Welcome to It Takes Two to FIRE. This interview series has been developed in collaboration with my friend Cristian Ferrier from the Financial Alien.
We are excited to bring you a series in which we explore real-life stories on how couples work together to reach or have already reached FIRE.
For this interview, we have Mr. and Mrs. Dreamer, a couple in their mid-30s who started their dreaming journey over a decade ago in Iraq.
Learn this couple’s journey, who immigrated to Canada in 2010 to start from zero and are now on the path to retire early in their mid-40s. And they are doing it all on one income!
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 to Mr. and Mrs. Dreamer
Tell us a bit about yourself
We are two dreamers who started dreaming over a decade ago in Iraq (No, we weren’t soldiers there)! We got married in 2008 after finishing our engineering degree in 2007 and starting our first real job.
We worked double shifts 6 days a week for 2 years to save enough for our Canadian journey, which began in 2010. We immigrated to Canada in 2010, started our life from zero with no family or support.
The first couple of years were tough. I didn’t have a full-time job while we just had our first baby. We lived in a very shady place just because it was the only place we could afford. We didn’t have money to buy any fruit other than bananas or apples. We even cut the meat and chicken in our first year in Canada as they were too expensive for us.
We have 2 adorable 6 and 9 years old smart girls who speak 3 languages fluently and have been to more than 20 countries each. Spanish is on the list as a 4th language.
Mrs. Dreamer stays home taking care of everything kids-related while Mr. Dreamer is the financial provider to the family, so we are basically working toward our FI on 1 income. We hope we reach our goal by the time kids graduate from high school.
We are now in our mid-30s.
What Does a Day in Your Life Look Like?
Mr. Dreamer works as an IT Manager in a medium-sized health company. I don’t think there is much growth left in the company for me personally. I basically manage our IT team, plus help with complicated architecture solutions, budgeting, escalations, and troubleshooting.
Onboarding new projects and solutions go through me instead of the IT Director. I like my job and my team and feel happy where I am. I don’t feel I am attached, but I think the pay is competitive, so no reason to looking around for a better opportunity.
Mrs. Dreamer is a stay-at-home mom who takes care of our kids and home. She also writes books and sells. Unfortunately, the income is so small that it doesn’t even make sense to count on it or include it in our budgeting. The reason is that she sells to countries like Egypt and Lebanon, where the prices are meager compared with the Canadian Dollar.
There are cons and pros, which I talked about in another blog post, “Spouse FI” by Chrissy. However, the best part is that I can travel SOLO to some not very friendly destinations while my wife takes care of the kids. She is amazing. I know, and I appreciate her very much.
Learning about FIRE
How did you two find out about FIRE?
We started our FIWOOT (Financial Independence Working On Own Terms) in 2019 as a celebration of finally becoming Canadian Citizens.
It started by thinking about how to ditch the 9-5 to travel more freely after getting my Canadian passport. We were quite limited before that, so there wasn’t any real goal to retire early, plus this is a bizarre thought in my culture or family.
Honestly, I never thought it was achievable, especially with 1 income. Still, the more I learned from different personal finance bloggers, getting to know how magical dividends and compound interests are, plus the significance of side hustles showed it is indeed possible.
Were you two on board with the idea of FIRE from the beginning? Or did it take some convincing on one part?
My wife doesn’t bring an income to the family, so I don’t really need to convince her. But, she likes and supports the idea as long as we don’t starve! So it is like, do whatever you think is right, but make sure we will be alright and reach our team’s goals.
How long have you been working towards FIRE? (If already FIREd, how long did it take you to FIRE?)
We have been frugal and saving since we started working but without the FIRE thoughts in mind. We just aimed to have the income to offer a better life to our children. But the idea of FI kicked in 2 years ago only, especially after I started putting up the numbers and charts, convincing myself it is possible.
Which type of FIRE are you aiming for?
I think we like a Hybrid FIRE approach, but again I can’t really say which one will work. I personally can never live without being productive. I always need to be occupied and work toward some accomplishment. So I am aiming for a FIWOOT (Financial Independence Working On Own Terms) FI style.
This means I can work whenever in whatever job I choose. This is not necessarily for the income but the engagement. We can do that when we reach our CashflowFIRE goal, which is basically having enough income ($3500 CAD/month) from our savings which makes working full-time a choice, not an obligation.
How are you planning on achieving FIRE? What is your strategy?
- Maintaining the current level of income which is getting closer to 6-figures.
- Saving more than 50% of the after-tax income.
- Invest the savings in balanced growth and dividend-paying portfolio (No Bond for me till we reach FI).
There is no getting rich quick trick by buying the next hype cryptocurrency. It needs to be done slowly and steadily. Consistency and sticking to planning are the key to success.
What has your savings rate been through the time you have been working towards FIRE?
We average 55% in our savings rate, but it depends. For example, during 2020, there was no travel, so the savings reached above 60%. We basically don’t care how much we make. Our lifestyle doesn’t change and whatever extra comes in goes to savings.
