Who Am I?

Now that we’re a month or so into this relationship of ours, you may be wondering more about me.  Not in the ‘oh he must be so interesting’ kind of way, but more in the ‘why the heck should I listen to this guy’ way.

And maybe you’re right. Who do I think I am to talk about money?  I am, after all, just a regular guy.  But if you ask me, that’s exactly why I may be qualified to help you with your retirement planning.  You see, I’m doing it.  I am retiring before I turn 34 and the earlier the better.  All you have to do is watch me do it and you will have gained value from this.  Not that my way is the only way to do it, but surely there will be lessons learned along the way that will be of use to you and help you reach your own goals.

So then, how did I get here?

Well, I grew up with a pretty averagely awesome amount of opportunity by almost any standard in today’s world, and  like many people I knew at the time, I took a ‘year off’ after graduating from high-school in British Columbia, Canada.  I traveled, ‘found myself’, and then came home to work as an electrician’s apprentice for about a year.  Ultimately, I started drifting towards returning to school, and between the age of about 22-27 completed a degree in Biology.  After that, I had some jobs that paid OK, while I was constantly looking for other jobs.  I probably spent more time looking for jobs and submitting cookie-cutter applications than I did actually working!  Looking back, I could have had some whole other side-hustle that actually paid.

I poked away for a few years, travelled some more, met a girl and ‘settled down’, buying a house (with a rental suite) and starting a Master’s Degree program.  I was housebroke but fortunate.  It would have taken me the rest of my career to be completely free of all debt, but from the outside I was living the American Dream

And then the girl left (and then another girl not too long after).  Before long, I was 30 years old in an empty house with a job I didn’t care for much that paid me just enough to pay all my bills and no prospects for replacing it with a job I cared for more.  I had all of this debt associated with school, the house, and my shiny new motorbike.  I was making gains overall (my net worth was growing), but I felt broke and, above all, stuck.

Over the next few weeks, I decided to sell my house, especially once I learned just how strong the Real Estate Market where I lived was.  I had no idea where I would live after or what was to come, but I knew that I had no attachments or obligations and that I would be free of all debt with a good chunk of cash if I sold, so I did.

Later that summer, before I had actually moved out of the house, I was on vacation in Mexico and, low-and-behold, the opportunity to build myself a great and simple home that would also produce enough rental income to sustain my single-life in Mexico came my way through a friend of a friend.  I should also mention that it suited my lifestyle goals wildly.  In fact, it exceeded them (I can walk to the beach and be surfing in less than 10 minutes).  So I went for it.

Currently, I am working to pay off the remaining cost of the construction and it will be paid for outright, as well as possibly adding another level to increase living space and rental income potential in the long run while also trying to avoid being ‘housebroke’ and ‘stuck’ once again.  With this, and some savings, and some frugality, I could live out the rest of my years in relative comfort and great satisfaction and happiness.  Likely I will pick up work or volunteer opportunities from time-to-time, and I may even find a whole other path altogether still, but at least whatever decisions I make moving forward will be from a place ‘unstuck’ financially, from a place of pure interest and curiosity and generosity, and that will be the most satisfying part of it all.

One day, when people actually read this blog, I can imagine receiving comments from someone far more versed in finances than me, telling me why my advice is bad.   And some of it probably is bad.  But you can imagine how that person has probably advised others, and how they would have approved of my ‘previous life’, without considering that I had never felt more ‘stuck’ than I did in that life.  So I think those comments will probably be borne out of trying to appear something (like smart or right) rather than to actually help me or the other readers who just want to find our way to the life of our own making.  And let’s not forget, this is a journey to retirement, in which we will be learning along the way.  And I think that seeing a regular person do it is as powerful as any textbook or lecture or video webinar on the topic of financial independence (especially since you’re probably paying for those resources rather than saving for your retirement).

Are you more advanced than me in your ways of financial ‘unstuckedness’?  How did you get there?  What are your strategies?  I’d love to hear more from you in the comments section below.  And remember, we’re all here to learn.

9 thoughts on “Who Am I?

  1. Interesting journey.

    Where did you grow up in BC, if you don’t mind me asking?

    A question, getting to the $100,000 home with no debt, appears largely driven by your gains in the real estate market, which also helped you pay off the debts you had from school.

    For a young person that wants to end up in the same spot as you, how do you suggest they get there?

    It’s definitely a great lifestyle to work towards.

    1. Thanks for the comment!

      I am from Cranbrook, but most recently lived in Victoria for quite a while.

      You are correct, I was very lucky and turned a profit of about that size in less than two years, due to a foreign buyer. My official “FIRE” journey started a little while after, once presented with the investment opportunity in Mexico where I could see a route to having what is essentially my own Basic Income, from which I could explore new projects, ideas and areas of interests that, inevitably, should earn me at least some income (some of which are starting to come to very small fruitions now).

