85: How to Live an Amazing Life on Less with Amy and Tim Rutherford of GoWithLess”

by Jen Barna MD | FIORE and FIRE, Life Journey, Money and Finance, Podcast, Resilience, Work Life Balance

“Actually, a key part of my mission with DocWorking is (for) physicians to get themselves into a safe space where they feel that they have an amount that will cover their bases if they need to leave for some reason or if they choose to leave. That would give them a sense of security so that when they choose to work, at that point, it’s a choice.” -Jen Barna MD 

In this episode, Jen talks with Tim and Amy Rutherford of GoWithLess about FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early), or as Jen calls it, FIORE ( Financial Independence with the Option to Retire Early), and being international nomads. If you’re interested in the FIRE movement, have thought about retiring early or having that option, or have ever thought about living outside the box, this is the episode for you. Tim and Amy tell us all about how a trip to a life insurance agent put them on the FIRE path and led to them leaving their corporate jobs and selling their giant home. And guess what? They are happier and living better than ever. Tune in to hear all the details on how they make it work. 

You can find out more about Tim and Amy on their YouTube channel GoWithLess

Links to things mentioned in the show: 

Mr. Money Mustache

Books by The Minimalists: 

Love People, Use Things: Because the Opposite Never Works

Everything That Remains: A Memoir by the Minimalists

Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life

Essential: Essays by The Minimalists


Find full transcripts of episodes on the DocWorking Blog 

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 Podcast produced by: Amanda Taran

Please enjoy the full transcript below-

Jen: A really key part of my mission with DocWorking is physicians who can get themselves into a safe space where they feel that they have an amount that will cover their bases if they need to leave for some reason, or if they choose to leave, that would give them a sense of security so that when they choose to work, at that point, it’s a choice.


[DocWorking theme]


Jen: Welcome to DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. I’m Dr. Jen Barna, one of the cohosts of the podcast and founder of DocWorking. I’m thrilled today to have Tim and Amy Rutherford of GoWithLess here with me on the podcast. Welcome Tim and Amy.


Amy: Thank you. We’re happy to be here. 


Tim: Thank you. [crosstalk] 


Jen: I am so excited to bring your story to the listeners of DocWorking, because I think we’re going to have a lot of people who can relate to what you’ve been through and the decisions you’ve made, and I think it’s really inspiring. Just to give the listeners a little bit of a background about your journey, Tim and Amy were living the American Dream. They had successful corporate jobs and lived in a big McMansion in beautiful Colorado. When a meeting with a life insurance agent provided an illuminating discovery, their life course changed forever. 


Fast forward, they’ve been retired for more than six years and sold their home in January of 2020, to become full-time international nomads. Can you tell me a little bit about what the FIRE movement is and how you came to know about it? 


Amy: I’m actually second-generation FIRE is what they call me. My parents, my dad and stepmom, retired in their early 40s. They were Wall Street investment bankers in the 80s, and we didn’t talk about money, but we didn’t talk about incomes and net worth and things like that. The idea was, this wasn’t something that I could do, this was reserved for the more wealthy people. Tim and I had normal corporate jobs, but we weren’t at that high, high level. Even though this was part of my life, I never knew that this was part of my journey until we came upon many, many discoveries, everything snowballed at once.


Back in about 2013, Tim and I were working. Tim has three kids from a previous marriage. We went to a life insurance agent, and the agent asked us a very important question that changed our course. He asked, “If one of you dies, does the other one want to go back to work on Monday to pay for your house, to pay for your life?” We thought about it? Answer was, “No, we don’t want to go back to work in half a week if the other dies unexpectedly.” He said, “Well, that’s the amount of money that you need for life insurance, and that means you never need to work again.” 


Tim and I had always thought that we might retire early, we didn’t know what that meant. We didn’t know if we needed $500,000 or $500 million, we had no idea. That meeting with the life insurance agent gave us this number of how much do you spend, multiply that by 25 times and that’s how much you need life insurance to never work again. That’s the number we started working on to be able to retire early. 


A year later, we found all kinds of bloggers, the Minimalists were very helpful in our journey. After that, Mr. Money Mustache is one of the key figures in the FIRE movement. We happen to be in Colorado, which is like a hotbed of a lot of FIRE people just doing different things. It all just gelled at the same time. We were empty nesters, two of our three kids had already left the house. So, it just made sense to downsize our house. In that journey, we ended up saying we don’t need the big house, our spending has significantly decreased because we’re being very mindful of it. Sure enough, we didn’t need as much as we thought we did. 


