Europeans on FIRE – Andrea and Joseph

In our Europeans on FIRE series, we interview people living in Europe who don’t blog to find out what makes them tick. Our aim is to give non-bloggers a voice and hear what they have to say. We hope you enjoy hearing from people you’ve never heard of before!

If you’d like to take part in Europeans on FIRE, contact us at hello[at]firehub[dot]eu and we’ll send you the details.

You can find a full list of our Europeans on FIRE interviews here.

Europeans on FIRE Profile Card Andrea and Joseph exp

Please briefly introduce yourself to readers

We’re Andrea and Joseph, a married couple in our late 30s who have been living our FIRE lifestyle since mid-2017. We live on the coast in Croatia, having moved there from Canada when we left our jobs. Andrea moved to Canada from Croatia as a child and having spent many holidays in Croatia over the years this was a natural move for us.

We both had professional careers, Andrea in finance and Joseph in nursing, for just over a decade which financially enabled us to live our current lifestyle.

Joseph playing guitar
Andrea wasting time on our local beach 🙂

What is your backstory?

We come from very different backgrounds, but ultimately very similar values. We both came out of university with some student debt, which didn’t seem so bad since all our friends were in the same situation. And while we never had serious consumer debt issues we also didn’t save in our 20s. 

It was only on the brink of our 30s we started realizing that the version of adulthood we were living didn’t really appeal to us. We enjoy travelling and the idea of FI was first on our minds as we discussed quitting our jobs and travelling full time for one year. FIRE was a natural extension for us. The plan just kept evolving until we figured out a solution we thought would work long term. We never did take that one-year trip, instead we extended our working careers for a couple more years in order to achieve the long term freedom we wanted.

Why do you want to reach Financial Independence?

We wanted to reach financial independence because we didn’t want to be on someone else’s time anymore. Neither of us hated our jobs, but we didn’t like having to report to the same office for a set amount of time day after day. We also wanted more time for hobbies and other projects we were more interested in pursuing.

We’d argue that our family values and the desire to really LIVE (as cheesy as that sounds) also drove the decision to FIRE. Two events in particular really finally pushed us to pursue FIRE seriously:

  1. I (Andrea) took clients to the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders’ meeting and one of the evenings I was at dinner with four other women at the table. All were slightly older than me, in their 40s, all were very successful in their careers, where I’d hoped to be in my career at their age, and all four were already divorced, not where I wanted to be at their age. That was a big eye opener for me. It was the first time I realized that my personal life (family, friends, etc) was more important and that it would suffer if I was to continue on my “targeted” career path. That was a sacrifice I wasn’t willing to make.
  2. Someone I (Andrea) respected both professionally and personally had retired and we still occasionally met for lunch to catch up. We were speaking about his upcoming travels and he made a comment which stopped me in my tracks: “he’d hoped for another 4-5 years of good health to continue travelling”, he continued with encouragement that if I, too, work hard during my career I would be able to do the same. Instead of the positive, all I heard was that I’d spend the next 40 years of my life working to hopefully have a few good ones in the end to enjoy. No, thanks.

How much is/was your “enough”?

Our “enough” also changed over the years. Initially we had a number in mind that we were trying to reach. However, in the end we decided to quit our jobs earlier and we didn’t reach that magic number. I guess we could be described as having reached Lean FIRE, or possibly even more appropriately as having a large FU fund.

At the first FIWE we attended there was a presentation about two parts to successful FIRE: finances and confidence. Enough funds for you to enjoy your lifestyle and the confidence that you will be ok if things don’t go according to plan. To this day this is our favourite presentation – it made us realize that our confidence in ourselves, that we’ll be ok, that we can adapt if things change made our lifestyle stress-free (financially speaking). We always thought we’d work again in some capacity so this idea of having a big pot of money to rely on was less and less important to us. We’re going on three years of “retirement” and so far so good!

Where are you on the road to Financial Independence?

We reached our version of FI in mid-2017. We were both 35 years old.

What do you do all day now that you’re FI?

This is really tough to answer, as each day is different. Initially the plan was to just relax, for at least a year.. but things didn’t go as planned, they rarely do. We both got involved with projects sooner than expected. It’s fair to say we spend about 10-15 hrs a week on “work related” things. The rest of the time is pure leisure/volunteering time. Some of what keeps us busy: volunteering at a local animal shelter, music, hiking, swimming, volunteering at a local orphanage, many many coffee/drink dates with friends, and of course travelling. We’re just about to head out on a month long, “no-real-plans“ road trip across the Balkans.

And, after 15 long years of waiting, we finally got a dog! She takes up a lot of our time. She’s a rescue from the dog shelter and joins us on all our adventures! ☺

Our dog – Bela

What was your strategy for reaching FI?

Plain old hardcore saving! I’d say that was the biggest part of our strategy. Yes, this was (mostly) invested in stocks and some ETFs, but considering the short timeframe (roughly 4 yrs) in which we reached our version of FIRE, it’s the savings rate that contributed the most. For the last year we were at 72% saving rate of our take home pay.

We also purchased our home in Croatia during that time, which is another reason why our Lean FIRE works so well, as we don’t pay rent or have a mortgage.

What will be your financial strategy after reaching FI?

Since FIRE, our portfolio is divided between stocks and cash. We keep cash on hand for living expenses (2 years worth) and the rest is invested with an active asset manager in Canada. Our strategy also includes part time income, which has worked out quite nicely so far.

What was your biggest financial mistake?

This is another tough question… There are many things we did that would be considered stupid or a mistake, but we’d argue that those decisions also helped us get to where we are today. For example, spending every penny we made in our 20s, on shoes, going out, our wedding, etc. But, having done that we experienced it and now we don’t long to own fancy things, quite the opposite actually: having lived the “consumer” lifestyle made us realize that we don’t need or want all that stuff.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

First of all, trust your gut and have the confidence to live life on your terms. Forget about following the script society has set out or conforming to society norms. Do the things that seem scary, because once you take the leap you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

What is your wildest dream?

To see EVERY corner of the word!

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

Andrea: Relaxing on the beach and spending time with my dog.

Joseph: Playing guitar.