up and put them on a school bus and not see them. And so, financially, I took a hit in some ways to take a step backwards and to leave that. And I had a lot of friends that really question that like you are a tenure track professor, why would you leave that world but I really aligned with what I believed in. And I knew that no matter what I could somehow build that money back in some way. But I couldn’t take the time with my kids. And so right now really, all I look forward to is just that idea. And in fact, I made a joke on the plane with William because there was something that came up just recently. What’s it mean to not live paycheck to paycheck? And somebody said, It’s when you don’t know it’s payday? And I said, Oh, that’s interesting. I don’t know that. I felt that for a very long time and so it was funny because all of a sudden, I got a notification and it was there was a large deposit in your checking account. I was like, What happened there? And then I realized I got paid and I said, Hey, wait, you know what, I just reached a milestone. I’m not living paycheck to paycheck. I didn’t know it was payday. So that was very exciting and I’m doing something I’m very passionate about now I’m back into working as an elementary school counselor, and very much loved it and in the end, it does give me a lot of more financial stability than I had before. In one way it does, but also it just, for me, it’s all about living the life that I want to live. And so I’m already doing that. And so when I reached by, I have to tell myself when a lot because starting over at the age, I’m 47. And I’m thinking I’m never going to reach that and then realizing what William would say is comparison is the thief of joy. And very much I think about that at times, like it’s okay, I’m in a totally different place and some people will hit this a lot earlier. But for me, it’s just the idea of not being worried about that and having the stability for my kids is a really big thing. And even though they don’t see me in that place, I want them. The conversations I have with my children are very, very different. They understand that sometimes when mom says no, it isn’t even about we don’t have the money. It’s about how you choose to spend your money. And my son is very good at that. He’s 10 and it’s funny like he’ll think about things but We talked about value and it’s fun to have him around William to and William talks to him a lot about his finances, you know what that looks like and it’s kind of teaching him some of those principles and it’s funny, because he said that about a few things lately. He’s like, Yeah, I don’t think I want to actually spend money on that, because I won’t like it for very long. So he’s thinking about those things. So…
Scott: William, that you are financially independent, but back to work and when you are preparing for five, many people will shift their asset allocation and what they invest in to accommodate maybe a bigger cash flow, or a more conservative position. Does the fact that your work has anything to do with how you choose to invest or change that or use it exactly the same as you’ve been doing all along?
William: Yeah, so I live as if I don’t have a paycheck. So I built a bond tent prior to leaving my corporate job and I’m, I consider myself in Draw down mode, even though I’m still contributing into my accounts with my paycheck. So, fair enough.
Whitney: Thank you for that. All right, you guys, thank you so much for sharing your stories, I am dying to get you back on the show because it was very interesting and there’s a lot I want to dive into. But thank you so much for taking the time.
And our next guest is Tim. So Tim, I am really excited to chat with you. I heard a little bit about your story when we were doing introductions, and I think you’ve got a really interesting background and really cool what you’re up to today. So tell us a little bit about what is life after fire like for you specifically? And are there any specific challenges that you would like to tell us a little bit more about?
Tim: Yeah, well, maybe just a little background I woke up at the end of 2007 with $3.7 million of debt in the business and we all know what happened in 2008. So that was the… I didn’t have very good timing then. So that kind of changed me calm was changed my chemistry that I needed to do something different because of that stress level. So I spent seven years paying off all that debt, found myself in 2014, free and clear and I was restless. I was like, I kind of cleared the big hurdle. And now what? And I knew that I had to sell the business and kind of get my freedom back, even though I own the business and I was fine, but I wasn’t FIRE and so I want to propose a change to the FIRE acronym. I think of it as FIRE as financially independent rewired early, because I’m as many people in the room we’re just not going to retire. I’m never gonna probably retire and so rewiring to me was doing something different even though I love the business, love the employees. I just knew in my heart, I had to do something different. So I sold the business to a friendly competitor got her Bry jobs turned out all great and then I was rewired and we were talking earlier today and I one of these people has the identity of a business owner. And so I knew I was going to be in trouble the day after So one of my challenges was what was I going to do the day after. And so I spent a couple of years getting ready for the day after, and ended up being a business coach, which I’m doing now, and have been doing for three and a half years. So for me, it was important to have something to run to. And so rewiring was doing what my next passion was, which was business coaching.