Jen: Let’s talk about FIRE, and what that is. Financial Independence, Retire Early, is the movement that you guys are referring to. If I understand you correctly, you left that life insurance agent’s office with a number that he had given you, that was a target number you would need. If you had that much money invested, historically speaking, it would be enough to live off the investments to cover your lifestyle. 


Amy: With 99% probability. 


Tim: When we left the office, our assumption was, we were spending, so it’s based on your spending. It’s not based upon how much money you’re making, it’s how much money you’re spending. We were spending about $115,000 a year, and that didn’t include a variety of things, principal on our house, taxes, and some things–[crosstalk] 


Amy: A huge amount of savings.


Tim: That’s how much money we were spending. After a while, we started working down the path, we take our current spending, we multiply 115 times 25. What does that give us? 


Amy: It was $2.875 million. 


Tim: $2.875 million. We started working towards $2.875 million. Then we came to this realization, if we changed our spending substantially, that $2.875 million came down to something that was a lot more attainable.


Amy: And we could reach it sooner. 


Tim: Yeah. And just some commentary on the idea of FIRE. With retire early, you and I have talked about something, but you talk with your audience about the optional part of FIORE? 


Jen: My concept really with FIRE as it relates to physicians, we work for so many years to learn what we do. I think that there are physicians who want to retire early, but I also think there are a lot of people who would just have so much peace of mind if they had the option to retire early. I’m renaming it, FIORE.




Jen: Which means flower in Italian, except I’m not pronouncing it like an Italian, I’m sure. Financial Independence with the Option to Retire Early. The reason that’s so important to me, and actually, a really key part of my mission with DocWorking is physicians who can get themselves into a safe space where they feel that they have an amount that will cover their bases if they need to leave for some reason, or if they choose to leave, that would give them a sense of security so that when they choose to work, at that point, it’s a choice and you’re not trapped into it by debt, you’re not trapped into it, because you have a lifestyle that you have to support with your work. You’re working because you choose to work, which allows us as physicians to get back to why we went to medical school in the first place and work because we love to try to help patients and we’re trying to serve our community. That’s really the concept that speaks to me, but I have been following the FIRE movement for really, almost before it started. 


I’ve been following it since even Dave Ramsey, which I don’t really consider part of the FIRE movement, and I don’t really follow him. I haven’t followed him in decades, but he was the first person I ever heard back in the early 90s before he was even discovered. I happened to be in Tennessee, and he happened to be in Tennessee, I even called his show [laughs] and asked him a question back in the 90s. 


Anyway, yes, I’m fascinated with the movement, because I think it’s about options. When you are a physician and you are feeling some symptoms of burnout, it’s a pretty attractive option to at least try to get yourself in a position so that you could use it if you choose to. Once you have that safety zone, it gives you so much peace of mind, you may not actually need to use it, because it changes your whole approach to the work.


Amy: Even more than options, I think it’s more specific. It’s about freedom, freedom to work, freedom to not work, freedom to do whatever you want to do. Whether that’s work, whatever. Work part time, work as a consultant. Really, because I think freedom is a word that really strikes us very at the core. It’s definitely got options. Financial independence is for anybody. Retiring early isn’t necessarily for everybody, it’s a personal option. Everybody should be financially independent.


Tim: One of the core tenets of FIRE, and by the way, there are no core tenets of FIRE. It seems everybody has their own thinking about it. When you’re young, and you’re not making a lot of money, you still save a lot of your money, and you never really inflate your lifestyle. When you get that raise, and you’re making $50,000, you don’t go buy a fancy car. When you get that raise, and you’re making $100,000, you don’t go buy a nicer house. You keep your lifestyle consistent, and you’re just saving more of what you’re bringing in. That’s one of the, again, I say, core tenets. 


Obviously, for us, one of the biggest challenges, so we made enough income, so we did inflate our lifestyle. This is why I think we’re sort of weird FIRE, but we did inflate our lifestyle, we just had enough income, that our savings happened to make it so that once we decided to stop our spending, our savings made it so that we could be down the path a lot quicker. This lifestyle inflation is something that is, when you’re really young, this is something that you can get bought into, it provides so much value. 


Amy: When Tim says, “Don’t inflate your lifestyle from your early 20s,” that is not what’s required to have a good life in this FIRE movement, and that’s what we show on our YouTube channel is that we have this incredible life without a lot of sacrifice. It turns out our life is even happier with our less spending. 


