Aug. 24, 2020

Retiring at 40 with Laurie Stephens (Part 1) - The Mindful FIRE Podcast - Episode 4

Laurie and her husband Doug retired early at the age of 40 to a life of adventure and purpose.


Welcome to the Mindful FIRE Podcast, where we explore living mindfully on the path to financial independence and beyond. I’m your host Adam Coelho and I’m glad you’re here. 

On today’s episode I’m joined by my friend Laurie Stephens, the Executive Director of Hood River Education Foundation a non profit helping students in Hood River, Oregon. Today’s episode is Part 1 of conversation and in it we explore how Laurie and her husband Doug retired at the age of 40 and what they’ve been up to since. Part 2 of our conversation will be released next week so be sure to subscribe to our email list and on your favorite podcast player. 

We had a great conversation exploring how they made it happen and how they went about designing their life both before and after retiring early including what career to pursue, where to retire to and what to do with all their free time once they made it happen. 

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • How Laurie and her husband Doug retired at 40 years old
  • Her husband always knew that he wanted to have a life filled with play and used that desire to be intentional about his career path so he could make money and then retire to a life of play
  • How Doug brought Laurie into this vision and helped her build confidence that retiring early was actually possible
  • How the book “Your Money or Your Life” by Vicki Robin changed the way Laurie thought about life and money
  • How Doug took 
  • What they’ve been up to in the 20 years since they retired
  • How Laurie has thought about pursuing her passions through several post-career careers
  • How Laurie and Doug chose where they wanted to retire to
  • How knowing you can always get another job is incredibly powerful in pursuing early retirement
  • Laurie’s thoughts on the difference between being frugal and being cheap

And so much more. I hope you enjoy my wonderful conversation with my friend Laurie Stephens.

Each Tuesday I release a guided meditation or inspiring interview on the topics of mindfulness and financial independence. Subscribe for future meditations and episodes!

Transcript

Adam Coelho: [00:00:00] Welcome to the mindful fire podcast, where we explore living mindfully on the path to financial independence and beyond on today's episode, I'm joined by my friend, Lori Stevens, the executive director of a nonprofit in a small town in Oregon. In today's episode, you'll hear how Lori and her husband, Doug reached financial independence and retired by the age of 40.

You'll hear how their path to financial independence started from a vision that Doug had to create a life filled with plague and how he used this vision to intentionally choose his career path so that he could make good money work for a time and then retire to a life filled with play. And you'll hear how Doug brought Lori into this vision and helped her build the confidence that retiring early was actually possible.

And you'll hear about what they've been up to after retiring at the age of 40. We'll also explore Lori's thoughts on the difference between being frugal and being cheap. I hope you enjoy this wonderful conversation with my friend, Laurie Stephens,

Laurie. Welcome to the mindful fire podcast. 

Laurie Stephens: [00:01:09] Thanks for being here. Thanks Adam. I'm looking forward to it. 

Adam Coelho: [00:01:12] So I'd love to start by inviting you to share with our audience. Who you are and what you're doing in the 

Laurie Stephens: [00:01:19] world, let's start with what I do. So right now I've been working for four years as the executive director of a nonprofit here in a small town in Oregon.

And that nonprofit supports our K through 12 school system through scholarships for. Kids to go to college and grants to teachers to do like cool, innovative stuff in their classrooms. We also support low-income kids to be able to participate in sports in middle school. Unfortunately, with budget cuts, kids have to pay now to participate, particularly in middle school sports.

So we're supporting. Kids and teachers in our district here, that's a part-time position and flexible hours. So it's been a good fit for me with where I'm at right now and looking to the next phase. I think I'd love to hear 

Adam Coelho: [00:02:10] your career path and how you ended up where we are right now.

Laurie Stephens: [00:02:14] So I grew up on the East coast, went to college in Virginia. I knew I was interested in science. And so I thought maybe medical school, but the age of 18 or 19 was really terrified by the thought of. Becoming a doctor and like killing someone, having that responsibility for someone's life. And I also, wasn't a hundred percent sure that's what I wanted.

