Quarterly Semi-Retirement Update – Q2/2021

Where have the last three months gone? How is it July already? I feel like we are stuck in this Covid infinity loop with no end in sight. Anyway, it’s time for another Semi-Retirement update.

I’ve broken the update up into three parts – a life update, a financial update and a quick blog update.

Let’s get started!

Info for new readers: Our quarterly updates chronicle our adventures in semi-retirement and our financial progress from Flamingo FI towards complete Financial Independence (and probably Fat FIRE as well). Since we reached Flamingo FI, we have not been adding funds to our investments and are instead coasting to Financial Independence. You can read all about our overall plan here: Coasting to FIRE (Without Saving Another Cent!) – Our Semi-Retirement Plan.

Life Update

Not much has changed since our last update in April. We are still here (in Sydney). As I mentioned last time we started making plans for the next few years. Relocating overseas is still an option we are seriously considering, but with borders still closed and things pretty uncertain at this stage, it is hard to make definite decisions. It feels like everything is on hold at the moment, so we are just enjoying life while we wait for the country to open up.

To Move or Not to Move – That is the Question

I have to say that it is getting harder not being able to see my family in Europe. None of them has even met Baby Flamingo #2. There are lots of expats in our local area and many of the families we know are in the same situation and wondering when they will be able to see their loved ones again. Many are thinking about leaving Australia permanently (and they are all highly skilled professionals). It will be interesting to see how Australia is going to manage this issue over the medium term with no end to the closed border policy in sight.

Q2/2021 update: Follow our progress from Flamingo FI to FIRE and Fat FI. We are semi-retired and use CoastFIRE strategies to reach financial freedom

I am currently still on maternity leave. At this stage it looks like I will probably go back to my old job part-time in a few months’ time until we know if, when and where we’ll move. Basically, our options are:

  • Stay here.
    • Benefits: It’s an amazing place to live(we live 30 seconds from the beach and love our area) and we’d have a great work-life balance.
    • Cons: High cost of living and we would have to keep renting. If we want to work part-time it would have to be in high-paying roles (i.e. our current jobs or similar).
  • Move to a different area of Australia with a lower cost of living.
    • Benefits: Lower living expenses, so we could work even less (or in lower-paying jobs) and we could buy a house. Plus, we’d potentially be closer to Mr. Flamingo’s family.
    • Cons: We’d have to build a new network of friends and acquaintances and we don’t know if we would enjoy the new area as much.
  • Relocate to Europe.
    • Benefits: We’d be close to my family and have more options to travel (I really miss just being able to jump on a plane or train and be in a different country in an hour or two). Plus our kids could get to know a new culture.
    • Cons: We would have to give up our great lifestyle here not knowing if things will be as easy/enjoyable for us over there.

I keep reminding myself how lucky we actually are to have several great options to choose from. It feels good to know that our accumulation phase is behind us and we don’t have to make earning a high income a priority.

I started a Personal Finance (and FIRE) Book Club!

The Psychology of Money is the first book we are reading in our new Personal Finance and FIRE book club

One thing I really want to get back into and focus on while we are in this Covid limbo / drifting state is reading books on personal finance and money in general. I have had a bit of a reading break ever since our kids were born (unless you count books on baby sleep and toddler tantrums…).

I started what I thought would be a small reading group with like-minded people. It turns out that so many of us in the FIRE community would like to read more books on our favourite topic and discuss them with others. Our brand new Personal Finance and FIRE Book Club has grown like crazy since we started it about two weeks ago. In July we are reading our first book – The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel. I’ve just started it and am really enjoying it so far.

Feel free to join the club if you are interested!

Frugal July

I have a confession to make: Our spending on things like groceries and eating out have gone through the roof since the birth of Baby Flamingo #2. We cooked a lot less and spent more on take-out and partly prepped foods right after the birth to make things easier. That was completely fine, but unfortunately, it seems that we never went back to our old cooking and eating habits.

