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 Scarlett and J from Kansas, USA. Scarlett runs ThirtyEight Investing, a site that aims to promote rental investing and personal finance to women.

Learn this couple’s FIRE story, their strategy to achieve FIRE by age 38, and how between the two of them read over one hundred books on personal finance.

Interviews will be conducted on an ongoing basis, with new interviews being published bi-weekly on Wednesdays. You can find past and future interviews in the series Main Page.

And without further ado, let’s get to the interview. Enjoy!

Introduction into the Lives of Scarlett and J.

We have been together for 6 years and don’t have kids yet! We are 26 and 28 and live in the heart of the USA (Kansas!). We enjoy nature walks and going on road trips.

What Does a Day in Your Life Look Like?

Scarlett is in physical therapy, and J is in a management role. A typical day looks like the following: Wake up around 5-6 am, make coffee and journal to stay focused on goals, head to work (about a 40minute drive), work from 8-5:30, drive home, have dinner, work on any passive income opportunities/side hustles for approx 2 hours, go to bed.

Learning about FIRE

How did you two find out about FIRE?

We attended a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University course many years back, which was our “introduction to money.” This sparked an interest in J, first, to work on self-development.

This started in late college. J has always wanted his own business, and so he began looking into his retirement accounts and researching how much to invest as a 20-something to retire early. This led him to discover the book Rich Dad Poor Dad, which really laid the framework for our initial journey. J has accumulated over a thousand hours of listening to podcasts and over 60 books read.

Between the two of us, we have read over 100 books on personal finance, self-improvement, and investing.

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

J discovered the idea of FIRE first, but Scarlett quickly caught on. He has always been about a year’s worth of learning ahead of Scarlett due to discovering and beginning his portion of the FIRE journey sooner.

Scarlett was not very interested until having to sit in a car ride across the Midwest, and J strategically putting on a Rich Dad Poor Dad audiobook. After this, things were forever changed!

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

Although we have been aware of FI for many years now, we were not in a good position financially at the very beginning to start throwing our money into our investments or rentals. 

Scarlett got into $70k of graduate student debt, and we had to first work toward debt freedom before pursuing financial freedom! We have been actively working toward a strategic FIRE plan for approximately 4 years.

Which type of FIRE are you aiming for? 

For us, the end goal is Fat FIRE, but Coast FI is the shorter-term goal. The reason we want Fat FIRE is to establish generational wealth.

FIRE Strategy

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

We currently live below our means, plan to house hack, have diversified investing, try to live off one income and invest our remaining income. We invest for 401(k) match first and invest in our Roth IRA’s; then our remaining income goes to buy-and-hold rentals.

We also are earning income through side hustles that provide a level of passive income that goes toward these efforts.

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

Our “after debt” savings rate was lower for quite a while due to aggressively paying off debt. We have increased it from 12% to a 50% savings rate now that we are debt-free!

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

Living on less (below our means), being on a budget, having an emergency and sinking funds (we are working toward our 6-12 month emergency fund right now), reducing energy consumption at home, meal planning, eating out less, and having intentional spending.

What are your investments like?

401(k) is in Target Date Funds while the matching goes into individual stocks (we plan on selling these and transitioning them into index funds).

In the Roth IRAs, the investments go into multiple different Vanguard index funds and other mutual funds. Our largest focus is on rental investing. We currently have 2 properties and plan on purchasing our next property in a few months!

When do you plan to reach FIRE?

Scarlett created a blog based on a goal of (at least) Lean FIRE by the age of 38. We are working toward this, but since we are freshly debt-free and new to having more money for investing, we will monitor and adjust our goals over the next few 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?

J’s purpose of FIRE is to have the freedom to pursue his passions for creating and investing in businesses. Scarlett’s purpose behind achieving FIRE is to have the freedom to stay at home with children.

J’s goal is never to retire early from working but to have the freedom to spend his time as he chooses.

Closing Arguments

What has FIRE taught you?

The importance of self-education! It’s exciting to know that you can see results even before you achieve something as exciting as Fat FIRE. This journey has helped us feel in control of our futures and provides a shining light to escape the corporate world.

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

Even though we are in our upper 20’s we still would have changed many choices. One bad habit J has is not being productive with free time.

Extra time during college, for example, could have been spent working an extra job or for more self-learning. Now that years have gone by, he still finds it hard to utilize the few remaining free hours in the day after working in pursuit of passive income and side hustles.

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

It is important to be on the same page! Focus on the basics first. Work on creating short-term and long-term visions of your life (3-year, 5-year, 10+). We recommend establishing the foundational financial steps of having an emergency fund and paying off debt before focusing on anything else.

This article originally appeared on Financial Alien and has been republished with permission.

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

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