My Financial Mindset II – Taiwan FIRE: Investing While Seeing The World

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BearMoney Team

BearMoney Team

BearMoney is the balanced finance blog for new and old Canadians alike. We are a team of people living international that research, write, and share

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Intro

Welcome to the second installment of of MFM series, where we collect different perspective on personal finance from bloggers around the world. A diverse group of people will answer the same set of questions. We’ll find out where they are from, where they’re heading and how they view money.

In this editions we’re delighted to have long standing friend of the blog, The Frugal Expat aka Steve give us his insight and experiences on all things personal finance. Steve has managed to cultivate a succesfull personal finance mindset and practice while also relocating halfway across the world. If you ever wondered if you could travel the globe and still save retirement, look no further.

Want to let us know about your financial mindset? Drop it in the comments or email us at [email protected] and we might feature your article in a later roundup.

Who Are You?

Hi, I am Steve, and I write about personal finance for the blog The Frugal Expat. This was a project for me to help spread the word about personal finance to my family and friends. I know there are plenty of personal finance blogs out there, but what makes me different is that I am working on financial independence living as an American Expat in Taiwan. 

My wife and I are very frugal. We live a minimalist life in order to only add things in our life that brings us value. Therefore, we rarely buy new things for ourselves. We would rather spend that money on saving, investing, and traveling. 

I work in Taiwan as an English Teacher. Through this job we are able to have some free time to travel and explore. 

Having free time is something I particularly care about. My job offers this to me, but the job may not always be there so I try to do my best to invest and reach financial independence. 

With this journey I have learned a ton about personal finance. My hope is that this blog can inspire people, educate people about personal finance, and change people’s lives. 

My hobbies would be traveling, hiking, camping, and spending time with my wife. 

What Started Your Finance Journey?

Quite honestly, I was sitting at my 9-5 job realizing that my life was not going anywhere. The job was an admin position at a Physical Therapy office in South Carolina. I spent about two hours of everyday doing real work, and the rest of the time there was not much to do. 

This time was spent reading. The scenes of the rest of the world seemed too real to miss out. As I was approaching 30 years old, I had the realization that I had not traveled much and wanted to experience more of the world. 

This process sent me down a rabbit hole of travel articles and articles about money. Being able to travel requires money, and I had not saved up much money at all. There were no goals in my life at this time, and it felt as if I was just floating through life. 

I decided to make a goal to travel the world. The next step was to figure out how to pay for those travels. 

Travel hacking was something I eventually came across. With the thought of travel hacking, another rabbit hole opened up about creating passive income, savings, and investing. 

Since I was just floating through life, there really was no urgency in saving money. I did not have many investments, and therefore it was time to seek out better information. 

My Money Influences:

One site I came across was Mr. Money Mustache. He spoke about frugality, investing, reaching financial independence, and spoke a bit about some travel hacking. This site got me hooked to personal finance. All I wanted to do was to learn how to save my money better, invest it, and have passive income. 

Truly there is so much information out there, but I had no time to lose I just needed to start. I started with an easy robo advisor, Wealthfront, to help me at least start my journey with a Roth IRA. 

After reading The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins, I learned I could do my investments all by myself, and since then I have consistently been investing in VTI, a low-cost Index Fund ETF.

I had hoped that someone would have pointed me in the right direction earlier in my life. My father had talked about pensions, and had a stock broker. The stock broker required lots of money to start investing, and I did not have that much so I was just saving. 

The information I was reading on the internet from Mr. Money Mustache lit a fire inside of me. I wanted to learn as much as I could about finance and of course traveling as well. 

Where Are You Now?

Right now, I reside in Taipei, Taiwan. I live there with my wife. 

My main occupation is an English Teacher. My job is not a regular school teaching job. My wife and I work at a school that is all about making English fun. Schools come from all over New Taipei City to spend three days in a campstyle learning environment. 

So the kids will spend the night at the school being taught English in class, and then having fun activities like dodgeball, kickball, and musical chairs. 

