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 TravelBug! She’s a 54 year old woman who grew up in North America, and now is currently living in Spain. She’s a global citizen following her own unique path to financial independence across multiple countries. We’re inspired by her and we know you’ll find something encouraging in her money story…
Thank you for the opportunity! This is a great forum to learn from others. While on my financial journey, I reached out to others so it’s now my turn to contribute and tell others what I have learned.
1. What were your childhood money experiences? Did you learn useful money lessons from family?
As a child, I didn’t lack anything. My parents worked very hard to build and run their own business. With regards to money, working hard and not wasting anything were key values that I was brought up with. We are also a family of ‘new immigrants’ to North America and with that there were struggles of making a new life and starting a business in a new country. We only went out for dinner once or twice a month and it was a real treat. Otherwise, we had mom’s home cooking. We all had chores and were expected to pitch in. We never had someone come to clean our house for example.
2. What kinds of experiences have you had with debt?
My experiences with debt are limited to my mortgages. I ensured my debt was manageable and bought a home within my means so I could keep up with not only mortgage payments but also expenses. I also have housemates on occasion to help me out. While my main motivation for renting out a room has been economical, I’ve met some great people who I am still in contact with years later so don’t underestimate anything! I’ve developed great friendships with some housemates, and with others we just go our separate ways which is fine too.
3. What’s your investing style?
I’m mostly holding ETF’s tracking the S&P 500, Total Stock Market, and the Nasdaq with some international ETF’s. I also have some target date funds allocated to retirement, and I have some individual stocks but not many. Diversification and long term vision are the keys!
4. Do the FIRE and financial independence concepts appeal to you?
Oh yes!! If I had known about FIRE 10 years ago, I would have been on board earlier. I learned about FIRE in early 2018 and started searching for more information. I quickly went down the rabbit hole to learn how other early retirees did it. I am amazed by people like the bloggers behind A Purple Life, Root of Good, Modern FImily, and Millennial Revolution who all saved enough in their 30’s!!! Say what #^%$%! If only I had my stuff together years ago!!! If you are reading this, you’re already better off than most people but take action now. Just remember that everyone’s journey is different. If I had educated myself more on investing earlier on, I could have been further along earlier myself but as the saying goes, it is never too late.
The personal finance concepts I wasn’t well educated on until I found the FI movement were how to invest in low cost ETF’s like the US Total Stock Market or the S&P 500, and the Bogleheads three-portfolio strategy. Those concepts have helped many people get to FI so I’m glad I’ve got that all figured out now. Be the market and don’t try to beat the market. Having a written investment statement also helps with the emotions.
I’ve always been value-oriented and spent money on what I most enjoy, which are experiences. I don’t deprive myself of any experiences or travel and those costs are set according to my values. I am not going to penny pinch on a trip to Venice for example, but I won’t stay in a 5 star GL hotel either. Actually, I prefer to stay in charming family run hotels/pensions or Airbnb’s.
On the other hand, I keep my other expenses for things like my car very low. For example, I purchased a second hand car and drove it for 13 years, until it was 19 years old and then I sold it. I wouldn’t purchase an expensive car when my goal is to travel and be away from home!
5. What kind of work do you do? Do you have different career goals for the future?
I have mostly worked in large to medium corporations in business development. I am currently in a business development role for a business services company helping to design and promote the service’s offering. I would like to get out of the rat race in the next 6 to 8 years and then retire if I can or gear down to part time work. Not exactly early retirement but retirement nonetheless. The best part about my job is that I mostly work remotely and that also involves some international travel. It is a super flexible work environment that allows a good work-life balance.
I also volunteer for a local organization here in Spain that helps kids who have mental and physical disabilities. It is important for me to give back. Each weekend, the non-profit organizes activities for kids and teens so that they can develop and interact with others. As a volunteer, we accompany them in these activities and in their daily needs (eating, washroom) depending on their disabilities. We do a wide range of activities with them, and this is the fun part – going for a walk in the park, music therapy, art therapy, painting, rural getaways, scavenger hunts, watching a movie, going to shows, are just a few examples of the activities. Each weekend, we get someone different assigned to us so I get to work with teenagers with a wide range of needs. I like the change of activities because I get to see my creative side as well and to be quite honest, I do things that I would probably never have done. I mean art and music therapy is good for me too as well as a rural weekend away!!! I also get to meet tons of new people of all ages.
