Late starter to FI series #3 – Heavy Metal Money

Chris in the middle of Thrash Metal Legends, Testament!

Welcome to episode #3 of the Late starter to FI series.

I want to particularly highlight stories and the FI (financial independence) journeys of late starters, those of us who start pursuing FI in our 40s, 50s and 60s.

I hope sharing these stories will demonstrate that it is absolutely not too late to start saving and investing for our retirement. Obviously the earlier we start, the easier it is to achieve our FI number. But it is not impossible.

Today we meet Chris, who generously offered to share his story. Chris writes at Heavy Metal Money, a blog about his journey to FIRE as a single dad with 3 teenage children. His story brings another perspective to the (a)typical FIRE story. 

You can connect with Chris at the following social media: 


Twitter: @MoneyHeavyMetal

Instagram: @MoneyHeavyMetal

And now, over to Chris …


A bit about me

My name is Chris. I live in Forest Lake, Minnesota, USA. This is about 30 miles north of the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.  

I’ve recently turned 46.  I have three teens – 17yo daughter, 19yo son, and a 17yo adopted daughter. 

My hobbies are technology and music. I work for a large technology company as a systems engineer and love what I do. So my professional and personal life tend to blend together.  

I’m also really passionate about and enjoy music. I attend a lot of live concerts. This is one of my “why’s” of FI.  To have the freedom to attend concerts and see the bands I love!

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My lightbulb moment


This was the catalyst that started my journey.

I had been married for 15 years, and together for 18-ish years. My wife always handled the bills and money. I went to work but never really looked at finances. It was a shock to the system when upon my wife leaving, I had to learn to pay the bills and reconcile accounts and such.

I refinanced the home, re-evaluated insurance and really started to look at the budget, since I was now on a single income. For example, I had no idea I was paying over $100 for DishNetwork! I had been over paying for homeowners insurance for years for the same coverage offered by another agency. There were many examples of this.

I then started reading books and blogs about budgeting which led to personal finance and the FIRE movement. 

You can read more in my post – My Journey to Retirement after Divorce Part 1.

Around the same time of this life changing event, my father passed away. I was working through his estate, clearing out and selling his home. And having inherited an IRA and 401k with a little bit of cash, I was learning how to manage the inheritance. 

Again, as with the divorce, I learned that there was this FIRE movement and realised that if I were intentional, I could choose to retire much earlier than I thought.

Taking steps on the FI path

The first step was taking inventory / budgeting. Really, it was listing and tracking spending for a few months. Then examining where to cut and save. I love the quote from Ramit Sethi – “spend lavishly on those things that you value but cut relentlessly on those things you don’t” I realised I could cut so much mindless spending and really not miss it.

Another step was changing jobs. I had loved my previous job, and found it fulfilling. It was fun and challenging. And I enjoyed my work family. However, when there was an opportunity to move to another organisation doing similar work, I was able to increase my salary. And continue enjoying what I do. 

The importance of not succumbing to lifestyle creep, and saving and investing the increase is a huge step. I think more people would benefit from this. It is so easy to become content with the current job. Continue to stay hungry and be open to explore outside of your comfort zone. Another opportunity may be exactly where you need to be. 

Factors impacting my financial plan

I am fortunate that my former wife and I have divorced amicably. Yet, this did affect my path to retirement. A pretty significant portion of my investment account, a 401k from a previous employer was allocated to my former wife upon divorce. I did however, stay in the family home which was deeded to me.

I had been decreed to pay child support to her for my two biological children and this was set up straight away back in 2014, and was automatically paid every month. I had been fortunate my wife and I had agreed on a reasonable amount as both children were being carried on my health insurance. (I have friends and acquaintances that were paying much more in child support) This amount did get reduced by half once my son was 18yo and graduated high school. I now have approximately 9 months left of the remaining child support. 

With regard to my children’s education, I look at this very much the same as how I was raised. I paid for my technical education by working part time in school. I have always expressed to my children that if they are working, and contributing to pay for their schooling/college, my former wife and I would help financially. However, we have yet to incur any substantial impact. I would match what the children have saved for their used cars, and so far that worked out for one of my kids. 

I have spoken to my children about the importance of having a plan and college may not be the best path. I’d not want them to incur a large student debt with a possible degree that may not even be used in the future. I have nothing against those that go to college and getting a degree. However, I do look at the ROI, and earning potential. In my example, I have been fortunate to provide for a family and make a living while not having a degree. 

