Exploring Alternatives Mini-Documentary

Written by Cel

Several months ago, we were approached by a couple that runs a YouTube channel called Exploring Alternatives. Their channel is about Canadians who have “alternative lifestyles”: people who are “living in small spaces like tiny houses, vans, RVs, sailboats, and who are exploring long-term travel, minimalism, zero waste living, renewable energy, and much more. ”

As we are frugal, relatively minimalist, and are shooting for early retirement, they wanted to do a video about us, which we happily agreed to. It took a while for it to be filmed, edited, and ready for publication, but it came out earlier this month. Here is the link to the video, which is about 9.5 minutes long.

We are pretty happy with how the video turned out! Except for the part where it looks like my pants zipper is unzipped. I’m not certain, but I’m about 70% sure it actually was zipped and it just looks like it wasn’t (those pants have a bad tendency to bunch up and look like they’re unzipped sometimes).

The parts with the cooking turned out well, as did the grocery shopping background shots. One of the employees at Sunrise Market even watched the video and recognized us the other day!

We got a lot of positive responses, including some couples from other places who contacted us to tell us about how they saw a lot of their own lifestyle in our story (dual income, frugal, minimalist, travelling, etc.) Of course, there was also some negative feedback. Disregarding the outright trolls who just called us ugly and such, the naysayers tended to bring up these issues:

There’s no point in retiring early if you have a boring, miserable life.

Seeing this kind of statement makes me pity the person who says it. Anyone who says this is unable to imagine having fun or doing things that are fulfilling, without spending a lot of money. Going for a hike or a bike ride costs hardly anything. Reading a book is cheap or free (if you get it at the library). Hanging out with some friends at your place or theirs for some food/drinks/games is very cheap. Even video games can be cheap. That doesn’t mean you have to have no hobbies that cost money. We spend almost $10K a year on travel, for example. But it does mean that you can’t have all your hobbies be expensive ones.

The point isn’t to sacrifice now so you can retire. The point is to set up the life you want to live now, and then figure out how much you need to make that happen. We personally don’t like alcohol, so we don’t buy it. But if we did, we’d be buying it now rather than sacrificing it now just so we can retire and then start buying alcohol.

Why would you want to waste your life by retiring at 35?

Retiring early doesn’t mean you have to sit around and watch TV. It just means that you aren’t chained down to a job that you probably dislike (or at best, tolerate) in order to pay the bills.

Think about it – how many people do you know would continue working at their jobs if they weren’t being paid (but they had also won the lottery, meaning that money wasn’t a concern and they could do whatever they wanted)? Maybe for some people, the answer is yes, especially if you work a “passion” job like artist, musician, etc. But for almost everyone else? The answer is no.

Ever wanted to become a writer, but didn’t have the time because you had a full-time job and other responsibilities? Now you can – and it doesn’t matter if your writing only brings in $100 a month (or ten dollars, or zero dollars), because you’re already retired.

Ever wanted to join a cultural organization and learn a new language, but didn’t have the time? Now you do.

Ever wanted to volunteer to help out a cause you’re passionate in, but didn’t have the time or energy? Now you do.

You make a lot of money, and it’s not possible to retire early if you make an average income.

It seems like a lot of people are ignorant about what an average income actually is. We make around 80K a year combined for two people. The average income for Canadians 25-34 years old (our age range) was $44K, in 2017. And of course, we live in Vancouver, which is a relatively high cost of living area by Canadian standards.

This would be impossible in America, which doesn’t have free healthcare.

While healthcare is an issue, American salaries and cost of living tends to be more favourable than Canada – particularly compared to Vancouver specifically. There are many Americans who have attained FIRE, and not all of them are earning six figures.  If you are unlucky and have a major illness or accident and need to pay a lot of money for it in America, then yes, you probably won’t be able to retire early. But for the majority of people who are not that unlucky, it’s still achievable.

This would be impossible with kids.

Having kids costs some money, but it doesn’t make ER impossible. It might mean that you retire at 45 instead of 35, but that’s still a lot better than normal.

