Location Independent, International Jobs: Moose from MSoLife

Hello! Welcome to “Location Independent, International Jobs,” the Wednesday series where I showcase stories from people who have become location independent, work internationally, and/or practice location arbitrage, as is the case with today’s guest poster.

Today you’ll hear from Moose, who blogs about FI at MSoLife. It isn’t everyday that you meet a fellow Carolinian with ties to Chile who speaks Spanish fluently. We’ve had fun ribbing each other in Spanish over email. I couldn’t wait to hear more about his plans for the future once he reaches FI in a few years.
This interview will cover:
  • Where Moose plans to move to live more cheaply once his family has reached FI
  • Who geoarbitrage is right for, and who it isn’t right for
  • How a mini-retirement can fit into your FI goals
For the complete story of how Moose plans to retire to South America, read on.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Moose Cartoon Head Making Sense of Life MSoLife www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
I was born in France and have lived in Mexico, the UK, the USA, and
Germany, so it’s hard to say where I’m from, but I currently live in Los
Angeles, California and am from Charlotte, NC. I’ve been married for a
little over five years and we have one daughter, who’s two years old. I was
an Army officer for six years before going to business school and I’ve
worked in investment banking (for a short time and it sucked) and investment research for private equity and hedge funds.

A Year of Good Food: Shop at One Store

Happy April! Time for this month’s recap of A Year of Good Food.

A Year of Good Food: Shop at One Store (March) www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Our family is challenging ourselves to spend less on food this year so we can reach our goal of location independence by the end of 2019. Last year, I challenged myself to adopt one habit a month that would translate into better money moves for our family. You can read all about what I called A Year of Good Habits here.

This year, we are challenging ourselves to do better at our food spending. Last year our family spent over $12,000 in groceries, or $966 per month.

This year, our goal is to spend 20% less on groceries. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s almost $200 per month in food savings. The extra $200 per month is going into a travel savings fund, so we can see the results of our hard work in spending less on food.

We could have adopted a radical goal to keep our spending under $500 or something like that. But we know better. We thought it made much more sense to consistently hit our modest target, month after month, for an entire year, to show ourselves we could do it, than to maybe hit the $500 goal once or twice and then face plant with more $1000+ grocery bills.

And if we consistently hit sub-$772 spending, then perhaps we’ll challenge ourselves next year to shave off more.

For some people, $772 is a huge amount to spend on groceries. Others couldn’t imagine spending so little. The USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion says the average that monthly expenditure for a low-cost food plan for a family of four in the US was $731.20. The liberal food plan average expense was $1093. I’ve seen bloggers who spend $60 per month on their food (they garden and eat two meals a day). I know friends who spend $400 a week for their family of five. Food spending really does seem to be all over the place for people.

This experiment is about behavior change for our family, so by teaching ourselves to spend less and not waste food (which we can be pretty bad at) my hope is that at the end of this year, we’ll have developed permanent habits around spending less and eating everything we have in the refrigerator.

So far, it has not been easy to achieve this goal.

Continue reading “A Year of Good Food: Shop at One Store”

How to Be a Rockstar at Your Job Part 2

When you’re building wealth by saving and investing, one of the things that can help you save much more rapidly is earning more. In Part 1 of “How to Be a Rockstar at Your Job,” I detailed three ways Mr. ThreeYear and I have been able to increase our wages over the years: taking responsibility, working as contractors, and tooting our own horns.

How to Be a Rockstar at Your Job Part 2 www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Today, I’ll offer several more ways we are able to become rockstars at our jobs in order to increase our salaries as much as possible.

Find a Mentor

Jalpan from Passive Income Engineering cited finding a mentor as one of the key ways he’s been able to progress in his field in intellectual property.

A mentor is a co-worker at your job who’s ideally a couple of positions above you, or someone who has more experience in different areas. He or she can teach and guide you, answer questions, and generally help you become better at your job.

A good mentor will challenge you, encourage you to apply for promotions you might not feel ready for, and help you understand situations that come up with your boss or peers. Continue reading “How to Be a Rockstar at Your Job Part 2”

Location Independent, International Jobs: Dana Leigh Lyons of Alchemist Eating

Hello! Welcome to “Location Independent, International Jobs,” the Wednesday series where I showcase stories from people who have become location independent, work internationally, and/or continuously travel.

In today’s interview, you’ll hear Dana’s story. Dana is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, teaches at a Chinese Medicine college, and runs her own coaching business: Alchemist Eating.  As a long-distance eating and lifestyle coach, Dana helps people eat in a way that’s healthy, intuitive and uncomplicated. Her work combines eating, medicine and minimalism.
This interview will cover:
  • how Dana created a location independent career in an unlikely field
  • why it can make sense to change careers in your 30s
  • tips to eat well for less, including the foods you should buy
For the complete story of how Dana has made a location independent life, read on. 
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I come from a small, rural town in Maryland but lived abroad on-and-off throughout adulthood.

