Our Full Financial Plan and Philosophy // + the Mad Fientist Podcast

I’m super stoked to be on the Mad Fientist podcast today! I met Brandon and his wife Jill at FinCon, and we talked about doing the podcast, but I was a little freaked out about having my voice out there. (Kinda violates a key tenet of anonymity, even if our anonymity is only temporary.)

Financial Independence bloggers at FinCon16

Jill and Brandon (Mad Fientist), Joe Udo (Retire By 40), Mr. 1500 Days, Gwen (Fiery Millennials), Mrs. Frugalwoods, Tonya (Budget and the Beach), Erin (Journey to Saving), me, Mindy (Bigger Pockets), Brad (Travel Miles 101)

But I finally decided that anyone listening to the financial independence podcast is at least considering doing something like what we’re doing, so we have a vested interest in keeping each other’s secrets. (Pretty please keep the secret!)

Ultimately, I decided to go for it, and I had tons of fun chatting with Brandon – we talked more about the mountains and travel than actual money! Because that’s what money is for: paying for the things you value most. That’s why we’re still working a little longer despite hitting technical financial independence a year ago, because we always want room in our spending for fun stuff. But since we didn’t get into all the details of our financial strategy, I thought I’d put them all here, so anyone new to the blog can get a good intro, and regular readers can get a refresher of all of our plan elements and strategies in one place. (Plus I needed an excuse to share the crazy car-eaten-by-snow pic below… keep reading!)

Our Next Life on the Mad Fientist podcast! // Our full financial plan and philosophy, early retirement, financial independence, values-based spending and investing

Life Goals First, Money Second

Neither of us have ever been interested in being rich just for the hell of it. Okay, well there was that one time Mr. ONL owned a slightly extravagant car. (Thank goodness he bought it used and sold it for as much as he’d paid.) But we’ve always wanted to travel and have time for big adventures, the kind you can’t fit into long weekends or even two-week vacations, and the kind you can’t save until you’re 65. That was something that brought us together in the first place, in addition to laughing so hard together that it hurt, and from early on in our relationship, we were plotting ways to avoid spending 40 years working in our stressful, all-consuming careers. As soon as we heard about early retirement and learned the math behind it (h/t to the Charltons and their great book), we were in, but only because it supported the life we wanted to live, not because of the money.

Related post: 10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Retiring Early


Constraining Our Spending Without Budgeting

Budgets aren’t a good fit for us. We’ve tried, we’ve failed, we’ve moved on. But we are able to live on what we have, so we’ve followed an automated strategy of paying ourselves first that makes the balance in our checking account artificially low. While that may not have worked when we were earning entry-level salaries, it works well for us now, and we don’t spend money that’s not in checking unless it’s some big deal thing we’ve planned for.

Leaving the Big City

We are huge believers in aiming toward the life that you’ll love living, not just the life that’s the cheapest, so we’d never advocate leaving the city if you love city life. And we actually did love city life, but we suspected we’d also love mountain life, since the mountains are our true love, apart from each other of course. In the city, it would cost a small fortune anytime we wanted to get together with friends because it usually involved a trendy restaurant, but in our small mountain town, we tend to see our friends more, and the things we do together are free – having game night at one of our houses, going for a hike, having a picnic in the park. And even though we still pay the “mountain tax” and live in a high cost of living area, we spend so much less living here. And we have so much more time to ski, bike, backpack and climb since we’re not schlepping back and forth from the city anymore. We do now keep our house freakishly cold, though, because natural gas rates are out of control in rural areas.


Buying Less House Than We Can “Afford”

We recently paid off our mortgage only five-and-change years after moving to the mountains. Though we were aggressive in paying it off, by far the biggest factor in being able to do that — and being able to save so much for retirement on top of it — is that we didn’t listen to the banks when they told us how much house we could afford. Seriously, if you earn incomes that are significantly above average, the amounts they say you can borrow are worthy of a spit take or ten. While we might have drooled over some of the houses in that price range, the thought of owing that kind of money was sickening to us, and we listened to our guts on the price range that felt comfortable. If we hadn’t, we’d still be years away from retirement, not a few months. Even with our first place, we wanted to know we could comfortably cover the mortgage on one income, not two, so bought based on that. You can never go wrong underspending on housing.