Doc G: You use the term second act, when I’ve talked to you before, tell me what that means to you and why you use that term.
Tim: I guess for me, the second act is, which I would, you know, Coach other people is think about rewiring earlier than then later. So retiring early, maybe isn’t in the cards, but you we could all rewire earlier. So you know, if you rewired five years earlier, then you could retire. Would you ever regret those five years. So my coaching would be is to think about your second act and maybe your third act and have a plan for that. If You’re an identity person, some people are a little more, you know, kind of free falling off. And so I was and I know I needed something to have in my next life. And so I called it my second act. And it took me a year, literally a year of emotional wrestling with selling the second generation business, family business, never going to be a third generation. I mean, I spent a whole year going back and forth with my kids, with my parents, with my wife with my best friends. It was funny the reaction was when I kept saying, I think I’m going to sell the business. Almost everybody said, Well, duh. I mean, of course, you’re going to sell the business, you’re gonna be doing this the rest of your life. So to me that having a clear second act was important.
Doc G: What are the kind of hours per week difference look like between, you know, when you were working on your business and then in your current role now as a coach, and how did that kind of evolve?
Tim: I think that was another reason why I had to sell the business because my it’s, you know, a small business. We are, you know, eight to 10 million It’s 24/7, it’s 365. And so for me, you know, I probably worked 50-55 hours, but I was thinking about the other 35 or 40 hours. So, for me, that almost was I was getting a little too wrapped up in it, it was starting to affect me personally. So now fast forward, you know, it’s more for me, it’s more 30 to 35 hours, and then it’s lights out, you know, when the garage door goes down, I’m not thinking about my clients, businesses, like I was thinking about my own business.
Scott: So I have a litmus test for post financial independence businesses and my litmus test is really simple. It’s, would you still do the same thing if you weren’t being paid for it? What’s your answer?
Tim: The answer is Yeah, yeah. Yes. Because that to me is kind of the Golden You know, that’s the golden nugget. I have this thing I call the fire life, which I kind of stole from this guy named Gina Whitman so I gave him credit but it’s a five question test and So the first is, I call it the FIRE life. And if I don’t get this in one of these five, then I’ll switch. But the first one is doing what you love with the people you enjoy, making a huge difference being compensated appropriately, with time to pursue other passions. So to me, that’s the FIRE life rewired early. I’m checking all five boxes I have since the first day of my second act, and the day that maybe one of those box gets unchecked. I’m going to go to work, I’m getting a checked again.
Doc G: So tell us where people can find you on the internet. And specifically, I think that probably a lot of people in our community could benefit from your type of coaching. So tell us, who is a good consumer of your coaching and where can they find you?
Tim: So right now, small business to 20 million. Anybody who’s got people has got problems. And so the kind of universe is huge for me. I’m kind of wrestling with I’m almost full on the coaching side. Now because if you have people problems or you have process problems or you have strategic planning problems, which is all small business owners I found out I’m going to probably be busy till the day I check out. But anyway you can find me at my email is [email protected] Altus is A.l.T.U.S.B.A.com and that stands for altus business advisors and Altus is Latin for higher, deeper and noble, which is what I want to bring to other business owners.
Doc G: I have two questions I’m not sure how deep these are. So let me know if they’re too deep here but one is, did you ever consider installing an operator for your business and retaining ownership and then two, as a business coach, would you ever advise anyone looking to pursue fi to purchase a business like yours and take over ownership?
Tim: So the first one is, I did think about I went through all the options I’m one of these people that’s a bit of a perfectionist, so I went through all whatever 37 options, but that one specifically, I didn’t feel like a small business. Mine was, you know, eight to 10 million. It’s so small that if nobody’s paying attention if the owners not interested, they can go sideways too quickly. And so my whole fi, financial independence was banking on that business. And I just felt and I was in a tough industry printing industry that’s had its challenges. I just felt like if I wasn’t in there running the business in that industry at this time, I could jeopardize everything I worked for. And the second question was..?
