Late Starter to FI Series #33 – FIRE as an Accelerant

Welcome to the Late Starter to FI series!

I am a Late Starter – I discovered the FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) movement when I was 47. This was way later, I thought than others who seem to have it all together in their 20s and 30s.

Since I started to write about my own journey, I have discovered there are many more Late Starters like me, yay! It’s such a relief knowing I’m not alone.

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I want to share our stories, our unique perspectives and show that it is absolutely not too late for us.

So in this series, I particularly highlight those of us who start our FI journeys in our 40s, 50s and 60s. And explore questions such as ‘where do we start’, ‘can we still retire early(ish)’, ‘what are the specific challenges for us late starters’. We look at our past, not to castigate ourselves but so that you can learn from us.

Please join in the conversation in the comments below. I encourage you to share your story if you fit the profile of a late starter. You absolutely don’t have to be a blogger or podcaster to share your story. 

Please email me at info@latestarterfire.com or connect with me on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram

If you’ve missed any of the previous stories, you can catch up here – Late Starter to FI series

And if you can’t wait to start on your own FIRE journey, check out my step by step ultimate starter guide, Late Starter to FIRE Action Plan.

Road with trees in autumn foliage on either side, leading towards snow capped mountains
Autumn in Colorado mountains

While I don’t read blogs or listen to podcasts specifically to determine if the author or speaker is a late starter, I’m always excited when I find out later that they are indeed fellow late starters.

That is true of today’s late starter, FI for the People – whose humour and writing I connect with 🙂

In his own words, here is FI for the People.

A little about me

I’m a 50-year-old, married (to The Missus), father of two teenagers (Thing One (The Elder) and Thing Two (The Younger)). I live in a city in the Mountain West of the United States and work in the legal field.

Aside from having been partially responsible for creating Things One and Two, my net positive contribution to the good of society is questionable. At best.

As for hobbies, I like long walks along the beach, dinners by candle light, . . . Uh oh, wait a minute. Wrong context, I think. That presumably being the case, my hobbies include traveling, hiking, biking, cooking, and generally reading and learning new things.

In terms of how to reach me, best is email (fiforthepeople@gmail.com). I’m also barely active on Twitter (@FIForThePeople), an almost nonpresence on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/fi.forthepeople.75), allegedly on Instagram (@FIForThePeople), and apparently on Pinterest (@FIForThePeople).

Lightbulb moment

I’d long been interested in personal finance—and was a regular reader of many mainstream publications. But in 2016, I discovered FIRE as a term and as a concept after reading a New Yorker article about Mr. Money Mustache (MMM). I then binge read MMM’s blog, which turned me on to hundreds of other FIRE blogs.

My long-time interest in the topic of personal finance and in improving our own personal finances specifically was just the fertile ground needed for me to immediately connect to the concept of FIRE. I started to question everything, and changes we soon made had an immediate and substantial impact.

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Our financial situation then

We were doing OK financially when I discovered FIRE. Our rising incomes increasingly exceeded our expenses, and our debt comprised a mortgage on a relatively sensible condo, and a small loan on a relatively sensible car. But we were far from where I now know we should (or at least could) have been financially.

In terms of investments, we had retirement accounts. Though not huge, neither were they a pittance. We modestly funded them via automatic, and increasingly larger, pay check deductions. We also finally had built an amply funded emergency fund and were building equity in our condo, which was the only real estate that we owned.

 

Our kids were younger and generally more expensive then, due mainly to after-school care expenses and our ongoing contributions to college savings accounts. We also had fairly high and unavoidable medical expenses.

So, although our revenues exceeded our expenses, our cost of living was pretty high. But because we were nearing the end of the after-school-care stage, and the expenses associated with it and with younger kids generally, our expenses were trending down.

First steps on the path to FI

Wow. That’s a tough question to answer because: (1) my brain is too decrepit to hold those memories; and (2) there were so many things we fired on (ahhh, do you see what I did there?) almost simultaneously that I can’t be sure.

That small loan on the sensible car? Gone with a phone call to pay it all off.

Finding any number of expenses to eliminate or lower? Done.

Jacking up our retirement account contributions? Oh, yeah!

And so much more.

Our initial proactive measures largely focused on cost cutting. And that helped. A lot. But we also opened our first taxable brokerage account and started funnelling money into it.

I also started down the road of side gigs. Nothing major, but a little here and a little there. Also, as we were in the prime years of our careers, raises that we received on our salaries had a larger effect dollarwise.

How far along the path to FI are we now?

In terms of our place on the FIRE journey, I plan to FIRE at the end of 2021.

I feel over the moon good about it. The thought of not working for as long as I so choose, and all but total control of the terms I’ll work under (whenever I decided I’d like to do some work), has me feeling as giddy as a school boy dropped into a tub full of candy. Maybe even giddier.

The Missus will continue allowing us to take advantage of her employer-subsidized health insurance working until she comes to her senses for the foreseeable future.

