Guess Who’s on BNN? Come Watch the Train Wreck…

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FIRECracker is a computer engineer/children’s author, who used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada. But instead of drowning in debt to buy a house, she saved and invested instead. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her to retire at 31 and travel the world.
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When BNN (Business News Network) reached out to us this week, asking me to on their morning show, I thought, “Oh BOY! Another opportunity to look stupid in front of a camera? Sign me up!”

Hey, what can I say? I love pain.

And this time they even brought a fancy-pants Portfolio Manager to poke holes in our “made up” story! Yikes!

So how did it go? Let’s watch…

A major part of BNN’s shtick involves bringing in talking heads to endlessly bash Millennials. So the fact that, in a later segment, they describe me as a “Millennial who’s self-aware, disciplined, and actually has a plan,” completely boggles my mind:

“Self-aware” and “disciplined” are words that have never ever been used to describe me.

*puts on tinfoil Napoleon hat*


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79 thoughts on “Guess Who’s on BNN? Come Watch the Train Wreck…”

  1. Wow, you’re famous now! =) What do your friends and family think of your new found fame? Definitely nice that the guys on BNN gave you some praise later on. However, I was a little peeved when Dale Jackson said it was luck and made an analogy to buying a lottery ticket. Sure, luck is always involved but as the saying goes…”Luck is when preparation meets opportunity” The lottery ticket situation is absolutely not comparable. The other guy Dennis Mitchell actually corrected himself when he said “windfall,” and then complimented you guys for having a plan and saving.

    1. Shockingly, our friends and family think it’s cool! 🙂 Funny thing is if 4 million strangers (apparently that’s how many views the CBC video had. *mind blown*) watch it, I’m like “whatev”, but when it’s my friends and family I’m like “GAHHH! Don’t look at me I’m hideous!” and I run off and hide under the covers.

      Yeah, I was pretty annoyed at Dale’s “luck” comment too. But hey, they gotta say controversial things to get TV ratings right? If everyone’s just happy and congratulating each other, it’s too boring. I get it.

    1. Thanks! And yeah, I’m not surprised about the skepticism. That’s his job…to put me on the spot and poke holes in my story.

  2. The point you made about geo-arbitrage is exactly right. If something were to happen, you can simply move to a lower cost living area to reduce your spend.

    The other thing is, if something were to happen and you find out your portfolio can’t support you, can’t you easily just get back to work? Like you pointed out in another article, if you come up a few thousand short, it’s not very difficult to make the money to cover that difference

    1. Exactly. Since we’re not tied to a location for work, very easy for us to move to low cost location.

      Also, we know how to code and write, so it’s very easy to just pick up a freelance work. Your skills don’t go away when you quit. Especially if you keep it updated by working side gigs or volunteering.

  3. Now that was interesting. And you handled it very, very well.

    In the first, Dennis was eager to go on the attack without understanding your actual process and situation. Still, I’ll give him props for listening and shifting.

    In the second, you can see Dale trying to discredit you and then realizing he was getting out on thin ice unable to support his positions.

    But most interesting is the undercurrent of condescension combined with the dawning realization: We’re supposed to be the experts here and we just got schooled by this young woman who has done better than we thought possible.

    My guess:

    Dennis will ponder this all further and be open to where it takes him.
    Dale will ponder it with the goal of discrediting it to preserve his current views.

    Hope Dale proves me wrong.

    1. Thanks, Jim! The funny thing is Dennis said he “gave me a bit of a hard time”. I was like “Really? THAT was a hard time? You didn’t even call me Hitler, the Devil, or anything”. Yup, that’s what us Canadians consider a hard time.

  4. I found Dale Jackson’s comments completely dismissive and misleading, ‘There’s a lot of luck there… You could talk to someone who won the lottery and talk to them about what their secret is.’
    And then he goes on to recommend a high interest savings account. Reducing one’s expenses, diligently saving, and investing carefully has little to do with luck.

