In this episode, I talk to Stephanie and Gillian who reached F.I.R.E. (which stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early), and began to travel the world.
We discuss how they came across the F.I.R.E. movement, the lifestyle changes they needed to make to reach F.I.R.E., and what early retirement has been like pre and post-Covid.
Check out their interview below.
Listen To The Episode
Read The Transcript
Stephanie & Gillian 0:00
It's not about denying the things that are important to you. It's really about figuring out what is important to you and putting your money or your time as well towards those things.
Michael Lacy 0:12
You're listening to the winning to wealth Podcast, where you'll hear real stories from real people who are on the path to building real wealth. These stories will show you how to earn more money, pay off debt, start investing, and make better money choices so you can build wealth for your future. Now, here's your host, Michael Lacy, what's up? What's up? What's up teammates? This is Episode 39 of the winning wealth podcast and on this week's episode, we're talking about early retirement, and more specifically the expat journey to financial independence. I'm excited to have the creators behind our freedom years with me Stephanie and Jillian fat. Now Stephanie and Julian are originally from Canada and decided to move to Singapore to live a more and
adventurous life. Last year they officially retired from their careers to travel the world. However, as we all know, Rhona hit earlier this year, and it completely altered their plans. So on this episode, we're going to discuss what gave them the desire to move, the logistics of moving around the world, their fire journey, and what early retirement life has been like pre and post Rona. Now before we jump into this interview, be sure to head over to my private Facebook group where we talk all things money all the time. It's in there where I announced live Q and A's and anything else cool that I decided to do so head over to winning to wealth comm slash teammates, and check that out. But let's jump right into this interview with Stephanie and Julian from our freedom. gears.com
Stephanie and Julia, I am so excited to have you here with me today. I have just done a lot of research on you guys and I just find your story super interesting. So I'm very excited.
Excited to jump in. And first of all, I just want to ask, how did you guys even meet?
Stephanie & Gillian 2:06
Okay, so I thank you so much for having us today. We are also equally excited to be speaking with you in terms of how we met. So, you know, actually, we just had our anniversary. We've actually been married for 12 years now, we had to do some quick math to figure that one out. But we met going back 14 around 14 years ago. At the time I was in the Canadian military and I had just been posted back to Toronto, which is my home city. And at that point within I think just a couple of weeks of me moving back, we were introduced by friends and basically we've been together ever since. Wow. So okay, can you talk a little bit about back when you met in those early days? How were you managing money as individuals at that point, like was one of you a spender one of your saver, like kind of what was your personalities with money around that time? Sure. So we were
pretty different. So in terms of our money attitudes, I was definitely very comfortable with spending money. So I love brands, I love to pay a little bit extra to know that I'm getting something that's really special. Jillian was totally frugal, she counted every little penny. If she lost $1 on anything, you would never hear the end of it. So we actually kept our money separate, we made separate. We had separate accounts, we didn't merge our finances until the time when we were both on more of an equal footing. So Jillian had come into the relationship with some good savings, she had no debt. So she was able to put the downpayment on our new condo that we were getting. I came into the relationship at a higher income level. I'm a little bit older than Julian I was more advanced in my career, but I was also saddled with the debt from getting my graduate degree. So once we had sort of evens everything out, we were then comfortable, fine merging
our finances and by that point, we had come together a little bit more in our attitudes. So can you talk a little bit more about that dynamic of again, one of you comes in as a spender, one of you comes in as a saver, and you kind of are trying to get on equal footing, like, what is that process like?
So, the way Stephanie painted it, she made herself sound like she was someone who like to spend a lot of money, which was not at all the case, I think it was more just in comparison to me, you know, where I would always like, I would never take a brand name if I thought the product was the same, whereas Stephanie was maybe just a little more susceptible. But But still, you know, she was she was someone who like to be conservative in terms of her spending. So it was more just to kind of fine tuning. Maybe I had a few tips that I learned along the way things that I did that she said, Hey, actually, this is no hardship, I can do this and sort of we kind of found that that common ground and and we were able to move forward together.
Michael Lacy 5:00
So what was that process? Like? I mean, if you've been together for a while and things are separated, so then like, once you decide to start putting everything together, what's that process? Like for you guys?
