169| A Purple Life | Early Retiree Case Study

169 | A Purple Life | Early Retiree Case Study

The anonymous blogger behind, A Purple Life, shares her journey to Financial Independence. With the helpfulness of anonymity, she shares exact numbers including her income, salary negotiations, expenses, and more.

  • A Purple Life opens up about the exact finances on her journey to FI.
  • She set an ambitious goal to retire in 2020. That dream is becoming a reality.
  • She shares the exact details of her budget and how domestic geoarbitrage helped her to cut costs dramatically.
  • In addition to her expenses, she shares how she navigated several major salary increases.

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A Purple Life

Jonathan: All right everyone. On today’s episode, we are getting the opportunity to speak with an anonymous blogger. Now I say this to say that I think there have been so few anonymous bloggers that we have interviewed recently. I’ve forgotten some of the advantages of being an anonymous blogger and one of them is the radical transparency.

We’re actually, today we’re going to be speaking with A Purple Life writes over at apurplelife.com and she through the freedom of anonymity has documented every single expense, every single salary negotiation that she made her net worth projections, her net worth on a day to day, month to month, year to year basis and has put it all out there for the community. And I know that the community has soaked it up and it’s been refreshing to see it. So as you listen to this episode, realize the only thing you’re not getting is her actual first name.

I just want you to appreciate the fact that it’s actually hard to get someone to come on and share this level of information with you because there’s a privacy aspect to this.

You know, especially if you’re pursuing this goal of early retirement while working in a job, what does it mean if you say, I’m going to retire and leave my job at the age of 30 and you’re doing this publicly and your employer finds out, how does that affect it? How does it affect it when your employer has to figure out who they’re giving that next raise to? Just think about that and appreciate how valuable this anonymity is in the context of this conversation.

Very excited to find out more about her story to help me with this I have my co-host, Brad here with me today. How you doing buddy?

Brad: Hey Jonathan. I’m doing quite well and yeah, you’re absolutely right. That radical transparency, it is refreshing it really truly is. I think I cannot think really in recent memory of our ability to dive into the nuts and bolts of the numbers like that and I’m really just selfishly excited to learn more about Purple, learn more about her story, this amazing, amazing path she’s been on and with that A Purple Life, welcome to Choose FI.

A Purple Life: Hi. Thank you. So happy to be here.

Jonathan: So I did kind of put it all out there, radical transparency. I guess I should back up a step and say is anything off-limits?

A Purple Life: No, not in my life.

Finding FI

Jonathan: You had this aggressive goal of retiring at the age of 30 which coincided with the year 2020 if you guys have looked at a calendar recently, you’ll notice that 2020 is coming upon us and so we are getting very close and it looks like actually, if anything, she’s doing better than her projected target. In fact, that date keeps on moving up. I think it started at 35 now it’s I’ll retire at 30 in fact. So what allowed her to do this? Well, in part it was what some people may consider extreme frugality and domestic geo arbitrage and salary negotiation. Does that sound like something that you could use? Could you use a little bit of that in your life? I think, I know I could and so I’m very excited for this. So Purple again, we’re like where, where does this story start? Did you know as soon as you got into college that you were going to be pursuing Financial Independence?

A Purple Life: I did not, embarrassingly, I was the stereotypical partner that didn’t listen to my boyfriend at the time when he introduced me to the idea of Financial Independence. I was resistant to it for about two years and then it finally clicked for me and then I dove in and actually surpassed his enthusiasm and now I’m barreling down this path.

I did not, embarrassingly, I was the stereotypical partner that didn’t listen to my boyfriend at the time when he introduced me to the idea of financial independence. I was resistant to it for about two years and then it finally clicked for me and then I dove in and actually surpassed his enthusiasm and now I’m barreling down this path.

Brad: Nice. So what does that look like when he first approaches you with, oh I’ve found this amazing world of Financial Independence. What did you think that very first time?

A Purple Life: I was completely resistant to it. He sent me the sub-Reddit, Personal Finance, and then Financial Independence, which led me to the normal path, Mr. Money Mustache, which then said that he was going to punch me in the face for spending a lot of money, which I wasn’t very open to, so it might’ve just been the wrong initial blog for me.

I was like, oh, I don’t want to be deprived. I don’t want to have to think about this stuff so much. I’m fine. My mom retired at 55 my grandma retired at 50 like that’s a fine trajectory. Why would I try harder now? I’m only 25, 23 at the time. So that was the entire thing. I just ignored him.

Jonathan: What changed?

A Purple Life: I was telling myself that if I got this dream job and I had, of course, I’m a very organized person, so I had an entire list of what I wanted that dream job to entail. It had to have anonymity, a boss that really actually cared a mission that I was going towards, building something challenge. And I told myself, Oh no, it’s just that I haven’t found that job. And when I get that I’ll be “happy”. And so I will not be upset to get up early every weekday. I will be happy to go into work forever until 55 that was still my vague goal based on my mom.

I got that job and I still didn’t want to keep doing it. So I had to think of another plan and through analyzing my spending, job-hopping, increasing my salary and realizing that a lot of my preferences and the ways they differ from my mom. For example, she owns a house and a rental house and cars and has multiple children. I have none of those things by choice. So that really accelerated my journey and I just applied what she’d already taught me and it seems to be heading me towards retiring at 30.

Jonathan: So I actually want to go into each one of these details and you can do multiple things at once, but I suspect you didn’t do everything at once. You started somewhere, so when you decided, okay, I can speed this up, I can start working toward this. What was that goal? You know, was it 30 you know, I want to retire at 30 immediately or did you work towards that and then where did you really start?

