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What’s your financial origin story?

It’s not normal to care about finances as much as we do. As a Monevator reader, you pay unusually close attention to your financial affairs. You’ve probably put a great deal of thought into building a wealth-generation engine that’s designed to secure the future for you and your family.

That’s not standard behaviour. The average bear doesn’t really care.

So what happened to you? What put you on the financial path you’re on now?

  • A shock to the system?
  • Your upbringing?
  • Complete luck?

What makes you different?

In my case I wasn’t different at all. Until the eve of the Great Recession, I was much like everybody else – a free-spending, live-for-the-moment, zero-savings kind of a guy.

I had no pension. I had an interest-only mortgage I wasn’t paying off. I had a ridiculous car that ate money.

I was dimly aware that something wasn’t right. Neither with the world, nor with my world.

One day a financially savvy acquaintance of mine said:

“The party is over.”

“This is a party?” I replied.

Reality dawned on T.S.H.T.F. Day at work in October 2008.

Plugs were pulled. Projects terminated. I was in a meeting with our main client when they got a call to turn off the taps.

We stopped hiring. We let people go. My inbox started to fill up with CVs from ridiculously overqualified people looking for refuge.

It was like the second act of a horror movie. We’d all been camping by the side of a beautiful lake. Now night had fallen and some maniac was taking a meat-cleaver to my compadres.

The world hasn’t been the same since, and neither have I.

Born again

My new religion was to save like Grandma.

Ditch that car. Pay off that mortgage. Slash outgoings. Crank up the pension. Learn about the stock market.

Like a balloonist heading for a mountain, I chucked the sandbags of my old lifestyle overboard.

Fewer people were needed in the post-2008 recession world. There weren’t other jobs to go to.

I needed to become one of the ‘invaluable ones’.

  • Flexible like a yogi.
  • Better value than Lidl.
  • As diplomatic as a pair of breeding pandas.
  • Harder working than, well, my competition.

I changed my clothes, I changed my hair, I changed my attitude.

I wasn’t getting any younger and digital disruption was spreading through my industry like ash dieback1. It was adapt or die time.

I used the early hours of the morning to learn new skills. I did online courses. I force-fed myself audiobooks on key topics. I took up a side hustle that helped me learn more about digital media. (Hello Monevator!) The last one also helped further my investing education.

A line-manager said, “If this place goes down, you’ll be one of the last ones left who has to switch off the lights.”

More was needed:

  • 2008 taught me the sky can fall in very fast.
  • Time felt short in a declining industry.
  • Redundancies hit the company like waves, throwing people overboard.

My thirties were peeling off the calendar and there was a scrum at the door for upper management. Not everyone was going to get in.

I had childhood memories of an earlier recession – the early 1980s in the north-east. I was left with an afterburn image of a friend’s dad, on the scrapheap in his mid-forties.

Plus a reverse role-model in an old boss. Once brilliant and at the heart of everything. He’d grown complacent. He’d become expensive. He refused to learn new tricks. He didn’t think it could happen to him until it did.

Others were plain unlucky:

  • Edged out in political battles.
  • Not enough allies at the decisive moment.
  • Skills unrecognised by senior management. 
  • Simply cheaper to dispense with.

I met plenty of former high-flyers who couldn’t gain purchase at their old level anymore. 

Escape velocity

Financial independence was the answer. It wouldn’t matter if I was knocked off the three-dimensional corporate chessboard if I was playing a different game.

If I moved hard and fast enough then I could afford to be unlucky, ill, or old – the kind of hand that gets dealt to ‘other people’.

You can boil the shockingly simple math behind early retirement down to:

A high savings rate + index trackers + time

The other 90% of the story is mindset.2

Without money to burn, the only way you’re going to achieve financial independence in a decade or so is by giving things up.

Here’s what I haven’t missed:

  • Believing that money equals happiness.
  • Tying self-worth to money.
  • High-status items: big house, flashy car, exotic holidays, big-boys toys. Anything where you’re paying over the odds to join the club.
  • Sky-high expectations: the notion that your job should be high-paying and fulfilling, you should regularly score promotions, your family life should be perfect, you should feel happy and confident most of the time.
  • Taking setbacks personally. It’s not the setback that defines you, it’s how you respond.
  • Resentment, envy, revenge, and self-pity.

The mental side is an ongoing battle for me, but the more progress I make, the healthier and more resilient I feel. Whoever came up with the dictum that ‘Happiness = Reality minus Expectations’ is a genius.

I did it my way. What about you?

My journey began on the eve of a global financial crisis. The shock changed me for life.

The biggest revelation I had was that once I was on the right path, the financial side could mostly take care of itself.

The vast majority of the effort needed lay in developing the mental toolkit to survive at work and improve well-being, while waiting for my financial independence day.

But what about you? How did you find your way here?

I love to hear about Monevator readers’ financial-life experiences and motivations, so please let us know in the comments whatever you’re happy to share.

Take it steady,

The Accumulator

P.S. I enjoyed the Swiss Cheese mental model that The Investor linked to in Weekend Reading.

The idea is to prevent disaster by shielding behind multiple layers of defence. The framework also shows how threats can defeat a system by sailing clean through holes that are carelessly aligned rather than mutually covered.

Here’s my Swiss Cheese Defence for my journey to FI:

  1. A virulent disease of ash trees. It is caused by a fungus, Hymenoscyphus fraxineus. []
  2. Assuming you’re not among the top 2% or so of earners. []

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{ 105 comments… add one }
  • 1 sendaiben December 15, 2020, 11:08 am

    Two things flipped the switch for me:

    1. lost my job at short notice, with wife and three kids. Vowed never to be in that situation again, where someone else’s decision could upend our life.
    2. got an inheritance, spent it all. Figured there had to be a better way to manage our money.

    Twelve years later we are inching closer to FI and money is not something we think about (apart from occasional daydreaming over spreadsheets). Life is good when you’re in control (of your finances) 😉

  • 2 Algernond December 15, 2020, 11:35 am

    Somehow the 2008 financial crash passed me by. I was in a safe job, and it was just something abstract on the news. I had no idea if I was saving enough for FI / retirement (I wasn’t), and didn’t think of it much.
    Then eight years ago my boss said to me “Algernond! I’m consolidating my pensions into a SIPP!” I replied, “What’s a SIPP?”
    I typed it into my browser, and very luckily Monevator caught my eye, and then somehow Mr. Money Moustache. Since then I’ve been salary sacrificing as much as I possibly can into my SIPP, and also have become more aware of my spending.
    Now I’m at the stage where I am thinking of preserving rather than primarily growing my stash (hence my musings on Gold and currency devaluation).

    Thanks Monevator guys. Definitely been a massive influence on my financial position today.

  • 3 EcoMiser December 15, 2020, 11:49 am

    In 2008 I was working for a small charity that was totally dependent on grants from businesses or the Lottery. My salary was funded by Northern Rock Foundation. No new funding could be found. It closed down completely in January 2009.
    I worked out that if I maintained my frugal lifestyle, and my investments grew at 0% after inflation, I could keep going to age 100.

    In 1980 I was 30. I worked in a nationalised industry in the north east. My particular part of it closed 8/8/80. Scrapheap time. I never worked a full week again.
    I already had savings, and the redundancy money helped. It wasn’t really a switch-flipping moment, as I never lusted after expensive toys or exotic holidays, but it did strengthen my resolve to always have plenty of money ‘for a rainy day’, so when 2008 happened I could happily declare myself early retired.

  • 4 Chiny December 15, 2020, 11:52 am

    Great article, food for thought.

    Me; upbringing Mr Micawber style especially driven by my mother who firmly believed in work and no borrowing except for a mortgage. So I paid off my small mortgage on a house in this city’s expensive area at the age of 47.

    My motto at work was “be useful” and no-one ever thought of sacking me. For years, I was listed in 2 places in the company structure as managers fought over me. For the last working 5 years, all salary was sacrificed to a company pension AVC, nicely matching 25% for cash lump sum on departure.

    I didn’t retire until 62 though, as I did rather enjoy work. Maybe “positive attitude” should go in there somewhere as a survival technique.

  • 5 LightTripper December 15, 2020, 11:55 am

    That’s an interesting one!

    I’ve been lucky never to suffer any financial trauma: in childhood or adulthood. I’ve always been cautious and a saver, ever since I had money to save.

    I think in my case it stems from my difficulty dealing with change and situations out of my control. As a kid I was a bit the odd one out, and got bullied on and off (not badly, but enough) until I “found my tribe” in my mid teens. I remember how important things like learning to drive and having my own cash card were (and later a mobile phone), because I knew the world was unreliable and those things gave me safety, and the ability to respond when things went wrong.

    As I’ve got even older I’ve realised I have a lot of autistic traits (one of my children is autistic), and I think that has given me both this experience of instability (but social rather than financial: people acting or reacting in ways I couldn’t understand), and a love for pattern spotting and making order of disorder – both of which point quite strongly to a financially independent life. Although social instability is different to financial instability, the ability to respond to (or plan for) that with a taxi or picking up the bill at a restaurant or booking your own room on the group holiday or whatever make a huge difference to my ability to manage my slightly flaky social skills, so in my mind I think having stable finances and feeling like I can manage the adult human world have always been linked.

    Of course, the anxiety and knowledge that something can always go wrong also mean that I never really *feel* financially independent, even though I now am. That is my next chapter, working on that bit! I’m sure by the time I’ve mastered that I’ll have figured out something else I need to work on.

  • 6 never give up December 15, 2020, 12:00 pm

    I really loved this post, thank you for writing it. A bit like a beleaguered worker on Darth Vader’s ship, it’s fear that motivates me. I was up for redundancy twice in 2008/2009 at a time I was trying to buy my first house. Although I survived both times I saw many experienced and excellent colleagues go. When your time is up, it’s up and your level of competence is often irrelevant. I feared losing my house deposit as ‘safe’ banks suddenly felt precarious. It was a scary time and I still bear the mental scars.

    Terrified of redundancy, the stock market, potential rises in interest rates (shouldn’t have worried about this!) and hating my mortgage debt, I became a dedicated mortgage over payer. By 2017 I was mortgage free and suddenly felt safe again for the first time in nearly a decade. To celebrate my mortgage freedom I looked into buying a new car. My old financial fears returned as I nearly passed out at the price. In searching for a guide to buying second hand cars I stumbled upon one of MMM’s car articles. I found the main page and realised I wasn’t on a car related site but something much more exciting.

    I read the shockingly simple maths post and my world instantly changed. The table of years to FI couldn’t be unseen. Suddenly I realised that mortgage free wasn’t enough. I wouldn’t be ‘safe’ until I was FI. It was my passport off of Vader’s ship. I found Monevator shortly afterwards. I’m now three years into my journey pursuing FIRE. I’m no longer scared of investing and VG’s LifeStrategy funds are my friend. My expenses these last three years equate to approximately the same as the twelve months prior to finding MMM. I’m extremely committed to becoming FI and am very grateful to both MMM and Monevator.

  • 7 John Bray December 15, 2020, 12:27 pm

    My grandfather died when I was 14 and left me a legacy in trust, so I was introduced to unit trusts young. I’ve always been frugal and keen to invest, but the FIRE urge was triggered in 2008, not because of the GFC, but because I realised I’d hated the last 5 jobs I’d done, so I needed to get out, and being a contractor would allow be to pour money into my savings with minimal tax. It took 8 years.

  • 8 Mark December 15, 2020, 1:21 pm

    It started when I was 25 or so, I was coming out the other side of the ten years of hard partying, uni life and all that. I used to blow my salary on this lifestyle and was a single, relatively carefree guy, fresh out of uni, not on a proper career path. 2008 hit me and I was made redundant from a dead-end job, the best thing ever that happened to me.

    6 months later I landed my current job, then met my now wife, who despite earning less than me, had a decent chunk of savings, I had barely a month’s expenses in the bank way back then..

    We got serious and with focus came an easing of the hard lifestyle, strong financial focus, personal development, house deposit, wedding saving etc. I was a member of MSE forum for ages, but it wasn’t until someone pointed me into the path of Mr Money Mustache where everything changed, it was exactly what I needed. Blogs became such a rich resource of wisdom, this one included.

    We are together for over ten years and have a rapidly growing investment balance, an aggressive mortgage overpayment strategy, and a real focus to take ownership of our lives and gain true financial freedom. It is truly an amazing feeling to have a large chunk of assets put away knowing that this gives us options should bad things happen. 2020 has shown us not to take anything for granted.

  • 9 C December 15, 2020, 1:29 pm

    Grew up in poverty and got lumbered with a life long health condition in my teens so financial security always something of a consideration. But also had a strong idea that I wouldn’t compromise certain principles for money/areas I wanted to work in – and having experienced rock bottom financially, I knew it was survivable. Thankfully, had reasonable work ethic and unusual combination of interests/mindsets/contrarian thinking meant that bosses who got me, really got me and I was able to ride the digital wave from the early 90s.

    Even as a student, always had savings in case of disaster and only increased those as I became employed. That’s not to say, I didn’t waste plenty of cash in my 20s or make mistakes like focussing on saving cash rather than investing or setting up a side business.

    When I turned 30, various reasons led me to putting the pedal to metal in terms of building an even bigger financial buffer than 3-4 years gross salary. Belatedly discovering and applying some of the Four Hour Work Week only accelerated the process. Bought small house for cash, then massively loaded up the pension – latterly via salary sacrifice. It was very good timing for both.

    Sometime in mid 2010s, new big boss did not get me, internal politics became toxic in my area so shunted myself off to another part of the company which looked like more fun. Realised I had become frugal FI, went part-time and starting trying out other things. Chronic condition took a turn for the worse resulting in poor work performance for a couple of years and actively considered retirement, but have bounced back during this year after treatment. Workplace has also become more congenial to my value being recognised again so who knows what’ll happen next.

  • 10 Stan December 15, 2020, 1:30 pm

    Excellent article, thank you. To me, the advice seems to be applicable to everyone. Why exclude the top 2% of earners (footnote 2)?

  • 11 Mike December 15, 2020, 1:35 pm

    With a keen interest in the outdoors, I’ve always dreamt of being free from work and being able to pursue my hobbies.

    For a long time I couldn’t necessarily figure out how to do that, I tried consulting and burnt myself out, subsequently I moved in to a senior exec job with the lure of management options and a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

    COVID19 has dampened that fire somewhat, and after finding the FIRE movement its provided a framework by which I’m able to work toward that goal of being free from full time work.

    I’m still early on in my journey, but both myself and my partner have made huge leaps this year thanks to the jolt of COVID19 which has caused us to reflect on our finances and our goals.

    The beauty of FIRE is its very self deterministic.

  • 12 Dawn December 15, 2020, 1:36 pm

    I went to my policeman boyfriend ( at that time) retirement planning meeting . Saw at 48 what fantastic pension he was getting and thought what the hell I’ve got, being self employed?. I had 100k in cash savings and 25k in a small personal pension. I was 47. So began the journey of self education into investing. I increased my work load doubled my savings rate and began investing . I’d already paid my house off ealier. 6 years later I got there! Now at 55 I’m FI.

  • 13 Matthew December 15, 2020, 1:38 pm

    Boredom drives me, I don’t enjoy many things that cost money and like the philosophical challenge of living more monklike, investing makes saving more interesting and makes you feel more involved in something. I enjoy working and being a cog in the machine, and I enjoy the challenge of maximising efficiency – so that extends into money.
    I invest to support business growth (liquidity in the secondary market) for the benefit of my son’s future, or to bail me out if my health fails. I’m lucky to still be able bodied enough to work for now, I have one life and one body and want to use it in the most productive way I can, when I’m gone it won’t matter if I retired early.

    There’s nothing I actually want to buy – holidays = hard work travelling and carrying luggage, cars = tools, restaurants = keeping alive with food, early retirement = boredom, buying items = clutter
    What am I supposed to buy?

  • 14 Dave December 15, 2020, 1:40 pm

    In 2008 I was in a well paid job in a multinational recession proof industry so the crisis passed me by. By 2013, age 55, I was winding down career wise and had left well paid work, with no idea how to plan for my financial future, then one Saturday in December I read an article in the FT by Merryn Somerset Webb who said that all you ever need to know about investing can be found in Investing Demystified by Lars Kroger. This was followed by Tim Hale’s Smarter Investing, after which I spent a few months trying to pull the passive investment strategy apart, but could find no fault. I jumped in with both feet and haven’t looked back. I’ve achieved FI but continue to work part time as I enjoy what I do. My portfolio is 80% passive (global diversified ETFs) and 20% for fun ( SMT, Fundsmith, Clean energy).

  • 15 Dawn December 15, 2020, 1:42 pm

    Another interesting point at the police retirement meeting they mentioned about investing in China etc that good growth was expected from these regions going forward.. I came away thinking how the hell do i invest in China? Legal and general EM was the first tracker fund I bought as it was only one avaliable at the time. I now have VFEM instead.

  • 16 Kathrin December 15, 2020, 3:01 pm

    I like the concept that each of us has a slightly different reason for being here and striving for FI.

    For me, the catalyst was being self-employed instead of salaried. At the beginning, when I didn’t yet have an amazing client base, I was constantly worried that I wouldn’t earn enough the next month. This made me feel stressed instead of fulfilled, even though I really love my work. When I started to regularly earn more than I needed, I decided to research what to do with the spare money. The concept of FI soon fascinated and I went from saving 10% to over 60% of my income – and am now closing in on 33% of my LeanFI goal, less than 3 years later.

    I think there are more factors why I’m a good fit for FI:
    – Naturally frugal; most of my hobbies don’t cost anything or very little.
    – Good at delayed gratification.
    – Grew up in a culture where living beyond your means isn’t very common and got this lesson reinforced by my parents.
    – Love a good challenge!

  • 17 Fifi December 15, 2020, 3:16 pm

    My father began his campaign of financial education when I was 8 and I didn’t take much notice, but some of it must have stuck. When I got my first graduate job I had a degree but could have earned more behind the counter in a bookshop. I had £30 spending money leftover after covering all my monthly costs (it was 1996). I was more than a little disappointed! My dad bought me the Motley Fool Guide to Investing and every time I got a raise I “gave” half my monthly increase to myself as spending money and saved the other half. Once I had built up 6 months’ salary savings I moved on to passive stocks ISAs and at that time the advice was All Share UK trackers. I avoided the ubiquitous unused gym memberships and costly eating out – but I didn’t sit at home either; I simply lived within my self imposed means. I am generally fairly frugal in my tastes so I didn’t have a spending habit to curb. I paid off my (mortgage-style) student loan as fast as I could. After about 5 years I moved to an unfashionable part of London that others sneered at but I was able to buy a 2 bed flat and use the tax efficient rent a room scheme to overpay on my mortgage. Not often mentioned but it is one of THE single best things to do (well it used to be pre-2008) and managed to be mortgage free just as the crash of 2008 hit and as we started a family. The feeling of security of being mortgage free is everything and I hope I never have to go back to paying rent or loans. After 20 years, people don’t sneer at out neighbourhood anymore and now I could never afford to buy here. I’ve had reduced income while having the family so my savings have suffered for the last 7-8 years as I have prioritised saving for the kids. Because we are mortgage free I can now invest modestly for them and starting early will yield the biggest gains (I top up the Child Benefit they receive and invest monthly for them) and now use a similar passive strategy but using modern “All World trackers/ETFs”. We can afford anything we want generally, but are not wealthy people because we use our resources sensibly and don’t spend on fripperies. When I first started I could only afford to save £25 a month which was the minimum possible amount in a stocks saving scheme. My flatmate was dismissive but I’m so glad I started, and started early. My dad always said that “cash is king” and it is so true. No debt is freedom. I’m lucky that I have a job I love and my lifetime saving habit has now allowed me to invest for my kids and the freedom to start a business. Hopefully hearing this will help you get started on what is a long journey, but is an investment in yourself. Good luck!

  • 18 Fatbritabroad December 15, 2020, 3:41 pm

    I don’t really know why I am the way I am. I come from a high income household privately educated but my dad came from nothing and was self made and I always felt I had to stand on my own two feet. I also had a mortal fear of being poor in old age

    I’m a funny mixture of not caring about brands too much but liked a nice car (did the pch lease trap for about 6 years till the penny dropped last year and I bought my car outright) nice house and nice holidays (though was always careful to get good deals use points to pay for business class etc )

    Was primarily interested in increasing earnings then suddenly hit my target a few years ago and realised it really didn’t make me any happier (who knew right?)

    I’ve Always been fairly frugal and saved alot in a pension from 18 (I had over 200k before I was 40) and over paid my mortgage . Being frugal meant an amicable divorce 5 years ago didn’t ruin me as it does so many, I bought my ex out the house and kept it.
    I was asset rich with a good pension and decent equity but felt poor so the missing link was investing in Isas despite the tax hit for me and that paying the mortgage off isn’t the most sensible thing. Went interest only in Feb at 65 % ltv and fixed for 10 years at 2.5% (what timing) so This year I’ve really stepped on the gas investing wise and am salting away nearly 50 %of my salary split between Isas and pension . Basic aim is to save the mortgage amount in an isa and use the yield plus salary to pay this off by age 50 leaving the capital to bridge the gap to my pension

    currently aged 40 I’ll be fi apart from my mortgage in about 3 years I think (around 3/4 of a million net worth by then .)

