At one point, you sold everything and moved to Europe. What prompted the downsizing and what was it like to go minimal with your move?
I was born in Greece and had been visiting my dad once a year and decided to get to know him better.
When I was preparing to move there, I gave away everything I own. I had a party and said “if you see it, you can have it.” I had a party with girlfriends and let them go through all the clothes. I had quite the wardrobe from Burning Man! We got a 3x3 storage unit and my fiance put some paintings in there, I kept my kitchen aid, there was really nothing else I wanted to store. I now own one painting and my pets, everything else - no attachment to it!
Every time people come to my house now, they ask “are you moving?” and then they love to give me stuff. I tell them to stop! Sometimes I’ll put up knickknacks that I’m gifted but then it goes. I don’t want to offend them but I don’t want stuff!
When I moved to Greece, my dad and I had a dream of building a house together. I would invest in it monetarily and he would be the manager. It was a way to get to know him better, to have a project together, and also a potential investment. I would have been ok with it never making any money, just as a way to get to know my dad. Last year was the first year it was up and running and it makes half of the income I need for my yearly expenses.
Had early retirement always been part of your plan?
I had been working toward financial independence without really considering early retirement, or what that would be like. It was a bonus. By the time I realized that I had attained my goal of financial independence and could retire, I was ready for a change of scenery. I love the idea of financial independence regardless of whether you choose to work or not. You can be independent and still keep your job!
What is your money philosophy / getting money organized?
If you want to make authentic change, you need to be able to see the whole picture, the reality, and the truth. You need to know what you’re spending each month and what you’re spending it on. Mint is the easiest tool to use to lay it all out there. I see clients who question what they are spending.
We need that little shock value to make real change. We talk about priorities - what do you want to spend your money on, what are the bills you absolutely have to pay, what are your needs. We establish the needs, then the wants. Talking about it in terms of priorities, one of mine is having connection with friends, and that means going out to eat. As long as your priorities are in line and it’s not hurting you financially, it’s ok.
I cut my expenses into about half of what they used to be. I started with the big, obvious things (housing, car, food) and worked my way down to the smaller expenses. First we downsized where we lived from a 3-bedroom house to a 2-bedroom apartment. That was a big win. Then I sold my car, invested the cash, and now take public transportation to get around. I’m more mindful of going out to eat, cook most of my meals during the week, and try to combine food out with other needs like socialization or business meetings. Finally, I got to all the small stuff like reviewing recurring monthly subscriptions. My fiance and I do not have exactly the same views on money, but it works out fine. He has picked up a lot of my habits (investing, budgeting) and I have chilled out on the money anxiety thanks to him.
What are your favorite investing/financial resources to share with people (from just starting out money novice to someone who's more savvy)?
There are a lot of great books like Broke Millennial, The Year of Less, Women and Money. I think it’s a very good book even though I’m not a big fan of hers. It covers an overview of money, credit reports, etc.
Amanda Holden from the Dumpster Dog Blog has great writing about investing. She’s the only person in this space that I really love what she’s doing. I haven’t found my role models yet which is weird to say mostly because I don’t love the work that a lot of people are doing.
In financial services, you’re paying 1% return for what they’re doing and it’s such a rip-off. Some are fee based but the percentage - this could be ⅓ of your money by the time you hit retirement. Not many people are calling this out.
Any key tips to share for different stages of life on saving/investing (college, between jobs, 30s/40s/50s)?
We live so much longer now so a lot of this advice is still very applicable to 50-year-olds. They may still want to retire at 65 but could live another 30 years!
I also try to stay away from generalizations with age because what my life looks like from a retirement perspective is very different than someone who is in poor health, for example.
Whatever you invested last year, try to invest 1% more that that this year. If you get a raise, put aside half of that for investments. I like the 1% goal better because it feels more gradual.
Retirement accounts come in different types. Generally, people who retire early have been able to stash away more than what they can contribute each year to those accounts. Sometimes this is passive income like rentals (live in half of a duplex and collecting the rent).
What should people know about the coaching you do?
I want people to know that I’m pretty easy to talk to. They always say “you’re not going to be judgmental, right?” There’s ALWAYS non-judgment.
Where do you see your next steps taking you?
I am serious about growing my coaching business and doing something that creatively grows my mind (Barre, ceramics). I’m working on determining my success metrics for Money Muse. Most number of people, where I can have the greatest impact. There are so many options. I’m in that period of “holy heck, what’s this going to be!”
I highly recommend working with Stephanie when you are ready to take control of your finances and want to learn more or take your investing to the next level. She’s easy to talk to and comes from a place of educating as a tool to help you get your priorities in line.