Today is the 48th edition of our periodic guest post series called 10 Questions. We have a list of 17 questions we pose to fellow financial bloggers, and they are free to pick and choose 10 or answer all of them. Let us know if you would like to be featured in a future edition of 10 Questions.
Today we are visited by The Frugal Vagabond. I LOVE this guy. I’m a super real estate geek, and he writes about real estate, so right there we’re already practically best friends. Then he went and wrote a post about integrity in the Personal Finance Blogosphere. (There’s a link in the article.) I really enjoyed reading through his blog, and have made it a bookmark – something I never do. (Mrs. 1500)
Tell me about your blog and why it’s great
The Frugal Vagabond is equal parts travel hacking and personal finance blog. While my fiancé and I are aggressively pursuing early retirement, we’re also finding creative ways to avoid compromising our shared passion of exploring the world and making real connections with people everywhere we go. We save over 50% of our income, but we also use credit card rewards, error fares, and lateral thinking to go on exotic vacations as often as we can, too. It’s really important to us to show people that you can live a rich, exciting, and fulfilling life while pursuing early retirement.
Whether it’s travel or finance, I’m always trying to think what I wished someone had explained to me when I started out. In particular, the world of real estate investment (one of our primary paths to FIRE) is designed by that industry to be opaque. Everyone is looking to cash in on the perception that real estate is confusing and heard. I want to break every step of our journey down to manageable, easily understood parts. That was the inspiration for a lot of my real estate articles. I hope that I can help others to take their first steps in real estate without feeling intimidated or frightened.
What post are you most proud of and why?
It’s tough to pick one, as I have a couple of topics that I’m really keen on!
As mentioned above, it’s really important to me to demystify the path to financial independence. My post about how to evaluate a real estate rental property objectively has been really popular. When I first went looking for rentals, I was stressed out and frustrated by the number of “gotcha” costs that popped up once I owned a property. Tenant placement fees, landscaping, fees to open the doors for a contractor… they just kept piling up, and I was lucky that my first property was still profitable! I learned which questions to ask all through the process, and my ability to act quickly on a good property has really improved by applying this method. I’m also very proud of a followup to that post which has also started to become very popular. I take one step back and show people how to select good markets for rentals, and how to assemble a trustworthy team, even if you don’t happen to live in the market where you’re investing.
If I’m allowed an honorable mention, I am very proud of our “Retire Abroad” series, which I write periodically as our safe withdrawal rate increases. It’s an incredibly liberating thought exercise where we examine how our modest, but growing, safe withdrawal rate could still sustain a comfortable and adventurous retirement in various spots around the world. I’m constantly harassing our parents to consider a move abroad, where their social security and a few years of nose-to-the-grindstone savings could fund an incredible, vibrant lifestyle.
What goals do you have for your blog, short and long term?
I’ve been writing the blog for about six months now. Readership has been increasing very slowly from the very beginning. Each time I see a sudden boost in traffic, it’s because an established name has been kind enough to retweet a post, share a link, or interact kindly with me. It’s humbling and gratifying to have those that you look up to supporting you. I’d like to focus on growing the readership of the blog more quickly, and I’d like to be considered a trustworthy source for information on how to accomplish early retirement dreams while still traveling, having fun, and not feeling like you’re living an ascetic lifestyle!
Longer term, the support I’ve experienced has made me determined to be a supporter of other new blogs if I achieve any amount of success at it. The blog has a few ads and a few affiliate links, but I try to use them sparingly, as integrity is incredibly important to me. I wrote a long post on integrity in personal finance blogs after seeing the number of blogs which are thinly-veiled marketing for third parties. Obviously it would be nice to make a little extra passive income through the blog, but it’s incredibly important to me that any profit from the blog is based on helping readers, not advertisers.
Do you enjoy writing?
I really do! More than the actual act of writing, though, I enjoy how sharing down my thoughts on FIRE reinforces my belief in our quest, and inspires new thoughts and ideas about how to get there faster. Writing my real estate series prompted me to take a harder look at some elements of how I write leases and manage my existing property, and as a result, I managed to increase monthly cash flow by about 30%! From a certain point of view, writing has already become a profitable endeavor for me based on that alone! Even if you’re not interested in blogging as a lifestyle, I highly recommend writing a blog, or a journal, or whatever, just to see whether it help you maintain discipline and enthusiasm.