Spending Less

A Purple Life: I started with analyzing my spending. And you’re completely right, I do everything in stages. I usually have a year at a time where I really focused on one thing. So at the beginning, I focused on my spending. I said, do I really need all of these things? I was living in Manhattan at the time, so I actually wasn’t able to decrease my spending much because the largest expense was Manhattan rent. So I did what I could, I taught myself to cook, so I started going out to restaurants less.

I changed my phone plan from $100 a month, AT&T plan and an iPhone to Republic Wireless for $15 a month. Then I had the same service. I was like, why? What was I doing before? Just little things like that. And then when we finally decided, actually I think Manhattan might not be for us long-term, I was able to tackle that largest expense, which led us to Seattle and then the next year I got a higher paying job in Seattle making about $20K more.

Related: Cut Your Cell Phone Bill: Republic Wireless Review

Jonathan: Let me actually, I want to find out all of these, but there’s a couple of points there I don’t want to breeze over. So one is since you were looking at the data back in New York, what did your life cost before you started tracking your spending in New York specifically and then after you started to optimize these various things, what was your steady-state in New York?

A Purple Life: Okay. I did not track my spending that closely, but it looks like I was spending about $35k and then after moving to Seattle I spend about $18 and I’m projecting $20 in retirement.

Jonathan: Okay. Now, this is very interesting. I’m curious how you picked Seattle because some people might say, all right, New York’s expensive, Seattle is expensive. And you know, there’s plenty of options in between, especially if you’re working remote. How did you, you know, and maybe you’re not working remotely, but how did you end up landing on Seattle?

A Purple Life: We are real nerds and we made a spreadsheet of all possible cities that we could move to and some of the variables were cost of living versus the salary that I could command in different parts of the country. I’m in marketing, so for example, San Diego was on our list, but they don’t have a lot of ad agencies or large marketing clients, so that wouldn’t have worked out very well.

Also, the access to public transit. I grew up in Atlanta and I’m so over cars, I don’t want to own a car, so access to that really matters and general things like weather feel of the city, that kind of stuff. So when we put all those variables together, Seattle came out on top because it has about half the cost of living, but the same salaries because of the tech giants that are here and that’s how we chose it.

Brad: Yeah, no, that’s certainly, that certainly makes sense. I’m curious, a lot of people are interested in moving. Right, they’re listening to this podcast. They’re thinking about Financial Independence. Maybe domestic geo arbitrage is on the table for them, but I think getting that job is the stumbling point. I’m curious, did you find your job or I guess both of you, did you find jobs in Seattle before you moved? Was this, hey, we’re going to move and just kind of hope we find jobs. Like how, how did that work for you?

A Purple Life: Well, to be honest, I was terrified. I was about to leave that “dream job” that I had to move across the country to a city my partner had never even visited and I was very worried about finding a job. I’d been told by many people I should just move there and then it would be a lot easier to find one. So that was my backup plan.

But actually, I got very lucky in that I applied to a job online and this is the first time it’s ever happened. I actually got that job without ever having met the people or flown to Seattle or anything. Usually, all my jobs were through networking, but at that time I actually went to a portal and they responded.

Jonathan: Now that’s really interesting. Now, I want to circle back to the job search and the salary negotiation because I know that’s a part of your story, but I actually first want to discuss the spend less. So you know we have these options on the path to Financial Independence and just for our audience to set a frame for why we’re tackling these in the way we are. You can earn more, you can spend less and/or you can invest better, invest the difference.

You can earn more, you can spend less and/or you can invest better, invest the difference. We want to grow this gap, right? What you earn minus what you spend is equal to this gap, what does it look like to grow that and do better investing that gap.

We want to grow this gap, right? What you earn minus what you spend is equal to this gap, what does it look like to grow that and do better investing that gap.

And your case, we’ve talked about how this move from New York to Seattle was able to drastically decrease the cost of your living down from $35 I believe I heard you say in passing down to $18,000 a year. Like what does that look like now? I know you’re just talking about the cost for yourself as a single individual.

What makes up $18,000 a year in expenses and how is that not deprivation? I mean I ask that not from like a putting that on you, but more just from an audience’s perspective like is $18,000 a year really something that I could live off of? Like help place us like how you came up with this number of happiness at $18k

A Budget Breakdown

A Purple Life: So it’s funny you say that because the difference basically $18,000 the only change is that I moved from Manhattan to Seattle as in my rent. That was, that’s the difference in rent between those two places. And that was really it. Besides those little things that I optimized, but I wasn’t looking to change anything if it decreased my standard of living.

For example, the phone plan, absolutely no change to my life, thousands of dollars of savings. So that was it. I actually, we have a much nicer apartment in Seattle than we ever did in New York and it costs less than half. I walk to work when in New York I was pushing my way onto the subway train every day and spending $120 a month to do so. So my life has actually improved while my spending has been cut almost in half.

Jonathan: Can we actually go through the line items that make up $18,000 a year in expenses?

Brad: And yeah, just to set the frame, I mean, this is $1,500 a month. That’s what $18,000 a year works out to. So yeah, $1,500 a month is roughly what we’re trying to get at. So yeah, we’d love to hear just how that breaks down.

A Purple Life: All right, so in general, my rent in Seattle is about $850 a month, including renters insurance. Then as I mentioned, my phone plan is with Republic Wireless and I actually changed to a fancier plan. It went up to $25.

Jonathan: More data.

A Purple Life: More data, right. But now actually I’m on the annual plan this year, so it’ll be 20 bucks a month. Very important $5 savings. We split our internet bill, so for me, it’s about 25 bucks. Electric, 20 bucks. We pay for water, sewer, and gas, which is about 30 bucks a month. I set aside $15 a month for transit buses or Ubers or Lyfts if I’m not feeling like walking. I absolutely love walking and now that I use Job Spotter, I love it even more since I get paid to walk.

Jonathan: We’ll come back to that obviously.

Brad: Wow, wow, wow. How do we not stop right there? Holy cow.

