Kim from TheFrugalEngineers.com [Financial Independence Forum, EP.006]

My guest this week is Kim who runs a blog called TheFrugalEngineers.com.  Her mission on the site is to make personal finance easy to understand. Her Engineering background makes her uniquely skilled to understand the world of personal finance through math and how to apply math to optimize for financial stability, financial literacy and financial independence.  Her story into FI started when she and her husband diligently paid off 200k in debt with the plan of becoming mortgage-free.  She also made the leap from a being a full-time professional to freelancing with a plan to retire early at 35 with her family in Wyoming. She’s also an expert of geoarbitrage having lived in 35 places already.

Podcast Transcript

Eugene / Host: (00:02)
Hello and welcome everyone. I’m Eugene Ting and this is the Financial Independence Forum. This show is an open ended exploration of stories, methods and mindsets. How to better invest your time best in yourself and invest your money. You can learn more and please contribute your voice and story at FinancialIndependenceForum.com My guest this week is Kim who runs a blog with her husband called TheFrugalEngineers.com. Their mission on the site is to make financial, personal finance and financial literacy easy to understand with her engineering background. She is uniquely skilled to understand the world of personal finance through math and how to apply math to optimize for financial stability, financial literacy and financial independence. Her story into FIRE started when her and her husband diligently paid off $200,000 in debt with the plan of becoming mortgage-free. She also made the leap into being a full time professional, do freelancing with a plan to retire at 35 with her family in Wyoming, which she is just on the cusp of being able to do. She’s also an expert in geo arbitrage, having lived in 35 places simply on days with 35 so we’ll talk all about that. So welcome to the Financial Independence Forum, Kim!

Kim: (01:26)
Thank you. And nice to be here.

Eugene / Host: (01:27)
Yeah, let’s throw, there’s so many different topics that we would love to talk about. I think to arbitrage having lived in various different places. Maybe we’ll start off somewhere in the middle and then we can kind of go backwards and forwards. But maybe we could talk about maybe freelancing, which is I think one aspect that a lot of people thinking about financial independence or FIRE are interested in certainly, you know, maybe you could talk a little bit about why you switched from sort of full time to freelancing and then the benefits of freelancing from that point?

Kim: (01:58)
Sure. So I’ve been freelancing since 2011 so going on nine years now. I started out after grad school. I got my first job at an engineering firm where we, it’s called mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering. So we are the folks who design all the air conditioning and the lighting and the water systems inside of big buildings like basketball stadiums, performing arts centers, hospitals, that kind of stuff. And the niche that I was in at those firms was sustainable building design. So we were doing energy analysis and water models, find ways for these buildings to show that they were using upwards of 50% less than a building that was constructed to code. And there were some tax savings in there for the designers and the owners. If you could show that you used less energy. So I did that about two years. And then I was at a conference where I met a woman who did this kind of work all across the world, and she wanted someone to help her out. She, she was overloaded. And I said, well, I’ve got the credentials to do that and I would love to do that for you. So I started working for her just moonlighting nights and weekends outside of my day job. And it’s funny because I enjoyed it so much that I used to tell my friends that I felt like I was getting paid to do homework in my favorite class and I didn’t really care how, how much it did pay. But it paid very well because it was a niche right? At any given time. There’s only about a hundred people in the country that have the set of credentials to do that kind of work. So after two years of working both jobs, that’s when I decided to leave my full time job and go entirely freelance because at that point the freelance business had outpaced my day job salary.

Eugene / Host: (04:09)
Wow. That’s incredible. Did you, from the outset intentionally or consciously thought of entering into this, the niche or it was just sort of something about you gravitated toward because of your passion or your, your interest or just sort of where you were in your experience?

Kim: (04:24)
Yeah, it was definitely something I had been interested in since college. Being in the sustainable building arena. And I knew I never wanted to be a traditional mechanical engineer where I would be, you know, sizing air conditioning equipment, laying out ductwork and that kind of stuff. I knew I wanted to specialize in the sustainable building piece of it from the beginning. So I started out working in that specialty from day one and it’s been fun the whole time. So I, I guess I kind of lucked out that I found something that I was interested in and that I was good at doing. It happened to be a, you know, a decent paying subset of engineering at the time. Cause this was right after I mean I started working in 2009 so that was right after the recession and there was not a lot of construction going on. But the buildings that were being built were being built to green building standards. So we were sort of sheltered from the layoffs in the construction industry at the time.

