Late Starter to FI Series #37 – Enough Time To …

photo of water, sky and mountain

Welcome to the Late Starter to FI series!

I am a Late Starter – I did not discover FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) concept until 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 is such a relief knowing I am not alone. 

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 or connect with me on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram.

And if you’ve missed any of the previous stories, you can catch up here – Late Starter to FI Series


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photo of water, sky and mountain
More time to enjoy nature

I’m excited that today’s Late Starter, Mrs ETT agreed to share her story. She’s a frequent commenter on this blog (thank you!) and used to blog at Enough Time To.

I didn’t realise that our stories had a lot of similarities, one of which was that we’d both paid off our homes when we found FIRE.

Mrs ETT no longer blogs at her site so please comment below as a way of connecting with her.


A little about me

Thanks, Latestarterfire, and hello fellow FIRE followers!
Mr ETT and I are DINKS who moved to regional New South Wales in 2018. I work in data after a varied career in science, health support and a small stint in teaching. Mr ETT works in cybersecurity.
We are in our late 40s/early 50s. I used to blog at enoughtimeto, about using FIRE to buy time to do all the things I want to do. Like blogging again, for example …


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Childhood memories of money

I had an upbringing in the 70s where Dad worked and Mum stayed at home, until we reached high school (I think?). I guess we were middle class. Money didn’t feature strongly in my childhood.
My earliest money memory is going on an excursion to the Australian Museum in primary school. We were allowed to take money to spend at the shop. I can’t remember what I bought, but it was all for me.
When I got home, instead of being excited, Mum accused me of being selfish for not buying things for the family. I still remember that she said, “you used to be so generous”. I couldn’t have been older than 10.
Another memory is that we were all at the bank, and Dad had withdrawn a chunk of cash, which was placed in an envelope. I’d never seen so much money! I was excited and tried to ask them about it, but (rightly) I was shut down because it had to be a secret that he was carrying it on his person.
I got my first casual job at 14 years and 9 months old. We were paid in yellow envelopes that I walked straight to the bank with and deposited. Mum taught me to budget in a lined notebook, but even then, there was no discussion of household finances, other than we were expected to pay a token amount of board.
I think all these experiences added up to me being a saver. Spending it in the wrong way got me into trouble; money is secret and needs to be controlled.
Of course, since discovering the FIRE community, I’m learning that there are other ways to think about and use money.

Lightbulb moment

We had paid off our mortgage, and I was feeling lost. I don’t like debt, so we paid extra on every single payment from the beginning (interest rates ranged from 6% to 9%).
Once that was done, however, there was no new goal. I had no clue that there even could be one!
We succumbed to some lifestyle creep, but the feeling that we should be doing more became so uncomfortable that I started adding extra to our Superannuation (retirement account). It was the only thing I knew about at the time.
The story of how I discovered the life-changing world of FIRE has been told on Adventures with Poopsie’s blog. That must have been around 2015/16, so I was in my early 40s.
Latestarterfire – I love your Frugal Hound story – Mrs Frugalwoods inspired me to start living more frugally too. That blog post was published in 2018 – it’s so amazing what you’ve achieved since then!

Our financial situation then

At the time, we had little to no debt. Maybe a car loan? But by then we were borrowing a maximum 50% of the value of a car so it wouldn’t have been much. These days, we save for replacement cars, no more loans.
The only retirement savings we had were in Super, and we weren’t contributing extra. We had paid off the home loan using an offset account, which I kept open to act as an Emergency Fund. Of course, at the time I didn’t know that’s what it was called.
I had some NRMA shares that had been parcelled out to members when they initially floated, so no work/research done by me.

I also held a Perpetual Managed Fund, as it had been recommended in Money Magazine, but again, I didn’t understand it. At all. When I finally closed it, I realised it was a balanced approach that had probably lost me money over the years. Live and learn.

First steps on the path to FI

Reading, reading, reading and more reading! Also listening to some FIRE podcasts.
I think my first action step was to put a small amount of money into Acorns (at the time, Raiz now). That allowed me to dip my toe in the water with about $1000 and get a feel for how the markets moved up and down.
After that, we opened a Vanguard Managed Fund. That is still where the bulk of our savings outside of Super lie. I also started using YNAB and revising our expenses down.
More time to visit wineries

How far along the path to FI are we now?