Tim: We did a video and we talked about deflating our lifestyle. Our lifestyle is tenfold more than it was when we were spending $115,000 a year, and I was working 80 hours a week and Amy was working 80 hours a week. The dynamics of our life now even though we’re spending a lot less, our life is so much better now. We try to spend about 36k a year, which normal people, probably most doctors are going to be shocked when we put that number out there. 


Amy: But happier than ever.


Tim: We’re happier than ever spending that amount. Our budget, being the amount of money that we have using the 4% rule allows us to spend more. That’s just a number we’ve settled on and we’re comfortable. 


Jen: The reason that your story is compelling is that you lived that life of spending on all of the things that you wanted to do, all of the things that you wanted to have, you were living in the big house and had the fancy cars and all of those things that are sort of easy to slip into that lifestyle if you have that option. And you almost don’t even realize it’s happening but, like you say, it’s lifestyle inflation. 


Tell me about what were the steps you took to decrease your spending? What was the effect when you say that your life is actually so much better and your spending so much less? 


Tim: The biggest thing was our house. I like to say that our house was our worst and our best financial decision ever. So, it’s our worst because it was $650,000 house. When we sold it, we lost $50,000. And most people make money on real estate, not us. I know in certain parts of the world– 


Amy: Even in a hot market. 


Tim: Especially when you’re in $650,000 doesn’t buy a house, but in Colorado buys a McMansion. This house, the money that we spent to buy it, it bought us this big fancy house, but it didn’t buy us much happiness. We just had this big, expensive thing that we had to pay for. Really, when we were working, we were spending 115k, a lot of that money was going towards paying for this big house, which I traveled most of the week, I wasn’t in. Amy was in this big house by herself for a large part of the week. This big house just didn’t mean a lot to us, but it costs us a lot of money. When it was all said and done, I think when I say it was maybe the best decision we made–


Amy: We got it out of our system.


Tim: We got it out of our system. If we never had this home, we wouldn’t have known that we don’t want that home. The fact that we owned it, the fact that we did inflate our lifestyle allowed us to have this experience that was very costly, but we learned a lesson and realize-


Amy: We don’t regret the lesson.


Tim: -we don’t regret the lesson. 


Amy: The house was by far the biggest thing that we needed to get rid of in order to leave our jobs. We didn’t have any other debt, by the way. All we had was a mortgage, we had a decent amount paid down on that mortgage, and we had a rental townhouse that we had a renter in. It was small. Two of our kids, as I mentioned, had left the nest. We had rooms in our house that we never entered in a year. Every room in the house was twice the size of what a room size should be and it was massive. So massive to heat, to clean, to insure, to all of it. Certainly, getting rid of the house was huge. But we had three cars for two drivers, we got rid of a car, we used to go out for sushi, anytime somebody in our five-person family said, “Sushi sounds good,” out we went for sushi. It turns out that we spent a lot of money on sushi when that’s your way of living. 


The big giant ones were our house and our car, but it was really looking at everything. We used to have season tickets to the theater. Instead, we became volunteers on the other side of retirement. We were at the theater all the time, got to support the theater that we are very passionate about. We became volunteers and saved quite a bit of money that way. We looked at absolutely everything. Actually, it was like a challenge. We gamified it. It wasn’t in a miserable way. I know from our YouTube channel, people think about this and say, “That sounds awful.” It wasn’t. We actually love doing our monthly spending recaps together. They’re exciting. It’s like, “How did we do for the month? Did we come to our target?” We look forward to that. And we understand like, “Where are we spending too much, where can we trim down?” I don’t think there’s a single thing in our entire life that didn’t escape some kind of reduction. 


Tim: I’m going to circle back to the house. The thing with the house is, it’s not just the mortgage and the fact that you own the house, but you have to keep the house up. We replaced our roof three different times, we had to decorate the house, we had finished 4000 square feet, and then another 2000 square feet that was unfinished, but there’s always something to do in this home, and there’s always something to buy. Every time somebody would show up at our door and say, “Oh, you have this nice house,” they wanted to charge us $10,000 for anything that was going to happen in the house. The house was the biggest part. I call it an albatross. This was the biggest thing in our life that we had to get rid of in order to make our FIRE life work. 


Jen: You guys did that in a couple of steps. You sold that house, and then you moved into your townhouse, right? 