The end of our mortgage! The official word that our mortgage is paid off.

Not Inflating Our Lifestyle

The most painless way to save by far is just to stick to the spending level you feel comfortable at, and when you get raises and promotions, automatically save that extra money. While some more hardcore frugal bloggers have continued the college lifestyle into their 30s, we didn’t do that at all. We absolutely inflated our lifestyles for several years – including our baller years – but then when we got serious about our financial goals, we just let things level out, and we banked all the increases.

Deflating Our Lifestyle… Gradually

Of course the amazing thing about pursuing financial independence is that your motivation gains momentum, and as we’ve gotten farther along toward our ultimate goal of quitting at the end of this year, we started taking a much more critical look at our spending, and questioning whether each outlay really made us happier or otherwise improved our quality of life. For us, though, the key has been cutting things out gradually, so we’ve never felt like we went from this sweet spendy life to a state of austerity and deprivation. Giving things up one at a time, or even invisibly, has made us feel like we haven’t given up anything at all.


Banking Our Windfalls

In addition to banking raises, we’ve made a habit for many years of banking windfalls, like our year-end deferred compensation or any tax refunds we might get. It started by just deliberately not budgeting how we’d spend that money. While we saw our colleagues talking about what they’d buy with the money, or what extravagant vacation they’d go on, we saw our bonuses as the ticket to the fast track on the Life board. “Get bonus, save it, skip 15 steps.”

Thinking Through Sequencing

While the 4 percent rule (and its corollary, the rule of 25x) is a good rough measure of what you might need to save to retire, it doesn’t account for real-world circumstances, like that you might have more saved in your 401(k) or other tax-advantaged accounts than you have in your taxable funds (this is true in our case). Or that you might have more income coming in later in life, like after you pay off a rental property (also true for us). Or that you might want to keep more of your funds sequestered for later years in case you have expensive health care needs, or just because knowing you’ll be comfortable in your “traditional retirement year” lets you sleep at night. The math is definitely more complicated, but we’ve built a two-phased retirement plan that will have a leaner spending target in the early years when we don’t mind camping in the dirt and sleeping in hostels while we travel, with a cushier reward waiting for us when we hit age 60 and can access the tax-deferred stuff without penalty or back-door conversion.

Our income structure over time

Lots of Contingencies

We may be setting a record for the number of contingency plans we have, but that’s important to us. We don’t like tossing and turning at night, and we learned a lot of important lessons from the 2008 financial crisis that stay with us, like that the mindset of “well, we can always just go back to work” may not turn out to be so realistic when times are tough. That said, we did finally have the lightbulb moment that we’ll earn some money in retirement, which will take a lot of the pressure off our investments, but that hasn’t stopped us from relentlessly asking “What if…?”

Low-Cost Index Funds and Automation

We have the most boring investment strategy possible, but it’s served us well so far: invest in those completely unflashy Vanguard index funds (S&P 500, total market, and total market bonds), and do it twice every month, no matter what. It’s all set up through auto-transfer, so we don’t have to exert any willpower or risk decision fatigue to save money, it just happens.

Keeping Our Cars

We won’t be those typical personal finance bloggers who will tell you that you should never buy new cars. We’ve bought both of our cars brand new off the lot, but we negotiated like crazy to get their cost down (pro tip: negotiate via email with dealerships’ fleet departments and ask area dealers to beat the best offer you receive, and then when you get a better offer, do it again). But what’s made it work out for us to buy new is to keep the cars forever. We still have our 2004 Honda Civic, though it’s not necessarily ideal for our mountain climate, and we can’t imagine parting with our Subaru Outback. We may sell the Civic when we retire, just because we won’t need a second car when we’re not commuting to the airport for business travel, but not because we wouldn’t be happy keeping it forever.


There’s a 2004 Honda Civic in there somewhere.

Putting Our Marriage Before Money

I get a few questions each month about how to get your spouse on board with your early retirement vision, and my answer is always: Focus on the life goals and get those into alignment first. If you don’t agree on where you want your lives to go, that’s a way bigger problem than money or your FIRE plan. And if you do both agree on what you want out of life, it’s way easier to have the money conversations from that place. The truth is, if we weren’t both equally fired up about reaching early retirement, we wouldn’t be pursuing this. We’d be working toward whatever other life goal we both cared about. But having one of us early retired and the other still working isn’t our particular vision of happiness (nor of marital bliss). This isn’t true for everyone, but we see FIRE as 100 percent a team effort. And regardless of how you see your finances, you should see your marriage as your most important investment.


