On board the pod today is Amy Minkley to talk about FI Freedom Retreats in Bali. We discuss Amy’s journey to Financial Independence and how FI freedom retreats was created!
Introduction – FI Freedom Retreats with Amy Minkley
In this podcast, I chat to Amy Minkley who created FI Freedom Retreats in Bali. Amy shares her journey of working hard, travelling abroad, maintaining a high savings rate for a long period and then getting burned out. She talks about her money fears and where they came from, and how it took hitting rock bottom for her to realise she needed a change. She discovered the FIRE movement, moved her life to Bali and is passionate about helping others discover FIRE. She created FI Freedom Retreats and loves connecting with those in the FI community, and empowering others to love with more choice and freedom.
“I dove into learning about financial independence, and connected with the community at six FIRE conferences. I found a group of committed, lit-up people that were welcoming, generous, and alive with possibility. People took time to: Look at my investments to make sure they were optimized, Counsel me with compassion around my money fears, Encourage me to keep going with a new mindset of FREEDOM! My life is forever changed because of the FIRE principles, and especially because of the people in this community. I WANT THIS FOR EVERYONE! So I created FI Freedom Retreats, the first FIRE retreat in the Asia-Pacific region!”Amy Minkley – FIFreedomRetreats.com
Episode 44: FI Freedom Retreats with Amy Minkley
- Check out FI Freedom Retreats HERE
- You can find the FI Freedom Retreats Facebook Page HERE
- Guided Meditation for When the Stock Market is Dropping, by JL Collins, on YouTube HERE
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- Rich Broke or Dead Graph from EngagingData.com below:
FI Freedom Retreats with Amy Minkley
Captain Fi: [00:00:00] Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. Welcome aboard the Financial Independence Podcast,
and welcome to another episode of Captain Fire, the Financial Independence Podcast, where I open the cockpit to some of the best and brightest in personal finance, as well as those who have reached or are on their way to financial independence. Before we get started, remember nothing said here is financial advice, and you should always do your own independent research before making any financial choices.
With that being said, I hope you enjoy the episode and learn something new.[00:01:00]
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Today I have the fortune to be chatting to [00:02:00] Amy Minkley, who is pretty impressive in the Bali fire scene running her business, FY Freedom Retreats, and basically living the high life over in Southeast Asia.
So, Amy, how you going?
Amy: Great. Thanks for having me on . I’m so excited to be here.
Captain Fi: I’m really excited to have you on. So, thanks for coordinating. I know we’ve had a bit of back and forth. There’s been a lot of change going on in my life recently. So thank you so much for your patience.
And I’m really looking forward to later on this year, potentially even coming up to one of your five Freedom retreats in Bali, which is just gonna be. Awesome. But before we get stuck into the pod, , can you just tell us a little bit about yourself? So where you from, your family situation, hobbies, that kind of thing.
Amy: I I grew up in rural Texas and I grew up in a time where not a lot of people traveled, especially, the US people don’t travel as much as Ozzies do. Um, So I really never grew up around travelers, but my sister was a reader and when she went off when [00:03:00] she was in high school and lived abroad, and I was a young girl.
I’m much younger than all of my sisters, so I’ve got three older sisters. I was a surprise in my parents’ life, so I used to get these letters back from her as a young girl, and I. Put the dream in my mind to go abroad. And so I left in 2001 right after I finished my undergrad and I went to Japan.
Initially I thought I’d be there for one or two years, and I ended up staying four and just falling in love with Japan and it opened my eyes to how big the world is. I worked with lots of Aussies and Kiwis and people from all over the English speaking world in Japan. And then I learned about international school teaching.
And long story short, I’ve been abroad since 2001. And I absolutely love Asia. So I’ve worked also in Singapore and India, and. Bangkok and I’ve lived in Bali now for several years, so I will never go back to the US to live. But I do visit my family here and I, I have a partner who’s Australian as well that I met [00:04:00] in Bali.
And my hobbies yeah, I love traveling, obviously scuba diving, running yoga, anything related to personal fitness and personal growth. I’m a lifelong learner, so I love reading as well.
Captain Fi: . That’s really awesome. I definitely want to touch on the travel and the geo arbitrage. Later. The first thing I wanna ask you about is, you are obviously a great public speaker and you’ve been doing this for a while.
I saw your fab speech online about the fire journey and how it can be shaped by a childhood experiences. And you talked a lot about your personal experience. I can certainly relate to that, to how money trauma early on in life can lead to fire potentially becoming a bit of an obsession in seeking safety.
And we can actually unintentionally put ourselves under a lot of pressure. That’s pressure to achieve pressure, to earn more pressure, to save more so that you can invest more. Can you tell the listeners a bit [00:05:00] about your experiences as a girl and how this impacted your money relationship and then how your journey changed and you resolved that as you got older?
Amy: Sure. Yeah. I grew up in a really stable home. I had three older sisters that I mentioned that were all, a decade or more older than me. And my parents never fought. I had a really loving environment. And I, as far as I knew, they were really happy. And when I was 12, overnight my situation changed.
My sisters were all in college at that point or already out of college. And my dad. Just sat me down on the couch one day and said he was leaving and I was shocked. And l later I found out he had a younger girlfriend and he went through a midlife crisis and he said he couldn’t fully pay child support.
So my mom and I went from having money to suddenly having to sell my childhood home. We moved to a different state. My mom went back to college and she was, she was heartbroken. She was shocked by what happened in the family, but her biggest concern at the time was [00:06:00] money.
And I became Her support system. And as a young girl, really she shared a lot of her concerns with me, and I saw her just, reading financial books because she had kind of depended on my dad to take care of the financial situation. She woke up and realized, I don’t have much retirement.
I don’t know how I’m gonna support my daughter and I don’t have a college education. So she was reading all these books, sharing with me, her fears around money. And I adopted a lot of those fears. And then I had to support myself. So in high school I worked two jobs, I had to buy a car in the US it’s hard to get around with public transportation, so I, I needed a car to get to my jobs.
