About 16 years ago I started on a journey towards Financial Independence and Early Retirement. There weren’t a lot of resources available back then, so I pieced together a plan and strategy as best I could. In essence I applied my engineering degree to a personal finance and lifestyle problem. In some areas I did well, and others not so much, but overall it seems to have worked out.
Since you don’t know what you don’t know, I also sought out people who had been down this path; I was fortunate to be able to meet with Billy & Akaisha Kaderli in Thailand, who retired in their 30s in the early 80s. Winnie and I had our 2nd honeymoon in Hawaii and were able to have brunch with Doug Nordman (aka Nords!) who retired at age 41 after a career in the military. They were kind and generous with both their time and knowledge, but their greatest gift was simply instilling confidence in some young dreamers. Standing on the shoulders of giants, indeed.
When we ultimately opted out of the rat race ourselves, I told myself that I would always pay it forward. Over the past several years I’ve met with 100+ people for coffee, hosted multiple group meet ups, and did a Reddit AMA. Here are the mostly frequently asked questions.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is your net worth?
More than 25x our target cost of living – everybody wants to know a dollar amount because of fiscal voyeurism, and any long time reader of this blog could figure it out if they wanted to. (Most don’t want to because it isn’t really important.)
Could you afford to live in the Bay Area and not work? (sneaky follow up Q to the net worth question)
Financially, probably. Emotionally, no – traffic, strip malls, and NIMBY culture aren’t my thing. There are so many great places in the world that we enjoy that rank higher than the Bay Area.
What is your favorite place in the world?
That is a bit like asking my favorite flavor of ice cream… there are so many good ones!
We’ve only been to about 1/3 of the countries on Earth so we are probably missing a great number of wonderful places, but we are big fans of Southern Spain and France and Central Mexico. We also have family epicenters around Minneapolis and Taipei, which we visit regularly, and there are a lot of places we love to visit but wouldn’t necessarily want to live (e.g. NYC.)
I recommend visiting a few new to you destinations and experiencing how others live; it is a great way to better know yourself.
What do you do for health insurance?
Only Americans ask this question. For many years we were self-insured, which just means instead of paying for health insurance we invested that money for future medical needs. We paid cash for any short term medical care – antibiotics, dental work, etc…
As of this year we are now all 3 covered by the Taiwan health system, which is a single-payer universal health care provider. Cost: ~$25/person/month.
Isn’t it risky to be self insured?
Sure, it is a financial risk. But every year of setting aside premiums instead of buying insurance reduces that risk.
But… If we lived in the US we would buy health insurance on a State or Federal Exchange (or even better, an HDHP) and just pay attention to how the subsidies work. Self insuring in the US is a form of Russian Roulette.
When we travel in places where emergency health care is expensive and prices are unknowable (such as the US) then we will buy travel insurance. If we get hit by a bus we would be covered up to $1 million.
Context is important though – a visit to an emergency room in Portugal set us back $90. A visit to an emergency room in Taipei without insurance cost $60. A doctor visit in Mexico cost $3.
How do you invest your portfolio?
100% in index funds – Like this.
Aren’t you worried about a stock market crash?
No. I try to not worry about things I can’t control, and even in the worst period in recorded history to retire we would have been fine.
I seldom pay attention to what the stock market is doing.
I recall a comment from some readers I met for coffee in Taipei: “You are the most relaxed person I’ve ever met.” That might say more about the people they’ve met than about me, but I’m mostly pretty chill. It helps that I’ve gone through a lot of exposure therapy.
Did you plan to earn income blogging? Would you have quit earlier based on blog income?
No, it was kind of an accident. I wouldn’t have based our future on blog income; it is more important to have a large investment portfolio – to date we’ve made maybe $100k from blogging, but the portfolio has grown 10x that.
Do you ever get bored?
Of course. It’s awesome, try it some time.
Are you minimalists?
Not consciously, but we don’t have much stuff.