You can read more in my post – Can you get ahead without a college degree?

Reflections on starting late on the FI journey

One of my biggest challenges is being single/divorced. Having two incomes with similar views on spending, saving and investing could really accelerate one’s path to FI. And having someone to share goals and dreams on why you’d want to achieve FI.

Along the same line, attempting to date or meet people while living a frugal lifestyle can be challenging. A couple of drinks and an appetiser can be $45! Dinner with a couple of drinks can be $60! I recently went on a date and the woman I was out with told me she was spending $318 a month on DishNetwork! Yikes! It’s hard to swallow … haha.

On the flip side, being single does make it a little easier in some areas. You aren’t in a position to ‘convince’ anyone of a frugal lifestyle. One of the benefits of choosing FI later in life, is that the kids are older – you aren’t continuing to pay for activities, diapers, formula and daycare. You still need to say ‘no’ when your teens ask to go out to eat all the time. And only go out once or a couple times a week.

Relationship with money now

I remember one of the first things I ever purchased … gulp! I mean financed … was something so stupid. I was 22 years old and really needed (wanted) a new combo guitar amp. All I worried about was the ability to get it for $32/month. Who knows how much I actually paid and what the interest rate was. I just cringe thinking about it.

I don’t think of money in the same way now. It really is a representation of the choices or freedom you can have. I look at debt in a completely and totally different way. Personally, I don’t hold any debt. My home, vehicles are all paid for. 

I recently took a cruise vacation of a lifetime, and having the freedom to pay for it in cash was a crazy feeling. Also being able to spend on things guilt free changes the relationship with money. Check out my article – How Budgeting Can Set You Free

Chris with Vic Rattlehead, the infamous Megadeth Mascot. Aboard the Norwegian Jewel Cruise Liner during the Megacruise music festival at sea

What's next?

I’m currently tracking to have the choice to retire by the age of 55. My current net worth is at $1.2M, in a mix of IRAs, 401k, brokerage account and 6 month emergency fund. I also have 5 investment rental properties generating positive cash flow. My primary residence is paid off. 

However I hold approximately $572 000 in commercial debt in a portfolio loan for the rental properties. I am now experiencing some anxiety and restlessness by having this commercial debt. Early on, I never really thought about it. I had the mindset “my tenants will pay this debt”. In recent months, I really started to examine how much interest is being paid every month and that with all the debt paid off, my cash flow would increase dramatically. Then based on current monthly living expenses, I could have reached FI NOW! So I am quite anxious on getting this debt paid.

I have begun to accelerate the commercial loan pay down and plan to have this debt paid off by 2025.

I’m currently REALLY evaluating what is my “why”, what gets me up in the morning. I am exploring starting a non profit foundation to help families that incur medical related debt.


Latestarterfire here

While divorce was the catalyst to start Chris on his path to financial independence, he has made a lot of progress on the way. Earning more in a better paying job and investing in rental properties while at the same time, cutting expenses on things he did not value has accelerated his path.

You are well on your way to achieving FI, taking these steps. I look forward to hearing more on your progress, Chris and your idea of starting a non profit to help families with medical related debt. Thank you for sharing your story. 

How has a life changing experience affected your path to FI?

Late starter to FI series #2 – A Simple Life

Photo by Sam Healey on Unsplash

Hello, late starters!

Welcome to the another ‘episode’ of the Late Starter to FI series, where we highlight the stories of those of us who start pursuing FI in our 40s, 50s and 60s.

I love reading stories of how people discover the FIRE (Financial Independent Retire Early) concept and the steps they are taking on the FI journey.

In particular, with us late starters, I want to explore questions such as ‘are we too late?’, ‘where do we start?’, ‘what are the specific challenges starting on the FIRE journey later in life?’ and more.

My hope is that we learn from each other and support one another; that in sharing our struggles and wins, we inspire and motivate each other to persevere in the sometimes difficult journey to FI. And to know we are not alone.

If you enjoy reading these stories, please leave a comment below. And if you fit the profile (sorry, I sound like a television FBI profiler!) and would like to share your story, please email me at or DM me at Twitter @latestarterfire, Facebook or Instagram.