Eugene / Host: (05:28)
Yeah. It’s interesting to hear. I also, I graduated around the same time. It was challenging. I think we also had another guest that was, I’m just starting out their career at the time. It was definitely a challenge. You mentioned, Oh, you’re doing kind of juggling the moonlighting part and then and also your full time day job. Yeah. You also felt like, yeah, this was something that was amazing how you can be paid for something that you love doing. Do you think that trying to juggle both, was it difficult for you in terms of managing your personal life? The amount of time that you’re spending on working or because you were enjoying it so much? Like a hobby or something you’re doing on the side too.

Kim: (06:14)
Yeah, it definitely scratched the hobby itch for me. I didn’t have a whole lot of other hobbies at the time, so this was what I did for fun. That just happened to make a bunch of money at the same time. It also helped that it was a really good compliment to my day job. So it was using the same skill set. Like, if, if I had been, say blogging for example, the time it takes to ramp up into a new kind of work and learn all the backend stuff and the ins and outs of it, of how to do the work [inaudible] absorbed way more of my time on nights and weekends. But with this gig that I had, you know, I already had, for example, I already had all the training and the resources that I needed to do the job from my day job. So it wasn’t like I was having to, you know, work in a different language on nights and weekends, if that makes sense. So that part of it was pretty simple. I think the hardest part was balancing, you know, I was in my mid-20s and I was engaged and I wanted to have more of a social life. And I really felt like, like looking back, I don’t feel like I was a hermit or anything like that. If anything I was the opposite. My friends would tell you, Kim’s a big social butterfly. But it was a challenge to do things like, okay, exercising regularly or know keeping my house as clean as I wanted it to be. I mean, the reality is when you’re working two jobs, things just kind of fall off your list and yeah. So it wasn’t until I had dropped the day job that I was able to prioritize a lot of that self-care again. 

Eugene / Host: (07:59)
Right. That makes sense. I mean, certainly the amount of time that you’re spending on something’s gotta give for sure. And then, you know, taking a step back, although we sort of set the stage of your full time career in engineering and through your transition, through this opportunity, I sort of landed through you and then moonlighting and then freelancing, you know, at what point through that career path till now it’s sort of FIRE but the FIRE for for example, a financial dependence and maybe retire early. Maybe a separate things, but maybe the financial independence part that you or your husband at the time or your husband rather, did you catch FIRE?

Kim: (08:34)
I had been interested in personal finance since college. From a a debt pay off perspective because I had student loans, credit cards, and a car payment. So I had always been, you know, a budget nerd once I needed to be right once at once I looked at the statements and saw, Oh, I’ve got all this debt to pay off. It became, that was kind of a hobby of mine. Like I would start to read all the personal finance books and I would read about simple living and minimalism and things like that while I was still in college. So for us, the big, the big financial push was to get our mortgage paid off as quickly as possible because we knew we wanted to have kids and we knew that we wanted me to be home with the kids. So the idea was if we pay off this mortgage quickly, we won’t have this $1,600 chain around our neck every month. And if you don’t need it that much money, then you don’t have to work as much. So I could cut back to part time or cut back entirely. So we, we had had that plan before I even started freelancing, you know, the plan to pay off our mortgage really fast. And yeah, looking back, our net worth absolutely would have been higher if we had kept the mortgage and invested the difference instead. But I wouldn’t have been able to have the reduced monthly expenses that enabled me to cut back on my work hours. So, I think when we first discovered FIRE I had, I had started reading Mr Money Mustache as a, as an aside because I had previously been reading another site called 20-something Finance where I had, I was looking for a good cash back credit card and [inaudible] yeah, the author had a recommendation and I started binging and reading everything he wrote that, that led me towards Mr Money Mustache. And then I remember at that point we had just had our daughter because we were at home and my husband was off for two weeks for paternity leave and I was just updating our budget like I always do. And then I multiplied it by 25. And I said to my husband, if we just keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to be financially independent when we’re 35 — six years from then. And he’s like, what are you talking about? What is financial independence? And so I handed in the laptop with the spreadsheet that I’d build. I still have that spreadsheet to this day. I use it all the time. And and he doubled check the numbers and he said, wow, you’re right. That’s so cool. Yeah. You know, at that point I was already, you know, I had already left my day job and my freelancing business was growing and he said, yeah, let’s do it. I’m in, I’m dedicated, we’ll do it. He’s always been a little bit of a counter-cultural kinda guy. And that’s what drew me, me too, him in grad school. And so for him to, he’s also very competitive and his father retired early when he was, I think 55 so for him to be able to say like, I’m retiring than my dad. Like he, I think he really likes that idea.