And then in college, I worked two jobs to lived in, the crappiest apartments. I was a ra. Dorms for several years. I went to a state school, I just figured out how I could live as cheaply as possible and I got out debt free, but I worked a lot. And it was cheaper back then as well, so luckily but yeah, I was very focused on saving and it was a blessing in many ways [00:07:00] cuz I learned how to budget and save from an early age.
But then when I ended up working, in Japan and then getting the international school jobs later in Singapore and Indian Bangkok, I was obsessively focused on savings to a point where that really wasn’t healthy. So I used to sit , on the weekends, like looking at my spreadsheets, sitting in the living room, going row by row, figuring out how much did I spend this month, what is my savings rate, what is my net worth?
And I traveled a lot , but I did it all on budget. But I was very selective about what I would spend on and very intentional. But no matter how much money I got, the target kept moving. So I will be safe when my net worth is this.
And then I would just move that target when I reached that. So it was really a really unhealthy pattern and way of living.
Captain Fi: Yeah, I can definitely relate to that. I found myself doing something very similar. How did you resolve that? Like, how did you get to a point where you sort of accepted that, Hey, no, this, enough is enough and that you don’t have to keep moving those [00:08:00] goal posts?
It took me
Amy: a long time. I think I’m a slow learner. Those childhood wounds are really hard to overcome. , I. Burned myself out really. I was working in top tier international schools that paid really well. They gave me, free housing and, free flights home every year.
And I was able to save, almost 90% of my income. But I didn’t feel safe, so it didn’t really matter. Even, each job I got as I moved countries and, my income would increase, but it didn’t really matter how much I saved, I never felt safe. And also part of that was my old strategy of how do I feel safe is I work hard, I learned when my dad walked out that door when I was 12 years old.
I learned that to be safe, I need to work hard and save money, and I need to kind of never depend on a man. I need to be strong and independent and not be vulnerable like my mom was. And so I had survived on that strategy and it served me for. [00:09:00] A while, but it was no longer serving me anymore. And so I, one of my principals called me the hardest working teacher in the school.
And , I had this fear somehow I don’t wanna lose this high paying job that allows me to save this much. So, I wanna make sure I’m grading and planning and making my lesson plans as great, as perfect as they can be. And so I would work on the weekends and just try to maintain that kind of security lifeline.
And so I actually burned myself out and I decided to take a sabbatical year and travel. And I went to Bali and I’d been there many times as a tourist and I did a. Transformational course, and I was on my way to Africa and I ended up just staying in Bali, and that’s where my, yeah, my Australian partner.
So, through that course, I really saw a lot of my unhealthy patterns, like my lack of trust in men that, I’ve been single since 2005, so I’d been single for, oh my goodness, it was 2018. I met him 13 years, [00:10:00] which is ridiculous. But being there, I really saw kind of, oh, I can have more life balance, work life, just enjoy my life more.
And I saw a new possibility for how I could live my life in a more healthy way. But unfortunately I still hadn’t healed it because , one year turned into two, one sabbatical year , I was loving life there. But I was trying to find other ways to earn money, and I wasn’t really bringing in the kind of money that I thought I needed.
And so I went back to work again. And so I am a slow learner because I took a job in Bangkok and I moved my partner from Bali with me to Bangkok. And I really hit rock bottom because this international teacher life was not serving me any longer. And so it was really then when I kind of saw this is not sustainable, this overworking overs, saving, obsessing over money.
I was deeply unhappy. , my health was suffering, my relationship was suffering. Finding the fire movement was like , me and a [00:11:00] state of desperation.
Captain Fi: Wow. I’m listening to what you’re saying and I can’t help but reflect on, we’ve been through very similar journeys.
So, so you found yourself in Bangkok just completely burnt out. And how close were you to fire at this stage? You mentioned you kept moving the goalpost. I mean, were you 50% of the way? Were you 90% of the way? Like when did you decide that you actually had enough and it was time for a
It’s even hard for me to say now truthfully, but I feel like I was already really fired. But yeah. But even now I’m still like, am I really fired? Maybe I would be a little bit safer. I’m still, I, it’s still a work in progress, honestly, cuz I always feel like, oh, if I had a little bit more money, I’d be okay.
But I mean, I knew how much my life cost me in Bali because I’d lived two sabbatical years there and I feel like I had. Nest egg to support my life in Bali. So, maybe I’m not fired for Australian lifestyle or the US but for living in Bali, which is really where I wanna live, [00:12:00] at least for the next, you know what I can imagine?
I at least 90% the way there, I would say, but I didn’t even know about fire until, I , went back to the job and had lived that best life. And in that dark moment of overworking and waking up with anxiety at 3:00 AM in the morning and getting up to work in the middle of the night and being depressed, and my partner saying, who are you?
And he actually said, , this isn’t working. Like I’m gonna go back to Bali. It was a really low point for me when, I’d been single for 13 years and then, suddenly I feel like I’m losing this relationship, which has been such a joy for my life that I went online and I found fire at that point.
But it took me a while to kind of ingest all the information and understand, okay, what is the 4% rule? How much money do I need? All of that. It took me a little while to listen to all those podcasts and really kind of get it through my thick skull that I might be okay.
Captain Fi: I mean, that’s the thing, isn’t it?
It’s so tempting to shift those goal posts and just think, okay, if I just [00:13:00] do one more year, if I just have, some more shares, one more investment property one more business sale, it’ll increase my buffer, my margin of safety. I can have a lower drawdown rate.
But yeah it’s a trap. It’s it really is. Look I found myself miserable as well when I was in Sydney. I was working really hard. I had actually had a relationship breakup, had some family issues going on, family health issues. And I found myself in a similar sort of position there where you’re going like, wha what the heck?
Wh why am I doing this? Right. And for me, moving back to Adelaide whilst it’s probably not quite as big a change as going from the US or a high cost of living in foreign city , to, to Bali the cost of living in Adelaide is significantly lower than in city.