Breaking the Rules Sometimes

Saving money feels wonderful, and we love watching the numbers on our spreadsheets grow as much as anyone. But we don’t put that above all else. People are way more important to us than money, for example, so we made a personal loan to a family member despite the conventional wisdom telling us not to, and we bought our rental property to rent to a relative, meaning that the math on it wasn’t as favorable as professional landlords would say is essential. But both of those decisions are working out well so far, and we feel great about them. We also give regularly to the philanthropic causes we’re passionate about and urge others to do the same, and we still splurge on travel a few times a year, because we believe in enjoying life on the road to early retirement, not just after you get there.

Being Born Lucky

As much as we think early retirement is more doable than most people imagine, we aren’t going to claim that anyone can do this. A whole bunch of factors went into this even being possible for us, from getting tons to help along the way, to having a fairly subsidized life, especially growing up (you probably did, too), to having good early retirement role models on both sides of our families. We remind ourselves every day how lucky we are, and that gratitude is a big part of our happiness. // Early Retirement, Financial Independence, Travel, Adventure, Mountain Living

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There you have it: the full rundown with lots of links on every aspect of our financial plan and philosophy. Any questions about our plan that we didn’t answer here? Fire away in the comments.

Share Your Thoughts!

You know I’m dying to know… what did you think of the interview? Am I the biggest dork ever? ;-) Anything new or surprising that you learned that you’d like us to share more about? Let us know in the comments! xoxo

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86 replies »

  1. By the end of the article, I had forgotten all about the podcast. I’ll have to check it out later today when I can do audio.

    The mention of FinCon reminded me of how I found out about your blog. We were at the same breakfast table with Doug Nordman, Todd Tresidder, and Jim Wang (among others). With all the names and faces, you probably don’t remember me (I didn’t get to introduce myself), but you might remember that.

    I love the recap as it hits most (maybe all) of the major points that people use to reach financial freedom.

    I also like when I find out that I’m “car cousins” with another FIRE blogger. We went with the Subaru Forrester due to kids (one at the time) and the big dog. They are perfect for those of us who need 4-wheel drive for the snow where we live.

    • Oh my goodness, thank you for connecting those dots! I do remember that breakfast and am picturing a few guys you could be. ;-) So you have seen first hand my phone twitch and probably saw me on the tail end of a work call that popped up that morning. Can’t wait until those are a thing of the past! And yay for Subaru cousins. It was a total coin-flip for us on Forester vs. Outback, but we knew we needed a car we could trash, and we’ve lived out that destiny with our Outback all the way. ;-) Everything is scratched and dented from carrying all our gear, but we just think of it as well loved. Haha.

  2. I am so excited to listen to this episode tonight! I love how you break the rules of working past middle age and somewhat again within the FIRE community with the loan and all that. Of course, your outlook on giving makes me so happy, too! So glad your voice is out there!

    • Let me know your thoughts after you listen! And we must be friends because we’re both rule-breakers. ;-) Speaking of which… do you know if you’re coming to FinCon, or is your mat leave still all screwy? (I am probably behind on the latest!)

  3. I can’t wait to listen to it all! I got 10 minutes in on the drive to work this morning. It’s nice to put a voice to the person. It’s funny, you actually sound exactly like I thought you would. Ha! Anyways, great to hear more of you guys’ story and am so excited to see what you both have in store in the coming year.

    Good luck and keep posting those awesome pictures! It looks like you had a blast in Japan!

    • That’s funny that I sound how you expected! I do think I write mostly how I speak, but you could have guessed a million different possible voices. So… good guess! ;-) And yes, Japan is a-m-a-z-i-n-g. Sooooo glad we did this trip!

  4. It was nice to finally put a voice to a name! Podcasts are always fun – I am always super curious how my voice comes across once it finally airs.

    There is a ton of wisdom in aiming for a life that you’ll love living. After all, early retirement will only be fun and exciting if you’re doing the things that you actually want to do. Retiring to something akin to just sitting in your rocking chair and staring at a wall doesn’t strike me as all that entertaining!

