Author Topic: Some questions for the already financial independent  (Read 5041 times)

opinatron

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Some questions for the already financial independent
« on: January 19, 2017, 08:29:37 AM »
Hello all. My name is Marc and I’m from Spain. First of all forgive my English, since it’s not my first language and I’ll possibly write a bit weird :)

I write in a blog about money (mostly how to save it and how to invest it long term) called Opinatron (in Spanish) and I firmly believe in reaching financial independence before the age the politicians say I have to retire. To encourage my readers to believe in the possibility of retiring early I’m doing a series of articles about people that already reached it, interviewing them, and I just love this forum because there is nothing like it in Spain, where this topic is years behind the US. With 8 quick questions, people can really learn a lot about the experience of others and the interviews I got until now are really interesting and people loves it. I know it is a lot to ask, but I think if there was people here willing to answer the interview me and my readers could learn a lot and get new points of view, being this a great forum and one that has a completely different style from the ones in Spain.

If someone that has already reached financial independence was so kind as to answer the interview I’d be honored and really happy, I would then translate it to Spanish for my blog. I’m sure this forum’s visitors could also learn from your very interesting and experienced point of view.

Here are the questions:

•   What motivated you to want to retire early?
•   How old were you when you early retired and how many years did you have to work for it?
•   How did you do it?
•   Is it necessary to earn a lot of money to retire early? What’s the key factor?
•   How would you define your investment strategy? What do you live from now?
•   Which were your biggest hits and your biggest mistakes?
•   If you had to give some advice to people that’s starting, what would it be? Whats your recipe to reach early retirement?
•   What do you do now with your time? Was it worth it?

Thank you so much for your time :D

WildJager

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Re: Some questions for the already financial independent
« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2017, 10:37:52 AM »
Hello.  I'm FI, but not retired yet due to contractual obligations that will expire in about 4 years.  After that point, I plan to do some small part time work doing things I love, but not out of necessity for a paycheck.  Hopefully I can still be useful for your data.

•   What motivated you to want to retire early?
A rough deployment, coupled with a couple near death scares, along with the realization that the institution I work for harbors ideals that were starting to diverge from my beliefs, all motivated me to seek out my options.  Early retirement fit the requirement perfectly, and I began to aggressively pursuing this goal.

•   How old were you when you early retired and how many years did you have to work for it?
I will be 35 when I retire.  I started working full time at 23.

•   How did you do it?
I started investing with the first paycheck I earned.  I started with tax advantaged accounts, and then once those were topped off I continued to invest in regular accounts.  I read many well regarded books on investing to develop my strategy (which I'll get into later).  I avoid popular investment gurus and new sites, as they are generally shortsighted.

•   Is it necessary to earn a lot of money to retire early? What’s the key factor?
It's all relative to your expenditures.  You need to save at least 50% of your income, but even more is better.  Find out how much money, realistically, you need to spend per year to live a happy life.  Then use that as your baseline for how much you need to save.  A stash of 33x your expenditure rate, invested, is reasonable.  If you own a paid off home, 25x may be enough.  This is based on the US investment economy, I can't really speak for other countries.

•   How would you define your investment strategy? What do you live from now?
Buy and hold, long term investments, in reputable index funds.  Keep the fund expenses as low as possible (less than .2% yearly).  Don't trade individual stocks unless you are willing to do an enormous amount of research on each individual company.  Don't day trade or seek out the "next big thing."  Avoid capital gains tax by limiting how often you sell shares.

•   Which were your biggest hits and your biggest mistakes?
Starting early and letting the compound interest do its thing was my biggest win.  Mistakes I've made were doing the opposite of what I advised in my previous response.

•   If you had to give some advice to people that’s starting, what would it be? Whats your recipe to reach early retirement?
Know what you spend per year, and what you spend that money on.  Critically analyze what are needs and what are wants.  It's impossible to know how much you need to save if you don't know how much you spend. 

•   What do you do now with your time? Was it worth it?
I plan to do low paid work, or volunteering, that I find immensely enjoyable, but only when I choose to.  Otherwise, I'll be homesteading with the wife and enjoying a simple, grounded lifestyle. 