    My irrational fear is getting made redundant and taking a pay cut, I feel like it’s ‘going backwards’ even though your self worth shouldn’t equate to your net worth and I don’t judge anyone else like that just myself. Psychologists would have a field day!

  • 19 steveark December 15, 2020, 3:44 pm

    Life is much easier for the few of us who were raised by money savvy parents. My folks were not high earners but they became the millionaires next door. They made sure my brother and I had jobs from the earliest possible, allowances weren’t a thing. I got my first job as a pre-teen and was always employed after that. They also encouraged saving and giving. They modeled debt free living. Only the house involved a loan and they celebrated the day they paid that off early. They put money in envelopes until they had enough to buy their cars. They invested in a diverse portfolio and had a rental house in the neighborhood. They talked about money at the dinner table but never argued about anything, they were on the same page. They frequently mentioned they had never had a balance on a credit card, always paid it in full every month. My wife was raised the same way. So with those kind of models there was no way we could fail with money. We just lived the way our parents lived and financial success was automatic.

  • 20 Laurene Henderson December 15, 2020, 3:47 pm

    Thank you for the interesting article. Martin Lewis calls it the Lightbulb moment in terms of tackling debts – yours goes much further.
    Married young (17) and bought first house at 19. Always worked hard but spent freely – only saved a bit. 10 years later, we had kids. With childcare, mortgage on bigger house, etc, saving was out of the question – or so we told ourselves. Never in debt, but not much in savings either.
    In the mid 1990`s my sister in law died of a brain tumour aged 40. I had never been to university, always wanted to go and husband said “do it”. I got a grant (remember them?). Two years into the course, two of my husbands best clients went bankrupt owing him tens of thousands. We could not survive. We tried everything to stay afloat financially, take in foreign students, scrub floors early morning in Waitrose, mini-cabbing. No food banks in those days, but kind friends would donate extras. Of course I still had my grant, so I continued with the course, part-time jobs, childcare and still found time to be Chair of the local PTA. To clear debts, we sold everything: house, pension the lot. If it was not for the children I think I would have just taken pills and said goodbye…
    1999 I gained my degree (1st class with Hons – no idea how) and got a job teaching in an independent school right away. Why independent? Because they offered an £800.00 a year allowance and that made all the difference to survival and paying rent.
    My dad died, leaving everything to his Filipino girlfriend (which he was fully entitled to do).
    In 2005, we had the chance with my income and the self-certification mortgage thing, to buy a two up two down doer upper in a reasonable area.
    We have always renovated houses DIY and would have been mortgage free by 1999 if it had not all gone T*ts up.
    Fast forward to 2016. I was fed up with teaching and having no life – by now I was working in a tough state school – and stress was ridiculous.
    My income meant I had been able to save and I have tried to continue to live like a student.
    Discovered FIRE quite late, but again a good friend said ” don`t just keep talking about moving out of Surrey – do it!”
    So we did – sold 2 up twoup two down done up for double – and we had taken mortgage over 18 years (£1400.00 a month), but this meant we had paid off a chunk.
    Bought doer upper in Norfolk for half the lump sum we had from the sale. And this was the worst condition house we had ever bought – four years later we are still camped out in part of it! Lived apart from husband for a year while he continued to try and find a job up here. Worked as supply teacher.
    Husband got job up here for half the salary – disaster, the stress after a year meant he had to give up. So be it – after his recovery, he has become our builder.
    We manage just fine. Its is a different way and pace of life up here.
    We have reached FIRE through savings, some investment, small Teachers and Civil Service pension for me and hanging in there waiting for husband`s state pension in April 2021. We live on about £1200.00 a month (more when State pension comes in – and without having to touch our SIPP at the moment) and take sad but triumphal joy in bargains to renovate our 4 bed bungalow in 1/3 Acre. 99p bath and 99p designer radiator sparking joy in this household.
    We have no mortgage, no car loans, no credit card bills, no debts for the first time in our lives. Just wish we have done it years earlier and not had the financial disaster that has made life such a slog to get here.

  • 21 FitandFunemployed December 15, 2020, 4:11 pm

    Tories won a majority in 2015 and I got stuck working for them. Desire for escape became acute.

  • 22 Tom-Baker Dr Who December 15, 2020, 4:20 pm

    I’ve always preferred to save for the future rather than spending everything today. When I was a child, my brother and I would get Easter eggs and I would keep mine well after my brother had finished all of his. Then eventually he would finish mine too!

    I’m a physicist and worked in Academia for years then became a quant after my wife and I had children. I guess both in Academia and in investment banking, there is very little job security (unless you are a professor in Academia). So I always saved.

    My master plan from the beginning was to follow the steps of Julian Barbour (author of among other books ‘The End of Time’) and become an independent scientist supporting myself and my family from investments and doing research in fundamental Physics. Like the Accumulator, I too have recently become financial independent and will soon be realising this dream of becoming an independent scientist!

    I was impressed by how well my portfolio performed during the recent Corona crisis. I saw my portfolio going down as the market collapsed on the 19th of February, but the maximum drawdown was only about 11%. In about 2 months I recovered all the paper losses (thanks for the famous do-not-sell call, Accumulator!): a nice V.

    Apart from this excellent site, and Big Ern’s Early Retirement Now Safe Withdrawal Rate series, the following books helped me very much:

    * Moshe Arye Milevsky ‘Retirement Income Recipes in R’ (Springer 2020).
    * Michael H. McClung ‘Living off Your Money’ (Patterns Press 2015).
    * Wade Pfau ‘How Much Can I Spend In Retirement?’ (Retirement Researcher Media 2017).
    * William Bernstein ‘The Intelligent Asset Allocator’ (McGraw Hill 2017).
    * Richard A. Ferri ‘All About Asset Allocation’ (McGraw Hill 2010).
    * Benjamin Graham ‘The Intelligent Investor’ (Harper Collins 1984).
    * Harry Browne ‘Fail-Safe Investing’ (St Martin’s Griffin 1999).

    I hope someone finds this useful!

  • 23 Jonathan December 15, 2020, 4:21 pm

    For us, we started being much more active about managing our money when we had a lot of work done to our house and realised, after checking our account one day, that we had less than £50 left in the entire world to last a fortnight. We vowed to ourselves never to let ourselves be so exposed ever again. This led to our first budget and buying premium bonds as an emergency fund.

    Then we decided neither of us want to work until we were 75 and we started to research what we could do. Lots of reading of the usual websites (Monevator, MMM, various FIRE blogs and the excellent ‘Personal Finance’ Stack Exchange sorted by top questions) and we started to overpay the mortgage, increase our pensions and get LISAs and ISAs.

    Coupled with some good payrises, we’ve now got a healthy social budget each month and should be retired by 55. It’s clearly a balance between FI and enjoyment and for us, enjoying our 20s and 30s is worth working until our mid-50s.

    The only major financial decision we have left is how much to spend on our next house, which will be our ‘forever’ home…

  • 24 Scrooge December 15, 2020, 4:42 pm

    Reading some of these stories makes me feel luckier than a lot of people. I retired (early) in mid 2008 with a solid defined benefit pension. That and a decent “stash” has meant a comfortable retirement. I don’t consider myself extravagant e.g. I’ve never had a hire purchase agreement for anything and the last time I bought a new car was 1976. I sold it in 1977 to raise a deposit for a mortgage on getting married. The “loss” on the new car was an eye-opener and something that stayed with me and engendered some frugality but not to excess. I have a liking for “fine wine” which I continue to indulge. I was working for a shipping company in 1986 when there was a recession with attendant redundancies and threats of more. I couldn’t see that UK Shipping Fleets were going to recover; too much “cheap” competition. So when offered an ex pat job in the Middle East I took it with both hands. Being ex-pat was lucrative allowing quick repayment of the mortgage and build up of a “stash”. So far so good and better than a lot. But I knew nothing about investing; Building Societies was where savings went. In attempting to find better avenues I was prey for aggressive salesmen of vehicles such as insurance bonds. I wasn’t “cheated” often, in fact only once and for a modest sum but it hurt. If I’d known better I could have done better even much better. On retirement I got a lump sum but I still knew not much on where to invest it. I eventually stumbled on Monevator (and others) which expanded my financial knowledge exponentially (sorry) and I’d like to thank you for that. So while in retirement I’ve enjoyed foreign travel and multiple holidays each year while more than doubling my ”stash”. I couldn’t have done that without your site’s free financial education. So again heartfelt thanks. It begs the question; why continue the “struggle” why not lie back and enjoy it? In my case it’s fear of long term care fees. The current average is c. £1000 per week and £1500 per week for a good kennel. So £80k per annum; one needs a good stash for that kind of expenditure short of a DIY pack from EXIT. Apologies for being so long winded. Enjoy Christmas such as it promises to be.

  • 25 weenie December 15, 2020, 5:15 pm

    I was very good at saving money as a child, following in my parents’ footsteps (who retired early) but my problem was when I started earning – I was doing the classic ‘spending more than I earned’ for a long time.

    Around 2004, it suddenly occurred to me that it was not normal for someone in their mid-30s to be overdrawn every month and have a 5-figure balance across several credit cards, just paying the minimum balance off each month.

    I resolved to get myself out of debt, without the help or support of friends or family as I was too ashamed to tell anyone.

    I wasn’t quite in the black when the bottom fell out of the world economy in 2008 and although I wasn’t affected by the stock markets crashing as I had no investments, being in the finance industry, my job was at risk – those were very dark days but I was saved from the chop and went on to eventually pay off my debts at the end of 2009. I was 40 years old at this point.

    I haven’t been in debt (aside from mortgage and briefly, car loan) since then and in 2014, I came across FIRE (and Monevator!), shifted my mindset, set a goal and ramped up my savings and investments.

    I was made redundant in 2016 and how I felt then compared to how I felt in 2008 when my job was at risk was worlds apart – the financial security I had from being on the path to FIRE had me feeling calm about my situation and that if I’d wanted to, I could have comfortably taken a year off work (I didn’t, as 5 months later, I found a job).

    Finding the FIRE community changed changed me and my life.

    I found myself nodding to your list of things you haven’t missed – I haven’t missed any of those things either.

  • 26 Nick H December 15, 2020, 6:12 pm

    What a wonderful post, and clearly I’m not alone in thinking so. I have enjoyed reading the other stories too. The Great Financial Crash of 2008 seems to be quite a common thread. Below is my story.

    In 2008 I was working for HBOS, as safe as houses, I knew that I had a job there for life. Until the day I didn’t. I remember the day the bank went down, just like you remember where you were when Kennedy was shot, or when Princess Di died. I worked in one of the finance departments, and when the share price went below 40p early in the morning (we were all watching), we knew the game was up, so we switched off the computers and went to the pub (the nearby Wetherspoons opens for breakfast) or into town. Just the finance guys – everyone else was still at their terminals, oblivious to what was happening. In the afternoon, HBOS was acquired by Lloyds Bank, but we all knew that the writing was on the wall for a lot of us. Smashing two large banks together meant a lot of redundancies in due course. This was the lightbulb moment for me. I determined to never be at the mercy of an employer, or circumstances, ever again if I could help it.

    I used my savings to pay off most of my mortgage, used the redundancy money when it came to pay off the rest. Some people think this is the wrong thing to do, and financially they would be right, but the peace of mind it brings, knowing that at least “they” can’t take away the place you live, is priceless, and I would do the same again for this reason. That peace of mind allowed me the freedom to max out my investment strategies. I hadn’t discovered the FIRE movement at this time, but working in investments and financial modelling I worked out the basic mechanics for myself. However, luck was the primary factor in how things turned out.

    The first stroke of luck was moving to a firm which operated salary sacrifice. The new firm contributed a matching amount plus a refund of the employers NI contributions. This turbo-charged my pension savings especially when I paid a lot of my salary into my pension (up to 70% of my gross salary at times, using past years allowances when the contribution cap came in).

    The second stroke of luck was investing into the US equity markets in 2010. I claim no credit for this, other than if this was what Warren Buffet recommended for the average investor, then it was good enough for me. Of course the returns of the US market have been phenomenal over the past decade.

    The third stroke of “luck” was Brexit. Without being political, having all my investments overseas in June 2016 again turbo-charged investment returns (in nominal sterling terms).

    Three strokes of luck later and I achieved FI (£800k plus mortgage-free house, if you want numbers) and retired, aged 50, at the end of 2016.

    So, the process took about 7 years from start to finish, but with an incredible amount of luck along the way, otherwise I would still be working. I suppose I also have a bit of the Jacob Lund Fisker mentality (I can be very frugal when necessary) too, which helps.

    Anyway, I’ve enjoyed the last four years not working. During this time, my wife was diagnosed with a chronic health condition and we’ve also had health issues with other members of our family. The freedom and opportunity that FI has given me to help my loved ones with these issues has been truly priceless.

    I actually discovered the FIRE movement in about 2014/15, so I was already far along my own little plan, but reading all the blogs and websites gave me a great deal of confidence in what I was doing, and also reassured me that I wasn’t totally mad. Really love the Monevator site, which always provides food for thought. Keep it up guys, it really is appreciated.

    Finally, I’d just like to thank the other people for sharing their stories. And I wish you all luck at whatever stage you are at in the FIRE journey.

  • 27 xxd09 December 15, 2020, 6:33 pm

    Aged 74 retd 17 years so getting near the end of the game and now have no money worries-(so far!)
    Was interested for some reason in Pensions in my late 20,s just as most of my compatriots were only interested on in houses -made me rather the odd man out at dinner parties!-insecure personality?
    Now people talk about nothing else!
    I had discovered the sobering financial fact that you needed £100000 of capital to get £4000 pa of income at age 60
    As I was self employed at the time with wife and 3 kids the task appeared enormous
    Bought a very small house and worked/saved hard
    Tried Insurance Companies (incl Equitable Life),Unit Trusts and Investment Trusts then……..
    discovered John Bogle ,Index Investing and the Vanguard Diehards forum/blog now Vanguard Bogleheads ) just in time-and never looked back
    Monevator keeps up the sae good work with a U.K. bias
    The Americans as usual were ahead of us and were really the only source of practical unbiased free worthwhile financial advice albeit with a US twist in those far off days
    How poorly we were served by the self serving financial community in those far off days
    xxd09

  • 28 gadgetmind December 15, 2020, 6:41 pm

    Wow difficult. Growing up in a Lancashire mining village where the mine shut after we moved there kind of got not having much under my skin. Ditto work ethic, and I was doing a 30 hour week from age 14 even while at school, and 50 hours during all holidays, as this was what you did.

    My father was in road haulage, and ended up being part of one of the first big privatisations, which included all employees, so I was able to go to university in the late 70s. After uni, I started a business and did very well from the computer games boom of the early 80s, pissed away the vast sums we made, and learned a lot from this.

    I became a saver in my 20s, started a pension then (eaten alive by fees in those days) and PEPs as soon as they launched. Since then, spare cash got invested, money from selling a company at age 30 went on “forever house” and investments, and running joke with my wife is that she can spend money from any of my share awards if she can find it, because it all got invested.

    I got serious with planning in addition to saving when my brother retired before me. Nothing like sibling rivalry, so spreadsheets galore and I retired at age 54 about 2.5 years ago.

    Some people at work (before UK offices were all closed after Brexit referendum) got it and regarded me as the tax/pension guru, but many just spent every pay rise and then started demanding another. I’m sure they are still working, even those who earned much more than me.

  • 29 Vanguardfan December 15, 2020, 6:50 pm

    My story is similar(ish) to @steveark – basically my parents modelling sensible money management, anti-debt, never borrow for anything except a house, that kind of thing. BUT they were anti-materialistic and frugal – so mainly achieved financial comfort by having decent (but not well paid) jobs and living within their means. Pursuing a misery making but high paid job would have been bemusing to them. (As it is to me, actually!)
    However, it’s not just parental influence is it? There must be something intrinsic as well. I was brought up in the same household as my siblings but we do have somewhat different money personalities. My ears perked up when I heard my parents discussing their budget, and from an early age I was reading personal finance columns. In contrast one of my siblings is a bit clueless regarding money management, and his retirement plan is to work till he drops (his work is vocation not job). Mind you, even he lives within his means.

  • 30 The Investor December 15, 2020, 8:36 pm

    As I’ve written before on Monevator, I’m the odd one out here.

    The reason I write so few “how to get over your financial hurdles” type posts is that I never really had most of those hurdles.

    When I first met The Accumulator he was indeed spending lavishly on hobbies and expensive cheese and one of the most amazing rented rooms anyone is ever likely to live in on his then-titchy salary ever again in this country, while I was working for an equally titchy salary having taken a pay cut to work for fun — but also saving for a house deposit, and telling everyone I knew to buy their own flat.

    (Advice I stupidly failed to follow myself. Explanations in this blog’s archives…)

    I’m hardwired to save, and possibly even to compound my wealth. I’m future-orientated to a fault. As a kid I was saving for my hobbies via two paper rounds (morning and night) and I never spent it all. I also saved the money I got from a building society demutualization and I saved some of my student grant.

    Some of this ‘old money’ of mine saved from childhood went into my infamous flat purchase a couple of years ago!

    In fact when I think about how easy I find it to save and invest, it makes me think I’ve done rather poorly, financially speaking.

    But as I’ve written many times, I also care far less about money than you might think for a financial blogger and inveterate investor.

    I’m certainly not careless with money; I’m super careful with it.

    But I really don’t care about it in the traditional sense. For instance I was surely earning 50% the average salary of my graduation class peers by the mid-late 1990s, and maybe 25% by the mid 2000s! I’ve just never chased money when working.

    Possibly this ranks as a mistake in retrospect. But I didn’t spend much and my work let me travel and have fun, and I’ve rarely felt the need to show-off via material things (happily, because I typically didn’t have much to show off!)

    I’ve written before why some of my friends were pretty surprised I had any money in size at all when I bought my flat:

    https://monevator.com/the-bohemian-investor/

    So in terms of origin stories I’m more Superman (sorry!) than Spider-man or Iron-man (or more Bananaman than Danger Mouse, to be less grandiose, but really, we’re talking origin stories here so it’s hard not to go full Marvel!) My money was self-made but my money psyche was made by nature.

    The closest I got to light bulb moments was probably the reading I did in the late 1990s. There was — yes! — Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and another book which rammed home compound interest, where I worked out I could be a millionaire in 25 years if added something like £600 each month to my existing savings at the time. There was also a book by the late, great Jim Slater in the early 2000s about using a mortgage to fund an investment portfolio. I remember that stretching my working class roots’ idea of the possible, Matrix-style.

    One reason I haven’t written a post about achieving FI is because I genuinely don’t know if I have this year, or if I did five years ago, or if I never will. My various linked spreadsheets tell me my net worth dozens of times a day, but I honestly don’t know what ‘my number’ is.

    That’s why we’re lucky, again, to have The Accumulator working this beat! 🙂

    Thanks for all the great comments and stories everyone.

  • 31 The Accumulator December 15, 2020, 9:20 pm

    Wow! What a thread. It’s an absolute pleasure to read these stories. So interesting to read those echoing similar experiences and so fascinating to read those who got here by another route entirely.

    There is nothing like a bit of community. I almost feel like we’ve got a virtual campfire going.

    Really want to reply in detail to some of these stories but I’m working late. Aaaargh! Not for much longer.

    Thank you for taking the time to write such fulsome responses.

  • 32 KeepOnKeepingOn December 15, 2020, 9:50 pm

    4-5 yrs from pulling trigger (give or take “one more year”) – will be circa 55yo.
    Married childhood sweetheart, wired exactly same way, now with three older kids.
    Worked in two top FTSE30 blue chips – DC pensions max’d for employer contribution, got some DB schemes too, both ISAs fed (not max’d yet).
    Both wife & myself are 1st generation in family to go to Uni – parents hard working in industry orientated roles – grandparents were miners/farming stock.
    In South-East now, no bad debt, interest-only mortgage (very low offset lifetime fixed interest) just surpassed amount owed with ISA funds – will leave fund to kick on to build pre-pension buffer to DC & DB kick-in at 55 & 60 respectively Net worth £1.5m today – will be close to sub-£2m by target date.
    Whilst we “KeepOnKeepingOn” – we don’t try to KeepOnWithTheJoneses!
    Living life & creating family memories is important – spend on nice holidays & living life.
    Not on labels, cars or doing what others are doing.
    Been a Monevator reader since 2014 (first comment posted today) and reader of various other blogs & podcast listener of many offerings. Now turning more attention from financials to post-FI life, focus, purpose and broader mindfulness reflections.
    Feel blessed to be where we are, but try my best to inform friends & colleagues to pay their future selves….resonates with some more than most, sadly.
    KeepOnKeepingOn everyone.

