Money Flamingo FIRE FAQ #2

It’s time for another FIRE FAQ post where I answer some of the most common questions I receive from readers.

Today we’ll tackle the following questions:

  • Should I pay off my mortgage or invest?
  • How do I fund my kids’ education?
  • Should I include my super and my home in my FIRE portfolio?

If you have a question feel free to send me a message via the contact form. I will answer the most common questions I receive here on the blog.

Let’s get started.

Nothing written below is financial advice. Before making any financial decision, you must do your own research and/or seek advice from a qualified financial adviser.

Should I pay off my mortgage or invest?

Hello Fellow Aussie Mum!

I wanted to ask a hypothetical question. I have few friends in our small town (I’m an expat from the USA) and talking about finances is taboo with most people I know.

If you had only 90k left on your mortgage and were inheriting 100k – would YOU have paid off the mortgage or invested that 100k for your Flamingo nest egg? Especially if this was the start of your Flamingo FI journey.

Thanks for any input if you’re willing to share. Starting FIRE journey as a single income family and it feels quite lonely sometimes. 

Kind regards, 

Sarah

Hi Sarah,

Congratulations on starting your journey to FI! It is sad that finances are still such a taboo in our society. However, there are now many great online communities with lots of friendly like-minded people (like our FB group for anyone interested in alternative FI strategies). 🙂

The “pay off the mortgage vs. invest” question is something most of us in the FIRE community consider at some point.

What would I have done in this situation?

When we started our journey to Flamingo FI we were DINKs with secure jobs and fairly low living expenses. So thinking back I would probably have invested that 100k to get to FI quicker.

But only a few years later – when we had a young family and much higher expenses – I would probably have opted for the financial security a paid-off home offers. We might have considered a debt-recycling strategy at that point to get the best of both worlds.

And now that we are done saving and investing for FI I would 100% pay off the mortgage and get on with life.

If you ask me this question really isn’t about what makes more sense financially but all about someone’s circumstances (job security, income, kids, goals, priorities….). Investing that money, even if it leads to a higher net worth eventually, is the wrong choice if it means you can’t sleep at night.


How Do I fund my kids’ education?

Hi Mrs. Flamingo,

We have three kids (9, 11 and 13 years) and I’m struggling to know how to account for their future educational needs.

We are in Ireland and college fees will be at least €3k per year but then there are all the extras like accommodation if they choose a college outside Dublin.

I could go worst case and say they all go to college for four years, at €10k per year all in. That’s €120k (over the eight years that at least one of them will be in college) and puts a big hole in my FIRE plans.

Any ideas on how to account for it? A separate fund?

Thanks,

Liam

Hi Liam,

You didn’t mention if you are going to FIRE and fully retire or go the Semi-Retirement route. Depending on which route you take my answer is different.

Semi-retired:

If you are planning to semi-retire and work part-time, the answer is pretty simple – just work a little more to absorb the extra cost!

This is one of the benefits of Semi-Retirement – income flexibility. The good thing is that you’ll know exactly how much support your kids need and when. That way you don’t have to save for an unknown future scenario just in case.

Fully retired:

If you want to be fully retired when your kids go to college I don’t see an alternative to simply saving for this added expense. So yes, a separate fund might make sense.

Depending on how comfortable you are to invest this money you might not use all of it up and could add any “leftovers” to your FIRE fund after your kids have graduated.

I’m not sure what your annual living expenses are and if your FI number is based on your current living expenses as a family or not. Could tightening the belt for a few years (and paying the college fees from your annual portfolio withdrawal) be an option?

Also, I’m not sure I would save the full amount for your “worst-case scenario” (which would be that all four kids go to college AND choose one outside of Dublin). Maybe consider figuring out and then budgeting for the most likely scenario instead?


Should I include my super and my home in my FIRE portfolio?

Hello Mrs. Flamingo,

I first heard about you through the podcast you did with Aussie Firebug. I want to congratulate you on your blog, it is really well written and I have enjoyed it a lot. Thanks for sharing this content with the world.

I also live in one of the beach suburbs in Sydney, come from overseas and will soon be celebrating the first birthday of my baby boy. 🙂

I’m really glad I found this resource as the Flamingo FI strategy has rekindled my hope to live a semi-retired life without having to work full-time in a few years.  I was one of those people that were getting discouraged by realising the full FIRE journey will take more than a decade.  With your approach, I get to enjoy more freedom earlier while still keeping my job part-time.