To give an example, my rent in Sydney. I went from basically having a one bedroom apartment in the far outskirts of Sydney to having a two bedroom penthouse [00:14:00] apartment right in the heart of the Sydney in Adelaide. I was only paying, I was about around the same so yeah, my lifestyle massively improved when I realized, hey, enough’s enough and it’s time to come home.
And I’ve been almost, oh gee, almost a year now not flying. And I’m only now just starting to kind of recover from that and starting to get back into my projects, time to start being productive and doing stuff. But yeah it’s a works in progress as well.
So, what I’d love to know is how did you start tackling. Your anxiety with money, like those demons that tell you that you know you haven’t got enough, you are not good enough, you’re gonna run out of money. And what did you do to silence those?
Amy: I feel like for me, education was a lot of it.
Like really discovering the fire movement was huge. It really gave me a lifeline, like in a dark moment to start reading, and I just went down the rabbit hole. I listened to all the podcasts. I read all the books. I would Run, I’d run out of [00:15:00] frustration it was during the pandemic and I was lonely and just having some hard times there and I would listen to all of it and education really was a big part of it.
And then also, getting people’s opinions talking to financial advisors, having them look at my numbers. And then when I started to connect with the fire people one-on-one in the fire community, I mean, I am so grateful for the friends I’ve met in the fire community , cuz otherwise it can be kind of a lonely journey where I was just listening and ingesting all this material, but not really being able to be in community and really share that journey with others.
So I’m grateful for all the people, going to different events and having people look at my spreadsheet, log into Vanguard with me, look at my asset allocation and getting other people’s opinions on it has been very helpful.
Captain Fi: We did chat earlier this year and I remember , you’ve actually been to quite a lot of fire meetups, like the sh chatauqua.
Am I saying that right?
Amy: I haven’t been to [00:16:00] Chatauqua, but I’ve been to eight fire events in a short period of time. Yeah. I really went after it, my dad had a stroke when I was in Bangkok actually. And that was probably the. Part of the impetus for me to walk away from my job, because you talked earlier about one more year syndrome.
And I really had that, I mean, I quit my job and then I just decided to , go back and say, can I have one more year? Even though I was miserable, even though it’s having an impact on my relationship. But when my dad had a stroke, that really helped me to quit. And during the time that I came back to the US I did a lot of fire events.
I was supporting him with his health challenges and so, I went to Campfire, like I’ve been to six Campfire’s Economy and then Fin Talks and they were amazing. They’re so much fun.
Captain Fi: Yes. And I want to get into a little bit later about five Freedom Retreats and how you’re actually doing that a lot closer to Australia.
But yeah, I just wanna say nothing like a health emergency or a [00:17:00] family health emergency to put things into perspective when it comes to fire, because what am I doing this for? And one big part of that is family and time. And if you spend all your time working and it’s impacted your own, health, your physical health, back, neck issues chronic stress, maybe grinding your teeth, money, anxiety, it’s kind of not worth it.
And the whole time you’re sort of sacrificing that time with the family. It’s this absurd concept that one day you’ll magically feel that you have enough and that you can quit work and go home and spend time with these people when your health will magically improve. I don’t think it works like that.
I tend to probably be guilty of sometimes thinking black and white binary. And what I sort of realized along my journey is it’s a lot more gray and blended. Working really hard and then all of a sudden stop. It’s really hard cause we have this like inertia. So I’m starting to really love the concept of semi-retirement.
Yeah. Which is kind of what we’re doing here. , you’re building five freedom retreats your business. I’m [00:18:00] really enjoying blogging and podcasting. Yeah, it is a bit of work. Certainly I can see just how much work it is for you, especially with coordinating big functions.
But I think for me, like I’m enjoying this slower kind of pace. And I think what we just gotta try and find a a balance in the middle somewhere, right.
Amy: Yes, exactly. I love it. , I love my life now. I feel so much more freedom and choice and, I had been abroad since 2001 and so, to come home and really home is Bali for me, but to come to the US in 2021 and spend nine months in the US and I hadn’t done that in so long.
And now my parents are in their eighties and I left when they were in their sixties. So it was such a gift to not be tied to the school calendar anymore and to really be here to, help my dad, move him into assisted living center, go through all his storage units and be there on a daily basis with my mom as well as she ages.
And I plan to spend three months of every year in the US and kind of nine months in Bali. But[00:19:00] it’s such a gift to be able to do that. And we’re also supporting, my partner’s parents who are outside, in country Victoria, and they’re also getting older. So it’s beautiful to have the flexibility and the time.
Captain Fi: And so has that freedom or that, control and choice that you have now, does that make you feel a lot, more safe when it comes to money and your life?
Amy: Yeah, I’ve taken three sabbatical years in total, when I left Japan, I took a sabbatical year before I went to grad school, and then Singapore and then two after I left India before I moved to Bangkok.
And what I’ve seen in these sabbatical years is my net worth actually grows, even though I’m spending money and I’m traveling I left my job in July of 2021, and same thing, I mean, there’s been a bit of a dip in the market, but really, I’ve got enough of a nest egg there that I don’t have to worry.
So I think it’s also just time. Having the freedom and the choice is wonderful. And then just seeing over time like, oh, I’m still okay. And I can go back and get a job if I want, or I have [00:20:00] ways to generate some income if I’m worried about it. And I also love to have a purpose and contribute.
And so I’m never gonna be a kind of person who’s gonna sit on the beach and not bring in another penny for the rest of my life.
Captain Fi: Yeah, it’s a huge one. There’s recently an awesome online calculator came out I can’t remember the name of it. I think it was like rich broke or Dead.
And it’s basically what I reckon is the best fire calculator that’s online at the moment. You can basically put in all your details, age investments, plan, withdrawal rates extra potential income. , but one of the newer concepts that sort of surfaced is this concept of the flex rate, which really is like totally common sense, right?