I was shocked when I looked at our expenses in YNAB and noticed that we spent $1,300 on groceries and almost $500 on take-out in June. We’ve decided to do “Frugal July” instead of Dry July this year. We are cooking meals from scratch focusing on what we have in the freezer and pantry already. And we’ve limited our take-out budget to only once per week.

I guess this shows that is it important to monitor spending habits regularly. Temporary changes can easily become permanent without anyone noticing. Being super frugal has never been a priority for us, but this kind of spending is definitely excessive. Increases in spending should ideally result in an increase in happiness or at least offer value. This has not been the case for us in this instance, so it’s time to make a change!

Financial Update

It’s been another amazing three months for our nest egg. When you look at the chart below you’d be forgiven to think that we have been adding funds to our investments, but we haven’t. The nest egg has been doing all the heavy lifting. I am aware the markets are crazy at the moment and that this kind of growth won’t go on forever, but it really is nice to see that we’ve built a snowball that keeps growing.

Over the last quarter, we went from 13.97x our living expenses to 15.4x. We really can’t complain about that!

Our current (July 2021) progress on our Coasting FI (similar to Barista FIRE) journey from Flamingo FI to FIRE. We are now semi-retired and have stopped investing.

The chart also shows our projected FIRE date. If we achieve average returns of 7% (inflation-adjusted), we will hit FIRE sometime in 2028. The slightly unnerving thing about CoastFIRE is that we are completely at the mercy of the markets because we are not contributing to our investments anymore. So our projected date will change often while we are coasting to Financial Independence. We have confidence in our investments and diversification, but I know the path will be bumpy.

Over the last quarter, we have continued investing the cash part of our nest egg into ETFs (IOO and IOZ to be exact) and will continue to do so until the cash allocation hits 10%.

This is what our current asset allocation looks like:

The current (July 2021) asset allocation of our Coast FI nest egg. We hold an investment property as well as individual shares, ETFs and index funds inside and outside of superannuation.

Blog Update

We celebrated the blog’s 3rd birthday in May! Thanks to everyone who has followed and supported us over the last three years!

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the direction I want the Money Flamingo blog to go moving forward.

After being told over and over for years that I need an Instagram page for the blog I’ve recently created one. I actually signed up a while back but never even logged in once. I don’t have a personal Instagram profile, so the platform is really new to me. What struck me when I had a look around is that there seems to be a whole universe of FIRE followers and content creators on Instagram who don’t have blogs. I had no idea. Some of their content is fantastic. There are also lots and lots of “finfluencers” (often in their early 20s) who publish content on investing, FIRE and personal finance in general. Some of it is great, some of it not so great. The overall vibe is a lot different from and a lot more salesy than the blog-based community that I’m familiar with (I’m probably showing my age here…).

I have also noticed a bit of a shift even in the blogger world. There are a lot of new blogs popping up that seem to have a different goal compared to most FIRE blogs just a few years ago (making money vs. sharing knowledge). I have to add that since having kids I have not really followed many other blogs, so I probably missed some of these developments. I recently read an article by Tanja Hester in which she suggests that the FIRE movement has been co-opted by the “get rich quick” crowd. I don’t agree with everything Tanja writes in this article but she is spot on with this observation. There is still a lot of great FIRE content out there but I find that there is now also a lot more content by people who want to use the FIRE movement to make a quick buck, which is obviously not great.

I am not sure what all of this means for the movement in general and for the Money Flamingo blog in particular, but it is something that I have been thinking about a lot. If this the direction the community will continue to move into I am not sure I want to be part of it. More on this to come…!

Thanks for reading!

39 thoughts on “Quarterly Semi-Retirement Update – Q2/2021”

  1. Thanks for putting so much effort into these updates, I found this one really insightful. I agree with your sentiment re: the FI community. Please please don’t stop blogging. You are doing such a good job at showing alternatives to the normal path to retirement.

