How Has Covid-19 Affected Your FIRE Journey? Part 3

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Hello and welcome back to our FIRE series where we find out whether FIRE still works in a bear market by interviewing people in the community who are on different parts of the FIRE journey,

Today, I want to introduce you to my friend, Patrick, whom we first met at London screening of Playing with FIRE. He also came to the London Chautauqua soon afterwards, so we’ve had a good amount of time to get to know him. Other than the fact that he’s a Canadian living in the UK and his fiance went to the same university as us, what really stuck out about Patrick’s story in my mind was this:

  • He went from being in debt and living paycheck to paycheck to being well on his way to FI in just a few years.
  • He went from making £18,000 per year to £140,000 per year in less than 5 years!

Incredible. I wanted to interview him to share his secrets to help you get ahead. So, without further ado, here’s Patrick!

 

1) How far along are you on your FIRE journey? (please provide %)

Right now, we are roughly 40% of the way to FIRE. My partner and I are currently living in London, but we plan to FIRE in a lower cost of living city, in order to speed up the process to the finish line!

 

2) How did you discover FIRE?

My first foray into personal finance was about 4 years ago. I had student debt ($10K) and credit card debt ($5K) and no savings to speak of, living paycheque to paycheque. However, one embarrassing experience with my new girlfriend at the time (now fiance) changed everything!

We were on our way to my friend’s wedding and we stopped at the bank to grab some cash, to place in their card, as a wedding gift. It was towards the end of the month and I was low on cash. When I told this to my partner, she said,

“No worries, just move a bit from your savings and replace it right away once you get paid in a few days”.

My response was, “What savings account!?”.

It’s fair to say, she was shocked.

However, she did end up lending me the money to give as a wedding gift to my mate. After that incident she told me (in a polite way of course) to get my sh*t together!

This embarrassing experience launched me on a mission to educate myself about personal finance.

I discovered yours and Bryce’s blog, when I was on a business trip listening to the ChooseFI podcast. It’s the first time I heard about FIRE and from that day forward it has become embedded in my DNA. I became so passionate about achieving it, that I even convinced my girlfriend who at that point in time, was focused on climbing the corporate ladder, to join me. We have now both become obsessed with FIRE and changed a lot of things in our life to align to this goal.

 

3) What I find fascinating about your story is that you managed to negotiate your salary from £18,000 p/a to £140,000 p/a in less than 5 years. Can you tell us about that?

Of course! When I started working in London, my intern salary was £18,000 per year (basically minimum wage). Upon reflection, I was able to achieve my accelerated climb in salary by following these 4 steps:

Step 1: Find the Gold Standard company in your industry.

I worked in sports sponsorships in football (aka soccer), so for me the “gold standard” company in my industry was Manchester United.

Once I had completed a 1 year football based MBA, I set my sights on getting an internship at Manchester United. I made sure I stood out in my class at the MBA.

I also attended a lot of university events to increase my chances of meeting recruiters and networking with employees from Manchester United. When it came time to apply, I brought a lot to the table; I had a good track record at the University and could demonstrate a very good understanding of ManU’s business and goals.

Key takeaway: Get your foot in the door.

Step 2: Stand out from the crowd.

There were about 6 interns in total at Manchester United at that time, and my biggest focus was to stand out. There was likely only one permanent hire after the internship.

I achieved this in 2 ways:

  • Always volunteering and asking the team if I could provide help in any way.
  • Never miss an opportunity to connect with the team outside the office (ie pub trip or weekly office football). Developing personal relationships is a key component for long-term success in your career.

When it came time to offer 1 intern a full time role, my quality of work and social connections placed me at the front of the queue. I landed the full-time position.

Key Takeaway: Secure full-time role with a leading company in your industry.

Step 3: Build a relationship with recruiters.

Once I had 2 years of work experience under my belt at ManU, I started attracting attention from recruiters on Linkedin.

I built relationships with 4 head-hunters in my field by taking them all to lunch.

This was easy, as head-hunters are financially rewarded for finding you a new job (plus a free lunch, I mean, who would say no to that!).

Head-hunters knew I could demand a higher salary, which in turn meant more money for them.

Key Takeaway: Financially incentivize others to feed you higher paying jobs.

