Bloggers on FIRE – 100 Steps Mission
In our Bloggers on FIRE series, we interview European FI bloggers to find out what makes them tick. Our aim is to build up a “who’s who” directory for the European FI blogging world. We hope you enjoy the series and discover some new blogs to follow. You can find a full list of our Bloggers on FIRE interviews here.
Please briefly introduce yourself to FIREhub.eu readers
I’m Inge, originally from the Netherlands, but living in Spain since 2007 with my British husband and our 2 cats and 2 dogs – all local rescues. We’ve been running our own company (a language school) since 2011 and I’ve been blogging over at 100stepsmission.com for about 3 years now.
What is your backstory?
I’ve always had a keen interest in numbers and maths, but I never really learned – nor sought out – how to use this interest to my advantage and become financially savvy.
I started to slowly develop an interest in Financial Independence a few years after we founded our company when the excitement of having our own business was gradually subsiding to a more healthy level of feeling responsible for what we had created. I realised that although I was often doing 60+ hours a week, my wage didn’t come anywhere near to what my friends were making back home in a more regular job, even just a few years out of university.
Although I enjoyed shaping my company, and I still love getting my teeth into a professional project, I also started to wonder whether I wanted something more in my life, i.e. time outside of work. I got to that age when little by little most of my friends started to have children and even though I knew that probably wasn’t going to be something I wanted to pursue, I admired the way they started to create a new lifestyle where they had time for something else in their life and for which they adjusted their work hours accordingly.
It slowly dawned on me that I might also be able to cut out some work hours, even if the reason wasn’t going to be to look after my children but just “for me”. The more I thought about this and started reading about money management, and once I discovered the concept of FI, the more interested I became in becoming financially free myself and have the option to work when and how I want.
I am a very practical person however and I need to have specific action plans in front of me in order to reach my goals. So “save as much as you can” doesn’t work for me. I need to sit down at set times, determine how much I should save every month, work out where to get that from, have a clear system as to where to keep that money, when to transfer it and how to monitor it.
So I started documenting everything I learned about personal finance and the road to FI on my blog. With time that project turned into a book, which was published in November 2018: 100 Steps to Financial Independence and I am very excited to know that this is now helping others give financial independence and money management a more prominent role in their lives.
Why do you want to reach Financial Independence?
Our parents grew up with the idea that you work hard your entire life, retire at 65 and then start enjoying life: trailing through Europe with a camper van, doing all those hobbies you never had time for, meeting up with long-lost friends, weekends away, big family parties in your back garden…
Unfortunately, I have seen from far too close how often this dream that you work towards for over 40 years can be shattered instantly: being made redundant in your 60s by the company you’ve given your heart and soul to, cancer, early dementia and many other life events can stop you from actually being able to finally live that life you’ve worked so hard for to earn.
I don’t want to wait until I am 70 and maybe (finally) get to retire, when I, my partner or our friends and family might no longer be able to do the things we want to do together due to illness, death or whatever else might come our way.
So that is why I want to pursue FI so that I can (semi-) retire at a time when I want.
How much is your “enough”?
I’d be looking to maintain our current lifestyle so definitely not a fat FIRE, but neither of us would be happy if we had to squeeze all of our expenses and get rid of all bar the absolute essentials. We’re used to having a car, our dogs are fed on biological, grain-free, imported food and we enjoy a nice bottle of wine or specialist beers.
At the same time, we’ve been on holiday just twice in the last 9 years (not for financial reasons but more because of the strains of running our own business), neither of us buy a lot of clothes and we don’t need to have the latest gadgets. So there are definitely areas we don’t spend much on.
All in all, by the time we reach FI, I would like to keep being able to do what we do now, but since neither of us currently think that we’d want to stop working all together, I think things will work their way out to find the right balance of how much we can and want to spend and how we need to supplement our passive income streams with in order to do so.
Where are you on the road to Financial Independence?
I’ve only really just started… It’s been about 3 years since I became really interested in FI, and despite having written my book about the 100 steps to reach FI, there are still quite a few steps I need to implement myself!
It’s a gradual process, and the biggest challenge for me is finding the balance between being able to live and enjoy now, as well as setting aside enough money to reach FI at a young enough age to retire early. Anything can happen between today and tomorrow and I’d regret putting my life on hold now in order to retire as early as possible if anything happened that would mean I can no longer pursue that plan.
If I had to put a date to it, I hope to achieve FI when I am 50, my husband will be 54 by then. That to me doesn’t sound very young, but it’s still a good 15 – 20 years before what will by then be the official retirement age I expect!