What is one luxury item that you bought that was definitely worth it?
I once bought a bike on Craigslist for $50, rode it for 2 years, and then sold it for $60. Totally worth it.
I’m also a big fan of dishwashers and washing machines.
Will you ever stop traveling and settle down?
Possibly. Probably. We moved a bit faster the past 2 years with the idea that we would likely travel less as Jr got older. (We visited 29 countries in his first 2 – 3 years.)
What do you plan to do for schooling?
Jr is in school now, and we have been planning travel around the school calendar. We think a form of home school could be in our future – much like finding people who had already done “early retirement”, I’ve been following families who travel and educate their children on the road for ideas and inspiration.
Do you want to home school because you are some sort of religious nut job who wants to indoctrinate your kids?
I’m an atheist, thanks.
Isn’t traveling with kids hard?
Sure it is. Just like being at home with kids.
Do you ever miss your families?
We focus on quality over quantity, and try to have focused family time every year or so. This year we did a 10-day cruise with family, and the year prior we had 4 generations together at a lake resort for a week.
Do you ever feel un-safe?
Sometimes, but then I just stop watching television and suddenly everything is better. Also, be sure to tie your shoes.
I could definitely be an extreme saver and world traveler, but my spouse… how do I convince them?
Sorry, you don’t. Nobody is ever convinced of anything, particular major lifestyle changes… at best you can live by example and maybe they will decide for themselves that change is worth it.
An analogy – what works better:
- “Hey, you are fat. You should lose some weight”
- You start waking up early to jog and prepare a healthy breakfast for the whole family. After a few months your spouse comments how you are a little more svelte, and you invite them to join you for your next run.
My spouse has zero interest in finances, how do I get them to be as interested as I am?
Marriage is a team sport, and you both don’t need to play Quarterback all the time. Play to your strengths for a winning combination.
For example, Winnie has minimal interest in finances. It would be foolhardy for me to try to change that. On the other side, she loves to paint which is something I have no interest in. Is that perfectly normal, or is our marriage doomed?
Was it hard to leave your job/career?
Transitioning from accumulating to spending and from working to retirement was challenging, yes.
I was still thinking about work stuff / office politics about 6 months after walking out the door, and occasionally dreaming about work for even longer. None of that happens anymore, and life is better for it, but it takes time to unwind. In hindsight, this is why we were never satisfied with 2 week vacations… it is impossible to completely unplug in that short period of time. It helps to leave to something, such as travel.
Financially, when we were withdrawing dollars instead of adding new investments, it felt different / curious. To ease the transition we started in lower cost of living countries – central Mexico rather than central Tokyo, southern Thailand rather than southern France. Nowadays it feels normal and we don’t think about it beyond basic cash flow management.
Is there anything you miss from your old life?
I liked my bicycle commute to work along the lake. That’s it though.
Are you some kind of anti-tax anarchist?
Nah, I just enjoy optimizing things and stumbled upon the tax minimization hobby. I’m weird like that.
Dude, some of your ideas are pretty extreme, do you really expect people to adopt such crazy positions? (Never Pay Taxes Again, 100% Equities, Renters for Life, Roth IRAs suck, no Emergency Fund, Fewer Dividends, no 529, etc…)
If you think of what we do as extreme, perhaps try to understand the underlying reasons.
Or not. Ultimately, personal finance is personal. Do what works for you.
(Special note: nothing we do is extreme, just a logical outcome of our unconventional lifestyle.)
I found you via mainstream media (Forbes, Yahoo, Business Insider, …) and the comments are pretty toxic. How do you respond to those people?
I don’t. Engaging with toxic people helps no one.
However I do my best to converse with people who are genuinely curious, but skeptical. For example.
Is there any one thing that you think everyone should do no matter their financial goals?
Absolutely – the only thing better than travel is free travel.
Get yourself some free flights and free hotel nights.
My favorite card to begin unlocking these benefits is the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Should we think of you as some kind of role model? (“You’ve changed my life, I couldn’t have done this without you!”)