Step 4: Become an interviewing ninja and learn your market value.

Even though I wasn’t necessarily looking for a new job in a different company, I interviewed for the best positions head-hunters sent me.

Why?

First, it allowed me to start crushing interviews, because I actually didn’t care how well I performed (think Office Space!). This gave me a ton of practice to perfect the art of interviewing.

Since there was absolutely no pressure to land the job, I came across as confident and was offered the position more times than I was rejected. (caveat: Don’t annoy head-hunters by going to too many interviews and turning down too many of the jobs they find you. Pick jobs that pique your interest and are with companies you would consider working for.)

Second, I learned my market value. I told recruiters I was earning at least £20,000 more than my actual salary. This was a way to understand what other companies were paying for my position.

This gave me a range. Now the benefit of this step is that it does not necessarily mean you have to leave your current company or your current role to get a raise.

Having practiced your interview skills and knowing what other companies are willing to offer you for pay, gives you a great starting point with your boss.

You’ve been practicing up-selling yourself, now walk into your boss’s office and let them know exactly why you deserve a raise, and what competitors out there are willing to offer.

Most companies are incentivized to keep their current employees so more likely than not your boss will help you plan the next steps to get that raise. And if not? No worries, you have other more competitive offers lined up.

Key Takeaway: Upsell yourself.

 

4) You also told me that after Chautauqua, you and your girlfriend decided to bail on a guaranteed path to FIRE. What’s that all about?

When I spoke with others at Chautauqua who had achieved FIRE, I found a few who explained that if they had to do the process all over again, they would not focus solely on the fastest path to FIRE. Instead, they would reduce the time it took by a few years to make the whole journey more pleasurable.

This got me thinking. My partner and I both had low six figure jobs and were 5.7 years from FIRE. My partner didn’t mind her job, whereas I didn’t like mine. I felt I had achieved everything I wanted within football sponsorships and was looking for my next challenge.

After several conversations, I decided to leave my job in order to pursue a passion project of mine – I’ve always dreamed of working for myself.

This decision has no doubt extended the length of our journey towards FIRE, but we both know in the long term it’ll be worth it. We still adhere to the main pillars of FIRE (spend less than you earn, avoid debt and invest the difference), but we have decided as a team to take the scenic route as opposed to the autobahn.

This is the benefit to being on the path to FIRE, it allows you the financial security to be bold, and make life choices that improve your lifestyle.

 

5) So the both of you are planning to use geo-arbitrage to your advantage by moving to Poland in two years. Why and how?

This is a great option for us, as my partner is of Polish heritage, which makes everything much easier. Not only do we both love visiting Poland, we realized that the favourable exchange rate between Poland and the UK would allow us to significantly reduce our expenses and give us a lot more money to invest.

In Poland, 1 GBP = 5 PLN so the exchange rate is favourable if you earn in GBP but spend in PLN. This move would cut our journey to FIRE in half overnight. However, before we sell our life in London and move to Poland, we are going to test a few months renting to see how we adapt.

 

6) Has this pandemic affected your finances?

Obviously the dip in the market affected our investments, but we are staying the course and we continue to dollar cost average each month!

Since my company goes into football academies and delivers live workshops, that has paused for the moment, due to social distancing. However, the silver lining is that it has given me time to grow other areas of my business.

My partner is still working full time, and she has the ability to work from home, so there has been almost no disruption there (which we are both really thankful for). We have always tried to live on one person’s salary, in case one person lost their job. It would not impact our day-to-day lifestyle (only our savings rate in the short term).
So on a day to day basis, the answer is no it hasn’t made too much difference (very grateful).

 

7) What are your plans after FIRE-ing? Any passion projects you want to work on?

I am not sure exactly what life will look like once we FIRE, although it will involve a lot more sun! Instead of waiting until FIRE-ing, I decided to launch my passion project before achieving FIRE.

My passion project is teaching pro footballers (aka soccer players) to manage their own money and build good habits before they hit the big time.

I have also started working with non-athletes, with a focus on young professionals, to help them master their money and use it as a tool to build their best life. I want to give people a cheat sheet of all the things I have learned and experienced over the past 4 years.