Eugene / Host: (11:58)
So that lit the FIRE to do. That’s awesome. I like that. Yeah. Like so it sounds like you, you know, you’re talking about right, the background of that is good. Yeah. You sort of had that frugal thrifty, you know, you mentioned spread spreadsheet nerd and bath nerd, but budgeting nerd that in youth, you know, since the very beginning, even in college even, especially when it meant that, you know, you’re the one who was responsible for we’re paying off your, your college tuition and things like that. Where do you think that it sort of comes from? Was that something you were, you know, besides the [inaudible], the math side that you were very much interested in? Okay. The engineering side where you’re, yeah. Optimizing based on numbers and applying math. Where did that thrifty sort of mindset okay. Came from or you always were or like that?

Kim: (12:52)
I wasn’t always, so I grew up I’m the third of five kids and so can you take one parent’s income and divided by five? Okay. Yeah. You don’t, you get used to not having a lot of stuff growing up. And I think that’s where a lot of my minimalism tendencies come from is just, you know, when you grow up without a lot of stuff, you really treasure the things that you do have and you take good care of, you value them a lot. So I guess I had never really met anyone that I would consider rich or wealthy until I was a junior in high school and at that point, I don’t know it, I guess I had never been used to spending a whole lot of money. And it wasn’t that I was a bargain hunter or anything like that. Like our parents didn’t shop at thrift stores or anything. It was more of, we just live without it kind of mentality growing up. And so, you know, when I, when I went to grad school for example, I had already started repaying some of my student loans and my credit card debt and I gave up my cell phone when I went to grad school. And this was in Silicon Valley. I was like the only person without a cell phone. I just remember saying like, this isn’t in my budget. I can’t afford it. And our apartments on campus actually had free nationwide long distance calling. So I went old school and I got the cordless phone with an answering machine and I look back now and I’m like, well people call it digital minimalism now and it’s trendy. But back then I was just broke. I guess I did have one period of time. Yeah. I took a year off between junior and senior year the gap year and then internship Florida. And that was like Rumspringa. I mean it was crazy as far as how much, Oh, what I was earning. Going out to restaurants, going on vacations. And at the end of the year I came back with $10,000 in credit card debt and $20,000 car loan that I was not planning for. It didn’t feel good. So I, I just knew I didn’t want to take on debt again because I learned that lesson early on. You know, when I was 21 years old, I learned the lesson that this really doesn’t feel good. And honestly it doesn’t feel much different when we have a mortgage. Hmm. It’s still that feeling that my time isn’t my own because I have to work it to pay somebody else back for a choice I made a couple of years ago.

Eugene / Host: (15:40)
Yeah, that totally makes sense. And, okay. And it sounds like even you earlier you were making a, a decision either to pay off your mortgage or to have invested in something else, an index fund. Now you have a certain percentage higher in your alright net worth at this point. Okay. It sounds like you were making a choice not, not wanting to have that debt or two to pay off that debt earlier. And I think that sort of, that sort of, I could see those two kind of connections between your earlier decision to be thrifty about, about having the landline, which is a great story. Going a little back to other blog posts on your site and talking about other things, professionals to like seem like your story, transitioning to freelancing kind of landed on your lap a little bit. Do you also recommend other professionals [inaudible] okay. Ah, freelancing as sort of a way [inaudible] too. Either to achieve FIRE, but also to, to achieve early retirement too.

