Bloggers on FIRE – Mrs. Money Hacker
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! I’m Meagan, 34, originally from Canada but currently living in Ireland. I’m happily married with a 15-month-old son. I’m still on maternity leave but my occupation when I am working is as a Business/Systems Analyst.
What is your backstory?
Growing up in rural Quebec, Canada, in a six-person single income family I learned a lot about finances through observation rather than direct education. My mother was the penny-pinching money manager who made our house a home while dad sacrificed time with family to provide for us. With both parents putting in long, hard days, the formula of working hard and minimising spending sank in, and I’ve applied that principle throughout my working life (with some blips along the way).
As a result I’ve always been decent enough with money. I started tracking my expenses in detail when I was in my early 20’s. And even though my income was increasing over the years, I tried to keep my living expenses low so that we were living well below our means. I didn’t know about FIRE at the time and so my extra cash went towards traditional investments like property and retirement savings accounts. I moved into my first home at 26 including a 20% down payment. We only ever had one old car between us and tried to live in places where at least one of us could get to work with public transit or on foot. We cooked at home often and as is Canadian custom, we entertained in our home rather than going out which cut down on entertainment costs (for the most part). I was always interested in investing but never felt I was cut out for it or had the risk tolerance to try it out for myself. I got sucked into some investments with extremely high management fees which I didn’t understand at the time. But it’s all a part of the learning process and I can at least be thankful I know better now!
I’ve always been saving towards something: From paying off backpacking debt to saving for a house, to moving back to Ireland, to a wedding, to another house in Ireland, and more recently to maternity leave. Somewhere between saving for our wedding and saving for our second house I discovered FIRE, which has provided me with the mother of all savings goals!
Why do you want to reach Financial Independence?
In short, it’s to live a simpler, slower life with intention.
I really like the idea of being able to choose how to spend my day every day. To be free to do the work that makes me feel productive and like I’m making a difference. But also, more importantly, to spend more time with the ones I love.
Last year an alcohol company did a documentary style ad that interviews sets of loved ones and calculates how much time they have left with one another, I won’t give the ending away as you can see the ad here. But I will say it’s really powerful.
For us, since most of our friends and family members have kids now, we very rarely get to see anyone. Even our best friends in Ireland who live 30 and 40 minutes away, we’ve maybe seen 3 times this year, and not for very long as we’ve had to work around nap- and bedtimes etc. My family and a lot of our friends are in Canada, and so we only get to see them once a year, if that. Being financially independent would allow us to go for overnight visits midweek when our friends are working, and to take extended visits to Canada, or meet up with people in other locations on their holidays etc.
Since having a kid ourselves, the value of time has increased yet again. Looking around us everyone is so busy, they have no time to stop and enjoy what they are working for. From school runs to rushing home to make dinner and out the door again to after school activities to play dates on weekends. Not to mention juggling schedules in the summer and on mid-term breaks. It all sounds so exhausting, and I would like to be in a position, once our son is school aged, to just be home and possibly even homeschool in order to avoid all that madness.
I recently discovered a living with intention series and one exercise asks you to think about your perfect day. I feel that being FI would enable me to live far more perfect days than I’m living now. Though it also highlights the fact that you should be striving to do those things now as much as possible. So I’m trying to fit those things in along the way.
How much is your “enough”?
This keeps changing for me. I keep looking at various options and haven’t quite settled on the end goal. Last year we spent 41,000€ though we could easily get that down to 35,000€. This is the recurring income we’d like to have coming in, in order for both of us to be retired. That said, I have looked at options like:
- We build our portfolio to a point where only one of us can retire (like I stay home and home school our son), or
- we both cut back to part-time as this would simplify our daily lives much sooner than saving for full FI, or
- to build up a portfolio where we could get 35,000€ from a 6% withdrawal rate and we’d only need to top up the portfolio by another 10,000€ each year in order to not run out of money over 30 years – which would be done easy enough if one or both of us take on some short term contracts throughout the year, or
- we move to the countryside where we can buy a house for the same price as a down payment in the city, which would enable us to live mortgage free and reduce our living expenses now by 10,000€/year. If we start to draw down on our current portfolio we’d have another 10,000€/year passive income which leaves only 15,000€ to make up the rest of our living expenses. Which is less than minimum wage. So one of us could stay home while the other works any job available in the small village OR commute to the nearest city and work a professional job where we could avoid drawing down on our portfolio and continue saving towards full FI, or
- we live for six months in Ireland and six months somewhere cheaper while renting out our house in order to bring our expenses down to 25,000€, again meaning one of us could stay home, draw down on our existing portfolio for another 10,000€, and the other work any job that would bring in the additional 15,000€/year. And we could invest anything extra to continue working to full FI, or
- we rent out our spare room for a few years to again reduce our living expenses now, so that we can live off one income and still save towards full FI for both of us.
