How Did we Decide to Seek Financial Independence/Early Retirement (FIRE)?

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Once, I started working full time, we bought the two cars, and the house I tried to search for advice on savings/investing online, but never found anything too helpful. Luckily I made many wonderful and intelligent friends in college. While at a small birthday get together we got on the topic of investing, banks and financial planning. One friends happened to mention vanguard (whew, I had just opened a vanguard Roth IRA in the previous month, so maybe I had learned something useful on the Internet) and discussed the stock market with a level of understanding much greater than my own. The next Monday I emailed him and asked about a blog he had mentioned. I started reading it, and was hooked. I realized that other options are out there.

Beautiful views from the $14/night National Forest Campsite

Engineering is definitely the field that teaches you how to learn, be decisive, analyze options and consider the lifecycle of a project. That’s probably why there are so many people interested in FIRE that come from engineering. My schooling less so taught me how to memorize and repeat basic concepts, but more about how to be a lifelong learner and use practical skills to solve problems. Even now as I question if I want to spend my working ages employed as an engineer I know that the school was worth it. With engineering I feel like I could take on any job.

While I’m disappointed I didn’t know of FIRE from the start, at least I learned it at the young age of 26, and my husband and I had already paid off $55,000 of the $60,000 in loans accumulated from car purchasing and undergrad. I moved from reading about stocks and VTSAX onto MMM and his radical idea of early retirement and finding happiness not from things. His words spoke to me in general, however I definitely still struggle with implementing some of his amazing money saving tactics. I definitely have always envisioned happiness not coming from belongings. However, it was easy to emulate the typical middle class lifestyle and get caught up with the concept that “busy is better.”

The immediate goal during this month of reading was to increase our savings rate (roughly 20% pre-enlightenment, so we were doing great by conventional wisdom). We are currently hovering around 65%, with the goal to stretch it to 75%. In our 2.5 years since discovering FIRE, I think we are definitely on the fast track.

The Not Dream Kitchen

Here’s how we plan to do that:

  • Max out 401k and 457 contributions (we both have access to both)
  • Fully invest in IRA (no longer Roths based on Mad Fientist research)
  • Take any extra money and open a taxable VTSAX account, but we haven’t had a year yet where we saved enough to do this
  • Don’t pay off our mortgage early (as tempting as that is, mathematically it does not make sense)
  • Live on $2,000/month



Things that might get in the way:

  • Home renovations, we bought our house planning to do a complete remodel totaling about $40,000. We’re tackling the projects slowly, but we’ve been itching to build our dream kitchen and I want my large soaking tub. It’s tough to say now whether FI or home improvement will win out over the next year or two.

    At Least We’ve Replaced this Beautiful Orange Shag Carpet
  • Travel, this is a weakness of mine. I love traveling to new places. Luckily I try to live like a local while I travel and mostly camp, stay in inexpensive hotels, or hostels. The husband is struggling with chronic headaches, which has curbed our traveling, but if the headaches go away, I’ll definitely be tempted to travel.
  • Middle class spending…we have five weddings (only two local) this year. Plus we inflated our lifestyle some once I got a full salary, so time to deflate spending.
  • (In 2015) Groceries, we eat a primal diet and our excess income has allowed us to be lazy in our hunt for deals and keeping our grocery budget down. For two people we spend roughly $600/month on groceries. This is way too high, by the end of 2016 we got it down to $300/month. (2017) The goal is to cut it to $200/month, my job has pushed us to go vegan, which has saved us major money, we doubled our garden, found access to free plants and seeds for the garden, and we are trying to EAT EVERYTHING by cleaning out the cabinets.
  • Chronic Illness, Mr. Kiwi suffers from constant headaches (diagnosed as either chronic migraine or new persistent daily headache). We definitely don’t cheap out on health care expenses, and have been seeing doctors on the reg since this started in 2014.


Does anyone know of any FIRE bloggers with chronic illness? I’ve been on the lookout and can’t find any.

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