Kim: (16:42)
Yeah, I think it varies by the industry and for the engineering feel that I came from, which was know architecture and mechanical, electrical, plumbing during, right. Whole lot of sense to go freelance. Okay. May that we are paid from our employers is you get a salary but you still have to bill, you know, your 40 hours a week [inaudible] project. Okay. And so if you’re, say you’re a starting-out architect and you’re getting $60,000 a year out of grad school, so you’re bringing home $30/hour, your employer isn’t it contracting you to their clients at $30 an hour, they’re billing you out at probably a $100- $220 an hour. It’s usually about three times as much, sometimes four times as much is what you were getting right in your salary. And that multiplier goes to pay for all the overhead of having an office building support staff, you know, IT departments, health insurance taxes and multiple layers of management on top of you. So what would I like to tell people is if you are okay willing to insource all of that stuff. So you’re going to manage your own retirement plan, you’re going to find your own health insurance, okay. Your was hold your own taxes, quarterly estimated taxes, you’re going to find an accountant and do all your own bookkeeping being, etc. If you’re willing to take on that responsibility, you can more of that overhead multiplier for yourself. And so whereas before you had to work 40 hours a week at $30 an hour to make a living. Now maybe you can work 15 hours a week at $100 an hour and you’re still doing fine, right? So if you’re able to three times as much as what you had been making before, you only have to work a third is much of the time, not counting the overhead.

Eugene / Host: (18:48)
Right. Totally understand. I’ve been in an engineer too and I’ve been in a situation like that as well and absolutely like the wage that I would ever received as a full time versus a wage that I earned as a freelancer. Oh, double or triple some of that. Right. Okay. Talking about that rate for a little bit too is, is you know, how do you, how did you approach, or maybe maybe you didn’t at the beginning, but how did you approach sort of navigating negotiations of your rate. Sure. Just thinking about our listeners if they’re interested in, in freelancing themselves too. Yeah. Because you’re on your own and you’re sort of having to be the person that is setting a rate besides, you know, that negotiation with in a nine to five traditional job where you are negotiating with HR or what’s the market rate? How did you approach that conversation? What some of your clients that you took on?

Kim: (19:47)
When I was working in house at these firms, I paid really close attention when we would do proposals for new projects and I kept track of what are they billing me know proprietary information or anything. And also how long does it take to do this kind of thing? So do you want to be in the sustainable building consultant decreased that it might be something that you are being billed out at $100 an hour and it’s going to take 200 hours of your time. Okay. That’s a $20,000 project. And if you are a freelancer, $20,000 is like half of what you need to live on for the year. Right. So projects like that, you’re pretty good for the year. Yeah. That’s another key part about reducing your monthly. Sure. Right. You don’t have a mortgage anymore? I’m salary every single month. Okay. Since he’s in flop. Yeah, no. Yeah. I read a book before I quit my day job, Anti 9 to 5 and I think, yeah, ethical career advice for people who think outside the cubicle. Okay. They run through exactly how to determine the hourly rate that you need, right. To pay your bills. Right. But what I have found, and my husband’s found the same thing is for specialists. So explain this. If you’re an architect, just a run of the mill, no registered architect and you’re going to sign in seal drawings speaking. Okay. Yeah. Your hourly rate may not be as high as if you are a specialist architect who say, okay, say your whole career has been designing hospitals and you know, all the health codes and things like that that you have to comply with, that person is going to be able to. Yeah, no. So what my husband and I have learned is the more that we specialize, the more selective we can be with our work. And also we don’t contract by the hour anymore at all. We only do fixed fixed price contracts. So they’ll say, okay, this building or this assignment, $1,500. And if that’s something that it takes me 30 hours, I need to work harder to get up to speed, but maybe it’s something that takes me five hours. Right. Okay. And when you, I mean I’ve been doing this for nine years and when you been doing something over and over and over and over again, you get processes in place to make yourself more efficient. And it’s sort of like sort of like with law how, okay, it’s more valuable to have an attorney who has 20 years of experience because they know how to get it done quickly. They know where to find the information right away and okay. Higher level attorneys, they don’t have to charge by the hour. They can charge project cause they know it’s only gonna take them like 30 minutes to get it done. Right. That’s very helpful. Just to describe sort of the, the process, I don’t another, yeah, I never felt like it was fair to the client to charge by the hour because I have my day job who when I would work fast and create these systems or more efficiency in my work products, they would tell me slow down and make it take an hour, it is tremendously unethical. So if you paid like I know people who pay their housekeeper by the hour, but where’s the incentive for the housekeeper to get done quickly?