  • 33 JP December 15, 2020, 10:14 pm

    I grew up in a low income household where money was tight at times. I suspect that caused me to focus on financial security from a young age. My father was also very frugal and that will have rubbed off on me too. Bought my first small property in my early 20s after leaving university, and decided early on that paying off my capital and interest mortgage (everyone took out endowment mortgages in these days) was a good idea. I continued to do that with every property move up thereafter. I started a pension in my 20s too but didnt put too much into it till one day in 2010, after the credit crunch and a wave of redundancies at work, at a meeting of senior managers we were told the plan was to massively reduce the department over the next few years. I would be kept on. I knew this would mean an impossible workload and responsibilities, when those of us left were already vastly overworked (being the lucky ones to keep our jobs), but there is no reasoning with top management when they are intent on cost cutting. I decided on the spot I was going to get out of there before things got even worse (the job market at the time was dire). I then spent the next few years shoveling money into my pension, which thanks to salary sacrifice and being a higher rate taxpayer, built up pretty quickly. I am
    very lucky to also have a DB pension and so with the addition of few hundred thousand in DC funds was able to retire at 55 (mortgage free due to earlier mindset) to the surprise of many. This was a good time for me to go as the role and the work I did had started to become rather meaningless – I think that’s a common phenomenon in your mid-late 50s – and the farce of performance management didnt help.
    I cant recall how I came across the various FIRE sites – around the same time I guess, but I had already decided the direction I was going in. Reading about others on a similar journey with a similar mindset has really helped though. I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the journey, and got a huge sense of achievement out of reaching my FI goal.

  • 34 Jonny December 15, 2020, 11:48 pm

    Ah well, here’s mine:

    Growing up my parents weren’t into materialistic things (flash cars, or house etc) – though more because it didn’t seem important to them rather than because they couldn’t afford it.

    Up to the age of about 14, I spent everything I could get my hands on.

    Then my story gets similar to the Investor’s. I got shares from a building society demutualisation. I monitored the share prices daily (on teletext!), watching their value grow from about £500 – £800, before I pulled the trigger, and sold them (to my Dad – they’re worth about £60 now).

    The plan was always to blow the money on a £600 hifi, but when the time came I couldn’t bring myself to buy it, and bought one at less than half the price. I saved the rest, and never spent it.

    A few years later I got interested in savings rates (remember Egg @ 8%?) and ISAs, and put my entire interest free overdraft in high interest savings throughout my degree.

    I saved hard with my first job, and put a big deposit down on a modest house. I always had savings, but never saved for a pension. It was only in 2011 that I finally build up the courage to risk “gambling” some money on the stock market, and after confusion wondering how to value shares that were “recommended” on the Motley Fool site, stumbled across Monevator’s guides on passive investing and index trackers, and realised they were for me.

    At some point soon after (probably through Monevator’s Weekend Reading) I started reading articles on GetRichSlowly (back when JD Roth was there) and thought “FI, that’s definitely for me” – though I’m not there yet. I also don’t have a number, but do aggressively save, and overpay my mortgage.

    I think there are two things that make me differ from others who frequent this site.

    One, I’m so careful/worried about wasting money, that it can cause misery when it really shouldn’t. Stressing about something going up a few £s on Amazon, when I really should think of it as less than the cost of a pint of beer. Spending an hour or two to save £20, when at this point I should be concentrating on ways to earn more money.

    Two, I really do crave a luxury German car. Seeing others I know driving them makes me really want one. Even though I know that almost all of them will be company/lease/PCP cars, my insecure side (irrationally) thinks, “they must be doing so much better than me, to be able to overpay their mortgage, save for pensions, save for FI, buy a big TV, get and iPhone AND have enough for a Merc”, when really they’re probably stuck on the consumer treadmill, borrowing and spending to fund their luxury life styles.

    I will probably treat myself one day, when I feel I’ve “made it”, though if/when that will be, I have no idea. It’s quite silly really, because unlike most people who do drive these cars, I could quite comfortably go and pay cash to buy one new – but instead opt for value for money and reliability – the safe choice!

    So there you have it, my origin story, and my kriptonite!

  • 35 FIRE v London December 16, 2020, 12:28 am

    Excellent blog post and great comment thread to follow.

    I’m not quite sure about what has made me who I am.

    Part of the answer is my upbringing, with two particular things striking me. The first is that I always felt, as a kid, that we were ‘poor’. This was not strictly true, in that my father had a secure public sector job, but his job was notoriously underpaid and my mother didn’t work until I was in my teens. They put all their money into property (but bought high and sold low) and education (which I benefited from, in my teens). I was always jealous of friends who had things that I didn’t; I was the last person I knew to get a TV, and that was a cast off that was given to me by friends as a present. I grew up knowing the value of money and wanting material things. I have, for instance, always liked sparkling water – it feels ‘paid for’, and ‘frivolous’ – we would never have had this when I was a kid.

    The second thing I got from my parents was some subconcious schooling in the stock market. My mother had a (very) small stockmarket portfolio. Her father had worked for a public company and I think that helped. I, and his other grandchildren, had I think 2 shares in his old company. My mum didn’t treat it as a hobby, like I do, but for her having a stockmarket portfolio was a fact of life. Her brother earnt quite good money and clearly lived very comfortably, and I overheard my mum talking to him about their stockbroker etc. This rubbed off, subconsciously.

    I was temperamentally a saver and always have been. I would pass the marshmallow test at the top of the class. I have always been quite money motivated – I worked since before my GCSEs, and saved.

    I then had a life-changing windfall early in my career. I made enough money to never work again. Or did I? It was, alternatively, only enough to buy a very nice London house (in Mayfair, admittedly!), and leave me with nothing left. I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad at about this point, and a penny dropped. I knew I had enough, if I was careful, to say ‘feck you’ to anybody I wanted to. So I resolved to be careful. And, over the next few years, I started doing the calculations on how to ensure I could be financially independent under all reasonable scenarios. It was somehow during this process that I came across Monevator, which accelerated my learning considerably.

    I have been out of work a couple of times. Both times were voluntary. Both times did not involve any financial stress, rationally speaking. But both times I hated the feeling of ‘living off capital’. Temperamentally I like to know I am living within my means, and that means not needing to touch my savings. This has been helpful learning for me; it has taught me that I am wired to work, not to retire early. But nonetheless I never want to need work, or to need work with a given level of pay. Hence I am proud to consider myself a member of the poorly named ‘FIRE’ movement.

  • 36 AfroLatino December 16, 2020, 1:57 am

    Thanks for the well-written article. I have also enjoyed reading other people’s stories, so thanks to all for sharing.

    I grew up in a home where my Mum always saved and can never remember her taking out a loan. We lived within our means but never had too much. I continued with this in my adulthood and always had just enough savings but no investments. Then tragedy struck as I struggled with chronic ill health with little savings. I have always been confident with my skills and never been afraid to work hard but with ill health, this meant nothing.

    I went for different GP appointments with little success but after much prayers, God healed me. It has been a long journey but I am grateful to have found this site and now investing. Everything turned out for good!

    Thanks to the moderators and constant contributors for sharing your advice freely.

  • 37 Learner December 16, 2020, 4:41 am

    I stumbled on Monevator around 2013 and found out what an “ISA” is, at 35, having muddled through early life basically spending what I earned. Family were low earners and friends were high earners – neither group talked about pensions or retirement.

    Eight years later I have a mortgage deposit plus similar amount in retirement savings. My saving rate is scaled for a pessimistic 50x expense multiple and 20yr mortgage, due to age. Far too late for early FI or RE, but this site has at least given me an interest in finance and some skills to make the best of things for which I am very grateful.

  • 38 Steve December 16, 2020, 8:08 am

    One of the best articles I have read, thank you!

    My journey started as a 15 year old, when my father divorced my mum who had serious mental health issues. We went from reasonable affluence to real poverty overnight, where food was scarce (no food banks around in the 1980s in our area and the state benefits were inadequate), no money to pay bills and zero luxuries (e.g. Xmas presents).

    My mindset changed from a ‘typical’ teenager to one of survival, I said to myself when I got my first salary “never again am I going back to living that way”. I believe that mindset, determination and grit are the key attributes to FIRE the other components are knowledge (thank you so much Monevator) and time.

    Keep going my friend, whatever are past and journeys I live for the moment secure in the knowledge that I have done everything I can to secure my family’s financial future.

  • 39 Lemsip December 16, 2020, 10:57 am

    Great thread.
    My story is a bit unusual. I had the fortune of having a good education ( having been born and grown up in another country) and the benefit of having had well paying jobs in many countries before settling down in the UK. The driving force behind saving has perhaps come from my dad who despite being a professional, had no savings and never invested in anything apart from children’s education. So we were intellectually stimulated and successful academically but never had much money.
    Having an experience of a redundancy in my 20s which was very short as well as a fascination with financial history exacerbated this general feeling of never wanting to find myself dependent on anyone ever again. I was fortunate to never be out of a job of some sort and particularly lucky in the last 5 years when I had a stimulating gig in the US and Europe. Around 2017, I put my investing record together and realised we had more than enough not for me to sell my time to anyone else as out withdrawal rate on liquid capital was below 3%. So In 2017 at the age of 47, I decided to actively walk away from a high paying role which involved too much travel and having others control my time. I decided to manage my own capital – studying businesses is a process I find enjoyable though lacking in sociability. I am not driven by money at all – we live in a modest house, drive 10 year old cars and do not take fancy holidays. However, diligent saving and living under our means for a long period has meant we have managed to stash away a 7 figure sum in the ISA as well as a decent SIPP pot. I am 50 now and will probably need to find something interesting to occupy time soon but grateful to find that 2020 has been easier to navigate for me than those worrying about jobs and earnings. No one knows what the future will bring but 50 seems too young to retire from a form of structured work. I may decide to do something a bit off-beat and take a Phd or something similar ..grateful for having the ability to make choices !

  • 40 In my shed December 16, 2020, 11:25 am

    This post is very timely as yesterday I finally pulled the plug on paid work and have been thinking about how I got started on my FI journey.
    I was bought up in a loving family but money was always tight. My mum taught us to be careful with spending and encouraged us to get a job as soon as we were old enough (paper round etc). I can remember being quite stroppy for a while regarding not having a family car or even video player when my school mates did. My mums answer was to give me the family budget to work out on a monthly basis (a hand written spreadsheet). That shut me up and I will be forever grateful.
    I consider myself very lucky, I was the only one in our family of four kids to go to University when only 10% or so of kids took that route. I chose a pure science subject and ended up in a good, if not brilliantly paid, interesting job early on in my career. Historically, other members of my family were not so fortunate, I have an aunt who had to go into service at a young age to make ends meet and my Gran had siblings who were in a workhouse (I kid you not!). I guess this has given me the mindset to make the best of what I have.

    Being made redundant a few times in my career focused my mind to save for financial independence to give me more choice and control over my life. I discovered The Motley Fool in the 1990s and started investing in a L&G UK all share tracker and that was that until the GFC.

    In 2009 my job became high risk of redundancy and I focused on repaying my mortgage as fast as I could. I know with hindsight that I would have been better off investing the money but at the time I wanted to ensure I would not lose the house. The mortgage was paid off and the mental profit was substantial, a la @ermine!

    In 2012 I discovered Monevator and this changed my life by giving me the focus and methodology to achieve FI. I read Tim Hale (sorry TI!) Lars, Bogle etc, established my own version of the slow & steady portfolio and set up a SIPP. I am lucky to have two smallish deferred DB pensions from previous employers. The content and comments on this blog I have found to be incredibly educational and challenging and have played a significant part of my FI journey, resulting in my leaving my job yesterday at the age of 56, not early-early but early enough for me. For that, I thank you all, authors and commenters alike.

    Happy Christmas
    Simon

  • 41 The Investor December 16, 2020, 11:40 am

    The content and comments on this blog I have found to be incredibly educational and challenging and have played a significant part of my FI journey, resulting in my leaving my job yesterday at the age of 56, not early-early but early enough for me. For that, I thank you all, authors and commenters alike.

    Wow, yesterday!? Congratulations Simon! Thanks for the generous words, and we’re as always thrilled to have played any small role in an achievement like yours. Happy Christmas!

  • 42 { in·deed·a·bly } December 16, 2020, 11:44 am

    Thanks for writing this TA. The post, and fantastic comments, is one of the most enjoyable things I have read this year. Well done.

    The framing of a money origin story is a fascinating device to tease apart how we ended up where we find ourselves today. Influences. Events. Decisions.
    Thinking about it now, for me much of it was absorbed or vicariously observed during childhood.

    A grandfather getting made redundant, twice, towards the end of his career. Put out to pasture. Financing retirement via a term deposit ladder, as interest rates fell from 16% to 6%. A real-life longevity risk case study.

    A father whose identity was indelibly linked to his career. Unexpectedly deemed surplus to requirements in his late 50s. A blow from which his ego never recovered. A lengthy bucket list to work through, having deferred enjoying his life until retirement, only to be felled by cancer just a couple of years in.

    A childhood friend whose father stole some money, put the proceeds in a trust fund for each of his kids, and then hung himself. Watching each of those children turn 18, receive a life-changing amount of money, then burn through it all within a couple of months.

    My own experiences. Working three jobs while studying full time. Migrating. Hard-won qualifications not recognised. Visa rules prohibiting permanent employment. Spending a decade riding the uncertainty rollercoaster of ever-changing visa eligibility conditions.

    Starting a business out of necessity, effectively buying myself a job. Over time, recognising the control that granted, allowing me to chart my course and choose my destiny.

    My own brush with my mortality. A hospital stint without a phone charger, leaving plenty of time alone with my thoughts. Recognising that my kids would only be young once. That we don’t know how much time we will get. The need to balance out enjoying the journey today, while ensuring having “enough” for tomorrow. Realising that there are very few things we dream of doing in retirement, that we couldn’t already be doing in some form today.

    Figuring out that money was an enabler, not a goal. That financial independence was a milestone, not a destination. There was no single right answer or true path. There was only good enough and muddling through. An endless cycle of action, observation, evaluation, adjustment, then action again.
    Whichever path I found myself on, it was important to enjoy the ride, because “life happens” events would occur regardless.

    Adopting a seasonal working pattern. Semi-retirement. Whatever comes next.

  • 43 Bernie December 16, 2020, 12:14 pm

    What a great thread. I’ll add my bit for what it’s worth. I’m currently mid 30s with partner and a toddler. I stumbled across FIRE, Monevator and MMM in August 2019 whilst searching online about diy investing. I have spent 18months consuming information and commenced investing into index trackers with vanguard.

    I come from a middle class background with immigrant parents. Parents valued education highly and encouraged us to pursue university education & secure careers in a profession. Their approach to money was a slightly mixed message one. They encouraged living within your means but not living below your means. They economised in certain areas but also spent heavily on private education for our primary school years, luxury holidays and nearly new German cars. They had some stock market investments in drip feed investment trusts, but my dad also got involved in the dotcom bubble made money and then lost it all and more when that crashed. He explained the idea of pound cost averaging in investment trusts which was my first exposure to the stock market.

    At University I made a speculative investment in a flat using some gifted money and my student overdraft, obtained a 100% interest only mortgage. Looking back at this what a learning experience this was. I barely had any idea what I was getting myself into. The property market promptly crashed in the GFC only months after I had bought it. My first discovery of negative equity. Upon leaving the University I became an accidental landlord to avoid selling at a loss.

    After university, I was fortunate enough to move to a low cost of living area. That didn’t prevent me from feeling like I should be spending to keep up with friends from school/uni but I managed to avoid this, clear all overdraft debt and live relatively frugally in my first few years of work. This was encouraged by the threat of financial ruin with the property I still had looming over me in case there were void periods leaving me to cover the mortgage as well as my own rent elsewhere.

    Time passed I slowly made my way up the career ladder. As a couple we saved enough money for a deposit for a house, renovated it, offloaded the flat at cost price and a couple of years later had our first child. This rekindled my motivation to look into planning for the future and pensions and investments. I stumbled across the blog and the rest as they say is history. I’m extremely grateful to this website as it has provided a support structure to reinforce some of the frugal traits I have learnt, kept me on the straight and narrow rather than indulging in frivolous spending that friends, family and colleagues have often encouraged and given me the confidence to invest. I have no doubt that without the direction from this website, I would have most likely continued aimlessly on a cycle of pursuing more and more income with the intention of supporting a cycle of increasing consumption and upgrading.

  • 44 Billy Bow December 16, 2020, 1:11 pm

    My tale goes back forty years to a Maths lesson. The teacher explained pound cost averaging related it to investing. It stuck with me and aged 21, I started monthly buys within a PEP (for those of you old enough to remember the forerunner to the ISA).

    The result. I hit FIRE at 40 and have enjoyed all 17 years (so far) of work free FI. All because of a good teacher who I still keep in touch with and to whom I am eternally grateful.

  • 45 IanH December 16, 2020, 4:36 pm

    I was always more motivated by a vocation to a scientific career than following the money. I could never understand why so many fellow graduates were planning to go into careers in accountancy and finance immediately after graduation.

    Had various ups and downs including buying a first home the year before mortgage rates went up to 17%, then later on getting divorced and having to move alone to a new city and position and start from scratch saving for a house after paying for the one the rest of my former family were still living in. Financially it was all manageable, and the only thought I gave to long term finance was that I had a good employers pension through the university scheme.

    I’d no specific savings plan outside a low interest account with my bank that cash was kept in for a few months until the next holiday came around or whatever. Fortunately, I wasn’t that motivated to spend money outside going to the pub occasionally so had no debt other than a mortgage. The first time I had to think about what to do with ‘spare’ money was when my youngest daughter graduated. I forget the details of ending payments for divorce settlement and supporting my daughters through college, but I recall one afternoon sitting in my office and starting to look at options for how to save £500 a month into a pension or something. I guess this was about 2005. I’d no ISA, no SIPP. Literally as I was doing this a rep for an IFA came round our office suite touting for clients. “Funny you should ask..” I said. Well, I was with this IFA for quite a while and started investing into a SIPP with them, and was quite happy even as we went through the 2008 financial crisis. However, I gradually started to come across information on how one can take charge of your own fortunes, literally. I then had the classic “discovered MMM and Monevator” epiphany, and it was reading the Monevator post on IFAs (https://monevator.com/financial-advisors-swindlers-and-leeches/) that finally opened my eyes to the near-scam that my IFA was running on me – that’s a bit harsh, he was only running his firm in accordance with standard practice, I guess. But £5k p.a. fees for advice and platform fees plus fund fees on a £80k portfolio? Come on guys. So I moved on to a self-invested platform, using the Monevator broker guide to select a suitable one, moved my SIPP over and settled down to parking savings in a couple of global trackers. Later on as I got a couple of promotions that extra income went into the SIPP too. I later discovered I had 6 years of unclaimed higher rate pensions contributions relief my former IFA hadn’t thought to suggest to me I might like to claim. Cost me £4k to untangle that and a couple of years were outside the period I could claim. Can you eff-ing bee-lieve it?

    Well life moves on, and work became less fulfilling, then my mother became elderly, but at least by this time I had my Monevator-styled financial goggles on and could easily discern how to move into retirement earlier than I’d have thought I’d ever want to at the embarrassingly early age of 60. That worked out really well, in a sense, as my mum died only a couple of years later, earlier than she should have but we had a couple of years with my time under my own dsisposition. After Mum died I chose to move closer to my daughter and soon-to-be grand-daughter. This would have been impossible without the FI mindset I’ve acquired through Monevator readership, as she and her family live in a much higher housing cost region than I’d been living in since 1992, so no chance of a like-for-like move on the house front. In the event I sold my house and my Mum’s flat and invested the lot to support renting instead. I’m in far better housing renting than I could purchase where I live, and I’m OK with this – I can easily move away to a lower cost of living region if I have to, but I don’t see this as a significant risk. And I can’t see me wanting to own a house again, unless my circumstances change significantly. I think being single makes this lifestyle easier as I don’t have to worry about a partner’s perspective on owning vs renting.

    I’m five years into retirement now, and spend a lot of my time with my grand-daughter while her mum and dad are at work. She’s got a sister coming in the Spring, so that’s me tied up for another 5 years yet I guess. After that who knows? I am starting to feel an urge to ‘do something more with myself’, but really can there be anything more worthwhile than helping to bring up your grand-kids? In terms of personal finance I get my state pension at the end of next year (age 66) at which point I’ll only have to take out about 14k p.a. from a 660k portfolio / SIPP so it looks like I’m out of the woods. There’s still scope for a massive financial meltdown after Brexit + cov-19 I guess so I am still exposed to a sequence of returns risk, but I feel I’d be able to ride most things out now.

    Looking to the future I’d like to spend less time with my eyeballs on my financial spreadsheets, and wasting time re-checking accounts yet again for no descernible reason. Becoming obsessive about numbers on a screen is an occupational hazard for someone with a long career in science behind them… if I could only find a metric to assess when I could safely stop this stuff niggling away in my brain.

  • 46 JDW December 16, 2020, 5:20 pm

    Great thread and thanks to everyone for sharing their stories. I feel I am in a strange position of newly acquired financial knowledge and a plan, combined with sheer luck that I never forget.

    I’m now 35 and now consider myself to be two years into my ‘proper’ financial journey, with a portfolio of mid-to-high-five figures of assets, plus a modest 2 bed house with relatively low mortgage payments (more through luck than judgement). It is only relatively recently I have considerably cut back on expenditure, silly spending and seriously upped my savings rate to around 30-35% (it varies, sometimes more, sometimes less).

    I am now absolutely determined to be ahead of the curve when it comes to retiring and have no desire to have to work until I’m 70 (or older) just to put food on the table.