6. Do you rent or own your home? Do you plan to change your housing situation in the future?
I own my own house in Canada (along with the bank😁) that I rent out, and I also have an apartment in Spain that I own outright and live in with housemates. Owning two properties provides me some market stability so I don’t think I will change anything with those places in the near future. And having properties on two different continents also provides diversification. If I choose to be a nomad for a year or two, I would just rent out my place that I live in and use the rent to help finance my nomadic lifestyle.
7. Does your location have an impact on your money? Do you plan to stay in your current location forever?
Location definitely does have an impact but geoarbitrage is not just about living in cheaper places it is about experiencing new cultures, learning new languages, making new friends, opening your mind and integration. I’ve found that you can live in some really wonderful, historic places around the world for less than living in North America.
For me, I have been fortunate that I have been able to jointly pursue my personal desire of traveling around the world while pursuing my professional career. I have chosen to work around the world so I have been able to learn languages and really integrate myself in the local culture. I have lived and worked in North America, Europe mostly for over 20 years, and the Asia-Pacific. This type of travel-career-strategy has provided a base from which to explore different countries and continents. In my view, this lifestyle has allowed me to truly experience another culture (cultural integration rather than just a few months) while also making travel ‘efficient’ from a monetary point of view. And after years of living and working in Europe I have gotten EU nationality, which opens up even more possibilities for work, life, and retirement. And that will also help a lot with money as I get EU healthcare and can move to lower cost countries within the EU during my retirement if I choose to do so.
During my earlier retirement years I would love to live in South America for a couple of years and perhaps after that go back to Asia, and I would have to get private health insurance for those locations. In my later retirement years for healthcare purposes, it would make sense for me to retire in Europe where I can take advantage of the social health insurance systems and at that point I would choose to live somewhere in Southern Europe because of the wonderful weather there.
8. Do you have people you can talk openly with about money? How does talking about money impact your confidence?
Yes, I have the wonderful Alison and Ali who are not judgmental!!! Other than that, I really don’t talk about money with many others since I find people judge you. Having a plan, writing it down and seeing that plan advance certainly builds confidence. Patience is important though.
At whatever point you are at in your journey, I encourage you to reach out to people, ask them what they’ve learnt about money and LIFE and listen. Once I found out about FIRE I reached out to several bloggers, did some online courses, educated myself, and got a money coach. I encourage everyone to take a money workshop or online course and even hire someone to get help.
9. What are your personal money goals at this point in your life?
My personal money goals in the short term are to pay off my mortgages, and max out my contribution to the government tax advantaged savings plans. In the long term, my goals are to save for my retirement until I hit my FI number.
10. How do you feel about money at this point in your life?
I feel more and more confident about money now. Four years ago I was a train wreck, literally, but I took charge of my situation and did something about it. You can too!!! I read a lot of blogs, committed to reading personal finance books, educated myself, sought out help from a few people, and set goals. I now have a plan of where I want to be in a year, 5 years, and 10 years financially. I track my expenses, I have a budget, and I have a FI number. Once I had all the information in front of me it was much easier to feel better because I now have direction.
11. What kinds of activities do you love? How do your favorite activities impact your spending?
I enjoy going out with my friends, visiting museums, eating out, and cooking new dishes now and then. I like going for long walks or hikes, reading, and learning about history and culture.
But traveling is the big thing for me and this is where I spend most of my money. Experiences over things! Fortunately, I have landed jobs in different parts of the world which has helped me combine work with personal travel. With some of these jobs, I also had to travel a fair amount and my flights/trains were paid for by the company, and then I could also enjoy personal experiences in the locations I traveled to for work. A great bonus!
12. Last question – what are you most excited about right now?
Mainly, the journey to get to FI! And getting back into traveling. I work mostly remotely and on occasion I go to the office or have customer meetings, now that the pandemic is hopefully winding down I hope to travel to new places for a few weeks or months and work from new locations. I’m excited about hitting my FI number of course and planning to go to South America in my early retirement years!!! I have lived in Asia Pacific, Europe and North America so needless to say, South America is very much pending…
That’s it for now from TravelBug! She’s one of our earlier financial coaching buddies and she has come a very long way since she first reached out to us a few years ago. It means a lot to us that she wanted to share her money story since talking to her helped give us the idea for our Talking Money series. So thank you for reading her story! We’re all looking forward to your comments!!