Eugene / Host: (23:32)
Right, exactly. Or do a good job within this certain amount of time. Yeah. Okay. Yeah, that’s true. Yeah. I think aligning those incentives, it makes a lot of sense. I think it’s, yeah, the way you described it is okay. Makes a lot of sense. And charging fixed price about how have.

Kim: (23:53)
I think about how much happier office workers could be because that study show that 40 to 50% of the time we’re not actually working. It is right. We’re in meetings or we’re staring at our screen trying to look productive cause we don’t want our boss to see that our billable hours are low for the week. And if instead of saying you have to have your butt in the seat for 40 hours to get your health insurance benefits, we could say, if you deliver me a set of sign and sealed drawings, but you know, with meeting these, this list of requirements and if you finish it by Wednesday, you don’t have to come in the rest of the week, people would work so fast. And go live their lives. Right.

Eugene / Host: (24:40)
Yeah. It seems to me it’s like you’re, you’re either paying, you know, paying for an outcome. Maybe it’s like sort of a industrial revolution type of you know, sort of a grandfathered from that. Right. Because the amount of time, sort of the new manufacturing setting is how many widgets that you can get out in certain amount of time. But but we’re no longer — we are more knowledge-base workers at this point. And conserve service space.

Kim: (25:08)
That’s exactly right. I mean, when you think about like, let’s, let’s use the example of like a brick factory, right? You’re getting paid by the hour. They can, they can pretty well estimate how many bricks and able body worker can produce in an hour and so that correlates to what you’re being paid. You’re getting paid by the brick, you are going to hustle, you are good. You are going to make so many bricks. And the fact is with engineering and architecture, those are the kind of knowledge-based jobs. An hour of one person’s time is going to produce an entirely different product than an hour and the person down the hall, and I remember I actually had a boss say straight up to me, I worked with another woman. I’ll change her name to Sarah. He directly said to me, a Kim-hour is worth a lot more than a Sarah-hour and that was his way of saying, we know that in any given hour know you type faster, you access information faster. Right. And when you pay all your engineers across the board the same hourly rate. Right. You don’t recognize that. Some of them were trained in Excel in college. Some of them were trained in AutoCAD in college. And they are able to produce more in that hour. And it doesn’t take the engineer’s very long to figure out which ones are more efficient than the other. And then that leads in-fighting and resentment among teams.

Eugene / Host: (26:37)
Thanks for sharing that to you a little bit. Moving outside of the freelancing, maybe pivoting more to other. Yeah. You know, there’s so many topics, so maybe we could have you on for another, another another episode, but I do definitely want to touch on the geo arbitrage type of thing. Definitely dive a little deeper? In your experience having lived in you said 35 different places even at 35, like maybe, maybe start from like, you know what what was it? I assume that your parents, yeah. Part of that was your parents and you moving from place to place when you were younger and then when you were even older moving from place to place to, was it, yeah. Was it out of necessity, out of choices or you were just, you could do it and you wanted to do it?

Kim: (27:24)
So when I was younger it was necessity because my mom, she’s on her fourth marriage. Anytime there was a change were mentors for very long. Okay. It’s rare that we would stay. And I remember that. It’s part of why I wanted to own a home outright without a mortgage. So yeah, I moved a lot when we were kids due to that. Then when I was 15 that’s when I left home and I went to boarding. From that point on I made it a point to always say yes. Any opportunity that came up. So any internship or research position. Okay. Anything that would get me out of the Carolinas, I would say yes too. And so I was exposed to a lot of different first in the country. Okay. I’m not as much of a yes person. Now I’m more of a, if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no. But back then, you know, I was young. Yeah. 15 years old when I started moving around. Yeah. On my own choice. Okay. Yeah. I guess part of it also helped that there really wasn’t a lot of professional opportunities where I did grow up. So you sort of had to move for work and your education.