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  2. I feel for you! I’m from Sweden and my parents haven’t met our son. He will be 1 in August 😪 It’s so hard

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  3. If you choose to leave one of the best Covid safe countries on the planet and go to one that is not safe, then that is your decision. When you left Europe you must have had the expectation that you might not return. Yes, the border closures are tough, but please get a grip. I am sick and tired of entitled whiners like this. You have obviously done well for yourself and didn’t complain when we gave you a job and a place to start a family. Maybe it’s time we trained our domestic population for a change. Leave at your own risk. Don’t complain when you can’t get back. Don’t expect any help when you decide you want to come back.

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    • A bit harsh but yes, essentially you are correct. The pandemic is a wake up call for jet setting millennials. When my great-grandparents came to this country they were fully aware that they will not see their overseas family again.

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      • Sharkeye, you have to be very ignorant to compare theses days to your great grand parents days. Definitely you are one of the brainwashed. I would invite you to check the statistics about the death rate has Australia with other diseases and illness you will be awwed. The population clock in Australia is the same as any third world country with thousands of Covid deaths (check out the death year to date and compare of any other country do your math) why so much aussies die everyday, lack of medical equipment and professionals? Discuss with your partner about it. Covid definitely isn’t the only virus to be concerned. And don’t forget to mention australia has the death cancer rate in the world follow by suicide. Maybe that dramatic exaggerated restrictions is part of the bad management in the health minister

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      • For all of those nasty nationalist narrow-minded comments I am seeing.

        Times have changed.

        I am sure if your children were overseas you would not expect for them to not ever be able to come back and see you, unless you are heartless.

        Also 35% of Australians these days are born overseas and if they all decided to leave, Australia’s economy will be gone.

        Under current circumstances, most businesses are desperate for the borders to open, there has been a 17% increase in qualified professionals exiting with no one coming to replace them.

        It is expected by 2025 that there will be 100,000 nurses shortfall. That will impact the quality of life and put the health system at stake much more than COVID.

        By the way, we will need to open and COVID is not going anywhere, we live in a globalised world.

        Also, it is outstanding your lack of empathy and compassion for tax payers and hard-working people that are as Australian as you are.

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    • Whats all this “WE” business?? Because you are Australian you feel you are the one giving these “entitled foreigners” jobs? YOUR domestic population includes immigrants that make up 35% all of which help keep YOUR economy strong, keep going with your racist rhetoric of “leave and dont come back” and see how your economy fairs in the longrun. I dont know about you but these foreigers seem to make up the vast majority of highly specialised occupations including YOUR healthcare sector so maybe reign in the racist narative your spouting or there wont be many nurses and doctors to help you out when you need them.

      Or in short get a life “JOHN”!

      Reply
    • When we gave you a job???

      This country is build on immigration John!!!

      I wonder what would happen if all expats pack their bags and leave at the same time.

      Most medical staff is made up of expats and think about all the other industries like hospitality and fruit picking

      Such a nasty comment

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  4. Also John,

    Australia did not give us a job. We are not all refugees. We have jobs in Australia because there were and still are skills gaps in Australia. Loving Australia and our life here does not mean we don’t miss our countries and families, which is some senses might even be better than Australia. You should try get out there so you can compare properly 🙂

    We pay taxes and you should be thanking migrants for it, not calling the whiners. Thanks to them, Australia has the money and capacity to be great. Let’s see how long it lasts

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  5. Great post Tina. I feel your pain with the family in Europe thing. We actually went to Ireland for four months earlier this year due to a family death and the rigmarole of travel and hotel quarantine and endless blimmin’ PCR testing on top of grief was just the absolute worst. We are back now but want to return for good. We’re waiting until we get our vaccine, and then we are off. I want my kids to grow up with their cousins and the travel options are so much better for way less money.
    (Still waiting on my book from the library, hopefully I’ll get it before the end of the month).

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    • Thank you Emma! I’m sorry you went through such an ordeal. 🙁 So that sounds like you might head back later this year already? I would be interested to hear about your experience once you are back. How long have you lived in Australia for? I am trying to decide between my kids growing up close to their grandparents and the awesome lifestyle here in Australia, but I guess we can’t have it all and won’t really know what the right choice is until we try it out. I hope you get your vaccines soon, we were lucky and got ours a month ago.

