Once our eyes are opened to the world of Financial Independence, we begin to focus on what works best for us to achieve FI sooner rather than later. Zach and I determined to pursue Financial Independence with Geoarbitrage. This is our FI story.
Zach and I met in the Spring of 2017 in the most romantic way…through a dating app. Although we have many differences, luckily our core values are very similar. For example, Zach is an adrenaline junkie and I am, for lack of a better word, cautious.
I just finished my 5th year as an elementary school teacher in the American Public School System. Zach is currently a Certified Prosthetist Orthotist (good luck saying that three times fast), in which he works with patients with varying musculoskeletal and neurological disorders. We live in the Kansas City area and have been living together for the past 2 years.
Even before learning about Financial Independence, we always talked about not wanting the cookie-cutter lifestyle. Experiences for us outweigh any material possession we could ever own. In our three years of dating we have traveled to numerous places around the globe and experienced a lot of new things together. While we have always tried to find inexpensive flights by being flexible with our dates, destination, and lodging, we soon realized the toll these experiences were taking on our bank accounts (this was before we discovered how to travel hack)! Our experiences of travel and adventure led to our choice to pursue Financial Independence with Geoarbitrage.
Our Path to Financial Independence
In early 2020, Zach overheard our yoga instructor at the gym talking to another participant about a podcast she had started listening to (ChooseFI). For Zach, who is someone who has kept a budget since high school and is kind of a nerd with numbers, he found it very intriguing. He has always been a natural saver, but seeing the math backing the concept of FI made everything click together mentally and give his saving a true purpose.
He started listening to different episodes and doing research on the topics, bloggers, and other Financial Independence Podcasts before introducing FI to me. Me, lacking experience in the personal finance sector and being over my head in student loan debt, was more than a little hesitant. However, after listening to a few episodes and talking them through together, I decided I could get on board and help develop our journey to Financial Independence.
After choosing to proceed down this path, we sat down and externalized what was most important in our lives. Everything we discussed could be boiled down to 3 main principles: financial independence, physical wellbeing, and overall happiness. As we continued to dive deeper into the world of FI, we decided to develop and write down our philosophy to guide us along our adventure.
“To live beneath our means while building wealth, find value in material possessions, use our time purposefully, engage in new experiences, constantly learn and grow, foster and maintain meaningful relationships, support our communities, and sustain a healthy lifestyle.”
How Can I Get Out of Debt?
My first big task towards our freedom has been tackling my debt. This was overwhelming for me because I hated looking at my debt numbers. I had just set things up to have the monthly payment come out of my account, so I never had to truly deal with it. But I had to get over my fear if we wanted to go down the FI path.
We worked through the process together of refinancing some of my undergraduate loans to lower the interest rates. Seeing the numbers change using this debt reduction spreadsheet with even a small change in interest rate or extra monthly payment made it actually feel doable. It helped light the FIRE inside of me (no pun intended…) to pay off my debt as quickly as possible.
I paid off my car loan in just a couple months (thanks CARES Act stimulus check!). Now, I am continually making extra payments every month to my student loan debt and should be debt free in about 2 years (hopefully sooner).
Fortunately for us, Zach didn’t have any outstanding consumer debt, giving us a halfway head start on our journey.
How Do I Cut My Expenses?
Our next step was to dig deep into our spending and look at what could be cut out or altered. We looked at bigger ticket expenses, like our $100/month gym membership. We take value in being physically fit and healthy but decided we could do that without the hefty bill. We also took into consideration the little things like me not going out for a coffee every week (unless I receive a gift card 😊).
We looked at our food and restaurant spending and slashed those bills as well by switching grocery stores and buying more staple items in bulk. We realized, however, that some of the items we were buying in bulk were still on the expensive side and contained added sugar or artificial sweeteners. Items like protein bars and protein shakes could be made from scratch. In doing so, we could not only make them healthier, but save money as well.
How Can I Make More Money?
We started making extra cash by looking at all the stuff around us that was unnecessary and didn’t bring us value. Zach had found the concept of minimalism when he moved from Chicago to Kansas City after graduate school. For him, the idea came at a time when his mother was selling his childhood home. While cleaning out old items, his brother wanted to throw out each of his old personal belongings, declaring because he wanted to “live lean.”
When we transitioned to living together, it made sense to find what brought us value and reduce our number of and reliance on material possessions. As we move forward into our utilization of Geoarbitrage (more to come on that shortly), we have continued to utilize various online platforms to turn our trash into someone else’s treasure. Not only does it feel great to get rid of things in exchange for cash, but that extra cash helps me pay down my loans a little bit more every month!
Other vehicles we are using to generate additional revenue streams include selling credit tradelines, product testing for emerging brands, teaching English online, and investing in commercial real estate through Zach’s family’s business.
Our Decision to Pursue Financial Independence with Geoarbitrage
What is Geoarbitrage? Geoarbitrage is intentionally relocating to increase the gap between expenses and income in order to expedite growth of net worth. It is a major piece of our FI puzzle. We do not want the stereotypical middle-class American lifestyle, so I took a teaching job in Ankara, Turkey starting in August of 2020. I had made the decision to teach abroad months before we started our journey to FI. I chose this not only because we want to travel the world, but because I am tired of the American Public School System. I love my career path but needed a change because I was already burnt out after just five years. Another reason why I was so intrigued by the FI path, I want my freedom to not be controlled by an employer and to have the option to do what makes me happy every day.
Does Geoarbitrage really help? Yes. To our advantage, Turkey has a very low cost of living, approximately 60% lower on average than Kansas City. Furthermore, my expenses will be very minimal given my new job. Housing is provided. And there will be no expenses associated with a car, as I will be living within a 10-minute walk of school. My U.S. federal taxes will be reduced per the IRS Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE). As a result, it will be more than easy to save 50% of my income every month.
With Zach’s career being a bit more niche and specific, he has had difficulty finding work in Turkey. Though we might be apart for a few months while he finds a job suitable for him, we know that we are still on this adventure together.
Unique circumstances may limit your ability to take advantage of Geoarbitrage but you should definitely do some research. If able, seriously consider how you too can achieve Financial Independence with Geoarbitrage.
Our Next FI Adventures
We recently started a blog called Adventure36FIve to document our adventures and journey to FI. Our goal with the blog is to not only organize our own thoughts and ideas, but to share our story to encourage others to pursue their goals and happiness. Along with posts about our FI journey, every week we also post life hacks, healthy recipes, and spotlight a side hustler.
The hope is that by sharing our strategies and things we have learned from others in The FI Community it will inspire people to make their own lives wealthier, healthier, and happier. Even if just one of our readers takes away an idea from something we have shared, we feel like the blog is a success. We plan on continuing the blog throughout our journey and beyond FI.
Our current plans for our future are to work abroad for several years while we are still young and do not have any obligations tying us down like owning real estate or having children and pets. At ages 28 and 27, our goal is to achieve Financial Independence in 10 years. We plan to achieve Financial Independence with Geoarbitrage internationally to live in lower cost of living parts of the world while stashing away and investing as much money as possible. Then we might pull a move like what Noah, from the popular blog Money Metagame, and his wife did and take a gap year to do slow travel when we have reached “Half-FI.”
After that, who knows, but we’re ready for wherever our adventures take us!
By Kally (a.k.a. Ms. 365) of www.adventure36five.com