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We are Ali and Alison Walker. We met in 2004, married in 2006, reached financial independence and retired in 2018. After reaching our FIRE number we wanted a complete and total change from our career-focused lives. By November of 2018 we had sold our home and car, let go of 99% of our belongings, and started traveling full time. Our nomadic travels lasted until January of 2021 when we settled down with a new home base. Our projects are focused on encouraging and supporting financial literacy especially for underserved communities including women, people of color, and LGBT+ people.
Regarding our backgrounds, Ali grew up with a single parent on welfare and food stamps and then she ended up with $43k in student loan debt after putting herself through college. Alison grew up with challenges in school and dropped out of college because she is profoundly dyslexic and didn’t have the resources needed to finish her degree. Over time we found balance between our challenges and advantages, and learned the lessons we needed to retire early. Financial independence is the concept that tied everything together for us.
Earning money through the blog
We use our blog as a personal hobby rather than a business. We aren’t personally using our blog as an income stream, but we applaud others who run successful businesses through their blogs. We are not interested in selling any products, displaying any ads, or hosting content from others on our site. We continually decline offers from businesses to host content and advertising on our site. However, we do occasionally include Amazon affiliate links in some of our posts for things we have purchased and used because we are open to small commissions to help cover our blog expenses. For example, in 2021 we paid $82 for our domain name and website hosting, and we earned a total of $18.51 from our Amazon affiliate links.
All Options Considered has also benefitted from including other affiliate links on our site, including TrustedHousesitters.com and Travelingmailbox.com on our site. For 2021 we paid TrustedHousesitters $189 for a Basic combined membership as sitters as well as hosts, and we earned four free months of membership from our affiliate link. We also paid $299 for our Traveling Mailbox account for 2021 (we are still using that account despite the fact that we stopped traveling full time) and earned $19.90 from our affiliate links.
That means our total combined income from our blog in 2021 was less than $40 plus four months of TH membership. These small commissions will seem inadequate to some people, but they’re just fine for us because we have no interest in turning this blog into a business.
Sharing our numbers
We never had high incomes during our employment years (Alison’s salary was under $100k when she retired and Ali’s was only over $100k for the last two years in her career). We did our best to maximize our 401K’s and also save as much of our salaries as possible in various investment accounts (IRA’s, Roth’s, and a brokerage account). And we got help along the way.
We share a lot of information about our path to financial independence, our spending during retirement, and our own experience and plans for the future. We will not share our net worth because those numbers are our personal information. Our goal is to encourage and inspire others to talk about personal finance and follow their own goals. Financial independence is personal, it should not be a competitive sport and it should not be used to harm others.
In 2007 we inherited a family home on a rural Canadian island. We should have sold the house immediately but we decided to slowly improve it. Over time we set aside money for a new roof, a big foundation repair, demolished an above ground pool, had a furnace and forced air system installed, replaced all of the appliances, finished the basement as a separate apartment for our use, and so on. It was a rural island property and it took around 5-6 hours for us to get there from our home in Seattle on a good day, plus ferry costs at around $168 per trip and gas for the drive.
Eventually we realized we needed help covering all of those costs so we got a renter upstairs who stayed for four years. We offered our renter a rate that was far below market because she was an elder on a fixed pension, and we took on additional maintenance costs to please her.
It took us almost 10 years of trying to keep up with maintenance costs at the Canadian house to realize we had to sell it and regain control of our finances, and we realized we would not be able to recoup our costs with the sale. This was probably our biggest lesson in lifestyle inflation since we knew keeping that house was partly an effort to try to keep up with friends who had rental properties and vacation homes. The process of inheriting that house, dealing with all of the deferred maintenance issues, trying to turn it into a vacation home for ourselves and family, and then trying to keep it as a negative income rental, taught us a ton of valuable lessons. When we finally sold the house we used the proceeds to help pay off our Seattle mortgage, which freed up more of our salaries for investing in our retirement accounts. So in the end we learned what we needed to learn, and we do not beat ourselves up for our mistakes!
Living off of our investments
Yes, we are living off of our investments now that we have retired. We wanted a safe withdrawal rate that felt safe to us, and we know handling medical costs within the US health insurance system will be very expensive over our lifetime. So we retired with 33x our 2018 living expenses, a 3% withdrawal rate, and 5 years of living expenses in cash. We don’t have additional income streams, and we aren’t trying to win first place in a frugality contest. We are just sticking to our budget and being mindful about our money.
We have five investment accounts in our portfolio. More than half of our total portfolio is in our taxable brokerage account, thanks in large part to the condo we sold in 2018. Our goal is to only use our brokerage account for the early years of our retirement. We estimate that our brokerage account could fund our living expenses for 15 years, but we cannot predict what the market will do. We’ll start withdrawing from the other half of our investments, which are in IRA’s and Roth IRA’s, once we are old enough to do so without penalties or loss of principal (after we are 59.5 years of age). And we’ll continue with annual conversions from our IRA’s to our Roth’s to avoid RMD’s if possible, knowing that will be a challenge now that we’re using the ACA marketplace health insurance system.
As of January 2022, we have a home base in Northern Arizona. Our international travels are on pause due to the Covid pandemic and our focus on time with our family and friends. But we hope to enjoy lots of road trips around the beautiful US!