Outwardly, I probably appear to be like most 35 year old professionals. I get up, I go to work, I come home, and if I’m lucky, I get to watch some TV, play with my dogs, or read something before hitting the sack and waking up to do the same thing over again. I struggle to fit my workouts in and stay healthy. I stress out about work and as a result, act grumpy to the people I love. At times, it seems like the grind will never end.
But what if it didn’t always have to be that way?
While my daily routine looks a lot like the average person’s, I’m leading a secret life. For a few years now, I’ve been working towards a dream the soon-to-be-Mrs.-Vagabond and I don’t discuss with too many people. The goal: To eliminate all debt, live frugally, save every penny we can, and quit working by the age of 40 to live a vagabond life, traveling the world and connecting with new cultures, places, and people. It hasn’t been easy so far– I bought a home in the pricey San Francisco Bay Area days before the market crash in 2008. I carried huge amounts of credit card, student loan, and mortgage debt. My company went out of business and I spent almost a year unemployed. I worked hard, built a consulting business, and managed to pay off all the credit card debt, all the high-interest student loan debt, and despite all the challenges, have managed to save more in my retirement accounts in the past two years than I did in all the previous years combined. I’ve purchased three rental properties, and aim to buy about 12 more before we retire. The cash flow from these properties and the retirement accounts will allow us to live comfortably almost anywhere in the world.
When STB-Mrs.-Vagabond and I discuss our retirement dreams, they go a little like this:
We’ll settle in a small town in Spain, or Southern France, or Argentina, or maybe Mexico. We’ll work hard to make friends and really become a part of the community. We’ll join in festivals, perform some community service like opening an animal rescue, and raise our kids as citizens of the world. When we crave the big city, we’ll hop on a train to Paris, or Barcelona, or London. We’ll immerse ourselves in really, truly understanding the language and people we live among. Maybe we’ll start a tour business or a service catering to expats. When the time comes and we want to try someplace new, we’ll pack up and go, knowing that we can afford it and that we have the skills to cope with a new and unfamiliar environment. If we miss the United States, we can always move back until the wanderlust overwhelms us again.
It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but to me, this is a reason to get up every morning and go to work.
So what will this blog be about? I’m hoping I can offer a few interesting insights, such as:
Monthly Progress Reports
Learn from my success and mistakes. There have been plenty of both so far! To stay focused and keep it interesting, I’ll post actual numbers for my finances, and how close or far we are from achieving our goal. We’ll look at net worth compared to the previous month, income from rental properties, places I could do better, and most importantly, remain accountable by opening up my spending for all to see.
Rental Property Analysis and Landlording
I’m acquiring property at the rate of 2-3 units per year right now. Once we hit the magic 15 unit threshold, we’re technically able to retire. I’ll share my experience as I find, analyze, and purchase (or reject!) properties. I’ll share my experiences as an out-of-state landlord, for better or for worse.
Annual Progress Reports
The other day, I suggested a thought experiment to STB-Mrs.-Vagabond: Every year, we’ll look at what our monthly income would be in retirement if we stopped working at that exact moment. We’ll explore some exciting places in the world where we could afford to live and thrive. At first, the options available to us may not be what most would consider garden spots. Over time, our options will expand and we’ll find ourselves with options that we could easily call home.
Travel and Travel Hacking
As you might expect from our retirement dreams, we love to travel. This is the one place where we splurge relative to the rest of our lifestyle, but we still try to use clever techniques to travel on the cheap, or even free. So far this year, we have traveled to Egypt ($374 per person), Mexico ($95 per person), and six countries in Europe ($1500 per person). The last trip was full retail price, but we went to Mexico and Egypt on credit card reward points, mistake fares, and other clever travel “hacks.” Though my insight and experience pales in comparison to some of the travel hacking specific blogs, I will share a few of the tips and tricks that have allowed us to travel the world for pennies on the dollar.
Someday soon (hopefully in 2016), the soon-to-be Mrs. Vagabond will become the actual Mrs. Vagabond. We have a wedding to plan, but we don’t want to rob Peter to pay Paul. We need to come up with the wedding funds independent of our retirement savings, and we’ll try to find frugal ways to make a royal wedding happen on a peasant’s budget! Luckily we have a ton of wonderful, eager-to-help friends who may be able to help us plan the perfect day. I have faith that we can get this done without spending anywhere near the national average, even in the pricey San Francisco area.
The Journey Begins…
In the next day or two, I’ll post my first monthly progress report, as well as a detailed article on how to evaluate rental property. I hope you’ll join me on our journey to Financial Independence, Early Retirement, and the journey that follows after that– this is just the beginning.