Eugene / Host: (28:49)
And then how about after [inaudible] can talk different internships and things like that. And I assume freelancing also allowed you to be to work independently. And okay. Location independent as well, besides sort of having lived experience these different places. Yeah. Maybe talk to, to walk us through in our audience a little bit about that geo arbitrage kind of perspective. I know you guys now sort of, yeah. I think you were talking [inaudible] blog posts a little bit about how you’ve arrived at Wyoming being okay. A great state for you two have an early retirement. But yeah, tell our audience a little bit, you know, describe a little bit what geo arbitraging is and why that you think is important for whether FIRE. The FI part or the RE part that that’s important to consider.

Kim: (29:37)
For us, you arbitrage means, okay. Keeping income relatively the same regardless of where you live. So like a location, independent career, and then choosing to live in a place that’s gonna treat you the best financially depending on what your needs. Sorry. Right? So for us, the first time that we made the decision to move somewhere more affordable was after we [inaudible] finished grad school. So we were coming out of Stanford where 75% of graduate stay in the San Francisco Bay area we bucked the trend and we said, Nope, we’re going to go to Florida, we’re going to go to Central Florida. Okay. Because we made a spreadsheet when we were living together for our second year of grad school and we said California versus Florida, what are we going to do? Cause that’s where my husband’s family was from. Yeah. We looked at housing and the taxes. And just the overall higher cost of living in the Bay Area. And then we looked at the salaries and you know, we want to Software Engineers. So the, the engineering salary for someone who was doing engineering was not dramatically higher in a place like San Francisco to justify the cost of living increase. So we moved to Orlando, Florida, where we spent most of our career. That’s where we married, bought our first house, started a family, started a business etc. What I like to tell people, if you’re trying to build wealth doing that in a state that has a state income tax, like a high one, like California or Oregon is akin to running a marathon with nine toes, you know, it’s just okay harder. And for us, the value of being in California wasn’t there because Florida’s still a pretty nice place to live. Depending on where you’re at in Florida. Right? Cause we have since left Florida. We found a nice little neighborhood where we could walk to school, preschool to high school, and it was, it was a really nice neighborhood. But then a couple of things changed. No, we had a small baby at home and there was, basically in a short sequence of time, there was a lot of gun violence in Orlando. They had really, really bad weekend. Kind of woke up. A lot of people, well, let’s say, right, okay, this isn’t a safe place to raise kids right now. You know, at the time Orlando had higher rates of gun violence than Chicago or Detroit. Great. and so we said, we, we gotta get outta here. We don’t have to stay here for work anymore. So we said, let’s move to a small town. Let’s get out of the crowds and the traffic and the sprawl and go somewhere small. So we, we chose to move Southern Oregon to a town of 20,000 people. Well, which two years later looking back was a tremendous mistake. We should not have moved there because it was, it was more expensive than where we were.

Eugene / Host: (32:56)
Was there a reason that you chose location? Was it cause your family?

Kim: (33:01)
or, wow, we didn’t know anyone out there, so visited three times. We really liked the town. Okay. It sort of reminded us a little bit in the yep, that’s no good. The landscape and the smell, the temperature. So there was a little, a romantic. Okay. Okay. And yeah, we, we, we liked that it was okay. Easy access to hiking and skiing. Yeah. But we were not prepared. So earlier this year, so right now it’s October 2019. So in March of 2019. Okay. We did the math and we figured out we were already financially independent except for the state income taxes in Oregon. Like we were at that point, we were literally just working to pay for the taxes in retirement. And you know, you tell that to somebody who, who spent most of their career in a tax-free state like Florida, and that’s just not a good sell. So, so we said, let’s move back to a place that doesn’t have state income taxes, and wipe that expense off the off the budget, move on with our lives. Okay. So we spent two months going all over the country to Alaska, Nevada, Tennessee and Wyoming. We, we ruled Texas and Florida off the list because they don’t love skiing. And our daughters is, she’s a pretty damn good skier. I think that, that, that might be her sports. And we did not look at New Hampshire because of the cost of living. So we wound up in Wyoming in May and we didn’t really know what to expect because we’d only ever been to Yellowstone, but the town that we chose is two hours north of Denver. So it’s very much, you know, Rocky mountain lifestyle, lots of outdoor activities and it’s a college town. We’ve got the university of Wyoming, so there’s all kinds of free kids activities, things going on for families here that we did not expect. And moving here, I did the math the other day and so moving here from Oregon was able to reduce our FIRE number by a $250,000.