Having free time is something I particularly care about. My job offers this to me, but the job may not always be there so I try to do my best to invest and reach financial independence. 

With our free time we are able to travel around quite a bit. Covid put a slight hold on that, but we have been able to make use of our time and travel around Taiwan a bit. 

Living in Taiwan has been quite nice. Even though our friends in the States and Australia are making more money than us at similar jobs, we are saving more by living in a LCOL (Low Cost of Living) area. 

Living in Taiwan can be quite cheap, and we take advantage of this to be able to save more money. 

Finance Plan?

My finance plan is a simple plan of spending less than I make, staying out of debt, and investing the rest in a simple 3-4 fund allocation

Saving Goal – Our savings goal is about 58-60% of our income each month. This is about $2500 USD a month.

Growth Goal – Our goal is to increase our income by $200 a month and to improve our savings rate to 62% 

Asset Goal – There is no long-term big asset goal like a house yet. Maybe in the next 10 years. 

Side Business?

The only side business I have right now is The Frugal Expat blog, and my wife and I do some English tutoring. On the side, I have been doing some consulting on personal finance. It is not lucrative yet, but it is a start. 

How Did You Get There?

My financial journey was a long process. Time is all relative, but it took me to want to know how to get out of my job, create wealth, and move to simplifying my allocation. 

As I began to think about how to leave my job in South Carolina, it put me on the path to learning about money, credit cards, and investments. 

In 2016, I was prepping for doing better in finances. I finally started a Roth IRA. My job then got a 401K finally, and I was able to invest in it and receive the match. You have to grab the match, it is free money on the table. 

I was not familiar with what to do with my investments, so I put my money into Wealthfront a Roboadvisor. What I realized  later down the road was that Wealthfront put my money into like 10 different ETFs. They didn’t reinvest my dividends, and I could do this easier by investing into VTI through Vanguard. 

Reading finance books like The Simple Path to Wealth really helped to increase my financial knowledge and make better decisions with my money. 

In 2017, I have finally moved to Taiwan. Within three months of moving, I met my future wife. Saving became paramount because we eventually wanted to get married, and she wanted all of my student loan debt to be gone. 

So I worked on knocking out all of that debt, and had moved all of my investments into VTSAX for my Roth IRA, and VTI for my taxable account. 

When we got married, we agreed to save my income, and spend her income. This gave us the ability to save at least half of our income, and we started to plunge more money into our investments. 

After two years of marriage, we have increased our Net Worth close to $200,000. Every month, we track our budget and Net Worth, and hope to do better each month. Saving close to 60% really does help grow our money. 

What’s Next?

 Next in life for 2021 is to improve my blogging skills. I am continuing trying to get better, improve on my writing, and networking with other bloggers. 

My hope is to increase viewership on my blog in order to get better advertising to help support the costs of the blog.  

I then want to create a podcast in order to interact with other bloggers in the personal finance space, and also create a different medium for my brand. I really enjoy talking and interacting with other people. 

Goals for 2021:

1: Increase viewership up to 10,000 views per month

2: Create a podcast

3: Keep growing as a writer and content creator. 

These are the goals I would like to achieve in 2021. 

Your Top 3 Pieces of Money Advice

  1.  Keep investing simple. Just start with Index funds. 
  2. Make life simpler. This helps with saving, investing, and life in general 
  3.  Buying income producing assets is your way to financial freedom. 

One Thing The Personal Finance Community Needs to Start

 The Personal Finance Community needs to really start creating financial literacy programs for schools. Students need to have some sort of basic financial literacy. They may not want to always learn, but being able to plant a seed in their heads will help them in the long-term. 

One Thing The Personal Finance Community Needs to Stop

 I think we need to stop demonizing 9-5 jobs. They are a cash flow industry that helps individuals start and finish their wealth creation journeys. Not all people can start their own business. Keep it simple and work the 9-5 job and let that cash flow into index funds and other investments. 

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