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      • Thanks Tina. It was an awful ordeal but helped bring some perspective to our situation. We are actually in New Zealand, lived in Sydney for ten years though. My husband is Irish so it’s his side of the fam we would be near – no little kids on my side of the family. My family are all on this side of the world. We’d be renting out our house here, and would rent over there. In my mind, it’s like a working holiday visa but with kids, we’ll give it a year and make the most of the time there and then decide afterwards if we want to stay. It will significantly delay our FIRE plans as Ireland has HCOL, high taxes and no real pathway to hack FIRE. They do have a good pension system, but access at 55 is the earliest. We’ll likely keep our investments/super/Kiwisaver in NZ and Australia as we are well setup here. It’s a tough call, but we can always come back if if doesn’t work out.

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        • I think trying it out for a year makes a lot of sense. We will probably do something similar. These kinds of big moves usually don’t make sense financially, but it’s also not something that should be done / not done because of money. All the best! 🙂

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  6. It’s already been well said by previous commenters here, but ‘John’, what crap! The way the government has turned its back on its own citizens stranded overseas, is appalling. Also, this country has a long history of migrants, it has made this country a richer place in both senses of the word. Maybe ask people whose ancestors lived here first for their unique take on this hypocrisy! The lack of compassion and tired excuses for fumbling and inaction is truly appalling. Never before has being an Australian citizen meant so little. This poor response to Covid rests mainly with the Federal government. It tries to push Covid as being a state issue when it clearly isn’t, it’s tried to sit back, however found 6.5mil to keep a family of four off the mainland for the past couple of years. PM said it’s not a race, opting for complacency with consequences that will reverberate for a long time, initially only signed a contract with one vaccine supplier, hasn’t built proper quarantine stations, which we previously had in this country, that were far more humane and effective than hotel quarantine. Lived my whole life here, parents both come from war torn countries so I’m grateful for what we have here but to see us taking giant leaps backwards saddens me. We may be a lucky country, but I can see this luck running out, because of poor leadership, lack of responsibility and compassion and stupid complacency.

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  7. Wake up call! Australia is on the other side of the world! It is obvious that none of you commenting here considered this before you came here. Things happen, pandemics, wars. I get that you expected you could just hop on a plane and fly home. Now you can’t. Boohoo. Some Australians never get the chance to travel overseas simply because they cannot afford it. That used to be the norm. Have a look in the mirror and see how entitled you all are. Yes, times have changed and people got used to travelling, but maybe it’s for the best if those who are not willing to commit to this country go back to where their parents live and leave Australia for those who will go through good and bad times here instead of picking and choosing. There is no such thing as a true blue double citizen.

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    • Just to add to this – many Australians have not seen family in Australia since the pandemic started. State borders need to open first, we need to look after our own first. How many Australian grandpartents have not met their Australian grandchildren born in the last 18 months? Sorry but that’s how it is.

      Reply
      • Mate. This isn’t an either/or scenario. People should be able to see their family, interstate or overseas.

        Stop using an unprecedented global event to validate your racist, jingoistic ways. This event was unforseen. Boohoo, you say? There is no modern precedent. Present day migrants didn’t move with the supposed “things” in mind because it’s not the 1900s and we don’t live in a place where war or the fkn 2020 answer to Spanish Flu is likely to break out. Try EMPATHY. People are being kept away from dying parents because of our government’s actions/ inactions. Try educating yourself. Try holding our government responsible for illegal activity (you cannot stop citizens returning to their home country – but they did try to jail/ fine citizens that did) or a shameful mishAndling of the vaccine rollout, or using people like you, people with the “f off we’re full” mindset as political leverage and making the dreams of racist myopic Australians just like you everywhere come true as we close the borders.
        This (colonised) nation is BUILT on migrants. You would be nowhere without migrants. Also, if you are white, and I’m pretty certain you are, you wouldn’t even be on this stolen bloody land without migrants.