    …might as well keep working.

    And no, didn’t come across as a dork at all. In fact, you seem to have a natural and relaxed ability to speak. You’re incredibly eloquent and insightful. Articulate. Very few filler words. Almost no “umms”.

    You have a natural radio voice! Next “career”, perhaps? ;)

    • I am sure I had a few more “umms” that Brandon kindly edited out. ;-) But I do mostly talk for a living, so I have lots of practice. Hahahahaha. Totally with you on the life you want to live — and retiring to a rocking chair sounds like my personal hell, so I would ABSOLUTELY rather keep working than do that for 40 years or more! ;-)

  5. Kindred spirits! As an avid outdoorsperson (rock/ice climbing, bc/resort snowboarding, surfing, hiking, camping), I can SO identify with your goals, and am more than a little jealous of your mountain town living status. Heading out to Utah tomorrow for a killer bc trip, and to Iceland a week later! FIRE just a couple years away (May 2019). I hope you guys do the big reveal when it’s safe to do so and update how the FIRE life is going as it unfolds.

    • P.S. — that looks like Mt. Yotei at the top of this article? Went there two years ago and it was insanely amazing. Planning a return next Japanuary!

      • Yep! We just left Niseko today and are already trying to figure out when we can return. We heard January was pretty dry this year, so feeling stoked we opted for February instead… we had powder every day. :::head exploding from excitement:::

    • Oooh, Iceland! That is top of our list! Please report back about your trip! And yes, we will definitely do the full reveal later this year after we give notice at work, including who we are, where we live and what we do for work. And not to worry — I can’t imagine life without the blog now, so the overshare will continue well into retirement. ;-)

  6. I love Mad Fientist, and just downloaded your interview, can’t wait to hear it! Great article, and a great example of the steps so many of us are taking on our road to early retirement.

    It’s simple, but not easy, right!? Look forward to hearing you tonight!

    (PS – I love doing podcast interviews, and have one this afternoon with Planet Boomerville, LOVE it when the hosts start reaching out to ME for the interviews!!)

  7. Congrats on that interview! It’s always a little scary to give up a shred of anonymity in the online world, so I get how scary it must feel. But good for you! I love the money plan y’all are following. The FIRE journey isn’t all about money–it’s mostly focused on happiness and using money as a tool for happiness.

    • Thank you! It was a little scary, but it feels good to have shared our story that way. :-) And well said — we really should call this a happiness journey with a money component, not the other way around. :-)

  8. Listened to your interview with Mad Fientist. I am pretty much on the same boat. Piling money on a more than average salary to eventually FIRE to travel. I got another 7-8 years to go since I started last year, but its very enlightening to know there is light at the end of the tunnel.

  9. Thank you for your continued clarity and insight into a (in my opinion) well-balanced analysis into the pursuit of FIRE.

    I stumbled across your website during one of the fall-off-the-edge-of-the-internet sessions I’ve undertaken as part of an effort to give shape and substance to a path that I stumbled onto a couple of years ago. Your posts resonate with me since I’ve also chosen to relocate to a small west coast mountain town to balance an early-ish retirement in favor of quality of life while I anonymously count down an intense career clock. I especially appreciate that you tackle some of the bigger issues like identity outside of occupation, thinking through financial sequencing, and redefining lifestyle.

    Thanks for your thoughtful posts and good luck. Hopefully the backcountry skiing will be as exciting next winter and spring so you can start your next phase with some big powder days.

    • Thanks for those many kind words, Lael! And your plan sounds a lot like ours! Always nice to connect with kindred spirits who prioritize the outdoors. We can’t help but think about some of that bigger stuff since the money is just a tiny piece of all of this, so glad you have enjoyed the musings on it all. :-)

  10. I loved listening to the podcast on my way to work this morning. Incidentally, just having returned from a week of skiing in the pow of Jackson Hole with family, all the banter about skiing and mountain living made me wannna jump right back on a plane and head west!!

    Aside from hearing your very concise and clear answers, I very much enjoyed thinking back to the blog posts I had read from ONL on the many subjects discussed today. A terrific 42 min summary of thousands and thousands of words and so much hard work on your blog!!

