Guys you are going to love this interview with Neil and Sarah Mitchell, based in the UK who recently FIRE’D in December 2020.. A massive well done! “You did it!”
I first watched their YouTube video on 2GoRoam and was so inspired by a great team and fascinated by their personal story, I think being originally from the UK this one was close to my heart.
I had a long chat with Neil one particular evening over the phone and we agreed it was like we are living in a parallel universe.
There is so much I want to say about this story. Neil talks about KISS “Keep It Simple Stupid” which is something I advocate for regularly and try to adopt in my own life. So without spoiling the interview here is Neil and Sarah’s personal FIRE journey so far.
I asked the same 3 key interview questions as I do with everyone on FIREDAVE – Here are the Q & A, enjoy..
Who are you and how did you discover fire?
My Name is Neil Mitchell and I am 52 years old. I’ve been married to Sarah for around 20 years and we have no kids. We FIRE’d in December 2020.
With regard to discovering FIRE, I would say for the first 40 years of my life I was pretty clueless with money. I had some early setbacks; firstly, a business venture went bad when I was in my early 20’s that left me with a huge amount of personal debt. Secondly, with the UK housing crash in the early 1990’s I was also left with a lot of negative equity coupled with being forced to sell at a loss to pursue my career elsewhere in the country.
I spent the following years just working my way through my debt while working hard to improve my career. To be honest, for many years I feared the worst financially, I felt that if I suffered a professional setback such as redundancy, the whole house of cards could come crashing down.
As I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel of debt, I started to focus more on money as a concept as by this time I was more scared of money and the harm that it could do to me rather than the benefits of learning about it. Around my 40th birthday I received a pension statement from work outlining what my pension benefits would be. This was a huge problem because the whole statement made no sense to me, I was literally none the wiser for having read it, and this time I turned fear into action. I made a personal commitment to learn what it meant, how pensions and investments work and start to take control. I was still terrified as I was fairly sure that my pension statement was effectively telling me that I was going to retire destitute, but it was time to take my head out of the sand and start being an adult when it came to money.
Over the next few years I studied investments and I read blogs and books to build my knowledge. Over that time I made so many more mistakes financially but I took each of these as a positive, because now I was making mistakes because I was actually doing something and every mistake taught me a lesson.
Sarah and I then worked hard to save into our work based pensions, we found old pensions from previous employers and shifted those into SIPPS and also started investing via ISA’s. For many years it felt like two steps forwards and one step back, but at least it was moving in the right direction. We started to save more, cut back in the right places and just shovel as much money into our investments each month as we could.
Discovering FIRE was purely by chance. I saw an article and short video on the BBC website where Brad from ChooseFI was interviewed. That was a seminal moment for us, I think we watched that 2 minute film 50 times together over the next week as it began to dawn on us that we were on the right path already, but that it was time to double down and that is what we did. Once we prised open the door of FIRE the ‘riches’ were all there to see. We listen to every episode of ChooseFI, we listen to any podcast on the subject and also seeked out books and blogs. From then on, if you allow the pun, the flames of FIRE were lit for us and we were then just on countdown to reaching FI.
What was the backbone of your fire strategy?
Keep it simple, stupid. That works best for me.
Basically I have always seen housing as a place to live rather than as an investment, having been burnt by negative equity before, I didn’t want to look to property for investment. Not to say that it’s not a good investment, but that it is a bad investment for me personally. So the backbone for us has been; cut back on what doesn’t bring us joy, increase our savings rate and throw that into low cost index investing.
When I had first spent time understanding the concept of investing I initially did everything ‘clever’ which was very stupid indeed. I learnt very quickly that the world of investment can be stacked against the retail investor if you are being highly selective. Here are a couple of examples of what I mean.
I researched a company that I thought was going to have a stellar future, they are called Accesso Technology Group. They design and install these clever ticketing systems that you see at Theme Parks that give you line passes etc. I can’t remember the exact dates here, but I bought some shares in them for a fairly sizable wedge in 2011 and after that their price started moving up, and up, and up until I sold them at something like an 800% profit! Almost to the day when the price took a nosedive (they are performing again now without me and I am happy with that), so what an expert I am eh… an investing genius!
Over a similar period, I invested in a diamond mine company in South Africa which to me looked like my route to riches, it literally couldn’t fail. Tiffany & Co had first refusal on all diamonds and I would joke with Sarah about whether she would prefer to have a diamond or own the mine that they all come out of. For an similarly sizable wedge to Accesso, I bought into this company. After all, what could go wrong, there was positive noises coming of diamonds being mined at a high strata and that the deeper they go, that is where the real return will be. What could go wrong? Well, I will tell you…. The diamond mine was hit by a flash flood and was totally submerged and was no longer commercially viable. My investment, rather than going to 800% went to 0%. That is exactly how genius I am at investing.
Those two example cancelled each other out but told me, I can’t expect to win in the game of individual asset class investment.
Over this same time, I had learnt about Low Cost Index investing and fortunately, this was where the lion’s share of our money was going. When I think of Low Cost Indexing, it makes me think of fluffy clouds, happiness and safety. I don’t buy individual stocks in the market now, I just buy the whole market. Investment firms have whole floors in their offices filled with research teams, how the hell can I compete with that? By not competing. Keep it simple, stupid. Buy the whole market.
How do you spend time now that are FI, and any plans?
This is the exciting bit, this is where anyone that isn’t FI yet should really read carefully. What FI means and I know you all know, is Financial Independence. When we hit FI, our outlook on life really changed in all of the right ways. As we started to get close to our number we changed everything, and I mean everything. To an extent that some friends that know us think we have lost our mind and people that know us less probably think that we are in financial peril. Here’s why;
I guess to the outside world, we have looked like Mr & Mrs Normal, nice house, two cars, both working in good jobs and living in suburbia. But when we lit the fuse on our plan, externally this is what people saw.
• I had just suffered a bad fall which required hospitalisation and ongoing physio, really at the worst possible time, probably a year or two before we were planning to FIRE. This impacted on my emotionally as much as it did physically
• Sarah stopped work before me, she was stressed up to the eyeballs and in my opinion she was working like a modern day slave, even though she had what sounded like a nice job title.
• We put our house (that we loved) on the market and it sold in double quick speed.
• We put everything in our house up for sale. We wanted to get rid of everything, absolutely everything. Even my treasured Record Collection. So as you can see, externally it may look like we were in trouble, Sarah stopped working, I was off work after my fall, house and everything in it up for sale.
We did this because being FI, we are released to do whatever we want. What we want is, slow travel the world, no home base, just move nomadically from location to location. We will be doing this all through a YouTube channel because we want to inspire others to follow their dreams too. If someone else’s dream is travelling the world then they will have a feast of information. If it is just to do what they want to do after FI, there will be massive content on that too as I discuss FIRE, investment and the philosophy of being independent and minimalist..
So as I type this, I am sat in my parents back bedroom where we are waiting out the Covid situation. As soon as we get the vaccine and can travel, we are on the road!
If people want to connect with us, we are in the process of putting together our website which is; www.2GoRoam.com and have already started our YouTube channel which can be found at Click here
Make sure you subscribe to Neil and Sarah’s YouTube channel and support them on the next stage of their FIRE journey as nomadic slow travellers. Here is a real example of two people putting their heads together and making it happen. Thank you guys and good luck with your next chapter!
As always, feel free to leave your comments and get in touch if you have specific questions you would like me to ask our interview guests.