Playing With Fire: The Financial Independence And Retire Early Movement
How to escape the rat race, forever.
Crouched over my desk with my face in my hands, and it was only Tuesday. It was mid month and I was far behind on my sales quota for the month. Generally that’s a stressful enough situation, as is. But I was a few weeks away from needing to find a new place to live or move back in with my parents far away from where I was working. Hey, at least it wasn’t the street, right? At the time I was convinced my next move was to purchase a house, so on top of this I was regularly viewing and working to put offers on houses. Which intensifies the stress of being behind on your sales.
Low disposable income, stressed out over acquiring and managing a mortgage, constantly grinding on a job that paid variably. ‘Fuck this’ I thought. I was a few years out of university working a less than ideal job than I had imagined for myself after completing a bachelor’s degree. I was in minimal debt but wasn’t doing much in the way of saving and I was looking to lock myself into a mortgage in a small city where I grew up, because I thought that was the right thing to do as an adult. I’m sure there are many others my age who can relate.
One day while on my break however, I stumble across a finance blog that would forever change my situation.
Down the rabbit hole of financial literacy, financial independence and retire early
This wild website, Greater Fool, posted daily against the idea of NEEDING to own a home for the sake of social image, and the benefits – and freedom – of investing. While godforbid.. Renting. What novel ideas. I had always been told to get a home as soon as possible. Luckily I grew up in a household that touted the benefits of investing. But getting that first home as soon as possible was also enforced at home, and was generally seen as a sign of success in the culture I grew up in.
Needless to say i devoured as much as I could from this strange finance blog. Going months and probably years back into the archives of the site. Then one day a particular post stood out. A couple of clients were featured on the site. Early 30’s millionaires who RETIRED to travel the world with a 7 figure income. Retiring at 30 to travel the world, I had blood rushing to all types of areas on my body.
I had found the financial independence and retire early movement.
Within a week, the house search had completely halted and I was contacting my overpriced mutual fund manager to withdraw all my funds, open an online brokerage account with Questrade & moving all my money into low cost ETFs.
Retiring early and reaching financial freedom through teaching ESL?
Sometimes the stars truly align. Right around this time, I was also contacted by an old friend that I worked and attended university with. He was moving to South Korea to teach English. A fantasy I had played with in my mind a few times as a means of running away to live at the beach. The idea was firmly squashed when I learned how much they were paid. But that was always Thailand I looked at. Apparently South Korea paid a fair wage that would actually allow me to save some significant money. More money than I had ever been able to save before.
I would be able to save a respectable sum of money, it solved my housing issue – as schools always supply you with a free apartment or give you money monthly to find your own apartment when you teach ESL – and things were falling apart at my current sales job.
Sometimes you’ve just got to jump and figure it out on the way down.
The FIRE movement and personal finance community
As I was moving to Asia to teach English as a second language, I continued to read about the financial independence and retire early movement, and personal finance. Turns out there is a huge community of bloggers who are working towards the same thing or have already achieved this. I was addicted. I couldn’t stop reading. Here are just a few websites within the community on various aspects of this part of the internet
Go Curry Cracker
Mr. Money Moustache
4 pillar freedom
Think Save Retire
Kick starting your early retirement
In South Korea I was saving 50% of my monthly salary which was great. But even at that amount it would still take me 25 years to retire early. The quick way to calculate how much money you need to retire with for the rest of your life and not run out of money is take your yearly expenses and X that number by 25. I did some quick math and it looked like I could grip freedom by 50.. Great to most people, but in the FIRE community that wasn’t anything to write home about.
In the FIRE community, there’s a few ways to reach financial freedom and early retirement:
- Increase your salary aggressively with a new job or side hustle.
- Reduce your spend aggressively and live frugally.
I’m pretty good at living frugally and reducing my expenses, but I had that aspect of the game pretty much maxed. So It was time to pick up a side hustle or get a better paying job. Over the following year I would do both.
First, I started teaching online as a second job/side hustle. This started out as once a day during the week and a few times on the weekend. An extra grand a month or so, sweet. After I left Korea I started teaching much more online as that was my primary gig back in Canada for the few months I was there. It turned into a full time Salary. But again that was my only source of income so my savings rate dropped.
Secondly, I got a better paying job. I flew to China to start teaching English there. Where the salaries are higher. And I continued to teach online, on essentially a full time basis. I’m working full days 7 days a week, but I’m savings 2-3x as much as I was in Korea.
My current trajectory to Financial Independence and Retire Early (FIRE)
At this rate, I should be able to reach financial freedom and retire early by the age of 40. Which is just over 12 years from now. If I am able to find a better paying job out here in China – which is completely realistic – I can cut that time down. Retiring at 35-40 years of age is definitely a gold badge within the FIRE world.
And all from teaching ESL and traveling the world. It’s funny, teaching ESL is never really regarded as a long term thing, and something travelers do to supplement their travel fund or extend their trip. But with the amount of opportunity to teach English online, work in schools and find private lessons or extra lessons in the evening or on weekends at training centers, for those ambitious, making enough to save $40,000-$50,000 per year after expenses is NOT out of the question. I am living proof.
Who should be playing with FIRE, financial independence and retire early? Why am I?
I like working, but on my own terms and for more of my own benefit. Also, when you’re working to survive or to pay debts because you HAVE to. It takes the fun out of it. You may also have to work a shitty job, that’s just the reality.
With technology advancing so rapidly, many jobs are going to obsolete soon. With the way the world / economy / all the stuff is going; pensions, old age funds and the like seem more of a risky. It’s like leaving your situation up to someone else. Only you have your true best interests at heart.
I also love waking up whatever time I like, and spending the day riding around on a scooter through foreign lands, spending hours at the beach or at a cafe. NOT WORKING. So yeah I want to free myself from a job as soon as possible via financial independence and retire early.
I want the freedom to be in control of my life and make my own decisions without fear of the consequences of a company reputation, what a boss has to say about it, or what anyone has to say about it. It’s called FUCK YOU MONEY.
Explore my website, and visit some of the others from above. See what it’s all about. Are you currently pursuing early retirement? What’s yours strategy, how far away from your goal are you? Does FIRE seem totally ridiculous to you, let me know in the comments!
People I know are teaching in Japan – maybe look at the wages there??
(Also there are about 3 or 4 typos towards the end that you might want to pop back and fix,)
As an English teacher in Australia, teaching English in Asia is always something I knew about, but could never do after I had the kids. Good on you for seeing the opportunity and grabbing it.
Thanks for the comment and kind words! I have looked at Japan, nothing extraordinary for wages, but could be cool to do one year just to experience the culture and country. Thanks for the tips, I’ll re-edit!
FIRE is relevant and precious to us. Having the option to do things on own terms without the worry of money is priceless.
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