  5. As a Certified Financial Planner, I am appalled that this ‘Dale’ character is regarded as anything other than a television personality. His lack of knowledge and experience was extremely evident, and the advice he gave was not only generic, it was outdated. It was clear neither of them had any experience with the Trinity study and the 4% safe withdrawal rate. In addition, the ‘kudos if you can live off of $30k to $40k per year’ shows a complete lack of global education. $30k to $40k per year with no mortgage, whether or not you have children, is well above the poverty line that a significant portion of the world lives below. Lastly, they failed to address the fact that you are travelling the world, where cost of living varies greatly. Instead, they fixated on the fact that you were living off a ‘windfall’?

    Anyways, congratulations for your hard work and intelligent investing. Enjoy your well-earned financial freedom!

    1. HA HA. 😉 We were both supposed to go on, but since it’s a webcam, they said they only have room in the shot for 1 person. So we arm wrestled for it and I won.

  6. I saw the interview and you did great!

    I think it was hard for the BNN interviewers to digest what you both actually achieved. If everyone simply invested in low cost index funds why would anyone spend hours a day watching BNN trying pick the next great stock?

    1. Great point careeraftschool. No one really needs BNN to attain what Kristy accomplished and I wonder if that thought occurred to the interviewers?!

    2. So true! It’s the same reason as if you walk into a bank and ask for index funds. They will throw everything at you to try to convince you to buy mutual fund instead.

  7. Kristy,
    You did great on the interview! You sounded confident and happy. It was very cool when the interviewer asked where you were and you nonchalantly said Japan and that you’d be going to Korea the next day and onto Thailand. The awesome travel itinerary just emphasized the wisdom of your choices. You are living the dream and showing how easy it is to attain if you really want it and work hard and save hard. Yes, a good income gets you there faster but a smaller income will just take a little longer. I know many others are listening and learning from your example. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks! And yes, it’s definitely possible to do it on a smaller income, and you won’t even have to wait longer if you plan to make just 10K/year after quitting. That can reduce the size of the portfolio you need by half.

  8. I can’t believe these so-called experts were advising people to invest in HISAs. But I guess if they give real advice on investing in ETFs, people will stop paying high MERs that essentially pays their salaries. So condescending and arrogant both of them. It’s sad to see that they’d like to see you lose your money just so they could have a “I told you so” moment, instead of reflecting and appreciating you for what you’ve achieved.

    1. “I guess if they give real advice on investing in ETFs, people will stop paying high MERs that essentially pays their salaries. ”

      Exactly. That’s why we have a strong distrust of the financial industry, and it’s our duty to tell everyone about indexing, so they don’t get screwed. “If you’re lucky enough to do well, it’s your responsibility to send the elevator back down.”

  9. You mean you’re never ever going to work again? You mean you can live without employment? It appears that the Internet Retirement Police now have network TV jobs.

    Kudos Firecracker; extreme early retirement can be done!

  10. I think you are ‘right on the money’ on several fronts.

    Regarding the real estate aspect: measuring the intrinsic value of a property/area can be quite subjective/arguable. However, I suspect Warren Buffett would agree with your assessment 🙂 If at some point, you decided to get more traditional you can always move to a city like Windsor, Ontario where you could have your cake and eat it too 🙂

    Regarding the investing aspect: taking a passive index investing approach vs. stocks or expensive mutual funds would win you praise from an army of Ph.D. economist plus Buffett himself.

    I have one caveat for followers. I suspect several are under the impression you doubled your money from your investments in a very short period of time. That is obviously not the case. On top of that, it takes discipline to stick with your approach. Think: Buffett or Spock.
    Check out the performance of the TSX from 2012 to the present.
    You have to be able to ride out the volatility without emotion to succeed:

    Lastly, I applaud your approach and your desire to inspire others.
    Ignore the naysayers and focus on your goals/aspirations with discipline.
    Many stand to profit from conventional approaches that aren’t always right all the time.
    e.g. Many active fund managers wouldn’t want you to know they can’t outperform the market for long periods of time.

    1. Thanks! And I agree. Many active fund managers will try to talk you out of index investing. We ran into that problem a lot when we first started.

  11. I love how the professional portfolio manager somehow assumes that after you invested the $500k, you simply stopped investing (hence the 12% return assumption).

    I mean, if these are people who quickly saved half a million, do you think they might continue saving throughout?