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Today, we meet Sam, an early commenter on this blog. Sam lives in the UK and writes at A Simple Life, a blog about “simple ideas to help you live a more organised life” 

She also writes about personal development – we both share a love of James Clear’s Atomic Habits – you can read my review here and Sam’s post on Ten Habits To Make You Rich. (Edit: Sam has pivoted into writing about organisation and productivity – this blog post is no longer available)

You can also connect with Sam on Twitter @asimple_life and Instagram

And now, it’s over to Sam.

A little about me

I am a 50 year old social worker living in the south western area of Great Britain, although originally I am from London. As the title of my blog suggests, I lead a fairly simple existence. I enjoy walking – my partner and I met via a Ramblers group.

When we go on holiday, our main activity tends to be hiking and there are lots of lovely places in the UK to do that. I have also discovered the joy of birdwatching, whether it’s visiting a reserve or just watching the birds in the garden. We are lucky to live in the countryside, which means that we get a good variety of birds in our garden.

Our weekends are mostly filled with activities at home such as DIY, gardening and other chores. There is an active social committee in our village, so we get to join in with various activities throughout the year, such as monthly film nights.

Discovering the FIRE community through searching for frugality on the internet

I first discovered the FIRE movement after coming across The Frugalwoods. I was looking at ways to save money and probably just typed ‘frugality’ or ‘frugal living’ into Google and discovered the writing of Elizabeth Willard-Thames aka Mrs Frugalwoods. I did her ‘Uber Frugal Month‘ course, which is free for anyone to join. It entails receiving a daily email linking to one or more of her posts. It helps you to reflect on the financial choices you have made in your life and encourages you to decide on your priorities.

As a result, I now have a card in my purse which reads ‘Pay off the Mortgage and Retire Early’. The idea is that every time I open my purse to spend money, I will see this and think twice about whether I really need what I am about to buy.

Unfortunately this was only just over a year ago and therefore I am very late to the party. It is frustrating that I didn’t discover this movement earlier, as I could have been ‘retired’ by now.

But it’s pointless thinking this way.

I am just glad that I have found it now and it has completely changed my life. The concept of financial independence gives you the lens through which to look at the world.

When I graduated from university in my twenties, I didn’t follow the traditional path of career, marriage, children, grandchildren etc. In fact, I continued to live like a student for many years. I always questioned the traditional path that everyone followed and felt that there were other ways of living.

For me, the FIRE movement is a validation of this. It makes you stop and re-evaluate your life. It questions your priorities and challenges your thinking. It gives you the choice to take an alternative path in life, one created by you.

Looking back ...

The main stumbling block in my life to amassing savings was that I didn’t actually have a full time job until I was 32 years of age. Up until that point, I had had various part time unskilled posts. 

I studied psychology at university, which doesn’t qualify you for a career in that field unless you undertake a PhD following the undergraduate degree. 

It wasn’t until I went back to university aged 29 to take my social work course that I was able to start earning any significant money.

Financial situation now

Although previously I wasn’t as frugal as I am now, I never got into a lot of debt. The only money I owe is on the mortgage and although there is about £73 000 outstanding, we have £362 000 of equity, as we purchased the property for £435 000 four years ago.

My savings/investments stand at just £36 000, although I will have saved approximately £6000 this year, as well as overpaying our mortgage by £7000. 

Whether or not to pay off the mortgage is a point disputed within the FIRE community. For me it is psychological and will provide me with peace of mind if I choose to work part time or actually cease working altogether.

My retirement ‘fund’ is something that I am unable to share as I have a defined benefit pension, where my employer guarantees that I will receive a certain amount each year when I am retired. The actual amount is not disclosed to me. 

I have several pots from different jobs. I am due to receive £10 500 from aged 65 and then a further £12 000 from aged 67, taking the total up to £22 500. This includes the state pension, which may or may not exist in 17 years’ time.

Taking steps on the FI path

Before I discovered FIRE, my savings were in an account which earned about 0.5%; effectively I was losing money. Now the majority of my money is in a stocks and shares ISA (Individual Savings Account) with Vanguard, currently earning between 9-11%. 

Investing in the stock market was something I thought only rich people did. I also considered it too risky. Having learnt a lot more about it through listening to people like Paula Pant on the Afford Anything podcast, I realised that I was very stupid not to invest before now. I would strongly encourage everyone to invest in index funds, if possible through a tax free savings account like an ISA.

I have also cut my spending drastically, particularly in the area of food. I haven’t bought any clothes in over a year. And in 2019, three out of four of our holidays were staycations ie staying at home and going on day trips. I continue to try to find ways of saving money.