1500 Days is about early retirement. Do you have early retirement dreams? At what age do you think you will retire?
Yes! Early retirement is our passion and the goal of both the blog and our everyday lives. We’re currently 36, and the goal is to retire before either of us turns 40. That’s later than some early retirees, but earlier than most! We took a little while to shake off the bad habits of our 20s, spent our early 30s clearing away debt, and have been seriously accumulating for a couple of years now. The good news is, despite our comparatively late start, our $0 net worth to FIRE timeline will be far shorter than most, about six years total. I actually hope that this fact inspires others who worry that it’s too late. It’s *never* too late! Even my parents, with no retirement savings at 66 years old, are not too late to reach retirement within a few years (though their path may require some drastic life changes and compromises).
People often talk about “One More Year” syndrome in the FIRE community. I think I’m afflicted with the opposite! When we started the blog, our monthly retirement aspirations were $5000 a month… now I’m considering whether 60-80% of that amount may be enough to fund the life we dream of!
If blogging isn’t your full time gig, what is?
I’m a software engineer in Silicon Valley, and my fiancé is a retail manager. The focus of so much criticism of FIRE bloggers centers around the subjects making a high income. I make good money, and my fiancé makes very modest money… barely a living wage for the Bay Area. Between the two of us, we average out to probably an average to high-average amount of income annually. If the blog becomes successful, I expect that the same criticism that GoCurryCracker, Mr. Money Mustache, and others get will be leveled at us… but hopefully our differing income levels will at least make a few people question their prejudices about the ability to retire early.
When you are 90 and look back on your life, what do you hope you have accomplished?
We are avid travelers, and our early retirement dream is to slow travel the world, including bringing our future children. We want to have raised kids who see the flaw in the message that any one country is better than another, or who stoke hatred between people and nationalities for political gain. We want to have traveled everywhere we dreamed of going, and to have spent more of our lives pursuing the causes and passions we believe in than chained to an employer. We hope that FIRE money also grants us the opportunity to give of our time and wealth where we see the greatest need. Morbid though it is, I often think about how I would be remembered if I keeled over tomorrow, and I hope that FIRE gives us the chance to have people say “he gave and gave, and he did it with love. He never stopped living on his own terms.”
Did you grow up with money? How did your money situation growing up influence you?
I grew up middle class, but without any financial education whatsoever. My father is an engineer as well, and my mother is a stay at home mom. My folks have always provided for us, and we went to good schools and seldom wanted anything. When I got out of school, I too spent most of what I made, and I got myself pretty seriously in high-interest debt. It took be a long time to develop the habits I have today. My fiancé grew up in a similar household, and got herself into a similar level of debt. She has really come on-board with our FIRE plans since the tragic death of her mother last year. We often talk to one another about how the most precious commodity we have is time, not money.
As I’ve gone down the path to Financial Independence, my thoughts on our parent’s financial experience are tinged with sadness. We wish that they had looked after themselves financially more, and I wish that they had given me less and put away more for this time in their life. I often write articles after discussions with one of our parents urging them to change a habit. Changing a lifetime of bad financial hygiene is hard.
What is the best thing you’ve read lately?
This may be a cop-out, but I actually read The Millionaire Next Door as an annual ritual right around this time of year. I find that it helps to remind myself of how the truly wealthy live, and to remember that retaining and growing wealth is just as much about being content with what really matters as it is about dollars earned.
What do you do for exercise?
We are both triathletes. It can be an expensive sport if you pay a lot of race entry fees, but it can be very cheap if you just throw on your shoes and run to clear your head! I think a cardiovascular sport is a great lifestyle for people seeking FIRE… if you’re planning to enjoy the rest of your life, might as well make it as long and healthy as possible!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Frugal Vagabond’s answers this week and I hope you did, too. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, G+, Pinterest, LinkedIn and tumblr, or over at FrugalVagabond.com
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