Bloggers on FIRE – A Way to Less

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.

Bloggers on FIRE Profile Card A Way to Less exp

Please briefly introduce yourself to readers

Hello! We’re UK based bloggers, living in the north of England. We have pretty ‘normal’ jobs in that Miss Way is a music teacher and Mr Way is a Structural Engineer (not to be confused with other types of ‘engineer’ where the money is much better!!). While we’re doing quite well within our fields, we are keen to show that you can achieve FIRE without fancy six-figure salaries.

Miss Way is 33 and Mr Way is 29. If you follow our blog, you’ll know that we recently got engaged! As well as our usual FIRE and frugality related posting, we’re hoping to document our frugal wedding planning on the blog.

What is your backstory?

Mr Way: I’ve always been brought up with the mantra of ‘get good grades, get a good job and you’ll be happy’. It always struck me that there must be more to life than this!

I first discovered investing shortly after starting my career. Unfortunately, I was initially drawn into active investing and trying to stock pick! This didn’t go too well and I soon discovered Mr Money Mustache’s blog. This led me down a real path of discovery, reading his entire back catalogue as well as others such as LivingAFI, Monevator and The Escape Artist.

Having learnt from the best, I was now fully on board with the FIRE movement and ready to apply these concepts to our lives. At the same time, we started on a real process of self-improvement. We are trying to live our best lives in every aspect and hope to document this on our blog.

For more detail on my money journey see this article on our blog.

Miss Way: I went straight from university into self-employment as a peripatetic music teacher. Over the course of three and a half years I built up a good reputation for myself and along with that came savings. As I worked most hours of most days, my spending was low so therefore I was able to save. My finances were looking healthy in 2010 but I then used most of the money I had accumulated to pay for my PGCE course and living expenses during that year (as highlighted here).

Then the following three years were unfortunately plagued by bad spending decisions due to poor mental health. I never felt like I didn’t have enough money to live on, but I had to ask my parents for help a few times and I certainly wasn’t saving anything! By the time I met Mr. Way I had very little money saved and when we wanted to buy a house, I had to visit the “bank of Mum and Dad” again for a loan to help me afford the deposit. However, after several years of Mr Way’s extremely logical & sensible influence, I have been able to save and invest in index tracker funds. It is thanks to Mr Way’s initial interest in Mr Money Mustache and his enthusiasm for working towards FI that I am in the best financial shape I have ever been in.

How much is your “enough”?

The concept of “enough” is an interesting one. It differs for each of us!

Mr Way: Early retirement is the aim for me, so the dream is to accumulate 25x spending. You’ll see in our Monthly Spending posts that our expenses are quite low, so my FI number is in the region of £350,000. This should provide an income of £15,000+, covering all of my current expenses plus a bit extra for travel etc. We also hope to have our mortgage paid off around this time so that should free up some more spending.

Miss Way: For me the end goal is somewhat more flexible. I really enjoy my work and struggle without the structure that a job brings. For these reasons, I (currently) expect to always bring in earnings of some variety. This makes my need for a specific FI number much more flexible, but I am still saving over 50% of my earnings to put me in the best possible position! You never know what life might bring and it can only be a positive to be well prepared.

Where are you on the road to Financial Independence?

At present, we have been on this journey for around five years, so are still very much in the wealth-building phase. In terms of investments, Mr Way is around 20% of the way to his FI number, with a target of achieving FI by age 40 (11 years to go!!).

This could change, as we do plan to have child(ren)! We’re hopeful that we won’t have to spend a fortune on them as others seem to, but only time will tell!

What do you want to do with your life once you reach Financial Independence?

Our current aim is to achieve a life where work is optional. This gives us the ultimate freedom to craft our own lifestyle, fitting in more of the things that are important to us. We have a wide range of things we enjoy in life including: 

  • Time with friends and family 
  • Travel 
  • Food 
  • Sport 
  • Music 

Our future plans aim to include all of these, explored at our own pace. We are big fans of the slow travel idea, where we can really get immersed in the local culture rather than a traditional ‘resort holiday’. We enjoy learning languages and love learning about the local culinary treats! 

