021. Quit Like A Millionaire with Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung
This week on the show I am joined by Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung. They are bloggers, and the founders of Millennial Revolution and the authors of Quit Like a Millionaire. Kristy and Bryce are Financially Independent (FI) and are active members of the FI community.
00:00 What’s going on everybody? My name is Ben Trela and this is Taste for Tenacity. This week on the show I am joined by Kristy Shan and Bryce Liam. They are bloggers, and the founders of Millennial Revolution and the authors of Quit Like a Millionaire. Kristy. Bryce, welcome to the show.
00:28 Hi, thanks so much for having us.
00:30 Cool. Very excited to talk a bit more about personal finance and financial independence in particular. And you had a couple of really cool stories that I wanted to make sure to share. So let’s kind of dive right into it. What was your story sort of like did you go the college route and what really sort of led you toward the direction you chose
00:52 For sure. Okay. So when we started, we were living in Toronto in a very expensive housing market and I was Kinda following the status quo. You know, the thing that our boomer parents, like everybody says, you have to get your degree and you got to buy the house and then you work until you’re 65, you got a good job and then maybe retire with a pension. That’s kind of the good life that everybody subscribes to. What we were doing, except we were trying to buy house and then houses were over a million dollars for the single family home. Oh, that’s great. Yeah. So I was like, you know what, this, this is really make any sense. And on top of that, that whole idea that we can just have one job and work until you’re 65 and retire. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know a lot of people that can just work one job and then get a pension at 65.
01:37 And what was happening with where I was working, so I was working as a computer engineer was that there were people getting laid off from the company and they were doing a lot of outsourcing. So job security was definitely something that I was struggling with. And I think that’s something that our generation as millennials definitely struggled with a lot more than the previous generation. So, you know, with those two things that we’ve been told, you got to buy the house and you got to work until you’re 65 not quite working out the way that we’ve been told. At that point we started to think, so, you know, this is about six years into our working careers, we started thinking about do we really want to follow this path? Like maybe this is a path that worked for our parents, you know, 20, 30 years ago, but it just clearly doesn’t work anymore. So that’s when we started looking into investing in the stock market, doing index investing. We started discovering blogs like Mr Money Mustache and JL Collins, which talks about something called financial independence. It’s the idea that if you build a portfolio big enough you can safely withdraw 4% from that portfolio and it will last you for the rest of your life. So at that point,
02:49 Which means your money will come from the portfolio to cover your expenses and you don’t have to work again. So the first time I discovered this financial independence, I thought it was, which witchcraft? Aft I was very suspicious. Yeah. Oh yeah, she was so like, she was like, yeah, I was like, yeah, exactly. So I mean, having grown up in China, cause I wasn’t actually born in the West, I, I’ve grown up in China until I was eight and then immigrated to Canada. My first instinct was thinking like, there’s no way this is possible. I mean, what you’re supposed to do is put your money in a house, which was really safe, or you put it into a savings account. And then it wasn’t until I started learning about investing that, oh, putting money into a savings account is actually not very safe because your money is being eroded by inflation.
03:30 So then the more I learned about investing and the more I learned about financial independence and having all sorts of job insecurity at work and then my work is getting really stressful that when Bryce for showed me the math that says we could actually retire if we go down this financial independence path in the next three to five years. I started to kind of come more like down that path and thinking maybe this is possible. And then as we saved more money towards financial independence because I actually had a goal we actually did end up retiring just three years after we discovered financial independence in 2015 and we have been traveling the world for the last four years, which I imagine is not a bad life at all. Definitely no. Okay,
04:15 Where am I going to be flying to Portugal and an f that Doug will end. And after that, like, who knows where, because our life is completely nomadic now because after we decided to just ditch the whole like workload thing, we decided to do like a trip around the world, just like as a victory lap. Yeah. And what we’ve discovered is that what if you travel like a local in, in other words, not staying in hotels, staying in airbnbs instead of renting local, like renting full full like housing stock and this kind of stuff and cooking and like, it’s just like living normally. Yeah. The cost of traveling the world can be less expensive than the cost of staying in one place in an expensive city like Toronto or New York or La. So we realize that we were like, hey, we could do this forever. And then we just [inaudible]
04:57 And then we just did. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So, so you come out of college and you get into computer programming what was that shift like for you? How did, how did things go going from, you know, a very almost education focus life into now being a part of the workforce? What was that shift like? Oh, okay. So my pick for computer engineering was actually a strategic pick. So originally I actually wanted to be an author. But you know, having grown up poor in China, I couldn’t actually just take the risk that it was gonna work out cause I’ll just move back in with my parents. No I would probably drive them down financially because at that point they were still sending money back home to support. So I had to be really careful about picking a career at that point. And so picking computer engineering was actually going against, you know that, that advice from Steve Jobs, which is like you will follow your passion and then you know, it all all work out and the money will come.
05:52 Well you know, it really depends on what your passion is because for him he already interested in computers. That’s a lucrative path. It’s like being an author. And then as I later found out working as a computer engineer and then writing on the side, I found out that authors make on average $5,000 a year, which is pretty close to like how much I was making on the side. So I thought, you know, there’s no way I’m going to be able to do this full time. So I was actually quite grateful that I actually picked computer engineering, which is why in the book there’s a chapter we talk about, I used a metric I created called the pay over tuition score or the pot score which allows you to figure out what is the return on your investment. Because if you get into a lot of debt to get a degree that doesn’t give you a job.