So it’s okay, if the market goes down or the dividend payments are reduced and , I need more money. Your other option is to try and spend less. And I guess before the whole flex rate buzzword came out, it was just called tightening your belt. But it’s basically, yeah, if my investments go down by 10% am I going to be able to reduce my expenditures by 10%?[00:21:00]
And you can put this into the calculator and it’ll basically print out a graph, which is like a visual depiction of the percentage chances of you ending up rich. Cuz most people will end up with five times their starting retirement number, right? So people are retiring with a million dollars.
A lot of people will end up dying with four or $5 million if they’re using the safe withdrawal rate. It’s only in a very small percentage to people either run out of money, but what this calculator does, it also includes mortality, which I think is quite refreshing. I’m literally just typing it into Google Runout.
So Rich broke or dead Did calculator. Bye. There you go. It’s on engaging data.com. Will money last to retire early? I’ll put this in the show notes. It’s freaking awesome. Awesome. Okay. And I think having the the death curve really does put things into perspective.
I’ll put a screenshot in the show notes of this off my calculation. Because you realize that yeah, we’re all gonna die. And when you look at your flex [00:22:00] rate and the potential for extra income which you’ve just mentioned actually the success rate is usually super, high and you end up dying with a lot of money.
So the flip to that is, hey, you can either have a lower nest egg when you start your early retirement, or you can draw down at a higher rate and spend more in retirement. And it doesn’t really affect the outcome cuz hey, unless you plan to die with a lot of money I dunno, maybe philanthropic or you want to leave a huge inheritance to your kids or something, but.
There’s an interesting book die With Zero and I think in the book I love that. Yeah. It’s, it says if you die with money, that’s essentially you’ve wasted life cuz you’ve wasted energy creating that money. Yeah.
Amy: , I love it. I love that book.
I bought it on audible and I’ve listened to it a couple of times now and I feel like it’s a book I’m gonna continue to return to and listen to because, it’s funny, I’ve had breakdowns and, the egg aisle when my partner and our in New Zealand, cuz I’m like, the buy some eggs in New Zealand
It’s so hard to overcome for me, [00:23:00] this scarcity mindset and this fear around, oh, inflation’s higher now. Or, allowing myself to spend a little bit more. So it’s a great book and I wanna always listen to it every year. I think I need it.
Captain Fi: look I’m the same. I I see some of the prices these days and I’m think, oh God, but then, gotta bring it back and realize that, hey, We’ve really gotta be asking ourselves, as Ramit Seth says, the $30,000 questions rather than the $3 questions.
. Yeah. So, I know, like you, me and a lot of people listening to this podcast we’re not driving around in in stupid brand new sports cars, sort of finance. We’re not living in McMansions. We’re sensible with our money. We have highly diversified, low management fee, index funds potentially investment properties that are, producing income.
We’re, when you say, look after the cents and the dollars look after themselves. So I think we’ve got most of the way. So, it’s okay to spend on a few things that bring you joy. And , like Mr. Money mustache, I saw he just published, he’s buying [00:24:00] a a new Tesla, which I think they’re at least 50,000.
Yeah. He’s vanned finally cared it. There’s a guy who’s literally the, the vanguard of frugality. He’s literally the the frugal guy on the internet. And here he is realizing he’s gonna have more money than he knows what to do with. And I’m pretty sure that he actually gives away a shitload of money.
And , so he is sort of going it’s okay to spend. But yeah I did see some of the memes on the prices of eggs. I think there was something else going on, Amy. I think there was like a bird flu in America, which caused the price to spike or something.
It’s crazy. I mean, who better qualified than to comment on the price of eggs in China other than yourself who did live in China for quite some time? Yeah,
Amy: It was funny to have that little emotional moment, and that’s what’s funny is you know, how many times I can think about where I was traveling, doing really cool things, but I was worried about money, so I wasn’t really fully enjoying [00:25:00] my trip, that night, if I remember correctly, we were at the base of Mount Cook, and my partner and I are looking up at it, beautiful place, but we’re having an argument and it’s related to my scarcity minds that are out money. So, yeah, it’s hard to heal those childhood wounds, but I think I’m gradually learning.
I need to speed it up a little bit.
Captain Fi: Do you wanna know what I do with traveling? What do you do? So I transfer, the money to my partner, and then Okay. She manages the spending. So she does like booking the flights, hotels, is for the food and everything, I just transfer the money. Lump sum and then I just divorce myself from thinking about it. And then I’m like, oh, this is a really nice meal we’re eating. I’m like, no, I’m not interested in the price. I’m not paying it, my partner’s dealing with all the money.
It’s a problem and that allows me to just try and enjoy the moment a bit more. Cuz yeah I do get that as well. It creeps in a little bit and especially when, you [00:26:00] do see some of the prices in restaurants, you’re like, oh gosh, that’s a lot. I just have to not think about it.
And by outsourcing the management of that which she’s more than happy to do that. Yeah it works for us.
Amy: Yeah. That sounds great. I feel like in the last year I’ve made some major progress, but it’s taken a long time before that, I’m gonna try that strategy. Transferring it all to my partner. Letting
Captain Fi: manage it. You obviously do a budget for the trip and you work out like roughly how much you’re gonna spend. And then at the moment we just pay half each for our trips.
Yes. Which I’ve copped a bit of hate online for that. Cause some people saying, oh, hang on, if you’ve got all these investments, shouldn’t you be paying for everything? But anyway, that’s just how we’re doing it now. We’re not , married yet or anything, but, that’s just what works for us.
And then, if there’s obviously overspent at the end, we’ll settle that by transferring other lump sum. But look, another thing that’s really worked for me and I’m pretty open about this, is I go and talk to a therapist. And it’s actually been really helpful because, what I learned about myself is that I was obsessing over fire and, [00:27:00] building passive income and investments as a way to regain some sort of control over my life.
Because subconsciously I was feeling quite out of control because , my life wasn’t really where I wanted it to be going. And , by. Controlling how much I could spend and how much I could make. That gave me some more feelings of I’m actually in charge of my life. And anyway, after I left work, which was just, it was a hard job.