So I I majored in biology and I ended up taking a couple of years off after I graduated to work in a research lab. And then I applied to graduate school. I had always wanted to live somewhere else, like on the West coast. And so I applied to Berkeley and was accepted and bent. The next 13 years in the Bay area got my graduate degree, my doctorate in developmental biology, a special side of that cell and molecular biology and did a post-doctoral study fellowship at UC San Francisco for several years.

And it was there that I met my husband. He was a chemical engineer at a biotech company nearby and. We started doing fun stuff together, and he's a very outdoorsy person. And I got a job at a local biotech company in the Bay area for a couple of years, and wasn't very happy doing that, but meanwhile, we had decided to start a family.

 That sort of changed everything when we talk about that whole financial independence retire, early aspect of things that definitely had an impact. And it affected our decision to move away from the Bay area because of, we just did the math and it was just going to be really hard to have a kid have a home and have quality time with a kid.

So my husband accepted a job at a biotech company up in the Seattle area. And so we left the Bay area. I'd been there 13 years and I loved it, but we left and we had a small. Child. He was only two months old when we left. And I decided to step away from my career in order to be home. And that was a tough choice, but I ended up working part-time at university of Washington teaching biology.

And I enjoyed that a lot more than the research. And meanwhile, my, my husband was working at a biotech company in the Seattle area and we had a second kid and that's when the possibility of. Actually retiring early presented itself. So at that point, we looked around very consciously at where we would want to live.

If we didn't have to be tied to a location to work. And we chose a. Small town in Oregon to basically retire too. And the kids were three and five and we did that. It felt like jumping off a cliff. We literally left everything to jobs, house, and bought another house here in Oregon and decided to start.

This retirement plan. What that meant for me was I had the freedom to really look at what I wanted to do for fun instead of for income. And I decided to become a bicycle tour guide. Because I wanted to travel. My husband was able to be home with the kids. I didn't want to be home. Full-time I'd been there for almost five years working part-time but spending a lot of time with the kids and I was ready to get out.

I was ready to bust out. And so he stayed home and for 12 years, not full time, but for 12 years I worked as a bicycle tour guy traveling all over the West Hawaii, New Zealand, and I would multi-day. Deluxe bicycle tours by the end of that, my kids were in high school and I suddenly realized that they were going to be gone.

And so I quit that job and was unemployed for a couple of years and didn't really want a job. Then as my younger son started to. Enter his senior year of high school. This particular position is the executive director with this foundation. I worked for just fell into my lap. I literally wasn't looking for it.

It just fell into my lap and it seemed like a good fit. That's like kind of a long nutshell, but that's how I got to where I am now. 

Adam Coelho: [00:06:13] Very cool. I did not know any of that. That is very interesting. That is a lot of schooling. 

Laurie Stephens: [00:06:19] That's a lot schooling. And I only worked in the field for two years after four years of college, five years of graduate school, two to four years of post-doctoral stuff.

And then two years of working in the field, I did, however, it did allow me to teach it university of Washington, which I really did enjoy that. But what I learned along the way, and it took a long time was that lab research was not. Was not a good fit for me and I don't regret it now. I think going through that PhD program gave me a tremendous amount of confidence and it just you have to do something while you're growing up, so might as well be something that if it doesn't advance your career, at least it advances your sense of your abilities in your, your ability to face challenge and to trust yourself, to be able to. Survive in the world. 

Adam Coelho: [00:07:08] Absolutely. So it sounds like you moved up to Washington for a time.

That's where you did the teaching at the university of Washington and then decided. Hey, we want to find where we want to live forever or for the longterm, that kind of the thought process. 

Laurie Stephens: [00:07:24] And we had my husband's an engineer, so we did this using a spreadsheet know, of course. Yeah, 

Adam Coelho: [00:07:30] of course.

That's great. Yeah. 