06:37 Is that money well spent? Do you really want to be locked in? You know, get for many, many years and never being able to get ahead financially. So I, I do not regret that decision to not follow my passion. And then, but you know, the idea that we could just have one job with that passion, like doing that even strategically doesn’t make sense. So I think a combination of picking that strategic career, which was a good return on investment plus using that to become financially independent because you are being paid quite well as a lucrative career allowed us to actually allowed me to actually follow my passion afterwards cause I did actually become an author. So after we retired an editor from penguin contacted us to write a book and that’s quit like a millionaire. So as a result, you know, it’s Kinda like don’t follow your passion and then buy it back later, which is what to do. Yeah.
07:29 Yeah. And that’s a good shift because there’s sort of two ways to do it. You know, like you said, you get a strategic, straightforward job now that you can use to essentially build out your portfolio and then live off of that. So you’re, you’re delaying pursuing your passion, but it’s still within your realm and it’s still within the plan
07:47 For sure. Yeah. But the thing is, it can happen in parallel. I’m like, well, we were a while, we were working both workings computer engineers. She was writing on the side and I, and I joined it and I realized that I actually kind of enjoyed this as well. So we, you’re actually writing, so if you’re working for a total of about nine years, I’ll be writing and learning how to become an [inaudible], become a writer for the last five of those nine years. So maybe half of our crew were actually working two jobs. We would go to work and then we would, you know, do our normal day job and, and, and you know, do as well as we could at that and come home. And every evening and weekends we would write like a, like a maniac. And we went like, and the thing is, the thing that people don’t get about following a passion is it takes time to build up the skills in order to actually make it commercially in that, in that, I mean like when we are in, we are in university. It took us four years to just in school to learn enough to be, to be employable in that field. But it was about the same amount of time for writing. We went through like three manuscripts of like fiction books that we just wrote, wrote, wrote, and then just threw away because they weren’t good enough.
08:48 Yeah. 75 rejections. That’s not fun.
08:51 Yeah. Yeah. We were getting, we would, we were trying to get published at the time. He knows that was probably the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do. And that includes all of engineering, all that kind of stuff. Because it’s like, because when you get like a rejection from an from the agent or from the coaching industry, they don’t tell you what’s wrong with it and have to actually write the entire manuscript before you pitch it. So, okay. So it’s, it’s actually a very, very long, arduous, frustrating loop of rejection and then guessing and what went wrong and then doing it again and then rejection. And so, yeah, it was, it was probably one of the least fun.
09:21 Well, but it’s worth it. It’s worth it. Yeah. But somebody has to pay the bills while you’re developing those skills. Yeah. Yeah. So really your approach was more focused on having that safe, stable income. Because you were in, you did have such a tumultuous experience growing up and you, you had a lot of challenges and uncertainties throughout your, your development. Right. And that’s one of the reasons why I became financially independent because people say, oh, is it because you hated your job? Like what if you had just liked your job? I’m like, well, it’s because I grew up poor and I never ever wanted to be poor again. I don’t want that financial security. And there’s actually, sorry, financial insecurity. I wanted financial security for the rest of my life and that’s one of the reasons I became financially independent. So you used it essentially to leverage and say, Hey, I’m gonna build that skillset while working in a regular job, pay the bills.
10:15 But you’re also already pursuing your passion in a way to where once you’re done in, once you reached that fine number. Yup. Then you can double down on what you actually enjoy doing and where you want to go instead of the standard path. Yeah, exactly. So that’s why we call it the most reproducible path because if someone like me who grew up in rural China, and at one point had to live on 44 cents a day, could get to becoming a millionaire by following this mathematically proven path, then like a lot of people will be able to reproduce it versus other paths you might be shooting for the moon. But that requires a lot of luck and timing. Whereas this one it, it really is kind of a strategic skill that you’ve developed. And then you use that to actually follow this path and get to becoming financially independent.
10:59 Right? Cause then that’s the thing about the last thing about passion kind of projects. Now again, not all of them, if your passion is going to be an investment banker, you’re good, but a lot of like arts and and a lot of like even entrepreneurial stuff, the income doesn’t come right away and the incomes also uneven. So that’s something that is even now as a, even now that our block is making money, it’s like if you average it at the end of their, you add it all up and just kind of like, okay, that’s great, but the thing is like some months it’d be like, like, like you know, two or $3,000 at once. Very volatile, very volatile SUNY moment title. And I realized that if I want to live off of, if I was doing that full time as a way to like pay my rent.
11:38 Yeah. Yeah. Because because our portfolio is creating this passive and steady income stream that just comes out of it every year. It’s, it actually solves one, like financial independence actually solves one of the biggest problems. A bunch of scenarios show, which is how do you live off of an unsteady, volatile income? And the answer is you don’t, you live off of, you create a steady, it’s almost like building your own pension. Yeah. Great. Steady income yourself and then that’ll, that gives you the freedom and the freedom and the safety net to allow you to really go for the, for the moonshots in this kind of stuff. You would never have done any of this book stuff. If we were, we would never have lasted long enough in this, in this writing field if we hadn’t depended on it for for food. We wouldn’t run out of, we don’t run out of money. We would have had to quit. Maybe that’s just the, that’s just the thing of it. So the nice thing about this is really loud. This approach that we talk about in the book really gives you the best of both worlds. It gives you a steady paycheck and you’re willing to follow your dreams, but at a certain point.
12:37 Yeah. Okay. So, so you stumble across financial independence and personal finance through a number of different blogs. What are some of the first lessons that you came across and what, if, what have been some of the major impacts of those over the last few years?