When you count your Flamingo FI numbers, do you include your super and property? I am asking because you can’t access your super until retirement age.

Thanks a lot and keep up the great articles,

Stefan

Hi Stefan,

Thanks for the kind words! 🙂

I’m glad to hear Flamingo FI resonates with you! We’ve been semi-retired for over a year now and it’s an awesome lifestyle – especially with a young family. I highly recommend it!

There are two parts to your question, superannuation and property.

Super:

Yes, we include our super in our FIRE portfolio. I am always surprised when people tell me that they don’t include their super when they calculate their FI net worth. It’s our money, and just because we can’t touch it until age 60 or 65 doesn’t mean we will just ignore it.

The whole idea of FIRE and the 4% rule is that you only withdraw a small percentage every year, allowing the rest of the portfolio to continue compounding. As long as you have enough funds in the non-super component of your portfolio, it is irrelevant that you can’t touch the money in super until a certain age.

You basically just withdraw your annual 4% from the non-super component of your nest egg (which will likely get smaller over time) until you get to access your super (which will have continued to grow until then). I really like Mr Money Mustache’s article on this topic (it’s very US-focused but the overall idea applies here in Australia too).

The only problem would be if most of your nest egg is locked up in super (this depends on your age, of course). You can run a simple Excel simulation to see if this might be the case. Aussie Firebug has a handy calculator to figure out the ideal amounts to have in both buckets.

Property:

We wouldn’t include our PPOR in our FIRE calculations. While it is an asset that forms part of someone’s overall net wealth it’s not an income-producing asset for FIRE purposes. You can’t draw an income from a home you live in (and Airbnb doesn’t count in this context!).

Investment properties are different. They generate an income (rent) that is similar to dividends from shares. We have an IP and include it in our FIRE calculations.

Do you have any ideas or tips regarding any of the three questions? Please share them in the comments below!

 
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6 thoughts on “Money Flamingo FIRE FAQ #2”

  1. Have to agree with Mrs Flamingo on the pay off mortgage or invest answer…
    Just apply the “What will make me sleep better at night” rule 😀

    Can I suggest that rather than pay off the mortgage in full, why not remortgage to an offset product and just throw the funds in an offset…. You’ll have no interest to pay but you will have an emergency fund sitting waiting… or alternatively do what I did pay off and left a $5k balance But I have a redraw facility so I can get the funds back should I ever need a cheap source of future borrowing…(I just pay the mortgage payment one day and redraw the same amount the next day 😉 to leave the $5k balance) my lender doesn’t offer an offset which I would rather use but having semi retired now remortgaging again may be a hassle on half my income 😂😂

    Reply
    • Great points, Mark! I agree, “paying off” the mortgage in the form of an (almost) full offset account makes a lot of sense. I would imagine it’s really hard to get any type of loan after semi-retiring so it’s a good option to access extra funds.

      Reply
  2. Why would you even pay for your children’s college education?!

    I like your answer to the super question, it does come up a lot. Good explanation!

    Reply
    • Note that Liam is from Ireland. I’m from Europe too (not from Ireland) and things are handled a lot different compared to Europe. Parents are basically responsible to support their kids up to age 25 (or until they have completed an apprenticeship or a uni degree).

      Reply
  3. I’m a single parent to 4 kids – now all in their 20’s.
    I told them that I was paying for their secondary education, but any uni fees were their responsibility. I’d help with free board and lodgings, but they were expected to get a qualification and pay for it themselves. All 4 boys were happy with that. (Well, they had to be – I wasn’t offering an alternative!! )
    I agree with the security of a paid-for home when you have a family. It was so important to me that I didn’t start to seriously invest until that mortgage was GONE.

    Reply
    • That sounds like a fair compromise. In most of Europe it’s a little more complicated as parents have a legal responsibility to support their (adult) kids until they turn 25 or finish an apprenticeship or degree, unless they can’t afford it and the government jumps in.

      I can understand that paying off the mortgage came first for you – especially as a single mum. We were lucky that we got a few years of investing done before kids.

      Reply

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