Momentum Series: FI Me Outta Here – Reaching For Financial Independence
This marks feature #5 in the Momentum Series – an interview series to share the stories of bloggers from across the personal finance community.
The goal is to showcase their story, the wins, the losses and the actionable advice and tips that others can take value from. Whether that be conquering debt, maximizing their career earnings, their own road to financial independence or health & wellness strategies that keep them on the right path.
Today’s Momentum Series interview is with Cal, the blogger at FI Me Outta Here.
Cal is a great writer and I’ve enjoyed reading his blog posts over the past couple of months. It was fun to be able to connect with him and get to know his story better. From his financial journey, money goals and blogging mindset with FI Me Outta Here.
If you want to connect with Cal:
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome Cal! Let’s get into this. Here is Momentum Series: FI Me Outta Here – Reaching For Financial Independence.
It’s always weird to introduce yourself. My name is Cal and I started the blog FI Me Outta Here. Below are some simple things about my background.
- Currently in my 30’s
- Lives on the West Coast with my girlfriend
- Works in supply chain
- Likes to cook (and eat)
- Rants way too much…
I would say that my website is a hodgepodge of my thoughts. My goal is to create posts I believe could help people. Many of the posts are finance related – ranging ones for novices and readers currently already in pursuit of financial independence.
The motivation of starting the blog stemmed from reading other people’s blogs. It made me think that I perhaps have my own 2 cents to add. Othelafahu and Financial Samurai convinced me to make a blog with their posts. Yes… I am using Bluehost…
Unlike many people, I did college in an unconventional way. My pursuit of a college degree did not come until later in my working career. Honestly, I never had a need for it.
Because of that, I was already entrench in a career within logistics and was working the entire time while attending junior college and university. This allowed me not accrue any debt. Midway through my degree, I discovered others who hack their degrees by earning credits through alternative methods.
This is why I created one of my posts, Extreme Guide: Earn a College Degree Fast & Cheap. It is created for those who do not want to waste time and money getting a piece of paper. This is why it’s extreme to many, who are seeking a traditional college experience.
For many of my classes, I completed them online or tested out of them or took tests. I received my bachelors in business with supply chain/operations focus.
As I mentioned earlier, my degree wasn’t a game changer for me. I might pursue higher education later on to switch fields.
I work in supply chain for a tech company. It is nothing exciting. The best part is recognizing your work which goes into products that people use daily.
In terms of my career, I would say that I am not pushing to get higher. High levels of stress generally grind out people in the field. My goal is to stay at my level (somewhere in the middle) and coasting the rest of the way.
The long term plan is to have a 2nd career in something entirely different within a few years. Most likely something related to medical devices. I initially started in supply chain working on medical devices. My experience would be valuable on the regulatory and documentation side.
Let’s start with the beginning of your financial journey, you had a rude awakening in your teen years that got you in some money trouble, correct?
When I was younger, I worked at a clothing department store. All employees would qualify for a store discount. However, it is accessed via a department store charge card (my mom didn’t care and signed off on it as a co-signer). The card would automatically increase your spending limit over time.
As I was young and naive, I felt powerful since I could buy whatever you wanted and put it on a card. With moments of insanity and a 1.5k spending limit, I purchased my girlfriend and her family a fancy juicer, along with other gifts. They were impressed so the gifts kept coming. Eventually, I maxed out on the card.
How did you work to payoff that debt?
For someone under 18, $1500 is a lot of money. Especially, when only making a dollar over minimum wage.
My mom did not bail me out and expected me to pay off every single penny. I couldn’t let my girlfriend know that I was broke due to ego. She and her family kept the gifts, but I had to work my butt off for it.
In order to pay it off, I took every shift available to work and slowly paid it off. I saw how much interest worked against me for the first time in my life. That was the last time I ever paid interest on a credit card, ever.
Since I spent all my time working to pay off the debt, our relationship slowly decayed. I think the last fight was over junior prom, because I had to work. I couldn’t blame her. It was my own stupidity that got me into that mess.
I was fortunate and learned about debt early on – the hard way.
What did that teach you about money? Did you immediately shift your money mindset or was there some additional hard lessons to come?
Another lesson learned is money is hard to come by, but you could easily lose it in an instant. Everyone is trying to get a piece of your money, so you need to guard it well and be as informed as possible.
As many others who dove into stocks, I have my own stories of epic gains and horrible losses. Of course, it ends up in the red eventually after taking too many big risks. I went more into indexing and learn more about preserving my wealth, instead of trying to hit homeruns on every pitch.
How and when did you discover the financial independence movement? Did you have a personal aha moment?
I would say that probably 3-4 years ago, I really pushed hard to become financially independent. In terms of the movement, I can’t say that I was really ever a part of it beside posting on Reddit or reading a blog post every now and then. Now that I am a part of it, it’s easy to connect and be more active.
The “aha” moment came when I was still working retail. I had a co-worker, an old-timer who was already FI. He made his fortunes as a mining equipment mechanic and real estate in Texas. We would talk about real estate and investments all the time at work while stocking shelves. His reasoning for working there part time was due to the health insurance and that he was bored.
Eventually, I got to witness an epic FU moment in action and saw FI’s power. Perhaps one day, I should make a post about it.
As you’ve progressed in your financial life, what have you changed or implemented to set yourself up for success?
We are just waiting until we can hit our FI number and hoping nothing catastrophic goes wrong. My risk has reduced since I was able to convince my girlfriend to share my path of becoming financial independent. That is why I use “we” in context.