12:50 I think the biggest impact for me was I’m reading Mr Money Monster as mustaches post on how like in, in order to build the portfolio, it’s actually more about your savings rate and not about how much you are. And again, there’s a lot of the times, you know, we’ve been taught like [inaudible] earned the big salary and like be a doctor and be a lawyer and all that, right? But their expenses are actually really high, right? So it really is, you have to subtract the difference. And when you actually look at the math behind financial independence, you’ll find out that it’s like if you actually save more than you actually need less to live on, right? So goalpost is actually getting closer so you get like a double win. But I have by increasing your savings rate, you’re reducing the portfolio gains, you retire and you’re also saving a lot more money towards the portfolio. So that was mind blowing to me. It’s like, Oh wow, it’s based on savings, right? It’s not just like everybody who earned six figures, it doesn’t actually mean they’re going to become fie faster. It really is. The difference, the gap between your earnings and your expenses?
13:48 Yeah, it’s a lot. It’s focusing on what you can actually control. The income side, like you said, especially in sort of the entrepreneurial or art centered worlds can be very volatile. But by forcing your savings rate down, not only are you increasing the amount you’re stashing for later, but you’re also lowering the amount you need to live on. So even that volatile income ultimately starts to kind of stabilize itself through reducing your spending.
14:12 Absolutely. And to your point, there’s like if you, and if you actually work on something that you’re passionate about, you can actually become partially FII, right? Cause if you’re not planning to just sit on a beach and do nothing, which is, you know what happens with a lot of young people, we don’t actually just sit on a beach and do nothing, right? So maybe even if you don’t become fully financially independent, but your portfolio pays for like 50% of your expenses, maybe you can go from a really stressful job to like something that you’re really passionate about. It gives you a lot more free time. But you would never have considered that job cause you’re like, oh, this job only pays $20,000. Obviously I can’t live off of that. But if your portfolio is paying like 30,000, you’re like all of a sudden I can take this passionate job instead of constantly trying to go for a really high paycheck.
14:53 Yes. So you can, you stretch the impact that your money has by lowering the amount you even need to live off of. Yeah. And so another interesting thing that you’ve hinted at throughout is your definition of retirement. Is it sitting back, laying on a beach and playing golf every day of the week? As a lot of times comes to mind when we hear the word retirement. How does retirement look for you? Yeah, so that’s one of the misnomers of the acronym fire. So within the fire community. And so fire stands for financial independence, retire early. So whenever people hear about the fire community, a lot of people like the biggest criticism is like retirement. I don’t want to retire. And the thing that we tell people is the I part is mandatory because that helps you be financially stable. But the RV part of the retirement part is absolutely optional.
15:38 So a lot of the times like people, you know, you want to sit on a beach and then you try to do that cause you’re decompressing from your job. But six months later in evitable you want to do something right? Like whether it’s volunteering, whether it’s starting another passion, something. So I really think that retirement is really evolving and because jobs are now moving, a lot of jobs can be done online. A lot of like passion projects can be started online. People are taking advantage of geographic arbitrage to like increase that gap between how much they earn, how much they spend, and also allow them to work a job that allows them to be anywhere, right? So that’s like a perfect, perfectly valid, you know, passion project to do in retirement. If you want to do something online, something that’s, you know, something that you’ve already wanted to start an online business, now you can do it with a lot less risk.
16:26 And you can do it from anywhere in the world. So I think it opens up that a lot of possibilities. So when we say retirement, we mostly mean retirement from the nine to five, like that rigid idea. And you have to go into an office, you have to sit there or nine to five, cause that’s what company size and you’re relying on them for a paycheck. Now you get to decide what your retirement looks like. And if you want to sit on a beach and do nothing perfectly valid, you can want to work on some passion project online. Totally fine. It’s totally up to you. It’s all about choices.
16:57 We actually, for ours, it actually we, we did the the one year traveling around the world and we may be kind of did that like, like literally just did nothing except traveling for about six months or so. And then, then gradually we kind of went, all right, well let’s, let’s see what we can do and let’s see what else remind you, because again, we want to not just retire from work in general, but we wanted to really pursue Christie’s passion, which was writing. And we ended up doing that together. So we ended up, we did end up getting published you know, a book called a little Miss Eva, which is a fiction book for kids. That was the first book that we got published. And, and after that we started the blog and we started writing about our financial independence journey there. And then the opportunity came down to do a, to do a book with payment about that. And that became like a millionaire. And it’s just like, there’s so many opportunities that ended up like coming to us that we really, you know, we keep joking with each other like, we’re not retired. We’re just tired at this point. You guys are just so [inaudible] because we’re working probably the same amount of hours that we were working and sometimes even more.
17:59 But it’s like fun and you can choose, yeah,
18:02 You choose, you get to choose the product that you work on. You get to choose the core you work with and you want to choose and you get to choose the hours that you work during the day. Like we don’t literally sit in a desk from nine to five anymore and we’ll like, like, you know, we, we just came from like, like like chilling out at the beach just now and then after this we might go and like go, you know, bike around the neighborhood or something like that. Yeah. Like we, we use our working hours really in ways that make sense for us. But the actual, the actuality of it is that we did, it didn’t actually reduce the amount of work that we’re doing it, we’re just doing it and we’re just redirecting it in a way that we actually enjoy. And, and, and that helps people to be honest.