Stephanie & Gillian 5:14
Yeah, I think I think that before before we actually said, okay, like, we're merging everything. We had reached that point where we were both comfortable with the spending that each of us was doing. And I think that was the key thing. So, you know, we weren't like scrutinizing what, what each of us was spending, but we had a common understanding of what was appropriate and what kinds of things that you know, you should talk to the other person about and which kind of things you know, it's quite reasonable to go out and spend on so we had that understanding first and then when we went to merge, it was just basically we stopped dividing up the credit card bills every month, which of course, we always paid in full but, you know, dividing those concepts and we just opened joint joint account and move forward.
From there, but I think, yeah, getting on that same page. And just, you know, having open money conversations was probably the main thing to reach that point of common understanding.
Michael Lacy 6:08
I love that. And, and I think those money conversations are super important, especially in a relationship. I mean, it's it's paramount. So I know at some point, you guys decide to be a little crazy and move across the world. So what was happening in your lives at that point to where that became a viable option for you?
Stephanie & Gillian 6:29
So it really started with an idea that I had. So we had been a very average couple. So we, you know, we had the car, we had the condo we were very focused on our careers. We were We were just very average. And we we did like to travel though. We tried to sneak out of the country for you know, a couple of weeks every year so that was sort of the limit that we could travel just like everyone else. And at one point, I became a little bit frustrated with Because I really had this interest in seeing the world and of course Chilean did as well, she's very adventurous person. And for me, I thought, maybe my career is the ticket. Maybe if we could find jobs in another country, which seems a little wild and far out there, then we could be based somewhere else, and we could explore that part of the world. And wouldn't that be amazing, then we wouldn't have to just travel, you know, for two weeks every year, it could just be part of our lives. And I turned to Jillian, I said, What about this idea? Are you on board? And as I said, She's very adventurous and though it had never occurred to her before, but she said, Yes, we'll do it. We'll make this happen. And then that began a very long process of networking and trying to find jobs and making it happen. So it was, it was something that as it came to fruition, it was just, it was so exciting. But again, it was it was a little unheard of. So none of our friends were doing In, you know, in Canada, you barely move from city to city in your career, nevermind, you know, leaving the continent entirely. If you do move anywhere, it would most likely be to the US. So this was something that no one had ever really heard of before. And then the fact that we're moving to this little country that really wasn't on anyone's radar, so that was Singapore. It just made it even even crazier. But with a lot of work, we were able to make it happen.
Michael Lacy 8:28
Gotcha. So, Julian, I mean, what was going through your mind at that time when you're approached with this idea?
Stephanie & Gillian 8:34
So when she suggested that we want that we could work somewhere else live somewhere else? I was on board with the idea from the start, because I've always been someone who if I if I see something that sounds exciting, usually I'll say let's do it before I even think about all the details. And there were a lot of practical details. And I remember, I think Stephanie landed on Singapore as a good place for us to check out and I'm like, Great. And then I quickly went and I had to pull out a map because I didn't even know where the heck it was. So after realizing that it's this tiny little country in Asia, I thought this is this is great, it will put us in a place that we can easily travel regionally which so the thing with living in Canada is like, Where can you go, you can go somewhere else in Canada, you can go somewhere in the US. But when you're somewhere like Singapore, you have the whole region at your at your footstep. So that really got me excited. And just the idea of, you know, living in a different place experiencing a different culture for more than a week or two at a time. That was something that got me really excited.
Michael Lacy 9:36
Okay, so you've mentioned Singapore. So how did you settle in on that location?
Stephanie & Gillian 9:42
Well, I looked at a list of all of the countries in the world where English is the first language and Singapore again, a country I knew nothing about was right on that list. So it was based in Asia and Asia was a region that was very interesting. Because it was obviously so far away from Canada, it's, you know, I think it's well known as a very dynamic region. So there's a lot of growth happening. I thought, How interesting what an interesting place to be based. Why don't we see if we can make this happen. And after we did a little bit of research, we discovered that it is. So it's a small country, but there's a very strong expat population there because it's such a high growth country that they need a lot of people coming in with established skill sets, because it's just growing faster than the local market can really support so I could see it would be a great opportunity. And we could integrate well, because the language of business is of course English, so that it worked in a couple of ways. And it got us very excited. We did consider some other places as well, we, we also looked at Hong Kong, but what we found when we compared them in Hong Kong English is a language that's used commonly but it is not the main one. So that could be a challenge and Also it's it's such a densely populated place is. So Singapore was known as a more sort of relaxed pace. So we could as Canadians, we could just ease on in there. And it might be very nice. I think if I can just add, the other attractive thing about Singapore would be the tax rate. And we knew that by living there and paying lower taxes, that we would actually be in a position to save more money. So in addition to the things Stephanie mentioned, I think that was also a factor that came in for us.
