Nick True from Mapped Out Money talks about designing an FI lifestyle before reaching an FI number. Currently, Nick and his wife live in an Airstream trailer with the flexibility to live wherever they want to be.
Quitting His Day Job For Life On The Road
When Nick and his wife quit their jobs for a life on the road, it was not because they had achieved FIRE. However, the couple has transitioned into a lifestyle that mimics the benefits of a FIRE lifestyle without the tidy nest egg yet.
When I quit my day job to move into an Airstream, there were some disgruntled folks at my old job because that was also their dream to retire and move into an RV. So, it was a little funny when I was, you know, figuring out how to do that in my mid-twenties.
In his twenties, Nick traded in a traditional office job for the freedom of an Airstream. What allowed the transition was working remotely through the internet. He and his wife realized that they wanted to attempt traveling full time before they had kids or another situation when traveling full-time would be difficult.
How Nick And His Wife Made This Possible
Quitting his day job did not happen overnight. The young, driven couple married extremely young. As a team, the couple had planned out their escape route long before they pulled the trigger.
Initially, she was a traveling physical therapist which is how they got into the travel lifestyle. Nick built a freelance business on the side of his day job with the goal of working 100% remotely at some point.
So the way we initially got into the travel life was literally just transitioning our full-time income to a way that allows us to do it remotely. And then once we were able to do that, well, then it doesn't matter if we live in Tennessee…or wherever we live. As long as we can get internet access. That was kind of our main driver.
Additionally, financially smart college choices allowed them to start out on this path sooner.
Both Nick and his wife learned the value of hard work through their parents. Each of them worked extremely hard in high school and landed a full ride to college.
In my home, like growing up, college was important. But, it was important so far as you don't go in debt and you go and make a good business decision in terms of you go and get a degree that will lead to a good job. That was how I was raised.
Nick and his wife met at the University of Tennessee at Chatanooga. The small and affordable state school admitted both of them into the honors program. In the honors program, they were given a full ride.
Nick was also able to earn $30,000 of scholarships that went directly into his bank account over the course of four years. He was working on a STEM degree, so there were additional scholarships available every year. Each winter break, he applied to between 20 and 30 scholarships. Even though writing is not his strong suit, he powered through. Many of the scholarships he applied to were ones that he applied to for all four years. One scholarship, worth $15,000, denied him for his first three years and finally chose him on the fourth year.
Ultimately, it's like anything else. You have to learn what it is that these scholarship people want to hear and then deliver it to them.
If you struggle with essay writing, Nick advises just putting pen to paper. He used stories from his personal life and tied it to his future career.
Nick's wife had chosen UTC for both the low cost and it's master's program in physical therapy. She had decided that she wanted to go to undergrad at the same place where she would pursue graduate school. The decision allowed her to meet the professors in undergrad. She landed an assistantship in her undergraduate years that she was able to carry into graduate school which covered half of her tuition costs.
Landing His First Job
Nick moved smoothly from graduation to the workforce without any delays. He says that his work experiences in college made that happen.
Make sure you work your entire time in college. I stand by that belief. There was only one semester that I didn't have some sort of income source where I was working.
Similar to his approach to scholarship, Nick applied to many internships. An internship in sophomore year taught him exactly the kind of engineering he did not want to do. After that, he landed another internship close to campus where he worked for years and then took a full-time job with the company at graduation.
If you are trying to land an internship, then here's what Nick advises.
- Maintain high grades. It might seem like an obvious step, but it is still important.
- Build relationships with professors. Many professors know which companies in the area are hiring. And, if they know you, they are willing to write a great reference for you.
- Apply to many internships. It's a numbers game. It never hurts to apply.
- Go to the job fair. When his college had a job fair, he took fliers from every relevant internship and applied to all companies that were within a reasonable distance.
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie was useful in helping him find a way to empathize with others in a genuine way.
With all of this, Nick landed an internship that led to a “dream job.”
Working Nine To Five
After starting his “dream job,” Nick finally had time to stop and think about his life. Quickly he realized that spending time in this office what not what he wanted to do with his life. It was a crushing realization after he had worked so hard to get there.
At the same time, he stumbled across Mr. Money Mustache. With those ideas, it opened his eyes to not being an engineer forever. So, after some thought, he decided that the new plan was to go hit FI and then teach high school math.
However, the idea of working in his position for five to ten years seemed unbearable. Plus, he talked to friends in the education system. What he learned showed him that he likely wouldn't be happy as a teacher either.
Finally, he found out about the world of online work. He saw this as a path to achieve everything that he cares about in FI without actually hitting FI.
Replacing His Income
When he started at the company as an intern, he was earning $15 an hour. After being promoted to full-time, he was earning a salary of $64,000 a year plus overtime that pushed it towards $70,000. Nick knew that it would be a challenge to replace this income, but he made steps towards it anyways.
