Engineering Your Early Retirement | Kim from The Frugal Engineers

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In today’s episode, Cody and Justin are joined by Kim from The Frugal Engineers.

Kim started nowhere near engineering and with no financial goals.

A math professor and an intro to Dave Ramsey would turn her life and career choice completely around.

Kim would eventually build a side hustle that would become her full-time job.

That side hustle brought in more money than she ever made in traditional employment, allowed her to stay at home with her child, and even let her husband reduce to part-time work.

Now both Kim and her husband are self-employed and working for joy instead of stressing about finances.

Listen and follow along with the summary below and make sure to check out the links at the bottom of the page.

Episode Summary

  • Kim took a gap year after her junior year of college to work at Disney world
  • She had been living off scholarships and didn’t really have to worry about income
  • During that gap year, the scholarships ended
  • She bought a car and racked up $10k in credit card debt 
  • The main culprit was a guy she was dating who was already in a corporate job
  • She kept trying to keep up with his spending along with the travel and eating out
  • Kim ended up graduating with an engineering degree
  • Engineering wasn’t on her radar until a math professor pushed her that way
  • Her financial turnaround came after a friend introduced her to Dave Ramsey
  • While she always understood the math she didn’t have a grasp on the psychological side
  • From there she made a plan that included never taking on debt again
  • In grad school, she’d meet her future husband who took her on a date to dollar tree
  • Kim made a vow to pay off all her debt before they would get married
  • It was on their debt payoff celebration that he proposed
  • Then we dig into how she graduated from just Dave Ramsey teachings
  • Now that she’s comfortable with credit cards, she fully embraces travel rewards
  • Fast forward and they have a child and are just discovering the FIRE community
  • After some quick math, they realized at age 29 they were only 6 years from retirement
  • That plan was if nothing changed but Kim wanted to work from home
  • Kim dual-hatted a side hustle with her job
  • She built that up so much that she now works from home and reduce childcare costs
  • After just two years she was making much more than her traditional work
  • Inspired by Kim’s transition her husband started working for himself as a consultant
  • Kim’s side job was hard to juggle with being a new mom at first
  • After calculating things, they realized it was more profitable for her husband to go part-time and free up time for her and greatly increased their work-life balance
  • Once they were completely location-agnostic they decided to leave Florida
  • They tried Oregon for a while but it was too expensive
  • Starting this year they started the journey of finding a place to put down roots
  • They tried Tennessee, Alaska, Nevada but ultimately settled on Wyoming
  • Wyoming has great tax benefits and access to skiing for their daughter
  • Now the next thing they needed to tackle health insurance
  • They tried standard plan with a high deductible
  • Then they tried a health share program through Liberty
  • These plans are interesting because they can be more selective of who they cover
  • It was $450 per month for a family of three
  • Kim would have to pay upfront for the bills and then file for reimbursement
  • They struggled with timelines on reimbursement and lack of understanding from doctors
  • After 6 months they went back to a standard plan that was over $900 per month
  • Currently, they’re on a “short-term” health insurance plan
  • It’s only $230 per month but comes with a high deductible and no HSA
  • Then we shift to discussing the detailed steps of finding your FIRE home
  • They made spreadsheets that would mimic their spending in a specific city
  • They visited playgrounds, realtors, and the Wal-Mart Test
  • Her rule is if you don’t like Wal-Mart in your town, it’s probably not a good choice
  • We finish off the episode detailing their investment strategy
  • Their strategy is a traditional approach through Vanguard and index funds
  • They’ve decided not to retire as early as originally planned
  • That decision is a factor of enjoying work and being able to add more cushion
  • Their current total spending is $40k per year for the household

Key Takeaways

  1. It just takes a spark: Kim got redirected by a math teacher to go to engineering and she found a husband that fits perfectly with her restructuring her financial journey. It’s just amazing to see how these small moments change our lives
  2. Nontraditional meet traditional: I love how Kim wants to live a traditional life in one location with her family but made it possible in such a nontraditional way.
  3. Pen to paper: Kim was thorough and realistic when making the decision on where to move. She understood it required a lot more research than simply googling the average cost of living for a city.

Call to Action

Sit down and consider where you want to live in retirement. Build some calculations based on taxes and cost of living and make plans to visit those locations over time.

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Learn More About Your Hosts:

Fly to FI (Cody’s Blog)

Saving-Sherpa (Justin’s blog)