It Takes Two to FIRE- Clint and Lesley Murphy

Steve Cummings

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Welcome to It Takes Two to FIRE. This interview series has been developed in collaboration with my friend Cristian Ferrier from the Financial Alien.

Both of us are quite excited about this opportunity to learn from FIRE couples and see how their journey has been as they have tried to achieve their FIRE lifestyle.

For this interview, we have Clint and Lesley Murphy from Vancouver. Clint hosts the Pursuit of Learning Podcast, and his wife Leslie is the integral part that pushed this couple towards FIRE. 

Let's read about how this couple works together to create their FIRE life. 

Introduction into the Lives of Clint and Lesley

We are Clint and Lesley Murphy. 

I am Clint, and I am a CFO for a local real estate development company. I write a fantasy novel series with my sister in my spare time, host the Pursuit of Learning Podcast, and lead a squad in a local men’s workgroup, the Samurai Brotherhood. I am also a proud father to two young boys (13 and 10 at the time). Hobbies are working out and real estate investing.

Lesley is a Manager in the Vacancy Tax Review Office at the City of Vancouver. The vacancy tax is charged on homes that aren’t being lived in or rented out. Lesley’s role is resolving disputes that are brought forward from people who feel they should not be charged. She is also the most significant contributor to a sane household and raising our two boys. Lesley manages our household finances and keeps on top of our cash flows.

The two of us met when we were young and started dating in 1995, right before we started Grade 12. Lesley was one of the top students in our school and I was a jock and a closet geek. She took a shot with me and has helped mold me into the person I am today.

We grew up in a small city called Mission, which is about an hour outside of Vancouver. Lesley went to one of our larger universities on Scholarship, and I went to a local community college and eventually ended up at one of our larger universities. We both did business degrees and were hired at KPMG as accounting associates.

In 2002, at 24, we purchased our first real estate investment, a condo in Vancouver, with some help from our parents, which we ultimately paid back. We sold it for a slight gain in 2004 after we were married and moved away from Canada. 

We lived in Bermuda for two years, while at KPMG, and then moved to Toronto for different jobs in 2006, and we were there just under two years before returning to Vancouver to start a family. I returned to KPMG for three more years before starting a career in real estate finance, and Lesley started at Translink after her maternity leave. 

Three years and nine days later, we had our second son. My wife is a planner. She wanted a three-year gap and missed by nine days. Yes, there is a reason she is in charge of the family finances.

What Does a Day in Your Life Look Like?

When we set up our family, my wife wanted me to be the primary breadwinner. Growing up, my wife’s parents immigrated from Hong Kong and opened a Chinese food restaurant in Mission. For the first five years (she was in grade one to five), they worked seven days per week and then six days per week after that. She never saw them. She didn’t want that for our children. 

A day in our life is pretty hectic; though, we’ve felt immensely positive through covid recognizing that there is an opportunity to slow down as a family. As individuals, we were blessed enough to keep our jobs and health. 

Starting soon, I will be getting up early to work out with my eldest son and then will take him to high school. My wife will get our youngest son up and take him to school. 

After school, Lesley and the boys will often have dinner with her parents, and I will eat later when I get home. When our first son was born, her parents sold their restaurant, retired, and moved closer to us. They have been immeasurably helpful over the last thirteen years. Then my wife will take them to their sporting activities. There are generally sports every night of the week.

I will either pick them up from their sports or meet them at home after their activities. In the evenings, I am generally reading books as most of the guests I interview for the podcast are authors. 

The weekends are usually sporting activities, family games, food, and chill time. Now that we have a puppy, that’s going to take a fair bit of time.

Learning about FIRE

How did you two find out about FIRE?

Lesley has always been frugal. She has always been bothered by my spending. By my lack of research, a dollar saved, in her mind, is a dollar earned, so I would say she’s been on FIRE since we met. Heck, she started working in the restaurant when she was ~ ten or eleven.

I didn’t come around until ~ 2013 when I started to have some major life challenges that threw me. It caused me to re-examine my life. I read every post by Mr. Money Mustache and dove into the FI community, including starting my first confidential blog. 

I also started adjusting my spending and savings patterns to be more in line with my wife.

Were you two on board with the idea of FIRE from the beginning? Or did it take some convincing on one part?

Yes, the key was it took ~ 18 years for her to get me to realize how poor my spending and savings were. Positively, there were things I contributed to our FI equation. Specifically, I worked very hard, committed to continuous learning, and made aggressive investments that ultimately paid off quite well in real estate. 

Lesley was happy when I finally saw the light and started committing to specific savings goals, cashflow goals, etc. I would say it aligned us.

How long have you been working towards FIRE? (If already FIREd, how long did it take you to FIRE?)

We have been working towards FIRE now for eight years and are on track for a particular life plan that we have aligned on together. 

Lesley is more scared of the path we are on than I am, but that is because she’s traditionally had a more conservative nature than I have.

Which type of FIRE are you aiming for? 

If it were a specific FIRE, it would 100% be FAT FIRE. Though I don’t intend to FIRE, I intend for us to FI and Pivot. 