What do you want to do with your life once you reach Financial Independence?
My dream is to own a small house that has a big garden to have an animal refugee with adopted animals that can’t find a home. It would probably be mainly dogs and some cats, although my husband is set on having a rescue duck as well as a rescue sheep, so we might end up with a bit of a random collection of animals. I guess the garden would need to have some type of a pond for the duck too then…
I’d want to make an impact so I’d probably run educational programmes in cooperation with schools or clubs on how to look after animals and more importantly instill in them an appreciation and valuing of animal life, in order to combat animal cruelty and abandonment.
The house itself would have a zero carbon footprint and I’d be growing most of my own fruit and vegs and maybe have some chickens for fresh eggs. And there’d be lots of space for evening get togethers with friends and family!
I also like to travel, so that’s the one part that I haven’t fully worked out yet, as I wouldn’t be able to just leave the animals whenever I want to travel, so this is still to be thought about!
Professionally I’d hope to still be writing books as it’s something I thoroughly enjoyed, but it is also a great way to stay in contact with the FI community, keep up with new developments and of course create a passive income stream. 🙂
What is your strategy for reaching Financial Independence?
Our strategy is a bit of a mix of approaches, mainly because we’ve only just started and are still at a stage where we are deciding what works for us and what doesn’t. Our main strategies include:
- Investing in index funds as our main priority.
- I am also keen on developing a passive income stream from my book and would like to write another 2 books in the next five years, and hopefully more after that.
- We are considering buying an investment property to rent out at some point in the next five years.
- I’m finally also taking steps towards investing in a private pension.
- Lastly we also want to pay off our mortgage (our main monthly expense) as soon as possible and are looking into what the best (cheapest) way of doing so is.
- In addition to our mortgage I only have a small student debt, but as it’s on a 0% interest rate, I am not too concerned about this. I only pay the monthly minimum as I am getting a better return on my investments.
What will be your financial strategy after reaching FI?
Our main source of income will hopefully come from books and maybe related sources of income (online courses or consulting). Hopefully our company will continue to be successful by then without us needing to put in most of the work, so we should have some profit distributions coming our way too. All going well a rental property should give some additional income and then we have our investments to draw from before our retirement funds become available. I think the exact amounts and strategy will come once we get closer to FI.
I can’t imagine either of us ever completely giving up work, so I am sure we wouldn’t need to cover all of our expenses with passive income and probably feel happier if we still have an active stream of income in some shape of form.
What was your biggest financial mistake?
Buying a house just before the housing market collapsed and taking out a 30 year mortgage on it. In hindsight we could have saved a lot of money by waiting a little longer and getting a mortgage on a shorter lifespan. That said, if we had done that, we might have missed out on our amazing house or even on getting a mortgage all together, as that became a lot more difficult just a few years later…
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Read my book! Haha 🙂 But seriously, there’s so much we don’t learn or hear about when we’re young, be that at school or elsewhere. It would be great to have had a better financial knowledge and be able to start building wealth from an early age. So that would be my advice to my younger self: start building a passive income through investing or savings or a pension as soon as you can and increase your contribution with each salary increase.
At the same time, I’ve personally never felt that having regrets helps me in any way. I believe I’ve gotten to this point in my life thanks to all the previous decisions I’ve made and the experience that I have gained. Some of those decisions were good, some were bad but most had a mix of positive and negative consequences. What is most important is that I am happy with what I have.
It would have been amazing if I could have retired by 40 – but I can’t, I’m still way too far off. But that’s okay. I love my job, which is pretty amazing as we spend an awful lot of time working. I know I am also the type of person who can get very focused on one thing and forget about other things that are important. I believe that if I’d discovered the FI community in my 20s, I would have worked towards becoming FI so hard, that I wouldn’t have thought about what made me happy. I likely would have pursued a job that paid a lot more but which I wouldn’t have liked nearly as much as running my company.
My husband keeps me sane and reminds me to live in the moment and not just pursue numbers, but look for happiness every day. So if I’d made different decisions in the past, or had started earlier, I don’t think I’d be where I am now. And for all I know, I might not have been as happy, which to me is much more important than reaching FI by a certain age.
What’s your wildest dream?
We went to New Zealand for our honeymoon and we absolutely loved the country! Our wildest dream would be to own a house in the middle of nowhere – one where the only way of getting there is by boat. We’d have breakfast on the veranda overlooking the sea or a lake everyday whilst our dogs run around in the plot of land we have…
What is your favourite just-for-fun activity that brings you joy?
Playing board games with friends, listening to my favourite music (or even better: attending a music festival!) and taking our dogs on hikes.