Jonathan: No, no, no, let’s keep going, let’s finish this train of thought first, keep going.

A Purple Life: Okay, so those are my pretty much set expenses and that comes out to like $950 ish per month, and then the rest is things like groceries. I spend about $125 a month on those. Even though I eat a lot of meat on keto. Eating out about $50 a month and that’s going out multiple times. It’s not just, oh, I’m only allowed to leave the house and go out once. Alcohol, about 50 bucks. That’s for going out to happy hours with my friends.

I also set aside some money to bring wine or snacks or stuff like that over at a friend’s house that’s about $20 a month and then everything else is kind of rainy day expenses is YNAB calls it. Buying toilet paper, you know, hair dye.

Jonathan: Got to keep that hair purple.

A Purple Life: Since I’m a little obsessed with purple hair. Apparently, I spent $20 last year on clothes total. That’s good to know. I have some entertainment costs. I love to go see movies, my medical expenses are pretty low. That’s one of the reasons I’m increasing my projection to 20k in retirement because right now my company pays for a lot of it.

Jonathan: Okay. I was actually going to ask you about that because one of the structural expenses, many people are wondering about the cost of healthcare and I didn’t notice that there. So the company picks up 90 plus percent of the healthcare premium at this point? Is that fair?

A Purple Life: Basically, which is why I’m saying more 20k. Since I’ve projected what I’ll need to spend on that. I’m planning to be basically a nomad and get expat insurance and that’s the cost that I’m projecting. It’s about… I’m projecting it to be like $2,000 but when I’ve actually looked at the plans, it’s around $1,000 to $1,500 a year.

Jonathan: All right, so what’s interesting is I could also see many people like listening to some of these numbers and saying, well I could see myself doing that for a month, but life is lumpy. Right? That’s another thing YNAB says, life is lumpy. So like does this hold true when you actually look at averages and YNAB over three, four, six months like that is actually what your steady-state life cost?

A Purple Life: Yep. I was just looking at my averages from 2018 all up. So that does work. Of course, life is lumpy. You’re totally right. Sometimes I’m dropping a thousand bucks on a plane ticket and sometimes I’m staying at home and reading. So it all averages out.

Jonathan: And I know that you’re a fan of travel rewards. So in many cases, you can get much of the travel for far less than individuals would normally assume. So you can still have your travel life built in there.

And the other thing that I, that I wanted to ask about in follow up one was actually your grocery bill. So it was interesting to me that you said you spent, and this is for you as an individual, you spent $125 a month on groceries now I was kind of expecting next that you’d say that you eat kind of a beans and rice type diet or some such. You know what I was not expecting you to say is that you follow a keto diet, which is heavy on meat and particularly the two meats, steak and salmon tend to be $5.99, $6.99 a pound up. And that’s at an inexpensive place in Seattle. I would expect it to be even more so how do you or how are you able to maintain that type of diet for $125 a month?

I shop sales. Usually, they dictate what I’m eating. So if steak has gone on sale for $3 a pound, I load up, I fill our freezer with it, and then we’re obsessed with sous viding food. So we just pop it out of the freezer, put it in the sous vide and then we eat really cheap but delicious steak. And that has actually really helped my restaurant budget decrease significantly.

A Purple Life: I shop sales. Usually, they dictate what I’m eating. So if steak has gone on sale for $3 a pound, I load up, I fill our freezer with it, and then we’re obsessed with sous viding food. So we just pop it out of the freezer, put it in the sous vide and then we eat really cheap but delicious steak. And that has actually really helped my restaurant budget decrease significantly.

When I was in New York, and even when we came to Seattle, I was still spending about $250 a month on restaurants. But since I discovered sous vide and went keto, it’s just plummeted because I can make better food at home.

Jonathan: Wow. So I’ve been on this Instapot kick this whole time. Brad and now look, I’ve been going in the wrong direction.

Brad: Yeah seriously. I’m learning something new every day.

So I wanted to ask about city living. You know when we had Liz from Frugalwoods on way back when she talked about how most people have this idea that living in a city is extraordinarily expensive. But she turned that on its head and said there are free activities everywhere and most of the time you can walk places, you don’t need a car. I’m struck looking at your budget that that seems to be the life you’re living. I love for you to talk through the benefits of city living while pursuing FI.

A Purple Life: I think city living, it’s obviously necessary for me to be near my job. Even though I do work remote, I’m in client service, so at times I do need to go in and talk to clients and be face to face, but I completely agree. There is so much to do for completely free, it’s all walkable. Just walking around a city I find is a wonderful activity, which of course if you’re in a more rural area, walking in the woods could be also very wonderful, but there’s always something cheap or free to do.

For example, I love, I mentioned happy hours really quickly. There’s always someplace to get a $3 glass of wine. There was always a way to find a place that will give us a bucket of nachos for $5. There’s always choices that a city provides when if you’re in a more rural area, there’s less choice and I would imagine it gets a little more expensive because they have that kind of monopoly.

Jonathan: So I actually want to come back and talk about Job Spotter. So it’s one thing to not have a car, not pay for all the costs that are associated with having a car, maintaining a car, paying for car insurance, et cetera, et cetera, taxes. But it’s another thing to get paid to walk to work and that’s not something you hear people talk about very often. So I’d love to find out more.

A Purple Life: Sure. I am obsessed with this app. It is indeed called Job Spotter and it was created by Indeed.com and they pay you to take pictures of hiring signs and the idea is that you take pictures of more mom and pop signs that they can’t actually afford to pay Indeed to list. So you’re helping people find jobs. That’s how Indeed also pays you, and it’s super fun, it’s like a scavenger hunt.

