Our flight departs tomorrow at noon: Penang, Malaysia to Seattle, Washington. We’ve been here nearly two years, and now, a day and a half is all that separates us from my parent’s house in Bellingham. Soon, I’ll be sleeping in the bedroom where I listened to The Cure on my Emerson tape deck in middle school, and plowed through The Great Gatsby lying on my futon in high school.
My husband and I work at the same company, and in 2012 we found ourselves in Malaysia on a sweet expat package assignment. If I’d have been on MMM two years ago, we would have pocketed more of the expat perks (14 months in a 5000 sq ft beach side condo wasn’t the most frugal accommodation – we are now in a cheap house), but somehow we’ve wobbled none-the-less into FI. My husband’s last day as a wage-slave was today. He’s worked 25 years at the company. He is 50. My last day will be July 31st. I’m 41.
I estimate our annual savings rate has been about 20-30% on any given year. If FIREing had been a clear goal earlier, it could’ve / would’ve been 40-60%. I’ve got naturally occurring frugal instincts, but they stayed in the minor leagues absent a clear FIRE goal. Between the social pressure to ‘not be so friggin cheap’, and a feeling that I was somehow entitled to blow a few hundred every month on clothes, we did what so many other people did and let our expenses rise with income.
Fortunately we set our investing on auto-pilot a long time ago:
– max ESPP purchases (10%)
– 401k with generous employer matches (~10%)
– Automatic deposit into ShareBuilder account. (~10%)
– But what really did it were stock option grants that could be 10-50% of salary. These went toward mortgage pay down / addition on the house / frugal kitchen upgrade (IKEA anyone?) / purchase an apartment complex as investment property.
Our biggest financial problem 2 years ago (besides hookers running a ‘day care’ out of an apartment in our investment property*) was being too heavy in company stock. Now it is being too heavy in cash. I’m too much of a puss to throw it all in one ETF at once, so I’m DCAing. But that is okay. We are transitioning into living off of savings, so I’m happy to be sitting on some cash.
With the help of the MMM forums I’m feeling good about our FIRE plan and transitioning to 4% SWR (actually 5% while daughter in college). So I’m comfortable with our plans. But I’m bracing for backlash in Washington.
My mother has little patience for cheap people. “If you want it then buy it!” is an example of her advice. It isn’t that she is money-unaware, rather I think she considers money talk to be déclassé and as such, she becomes uncomfortable when money is mentioned as a consideration. Eager to move on to more pleasant topics, she snaps. “Oh don’t be silly. If you want it then buy it!”
Also I’m nervous about talking to my nieces and step-daughter about finances. I offered to teach them some of what I know ( as they are just starting out ) and I am already anticipating the eye-rolling, despite the fact that, online at least, they seem genuinely interested. Luckily people in the MMM forum have provided solid advice.
Of course all of this is in my head in Penang, Malaysia. Family and home is half a world away. I will take their comments as they come, not lead with our situation, and try and stay open.
*At least that is what they told the cops. Perhaps I’ll write about this later. Actually the hooker situation was more like 2007, but ‘25% vacancy rate’ isn’t as fun to write.