, you were always on very high tempo lot of stress. So once I left that, It really helps me to sort of overcome a lot of these feelings of being out of control. And weirdly enough, I feel better spending money now , so yeah, definitely encourage anyone who’s starting to feel like they’ve got some anxiety worked up , over money.
It’s definitely worth actually reaching out and talking to someone about it. You can chat to a friend, a family member, your partner but we always talk about, oh, you can DIY your finances, but we have financial advisors and financial planners and financial [00:28:00] counselors , Professionals that do this.
So I know why it should be any different. If you had a cold or a broken leg, you would go to a doctor. So the mental health should be no different, right? So you can always go and speak to a professional they’re trained, they’ve seen it before and , it could seriously help you.
So anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox.
Amy: No, I totally agree with you. I was seeing a therapist when I was in a Bangkok and Yeah. And I’ve been listening to a lot of books on money mindset and, working on scarcity mindset. Yeah. Cuz it’s so needed to be able to talk to someone about it and get that other perspective,
Captain Fi: There’s an awesome book I read Dr.
Nicole Lapper how to do the Work. It’s awesome. Actually an ex-partner gave that to me to read and Yeah really helped.
Helpful. Book I’ll put in the show notes as well. Great. Okay, let’s keep this on track. So, you have obviously traveled a lot and you’ve lived abroad and not a lot of people have done that, but it gets talked about a lot in the fire community. It gets given this fancy name, ju [00:29:00] arbitrage.
Yeah, which, when you boil it down to it’s basically professionals that are either location independent or specialists like yourself as a teacher where you’re basically earning in a stronger economy and spending in a weaker one. Or you are that specialist that’s able to command that higher wage in a weaker economy.
What does that actually mean? So you’ve done it. Can you talk a little bit about your experience in living abroad as a teacher? What you learnt, how to manage your cash flow and also how does that work with tax? Do you still pay tax back home? spill the tea.
Amy: Sure, , it really varies, I can only talk about my experience as an international teacher and the schools that I’ve worked on and can really vary school by school and country by country.
But, initially I was working in Japan and I was working for the Japanese government in a Japanese high school, which was so much fun. And I was right out of undergrad, so I didn’t, command a really high salary at that time. But for your listeners who may be interested, maybe some of them are burned out with their career.
They want a little life reset. Maybe they wanna have an adventure. I mean, this is something that anybody can do [00:30:00] without a teaching certification. Go to Japan. I worked with lots of Aussies and , it was awesome. I mean, they paid my flight over, I had my housing paid for I think almost all of my housing was paid for.
I had a bit that I had to top up on, but I didn’t save a huge amount of money. 20 years ago in 2001 to 2005. But it was about 5,000 US a year. And I was able to basically after that year, take a sabbatical year, travel to Southeast Asia and spend a lot of time in India and Europe as well, and then pay for part of my grad school.
And I discovered that I loved teaching and I, to have a master’s degree to work in an international school was kind of what I needed. And so I went back to not to Texas, but to Oregon, and did a 14 month program to get my credentials. And then I was working in international schools.
And those are awesome because they pay really well and not all over the world, but , especially schools in Asia and the top tier schools pay very well. So the savings potential is very high. And especially with someone like me who’s very focused on savings, I was actually [00:31:00] house hacking, so, in Singapore they paid my rent, but then I would rent out that extra bedroom in my apartment to
another woman that was a good friend of mine and so I was able to even save more money. And the same thing happened in India. They fully paid my house. It was four bedroom, four bath, but they would give me $10,000 each a year. And my roommate as well, another teacher we got 10,000 each to live together.
So that was plenty of room for both of us and it was fun to live together. So I kind of house hacked for six years as an international school teacher as well. So I didn’t always live in, weak economies. I mean, Japan’s an expensive country, so is Singapore, but because, those expat packages are quite good, I was still able to save quite a lot.
But then sometimes I was, Bangkok is cheaper, EMD is cheaper, so sometimes I was earning in a weaker currency, but because they’re trying to attract Skilled international school teachers, they do pay well. So yeah, it’s been a great experience. And for any, anybody in [00:32:00] your audience who is a teacher, I would highly recommend them going abroad.
I know teachers in Australia are paid much better than teachers in the us but for me it was kind of a no-brainer. Like the kids are also really great and the parents and the school systems and . The admin that I worked with, I loved it. I just didn’t have a very healthy relationship with work.
It wasn’t the school’s fault, it was mostly my own neurosis that made it unhealthy because I didn’t know how to balance it. But yeah I feel like working abroad, living abroad was an amazing opportunity for me and I’m so glad that I did it. You asked about tax, so it can really vary on the country, but a lot of countries, like you’ll get the first two years tax free in Thailand, that was the case.
As long as you jump through some loopholes before you move there. In the US I still have to file taxes, even though I’m not living in the US, I still need to file. But usually they exclude my foreign earned income as long as I. Than a hundred, and it changes year to year, but there’s a certain number.
So in some countries I didn’t pay [00:33:00] taxes at all. Like in India, my employer, part of my benefit was they paid my Indian taxes In Singapore, I think I paid around 7%. So it really, it’s hard to make a blanket statement about tax, but it kind of varies country by country and job by job what the school might include in the package.
Captain Fi: But it’s not like a deal breaker. Like it’s a very small amount compared to how much you’re actually earning, especially if you are, cost of living is so low.
Amy: Yeah, I mean, tax rate of 7% in Singapore was awesome. India, I didn’t pay anything cuz they, paid my Indian tax for me and I didn’t have to pay US tax.
That was part of my package. And Thailand, the first two years were tax free. So overall I paid much less tax than I would’ve paid in the us.
Captain Fi: You’ve really done it all. So you’ve done the chair, you’ve done the house hacking you’ve done the professional, you’ve been able to really minimize reduce your tax obligations.
Amy: I regret not investing in property. But, I wasn’t living in the us. I didn’t really know how to invest abroad or I didn’t look [00:34:00] into it.
So that’s one lever that I haven’t ever pulled.