Whatever ends up happening in the future, the question of "was it worth it?" is an interesting one.  I feel that focusing our life onto the core of what actually matters is a goal worthy in and of itself.  Critically analyzing your spending and actions are a requirement of achieving the goal of FI, but they are also a positive by product that is rewarding and necessary for a happy life.  I don't feel deprived by not living a typical consumer lifestyle, but instead I feel free from worry and generally content. 

Financial.Velociraptor

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Re: Some questions for the already financial independent
« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2017, 01:45:41 PM »
Here are the questions:

•   What motivated you to want to retire early?

It was from exploring my personal values in undergraduate school.  I found I valued flexibility and autonomy.  Neither of which is rewarded by employers.  You have to claim those for yourself.

•   How old were you when you early retired and how many years did you have to work for it?

I was 40.  It took me about 15 years.

•   How did you do it?

I saved aggressively (about 65% of my take home pay.)  I paid off my house first to allow myself the psychological leeway to invest aggressively. 

•   Is it necessary to earn a lot of money to retire early? What’s the key factor?

Your savings rate is the key factor.  It helped that I made decent money (88k USD at retirement).  I think if you have the right kind of discipline to save more than 50% of your takehome pay, you will find that promotions come at work and your income will improve.  I went from 35k to 88k during my working period.  I'm not particularly smarter than my old coworkers, I was just more disciplined and more productive.

•   How would you define your investment strategy? What do you live from now?

My investment strategy is income focused.  I use CEFs, MLPs, REITs, BDCs, and high yield equities.  I juice returns by writing options on those stocks.  My dividends, distributions, and interest cover about 98% of my budget needs.  My options returns cover another 115% or so.  I sleep well at night.

•   Which were your biggest hits and your biggest mistakes?

Biggest hit is buying long dated out of the money puts on UVXY.  That strategy provided probably half of my returns during accumulation phase and continues to be a major driver of returns.  Biggest mistake was getting aggressive with naked calls on UVXY (right thesis, wrong approach).  When the Greek crisis hit, I lost about twice my annual income in about 45 minutes.  It took some time to recover.  What was important was that I learned from my mistake instead of giving up.

•   If you had to give some advice to people that’s starting, what would it be? Whats your recipe to reach early retirement?

Know your own personal values.  Know what spending brings true happiness and what is just a short lived 'sugar rush' so you can focus on lasting enjoyment and save the rest for more of the same in the future.  Treat personal debt as a screaming hair on fire emergency - extinguish it.  Keep the faith.

•   What do you do now with your time? Was it worth it?

Anything I want to do is how I spend my time.   My days are usually pretty leisurely.  I try to regularly travel to see friends who are too far away for a day trip.  I spend a lot of time with my aging father that I couldn't before.  I read more and walk more.  It has totally been worth the sacrifice.  Really, it wasn't a sacrifice at all because the spending restrictions were always about remaining true to my values. 


opinatron

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Re: Some questions for the already financial independent
« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2017, 05:32:49 AM »
Thank you so much for your answers Wildjager and financial Velociraptor :D
Your point of view is very different from the ones we have in Spain, I like how you focus on the % you save instead on how much you make, I started measuring exactly how much I spent and on what, but I lost my way in that area and definitely have to start doing it again.
In my opinion the biggest difference between the US and Spain is the level of income you have. Here in Spain the average salary is around 20-25k a year and making 50-80k a year is pretty much impossible, at least the first years of work. I, as a teacher, make around 25k a year and that will almost not grow in time, and my friends (chemical engineers, computer engineers,etc) make around 20k a year and it'll probably be 5-10 year before they get to 30-40k.
My spending is about 10k a year, so I'm able to save around 50% of my income but that's only 10k, so reaching financial independence in less than 20 years sounds impossible.
Again, thanks for your answers because not only my readers will learn a lot, also I will :)
Keep them coming please :D

mandy_2002

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Re: Some questions for the already financial independent
« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2017, 07:54:09 AM »
My spending is about 10k a year, so I'm able to save around 50% of my income but that's only 10k, so reaching financial independence in less than 20 years sounds impossible.

