As a flight attendant, there are no two things more important than your base and your seniority. The base becomes your home and your seniority gives you access to the best trips and vacation weeks possible. For a few years now, my seniority in Chicago has been stagnant due to the droves of flight attendants jumping ship from MDW (Chicago Midway Airport) in favor of the DEN base. To add insult to injury, DEN has been voted Best Base 4 years running (dethroning MDW from our own winner’s streak) and has quickly become the more junior base. What does that mean for me? My decent seniority in MDW would be muuuuch better if I too took the DEN bait. Hmmmm… In early July, I decided to jump a flight to Denver to see what all the hullabaloo was about. Maybe I too would jump ship.
Let me start by saying, I love the mountains and all the fresh water lakes that they create. I also love the outdoorsy life and all it has to offer including the fresh air, camping, hiking, kayaking, swimming. With the exception of skiing (grace is not a word best used to describe me), I love it all! The closest I ever got to that type of lifestyle was when I worked in the ski shop at a resort in Ashland, OR. Being surrounded by the mountains and their constant unrelenting beauty, made me feel alive. In that regard, Denver didn’t disappoint…
After a few days I decided that as much as I loved Denver and all it has to offer (and despite the urging of my DEN friends), I have no plans to move at this juncture. 🙂 Instead, I made a mental tally of the things I liked (Happy Hour, dog friendliness, mountains, outdoorsy peeps) and didn’t like (altitude sickness, cost of living, car dependency) in the event I decide to revisit the DEN base idea in the future. But don’t worry, folks, this trip was not for nothing. I’m happy to report I did accomplish something while I was away…
While visiting, I had the pleasure of staying with my dear friend, Anita. I spoke about Anita in my last post, how we met through a volunteer trip in Thailand, but I failed to mention we are the SAME EXACT person…minus the fact I am 10 years her senior. Up until now, our lives have followed similar paths including adventures in real estate, travel, and flight attending. While both of us have no children, we are both dating men in their mid 40’s with teenagers (I happen to live with mine, she doesn’t). We are both entrepreneurs in various outlets and love to create new streams of income. We don’t eat meat, though she is vegan and I a pescatarian. We both relate to our spiritual sides more than religious. She has solo traveled all over the world, as have I. She cranes her head out the window to yell at people riding in horse-drawn carriages on a sweltering city street (witnessed by my own eyes in Golden, CO) and I yell at people who leave their dogs unattended in hot cars. We both love animals, after all. 😉
Oh, and we are both complete dorks. But that’s beside the point.
During my stay, I was able to catch a small glimpse of Anita’s life in Denver and, even more fascinating to me, her overall spending habits. This is where I discovered one glaring difference between us. She is a spender, ya’ll. Each day we toured around Denver checking out the sites in her lovely (and new) SUV. We visited the fabulous home she was due to close on a week later. Within her current apartment dwelling, I was privy to even more of her fancy lavish lifestyle!! Plump, bright organic produce stocked in her fridge, cabinets chock full of vegan delights, and her brand new Vitamix gleaming from the countertop. The apartment as a whole was super cute (her dog being THE cutest); the bookcase chock full of spiritual meditations, travel guides, and reminders of awesome trips from the past. The bathroom had countless delicious smelling cruelty free/ animal free products to bath and swath yourself in. I saw shockingly similar spending patterns to those that I once had. To stay at Anita’s was like going back in time. All at once it clicked, THIS LIFE WAS MINE a mere 5 years ago!
Now, I say none of this to shame or to hate on my girl. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a consumerist lifestyle (or awesome smelling shampoo!). It’s “normal”. But knowing a more fulfilling lifestyle exists, knowing what Anita’s potential could be, I want a better future for my girl. Instead of hating, I’m telling these inner secrets of my good friend’s world only to explain the next part of her story…
A few days before my trip, I was invited to a meet up in the Denver area by a fellow FIRE blogger (Hi, Carl!). I accepted with hesitation because I didn’t know what Anita had already planned and I figured it would be a tough sell to someone who has no knowledge of my “other” life…you know, my personal-finance-blogging-financial-independence-seeking life. I had anticipated the awkward “why would we want to drive an hour North to meet people I have never met before and only know through some weird financial websites?” questioning, so when she said it was an hour drive North I dropped the topic like a big ole scaredy cat and moved on. Mind you, I am sure had I pressed she would have been game because she didn’t exactly say those words about the weirdo financial sites. Instead, I filled in the blanks to “It’s an hour North” the way I would have had I been her. The end result, we didn’t make it to the meetup.
Rather than attending the meetup, we found a more neutral way to enjoy our day – eating at an awesome vegan restaurant, checking out a local dog adoption event, and chillin’ in Golden at a brewery that was out of Coors Lite (seriously, the plant is across the street!). Our conversation over the next two days ran the gamut with everything from our current lives and where they are heading. Beyond any future travel plans, at some point, I sprinkled in the fact that I was due to retire in a few years. Anita, understandably, was shocked by the notion. We have the same job, after all (though, to be fair, my current hourly wage is nearly double hers). This bomb I dropped brought us back around to my previous thought regarding the meetup – Why would I want to meet a bunch of people I have never met before and only know through some weird financial websites? The answer? Because they are my tribe. They represent my new life. My future life. They are the people who understand that paying $10 (update – she only pays $6.99! 😉 Chicago is making a killing in mark up!) for the vegan equivalent of 12 eggs without any thought is what was once standing between me and financial freedom…hello, avocado toast! #NoJudgementUnlessYouWantFI
In all the conversation that followed, I explained what I had been up to, how I was accomplishing it, and what my plans were for after. Anita was clearly intrigued and asked for more info. I told her how I started my FI (financial independence) journey, who had been instrumental in getting me here, and why this community is so important to me.* By the time I was being dropped off at the airport, she was asking for a list of resources to get her started. I sent her a slew of posts from all the greats, podcasts I listen to regularly, and a couple ideas about our work retirement plan. The FIRE had been ignited, my friends.