    Although from a relatively middle-class comfortable background, in that we could go on holidays, had a nice life and there were no struggles but we were not rich, I don’t recall ever being sat down and taught the basics of long-term financial planning by family, teachers, peers or whoever, and I had no interest in it. You got paid, you spend the pay and sometimes then some, repeat monthly. I also had five (!) years at uni after changing my course a few times as I didn’t know what to do, graduating finally in 2009 – very bad timing! (Still have around £16k of student loan debt, chipping away slowing but doesn’t make sense to overpay it – thanks to Martin Lewis for that) After uni, it took me nearly two years of sh*t temp jobs mixed with periods of unemployment. One temp role I remember working out the salary was so low, that after rent and train fares to the job, I was actually losing money. The sliding doors moment in my life was turning down a season of very low paid temp summer work in the Alps to then get a permanent job, albeit on a very modest salary, but for a company I loved, that just about covered the rent in a single room in a houseshare in London. (I had to borrow the deposit money from a friend – something I still remember and am thankful for as I literally had pennies to my names.) But it was at this job, I then met my partner of now 9 years. Over the next four years, I gradually started to save (in cash) very small amounts, including making the hard decision to leave this great organisation for one that paid a bit more but didn’t fit in with my interests (the positive here was they had a salary sacrifice pension scheme I opted to join, despite knowing nothing about pensions, and it was a very generous one – in hindsight, a good move)

    However, during this period I also absolutely frittered away money on silly things, including developing an online gambling habit, spending money on things I didn’t need, massive nights out, trips away, with no budgeting or plans, that somehow built into nearly £10k of debt by 2015. As mentioned, it was also during this period I met my partner, who after a few years of being together, she received an unexpected inheritance that we were incredibly fortunate to be able to be enough to put down a deposit on a house.

    It was only at this point, I realised I had really had nothing to show for years of spending, I still had debts, a very, very small pension, no cash savings, and somehow I was the co-owner of a house through sheer luck rather than judgement. When the penny dropped, it was a joint moment of realising how lucky I was and also that I needed to do something about it, in case for whatever reason, I wasn’t so lucky in the future. (You never know….)

    I then started to read blogs, books, do calculations etc, and finally, came up with some sort of plan. We were also both in relatively stable but ultimately unhappy jobs – I had moved at that point to another company, but was sick of the bureaucracy and restructures, and had some health issues as a result. We made a decision to have one last hurrah before settling down for good (for a while, at least) and decided to stick out in the jobs for another two years (mainly so I could then be entitled to the final salary pension entitlement), quit and go travelling for a year, but on a very small budget of savings and rent out the house to cover expenses and the mortgage. As a non-risk taker, leaving a stable job is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, taking the leap (and another reason I didn’t touch shares until recently – I thought investing was akin the gambling rather than long term accumulation) I don’t regret going away at all – probably the best thing I’ve done. In fact, camping and self-catering, we spent much less travelling than we would have done at home and it showed I could live very frugally but also finding the balance to live now but also plan for the mid and long term, neither of which I had done before that moment really. Once we got back from that in December 2018, and having what I hope is now a secure stable job (but comes with its annoyances that is the motivation to get my head down, work hard, build up the savings to a point of independence and get out, even an industry in turmoil during the current times, I am – touch wood – ok at the moment – and even then having a buffer for a little while and knowing that is x months income/expenses is such a weight off your mind) and with likely family commitments on the horizon, we would then pile money into savings and investment for early retirement, overpay the mortgage etc, and since that date, two years ago, I have gorged on money-saving blogs, investment blogs etc, scrimped and saved every available spare penny into a S&S ISA and SIPP, and managed to build up my portfolio from around what was basically negative to around mid to high five figures. I changed role in January 2020, and as part of that saw a Financial Advisor for the first time in my life and was nice to hear ‘you’ve got your head screwed on’, and ‘keep going’.

    I have significantly cut-down expenses, which perhaps easier during the current times and being an introvert certainly helps and my regret is not starting sooner, in my earlier 20s, although I acknowledge I have had such fortune in the house and being able to travel when we did (particularly with what has happened this year)

    I want to get to the point of £15-20k income from dividends (or £30k joint with my gf) or the equivalent thereof with a sensible SWR, a frugal lifestyle and mortgage-free by 50 to 55, or at least be in the position in the next 5/10 years to cut down working hours and have more time for walking trips, cheap travel etc, concentrate on raising kids etc. Difficult but probable, if we are lucky, I hope. It’s been eye-opening in the last year just how little I need to be content (good health, a roof, food and a good book) and knowing a figure in black and white you have to aim for. I’m also motivated by family members retiring at aged 69 only to sadly pass away within a year and not see a retirement.

    One big regret I now have was in 2006 when I received an inheritance of mid four figures from a grandparent passing away, and smashed through it within a couple of months, going to gigs (I remember at least 15 gigs in one month – no recollection of the bands now), nights out, trips away etc, absolutely nothing really to show for it. I shudder to think if I had invested it as I would do now, and with compounding and time what it would be worth now…….ho hum…..better late than never!

    Basically, I wish financial knowledge was more strongly taught at a young age, and the dangers of non-mortgage debt and silly spending (NB, I am still recovering from that, but now in control, as I still have around £7k on credit cards, but now on 0% credit cards, yearly balance transfers and overpaying the minimum while investment elsewhere) – there is some argument between concentrating on paying off the consumer debt as a priority, partly as a mental thing, but with the 0% rate and interest rates so low, it makes sense to invest elsewhere while servicing around the minimum, I feel. It’s going down, but most of which is now from the installation solar panels as an investment on our property just before the FiTs were cut in 2015, so getting regular quarterly payments back from that and drastically reduces our energy bills.

    Wishing everyone well.

  • 47 Simon Taylor December 16, 2020, 6:17 pm

    My wake up call was in 2009 when I became a parent. Expenses would match income for the first time. So I looked for options and found investing to be one of them.

  • 48 David December 16, 2020, 7:12 pm

    The post and the responses have been very interesting. It’s great to read all the different stories. There do seem to be themes arising.

    In my case I think I have always been reasonably careful with money, more so than my younger siblings. As a teenager I did numerous part time jobs to help to pay for hobbies, like fishing, music, beer and gigs. I remember earning 20p a day in my first job delivering papers, later I worked in supermarkets, factories, bars etc all through school/university.

    A year off before university, working in a shop at the end of the road (rather than seeing the world!) allowed me to save some money and taught me that learning was more interesting than working. I’ve never been materialistic or ambitious (except wanting to win at sport or cards etc). After my degree which I really enjoyed I chose an academic career, which has been interesting but not particularly well paid. The career path allowed me to spend ten years living in Europe/USA, as well as providing natural breaks that permitted longer more exotic episodes of travel, including a proper gap year at the age of 30.

    I returned to the UK a little over twenty years ago in my mid-thirties. I immediately began overpaying my UK university pension contributions. I think I’ve now built up a pretty good defined benefits pension. I started saving in cash ISAs then later moved partly to unit trusts, trackers etc. The investments periodically did poorly but I remained calm and left them to it, largely because I didn’t need the cash. About ten years ago I first started investing in individual stocks. My Dad worked for Lloyds bank and received some shares because of this. I saw how he was entertained by reading the price in the newspaper every day and I get the same pleasure looking up prices on the internet. I also hold funds/etfs but no longer hold any money in cash ISAs. The ups and downs of investing are fun, and similar to playing cards for money (which I also enjoy).

    I only discovered Monevator and Fire in the last couple of years and have enjoyed reading and being reassured by what I read. I am pretty confident I’m now financially independent and could retirebut I am still working. My parents, a teacher and bank clerk, each retired at 59. I currently plan to retire at sixty, in a couple of years.

    I think a difficulty will be switching from a saving to a spending mentality. I look forward to the opportunity to try! Sadly, a couple of close friends have become seriously ill over the past couple of years which increases my desire use any accumulated cash to enjoy the autumn of my life.

  • 49 Whettam December 16, 2020, 8:32 pm

    Absolutely loved this post and reading everyone else’s stories.

    As a few others have said, I feel relatively lucky, I have been fortunate enough to earn an above average salary my entire career. Compared to some of my colleagues lifestyles, I may have “gone without”, but I think I have a good lifestyle. I also feel a bit of a fraud with the FIRE moniker, my version will not be that early (in a few years 55+) and it will be fairly fat.

    So why? My parents were not well off, they were often in debt, didn’t own their home and both worked ****dy hard. I supposed I resolved, apart from mortgage, not to get into debt. When I remortgaged, I’d always reduce the term rather than the payment, I became a bit obsessive about making overpayments and used an offset mortgage.

    I paid off the mortgage before I was 40 and then started to make significant (25% of salary pension contributions, in addition to my employers 10%). I was possibly interested in retiring early, but no firm plans, it just initially seemed a good thing to do with the money.

    Then I had a cardiac arrest at 45 (congenital problem, just decided to go pop one day) followed by heart surgery and about 9 months off work. Bizarrely it was this convalescence period that confirmed I wanted to retire early, I suppose it was a bit of a ‘dry run’ and I really enjoyed spending decent time with my wife.

  • 50 far_wide December 16, 2020, 10:00 pm

    In my case, I was always intrinsically driven to save for some reason. I know this because one of my very first memories was being at my Grandma’s house and, upon seeing a large glass jar of pennies, having an overwhelming urge to sit and count them all.
    Beyond that, like some others have mentioned, the first lightbulb moment for me was being gifted a copy of ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’, in my case when I was 18. It’s funny how often this crops up, isn’t it? Such a hokey and unrealistic book really, yet it must clearly have something to it. It really stopped making me think of money as something to gather, but instead as something to put to work.
    My money focus didn’t however do me so well in my career. After attending a good university on a well-regarded course, I headed for the first graduate job that would have me that I felt would lead to big bucks. In hindsight, I wish I had put far more effort into finding what I was interested in, as it led to a very unfulfilling desk job.
    Despite that, and despite not really achieving those bucks, I managed to quickly accumulate savings, pension and buy a house (5% deposit – in 2006 (doh).
    Given the timing, capital appreciation was not my friend, but having paying housemates was. Meanwhile, fast forward to about age 29, I suddenly discovered Mr Money Mustache. This was a real lightbulb for me, and really focused my efforts. I absolutely pumped my pension contributions and was very fortunate with the timing of the rising market.
    At the age of 32, not FI but certainly equipped with a bucket of FU money, I left. Not because I had an amazing plan, I just couldn’t take it (my job) any more. I had always wanted to travel, and so did, with my wife. I was fully expecting to return to work, but nonetheless lived a frugal life. Meanwhile, on our slow travels, I picked up some small moneymaking opportunities and my wife some small amount of freelance work. With that, and a still rising market in which I was well invested in passive index trackers (thanks MMM and Monevator), and some good fortune on the way, I would probably ‘call’ that we had achieved our fairly lean version of FI aged 35 at a 3% SWR. No longer having a need for a UK property is the real secret sauce there.
    I’m now 37, and my only ‘problem’ (of only the very finest 1st world variant) now is working out what I want to do next.

  • 51 AM December 16, 2020, 10:40 pm

    Well, the comments prove that people love talking about themselves 🙂

    I’ll join in…

    I turned 50 this year and have been FI for a couple of years. I’ve never had a massive salary but I don’t kid myself that my FI is due to anything shrewd, or being early to FIRE, etc. I just consider it down to 4 simple things

    1. Boringly straightforward global equity investments, bought and held long term.
    2. Lucked into a decent DB pension.
    3. Lucked into riding the property market for the last 25 years.
    4. No kids.

    Definitely had it easy compared to people starting out now who can’t follow the same path. I’ve got genuine sympathy for anyone beginning nowadays but at least there’s plenty of info out there to read and learn from.

  • 52 The Wandering Minstrel December 16, 2020, 11:13 pm

    Great post, and the comments make excellent reading.

    I’m a little envious of those raised with good habits. My upbringing had some good (we got no allowance without chores, and when we did we were responsible for buying our own clothes), but nothing about everyday money management. I also had the bad luck (or judgement) to marry someone who was terrible with money. I spent many years with a knot in my stomach when I had to open a bank statement.

    Then a few years ago I got divorced, and swore that nobody would ever put me in that situation again. I emigrated and started living as frugally as possible, saving every last dollar and investing in index funds. I reached FI a couple of months ago, and will be retiring in a couple more.

    I’d definitely agree with those who say that there’s so much good advice out there these days. It’s not so great that there’s a lot of bad advice, and the level of financial literacy in all three countries I’ve lived in is way too low, but I see the FIRE movement as a whole as a force for good, letting people know that they have the option not to stay on the spending hamster wheel.

  • 53 Ann December 17, 2020, 5:00 am

    Worked @ Sky for a bit and one of the directors also had your blog up on his screen during breaks.

    I researched your blog & found the portfolio that worked for me. Opened an investment account and invested

    Not many persons know how to invest or they think its for ‘other people’.

    You make things as clear as possible.

    Thank you all very much for doing this website.

  • 54 JADC2 December 17, 2020, 5:53 am

    I was always a saver. Or, you could say, money hoarder. So I think that was me.
    Mom ran the budget and I knew she didn’t do debt. Debt was bad — you saved up until you had the money for what you wanted. So that was the example.
    Dad, the income earner in the family, died suddenly before I was a teen. It was difficult for a while and I resolved to always be in control of an income (i.e., mine) and to make plenty. So that was the early life experience.
    Because of the debt hate, I went to school where I could get a full tuition scholarship so no school debt, even through two advanced degrees.
    A friend in grad school mentioned that 30 was a good time to start saving for retirement and I thought, “I’m almost 30. Hmmmmm….”
    Got real job in time to start saving for retirement (i.e., before 30!). Real job paid poor for the field but well overall and back then I was a real cheapskate.
    Moved up a bit and job was steady through GFC. My husband wanted to buy a house, which we did, and one well within our means and with 20% down.
    Still, shopping for something so expensive (the house) and taking on so much debt was a shock to the system that led me to local real estate blogs, which led me to the blog Calculated Risk, and from thence to Personal Finance blogs and FIRE. I started out looking for a rationale why we should stay renters for life actually, instead of buying a house, but realized there was a lot more out there than just saving in the bank and staying out of debt. So this was my lightbulb moment, but I’d had a good foundation, some luck (both good and bad) and lucky tendencies.
    We paid off our house in less than 10 years and with a high income I am able to save copiously and also to graduate from cheapskate to frugal. This year has also been an eye opener but I think the main change may be to donate more to charity since we are on course otherwise and there but for the grace of God go I.

  • 55 Peony December 17, 2020, 8:57 am

    Wow, what an interesting reading session, who needs Xmas TV.
    For my two penneth.

    Growing up in the 70’s/80’s, Mum had to stretch the housekeeping, Dad spent his salary in the pub. She showed me her house budget folders at an early age, and of course I asked the ‘why don’t we have a car/colour tv/home phone’ questions. Her advice as I got older ‘get on the housing ladder as young as possible’.
    No degree or Uni education, we just didn’t have the money and Mum didn’t believe in loans. But spent two years at Art college, found work after, moved out of home, only to be made redundant a few months later, it was the beginning of the 90’s recession.
    A year of living on income support, with tinned tuna as the highlight of the week, being frugal with the electric key meter, I vowed I just didn’t want to spend the rest of my life living like that.
    Moved to the Big Smoke for work with a few hundred pounds to my name, stayed with an Aunt for a few months and she helped me find employment.
    Met my now husband, both in low paid work but got on the housing ladder in our mid twenties, whilst friends were pissing away their wages. It was the mid ninties.
    Over the next 10 years had average to low paid work, one of the workplaces the people there had some good advice. Our post room boy ‘take the works pension and make sure you pay the max as they’ll match it, free money init’, and the tea lady ‘you’re a long while in your box, enjoy life’.
    Mid 2000’s, sold the flat and bought a house, next person to thank was Martin Lewis Moneysaver, I was fascinated by his ‘overpay your mortgage calculator’…which we did and paid it off two years ago in our mid 40’s – NOTHING has ever beaten that feeling for me, never having to worry about the roof over my head again.
    Roll on to 2019, still commuting for over 10 hours a week, squeezing family visits, chores into the weekends, (what did that tea lady say to me…) so put the house on the market and planned a move to the coast.
    Managed to sell this year, put everything in storage and rented for a couple of months whilst we found our next home, which we were able to pounce on being cash buyers. Being fairly frugal and not being into the party/status lifestyle, helped the transition to somewhere rural more easy.
    The covid has helped in a weird way, as I’ve so far been able to keep my job and go part time WFH.
    However – this is where this is where the FIRE community comes in, had started reading the most excellent The Escape Artist last year, dabbled with MMM, but prefer UK blogs. We now have a cash lump sum, (which we’ve never had before) and we need to invest it!
    Discovered this blog yesterday, and will greedily read over Xmas – I hope it’s not too late to invest, but have always been scared of losing what we have. Thankfully this info is out there online, I have a lot to learn but am willing and able, now I have more time to do it as well.
    Happy Xmas!

  • 56 CJMcF December 17, 2020, 12:14 pm

    Interesting thread – thanks.
    I don’t think I ever had a light-bulb moment – but I do remember that as soon as I graduated and got my first job (1986?) I started paying £20/month into two unit trusts. For the first few years of my working life, my salary went into rent, food, my two unit trusts and I remember paying £40/month into a savings account which was to fund golf club subs and to pay for my summer holiday. What was left was spent in the pub.
    My dad was always interested in investing and I suppose I must have picked up something from him. The only finance book I ever bought was “The Millionaire Next Door” – and I think I lived that life for a long time, although I think that I have been very lucky.
    I’ve always been a regular saver, and I retired a couple of years ago at age 53. Saving helped, but what enabled me to stop working was that I had bought 25% of the company that I worked for for 30 years. I had stopped enjoying work for the last two years of my career, so I told my fellow directors that I was leaving and sold up – at a bad time financially speaking, but I haven’t regretted it. Time is worth more to me than money at the moment.
    I worked very hard through my 20s, 30s and 40s, which enabled me to accumulate a pot of money. And I really enjoyed my career, but at the end, I’d had enough of that life.
    Life is much better now. Another factor was that I married late in life – at 45, and life is more expensive now, but also 100% more enjoyable.

  • 57 Bill G December 17, 2020, 2:11 pm

    Playing your own game is the most salient advice in the original post for my money!
    Taking your self worth from a job title or a status symbol is asking for trouble.
    A huge thank you to Monevator for extending my financial horizons beyond being mortgage free and the vague notion of then doing ‘something interesting’.

  • 58 John M. December 17, 2020, 2:18 pm

    My Great Aunt and her husband had spent much of their life in America and returned home at retirement. She opened a post office investment account for me when I was in my early teens and put money into this every week as long as I did not take anything from the account. If I did, the arrangement would stop. My Mother did the same and made sure I did not spend anything.

    This was very hard to take or to understand why at that age. Foolishly I resented it at times, but I didn’t touch any of it until my early 20’s, for a newer car purchase. By then I understood what she had taught me.

    That kind lesson in ‘gently forced’ deferred gratification has stayed with me, even though she and her husband passed away many years ago at a ripe old age. I am trying to pass the same lesson on to my own children.

  • 59 Mezzanine December 17, 2020, 6:45 pm

    Had a very tough time financially in the mid ‘90s while studying as a grad on a basic grant. I was renting with my GF and after she was let go from a Xmas job, we really tasted poverty. Our income was less than dole money but we weren’t entitled to any housing benefit due to my student stipend of £4.5k pa. GF was only out of work for a few months but I won’t forget what it was like to get by on almost nothing.

    While finishing my study, I took a job at the University to make ends meet and didn’t know what to do with the modest amount of extra money coming in. Our savings rate (had I known what that was) went through the roof. We saved for a deposit and grabbed a rung on the housing ladder. As our incomes grew over the years, we continued to live below our means and in 2000, I began a 15yr period of maxing out pension contributions via an FSAVC. The limit was 15% back then and alongside my regular DB contribution, I stuffed 8.65% into AVCs.

    I called this my “early retirement” pot although through ignorance, I was just fattening normal retirement as the pot was tethered to my NRA DB pension. Until A-day. From 2006, separating the AVC pot became possible and we visited an IFA to discuss early retirement options. Just before the GFC we started filling our pre-pension gap via S&S ISAs. Investment pots went up and down (mostly down) during the GFC and our savings rate took a nosedive when we started a family and lost an income!

    Almost a decade later I stumbled upon MMM and discovered the UK FIRE blog “network” including Monevator. I started crunching numbers and modelling outcomes. I drove our expenses down, our savings rate up and we received a modest inheritance that finished off our mortgage. The last few years were bumpy with job losses and health issues but we finally hit our FI number at the end of last month! I’m 49 and my wife (the GF above) just turned 50. Following in his footsteps, my Dad retired at 52.