Our current financial situation

We’re already at the point that I could FIRE. But I decided to ride out the year working.

I’ll certainly be FIREing far, far earlier than I’d anticipated pre-discovery of FIRE, but even far earlier than when I first discovered FIRE.

When we first started down the FIRE path, I benchmarked where we were. I figured that we’d be lucky to reach FI in our early-60s. And we might possibly have to work past 65.

As it turned out, I wasn’t factoring in all possible revenue (sources), and certainly didn’t anticipate the crazy bull market we’ve enjoyed for most of the last five years.

Regardless, under no circumstances did I anticipate being able to FIRE as early as I now plan to.

How my relationship with money has changed

Due to events in my past, I’ve long had money-insecurity issues. As our net worth has grown and I’ve gained a firm and clear grasp of our financial situation and where we’re going, those issues have receded. But they’re still there and certainly keep me on my toes.

That’s a double-edged sword. Good that our finances are something very much on my radar so that I remain on top of them; bad that I’m nowhere near as relaxed about our finances as I’d like (and probably ought) to be at this point.

As for mistakes, there are many.

Owning instead of (at least considering) renting, for example.

Not opening a taxable brokerage account and not maxing out our retirement account contributions earlier being other major ones.

Not figuring out how to lower the amount I took out in law school loans is yet another (tho, the experience of paying off those loans was some of the best education I ever received).

And taking out a car loan (even if small) because “that’s just what you do, you know” is another one that comes to mind.

I also once invested in a single company’s stock. The company promptly went bankrupt. That, however, also was a valuable learning experience.

As for what I’d do differently, it’s almost a cliché at this point, but I’d have started investing far earlier. Had I been able to have seen others’ well-funded accounts and passive income streams, I probably would have.

Lake in front of mountains
Dream Lake in Rocky Mountains National Park, Colorado

Specific challenges or advantages of starting late

Challenges that immediately come to mind are:

(1) fewer years for compounding to work its magic (or, that the bigger (dollarwise) effects of compounding are realized at a later age than those who start younger);

(2) for some, more (severe) health issues;

(3) for some, more (financial) obligations, such as those related to care for others.

Advantages are:

(1) for many, the valuable experience and perspectives that often come with age;

(2) for many, higher salaries, enabling higher-dollar contributions to wealth-building (or debt elimination);

(3) for many, greater knowledge of oneself and what brings one joy and contentment.

What's next?

Once I FIRE at year’s end, I’m going to enjoy me some time not working. I hope to de-stress, learn how to sleep again, and generally enjoy just being.

We also have some travel we hope to do; some of the plans are new and others are ones that we’ve had to cancel because of the ‘rona.

After an indeterminate period of time, I’m likely to do some income-generating work. But as I choose, and in a job and industry completely different from the one I’ve been in for the last 30 years or so.

 

How has Covid 19 pandemic affected our strategy?

The ‘rona hasn’t affected our strategy.

We’re vaxxed, and when boosters become available, we’ll sprint to get them. So, we hope to remain able to physically not feel much or any impact from the virus. That said, as mentioned, the little bug has made a mockery of some of our travel plans and may yet still. So, travel we might have done after I FIRE may have to be put on ice, or revised.

Back to Latestarterfire

Thank you, Mister FI for the People for sharing your FIRE journey with us.

Reading your story, I’m reminded that being on the FIRE path is the accelerant needed to turbo charge our finances. Especially if the foundations are there – it just makes sense.

And even if we don’t think we are where we should be when we first discover FIRE, our numbers soon improve. They have to – when we reduce our expenses, eliminate debt, invest and delve into what our priorities are and how our money is best utilised to serve our lives.

Sometimes these are big steps and sometimes they only need tweaking, but the fact is that you took action. And a mere five years after discovering FIRE, you are set to retire early!

Congratulations! And I look forward to reading about your early retired life in the very near future 🙂

How has your FIRE journey accelerated your financial goals?

4 Replies to “Late Starter to FI Series #33 – FIRE as an Accelerant”

  1. Gives me some hope as I am late to the FIRE party as well. I loved hearing that he’s been able to retire far earlier than he originally projected. The cliche of starting earlier is so real. These young-un’s with all their financial literacy in their twenties make me so jealous!

    1. With compound interest, it is ‘easier’ if you start young as in the amounts required to be saved are a lot smaller vs someone who starts later. But it can still be done and no, it’s never too late to take action 🙂

  2. It’s like some proverb somewhere said:
    “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now.”

    I think it doesn’t matter how early or late one discovers FIRE, because a person can’t really travel back in time and make decisions on things they haven’t discovered yet. It would be like folding a 2-7 and having the flop come 7-7-7. It’s not physically possible to not fold the terrible 2-7 at the time because it’s not physically possible to know at that point in time that the flop will give you quads.

    I think the most important thing here is that once FIRE is discovered, you got started and that’s an enormous and awesome step!

    Congratulations on all your progress and thanks for the inspiration.

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