Laurie Stephens: [00:07:33] Oh yeah. He used a spreadsheet. I basically used my gut, which hasn't always guided me a hundred percent perfectly, but this time I think it did, as soon as we drove into town, I was like, Okay, honey, this is it. And he said it is, how do you know? I'm like, that's all I just know. So that was cool.

And I really I've had few, few regrets. There's a few things that have been a little more challenging here as far as like diversity and the kids getting exposed to a wider range of cultures and things like that. That's been a little bit. More difficult living in a semi rural town in Oregon.

So I always wonder what would have happened if we'd raised them in the Bay area. Cause I think that would have influenced them quite differently, but you do what you can, and they've turned out. Okay. So far. 

Adam Coelho: [00:08:24] So how did you decide on hood river, Oregon? Like you said, it sounded like you drove into the town and were like, yeah, this one will work.

But how did that end up on the spreadsheet list? I asked this is that's what 2020 was supposed to be for our family, trying out some different places, figuring out, okay, where do we want to live? We knew the Bay area was going to be a long-term solution for many of the same reasons. Said, but obviously 2020 had different plans.

So we'd love to hear how you thought about that list and went about figuring out where you did want to live for the longterm. 

Laurie Stephens: [00:09:00] Because we were at that point looking at essentially being financially independent, we needed to. We couldn't live anywhere. We couldn't buy five houses and live anywhere we wanted.

So we felt like we needed to make a smart choice and move somewhere. Probably not in a big city in the West coast because the real estate was just too expensive and cost of living in general. So we wanted a small ish town that was. Within roughly an hour to an hour and a half of a major airport, we wanted to be near great outdoor recreation opportunities because that's basically what we both love my husband more even than myself.

And we also wanted decent schools for the kids decent public schools. We didn't want to send the kids to. Private schools and a community with a little bit of diversity, if possible the high school is about 50% Latino. And so we definitely wanted to move somewhere, staying on the West coast, maybe California, but it just felt like California was getting really expensive everywhere.

So we checked out Oregon and there were a few communities that we explored, but. This one seemed to just be a good fit. Yeah.  And for all the reasons I mentioned, basically, recreation schools, proximity to a large metropolitan airport, just livability affordability, and decent weather.

I wanted to get away from some of that rain and it's still ringing the ear, but not as bad as yeah. Outside Seattle. Yeah. Cool. 

Adam Coelho: [00:10:34] That kind of brings up a good point. It sounded like the idea of reaching financial independence was very much top of mind for. You both. And you ultimately ended up retiring early at 40 when you both you and your husband were 40

right 

Laurie Stephens: [00:10:51] around there.

Yeah. 40, 41. No. 

Adam Coelho: [00:10:53] And so how did that conversation come up? Like how did you discover that this was. Possible. And how did you come together to set that goal of reaching financial independence? What was that discovery 

Laurie Stephens: [00:11:05] like really good question. I was asking my husband about this just the other day. It's like when, cause I, I feel like he was the primary driver in this.

He talked about as a kid. He just loved playing so much that he. Thought to himself on going to get a really good job and I'm gonna make some money and then I'm gonna not work. And I'm going to play as an adult. Like I don't want to work my whole life. And I thought, yeah, a lot of kids say that and then they grow up.

And things come along that they would get distracted by either, shiny objects or our passion for whatever they're doing for work and things like that. He really stuck to the plan. He went to college and majored in something that he felt would, he would be able to get a good job with good pay.

And then there was some luck involved. He ended up working in the biotech industry at a time when biotech was just taking off. And when he was working at. That first company that he worked for, he saw a lot of his workmates and people who had been at that company for awhile retiring early, because they had come in at the beginning.

This is the beginning 

Adam Coelho: [00:12:14] of the company. So they were getting activity and being able to get in on the ground floor. 

Laurie Stephens: [00:12:19] And he thought, okay, so this is possible. You just have to get in on the ground floor with a company that's going somewhere. And so shortly after we met. He took two years off just as an experiment.

He had made enough money to support himself. He also is very frugal. He does not spend very much money at all and he never has, and his parents were the same way. So he inherited that quality. And so we lived very simply, just the two of us. I was working at the time and he took this.