Amy: That’s right. In 2015, we sold the big house, we moved into the townhouse that had a renter in it. She happened to give her notice the same time we were planning to ask her to go, and we only had one daughter left at home. In our old house, we’d scream as loud as we could from our bedroom because it was this huge ranch, 4000 square feet in a ranch. She was on one end, we were on the other, just scream as loud as you can, she can’t hear us. When we moved to our townhouse, we shared a wall and we turned out to have a better relationship with our daughter who was entering ninth grade, which is a really good time to have a better relationship with your kids. We did move into our smaller townhome. It turns out that someone else maintained the outside. Again, we lived in Colorado, so all that snow removal, the landscaping, we didn’t have to take care of any of that. We’re humongous, humongous travelers, so we could lock and go to some degree. It just having smaller space meant that every inch was used. Our smaller cozy space, that’s where our name GoWithLess came from. It turns out that we loved going with less. 


Jen: That’s the interesting thing is that sounds like a really great landing place. And yet you guys, decided to take it another step further and you sold the townhouse. Now for the past year and a half, you’ve been completely nomadic. Tell me about what that’s like compared to living in a house. You’re traveling all the time. 


Amy: We love it. 


Tim: We do.


Amy: We thought if we don’t want a house during COVID, we are meant to be nomads. 


Tim: In January 2020, is when we actually sold our townhome. We were spending $1,000 a month in our home that was completely paid for. We weren’t planning to be there but for a small part of the year. We figured if we take that $1,000 and put it towards just our travel, we don’t necessarily need to have a home. Like Amy said, the fact that we have loved the last year, 2020, pandemic times, we’ve loved being in our nomadic life, we were meant to have this lifestyle. 


Amy: Houses are a nuisance is what we have learned over and over.


Tim: We watch other people’s houses, and it seems like every time we show up at a house, these houses have issues, and so things happen. The fact that we don’t have to pay to replace the roof, or we don’t have to pay to fix that leak, or we don’t have to pay for whatever. It just reminds us every day how grateful we are that we don’t own a home. 


Amy: The idea to get rid of our home was an interesting story. Back in early 2018, Tim and I were planning nine weeks in Europe. We were going to five countries in five weeks. And then, we were going to be in France on a house sit in the country in Alsace, France, for a month. I was planning our whole itinerary. After planning Krakow and Budapest, and Vienna, and I said, “Honey, we only have three, four days in these world-class capital cities, and that’s not enough time.” We’re just scratching the surface. We can’t even go out to the surrounding towns that we want to see. We can’t just take it easy. We’re like hustling, hustling, seeing everything there is to see in Budapest in three days, which is just nuts. I said, “Honey, when our daughter graduates from high school and flees the nest to college, why don’t we sell our house and become full-time nomads?” Tim, he doesn’t even miss a beat, he says, “Let’s do it.” [laughs] 


Jen: And the rest is history. 


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Jen: When you guys moved out of your town house, you had an entire year mapped out of international travel. There are a couple things that you just said that I find really interesting. First of all, you said that $1,000 a month was what you were paying for your house that was paid for. Of course, there’s taxes, there’s insurance, there’s maintenance-


Amy: Utilities.


Jen: -there’s condo fees, there’s HOA fees, all these things. It was costing you $1,000 a month and you did something brilliant, I think, which is to take that $1,000 a month and say let’s apply that to travel. What you’ve done with your travel is the second thing that I think is brilliant. Not only have you flipped that $1,000 into your budget for travel, but you have found a way to travel and stay places longer and for free, and how have you managed to do that? 


Tim: That is through housesitting. Basically, what we do is we go to people’s homes. There’s a site that we like to use, and we go to people’s homes, and we watch their pets.


Amy: Strangers’ homes.


Tim: Strangers homes, and 99% of the time there are pets involved. In our case, it’s been 100% of the time for watching pets. It’s a fantastic thing where we don’t pay them, they don’t pay us. And so basically, we have a scenario-


Amy: It’s [crosstalk] sharing economy.


Tim: -and we have free lodging. Now we have that $1,000 a month instead of paying for lodging, we get to pay for food instead of lodging and we would gladly pay $1,000 for food in any given month. 