Unbelievably further than I thought we could be. I find it gob smacking how simply having a plan and implementing it can grow your money so significantly.
Sometimes I think the numbers can’t be real, and I find myself back in the spreadsheets and double checking the budget. We are about 70% along, and we’ve never been hard-core FIRE. I used to feel sad seeing other people’s savings rates and comparing ours. Yet, even so, here we are!
How do I feel? This is hard. Suddenly, the end is in sight.
There is a real possibility we can retire in 5 years, but we are in the long, boring middle. We are Coast FI and Flamingo FI.
Latestarterfire – Coast FI is where you’ve saved enough that you’d reach FI at traditional retirement age without investing a cent more;
Flamingo FI is coined by Money Flamingo – where you’ve saved half your FIRE number and you’ll reach FIRE in the next 10 years without investing any more (assuming a 7% rate of returns) You can semi retire and just need to work enough to support your current lifestyle.
Mr ETT has been making serious noises about enjoying our time now instead of waiting. I also worry that I spend too much of my time envisioning the future, and not enough living in the present.
Hearing about the whole Die with Zero* conversation (I haven’t read it yet), we are fighting to establish a new normal. If we let go a bit, can we still reach FI at 55?
Do we still want to fully retire, or would/could we continue working, just less? Will our FIRE number increase if we start spending more?
Although this is confusing and a bit painful, to be honest there’s no wrong answer. Whatever we decide will bring its own benefits.
*Latestarterfire – I have read it and I like the philosophy. It’s about doing things with your money while you can. For example, there are things on your bucket list that are meant to be done at certain ages. It’s too late to backpack around Europe in your 70s.
It’s not about being irresponsible with money. And if you want to leave a legacy to your family or charity, then set aside that amount of money first and spend the rest. Instead of spending your money and leaving the leftovers to your family/charity when you die.

How did COVID affect our strategy?

COVID didn’t change our strategy. We were both lucky enough to work in industries that weren’t affected, although we had relatives who couldn’t work due to stay at home orders.
But the relief of being where we were with our FIRE savings can’t be overstated. Even if both of us lost our jobs, we could have continued with no change in lifestyle. If called upon, we could have helped our family members.
We are so grateful to the entire FIRE community for sharing their knowledge and experience.

Specific challenges or advantages of starting late

Time is the challenge. But as I said above, even when you think you don’t have enough time, you might be completely surprised at what you can achieve.

“Early” is relative. When we first started FIRE, our initial goal was to retire before pension age, at 67. Then it dropped to 60. Now our stretch goal is 55. If you’d told me that in 2016, I would have laughed and laughed.

Starting late means we have life skills, and a whole range of contacts. Hopefully we have more experience in research and the ability to take a balanced look at things.

Depending on our past, we might be earning more than we’ve ever done. And if nothing else, maybe we can look back at our pre-FIRE selves and enjoy the memories of what we did with the money back then 😀

What's next?

Figuring out whether we continue to push for the next five years, or whether we slow down and take a Flamingo FI approach. Or maybe some balance between the two. Continue to read and listen to others in the FIRE community, and to share the concept in person where there’s some interest. Maybe one day I’ll begin blogging again!

Back to Latestarterfire

Thank you, Mrs ETT for sharing your story!

It’s interesting to read about your childhood money memories and how that has shaped you as a saver. It reminds me that we can unwittingly pass on our money stories to the younger generation.

I totally agree with you that it’s “gob smacking how simply having a plan and implementing it can grow your money so significantly.” It’s hard to envision it when we first begin our FIRE journey. And that’s why it’s so important to just start anyway.

I think we are at the same stage of our FIRE journey. I know exactly what you mean by the long, boring middle 🙂 You can see that the end is in sight. But you’re not quite there yet.

I feel your questions keenly – “If we let go a bit, can we still reach FI at 55? Will our FIRE number increase if we start spending more?” because these are the same questions I ask myself.

It’s all a balancing act and I can’t wait to see what you decide in the end. Whatever you decide, you’ll have enough time to spend in nature and visit wineries 🙂


Are you in the long, boring middle years of pursuing FIRE? What are your thoughts about reaching your destination?

