In our second reader profile, Stockbeard tells us about his personal finance journey. SB is one of our most prolific commenters, and also runs his own personal finance blog here.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I'm a thirty-something French engineer. I lived for ten years in Tokyo and am currently in the United States, with a plan to come back to Japan within the next few years.
How did you get started with personal finance?
When our first child was born 5 years ago, my wife subscribed our household to a bunch of low-return investment-based insurances that I didn't think we needed. I also felt we could find something with better rates but I wasn't really interested in doing the same amount of research she had done. Convinced I could prove her I was right, I subscribed to a UK-based investment/life insurance with good return rates on paper. Literally the first company who cold-called me got my business (I know...)
A few years later I had started accumulating quite a lot of money (I don't put all my eggs in the same basket so not everything went to the life insurance), my job wasn't as fun as it used to be, and I wondered how much one would need to retire and not have to work ever again. I found out about MisterMoneyMustache and other early retirement blogs at that time. I learned a lot about low fees, index investments, and other fun personal finance stuff in 2014. This drove my decision to cancel the UK life insurance (which had turned out to be way too good to be true) and start looking seriously in how to invest my money.
What are you doing at the moment?
I'm answering your survey :) Other than that, I work for a big Tech company in the US.
What books/websites/companies do you recommend?
Websites: MisterMoneyMustache that I'm sure everyone will mention, that site has been a life-changing discovery to me because it takes an approach to early retirement that is much less aggressive, much more enjoyable, and much more realistic than things such as EarlyRetirementExtreme. When I read ERE, I felt "well, early retirement is a possibility, but only for hardcore people without a family". MMM proved that it was possible to take things on a much smoother path.
Livingafi.com, a blog that is not updated often anymore, but where the author explains in impressive details how his life in the corporate world was miserable. He retired early in 2014. Great writing.
Companies: I invest with Schwab, people tend to recommend Vanguard, but I would be interested to see what your other readers suggest for when I'll come back to Japan :)
Books: for expats, definitely The Guide to Expatriate's Investing by Andrew Hallam, which I think might have been recommended to me by you. Sadly most of the things he recommends don't work directly for Japan (most of the companies he recommends don't do business with Japan) so I would love to see a Japanese-centric take on his book.
Older but classic, "Your Money or Your Life" and "The Millionaire Next Door", although your blog's audience has probably read what is taught in these books a million times already, from the books themselves or from the many personal finance blogs out there.
What's your plan going forward?
We're getting close to being "FI", in a loose way: I plan to have a big share of my income come from a side hustle I've been driving for a few years, and the other share from investment. So I won't be fully FI but I expect to not have to go to my 9 to 5 within the next 2 years or so, when passive income + side hustle will be enough to cover for our expenses. This will massively depend on the USD/JPY rate since we intend to move back and retire in Japan, but our investments are (currently) mostly in USD, and in the US. It will be interesting for us to figure out a way to remove currency risk over time.
Interested to get your opinion on that ;)
We don't own a house so our target is probably higher than most people as we'll have to account for a mortgage or rent for the foreseeable future.
So, bullet items because everyone loves bullet items:
- move back to Japan, probably within the same company
- work in Japan for one more year until we reach "kind of FI"
- quit the job, focus on the side hustle to ensure it can sustain whatever is not covered by our investments
Any other thoughts?
I hope the USD goes back to 125 yen. If it did I could probably pull the trigger today :)
A big thanks to Stockbeard for sharing his experiences with us! Lots of good resources in there, I am enjoying reading back through the Living a FI blog.
I'm also looking forward to meeting Stockbeard in person when he makes it back over here :)
In contrast to Stockbeard though, I hope the strong yen continues for another 5-10 years, as we are still investing, mostly in foreign currencies. I think the yen will be weaker in the future, but for now happy to have increased purchasing power.
You can see our first reader profile with Desmond P. here. Please get in touch if you are interested in being interviewed on the site. We'd love to read about you.