Two-year period off just to see what that felt like. And he loved it. And he decided that, what he wanted to do was find a company where he could get in on the ground floor and work really hard for a number of years. However many it took, but hopefully not very many and then retire and then just play.

So I had a similar story, but I just didn't have the faith that this was possible. Like when I was a kid growing up, I also thought, Oh my God, I'm going to have to grow up and sitting in an office from nine to five every day. It sounded like torture. And indeed the first job I had in Boston as a lab tech was torture.

I had to show up early in the morning, I got half an hour for lunch. I would go outside and sit on this little tiny stamp size piece of grass outside the building so I could be outside, but I also didn't have the confidence that I could position myself in a way that I'd be able to retire early.

So really I have to give him a lot of the credit for this because. He had the vision. And then he actually was able to make it happen by very carefully selecting that next position, which was a small biotech company up in the Seattle area that offered him a position. And in lieu of a huge salary, they offered stock options.

This is right before the tech bubble happened and it was right before they had a major drug hit FDA approval. And so it was just a combination of. Of believing and trusting that he could make this happen. And me trusting that he could make this happen, because that was, it was like what you want to retire at age 40?

 He knew that when he was in college, he was like, yeah, I want to retire by the time I'm 40. And I'm like, who thinks that?  It was a shock to me, but I often say I just hit my wag. Drain and we went with it, so it pretty much worked out the way he had envisioned except that the tech bubble was bursting right around the time we wanted to retire.

And so that was a little worrisome because we had done all the calculations based on. What, all these stock options wouldn't be worth when things were at their peak. And then before we could really get out because options vest, and you have to wait, you can't just cash them in. You have to wait until you're eligible to cash them in.

By the time, we were able to do that. The market had really come down significantly. So we had to be more careful. We had to  when he left that. Job. And we moved to Oregon. We recognize that we might have to work at least part-time and we were willing to do that. Those five years, I often say that Doug could work or he could be a dad, but being both was not.

A viable option for him. It was killing him basically. And so those five years where we were outside of Seattle, he worked really hard and we had two little kids and it was almost not a viable situation. It was, we were very close to. Cracking there. And partly because that sort of nose to the grindstone nine to five thing was not really a natural fit for Doug and on top of that parenting and not sleeping.

And all of that was really a challenge doing 

Adam Coelho: [00:15:55] it in a startup environment as well. It's not like a big company. You can go in and do your thing and leave, it's you're all in. And then of course, parenting to young kids is also all 

Laurie Stephens: [00:16:06] That was never his vision. He was not like, Oh, I want to be a dead, no matter what, that was like more my thing.

So it felt like this was really a struggle for him. It was sapping his life energy to try and do both. And so we knew something had to give, the pressure was there for him to retire or at least leave that job before things right. Really got untenable. And fortunately we did make it through that and we weren't sure if we were going to have to work part-time or not.

I did, I worked for that bike tour company for 12 years that didn't bring in a tremendous amount of income, but it helped. And Doug did a lot of other things. It took a big leap of faith and I tend to be the more nervous, anxious person who wants to plan everything out and make sure it's all safe and okay.

As a Doug as much more of a risk taker. In everything. And so it really, I really had to. Set aside, a lot of my fears and follow his lead and trust that we weren't all just gonna end up on the streets somewhere begging for, our dinner. Not that I thought that would happen. He kept saying, look, I can go back to work.

He said, So it's not necessarily permanent. I have skills. I trust that. If things, look, I look it and grim, I'll just get another job. And I recognize I could work too. We might have to move somewhere else where we could get jobs, but, there were options and certain amount of confidence in our ability to go back to work if we needed to.

Adam Coelho: [00:17:32] Interesting. So it sounds like he, even from being a teenager or maybe even before new. I just want to play. I just want to have the life of play, which is amazing. Yeah. And I am going to work make some money as quickly and efficiently as I can so that I can go back to play full-time plays. It sounds was that was the goal.

