Next up: a guest spot on a ChooseFI livestream!

screenshot of YouTube video

I’m invited to a livestream event!

If you follow the FIRE community it’s highly likely you know about ChooseFI. It’s a very successful podcast, YouTube channel, and online user community. I discovered hosts Brad and Jonathan via their audio podcast about three years ago, after which the show became a regular part of my commute playlist. They recently announced that they’d be doing a YouTube livestream event to celebrate 2020 financial independence wins. Along with what sounds like a ton of other people, I threw my hat in the ring to contribute. I was really surprised and honored to be among those selected to participate!

The show featured short interviews with fifteen different people in various stages of their FIRE journey. The aim of the show was to talk about your wins this year and have a brief Q&A with the hosts. The video above will start at my section of the livestream. But please do feel free to rewind to the beginning of the show as all of the contributors had interesting and varying stories to share about how to succeed on the path to FIRE!

In a small world story, one of my lifelong best friends, Eric Reinholdt, was also selected to be on the show – here’s his section, up just before me. I’ve been talking with Eric about FIRE for over a year now. As you’ll see, he’s come really far on his FIRE journey in a relatively short time. This is no surprise to me given his bent towards rapidly understanding a problem and putting plans into action. I’d be remiss not to mention Eric’s great YouTube channel, one I really enjoy. It’s called 30×40 Workshop, and despite not being an architect myself, I find much of his content highly interesting and often applicable to my own life. Check it out! Oh and Eric and I just might be working on a new project together…

My comments on the show

There were a few times in talking about my FIRE journey where I missed responding to part of a question, or where I thought I could have provided a better response. Having been interviewed in the past, I am all-too aware that this happens when the camera is rolling! Anyhow, I thought I’d take this opportunity to write about some of these things and other related points I hope you will find of interest.

Who else have I talked to about FIRE? Was Eric the first person I talked to about it?

Obviously I talk & write about it a lot these days! But as I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t talk with many people about FIRE outside of my immediate family until a year before I left the workplace. Maybe it’s just bad luck, but I had some really awkward conversations with a few coworkers about my interests in retiring early, and in response stopped doing it unless someone else raised the topic. I did speak in detail about my plans with four or five of my best friends in that last year – including Eric. Some were already interested in or were on a FIRE path, so that was easy territory. But otherwise, online forums and conversations with my (amazing) financial advisors was about it.

I have found that the general acceptance FIRE as a valid strategy is dependent on your age group. Millennials rightfully get the credit for being the biggest FIRE enthusiasts, though there are quite a few Gen Xers other than me who are on the path or have already retired early. But from a ratio perspective, my experiences suggest this idea is more accepted among a younger demographic. On the other side of my generation, I’ve had several pretty negative exchanges with Baby Boomers on topic of FIRE – and I’m not one to “OK Boomer” anyone at my age! Perhaps that’s a topic for another time?

Lastly, financial matters are often uncomfortable ground for friends, coworkers, or even family members to discuss. Therefore it makes sense that FIRE may not be commonly talked about. To suggest you are going to leave the workplace before traditional retirement age may be cause for some to jump to incorrect conclusions about your financial picture – and how you got there, which could result in jealousy or other difficult reactions. I’ve experienced some of this myself, so I know the fear is valid.

Question about savings strategy

I mentioned starting an after-tax brokerage account when at a startup company that didn’t have a 401(k) plan – which is correct. However, some may have wondered why I didn’t also contribute to an IRA at that time. I actually did do that so don’t panic! I just neglected to mention it on the show.

What did my first week post-FIRE feel like?

I’ve written a little about this already, but the show gave me a good opportunity to talk more about the emotional side. It certainly was a whirlwind. I think the distraction of having to move our household helped give me time before I really had to start processing the decision to leave the workplace. Importantly, despite the maelstrom of emotions, it always felt like the right move and one that was overwhelmingly positive! Even after six months, I am absolutely convinced this has been the right decision!

Talking about draw-down strategy

Lest you be concerned that 1.5 years of expenses in cash reserves isn’t necessarily enough to leave the workplace in the midst of a pandemic and the associated volatile market – that isn’t the full picture. We also have an emergency fund of another six months of expenses, so that’s really two years in cash. In addition, our portfolio also includes cash equivalents and fixed income holdings. So there isn’t a scenario readily imagined where we would have to touch our growth engine that is the stock portfolio, which makes up the overwhelming majority of our holdings.

All that said, Brad’s point is a really good one: It is a strange thing to go from a saver / accumulation mindset to one where you are now drawing down. It hasn’t ever really “bothered” me per se, but I did need to make the mental switch. I think I’ve just redirected my saver mindset to my budgeting practice these days, which scratches that itch nicely 🙂

In conclusion

It was a fun interview and while it went by really quickly, overall I’m happy with how it went. As most people on the livestream were much earlier in their FIRE journey, my hope is that my section provided a different viewpoint – as well as some support that they will all get there as well! As always, in hindsight there are “better” answers that I can wish that I gave, but perhaps this post will fill in some of those gaps.

In my interview I also didn’t get the chance to reference the value I have found in working with financial advisors in recent years. This is not to say it’s the right path for everyone, and the FIRE community tends to be rather DIY – and also averse to paying assets under management (AUM) fees. But for my family, it’s been hugely helpful in myriad ways. In the end, we all need to choose what is best for us at each point in time.

Lastly, one more plug to consider watching the whole show – if you have any interest in FIRE or particularly if you are on the journey already, I think you will find it well worth it. And do consider subscribing to ChooseFI! It’s a really great resource.