Bloggers on FIRE – Gentleman’s Family Finances

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.

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Please briefly introduce yourself to readers

Hello, this is the Gentleman from Gentleman’s Family Finances here. I live in Scotland with my wife and two kids and I’m in my mid 30’s. Originally from Ireland, I’ve been in Scotland since about 2005 where I started working in the oil business after graduating. I worked about 10 years at one company and about 4 years at the current company. My wife has been with her company for coming up 8 years now and we live near there which means I get a bit of a commute to get to work. I have a blog that covers some of these different things – life, money, FIRE.

What’s your backstory?

I think that the idea of a money blueprint is an undertold aspect of everyone’s pysche. I suppose that I have a sort of poverty mindset – always looking at being as cheap as possible. In fact, when I do have to spend money it causes me some discomfort!

Growing up with a big family, we certainly had enough for essentials but when it came to things you don’t need like the latest toys/trainers/football top/walkman I didn’t get them and that’s built up a level of resistance to consumerism and a great deal of bitterness towards those who are richer than me – I’m trying to work on it but it’s deeply ingrained.

I’ve been a believer in what is now called FI since my Uni days. I realised that work is not as enjoyable as real life and when I started work I could see that my energy was sapped doing a 9-5 and I had no mental or physical energy for much else. I realised that the best way out of the rat race was to work hard, save money, invest wisely.

Finally, when in University I spent most of my student loan in a few weeks and decided that a weekly (now monthly) record of my Income, Outgoings, Differences & Assets (IODA) was needed to work out where the hell all my money was going (crap, beer and takeaways was the answer). That’s been a really good habit of mine.

After over a decade in work and living quite frugally, I’ve managed to save and invest money. Not quite enough to retire yet, but it has given us a lot of advantages over people who are our age but haven’t saved.

Why do you want to reach Financial Independence?

I think that what strikes me most was the miserable people I met when I started working for a major oil company. They didn’t seem to enjoy life but had to put in the hours and days and weeks to pay for the rest of their life – the kids they never saw, the ex-wife they wish they’d never laid eyes on, the cars/golf clubs/holidays to make it worthwhile. These were guys in their 40-60s who travelled up and down to Aberdeen for the money but the money didn’t make them happy.

I already had my snout in the trough and realised that I’d need to keep at it and I’d reach FI by 40 or so. I started reading blogs like Retirement Investing Today and was able to follow their example.

Having kids really changed things for me – it’s heartbreaking to hear your kids say “Daddy, I don’t want you to go away to work, stay here with me”. That’s why FI is so important to me.

How much is your “enough”?

Good question; before joining the world of work as a single man it would have been maybe £12,000 a year but 15 years later add on inflation and now a family it’s maybe £2,500 a month.  Our spending topped out at about £5,000 a month including childcare and that didn’t seem like “enough” – there’s always more ways to spend more money. But we’ve cut spending and childcare is down and we are still having “enough”. I think that if we FIRE then £1,800 – 2,000 a month is possible without too much sacrifice.

That £1,800 – 2,000 a month corresponds to about £400,000 at a SWR of 6% for a 20-25 year time horizon (before pensions kick in) which is sort of what we have at the moment. You might think that 6% is impossible but the truth is that it’s a bit hard to avoid earning some money doing something for the rest of your life.

Our pensions are in a much better shape – if we could access them now we could have FIREd already!

Where are you on the road to Financial Independence?

Potentially I’m looking at FIREing this summer. It depends a bit on work as I have a (possibly misplaced) sense of loyalty and every extra month is an extra pay check and one less month until retirement.

My original plan was at 40 and then at a certain number but my job involves a lot of travel and this isn’t good for a happy family life – so I’m bringing it forward to avoid paying for childcare/nanny and to spend time with the two kids

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

I will probably spend it being a haphazard stay at home dad. My kids make me very happy and it feels better being with them than at work. My wife and I have a plan for a children focused blog on activities for under 5s – we think that there is a gap in the market and we try to keep as active a life as possible for the kids.

I also intend to lose the weight I put on sitting at a desk 9-5 and take a bit of a rest for the first time in a number of years.

What is your strategy for reaching Financial Independence?

Once in work I worked out that I would easily have a lot of spare cash (savings ratio) if I did a few things. I didn’t own a car for a few years, bought an average flat in a good area and rented out the spare room, saved and invested the difference each month.

I now have our Family Finances split between pensions (final salary + almost 100% stocks SIPP), our house (with mortgage), VCTs, P2P, Stocks and Shares in/out of ISAs in low cost ETFs and some renewable energy projects.

Future allocation is to move out of P2P/VCTs and into dividend paying ETFs.

Other income might come from AirBnB which we’ve made a success of already.

What will be your financial strategy after reaching FI?

It’s all about cashflow – we have VCTs maturing and that money can be reinvested into ETFs. I’m still on the fence about the LISA – we certainly won’t need all of our money in the next few years but I don’t want to be in my 50s and paying a penalty for getting money out when we’ll have our pensions from age 60.

The other focus is on controlling family spending.

My good lady wife says that she intends to keep working (currently on maternity leave) this year – we can probably live on her salary alone.

And I unfortunately have no rich aunts who like me so I don’t expect to inherit much money.

What was your biggest financial mistake?

I have a few – investing in P2P to begin with – I’ve done alright but it has been a waste of time if anything, individual shares (Woolworth’s anyone?), focusing less on work and more on the internet (but strangely never got pulled up for it) and finally not learning (or being taught) the rules of work – how what matters most is what people think you do rather than what you actually do – but not too many sour grapes.

My mistakes are not as bad as my successes are great though.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Just keep it simple with finances. Invest in a clutch of low cost trackers and don’t expand/chop and change – just set and forget.

What’s your wildest dream?

I love travelling and would love to travel the world with the kids – but not your typical round the world trip, I’d like us to travel to somewhere exotic – backpacking style like along the Karakoram Highway or trace the footsteps of Marco Polo but I’d be happy with just a biking & beer holiday in Belgium with the family.

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

Playing with the kids. I’m a bit of a jester at heart and hearing them laugh is just precious. It used to be drinking but I’m getting a bit old for all that. I also really enjoy middle eastern food and lamb dishes in particular; food makes everyone happy and you can’t beat a good meal.