Amy: Here’s the cool thing. We’re animal lovers. Our lifestyle does not work with animals. Our intent is to be out of the US 10 months every single year for a long time, 10 plus years. That doesn’t really work to have pets. What we do is go love on other people’s pets and it’s a really interesting sharing economy trusting situation. We’re very vetted. We have background checks and dozens of reviews and things like that. But we come into someone’s house, we’re in a house right now in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. We’re here for four weeks in this gorgeous home. Two dogs that we completely adore. And so, we get our head fixed and that’s kind of how we know we don’t want to own a home is because we’re in other people’s homes. We try on someone else’s life. The concept of Airbnb got, I think, so popular because people like this, living like a local. 


Turns out now that we’ve done this house sitting, living in someone’s home with their pets in a neighborhood is a lot more like living like a local than Airbnb, which really is a lot closer to a hotel. So, if the pets have issues, the house has issues, you’re dealing with all of that. But for the most part, that’s why we’ve been doing it for six years, we love it. We stay for a month, two, three months in a place, and we completely just assume like the life of the homeowner. We take them to the dog park, and wake up and go on all their walks and give them love and take care of the house and do all the stuff that homeowners pretty much do. 


Tim: We call it a win-win-win scenario. It’s a win for the homeowners because their homes are taken care of, their pets are taken care of, they have some peace of mind while they’re away, if their house isn’t going to fall apart. We have some stories in the last year about crazy things that happen, not even anything to do with pets in people’s homes. Also, it’s a win for us because we have a roof over our head that has no cost. Especially, it’s a win for the pets, they don’t have to go to the kennel, they get to keep their own routine. 


Amy: We’re like godparents.


Tim: We feel we’re godparents [crosstalk] just love up on them, and we spoil them. 


Jen: Just to clarify, when you say you’ve been doing it six years, that’s because what you did is you started to create a profile of positive reviews for yourself on the site. I don’t know if you would like to mention the site. 


Amy: Sure. It’s called TrustedHousesitters. It’s the biggest site in the world. And you’re exactly right, so we knew while our daughter had four years left in high school, that we wanted the cat sit in Paris or London or Manhattan, we wanted that three months sit with a cat. We said let’s get some amazing reviews locally. Whenever a Denver area sit popped up on the site, like a short sit, we said, “Let’s make sure that we earn a great reference.” Now, we have a profile that’s A plus, plus, plus, when it’s very, very competitive. It’s a little hard to get started brand new, we would recommend starting with local sits.


Again, it’s like something in an Airbnb, it’s hard to find an amazing kitchen. What we find in houses, is we often have great kitchens, it’s people’s homes. An Airbnb, often they’re putting like the worst pots and pans. They’re expecting people to put this stuff in the dishwasher. The knives, the pans, these aren’t designed for gourmet cooking. Tim and I cook, this is our life. So, having a housesit kitchen is generally like a rock star kitchen, and we get to use other tools and things that someone who’s cooking in the home wouldn’t want to use. 


Jen: Do you anticipate that you’re going to stay in this lifestyle indefinitely? 


Amy: That’s an excellent question. We have been doing it nonstop since December. It is a lot of responsibility, taking care of someone’s prized pets, their home, and we’re up with the pet. So, it’s hard to establish a routine when we’re on the pets’ routine, and that changes every few weeks or months. We have a lot of houses booked for 2021. We have a couple booked in 2022 in Spain, and I think that we’re probably going to do a lot less of it in 2022, because we want the freedom, we want to live our best life every single day. Right now, we have a lot of responsibility. And it’s nice just to say, “You know what? We don’t need to take on a lot of responsibility. We don’t need to keep our budget as low as we keep it.” We’re thinking mixing it up a little more than we have. Again, we’ve been on housesit nonstop for eight months. 


Tim: Our plan, when we launched in January 2020, was to do about half housesitting and half Airbnb. We were going to be housesitting in places where it’s a little more expensive, and we were going to be paying to be in places where it was a little more affordable, maybe here in Mexico, maybe in Southeast Asia, maybe in Eastern Europe. That all fell apart. Matter of fact, we had 200 plus nights in housesits last year that just completely went off the map. We’ve learned a lot this year about housesitting. One of the things that we’ve learned is that it is work, so we don’t have our own day, we’re obliged to take care of the pets. If something breaks in the house, we’re obliged to take care of it.


Amy: Or maybe to hire a plumber. We’re not doing plumbing. 


Tim: It is a great job, but it is a job. We are considering mixing it up and making it a little different. We’ll see. We love it. It’s just I think sometimes when we have long stretches of it, I think we need to break. 