And I’ve been telling everyone about it, even though they’re like, don’t say that there’s more competition. I don’t care if this is the most fun I’ve had in a long time just searching for hiring signs. I pay more attention on my walks I’ve been at the same job for about three years, so I’ve been walking the same route, but now my eyes are open, I’m seeing new things. And so I just think it’s the most fun ever and I get paid.

Brad: That is, wow. I’ve never heard of anything like that. So are you assigned to like a particular area or if you went on a trip to Paris and you saw a help wanted sign, would you be able to take a picture of it and geolocate it and get paid for that? Like maybe that’s an extreme example, but you were in New York or Miami or wherever it may be.

A Purple Life: No, you would.

Jonathan: She said yeah.

A Purple Life: No, you’re completely right. If I, sorry if I go to Paris, I will get paid if I can recognize a help wanted sign in French. My French is rusty.

Jonathan: Wow. This is incredible. So let’s talk about what’s your average monthly revenue that you’ve generated from just doing this? You’re walking to work every day. You’ve made sure that every single job on your walk to work has been filled thanks to your good efforts. You’ve made the world a better, more employed place. How much have they compensated you for this?

A Purple Life: So, not much between $20 and $30 but I caveat that with, I don’t go out of my way to job spot. So this is literally if I’m already walking somewhere and I see a job sign, I take a picture to contrast that, my friend Michelle at Frugality and Freedom has made $80 in one day before.

So if you actually want to go out there with the goal, and I believe she’s in New Zealand right now, so they do have slightly higher payouts. But if you want to do this for real, you can make some money.

Jonathan: Oh, it’s way better than a finding Pokemon, Brad.

Brad: Yeah for real.

Negotiating Higher Salaries

Jonathan: Yeah, really. All right, so let’s talk about the other half of the equation here because we’ve talked about how you’re able to get your expenses down to roughly $18 to $20,000 a year, somewhere in that range. And you did this in the context of leaving a job where you are making, I believe starting out and you can help walk us through this, but you have done an amazing job leaving your job and negotiating much higher salaries.

So walk us through what your salary was starting out and how you were able to increase that over time.

A Purple Life: Sure. So out of college I started making $35,000 and that was in 2011 and then I quit my job after a year.

Jonathan: The dream job.

A Purple Life: Go ahead.

Jonathan: Is this the dream job to clarify?

A Purple Life: No, this was definitely not the dream job. This was the, oh no, no one’s hiring. I need a job, apply everywhere and only one job offer came through. So I guess I’m moving to Manhattan. That was that job.

Brad: Wow. On a $35,000 a year salary in Manhattan.

A Purple Life: Yep, and I was paying two Manhattan rents at the time that I was helping my partner out. So that wasn’t fun. And we were more of the rice and beans kind of people than by necessity, a lot of pasta.

Anyway, after that so I had quit my job without another one, like a wild woman. But luckily right after my two weeks were up, I was on an elliptical at the gym on a Monday morning at [9:00] AM and I got a call saying I got another job, which was absolutely amazing. Shortest funemployment ever, and that job was for $48k and then about 10 months later I was laid off.

There’s a lot of layoffs in my life. It’s very typical in marketing, unfortunately.

And so after that, I got another job and a promotion to $65k and after that, I stayed at the same company but moved into that dream job for $68. Then I decided to quit the dream job to move to Seattle and that’s when I got the job online or I got the job that I applied to online for $85.

Jonathan: Let’s talk about these. These $20k jumps that were happening. Was this all like I’m very much noticing. All right, 40 to 60, 60 to 80 like how is this happening? Because that’s what the listing was? Just tell us a little bit more about how you were able to kind of progressively go up $20k at a time.

A Purple Life: It’s what I asked for. So I love doing my research, I go on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed.com and I figure out what is the market rate for the position. There were a couple of promotions in there as I mentioned. So it did seem like there was about a $20k jump based on years of experience. So then when I would go into negotiations, that’s what I would ask for. And if they said, “Oh no, we don’t have that, or that’s inappropriate.” I’d be like, “Well thank you, but I’m going to keep looking then.”

So I didn’t take no for an answer basically until I found a job that would give me what I was worth. I wasn’t just going to take anything that came at me and that probably was partially because I did have a small emergency fund even after that very first job.

Jonathan: Awesome. So I stopped you early, but I didn’t want to breeze by that. That these increases in pay was not accidental. It was an intentional thing. So this last job that you got, I believe you said you were making $80k does your salary negotiation job-hopping stop there.

A Purple Life: It does not. So that was four years ago. So after $85 I was once again laid off and then I found my current job at about $103 and then the year after I was making $106 and this year $110.

Jonathan: Okay. Wow, Brad.

Brad: Impressive.

Jonathan: So yeah. Okay. So I think what I want to pause on here and highlight for the audience is whatever you’re making now is not where you will be next year or the year after. It doesn’t have to be unless you choose that. And what’s incredible about your story is you actually took action on this and there’s kind of like the thought process makes, makes sense to me. And I realize industries are different, but you having that little bit of emergency fund, having a plan always knowing what you are worth and then asking for what your worth was a really, really big piece of this.

Brad: Yeah and one thing that I wanted to ask about, so I know you said in your line of work that layoffs are fairly common. But for a lot of people when they’re laid off, they feel like when it comes time to find that next job, they’re back on their heels, like they’re at a disadvantage because how do I explain away why I was laid off?

I know I’ve seen that in my own industry and I’m curious, did that ever cross your mind or is it so common in marketing that it’s a nonissue? Like what was the self-talk that you had about, okay, I was laid off, I imagine that’s going to come up in my interview. How do, how do I talk through that or what do I think about it?

A Purple Life: It is very normal in marketing, so luckily I didn’t get many questions about it. We are at the whim of our clients’ budgets, so if we go into a correction or recession, it is not uncommon for them to slash marketing first. So it’s pretty normal. The questions at interviews don’t even go in-depth into why they see, oh, she started a year ago, last in first out rule is what we’re usually told. So I was the youngest or newest person in my company and so that’s why I was let go. People understand that it’s not based on performance or anything I did.

