Financially Independent, Retire Early (FIRE) Colorado Meetup
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The FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) movement has a fast growing community of members online. For some examples (aside from Screw The Average, of course!), check out The Best Financial Blogs to Achieve Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE). However, if you're craving human interaction with like minded people, there are FIRE communities and groups popping up all over the country! We found a thriving FIRE community in Colorado at a Mr. Money Mustache HQ Meetup and were welcomed right in!
What is FIRE?
If you’re unfamiliar with the term FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early), you’re probably intrigued by simply the name. So to help understand the term, think of financial independence (FI) as not needing to work because your savings and investments cover your living expenses, but you generally continue to work in some capacity, usually because you find passion or fulfillment in the work you choose to take on. Retiring early (RE) on the other hand, isn’t working at all and instead living off savings and investment income.
How great does that sound!? Of course, reaching financial independence and retiring early is more than simply wanting it. It takes quite a bit of planning, intentionality, and drive to cross the ‘finish line’.
At some point, we all end up at the same destination, but the events that caused us to pursue FIRE in the first place, are usually incredibly different. Additionally, how we live our lives post FIRE varies greatly.
This is something that became incredibly interesting to us when we were welcomed into the Northern Colorado FIRE community…
Becoming FIRE… or FIRE-ish
Everyone’s journey is different. Sergio comes from very humble beginnings. His single mom and grandmother raised him and out of necessity he became the man of the house at the age of nine. Deciding which bills to pay and which ones would have to wait until the following month was sadly more common than not. It’s not fun having to go days without electricity or natural gas for cooking. So, having a mother that selflessly worked endless hours to put a roof over his head, feed him, and put him through college, instilled a sense of drive to ‘get out’ that motivated Sergio down the path towards FIRE.
On the other hand, Shannon had a relatively middle class upbringing. Although, her grandparents were from the great depression era and her parents subsequently instilled the value of a dollar in her. She worked for every dollar she received, whether it be her allowance, her first job at the age of 14, or working nearly full time while she was in college and took 18 units and graduated summa cum laude. Shannon’s sense of hard work and frugality gave her the ability to choose a path towards FIRE when she met Sergio.
The Power of Saving
So there you have it, that’s our backstory. But again, your story is almost certainly different. We feel fortunate that we realized we wanted financial independence and the ability to retire early at a ‘young age’.
With that being said, we both firmly believe that our schools and communities do a huge disservice to teenagers and young adults by not teaching financial independence (and financial well-being) in school. This becomes especially apparent when you see charts like the one published by the Economic Policy Institute that says the average American doesn’t start saving for retirement until their late 30s or early 40s.
To put this into perspective, consider $100 invested at the age of 25 versus age 40. For both scenarios, we’ll consider a conservative average annual return of six percent (compared to the historic 9.8% return over the last 90 years of the S&P 500). Additionally, we'll assume that both the 25 year old and the 40 year old will each retire at the age of 67 without making additional contributions to their initial $100 investment.
The result is incredible. The 25 year old’s $100 turns into $1,155.70, while the 40 year old walks away with only $482.23!
On the surface this may not seem like much money, but consider the difference if you apply a philosophy of saving 50%, 60%, or 70%+ of your income. This is a common strategy in the FIRE community and it's easy to see why. In practice, applying the compounding interest example above with a high savings rate makes it clear that financial independence and retiring early is very do-able!
Tip: Make your own calculations with the Compound Interest Calculator from the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Also, if you’re the type that consistently spends $20 bucks here and there, consider using the calculator to see how much that extra $20 would grow to if it was deposited into an investment account rather than your friendly department store! We did this exercise and now, when we pull out a $20 bill, we actually see a $100 bill in our hand, making us consider what we’re buying a bit more closely.
It's the Journey
We consider ourselves incredibly fortunate to have similar lifestyle and financial objectives, making us a harmonious couple and a perfect pair to reach FIRE. As we grew together, we both knew that working a 9 to 5 job until retirement age just wasn’t for us. Moreover, the idea of living to work just didn’t satisfy us. We want to work less and live more. The concept of doing what we want, when we want, with whom we want, and where we want is important to us. In other words, for us it’s about the journey towards and in FIRE, much more so than the destination and hitting a specific dollar amount. On top of that, we love what we do, so retiring early is a great option to have but is much less important to us.
We chose to work towards FIRE years ago and have made thousands of small decisions over nearly a dozen years to get to where we are today. We continue to work towards FIRE and in parallel embrace a digital nomad and long-term travel lifestyle, doing full time house sitting around the world. Travel is how we choose to indulge on life. Others find FIRE and choose to live off grid and embrace nature, some thrive in an urban social setting, and still others hang out and play video games. Remember, regardless of the path you choose post FIRE, it’s about living life how YOU want to, so your options are nearly endless!
