Believe it or not, I am actually fairly new to the FIRE community. I first heard of the term after stumbling across the always excellent Monevator website and then dived in deeper reading the trials and tribulations of Ermine from Simple Living in Somerset. Both are highly recommended blogs by the way.
While I had never heard of the term FIRE, I had been practising some of the principles by accident even when I was younger (with some mistakes of course!). The problem was, I had no end goal. While I am a fairly frugal person in general, the cash I saved from my day jobs through the years was not being used to do anything worthwhile.
Having recently turned 30, gotten married to an awesome wife and having a bought an actual house (with a mortgage!), I wanted to look back on how I got here and where I hope to go in the future.
A young(er) Xailter
I got my first job at 16 which is the legal minimum age for most full and part-time work in the UK. I worked at my local fast food place earning the very princely sum of about £4.00/hour working every Saturday. I recall making about £35/day doing this work at the beginning which is a helluva lot of money when you’re that age and didn’t get pocket money or anything! I carried on working there through my college days, working Wednesday evenings and all Saturday as I seem to recall. I collected the A levels I needed to attend University and then headed off to a bigger city.
At University I studied Computer Science and achieved my bachelor’s degree. During the holidays I would come home and do full week shifts at the same fast food restaurant to help top up the funds. Back then University fees were £3,300 a year – how things have changed. During this time the Financial Crisis of 2008/9 was going on and I was blissfully unaware of this until I graduated in 2010 and…
Couldn’t get a damn job in the field I wanted.
Keeping up the good fight
I’ve been tinkering with computers, programming and robots for as long as I can remember. I could not imagine working in any other field and I seem to have been born at just the right time to take advantage of having skills in this area. However, I was struggling to get a job in the industry. I sent many applications and most of the time didn’t receive more than a standard reply. Was it me? Did I come across poorly in interviews? Or were there 50 candidates going for every job and I just wasn’t the top 1% they were looking for?
While I never got a definitive answer, I spent the first year of my post-graduate life diligently continuing to work at the fast food restaurant and getting my CV out there as much as possible. Eventually a friend of a friend told me about a graduate role opening up where he worked. Was I interested? Hot damn I was, get me in there! I interviewed, did a day session with some other graduates, had a great time and…
I didn’t get the job. Damn.
Two months later I received a call from the same company saying they were building another graduate team but for a different area of the business. It would be a consulting opportunity where I would travel to customer sites all over the country and build solutions using the companies software. Did I want the job?
Hell yes I did!
I use this story as a strong reminder to myself that some things worth doing can take a long time, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep going or give up at the first hurdle.
Starting my career
The only problem was I didn’t have a car. Fortunately I had been saving a large portion of my money at the fast food restaurant and had about £6,000. I purchased a year-old (oops) Ford Fiesta that I was still driving up until this year. Proof that having even a meagre amount of money can be a huge advantage in a pinch. Since then I have been continuously involved in the IT industry, occasionally moving jobs and learning new technologies, but never allowing myself to get too comfortable (except that one time…).
Around 2017 I started reading about FIRE and realised I could do so much better with both handling my money, making it grow and eventually, perhaps, buy my own freedom from the being at the beck and call of a corporation. I should state I do actually enjoy my job 80% of the time but as I have moved up the ladder I’m starting to find more and more of my time is spent less doing what I like (design and programming) and more time spent stuck in meetings.
The results of applying FIRE
Since optimising my outgoings, getting my wife on board with the plan and learning how to save and invest the money I take home, my savings rate is currently about 80%. A well paying job, a frugal mindset and deciding exactly what I value in my life means I have been able to remove an awful lot of crap from it. While I still have a way to go to being entirely debt free (houses in London are frankly ridiculously priced), I feel I am comfortably on target to hit my end goal of having achieved FI (Financial Independence) by 40.
And I look forward to showing you how you can move towards a better financial life as well.