Doc G: The second question was, would you ever coach people that are looking to purchase a business like that? And what is your kind of advice If you do?
Tim: yeah, I’m a big fan. I mean, I’m coaching all these small business owners, guys and gals that are slugging out every day. I mean, not that’s, I think it’s the backbone of the United States and small business is kind of what built the country. So I would encourage everybody to do it. But you got to be on your toes. I mean, these little businesses can take you under. So definitely I tell people is you know, get an operating system, where you’re running the same rhythm, same cadence. In your business, you’re taking care of the people in the process and the strategic planning. Get in a peer group with other business owners, and spend time with them so that you can share experiences. And then for me, a business coach, if you have all three an operating system, a business coach and a peer group, I like your chances.
Doc G: Thanks, Tim, for telling us about your story. And now we’re going to call up Paul and Rachel and since Paul is the loud one, and Rachel, you’re the quiet one, we’ll start with you. So Rachel, I’m gonna start with the same question. What is life look like after FIRE for you and what are some of the difficulties?
Rachel: So I will absolutely start first because why wouldn’t I? So a little bit of background, I’ll still Tim’s You know, when Paul and I first met, I was absolutely not in FIRE. So I am not a physical person. A little high maintenance on the personal side. So I grew up very, very poor on the very wrong side of the tracks and I was like, I am absolutely going to earn the money I’m going to spend the money because that’s what I deserve. So it did take us a while to get on the same page. At the time I was like, Whoa, this guy is totally taxing my gig like why is he making me about spending money? Now I’m like, he is brilliant. Oh my goodness. What a smart guy. So you know we realized probably five years ago we kind of found the community and we did it through this standard drug of mister money mustache and then we found the mad scientist and I you know, I come from a computer background so no shade on the people are like, Oh, you techie people, you get paid so much like we were working hundreds of hours people like I’ve probably worked more lifetimes of work in that industry than I think most people realize. So I did what most people do and that I started to go to spreadsheets. So I probably have run every FIRE calculator every retirement thing like anything on the internet. That’s like entering You know, what you want to spend or what you think you spend and how much money and will you be able to survive? And I have, I’m like, 99.9% is not good enough, like, how do we get to 99.9, 99? So I was very, very hesitant to to leave and I think there was a couple of things. Now on the other side, we left our jobs two years ago and I think for one, like a lot of people, my job was my identity. As I like to say, when I meet people now I’m like, I used to be a big deal. And now I’m like, nothing, right. I’m like, I just like to read, I like to craft and make things. So it was it took a long time to unwind that. I think that for a lot of people, everyone in the movement says, Oh, you got to retire to something. And I’ll actually take the step and say you don’t have to like, I’m actually a super type A personality. I’m an all in or all out girl. And so I knew leaving my job, that if I had a side hustle or thing like it’s going to be another real job for me because I just don’t do things halfway. So Young people say like, what is your day look like? I’m like, Well, I wake up, I read the paper, I do some like still gurus, I like do some words with friends, I go to the gym like I read, I take classes a lot. So I think it’s actually okay. And I think a lot of people in the community get too much into, you have to have something I’m like, we don’t have anything. Like no retirement, please is gonna come after me and be like, yeah, you’re like, No, you come out to me be like, you’re old already. What are you doing? Get off the couch. So I will say like, it’s okay not to have that figured out. I think it’s there’s so much support now in the community that you can just do it for a few years and settle down.