Laurie Stephens: [00:17:56] Full-time that's the goal. Yeah. And he accomplished that. One thing I should mention is that when we were living in Berkeley before we had the kids, but we were talking about our future and our options, his goal had already been discussed. And I was still thinking that he was a little bit on the.

On the crazy optimistic side, but we, somebody recommended a book which has come out again in 2018, but it's your money or your life. And I don't know if you know that book. It's probably yeah, so that was like the only book out there in 1992 that people were talking about, retiring early, looking at, how you spend money, why you spend money, the way you do, what are those.

Impulses and urges that are causing you to actually have to have this job that you hate in order to pay for the stuff to make you feel better for the fact that you have this job that you hate. And it just, it really made sense to us, especially Doug, as being somebody who does not. To spend a lot of money.

It was a total fit. He was like, yeah, why would we go spend money on big cars and expensive houses and stuff like that. It's just handcuffs for the, the job that you have to have in order to afford all those things. And so that was an eye-opener and it validated for me, it validated his. Choices, because I realized that other people out there were actually thinking about this and implementing these ideas.

And he wasn't like the only person who had this vision. 

Adam Coelho: [00:19:27] Yeah. Other people were actually doing it and making it happen 

Laurie Stephens: [00:19:31] and writing about it. 

Adam Coelho: [00:19:32] And it sounds like he saw people in his company also doing it. And the idea of that, okay. This is not just something I think would be great.

It's like how people are actually doing this. If I play my cards, I can make this happen in a relatively short 

Laurie Stephens: [00:19:49] amount of time. Exactly. With some luck, with positioning yourself in the right place. And the company he was working for. In the Bay area, he had not gotten in early enough to take advantage of all those generous stock option offers and things like that.

He had some, but it wasn't enough to retire on. That's what he used for those two years that he took time off when we were living in the Bay area, but it wasn't enough to permanently retire. And so he knew he needed to. Get in on the ground floor or a little closer to the ground floor in order to do the retire early plan.

I'm 

Adam Coelho: [00:20:22] curious about what it was that made you fully embrace this plan and realize that it 

Laurie Stephens: [00:20:30] was possible. One of them was that his degree of unhappiness was obvious. And I felt like either he had to quit and to go back to work full time to,  to create that sense of security or he had to quit.

And maybe we would both go to work part-time at something that we liked better. And I think it was just recognizing that it wasn't worth it to, to continue in this direction. Just for the money and that just that refrain your money or your life. It just kept coming back. And we had a lot of conversations about it and.

When I would bring up concerns, he would always have the backup plan and the backup plan as well. We go back to work. And I think that's, what's the important fallback for me was knowing that we weren't totally jumping off of a cliff. We had parachutes, the question about how did he convince me maybe, or how did I feel comfortable going along with the plan.

I think it was really two fold. It was probably just his confidence and his knowledge that he really needed to do this. And then also that there was a backup plan. We both had skills because we could go back to work if we had to. And, but this was an experiment. Let's see if we can make it happen.

Cool. 

Adam Coelho: [00:21:47] And it sounds like after five years in the Seattle area, you said, okay, we're going to pick this town. We're going to go for it. At that point. Was it when he retired to taking care of the kids, full-time. 

Laurie Stephens: [00:22:00] He took her kids full time, but only when I was away on trips. So I would do say eight to 12, one week long trips every year, mostly in the summer months.

It was eight to 12 weeks of being away out of 52. And I have to say, initially, when I started doing this, the boys were three and five and that's a difficult age. Especially when you have two of them and they're very active. And for any parent to be alone with the kids for seven to eight to nine days at a time when you're used to having a partner is challenging.

He did his. Part on that end and allowed me that freedom to do a job that was a fantasy really. I hadn't always had that fantasy, but it was a really fun for somebody who'd been home with little kids to suddenly be in these places, biking and talking to grown-ups and going out to great dinners and, having these amazing experiences traveling.

So that was. Definitely a bonus. 