Michael Lacy 11:32
You know, this is something that becoming an expert, it's something that my wife and I, we talked about frequently, like it's becoming more and more a topic as we go on. And the one thing that we keep coming back to is just like friends and family and how tough that is. So can you talk a little bit about that dynamic of like how your friends and family reacted and then how you guys felt about again, moving across the world and leaving behind friends and family and all those things.
Stephanie & Gillian 12:00
It was, it was definitely something that that we thought a lot about and, and thought, you know, are we going to feel really disconnected from the people we love, you know, are we going to be like strangers when we when we come back. And it's actually been quite surprising the the impact that it has had. So if I talk about my relationship with my parents, for example, I was living in Toronto, but I was not super close to my folks. And we would see each other to be honest, actually, it's embarrassing to admit how infrequently there might be like a month that would go in between that we would actually see each other even though we were living in the same city. But once we moved away, we made such an active effort to keep in touch. So we would be talking like every weekend and with all the new ways to keep in touch, you know, like What's up, you know, all the ways of messaging talking. I feel like we've been in touch with our family like way more than we ever were before. So that worked out fine. Obviously the face to face is different. But once you adjust the virtual connections can be like very rich as well. And the other thing was, we had a lot of family come out to visit us and spend longer periods of time staying with us and often we would travel with them too. So really, it's been this move has impacted everybody got everybody traveling more. And and actually, yeah, not not been too hard in terms of those relationships with with friends, I would say it's been a little bit harder. Um, the main thing was that so speaking from my own experience, you know, I had gone off and joined the military coming straight out of high school. And so my friends from way back, you know, I had a small group of friends that I've kept in touch with, all the way through. So those friends, you know, I kept in touch while moving to different places. So those relationships were already established. That was kind that you don't necessarily see each other all the time but you still stay close. And then my friends from from the military, they're also used to moving around. So similarly, you know, we're used to being A bit more remote in our relationships. But I think the main thing for me has been, you know, to have a core group of people, I might not be keeping up with, you know, 50 different people super close, but I have that, that core group that, you know, we stay in touch in, and that feels pretty good for me.
Michael Lacy 14:14
Awesome. Awesome. So, let's jump right into, you know, you guys ultimately decide to take that leap. Right? And so what is that process like, of moving like, are you selling stuff? How do you find a place to I mean, I just have so many questions about, like the process itself of moving so like, Can you talk about just your experience with that?
Stephanie & Gillian 14:34
Sure. It actually started and it started with landing a job first. So we had several months of doing some very intensive networking. So just to clarify, we did not have the luxury of a company picking us up and moving us over to work at you know, a branch in another country, we had to do it all on our own. So we started off by building our networks. We eventually moved into doing some informational interviews and then interviewing for actual jobs. And then because I was working in a in more of a high demand niche that was very busy in Singapore, I was able to get a contract fairly quickly, which was great. So that meant we also had to suddenly take action. We had to be in Singapore Two months later. So we did have to go through quite a process of unwinding our homes in Canada and Jillian can talk a little through the logistics because that was her area of specialty. Sure, so so like Stephanie said, we we basically just had a couple months to make the move happened and we were doing it all ourselves sorting everything ourselves. So we knew that so the funny difference between the US and Canada is that in Canada, you can actually break your residency ties with the country, which means you don't have to pay any taxes back to Canada on the income you earn overseas. So that is like a huge perk of how our tax system is built by To do that you have to take some specific steps that involve things like either selling or renting out your your residence. Basically selling all your things we sold our car, we did sell our condo, and all we and we downsized as much as possible and all we had left was some items that went into a storage locker. And then we yeah packed packed our remaining bags gotta got on the plane and went I'd say maybe the other slight complication we had was we had a our one dog at the time who came with us and was a bit of a bigger dog who couldn't ride in the cabin like our current dogs can. So that was another complication kind of sorting out all the the process to bring our pet. But yeah, it was just like a quick kind of we somehow did it. Looking back I don't know how but we we managed Yeah, we moved with the intention of being there for a couple years. That's what we told ourselves and we certainly told that to all have our friends and families said it's just a couple years. So for that reason, we didn't sell all of our belongings we did put them into storage. So we have downsized some Yes. But not nearly the amount that we would have looking back. Yeah, yeah, we we had in our minds, we weren't sure how long we'd be away. Yes. So just initially, we put we still had our furniture and everything we put into storage and what it made it easier arriving in Singapore to get set up was that we actually rented a furnished place. So it was everything was there for us. We were able to start work very soon after arriving and And fortunately, Singapore has has places like IKEA, you know, typical places you look to to go to get set up, so it wasn't too difficult to settle in, in that sense, you know, to find what we needed, which I didn't have the same sort of culture shock of maybe some other places might.