What changes have you made to improve your savings rate and achieve FIRE faster?
I started my blog in Feb 2021. I think that helps significantly not because of income (Well, there is no income yet anyway), but because of the reporting. When an audience and people expect to see numbers, we try to work better and work harder. It is like accountability. Plus, it helps keep track of our performance or what went wrong easier.
In addition, I started exploring other means for income (Hustle Income). I made a good profit by selling some health products on eBay. In addition, I do surveys and participate in learning and earn programs. Referral programs help provide some extra cash flow monthly as well.
What are your investments like?
I currently have HISA, GIC, Robo, and self-investing accounts. However, I am moving all HISA (Except small emergency fund), GIC, and Robo to self-managed trading accounts. This gives me better control and higher income and performance than all other options.
The goal is to have it all converted and invested in the market by the end of 2022.
Yes, I am also investing in cryptocurrency and blockchain as I believe they are the future. For Crypto, I have a high 12% annual yield by investing in Stablecoins, which track USD and no fluctuations. Compare that with the interest banks give you. I am also planning to convert more CAD to USD or EURO and invest for the same 12% return.
I also do some Liquidity Mining and Staking, mostly in projects I researched extensively and believe in, like DeFI (Decentralized Finance), and I earn a return as high as 108% annually. Of course, the risk is higher, so risk management is an essential aspect of this approach, but making $1080 from a $1000 investment is real, and I am personally enjoying it (At least for now).
When do you plan to reach FIRE?
Hopefully, by the time kids finish high school. There is no point in reaching FI before that time as we won’t really have the freedom to do anything we want freely. Also, we don’t believe in a home-schooling strategy, so as long as kids have schools, we only have the Summers and March / Winter break to travel.
The rest of the year, we will be home doing nothing. Some people enjoy that. I don’t. Covid showed me how boring life gets when you don’t have a job (Weekends) and can’t go anywhere.
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?
We need to make sure we go back home and spend enough time with our parents and families. So it is a bit of a complicated approach.
In addition, we also plan to live 6 months abroad in cheaper, warmer countries than Canada during the harsh Canadian winter (the US isn’t on that list, sorry) with a different destination every year while spending the other 6 months in Canada living in a camper van driving around North America. It is part of the dream, which is now a goal we are working toward.
While doing all of the above, I’d like to find small projects or jobs to do wherever we go. This can be maintaining my site VibrantDreamer.com, mentoring young people toward their FI, managing retired people’s portfolios, writing a book, teaching English or IT in schools, or doing freelance IT jobs. There are some options, but time will tell which one comes first
What has FIRE taught you?
Everything is possible with an educational plan and consistency, no matter how much you earn. Living within financial limits is not complicated and can be done.
Knowing what you know now, would you do anything differently if you had the chance?
I’d have started putting my money to work in the stock market earlier, especially dividend-paying stocks rather than HISA and GIC. I think I was always scared because I was the only provider and needed to be safe rather than sorry. Now I know enough to have a balanced portfolio that can withstand market craziness.
What would you say to a young couple just learning about FIRE?
Make yourself a list of goals or even one goal.
Why do you want to reach FIRE? First, imagine the life after FIRE and compare it with the life of working forcefully. Once that is done, you have enough motivation to get going.
Next is to make a solid plan. Don’t just throw in numbers randomly. Make it realistic, not a wishful thinking plan. Start working toward getting higher incomes because more income is a factor in saving more. Don’t change your lifestyle after getting an increase.
Yes, vacation more. We do that but have a budget that doesn’t go 30% higher than your income increase. This means if you had a $10,000 annual increase which will be $7,000 after-tax, your vacation expense could be increased by $2,100 only while the rest of the extra income goes to savings and investing.
In addition, save and cut costs as much as you can. Find deals, don’t buy unnecessary items just because they are on sale, don’t get into credit card (or any other kind) debts ever, don’t lease a car, and try living in a reasonable place to cut the rent, property tax, and other expenses.
Remember the 3 factors:
- Higher Income
- More Savings
Any final words?
Don’t ever say, “I can’t.” You can if you really want it. Never compare yourself with others, especially the ultrarich ones. You don’t need to have millions. You need to have enough to live a comfortable life during your short time on this planet. Don’t be greedy or try to find shortcuts. Always perform a risk management approach before investing.
And don’t say if or wish! Just go and do it because you are SMART, STRONG, and you CAN. Believe in yourself.
This article originally appeared on Financial Alien and has been republished with permission.
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Cristian Ferrier is the founder and author of Financial Alien, a site that promotes financial literacy in people. He is a husband, father, and IT professional. A 34-year old immigrant who went from having $80k in student loan debt, to building a Net Worth of $600k+ in less than 5 years, and is now on the path to retire at the age of 39. Learn more about him on his About Me page. He loves learning, talking, and teaching about personal finance, and wants to inspire others to create their own path and follow their dreams. Contact him on his Contact Me page.