Europeans on FIRE – Sophia
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.
Please briefly introduce yourself to FIREhub.eu readers
Hi guys, my name is Sophia (26). I’m currently finishing my Master’s degree in Information Systems and live in Vienna, Austria, with my husband Angelo. I discovered the concept of Financial Independence through him and as with most of the things we do, I jumped on board right away to figure this thing out together.
What is your backstory?
I grew up in Budapest, Hungary, in a middle-class family. My mom has always been my role model growing up. In my eyes she was the perfect businesswoman working long hours, always looking elegant and providing for our family. I admired that so much that I wanted to be like her.
I have to add here that I’m really fortunate with my parents. Thanks to them, my two sisters and I never lacked anything. They paid for private teachers so that we could learn foreign languages, took us skiing every year and basically supported us in every possible way. My parents have been happily married for over 30 years and they always set a good example for how a real partnership should look like. Contrary to many women growing up, for me, it was normal that my mom took care of the family finances while my dad was responsible for all the handy work around the house from building furniture to fixing the sink etc.
Even though we never talked about money at home we always had enough. And thanks to my dad’s hands-on mentality I developed a passion for fixing and building things myself that saved my husband and me a lot of money already.
My mom was able to have the career that she had because my dad’s work was more flexible, and he was able to leave work on time to pick us up from school. Only when my mom got diagnosed with a rare autoimmune condition at age 52 did I realize how unpredictable life can be. My mom’s health issues definitely made me question what I want out of life. Especially since autoimmune diseases are also genetic and if I don’t pay extra attention to my health I might get some health issues myself.
Interestingly, I met my husband shortly after my mom’s diagnosis. I’m very fortunate that I found a person who shares the same values. We always push each other and do a lot of experiments together. By the time we learned about FI, we already made some major changes in our lives. We switched to a ketogenic diet in 2014, discovered minimalism and started to live a more intentional life in 2016. Both of these changes had a positive impact on our savings rate that got us into investing by 2017 and jump started our FI journey.
Even though my FI journey is full of self-doubt and dealing with the constant reminder that we are a bunch of odd-balls, I wouldn’t change a thing. I think the time it really hit me that we were on the right path (for us) was when we attended the first FIWE conference in Timisoara.
Why do you want to reach Financial Independence?
I want to have the freedom to choose what I spend my time on and to never get to the point where I have to stay in a job where I am unhappy just to survive financially..
I think we differ from many people pursuing FI in the sense that we already consider ourselves as financially independent. We know people who retired in their 30s and 40s and what we noticed is that they never really stopped working. In many cases, they even make more money from a passion project that they started than from their previous nine-to-five jobs.
After realizing that 2 years ago, we asked ourselves, what we would do if money wouldn’t be an issue. That’s when we both started to work on various projects. My husband, Angelo, started blogging about his investment journey on his blog (www.p2pinvesting.eu), and I created animated book reviews on my favorite self-improvement books and shared them on my YouTube channel, Sophia Colombo (https://www.youtube.com/sophiacolombo). Then, thanks to my channel I got involved in some interesting projects with clients doing explainer videos and graphic recordings.
Having this mindset shift was very fulfilling for both of us. Within a short amount of time, we grew a lot, learned new skills, and even made interesting new friends. However, being close to finishing my Master’s degree I’m going through another transformation right now. I realized that I have many interests that I want to explore.
Having enough financial cushion allows us to pursue whatever we wanted to do, which for me right now is the experience of having a ‘normal job’ again. Many people envy us that we discovered FI so early (I was only 23 when I learned about it) but that also means that I rejected many full-time job offers before because my time was more valuable for me than a fixed salary. But this kind of mindset is not always useful, so it is also important to find a balance. I’m working on that right now.
Way too often we idealize freelancing and entrepreneurship but we often forget how challenging it is to wake up every day knowing that you have to boss yourself to be successful instead of just doing what you’re good at and what you’re told to do. I also realized that working from home had a negative effect on my mental health. I constantly felt like I have to be more productive so I said no to many social gatherings since I believed that I didn’t deserve the right to have fun yet.
How much is your “enough”?
For us enough is when we are able to cover our monthly expenses from passive income so that the work we choose to do is completely determined by the level of enjoyment and not by the amount of money it can earn us. Everything else on top of our normal expenses gets invested and we don’t consider it as money to be spent.
I have to note here though that neither of us really wants to retire. I mean we are also very young for that. But we want to have the freedom to choose what we want to do with our time.
Where are you on the road to Financial Independence?
Since we’re focused on Financial Independence, I would say that we are already there. Having a cash runway for 7,5 years makes us financially independent at least for the near future. Since we enjoy the work we do and love constantly improving and learning new skills, we don’t want to retire.
However, as far as actual Financial Independence is concerned, we could probably live off of the money our investments generate in about 3-4 years, with our current living expenses. But of course this would imply that we keep our expenses at the same level and also that our income stays the same. Our life philosophy is more about living an intentional life according to our values rather than reaching that magical number.
What do you want to do with your life once you reach Financial Independence?
In our case, exactly what we’re doing right now. We want to pursue projects that excite us exactly as we’re doing now. The only difference will be that we won’t need to get paid for those projects in order to increase our net worth. But I also can’t imagine not earning any money from future projects.
What is your strategy for reaching FI?
Our strategy is to live an intentional life. This means that we only spend money on things and experiences that bring joy into our lives and therefore try to avoid lifestyle inflation as much as possible. A byproduct of that is that we are able to save over 50% of our income. Then we invest most of that money into ETFs and P2P lending.
What was your biggest financial mistake?
I think my husband will do a more detailed video on this one at some point. In the beginning of the year, we trusted a friend who made a lot of money with Automated Forex trading. The two mistakes we made were that we invested in something that we didn’t know and had no real control over. We knew in our guts that it seemed too good to be true and it was. After making a lot of money in the first couple of weeks we let our emotions dictate our decisions. Against our better judgment, we invested more money than we should have. This cost us 10,000 € but it was definitely a learning experience, and hopefully, we won’t make this mistake again.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I’m currently 26, so I still consider myself relatively young. I recently went through a short post graduation depression. I’m about to finish my degree and losing my identity of being a student brought up all kinds of negative thoughts and self-doubt. I think being part of this FI community can put an extra pressure on you, feeling like you have to live your best life. Or at least that’s how I felt.
So I wish someone told me a couple of weeks ago to slow down. You have the luxury to try out things and see what you enjoy doing. There are no wrong decisions, just lessons to be learned.
What is your wildest dream?
Right now, probably to do graphic recording at a huge event like TedEx. But I have a long way to go until then.
What is your favourite just-for-fun activity that brings you joy?
Doing inexpensive DIY projects around our apartment. I recently painted our kitchen cabinets and it was so much fun! I love finding frugal ways to improve our apartment. We were not only able to save at least a few hundred euros on renovation but every time I go to the kitchen now I have a sense of accomplishment when I look at the cabinets.