Note: This article was written all the way back in May 2018, so if you are reading this now (in 2021 or later) keep in mind that our situation has changed a lot since then. We have achieved our goal and are now semi-retired. You can find out what we are up to now on our Updates page.
I realise that up to this point, our story doesn’t sound like the story of people who are able to escape the rat race in their 30s. By now, you are probably wondering if and when we turned things around. So far, this has been a story about lost life savings, stupid investment decisions, our carefree (and savings-free) 20s, a gambling problem and a failed freelance business.
After about six months in my “Mulled Wine and Online Gambling” phase, I realised I had a problem. Look at this infographic from Wait But Why (one of my favourite blogs):
I was stuck in the big grey oval – FAILURE. I didn’t enjoy what I was doing and it was actively destroying my future health and wealth. This just wasn’t me – I had always been a positive and optimistic person. I finally realized what was happening to me.
I knew something had to change. So… I snapped out of it. It really was that simple. Next, I started making plans. What I needed was a new goal, something to work towards. And a sea change.
Long story short – Mr. Flamingo quit his job, we sold most of our possessions, packed our remaining stuff in two suitcases and moved to the other side of the world – Australia.
A Fresh Start
We didn’t really have a plan when we moved to Australia, we just went and wanted to “see how we go”. Mr. Flamingo liked the idea of being closer to his family and I liked the idea of living by the ocean. That was it.
After we arrived in Sydney, we started looking for jobs. We only had a few thousand dollars with us (a loan from my dad), so we knew that if we didn’t find jobs quickly, we would have to leave. Mr. Flamingo’s plan B was to move into his dad’s caravan in regional Queensland if we ran out of money.
Fortunately, that wasn’t necessary. To our surprise, we both landed good jobs within a few months of moving to Sydney. We found an apartment. We made some friends. I tried Vegemite on toast (yuck!!). Just a few months after we left Europe, we had settled into our new Australian lifestyle and jobs. It all happened really quickly.
Looking back this fresh start really was life-changing for us. I really believe that sometimes starting over is the best thing you can do to dramatically change your situation and your future.
Now or Never
Once we were settled into our new life I realised that we were in a great situation. We had decent incomes, no debt (except the small loan my dad gave us), and no major overheads. We were also not used to the crazy consumer lifestyle Australians live. I realized that our new setup in Australia was our opportunity to get ahead. We could easily live on one of our incomes and save the other. We were in a great position to get this FIRE thing done, so it was now or never.
When I had “the talk” with Mr. Flamingo, he was on board straight away. The painful loss of his life savings in his early 20s had turned into a distant memory by then and he was ready to work towards financial freedom once again. So we got to work.
We built an emergency fund, paid back my dad and started to invest. It felt great to see our nest egg grow. We were making progress!
A Big Realisation
Initially, our plan was to work until we hit FIRE. However, we had two realisations shortly after getting serious about FI:
- We actually enjoyed working. We liked our jobs, the mental stimulation and the interaction with colleagues. So full retirement became a little less appealing. If we could find a way to reduce our workdays to three per week that would be enough to keep us happy.
- We did not want to spend another decade in the rat race. Instead, we wanted to be able to work less and live a simpler life sooner rather than later. but we soon decided that we did not want to spend another decade in the rat race.
Eventually, it clicked and we came up with our own approach to Financial Independence – Flamingo FI – in early 2016 and our freedom timeline decreased from 10+ years to just 5.
We have now worked towards Flamingo FI for 2.5 years, so we are roughly halfway there. It is amazing what you can achieve in a short amount of time if you are dedicated. We started out with no assets (except Mr. Flamingo’s retirement fund aka superannuation in Australia) and a few thousand dollars in debt. Today, we have a fully-funded emergency fund, a share portfolio and a deposit for our first investment property. Our net worth has tripled since we started getting serious about reaching financial independence.
Our current savings rate sits at about 60-65% (including superannuation). We are on modest salaries compared to most of our colleagues, but it really is not about how much you make. It is about how much you keep and what you do with this money. If someone had told me in 2015 that only three years later I would be less than 1000 days away from reaching Flamingo FI, I would have called them crazy.
We are both really happy with our current lifestyle. We live by the beach (on a budget!) in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Both Mr. Flamingo and I are content with our jobs and have a pretty good work-life balance already.
Our fresh start has allowed us to design a lifestyle that we enjoy and that supports our goals. We have optimised almost every area of our lives. Living frugally and focusing on reaching FI has had many unexpected positive side effects. Turns out that most things that are good for your wallet are also good for your wellbeing, stress levels and general health.
As you can see, we have turned things around for ourselves. And if we can do this, anyone can!
There you have it – our back story.
Want more info? Head over to the Start Here page!