Michael Lacy 17:51
Gotcha. So you're in a new place, new culture, new careers, just new everything new furniture, new all of that. So what we're seeing Have those initial challenges going back to those early days? You know, in terms of getting settled in?
Stephanie & Gillian 18:06
Well, I think probably the biggest shock, and I think this would be for almost anyone moving to the tropics, you know, the, the temperature, when you look ahead, you're sitting in Canada, and it's usual Canadian weather or you look at the temperature, oh, it's every day in Singapore, it's over 30 degrees Celsius. So what you Julian will tell us what that is in Fahrenheit. It is like that every single day for 365 days a year. So there is no respite from the heat. And you literally can't really go outside at the peak heat of day. Yeah. So for reference, it's above 85. Everyday with high high humidity, like every single day.
Unknown Speaker 18:49
We should have come down there to get
Stephanie & Gillian 18:52
get ourselves ready. Yeah. So that was a bit of a shock. So you know that so that was the weather part of it. And then The other part of it was, I think, integrating into the workplace. So on the surface, it seems very familiar. So people are all speaking English in the workplace. Although you do hear a lot of Mandarin. Yeah, you'll, you'll hear some other languages, but but you know, meetings, everything would all be done in English. Everything's done in English. So it feels very familiar. And it's all the same companies that we're used to all the same global companies are located there. So everything seems very comfortable. But as we spent more time as the months went by, we realized that actually there are a lot of differences under the surface. So as as foreigners coming in, it's things that we wouldn't pick up on right away. But actually, there are a lot of differences. So there are differences in the office culture, for example. So it's very hierarchical. Young people have a tendency to you know, keep their opinions to themselves because you want to be respectful whereas in North America, we like our Young people very opinionated, because that shows your thinking about things. So it's just some some different approaches to the culture. There is a very strong culture of people as a group all eating lunch out together for at least an hour, if not an hour and a half or two hours every day, which is a little bit different for you know, North America, where we like sit at our desk and eat our lunches. Try to get back to work as quickly as possible. On the flip side, there's this long lunch, but then also, the working hours really stretch into the evening and there doesn't really seem to be much push to leave. Like, I've always felt like I was kind of sneaking out, you know, it's past six. I'm like, you know, I'm done what I need to get done to kind of sneak out people are just settling in, you know, settling in for the evening to continue work. So yeah, that was something quite different for me.
Michael Lacy 20:48
Yeah, yeah. So how did you guys adjust to all this specifically the career thing right with their just being a different dynamic with younger people and how we act over here versus there. How do you address and overcome that?
Stephanie & Gillian 21:02
Well, I, I'm sure, like, I'm sure that there were a lot of blunders that I committed those that I sometimes maybe wasn't aware of. And then some I definitely was. And I think that us being foreigners, there's a bit of sort of forgiveness for that. Those sort of fo pause that we might might commit. And there may have even been times when I knew that maybe I was gonna say something that might not be the right thing, but I felt it was important, and I use that as my cover, you know, oh, they'll think I'm just foreigner. So I'm just saying saying how I see it right. So yeah, I think that was the one of the things that was most helpful for us in integrating and understanding the culture better was making local friends. So one of the things that you do see expats doing in new countries is sort of clustering together, and often by nationality. So there are a lot of Australians so a lot of Australian activities happening together, you know, whatever the different groups are. But what we would recommend for anyone and this is what we did for ourselves is we, we made local friends and they were people who could kind of open up their lives to us and help us understand some of the nuances that we were seeing or how the local culture was. So we found that to be that was quite enriching. And it really helped us enjoy your time there.