Miss Way will probably always maintain some degree of work as this helps to give structure to her time. This is key to maintaining positivity. This has the added benefit of reducing the income we will likely need to draw from our investment portfolio. There will always be a small amount of earned income to cover some basic expenses.

This freedom would allow Miss Way to hand-pick which projects she worked on. We could then fit our travelling between the best opportunities.

It is very easy to assume that you can set a retirement goal such as perpetual travel or retiring to a homestead. But we all know how quickly these goals can change, as your situation develops, and you find joy in new ways. The important thing is starting the journey, as this is the only way to ensure your future desires are met – whatever they may end up being! 

What is your strategy for reaching Financial Independence?

Our strategy consists entirely of saving into index funds via our Stocks & Shares ISA allowances, with a sprinkling of workplace pensions thrown in.

As we want to be able to access the money relatively early, the ISA is the best investment vehicle for us (UK specific). We drip feed into our accounts each month and love seeing that balance creep up!

We are 100% in global equities as we don’t see the need for bonds with our long time horizon. We have also considered investment property but thought the work involved would be too much for us at this time.

We go into much more detail on how to save for FIRE in the UK in this article.

What will be your financial strategy after reaching FI?

Mr Way: After FI I aim to live off an approximate 4% withdrawal rate from my investments. This will likely consist partly of dividends and partly of selling the underlying funds.

Ideally, we will aim to keep our expenses well below the 4% mark while the accounts continue to grow. Miss Way’s continued work will help in this initial phase, to give us a bit more wiggle room. I may even take on the odd contracting role myself if the right opportunity comes up!

Miss Way: I will still be earning, which will be a big help in this process as we can live off my income if markets hit a rough patch. This can make a huge difference when you look at portfolio success rates.

The great thing about striving for financial independence will be the ability to pick and choose which projects I want to work on. This will mean I really get the most out of my work (which I really enjoy) without being worried about bringing in enough money.

What was your biggest financial mistake?

Mr Way: My biggest financial mistake was in thinking I could stock-pick when I first learnt about investing! I used to read company accounts and try to analyse which companies would outperform the market. I quickly learnt that this was not a sensible strategy for me, as there are so many unknowns involved.

A great example of this was the Tesco accounting scandal which nobody saw coming! No matter how much research you do, you can’t foresee this type of thing. Since then, I’ve stuck strictly to passive investing and I’m much better off for it!

Miss Way: My biggest financial mistake was letting my emotions rule my spending. It is a common mistake and I think it’s easy to do. I used shopping (as many do) as a quick fix to make me feel better when feeling down. Due to this mistake, I undid my good savings record and am now feeling much further behind on my saving journey compared to Mr Way.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

  1. Focus on experiences rather than stuff!
  2. Searching for perfection will not make you happy.
  3. Make sure you know the difference between need and want and make sure you have got the balance right.
  4. Save for your future rather than spending on frivolous things in the present!

What’s your wildest dream?

Mr Way: The dream for me is to not have to worry about money – specifically earning money.

I would love to have a nice home base – probably in the UK – where we feel safe, secure and welcome. From here, we will be able to travel often and for long periods of time. In between trips, we can focus on our hobbies, friends, family etc..

We make no secret of our plan to have child(ren). This will obviously have a significant impact on our plans, but it is what you make it. Financial independence will allow us to spend much more time making sure our child(ren) has the best start in life.

Miss Way: My dream is to have the freedom and time to follow handpicked work projects alongside further developing the things I love. These are; singing, playing the trombone, exercising and traveling. I want to be able to explore the world with my family and be able to give my child(ren) the best start by setting them an example of how to live a healthy, happy and stress-free life!

What is your favourite just-for-fun activity that brings you joy?

Mr Way: My current favourite activity is tennis! I’m really enjoying the journey of self-improvement which is reminding me very much of when I first discovered Financial Independence. I wrote about a few of the comparisons here! I’m always trying to improve in all aspects of my life and tennis is my latest obsession in this regard. I’ve improved quite a lot and have made a really great set of friends at my local club!

Miss Way: Exercise in many guises (running, cycling, baseketball, climbing…) is a non-negotiable in my life and I do it to keep sane, relax and have fun! Many of my closer friendships have developed through shared exercise experiences. I also love singing with a passion. I am so lucky that my job involves something I love and that I get to share this passion with others every day.