  • 60 BW December 17, 2020, 11:51 pm

    I grew up in NZ and moved to London almost immediately after finishing University at the end of 2005. The intention was to stay for a couple of years, but 15 years later I am still here. Most of the first 8 or 9 years were taken up with an enjoyable, but boozy and unhealthy lifestyle. I met some interesting people and had some great experiences, but since then have curbed the lifestyle excesses somewhat!
    My upbringing was very working class, and I was the first person from my immediate family to complete secondary school, so finance was not really something that was understood or taught growing up. I did somehow become interested in shares and investing in secondary school and purchased my first shares at the age of 16 in the Auckland Airport IPO (circa 1998) – a grand total of $1,000NZD or about £350. I sold these a couple of years later for approximately double the purchase price. For whatever reason, I seemed to lose interest at this point and did not pursue investing again for some time.
    Fast forward to around 2012, when a drinking buddy who was a lawyer at the time announced he was quitting work to pursue a career in finance. This seemed to ignite an interest (or competition!) and I started reading up on shares and opened a share trading account through the Motley Fool, paying for stock tips and research info. This seemed rather hit and miss, so like many people I ended up investing in mutual funds.
    A couple of years later, in around 2015 and I stumbled across Monevator. I spent a year or so reading and digesting information before plunging into passive investing and actively engaging with my spending and finances. It has been one of the best decisions I have made. In the last 4 years I have managed to grow my net worth from not much at all to over £300k. I own a house (albeit with a large mortgage at a very low interest rate), have an investment policy, track my net worth monthly and have recently begun studying an MBA by correspondence.
    This is my first post here, but I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the content posted and comments for several years. It has been a great resource and I do try and point anyone who will listen in the direction of this website. The comments on this post are quite inspiring. Keep up the good work!

  • 61 Fredster December 18, 2020, 12:54 am

    I’ve been inspired to share my financial story by all the great comments on this thread

    I managed to get to FI in 2018 aged 46 and left full time work in December 2019 so has been weird to spend my year year of freedom in the pandemic

    Here are a few key points from my story

    1. Fairly normal financial upbringing, my dad had fairly well paid and stable job with MOD which he did for 40 years meaning our family was pretty well off

    2.First credit card for me aged 18 resulted in me running up a £300 bill whilst only being paid £2.50 an hour for washing pots. Looking back it was a really useful lesson on debt which has given me an aversion to credit cards and debt which has served me well.

    3. Fortunate to be able to buy my first house aged 24 with my girlfriend (now wife) for 72k (for a decent house in a good town), which was approx 3 times our joint salary, feel sorry for youngsters starting out today without this opportunity

    4. Finished uni with no debt due to grants, help from mum and dad and no fees. Took one class in programming and managed to get a job in IT just as Third Industrial Revolution was really kicking meaning I had in demand skills

    5. In my thirties spent a LOT of money on IVF treatment. Lesson learned – despite everything some things are worth more than money we have 2 beautiful daughters by far the best investment we ever made.

    6. Figured out the consumerist thing quite early on, it’s easy to pour money away on stuff you don’t need, it’s what keeps the economy spinning, if you can figure this out it’s a big part of the puzzle. Wherever I had pay increases I would just up the payments on the mortgage

    7. Went to work for a tech start up in 2000 just before the dot com crash. As the company couldn’t pay us competitively they offered 2% share options which for a long time were worth absolutely nothing. We thought we would be millionaires next year – it actually took 20 years of hard graft. We were finally bought out by venture capitalists for 8 figures catapulting me over the FI finish line probably about 15 years earlier than I would have been able to. With hindsight it was betting my whole career on one number not what I would advise now I think.

    I only found FI in 2018 as I was nearing the finish line. It was such a relief to resources like Monevator, MMM, Indeedably, Escape Artist and know that other people were making this work. I was thinking I would need to learn all about investing, become a property developer or something but by putting into practice what I’ve learnt the investment bit is actually fairly straightforward.

    Going forwards I think we have enough to not need to work again. As the months have passed I’ve got more comfortable with this. It helps having a year like this one with huge market returns and very low expenses. Of course then the question is what to do with your life but that’s another (first world) problem.

    At the time the last 20 odd years have felt really tough but looking back I can see all these small things lined up to get me here, but it was more by luck than planning. I wish I had this knowledge 20 years earlier, we need to make sure our children understand this and spread the word,

    Keep up the good work!

  • 62 Gary Cooper December 18, 2020, 1:06 am

    Family background was working class with no debts but no real savings.
    I served a mechanical apprenticeship straight from school
    I never had any debts, but had no savings with money going on football then drinking/drugs until I was 19. then I started taking exotic holidays but something had to give. So I was travelling as cheap as I could; bucket shop flight tickets and backpacking/hostelling.
    Later the football went and so did much of the drinking/drugs(my employer brought in zero tolerance policy),my Holidays increased to 9 weeks a year.
    At 32 (1998) I finished a Mathematics degree with the OU and started investing into PEPS with Marks and Spencer ftse tracker over the next 2 years I read A Motley Fool book and took out L&G index trackers.
    2004 I got a mortgage… 2004 decided I didn’t like having a mortgage and threw everything at getting it paid off including stoozing £70,000 on credit cards at 0% interest and initial fees.
    2011 mortgage was either paid or offset in a first direct offset account.
    Realised I could live and still put away 11K + that I had been paying off the mortgage so started to invest, at some point I joined Motley Fool Share Advisor.
    2016 Decided to quit the Share Advisor, I was up by quite a lot but the service had changed, I luckily missed some real losses on some of the shares they advised on and I realised I did not want to be constantly checking the share prices. Invested in world wide trackers still taking 2/3 holidays a year but with a bit more comfort
    202o Flew back February to UK from Thailand and Taiwan into a really changing world.
    Still at the same employer (38 years) with a final salary pension ! intend retiring next year and spending 3 months travelling a year, covid permitting.

    I believe my family attitude to ‘never a borrower or lender be’ put me on a firm footing and a path to follow

    Gary

  • 63 The Merry Peasant December 18, 2020, 1:15 am

    I dithered penniless until 28, then channelled my monthly surplus into renovating property.

    Upon paying off my student loan at 32, I stumbled on a Monevator article debating whether to overpay the mortgage. I subsequently devoured every page of this website (including comments) in a week.

    Five years on I’m closing in on six figures in my ISA, have accumulated an acceptable DB pension, and hit the jackpot renovating my previous house, which, admittedly, was my major game-changer.

    If it was just me I’d probably call it a day and live a minimalist lifestyle in Portugal but Mrs M-P is expecting our third so it looks as though I’ll keep at it a while longer.

    I’m so grateful to Monevator, not just for introducing me to investing but also for facilitating the knowledge I’ve gained reading around the subject ever since.

    Thank you.

  • 64 Pendle Witch December 18, 2020, 11:08 am

    “It’s not normal to care about finances as much as we do.”
    Oi! Who are you calling not normal?!

    No watershed moment for me, maybe just small instances built up throughout a life. Coming from a Coronation St background, I always knew there was no safety net for me, but got through university with no debt and went forward from there.

    I like watching the numbers build up, and luxury is a nice cup of tea and a biscuit.(Maybe a bit boring, but what the heck.)

    Finding MMM and Monevator was excellent – lots more ideas and input on top of the life we were already leading.

    We are FI, but the husband won’t stop and I’m only working part time until the daughter leaves for university. Doesn’t seem fair to be lounging around while she’s still working hard!

    Thanks to all for the stories, and to @TI and @TA for giving freely of their time and wisdom! 🙂

  • 65 EcoMiser December 18, 2020, 11:17 am

    Following on from post 3: with a need to live six years on savings alone before pensions kicked in, and no certainty that the GFC would not continue for the whole of that period, I found MoneySavingExpert for its tips on reducing expenditure, its Saving & Investing forum, and from there Monevator. I’ve been reading it ever since, and in particular the Greybeard articles on living off Investment Trusts, and the Broker Comparison chart reformed my investments.
    I’m so grateful for all the help you have provided, in helping me understand investing, and for links to other useful and interesting sites.
    Thank you.

  • 66 Kerry December 18, 2020, 12:19 pm

    This is a terrific post and the comments are also fantastic. I love the idea of a financial origin, or a pivotal moment in our lives where the scales fell from our eyes and we wised up!

    I’m a Chartered Accountant who finds money fascinating, but true to form I had a high salary but with all the expenses that being “successful” entails. We had a 5 bed detached house, a Mercedes, an Audi and zero savings, but plenty of loans and credit card debt plus a 1 year old son.

    A miscarriage when my wife and I were 29 was the unfortunate catalyst for change. It was truly devastating and made me realise that I wasn’t superman, I didn’t have control of events, life wasn’t always rosy and that everything you hold dear can vanish in the blink of an eye. I didn’t deliberately set out to sort out our finances, but it was a distraction from real life and I threw myself into reading personal finance books.

    The first concept I came across was net worth, and when I calculated mine I was horrified to find it was £15k. The next concept I came across was spending less than you earn and investing the difference.

    Downsizing from a 5 bed detached to a 3 bed semi allowed us to get rid of the non-mortgage debt, changing jobs led to increased income. None of this was easy, but my wife was supportive and realised that we’d taken a wrong turn. These changes not only had a massive financial impact but also a lifestyle impact as it allowed my wife to quit work and look after the kids full time.

    I watched every penny and plotting the changes in my net worth became an obsession. If the outlay didn’t contribute to my net worth growing, then I thought very carefully before committing. Family life isn’t about just saving, it’s about experiences and creating memories, but I’m pleased to say we achieved a great balance.

    My eldest has just started Uni so we are probably at the highest point in terms of financial expenditure, so saving is not my priority at the moment. But fortunately my net worth has just hit £1m and so I’m happy that it will grow of it’s own accord for the next 5 years while I concentrate on paying for my three boys to go through university.

    When we started this 17 years ago, my company had two share-save schemes, with a contribution of £250 per month in total. One was a buy one get one free scheme, the other was a 3 year option scheme. I said to my wife we can’t afford to do this at the moment, but we also can’t afford not to do it, and it will be worth it in the long run. It’s so difficult to start when the amounts seem relatively small, but starting is the most important thing.
    Those share-save schemes compounded into so much more.

    I’ve only discovered Monevator in the last 2 years, but it’s a great site and long may it continue. Thanks for this post, hopefully it will inspire more people to start taking control of their finances and lives.

  • 67 Royston December 18, 2020, 5:16 pm

    Mine was shortly after I bought my first flat in 2009, knowing nothing much about money, finance, interest etc, the broker asked me how much I could afford and I said 600/month sounds about right. 25 years he said? Sure thing sounds about right.

    I then started paying and forgot all about it for a couple of years before thinking I must have paid a sizeable chunk off now!

    I checked the documents and to my horror I’d only paid about 2k off the principal, the rest had all been going on interest!

    I resolved immediately to find a better way, so shocked was I at my money going “missing” like this. I upped my mortgage to nearly 80% of my pay, and resolved to pay off the maximum 10% overpayment a year permitted. I also had rented out the property so this helped, but I had done the financials assuming it wouldn’t be let.

    This was before I ever thought about the stock market, basically paid it off in about 5 years total rather than 25 and saved an exorbitant amount.

    This springboarded me into looking into all other areas of personal finance and with the help of the escape artist, MMM, and monevator I reached FI in 2018. Presently still working one more year but hoping to retire completely soon.

  • 68 Rotaluclac December 18, 2020, 7:57 pm

    I’m naturally a very lazy person and took the path of least resistance through my formative years. Did great at school until 6th form where I lost interest, left school and got a job. I worked for a lovely company with lots of young people, great social life but low pay. Money was of no interest to me, low pay was plenty! I did the minimum of work and had a jolly nice time for 7 years.

    In 1991 my Dad was made redundant age 49. He’d been a company man all his life and was devastated, he never worked again. In july 92 my girlfriend and I bought a house. I remember vividly stripping wallpaper listening to the TV on Black Wednesday as our mortgage interest rate went soaring above 17%.

    Jan 93 I lost my job, which was fine except my social circle vanished along with the job. Ex-colleagues would cross the street to avoid having to speak to me, it was horrible and I’m sure I bear the scars to this day.

    August 93 my girlfriend fell pregnant and it dawned on me we were in sh1t. I needed to grow up. In a rare example of me being proactive I contacted an old friend about a management accountant job with a big firm her husband worked for. He put a word in for me and i was given a 4 week trial. It worked and i got taken on as a trainee accountant. This was a turning point for me and I worked very hard in my job from then on. I have always thought in terms of “job” rather than “career” and realise it is the company’s job, not mine. I also maintain a distance from fellow workers and although we get on fine, we stay colleagues .

    I qualified and shuffled companies/jobs a few times before finding a really great firm where I’ve settled. Interesting work, good pay. In my private life I still never thought about money, no debts but no savings either.

    I moved away from finance into more general management and then, when I was about 49, i suddenly realised I wasn’t enjoying work. Once the blinkers were off I just started noticing more and more levels of nonsense and the corporate crap I was swimming in. I don’t know if the company or me had changed but I was struggling for the first time in a long time.

    My plan was to change jobs which would mean a pay cut. That was OK I don’t need much money. I started looking into simple living and stumbled on Ermine’s blog. Particularly his early posts about his final days at his firm I got immediately – it felt like what was happening to me. There was a suggestion of a way out in building a bridge to DB pension waiting in the future, and for the first time in my life I was interested in money and investing. Finally focussed I found the FI concept, Monevator and other UK bloggers in the main. I’m now 3 years in, 3 years to go, but it has been a lifeline without which the last few years at work would have been more than I could have taken. I just wish I’d woken up sooner.

    Deep thanks to the writers who so inspired my transformation.

  • 69 Fatbritabroad December 18, 2020, 10:09 pm

    @fredster your comments about credit cards made me smile. That was also my wake up call. Considering a very high income I don’t think my dad is that great with money all told but he taught be 2 invaluable lessons 1) start a pension at 18 and pay a decent amount in. 2)i ran up £2500 of debt at 18 similarly when washing up at a local pub on a credit card. My dad paid it off and made me pay it back at a 100 a month. After 6 months I thought ‘he’s loaded hell never notice’ so I stopped paying it. He waited 2 months then said if you did that with a real credit card you’d have doubled your debt by now in penalties. That plus taking me 25 months to pay it off meant I’ve never been in debt on credit cards since

  • 70 Monkey December 18, 2020, 10:56 pm

    My family never had a great deal of money when I was growing up, as my parents relied solely on my father’s modest salary, whilst my mother stayed home to raise I and my two elder siblings. Seeing how they struggled has made me certain that I want financial security and definitely don’t want children!

    My investing journey began by reading a copy of the Motley Fool UK Investment Guide followed by my initial purchase of a UK index fund in early 2003. Since then I’ve used the internet, including this excellent website, to gradually expand my investing knowledge. In more recent years my portfolio has moved away from a solely UK tilt to a more global focus.

    I’m a postman, which isn’t really a typical FIRE career, but it’s made me determined to ensure my money works hard for me if I’m working this hard for it!

    True FIRE is decidedly unlikely in my case. I’m almost 42 years old and currently don’t own a property, but I can console myself that I am better off than some of my peers.

    My only regret is that I’ve been too cautious over the years and could doubtless have been far better off if I’d piled more money into trackers sooner!

  • 71 Nebilon December 18, 2020, 11:36 pm

    A long way up the comments Stan asked why the footnote about an exception for the need for the right mindset for earners in the top 2%. I have to agree. Having been in that category (by earnings not wealth) as a junior and not markedly high earning partner in a city law firm, I was astounded by the number of my partners earning more than me who admitted they had no retirement savings or other investments. Most had large houses in smart parts of London, flash cars, expensive holidays etc. High earners, yes, but big spenders too. And tied to the treadmill.
    I came to a savings mindset in the early 90s, in my fist decent job, in a bit of a panic. I remember realising that. I could not afford my credit card payments (shocking debt of about £800) and that my current account overdraft at the end of the month was just about equal to my monthly net pay. So I started to dig out of the hole. I haven’t had the greatest savings ratio, but have gradually built up savings and lived a bit under my means since then. Eventually married a man who agreed with that approach to life and spending. We have had a lot of fun, but kept the cash spend under control, and kept investing. When my city career finally hit the rocks in 2016, we could just have managed to retire, although things might have been a bit tight. As it turned out I got a new job, regulating the industry I use to advise (with civil service pension…) I am sitting here aged 56 in the wonderful position of knowing I can stop work whenever I want, but also doing a job I am still finding interesting and fulfilling. Silver lining to Covid disaster is that working from home really suits me!

  • 72 britinkiwi December 18, 2020, 11:50 pm

    Thanks everyone for your stories – and thanks to our hosts for providing so much over the years.

    I don’t think I had any epiphany – I was born at that lucky time to get a grant and be supported by parents at Uni in the late 70’s and then fortunate enough to carve a career as a health care professional – generally recession and redundancy proof – and with a DB pension after 40 years. Plus a family background of grandfather and father transitioning from working to middle class through education and solid graft mixed with sensible financial decision taking. So aware that Mr Micawber had the way of it…..and that debt was an expensive luxury, even before credit cards.

    Bought a flat and an endowment mortgage (which did OK and paid out quite well 25 years later) with MIRAS. Then started saving in to Friendly Societies, and a monthly contribution to PEP at age 30 in IT’s, then TESSA’s, ETFs and ISA’s as life went forward (marriage, moving for jobs, new homes, privatisations) and ended up with a mixed strategy of investing and overpaying the mortgage and being somewhat frugal – before I knew about FIRE and frugality! So no new cars, or status symbols, staycations rather than annual holidays – but balanced with a nice home and enjoyable lifestyle and hobbies (LRPG, D&D).

    Learnt about shares, UT’s and IT’s through the Motley Fool and reading books like Peter Slater’s “Zulu Principle” but sticking with IT’s and ETF’s. Plus a local share club which folded in the dotcom crash…..

    Then mortgage free age 48 with combined savings in to 6 figures – and that felt pretty good – in 2008. Feeling somewhat footloose now and devil may care, took the opportunity to have a experience working in NZ – in 2009, which was an experience of watching investments halve in value. Still, with no debt and some human capital left – and a job, weathered that whilst we decided to settle in NZ, sold up in the UK, had a (very nice!) house built with a view of Tasman Bay and shifted our NHS pensions over – at which point we were pretty much FI. Which was just as well as I was redeployed in to a less senior role during a re-structure as an alternative to redundancy, although my mental health took a hit during the process, like many.

    So now I’m on 4 days a week, looking to shift to 3, wife is retired and with the delightful capability of delegating up the food chain at work…..after so long being the person into whose lap problems fell – it’s a liberating experience.

    Very aware that at age 60 time is finite and other bloggers have commented on the need to renew old hobbies and occupy time usefully or else atrophy. I’m also aware of my fathers experience on retiring early (due to a NHS re-organisation) at age 55 and needing to find value in life through charity work.

    And summer is here in the Southern hemisphere, Covid is under control, and we are free to explore this gorgeous archipelago. And I can still read the wise words on this and other blogs! Life is good!

  • 73 Factor December 19, 2020, 12:35 am

    I started paid employment when I was 16, have always been sensible about money, and have never been “poor” but I faced a potential crisis when I was made redundant aged 52 and married with with two teenage children.

    I took a temporary job with the National Trust but it meant living and working away from home, which I hated. That summer, we had a low-cost family holiday on the West Wales coast, and being a numbers man and a football aficionado I sent a large part of the fortnight wading through historical statistics and devising a system for possible success on the Pools.

    Back from the holiday and albeit more in hope than expectation, I put the system into practice, and did moderately well the first week but without winning anything. On the second week, home for the weekend, I came in from mowing the lawn at 5 o’clock on the Saturday and thought I would just check the football results on the TV. One by one the 9 score draws were announced, and one by one I saw that I had 8 of them on my entry. Hallelujah!

    In those days the Pools weren’t online of course, as they are now, and so I had to wait until the following Thursday to see how much I had won, which turned out to be £57K (c.£100K in 2020 £s).

    The next day I went into the Nationwide and paid off the outstanding c.40K balance on our repayment mortgage (less £1 which meant I was still on their books for preferential treatment in case they ever demutualised, and which amount they voluntarily wrote off with a grin when that prospect disappeared!). I also bought a brand new Rover 214; not a flashy car but a trusty stead that gave me 100,ooo miles of reliable service whilst I built up the accountancy practice which I had decided to “risk all” on in setting it up.

    When I retired, the sale of the practice goodwill funded my investment in a portfolio of investment trusts (thanks to Monevator), producing a steady additional income to augment my pension from the employed days (shared 50% on divorce) and my state pension.

    So yes football has been kind to me, as they say, but the advent of the National Lottery seduced the vast majority of “punters” away from the Pools, making them no longer as attractive an “investment”. I still dabble, just for the fun of it, without anything other than the occasional minnow of a win, except that I won on five separate weeks during the first lockdown, totalling £1,433 of winnings no less, because the Pools Panel who were “guesstimating” the results in the absence of actual football were clearly doing so with an algorithm very similar to mine!

    Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année tout le monde 🙂

  • 74 Amit December 19, 2020, 9:44 am

    So delightful to read the comments thread. Here’s my story.

    Hardwired as a saver from early years. Our family of 4 was lower middle class with one earner – my dad. I always rejected expensive options for functional / good vfm ones. Never wanting family to take a financial burden for me. My initial wealth targets were very modest. Mentioned to my MBA colleague in 2007 that I would be happy to earn £50,000 and go back to India. Would tend to feel rich as soon as bank balance reached upwards of £16k or so, and occasionally make unwise spending decisions.