However, it does of course not feel great to suddenly be without a job when that wasn’t my choice. So it did put me back on my heels it always does. But I picked myself back up. I give myself affirmations, I remind myself how awesome I am. I reread my LinkedIn recommendations and then I just keep going.

So I was the youngest or newest person in my company and so that’s why I was let go. People understand that it’s not based on performance or anything I did. However, it does of course not feel great to suddenly be without a job when that wasn’t my choice. So it did put me back on my heels it always does. But I picked myself back up. I give myself affirmations, I remind myself how awesome I am. I reread my LinkedIn recommendations and then I just keep going.

Jonathan: Amazing. So I think what we’ve done in the meantime, as we’ve talked about how you grew the gap, the one thing that didn’t happen is your lifestyle doesn’t seem like it was inflating with your salary, which is its own challenge to work through. Like, Oh, I deserve it. I got the raise, I deserve it. Which you know, maybe to some degree is fine, but I want to point out the freedom that we’re talking about that you built for yourself is because that you didn’t buy into that.

And I want to now address the gap and how the gap has grown. So when your journey starts and you make this plan to tackle Financial Independence and this audacious goal of achieving this at the age of 30 or 35 depending on whatever your mindset was there, what was your net worth at that point in time?

Building Wealth

A Purple Life: When I decided to pursue Financial Independence, it was 50k that was all squirreled away in my 401k plan. So I actually didn’t know I had that money.

Jonathan: Okay. Oh wow. Wow. So you had no idea it was even there?

A Purple Life: Nope, I hadn’t paid attention to it. I put a percentage in and walked away.

Brad: That’s wild. So how did you know, like when you first started that initial job, how did you know what percentage to put away? Like a lot of people at 22 aren’t thinking about retirement. Was that something, I know it sounds like, and we’ll talk about this, but it sounds like you’re third-generation FI, right?

A Purple Life: Mm-hmm.

Brad: Was that something that your mom told you? Was it something that a co-worker, HR rep, like how did that even come onto your radar screen?

A Purple Life: My mom told me to do it and she sent me to talk to her financial advisor who actually did not give me great advice, but did give partial good advice in that he got me investing in it, even if it was not ideal plans. So that’s how I did it. I just listened to her and I kept going.

Jonathan: So this is the year. Is this 2013 or 2015 that you realize you have 50k sitting in the bank?

A Purple Life: 2015.

Jonathan: So in the year 2015, your net worth was $50,000 albeit stored away in 401k vehicles. Walk us through how you don’t need to tie it to the job, but just walk us through how your net worth has grown over the years. How long did it take you to get from $50k to $100k?

A Purple Life: Five years I believe. Well, total from… Let me back up. From the $50k it took me about two years to get to a $100k but from getting out of college it took me five.

Jonathan: Five years. So it took you five years to get that first a 100k saved up and then take us from that point on to now. Knowing what we know about what you kept your life expenses at and what you did with your salary. How long did it take you to get to where you are now and where are you now?

A Purple Life: Right now as of last night, I’m at $420k and that’s obviously, well we’re talking in 2019. But I went from $50k to $90k in 2015 and then to $140k 2016. $230k in 2017 and then last year obviously we had a little bit of a correction so I ended at $280 and then currently sitting at $420.

Jonathan: So, Brad, I think probably what’s coming through is that although you are contributing, I’d actually be interested how much you are contributing, but the market is doing a lot of this work for you once you get past that a $100k.

A Purple Life: It is. I’m writing a post about that actually.

Brad: Nice. And that will certainly be live by the time this podcast airs so we’ll have it linked up in the show notes. And do you have a sense, so I guess your last salary you said was $110,000 and your spending is roughly $20 right? So you’re literally saving roughly $90,000 a year?

A Purple Life: No, I’m actually only saving $68 because of taxes.

Brad: Of course. The CPA screws up the taxes.

Jonathan: I’m listening and I’m like wait a second, in what world does the accountant not think about taxes?

Brad: Yeah. Oh my gosh wow. That might be the stupidest comment I’ve ever made on the podcast.

Jonathan: No that’s okay Brad, everybody needs to know you’re human. It’s completely fine. Let’s go. Let’s actually circle back that. I want to talk about the moment when you go to your HR department or to the accounting department at your employer.

Brad: Hopefully, there’s a better accountant than me on there.

Jonathan: You’re fine. We’ll give you a pass here. But no, you say I want to… Like, I mean just walk me through, there’s not very many people at your age that are coming in and that aggressively wanting to front-load all of their tax advantage buckets. Walk me through that conversation.

A Purple Life: Oh, it’s always an awkward one. I always get strange looks. When I first started at this company, it was in November of 2016 and I filled out my 401k form saying that I wanted them to put in 62% of my salary into my 401k and I got a response. Did you forget a decimal point? Which I did not.

Jonathan: A Purple Life is known to HR.

A Purple Life: I definitely am. They fear me, but no, it’s always awkward. I always get those strange looks because I am quite vocal at work about trying to get my co-workers involved in the 401k plans to try and get them to get the match that we now have to invest in traditional IRAs if they can. To even think about retirement, I get a lot of eye rolls, but then when we do have a 401k advisor come to talk to us, people keep coming to me afterward or sending me texts asking me questions. So I feel like maybe I’m getting to them. Maybe one day.

Jonathan: Well, Brad let’s see. Do you want to go?

Brad: So talk me through, so obviously you’re maxing out the 401k. What other types of advantage vehicles are you contributing to?

A Purple Life: I’m also contributing to a Roth IRA. I sadly am over the limit for traditional IRAs now, but that I’m doing the 401k, the Roth IRA and taxable accounts.

