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Chris: Hi Becky! Welcome to the show!
Becky: Thanks for having me! A little bit about myself, I am in my 20’s and recently quit my job to start my own business which has been a big milestone. I started my financial independence journey when I graduated from college in 2015 with $100k in student loan debt. That really opened my eyes to get a better handle of my financial situation. I actually felt like I was managing my money well because I had up to 4 part-time jobs with no credit card debt.
So as long as I didn’t have credit card debt, in my mind, I was managing my money well. I completely ignored the student loans which resulted in a disconnect between how I felt I was doing in my mind and how I was actually doing in reality.
Chris: So you were measuring yourself on the normal standard of society which means you are doing just fine as long as you don’t have credit card debt. However, you wanted to measure your financial success along with the goals of the FIRE community which meant you had a way to go.
Becky: Exactly! I hadn’t thought about the idea of getting past the paycheck to paycheck phase. I was covering my living expenses and paying for things in cash but I hadn’t moved up in my thinking to save for retirement. I was still 18 to 21 and I was thinking about having fun, partying, and going out. I wasn’t thinking about what my professional “adult life” would look like.
Ultimately, the transition to full-time work was the catalyst for me to start learning how to manage my money. It was the first time I really had money to call my own. When I was in school I made about $10,000 and now I was making a salary of around $50,000. So it was a huge increase. I had disposable income and I was still living at the lifestyle of a college student.
I had noticed the difference between how much I was making and how much I was spending and I realized that was my path to being able to become debt-free and financially independent.
Chris: What helped you find the FIRE movement? Was it a specific resource?
Becky: I tend to learn about things and take a little while to assess how it fits into my life. I learned about financial independence through Mr. Money Mustache when I was in college. I started reading his articles like “The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement” which showed me the math is really simple. If you follow some basic principles, you don’t have to work until you are 65.
I had been interested in alternative lifestyles since the age of 14 when I read “The 4 Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss. In this book, the concept of lifestyle design is very central. As a 14-year-old you don’t have much freedom in designing your life. So I learned about these things but had trouble applying them to my life. However, they became a core part of my value system.
I knew I wanted flexibility, mobility, location independence. So I knew what I wanted and growing up with frugal parents gave me a good foundation. As a kid though, when you only get the essentials you tend to want discretionary things like new toys. So my early financial life I tended to spend a lot of my paycheck at Target every week on things I wanted instead of saving it for my future. So I became aware of investing and lifestyle design at an early age but it took me until after college to be able to take advantage.
It was extremely helpful to learn these concepts at such an early age. So a message I want to give people who feel they are starting too late is that it’s really common and don’t be discouraged. It takes time to learn and realize these concepts and how they can be applied to your lifestyle. The best time to start is now!
Even myself, I got the information at an early age and sat on it for 6 years. Even though I got into the FIRE movement earlier than a lot of people it doesn’t mean there is a bad time to start.
Chris: Absolutely. The best time to start is today. The fact that you read the 4-hour workweek at the age of 14 is incredible. I know I wouldn’t have had the interest at that age. How did that book get into your hands at such an early age?
Becky: My parents really nurtured the side of me that was different than other people. They never made me feel like I had to conform to the ideas of what society expects. I was always asking questions like do you think I can become a marine biologist? and then switch to another field I love? and my parents said, “sure why not?” instead of telling me no you have to get a degree in one area and stick to it. I ended up not becoming a marine biologist but that imagination I had was noticed by my parents.
So my mom was recommended the 4-hour workweek by one of her friends and she thought I would like the book as well. I was really inspired by the ideas of entrepreneurship. I was very lucky that my parents read a lot and my mom noticed that this book might have ideas that are right for me.
Starting Your Own Business
Chris: So true! That is awesome to hear. Now with this information, what did you decide to do to prepare yourself in starting your own business and the lifestyle you desired?
Becky: The first thing I decided was I didn’t like being in debt. I know that sounds simple but we are often taught that debt is very acceptable and an expected side effect of living the American dream. So I decided to try to pay off the debt as soon as possible and embrace the concepts of minimalism that I learned.
The basis of all money and lifestyle decisions is your core values. That’s why you have to be clear on your core values. I decided early on that my money would be a tool to live the lifestyle of my dreams. I got a taste of travel in college and that was big, realizing I wanted to integrate travel into my lifestyle.
Initially, when I started in 2015 I said I’ll pay off my debt, work hard to increase my income and I should be able to become financially independent at 35 years old. Or 32 if I’m more aggressive. I was 21 and worked until 23. I realized I do not like this enough to do it for another 10 years! It’s not how I wanted to spend the rest of my 20’s.
So my perspective shifted from a traditional FIRE path to a hybrid approach. One in which I would incorporate the lifestyle I wanted now instead of waiting until 32 or 35. The truth is we are not promised tomorrow. I had a medical scare that made me realize I wanted to start living the life I desired now. The real risk is not choosing to take risks. Calculated risks are what I believe in.
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