After doing some research, he found out that most online businesses that earn real money have teams behind them. He decided that if he built the right skill set, then he might get a job with one of these online businesses.
To learn the skills, he started watching YouTube videos. He built his own blog and practiced his skills there. After around eight months, he landed his first freelancing job. The goal was just to continue to build his client base from there. Primarily, he works in the personal finance world.
I do want to make an impact in people's lives when it comes to money and help them with money… I loved teaching and I loved helping people in that way. So my long term goal was to be involved in personal finance. Just like we're doing right now. But I knew I didn't have the experience, the knowledge base, or the skill set to go and do that right this minute…so what I needed to do was get around people who did know all that stuff. And learn from them…
Although it took many months to build up his business, the effort paid off in the long term.
Quitting His Day Job
After months of building his client base, he pulled the trigger and left his job. The change coincided with his wife's graduation as a physical therapist. She took a travel job that started on a Monday, so he left his job the Friday before. With that switch, she took over as the breadwinner for the family and allowed him to go all-in on his freelancing.
Eight months after that transition, the freelancing workload was growing and Nick's wife quit her job to help him. Now they work together full-time on their business.
Although they enjoy the new lifestyle, they have a backup plan. If freelancing doesn't work out then they both have hireable degrees that could help them land a job easily.
Ultimately, the transition was born from a prioritization of their values.
Priorities And Values
Nick and his wife were able to look ahead at the lives of people 10 to 15 years into their chosen careers and decided that they did not want that life. So then they started asking themselves “What do we really want? What are our priorities?”
Relationships with our loved ones is top priority. Then we started talking about our future family…So we made a list of all kinds of these big values in our life. And that's when we started to say ‘okay, how can we start working towards these values now?'”
For example, with their location flexible lifestyle, they have been able to move to a rural location to assist their family members. Without remote work, it would likely not be possible to find jobs in this area of the country. The opportunity to help out their loved ones is invaluable to them. The couple also values having pets and hopes to adopt children in the future.
So far, the couple has been able to secure freedom, flexibility, meaningful work, and lots of pets. They hope that the family piece is coming soon. For now, they are taking steps to prepare for those bigger things.
Listen: The Why Of FI
In their first year of marriage, they struggled to get on the same page financially. The thing that helped them to get on the same page was by trying very hard to have empathy for the other person.
The couple started with dreams of their life together. They would talk about all kinds of things which eventually lead to deeper conversations. The habit of dreaming together every week helped them to find out what they really wanted to achieve together. This led to deeper discussions and getting on the same page. Together, they started to think of ways to budget and manage their time to make their dreams happen.
If we dream together and work together, we can accomplish way more.
Once they can agree on a dream, they can work together to make that happen.
You can figure out a way to make your priorities happen sooner rather than later by making big changes and having an open mind.
The Gig Economy
Nick and his wife have been able to dramatically transform their lives through the “gig economy.” Of course, there are pros and cons to this.
I think that you can inherently look at the world in a negative way with the change. Or you can look at the world in a positive way. Are there negatives because of the economy, yes, 100%. No doubt…just like whenever there is with any change in the whole history of the world, there's negatives that come along with it. But, there's also a lot of positives!…[so we ask ourselves]how can we take advantage of the way things are to live the best life possible?
On the positive side, it is allowing many to design a new future for themselves.
If you are interested in diving into the gig economy, then Nick advises a few things. First, figure out what you are good at, become very self-aware of strengths and areas of interest. And, then, try to match that to jobs in the gig economy. Next, go to websites that you like and find out what kind of jobs they are hiring for. Make the effort to learn skills that are being sought after and apply. To land clients, attend networking events in your niche and build relationships.
Nick recommends spending some introspective time to discover your goals and dreams, and then see what adjustments can be made now to bring the future dream into the reality of now. Enjoy the journey along the way.
How To Connect
The easiest ways to connect are through YouTube by searching for Nick True, or, on his website, Mapped Out Money.
The Hot Seat
Favorite Article: Paula Pant's Mind The Gap
Your Favorite Life Hack: Tracking and budgeting his time just like he tracks his money. He uses the Toggl app and Google Calendar for batching time blocks.
Biggest Financial Mistake: Letting unexpected expenses control me. I've learned that life is unexpected sometimes. And we've built in an “Unexpected Expenses” category into our monthly budget to take the worry off.
The advice you would give your younger self: Learning empathy and selflessness sooner. Read How To Win Friends And Influence People earlier.
Bonus! What purchase have you made over the past 12 months that has brought the most value to your life? Peak Design Backpack
New to FI? Be sure to check out Episode 100: Welcome To The FI Community!