I don’t intend for this site to be primarily about me – I won’t be doing monthly net worth updates or anything like that (maybe an annual high-level look back at the year). But I thought it might be useful to give a little bit of my history, so you can get to know me and maybe help decide if I’m somebody you want to listen to on these topics.
I’m planning on staying semi-anonymous for the moment, so I’ve left out some identifying details. That’s a decision I’m open to revisiting, depending how things go.
I grew up in the US, in a generally happy, comfortable, upper-middle-class childhood. My grandparents were all solidly working class, and I think their work ethic and frugality strongly influenced my parents and, through them, me. We didn’t want for anything, but lived below our means and without extravagance.
I went to university, paid for by the US Navy via ROTC. When I graduated in the middle of the financial crisis, it was very nice to have a job already lined up. The Navy was a great experience and taught me loads, both hard technical topics and softer leadership, communication, and self-discipline skills. I met my wife towards the end of my time in the Navy, which strongly influenced my decision to leave for a better work/life balance.
I moved into pharma/biotech after leaving the Navy – not an immediately obvious transition, but submarines and drug manufacturing actually have a lot in common. The skills I’d learned in school and the Navy, plus a strong work ethic, carried me upwards quickly, and I got a masters along the way.
Then the Brexit vote happened. My wife grew up in the UK but is an EU citizen. We knew that if we waited until after Brexit, our chance for her to move “home” would rapidly get more difficult. So we jumped through the immigration hoops and moved, with our 2-year-old and while my wife was pregnant with our second. Busy times, but a great adventure.
My career took a small step back when we moved, but I proved myself again and advanced a few times, bringing us to today. I wound up specializing in project management, and the level of planning and attention to detail I use at work is equally useful in planning for FIRE.
Between the Navy paying for college and a modest inheritance, I was lucky to start my career near the bottom of the financial crisis with a little bit invested and only some small, low interest debt. When interest rates plummeted, I paid off the debt, and started to invest a bit. I learned about index investing, and moved from the high-fee actively managed funds that my broker had recommended into indexes.
I won’t pretend that I was especially financially responsible in the Navy – I was young and having a good time. But I set up automatic investments in my TSP (government 401(k)) and I reliably maxed out my Roth IRA every year. I didn’t have a long term plan, but I knew I should be saving something.
Shortly after leaving the Navy, I discovered FIRE, and realized that I was already on the right path, I just didn’t know it. I didn’t radically change anything, just some tweaks for efficiency and limiting lifestyle inflation as my career progressed. I’m very lucky that, while my wife isn’t that interested in finances, she’s naturally frugal, and we work well together. Combine our strong savings with a lucky break in a hot housing market, and we were in a good place when we moved to the UK.
This was a great case of early Financial Independence freeing us to do what we wanted to do. I took a significant pay cut when we moved, and housing in our part of the UK is a lot more expensive than it was in the US. But we had the savings to make it work, and the temporary reduction in our savings rate didn’t set us back too much.
Now, we’re pretty well settled in to life in the UK. Aside from some home improvements in the next few years, we don’t have any plans for big spending, and are safely in the “boring middle” of the accumulation phase. Retirement plans will evolve, but we’re mostly on track to retire when our younger daughter leaves for university (or whatever she might choose at that age).
We could probably push retirement forward some with more aggressive saving, but it feels like that will probably be the right time to make big life changes. It would be an early retirement, in my early 50s, but not as dramatic as other people retiring in their 30s. At this point, I’ve got a job I mostly enjoy, live in a nice area, and have a pretty good work/life balance, so I’m happy to live life as it is and stay on our current path.