Michael Lacy 22:19
So, okay, and so at this time, you know, as you're settling in, and all that, is the fire movement, is all that on your mind at this point? Or is that something that comes in later?
Stephanie & Gillian 22:30
That definitely came in later, although, you know, in during my time in the military, the idea of retiring early was something that occurred because at that time, I knew that I would be able to have a pension at 2020 years and so on. So I kind of had that in the back of my mind kind of early on, but at the time when we first were in Singapore first few years, we were not really thinking about it, we were just working kind of living the dream, or at least on paper, you know, we were sort of living the But at the same time we were kind of having these feelings like that the the daily life was a bit of a grind. We were still working corporate jobs working long hours. And as much as we enjoyed those, you know, the the getaways that we were taking, we still felt like we were part of the rat race. And that's around the time and we did come across the fire movement and realize this is something that people were doing. And then we got more serious about it, although I will say we so we came at it from very different perspectives. So Jillian became disenchanted with working life a lot sooner than me. So she she kept bringing up to me, you know, I wish I could be doing something different. I don't know what it is. And I kept saying to her, I love what I'm doing. I love being type a stressed out, you know, trying to climb that corporate ladder. I didn't realize there would be any other option and I had always been so career focused. So it never even occurred to me like why would you ever want to retire early? Like what is that So she would come over to me with spreadsheets and say, you know, do you see how these numbers work to see how we could actually leave our jobs at some point. And I just I thought it was all nonsense. But at some point, while I was working, I became very burnt out. So I had a very, as I moved up in my career, the job just became more and more high pressure. And in in that sort of that final year before coming to the understanding that Oh, there's a different way to do things. I was working. I was working nights I was working early mornings, weekends, I just never had a break. And no matter how much I did, there was always more to do. So it was just, it just seemed never ending. And although I had always derived a lot of personal satisfaction from from, you know, being focused on my job, it felt like I was giving everything and it actually, it wasn't worth it. It was no longer worth it. And I was finally ready to have that conversation with Julian about what else our life could look like.
Michael Lacy 25:00
At the beginning of this, we talked about just your different personalities, spender saver, all those things you guys come together, you discover the fire movement, right? And so I'm just curious, when How are you managing money at that time? Like how well were you guys doing? And to what financial changes did you have to make as a result of deciding You know what, maybe this is the direction that we want to go in.
Stephanie & Gillian 25:23
We had always been pretty good with money. Saving was something that I had always done, you know, always make sure to put something aside for myself. And once we were together, we were both saving. So yeah, during during those years in Singapore, we were saving and investing. Just to if you want me to touch on investments a bit, you know, we went through the usual like, oh, start out with some higher fee mutual funds, that kind of thing. Then, you know, we kind of got got our money back into our own control, but then we're exactly sure what we should be doing with it. So we tried A few different things, ultimately landing on sort of low cost index fund investing, which is where we are now, but some experimenting along the way. So we had sort of navigated in terms of our our saving and investing before really deciding that we wanted to, to become financially independent and you know, transition to a life of freedom. When we decided to start working towards financial independence, Stephanie swung from being quite reluctant to being so onboard that she was driving all the changes that that we needed to make, which included really getting a good understanding of all our expenses, first of all, and then trying to see which of these are really bringing value in our life. And which of these do we just really don't don't need to spend on or the ones that we would rather reduce in order to prioritize how we might spend our money a bit later in life. And also during that time, we were figuring out what would our future lifestyle look like and how much We need in order to live that lifestyle. So we went through a whole phase of reducing costs, some experimentation in there to figure out what are those things that, you know, it's not about denying the things that are important to you. It's really about figuring out what is important to and putting your money or your time as well towards those things. So that's the process that we went through for a few years as we as we made our way and figured out how much we needed and work towards that goal.
Michael Lacy 27:28
So I want to go back to something a couple of things that you mentioned there, you mentioned, kind of trying to figure out your investing strategy before you got to this point of wanting to reach fire. And so can you talk about a little about that process?