If you must, but I would prefer if you didn’t. I abhor hero worship of all kinds, whether it be of political figures, “celebrities”, athletes, or whatever. All people have made mistakes, and have good and bad characteristics. In real life, I’m actually a terrible person.
If our way of thinking of the world and/or our example can help with making improvements to your own life, FANTASTIC! But I give you all of the credit.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone?
I think this is the catch all question people ask because they feel like they need to ask something but can’t think of anything – We can just have coffee together without all of that pressure ;)
And a question from me:
Did you know GCC has a Forum? Check it out.
Did I miss any Questions? Ask in the comments.
Getting Started with Free Travel
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is one of our favorites. A BIG reason is you can combine points with other Chase cash back cards like Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited under the Chase Ultimate Rewards Program.
Chase Freedom Flex allows you to earn 5% cash back on the first $1500 in categories that change quarterly, and the Freedom Unlimited earns a flat 1.5% on all spend.
Using the right card for different types of spend means you earn free travel even faster! And they also have their own signup bonuses!
And all of these points can be transferred to numerous hotel and airline programs!
Learn more about these cards HERE.
I’ve been following families who travel and educate their children on the road for ideas and inspiration.
Have a blog roll? Thanks.
Check out the Facebook group Worldschoolers.
LOL I am an atheist, thanks… haha. That made me laugh!
And I did not know about the forum, fun! I know where I will go ask my random questions from now on :)
The forum is definitely the best place for random and non-random questions. Over the years I’ve answered the same questions many many times in email and the Facebook group messaging, but this way I can reply once and it also benefits posterity.
Regarding US health insurance. I forget who, but someone once referred to it as ‘wealth insurance’.
That combined with your ‘Russian roulette’ may sum it up well.
wealth insurance is right. Since US medical costs are unknowable in advance and excessive, even a simple oops can have excessive financial impact. Messed up system
Loved this summary article, well done. I followed the links to a few articles that interested me as well. Once again, I realize the FI formula is one that appeals to me and I would love to pass on as a gift to the next generation. Thanks
Great answers, especially about “do you get bored?” and traveling with kids! Can you point to an experience in your life when you realized the power of following your ideas versus being one of the herd?
My parents would probably say I was always one of those “difficult” children – I think I’ve always preferred to figure things out for myself. I still followed the herd of American Dream culture though… student loans, buy a car, buy a house… it wasn’t until I hit upon the goal of early retirement that I started thinking outside the box financially
Love this one.
Do you ever get bored?
Of course. It’s awesome, try it some time.
I haven’t been bored for a long time. It’s hard to do when you have a crazy little boy around.
Looking forward to reading more about home schooling & travel. We’d like to do that for a year at some point.
Yeah, boredom isn’t a frequent experience, but I love it when it happens because it encourages me to pause and reflect.
What is your favorite area of southern Spain? We are flying into Malaga this summer using credit card points of course. Any recommendations?
Seville, Barcelona, Girona… all great places. Congrats on the free flights!
Thanks! Still love SMA based on your recommendation!
I didn’t know you have a forum! Learned something. I already knew I liked your take on life.
the forum is where the magic happens ;)
I have loved and followed your blog for a long time. Thank you for so many wonderful articles such as this one.
If I’ve seen further, it’s because of all the insights from great bloggers sharing their strategies and exploits.
I remember reading about your adventures through Central America while I was still pent up in my cubicle. Happy to be making my own now :)
Thanks for paying it forward, ya heathen!
My sincere apologies for being such a bad influence
This was fantastic!
When traveling, do you ever try to find a babysitter and go on dates with your wife? Our family of 3 is getting ready for a longer trip and the thought of having a stranger in a foreign country watch our child is a little scary. What do you guys do?
We haven’t done this, no. We wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving him with a random stranger.