    I’ll never get why people rely on faulty logic to criticize early retirees. There are plenty of legitimate ways to attack our way of life: no need to use a tactic that’s so easily dismissed.

    1. Having watched the second video though, Dennis seems to caught on quickly.

      His statement about it not being new is really the heart of all personal finance: live within your means, and pay yourself first.

      For people retiring very early, the kind of investments you pick are really not THE driver for reaching financial independence. If you’re only investing for 10 years and coming up with a million at the end of it, YOU are the driver. Saving 50, 60, 70% of your income and up is what makes this happen. So do that, and learn about the best way to invest along the way.

  12. It’s unfortunate the the Financial Advisor hadn’t done the research. He would have quickly realized that most of your portfolio is in fact from not having expenses as opposed to portfolio gains. Which, to me is the REAL point.

    When he said “the main takeaway is living within your means” that, to me, is the real message. Buying a house is NOT living within anyone’s means in the GTA or GVRD.

    If I can make one recommendation if doing other interview, work hard to know your whole message and avoid the word whiskers like “umm.”

    Also, I’d love to see someone turn the tide on the word “Retirement”

    Retirement to me means choosing to work if I want to, it means I’m in control. It’s like being an A-List celebrity. You get to choose your films. If someone asks are you done working? You say, I’m done “NEEDING” to work, but I’m not done choosing work that fulfills our desire to be useful to society. Before I didn’t have a choice, now I do.

    1. Agree with all your points! And yes, I do say “umm” a lot. Will definitely watch that in the future. The whole time I was thinking “don’t say anything stupid, don’t say anything stupid”, so it’s miracle any of the sentences even came out coherent 😛

  13. Kristy,

    This is so cool. I love all the press you guys are getting up North. I haven’t seen anything equivalent of your American counterparts on the national news like this. Sure, we’ve seen Justin on local news in North Carolina, which is awesome, but nothing at the national level.

    Congrats on all that you’ve achieved and continued success!

  14. Great Interview! Way to not let him push you around!
    I find it interesting that the very people who peddle investing and savings seem so critical when someone actually succeeds!

  15. ““Self-aware” and “disciplined” are words that have never ever been used to describe me.

    *puts on tinfoil Napoleon hat*”

    ==> How about self-absorbed??

  16. Not a train wreck at all! You did a great job in that interview.

    These guys are too busy over spending to realize people don’t need that much to live. I do live in the GTA (no mortgage anymore) with 2 teenagers and we manage on about $50k. They still get camps, music lessons, extra classes, etc. Usually one big family trip a year. I sock the rest away and invest it. We have maxed everything -Rsp, resp, tfsa. I have crunched the numbers and as a couple (when the kids are grown and out of the house) we can comfortably live on $30k in Toronto. And if we choose to rent our basement apartment, we’d be down to <$20k.

    We don't do without anything, we just don't blow our money.

    1. Thank you for crunching the numbers. And great job raising 2 teens on $50K in the GTA (hey that rhymes)!

      People who are dismissive of living on $30-40K are not creative and don’t want to do the math. Clearly, you are not one of those people. Well done!

      1. You mention that you keep a few years of living expenses accessible so all your money isn’t tied into the market. What do you do with this? I can’t imagine it is sitting in an account not making money! HISAs are low interest, really. So what do you do?

        1. It’s actually in a HISA. Normally I hate doing this, but you gotta have a cash cushion in case shit hits in the fan. Backup plan for the backup plan, I always say.

  17. Congrats on reaching financial independence FireCracker and Wanderer! I hope people will start listening to you guys and Garth.

    That Dale is an idiot for promoting high-interest savings account when the measly 2% gains are 100% taxable. Did he assume that you invested your money into mutual funds as well ’cause what they talked about in the second video had nothing to do with what you did?

    1. I agree. Putting your money into HISAs and losing it to inflation and taxes is a terrible idea.

      And yeah, clearly he was not listening when I mentioned we are invested in low cost index ETFs (I’m not even sure he knows what indexing and ETFs are). The finance industry doesn’t want you to know about indexing and low cost ETFs and Dale is proof of that.

  18. Great interview Kristy!

    You keep it cool. Not easy…

    You’re traveling around Asia, that’s awesome.

