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Does FIRE still work in a bear market? To find out, I’m interviewing people on different parts of their FIRE journey in our community.
Today, I want to introduce you to Julien and Kiersten from the “Rich and Regular” blog . Julien works in digital and brand marketing while Kiersten was in partnership marketing and business development before leaving to become an entrepreneur.
For those of you who’ve seen the Playing with FIRE documentary, you’ll recognize them talking about how much consumerism hurts people. And they would know, having dug themselves out of $200K of debt to work towards financial independence, all while raising a child!
And guess what else? I recently found out that we’re also pub-siblings! They’re writing a book that will be published by Penguin Random House in the near future! I can’t wait to read it.
For those of you who love videos, Julien and Kiersten have recently started a Youtube channel called “Money on the Table” that combines their two favourite favourite things, money and food (side note: Julien went to culinary school and worked as a professional chef until 2005!). If you want to learn about finances while drooling over delicious food, click here to subscribe!
I reached out to find out whether the pandemic has affected their FIRE plans and here’s what they said:
Your blog title “Rich and Regular” and this segment on Marketwatch called ” Why this couple believes FIRE will create more black millionaires” shows how important you think representation is in the FIRE space.
1) Can you tell us what inspired your blog name and why representation matters? Also, given your background, are there additional challenges you face on your path to FIRE that you wish other people who aren’t from that background knew about?
This is a big question! The name itself is a riff from a classic scene from the movie Coming to America. There’s a scene where the God awful band [Sexual Chocolate] is performing and one of the main characters claps and says “that boy good”! In response, another character says sarcastically “good and terrible”. We understand that many of our friends, family and followers want to be rich but tend to couple being rich with being famous. So by calling ourselves “rich and REGULAR” we emphasize that you don’t have to be rich and famous. Simply put, we’re trying to make being rich more relatable.
Similarly, we understand the role representation plays in shaping what people believe is possible. If one person you can identify with has wandered into unknown territory, you’re more likely to believe you can walk into the unknown and survive. But if nobody like you has ever done it, it’s easy to assume you can’t do it either.
There are countless challenges Black people face on the path to FIRE but the one few people tend to consider is that the Gen X and Millennial generation is far more likely to have to support three generations with their income. Many of our parents have little, if any, retirement savings. Our parent’s generation are the product of Jim Crow, segregation and severe workplace bias so it was all but impossible to “get ahead”. Rather, survival was the primary objective and the hope for progress was placed on the shoulders of the next [our] generation. Now, we [our generation] have to fund our own lifestyle, retirement and consider the needs of our children. In part, this is what drives and drains us.
2) How far along are you on your FIRE journey? (please provide %)
Well, assuming we don’t have to financially support a parent, we’re about 70% of the way to our goal. It’s important to note that we don’t plan to stop earning money once we hit our number though, so we don’t pay nearly as much attention to it as many others in the FIRE community.
3) How did you discover FIRE?
I [Julien] discovered it first around ’07/’08 while attending grad school. I was looking for ways to build supplemental income and knew the economic downturn presented great real estate investment opportunities. Real estate [via Bigger Pockets] lead me to Financial Independence and the FI community lead me to entrepreneurship and digital entrepreneurship.
4) What I find fascinating about your story is that between 2013 and 2018, you paid off $200K in debt and are now well on your way to achieving your $1.3 Million FI number. How did you get into this much debt and what was your strategy in paying it off?
I don’t’ find our story to be fascinating at all. LOL. The debt was from credit cards, tax debt, car notes, student loans and a mortgage on a home. The credit cards were mostly Kiersten’s efforts and the tax debt was from my years of waiting tables and actually being honest about my tips. We both had car notes and I had student loans from undergrad. There wasn’t much of a strategy to paying them off besides building a budget and getting really aggressive about kicking debt’s ass. Every two weeks, we’d receive our paycheck on a Thursday and by close of business on Friday, we’d have already sent it off. Also, whenever there was a bonus check, we’d treat ourselves a little bit and use the rest to pay off debt.
5) What are your plans after FIRE-ring?
Immediately after, we’ll probably just take a nice vacation but it all depends on where we are in our life and what pushes us over the edge. Again, we have no intentions of completely not working or completely earning no income . If we had to guess, we probably have another five years of “work” left in us. After that, we’ll travel with our son and do our part to support social/community causes we’re passionate about.
6) Your strategy to get to FI is via real-estate investing. You mention this post that you’re selling one of your rental properties and plan to “hold more cash and pad our brokerage accounts without the worry and complication of being property owners,” and in the future you’d be “more interested in commercial than residential.” Can you tell us why?
Correction. Our strategy to get to FI WAS via real estate investing. It was good while it lasted (2014-2020) but was far too much work for little return. If you’ve ever earned a dollar on the internet, then you know how easy and seamless it can be. Even though we had a management company, real estate was a huge time-drain, capital intensive and overly complicated. Now, it’s fair to say our path to FI will be through entrepreneurship. To us, it’s far easier to drive traffic to a website than it is to raise rent or a property’s value so we opted to sell and haven’t looked back. Furthermore, if we had an extra hour in our day, we’d rather spend it exploring new fintech, developing new creative or working with a brand to improve their marketing efforts. That’s far more energizing than learning about probate, tax liens or tenant laws.
7) Has the pandemic affected your finances?
Well, we’ve definitely adjusted our original investing plan. Notably, we’ve decided to hold onto significantly more cash and to spend more to invest in our business. Besides that, like every other couple, we’re cooking more at home, driving less and trying not to kill each other.
8) What do your parents/family members think about your FIRE plans?
That’s a loaded question if I’ve ever heard one. To be fair, they’re proud AF but they don’t get it. Both of our Dad’s are financially savvy but they’ve built their lives around a traditional work environment so our lifestyle seems odd to them. Kiersten’s Mom hears little bits and pieces every now and then but just wants me [Julien] to get a new car. She can’t wrap her head around why I would choose to drive a beat up Accord. My Mom gets it but she’s more interested in our business growing. She will be completely reliant on us soon so the better we do, the more secure she’ll feel about this zany life we’re living.
9) Do you think it’s possible to become Financial Independent if you have kids? How has the journey to FI been like with a child?
Of course it is. I think part of the reason people can’t wrap their heads around it is because so much of the conversation is rooted in saving and frugality. Living a frugal life with kids can seem impossible, especially if you live in a high cost of living area or have more than one child. Again, when the conversation shifts to focusing on income, it’s a matter of hitting a top-line goal. If you have a higher standard of living, then that top-line is higher but if your business is scalable (such as an online business), it’s not impossible. The journey to FI with our son has been amazing. He inspires us every day and makes us want to live a financially independent life so we can show him the world he’s only seen on television.
10) You mentioned your current monthly expense is $5183/month and you drive two older cars but that wasn’t always the case. What were your finances like before and after discovering FIRE?
There really hasn’t been much of a change in terms of expenses. We eat in more and shop a lot less. What’s changed the most has been our approach to investing and earning. We’re far more involved these days, we self-manage our portfolio and we actually understand the funds we invest in. In terms of income, we’re both entrepreneurs now and focus our energy on building income streams that are scalable, aligned with our values and skill sets.
11) Do you have any advice for those who are in a similar place on their FIRE journey(s)?
Yes, if frugality isn’t your cup of tea, that doesn’t mean FI isn’t for you. Also, if you really believe you’re the creative, problem-solving visionary blah blah blah you say you are on your Linkedin profile, you should consider starting a business and charging more for your services.
What do you think? Are you inspired by Julien and Kiersten’s FIRE journey? What’s your biggest challenge on your way to becoming financially independent?
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