Europeans on FIRE – Cate

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.

A Spanish version of Silvia’s interview is available here.

Europeans on FIRE Profile Card Cate exp

Please briefly introduce yourself to readers

Hello readers!

I’m an early-30s UK native who has spent the last decade hopping around various countries. I’m currently in Latin America and love it, although my Spanish still leaves much to be desired.

Until recently, I worked as a manager at a small technology company, but some fortuitous events led to me starting my own business as a consultant. So, now I work from home solving a variety of business strategy problems for interesting companies and get paid by the hour, which is by far the best job I’ve ever had. 

What is your backstory?

I’m from a pretty standard middle-class family – my father is an incorrigible workaholic and my mum worked part-time until she retired a few years back. I wouldn’t say I was taught much about money or money management growing up, but my dad did manage to instil a sense of paranoia about money in me, which helped in its own way!

I’ve worked almost constantly since I was 16. I was definitely a bit spendy during my teenage and university years, but that tapered off gradually. My first few years out in the working world, I was optimistic and eager to learn, however I found myself disillusioned quickly for various reasons. For example, during one job as a teaching assistant, I had to be present in the office 40 hours per week but was only allowed to teach eight hours per week. The rest of the time, I had to sit at my desk and look like I was working. At first, all the free time was great, but it turns out 30 hours of looking busy gets soul-sucking fast.

In my mid-20s, I became aware that a) I had a pretty piecey professional skill set and b) since I planned to keep living abroad in different places, I most likely needed a role that wasn’t dependent on my language skills, so I decided to teach myself programming. I never was that great at it, but I got good enough to break into the technology industry, which was really eye-opening. I think I’d never earned more than 30k EUR before that point and suddenly I was surrounded by people making six-figure salaries. Switching industries opened a lot of doors for me.

Still, this didn’t solve my general malaise regarding the working world and so, at a certain point, I found myself thinking that I couldn’t possibly go on this way until I was 65. Some fervent googling later and I had discovered FIRE!

Why do you want to reach Financial Independence?

This is an interesting question. I have many friends who have very little money, but also spend very little and find creative ways to finance their (very happy) lives. So when I think about my desire to reach financial independence, I think that deep-down it’s motivated by fear – and probably unfounded fear at that – since really there’s nothing stopping me from doing the same thing.

At the same time, I suppose I find money sort of fascinating and it’s interesting to see the doors that open when you have some. At this point in my life, income-generating activities are interesting to me, but I don’t expect to feel that way forever. And when that point comes, it will be nice to have some flexibility and not be forced into a certain course of action due to financial constraints.

For example, if one day there is a family emergency, I really want to be able to drop everything and help. A lot of people are not able to do that and I see the effect it has on them. If I can avoid that, I want to.

How much is your “enough”?

The short answer is that I haven’t decided yet. I’d love to hit a million net worth, just to say I did! I’m interested in being able to do some form of philanthropic work after FI, so an extra cushion to do something in that area is interesting to me.

Where are you on the road to Financial Independence?

I’m somewhere between 30-50% to where I want to be. If all goes well with my business, I should get to my destination in 3-6 years. However, that’s dependent on a lot of factors: whether work continues to come in at the same rate, whether I still enjoy running a business, whether a recession happens etc.

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

I don’t want to plan things out overly since life has its own way of playing out. One thing I would be interested in is buying a parcel of land for development. I have a bit of an idyllic picture in mind of fruit trees and a vegetable patch and chickens and so on. Other than that, I’m pretty sure I’ll spend a lot of time outside in nature, working out, cooking, playing video games.   

What is your strategy for reaching FI?

I’m going for approximately 50-50 income between real estate and ETFs. I’d be curious to see the direction my business develops in and whether it’s possible to either scale it back at some point (for example, through outsourcing) or even sell it. 

Somewhere along my FIRE path, I stopped trying to completely optimise everything, and instead started experimenting to see what I find fun and/or interesting. I’ve experimented with crypto (immensely fun, only marginally lucrative in the end), private lending (plan to do this again), individual stocks (mixed bag), P2P (also mixed results) and the aforementioned real estate and ETFs. I’d be interested in angel investing if I found the right opportunity.

I don’t have any expectation that these strategies will pay off big, but if one did, I would not complain.

What will be your financial strategy after reaching FI?

I expect it to be a mixture between 3.5-4% SWR and real estate income. But I am young and a lot of people I know are entrepreneurs, so I could completely see working on other paid projects here and there in the future.

What was your biggest financial mistake?

I haven’t had any huge blunders, thankfully. I lost out on a lot of potential profits in crypto and I also wish I’d found out about FI sooner so I could have started to invest earlier, but that’s about it. Then again, there’s still plenty of time for me to screw up!  

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I spent most of my 20s very unhappy and blaming myself for feeling that way, so I would tell myself the following: You are unhappy not because there is something wrong with you but because you are living the wrong life. There are far more options than you can see right now, but all of them are available to you if you put your mind to it.

What’s your wildest dream?

Nothing too wild to report! At the moment, I like daydreaming about buying the aforementioned plot of land, renovating or building a house on it and developing it into an eco-friendly environment that could support any number of projects. I’d also like to do some really long hikes (one month plus) and one of those extended silent meditation retreats.

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

Playing with animals!

What are you currently struggling with, or what would you like some advice on from the European FI community?

The only thing I’d be curious to talk about is strategies for scaling a services (as opposed to product) business. If there’s anything I can help with myself or offer advice on, please let me know, I’d be happy to