18:41 Actually speaking to the helping people thing, I think for financial independence makes you more authentic because one of the things that does is allow you to pick projects that are aligned with your values, right? Because when you work for a company and you need the paycheck, if the company’s values start drifting away from you, then you don’t really have a choice. Cause you need the money. But when you don’t need the money, when we get all these opportunities, because we’re no longer in the same location, like geographically, we can be anywhere in the world. And then that con with that comes a lot of opportunities. We can say no to opportunities that just doesn’t align with our mission. For example, we, because of the blog, we’ve been getting requests from a financial companies or just tech startups saying, we want to make a fire fund because we want to help people become financially independent.
19:23 And you’re like, really? So my first, I’m always a skeptic. So my first thought is like, really? Are you really helping people or you’re jumping on a bandwagon? So then I look at, you know, what, what what’s within their fund? Like what kind of stocks they have as part of their fun. And then I look at it, I’m like, this is not helping people. You’re adding a lot of fees and it really is making you rich and not your clients rich. So we immediately say no to that opportunity. And even if it’s a lot of money, it doesn’t matter cause I don’t need the money anymore. Right. So it makes you, allows you to make decisions that actually help people and are aligned with who you are rather than you have to make a decision just because you need to pay it. Pay The bills.
19:58 Yeah. Retirement isn’t any more, you know, retiring from work entirely. It’s retiring from the work you don’t want to do. And as you said, pursue directly the ways you want to go. Now real quick, there was one term you mentioned that I wanted to circle back to geographic arbitrage. For anyone who’s unfamiliar with the subject, could you define that for us? Sure. I think this is a term that came out of Tim Ferriss, a four hour work week. So it’s the idea that you work somewhere that you are, where you earn a high strong currency. So for example, like American dollars or like British pounds, and then you live somewhere with a weak currency. So maybe you live in Thailand, maybe you live in Poland and you have those rati, right? So then that allows you to have a big gap between how much you’ve earned and how much you spend.
20:44 And then it allows you to live like a life of freedom a lot faster. And geographic arbitrage. You don’t even have to do it within different countries. You can even do it within the same country, but in different locations. So for example, if somebody was working online and earning money in New York and have a very high salary, but then they’re living in like Detroit, or maybe they’re living in like Raleigh or somewhere like that. And then all of a sudden their expenses are half as much and then all of a sudden you are becoming financially independent so much faster. And you’re raising your savings rate because you are, you need less money to get to retirement and you get to save a lot more. Every single dollar you get, you, you receive, you’ve got to put that towards your portfolio.
21:22 Yeah. So there’s this kind of introduction to this. I did, this was in a context of like literally physically separating yourself from your jobs that your, your, your job is like still. And he was like saying like, hire VA’s, like to do this for yourself and live in another way. We adapted it from financial independence because now it’s not just the work itself, it’s that your savings and your portfolio is in one location and it’s paying you American dollars are paying dollars, but then you’re living in a really cheap place. So so we kind of adapted the idea of geographic arbitrage to fire. So that’s kind of what we discovered, which is if you can by simply choosing where you spend your time, you can lower your budget and you can you can drastically lower how much money that you need to spend in retirement while increasing your, your quality of life.
22:10 Cause like all of a sudden like, cause when we go to Thailand or we go to a place like, you know, Portugal or [inaudible] in Thailand, our budget, like are normally our budget when we’re living in North America is about $40,000. Okay. We’re in Thailand, we can drop that to about 20 to $25,000 a year. And yet we’re sitting on a beach and we’re not like being buried in snow. So yeah, that’s it. That’s a good example of, that’s a concrete example of how did you craft the coverage. Cars can make your retirement much, much safer because you can control how much money you’re spending each year simply by choosing how, like, how much, what percentage of the year you’re spending in different locations.
22:46 Gotcha. So geographic arbitrage is really leveraging your living situation to help your money go a little bit further. So earning in a high a high income zone, we’ll call it, and then living in an area where your cost of living and all of your expenses are a lot lower.
23:03 Right? Correct. Yeah.
23:05 Awesome. And so, so you started down this path to financial independence. What, can you walk us through sort of what it was like to slowly see that number grow and grow and what it’s like to be walking toward essentially your dream?
23:20 Oh yeah. So initially I was really, really stressed at work and a lot of people around me were on medication. That’s kind of the thing we do now in society. When you’ve got a problem, you medicate that problem, you’ve got anxiety, you got depression, you got stress, just take more medication. Right? But in reality, it’s the lifestyle that needs to change because the medication just becomes addictive and it doesn’t really help you. So the more our portfolio grew over time and the more money I had, the less stress I became over time. Right. So at the end I saw a lot of coworkers struggling and I felt really bad for them because a lot of them were trapped and really, really expensive mortgages and they didn’t really have a choice because it was, if they were got put on a really bad project, they just, they just have to do it.
24:02 Right. Yeah. And I think I was actually able to become more insolent over time because I was just like, what? I’m not, no, I’m not going to work on this project. And then my coworkers are like, oh my God, you’re going to get in trouble. You’re going to get fired. And I did. I didn’t get fired. Right. So it really is, it gives you more power to push back when things are being unreasonable and you don’t even have to be financially independent in order to do that. Just having more money and being more financially secure allows you to, to really kind of protect yourself against being, taking taken advantage of. And you know, when comp companies inevitably do outsourcing and things like that, then that’s completely outside your control. It’ll help you sleep that night.