        But please, tell me more about how it’s a “boo hoo” to be totally separated from your family. People like you make me sad to be Australian.

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      • Mate. This isn’t an either/or scenario. People should be able to see their family, interstate or overseas. If you move to another country and can’t afford to fly back, you know that before you move and you have that in mind.

        Stop using an unprecedented global event to validate your racist, jingoistic ways. This event was unforseen. Boohoo, you say? There is no modern precedent. Present day migrants didn’t move with the supposed “things” in mind because it’s not the 1900s and we don’t live in a place where war or the fkn 2020 answer to Spanish Flu is likely to break out. Try EMPATHY. People are being kept away from dying parents because of our government’s actions/ inactions. Try educating yourself. Try holding our government responsible for illegal activity (you cannot stop citizens returning to their home country – but they did try to jail/ fine citizens that did) or a shameful mishAndling of the vaccine rollout, or using people like you, people with the “f off we’re full” mindset as political leverage and making the dreams of racist myopic Australians just like you everywhere come true as we close the borders.
        This (colonised) nation is BUILT on migrants. You would be nowhere without migrants. Also, if you are white, and I’m pretty certain you are, you wouldn’t even be on this stolen bloody land without migrants.

        But please, tell me more about how it’s a “boo hoo” to be totally separated from your family. People like you make me sad to be Australian.

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  8. Wow, this really escalated in an awful way! Putting aside the racist rhetoric of the two old white guys in the room who clearly don’t understand the economic advantages of a multicultural society, Mrs Flamingo is in a genuine emotional quandary!
    In regards to your stay/move/migrate question, in the great words of the girl from the taco ad, “por que no los dos” (why not both)? Sydney will forever be an incredibly expensive place to live, and I can’t see that changing. So why not try the move, perhaps a cheaper place as close to the beach (Wollongong perhaps?) or a place closer to Mr Flamingos family, and give it 2 years max to decide. Having kids, you will make friends quickly through school acquaintances. Hopefully then, the borders will be open everywhere, COVID-19 will be a distant traumatic memory, and migration to Europe will seem more available. At least you won’t have the ‘what if’ of the road not travelled. Informed decisions are always the best ones!
    Best of luck, thanks for such an awesome blog – your ideas completely revolutionised the way I see FIRE. Please ignore the rude comments!

    Reply
    • Thank you Nikki! 🙂 I like the idea of doing a “trial” somewhere. We definitely don’t want to have any “what if” regrets. We are now in a financial situation that allows us to take some risks and try things out, so I think that is what we’ll probably end up doing. Glad you like the blog and our approach!

      Reply
  9. Well, that escalated quickly…

    If things become political and escalate this quickly on a personal finance blog of all places that’s definitely a sign that divide in our society is getting bigger and bigger.

    Thank you for all the supportive, rational and empathetic comments. I actually thought long and hard about responding to or deleting the comments from John and “Sharkeye”. But I figured that they don’t deserve an answer or even a reaction. They chose to put their full ignorance on show, so I’ll just leave their comments here. I re-read them just then and it’s actually quite comical how small-minded they are.

    I wrote about our personal situation and what plays on my mind at the moment in an effort to be transparent and because I know many others are going through similar things at the moment. I write these quarterly updates for the community, to share our story and to motivate others. I gain nothing from sharing our progress (other than the satisfaction that it might help others along the path). I guess I’ll think twice about sharing things like this in a public forum next time.

    Thanks again for those who have shown their support, I really appreciate it.

    Reply
    • Hi Mrs Flamingo,

      Please don’t change your blog, or what you want to share, due to the comments of others who seem to have popped up from nowhere. They are not your target audience, as seen by the focus on COVID-related issues rather than FIRE. As you said, you have the power to ignore, delete or block, it’s your blog! Continue to write for your supportive, rational and empathetic readers.