Captain Fi: I definitely want to ask you about your investments. But speaking of, living abroad and the time that you’ve spent in Bali tell us about your business, five Freedom Retreats and how it came to be and why you chose Bali.
Amy: I had this dream when I was in Bangkok and I I didn’t wanna leave Bali in the first place and I cried.
I cried like four and a half hours on that flight to Bangkok. Cuz I was only going for the money. But when I found fire and I started listening to all these podcasts and hearing about all the events going on in the us, I was really starved for community cuz it was in the pandemic and I was teaching online and I thought I want something in Asia or something on this side of the world.
And Bali was always the place that I really loved and had the best memories from. And so I thought if I can bring people to Bali and create an event for this side of the world, that would be amazing. So I had that dream then. And then when I went to the US after my, when my [00:35:00] dad had the stroke and I went to the eight fi fire events, then I really was like, it lit a fire under me.
I have to do this because these events are so much fun and the power of community is amazing. There’s something about meeting in person face to face, and there’s something that’s, that happens that’s very special on the second day of an event. And the community and the relationships really click in and people in the fire community are some of the.
Most creative out of the box thinkers inspiring people. I just feel so motivated and lit up when I go to these events. And so,, the idea was born in Bangkok, but really when I came to the US and experienced it one-on-one, then I was, ready to get back to Bali, find the venue and create the event.
Captain Fi: It’s awesome. And what’s life like living in Bali? I’ve got some family in Indonesia and so I’ve spent a bit of time there. But a lot of people haven’t really traveled internationally haven’t gone to Indonesia or haven’t been to Bali. So can you give us a [00:36:00] rundown on what life day-to-day is like in Bali and as well what’s your budget like and the cost of living.
Amy: Sure. I’ve been to Bali a lot of times. Like I first went in 2004 when I was living in Japan, and then when I lived in Singapore, I used to go all the time. But, as a tourist, I didn’t really ever scratch below the surface and get to know the community of people that lived there.
And so when I took a sabbatical or in 2017 and I ended up, passing through Bali and staying there and it wasn’t a quick trip after all. I saw a whole different side of Bali. So I met a lot of digital nomads entrepreneurs, corporate dropouts from all over the world who were super inspiring.
And I started going to go into a lot of events, that were not touristy. And that’s really what drew me to Bali because, most people, maybe Australians particularly, they know about Bali beaches or they think about the water temples and the things that you can do in Bali as a tourist, but there’s this.
Really [00:37:00] beautiful community there. That is super inspiring. And what I realized is I don’t love traveling all the time. It gets a bit boring after a while. I love my routine. I love feeling close to people and having long relationships built over time that go deep. And that’s what I feel like I’ve found in Bali.
So I absolutely love my life there. It’s so nice. Not only are there amazing people around me and people that really inspire me, like I other places I’ve. Found a lot of backpackers or budget travelers and great people. And I was a back backpacker budget traveler. But what’s unique about Bali is I find a lot of people that I can really are mentors for me, I can really look up to, and that I’m like, wow, you’re doing what with your life?
That’s so cool. I hadn’t even thought of that. So it’s so cool to be inspired by amazing people. And then there’s so many amazing courses and things I can take part in. I can, I’m doing public speaking, I’m doing comedy improv, I’m doing dancing, I’m singing, I’m, [00:38:00] doing art. I’m, there’s every day in Ood where I live, there’s.
Literally probably a hundred things that I could attend in one day. So that’s also what I love. I love personal and professional growth opportunities, and I feel like I can really go deep and reflect, do yoga, meditation, all of those things as well. So I really have a very luxurious life.
There’s nothing else I would want that I could imagine. My partner and I we have a beautiful home in the rice fields. I go to yoga every day. I’m singing, I’m dancing, I’m with people, and I’m eating out a lot because it’s really good food and it’s very affordable. So yeah, there’s nothing else I would really want.
I wish my family was a little closer, but I try to manage that by coming home to the US for a few months, a year. And then you asked, about my current budget. So I would say, together, we spend probably. About $160 a day, sorry, a hundred, $120 a day. About $60 each U s d or maybe yeah, around [00:39:00] that 50, 60 US dollars a day each.
Captain Fi: Oh, that’s pretty good. So I’m just trying to do the numbers in my head. , so say 50 US dollars, that’s 75 Aussie. Yeah. Yes.
Amy: That’s each, I mean, we’re sharing a home there. We do eat out every twice a day and we ate out we get desserts, we get coffees. We’re not, eating out like the street food or something like that. I mean, we’re eating out in the nicest restaurants.
I’m going to yoga every day. There’s really nothing else I would want. I would say during the year, I do spend, probably on top of that, I spend about a couple of thousand dollars on courses that I really like to take. So, yeah, I do like to spend a little bit more on that. Wouldn’t be maybe included my daily budget, but, if you take that out, I probably spend $22,000 a year myself, and then my partner spends about the same U s D.
Captain Fi: To put that in perspective that is about $500 cheaper a month than my fire number, like [00:40:00] bare minimum number here in Australia. And I can rest assure that is definitely not eating out twice a day with all the trimmings. So you are really actually able to build really quite a luxurious life at a really quite low cost in, in Bali.
Look, and I was just reading up earlier on cuz they used to have this digital nomad visa I think it’s called the second home visa. Now in, in Bali and for Australians you pretty much guaranteed as long as you got the cash and you just need like $200,000 or proof that you have $200,000 of investments.
And you get a five year visa to go and live in Bali as your second home. That’s pretty cool.
Amy: Yeah, I haven’t kept up with all the visa rules, honestly. I’m just on a visa arrival. Sometimes they want you to put it in an Indonesian bank and they want you to keep it there.
And so I, I just fly out every 60 days and a lot of people do that and , it’s perfectly fine. Like some people fly back in the same day even, they’ll just fly to Singapore and then return in the same day. And for me, I mean, I like to go to [00:41:00] Singapore. I’ve got a lot of friends who live there, so I use it as a trip or we go to Oz or we go to the US to see, our parents who are aging.