Stephanie & Gillian 27:40
So as Julian mentioned, we we did have an a period of experimentation, and I will be honest, I was not the one doing the experimenting. I was just the one who kept saying things like, what about this? Why don't we invest in that and then Julian would do all the hard work of researching, you know, what are those different opportunities? So we try different things. We tried to invest we tried to time the market, which you know, is not the sort of thing to do. But we we tried to invest in the energy sector, specifically in Canada. And we, we we invested when it was down, and then we waited until it went back up. And then we sold, and we made a little bit of money. But what we learned is that we were way out of our depth. And we should never do that, again. Because we could lose a lot of money, we realized we just got lucky. And that was it, and that we should stick with what we knew. We certainly didn't know anything about oil and gas. We also while we were living in Singapore, of course you see the investment opportunities that are around you. Singapore had a booming real estate market. I mean, lots of people had become very rich, off real estate in Singapore. And we thought we don't know anything about this, but why not get in the game. So we invested in a handful of real estate investment trusts that were based in Singapore. And then over the next few years, we watched as some of them did well And then others tanked. So that was another flag like, oh, maybe we need to be a bit more diversified than investing in just a few little real estate investment trusts that are in one tiny, tiny little country. So all of that led us to having some principles for how we wanted to do our investing. So fortunately, we learned a lot and what we learned is we did want to be DIY investors, we did want to be self directed and be accountable for what we were investing in. We wanted to be extremely diversified. So we never again wanted to, you know, pour money into like one single sector the way we did. And then we wanted to buy and hold we knew that we were in it for the long the long run. And along with that goes that we weren't going to time the market, you know, we just buy and hold not, you know, sell when it goes down by when it goes up. None of that. So, yeah, yeah. So those are the the different elements that led us to Eventually committing to the low cost index investing of a very global index fund.
Michael Lacy 30:09
When you when you come across the fire movement, right? Did you have an additional target date in mind or some, you know, time period that you were aiming for to become financially independent?
Stephanie & Gillian 30:19
We did. So we had an initial target, we knew how much more we needed to save, and we figured out roughly how long we thought it would take. And as we work towards it, and we got really, let's say, quite hungry for it, you know, we managed to shrink that that timeline down a bit. So that was, you know, very motivating, as you see that, you know, the more changes that you make, the closer you can get towards your goal. It's, you know, very, very motivating.
Michael Lacy 30:48
So, you ultimately you reach fire, right. And so, what was the process of winding your careers down like, what was that like?
Stephanie & Gillian 30:56
Well, in Singapore, there is an exceptionally long Notice period. So we have always been used to the two weeks notice. And that means you're sort of out the door quicker than you realize, in Singapore, depending on your level of seniority, it can be two months, it can be three months. So it's a very long period of time. So we had plenty of time to say goodbye to people and to, you know, sort of hand over all of our projects. In fact, it was so much time, you know, it was more time that I mean, every day that went by was agony waiting, because we knew we had this really exciting life on the other end of it. And during that time, we didn't share with people exactly what we were doing. We just shared that we had come to a place in our lives where we wanted to travel. So we were, we were going to leave Singapore. And that was very normal to the people that we worked with. Because being x pots there is an expectation that you are in the country for a period of time and then you might move on your career over to a different country, or even have a break for a while as many people do. So none of that was unexpected to people we did not share with them that we had reached financial independence, nor did we educate them on what financial independence was. So, so to our, to our workplace peers, it was just a matter that we were, you know, sort of closing up shop and heading off for some adventures.
Michael Lacy 32:19
And so can you explain to the listeners like now right now you don't have that traditional income? So how are you able to cover your expenses without an income.
Stephanie & Gillian 32:30
So something that was important to me, as we moved into this was I, I wanted to have some kind of system where there would be money coming into our account every month, that would feel something like getting a salary, I was a little nervous about having to sell off our investments just to fund our expenses, knowing that I would be very reluctant to do so and I could see us trying to live off like less than less than getting really miserable and you know, so I didn't want that situation. So What we did was we have part of our investments are in fixed income and the amount basically the returns from those fixed income investments are what find our day to day living expenses and I can give a little more detail if you like. So we're invested in syndicated mortgages on that fixed income side and so these are mortgages typically are there for construction loans. And in order to diversify in this, we hold very tiny pieces of many many different mortgages so it spread so that helps spread the risk a little bit. Of course with with real estate as with any other this is basically a real estate linked investment. There is some some risk with with property values. So that's what we do we try to diversify. But why we like it, I think is the the return on the syndicated mortgages is quite a bit higher than what you typically get from from bonds where most other fixed income that you think of. So I think that's really what would appeal to us.