How I increased my income at 51 with a perfect side hustle

jigsaw pieces with side hustle and extra income
jigsaw pieces with side hustle and extra income
The principles of reaching Financial Independence and Retiring Early (FIRE) are simple.
The key principle is to spend less than you earn.
Then invest the difference between income and expenses wisely.
That’s it. Simple. But not easy.
It follows then, that the bigger your gap between income and expenses, the more you’ll have to save and invest.
And the more you invest, the quicker you’ll reach financial independence.
So my goal since discovering FIRE at age 47 has been to increase the gap between my income and expenses.
There are two ways of doing this – increase my income and/or reduce my expenses.

Working less to combat burnout

At the time I found FIRE, I was NOT interested in working any more hours at my job. And side hustles? No way! Where would I find the time? I was on the verge of burnout and I could feel the flames getting closer.

So I transitioned to a less stressful role & my income was reduced. It seemed counterintuitive if my aim was to reach FIRE as quickly as I could, seeing I was already starting so late.

But my mental wellbeing was more important. What’s the point of arriving at FIRE, burned out, resentful and not in the mental space to enjoy the accomplishment?

The less stressful role was working fairly well when Covid hit in 2020. My stress levels went back up. Being a frontline health worker and managing other frontline health workers took another toll.

In 2021, I flirted with working 9 days a fortnight or taking a day off every month. But no one, including me, respected those days off. Anytime we were short staffed, I’d end up working.

So in February 2022, I decided to work 4 days a week, every week. Keeping it consistent. There was so much anxiety around this decision.

Initially I had a lot of long service leave and it covered the day off. This meant no loss of income until August when my long service leave entitlements finally came to an end.

I was lucky to pick up some evening shifts at another business for 2 months so that supplemented the 4 day/week income.


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Living on a reduced income

At the very outset, I gave myself until the end of the year to decide if I would want to continue working 4 days a week indefinitely.
I wasn’t sure I could adjust my expenses to survive on the reduced income.
Technically, I’m at Coast FI. I”d calculated that even if I didn’t invest another cent into my superannuation (retirement account), I’d reach FI at 60. Coincidentally, 60 is the age when I can access my superannuation.
But because I want to retire at 55, five years before I can access my superannuation, I have to invest outside of superannuation in order to fund those 5 years.
And this is where the reduced income from working 4 days a week impacted – I could not invest as much as I wanted to plus replenish my emergency fund and save for other goals such as travel.
If I didn’t need to invest outside of superannuation ie if I wanted to retire at 60, the reduced income would be sufficient. But I do really want to retire at 55.

Working less gave me space to heal

I do not regret working 4 days a week, despite having less income for a few months. Not even for a minute.
The extra day off gave me time and space to rest and heal from burnout.
I read and napped on my couch for the first few months. I shopped for groceries and scheduled hair cuts, medical appointments etc on that day. Walking around the neighbourhood in the middle of the day was a novelty. I could help my Dad navigate the aged care system for my Mum and schedule any appointments for home visits on that day.
I also worked on the blog and learned how to create online products to help other late starters start their own FIRE journeys. I enjoyed having time to connect with other online entrepreneurs in Masterminds. So I was learning and building new skills.
As the year was nearing its end, I wasn’t specifically looking for extra work but I was open to opportunities.

The perfect side hustle for me

One of my roles at work is to ensure we follow certain standards as set out in a national program for our industry. Every two years, the business is assessed against these standards. If we pass, we achieve accreditation and all is well.
In November, I came across an email asking for expressions of interest in being an assessor for this national program. The role was advertised as requiring 15 hours per week.
Prior to Covid, assessors visited the businesses and spent up to a day looking at various processes and standards. But since Covid, the assessments moved online.
And this is the aspect that really appealed to me – that I can work from home.
I also figured that I knew the ‘content’ really well, having implemented policies and procedures as per these standards ever since the program started about 20 years ago.
So I replied to the email, expressing my interest in the position.
It was nerve wracking creating a resume. My last job application was 30 years ago!
Anyway, a few weeks later, after one phone call and a video call in which I embarrassingly had technical issues (I couldn’t see their faces but they could see mine), lo and behold, I got the job!
I’ve joined the ‘other side’ 🎉
The funny thing was when I told my colleagues that I got the job as a side gig, they all said it’s the perfect job for me!