So I don’t mind flying out every 60 days before my event starts. I will, I’ve purchased a work visa that will start before that event starts. But otherwise, I’m happy with the visa on arrival. I, it’s kind of nice to get out every 60 days and, there’s cheap flights a lot, all around, so it.
Builds in some contrast and an opportunity to travel for me. But yeah, you can get that five year visa as well. These rules are always changing in Indonesia. So I guess I would recommend that listeners look up the current rules cuz it’s can be a bit confusing.
Captain Fi: Yeah, I I almost got caught out on my recent trip to the Philippines because yeah we stayed for a few months and obviously you’ve got the thing, I think it’s the same, it’s like a 60 day thing.
So yeah, we ended up going for a cruise around Southeast Asia in between, so like perfectly worked out. But yeah, you definitely need to make sure you, your visas are stuff sorted. , you said earlier about how when your dad [00:42:00] left and he said ah, he wasn’t gonna pay child support.
That’s really upsetting and our family’s in the same position. My dad was like super financially abusive towards my mom. She left when I was quite young, when I was a baby. So I never really grew up with my dad. But he actually never paid child support. think he paid mom like a token amount of money.
And when she was like, are you serious mate? I’m gonna go to child support agency. So that you actually paid the fair amount. He quit his job and he actually moved to Bali, like he moved overseas. And that’s why I’ve got family in Indonesia now. Cuz he started a third family over there.
But yeah, he literally for I wanna say 20 years, he did the whole, wow. He did the whole 60 day thing and he traveled for his work. He who was an engineer. And yeah he continually did that and by living in Bali on this 60 day tourist visa he was able to evade the child support agency and he never paid, oh, God never paid child support for for the family, which was, obviously really disappointing.
It’s yes. So , we don’t really have a relationship [00:43:00] now. But it’s just interesting how people can work around the visa rules and practically for all intents and purposes, you live there and you’re a resident but just on paper you’re actually just visiting, but you’ve been just visiting for 20 years
Amy: it’s worth looking into other options and I mean, it will be nice for me to have, I’ll have a two year work visa that’s gonna start before my retreat, so that’ll be nice , to have for the next two years. And I will be doing more retreats, so I plan to keep renewing that.
But so far what I’ve been doing is the visa on arrival,
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so, changing gears here a little bit. We’ve talked a lot about like fire and , portfolios massive income. How do you personally invest? So I know you mentioned earlier that you have avoided property. So does that mean you’re big into shares or businesses and, do you have a fine number?
Is there a an amount of investments that will cover your expenses in Bali?
Amy: Yeah, sure. I’ve just done low cost index funds, just to kind of set it and forget it. Passive leave it in there for the long term, and that’s worked really well for me. It’s very easy and very passive.
I do kind of miss having a property and my partner had a property and he actually was fire too, without knowing what fire was. I was lucky to find someone who was also aligned as far as being frugal and, always being savings [00:45:00] oriented. But yeah, my fire number, if I can live on 25 K a year, that’s great.
And I think that allows me to, spend $50 u s d a day plus, a couple other thousand in courses and fun things that I wanna do that year that I prioritize, so that would be my fine number. Living on 25 K for myself. And then my partner does about the same.
Captain Fi: , so I’m having a mental maths meltdown today.
So 25 K and that’s, so that’s us. So if we
Amy: go for me and then for him, 25 K as well. Yep. Around that number, that’s a good number for us. We’re actually living on less than 4% of our net worth.
Captain Fi: In a Australian dollars that’s just under 1.9 million combined net wealth which right. Covers your cost of the link. That’s awesome. And you guys are fire, so you have amassed that.
We have amassed
Captain Fi: How does that make you feel in terms of money safety? We’ve talked about , the scarcity mindset before, but [00:46:00] how do you feel knowing that you’ve reached your fire number, it’s covering your cost of living, and you’re living this amazing lifestyle in Bali?
Amy: It’s great. Yeah. And there’s always this little voice that says, is it true?
Captain Fi: Is it true? Yes. I that’s, yeah. Now that is the other thing, because I have felt that, and I’m like, Whatever it go, whatever gets taken away. What if it’s, what if
Amy: the market drops for 15
Captain Fi: years? Yeah. See, you are always gonna have to do the work.
It’s not just oh, I went to therapy once and now I’m cured. No.
So I just wanna finish up with a couple of questions that I like to ask pretty much everyone that I interview. So these are the canned ones. So the first one is, what’s been your biggest influence on your financial journey and why?
Amy: Yeah, I would say my mom, because seeing her, when I was 12 and 13 years old, seeing her read all those financial books and seeing her struggle with finances too, I had a big influence on my life.[00:47:00]
But you know, she was talking to me about investing from a young age and just realizing oh, I don’t have any retirement. Cuz I relied on my husband and I thought he would know about these things. And it’s so important for you to learn about it and be independent. That had a big influence on me.
And I read a book called it was Girls Just Wanna Have Funds. I don’t know who wrote it, but I read it a long time ago. Yeah, it was a play on the Cindy Lauper song. And that influenced me to, right away when I went to Japan to buy. A Roth ira, which is a retirement vehicle we have in the us.
So I’m really grateful for my mom and I’m grateful for my dad and what happened, I mean, it sounds traumatic and I know it affected me in some negative ways too. But he’s come around since then and he’s apologized and he’s paid my mom all the back money that he owed her. And he has to live with the guilt, of hurting his family.
And I, we have a healed relationship now, so there were some traumatic things that came out of it, but there were a lot of good things that came out of it. So I [00:48:00] am, I’m grateful to both of them.
Captain Fi: That’s good. I’m glad you’ve been able to reconcile. So, just on the books, do you have one in particular that’s your favorite and why?
Or is there a couple that you might recommend people to read?
Amy: I love JL Collins’s book, the Simple Path to Wealth. I feel like that’s a fundamental book. And then the one you mentioned earlier, die With Zero is such a good book. And it was definitely a book I needed to read and return to.