Like I think I’ve put years back on my life just from sleep. Right. Yeah. So sleep deprived in the workforce. So that absolutely, I think half people just don’t appreciate that aspect of it enough. Right. That the stress that comes with work and you know, being able to walk away, that is great. I will say to you know, having no side hustle it’s been interesting to talk to people and I’ll let Paul talk Believe it or not soon soon baby you know but he’s the money guy he’s been great but he’s the one who reassured me like we don’t need to have a side business we don’t need to have real estate we don’t you know we can just kind of draw down the investments and you know do that wisely and in times of really great markets like we have now we can live well and if we need to we’re never going to be lean fire like Mr. Money mustache, but we have plenty of wiggle room and our budget to go either way. So, sweet P. Oh, Paul
Paul: Answered both. So for me, like now towards the end of my career, I really say after 20 years of IT, I was just really just burned out of doing that for 20 something years. And so for me, it really got to the point like my favorite days of the week for just Saturday and Sunday and Sunday would come around and get that Sunday dread. No, I like get on Monday and go to work. So for me when I finally retired from the job, I just went from kind of just that I get to basically live like every single day is Saturday. And when I was working I love Saturday and Sunday and now I get up every day and it’s like it’s Saturday and Sunday so I don’t really kind of feel again, like like race like I really don’t feel like I’m kind of missing now or I need a side hustle to kind of complete my life I’m, I really search for happiness every day. I do what makes me happy every day and if something doesn’t make me happy, I just walk away from it. So it’s kind of it’s maybe a little kind of hedonistic that way, but it’s but I very much just enjoy kind of living life on my own terms.
Whitney: So I heard a little rumor that you guys are on this mission for 50 by 50. So what the heck is 50 by 50.
Rachel: So as anyone who’s Taipei knows you need goals in life. So I was like, what are we going to do? So we came up with this we meaning me and he just goes along with it. We said we’re going to see it All 50 states by the time we’re 50, and like other people who travel in the community, we have rules. So it has to be, you know, a half to go together. It can’t be like a one time when I was three, I went through Wisconsin, like, wasn’t that great. Like that does not count. So we have to be together, we have to spend the night, which has its own implications, probably not a PG podcast. And then we had to do the most important to do something meaningful. So when people are like, Oh, you went to Vermont, you know, what are you doing? We’re like, Oh, we went to of course of it in Jerry’s factory, like, why wouldn’t you go to that in Vermont. So we do spend some time trying to make sure we see the states. So we have five states left, anyone play at home. And then for the next goal, we’re going to do 60 by 60, which is 60 countries by time we’re 60. So, again, I think it’s totally great not to have work type goals. It’s okay to have personal interest goals.
Doc G: So sweet P question for you. I hear that you said you answered a book, you mentioned that you guys don’t have real estate or a side, hustler side business or anything like that. So can you tell us a little bit about what that portfolio does consist of at a high level? And why you felt confident in that? I think that, in theory, we always talk about stocks and index fund investing as a path to financial freedom. But in practice, it seems like a minority of folks actually then go on to be confident in that allocation.
Paul: Yeah, so we were actually very much at a live by the jail call and simple path to wealth book, like we actually think that’s our Bible we gifted the time. So we very much how our allocation just really just kind of, just a lot of index funds. I think because we retired with a fair amount of money, we actually I think we sort of by ourselves, probably a heavier cash cushion than some people will do and then and actually, because we’re Rachel work, we had some of the equity on that. So like in the short in the shorter term, we’re spending cash and then when we need replenish cash, we sell the equity, the employee stock purchase stuff, and then eventually we’ll be able to kind of Draw down from our index funds but that’s kind of how things are set up.
Doc G: All right, let’s hear it for Paul and Rachel.
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Doc G: So we’re going to welcome Alma up to the mic so to speak. Alma, I don’t have the right words to describe your story. But you do. Take us back to 2012.