A few days later I got a call from Anita. She had read through the resources I sent her, had clicked on ALL the links each post had embedded and had fully succumb to the rabbit hole of FIRE (a common acronym for the Financial Independence / Early Retirement movement). She wanted more! She asked what to do about her car, what to do about the house, and what to do about the boyfriend (something I too have struggled with – t is super difficult (though not impossible) to be FIRE’d up and try to get your partner on board). She had every single question and inclination that I had when I first started reading about financial independence, including why didn’t I know about this sooner?? The good news for Anita? She learned 10 years before I did. Now she has the time to put her financial life in place and retire years before the age the I will.
Congrats, my friend! You’re the newest member of the FIRE Seeking Tribe! 🙂
I recently asked Anita what she has learned in the past few weeks and what steps, if any, she has taken in her new pursuit of FIRE. Her response floored me:
- Anita started using YNAB (You Need a Budget) for her budget spreadsheet. She said it “has already helped me tremendously to get a clear picture of my spending and make sure every dollar has a job”. LOVE!!
- She is more conscientious when going out to eat and no longer orders appetizers as well as a meal (Did I mention we both eat, A LOT?). BONUS – saving on calories while saving dollars!
- She is weighing the decision between paying off real estate and buying more (Mental note – introduce her to Paula Pant next!).
- Instead of hiring someone to do the dirty work, her boyfriend is doing much of the repairs on her new house though I’m guessing she is paying for it in some way… 😉 (I’ve met Mike – he’s cute AND has muscles!!)
- She is using coupons for every new purchase and is being careful not to spend on unnecessary items. Her example? She saved money by not buying a fly swatter and instead is using a vacuum to suck them up. BONUS – This whole thing has helped her to think of energy costs as she also mentioned it may be cheaper for the swatter in the end! Another example? She is getting $14 in rebates back for buying 6 packages of Gardein (fake meat). “They keep in the freezer forever!”
- She stopped taking the expensive toll road between her house and Mike’s.
- She got a second wind and restarted her Amazon business side hustle. Woot woot!!
- She is looking into our companies 401k options and what changes she has to make. (I’ll be helping her with this shortly)
- Anita also added that her mentality has shifted to ask herself, “How can I get what I want for free? If not free, then for as little money as possible.”
- Dammit if she didn’t give me a 10th – I love even numbers!! 😦
A-mazing, am I right?? Anita turned her spendy life around in a matter of weeks by recognizing her budget weaknesses and creating new habits. But no one is without flaws. In the past two weeks, she has also:
- Bought 750 thread count sheets for her new pad.
- Bought more vegan eggs!!
The sheets are totally justified. As flight attendants, we work at a job where we sleep in random beds (usually alone – ba dum bump 😉 ) for several days a week. Our home beds are our sanctuary and totally worth splurging on. The vegan eggs? Well, certainly not a choice I would make but food spending is a tough habit to break, at least it was for me. I used to spend a TON of money on food! Mostly organic and small batch bullshit. That isn’t to say I don’t still want those things, I do, but I want my freedom more. One thing I’ve learned from this journey is that you can’t completely deprive yourself. Give yourself wiggle room for a few luxuries. Mine is travel. Anita’s is groceries (and travel)! She may come around on that, or maybe not. If not, I will at least have some yummy vegan eggs the next time I visit. 🙂
Take What You Want And Leave the Rest
The road to FI is a long one and full of surprising tidbits that you learn about yourself. How you spend, why you spend, and at what cost you are willing to pay for things that are really important to you. Do you value your time? Relationships? Social life? Hobbies? Vegan eggs? How much do those things really cost you? How many hours do you need to work to continue your life at its current level? Is it worth it? Are you getting back what you put in? Could you be doing something different? All these questions can be answered differently at different times. A year ago I may have answered completely different from how I would today. Again, the road to FI is long and winding.
I have often said I am happy that I found the idea of financial independence well into my 30’s. I enjoyed the shit out of my younger years, making all sorts of mistakes financial and otherwise. But all those mistakes add up to a plethora of experiences to draw from and that is something I will never regret.
One other thing, I used to HATE talking about myself and the “what are you up to” type conversations. In the past few years all that has changed. The greatest joy I now have is sharing my stories and experiences, the good the bad and the ugly, and hoping someone learn from them. I relish the moment someone turns to me and asks “what are you up to” – it gives me an in to test the waters. Are they being polite or are they truly interested? Once you drop the early retirement bomb you are sure to find out!
Special thanks to Anita, for letting me share my stories with her and for letting me share her story with others. THIS is how our tribe will continue to grow and thrive. 🙂
** Have you turned anyone on to FIRE lately? Have you tried to get a spouse or partner on board (Anita could use some help with that!)? **
Until next time…