I don't know how growth rates in the Spanish/Euro stock market work, but in the US, with some approximate long term growth rates, a MMM reader created this chart: https://networthify.com/calculator/earlyretirement?income=20000&initialBalance=0&expenses=10000&annualPct=5&withdrawalRate=4 (goes along with this post:  http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/01/13/the-shockingly-simple-math-behind-early-retirement/).  It's all in dollars, but if all the numbers are in Euro, you shouldn't need to convert anything.  This shows that a 50% savings rate would lead to FIRE in about 17 years. 

•   What motivated you to want to retire early?
   Spain.  I went when I was 16, decided I want to live there eventually, told my site leader that I dream of living internationally, and he told me that wasn't an option (he was a German working in the US at the time, I think that was the worst part of the conversation)
•   How old were you when you early retired and how many years did you have to work for it?
   I was 32, and I have been working since I was 10, but graduated college and started making real money at 23.
•   How did you do it?
   I am naturally frugal, and have been saving a good chunk of my paycheck monthly since I started.  I never tracked it, but I'd say my savings rate in my first 6 years working was about 40-50% without thinking about it.  I was relocated to a high cost of living area, where I got a COLA adjustment and a pay adder for the location which added about 35% to my paycheck.  I started heavily tracking my savings rate after the above conversation, moved to a shared house saving over $1000/month in rent, and hit ~73% savings rate for a couple years. 
•   Is it necessary to earn a lot of money to retire early? What’s the key factor?
   The key really is the savings rate.  If you make $20,000 and save 10%, you will be able to retire in the same amount of time as a person making $200,000 and saving 10% if there are no major life changes. 
•   How would you define your investment strategy? What do you live from now?
   I'm a buy and hold person, with very low cost index funds and a few hand picked company stocks.
   I've got a cushion of cash in the bank that I could live on, but at the moment I am volunteering in the Peace Corps (US organization started by John F. Kennedy) in a small developing country.  I get a tiny (currently about $110) stipend which is enough for me to live in a small city with provided housing.  If I wasn't doing this, I'd be pulling my dividends out instead of reinvesting them, rolling money out of my retirement account to another investment account slowly (US thing), and pulling about 1.5% out of my investments. 
•   Which were your biggest hits and your biggest mistakes?
   Mistake:  When I started, I tried to diversify myself, and ended up with 15 funds that were overlapping with a huge variation in their fees.  I wised up and traded all the high fee funds for the low fee funds I already owned to simplify.  Also, a year into my career, the 2008/9 market crash happened.  My company was selling for 10% of what it is now.  Many of my co-workers moved substantial amounts to this stock and were able to retire at 50 because of it.  Hindsight is 20/20, but I think it the same happened, I still wouldn't buy but that's the non-risk taker in me. 
   Hit:  About 4 years into my career, I heard a co-worker say something about the bond market being unstable.  I sold most of my bond funds and bought them back a few months later at a ~25% discount.  This is another thing I probably wouldn't do now.
•   If you had to give some advice to people that’s starting, what would it be? Whats your recipe to reach early retirement?
   Live below your mean.  Know what makes you happy, spend your money on that, and don't spend your money on things that don't.  Know the difference between a necessity and a want - cell phones may be necessary, but to me a $700 phone with a $80/month plan is not.
•   What do you do now with your time? Was it worth it?
   I am now a volunteer in Eurasia teaching English.  I'm considering working with the Sports and Education department in Spain to become an English assistant in Madrid or in northern Spain so that I can live in Spain with a purpose and get a 1 year visa.