    I will also echo the “highly articulate voice” comments and can understand how important this skill is in your particular line of work.

    • You must have been in Jackson during that last storm cycle — what great timing! We saw the news of that storm from Japan and got little twinges that we were missing it. But we had five straight days of perfect Japow, so no complaints. ;-) And you’re far too kind in saying “concise” — the podcast was a good reminder that I don’t only ramble here on the blog. Hahaha. At least an interviewer need never fear too short an answer from me! ;-) And yeah, on the talking stuff, it’s nice to have a sample out there to contextualize my work, to show why people pay the big bucks to fly me all over the place. ;-) Glad you guys had a wonderful ski trip! Hi to Mrs. PIE!

  11. Great article, and podcast! You guys are about the same age as my wife and I. We’re about a year into our FIRE plan, but better late than never. I really like your perspective of not squeezing too hard on your budget, or all at once. That will be helpful to keep in mind as we build up momentum. Looking forward to see how you guys make the transition to post-‘career’ work.

    • Thanks, E! And remember, outside of this tiny circle of FIRE people online, you are way WAY ahead of schedule, not late at all. ;-) Don’t let yourself get discouraged just because a few random outliers did it earlier. I bet Michael Phelps also swims faster than you and Lindsey Von skies faster. Shouldn’t stop any of us from swimming or skiing. Okay, I’ll get off that soapbox. ;-) You’ll keep finding your own way, of course, as you go along, and your journey might be totally different from ours. But we’ve found it way easier to stick with the plan if we don’t squeeze too hard at any one time, but over time we’ve still made some super huge cuts… so it all adds up!

  12. Listened to your podcast today with the Mad Fientist, awesome interview! Thank you for setting a role model for those of us late-30/40-somethings who still aspire to FI but aren’t quite there yet! I caught that you mentioned having over a million united airline points and am curious how you got to such a high number? Was it working introductory bonuses on cards or do you have another method? If you outline this in a different blog post, I’d be greatly appreciative of being pointed in the right direction.
    Just found your website and am eager to dive in and start reading.

    • Thanks, Erin! So glad you enjoyed it! And LOL, NO, I did not get those points from travel hacking, sadly! I earned almost all of them the hard way… butt in seat miles. ;-) A small number (long ago spent) are the sign-up bonus, and some are from having the United credit card for years, plus bonus miles for being an elite flyer, but most of them were earned the old fashioned hard way. ;-)

  13. I loved the podcast. Your down-to-earth attitude came through for sure. Your story of ballers to almost-early-retirees is so inspiring! I also like how you take some non-conventional approaches like the renting to a relative, trimming back slowly, and making a personal loan. And your detailed plan for when you’ll access which funds.

    • Thanks, Kalie! I think Brandon did me some favors in the editing, but you can still see that I’m a rambler in real life and on the blog. ;-) And I think we have a lot in common with you guys in terms of prioritizing some values stuff over the bottom line, and it’s super wonderful that people have been supportive of those choices. (Not that we need that, necessarily, but we will never turn down moral support!) ;-)

  14. Not a dork at all!! And I actually love when I come across FIRE people who do things a bit differently. We are also working toward early retirement, but slower than most. A good part of that reason, to be perfectly honest, is the fact that we just didn’t know any better when we were both younger, in corporate America, and making a ton of money. We saved a ton too – always maxed out our 401ks, but we could have saved far more. Then I had our first, and took 9 years off to stay home with our kids. Now the oldest is nearly 11, the youngest is only 4, and I’m only working part time (for a fraction of what I used to make) but I have extreme flexibility with my job which is worth more than the money to me at times. We also have a second home…I know, I know. But while you are mountain people, we are lake/water people. We’ve had a (fully paid off) boat for 4 years and trailered it everywhere we went, and it was time to put down roots in that sense. So we have a 2nd home an hour from our house with a ton of space and we adore it. We considered not doing it, or waiting until we had our main home paid off, but when we realized that Kid #1 would be off to college at that time, we decided the timing was right NOW. So, we try to be frugal in other aspects of our lives, and know that when we reach FI a little later than we originally planned, we’ll have some amazing memories to reflect on. Not that anyone needs a 2nd home for that, but still. Everyone has their own journey! Enjoyed finding you and LOVE your IG feed. Definitely following that!