Automating contributions is one of the things I implemented. The goal is to spend less time nitpicking everything. Once you get to a certain point, there isn’t much more optimize which will yield a worthy return on time spent.
Once our FI goal is met and we will move to a low cost of living area. Most likely, we would take turns working while one of us is at home. It’s like giving each other a long sabbatical. This is so we can get health insurance through an employer.
Jumping to the present day, what are your short-term financial goals?
Stay the course and carefully monitor our investments. Seek other opportunities for additional income.
Finalize on place to move to. Slowly find work in that area.
Quit jobs and proceed with moving out of California. Decide on who will be pulling the plug first. Ease into barista-FIRE mode.
Are there any areas within your spending habits or money management that you struggle with? How do you plan to improve or overcome that?
Eating out has been one of the vices which we struggle with a bit. We minimized it to twice a week at the very most. There have been times where we wouldn’t go out at all.
I do not like to enforce a strict budget anymore. We already have the discipline so why overkill it? Saving a few extra dollars, but ruining our relationship just isn’t worth it.
We have cut back entirely in subscriptions (except Patreon and charities). Another area we are working is to use our cars less (unless it creates income). If there are free local events, we try to attend. We are mostly homebodies and utilize all the free content online.
What are your long-term financial goals? How are you going to achieve these goals?
One of our long term goals is to live in a large city in which we can fully utilize public transportation. That means the city will need to have either high walkability/bike-able or have good public transit system. It will lower our expenses dramatically it would allow us to get rid of the cost for 2 vehicles.
We cannot quite make the move yet due to current family and work obligations. Recently, we have been selling a lot of our physical possessions so we could make a move immediately, if need be.
On the money side, coasting is more of our plan. We still plan to make money in some capacity to pay for our living expenses; our big chunk is left untouched. Withdrawing at a much later date than needed is part of our strategy to maintain and grow our wealth.
By living frugally, I believe that’s how we will achieve it. You can always control your expenses (unless due to medical reasons).
If you could give one or two pieces of advice to someone at the start of their financial path, what would it be?
Save early and invest early. It makes all the difference.
Make and maintain relationships with close, reliable people. You will need their help and vice versa. Understand the difference between an actual friend and an acquaintance.
What is one area of your spending that you’re still willing to “splurge” on?
Tires. Always get good car tires.
I went cheap before and it almost cost us our lives. We were extremely lucky, that for no particular reason, we decided to go on a scenic route.
What are some of the most influential resources that have shaped your money mindset or financial situation?
- The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of American’s Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko
- How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World: A Handbook for Personal Liberty by Harry Browne
- Most useful tool that I am sure everyone can agree with is Firecalc.
When did you launch FI Me Outta Here?
FMOH started at the end of November of 2017.
I spent my entire Thanksgiving holiday cooking and getting the website up. My knowledge of WordPress was zero and I hadn’t had any material written.
For those that have seen my initial website, the layout and design had quite a makeover. I wish I had taken screenshots so I could show the comparison. Not saying the current version is good, but it’s a lot better.
At least it doesn’t look like a Geocities or Myspace website anymore.
What are your goals and the mission with FI Me Outta Here?
My goal and mission is to provide a resource for people who are starting out their journey and to entertain others. There are so many other blogs out there already and it’s hard to compete. Trying to do my own thing and hope someone finds value in it.
It’s one of those “if you build it, they will come” after you marketed the heck out of it. Getting them to stay is another issue.
This blog serves as a hobby and outlet for my personal insight, rather than a money-making enterprise. Perhaps, I am not smart about this as the ROI is pretty terrible. For now, the goal is to see how much it can grow and if any positive impact is being made.
Is my material the best? Probably not, I’ll be the first to admit that. If there is better material, I am not afraid to refer them to another source or not comment on the topic.
How has starting your blog changed your mindset with money or benefited your financial journey?
The blog is a money losing venture for me. If I were to even break even from ad revenue, I think that’s a success of sorts. That would mean I am generating traffic and my material is being read. The revenue would sustain the upkeep of the blog.
In fact, I choose not to have affiliate links on my blog. It’s because I feel it’s hypocritical to suggest to others the importance of saving money, but then telling them to buy things through me.
My conscience will not allow me to compromise my beliefs for a few dollars. I know others will try to justify it, but at the end of the day, it is still selling a product to your readers for your own personal gain.
My biggest benefit of starting the blog is interaction with others within the community. It makes the FI journey a bit easier when you know others are going through similar things.
The blog, however, did not make me change my own personal plans of reaching financial independence.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve encountered since starting FI Me Outta Here?
Writer’s block – thinking about what to write. I re-read my earlier stuff and it’s pretty awful. In the near future, there are plans of eventually going back to old posts and polishing it up or rewriting it entirely.
SEO and marketing are still big challenges for me. I never had much knowledge about it, but it is also what makes blogging a fun, learning experience.
What 3 posts on FI Me Outta Here would you recommend Making Momentum readers check out?
I am overly critical of myself. I would just suggest that readers pick whatever topic seems interest them and check it out.
Some of the articles your readers may find interesting:
Any final pieces of advice or recommendations?
Things might be going slow at first, but just keep at it. Once you start seeing the progress, it’ll make it a lot easier.
Any special shoutouts?
My girlfriend for helping me stay motivated in times of difficulty and putting up with my crazy, frugal ways.
Shout out to all the supportive FI bloggers within the community who are sharing their knowledge and extremely welcoming to new bloggers like myself.
I know it’s not easy to create content. Much respect!