Michael Lacy 34:04
Okay. And so I mean, obviously, one thing that we just have to touch on is just given the current events of today, we've seen just the market, you know, go south as quickly as it could and all these other things going back up and down and all this volatility so yeah, how have you managed that financially and emotionally being you know, someone who's newly retired,
Stephanie & Gillian 34:26
so we we did have a risk management strategy in place. However, we did not predict a global pandemic. Like many people, we didn't see that one coming. But fortunately, the principles of our risk management stay the same no matter what So, you know, while we were quite surprised by the events very shocked like everyone else, we did have some foundation in place that gave us a lot more confidence that we could weather this storm. You know, it wasn't what we would have expected or wanted six months. into our early retirement, but it fortunately was something we were prepared for. So just a couple elements of our approach, we of course, we have an emergency fund in place. And this became very handy when we had to have a very sudden, unexpected rescue flight from Italy to Canada. So we were able to pay for it with confidence, knowing that it could come out of our emergency fund. We also have a year's worth of our expenses held in a high rate savings account. So we have ready access to the cash we need if our regular cash flows interrupted. And then all of this, of course, is on the back of a diversified portfolio. So you know, we talked about the index fund being very global. And then of course, we have a very, you know, although it is all in real estate, it is very diversified within that.
Michael Lacy 35:51
So once you guys reach financial independence, like what was your plan going forward from that point, like what were you what adventures were you desiring the set out on and all those things.
Stephanie & Gillian 36:02
So the day I guess the day we'll call the day we reached financial independence was also my last day at work. And it was also the day we got on a plane and flew from Singapore to Poland with our two dogs all on that same day. So it was pretty exciting. And we we actually made our first YouTube video on that day too. So you could actually see the whole thing unfolds pretty exciting. And so we that was the first the first leg of our travels in Europe, which we did for six months, which was Yeah, our life on the road. Our dream for our freedom years was to be traveling and experiencing different cultures. So so we did that for for the first six months.
Michael Lacy 36:48
So okay, can you talk about just some of the experiences you were able to have in that in that six month timeframe?
Stephanie & Gillian 36:54
Sure. So we started off and had a few weeks in Poland and then We took a train over to the Ukraine, both great countries we really enjoyed our time there. But the weather was getting a little cooler and we decided to head south to Turkey and we spent a good chunk of time in Turkey. And I have to say I hadn't thought that much about Turkey before going there as a traveler, but I honestly would really recommend Turkey is a fantastic place to visit. We enjoyed assemble, we also really enjoyed there, the turquoise coast, which is along the Mediterranean in the south, though the weather was really comfortable all through the coolest winter months, you know, still need a jacket sometimes but we were able to get out hiking, you know, the food is good. The natural surroundings are just beautiful. You have the mountains in the background, you've got the Mediterranean ocean in front of you. So we really enjoyed our time. And then we moved on to Italy, which was our last stop and where things got a little wild and crazy. But we did enjoy our time in Florence first then Sort of the outbreak started and we ended up kind of holding in place in a friend's place actually up near Lake Como. And that's when we made the decision to try and make our way back to Canada because it became very clear that further travel around Europe was not going to be possible for the foreseeable future. So yeah, we just rejigged our plan. And the beauty of being retired is you can be flexible, you can change where you are and what you're doing. And we were able to make that happen, come back and, and now spend this time connecting with friends and family.
