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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 projects include talking to people about personal finance and being good global citizens.
Ali grew up with a single parent on welfare and food stamps, and she had $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 she needed to finish her degree. Over time we found the balance between our combined 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. So we aren’t selling any products, using any ads, or hosting content from others on our site. And we have actually declined offers from businesses to host content and advertising on our site. However, we do include Amazon affiliate links for some of the things we have purchased and use ourselves. And we may earn commissions from affiliate links to help cover our blog expenses. For example, for 2020 we paid $82 for our domain name and website hosting, and over the first six months of 2020 we earned $5.49 from our affiliate links. We aren’t personally using our blog as an income stream, but we applaud others who run successful businesses through their blogs.
All Options Considered has also benefitted from including other affiliate links on our site, including TrustedHousesitters.com and Travelingmailbox.com on our site. For 2020 we paid $129 for membership with TrustedHousesitters, and during the first six months of 2020 we earned an additional two free months of membership from our affiliate links. And we paid $299 for our Traveling Mailbox account for 2020, not including additional shipping fees for forwarding items, and during the first six months of 2020 we earned $19.90 from our affiliate links.
Sharing our numbers
We share a lot of information about our path to financial independence, our spending now that we are retired, and our own experiences and plans. But we don’t share our net worth or salary information from our employment years with the general public, because we consider those numbers to be our personal information. We are trying to inspire others to talk about personal finance and we want to encourage people to follow their own goals. Financial independence is personal, it should not be a competitive sport and it should not be used to harm others.
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). But we did try to maximize our 401Ks and also save as much of our salaries as possible in various investment accounts (IRAs, Roths, and a brokerage account). And we did also have help along the way.
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 about five 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 decided we needed help so we got a renter upstairs who stayed for four years. We decided to offer a rental price far below the market rate and took on additional maintenance costs to please our renter.
It took us almost 10 years to realize we had to sell the house in order to regain control of our finances, knowing we would not be able to recoup our costs. This was actually our biggest lesson in lifestyle inflation since we were trying to keep up with some 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.
Living off of our investments
Yep, 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. Currently, 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 would like to estimate that our brokerage account could fund our living expenses for 15 years, but we cannot predict what the market will do. We will also be able to use the other half of our investments which are in IRAs and Roth IRAs once we are old enough to do so without penalties. And we hope to convert all of our IRAs to our Roths to avoid RMDs if possible, but we know that will be a challenge if we are also going to use the US health insurance system.
We decided during this time in our lives we want to live as guests renting for short terms in other countries, so we can contribute to different communities and learn about other countries and cultures. We assumed we would travel full time for at least five years and maybe much longer. But it’s also possible that we will want to have a home in one location again at some point. The COVID-19 pandemic is making the idea of having a home base in the US seem like more of a realistic necessity for us in the near future. Though our preference is to keep traveling full time if we can do that safely and respectfully considering the communities we would like to visit.
If you want to know more, we talked about these topics in the following posts:
And we are always open to direct messages so feel free to send us an email.