10 Questions with The Frugal Vagabond

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)

The Frugal Vagabond

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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25 Responses to 10 Questions with The Frugal Vagabond

  1. As always 1500s, I love this series. Welcome Frugal Vegabonds. Congrats on your journey and we completely agree that “…. the most precious commodity we have is time…”. Figuring that out in your 30s will be a huge blessing. Best of luck on your journey!

    Income Surfer recently posted…Trip SummaryMy Profile

  2. Jeremy says:

    Retiring early, living abroad, sharing the world with some kiddos,… what’s not to like?

    PS: That Go Curry Cracker guy deserves all of the crap he gets.

    • The Vagabond says:

      I know, right? I’m sure I’ll be getting my cease and desist from Go Curry Cracker, Inc. any time now for appropriation of life goals. 😉

      Would it help if I promise to share some of your internet comment scorn? Something along the lines of “Sure, it’s easy if you’re taking advantage of the poor credit card companies to TRAVEL FOR FREE, is this stuff even legal?!?!”
      The Vagabond recently posted…Thumbtack: Out of State Landlord’s FriendMy Profile

  3. @1500s – I am getting worried…. Everybody whom you cover in the 10 questions series, I end up adding the blog to feedly. This way my feedly will explore eventually 🙂

    @Frugal Vegabond – Good to know about you, looking forward to be part of your journey !
    Vivek @ LifeAfterFI recently posted…After 60 hours of research, this is the itinerary that we came up for our Bhutan tripMy Profile

  4. Excellent post Frugal Vagabond!

    I’m glad you put the perspective on your timeline at one point instead of your incomes. Switching from 0 net worth to FIRE in the span of 6 years should destroy any one’s objections to your lifestyle being a sacrifice, especially since you still include travel in those remaining work years.

    It was crazy to see all the similarities in my story to yours. The goal of FIRE by 39, saving 50% of your income, travel hacking, and even down to being a triathlete!
    Matt @ Distilled Dollar recently posted…How Scammers Keep ScammingMy Profile

    • The Vagabond says:

      Matt, thank you! Yeah, it’s always struck me as odd that some people apply out-of-the-box thinking to their aggressive savings, but totally discount the possibility of applying it to travel (or other lifestyle-enhancing-but-not-necessarily-expensive activities). Time will tell whether we can hit FIRE by 39, but I’m hopeful. This year is our most critical one to make that plan work, and we’re hanging in there so far. If anything, I’d probably accept a smaller SWR to be done in time!
      The Vagabond recently posted…Thumbtack: Out of State Landlord’s FriendMy Profile

  5. Believe Fire says:

    Wow Frugal Vagabond, sounds like a great blog! We will be checking out your past posts and keeping our eyes out for new ones. It’s awesome that you guys can start from $0 net worth and reach FI in 6 years! This should inspire many people regardless of their current situations.

    We’re actually traveling the world this year to scout out early retirement places abroad. There are so many possibilities out there. We’ve had similar conversations with our parents, but mostly they seem to love their lives (and things) in the U.S.

    Believe Fire recently posted…Vanguard: Mutual Funds or ETFs, Which is Better?My Profile

    • The Vagabond says:

      Thank you so much! Glad to have you checking it out! I’m completely envious of your early retirement scouting trip! We’ve talked about revisiting a number of the places we have visited in FIRE, but haven’t exactly traveled specifically for that purpose yet. I hope you’ll write about it so that we can live vicariously through you guys!

  6. Thanks for the introduction, Frugal Vegabond! The Retire Abroad post sounds very interesting. I look forward to checking out your blog more!
    The Green Swan recently posted…Cutting the CordMy Profile

  7. The Vagabond says:

    Thank you so much for letting us participate in this series. It’s a complete honor to be included among some of the blogs that we look up to and aspire to be like. Your questions are really interesting, and get to the heart of some items that it never occurs to me to write about, so I really appreciate the opportunity to share (or maybe overshare)!
    The Vagabond recently posted…Thumbtack: Out of State Landlord’s FriendMy Profile

  8. Great interview FV. Even though FV and myself are charting different paths to FIRE, I still enjoy reading about different ways as no one way is the best way! Especially your living abroad series is very interesting.
    Fervent Finance recently posted…The MoveMy Profile

  9. Don’t sweat the criticism from people who think that earning a good income somehow disqualifies FIRE bloggers who write about saving and achieving FI. Maximising your income is an important strategy on the path to financial independence and anyway, lifestyle creep has tripped up many a high income earner, so kudos to you.
    I enjoyed your blog – will be following you 🙂
    Mrs Smelling Freedom recently posted…Dealing with rapid changeMy Profile

    • The Vagabond says:

      Thanks, Mrs. SF! You’re right… though it’s hard not to be a little self-conscious. We know how privileged we are to have stable jobs and good income, so it feels like a responsibility to not take them for granted. Silicon Valley in particular is a fickle, youth-worshiping place. I don’t want to get old here… not without a big FIRE stash, anyway.
      The Vagabond recently posted…Thumbtack: Out of State Landlord’s FriendMy Profile

  10. Linda says:

    Wow. $0 to FIRE in 6 years is an amazing accomplishment! Like you I also spent my 20’s accumulating debt and now, in my mid thirties am debt free and slowly on my way to FIRE. It’ll take me a little longer to get there though!
    Linda recently posted…April Financial UpdateMy Profile

    • The Vagabond says:

      Thanks, Linda! The truth is that we’re buckling down pretty hard to get it done on that schedule, but trying to still lead happy and adventurous lives at the same time. I’ve been surprised at how quickly the impact of compounding and momentum have affected our net worth. I’m sure you’ll find the same– at a certain point the investments you’ve accumulated really start to work for you (and sooner than you expect).
      The Vagabond recently posted…Thumbtack: Out of State Landlord’s FriendMy Profile

  11. ZJ Thorne says:

    I’m so glad that you featured The Frugal Vagabond. I’ve enjoyed reading their posts and appreciate that they know time with your loved ones is the most valuable thing in the world.
    ZJ Thorne recently posted…Net Worth Week 5 – Vacation StyleMy Profile

    • The Vagabond says:

      Thanks, ZJ! I always really appreciate your positive and thoughtful comments on the blog. It’s nice to see you over here as well. I’m grateful for your participation over on the site.

  12. Phuong Nam says:

    I really want to retiring early, living abroad…
    what’s not to like?
    It’s awsome but I still have things to do, money to earn, teamate to contribute.
    How can I escape from this hard working world? 🙁

    P/s: Money is not all – But necessary… *sad*

  13. Morgan says:

    Wow, this article gives a ton of important information, and this is a really awesome Q&A. It’s really important to understand real estate and how it works, especially when you’re searching for the right home within your budget and one that meets your expectations and satisfaction. Nice post! Thanks so much for sharing!

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