I think the closest we’ve come is when we were in one place for many weeks and hanging out with other families, we watched a friend’s kid for about 30 minutes while they went to do some visa stuff. I could see doing more of this.
For dating – we do try to get some 1:1 quality time, but this is usually when Jr is asleep. We prefer Airbnb over hotels nowadays since we can get a separate living space to watch movies or talk. Or more often – just doing our own quiet activities next to each other (painting, reading, writing, etc…)
“In hindsight, this is why we were never satisfied with 2 week vacations… it is impossible to completely unplug in that short period of time.” This is so powerful. Most of us don’t even get two week vacations. I’ll hopefully be there one day. Thanks for the inspiration.
Yeah even 2 weeks off is a luxury.
Great round up! We are off to Chiang Mai for a month in April…one apartment…living like a local. Am so looking forward to the experience. Reading something like this only encourages us to make it permanent…which will be happening! Keep up the great work, it’s a true inspiration.
Enjoy CM! Love it there
Great FAQ Mr. Gcc! Thanks for paying it forward!
I love your blog because you’re no BS but there’s also an underlying tone of kindness that is clear. Keep up the great articles! Very inspiring!
Wow, thank you! I’m blushing over here
Love the blog. My wife and I are lucky to be teachers who work at international schools. It allows us to travel more during our accumulation phase!
Getting paid to travel… Nice!
Your lifestyle looks awesome, thanks for sharing.
Feels awesome too. Thank you!
As always, good information.
I was wondering if you felt the timing of your investing played a part in ability to retire early…and do you continue to contribute excess income (ie, through this blog) towards those investments?
Not really. When you save small amounts, like 5% – 10% of annual income, return on investment is everything. But when you save 50-75%, the majority of your nest egg is from contributions. Our actual return on investment during our accumulation phase was pretty abysmal.
See this post for actual data.
We do continue to live beneath our means.
Yeah I love people who think kids are this radioactive being to travel with – I find that with new experiences / traveling new places, kids kinda buckle down and look for parental guidance more. Conversely, when they are home, that’s what they know, so they’re more likely to run wild.
Outside of our normal family trips, every year for the last four I have taken a “3 man trip” with my two sons for a week or so to state and national parks within reasonable (8 hours a day) driving distance around us) and it is always one of the best experiences for all of us… and I never have any problems with behavior… and this tradition started when they were 6 and 2.
Family around Minneapolis, eh? Maybe we can have a round, or two, of beer when you’re in the Cities next time …
We had a meet up there last year. Not sure when we’ll be back next… maybe 2019.
Love your blog and all your ideas about FI!
You gave me more inspiration/motivation and a specific direction in my pursuits towards early retirement.
I am sure it is a lot of fun traveling all the time but do you ever miss communicating with English speaking people while traveling. It must be hard to speak English only to your family most of the time.
We probably go to the wrong places, because I speak English 95% of the time.
It’s common in other countries to speak several languages. When I was in Europe and Japan, I could always find someone who spoke English if I needed to. When in doubt, find a teenager, they learn English in school.
I like the schooling question – homeschooling while overseas is a good choice (which I have written about in my blog ….), but is time intensive … I have looked at that and chosen the option of local school while overseas … I write why I chose it in the link below … would be good to hear from folks like yourself and …. myself who have a homebase overseas … I am F.I. but still do international school teaching … which is busy, but have 3 months of holiday to explore the world …. my friends and co-workers are from or have moved and worked … all over the world. Michael CPO, From the Far Side of the Planet :)
Hi! Do you have any posts regarding life insurance needs? I have a blended family and when we were working we got heftily insured to protect from step parent vs. children drama….. Now that we are semi retired and have some assets built up with no debt, I’m trying to re-visit and figure out what we really need. Any thoughts??
Sorry, I don’t. We have no life insurance.
Thanks anyway! I think we figured it out. Just didn’t want premiums eating up our income if they didn’t have to. Have a great day!
Thanks for the laughs! Some of your answers were so simple and honest that they were truly funny!!