Retirement Plans

Jonathan: Now, this is actually interesting because you’re going to retire next year. In fact, you’ve said that you say to the goal you’ve committed to it publicly. Albeit anonymously. I’m just curious, is this starting to seep back to your employer or to your co-workers? Are you able to put that hard partition down and you know, what is it going to be like actually following through on this and walking away from your current job?

A Purple Life: We shall see. A few of my co-workers who are close friends do know about this goal, but otherwise, no one has come close to outing me. It’s actually not uncommon in Seattle to have a black woman such as myself with purple hair, so I can blend into the crowd a little bit. And so far, no one’s told me, “Oh, I saw you on the Wall Street Journal. What’s going on?” Nothing like that. So still anonymous over here.

As for how it will be, I think it’ll be pretty stereotypical. I am debating if I will say, “Hey boss, I’m retiring. Yes, I’m 30 don’t worry about it bye.” Or I’m going to take some time. You know, I’m going to just this job and go traveling. So I need to decide how I’m going to spin it. But it should be interesting regardless.

Brad: So yeah. I have so many questions.

Jonathan: I’m competing with Brad for questions.

Brad: Yeah, really who would have guessed. Who would have guessed? So, all right. Obviously, we’re talking a small budget in the grand scheme of things, right? $18 to $20,000. I’m even thinking like this Job Spotter if you earned $50 a day that covers your entire yearly expenses. Are you planning on earning income in this early retirement or talk us through like what you’re thinking about income-wise and also pulling out of really your net worth here.

Like how does that look? Is it going to come out of taxable accounts until you do, let’s say the Roth IRA conversion ladder, like talk me through what your plans are for this post-retirement life?

A Purple Life: Sure. I’m not currently planning to make any income. Just as a baseline, so my numbers, my calculations work without it just because I do have that flexibility I mentioned that no house, no car, no kids. I am planning to move quite often, maybe every three months or so with my partner. So if the market tanks and I want to spend less that might just involve Mexico instead of Ireland for example.

So that’s one way I’m going to pull that trigger. I’m of course not averse to making money if I need to. If things aren’t working out as planned, but that’s not something that I assume I will be doing. But you make a good point. Maybe Job Spotter because I will have more time and I do love walking.

Brad: They pay well in New Zealand I hear.

Jonathan: You might be coming a brand ambassador, I mean.

A Purple Life: I’d be open to it. And then to answer your other question, how I’m planning to do this, I’m pretty stereotypical.

I am planning to have my taxable dividends, which will be about 5k just auto deposited in my account. And then for the rest of it I will be selling some stocks to get long term capital gains out of once again my taxable account until my Roth conversion ladder reaches a little over five years that I can take out enough to sustain myself. So that’s the main plan.

But of course, if I do make additional money, I might not even need to do all that.

Jonathan: I would love to get Big ERN to do another case study, because if you did this right in contrast with Becky. So we just did this episode with Becky and episode like 152 and she was maybe more of your traditional retiree. Do I have enough? I can bank on Social Security? I suspect for you at this point in your journey, Social Security is not really something that is being factored in to your early retirement plan. Is that fair?

A Purple Life: That’s correct. I’m not including the numbers assuming I get none of it, but I will have the 40 credits so I will be eligible for Social Security.

Brad: Oh cool. You had said, so you and your partner on this path clearly together, but I know in reading your blog you have not combined your finances and I’m curious to hear what his plans are and how the interplay of this works in this early retirement together.

A Purple Life: So yes, you’re correct. We don’t combine our finances for a couple of reasons. We’re actually not legally bound to each other. We’re not married and we’re not going to get married. So that’s part of it.

But also, we find it easier not to combine finances. Even though it might require a little bit of work we have a spreadsheet. If I pay rent, I just tell him on the spreadsheet and then it’s fine.

It all evens out in the end, but I in doing thought experiments think that I might become a little resentful or uncomfortable just because we are two different people and we have different goals. So if he’s telling me like he just did, he spent hundreds of dollars on a PS4 to play one game and I think, oh, is that really worth however many hours of work that I need to go to buy that PS4 and everything else, I might get a little resentful.

So we just find it a lot easier to think of each of our money is our money and then obviously we combine it to pay for rent and all that stuff, but otherwise, we have complete control over our own money.

Jonathan: You have a lot of flexibility here because some of the trappings that you said, I don’t have the house, I don’t have the car, we don’t have kids, don’t have pets. So, but I’m curious when you actually leave your job and you’re now in the process of drawing down, and I put this in the perspective from someone listening to this that’s hearing this number, that is the 25 rule.

Jonathan: So the 4% rule, the inverse of that being 25 times your annual expenses, you said $18,000 a year in expenses multiply that times 25 that gives you 450k is what you need to technically meet that. It sounds like you have a goal of $500,000 so you’ve actually added like a 10% buffer on top of that, which seems reasonable.

I’m curious. Let’s say you quit your job, however, that gets framed and then the next day the market goes down or you’re planning on leaving the job and like two months before you leave the market corrects by 40%. 40%!

How does that, how does that change your plan and how do you have flexibility built into this plan? Because I think that’s one thing that someone that’s doing a mathematical analysis of this would say well okay it works theoretically if we keep doing this for a while, but sequence of return risk, right?

A Purple Life: Mm-hmm. So if the market tanks two months before I’m planning to quit, I will still quit and luckily I won’t actually need to withdraw any money for about, well that would be 14 months because I’ll already have the cash I require for my first year of whatever that may be. I guess it would be more of a sabbatical given that situation.

So I’m trying to remember, I think most downturns take one to two years so I might actually be all good by the time I need to take money out. We shall see.