    • Hi Sherry! Glad you found us! If having the lake house makes you guys happy (sure sounds like it does!) then I see zero reason not to keep doing what you’re doing. It’s your life and your money, and I love that you’re doing your own thing on your journey. :-D

  15. I love this overview of your decisions and journey so far! I’ve been following your blog for a couple of months, but this was a great way to answer lingering questions I had :)
    I’m also so excited to listen to you on Mad FIentist! I added it to my “play next” queue so I can listen to it before all the other podcasts in my queue :D

    • I hope it was worth it to skip ahead of your other podcasts! ;-) And glad this post answered your lingering questions — let me know if there are others and I can answer them in an upcoming post!

  16. Outstanding interview…Mrs. ONL sounds as smart as she does on the blog…no easy feat. This is one of the best “in real time” FIRE blogs going these days…so well done and interesting. Keep up the great work…almost to the finish line…or perhaps more importantly starting gate of “the next life!”

    • Wow, thanks Jon! So many nice compliments! And yeah, as you said, we have to flip our thinking and remember that we’re not almost to the finish line at all, we’re almost to the starting line! ;-)

  17. By far, one of my favorite Mad Fientist podcasts to date!! What a great interview, you are a natural! So happy to have been turned on to Our Next Life. Already hooked.

  18. Hope you’re enjoying your trip right now. I enjoyed the podcast and thought you did great!! Hopefully someday I’ll have a reason to be on the show. :) I’ll have to pick up that book too. I think one of the big things I wrestled with with my upcoming trip is the cost. Thinking of how that money can be better served towards early retirement, but I know that if I wait forever to do one nice thing…it may never happen.

    • It’s the best trip ever. :-) And thanks! I thought the podcast came out well! And I wholeheartedly think travel is one area in life that’s always worth spending money on (that and health care). I would rather have the worst clothes and the most boring food but get to travel than not travel. Let me know if you need more of a peptalk. :-)

  19. Great post, and I totally agree with you on the contingency-plan attitude. I make dozens of contingency plans also, and I do them for the same reason that you do: My numerous contingency plans are my sleep at night plans. There’s an old saying I keep in mind when making plans, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” Life almost never goes the way you want it to. So this way, knowing if one way doesn’t work, I still have 5 or 10 other options, helps me relax. I know if I keep trying, I eventually will figure out a way to find my happiness if one way doesn’t work.

  20. Just listened to the podcast on my long commute to work this morning. Great that you have this post up to explain some of the details in more depth. Congrats on the upcoming FIRE. Loved the part of the podcast where you said not to compare yourself to others who FIRE’d earlier. Sometimes I get down about it because we live in NYC and have 2 little ones…with no plans to leave for a lower cost area. Sometimes I wonder if I should just give up on the FIRE dream but things that are worthwhile aren’t meant to be easy…

    • Thanks for listening! And for the congrats. ;-) I mean it wholeheartedly not to compare yourself. A lot of the folks FIREing early are willing to live in cheap places, and that’s a huge factor in what they’re able to do, but if they wanted to move to where you live or where we live, that wouldn’t even be an option for them. You and we, however, are building that into our plans, and will have more options as a result. And for many of us, that’s worth working a little longer for! Same with kids… you wouldn’t trade them, right? So it’s worth it to make sure they’re covered before you pull the plug. It’s like my favorite slogans for marathon training: “No one said it would be easy. Just that it would be worth it.” ;-)

  21. Terrific podcast and article. You have a wonderfully natural way of presenting yourself and sharing your story, and we’re so glad we could be a small part of your early retirement journey. Thanks especially for mentioning our book: we noticed a spike in sales, wondered what was driving it, then eventually traced it back to your podcast on Mad Fientist — so clearly people are listening and feeling motivated by your message. We’re so excited to see this wellspring of enthusiasm about early retirement and financial independence among younger adults today — and this blossoming of the FIRE community where people of like minds can find support and guidance. Thanks for being willing to put yourself out there and share your message in such an articulate way.