Amy: It was a little unusual. The reason why we’ve been doing it since December, this was not our plan. COVID has kept us in the United States. We got on our first international flight, July 5th, our first international flight in a year and a half. We’re supposed to be living around the world. Here we are stuck in the United States. It’s much more expensive in the US. So, we’re waiting for the world to open up again, and we decided instead of paying for the much more expensive US in an Airbnb, that we would just take on housesits, and it worked very well. But now we’re ready for a break. During COVID, we were very fortunate, several friends had second homes. We paid a nominal rate to stay in their second homes while they were unused during sheltering in place. We lucked out last year. This year, it turns out that I think that price sensitivity has gone out the roof. People don’t care how much things cost, and the United States is sky high. A lot of Airbnb rentals have come off the market making it even harder to get an Airbnb. 


For now, as long as the world is still riddled with COVID, our plan has veered and we’re really anxious for that to settle hopefully sooner rather than later. We still like the moving around, we still like pets, but we’re ready to see the world. 


Jen: Can you tell me a little bit about your budget? How does that break down at $36,000 a year? That’s similar to a resident’s salary. I’m just curious how you guys are breaking it down for someone who might be interested in maintaining a lifestyle that is a full, happy, healthy lifestyle post residency but staying near that sort of resident’s budget and perhaps investing the rest of that they could get to financial independence faster? How do you do it? 


Tim: It’s a great question. At the end of last year, we did a video. I guess in January 2020, we did a video where we broke down what we spend in each of the categories where we spend money. The thing that we found is month after month after month, there’s really no consistency with the way our budget works. We have really weird dynamics with our budget, because we’ll have zero lodging one month, and then the next month, it’ll be more. So, it’s really hard to say that this is how the budget breaks down. Amy had a surgery earlier in the year, we spent $6,000 on that. So, there’s all these weird things that sort of factor in our life that make it really hard to give somebody useful information about what our budget looks like. 


However, if you do want to go see what our budget looked like in 2020, you can go watch the video. I think it was second week in January on our channel, and we talked completely about what we spent last year.


Amy: Every single month, we recap what we spent every single month. Some months, health and fitness are very high. Some months, food and dining, groceries and dining out are very, very high. Like Tim said, it’s not consistent that the same category is always high. We still have charitable giving in that. Our charitable giving was one of our higher categories at the end of the year.


Tim: It was last year. Here’s something else. Right now, we’re in Mexico. Part of the reason we’re here is, we’re on a housesit, zero lodging costs. We thought Mexico is going to be an affordable place to be, so we thought this July was going to be a fantastic month for us. We’re going to really catch up on the $6,000 we spent on Amy surgery. As it turns out, with 36k, we try and spend about $3,000 a month. There’s a good chance, this month in July, we’re going to be over $3,000.


Amy: We’re close to it.


Tim: We’re close to it. 


Amy: In Mexico with no home cost. But we haven’t cooked at home here. We go out to eat every single day for a month. We’re living like a life of great decadence, actually. We’ve a decadent life, and it’s a hair over $3,000. If we add it in an Airbnb, that might add another up to $2,000 a month, unless you’re in a place like Switzerland or New York City or San Francisco, most places about $2,000 is about right for an Airbnb, much, much cheaper in places like Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe. $5,000 would be like we’re not even having housesitting factor into our life at that point. And we still have so much fat in our budget, it’s crazy. 


Tim: Geographic arbitrage is a big part of our plan. We really haven’t had a chance to– I guess we sort of use it, moving around the States last year to find places that are affordable. But our larger picture plan was to be in really affordable places and see how that works out. Not really gotten into that yet to see if our plan is really going to work-


Amy: Internationally.


Tim: -international. I know it will, but this Mexico example, doesn’t feel very good for us, just where we are. 


Amy: I do want to jump in, the $36,000, that’s not what we can spend. This is actually really confusing to people. Just because our budget is 36,000, that is not tied in in the slightest to what we can spend, and that concept is complete craziness to most people. What we can spend is significantly higher. It’s just what we’re comfortable spending. We just want to live a great life and we’re just being careful about what we spend and being aware. And if it costs $50,000 a year, that’s what we’ll spend. So, people will say if we have a month, we’re spending $4,000 in a month, some of our new commenters on YouTube will say, “See, this doesn’t work. You have to go back to work.” No, the $36,000 is just where our life works to be phenomenal. If that life was $50,000, it still works in our plan, we’re just being very mindful of our spending. 