And so on. I am constantly looking for ways to live simpler as soon as possible. So if any of these ideas interest you, feel free to check out my blog and follow along as I dream up alternative ways to reach full or partial FI at www.mrsmoneyhacker.com.
Where are you on the road to Financial Independence?
I’m personally about 20% of my way to full FI if I don’t free up the equity in my current home. If we do sell this house then I am nearly 40% of my way to FI. But both myself and my husband would like to remain in Ireland for at least part of the year once we are FI. So we will likely work a few more years in order to keep this home.
My husband isn’t quite this far on his journey. But I will likely continue working even once I’ve reached my personal goal in order to top up his investments so that we can both retire together. Once my husband and I are both back to work next July, assuming we continue in the same jobs and no recession affects our earning and savings rates, then we could potentially be FI in five years time, at which point I will be 39. If we have another kid then that would delay things by another year or so. Again, it’s all in flux, we don’t have a hard deadline we are trying to reach. We are flexible in our approach to ensure we are doing the things that make our life as simple as possible along the way, not just as the end goal.
What do you want to do with your life once you reach Financial Independence?
We’d like to spend part of the year in Ireland, possibly taking on contract work to bring in more income for luxury items. But mostly we want to spend time visiting friends and family much more than we do now. The rest of the year (probably winter) we would like to live somewhere warmer and cheaper in order to make our Euro go farther. (And possibly somewhere with more tax advantages like Portugal’s tax free foreign income for 10 years). This may provide another opportunity for friends and family to visit us as well!
I’d like to continue blogging and am contemplating getting my qualifications as a financial advisor as I really like to help people with their finances. This may be another way to achieve partial FI sooner if I could work remotely for part of the year to top up our income. I’m also really passionate about the environment so another option would be for me to get involved in local politics or to volunteer my analysis skills for governments or other agencies looking for the most efficient way to roll out green initiatives.
What is your strategy for reaching Financial Independence?
Our current portfolio is made up of real estate and retirement savings (in ETFs) in Canada and individual stocks in my husband’s company and ETFs in Ireland. I may be expanding this to a self-directed pension once I’m back to work. And we’re hoping to sell our property in Canada in the next year, the proceeds of which we will divert to a tax-free savings account (in Canada) and self-directed funds in ETFs.
What will be your financial strategy after reaching FI?
We hope to restructure to a more simplified portfolio where we get dividend income using the 4% rule. If I do go the pension route, then I won’t be able to access that until I’m 50. So in that case I may have a higher withdrawal rate to use up all of my funds outside of the pension in order to bridge the gap between reaching FI and being able to access the pension.
What was your biggest financial mistake?
Not starting sooner and investing in a fund with 2.75% MER for 6 years ☹
What advice would you give to your younger self?
This might contradict my previous answer somewhat, but I don’t know if there is much I would do differently. I think it all lead to where I am now, and maybe if I’d found out about FIRE sooner, I wouldn’t have been ready or as interested in it. I’m glad I experienced the lifestyle I did when I wasn’t saving as much as we are now. It’s all about enjoying the journey!
What’s your wildest dream?
Reaching FI and traveling the world with my family, practicing world-schooling with my son, and being free to spend all the time I like with friends and family. Oh, and bigger picture, would be that the world doesn’t become unlivable in the next number of years, due to governments and corporations not doing enough to combat the climate crisis.
What is your favourite just-for-fun activity that brings you joy?
I actually get a lot out of blogging and helping other people. But other than that I’m big into video games and exploring new places, getting out in nature, especially forests and anywhere near/on water. I recently bought some kayaks and am really looking forward to getting some use out of them!