opinatron

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Re: Some questions for the already financial independent
« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2017, 09:42:28 AM »
Thanks for the answers mandy, very interesting! Also thank you for the tool you showed me, it's worth spending some time simulating to check the options I have depending on my savings. The thing is, now I'm young and have no children, so I can live with 800€ a month or so, but in the future I don't think I'll be able to maintain that figure so I will need a bit more. Even though, I firmly believe that it's possible to achieve financial independence and if it's not in 10 years it will be in 20.
I didn't offer before because it's in spanish, but I just wrote a book with my insights and opinions on managing money and I'd be very happy to send it to you and everyone that answers the interview for free, as a gesture of my grattitude. It's in spanish, but seeing you've been in Spain and you'd like to go there maybe you know some spanish :) If you'd like it, just give me an email adress and I'll send it. It is called Inversión y gestión del dinero al alcance de todos (investing and money management at everyone's reach).

auntie_betty

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Re: Some questions for the already financial independent
« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2017, 11:54:59 AM »


•   What motivated you to want to retire early?
It sounds flippant, but I am basically lazy and didn't want to work longer than necessary! So, I was working towards the general goal but then my partner and I bought a holiday home in Almeria. From the first day we took possession I decided I wanted to retire in Spain and worked towards it from that day. Originally it was going to be 60, I worked to bring that down to 58, then 57, 56, 55 and eventually retired at 53 and a half.

•   How old were you when you early retired and how many years did you have to work for it?
I was 53 and realistically I started working towards it 15 years previously, though I was in a low paid job at the time.

•   How did you do it?
Living well within my means. Not 'upscaling' my life when I got a big promotion but instead saved every extra penny. Tracked spending, took my breakfast and lunch to work every day. Invested in buy to let houses and then worked hard to be able to pay the mortgages off, while also investing in a pension.

•   Is it necessary to earn a lot of money to retire early? What’s the key factor?
As the others ahve said, live well within your means and anything is possible.

•   How would you define your investment strategy? What do you live from now?
I now have rental income which funds our day to day living in Spain. I also have my private pension, invested in low cost index funds with some in short term bonds.

•   Which were your biggest hits and your biggest mistakes?
The buy to lets in general have been our biggest hits, Our biggest mistakes were not selling the poorest performing houses early enough.

•   If you had to give some advice to people that’s starting, what would it be? Whats your recipe to reach early retirement?
'Do what others won't do now so that you can do what others can't do later'.

•   What do you do now with your time? Was it worth it?
What do I do with my time? Not a lot and I love it :). I have an active social life and am learning Spanish (soy un estudiante :) ). That with walking a lot and starting to explore your beautiful country is enough. And yes, it's been worth it. It is wonderful not having the 'Sunday night dread'.

Good luck with all your endeavours.

opinatron

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Re: Some questions for the already financial independent
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2017, 04:03:59 PM »
Thank you so much for all the answers, this is great :D
auntie betty, I'm pretty much like you, my main motivation right now for wanting to be financial independent is that i'm lazy and I don't want to work, so it doesn't sound flippant to me hehehe.
Let's hope I have the same results you did! As I said before, if you want to practice spanish I'd be happy to send you my book completely free, just say so :D
Cheers from Spain!

Ozstache

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Re: Some questions for the already financial independent
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2017, 04:35:50 PM »
•   What motivated you to want to retire early?
A combination of not really enjoying my job, laziness (I call it economy of effort) and serendipitous FI.

•   How old were you when you early retired and how many years did you have to work for it?
I retired at age 45 after a 30 year career in the military.

•   How did you do it?
I was fortunate to be in a defined benefits retirement scheme when in the military, which after 30 years produced a pension that covers my annual expenses, which in turn are low because of my generally frugal lifestyle and owning my own home outright.

•   Is it necessary to earn a lot of money to retire early? What’s the key factor?
You can either earn a lot of money or spend very little of what you do earn to be able to retire early. Doing both accelerates the process.

•   How would you define your investment strategy? What do you live from now?
I live mostly off my pension, but have other investments too. I am mostly cashed up as I see stormy investment waters ahead and am more interested in preserving rather than growing capital at this time. I can afford to be wrong.

•   Which were your biggest hits and your biggest mistakes?
My biggest hit was being in a defined benefits retirement scheme and not switching out of it when a newer, seemingly higher benefit but not actually, scheme replaced it. My biggest mistake was underestimating Australia's passion for property, which could have netted me my own place a lot sooner and cheaper. I still think Australia's love affair with property will come to an end, probably within the next decade.