Alma: Okay, well, the story actually starts a few months before 2012 in 2011. My husband and I met on match com. What we realized about each other is that we grew up very similarly. We both were from very working class families didn’t have very much money. I worked two jobs in high school, I work two jobs in college. He had to put himself through high school or excuse me through college. By getting too into Annapolis and then enrolling or enlisting in the military becoming a military officer. So when we met, we both were really frugal. We both invested in real estate. We both saved in our retirement accounts. And we both had savings in addition to that. So then in 2012, we got engaged in Italy, it was amazing. I had this sales job after realizing that I didn’t enjoy practicing law, and a new sales manager came in and fired the entire team. And so I went home because I was used to working my whole life and working really, really hard my whole life. And I was in tears and crying and upset. Jeremy and I had just gotten engaged. So we had not had that talk, you know, where you show each other, all your finances. So the next day, when I come down a little bit, we opened up our books and showed each other our finances and then he said, and now we’re done. And I was like, What are you talking about? He was in the middle of getting his MBA, and he was supposed to get a job after getting his MBA. And he said, after I get my MBA, I’m not getting a job and you can’t make me. So that was how we accidentally retired. And Jeremy and I really, really battled about that because I had more of my identity tied up in working. I got a lot of satisfaction out of having a job. So I kept telling him, I’m going to look for a job, I’m going to look for a job, I’m going to go back to work, and he would do things like dangled trips in front of me. He was really smart about this. He would do things like dangled trips in front of me and then telling me he would go and leave me at home. And the first trip he did that with the first big trip, I’ll say he did that with with climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Right, so we had friends living in Africa, and he’s like, Well, you could look for a job or you could climb Mount Kilimanjaro, what would you like to do? And that guy just kept doing that until he started. You know that we did like a cruise to the Greek isles and we went to Mexico and looked at all these snow days and the Yucatan and, and so I just never got around to getting a job. So we ended up retired. And that was our life for a while. And you know what was interesting you ask somebody a question earlier about what was a challenge with retirement and for me, it was really identity was number one. But structure was number two, I really struggled with having no structure. So we would like wake up in the morning, have some breakfast, walk our dog, and then we were completely aimless for the rest of the day.
Our friends were all working, so it wasn’t like we could hang out with them. The people who were free that we know that were retired, were like 70 years old and nothing against 70 year olds, but the 70 year olds we knew were like watching TV and staying home and not doing very much. So that wasn’t very fun to hang out with them. So I asked Jeremy you know, what’s a dream you always wanted to have in your life, like what’s something you just would love to accomplish, and he said, I’d love to learn to fly helicopters. So he found a helicopter programme in 2014. We went to Bend, Oregon where they have a wonderful helicopter programme. And that was our life for a couple of years after that, and that was really fun going out there and fast forward 2016 the month he graduated with his degree from the helicopter programme was the same month he was diagnosed with stage three glioblastoma, brain cancer. And that threw us for a huge loop, I would have never expected that at the age of 39 that he would have gotten that diagnosis. It was huge turmoil for the next year and three months. And then in September of 2017, he unexpectedly passed away from brain cancer at the age of 40. And so since then, I have been on this roller coaster of grief of just trying to work through the emotions of What happens when your complete life has been up ended? And what do you do going forward? And that’s the journey I’m on still today.
Doc G: This story is so amazing in the sense, it almost seemed like he knew. Do you think he knew?
Alma: You know, Jeremy was a really smart guy. And I don’t know if it was divine intervention. I don’t know what it was. But he did not struggle at all with the decision to retire. He was all in totally comfortable with it. And when I look back now, I think to myself, thank God, thank God, he was so stubborn, because I’m a very stubborn person too. And if we had gone my way, we would have just worked till he was passed away. And instead, we got to do it his way. So we had all these amazing adventures. We had like 24/7 time together to do all these fun things. And I’m so so grateful that he had the inherent wisdom to make the choice that he did. And maybe he did. No, I’m not sure. But I’m so glad he did.
Whitney: So I think I can speak forever. And we’re like all a hot mess in here that was incredibly impactful. But I’m curious for you. Now, I can imagine if I were in your situation, I would be very scared. And I would immediately want to go back to work. And I would want to just, you know, continue building up my safety net, because that’s where I naturally gravitate towards. Did you go through that at all?
