Bloggers on FIRE – Dr. FIRE
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
Hello, everyone! I am Dr FIRE. I live in the UK with my girlfriend-recently-turned-fiancée and work as a Research Associate in a British university. I blog at the imaginatively named drfire.co.uk, where I track my progress towards financial independence, along with anything else that strikes my fancy.
What is your backstory?
I wrote a post concerning this on my blog, here – (https://drfire.co.uk/my-financial-story-so-far-part-1/) and here (https://drfire.co.uk/my-financial-story-so-far-part-2/) but I’ll summarise for any newcomers.
I graduated from a UK university with a science degree around ~10 years ago, then continued on to complete a PhD. After that, I worked abroad in China for a couple of years before I returned to the UK where I’ve been working since.
I’ve always been a saver and always liked to read obsessively about anything that interests me. One of those things, perhaps unsurprisingly for a finance blogger, is money! At first, I was reading blogs and articles about saving money, being frugal, finding the best bank accounts with the highest interest rates, etc. At some point I stumbled across the terms “financial independence” and “FIRE” and was intrigued. I fell into the rabbit hole of FIRE blogs, starting with Financially Free by 40, The FIRE Starter and Quietly Saving and finding more and more each week. Ever since then I’ve been learning about the world of investing and aiming to reach financial independence myself.
Why do you want to reach Financial Independence?
Freedom. Options. Safety.
I am not saving and striving to reach financial independence so I can retire early and never work again. Once I hit that magic number, I still intend to do something that continues to earn money and keep me busy for some of the day.
The key difference will be that I will have options. I will no longer be entirely reliant on the day job for my income; I will have the option to take a six month sabbatical; the option to spend some time on some idea or venture that may not pan out; the freedom to jump head first into an opportunity that presents itself without money being a worry.
The first two reasons that I listed are essentially the same; the final one, “safety,” is a little different. As well as the freedom that I mentioned above, I also want the safety that money brings. I’ve read many articles that talk about the fact that ageism is a factor in the workplace. There may come a time in the future that I have to retire before I am ready; whether that’s because I am no longer physically able to work, or no one wants to hire a 50-year old me because they think that it’ll be easier to train a fresh graduate, who knows what tomorrow will bring. Furthermore, even if I am able to consistently work until I choose to stop, there’s every chance that my income may not be as high in the future.
In short, I’m following the proverb, “make hay while the sun still shines.” I’m saving and investing now, because I don’t know what the future holds.
How much is your “enough”?
My current plan is to accumulate £500,000 in investments and to buy a house and subsequently pay-off the mortgage. Assuming a 3% safe withdrawal rate, this would give me £15,000 per year, which would be enough to cover all of my and my fiancée’s current expenses.
I guess that would qualify as lean-fire, as it wouldn’t necessarily be a luxurious lifestyle, and doesn’t leave a lot of wriggle room! But, as I described above, this would act as a sizable safety net. I would still intend to work for several more years once I hit this number, but I would be much more carefree when it came to work.
Thinking about it further, this number only really takes into consideration my own savings. Once my fiancée is working full-time she will also be able to start saving and building up her own “FIRE fund.”
Where are you on the road to Financial Independence?
I’m fairly early on in my journey to financial independence. In pure numbers, I’m about 10% of the way there. I’m taking the journey pretty slowly right now, as I’m supporting both myself and my fiancée whilst she finishes her PhD. However, once she finishes and starts full-time work in about two years, we should both be able to save much more money and accelerate our savings rate. Realistically, I may not hit my number until I turn 50, as I simply don’t earn a huge wage.
However, I’m not in a rush and am more interested in enjoying the journey, rather than racing towards the finish line. It’s entirely possible however that my attitude may change with time; maybe I’ll get more impatient as I get older!
What do you want to do with your life once you reach Financial Independence?
I want the option to do more of what I do whenever I’m not at work!
I think my ideal life would be to work part time, doing something that pulls in a little bit of money. This would then allow more time to relax, play games, spend time with family and friends, as well as trying new things like learning new skills, travelling to new places, etc.
What is your strategy for reaching Financial Independence?
My strategy now is pretty common and not that exciting! I work full-time, I try to save as much as I can each month and I invest it into a global index tracker. I’ve also dabbled with p2p loans, but overall they are probably too risky for me to invest any serious money into them. In the future, once my fiancée has finished her PhD and we have more spare cash, I may consider something else to attempt to quicken our journey. Everyone in the UK seems to have aspirations to be a landlord; it’s something I have considered, but don’t necessarily like the idea of having so much money tied up in one asset, especially in our current political climate. I also have aspirations of owning a business, but first I need a good idea!
What is your financial strategy after reaching FI?
As I described above, I expect my strategy once I reach FI to be broadly similar to what it is now; to continue to earn a wage one way or another, and to use my investments to bridge any periods of no income.
I’m sure at some point I will stop working completely, and at that point my strategy will be a to drawdown my investments, assuming a 3% safe withdrawal rate.
What was your biggest financial mistake?
In hindsight, my biggest mistake was probably not investing earlier. For most of this current bull-run, I was a poor student. I had spare money to invest from 2016 onwards, but simply kept it as cash until the start of 2018. At that point I started to realise that I was losing money to inflation, and had to do something with it! So I opened a Stocks and Shares ISA (for any non-UK readers, this is something available to UK-based investors and means that they don’t have to pay tax on any gains) and slowly moved some of my savings across. Now I invest each month, following the common advice of “paying myself first.”
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I’d tell myself to develop a love of sport and exercise. I’m fairly tall and thin right now, which hides the following fact very well; I am extremely unfit. I can run for barely a minute before I start gasping for air. I know I need to do more exercise and to start going to the gym. Unfortunately, old habits die hard!
What’s your favourite just-for-fun activity that brings you joy?
My favourite activity is probably playing board games, whether it’s with friends, family or simply with my fiancée. I’m usually pretty quiet and laid-back, but when the games start I can get pretty competitive! If I wasn’t already blogging about money, I’d be pretty tempted to start up a board games/videogames blog.