It’s that time again.. Interview time!!
I have the opportunity to share with you an interesting and unique story of Emer & Damien Phelan. Both are members of our local meetup group and great advocates of the FIRE lifestyle!
I recently featured live on Instagram and in order to join the interview I had to set up an Instagram social media account @firedaveg and this is where I spotted Emer’s online presence ‘Once Foot in the Save’ and her thousands of followers. Then I spotted it.. an Instagram photo showcasing Emer’s amazing debt freedom celebration cake!
This hit a nerve with me as I also had to walk the debt freedom road and this was all the momentum I needed. I pinged Emer a direct message and also a request for an interview on FireDave.
You know the 3 questions I ask everyone, maybe you will be next. Kick back and hopefully there are a few gems in here for you…
Who are you, and how did you discover FIRE?
I’m Emer; the money saving, waste reducing gal behind One Foot in the Save. Together with my partner Damien, we are on a journey to become Financially Independent. I’m also delighted to share that I’ve recently become Debt Free which is obviously a huge part of my FI journey, but also a really important personal journey.
I work as a software engineer with a background in financial services, and have been with a large multinational for 13 years. I’ve always maintained a moderate salary, but found myself living paycheck to paycheck – there always seemed to be too much month left at the end of my money. Essentially, I had a bad relationship with money – I was spending mindlessly, buying all the latest trends and not giving much consideration to ‘Future Emer’!
Damien has always been quite smart with money and saving for the future. I must have eventually started to listen to him, because something clicked with me one day! I decided enough was enough and I was working too hard to not be building a better future. I also decided to pair this realisation with my love for writing and came up with the idea to document my journey – One Foot in the Save was born! It has been a series of conscious changes over the past 18 months to develop a new and healthy money mindset.
I started to learn more about Financial Independence through various debt free communities online and we both started to come across books such as The Barefoot Investor and Your Money or Your Life. We both always knew we wanted to have more choices and more freedom as we got older, and decided to make Financial Independence our target!
What is the backbone of your FIRE strategy?
We are both Engineers (construction and software) and work on a lot of complex projects where the ol’ KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) acronym is often the best path. So we reflect that in our FI strategy too. Quite simply we make wise decisions with the money we earn – in how to spend less of it and in how to grow it. We also try to keep a healthy work life balance – so though we definitely do some side hustling, we always ensure to have adequate down time. We have both been in situations in the past where our careers have caused us to make some large sacrifices to personal time. So though we are working hard towards our FI figure, we are keen to enjoy the journey and make the most of the present too.
With regards to spending less, we make sure that we are getting the absolute best price for everything – from grocery shopping to electricity bills…and everything in between. We use comparison sites, online research and a few clever hacks to ensure we get the best deals for absolutely everything we buy. I’ve also changed some lifelong habits and, however simple it may sound, have started to use up what I have before buying new. I maintain a Monthly Budget, track all spending and have fully funded saving pots (sinking funds) for all Annual Expenses.
On top of our salaries, we have a few side hustles that bring in some additional income – all of which get us closer to our FI goal. I do online surveys, market research, matched betting, mystery shopping and online reselling to bring in some extra cash. I have also designed a full suite of Financial Planning Downloads and a Meal Planning Bundle, all of which I sell from my Etsy store. Damien uses both his professional skills and some hobbies to earn additional income too. Like I say, we do love a side hustle, but make sure we have plenty of downtime too! Gotta get that balance!
In terms of investments, we have our eggs in lots of baskets and will continue to diversify our savings and investments while we are both still earning. We have an investment property which brings in regular rental income. We both max out our (employee matched) pensions and have additional AVCs. We use both physical and online trading for both individual stocks and index funds, have some managed funds and have some money in P2P lending.
We’ll continue on this path until we reach our FI targets – exploring various ways to invest our savings, continue to keep up the side hustling and spending mindfully. I genuinely believe that this journey doesn’t need to be complicated – you don’t need to monitor the stock market like a hawk, read every single FI book going or be so frugal that you forget how to enjoy life. A lot of people I speak to through One Foot in the Save are put off the idea of FIRE by the over-use of trading jargon in certain circles and the misconception that you must have a property empire and a stock portfolio to rival Warren Buffet. Keep it simple – Euro Cost Average into the market, invest and forget, increase your income while you can and be wise with how you spend your money.
What do you plan to do once you reach FI?
Enjoy the freedom of choice and continue to practice gratitude for all that we have. We have both worked hard to get where we are – no big inheritance or lottery windfalls here! But I feel it’s crucially important to continue to be grateful for everything that works out in life. To achieve financial independence will mean that we will have managed to come out the other side of any struggles we may face and that is the real benefit of our journey.
Though we plan to work towards a financial figure where we have the option to retire, it’s likely that we will both still continue to work in some element. This may mean a reduction in hours, perhaps with more of a focus of working on passion projects; along with giving back to the community in some way. We will likely treat ourselves to a nice campervan and spend a lot of time exploring Ireland, Europe and beyond. We’ll send a postcard!
Etsy Store: https://www.etsy.com/ie/shop/OneFootintheSave
Thank you Emer, I look forward to my postcard 🙂