Dana Leigh Lyons www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Dana Leigh Lyons of Alchemist Eating. (Photo credit: Bobbi Barbarich)

I’m now in my 40s but in my 20s and 30s worked as a location-independent translator, editor and writer. In that “past life,” my homes included Washington, DC, (where I completed my Master’s degree), Egypt, Thailand, and many super-temporary spots (China, Ethiopia, Lebanon and Mongolia, to name a few!).

Dana Leigh Lyons--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Dana meditating with her cat by her side. (Photo credit: Bobbi Barbarich)

I tended to change homes (and continents) every few years during my 20s, but then moved to Nelson, British Columbia, for Chinese Medicine school. The doctor program here is 5 years, which meant staying put! Thereafter, I spent time in Florida and Colorado, where I’m licensed as a doctor and started my own business. Until… the Chinese Medicine school invited me back to teach. I was thrilled to return to my “true home” of Nelson, where I now teach acupuncture, herbs and food therapy. I’m also helping develop the college’s upcoming nutrition program.

Continue reading “Location Independent, International Jobs: Dana Leigh Lyons of Alchemist Eating”

The Best Advice I Know for Becoming Location Independent

Our family is currently on a three year experiment to double our net worth and become location independent. While we’re not there yet, we’ve learned a lot on this journey.
The Best Advice I Know for Becoming Location Independent www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
If you’re thinking about cutting the ties and becoming location independent, here are a few things we’ve learned (some, the hard way):

Kill the Debt

First things first, get rid of your debt. There is nothing more binding than owing someone or some entity money. Pay off your credit card balances, student loans, and car loans as fast as you can. Consider selling your house to rent. When you owe money to a person or an institution, not only are you beholden to that person or entity, you’re stuck working long hours, in order to pay your fixed expenses and pay back your debt, as well.
If you’re thinking about traveling, living internationally, or taking on a job that allows you to live anywhere, I highly recommend paying off your debt first. There’s an inherent unpredictability that can come with location independence, especially if it involves living in an international location or traveling for long stretches, and being out from under the burden of debt payments is freeing.

Continue reading “The Best Advice I Know for Becoming Location Independent”

How to Be a Rockstar at Your Job

Last week, I wrote about building wealth, and how Mr. ThreeYear and I began saving and investing.

Rockstar Job Computer Girl phone working www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss one of the major ways we’ve been able to save: our incomes. Mr. ThreeYear has worked hard to increase his earnings over the years and now earns a very competitive salary for his field.

While I work part-time (as a teacher no less), I have increased my hourly wage with my job so that were I to work full-time, I would earn a very competitive salary (higher than the average teacher salary).

Mr. ThreeYear and I have worked hard to increase our salaries over the years, and this is one of the key ways we’ve been able to pay off debt, invest, and increase our net worth.

ESI Money (which stands for earn, save, invest) discusses earning as one of the keys to increasing your income, and has some great posts on the subject, like how to ask for a raise.

Earning more during your working years is one of the fastest ways you can increase your savings, especially if you’ve developed the discipline of banking your raises.

Heading to work--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Mr. ThreeYear, ready for another day at the office.

Many financial bloggers talk about side hustles, building your own business, or buying real estate as a way to increase your income. These are fantastic ways to earn more money, but today I’m going to focus on increasing your wages as an employee (or a contractor–we’ll get to that).

Continue reading “How to Be a Rockstar at Your Job”

Location Independent, International Jobs: Kara from Provincial Table

Hello! Welcome to “Location Independent, International Jobs,” the Wednesday series where I showcase stories from people who have become location independent, work internationally, and/or continuously travel.

Kara Provincial Table winery Germany vineyards www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
In today’s interview, you’ll hear Kara‘s story. Kara is a mom of 4, married 22 years to her college sweetheart, and a simple living blogger. I asked her to tell me her story after I kept seeing her amazing Instagram accounts of her European trips. 
This interview will cover:
  • how Kara and her husband TJ are able to travel around Europe for a month at a time
  • how frugal living has allowed them to pursue their love of travel, even while raising four kids
  • how they keep their spending low, even in a HCOL area and with kids at home and in college
  • best tips for low-cost travel
For the complete story of how Kara and her husband take month-long trips to Europe, read on! 
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I don’t consider myself an expert in travel, money or simple living. My blog is a space to have conversations about ideas that can add value to life. Sometimes I talk about money, and other times the topic is growing vegetables. It’s really about all the activities that are necessary to live well; food, exercise, money, goals, self-investment, travel, gardening, minimalism and lots of other things. Habits can have a big impact on our quality of life; everything really is related. Working toward financial freedom and living frugally doesn’t have to mean operating from a place of scarcity. I’ve been so inspired by others’ stories and it brings me joy to pass it along to someone else. I hope in sharing my thoughts and experiences, I can encourage others to find their version of happy too.