    • Hi Robert! I’m glad you listened to the podcast and heard the shoutout… and even more glad that it has boosted your sales a bit! You know we love your book. And tomorrow’s post is all about travel, and we’re definitely thinking of modeling our post-career travel a bit on what you guys are doing. :-)

  22. Excellent podcast. There was a lot of new info for me. It changed a bit my view of the ONL family, in the positive way. It is clear that you are way more intentional with life and money. That is a big plus and inspiration, as we are intentionally spending money on 2 cars and travel as well.

    I like the idea that you should avoid deprivation while on the journey.

    And the advice you give is great: even if you are a late starter and you can shave off a few years, go for it!

    Big thumbs up to you and Mad Fientist to do this interview

    • Thank you! :-) I’m super intrigued that it changed your view, since I think you’ve been reading ONL about the longest of anyone and know us best. Makes me wonder what I’m not conveying here that came through in the podcast. Hmmm. ;-) And so important not to feel too deprived, as you know! Otherwise you won’t stick with it.

  23. I loved listening to your interview on the Mad Fientist on Monday. We are still working on our own mountain home idea and are not sure what that will look like but you did raise some interesting points about things being more expensive in smaller ski towns so thanks for that insight!

    And yes, I also believe that marriage is our most important investment. When my sister announced she was getting divorced at the end of last year I became even more thankful for the great relationship I have with my husband. He is the most important thing in my life and I am not only greatful to share in our adventures together but that we are going through life as a team.

    • Glad you enjoyed it! :-) And yeah, plan for things to cost more than you expect in a ski town. It was a rude awakening for us, but fortunately we discovered that early enough to plan for it in our FIRE budgeting. And I love how you talk about your marriage and your husband. Sounds like you guys are pretty lucky. :-)

  24. I really enjoyed the your podcast with Mad Fientist! Great job and I bet there will be lots more coming. I see very similarly aligned philosophies as we move on to our journey to ER. Everything from the cars, lifestyle, the not really a budget method, travel and outdoor priorities, health, no kids, etc. In our pre-60 plan, funds will come from 457b accounts.

    • Thanks! There WILL be more coming, especially after we can unveil ourselves. Then the world can hear from Mr. ONL too! And yeah, wow, it does sound like we have tons in common in our philosophies and approaches!

  25. You Rock , I’ll keep my comment short. Finally got to reading this one and it is such a simple roundup. Focus on the goals and the longterm advantages. Don’t waste time budgeting, focus on saving and optimization of the big picture. Have spouse that rocks and is aligned with your future vision. HAVE FUN ! Yup you two have it dialled… when are we making a FIRE mountain adventure plan? Also a MMM meetup is in the works for fall 2018 in Moab for hiking and biking from the adventure crowd.

  26. I loved the interview! And your posts describing your tier-approached. It continues to baffle me that some folks claim to be on a FIRE path, aren’t 55, and have everything in a 401K. The complicated way to access that money is a lot of hassle.

    • Thanks, ZJ! And yeah, that baffles me too! I know there are some ways to get at small amounts of that money before age 59 1/2, but not enough to live on!

      • The 72 conversion thing seems so convoluted and risky too. I like my Roth and then my taxable brokerage. So flexible. So much control on my end.

      • Yeah, totally. Plus, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that we were stealing from future us! I want to know that old person me is safe and secure!

  27. So fun hearing your voice again on the podcast! To your points in this post, I loved how much of the interview focused on building the lifestyle you want, not just saving up toward a financial number. Your mountain life will continue to spark our envy for some time :)

    • Thanks, Matt! :-) When are we going to hear you on there?! And yeah, I think the money stuff is pretty basic, and the real life stuff is way more interesting. :-)

  28. It’s odd how no one ever mentions the 72(t) provision for withdrawing money from a 401k before 59.5 without penalty. This is a KEY thing to understand for early retirees who have the vast majority of their assets in tax deferred retirement account(s). Not only does it unlock your money before 59.5, but it also allows you to start draining those down in advance so you’re not stuck in a higher tax bracket if things go so well with your investments that you have way more money then you need at age 70 and you get stuck with high taxes because of required min distributions. Something every early retiree needs to understand fully. If you have a bunch of separate 401(k)s from different employers, you can also choose to withdraw from one or more, giving you some flexibility on how much of your entire portfolio you access. There are also some choices in how you chose to calculate “substantially equal payments” so you can pick the method that gives you more or less from any given account. You can fund your substantially equal payment at any point during the year from any investment class in your 401k. So there is a lot of flexibility if you know the rules. Our strategy is to start with 72(t) and withdraw up to the point that there are no significant negative tax consequences (like not hitting the next highest tax bracket) and then supplement our balance of income needs through cash until we hit 59.5. Anyway, regardless of whether you use it or agree with it, something everyone serious about early retirement with most assets in tax deferred accounts needs to research. For many people, this will be the only viable way to really achieve early retirement (before 59.5).