Captain Fi: Yeah, I JL Collins, I call him the granddaddy of personal finance yeah. Have you seen his little short on the gambler? He’s like re-recorded that clip. Yes. How good is that your full solitude? Yes. Oh man, that great. Actually he’s also got the the guided meditation for when the stock market drops.
Amy: Yes. I’ve used that. When I get nervous, I’ve turned that meditation on and
Captain Fi: it’s so good. It’s so good. I’ve actually previously spliced that into a podcast. Yeah, really good. He’s definitely one of my favorites. Just simple, no bullshit.
[00:49:00] Yeah. Alright. I’ll put links as well in the show notes. So, everyone can check out just what we’re laughing about here. So look last question. So you’ve done a lot. You’ve you’ve had a really complex relationship with money. You’re actively working to heal it.
You have traveled the world, you’ve worked, you’ve built a portfolio, and you are semi-retired and doing what you love now in Bali. Looking back, what would be your top few bits of advice for those that are, either just starting out or they’re on the journey? What would you say to, to people to prioritize?
Amy: say prioritize education. Financial literacy is a superpower. Second, I would say make it sustainable, cuz I definitely did not make it sustainable always. So, I really like the coast fire model where, you build up of enough of an an nest egg and there’s something so valuable about being young and having great health and being able to really enjoy your life.
So, [00:50:00] climbing, going to Everest base camp or doing a lot of the trucks I’ve done in Nepal or in the Andes having. More sustainability along the way, not being so frugal that you think, it’s like you were talking about earlier, like it’s an all or nothing thing.
You’re either fire, you’re not. It’s like anywhere you are along the journey, if you’ve got your emergency fund and you’ve just started out, but you’ve got an emergency fund, you’ve got more choices because of that, and then once you reach a hundred k, of net worth, you’ve got more choices because of that.
So, all along the way, fire is a spectrum. It’s not a all or nothing kind of thing. So using some of those choices earlier in the game. To take those sabbatical years. I’m so grateful that I did that because it gave me a perspective that I wouldn’t have had if I just kept working with the blinders on.
Allows someone to reflect and maybe see something different for their life. It did for me at least. And then the third piece of advice I would say is find friends. Because it can be kind of a lonely, [00:51:00] isolating journey, on your path to fire. Like it, some people like get excited in the beginning and then there’s this long trudge in the middle.
And, especially if you’re living in a istic city ,
finding friends who are like-minded is so helpful. And that’s what I found about the fire events that I’ve been to. It’s so inspiring and motivational for me and it’s really helped me as well.
Captain Fi: So these seem to all be about learning and behavior. It’s interesting that when I started my journey to fire and when I speak to other people that were just starting, we tend to get lost in the nitty gritty and we’re like, ah, get the best index fund.
Don’t pay fees. But really with people that have been through it like yourself, they tend to focus more on the personal behavior and the mindset. So yeah. Awesome to say. And I think some really beautiful lessons to, to be passed on to anyone who’s on the journey. So thank you so much for your time.
And look Amy, before we finish up, is there anything else , [00:52:00] you want to chat about today?
Amy: I’d just like to mention, my retreat, it sold out really quick. I felt so supported by the community of people I’ve met in the US and, there are a few seats that are gonna open up that I’ve kept some rooms for Australians cuz I really wanted to create a very international retreat where community of fire participants are coming together and meeting each other.
So, if your listeners wanna go to my contact page, they can be put on the wait list and I will be releasing some rooms later. F specifically for Australians. I have sold a few tickets to some Australians, some Singaporean, but truthfully, most of the people who bought tickets are Americans.
But it’s gonna be a great time in Bali to get together, feel inspired, build lifelong friendships, have adventures together. People are sticking around. A lot of people are coming from longer than the retreat. We’re going down to the beach afterwards, and we’re using points to stay in hotels down there and trying to make it really affordable.
But there is something really special about getting together with [00:53:00] like-minded people, inspiring creative, motivational people, and discussing life and how to live it intentionally. So I would encourage listeners to come to my contact page and if they just wanna reach out. Questions about Bali.
I’m happy to share with them about that as well. I’m also gonna be in Awes, visiting family in Victorian, Queensland, so, I hope to be meeting up with people and meet up fire groups there as well. So I’m excited to unite the US and the Australian Fire Group.
Captain Fi: Yeah, that’s awesome because I’ve seen some of these retreats and, even South America, or Mexico or in the US and it’s a big slog to get there from Australia.
So yeah, I’m really looking forward to it and I’m definitely gonna try and get up to the retreat, but I can’t get to the first one, definitely be looking at one of the ones that come up afterwards. So, yeah, I think it’s awesome that you’re hosting it and it’s really good opportunity that we’re gonna have something like this available for Australians.
Amy: Thank you. I’m excited.
Captain Fi: ,hey Amy, thanks so much for the chat today. It’s been bloody awesome. Super excited to hear about everything that you’re doing and hopefully, you just keep working, keep doing those one percents and really just enjoy that dream lifestyle in in Bali. I can’t wait to come up and be a part of it.
Amy: Thank you and I really appreciate what you’re doing with, captain VI show and creating financial literacy in Australia. Thank you for what you’ve created here. Oh, no
Captain Fi: worries. It’s a lot of fun. And just like you’ve mentioned about finding friends, it’s been an awesome way for me to connect with like-minded people.
So don’t worry, I get a lot out of it as well. Thank you. All right, no worries. I’ll look forward to chatting to you soon. See you, Amy. See you.
[00:55:00] Thanks for listening to another episode of the Captain Fire Financial Independence Podcast. To read the transcripts or check out the show notes, head over to www.captainfire.com for all the details. If you have a question for the captain, make sure to get in touch. You might even make it on the airwaves.
You can reach me online through the Captain Fire contact. Or get in touch through the socials. I’m Mac Yon, Facebook and Instagram, as well as a number of online finance and investing forums. And finally, remember the information presented on the show and the links provided are for general information purposes only.
They should not be taken as constituting professional financial advice. You should always do your own research when making any financial decisions and make sure it’s appropriate for your personal [00:56:00] circumstance.