24:43 Yeah. It’s [inaudible]. And what it felt like to walk that number grow. I mean like when we say for the vast majority of our, for the majority of our working career, we were trying to save up a down payment to buy a house and in Toronto and in a high cost electron on New York, you get this, you get this annoying problem where you save money, but then the houses just keeping more expensive. So you need, they’re really quite good. Like Eric. Yeah. Progress. Yeah. And it was at a certain point when we hit half a million dollars and we were like in our savings, just not cash, like savings account. And then that kind of went, okay, this is kind of a lot of money. You don’t want to just give, you want to just hand this over to a real estate agent. Yeah. Because I was an exchange happens million dollars or $750,000 in debt that I been have to pay off, but half a million dollars [inaudible] when you started invested and it started to grow as these kept adding onto the pile, like half a million was kind of like a whoa number.
25:33 Then when the became like six, we were just kinda like Jesus and then room when it was like seven and eight, it was like, holy crap, this is actually working. And a 900,000 was this agonizing like journey to like, come on, just cross over. That 1 million just could just disappear or go up and down, up and down. We would go back, we were putting like $10,000 in a week and then the stock market would go down like six, 7,000. We were like, no, no, no, no, no. I’ll jump up. I’m like, yeah. But then when it actually got crossed over and we saw that, like stuff like that, that’s like one, like that number olden 1 million. We were just kinda like, wow. Wow. Yeah.
26:06 It blew my mind. It blew my mind because as a child, I wouldn’t even have understood the concept of $1 million. I would’ve been like, that’s, that’s like infinite amount of money. Yeah. Right, right, right. So, yeah. I, I think people think it’s really difficult in the beginning, like getting the first six figures really, really hard, but as you, you know, put in those systems to put in money periodically away and you know that you’re working towards your goal. It’s like a snowball effect. It gets faster and faster and it’s a compounding effect cause the money makes more money, which makes more money. What makes more money than it’s like your, your money is like a whole bunch of little soldiers going out and then just working for you and you don’t to do anything and they just multiply on their own. Right. So that concept, it’s like seeing calm, hounding in real life.
26:49 And then as the compounding goes up, your stress goes down. And then over time when you reached that number and you’re like, I’m done. I’m free, I’m free. I can do whatever I want. It’s the most incredible feeling ever. Seriously. There’s like very few things in life that I’ve experienced that matches up to the, the happiness that financial independence gives you. It’s not just, you know, once you become financially independent then like you never have to worry about anything again. Like you still have to figure out your identity, which is something that people worry about in retirement and things like that. But just having that choice and being authentic and being able to make choices that are aligned with your values, I think it’s the best thing that money could ever buy. It’s freedom. It’s the best thing. Money you could ever be.
27:28 That being said though, we hadn’t really, really liked like happy, like Julie Joyous, the k like feeling when we got there, there is actually some people that actually get the punishment and it scares them. So there’s this, there’s this effect that I expected, but I think when you must have coin, you call the wallet fear. That some people, cause we do a lot of like we do a lot of conferences and they do a lot of like one on one counseling a these conferences about like what people are like, how would you ever get to their RFI number? And some of them are really, really close and they talk too much and you just kind of like, I’m terrified of, of becoming a fight and like what by because their identity is wrapped up in their work. So when you, when you quit, like if you’ve been in, if you’ve been like a lawyer or an accountant or a doctor for like 20 years and that’s all you’ve ever been [inaudible] and you like give that up to become, then it’s Kinda cool then what am I, so there’s an existential crisis that can happen.
28:18 You don’t build up the second identity, which is why, which is why I think it was still a little scary for you. I think it was terrifying when you actually give your, give your notice. But but it was still but w but the reason why it was that the transition was relatively smooth breasts was because we had spent the past five years leading up to our FII journey, like building that second identity and, and and we were able to step into the identity of as of an author or a writer pretty seamlessly. And if people don’t think about that and they just think they just like laser focus on getting to their fin number and then forget about anything else. Yeah, that can seem a little bit scary. So there’s a bit of a caution that you have to, you have to think about why you’re passionate because, you know, we spend most of our lives making our decisions based on money.
29:04 Like what do we do? Does this a more, does that pay more on like when that, when that incentive system goes away, it can be scary because now people don’t know how to make decisions because they can’t just use money as a way to say hide behind it can’t hide money anymore. You have to take, what is it that you want to do? What kind of life do you want to leave one? Kind of like what kind of work do you want to do to help the world? And first, a lot of people, they haven’t thought about that. They kind of go, I don’t know.
29:29 You don’t have time to think about it. Normally when you’re working or you’re just trying to pay the bills, there’s no time to really think about the big question and that’s quite scary. But then we all need to think about it. Cause on your deathbed, do you want to be looking back and thinking, Oh I wish I had done this. I could’ve done this. I could’ve done that. Instead of actually taking the time and thinking about it, like, is this what I want to do? So I now I know that all my deathbed, I’m going to have no regrets. Like I’m already living the life that I want to live and not something that’s dictated. So that question is very, very difficult to answer and it’s scary, but we all need to answer it. Yeah. And it seems like the most important thing is to not be pursuing that dollar number or that pursuing financial independence solely for financial independence is sake. It’s what do you actually want that to buy you? What do you want your life to look like? And if you don’t have that from the beginning, it’s gonna be a lot more terrifying as you reach that number.
30:21 Right, right, right, right. Yeah. Which is what I think your podcast does really well, which is you’re out and you’re trying to get people to think about like how do you live a life in which you’re pursuing your passion and thinking about, cause cause you, in order to do that, you have to, you have to answer the question, what is your passion? Yeah. And,
30:35 And that could change to the change. It’s not just like one singular passion, right? Like some people have many, many different passions and then you, it might change as you go through your life, you might have like 10 different passions and you pursue all of them throughout your life. You know, it’s, it’s not just one singular thing. Yeah. Yeah.
