We love talking about money with other people! No matter how unique we are, we can always learn something new about money and about life from other people. And listening to other people tell their money stories helps to support them in reaching their personal finance goals.
We’ve gotten so much out of our money conversations that we decided to start our Talking Money interview series. Rather than focusing only on income and investing we’re interested in the emotional side of personal finance. And we’re thrilled to share stories from some of our friends.
Everyone, meet Sabbatical Seeker! She’s a 37 year old woman currently living in North Carolina working a job that has her feeling restless. But now she’s excited that her financial independence journey has prepared her for some career and lifestyle changes. We’re inspired by Sabbatical Seeker and we know you’ll find something encouraging in her money story…
1. What were your childhood money experiences? Did you learn useful money lessons from your family?
As the child of immigrants and an immigrant myself, we were pretty frugal growing up. When I was about to move to the US, I remember my grandma telling me not to ask for things from my mother because she was a poor student, and I think that set the tone for how I thought about money for a long time. It made me distinguish needs from wants from an early age.
Although we didn’t have much money, I never lacked for anything. I observed good saving habits and fairly good spending habits.
2. What kinds of experiences have you had with debt?
Fortunately I haven’t had to deal with substantial debt. In school, I had financial aid and support from my family, so I graduated with minimal student loans that I was able to pay off aggressively in my first couple years of working professionally. I also made major purchases in cash where I could, including vehicles (used and under $10K). Currently, my only form of debt is two mortgages. I recognize that I’ve been extremely fortunate!
3. What’s your investing style, and what kinds of accounts do you have?
I try to keep my investing style low maintenance but fairly aggressive, and it really wasn’t until my early 30s when I started reading more about investment strategies and realized that my money was sitting in actively managed funds with high fees. Now, with the exception of one prior pesky retirement fund, all of my investments are in low-cost index funds spread between total market, extended/small cap, international, and less than 10% bonds. It’s not quite as streamlined as a two fund portfolio but easy enough.
4. Do any of the FIRE and financial independence concepts appeal to you?
Absolutely, so much so that I met my partner on a FIRE dating website 🙂
The part of FIRE that really appeals to me is the confidence and freedom it can provide to walk away from unsatisfying situations and to live a more deliberate life. I do find it a bit frustrating that it’s become somewhat of a fad (like minimalism) now that a fun acronym is attached to it, when at its core it’s about being responsible with your money and your future. Conversely, it’s great that FIRE’s popularity has generated so much discussion and resources.
5. What kind of work for pay do you do? Do you have different work goals for the future?
I work in international education and study abroad, and truly see the value in young people having access to these transformative global experiences. This has been my chosen field for over the past decade but I’ve become frustrated, bored and unmotivated in my current job. I can attribute that to a workplace environment with low morale and low upward mobility but also to my desire for change. I don’t plan on staying in my current job for much longer and hope to take a sabbatical for myself while I figure out my next steps.
6. Do you rent or own your home? Do you plan to change your housing situation in the future?
Here’s a complex answer to a simple question! I just moved in with my girlfriend into her home, (which she owns) and rented out my home (which I own), and I contribute to our shared expenses. So technically I rent? We joke about not calling it “rent” since that seems so transactional and our decision to move in together was certainly not driven by finances.
In addition to my prior primary home, I also have several rental units which I rent out full time. While they can be a lot of work at times, I find that it’s a good hedge against market volatility and I appreciate the cashflow aspect of rental properties. Therefore I intend to hold on to the rentals even if my personal housing situation changes in the future.
7. Does your location have an impact on your money? Do you plan to stay in your current location forever?
North Carolina is very livable and I see myself making this a home base for a while. However, as an only child, I do anticipate living closer to my parents when they’re older, wherever that is. Between myself living in North Carolina and my parents living in Florida, knowledge of local real estate has allowed me to purchase and manage a few rental properties in these markets. So location certainly has had an impact on my money and how I’ve invested!
8. How does money impact your relationship? Which assets or accounts do you plan to combine, or not combine?
I’d say it’s pretty central to how we relate to each other and how we talk about our future. We both have similar spending habits and goals, so that allows us to be on the same page on a day-to-day basis and also as we save and plan for our future. We haven’t combined any assets or accounts but track our expenses carefully so that we equally contribute. We may explore the idea of a joint account in the future but have discussed a prenup and keeping our finances separate.
9. Do you have people you can talk openly with about money (not including us)? How does talking about money impact your confidence?
I’ve always talked openly about money with my parents. As a young kid, I knew how much money they made. Now as they enter into their retirement years, they feel comfortable coming to me for some financial advice and are very transparent with their numbers. My girlfriend is someone else whom I can be very open with regarding money. We share similar money goals and often consult each other on financial decisions. Even though we keep our finances separate, we jointly strategize about how to make progress towards our financial independence.
With my friends, I don’t try to hide anything about my financial goals or my rental properties and we often discuss money topics, but there’s rarely disclosure around specific numbers or net worth.
10. What are your personal money goals at this point in your life?
At this point, I’m hoping to keep my expenses down and cover them with my rental income so that I can leave the retirement and brokerage accounts untouched. This plan makes me feel confident about my pending decision to take a sabbatical and know that I’m not negatively impacting my future.
11. How do you feel about money at this point in your life?
Optimistic. I’m at a place where I feel like my money is working for me and can see the power of compounding interest. Money used to feel like something abstract that I needed to hoard, and I romanticized the idea of having money. Now I have a much more pragmatic stance and see money as a tool and a security blanket.
12. What kinds of activities do you love? How do your favorite activities impact your spending?
I love being in nature – hiking, camping, canoeing, reading in a hammock. Other than that I really enjoy renovating and repairing things and teaching myself relevant skills on Youtube. Most of what brings me joy day-to-day doesn’t cost much money, which allows me to save and spend on one of my favorite activities that does cost money – travel.
13. Last question – what are you most excited about right now?
I have an amazing partner and am most excited about nurturing our relationship and working toward our shared goals.
That’s it for now from Sabbatical Seeker! We’re excited to include her in our Talking Money series and we love the example she sets with her story and her willingness to seek out and embrace change. Thank you for reading her story, we’re looking forward to your comments!