    At the moment I’m in Thailand, we might catch up if you are going to visit Bangkok or surrounding.

    What is your favorite way to book accomodations?

    1. If we end up going to Bangkok, we’ll let you know!

      Generally, our fav way to book accommodations is through AirBnB. But I’m finding that in Southeast Asia “Agoda” and “” usually has better deals.

  19. Good interview. Only critique is that next time, engage your audience. Constantly looking up and to the right or down and never actually looking at who you are talking to does not a good interview make. That being said, please bring your money to a poker table, with your “tells”, I would love to play a few hands with you. lol

    1. Ha ha…yeah, agree. The whole time I was actually looking at the BNN logo because during a Skype interview, the producer only puts through the audio, not a video feed of the host. So the whole time I was like “what am I look at? Guess I’m talking to this logo?”

  20. Congratulations to both you and your partner . You are an encouragement to people who desire to escape the financial trap of home ownership in unreal housing markets and mutual funds. Loved your interview on BNN and your Firecracker.
    Keep hammering home the message Live within your means.
    We should have you on lecturing tours in Canada. I am so very proud of you.
    Thank you for sharing.

  21. those 2 interviewers are clowns, especially the black dude! you should have turned the tables and asked what their own portfolio looks like and how much they have saved. it would be quite embarrassing if they had less. Also I wonder what these “financial experts” did during the 08-09 meltdown. Did they panic and sell like most do, and not re-balance and ride it out.

    There was another Canadian, Derek Foster who wrote a book about how he retired very young, before 35 I believe. He had his portfolio all in dividend paying stocks, but like those who never experienced at massive crash he too panicked and sold everything. It can be hard to think clear when you lose 50% of your net worth.

    1. Yeah, we know about Derek Foster. We were originally going to copy him and use dividend investing, but Garth showed us that indexing is SO much better. You get the gains without taking on the risk of betting on individual stocks which could plummet to 0.

      Indexing and re-balancing has worked out great so far! And we get the added advantage of being able to live on the dividends without touching the principal during a market crash. Win-freaking-win!

  22. I like your revolution video in your home page, well done. I am not a boomer or a millennial but feel like a ‘sandwich’ nearing age 45. We used to be called Gen X. The defining part of being a sandwich is you can relate to both millennials and boomers in different topics. So, my writing seems to attract people of both generations in my website. As a Gen X, I totally get your views but it is possible to take the middle path to financial independence. You can work in a career path, but don’t expect much out of it. If you learn to leverage the best of what a job can do, then the unpleasant parts won’t bother you much. You don’t need loyalty to a company as the boomers told us, but you need loyalty to your profession to get ahead. That’s what I have learned to achieve success in my career (having reached VP level in my 30s)

    1. Agree. Be loyal to the company, work your ASS off…until you become FI, then do whatever you want. I’m glad we are on the same page.

      And kudos to you for getting to VP level in your 30s! I love people who hustle!

  23. I thought the first video was great! You were well spoken and I like that he let you speak (vs. interrupting).

    The second video – did that first guy even know what he was talking about? Comparing you to “lucky lottery winners”???? And he’s talking about people saving, not investing.

    The second guy made the comment, “Clearly they don’t have children” makes me so irritated. He obviously has not read Mr. Money Mustache. 🙂

    Great work, FIREcracker!

    1. Thanks, Canadian girl! Yeah, the “lucky lottery winners” and “clearly they don’t have children” pisses me off too. Financial experts my ass. And no, I’m quite sure they’ve never read MMM. If they did, they would just dismiss him as “oh but he only has 1 kid blah blah blah.” You know how it is.

      That’s okay. The people who are ignorant and dismissive will continue working for decades, helping to feed our stocks. They’re actually doing us FIRE people a favour. 😉 Hopefully, they don’t smarten up anytime soon.

  24. With all due respect can you tell us how much of your initial capital $500,000 was contributed by your parent (wedding gift) or by staying at home with your parent and not incurring living cost. To be realistic and fair I know its a Asian culture to help kids off. I personally know co-workers who have bought close to million dollar homes with $500k down all saved up because they lived with they parent until 30 plus age and never paid a dime for living or student loan. Unfortunately for most of us average Canadian we have to start paying student load or help our families. None the less you guys have done a great job and congratulate you on your achievement.