•   If you had to give some advice to people that’s starting, what would it be? Whats your recipe to reach early retirement?
Besides the obvious 'live within your means' mantra, I say to people that even if they don't want to retire early they can make their money go so much further by being a minimalist and to pretend like they are living 2 to 3 years ago when buying anything major. For those of us in 1st world countries, even those in poverty live a life the envy of our ancestors 100 years ago, so gratitude rather than materialism goes a long way towards achieving the happiness we seek.

•   What do you do now with your time? Was it worth it?
I spend a lot of time at home pottering around by myself and in the company of my dogs and it makes me very happy. It turns out I am a lot more introverted than I thought I was! I also help out my family a lot more than I could when working, which is very satisfying. I do not regret my decision to retire early at all.

NikkiT

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Re: Some questions for the already financial independent
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2017, 07:49:21 PM »
•   What motivated you to want to retire early?

Freedom and autonomy.  I also came to realize, after many career changes, I just do not enjoy being told what to do and when to do it for the majority of my waking hours.  The best career for me was no career at all.

•   How old were you when you early retired and how many years did you have to work for it?

I was probably 42 when I became financially independent, but didn't retire until I was 45.  I worked for it for about 10 years. 

•   How did you do it?

I have always been frugal, even when I clearly didn't have to be.  I didn't mean to save money initially, I just failed to spend what I earned when my income started to rise. Eventually, the money became so large that my bank started badgering me to invest it.  That's when I started doing research online and found JLCollins and MMM.  A few years after that, I retired.

•   Is it necessary to earn a lot of money to retire early? What’s the key factor?

No.  I never earned “a lot” of money.  I just lived off roughly 20% of what I earned. It all comes down to the size of the gap between what you spend and what you earn.  The bigger the gap, the faster you will become FI. 
 
•   How would you define your investment strategy? What do you live from now?

I buy and hold low cost index funds.  I live off the dividends they produce.

•   Which were your biggest hits and your biggest mistakes?

My biggest mistake was not investing my nest egg sooner!  It sat, dormant, in a low interest savings account for far too long (many years).  That mistake cost me serious money in the end. 

•   If you had to give some advice to people that’s starting, what would it be? Whats your recipe to reach early retirement?

It all boils down to psychology.  You have to learn to listen to yourself and find what makes you really happy.  If you find the thing that makes you the happiest is incompatible with work or that it is not at all a materialistic pursuit, it is very easy to reach early retirement.  If you are more materialistically inclined, early retirement may not be for you, unless you find a way to become super wealthy.

•   What do you do now with your time? Was it worth it?

I travel the world full-time with my husband.  We stay 30-60 days in each place. Currently in Malaysia. We hike, explore the city, bike, meet other travelers, kayak, read, scuba dive, sail… in short, we do what we want to do when we want to do it.  Was it worth it?  A million times YES!!!  There is no home, car, plane or any other possession that would make me want trade the freedom I have now.  Not. Even. Close.

PeteD01

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Re: Some questions for the already financial independent
« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2017, 01:46:01 AM »
Hola Marc,

Estamos jubilados desde hace dos años. Ahora vivimos en España. He vivido por veintiún años en EEUU antes de inmigrar a España.

Here are the questions:

•   What motivated you to want to retire 

Quería vivir en Francia o España y había sido inmigrante en los EEUU estaba consciente de las dificultades de adaptar a un nuevo mundo. En particular, aprender un nuevo idioma no es tan fácil y sabía que probablemente necesitara vivir alrededor de cinco años en el país para estar confortable de verdad. No creo que sea una buena idea intentar un cambio de vida tan grande en su viejez...
También pienso que los EEUU son un buen país para trabajar y ahorrar pero no lo son para jubilar - la calidad de vida en Europa es mejor y la gente comprende mejor el concepto de 'suficiente'.

•   How old were you when you early retired and how many years did you have to work for it?

Tenía 52 años y he trabajado un total de quince años (formación no incluida)

•   How did you do it?