    • We didn’t mention 72(t) because we don’t plan to use it, and this post would have quickly turned encyclopedia-length if we’d listed every possible rule out there that any retiree could use! ;-) In our case, we plan to leave the tax-deferred money alone until 59 1/2, and then shift to that entirely. By the time we hit 70 and have to take a certain percentage out each year, if it’s enough that it puts us in bad taxable shape, then we’ll donate the excess to charity. I know this comes as a shock to some folks, but we are not interested in tax minimization (we kinda like schools, roads and science), and also have no problem giving away tons of money if we have enough for us. :-)

  29. I’m curious to hear about your asset allocation. Some FIRE bloggers recommend 100% equities, whereas others say the math supports a 90/10 or 80/20 stock/bond mix works about as well as 100% stocks but with significantly less risk.

    What is your strategy? I noticed you mentioned bonds in Vanguard so I’m assuming you’re at least 10% in them.

    • Ack, I just came across this! –

      So you explain it in there. Around 20% bonds. Cool. Well if you’re reading this already, I would be interested in hearing about how you decided on 20%, unless you already answered that in another post! :)

      I’m a 32 year old trying to decide the optimal path for myself! I’m around 10% bonds for now. Take care.

      • Glad you found this! Short answer is that I’m fairly risk averse and am willing to trade some potential gains for stable value. The longer answer is we read the points of view of a lot of smart people, especially this analysis from Vanguard (, and felt like 20% was the best mix of volatility and reward. As for your mix, it’s so personal and I wouldn’t pretend to give advice. We know people who are 100% in stock, and others who are as low as 60/40. Part of it depends on your timeline and how long you could afford to weather a recession without selling shares, and part of it depends on your comfort with volatility. But I truly don’t think there’s one right answer!

    • Anyone who claims to know exactly the perfect allocation mix should send up your skepticism red flags immediately! ;-) All of this is a guess and a gamble, and we’re all just making the best choices we can with imperfect information (in that we cannot see the future). I would have linked to the allocation mention, but you already found it! Ha.

  30. Wow….I was amazed to find your article on Market Watch…10 Questions to Ask….good practical advice when so much of retirement financial press is the same sausage run thru the grinder by all of the brokerage houses with very little practical advise on getting good benchmark answers to how much money do you need to retire, what is the easiest way to track spending, practicle advice on the amount you can pull from your balance sheet annually to avoid running out of capital before age 100, long term health care, probate considerations made easy, endurance training vs interval training to extend your life. My wife and I are retired since Jan. 2015 living at the beach in North San Diego County and really enjoy the healthy lifestyle of this community. Time now to help others we think. Our kids will be heading to college in several years, we have traveled, high adventure style, and all over the globe, so we are looking for a couple of hours after our daily workout to help others. Will be interested in learning some thoughts or ideas from your site that may help generate some thought processes for us. Cheers to you and thanks for this site…it is awewome and on point!!

    • Hey Brian — Glad you found us! Congrats on retiring a few years ago. And I love that you’re now thinking about service! Surveys of nonprofits show that the best way you can help is through regular volunteer commitments, rather than one-offs — food for thought. ;-)

  31. I am new to your blog and new to FI in general. I think your content is great and resonates with me and my life! I do have one comment about how you mentioned FI might not be possible for everyone and how you had plenty of support. Support truly makes all the difference but is absolutely possible without it. I grew up in poverty and dysfunction with no role models however I am still able to achieve FI. Definitely took obsessive research but now I am helping my father (age 52) retire in 10 years with a $0 retirement account balance and paying off bankruptcy. I felt the need to give hope to those who feel it is an impossible task. Thank you for all the effort and thought you put into your blog, I have thoroughly enjoyed it!!