Adam Coelho: [00:22:57] Yeah. And so it sounds like you can move to Oregon into that, or was there a time when you were figuring that out? It was pretty 

Laurie Stephens: [00:23:03] short. We moved in August or September of 2002. And by spring of 2003, I had decided that I wanted to do this. And I applied for a position with a company that were out of Seattle and I was able to start guiding.

That summer. So you were 

Adam Coelho: [00:23:20] working at this company out of Seattle, but it sounds like you would travel to places and then lead bike tours there. How did this new found dream come up? I'd love to hear a little bit about your thought process, knowing that you were about to approach this financial independence and this big pivotal point in your life.

How were you thinking about that and what you'd be doing after that? 

Laurie Stephens: [00:23:45] We had talked about possibly doing an outdoor guiding business because this is what. My husband loved to do, and we did have to work. Maybe this would be a way to get income while doing something we'd love to do. But the more he thought about it, the less excited he was because he's really not an extrovert type person.

He wants to be out doing his thing to do his thing. He doesn't want to be really holding other people's hands through the process. And on the other hand, I've always been in. Enjoyed explaining things to people, taking on the teacher role. And I thought that would be a really great way to combine being outside, being physically active, traveling and making a little money at the same time.

And, using those coaching, teaching skills and people skills. Cause I really missed it. That being home with little kids, I really missed people. And I guess I realized that's very important to me is having those social interactions and that's not as important to my husband. I didn't feel like I was capable nor did I want to go through the training to do like extreme outdoor guiding, like mountain near guiding or whitewater, kayak guiding or something like that.

We had done those activities. But I didn't want to take that responsibility for somebody's life. And so I thought bikes, at least they're a little bit more responsible for their own safety and where we do basic things. Obviously the support that, but I wasn't solely responsible for people, isolated up on a mountaintop somewhere.

And so I had started biking. For fun. And then my mom asked me if I would go on a bicycle tour with her just to accompany her. She had just started biking at age 70, 72, and she wanted to try a really easy bike tour. So we went on a bike tour together and I thought it was super fun. And we went on a couple more together.

This was before we had entered the retirement phase. And so there was that concept in the back of my mind. Maybe this is something I could do. And when we moved here to Oregon, I did a trip with my mom to Italy in September and my mom and I were riding along and we were talking about the future and she said too bad.

You can't do this. I think you'd be really good at it. And I said, what do you mean? Why can't I do it? She goes we have two little kids. You get to travel all over, doing this stuff. I'm like, wait, why not? I don't have to be home. I have a husband who's talking about, retiring or, right on the verge of it.

He can take care of the kids and I could do this. And she was like yeah, I guess you've cut it. Like the idea that, moms don't. Like just take off and become bicycle tour guides. And I think part of that was almost a challenge. It's she, she threw down that gauntlet and I'm like, Oh, I can do that if I want to.

So I just came home like within a week or two and started Googling bicycle tour companies in the Pacific Northwest. And I found this particular company reached out to them, had submitted an application, had a phone interview, had an in-person interview and I got the job and it was very fun. For about 10 years and the last two years, it got a little less fun and I knew it was time to move on.

It just became a little bit more rote, a little bit less creative each time. And I was starting to feel like I was missing out on things at home. My boys were in high school. They're doing. Cool stuff, sports and I was missing games. I was missing birthdays. I was missing events and I could see we were going to be empty nester soon.

And I was like, Whoa, that happened really fast. I want to just be here and not feel this conflict about, Oh no, I can't be there for that event. Cause I've just agreed to do this. Bike tour in New Zealand or something. So I left the company and was home and did some volunteer stuff and filled my time with that until this other job just presented itself.

That's awesome. 

Adam Coelho: [00:27:36] And so you were just traveling around the world and you'd go to a place and then organize the whole bike tour thing. And. Take a group of people and you'd ride from place to place or yeah. 

Laurie Stephens: [00:27:50] Yeah. Yeah. The company would set up the basics like the hotels and, have equipment available.

