I’m having a hard time even remembering when I first found out about the concept of early retirement, which began my journey towards FI.
You could say that I'm second generation FIRE as my parents retired in their mid 50s. By that point, I was already in my working career and I’m proud to say that I was able to work on a financial plan with them and confirm that they could indeed retire immediately.
With a dad who worked in corporate finance and a high school bookkeeper mom, you could say I had a predisposition towards numbers and money. I suppose I was destined to be a CPA or a financial planner, who would have thought both?
With that background and parents who were striving towards FI themselves, I had an extremely solid foundation in personal finance, plus a ton of interest and ambition. Finding the Mustachian community in college provided me with concrete goals. With that, our hard work, and lots of good fortune have made our journey thus far relatively uneventful and we’re essentially on autopilot now.
Those early years–mindset formation
I started working while in middle school and diligently saved all of my money. Filling out my passbook was such a thrill, not to mention the lollipops the bank provided!
Throughout middle school and high school I worked labor jobs. I think those jobs really instilled in me that the money I earned was valuable and should not be wasted. Cutting grass for 60-70 hours a week does that to you!
Those years of working before college were the most formative years of my life. The bosses I had made a huge impression on me. Their lives showed me that to “get rich” you couldn’t rely on just
saving 10% from your day job. Rather, you should look to save as much as possible, start a business, and become a landlord. At that point, the money would slowly, but steadily compound and you’d end up wealthy.
Coming of age–financial foundation
I attended college with a full merit scholarship. Beyond that I continued to receive community and government scholarships (and figured out how to get paid in cash!). Because of that, I essentially got paid to go to college! I also lived in a triple room in the dorm to cut living expenses. That, in addition to working campus jobs, helped me come out of college with enough money to put a down payment on a house.
I studied accounting and finance, so I got a job straight out of college during the great recession. With my savings, I purchased a house in Northern Virginia in 2010, with just enough time to qualify for the new homebuyer tax credit.
With some of that tax credit, I purchased an engagement ring and got married to my wife. Luckily, she tolerates my number crunching nerdiness and has now been bitten by the FIRE bug herself. The freedom to leave everything and live abroad pushed her over the edge!
I’d call that a seriously fortunate set of circumstances. Just one of those taken alone can set someone on the path to early financial independence.
Since coming into the working world, we have lived below our means and despite continual missteps in investing, we are at 66% of our FI number and I expect to be FI in roughly 5-6 years per the Mad Fientist Laboratory.
If we wanted to, we could cut our expenses such that we could be FI immediately. But, we’re happy enough with our lives to not have to do that. We're currently saving about 60-70% of our income, into mostly pre-tax savings including HSAs, my 401k, her 403b and 457 plans. On top of that, we save into our daughter’s 529 plans, make Roth IRA contributions, and save into a taxable brokerage account.
Related: What My Parents Taught Me About FI
Living the dream
Now that I'm a financial planner (CFPⓇ), I get to work on this stuff with wealthy people every day, learn how they got to be wealthy, what their concerns are, and see how they live their lives. You may have found me through the podcast I did with ChooseFI where I discussed the financial planning profession and the work my firm does.
Getting the opportunity to learn tips and strategies from dealing with these issues on a daily basis in a professional context was the main driver of my decision to go into the tax and financial planning industries. While I was certainly well-versed in a lot of the FI principles before I started working, I have learned a great deal more while actually being employed to help others reach FI.
Financial planning is more than just investments and retirement planning. It also includes many areas that I haven’t read much about including: estate planning, insurance, charitable planning, and tax planning.
With selfish intent, I've tried to soak up all the information I can and apply it to my own life. Now I hope that I can start to give back by sharing some of these ideas with you.
One day, maybe I'll be the life of the party just like the Wall Street Journal suggests!