My name is Andy and my wife is Chrissy. We are working to become Fiscally Free.
Since I made up that term, you may not know what it means. It's the same thing as "financial independence;" some might even call it retirement. I'm a little hesitant to use the R-word because we do plan to continue working occasionally and people seem to get worked up when you do that. However, we are committed to leaving the nine-to-five grind behind and only doing work we want to do, when we want to do it. We aren't there yet, but we are excited to share tips on saving money, raising a kid, and our journey to becoming Fiscally Free.
|Fiscal Freedom Fighters, from our 2010 engagment photo shoot|
I grew up in a small town in central California. I would describe us as middle class. We always had enough money, but we never wasted it. I was taught that saving your money is important, and I've had a bank account for as long as I can remember. I took delight in watching the balance grow as I deposited most of my allowance and couldn't believe the bank would pay me (interest) just to hold my money. When I was still very young my dad actually helped me input my savings account and track its growth in Microsoft Money. I didn't realize it then, but I can now see how huge of an impact this had on my life. My dad was creating a saver.
As I got older I got some part time jobs and was happy to see my savings really start to grow. I was less impressed by the taxes I started paying. One funny memory I have involved getting a summer job with a contractor, helping him build custom homes. I was excited because I was being paid "under the table," which allowed me to avoid taxation, but I was mad because that meant I didn't technically have any income and therefore couldn't contribute to a Roth IRA, which my dad was constantly talking up. I think I was 17 at the time.
After graduating from high school in 2005, I earned a full academic scholarship to a state school, so I never had to worry about student loan debt. I studied mechanical engineering and was able to land some pretty sweet part time work at major companies as a student engineer/intern/co-op, which paid much better than most jobs college kids get. This definitely helped jump start my retirement savings. After graduation at the end of 2009 I immediately got a good job in So-Cal and was off to the races.
My wife Chrissy took a bit of a different path, but ended up with similar financial habits as me. She grew up in a small town in northern California but spent a lot of time with her grandparents in southern California. Her parents didn't have a lot of money, so she was forced to be frugal from a young age, and really understands the value of a dollar. Her grandparents reinforced that appreciation with their old fashioned values and depression era upbringing.
Chrissy worked throughout college and paid her own way. She started at a junior college and eventually made her way to the state university where we met in the dorms. She was also able to graduate debt free in 2011, with a degree in business economics and a minor in political science.
The employment landscape was not great when she graduated, but Chrissy was able to land a staff accountant position at a small company near home.
Our Time Together
A few months after Chrissy's graduation, we got married in a beautiful outdoor ceremony with 180 guests. We managed to keep the entire wedding under $10,000, thanks in large part to the generosity of the people in my small home town, where we had the wedding.
Not long after the wedding, Chrissy convinced me we needed to buy a house. I came up with a ridiculous list of necessities and we somehow managed to find a house that met every one. Toward the end of 2012, we closed on our perfect house in Torrance, California. It definitely wasn't cheap, but we picked a great time to buy, with prices and interest rates near their lowest points. We were lucky to watch the value of the home climb significantly shortly after buying it. This is one of the main factors that has allowed us to consider becoming Fiscally Free.
Once we had our house, we happily worked in Torrance for the next couple years, completing lots of little projects to spruce up our somewhat neglected house along the way. We livied cheaply but not excessively so, saving as much as we could, but a lot of our income was going toward the house. Up to this point my plan was to stay with my employer in Torrance until I retired at a somewhat early age. Probably somewhere between 40 and 50, but then everything changed.
In 2014 I was informed my company was leaving California and my job would be moving to Michigan. I told them in no uncertain terms that I would not be moving to Michigan, and things went downhill from there. It was very disheartening watching the way the employees were treated. It made quite an impact on me and I finally understood that big companies really don't care about you. They care much more about a quarter percent on their stock price.
In early 2015 I quit my job in Torrance and started my current job in Irvine, 43 miles from home. In the Los Angles area, this is what we call a miserable commute. The new job is fine, but not particularly fulfilling. It is with another huge company where it is very clear you are yet another cog in a great big machine. A very unimportant cog at that.
After about a year at the new job I was bored at my desk and somehow ended up on the Mr. Money Mustache site. I had heard of Mr. Money Mustache before, but never really paid much attention. I had my finances in order and didn't think I needed his advice. This time, however, I was in a different frame of mind and starting wondering what it would take for my family to become Fiscally Free.
I started looking at other blogs from young retired/financially independent people like Go Curry Cracker! and Root of Good and figured if they could do it, why not me? Honestly, I was somewhat motivated by my competitive spirit. I thought, "Nobody can retire at a younger age than me," so I really started running some numbers.
Besides my irrational competitiveness, my long commute and unsatisfying job are not inspiring me to keep working. The biggest motivation to leave the working world behind came in early 2016, when our first child was born. Since my company doesn't offer parental leave, I took seven days of vacation for the birth and went straight back to the office. Luckily Chrissy is staying home with the baby, but I don't get to see them nearly enough, so I'm ready to be Fiscally Free.
I knew from the start our biggest challenge to becoming Fiscally Free was our location. Southern California is not a cheap place to live. I accepted we would almost certainly need to move to make the numbers works, so I started looking at potential locations. My number one criteria was good weather, so I found this map from Zillow very handy:
The map makes it very obvious that southern California has the best weather in America by a wide margin. Torrance has 261 "pleasant days per year" while the highest number anywhere outside of California is about 150. I now totally appreciate why our real estate prices are as crazy as they are; we have far fewer unpleasant days. Unfortunately, this made becoming Fiscally Free much more complicated. If I want to keep our good weather, I am going to have to figure out how to stay in sunny California but reduce our cost of living substantially. That is exactly what I'm doing now, and I will report back when I've found the solution.
There are a number of reasons we created this blog:
- I enjoy writing, and blogging is a great excuse to write regularly.
- I find most of the other bloggers on early "retirement" to be a little over the top, so I will try to keep the theatrics to a minimum and the helpfulness to a maximum.
- I genuinely believe I have some useful information to share. I'm especially excited to share what it takes to become Fiscally Free in a high cost area like California.
- Revenue. I don't anticipate making a lot of money from this site, but once I leave my job, every little bit is going to help, so please don't judge us for the ads (assuming you don't block them), which I've tried to keep tasteful, and the occasional affiliate link. I assure you we have the highest moral standards and will only promote things we believe in. If we stand to gain from any of our content, we will make it clear to the reader.
If you've made it this far, I hope you're hooked. Check back often to see our latest updates.