I won't lie ... anxiety kicked in

But then self doubts and anxiety crept in.
Will I be able to the job? How can I fit it all in as well as perform at my current job? What if people are not available to take my call on Wednesdays when I have the day off?
What if it gets too hectic and I have to give up another day from my main job? What if they say I can’t keep my car if I go down to 3 days a week? I don’t have enough money yet in my Future Car sinking fund.
And so on and so forth.



In December, I completed an online Lead Auditor course plus another online training session with the company. It was hectic, trying to finish training sessions before Christmas and having family from overseas staying with me at the time.
In January, I started shadowing an experienced assessor – I learned how to do the job while observing how she did it. And had her shadow me while I assessed the first business. Thankfully, I passed!
The new skills I learned while blogging and connecting via Zoom with fellow bloggers in other countries were invaluable. It would have been even more daunting had I not known how to use Zoom.

What does the job entail?

So I’ve been assessing businesses on my own now. I’m happy to report that I’m loving it so far and managing well with the current workload, although it was a slow start in January. I’m grateful they didn’t overwhelm us with a full workload from the start.
Essentially, for each business assigned to me, I have to make 2 phone calls and a video call via Zoom plus assess uploaded ‘evidence’  – the whole process takes place over three weeks.
I understand there is always an element of unpredictability (which keeps the job interesting) within the process. For example, it will take longer to assess the evidence if the evidence is not ‘compliant’.
Or if the person coordinating the program at the business is not available when I ring them for the first call. And I have to take time out in my main job to catch up – which then means I have to stay back to make up the time.
At the moment, I’m using Wednesdays to schedule phone calls and perform Zoom calls while assessing evidence on the weekends or 2 weeknights.
Currently, the assessments take on average 2 hours to complete. My hope is that I can improve and reduce the time I spend per assessment while still doing an excellent job.

Being a subcontractor

The company that has been contracted to conduct assessments subcontracts me to perform the role.
I am assigned businesses to audit every 3 months. I have no idea at this stage how many I’ll get for the year. I was warned that the first six months of the year are much busier than the second half. So there is no guarantee how much I’ll earn from this side gig.
I do know how much I’ll be paid per business. Therefore I can predict how much extra income I’ll receive for the next few months.
I learned how to use Quickbooks to issue invoices. They have a strict timeline so if I want to be paid on time, I have to submit invoices on time.
I opened a business account to keep my money separate. And worked out with my accountant how much to set aside to pay tax and expenses from my gross income. He advised that 35% would be a prudent figure. Working from home will mean I can claim some minimal tax benefits too.
I’ve never been a subcontractor before so all this is part of a new adventure!

How I will allocate the extra income

I will be paid once a month for work completed the previous month.
Looking at my current schedule, the number of businesses assigned to me differ each month. Therefore my income will be different each month.
I will be using percentages to allocate this extra income according to my 2023 goals.
Initially, the extra income will pay for my financial advisor’s fees.
Then I will allocate 30% to investing into my shares portfolio, 30% to my home maintenance sinking fund and 5% to my Invest in Myself sinking fund (essentially my Splurge account which doesn’t get much love).
I will not use this income for living expenses. My current stable income from my main job will continue to take care of living expenses plus saving into other sinking funds as it has done for the past year.

Impact on retirement timeline

I am reluctant to extrapolate and project how much increased income I’ll receive from this side hustle because it is very variable. And therefore I will not speculate on how it will affect my timeline to retirement for now.
There is also the possibility that the role will require travel and being physically at the businesses to conduct face to face assessments in the future. And if this happens, I will have to decide if I can continue doing it in conjunction with my main job.
It is also not passive income. I have to actively invest my time to perform in this job. So, as long as I can cope with the increased workload over time, I’ll be ok. But if I can’t, then I’ll have to decide if I choose to reduce the number of businesses I audit per week or reduce my days further in my main job.
I will say though, that it is the type of job that I can envision myself doing even after I’ve retired from my main job. Especially if I have the flexibility of requesting one or two businesses to audit per week.
So right now, I’ll just enjoy the extra income and put it to good use while I can.

Final thoughts

My overarching goal is to reach financial independence and retire early at 55.
Therefore the more I invest, the quicker I can reach FIRE.
But I was not in a position to increase my income.
Until now.
It’s taken me nearly 5 years of pursuing FIRE and at the age of 51 to significantly increase my income with a perfect side hustle.
Better late than never?!

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