And sometimes we would have to drive vans from Seattle all the way out to Utah, for example, and then people would show up, we'd pick them up at airports or meet them at hotels or whatever. And everybody load up in a van and we'd drive off and they'd ride during the day. And we. Move their luggage from town to town and go out to great thinners, some of the best restaurants in different areas.

So I was doing that in the Pacific Northwest. So some, tours out to the San Juan islands and here in Oregon, we did a, or a Oregon tour that would go all the way through the Columbia river Gorge. And. Crater Lake and up on the sides of the Mount hood and things like that. And then I went to New Zealand a couple of times and the Southwest and California central California coast did bicycle tours along the coast.

So the Canadian Rockies. I got around, it was to see some really cool places yeah. And get paid for it.  Felt pretty lucky. 

Adam Coelho: [00:28:45] And so it sounds like that provided some income to cover the living expenses of. Having a house and a life and two boys did the plan of retiring on the stock options and this money that you guys had saved up to that point also bear fruit, despite the crash of tech market back then.

Laurie Stephens: [00:29:04] Yeah, definitely. So we had a nest egg to start from those stock options and we knew that we couldn't just sit on it and tuck it under the mattress and spend it because it would be. Gone within a certain period of time. I don't know how long it would have lasted at our current spending rate, but we knew to make this work.

We had to invest it in the stock market. And so without that, we probably would not have been able to keep this going as long as we have. So that was a critical component. And we were very careful to work with a financial planner to make sure we were only withdrawing as much as the. Portfolio could really sustain and we really wanted it to continue to grow.

So we were pretty conservative with what we were drawing out of that, but we had to pull money out on a monthly basis to, to cover our costs because bicycle tour guiding eight to 12 weeks a year, wasn't gonna support the family. That was extra. That was extra. And then it helped us from having to pull more money out of our investments.

So that allowed them to grow. Over time. And I think we're at a point now where the, when I do ultimately, retire full-time from this position  and not do this anymore, that we'll be okay. We don't need that additional income anymore because of that sort of cultivating of the.

Of the nest egg to the point where it's basically producing enough for us to live on indefinitely 

Adam Coelho: [00:30:28] growing this whole time while you were earning some income, too. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Cool. Yeah, that's really interestingly here. Do you have a sense for what percentage you were. Living off of the nest egg.

Laurie Stephens: [00:30:42] Yeah, probably two to 3%. So very conservative, pretty conservative. Yeah. I mean it, it would fluctuate and sometimes we would pull back during like during the 2007, 2008, 2009 period, we dropped down what we. Pulled out of there because we are concerned about allowing it to recover. So we go through phases and do it periodically where we assess our expenses and say, how can we cut back?

What can we not do? What can we get rid of? And during that time, we told the kids we're on the austerity program. Kids we're not buying anything, so they now know that term austerity programs like no. We're not buying anything. You want that? No frills. Yeah. Go get a job.

Cut somebody's lawn. I don't know. So it wasn't like we were gonna starve and we only could eat rice and beans or anything, but it's a good exercise to go through. I think, periodically too for everybody, whether you're working or not to. Look at what your, where your money's going,  and evaluate it because you know how it is, you sign up for these monthly subscriptions and it just adds up.

It adds up a lot. And I spend a lot of time evaluating ways to do things that are less expensive and that helps reduce what we have to spend each month. Like I said, we're probably okay now, but it's just a habit. Like we're looking at refinancing our house now because. The mortgage rates are, right?

So it's like, why not? We save several hundred dollars a month. So it's just a habit that, that we both had. We're both frugal people. I'd say I'm more prone to wanting the bright, shiny, fun objects and spending money more than Doug. He just wouldn't spend it at all. It's only on toys. He will spend it on toys.

He'll spend on a new bike or a new kiteboard or whatever, but anything else you'd like, why. Why don't we do that home improvements? No, it's what, why do you want to 

Adam Coelho: [00:32:30] do that? Early in the financial independence community, they talk about 4% rule of thumb, where if you live off of 4% of your nest egg, you can essentially live indefinitely based on this thing called the Trinity study.