The Story Begins In Romania…
Traveling long-term as digital nomads means that creating and maintaining friendships is a bit more challenging. For the most part, we’re usually only in a place from a few days to a few months. Additionally, finding other like-minded FIRE people is even harder when not only are we traveling but we're in regions that speak different languages. So, a solution we’ve found is following blogs to stay connected.
That’s where 1500 Days to Freedom comes into play! Sitting in a café in Bucharest last year, we enjoyed reading a weekly gratitude post on Carl’s site. So much so, that one day we felt compelled to leave a comment of our appreciation for a post and his blog. Shortly after, a conversation ensued and a friendship with Carl began to blossom. To our surprise, he offered us a chance to do a guest post on his blog, which we of course couldn’t pass up! Be sure to stop by his site, say hi, and read Gratitude Found Through Perspective.
House Sitting in Colorado
Naturally, we stayed in touch with Carl from 1500 Days to Freedom over the next several months. We of course wanted to meet him in person, but no matter how much we tried, our schedules simply weren’t aligning! He and his family were in the United Kingdom a month before us, in San Diego a couple of months before Shannon, and then again they were going to be in Portland after we’d left for a Mattress Run and house sitting assignment in Mexico. We knew Carl and his family resided in Colorado, and since seeing the Rockies again was on our to-do list, we felt confident a meet up would eventually work out.
Luckily we didn’t have to wait too long since five months after our guest post for Carl we were offered an opportunity to house sit in Colorado! On a side note, it was a fantastic house sit with kind, thoughtful, and generous homeowners and a couple of the sweetest and most adorable pets ever!
Nevertheless, enough of our digression. In the end, fortune was on our side because the house sit we'd planned was less than an hour from Carl and his family's hometown.
Northern Colorado FIRE Community Opens its Doors
The stars seemed to align! Not only were we going to be able to meet Carl in person, but our timing worked out perfectly and we were invited to attend a Norther Colorado FIRE Meetup at MMM Headquarters in Longmont, Colorado. It would be our first time at a FIRE Meetup, so as you might imagine we were very excited to be in a room full of like-minded people!
We had a wonderful time at the Meetup and a couple of days later we were invited to have dinner at the home of Michael and Ellen from UncommonDream, where Shawn from 2FrugalDudes and Carl and his family attended. The conversation was great and we made a host of new friends!
Tip: If you’re in Colorado and planning to bring a lovely bottle of Trader Joe’s wine as a gift to the host of a wonderful dinner, unless you’re in Denver, you’re going to be left empty handed! We walked into Trader Joe’s for just this reason and quickly realized there wasn’t the popular wine section that we’re used to. Instead, we ended up walking out with a lovely non-alcoholic grape champagne after we learned that only one Trader Joe’s in the state (Denver) has the right of selling alcohol. Who’d have thought, we’d end up in the only Trader Joe’s (that we know of) without wine!
What We Learned From the NoCo Mustachians
The Northern Colorado FIRE Community is incredibly welcoming! We never felt left out or awkward and were immediately brought into the conversation and the party. Do yourself a favor, whether you’re working towards FIRE or are already there, head on over to a Meetup and the community will surely welcome you in.
We’d never been to MMM Headquarters and had no idea what to expect. Pete from Mr. Money Mustache was humble and personable, and made it a point to say hello to us. As did so many other people we didn’t know or knew of only from their online presence. Plus, MMM Headquarters seems like such a great place to be a member of! It’s a wonderful co-working space, with a large patio, community of people to get to know, and a bunch of other perks that make the $50 a month payment look like a great deal. If we lived in the area, we’d definitely join!
We talked to so many different people and heard numerous ‘origin’ stories. We must say, it’s incredibly interesting to talk to people that are in very similar places to us and to hear each person’s story of where they came from and how they've started or reached FIRE. What we realized, is that we all have bits and pieces in common with each other even though our backgrounds are very different. And while our situations are now similar, there's still such diversity in how everyone lives their FIRE lifestyle!
We’d like to thank the NoCo Mustachians for their immense kindness! We may be completely off base, but we think having less financial stress, not feeling like keeping up with the Jones’ is a requirement, and not needing to work paycheck to paycheck, leave a person more at ease.
There’s something to be said about a group of people that can be anywhere and do anything they want at 2 pm on any given Tuesday and yet they choose to give back and Meetup with their community!