Kim: (35:16)
That is okay. Just unbelievable. I know, I trust your math, not from that standpoint, but that’s an incredible, I’m out. Yeah. Okay.

Eugene / Host: (35:29)
Yeah. So you know, a lot of folks, Denver’s a very hot spot right now and especially in the FIRE’s way. There are a lot of who live in Denver, and I think I was the only person that’s at FINCON from Wyoming. So I’m, I’m trying to convert people, we don’t have taxes, but the common complaint about where we live in Wyoming is the wind. So it is very year. I will, you know, if you have patio furniture, you don’t want to have the umbrella out. Right. Cause it’ll be in your name.

Kim: (36:06)
Correct. But we, it’s funny we have a saying cause Stanford’s motto, thats where we went to school, their motto was “Die Luft der Freiheit weht”, which is German for “The wind of freedom blows”. And we just think that’s so funny cause we moved to a very windy place for Financial Freedom.

Eugene / Host: (36:22)
Okay. I love that. That’s great. It was meant to be, I guess you followed in the footsteps of your Alma mater, right. So, okay. Yeah it worked out. We’ll definitely need to have you on from another pod podcast. I, you’re willing to come back. I know that you, I know that you will be talking in the preamble that you are sort of like on the cusp of, of fulfilling your goals, which was retiring early and reaching FIRE it at 35. I’m with the one last step of, but you have to make a, before you reach that, I think you mentioned [inaudible] selling awesome. Your property, existing property where you came from in Oregon. Yes. And I’m finalizing that as the last step, which is incredible. Yeah. Like how does that, how does it feel at this point to have reached it and or on the cusp of, of reaching it?

Kim: (37:19)
So we say we’re in limbo right now because we’re just waiting on that house to sell. We have a payoff house in Southern Oregon that’s on the market. The market has gone way, way down because of the wildfire smoke and some other things that have made the town a less desirable place for people to move to there. There’s been some sleepless nights. So what advice, what would you do differently, et cetera. And I would say if you are planning on a real estate transaction, being one of the major pieces of your early retirement puzzle, you know, just be aware, it might take a lot longer than you think it will. And you know, going to this house in Oregon that’s been on the market since the summer time. It’s just totally different level of expectations. Okay. If there is some stress in any kind of transition, there’s going to be stress, right? Moving across the country with the kindergartener or is not without stress. But I guess right now, you know, we’re sort of in this coasting where it’s like, okay, we don’t need to save anymore in our retirement accounts. We don’t need to hustle to pay off this mortgage on our Wyoming house because it’s just a matter of when that check comes, we send it to this bank and then we’re done. So it’s more of like, okay, what can we do to provide an income for our family that is going to be flexible as far as location and time and it’s going to be something fun for us to do. So you still go out and chase contracts and stuff here in Wyoming cause we don’t know when our house is gonna sell. And so, but we’re also not trying to kill ourselves by signing up for another full time job and commuting and all that again, especially if our house sells next week. So. Huh. I, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how much we enjoy working just a little bit. Right? Like we both, I took the summer off for the move and for adjusting to Wyoming and since I’ve been back, I think I’ve been working about six hours a week doing engineering work and then otherwise I’ve been blogging, and been working on other writing projects like that. I haven’t really been sitting around a lot. Okay. I’m, I’m not the type of person to take a break and never really have been, I guess.

Eugene / Host: (39:58)
Oh, that’s great. Thanks for sharing that. And so I, we, we always end the program with three questions. Three typical questions we ask all guests, what’s one item or service that you, purchased? in the past you can cut the highest value or return on investment.