      Reply
  10. Congrats on three years! That is such a big accomplishment and one I hope to replicate some day. Your consistency and experience comes through with your writing and editing. Also, you couldn’t have chosen a better book for your first book of the month read. Anything Morgan Housel writes is pure gold. Memorable, insightful, and practical. You’ll love it (if you haven’t already finished it!).

    I will connect with you on your new Instagram. It can be a very… interesting platform. Lots of recycled, unhelpful stuff. Appreciate someone with credibility joining our ranks!

    Cheers!
    Kevin

    Reply
    • Thanks Kevin! 🙂 I finished the book last week and loved it. Such a great read. I feel I need to re-read it before our group discussion. Appreciate your comments regarding Instagram. It’s an interesting platform indeed!

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  11. I also really appreciated your life update. I’m a mum of one, with the second on the way, and neither of our families (husband’s or mine) have met our first child yet. We were planning to move back to Europe, but are still waiting on a few things – vaccination, pregnancy to proceed, etc.
    What we have considered is to plan living overseas for 3-6 months, as we are unsure how we will actually take being so close to family again after being away for 10 years. But, like you, it really bothers us that they haven’t met the little one yet. I guess that hardest is the limbo of waiting, not knowing if/when you’ll be able to come back with caps and flights. Yes, FI can give you the ability to not care too much, but there is still a mental load of unknown in the picture.
    Thanks for sharing though, feels better to know there are others feeling similar!

    Reply
    • I totally agree, the hardest part of all of this is the limbo of waiting and wondering… And I guess the current situation proves that money doesn’t solve all problems. We are the same, not sure if we’ll actually end up liking being so close to family again, I have not lived near my family since I was 19 (but they were always just a few hours away before we moved to Australia 6 years ago). All the best for the rest of your pregnancy, I hope all goes smoothly and that you get to see your family soon!

      Reply
  12. Any decision you make about where you live will be an amazing one, I’m sure. I know what you mean about missing family, I’m in QLD and I have family in VIC – they may as well be overseas 🙁
    I also have family in the UK and Europe – we have also considered relocating there in 2022. Decisions, decisions!
    How are you feeling about heading back to work soon?
    Happy 3 years! What is the biggest lesson you have learnt in that time?

    Reply
    • That’s so true, with all the domestic border restrictions it must feel like they are overseas! I know so many people who are contemplating moving interstate or overseas once all of this is over, I think 2022 will be an interesting year.
      I’m looking forward to going back to work, it’s only going to be part-time so it will provide some balance. I miss talking to other adults about stuff that’s not related to babies and meeting people for lunch, drinks, etc.
      Thanks, the 3 years went by so quickly. The biggest lesson is probably that FI is worth it no matter how life changes over time (and mine has changed a lot since we started this journey in 2016).

      Reply
  13. Hi,

    Great blog, I have only just discovered it and hats off to the time you taken to put it together and the detail of the updates is so helpful to people!! Congratulations and thanks. 🙂 We are also grappling with a similar situation with family, albeit we are right now based in Asia with family in Australia and Europe. COVID has meant we have really re-evaluated what is truly important. On the moving front, will be really interested to hear more on your decision making process, as it will be so useful to compare notes! For us, one factor is with young kids still a few more years from primary school age, I think moving them around is a bit easier. Once they hit middle years of primary school I think moving will become more difficult, not impossible, but there will be more to consider to give them stability and a long term base. We have also been considering the concept of a 6m – 1 year trial.
    All the best!!

    Reply
    • Thanks for the comment, Chloe! I 100% know what you mean when you say Covid has made you re-evaluate what is truly important. Moving with kids is definitely a big decision. I agree that it’s easier to do it while they are young. Not sure if 6-12 months is enough to try living back home is enough, most people I speak to say it took them at least 18 months to properly adjust to the new place (although it is where they grew up in most cases). After some of the nasty, inappropriate comments I received after writing this update I’ve decided to share our personal updates via email instead of on the blog, I’ll add some more info on this to the next update.

      Reply

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