But if you want to be ultra conservative, they're saying that it's around 3.2, 5%. It sounds like you guys are well below that. So you're. Good to go. And with some S some income on the side, you're able to write that very low so that the nest could continue to grow. 

Laurie Stephens: [00:33:02] I'd say we were probably closer to the 3% earlier on it.

Come up. Now it's probably closer to 4%. Actually, I haven't calculated it lately, but we're sticking to that. And we're assuming we have another 30 years to live off of this and we don't really want to spend it to zero. We're assuming we're going to leave something. So I got 

Adam Coelho: [00:33:21] a side question. Love to get your thoughts on, and this is coming from a personal place.

What do you see as the difference between. Being frugal and being cheap because I find myself on the wrong side of that equation. Sometimes 

Laurie Stephens: [00:33:38] You're cheap. You're being accused of being cheap 

Adam Coelho: [00:33:42] accused and recognizing my own tendencies. 

Laurie Stephens: [00:33:46] Yeah. It's a fine line and I think it's in the eye of the beholder.

Really, because I tease Doug all the time about just being incredibly. Cheap and he comes back with no I'm being frugal. So it's an age old, it's an age old question. I think that for me, there are things in life that are worth spending money on and Doug has a flat, nothing is worth spending money on except.

Toys, particularly his toys. I haven't sense that I get a lot of pleasure from things like color and attractive environments and my garden and things like that. So I think what's happened over the years as we've become more secure with our financial independence that he has relaxed.

And while he still doesn't like to spend a lot of money, he doesn't fight with me about spending money on things that he knows create a lot of pleasure for me. So that has reduced a lot of the tension. Sometimes, each partner has to compromise and I think the compromise has been. Okay. I don't personally want to spend money on that, but I see that it makes you really happy.

And so I need to step back from that other times, he balances me out where he says, we don't need that. And then I have to sit there and think about it and go you know what? You're right. We don't need that. So to conversation that doesn't, it, it's a constant back and forth and I respect cheap.

I, I respect frugal cheap sometimes as irritating, but I respect frugal. We've also agreed that what is worth spending money on our experiences as opposed to stock. And sometimes you have to buy the stuff to have the experience. If you want to go mountain biking in a beautiful place, you do need to have the mountain bikes, and also we did purchase a sprinter van five years ago in order to allow us.

That freedom of jumping in the car and going somewhere without reservations. And that has actually saved a lot of money. We can travel and live very cheaply and we love that. It's really fun to go on a two to three week vacation and all you spend money on is food and gas. It's we still love to go on two vacations, even though we could afford to do more.

Probably for me, it's like 

Adam Coelho: [00:36:06] trying to come more towards value. What do we value? And I think recognizing what I value, but also recognizing what my wife values and realizing those things are different. My friend is very big on this financial independence stuff as well. And he got me into it and he gave me a rule that has this idea that if it's under $20, there's no argument.

Oh, okay. Yeah, because it's not worth trying to live by, it's it's tricky for sure. Because for me, I, there was a time where we're early on in the. Being into this financial independence that I realized like, Hey, every dollar I spend could be $10 in retirement. And so then it's like putting everything through that filter.

It's  maybe this isn't worth it. But I think I need to pull it back a little bit, especially as I progress along the path and start to have more confidence in the plan and realize that not stressing about money as the whole point of financial independence. And so if I'm causing stress for myself and with my wife, I'm not really living the value of financial independence.

And what I'm hoping. Yeah. Thank you so much, Lori really appreciate you joining me on the podcast today and I hope you stay safe and healthy. Thank 

Laurie Stephens: [00:37:19] you, Adam. 

Adam Coelho: [00:37:21] Thanks so much for joining us on today's episode of the mindful fire podcast. If you got value from today's episode, please hit the subscribe button on the platform.

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Laurie Stephens

Executive Director at Hood River Education Foundation

Laurie and her husband Doug retired at the age of 40. Listen to her episodes to hear more about her story.