    My eyes were truly opened having read Andrew Craig’s – How to own the world. A realisation dawned shortly after that I need a corpus of the order of £750k or so to be free. Meaningful Money podcast and Monevator made a huge impact. Switch almost entirely to passive investments on Autopilot by 2017. Shifted focus on growing business rather than money watching. Overall very pleased with where we are financially today.

  • 75 Jim Mcg December 19, 2020, 2:43 pm

    Back in 1999, bored, and facing a long train journey from Bristol to York, I browsed WH Smith looking for something interesting to read for the 4 hour journey home. My eyes settled on The Motley Fool UK Investment Guide and, having read a few pages and liking the style, I decided to invest in this purchase. Four hours later, I left York Station determined to be A Fool! Literally the next day I sold some Abbey National shares, paid off £3k of credit card debt and started looking for an Index Tracker to invest in, opting for one with Fidelity who I hadn’t even heard of before then. I still feel that this was a watershed moment in my life. Twenty years of steadily investing in trackers later, I feel really indebted to The Fools who transformed my finances and set me on course to be able to retire at 50 (and I still have that Fidelity tracker!)

  • 76 159F December 19, 2020, 2:43 pm

    I always enjoy the Saturday morning reads on this channel.

    Interesting how the early events and forces provide some enduring motivation. So what follows is more very minor therapy in short form. My life has been one of happy accidents more than design, good luck, bad luck and more caution than risk. I’m 52 now.

    Like others here, my earliest memories of money (and wealth) are growing up in a lower-middle income conservative-minded household where frugality was the norm. This was something that was quite irksome to me as a young child. There was a mixture of mainly negative emotions to be honest, some envy, disappointment and the fair bit of British embarrassment around finances. But there was also a stoical realism. It didn’t kill me but recognising that it makes you stronger took a while. Deep down I think you form an early opinion and know what you don’t want and never want to get stuck in that particular place. However, I cannot deny not having “the earlier you start your pension…..” conversation but the timing of the message was all wrong in my case. However, it’s why I’ve secretly started Child SIPPS for my own kids to let that extra time do some of the heavy lifting.

    At school I was reasonably bright but not exceptional; I did leave school with some (arguably misplaced) self-confidence. But importantly, as I grew up I learned to be mildly suspicious of convention and conformity. I still am to some extent and it shapes the way I have thought about money management too.

    One wasted university place later (completed just before student grants finished – remember those) and I reluctantly got my first job at a well-known insolvency practice. I hated it absolutely hated it and I didn’t last long but it was long enough to teach me about some business basics and how badly managed money will go wrong. And fast.

    Ultimately, I ended up working in the creative sector: it’s not a sector that’s known for much saving (more like indebtedness and some largesse). Creative brilliance is often expensive and wasteful. I was the vaguely sensible in a long creative partnership with a maniac spendthrift and total bon viveur for many years. That teaches you a lot. He is the only person I know who paid for his own house twice. A man who drank his entire investment wine collection before HMRC took it away for back taxes. But I lived the dream for a few years travelling and shooting advertising campaigns in some exotic places and broadly spending other people’s money. A few eye openers and many great dinner stories along the way. It was all quite unhealthy in the end and I was somewhat relieved when it ended fairly abruptly.

    Family came next and setting up and running my own business followed on which bring us up to today.

    Lightbulbs moments – yes a couple.

    I remember reading my personal pension statement in the early 90’s that showed me after several years of modest contributions the transfer value was actually less than the contribution total sum. Less! Scottish Equitable if you’re asking.

    A chance encounter with a maverick in the early 90’s who explained to me about using leverage in property in the early 90’s before Buy-to-Let was a thing. Buying a house in London in 1996 was the best move I ever made. Buying another house in 2008 one of the worst.

    15 years ago I had a financial adviser (salesman). I fired him. I started to pay more attention to my own money and then ran it all myself. The trust wasn’t really there. I started to read a few blogs to learn what others knew. I was horrified by how much I had wasted in fees and taxes over the years. I consolidated everything into a SIPP, used ISA allowances and set some saving goals for possible FIRE aspirations. I sold all my Unit Trusts because of fees (although I kept some Investment Trusts – Scottish Mortgage you beauty). I discovered Vanguard, ETFs, the FIRE movement and more recently Lifestrategy which is where I’m headed. For me though it’s more like FIRLO (later on)

    But I have a plan…

  • 77 JJNL December 19, 2020, 3:21 pm

    I’m a relative latecomer to the FIRE-party. I had my wake-up moment in 2015, but I did have some good basics in place already. I’ve luckily always been a good saver, from when I first received pocket money until now. I think I must have lucked out and gotten the good money genes or something – my sister definitely had the same money upbringing I did and she never seems to have enough money, also from when she first received pocket money until pretty much now. Also, I have never liked being in any kind of debt, because I value my freedom / independence very highly. I did get some student loans and a loan from my parents in order to take a double master’s degree and an LL.M., but I paid that all off as fast as possible by living at near-zero cost (150 euros/month) as anti-squatters protection in a derelict office building for two years while working my first ‘real’ job as a government trainee. When I got hired as a civil servant after my traineeship I bought a house, because I didn’t qualify for social housing anymore and it was a LOT cheaper on a monthly basis than renting. This was in 2007, at the top of the housing market in the Netherlands pre-crisis – so I could buy with 0 money down (I didn’t have much in savings, having just paid off all the aforementioned loans). I was lucky again, I plumped for a fairly conservative straightforward kind of mortgage (a lot of Dutchies got snookered in the early 2000s with fancy mortgages where part of the money was invested in the stock market – they looked good on paper but I didn’t like the idea of my mortgage being tied to something that volatile and I didn’t want to buy a product I didn’t fully understand and boy, it turned out my intuition was right! Not only did the value in those mortgages tank with the banking crisis, it also turned out the people selling those mortgages were screwing their customers over by charging ridiculously high investment costs). I have always loved traveling so I did spend quite a bit of money on plane tickets and outdoor equipment and suchlike, but other than that my holidays are always relatively cheap: I like camping and hiking, and do a lot of that while on vacation. So I’ve always had money left over to pay off my mortgage for the maximum amount allowed each year. Paying it off was only possible for 40% of my mortgage due to the kind of mortgage I had chosen. I was saving more money than I could put towards my mortgage, but (dumbass me) never invested it in the stock market: the one ‘wrong’ message I got from my parents in hindsight is that investing in stocks is always a bad idea (they got burned in the 80s and never went near stocks again, I distinctly remember them fighting and worrying over this). I finally decided to invest my savings in myself and started an MBA. Enter the year 2015, and I was reading a lifestyle blog I like instead of studying like I was supposed to be doing – and it had an article about FI and a link to Mr Money Mustache. I can be a BAD procrastinator and really hate myself for that – but I will never regret procrastinating on that day, that’s the first time something really good actually came out of that bad behaviour! I wound up devouring most of the MMM website, and following the links to other websites, and from there on to others – Monevator among them. I cautiously started investing in ETF’s in 2015 and haven’t looked back since. I could finally refinance my house last year without incurring huge penalties, which meant I could pay off another fair chunk – 2/3 of the mortgage gone, only 1/3 to go now! And my investments are starting to actually amount to something (mid-5 figures). I felt stuck in my government job and also hit a pay ceiling it’s hard to rise above with my expertise, so I made the switch to consultancy a few months ago. The combination of refinancing the house and getting another job has meant that my savings rate has really gone up (from maybe 20% at best to 30-40% without making any extra effort). So it’s time to put pedal to the metal and start saving and investing more agressively – I’m 41 now, and I want to be FI by my 50th birthday. Thank you Monevator for helping to keep me motivated – I especially love the Weekend Reading, reading that has become as much part of my weekend ritual as the Saturday newspaper (we don’t have Sunday papers in the Netherlands but it’s the same idea).

  • 78 Hariseldon December 19, 2020, 3:53 pm

    Fascinating series of posts, having had a spendthrift happy go lucky period, I had a second major career shift in my mid 20’s, I was fortunate to sell a house that I had bought 9 months previously on a whim, with a friend that went up 25% in that period. ( zero deposit and the legal costs on the credit card…that was 1984!!)

    The unexpected profit cleared all my debts and provided a house deposit with a £1,000 or so left over)

    That was the defining moment, when you can afford to buy things with savings, you are more discerning and likely to leave it on the shelf. When you have credit card debt, what’s a bit more …

    Weekend FT and the Saturday broadsheets spurred my interest in personal finance and a few books led me to Association Of Investment Trust Companies.

    The aim when I started seriously in 1990 was “Downshifting” with Investment Trusts, largely Global Generalists and UK Equity Income, Financial independence followed in 2007 in my late 40’s.

    A change to global ETFs and abandonment of UK Equity Income around 2012 has seen my financial position strengthen very considerably, despite no meaningful income from working, several side hustles for fun have kept me busy, between travelling and chilling !

    Many thanks to Monevator for the wonderful links that keep investing interesting.

  • 79 Ian A December 19, 2020, 3:57 pm

    Two main factors for me:
    1) Parents got me into saving when I was young, through a Post Office savings account. The act of taking the book in from time to time and having the interest (free money!) totted up is a fond childhood memory. Not surprisingly, the habit of saving has stuck.
    2) After leaving the private sector in 2010 aged 32 and moving into the non profit sector, I stopped having a company pension. The realization that I might have to fund my retirement prompted me to finally start investing in the stock market which I did via a HSBC ‘active’ (closet passive but active fees) fund in 2011 (lucky timing). I came to my senses on the HSBC fund a few years later after reading Smarter Investing and getting into Monevator, after which I liquidated my various pots and dumped everything into a Vanguard LifeStrategy 100% Acc fund in 2014 (more lucky timing). When I challenged my local bank manager about the rip off HSBC fund he said unapologetically “everyone’s been doing it”.

    Fast forward to present day, and my partner and I are technically ‘lean FI’, though I still struggle to believe it. I echo what TI said in not knowing what what our Number is and therefore whether we really are FI or not. But, I’ve come to realize that it’s purely academic as my goal is to keep working in the non profit sector for as long as I am able to. Assuming another 20+ years of work ahead means hopefully the numbers will have taken care of themselves. My salary is not the highest it’s ever been, but I feel lucky to have found work that I enjoy and find fulfilling, which is possibly the hardest thing of all.

  • 80 Squirrel December 19, 2020, 7:45 pm

    That’s an interesting question! I can only guess that I got my instinct to save and invest from my father – he was always financially savvy. I am originally from a country that had rampant inflation in the 80’s. My parents never borrowed money – always saved before buying anything. They had a large chest freezer so that they could buy all the meat they needed for a month as soon as wages were in, and before it would have increased in price by 20-40% (monthly inflation at the time!). I think that is just one of many small things they did to maximise savings – and my father always invested in shares.

    When I was at University I had several friends who had interest in stocks I started investing in blue chips and bonds. It was profitable but more out of luck than knowledge! I then moved to Europe, lived in different countries and I always found it a bit daunting to invest in markets I did not know well, not to mention having to learn about all the tax implications.

    Fast forward a few years and I relocate to the UK. I started learning about ISAs and reading some basic investment books. I found the idea of tax wrappers fascinating, as well as the “tricks” that existed at the time (bed and breakfast etc). At around this time I found Mr. Money Mustache and Monevator and I have been reading the blog since! It took me a long time after arriving in the UK to deep my toes into investing though – I opened a S&S ISA but thought that the market was inflated so kept waiting for the “right time”. Then, it all happened at the same time: I was reading RESET during the 2018 Christmas holiday (I probably learned about the book in this blog?) right when there was market correction. I filled my ISA, bought one of the global trackers suggested in the book and I have been maxing my ISA and buying similar trackers since. I am still far from FIRE, but I am grateful for this blog and everything I have learned here.

  • 81 Jonathan Mk1! December 19, 2020, 8:20 pm

    Some truly great stories.
    Firstly Monevator thank you for some really great insite over the years. It has helped me all the way.
    My story is university and then the army and leaving with a very battered original Astra with a canoe and mountain bike(one of the very first) on the roof. A couple of suits, a set of weights and many items ticked of the bucket list not that this term was around then. 29 years of age and 12% mortgage rate entering the corporate world.
    I fully understood the idea of income over expenditure. Marriage followed and two children followed by a stream of recessions in 1992, 2001, 2008 which were all buying opportunities. Always overdrawn until 29 and then never again.
    Then all of a sudden your investment income climbs to more than your salary and it keeps climbing as you avoid lifestyle creep and I have remained a 27 year Aldi veteran! Nothing matters until you are free.
    You don’t fit in with the norm as you are different and don’t indulge into the consumer wastefulness of contemporaries . You are Fire. Then you finish early and retire. But you continue to maximise your income until you are safe. I put the kids through university and helped them with house deposits.
    I had a minimum retire goal amount followed by an okay level and then an exceed. After a while I was above this exceed level and this then creates a challenge as to what are you going to do. You need to understand what good looks like and when you have won the game. You are earning much more in passive income than you old salary and it which point you have the ability to revert to your gratuitous spending of your 20’s. This is where I am and everyday I wake up thankful that I put in the graft in working the FIRE plan. Nothing matters until you are free and in control of your life. It’s was bloody hard however twenty years of compound interest is a wonderful thing. Good luck with all of you who are following behind and ignore all detractors and focus on the goal.

  • 82 Fremantle December 19, 2020, 11:43 pm

    Originally from Australia, moved to the UK in 2001. Earned a good income, contracted out to save NI, but other than that, had no thoughts of a pension. Married, new father, extended our finances by buying a terraced house in Zone 2 SW London, then promptly returned to Oz, an Oz that was at the tail end of an economic miracle. Australia has compulsory pension saving, and this time it meant something, unlike my early working years just out of uni. This was 9% of my salary. I was less interested in returns than I was in cost.

    When we moved back to London, I looked for a cheap fund to sink my Aussie super into. I was contracting, and could see the writing on the wall for ir35, so felt investing as a way out for saving tax.

    At the same time, my wife’s pension had been sitting in a holding pattern in her old company pension, and I convinced her that her fees were too high.

    Found Tim Hale, found monevator in my search for funds to implement his whisky & water global portfolio.

    Not chasing early retirement, but am interested in super charging my path to financial independence.

    I’ve been very, very lucky in my life, and I see increasing as a way of bottling some of that luck for the future, I only wish I’d started taking it seriously sooner.

  • 83 Fremantle December 20, 2020, 12:09 am

    Thanks for the editing TA/TI

    …I see investing as a way of bottling…

  • 84 Passive Investor December 20, 2020, 8:10 am

    I started in late 80’s with very small monthly investments always into the best performing unit trust. I couldn’t understand why they never kept their table position, it was a while before I heard of regression to the mean. A brother at business school told me about index funds in the early 90’s and I remember arguing he was talking nonsense. I used to get angry about the FSA mandated “past performance is no guide to future” warnings on adverts – I knew better. I even wrote to the financial editor of a national paper complaining that one of his tips failed. I lost money on split capital trusts and penny shares. Very gradually something must have got through as I did dip my toe in the Virgin FTSE tracker – losing money on costs of course. Luckily for me I eventually realised that active management was a zero sum game and could never beat the market after costs, around 20 years ago. So I got into passive investing before this blog but I didn’t fully understand it or have full confidence in the nuts and bolts of the underlying theory. I certainly would never have had the ‘psychological endurance’ to stick with it through thick and thin without Monevator. After 30 years of investing I finally felt I’d completed my education when I didn’t even look properly at my investments back in April. So a big thank you to Monevator for your part in my journey and happy Christmas and New Year to @investor @accumulator

  • 85 Renee December 20, 2020, 8:37 am

    Grew up on a farm – father hard working, frugal but knew how to do business. He didn’t invest though. Surrounded by a lot of hard working people who ran small businesses.

    Always a saver at heart. Remember opening an abbey national account with pass book and saving for a Nintendo game boy. When I had enough I didn’t buy it. Enjoyed saving.

    Father passed away in my 20s so inherited “the farm” which I sold. I had gone to uni and was working away. I did have a Virgin tracker isa and invested £7k in Aberdeen asset that bite the dust.

    I paid off my fiat mortgage / rented it out and bought a house. With the extra I invested with high fee financial advisor – (eye roll) just before 2008/2009 and watch that dive in value. Held on for years never sold. Yearly meeting with financial advisor. So learned about the never sell.

    Bought 2 more rentals in 2012 by remortgaging flat. Eventually moved on from financial advisors and now self manage between passive & active funds. Rentals all mortgage free.

    Still work in stressful public sector but think I will pull the fire pin at 45. Post pandemic. It’s been good to ride that out.

    Overall being a saver and frugal like my dad has set my on the right track. A few missteps along the way (High Fee FI) but that’s was before so much info on the internet.

  • 86 IP December 20, 2020, 2:06 pm

    I was starting again in terms of savings in 2014 at 34 as I had just bought a house, The deposit and fees meant I had about £100 left of my savings. My mortgage at the time on my salary at the time did not leave a lot of spare cash to put by. I had only been going with a pension for about 18 months and that was at a measly 1% of a below UK average salary so I was very aware of the need to get finances back on an even keel and get this underway. My House deposit had been saved through the 2000s when pre 2008 overtime and bonuses were plentiful as well as living in cheap house shares. I knew that in 2014 that to save up again and have enough in retirement I was going to need to follow a different path as the 2000s one was not open to me. I discovered Monevator whilst researching ways of trying to turn a little into a lot. VLS60/40 has had my spare cash since and combined with a few promotions this has increased how much I can put in.

    Now have a reasonable sum behind me and when my wife was made redundant this year that has slowed my rate of savings but is not the disaster it would have been in 2014/15.

    Generally in my life I was careful with money and saving but I also at times have had very weak spells with gambling. Aiming for FI does help focus me from avoiding these weak spells and thinking about the long term goals.

  • 87 Raftlod December 20, 2020, 3:33 pm

    Thank you for your stories in this great Monevator thread. Takes all sorts, eh? Here’s mine…

    Well – I grew up in a carnsel ‘ouse on a carnsel ‘ousing estate in thee Grim North and, as one of five kids, I knew pennies were important. As for being rich enough for markets and stockbrokers – come on, do me a favour! I was still lucky though, because I was born just after the war and, the NHS and the Welfare State having been recently invented, I had a ‘free’ education including a university arts degree.

    I wasn’t particularly ambitious. I just wanted a ‘worthwhile’ job with a modest income and a decent pension in retirement. So, guess what – I spent most of my working life in teaching (and still didn’t have a clue about what what made the financial world go round). I remember having a bit of a shock when I was in my thirties and I realised that that pension wasn’t an actual ‘pot’ somewhere, but was just doled out of each year’s tax revenues on the fly. (I clearly remember thinking – all it would take would be for a bunch of those bastards in the Commons holding their hands up and bang goes my pension!)

    That should have been a wake-up call, but the lightbulb wasn’t switched on until I reached my fifties and I was still at the chalk-face. I decided that, in my final 10-15 years before full pension, the annual fresh faces of the innocents and relentless attacks from the hardened MP/Ofsted battalions keen to advance their careers by creating ‘innovations’, would result in my early demise. So I retired early from teaching and switched to IT tech-ing on a considerably reduced salary.

    And finally, the lightbulb moment! A three-quarter pension, taken early, would need nurturing carefully if I was to continue to avoid the aforementioned early demise. My 25% lump sum had to go somewhere – and the ‘safe places’ for money – the banks and building societies – were offering 0.1% when inflation was around 2%. Even with an arts background I could see I was going to lose out bigly: I had to somehow FIRL!

    Through the financial sections of the weekend papers, I realised that ‘funds’ existed and through my IT interests, I realised that DIY-investing also existed. I put my lump-sum ‘pot’ into half a dozen funds (the papers had introduced me to the concept of a ‘basket’) and promptly lost 30% or so in the GFC! Fortunately, as there was nowhere else to give me a return, I left it alone and in a year or so, it was back up.

    Next, good old radio 4 (hands up those who want to kill the BBC) had a programme in which a geezer enumerated around 15 different ways in which you would get scalped by investing with an active fund manager. So I started to invest in individual stocks (build-your-own-fund and cut out the middleman), which meant research which led to Monevator amongst others…

    So now, The Accumulator has resulted in my portfolio of Indexes and Terry Smith (Ooops, sorry about TS, Accumulator, but I haven’t got 30 years left). And The Investor has left me bold enough to try to turn a smaller portfolio of individual stocks into a ‘pot of gold’ – kind of a hobby and also I haven’t got 30 years left! I’m still here, however, over ten years on and haven’t blown it all. So thanks, guys – it’s been a blast (a slow and steady one of course!).

  • 88 Doubtfire December 20, 2020, 4:32 pm

    Thanks for a great post stimulating so many stories.

    A few factors probably contributed to me ending up pursuing FI. I grew up comfortably, but if not quite frugally then certainly non-extravagantly. I’ve found this has given me almost a sense of guilt about buying a lot of things.

    After university I pursued a dream of going to live and work in a ski resort, but several months of sharing a loft with four other people and eating porridge every day told me I needed a bit more money (I still eat porridge most days but now I choose to and can afford to add raisins to it). Looking back, what this has made me realise is that I don’t like being in the position of not being able to spend money, but now that I have enough that I (mainly) don’t need to worry about it, I don’t find myself wanting much.