Alma: You know, that’s a really great question. And I think I did go through a period of that. But right after Jeremy got diagnosed, what I was only focused on was saving his life because I did not accept very well the statistics for stage three glioblastoma. So I went into this mode of Jeremy’s going to make it like he’s just going to make it he’s a top 5%. He’s been a top 5% his whole life, so why wouldn’t he beat brain cancer? So what I actually did instead of stockpiling was I looked at my biggest asset which was a small building that I purchased many years ago. And I sold it within two months of his cancer diagnosis because I had done a little research and I realized that what he had might necessitate like trial cancer treatments. And I know while sometimes trial cancer treatments can be provided free because they need someone to test on, you have to pay for the flights and the hotel and the travel and everything else. And I was like, I’m going to make damn sure we have whatever money he needs in the bank. I’m going to make sure we have it. So that was my first step. And then after he passed away, I really was scared for a little bit, but I didn’t go back to work because we were lucky that we were fine enough that I didn’t have to. So you know, because we live frugally anyway, so it was okay. And I really, it was just an incredible blessing to be fine at that point because instead of forcing myself to go back to work at a time when I was in a total fog and so confused, I think I probably would have gotten fired from Any job I would have had, I just was non functioning at that point. And I was that way for probably at least a year.
Doc G: One question I have I’m sorry, if I didn’t catch us on. He said you set aside some cash for some of these expenses. How are you handling the health care costs and that that situation as to retirees?
Alma: Well, we were really lucky because Jeremy was medically retired from the Marine Corps. So we have lifetime health care through his military service. And that was amazing. So he had health care while he was alive and I had helped her through his service.
Doc G: Well, we wanted to thank you all for your bravery. And I’d like to stress it’s not the bravery of having something bad happened to you. It’s the bravery of coming to something like a CampFI and sharing your story and telling us about who you are and what you’ve gone through. It’s incredibly uplifting. And I’m reminded a lot of Carl Jensen I we had him on a podcast episode and we were talking about the safe withdrawal rate and at some point You know, we asked him well, Carl, you know, what happens if you run out of money? and Carl said, Yeah, you could run out of money. But what happens if you run out of life? And I think this is a real important reminder for all of us that financial independence is a superpower. And this superpower gives us the ability to do things that other people can’t. And what’s been wonderful about all of the guests who’ve come up and talk today is you guys are all doing really interesting, wonderful things with this superpower. And for some of us, that superpower might be going back to work. It’s something we love, and for other people, it might be traveling around the world. And for others, it might be surviving after a tragedy and moving forward, even though it’s really incredibly tough. So we just wanted to thank all of you guys for coming up. Whitney, what have you learned about life after FIRE?
Whitney: Well, I’m going to try to pull myself together over here. One of the interesting Things that I have learned from all of our guests today is how much we put our personal identities into our work. And I think every single person alluded to that in some way or another. I think that’s really interesting how much we do identify our own work with who we are. And so I think it’s worth noting. And so I think for everybody listening in, if you have ever struggled with separating yourself from your identity, I think it’s an important concept to be aware of, because your identity is a choice. And you’re going to choose how you want to identify yourself if it’s with work if it’s with other things, but that was one of my big takeaways for this whole conversation. What about for you, Doc?
Doc G: What I think I’ve realized is that there are as many roads and paths after FIRE as there are to FIRE. And so when I look at all the faces in the crowd today, you each have a unique path that got you there. And there are many right ways, right? There’s real estate, there’s business, there’s just good old saving and investing. We do The way that works for us and I think your post fire life is exactly the same. There are many ways to succeed after fire. And maybe the important part is to be thoughtful, and decide what your identity is and where your purpose will lead you. And if you can do that, you’re going to be okay. What about you, Scott? What did you learn from this conversation?
Scott: Yeah, there’s a million takeaways. I think the simplest and most powerful one for me is just that the stakes are really high for being in control of your destiny and with your finances. And that was shown I think, in each each one of these stories today.
Doc G: Alright, well, this is Doc G from the what’s up next podcast.
Whitney: And Whitney Hansen from the money nerds podcast,
Scott: And Scott trench from the bigger pockets money podcast.
Doc G: And that’s a wrap
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