Kara and TJ--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Kara and TJ on a recent trip to Hawaii

I grew up in the Midwest, married my high school sweetheart at nineteen, and had four children. We’ve been married for twenty-two years.

Our oldest daughter is twenty-one and works as a gas turbine engineer in the Navy. We have three boys, aged 19, 17, and 16. Our oldest son is studying software in college and shares an apartment with roommates. Only our two youngest boys live at home now and will both be graduated from high school in two years. Since we started out so young, it seems like we’re on the verge of life 2.0 and it’s exciting! We’ve got big ambitions!

I studied respiratory therapy and worked in that capacity in the hospital setting. When we moved to Colorado, I was ready for a change and went back to school to study science, a field I’ve always loved. I have four more classes left to complete my degree in molecular biology. In order to earn some extra money and keep developing my skills, I’ve done some work part-time as a teaching assistant for the writing department at the university I attend.

My husband TJ manages a product development group for an AV company based in Orange County, California. He works out of their smaller Colorado office and travels to the California office often. He loves the creativity and flexibility of his profession.

We’ve always been frugal and have saved money as we could over the years. A little over two years ago, I began reading more about finance and learned how we could be leveraging our money more effectively.   Paying off consumer debt, downsizing our lifestyle, fully utilizing saving vehicles such as 401k, IRA, HSA and after-tax investment accounts has significantly increased our savings rate and brought us peace of mind.

In order to accomplish this, we live modestly. We own a 2-bedroom townhome and try to minimize our possessions more each year; following a minimalist lifestyle has freed up so much time, space and money. We have one car, a Toyota Corolla; we drive only when necessary. Instead, we bike whenever possible, even to the grocery store. We plan our meals, shop sales, eat leftovers, pack lunches, rarely eat out, and use our chest-freezer to minimize food waste. We use a clothesline to dry most of our laundry. We have Netflix instead of cable TV. We have a wide range of interests and entertain ourselves at home with cooking, hiking, listening to music, reading, and gardening. Rather than a miserly or spartan life, it’s full of life! And sprinkled in between is travel to interesting places. The goal is to invest in and improve ourselves along the way.

Continue reading “Location Independent, International Jobs: Kara from Provincial Table”

Why Traveling Abroad is So Important

 “Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert

I was recently chatting with a friend who’s considering spending a few months in another country with her family. It’s a big decision and she’s not sure if it’s the right one.

Stupa Bangkok Thailand Travel Abroad www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Couldn’t their travel bug be cured by a road trip within the country? There are a lot of unknowns and what-ifs about up and moving to a totally different country and culture, especially if you don’t know the language!

A few years ago, when Mr. ThreeYear and I were planning an anniversary trip to Southeast Asia, several of my parents’ friends, who have all spent their entire lives in the same region of the US, asked why in the world we’d choose… Asia. My mom asked me over the phone one day, “What should I tell them? Why do y’all want to go to Southeast Asia?”

After she asked me the question, there was silence on the line. It felt like someone had asked me why I drank water or why I ate food every day. Continue reading “Why Traveling Abroad is So Important”

Building Wealth for Freedom

I’ve written a lot about getting out of debt. That was the first step for Mr. ThreeYear and me on our journey to financial and location independence.

Or maybe it wasn’t.

Fishing on the beach building wealth freedom www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

When I was in college, my dad started reading a lot about stocks. I was curious, and began reading a bit myself about investing.

I knew nothing about the saving side of the equation, but investing extra money had me curious. I opened my first Ameritrade investing account when I was a senior in college. I invested the money I received as a graduation gift into this account, in some stocks that my parents and grandparents recommended (Coca-Cola, MedImmune, and some others I can’t remember). I picked up the occasional book on investing, such as The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need, and The Little Book that Beat the Market.  I left my money to grow and forgot about it. Continue reading “Building Wealth for Freedom”

When You Want to Move, But You’re Scared

Sometimes, new opportunities can seem amazing. Becoming location independent, traveling the world, taking a job in a foreign country.

Move Scared Bali Coast Blue Ocean www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

But let’s face it. Those opportunities can also be terrifying. How do you leave a place where you’ve lived, maybe for years? How do you take your kids out of the only school they’ve ever known? How do you leave your family behind?

Related Reading:

With exciting new opportunities come LOTS of feelings. Mr. ThreeYear and I have wrestled with lots of these feelings and emotions during our three year experiment. And it turns out, we’re not the only ones.

Jaime, who runs the blog Keep Thrifty with her husband Chris, is facing the same daunting challenges of leaving what she knows and loves to face the great unknown as her family debates taking another year of mini-retirement, going back to traditional corporate jobs, or moving somewhere new.

Like us, Chris and Jaime are contemplating moving somewhere new or possibly, extended travel. They have lived their entire married lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and are surrounded by their extended families, whom they and their three girls see regularly. They’re facing the uncertainty and guilt of leaving behind their families in the face of a really strong pull towards adventure.  Continue reading “When You Want to Move, But You’re Scared”