We have started a new interview series to highlight Families Who FIRE.
Hearing the stories of others who FIRE got us excited and motivated us to work hard to meet our financial goals.
One question that we often see is “Is it possible to FIRE with kids?” The answer is YES!
Having kids does not change the end goal. You may have to budget differently, make lifestyle changes, and have different investments to meet your family’s needs but it is definitely possible.
We are really excited to introduce you to our first family. So read on to learn all about how this family of 5 has made lifestyle changes, including moving into an RV, and organized their finances in order to work towards their goal of FIRE.
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Meet Mr. & Mrs. CampFIRE:
Mr. & Mrs. CampFIRE are a couple in their early 30’s (34 yrs and 31 yrs). They have three children – 5 yr old, 2 yr old, and a 7 month old.
The CampFIRE’s live in Southern California where they live full time in an RV. They have 5 years left in the military, at which time they plan on reaching FIRE.
The CampFIRE family loves to travel and have been to over 35 countries. Their oldest has been to Peru, Australia, and New Zealand. In the future they plan on road schooling and world schooling in order to continue with their passion to travel.
What are your occupations and income level?
Mrs: I am a stay at home mom so we are a single income family.
Mr: I’ve got about 15 years in the military, and at this point I bring in just under 6 figures. We’ll retire in 5 years under the High 3 pension plan, which gives a huge boost to our FIRE efforts.
Receiving an inflation adjusted pension can be enough to cut what you need for FIRE in half, so we’re really grateful for it.
When Did You Start Your FIRE Journey?
Mr: We didn’t really discover FIRE until 2 years ago, and we’ve been really aggressive about it since then.
Up to that point it was a lot of haphazard financial decision making for us. Thank god we’ve always been pretty good savers, and generally avoided debt. It left us at a good enough starting point to line up our FIRE date with our military retirement date, even though we got a late start.
What Motivated You To Start?
Mrs: Having my husband in the military has really made us value our time together and FIRE is really giving us the best return on our investment, which is twenty years of work for a lifetime of freedom.
Mr: Mrs CampFIRE was the one that found out about FIRE. Everyone I know goes into a second career after their 20 years in the military, so when she said she had found a way for us not to, I was the worst kind of skeptic.
One way she slowly brought me on board was by getting me to agree to keep my personal spending at $400 a month. That was sort of my allowance, which allowed her to be super detailed with the rest of the budget, even if I didn’t want to track all of my purchases.
Now I’m all about it and I spend less than $100 a month.
What strategies do you use to reach your goal of financial independence?
Mrs: House hacking by living in an RV full time, tracking and lowering all of our expenses, and continuing to invest monthly in index funds.
Mr: We’ve kind of split the responsibilities as a FIRE team, with Mrs. CampFIRE taking care of the budget and me dealing with the investments. This works really well if there are two of you.
It sounds like moving into an RV and budgeting have been a huge part of your success to save more money. How much would you say are your monthly expenses? And what method of budgeting do you use?
Mrs: It is! We live in a high cost of living area so it would be hard to save if we lived in a house and weren’t careful with our discretionary expenses. My goal every month is to have our expenses under $3k.
We bounce around to different parks so our rent is never the same. For budgeting I keep it really simple. I use an excel spreadsheet and write out our normal bills then have two categories for food and miscellaneous. Those two are updated every two weeks and can change to keep us under the $3k mark.
Mr: She is the budget master, so I’ll just add something about the RV.
We’ve met a lot of people doing this full-time and a surprising amount of them tell us that they aren’t really saving any money. So you have to have a good plan going in, if you want to RV for FIRE.
The best way to beat depreciation is to buy one that has already depreciated. Buy used.
There are a lot of sneaky transition costs, so make sure you’re committing to a long enough time period to actually benefit from the rent savings over time. And once again, it’s a rapidly depreciating asset so don’t finance it!
Are there any particular blogs, podcasts, books, etc, that you have found helpful and inspirational to help you reach FIRE?
Mr: Same favorites as the Mrs. I think the best sort of all-inclusive investment book I’ve read so far was The 4 Pillars of Investing. A Random Walk Down Wall St is also a good read, if you’re new to the stock market.
When do you expect to reach FIRE?
Do you plan on retiring when you reach FI? If so, how do you plan on spending your time?
Mrs: Yes and no. We don’t plan on keeping a traditional job after retirement from the military.
We have some interests we would like to pursue but most importantly we will be focusing on traveling and world schooling our kids.
Mr: I’d say we are more about the FI than the RE. To me the whole point is freedom.
If we are going to do anything to make money, it’s going to be by choice, not because we need to make ends meet.
What has been the most challenging part of your journey?
Mrs: Enjoying the journey. I can get hyper focused on a goal and it’s hard to relax and enjoy the day to day.
Mr: I think for me it was the transition into the RV. We just didn’t know what we were doing, and we made it so much harder than it needed to be.
Now we try to provide as much information as we can for others, on our blog. Since we got it down it’s been really easy, and we don’t see ourselves giving it up anytime soon.
What advice would you give to other families who are trying to reach FIRE
Mrs: Have a plan and stick to it but also have a back up plan. That way you can be flexible when life happens.
Also, if you are doing this with a partner then make sure your goals are aligned. You can keep each other accountable if you are in this together.
Mr: Don’t gloss over your reasons for doing it.
Spend a lot of time talking to each other about why it’s worth it, and what actually being financially independent will mean for your family. When life does happen, these shared values are what will keep you on track.
If you would like to connect with The CampFIRE family, learn the ins and outs of RV living and continue to follow them on their journey to financial independence, you can check out their blog or connect with them on Facebook.
Hope you enjoyed the first Families Who FIRE interview – we look forward to sharing more inspirational stories with you!