    On returning to the UK I got lucky and stumbled into a graduate job with a small company that for a few years in the late 1990s to early 2000s had a niche and lucrative market. It was well paid but not very fulfilling, and a combination of knowing it wouldn’t last forever and not wanting to need to do it forever meant I saved quite a lot. After a couple of years I was able to buy a flat and two years after that had paid off the £80k mortgage.

    Over the next decade or so I moved into more mainstream financial jobs, firstly contracting and then permanent in 2009 when the contracting jobs temporarily dried up – this led to a pay cut but also slightly more interesting work. I got married and we had children and moved house a couple of times, still either saving into cash/investment trusts or overpaying on the mortgage. By 2016 we were mortgage free and then in 2018 I came across MMM’s why Bitcoin is stupid article in the Guardian, which led me to his site and also Monevator. I found I had been doing most of the stuff to become FI without knowing it was a thing. But it led me to up my savings rate and gradually move from about 50:50 in shares and cash to more like 85% shares, 10% bonds and 5% cash, if you exclude the house. At 46 now I don’t have a fixed number I want to get to, but am pretty close to a position to be able to stop working if I wanted to. It’s working out what else I want to do that is the problem now…

  • 89 ex-pat Scot December 20, 2020, 8:04 pm

    Thread of the year- for the comments alone.

    University – PhD – accountancy training – various blue chip roles since 1995.
    Bought a house in 1994 then a repo in 1997 – well timed but still high mortgage.
    Family came along – 4 teen children, 2 of whom at univ.
    My wife stopped teaching to raise the family – the marginal income whilst they were all young would have been pennies an hour if she had continued to teach and send the children to child minders etc.

    The finances are interesting (to me; not at all to her).
    I’m naturally a saver and she a spender. We’ve bounced around from semi crisis to semi crisis over the years, stretching my decent income to breaking point when providing for the children. We’ve had (*) to send each to private school for 6th form, and you need furnaces of cash to fuel that and university support.
    My strategy has been to avoid any non-mortgage debt, and latterly to max the pension contributions.
    Working away from home in the London finance industry has allowed us to cope financially and to throw the £40,000 pa into the pension each year for the last 6 years – I’m 52 and will hit the LTA bang on 55 – at which my draft plan is to open the RE door and peer inside.
    I don’t have any other meaningful savings (ISAs etc) – a rather high risk strategy, particularly when a single income family- thankfully my skills are in demand and I’m well thought of where I work. I’m finding it exhausting and full of the niggles that others also do.

    I didn’t have a light bulb moment to speak of – a dawning understanding of the vast amounts require for RE, the tools to deploy from my chartered accountancy, and the patience to just keep going.
    Discovering MMM, The Escape Artist, Monevator and Ermine in 2012/ 2013 was a real eye opener to others on a similar journey though.
    Whenever times are difficult, and work is overwhelming (which frankly seems to be most days), i take comfort in the spreadsheet figures, the “55 countdown” ticker, and the light at the end of the tunnel starts to glow a little brighter for me – it’s my financial North Star.

  • 90 The Accumulator December 20, 2020, 8:37 pm

    @ All – wonderful thread. Thank you all for your stories. Reading them has been a joy, especially after a beast of a week at work. It’s amazing for The Investor and I to hear from so many that have been helped by Monevator. I can’t imagine we’d have kept going so long if it wasn’t for that.

    @ never give up – “A bit like a beleaguered worker on Darth Vader’s ship, it’s fear that motivates me.” Love it! You’re speaking my language.

    @ C – Your story about dropping in and out of corporate fashion is very familiar. It always amazes me how people who don’t put themselves on a firm financial footing discount the intrigues of fortune.

    @ Stan & Nebilon – the reference to higher earners acknowledges that the really difficult decisions fall to lower income groups. The less you earn, the harder it is to achieve FI. Meanwhile, it’s broadly true that higher earners find themselves with surplus capital as lifestyle spending flattens out. Doubtless there are many high-earners up to their eyeballs in debt but the point remains. Sacrifice is less daunting and ultimately moot as you climb the income scale.

    @ Dawn – Interesting about China. Over the last 13 years that was poor advice vs say a World tracker. I remember sitting in a work pension presentation and being told something similar from the ‘experts’ when they were asked what we should invest in. It’d be so much better if they didn’t try and BS everyone.

    @ Fifi – kudos to your Dad.

    @ Fatbritabroad – “My irrational fear is getting made redundant and taking a pay cut, I feel like it’s ‘going backwards’” – Yes, I know exactly what you mean. This hasn’t happened to me in the end, and now it never will, but I would have felt this and did my best to avoid it.

    @ Steveark – I expect that financial compatibility with your significant other is a huge contributing factor to happiness for many people. The notion is about as romantic as a spreadsheet but I bet it’s true. Perhaps someone will launch a dating app called Findr someday.

    @ Laurene – that is one hell of a story. Congratulations on making FIRE and keeping body and soul together despite everything. Hopefully there’ll be plenty more joy for you to look forward to in the coming years.

    @ Tom Baker – no prizes for guessing which generation you belong to 🙂 Thank you for the Milevsky book tip, I missed that one. How did you get on with it?

    @ Weenie – Pre-GFC it was completely normal to pay overdraft and credit card fees. I had lots of friends who did it and felt like an old fogey for not living it large on the never-never. Strange days and hopefully people are less likely susceptible now that good financial advice is widely available on the internet. Your redundancy experience sums up why the journey to FI makes sense even if you don’t retire early.

    @ Nick H – great story and it’s good to hear that FIRE has worked out for you, especially when it comes to dealing with the ill fortune that life inevitably meets out to all of us. Did anyone at your employer notice your prodigious savings rate and wonder what was going on? I know I got myself noticed in the accounts dept.

    @ xxd09 – it’s true we owe an enormous debt to those American trailblazers. I suppose they were ahead of us when it came to introducing defined contribution pensions but still, there’s nobody in the UK of the stature of John Bogle or William Bernstein. Frightening really that the future of so many people was pinned to a product that took decades to refine, and didn’t come with adequate advice.

    @ Gadgetmind – what games did you make? The Investor and I probably played some of them.

    Love the detail about sibling rivalry. When we were kids, my brother was the saver and I was the spendthrift. I used to eye up his piggy bank with envy. I was better at school, he’s outearned me by a country mile, and I’ll retire long before him. I’m gonna claim a draw!

    @ JP – “the work I did had started to become rather meaningless – I think that’s a common phenomenon in your mid-late 50s – and the farce of performance management didnt help.” Amen.

    @ Jonny – “I’m so careful/worried about wasting money, that it can cause misery when it really shouldn’t.” The good thing is that you recognise the problem. There’s definitely a danger of pursuing frugality beyond a fault, and I had to find a way to ease off too.

    “I really do crave a luxury German car.” I don’t blame you. I’d love to have my money-munching car back again. I don’t miss it, but it was soooo nice.

    You’re right about the poor conclusions we draw about other people’s lives. So much of that status-signalling is peacock’s tail. It’s holding them back even though it looks good – to other peacocks.

    @ In my shed – great name and great move from your mum. Incredible to think of the workhouse being only two generations distant. Totally agree that paying off the mortgage is a priceless investment in peace-of-mind.

    @ Indeedably – you have a voracious appetite for learning and deriving meaning from life’s lessons. Thank you for sharing both here and on your blog.

    @ Billy Bow – If I could go back in time I would teach myself about compound interest and pound-cost averaging. It would make such a difference if they added the personal finance basics to the core curriculum.

    @ IanH – it’s always annoyed me that people like us are characterised as bean-counters or people who don’t know how to live… But your story epitomises the fact that it’s about taking control of your own destiny and being able to live life on your own terms despite the slings and arrows.

    @ JDW – “I realised I had really had nothing to show for years of spending.” Yes, that was a turning point for me too.

    I also wished I started earlier, but then that became part of the motivation for going hell for leather later. I might not have made FI so fast if it weren’t for my late-starter fear.

    “Keep going,” is bang on. You’ll get there.

    @ AM – heehee.

    @ Peony – “friends were pissing away their wages. It was the mid nineties.” I hear you! Sounds like you’re well on your way, investing is the next stage for you. Good luck!

    @ Fredster – “In my thirties spent a LOT of money on IVF treatment. Lesson learned – despite everything some things are worth more than money we have 2 beautiful daughters by far the best investment we ever made.” Excellent point, well made.

    @ Gary – “stoozing £70,000 on credit cards at 0% interest and initial fees.” Well, done. That was back in the days when stoozing was worth it. I’ve done alright stoozing but missed the glory days.

    @ Pendle Witch – “I like watching the numbers build up, and luxury is a nice cup of tea and a biscuit.” This is my kind of normal.

    @ Rotaluclac – yes, money didn’t matter to me either for a long time. I was happy as long as we could pay the bills and enjoy ourselves. But like you and a few others on here, at some point a switch gets flicked, and the work becomes an absolute grind.

    You realise you really don’t want to be doing this for the rest of your life but the only way out is to focus on money for a while. It’s still just a means to an end for me. I don’t care about having a big number, it just needs to be big enough so I can lead life my way.

    @ Britinkiwi – Life does sound good! Well played.

    @ Factor – I used to dream of winning the Pools. A bit futile because I’ve never played it in my life. Can’t remember who said that the Pools is wonderfully British as you ‘try to predict the most boring matches of the week.’

    @ Ian A – “Parents got me into saving when I was young, through a Post Office savings account.” I ransacked mine to get me through a little student spending crisis. Left a few quid in it until the pocket book turned up again in a clearout 20 years later. I’d earned a tiny wee snowball of compound interest, and threw that at the stock market. If only I’d left the original amount alone.

    @Raftlod – haha. It’s OK, the Dark Side is hard to resist. Good story.

    @ ex-pat Scot – “furnaces of cash”, “financial North Star” – a couple of great metaphors there that I’m quite likely to ‘borrow’ at some point.

    @ 159F – Love the vivid life picture you’ve painted in just a few keystrokes.

    “My life has been one of happy accidents more than design, good luck, bad luck and more caution than risk.” Me too.

    @ noone in particular – More than a few have referenced family members or friends who only had a few good years to kick back before serious health issues intervened.

    This is a scenario I try not to dwell on, but it has spurred me on at times when FI seemed so bloody far off. From that perspective, I think of life as a lottery and FI as my attempt to buy a few more tickets. This is the main reason why I’m comfortable with a relatively lean FIRE.

    Hearty congrats to those who’ve achieved FI and “Godspeed” to those still on the path. I think it will be worth it.

    Happy Christmas all!

  • 91 Tom-Baker Dr Who December 21, 2020, 12:06 pm

    @TA: Yes if you stretch the definition, I think you can say that I’m one of the last babyboomers (if I pull the plug in 2021, I will have just one year to bridge to be able to access my SIPP ).

    I’m enjoying Milevsky’s book. I think you would too. It is written in the same spirit as the old Numerical Recipes and using R opens a whole new dimension beyond what’s possible to do in Excel for portfolio and drawdown modelling. Another plus for this book is that it also deals with the longevity question combining portfolio longevity with human life longevity. It is really intended as a lecture course for pension fund/insurance modellers, not as a guide for individual DIY investors. I think it is very useful to individual DIY investors though. Specially if they have got a Scientific/Engineering or Maths background. I’m glad I found this book! Together with your posts, Big Ern’s SWR series, and Tiller’s Portfolio Charts, it’s helped to convince me that I’m ready to pursue my dreams any time I choose now.

    I’m not sure if it was here through one of TI’s links that I first heard of Milevsky. Anyway, just in case, here is a link to a fantastic interview with him that lead me to this book:
    https://rationalreminder.ca/podcast/122

    PS: I’m eagerly awaiting for your book too!

    Have a great Xmas and 2021

  • 92 James December 21, 2020, 12:35 pm

    This is a fascinating read, thank you to everyone who has posted so far. Apologies up front for the long winded post!

    My origin story is really rooted in three things:

    Firstly (as is the case for all of us to some degree I suspect) what I learnt from my parents. In my case this was implicit rather than explicit. I don’t recall ever talking about money, or even overhearing my parents talking about it. I guess we were quite an old-fashioned family in that regard, and money was one of things you just didn’t talk about. As an adult looking back, especially with the filter of my own journey to financial independence, I’ve been able to deduce a few things. We were fairly well off. My Dad was a middle manager at BT, and my Mum was a teacher. So not rolling in it, but well above national average. I think my parents prioritised spending on two things: the house, and education. I went to a fee-paying school, albeit on a half fees scholarship. We lived in a nice house, that even allowing for cheaper housing stock back then (80s and 90s) would still have been costly compared to my parent’s salaries. What they did not spend money on was “gadgets” (as much as they existed then!), cars, holidays or extravagances. So what I’m saying is that life felt slightly fugal, even though rationally I know it was nothing of the sort. In terms of my view of money this certainly helped, as I didn’t have a pre-existing expectation of a level of lifestyle-maintaining spend. As a result my base mindset has always been “save not spend”.

    Secondly, my job experience. I’m a chartered accountant, have been for 20 years now, and have never shaken the feeling that I’m fundamentally unsuited to it! For large portions of the first 10 years I fantasized about changing career, but ultimately couldn’t bring myself to pull the plug. Mainly thanks to good old fashioned fear. However, about that time I also stumbled across the concept of FIRE. I honestly don’t remember which blog first got me started, but MMM, Living a FI and Monevator were probably the ones I remember reading early on. This seemed to offer me a different way out. Instead of changing career, potentially re-training and starting again lower down a different ladder I could save hard, keep my head down and sprint to the finish line. At this time (maybe about 2012) I was already saving a decent amount into pension, as a naturally frugal person – but hadn’t dipped my toe into passive investing. In the end it took me 3 more years to open a S&S ISA, but job dis-satisfaction was the catalyst that started the ball rolling.

    Finally, at roughly the same time as the above, my daughter was diagnosed with a life threating illness, and was under treatment for two years. This had two effects on me. Consciously, I abandoned any idea of changing careers, as the focus instantly became a consistent and reliable income stream as my wife gave up work to care for our daughter. Unconsciously this also served as a red flag that life doesn’t happen in some predictable pattern that we can forecast for. It’s lumpy and bumpy and throws all kinds of challenges at you that you do not expect. FIRE, or at least Financial Independence, assumed a new significance, as a safety blanket I could throw over my family if times got tough. My daughter is now a healthy 11 year old, but I don’t think that feeling of needing a financial buffer will ever leave me.

    So today we’re not extreme savers by any stretch, but consistent savers. We’re way past FU money, probably 3 years from LEAN FIRE and maybe 10 from my realistic luxury number. I’m 42 and I’m content now with the prospect of working until 50. I think at that point I’ll probably consider it on a year by year basis. Both my wife and I are also intrigued by the idea of a part-time wind down into retirement, so that’s also an option.

    Happy Christmas all!

  • 93 old_eyes December 21, 2020, 2:14 pm

    Late to this fascinating thread, but here is my two-penn’orth.

    I grew up working class and poor. Not hungry poor, just eking out and, you can’t do this/have this unless you earn your own money, poor. One of my early goals in life was to have enough money never to be cold again and to have a bath whenever I wanted.

    So I was looking for security above everything else. I went to University and then on to do a PhD (Why? Because one of the companies I was interested in working for told me at a milk-round event that they only recruited technicians at Batchelor’s level. If I wanted to be more I needed a higher degree. That company no longer exists, but that is another story).

    I went into academia and bought my first house in 1980, ‘cos that was achieving success and security. A limit of 3-times salary, my partner’s earning power ignored, but a cheap part of the country (London where I grew up was already silly prices). In 1986, I was head-hunted into industry, and we moved to a much larger house in the country wife pregnant with our first child (a house we still live in). I was on a good salary, but was not thinking about money except in the day to day sense. When the mortgage rate spiked in 1989, we were stretched to the limit renovating the house and paying the mortgage, and I had to get an overdraft to keep going. A scary moment as for me mortgage debt was not ‘real’ debt, but an overdraft was. However, we survived that storm. We were not free-spenders, we were putting everything into our house, so there was not that much fat to cut, but we managed. My childhood experience was useful, although it was a great shock to my wife who came from a ‘normal’ household that was in fact quite well off.

    That experience shocked me into wanting for the first time an emergency fund. In my family, an emergency was just an emergency to be dealt with on the hoof. You didn’t have money put aside for future emergencies. You didn’t plan for them!

    So as we recovered we started to have a little bit put away. For the longer term I was relying on my defined benefit pension. I had transferred my academic pension into my industrial pension, and the pension I would receive was building up nicely (I never thought of it as a pot with value, just how much per month could I expect on retirement).

    This continued until 2001, when unhappiness with the direction taken by the business I was in, changes in the sector, and one more turn of the corporate merry go round, caused me to want to leave. A couple of mentors I trusted said the same thing. I could easily get another corporate job, but with the way my sector was evolving, I could find myself in the same situation in three years time. They encouraged me to think of becoming an independent consultant.

    This was really scary for me. My father was a serially unsuccessful businessman. No – really – he was rubbish at it. Totally unable to distinguish between an order book and cash flow, and with a complete conviction that everybody liked what he liked. That was what made our life tough, and I had sworn I would never inflict that on people that depended in any way on me. With a non-working wife, two young kids, and a mortgage, it took a lot of people a lot of time to persuade me I was not my father. The scariest thing was that my wife had complete belief that I could make it a success.

    So armed with a redundancy package, I set out on my own. I knew it would take a little time to build up a client base, but what I was not expecting was walking along Tottenham Court Road that September to see my first potential client and seeing crowds gathered around the TV and Hi-Fi shops. It was the 11th, and two planes had just crashed into the twin towers. Nobody picked up the phone to me for the next 6 months, and there were some very sleepless nights

    I now knew that I had to take a better grip of my finances, but as yet could not do anything about it. I settled for a simple first milestone. Get back the redundancy money I was burning through looking for clients. Gradually, and very luckily, it came good, and I reached the stage when there was food on the table, a roof over our heads and the redundancy package back in a savings account.

    Through my accountant, I found an IFA and set up a pension fund and our first ISA’s – split cash and equities. At this point, I am still in the foothills of learning and feel much more comfortable with cash than these strange equity things, but I am reading some Motley Fool stuff and starting to get comfortable with other assets. Any spare money we had from a good month went into pension or ISA. The only really good thing I realised/picked up was that allowing the IFA to take a slice of my pot every year to manage it was a very bad deal, and I kept it strictly fee for advice.

    I count this period as my financial awakening.

    As the business developed there was more left over after bills. We did not upgrade our lifestyle much, things were developing well but slowly. A wise friend said he reckoned you needed to double your income to make a material difference to your lifestyle. So pension and ISA’s grew. I also realised that the IFA was effectively charging me for looking things up on the internet. I could do that. It was about this time that I found Monevator, and started to think a bit more deeply about where, financially, I wanted to be.

    In 2012, one of my clients (a government agency) were told they could not use contractors any more and so I would have to join them full-time or stop working with them. Since they had become my biggest client by a long way and I would have to go and replace them, I decided to take the offer. The work was both interesting and, I thought, both important and worthwhile. Crucially, they also offered a defined benefit pension and would allow me to transfer in my private pension. When I saw the conversion factor they were using for transfers in, I bit their hand off. I substantially improved my pension position with that one decision. I maxed out pension contributions each year, continued adding to ISAs, and after I started taking my deferred industrial pension, even had some unsheltered investments. Now an avid Monevator reader, I was interested in some of the more complex stuff but stuck rigidly to the passive side with something that looks very much like the Slow and Steady portfolio.

    In 2016 I retired and rebooted my consultancy. I have a solid pension floor and substantial investment assets. I am still too cash heavy, but old habits die hard. We have enough to probably see us both out on a SWR of 2%. We both have expensive, but not eye-watering hobbies. We do have a dependent son (Asperger’s) who does not work. He lives independently in a nearby city, and we pay all his bills. We have to plan to leave a substantial amount to look after him.

    The reason I still work is because it is fun, and it uses the skills I have developed through my career. I pick and choose projects, and I can set fees to suit clients and the social importance of the work.

    There is still the whole infirmity/downsizing thing to deal with at some point in the future, and I wish there were insurance products to provide care if it is needed.

    So here I am having reached FIRE (although the RE bit is in truth not by much) and still working, but being able to choose where and when I do so. I can feel the taper going on. This coming tax year will probably be the first for some time where we have not maxed out our ISA contributions.

    The moment I switched on to FI was when I left the corporate cocoon and realised that financial planning was now definitively my problem. Monevator helped me to understand and to plan. And probably to take advantage of some of the opportunities that I would not have previously noted.

    I have also been extremely lucky. The big financial crises and downturns have happened when I was in secure employment, or when I happened to have clients who were in sectors not seriously affected. For instance, 2008 did not really seem to affect my business, and I don’t quite know why. 9/11 was difficult, but I was launching onto a new venture and was braced for a hard time. I also have that solid floor of defined benefit pension. With the same earnings over the years, I do not think I would have created the same level of pension I enjoy if I had done it as a private pension.

    So thank you @Investor, @Accumulator and all the contributors and commenters for educating me, no matter how late.

