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 will turn 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 semi-retirement trial.
After about 6 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 (again, without a proper plan in mind). 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 half-decent 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.
Now or Never
Once everything calmed down a bit, I had a closer look at our new life. We were in a good situation – decent incomes, no debt (except the small loan my dad gave us), 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 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!
Initially, our plan was to work until we hit FIRE, but we soon decided that we did not want to spend another decade in the rat race. The Sydney lifestyle was (in still is) a little too busy for our liking and we wanted to be able to work less and live a simpler life sooner rather than later. So we came up with 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 3 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 (especially because we know we won’t have to do them forever) and have a pretty good work-life balance.
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? You can read more about our current situation on our About page. Head over to Our Plan to see how we are planning to hit Flamingo FI and quit our jobs in early 2021. We also post monthly progress updates, you can find them on our Project 1000 page.