What does that look like? Technically, I want us to be in a position where we could FIRE, but we will supplement that by doing the type of work we want to do, where we want to do it, and how we want to do it. One of our goals will be to travel the world at least 6+ months per year in different countries. 

When I pivot, I will be podcasting, writing (fiction and nonfiction), coaching, consulting, and possibly I will return to school to become a counselor.

Lesley has not decided what she wants to do yet but has often thought of interior design, event planning, and other design jobs she can do from afar. 

FIRE Strategy

How are you planning on achieving FIRE? What is your strategy?

Our strategy has been simple. 

Lesley manages the cash flows and budgeting. 

I manage our investments and our net worth planning. 

Our path to FIRE is through real estate investment over time. 

We live in a single-family house in the city that I expect to appreciate over time and hope to sell it when we retire after the boys are in college. 

We have also purchased several investment condominiums and townhouses at low points in the market. At the time, they would not have fully cash flowed; however, with material uplift in the market, they’re doing quite well. 

Our real estate strategy is unconventional. Instead of buying smaller condos in the city, we’ve gone further outside the core and bought large townhomes. As a result of covid, they have appreciated quite well as people moved away from the City. 

The real estate strategy, though they didn’t want cashflow when acquired, is based on three principles: (1) long-term capital appreciation (2) principal paydown, and (3) cash flow (in later years), and they were generally underwritten to ~ 12% IRR, which I cannot match with equities with my knowledge base. 

Outside of real estate, we have a decent amount in stocks, real estate lending, and some cryptocurrency (~ 5% of our net worth).

What has your savings rate been through the time you have been working towards FIRE?

Our savings rate has been 40% – 60% for the past seven years, including principal paydown of the mortgage on our primary residence.

What changes have you made to improve your savings rate and achieve FIRE faster?

One of the most significant contributors to our savings rate has been increased earnings over time. We have always focused on continuous improvement, hard work and putting ourselves in as many sink or swim situations as possible to get ahead in the workplace. 

As our salaries have climbed over the last seven to eight years, we have not allowed our expenditures to rise with it, which has contributed to our savings rate.

What are your investments like?

Apologies, we covered this in our FIRE strategy – we are heavy, heavy real estate, and for the remainder of our investments, it’s ~ ⅓ real estate lending, ⅓ equities, and ⅓ crypto.

When do you plan to reach FIRE?

We will hit FI and Pivot within the next ten years.

Life after FIRE

Life after FIRE is different for each person. Some like quitting work to never touch it again. Others may work on side projects. Life is different for all.

What do you plan to do once you reach FIRE?

  • Travel the world. 
  • Increase writing (fiction and nonfiction)
  • Host more episodes of the Pursuit of Learning Podcast
  • Coaching, consulting, and counseling help as many people as possible grow personally, professionally, and financially.

Closing Arguments

What has FIRE taught you?

The biggest realization was that we should have started earlier. 

If we didn’t allow our lifestyle to elevate to the extent that we did, then we’d be able to FIRE earlier if desired. 

We have also learned to keep it simple while taking aggressive positions where we believe we have asymmetrical information advantages: 

  • Earn more
  • Spend less
  • Invest the difference

Knowing what you know now, would you do anything differently if you had the chance?

We would have started sooner on this journey. 

We would have learned as much possible about investing as soon as possible. 

We would have taken what we’ve learned through FIRE and applied it to other areas of our lives. Specifically, the consistency and discipline to FIRE can be used in all areas of life.

What would you say to a young couple just learning about FIRE?

Communicate regularly. 

Follow the three principles of achieving anything in life you want: 

  1. Figure out what you want?
  2. Understand what it takes to get there? 
  3. Do the work needed to achieve it. Day in. Day out. 

You can use #1 – #3 to achieve almost anything you want in life as a couple.

Next, I would zone in on these three key points: 

  1. Earn more
  2. Spend less
  3. Invest the difference

For 1, I would ask them to figure out what they can do to improve their salary income or through side hustles. 

For 2, I would say this is the absolute key to it all. Spend less. Don’t consume your raises. Learn to be happy with less. To be minimalist. 

For 3, unless you have sufficient information giving you an asymmetrical advantage, focus on passive investments through ETFs

What do I mean about asymmetrical information? Specifically, do you work in an area that gives you insights and advantages in investing that others don’t? If so, take advantage of it!

Any final words?

Thanks for having us on for this interview. 

It absolutely takes two of us to get here. It is a partnership. 

We both have different skill sets, strengths, and weaknesses, and we complement the HECK out of each other. 

For anyone on their journey, this is what I love. I want to help more than 1 million people achieve their personal, professional, and financial dreams, so please email me, DM me, or just chat with me on Twitter. 

Let’s all achieve our dreams together.

Some Last Thoughts

Reading about Clint and Lesley's story is amazing to hear. They are both in line with each others' goals, views, and working together to achieve them.

It truly shows that a FIRE couple can make so many things happen. I know not all of you are in a relationship, but I think it brings on a different dynamic and it is great if your partner helps you work together to achieve great things. 

Clint and Lesley could not do everything if they didn't work together. They are truly making an impact and have goals to make a difference in so many more lives.

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” Spend less than you make, stay out of debt, and invest the rest”

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