Here’s a glimpse of my youtube channel, where my fiance and I give you tips on how to save money using workouts during the pandemic:

 

8) What were your finances like before and after discovering FIRE?

Before discovering FIRE my finances were in poor shape. I had $15K of debt, no savings or investments, and lived paycheque to paycheque.

I had trouble saving money because I associated the habit with pain. It felt painful to say no to amazing experiences or items I could not afford. On the flip side, I associated spending with pleasure as it always gave me a hit of dopamine. This left me in a vulnerable financial position with no savings to fall back on in case of an emergency.

After “Wedding Gate” and discovering FIRE, it forced me to be a lot more mindful with my money. Once I wrote down my financial goals, and put a plan into action, I started to slowly reverse my bad money habits.

I began associating saving with pleasure as opposed to pain because I could see how it was getting me closer to my dream life. Getting control over my finances opened up more options in my life. I now live by the credo “Money doesn’t buy you happiness, It buys you options”.

 

9) Do you have any advice for those who are in a similar place on their FIRE journey?

For those who are dead set on keeping their head down, grinding away at a job they hate to reach the FIRE finish line, do you!

However, I would advise people who are roughly 40-60% (or closer) towards FIRE, to start making small adjustments to their lifestyle that match up with their ideal FIRE life.

This will do a few things:

1) Test if you are heading towards a life you ACTUALLY want post FIRE, as it may simply look picturesque in your head

2) Avoid what I call the “lightswitch” trap. One minute you are in a 9-5 corporate routine, and the next day you are totally FIRE. This can cause other issues which may negatively impact your transition from working full time to FIRE

3) Gives you space and time to explore how you want the next stage of your life to look and feel

***

Thanks, Patrick! If you want to learn from Patrick more tips and tricks on getting a 6-figure salary and how to go from no savings account to 40% toward FI in just a few years, you can find him on:

Website: www.patrickvenn.com
Instagram: @Patrickvenn
Youtube: Patrick Venn’s channel

What do you think? Have you ever successfully negotiated a big raise at work? How did you do it?

Click for Part 1, Part 2, Part 4


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17 thoughts on “How Has Covid-19 Affected Your FIRE Journey? Part 3”

  1. Loved this article and resonated with many of Patrick’s thoughts on FIRE. Very interesting that there’s a football MBA, only in the UK I suppose haha. My favourite line was “we have decided as a team to take the scenic route as opposed to the autobahn”. Thankfully for us, FIRE has never been about escaping a job we hate, yet because of our high savings rate, we’ve been able to reach FI for our family of 3 in under 10 years. You must design the life you want to live along the way and the journey is part of the overall experience. There are just so many ways to gamify life to boost your savings rate it’s pretty incredible. For us it’s never been grind grind grind… halt!

    1. “You must design the life you want to live along the way and the journey is part of the overall experience.”

      Well said. I agree!

  2. I live within eight miles of the Watergate complex in DC; every time I see “*scandal*gate” it gets a laugh. “Wedding Gate” is one of the best yet. 😀 It’s impressive that you’ve carved out the life you wanted, and fantastic that you and your partner are on the same page. I hope to read a follow-up post down the road — good luck!

  3. Well done Patrick – I lived In Leeds until December and had about an 80% Savings Rate (if you include Mortgage Principal), even paying childcare for two kids. Neither myself or my partner earned close to six figures (actually about 90k GBP combined) and we enjoy many finer things. I’m surprised you haven’t tried moving to Manchester first. I vastly prefer it to London and you could have ramped up your Savings Rate very easily there.

    Having said that, we just relocated to Melbourne (so I am a massive hypocrite), where we did the Math and opted to Rent instead of own (so that 80% has gone way down because our mortgage interest was like 70 GBP and our rent now is like 2100 AUD pcm). That, combined with the fact COL is much higher here generally and salaries are comparable means our time to FI has risen by a year or two. However, we are very content here so far and, like you guys, it is a more enjoyable path to the goal on the FI scenic route.

    1. “I lived In Leeds until December and had about an 80% Savings Rate (if you include Mortgage Principal), even paying childcare for two kids.”

      Wow. Nice work, Cormac. Having travelled to the UK and been subjected to the cost of living there, that’s not an easy feat. So kudos to you!