Jonathan: Yeah, I know. This is really interesting and the more contrarian people out there, and I want you to hear me I tend to be the eternal optimist and I’m more really more on your side of this than this question is going to really sound. But let’s just say for the people out there that the glass is half empty, it couldn’t possibly work because you’ve had to go through this thought experiment. You’re doing this, you’re actually doing this.

Let’s say the market stays down for two years. The market stays down for three years. You have one year of expenses, but the market’s still down 40% two or three years later, like does your plan still work then?

A Purple Life: Mathematically I guess we’ll have to see, but my plan in that kind of situation would be, oh I get to a year after I quit and I realize I need to get my next year’s money. So then that would be one of the unfortunate situations where, oh look, it’s not really working out. I guess I need to make a little bit of money and luckily since my expenses are relatively low, I could go back to my very first entry-level marketing job if needed and I could still pay all my bills.

Jonathan: I love it.

Brad: Yeah. That is the beauty of flexibility and keeping a lean lifestyle, right? You have options and they are plentiful, right? If you’re making $110,000 in your job now and clearly you have skills that are in demand, it’s not too hard to imagine you earning $20,000 a year to cover your expenses. So yeah, I applaud you. That’s brilliant.

Jonathan: You’re going to be just fine. You’re going to crush it. I wanted to run through that experience for someone else not for you.

Brad: Yeah, I don’t think she’s worried about that.

Jonathan: I don’t think you’re worried. All right, so let’s play this out though. I think the next thing is, but what are you going to retire to? What are your thoughts there?

A Purple Life: So I was a contrarian myself in this way because I used to think, me personally, I don’t need something to retire to because I saw my mom who actually did not retire “to something”. She did mostly retire from her job, but unfortunately, now that I’m an active member of this community, you guys have tricked me and I already have this blog going. I’m talking to you guys like I’ve got a whole new life going here. I’m going to FinCon next year. I want to visit all of my new FI friends. So I’m retiring to the FI community.

Jonathan: Oh wow. Oh, there it is. Did we, did we miss anything, Brad? I feel like we have done our best, right?

Third Generation FI

Brad: Yeah. No, this is wild. This is really just an amazing story. I did want to talk really quickly about third-generation FI. Right? So you said your mom retired at 55, your grandma, I believe you said 50.

A Purple Life: Mm-hmm.

Brad: And that sounds like these were overt decisions. I’d love for you to talk us through that. Talk us through any lessons they passed along and how that’s impacted your today.

A Purple Life: So my grandparents did retire at 50 and they did that on a military pension. So that’s obviously a lot more stable than what we’re doing. A lot more reliable than the stock market. So they left their jobs and were able to really help my mom raise me, which was amazing. Which is what I grew up with. And seeing my grandma have that freedom to come help me when needed. Go to my cousin if my aunt was sick and really helped her family out, which is what she loved to do.

And then my mom did retire 55 and she has been basically chilling and recovering from three decades of work since then.

And the lessons that they taught me were really overall frugality, which there was actually a time in New York that I did not listen to, but overall it was always in the back of my mind to really think about is this worth that amount of money? And if it is, then totally go for it.

For example, my mom loves lavish vacations and she spends on them. She doesn’t really care about shoes or clothes or anything like that. So then she just squirrels her money away and goes on these wild times. So that’s really what they instilled in me. And then just generally having an open conversation about money, that’s always been something that’s been talked about in our household, which is really helpful.

Jonathan: Yeah. I want to circle back, you said that one of the things you were retiring to is to the FI community and also to apurplelife.com this is something that’s really become a passion, it’s become part of your identity.

And I’m curious why you… I feel like there’s this stereotype and I think it’s untrue, increasingly untrue, but the stereotype of the FI community is represented by white male and software engineers. And I’m just curious your story is so different in so many different ways. Was that one of the reasons that you decided to share it on apurplelife.com?

A Purple Life: That’s exactly it. Not just that I was slightly different so that I can show, oh no, this is inclusive, like everyone’s welcome. This isn’t just for white male programmers come on in. But also that radical transparency you mentioned at the beginning. I find numbers and real tangible information extremely helpful on this journey and so I wanted to provide another example of that for people.

The Hot Seat

Jonathan: Well on behalf of the FI community, I think people crave numbers like the ones that you’re sharing and the steps that you’ve taken. You know, you may need to iterate them for your own individual life, your own individual situation. But I think it’s replicable and I love that you were willing to share this with us. On most shows that would be the end of the episode, but Purple on today’s show we would love to give you the chance to tackle the hot seat. Are you ready for this?

A Purple Life: I’m ready.

Brad: All right, Purple. What is your favorite blog podcast or book of all time?

A Purple Life: My favorite blog is Millennial Revolution because they were a huge influence on me when I decided to take my blog public. They were the first blog I saw that not only said, nope, we’re going to post every Monday, Wednesday, Friday. So then I got excited even though it was weekdays to hear what they had to say.

And then also they were so real and weird and they didn’t sugarcoat anything and they made strange jokes and I was laughing while learning about investments and I just loved it. So I thought, okay, yeah, I can put my own weird thoughts out there it’ll be fine.

Jonathan: Bryce is very strange.

Brad: In the best possible way.

Jonathan: And I would say that Kristy balances him out, but I think she just like takes it to overdrive. Love them. All right. Question number two, an inflection point in your life that was especially memorable or meaningful?

A Purple Life: I think it would be getting that dream job and realizing it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Which is obviously what made me think about, well, I’m not doing anything with this extra money. I’m currently putting it in savings. What’s the harm? I’ll just open a traditional IRA. Let’s see what happens and then suddenly realizing the kind of freedom that achieving FI my thirties would grant me and going for it.

Brad: So with this dream job, how quickly did you realize that this was not the end all be all? Like what does that look like and how quickly did you come to that realization?