Jen: Just to clarify what geographic arbitrage is, that’s where you are making decisions to live in different places based on the cost of living in those places. Similarly, with a physician, you may choose to take a job in rural Nebraska because the cost of living is very low, the job actually pays higher than what you would make in a big city, like New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and you end up with a much larger spread between what you spend and what you make. That would be an example of geographic arbitrage.


Amy: A perfect example. 


Jen: I would like to ask you guys one more question. With all of the experience that you’ve had so far with these major life-changing decisions and the experience you’ve had being nomadic too, if you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be? 


Tim: I’m going to go with be very mindful of your spending, including potentially, not inflating your lifestyle or understanding the cost of inflating your lifestyle. If you’re going to go buy that big house, go buy that big house.


Amy: The second house.


Tim: But understand that all these things come with cost including, you may have to work an extra 12 years in order to keep that house in your life, not because of the mortgage, but because of all the things that sort of come with it. I think it’s just be mindful when you spend money.


Amy: Another on top of that, even though your situation now, you may think you might want to work forever, things can change. The pandemic has shown us this very clearly. You may want to take another path. Getting into a very expensive cost of living really reduces your options. If something like this, out of the blue COVID comes along, and you want to have options, or maybe you’re caring for your sick parent or your spouse, maybe you want to homeschool your children, all kinds of things you might want to do, your options are limited the more money you spend. If we had realized that, if we had also known about early retirement, we would have been able to retire way, way earlier. Way earlier. 


Jen: Fantastic. Those are such good pieces of advice. I think they can really help a lot of people. Having options, first of all, it gives you a chance to reshape your career. I’ve been fortunate to be able to do that so that I can still practice medicine. But really, on my own terms, that’s been something that has worked out over time. I think if you get into a situation where you want to change things, if you have options, then you can really shape it into being what you want. As you guys have shown and so many people in the FIRE movement have shown, retire early is really a bit of a misnomer because most people retire from something that they were doing full time and they tend to follow something that they’re very passionate about. It’s not like you’re sitting there not doing anything else, you stay probably busier than ever. 


Amy: As a matter of fact, we know hundreds and hundreds of people like us, both FIRE and nomads. The thing that we hear from over and over again, we say it, we hear it, “How did I ever have time for a job?” This is said, you can’t even imagine, 100 times people have said this to us?


Tim: Yup.


Amy: And we’ve shared it with them too. We have to work really hard to not be busy. We are booked with fun stuff to do all the time. I read a comment on some Facebook post about the option of retiring early, and someone said I can’t imagine that the very best use of my most limited valuable resource. My life, my time is sitting in a cubicle and working, like there’s nothing else that you could be doing. Certainly, if you’re in the medical field, you might have gone into it for a very different reason. We were both in corporate sales. This is not like a passion project. There were a lot of things that we could be doing other than spreadsheets and meetings and Salesforce.


Tim: There are plenty of people in the FIRE space who don’t like that RE terminology either. I like that you sort of rebranded it the way that you did. It’s certainly optional, and the financial independence is the important part of the equation. No doubt about it.


Jen: Wonderful. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me tonight. I hope you have a fabulous rest of your trip in Mexico. Where are you headed next? 


Amy: We’re in these three UNESCO World Heritage cities. We’re in San Miguel de Allende now, we’re moving to Guanajuato next, which is supposed to be absolutely beautiful, a university town. And after this, we move to Philadelphia. [laughs] 


Jen: Well, I wish you all of the success and health during your travels and I look forward to staying in touch and following you on GoWithLess. Watching your videos is always entertaining. I really enjoy them very much. I hope that our listeners will hop over and check you guys out. I look forward to talking with you again soon. 


Tim: Thank you, Jen. 


Amy: Thank you.




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Amanda: Hello, and thank you for listening. This is Amanda Taran. I’m the producer of the DocWorking podcast. If you enjoyed our podcast, please like and subscribe. We would also love it, if you check out our website which is And you can also find us on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and on Instagram. On Instagram, we are @docworking1, and that is with the number one. When you check us out on social, please let us know what you would like to hear on the podcast. Your feedback really means a lot to us. And if you’re a physician with a story you’d like to tell, please reach out to me at [email protected] to apply to be on the podcast. Thank you again and we look forward to talking with you on the next episode of DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast.

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Board-certified practicing radiologist, founder and CEO of DocWorking, and host of top ranked DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast

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