Kim: (40:18)
Okay. Okay. So the way we, we quantify that in our house, we call it the happiness curve, right? Where you’ve got money spent on the X axis and fulfillment achieved on the Y axis and it’s a curve. Right. Okay. Okay. And at the peak of that curve is where you’re getting the most thanks for your buck. And I can’t say it was the moped scooter that we had in Florida, so we bought this little [inaudible], a little gas powered moped for $300 from a friend who had used it in college needed anymore and riding that thing round. It was, it was like a hundred miles per gallon fuel efficiency and it was so fun to write it as a couple because you get to hug the whole time unless you’re writing on it. Sure. Okay. Yeah. That’s not a feeling that you get when you’re riding in a car and you have your seatbelts. Yeah, three feet away from each other, but okay. I would say that was the [inaudible] best $300 that we had ever spent. Okay. You know, mopeds are awesome because you don’t have to register them. You don’t have to insure them or come on a bike rack downtown so you don’t have to pay parking. Okay. And I know it sounds kind of silly for like grown adults to be right around mopeds, but [inaudible] I think they’re awesome.

Eugene / Host: (41:32)
I love that. I do too. Like I think a couple things that stick out in my mind when I was backpacking through Thailand, I think I had an opportunity to ride one of their public, yeah. Buses, public transportation center system and one of their Northern cities [inaudible] their buses were really just modified pickup trucks and they had closures inside that had benches along the sides of the pick up area. You know, sometimes there’s spillover and people actually ride sort of just hanging out on the outside. There’s a little bit of a okay kind of a standing area and people just hold on. And so that’s what I did. I mean, it was going slow. It wasn’t like super fast. But yeah. [inaudible], You know, ha feeling the wind, you know, maybe [inaudible] that’s sort of the, the commonality though, the wind. [inaudible] Like it’s always, it’s sad. It’s very, it’s definitely, I understand. Totally, totally get it. The second question is, you know, what is the one of the kindest thing that, that you can think of that someone done for you?

Kim: (42:34)
Oh, okay. You know, I’ve had a lot of fantastic mentors. Yeah. I had really wonderful teachers growing up. Take the time. They invest a lot of time in me. Okay. Okay. Because I had to think, so I had a friend senior year of college after I had come back from that year off $30,000 of debt that I wasn’t planning on. Okay. My friend actually we took a whole afternoon, opened up all the credit cards. Okay. Yes. Yes. Was it a real come to Jesus moment? You know, talking about money with friends was not common thing back then. You know, we lost touch after I left South Carolina. Okay. And I said, Hey, do you know about FIRE? Cause like you sent me straight when I was 22. No, I’m 35 and I don’t need to work anymore. And I just really wanted to say thank you for taking the time. So give me that wake up call and say like, Hey, you got to take your money seriously. That, that was definitely the biggest favor I think that anyone has ever done to me.

Eugene / Host: (43:52)
That’s great. I mean spreading, spreading the word and spreading FIRE. And so reaching out to someone that, that started you on that journey. And then lastly, you know, what’s next for you guys? You kind of alluded a little bit all ready, you know, and then also where, where can people find you and follow you on your, on your FIRE’s journey or other projects that you, you might have ongoing or are starting, are willing to share it.

Kim: (44:15)
That’s fine. I spent a lot of time online cause we live in Wyoming and theirs, there’s not a lot going on here. So I have my website, it’s verbal engineers. Okay. Yeah. Okay. Okay. Monday, Wednesday. So I have a couple of things that I’m working on right now. I have a book ideas. Okay. But you know, the first books never really that good. Okay. I’m just more like, I just want to get this done to learn the process of putting out a book and then see what happens. Okay. And I guess my, my other big project that I’m doing is I have, Hey, Siri needs, okay. Oops. Okay. Okay. [inaudible] Oh, okay. Emily? Yes. Okay. In the typical ending or online, they don’t really, it’s stupid. It’s not working by the time college. So trying to fill that hole with the actual numbers that we’re using for our own daughter and providing resources for other families who are trying to retire early with kids.

Eugene / Host: (45:23)
Thanks for sharing that. We have Kim on from TheFrugalEngineers.com. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Different aspects. I think there’s a lot of stuff that I, I had on the agenda to talk about too with maybe we could, we can continue this and another on another podcast. So great to have you back on. Awesome. Thank you. Yeah. Please, please, please share this podcast. And if you haven’t done so already, please hit subscribe. Thank you.

Categories Engineering Financial Freedom FIRE Freelancing Income Mortgage Personal Finance Podcast Retire Early Side Hustle Specialization Sustainable Design

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