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One of the biggest criticisms of FIRE is that it only works during bull markets. Before 2020, we’d been in a bull market for the past decade, so of course when FIRE stories hit the media, the response is a derisive snort followed by the inevitable “wait until there’s a recession, all you FIRE people will be eating dog food and living under a bridge!”
Ok, first of all, everyone knows that cat food is WAY cheaper and WAY more nutritious. Duh. And secondly, I’d much prefer the Chinese medical waste heaps of my childhood over a boring old bridge. Can you find heaps of free elastic bands under a bridge? I don’t think so.
So with the covid-19 lockdowns freaking everyone freaking out about the economy, are FIRE devotees screwed?
To find out if FIRE is, in fact, just as resilient in bear markets, I’ve decided to interview people in the FIRE community—those in different parts of their FIRE journey—to see how this pandemic has affected their plans.
First up is Clover from SimplyCloverLiving, a flight attendant who is in the beginning part of her FIRE journey.
Those of you who’ve been following this blog for a while will know that I introduced her in this post:
As someone who doesn’t earn a 6-figure salary, Clover is an inspiration for those who are interested in FIRE but don’t believe they can do it unless they are an engineer or earn a big fat pay-check.
She also learned how to Math Shit Up, and as a result sold her condo to downsize into a room. I wanted to follow up with her to see how that decision has impacted her and what it’s like for a flight attendant right now during this shutdown.
1) At Chautauqua where we met, you mentioned you’d discovered the FIRE movement not long ago. When and how?
I discovered the FIRE movement in January 2018, when I was contemplating on what to do with my condo that I purchased two years prior. I was going to rent it out and go travel the world on my days off from my flight attendant job. After discussing this plan with a friend, she recommended me to check out your blog! Upon mathing shit up, I realized it made more sense to sell it instead of renting it out. I also examined my values and realized I am not the type of person who wants to deal with the headache of being a landlord. That saved me a considerable amount of money, to use towards travelling and increasing my saving rate.
2) What were your personal finances like before discovering FIRE?
Pretty bad! I didn’t really track anything. I went on A LOT of vacations. (Like 7 times a year a lot). Plus, I’m a huge personal development junkie, so purchasing seminars, courses, etc. wouldn’t even make me think twice! I’d still saved about 15% of my paycheque to invest in robo-advisors, but other than that, I had very little knowledge in anything personal finance related. I owned my condo and lived there alone at the time.
3) What do your personal finances look like now?
Before the whole lockdown situation, I’d travelled 5 times a year and still have a 40% saving rate. I am a lot more mindful of how I spend my money. I focus on splurging on experiences that give me the most value, instead of buying materials that don’t ultimately give me long-lasting satisfaction. Plus, I only live in a room and travel with a carry-on backpack, I’ve got no room for stuff!
However, I am currently on hiatus from work, but receive government subsidies. But due to my dramatic drop in expense, with nowhere to go, I still have a 50% saving rate. I’m still investing until I can’t. I’m also completely debt-free. Not even credit card or car loan. I also have one year of emergency funds saved up. This will tide me over to almost January 2022.
The equity from my condo is completely invested into index funds.
4) You mentioned that our investment workshop changed the way to see investing and how you invest. Can you tell us a bit about that?
I was very intimidated by personal finance and investing. All these “smart-looking” people throwing out jargon sounded so confusing. Math was pretty much my worst subject. I was going to study Science but ended up doing Kinesiology just to avoid Math! This is how much I shy away from it. After investigating further into your investment workshop, I found it actually quite simple to follow. It is really empowering to take matters in my own hands and not get screwed by banks and advisors. Also understanding your finance as a woman is crucial for peace of mind that you got your own back, no matter what happens.
5) How are you coping with the economic shutdown? Has your job been impacted?
I was supposed to be 12 years away from my FI number, but with the current uncertain times, that might be delayed. Like I said previously, I am temporarily on hiatus from work, and I might be potentially laid off. But thank goodness that I discovered FIRE and your blog. Since I have enough emergency funds, I have time to pursue my passion on the side without having to worry about income. Not to say that I’m not stressed about the whole thing. Not having income is still a scary feeling!
I am currently working on my youtube channel called Unconventional Asians.
Since my passion is self-development and vulnerability, it will be based on interviewing Asians who live an unconventional life, to show how they overcome their struggles and openly talk about the taboo topics that we usually shove under the rug. Of course, Kristy and Bryce will also be on the show. By the time you read this article, their interview will be up on the channel, to talk about how to invest during this scary time.
Working on my project really gave me a sense of purpose. That made all the difference. Time also flies by a lot quicker. I’m also picking up a lot of skills along the way.
6) What would your personal finances look like now if you had never discovered the FIRE movement?
If I have kept my condo, I better pray that I’d have a good tenant! Otherwise, I’d be living in that condo and be net negative. The payment of the condo alone is the entire amount of the subsidy! Selling it would also be difficult at this time, so I’d be pretty much in trouble!
7) What are your FIRE plans going forward?
Since not having an income is still quite uncomfortable for me, I might have to look for a remote job that allows me to pick up more skills in my field of passion. I want a remote job because I still want to travel and live in different parts of the world. I might lose my travel privilege after one year, but it’s time to learn credit card hacking!
Otherwise, I will see how well Unconventional Asians does and hopefully turn it into a business one day.
8) Do you have any advice for those who are coping with the economic shutdown?
If you are affected by this economic shutdown, my heart goes out to you. I know it’s a very difficult time to navigate. There are so many unknowns and almost every part of our lives is impacted.
As much as we talked about being productive and learning something new. I want to also acknowledge that things ARE hard and it’s OK to take time to process those emotions.
Strangely enough, the lessons and experiences I have learned since my divorce 6 years ago also prepared me for this, because it’s usually in crisis that we deeply reflect on the inner workings of our lives and adjust accordingly. When we completely overhaul our lives and look back at this time, it MIGHT just as well be a blessing in disguise.
Stay safe out there everyone!
Thanks, Clover! It’s incredible that she’s still able to save 50% of the government subsidy even though she’s on job hiatus. Not only that she has a full year of emergency living expenses. Well done. Hopefully all this will blow over soon and she won’t have to worry about a lay off. That’s a tough situation to be in.
If you want to know more about how to cope with financial stress during covid-19, read her perspective here.
Also, if you’re an Unconventional Asian and want to learn about others, who break the mold, subscribe to her channel now.
Stay tuned for our interview of a FIRE couple who are in the middle of their FIRE journey to see how covid has impacted them.
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