    1. None of 500K was contributed by our parents and we did not live with them while saving this amount. I grew up poor ( , so as a result my attitude is to never take handouts. If you want it, you have to work for it.

      You can read the series explaining how we saved the 500K here:

      The reason why we didn’t have any student loans is because we strategically picked a university program that had co-op. This allowed us to work while going to school and pay our tuition and living expenses ( I had to live in the basement as a student to save money but it was worth it to not have any debt after graduation).

      Thank you for the kind words and for reading.

  25. LOL “lot of luck there – most people have practical matters to deal with”. This is what is wrong with the world – immediate dismissal of your story because it’s contrarian. Instead of dismissing your story maybe we should learn from it. The math doesn’t lie. There is an alternative to following the herd and maybe just maybe if more people travelled off the beaten path we might be better off.

    Love your story and keep doing what you’re doing – you’re an inspiration.

  26. Hi,

    I skimmed through the series as to how you accumulated the 500k.
    Kudos to the two of you. What you’ve done is exactly what I would preach to other young people in your situation.
    Live within your means and invest for the long haul in ETFs.

    However, doesn’t it seem the real basis of your plan is….
    “Land two entry level jobs out of school that each pay very well – $55,000 per year (2006 after tax income of $66,000), and then somehow manage to get those salaries up to $135,000 each within 6 years (2012 after tax income of $168,000)”

    As the saying goes, “Nice work – if you can find it”


    1. Why not go find it? All you gotta do is study a major in high demand, get good grades, network, hustle and you are there. There’s all the free data out there that shows the highest paying jobs, majors, etc.

      There is no law that bans people from finding similar jobs.

  27. to Financial Samurai….
    I agree with you 100% – and as I said, “Nice work – if you can find it”.

    Good luck to everyone finding $60,000 a year entry level jobs, and then AVERAGING 18% salary increases every year for 6 years.

    You said
    “There is no law that bans people from finding similar jobs”.
    Yes there is – the law of supply and demand.

  28. I just started reviewing your blog and I love your sassy style. Although I’m not a millennial — I’m Gen X– I think your approach is awesome.
    On the video itself, I think Dale equated your situation to winning the lotto. WTF!! It’s not winning the lotto to save 70-80% of your savings over 10 years. It’s not winning the lotto to invest in index funds and re-balancing. It’s not winning the lotto living within the SWR/dividend passive income. It’s a simple plan that works. And if Dale took the time to actually learn this, he’d be a bit more qualified to talk.
    Having gone through a similar journey as you, I notice that as you get closer to FI, the focus switches from how do I achieve FI to what is my purpose in life? Most people who achieve FI aren’t usually ones to simply do nothing. Are you at this stage? Have you figured this out? In my mind, this is the harder question.

    1. That’s a good question, Kyle. I think the key is to go out and try things. When we’re so busy working and worrying about the pay-check, we don’t have time to ask ourselves “what would I do if money wasn’t an issue?” In my case, I always loved to write as a child, but choose engineering after finding out the average salary of a writer is $5000/year. But once I became FI, I realized that I could do what I love without having to worry about the money. And it has made a HUGE difference. Besides writing, I also volunteer for a non-profit. So after leaving the workforce, I became a digital nomad so I can write and code while travelling the world. It’s worked out great so far! No regrets :).

      So in my opinion, looking back on your childhood to find the things you loved to do is a good place to start. Ask yourself, if money wasn’t an issue, what would I do? If you would do that thing even if you didn’t get paid for it, that’s your true calling.

  29. Hi Kristy, if you don’t mind sharing, what ETFs are you two invested in? I am planning to live off of dividends also but few yield as high as 3.5%. VOO, VTSAX, and even the high yield VYM all yield less than 3%. And similarly for bond ETFs like BND.

    1. Check out the answer to “What is your portfolio allocation?” in the FAQ section:

      We are able to get a higher yield because of the mix of Preferred Shares, REITs, corporate bonds, and high-yield bonds. If you just stick to bond ETFs and equities, you won’t get that high of a yield.

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