Compré una casa modesta con hipoteca de quince años y contribuia hasta el máximo al 403b desde el primero día. No compré un coche caro.

•   Is it necessary to earn a lot of money to retire early? What’s the key factor?

No sé porque ganaba mucho. La llave es no gastarlo todo.

•   How would you define your investment strategy? What do you live from now?

ETFs baratos. He convertido casi todos mis ahorros en rentas vitalicias con TIAA.

•   Which were your biggest hits and your biggest mistakes?

No había éxitos grandes no fracasos grandes.

•   If you had to give some advice to people that’s starting, what would it be? Whats your recipe to reach early retirement?

No compres demasiado casa, demasiado coche y no gastes todo tu dinero pero si inviértelo. Considera trabajar en el extranjero para ganar más.

•   What do you do now with your time? Was it worth it?

Estoy aprendiendo español y leo novelas en español por cinco o seis horas el día. Doy paseos en las colinas a mis dos perritos por dos o tres horas todos los días. Si, valía la pena.

Disculpa mis errores. No pudo resistir la tentación de practicar un poco...
« Last Edit: January 25, 2017, 02:28:47 AM by PeteD01 »

opinatron

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Re: Some questions for the already financial independent
« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2017, 06:45:49 AM »
This is great, i was not expecting to get so many answers, I'm very thankfull and happy :D

Pete, tu español es muy bueno! As I said before, I'd be more than happy to send you my book completely free, so you can practice even more spanish, just send me your email on a private message. NikkiT and ozstache, I'd be happy to send it to you too. I've proposed to myself translating the book to english, but that's gonna take a while :)

Cheers!

soccerluvof4

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Re: Some questions for the already financial independent
« Reply #12 on: January 25, 2017, 07:51:55 AM »
•   What motivated you to want to retire early?
I was self-employed for 25+ years in a business that was changing in a way I did not like and the stress was literally killing me.

•   How old were you when you early retired and how many years did you have to work for it?
I was 50. Had I knew it was something I wanted to do I could of done 10-15 years earlier but I was living the "high life" Once I found MMM took me I believe 2 years or so to get my message across to the DW and get my plan in motion.

•   How did you do it?
I always kept my company debt free and had alot in cash flow so I took dividends on the money from the cash flow over a year or so and with the money I had saved on the side was enough.

•   Is it necessary to earn a lot of money to retire early? What’s the key factor?
You need 25Xs what you need. So that number is high or low depending on that. Being a family of 6 and still having college and few things in front of me I needed more than others might of.

•   How would you define your investment strategy? What do you live from now?
Passive, index funds.  I live off of my investments and my wife about 2 months ago because of the worry with health insurance took a job with great great benefits shit pay. So we will say how this plays out coz hoping she can come back retired with me sooner than later. Fortunately she loves what she is doing and they made hours around her schedule. This is a 4-5k turnaround a month for us.

•   Which were your biggest hits and your biggest mistakes?
I over the years built a houses, lived in them for a few years and built another always using cash. The mistake was always building bigger and the last one was a 7300 square foot raised ranch with a 6 car garage. The area got flooded my house did not BUT the are really devalued and to this day people stay away from it. Bottom line I lost 500k but wanted to get it behind me. Another big mistake was I was offered to sell my business for 2.5 times what I ended up walking away with in cash flow BUT i was making big dollars and had that mentality that I will always make that money and that wasnt the case.

•   If you had to give some advice to people that’s starting, what would it be? Whats your recipe to reach early retirement?

Start early but with a goal. Have a long term goal made up of shorter goals that you can achieve and visit them often.
Educate the hell out of yourself with investing and principles that go along with getting to retirement.
•   What do you do now with your time? Was it worth it?

I do what I want when I want (other than around kids stuff). I am much more chilled, in great shape and feel very content. Took me sometime and still need more to completely to adjust be hell yea its been worth it.

opinatron

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Re: Some questions for the already financial independent
« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2017, 09:25:24 AM »
Thanks Soccerluvof4, very interesting and helpfull :D