  • 94 ReadyAimFire December 21, 2020, 2:46 pm

    Really enjoyed reading these comments, in fact I haven’t managed to fit in any of the weekend reading links yet! I’ve enjoyed reading all of the stories so thought I should add mine.
    I’m possibly a bit of an outlier here. I’m 35 years old and left school at 16 with a handful of GCSE’s to my name. I wasn’t a bad lad as such, but had the attention span of a Gnat when it came to classroom learning. I’ve since discovered a love for learning, particularly with regards to finance, but I can only really learn on my own terms and when I can lock myself away without distraction (such as that from other schoolmates).
    I came from a modest upbringing, the second of four children on a predominantly single income household. My mum is a nurse but had a large career gap to raise us and my dad was a self-employed electrician with a fluctuating income. We were always clothed and fed, and they even managed holidays abroad, but I noticed we were less wealthy than many of my friends families, and also that my dad sometimes prioritised beer over other things such as saving money for his future. He was running himself in to the ground though, so I’ll cut him some slack. Unfortunately my family had a huge fall out when I was 18 and my parents divorced, I think my Dad had some sort of midlife crisis and did some unforgivable things that had a profound effect on me and my desire for security. We haven’t spoken for several years. He did always have the motto of no credit and buy only what you can afford, and this subconsciously stuck with me. I do have some things to thank him for.
    I’ve worked through necessity from being 12 years old, I had a 7 day a week paper round, then used to go to the local pub to sweep the beer garden and re-stock the fridges on a weekend. Then if my Dad caught site of me lazing around he would always rope me in to helping him do a job here and there.
    When I was 17 with little prospects and not much interest other than my girlfriend of the time and my motorbike, my dad insisted that I would become a joiner, plumber or electrician if I wasn’t in sixth form. I liked the idea of having a saleable skill set and as ever taking the easy option, I opted to follow my dad in to the trade he knew, although not working with him directly.
    After a year or so of finding it rather boring, I had a lightbulb moment if you can pardon the pun and it all started to make sense. I also realised that I could create a healthy side-line on an evening/weekend doing jobs for friends and family. For the first time in my life I had money.
    I knew I was slightly different to my peers and felt this burning ambition to make something of myself. I qualified as an electrician in 2007 at the age of 21 and took the wise decision to start my own business straight off the bat. I looked so young that customers often thought I was skipping school. I plodded on for a few years in fits and starts. When I worked, I worked hard, sometimes literally working my hands to the bone and reducing myself to tears, but did enjoy a little too much socialising and periods of travel, however I was proud that this was all self-funded and without any debt. In 2011 I decided I needed to get on the property ladder and managed to save a 10k deposit and I bought a little semi in Liverpool on a 20 year repayment mortgage. I remember the mortgage broker showing me an overpayment calculator and how much interest I would save taking a 20 year term as opposed to 25 or god forbid 30 years. I fully renovated this and lived there for a few of years and then sold it for a reasonable profit.
    The business really took off in 2014 onward when I partnered up with a friend I’d met in college and we formed a limited company and began to take on staff. We now have a core team of 12 (which fluctuates) and usually more work than we can easily handle.
    Circa 2016 we got to the point when we could withdraw a tax efficient salary each via dividends and mileage allowance roughly equivalent to a 75k gross PAYE salary and still build up a healthy reserve. Far and above anything I ever envisaged earning from my trade career. Not being one for flash things, something inside me told me that the sensible thing to do would be to start to save for my future rather than lease the latest BMW and that I could easily live comfortably on around 60% of my earnings. I realised that freedom is my highest value and I’m completely unemployable.
    I considered property originally, but this was around the time of all of the tax changes with buy to let. I have dabbled with property, and it was through listening to the Property Podcast that I discovered Pete Matthew of meaningful money and decided to set up a SIPP. From this point I have gone down a huge personal finance rabbit hole, somehow discovered Monevator and read every article as it is published. I’m now married (to a doctor who is far more academic than me), have a one year old daughter, a different home that I have again refurbished and added value to, we own our cars outright and I have begun to pursue FIRE. I have accumulated around 85k in just over three years and I’m aiming for the million pound mark.
    I’ve got my wife on board through watching the Playing With Fire documentary. I’m not sure if I will RE as much as FI, as we need to look in to my wife’s situation further with regards to optimising her NHS pension benefits. However I sometimes wish I could remove her from the stress of it all when I see the effect it can have on her mood. She has dropped down to four days which is something!
    I’m enjoying the journey and although I’m my own boss, I dance to my customers tune a bit too much for my liking. I’ve always looked after my own affairs through necessity and having no real guiding force in my life and this leads to many mistakes, but also teaches many valuable lessons. Hopefully with large contributions, a kind market and continuing to build retained capital in my company I can take the foot of the gas in a decade’s time and enjoy family life on my own terms, by the beach (which as a surfer is where I mostly want to be, it doesn’t have to be tropical, just wet with some sort of wave). Hope this hasn’t gone on too long. Long live Monevator!

  • 95 Mat December 21, 2020, 3:28 pm

    Nice post. We will link that one in our next newsletter 🙂

  • 96 Stonebridge Kestrel December 21, 2020, 5:27 pm

    Fascinating to see so many references to The Motley Fool UK Investment Guide and especially Jim’s story (comment #74) about finding a copy in the WH Smith at Bristol station – almost exactly the same thing happened to me at around the same time, except I bought it in the WH Smith at Plymouth station just before jumping on a train back to London.

    At that point I was about to turn 30, I had just bought a small flat in East London and, though the same IFA who arranged the mortgage on that, started saving into a Scottish Widows personal pension plan.

    I had thought I was being pretty smart and grown up by engaging a financial adviser but the scales fell from my eyes once I read the Fool book (and website), and I became determined to find out about financial matters myself rather than depend on advice from anyone else.

    My parents both left school with no qualifications, but my dad was a determined man who started out working as a mechanic and ended up as the general manager of a factory in Manchester. So, my background is a strange hybrid of working and middle class, a strangeness compounded by the fact that I was able academically, and ended up being the first person in my family to go to university. Although they were all bemused by my decision to read English at Oxford rather than doing something useful / lucrative like Law.

    I always remember my dad saying “I know how hard it is to save money, and I know how easy it is to spend it” and although I have lived a very different life to his, that observation has remained with me.

    Thanks to corporate machinations, he was made redundant at age 58 and never properly worked again. Despite this lesson in the precariousness of a working life, I chose to make my career in the arts, with very little job security, and I have always been aware that my income could disappear at almost any moment.

    I have never earned enough to be a higher rate tax payer, but despite this I saved as much as I could, and I was also very lucky to be able to buy a house in London when I did (late 2001). I could never afford to buy the home I live in now, but I have paid off the mortgage, and, at age 51, I have also built up just about enough in my SIPP and ISA (a combination of HYP and global trackers) to be able to pay my way if the roof fell in on my career tomorrow. And given what my professional world has been through in 2020, that’s a very real possibility…

    I’ve been reading Monevator for years, but this is my first comment. Thanks so much for all the wonderful stuff you’ve published over the years – it’s always a treat to see a new post pop up in my RSS reader.

  • 97 M December 25, 2020, 6:40 pm

    Loved reading the comments and what a resourceful website that just keeps giving. So thank you for doing such a fantastic job

    While I was born elsewhere I was a first generation immigrant came to the UK for the first time in the 70’s (aged 8), as if arriving in the UK with your luggage wasn’t bad enough, the the airline managed to loose half our baggage too!

    I grew up in the UK, was educated here, was lucky to have parents who worked hard and were financial armed with the principle we regularly discuss on this blog although not rich at all. I did academically well, went through a UK university. Ended up with with crappy jobs initially which barely paid off my travel costs. After persistence life snapped and it was my turn to get lucky, landed a small job with SG Warburg. Went through various guises of the organisation, working hard, learning lots and getting a lot of international experience. Although working hard and long hours, I am a technologist not a trader, I progressed through the organisation in its various guises while my needs have hardly change over time.

    Along the way I got more lucky with opportunities, I bought my neighbours house after an over the fence conversation so no agents! Paid off the mortgage as quickly as possible. Bought a property during the GFC paid it down as heavily as possible. But I was lucky, I did not sacrifice too much along the way as my needs were always limited. I maxed out PEPs, ISAs, Pensions you name it. For some reason I always used to look at fees first, I always want to know how much something costs me and to measure its value and that by chance pushed me into trackers.

    I left the formal 7am-7pm in 2018 (late 40s) after the organisation where I was felt foreign to me after 20+ years, these things happen I got lucky spotted the divergence. The leaving process was a financially positive one too. Following that I spent time with the family for about a year. After a year it was clear that I did FIRE too early and found it quite boring. In truth I was not (and am still not) prepared to FIRE and how to replicate the work social environment. I’ve understood work is an important social outlet and I have missed it so much. So now I work independently and as throughout my life I’ve been gifted to work with some some seriously bright minds and even today, the young people I work with are young PhDs and MSc from some of the toughest scientific disciplines. The bring their mental sharpness and I bring my hard nosed search for value.

    Monevator has been a great validation tool for my journey. I confess, while it also has great ideas for lowering expenses but I am guilty of being lazy. Maybe something for 2021.

    To the authors firstly and the community, have a Merry Christmas and NY and keep up the good work here.

  • 98 SurreyBoy December 27, 2020, 1:31 am

    Thanks to all for sharing their stories. I have learnt so much from the Monevator blog over the years, and have always been motivated by the comments of others who share their knowledge and experiences whilst on their journey.

    Hats off to TA and TI, and my thanks. To me this site has been invaluable in what is, lets face it, a long and often lonely slog.

    So what is my story? Well, Im 48 and by most measures I would say I have reached FI. I have around £2m in home equity, SIPP, ISAs, savings etc. I still have a repayment mortgage of high 5 figures on a low interest rate. My wife and I both work.

    I grew up poor by today’s standards in the Midlands. I knew we were poor but very few meals were skipped however basic they were. Clothes were second hand, haircuts infrequent and glasses came from the National Health for those that can remember them – an embarrasing badge of poverty. Money was always an unspoken source of stress and I never had a discussion about money with anyone at home or school about finances. Only years later would i understand the impact of my early years on my later life.

    I was a pretty bright pupil but i didnt apply myself at school unless I enjoyed the subject. Some advice from home or the school would have been useful but i dont blame anyone for my behaviour. Probably against the socoiological odds I did A Levels and went to a decent university. This was driven by a desire to get away from home.

    I graduated, went home for 2 days and took a train to london in 1993 to share a flat with the girlfriend I would one day marry. I had £2k of debt which seemed a fortune then (apologies to todays graduates) and no job. All i knew was anywhere other than home was a good outcome and London seemed to have the most potential even though I had no contacts there.

    Cutting 27 year story short, I was fortunate enough to find work in the City and within a few years earn a six figure salary which has continued throughout my working life. I was a hard worker and good at my job. I understood the corporate game existed but I couldnt be bothered to demean myself with it. In the end this does you no favours as the next generation comes through and the key to survival seems to be playing the game rather than delivering real value (not that im cynical….)

    Around 2014 I started to burn out after years of long hours, an unhealthy lifestyle, a plateauing career and having teen children who can be a little challenging. It was at this point that i got into the whole FI thing as means of escape from the grind that seemed to have no end.

    I have always lived in fear of going back to being poor so I have always paid into pensions and saved. I also bought a large expensive house (which btw has never appreciated in real terms) to make me feel I had escaped my upbringing. The pensions, mortgage overpayments and savings meant that when i got to the crisis of 2014 I had a very good place to start from in terms of getting to FI. I would love to tell you that I had some sort of master plan, or lightbulb moment but I never did.

    I remember the stock market collapses of 2002 and 2009 and the economic chaos, but in truth I never lost a moments sleep. I felt very secure in my financial and career position until the 2 years over which I began to feel massively uncertain about all aspects of life. For some reason I cant explain, the years of corporate bull shittery,the long hours, the neglecting family and friendships all came home to roost at the same time. Your typical mid life crisis I guess.

    And so in 2014 i became an avid escapee to FI. Investing in ISAs for the first time, refining where pension contributions were invested, cutting out some of the middle class excess. We bought a very expensive german family car a few years ago because it really makes a difference to my wife and you cant save every penny. Before the Covid we took a nice holiday each year because before long the children will be gone and those opportunities wont return. I am fortunate to have balance that allows for luxuries.

    Because I tell myself i want to fund the kids through uni and provide them with gap years and house deposits so they get a better start than me, my FI “number” keeps increasing. Because for me I want a buffer in my FI pot the size of America to guard against market collapse – all to avoid a return to the poverty of my childhood – I am unsure if i will ever meet “my number” Thats OK, one day I will call it.

    The other thing I have not worked out despite a good while of thinking about it, is what I will do instead all day if i ever pull the plug on work. What I do know is that whilst i have worked long hours for many years, so have so many others but I am blessed to have choices.

    This site, the Escape Artist and some others have proved a huge source of information, advice, reassurance and confidence to me. For that I send my thanks and my best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

  • 99 The Accumulator December 28, 2020, 1:51 pm

    Some interesting themes that keep recurring from our stories are:

    The spectre of financial insecurity – either experienced firsthand during childhood or handed down by the previous generation as part of family history. Clearly many of us are motivated to avoid falling back down the ladder.

    A feeling that we’ve been fortunate. That somehow, despite not being particularly driven at school, or not playing a blinding hand in office-politics-poker games, we did well enough for long enough to build up a buffer.

    Famously, there’s a mental model that divides humanity into hedgehogs and foxes. Perhaps, there’s a third category: the squirrels. Squirrels are aware that winter will come. They set aside provisions to deal with bleak future scenarios. Whether driven by instinct or planning, it scarcely matters – squirrels know that when conditions are toughest, it helps to know where you can lay paws on a hidden cache of nuts at short notice.

    Apologies to anyone who’d rather be compared to a tiger. I think squirrels are alright.

  • 100 Deltrotter December 29, 2020, 9:48 am

    To M in post 97:

    “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

    Seneca

  • 101 ScienceNerd December 30, 2020, 10:50 am

    I’m a 90s kid, from an upper-middle class family with a father who worked a job he absolutely hated (and which made him sick with the stress) all through my childhood.

    My parents were also careful with money, and debt, working as a team – dad brought in the money, mum ran the household finances. They are no spendthrifts, but two generations of accountants in the family means they’ve always invested and managed money very carefully within their means.

    I was slated as very bright and was always much more motivated by learning than money, but I had a terrible experience at university and collapsed under an undiagnosed mental health condition. When I was finally spat out with a decent, but not excellent degree, I got a job in a profession I’d chosen not for passion, but for a good fit with my existing skills. I started dating, and started saving.

    As soon as I started working, I resented the large amount of time I had to spend working on something I was good at, with wonderful colleagues, but which left me cold in terms of enjoyment. This lead me to find Mr Money Mustache online, and Monevator, and to realise that saving and investing was the way to freedom! I started socking away 10k of my £22k pre-tax salary, and working a lot of 1.5x overtime for extra savings. I did well and was promoted after 10 months, with a salary increase to £25k. I still carry around £30k in student debt, but I see that as more of an extra tax and expect it to be written off at 45 without full repayment.

    Another major thing that happened to me at this time was that my new boyfriend got sick just after we moved in together – really sick, almost overnight – and was unable to really get out of bed or function for about 2 years. I suddenly had some care responsibilities, and was doing almost all the housework on top of my job, commute, and extra hours. He was older that me and had a very good financial cushion, so he was able to ride out his illness without extreme financial stress. I realised this could happen to me one day.

    After 3 years, I realised that I wanted to take on a Master’s degree to retrain into a higher paying and more intellectually stimulating sector, which I did in 2018-2019 (paid in cash out of my savings). I found a job which pays a higher starting salary than I was making after 3 years in my previous profession. I am living with another partner now and I’m able to save 70% of post-tax income. I hold VRWL in an S&S ISA for simplicity, and collect happily my extra £1k annual top-up in a LISA from the government. If I keep saving at this rate, even with no salary increase, from my late 20s to 40, I should have £400k in accessible cash socked away ready for a house purchase and further investment.

    I feel like if I’m careful (and probably avoid having children), I needn’t worry about having to work too much at something I dislike, or need to fear being knocked off course by bad luck or illness. It’s the independence I’m after, rather than the retirement.

    I’ve been trying to tell my friends about investing and saving – they range widely from those pulling down £150k+ combined London salaries, to those on low incomes drifting in and out of their overdrafts. My hope is that we can all become a little more rich, and a little more secure in our lives.

  • 102 Greg @ The Mindful Money Project December 31, 2020, 3:57 pm

    Great article, thanks for sharing.

    For me, my desire to become financially independent and secure hasn’t been a result of a big shock. Or at least one that made me make the connection immediately.

    Instead, it slowly evolved from a moment that has been more critical to my life than I realised at the time; my parents breaking up.

    Now I was a teenager and even though it was sad, I remember it being a positive thing that both my parents needed. However, looking back on it now I can see that money was one of the principal reasons, and I’ve been designing my life ever since to focus on financial security and wellbeing.

    Why? So that I never need to damage a relationship due to money worries. Be that friendship, family or romantic. Not that these were deliberate choices, but the pressure that poor financial management (or through taking on too much risk) can wreak on your ability to navigate life positively, optimistically and morally.

  • 103 FI-FireFighter January 1, 2021, 11:27 am

    Great post, Great comments, Great Website :-).
    Working class family, my parents tried ever so hard to provide for us and they did, I don’t ever recall going hungry, but we had hand me down clothes and charity shop school uniform etc, lived in a tied cottage for years as Dad worked on a farm.
    But they were financially illiterate, so when easy credit became a ‘thing’ in the early 70’s ( remember the flexible friend adverts?) they embraced it because they wanted ‘stuff now’. The Access credit card and department store HP was the start of their problems and a spiral of debt that plagued them for decades.
    It culminated in a disastrous bridging loan to facilitate a house move that was meant to be a down size to get their debt under control! They took bad advice. It wasn’t their fault, they didn’t have the knowledge or understanding to do it a different way. They trusted the bank manager!
    Most of this I didn’t know at the time, other than money was always a ‘problem’, and things were difficult.
    My dad was an only child and had a sizeable inheritance during all this and it got consumed. We have discussed the ‘journey’ they took and some of the key decisions they made. He has been very open about it with me and deeply regrets getting that first credit card and that “bloody bridging loan”.
    So I have learnt vicariously through my parents decisions, but it wasn’t ‘my moment’.
    Being fiercely independent I had my first job at 9, a paper round, then I got a second one to earn more money. I also worked in the local shop, did the milk round, farm work and odd jobs around the village.
    I joined the Army at 16 in 1984 and have been in full time employment ever since.
    Left the Army and bought a Flat in 1991, 100% endowment mortgage, thought I had got a bargain by getting £6k knocked off the £40k price !!
    Quickly followed by 15% interest rates, I barely had enough to cover the bills ( single chap at the time) and I realized the property was no longer worth what I paid for it! I was in negative equity for 9 years and the endowment mortgage was not going to pay what I was ‘promised’ it would!
    That was my moment.
    I realised I was financially illiterate and I decided to never be in that position again.
    I started reading the broadsheet papers, found the Motely fool, found BestInvest in 2001- I was sooooo close, but got it wrong by buying funds with them for 10 years, made some money to be fair but could have/should have made more.
    Cashed that money in to invest in property which is where I have focused my research and its been quite good to me, BTL and a Holiday Let.
    Lucky to have a decent public sector pension and a few years ago while preparing for retirement I found the FIRE community – MMM, Monevator, Indeedably, TEA, Et al – Thank you all so much.
    April this year I am in the fortunate position to be able to walk away from full time employment, I will be 53.
    Happy New Year All.

  • 104 Reactionary Investor January 2, 2021, 12:48 am

    March 2020…

    The Manager looked at me and asked would I like to be furloughed? Not being all that keen I reluctantly agreed after being asked for a third time.

    Before I left for what turned out to be 8 weeks of paid holiday, one small event turned my life around. It had been quiet time at work and my boss had taken to day trading on his phone. Fancying a pop I bought some Barclays Bank shares on the cheap and held tight for a month. Sold at a tidy profit. Bought some Wolseley shares 3 years previous through a company scheme and that turned in a useful 60% profit.

    My brief flutter in shares (not something I like btw, too stressful watching the fluctuations) lead me to investigate investing further. Numerous websites, books, forums, began a path to consolidate all of my (underperforming) pensions, my wifes pension, my childs trust fund and even starting the process of unlocking my personal pension in Canada which I had completely given up on.

    Time can not be underestimated and with the time that was given I made the best use of it. Cramming all the knowledge I could and a little bit of fumbling around and in just a couple of months I have completely transformed a fiscal mess that was never going to provide FI to now, a clear path and brighter future were all of us in the family can now see a clear destination and how we are going to get there.

    The wife and I are even putting money into my childs junior ISA & SIPP.

    2020 has been a terrible year but for my family and myself, a complete financial awakening. I can’t overstate how much on a positive change the last 9 months have been.

  • 105 Dividend Power January 8, 2021, 3:02 pm

    I liked this article. Everyone gets their realization at some time that it is better to be financially independent than rely on a salary and your bosses perception of you.

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