I am always fascinated by financial bloggers around the internet who have already acquired a status of financial independence and/or early retirement. I think there’s a lot to learn from them. One such blogger is Thrifty Gal, author of the blog thepowerofthrift.com.
Thrifty Gal graduated from law school at age 27 and worked for just 5 years as a lawyer before amassing enough money to retire at age 33. This week I was lucky enough to catch up with her via email and was able to ask her a whole slew of questions about her path to early retirement and what the future looks like for her now.
Me: Before you became a lawyer what type of degree and job(s) did you have?
Jobs as a teenager – paper delivery route, photographer at Target Portrait Studios, secretary for a nonprofit for a while
College – Degree in Economics
Jobs during college (summers) – I did phone surveys. Like “how do you feel about Tide?”
After college – worked as a work comp claims manager for almost three years.
I was then a flight attendant for about six months
During law school, I worked occasionally as a waitress and bartender. I also was a database representative.
Me: That’s quite an eclectic job history (especially being a flight attendant), what made you decide to pursue law school?
Thrifty Gal: I hated my job in insurance and was looking for a new life. I’m good at standardized tests, so I took the LSATs. There was no grand plan.
Me: At what point did you make the decision to set early retirement as a goal of yours? (Before, during, after law school?)
Thrifty Gal: The idea planted itself when I was a teenager. The plan took more shape during law school.
Me: How much debt did you have when you graduated law school and how long did it take you to pay it off?
Thrifty Gal: When I graduated, I had over $100,000. I wasn’t keeping exact track until I started working a year later when I had $95,000.
Me (aside): Thrify Gal wrote a post on her blog explaining how she paid off $95,000 in debt in only one year. In the post she mentions how she decided to settle in Chicago, which still offered a great salary but at more reasonable living costs compared to other locations like New York or California. I think this is an important tip for anyone pursuing financial independence – make the journey even easier by opting to live in an affordable region!
Me: Did you experience lifestyle inflation at all once you graduated and started making an above-average salary?
Thrifty Gal: Nope. LOL.
Me: Elegantly said. Have you always been “thrifty” or was this a skill that you developed over time?
Thrifty Gal: I’ve always been a simple person. I hate shopping and I have two older sisters so I’ve always been happy with hand-me-downs. I just don’t want that much.
Me: Not wanting that much is definitely helpful in reaching early retirement even sooner. So once you made the decision to pursue early retirement, did you have any useful habits that helped propel you there even quicker?
Thrifty Gal: I had a retirement chart that I looked at probably everyday. I have a template up on my blog.
Me (aside): Thrifty Gal also wrote a blog post talking about her retirement charts she used to track her monthly incomes and monthly expenses for several years. There is undeniably a huge benefit to being able to visually see how close you are to reaching retirement. If nothing else it is a constant reminder that there is a reason behind your savings.
Me: Did you have a certain number in mind in terms of net worth that you aimed to reach to declare yourself safe to retire?
Thrifty Gal: $450,000 was my absolute minimum, but I aimed for $600,000 to give myself some cushion.
Me: Tell us about the last day at your job before officially becoming retired. Were you nervous to take the leap and walk away from an annual salary?
Thrifty Gal: My last day. Honestly, I can’t even remember it. I knew my contract in Australia ended on a certain date and I did a bit of traveling in that part of the world using my vacation days after that, but I went into the office occasionally. Not to work, but to pack stuff up, say hi to colleagues, etc. I wasn’t nervous at all. I blew past the numbers I envisioned myself needing. I danced away.
Me: Dancing away seems like an appropriate reaction to declaring yourself free from needing a job! So now that you’re retired where do you hold your investments now? Do you rely on passive income from investments to pay for your expenses?
Thrifty Gal: VTSAX. Vanguard. My one true love. When I left my job, I had about a year’s worth of expenses in cash. I’m also out of that, but I also got a tax refund, so I’m good for another little bit. When that runs out, I’ll tap into my VTSAX.
Me (aside): Thrifty Gal also wrote a blog post detailing why she loves VTSAX so much, which you can find here.
Me: VTSAX seems to be a favorite investment within the early retirement community and for good reason. I know I personally stumbled VSTAX from Jim Collins’ stock series where he makes a ridiculously convincing argument that it is the wisest investment you can make in the stock market, especially for young people. So now that you’re officially retired, what does a typical day look like for you?
Thrifty Gal: I set my alarm for a reasonable time, say 8 am, and then cackle in delight when I shut it off and go back to sleep. I’m up around 11 am and normally I do some writing. I’m writing a book. I have my blog. I read. I plan trips. There’s no real typical day. I do quite a bit of traveling, so if I’m in a new city, I’ll walk around and explore. If I’m visiting friends, I’ll hang out with them. If I’m visiting family, I’ll hang out with them. I do a lot of gazing at my life bucket list and plotting and giggling. I’m designing my life.
Me: Where have you traveled to since retiring? What are some of your favorite places you’ve visited?
Thrifty Gal: Since I quit my job: Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, China, South Korea, Jamaica, The Cayman Islands, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Canada, Iceland, Norway, The Netherlands, Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, Austria, Washington DC, New York, California, Chicago, Alaska, Colorado. I’m going to Dubai in a couple of weeks.
My favorite places: Australia, Brazil, Thailand, The Netherlands
Me: That’s a pretty incredible list, especially in such a relatively short period of time! Outside of traveling, what projects are you currently working on?
Thrifty Gal: I’m learning to cook like my mom whenever I visit her. I’m writing a book (I just finished the first draft). I’m learning Spanish on duolingo. I’m at 38% right now I plan to go to South America in 2017 and take proper lessons too.
Me: Do you plan on ever having a traditional job again or even part-time employment?
Thrifty Gal: I want to work in a factory to see what that’s like. It’s on my life bucket list. Who knows what the future will bring. I’m always open to any possibility.
Me: If you could recommend only one book to readers (personal finance related or otherwise) what would it be and why?
Thrifty Gal: Your Money or Your Life. This is where I got the seed in my teenage years to retire early. It tells you about work and life and money and gave me the idea for my retirement chart.
Me: I love that recommendation. Your Money or Your Life was a game changer for me when I read it as well. It challenges all conventional thinking about money and how it impacts your life. So wrapping up this interview, I have one last question: if you could give readers only one piece of advice in achieving early retirement what would it be?
Thrifty Gal: Personal finance is easy. Don’t spend money on crap you personally and specifically don’t need to be happy. It’s the personal part of personal finance that trips most people up. We don’t know ourselves well enough to know what we need to be happy. If you’re not sure and you see an advertisement telling you that you need this new widget and you”ll be happy, you buy it. You’re happy for a second, but then you get used to it. Spend money on friendships, experiences, real hobbies. I think that’s more than one piece of advice.
I can’t thank Thrifty Gal enough for taking the time to do this interview with me, I loved hearing her responses to all of my questions and it was insightful to take a glance into the life of someone who has already achieved financial independence. If you want to hear more from Thrify Gal I suggest you head on over to her blog thepowerofthrift.com where she writes about a myriad of topics including personal finance, cooking, traveling, and more.
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Zach is the author behind Four Pillar Freedom, a blog that teaches you how to build wealth and gain freedom in life.
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