30:51 As most of us can answer the question of what do you want to do with your life? The answers like make a lot of money and it’s like, hmm, okay. But you know, there is a point in which that, you know, there has to be a purpose beyond just make what you want to do with this money.
31:03 Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s a tool, right? It’s a tool. It’s not just used for your status symbol to impress other people, how much money you make because not just rings hollow after a fall. It really is a tool to get you to the freedom and to get you to a life that you think is the, you know, your, the life that you choose. Yeah. And that, that extra layer of probing it does tend to get very uncomfortable and it’s terrifying. It’s like, Oh, why? Why do I want this? Is it because I think it’s going to be stable? Or is it because I want to do this instead?
31:32 Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, people aren’t used to asking these kinds of like deep philosophical questions because it’s introspective and sometimes it’s, you know, people don’t like being introspective. They don’t like to just sit there and kind of think, who am I as a person and what is it that I believe those are very difficult questions to ask and answer because a, you know, it’s easy to just kind of go, hmm. Money.
31:51 Yeah. Yeah. So what have been some of the unanticipated benefits of pursuing financial independence? Was there anything you weren’t really expecting that wound up paying off really well? Oh yeah. There is a lot of other people that we met that we never expected to meet. So one of the things that happens when you go to a nine to five job, as you end up in this bubble of people who think the same way as you, they kind of live the same lives because you’re physically locked to that location to go to that job. Yeah. But once we started traveling, we met all sorts of people from many different walks of life. One community that we met is so there’s this woman that we met in Tulum, Mexico, and she was traveling with her 10 year old son. And this was in, I think it was march or April, March, right?
32:35 And I asked her, I was like, Oh, you took him out for the last couple of months out of school. Like, isn’t it, is that okay at that? Because it’s the school year, it’s not this [inaudible] how are you doing that? And she’s like, oh, we’re, we’re, we’re part of something called world schoolers. And I was like, what? This is mind blowing. Tell me more about this. And so I literally wouldn’t let her go anywhere for the next two hours. And I just have heard her with so many questions about this, how does this work? This is our community. Like how does this, and then she kind of broke it down with ’em. So there’s this new school of thought where you like you instead of just going to like, again, the status quo. They’re very out of the box thinking very similar to the therapy in that they teach their world as their classroom.
33:18 So instead of learning about Vietnam for example, in Vietnamese war, you actually go to Vietnam and you actually talk to veterans that have been in the war and then you find out that it’s called the, they call it the American war and, and like things like that you never would have known from a textbook. And then they figure out math by currency conversions. And many of them speak multiple languages because, you know, they’ve lived in Mexico, they speak Spanish, some of them lived in China, they speak Mandarin, some of them have lived in like Germany, they speak German. And so and then it’s like a mixture of different types of curriculums. Cause I, I said, well, if you’re not a teacher, how are you supposed to teach your kids this and that? Oh, they have a, so we have packages online, online where they have a curriculum that they can buy and then there’s teachers that teach them.
33:58 Like with Skype, there’s international schools that they put their kids into. Did you like get to know the local culture and the, the children and things like that? There’s correspondence schools, there’s unschooling and which the, it’s kind of like Montessori where the kid drives what they want to learn and then their parents facilitate by finding people within that experts within that field to teach them. Yeah. Was like, I would have never met like this in my career. In fact, my, the, in the bubble that I was in, people would’ve thought this was crazy. They were like, no way. That’s not gonna work. That’s crazy. Nobody would ever do that. And just, you know, the, the, the different people from different walks of life and entrepreneurs. We got offered three we had three job offers in Thailand. Just getting a haircut. Cause there’s, there’s so many like ex-pats and digital nomads and Chung mine, right. And they’re like, oh, we’re working on all like this, developing this SEO Algorithm. Like, do you want to be coding for us? And things like that.
34:49 No, they’re off. There’s another community that we’ve discovered afterwards, which is, they’re called the digital nomads. Okay. That’s what this whole group of basically kind of like a, not all it are tech workers, but a lot of them are, but some of them are also writers. Some of them can be selecting consultants, marketing, whatever. But basically they work they’re not NFI but they, they work using their laptops. All they need to do is have a laptop and an internet connection and they’re good. So they go off and travel. And again, they live in low cost studies that have really good infrastructure for entrepreneurial ship. She mentioned [inaudible], that’s a big one in Thailand. There’s another one, there’s a, Lisbon is another public. This stuff that Portugal is stony a talent is actually a big, it’s actually a big cup.
35:35 That’s cool. Yeah. Never thought, never have thought to go to Estonia
35:39 As soon as we’re, Skype is from, and Estonia is a, as a country. Yeah. Kind of getting tired of being bullied around by like Russia. They’re trying to like, like they’re trying to build a Stoney up as the Silicon Valley of Europe continues. That’s cool. Okay. Have. So they were creating, so they have all these like all this infrastructure and encouraging people to come and work in Dystonia. And the nice thing about living in a low cost city like this is that when you’re an entrepreneur, like what we were saying, the when you’re, when you’re just starting off, it takes a while for your income to, to come in. Yeah. If you’re able to take your team and then move it to a low class, you’d like this, all of a sudden your expenses drop and your runway for in your runway for getting that first sale is a lot, lot longer. So these, so, so we discovered these like kind of Hobbs of entrepreneurialship, all of the world that have kind of taken this idea of geographic arbitrage and really ran with it. So it’s really just meeting new people and just finding these communities of people living such nonstandard, cool eyes. It just, that that was a really the surprising and surprising benefit of this entire journey.