I have become obsessed with saving money. I consider every penny I part with. I am probably a little extreme, but I get a thrill when I look at the money in my ISA increasing every month.

Challenges on the way to FI

I find increasing my income more of a challenge. I cannot do this at work as we don’t get paid overtime. And as I work for the Civil Service, salaries are non negotiable. The only way to get a pay rise is to apply for a more senior position but I am happy doing what I do currently. Developing a side hustle is an area that I really need to work on in 2020.

Unless I can increase my income significantly then FIRE, in the traditional sense is unobtainable. A realistic and more achievable aim is to reduce my hours when I am 55. 

By that time, we will have paid off a significant amount of the mortgage and can cease the overpayments and just let it run its course. Ideally I would like to be able to give up work altogether, but that isn’t going to be possible on my current path.

The big unknown in all of this is my partner, Mr Simple. He lost his job a couple of years ago and now works for himself. He has a lot of savings, but not much coming in each month as he tends to work part time and goes through quiet periods. 

Our current arrangement is that I pay all of the bills including the mortgage and overpayments and he pays for the work that we are doing to the house.

There will come a point in time when all the work on the house is completed. At present the most expensive outstanding thing is a new kitchen. As he is only working part time, Mr Simple spends a lot of his days doing the DIY himself, which has saved us an enormous amount of money.

When he no longer has to pay for household improvements, he should be able to contribute to the bills and mortgage. Occasionally he talks about finding full time work, although this is likely to entail staying away from home during the week. If he did this, our financial situation would improve significantly. But I don’t think he wants to work like this for very long.

A challenge is to get Mr Simple to sit down and discuss all of this. He has always saved and invested wisely. It’s a breath of fresh air to him that I am now on board. But he is not good at discussing our goals for the future or considering a plan of action. I do however keep chipping away at him (he would call it nagging) and hopefully I can make some progress over the coming year.


Reflections on starting late on the FI journey

The obvious one is that we are not able to take advantage of ‘time in the market’. As we all know ‘timing the market’ is near impossible, but having a high savings rate over several years and putting that into an index fund, will enable you to grow a nest egg on which you can survive. 

I have seventeen years before I reach the standard retirement age in the UK. Without the benefit of time, it would take drastic changes in my lifestyle to be able to stop working very much before that.

Doing some quick back of the envelope calculations, it would be possible to sell our house, buy a much smaller one and then save the money we are now paying into the mortgage. 

Together with current savings, that would yield a nest egg of £385 000 in four years’ time, meaning I would have £15 000 a year to live on, if we follow the 4% rule. I could manage that, but the sticking point is that I don’t want to sell our house as one of the joys of my life is where we live.

A benefit of coming to FIRE later in life is that you can bend the 4% rule, as long as you have a pension pot, that is. If we did sell our house, the money accrued over the next four years would only have to last 12 years before I could draw on my pensions. This could give me an income of £32 000 a year. It would all be gone by the time I got my pension, but would that matter? Something to think about, maybe?

If I had my time over again, I probably wouldn’t buy such an expensive house, as the majority of our net worth is our main residence. Apart form that, I have on the whole, made fairly sensible decisions when it comes to money. Although I didn’t invest wisely, I never ran up enormous credit card debts or spent loads on handbags and shoes.


What's next?

My present focus is working on my blog, which is a mixture of ideas about saving money and personal development. I would really like to help other people discover and work towards financial independence. 

So much of the information on the internet is USA-centric. I want to spread the word to those in the UK about how they can take a different path and make choices about how to live their lives in the future.

Latestarterfire's comments

Ah … I love Mrs Frugalwoods too – I did her Uber Frugal Month challenge back in July 2018. The next group challenge is in January, so sign up if you want to learn how to embrace frugality. Read her book, Meet the Frugalwoods – Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living and be inspired by someone who ‘walks the talk’.  

Congratulations, Sam on taking concrete steps towards achieving FI – reducing your expenses, investing your savings and reducing debt. I totally agree that paying off the mortgage is psychologically freeing. It is such a good idea to carry a card in your purse to remind you of this very purpose! I am definitely stealing this idea 🙂

I look forward to following your FIRE journey. Thank you for sharing your story and giving us a glimpse of what it’s like to pursue FI, living in an English village. Once again, your story is living proof that it is never too late to start saving and investing.

What are your thoughts? Please leave a comment below

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