      With the new taxes on Foreign Buyers, and the upcoming Speculation Tax, opportunities like that may not exist right now in the same form. I also realize most people don’t currently want to pack up and move to Mexico (although many tell me they do when they visit, but when it comes down to it they really don’t, which is OK).

      So my main message is really just to not be afraid to take risks and take action. There’s no shortage of opportunities for people (especially millenials) that get creative and make opportunities for themselves. If you don’t like your work (or even your friends, or partner, for that matter), don’t feel guilty about it. Just take action. My intention when I sold my house was to quit my ‘career’ as a Biologist (not an easy thing to do 12 years and many dollars and lectures in) and once I finished the MSc degree I was in the middle of, I was going to travel and create and see what came of that. I didn’t ever want to be ‘stuck’ again. I am no huge expert on Finance, and am learning along the way from some of the best writers and speakers on the subject. So Yes my situation is unique, but so is almost everyone’s. If you look closely and are willing to take action true to your nature and the things that spark interest in you, we can all find new opportunities in our lives.

      What has been revealing to me, a classic over-spender and use-all-the-debt-available kind of 20-something, is how much happier I am lately (well, when I am at home ‘practicing’ retirement), while spending less than ever before (or ever imagined!). I can surf 4-6hours a day within a few minutes from my house without even needing to use my truck, and still have a lot of time in my day for new projects, reading, socializing, siestas or whatever else comes my way. I have also learned that whatever you leave behind is still a part of who you are, and that by ‘leaving’ my career as a biologist, I still take all my skills and experiences into whatever endeavors I aspire to subsequently, including this blog. So like I said, people shouldn’t feel guilty if they are realizing that they’re not happy with their current situation (even if it may look great from the outside and everyone tells you you should be happy).

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  3. Islander

    Hi there!

    Thank you for sharing inspiring story!

    I am on the similar path but kind of stuck in golden handcuffs… I have been following saving/investing plan for 5-6 years now, having most of my net worth invested in equity. As it is a non US market, 4% doesn’t give me too much confidence so am more leaning to try similar approach to yours with running my own rental property. For this I should quit my job and leap but if I do I would most likely never be able to get back to my industry (and honestly don’t want to so am on my OMY push to minimize risk).

    Just curious, is the property in Mexico your only investment or you have some passive income stream? (I understand if you don’t want to share details)

    1. Hi there! Thanks for reading.

      My Mexico property comprises about 2/3 of my net worth right now and is the only passive income stream I have. I currently use my paycheques to pay down the last bit of debt associated with building the house and start investing in bond/stock ETFs, and that is about it so far.

      Currently, my rental income provides about enough to live on down here on a simple budget and with no dependents.

      I can relate to not knowing when to cut ties with my job. I am not too worried about leaving the ‘industry’ too much as, like you, I had decided I wasn’t into it for the long haul. I also believe if I had to I could find another job for a while, or find interesting seasonal work at the least. Are you certain that you could NEVER get another job in your field, anywhere?

      When it comes down to it we have to ask ourselves about the ‘worst case scenarios’. While I was trying to decide to take the leap to Mexico or not, i told a friend “worst case scenario it doesn’t work out and I move back to Canada to do what I am already doing but with a paid for rental property in Mexico I can visit anytime”. When put that way, his response was “well it sounds like you have no option but to do it”.

      1. Islander

        Thanks for the response!

        You are right, I could definitely find something somewhere but I am not into it for the long haul. 🙂
        Is more fear that I would have to go back but as you say, it is totally irrational given our age (I’m also in early thirties) and skills that we poses. I guess my fear comes from being raised in a family that always struggled to make ends meet in eastern European country and I don’t want to get back into that situation. Again another excuse…

        On the positive side, think that I am confident to make the leap in 2019. Your story is definitely a big encouragement and since I have the same plan with the main source of income, I’m very interested to see how your Mexico adventure develops.
        I plan to run rental property in my home country. It would be seasonal as we currently have strong demand in summer season and potentially could be extended to 6-8 months.

        I am also planning to get Diving Instructor license and see if that could be another source of income and potentially get me to warmer places during winter.

        When I look back I am actually very happy with my current situation and options I have. I’ve invested a lot of effort to get to this point and feel that I covered my basic safety net requirements. Now is to time to find something more fulfilling then sitting in the cubicle… Maybe I’m just a spoilt millennial but believe that there is a different way and am determined to find it. 🙂

      2. My whole goal was to be ‘unstuck’, for lack if a better word. I try to keep that in mind with all life and financial decisions moving forward. Even when considering work/business/investment ideas, I’ve started to closely scrutinize what it would actually look like and how it would truly affect my lifestyle. It’s all about balance, and every situation is unique, but we at least have to try to let our futures not be overly dictated by out pasts. For me, versatility is always at the forefront, perhaps to a fault (ie in response to once feeling incredibly stuck).

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