36:45 Yeah. What are some of the, in, for anyone listening that’s now like, okay, this financial independence thing, that’s kind of cool. What are some of the common objections that you guys have heard? Like, Oh, I love my job, not, why would I want to quit? And how would you respond to them? Yeah, that’s definitely one of them. I love my job. Why would I want to quit? And our responses, you don’t have to, right. The whole point is to be financially set so that in case anything happens to your job, right? Cause sometimes that happens, you get laid off or your, your manager changes or your team changes and it totally becomes a different job. I’ve had that happen to me. And now you’re financially independent so you don’t have to worry or you’re stress free. So if you like your job, continue working at your job, one of the things that people ask is like, are you not, are you worried about losing your community?
37:28 Right. And that’s part of it because you’re traveling or people who are, you know, their, their coworkers are now working and they’re staying at home and they don’t have to work anymore. They’re losing a big part of that community. And you know what, you build a new community. There’s like a lot of m f I events all around the states and in Europe one of them is like the choose a five groups. There’s a lot of people who meet up locally. We just went to one in Toronto. You’re part of yeah. And we’re part of a financial retreat called Chautauqua. So that happens at four weeks a year. And it’s happens in different places in Europe where you meet like minded people and then those are kind of your friends for life. Cause we’ve been traveling around the world and we meet people from the retreat that we’ve, we’ve known and it’s kind of like our global family that we just go around and meet people that’s part of this community. So it’s like a whole,
38:16 Oh, okay.
38:19 You know, in addition to the one you had before. So it’s really not that scary to lose that connection because you, you end up gaining so many other connections as a, as a result of it. I think we have maybe triple or quadruple the number of friends we used to because of, you know, these additional communities and not just from the fire community but also from a digital nomads. Right. And like people from different backgrounds that we would never would have come across because we’re physically not located in a place that we would have met them. Yeah. Oh yeah. And this is fire just for privileged people. We get that a lot, right? Because they look at Mr Money Mustache and they’re like, oh yeah, you have to be in it. And you know, you’ll have to be like born relatively wealthy. And it helps me do this.
38:56 And which is the, one of the reasons why I wrote quit like a millionaire because it’s just show that I was not born privileged. When I was born. I like the thing that when I was a kid, the things that I was struggling with was like drinking water that’s not contaminated. That wouldn’t give me stomach worms. Yeah. Anything around in the trash for toys. And I didn’t know what a millionaire was. I didn’t know what a portfolio, cause I didn’t know what any of those things were. And then, you know, gradually you, you through the lessons that I learned through being poor and becoming middle-class and becoming rich we ended up getting here. So fire is not for only the privileged, right? It helps, but you don’t absolutely. It’s like a set of mathematical rules and breaking down how money works with a set of simple rules that can get you to financial independence and you actually don’t need privileged to get here.
39:45 Awesome. And so that’s really a good spot to start to move into the second half of our conversation, which is focused on what you’ve learned. So could you walk us through and give us a quick overview of the book and sort of what you’ve learned throughout this process?
40:00 For sure. Okay. So the book actually came about. We didn’t actually set out to write a book. I’m an editor from penguin read our blog and she actually came and asked us if we wanted to write a book. As at first my initial reaction was like, no, I didn’t do anything special. Like why would anyone care about this story? Yeah, I read this book. And then she like just from talking to her and she kind of, you know, from reading the blog and knowing my background, she said, well, the fact that you went from living on 44 cents a day to becoming a millionaire means that you don’t, it doesn’t require a privilege. And you know, breaking down to the financial concepts in a way that’s easy and accessible for people to understand that would be really useful. And so that’s why the book is divided into three parts.
40:39 So it starts with poverty and then it goes into middle-class. And the final section is about becoming rich. And so these are the lessons that I learned in order to get here and there. I do believe that this is absolutely reproducible because it’s, it’s lessons that’s mathematically reproducible and doesn’t require luck or any kind of like long shot. Right? Like just starting the next, winning the lottery, whatever. You don’t need to start the next step chat. Well actually it’s already, it already exists. So I started, it’s not, it’s going to fail because it already, yeah, exactly. So I wanted to tell it from like a storytelling perspective, like following my journey all the way throughout because we do come from a fiction backgrounds like us. We tried to write children’s novels on the side while I was a programmer because I want people to understand this and not be turned off by finance books is one of the things that when I, when I started to learn about finance, I was so intimidated from all the finance books.
41:31 There’s these like giant tomes and you’re like, ah, like I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get through this and do I have to be really smart in order to figure this out. So I wanted the book to be accessible so that people who don’t normally read finance books would read it and be able to understand it. Right. Because if you learn this lesson in life, it makes life so much easier. Like, like we say in the book, if you figure out money, life is incredible easy. If you don’t figure out money, life is incredibly hard, but it’s really not that complicated as a series of simple lessons that if you learn it then you will become a millionaire.
42:02 Yeah. In reading it, it was fantastic and it’s, it’s very easy to walk through the story because it’s a true story. It’s you walking through what your life was like. And so just a couple of last quick questions sort of as we start to wrap up here. What are some of the key takeaways that you’ve gotten from your career and everything that you’ve been working on?