      How are things in Melborne? Are thing opening back up or still in lockdown?

      1. Things are opening up nicely. It was a strange time to relocate to the other side of the world and it took us a bit longer than anticipated to set ourselves up with income again (we were super close to having to sell stocks to meet living expenses but thankfully we managed to narrowly avoid it).

        The government here were very proactive and took early action and so our total cases are still just over 7k and deaths only just entered triple figures. I think one of the worst things to happen to Australia recently were the fires but interestingly, it had a silver lining – the government were desperately looking to redeem themselves and they definitely did (to a point – some very weird pro-home boner legislation announced in the last week that has gone down very badly across the board). There is a lot of home working happening and I expect that to continue indefinitely. Savings rates are climbing despite record unemployment and people are selling their spare cars. I’m not sure if (thankfully not literal) FIRE is spreading but the population are moving in a very good direction.

  4. Enjoyed hearing your whole story, Patrick, since I only got bits and pieces at Chautauqua. Very interesting! Best of luck! Let us know in how it goes in Poland!

    1. Good to hear from you, Brycia! Hope we can all have a chautauqua reunion soon (assuming things open back up eventually).

  5. As a long time reader of this excellent blog, I must admit to not having even read the current article. Typically, I find myself checking this website several times a week, very much looking forward to the new content. However, isn’t there a more pressing issue taking place in our country at the moment? Does the FIRE movement see “beyond color” and doesn’t feel that we should address racial, social, or economic inequities? Or is it that our community is mainly consistent of white folks who don’t wish to take it on? Apologies to both FIRECracker and Wanderer to use your site to express this, but you were my last hope of using your writing talents to promote the greater message that needs addressing at this time – what our community can do to improve systemic inequities.

    I hope you’ll consider taking a stand and share your unique views on the intersection of FIRE and social justice awareness. We can’t all just be in this for ourselves, can we?

    1. There are blogs, podcasts and IG centered on personal finances and FIRE that are maintained by Black people and PoC, you know – such as wealthovernow, blackmarrieddebtfree and many, many more. You can use google, find their accounts and go and support these people directly – that would be an action and tangible support, which – if you read any messages of Back /PoC activists such as Rachel Cargle – is what actually counts. Why should Firecraker & Wanderer do your work for you?

    2. Rob, only white people can end White Supremecy. I don’t know what your ethnic background is, but mine is super white (like inbred levels of white), and I’m going to use my privilege to let you know that you can not demand that non-white people write an article to make you feel better. They’re autonomous people and get to write about what ever they damn well please. They are not here to teach you about racism if they don’t want to. They don’t have to share any stories about a time when they were discriminated against or how they stood up to racists once if they don’t want to. This is a Fire post on a Fire blog. If you want to read a post about the intersection between the Fire community and social justice then write it your damn self.

      1. Looks like some feathers were ruffled – not intended, at least not in the way I read the responses. Maybe this wasn’t the right venue to express my frustration, so apologies to the hosts. Was just my observation that I don’t see the FIRE movement address current inequities. To be fair, it shouldn’t fall on the shoulders of FIRECracker and Wanderer, but my post was to evoke a response from two writers I respect very much as human beings and professionals. Again, it shouldn’t just fall on them, especially being people of color. If there was an entire FIRE community board, maybe this post would be better suited there.

        I’ll continue to do my research and support businesses addressing systemic inequities, particularly those of color (this site included). In the mean time, feels very disappointing to see most of the FIRE community be silent on major civic and socio-economic issues. Seems to me that a part of our FI needs to lead to REsponsibility to support others and donate or promote the disadvantaged/those oppressed by the current system.

    3. Hi Rob,

      I do agree that systemic inequalities need to be addressed and I invite you to visit the non-profit organization we volunteer for called WeNeedDiverseBooks: https://diversebooks.org/ . If you would like to get involved, this is a great place to offer your support and be part of the conversation.

  6. Love this post. The “awakening” as I had a similar embarrassing moment, the giving back, some geo-arbitrage, the career pivot, and based on feedback from those ahead of you, choosing the scenic route to FIRE.
    In the overall post this is but a small thing, but does anyone know a way to handle the salary negotiation with the recruiter that doesn’t involve inflating your current salary?

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