A Purple Life: It took about six months and I realized with that job, one of the reasons I was able to come to that conclusion is because it was my first job where I wasn’t working basically 24/7. I had time to think and not just come home and pass out and start all over again. But it was that reflection time that made me realize, no, this job really does have everything I want and I still don’t want to do it for another 50 years.

Brad: All right. Question number three, your favorite life hack.

A Purple Life: Travel rewards for sure. They have been really helpful in that as I mentioned, my mom likes luxury vacations, so when I tried to reconcile how I could go on them with her with my budget, travel rewards really saved me in that regard.

Brad: That’s cool. Tell us about your best redemption or just an especially fun one.

A Purple Life: We just booked it. It’s the Etihad apartments for $16,000.

Brad: Oh wow. Wow. So an apartment tell the audience I know about this, but tell the audience what this looks like.

A Purple Life: So Etihad has first-class apartments, which basically involves a couch that turns into a bed and a lounger in this little, it’s almost, I’m going to say as big as part of my Manhattan studio, it’s significant and it’s all mine in the sky and I’m very excited.

Brad: That is incredible. For someone, I am literally flying Delta basic economy later today and I don’t even have a seat assigned, so yeah, the thought of flying in an apartment in the sky I mean that’s what travel rewards can do.

Jonathan: Take the seat that you’re going to be on later on today and put it in the lavatory on the apartment that she has. Her own personal lavatory on this larger plane.

A Purple Life: Or the shower. I actually don’t have my own bathroom I know you’re joking, but don’t my a bathroom. But the bathroom does have a shower and I haven’t taken a shower in the sky since Emirates and I’m also excited about that.

Jonathan: Oh, that’s awesome. All right, very, very cool. Question number four, the biggest financial mistake that you’ve made. Ohh you can say, I’ve never made a financial mistake.

A Purple Life: I’m perfect. No, I think it’s not taking what my mom said very seriously out of college. As in I talked to her advisor, he put me in subpar funds and then I just let it ride for years. I didn’t take a moment to teach myself about investing at all. I didn’t start reading any books or blogs about investing until I started down my path to FI. So I have resisted calculating the amount of money I’ve “lost” by not doing that. And just having those high expense ratio loads on my 401k.

Jonathan: Yeah, don’t do it, just move forward.

A Purple Life: Okay, sounds good.

Brad: All right, question number five. The advice you would give your younger self.

A Purple Life: Don’t listen to other people and their ideas of what will make you happy. Figure out what makes you happy and go after that.

Jonathan: All right, and we do have a bonus question for you. What purchase have you made over the past 12 months that has added the most value to your life? It does not sound like it’s a PS4.

A Purple Life: Unfortunately no, though I have really enjoyed the Nintendo Switch, so we didn’t buy that in the last year. It’s actually going to have to be slim fit earplugs.

Jonathan: Interesting.

A Purple Life: Do you guys know about this?

Brad: No, no.

Jonathan: First time I’m hearing about it.

A Purple Life: So I did not even think about it. But apparently, people’s ear canals are different sizes and I apparently have small ears. So I always thought earplugs were like a very painful device that people used out of necessity. And I, background, suck at sleeping. So like the slightest noise, I wake up and I sometimes can’t go back to sleep. And so I thought, well this is just my life. I have a fan and a noise-maker and I can’t sleep and I wake up at the slightest noise and that’s that. And the alternative is having really, really painful earplugs in. Apparently not. They make earplugs for smaller ears and it’s game-changer.

Jonathan: Oh my goodness. So the old Apple EarPods or whatever they used to be called back in the day, those used to fit like really, really well. And then when they switched over to the new ones, I can’t wear them. Like they, cause me extreme levels of pain and I just stopped wearing them. I just look for cheap alternatives even though they make a superior device in every other way. In terms of, yeah, and so I had no idea that there were other people with small ear canals just like me.

A Purple Life: We need to start a little group.

Brad: So okay, I’ve got to follow up about this. Are these readily available just if you Google it or on Amazon because undoubtedly there are people out there that have been suffering in silence here and they didn’t realize it.

A Purple Life: Yes, I bought them on Amazon. I think I got a giant pack for 20 bucks. Just Google or Amazon search, slim fit earplugs.

Jonathan: A giant pack. Very nice. Okay, well we will have that documented and a Purple, thank you so much for coming on the show.

How To Connect

Jonathan: So Purple people listening to this, they want to find out more about your story, they want to connect with you. They just want to follow you on this journey. What is the best way for them to do that?

A Purple Life: Come find me at apurplelife.com I’ve got all my social media on there in case you want to look at random photos of keto food on my Instagram or chat on Twitter. Hit me up.

Jonathan: Purple, thanks so much for joining us on the show. This has been amazing.

A Purple Life: Thank you so much for having me.

Jonathan: All right my friends. If you got value from today’s episode and if you’ve been getting value from the episodes up to this point, just take one second and press the subscribe button on the platform you’re listening to this on and whether that be a podcast via Apple, Stitcher or beyond or whether or not you’re finding this on YouTube.

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All right, my friends the fire spreading. We’ll see you next time as we continue to go down the road less traveled.

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5 thoughts on “169| A Purple Life | Early Retiree Case Study”

  1. Really enjoyed this interview. I’ll check out her blog. I hope she’s okay with the downturn in the stock market (I’m sure she is!).

  2. Can you invite AJA DANG (youtube). She just recently paid off her 200k student loan debt in ~2 years, did her Dave Ramsey scream, yet somehow she now faces so much anxiety on what to do next. Its a great perspective you’ll get from her since once she started documenting her student loan journey, she really hustles, using Youtube and other modelling gigs to gain her more money.

  3. I’m so glad you interviewed Purple and asked about her plan regarding a downturn. That’s been my biggest question for her. Great job and good luck, Purple! Your upcoming trip sounds amazing!

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