42:25 I think from as a woman specifically working in engineering it was actually quite intimidating cause going into engineering there was only about 10 girls in a class of 120 people, very male dominated, very male dominated fields. But I think it’s such a useful skill and it was a skill that really paid off for me. So one of the things that I did after retirement was I mentored girls on how to code and I volunteer for a nonprofit because I want women to not be afraid of this field is a male dominated field. But once you figure it out it is actually like very lucrative and it does teach you a lot of very useful skills. One thing that I found in my career is that as a woman it’s difficult for women to be disagreeable. Like we tend to be more, you know, like accommodating and saying, yeah, sure, I’ll take on all this extra work, which was yeah.
43:13 Compromising and saying like whenever my boss had extra work, just like bring it on. I’ll just [inaudible] on the board. Yes. I like, I want to show my work ethic and but there is some point in which you have to know your worth and if you know your worth, like that’s how you get paid for how much the actual amount of work that you’re doing and don’t sell yourself short. So for me when I, I knew that I, the amount of work that I was doing was at the next level and that I should be paid what I deserve, righ t? And I asked for it instead of just working hard, putting my head down and just expecting a promotion and that, that’s actually pushing against my culture too. Because from coming from an Asian culture, we’re supposed to not make, you know, not make a fuss quietly, like get your work done and people will know your your worth, your, your work should speak for itself.
43:59 But for me, I, I was verbal about, you know, I need to get this promotion because look at the look, my work speaks for itself. Like, look at, I wrote up the report showing like how much work I had done and the fact that I was already at the next level and as a result I got two promotions within four years. Right. So it’s just like don’t be afraid, especially if you’re a woman working in a field that’s very male dominated, don’t be afraid to ask for what you’re worth and don’t just work there and work hard and expect people to notice because they want you. You need to stand your ground and make sure that you are being paid what you’re worth. That’s of the willing to ask. Yeah. You don’t be afraid to ask and B be paid what you’re worth. That’s one of my, my biggest takeaways from my career.
44:39 Awesome. In what bit of advice would you give your 20 year old self? The one thing?
44:44 Oh, Yup.
44:46 Oh Gee. I don’t know. I mean like
44:52 Yeah, I guess like don’t be afraid of like looking for different kind of like ways of, of, of living. Because for the longest time I thought that the one path that everybody the one path that everybody kind of went through is like the normal one. It’s a, it’s the only one available to me. But if you want, like I think for me well the biggest realization that I had now is that if you, if you make no, if you make decisions with a hurt cause a lot of people make good, they kind of go, what should I, what do I need to do when it comes to a decision? Like what career should I pick or what, how, what should I buy a house? And they just look to see what everyone else is doing. And with the idea that if you follow along with the herd, it’s going to be okay. But w if you only, if you make decisions like normal people, you’re going to get a normal result like normal and normal out, right? Like, but if you want an extraordinary life, you’re going to have to make some scary, extraordinary decisions. And to me a long time to figure out,
45:43 Yeah, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different results.
45:47 Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I think to my 20 year old self, I would say don’t be attracted to just putting your money into a savings account because again, growing up poor, who’s going to teach you about investing, right? Like my parents didn’t know anything about investing. They were just like buy houses or put it into this put it into a savings account. But again, that’s something like when your twenties you’re like, oh yeah, it’s going to be safe. But it’s not safe. Like if you’re getting paid, you know, inflation is running two to 3% and you’re getting paid like 0.5 to 1.5% you’re losing money every single year. It’s worth less and less. So I would say to my 20 year old salts, do not be afraid to invest and get into the market and learn how to invest as, as quickly as possible. Because then you have, because you’re young, you have such a long runway and let con compounding do its work. Don’t be suckered into putting your money into a safe, you know, safe, putting it into safety, things that seem safe or not really that safe.
46:41 Awesome. I love it. Well, Christie Shan and Bryce Leon, it has been an absolute pleasure talking with you guys. You’re the authors of quit like a millionaire. You also, right millennial revolution. I will make sure to link to both of those in the show notes as well. Thanks for coming on the show guys. Thanks so much for having us and that does it for our show with Kristy Shen and Bryce Lee young from millennial revolution. I do want to say that after reading the book quit like a millionaire that the two of them wrote and then chatting with them. The story was written in a way that’s very raw and very genuine to their individual styles and so it was absolutely fascinating talking with them and understanding some of the pros and cons of what they’ve walked through. This concept of personal finance is very, very important, especially those of us who are going a more entrepreneurial role, but mostly for all young professionals and college students that are dealing with college debt.
47:37 Unless you address that up front and start to put a plan together to pay that down, student debt is something that can really shackle you in restrict your options in what direction you can go once you launch your career. Christy’s approach to financial independence and retiring early really is interesting to me. She leveraged a consistent stable job. She calculated this pot pot score for how well a college degree would return within a given field and she used that score to find a career path that would be relatively stable because she knew she would be on her own to support her own financial needs. At the same time, she used that to hedge her risk in learning to be an author, so she really had this stable income that allowed her to learn and grow in the author route, which is ultimately the direction she wanted to take her career.
48:29 So you don’t have to go all or nothing. If you’re willing to put in the extra effort and the extra work to learn your side hustle and pursue your passion while also holding down a major job, there is a ton of upside because then you get all the stability of a consistent nine to five while building a safe retirement income and building and paying down your debt while also getting to do the thing you love and sharpening your skills so that once you hit that early retirement number, you can really take a dive and go headfirst into what you’ve loved and what you have sharpened over the last few years. Really hope you guys enjoyed today’s show. Like I said, personal finance is something that’s near and dear to my heart. And so I hope you got a lot of actionable takeaways from this show and I would definitely recommend reading the book quit like a millionaire. It is fantastic. They did a great job writing it from taste for tenacity. Show number 21 this is Ben Trela. Thanks for listening.