Michael Lacy 38:32
Gotcha. So I guess looking back, just over the totality of the journey from when you decided to leave the first time until now, I mean, is there anything that you know, maybe you looking back on it go You know, what, if we had done this, we could have done it sooner or done things quicker? Or maybe been a little more efficient? Is there just like maybe one or two tips that you would give your younger selves
Stephanie & Gillian 38:56
over the whole journey? That's a good question. The one tip and this one is this one's really for young Stephanie. So I'm telling to myself, the one thing that I would have done differently from an early age, I would have tracked my spending. And I know that sounds really simple, but that actually was one of the foundational pieces to us being able to become financially independent and retire early. So when I was younger, all the way through until just a couple years ago, I never tracked my spending, I never looked at what I was spending on, and the money would just, you know, even when I was young, and I didn't have much of it, but they'd all flew out anyway, just you know, on everyday living things. I didn't necessarily value buying a coffee here every day before going into work, spending for no reason. So these are things if I had just, if I had taken the time to track what I was spending from an early age and I could understand, you know, I'm earning this money at work and then I'm just throwing it away on buying a takeout lunch. five days a week, you know, I think those lessons would have really sunk in a lot sooner. And we could have been further ahead. Probably, yeah. Because because the thing is, when you when you're spending these small amounts on things, it seems small and you say, oh, that this makes my day better. You know, I like this coffee, whatever it is, until you look at it all added up, then you're not really make you're not in a position to make the decision about it. And if you see the total and you say, Hey, this is worth it, that's fine. But maybe you'll see the total and say, Okay, I think I can adjust in this area. I mean, a good example of this, for us was the amount that we were spending on food that we did not cook at home. So yeah, whether it be you know, whether it be restaurants or takeout meals, that kind of thing. I think, especially over the years in Singapore, there's a real eating out culture there. Often during the work day, it can be not too expensive. There are a lot of affordable eating options, but there are also a lot of the higher end options and the go to when you meet up with people when you're being social as always to go out and eat somewhere. And so this was something that we did enjoy, enjoy doing, but we knew that the total we were spending on that category was way more than we thought we needed to. And so then we just thought, okay, you know, how can we still enjoy that time with friends without necessarily going out and spending it at a restaurant? And that's when we started doing more things at home, we would host them we would do theme nights, you know, make Mexican night Japanese make sushi, all this fun stuff. And I mean, it cost less. We had just as much fun. So but only by seeing that total did we really realize just how big a difference that that could make.
Michael Lacy 41:41
Gotcha. I love that. So that's been a recurring theme for a lot of the people who have reached fire and become millionaires and done all these great things on the podcast is tracking your spending. So I'm glad that you guys share that as well. So the final thing I have for you is to just share anything you have to offer that you think would benefit our listeners or where they can find you if they want to follow along on this journey.
Stephanie & Gillian 42:05
Sure. So we we have our YouTube channels you mentioned so they can find us at our freedom years on YouTube, also on Instagram and Twitter. And that's where we, we try to share our strategies for how we got here and how we have planned out a life that we're really enjoying. So we share strategies for financial independence, how to choose for early retirement. And of course, we also are bringing people along our trips with us. So we share some highlights of each of our destinations. And one of the things that we get asked about the most how much we are spending in each place. So that's one question that always comes up because I guess people are planning their own dream trips and their own dream lifestyles for once they have retired. So you know, we're glad that we can be a resource for that as well.
Michael Lacy 42:55
Awesome. Well, hey, you guys, be sure to go check out their YouTube channel, our freedom years. I'm going to link to that in the show notes page, which you can find at winning to wealth comm slash Episode 39. But definitely go check that out. I've seen a couple of their videos, they're awesome. They look like a lot of fun. So again, go check that out, find it at the show notes winning to wealth comm slash Episode 39. And now it's time for this week's winner of the week. Stephanie and Julian are this adventurous couple, right that loves to travel. And so they move to Singapore to have maximum flexibility and to be able to travel the region and do all these great things. But while they're there, Stephanie gets burnt out in her career. And she didn't just accept that this was her life until she reached retirement age. Instead, they decided to pursue a different path. They created a plan that align with their values. And that plan led them to early retirement which allows them to live the adventurous life they wanted in the beginning all along. So the takeaway from this is you have control over your life. You can make whatever changes necessary. So some can be huge. Like moving to a different continent, and some can be smaller like cutting back on spending in areas that aren't aligned with your values, but you have the power to change your life. So seize that power make the most of it. We only get one crack at this. And if you're looking for some help to get started on your own journey, be sure to download my free book entitled winning to wealth. In this book, I lay out some simple steps that will put you on the path to financial independence. So head over to winning to wealth comm slash playbook and download your free copy today. That's winning to wealth comm slash playbook to download your free copy today. Also, if you enjoyed this interview with Stephanie and Jillian, be sure to hit the subscribe button wherever you're listening to this so that you can stay up to date on the latest podcast episodes. But hey, thanks for joining me for another episode of the winning to wealth podcast. Until we talk again keep racking up those wins one at a time. Take care. You've wrapped up another episode of the winning to wealth podcast to learn more about how you can start making winning money decisions head over to winning to wealth.com
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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