Off the top of my head, here are a few examples of Canadians that have retired early with kids:

Freedom 101

Adventuring Along

 

At the end of the day, there’s an almost infinite amount of objections that a person could raise. But the fact is, becoming FI and retiring early is possible, and people from all walks of life and in a variety of circumstances have done it. Yes, if you’re a paraplegic high school dropout with no real skills, it’ll be very difficult if not impossible to retire early. Most likely that isn’t the case for you though. So instead of focusing on why you can’t do something, you should be thinking about how you can do it. Odds are, there is a way. You just need to look for it.

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24 Comments

  1. I found out about you about a week ago and I must say I am literally blown away. Seriously. You are amazing! I feel so inspired by your story. And honestly speaking, you knwo that there alawys be people saying you have miserable life or you have no life at all. But it’s all about them. Not about you. I am not from Canada but here where we live people also say “it’s impossible” or “how is it possible that you have two kids and you are still able to save money?!”. Let’s all keep up the good work 🙂
    cheers!!

  2. I came across the you tube video you mentioned just last week and have since been reading lots on your blog which I find so inspiring and motivating. I love your ethos and style of living. If you guys have a you tube channel of your own please let me know as I would definately be subscribing. Keep up the good work. Love your blog😀👏

  3. Do you invest all the money you’re saving into your index funds or does some of it go into a traditional type of retirement account? All the FIRE stuff I read says to save as much as I can and invest it but I’m just not sure where! Do they mean invest in my retirement or after tax index fund account? I read conflicting articles that say we should max out our retirement accounts because they’re tax advantaged. But we don’t make enough to do that and we wouldn’t be able to touch that money until we’re old. My fiancé and I have very similar income and expenses to you so it’s so exciting to think we could retire in maybe 10 years.

    • All of it goes into index funds. Whatever you are investing should be money that you do not need in the near future. So, you should be investing in your RRSP and TFSA first. For us of course we max those out, so the remainder has to go into normal accounts. For you, that isn’t the case as you said, so you should be focusing exclusively on RRSP and TFSA accounts.

      • So what income will you live off of if you early retire in just a few years? Since you can’t touch the money that you invested in your retirement accounts until you’re older? Are you planning to just live off dividend income from your normal accounts? I guess I’m just wondering how much goes specifically into your after-tax accounts each year then? Thanks for helping me understand this!!! Like I said we make about the same income as you so am just trying to follow your successful model.

  4. What a great post! So many excellent points in here, and it is so true that anyone can find a million obstacles for why they can’t do something, the key is to find a way around (or through!) those obstacles! You guys have found a way to live your ideal life, and what’s better than that?!?

    Thank you for the shout out ! Love the video as well 🙂

    • I have watched your video from the channel ‘Exploring Alternatives’ and it inspired me to think and dig deeper. I am trying to be a minimalist since last year and I’m continuing on my journey although there are some or maybe a lot of obstacles along they way but still moving forward. I also want to retire early at the age of 35, and that would be 7, 8 years from now. Like you two, I also love to travel, SE Asian here and I’ve pretty much roamed around Asian countries already. My next travel goal would be Europe. Anyway, congrats on both of you. All the best!

  5. So what income will you live off of if you early retire in just a few years? Since you can’t touch the money that you invested in your retirement accounts until you’re older? Are you planning to just live off dividend income from your normal accounts? Because when you give your net worth updates you say “If we retired today, we would have an income of X a month.” Wondering how that income is factored. Thanks so much!

  6. “I don’t know what you’re talking about regarding not being able to touch money until we’re old – we have 100% access to all of our money at any time. ”

    So you have nothing in an RRSP? Which you’re supposed to maximize? You get penalized if you withdraw from that before retirement (ie. ~65).

    “So our only option for retiring early is to put money into a taxed account. Sounds like I need to move to Canada.”

    No, you don’t. Canada has the same thing. It’s called an RRSP. I’m not sure why they’re pretending to be obtuse about that question.

  7. Your video has inspired me! I’m starting out a little later in the game in respects to being a minimalist and being frugal.
    It states in your video that your spend $9,500 a year on rent in Vancouver???? I’m in the lower mainland and spend about the same but the compute and need for a car is what really adds to the budget. If you don’t mind me asking where did you find a place so cheap in Vancouver?
    I am going a 6 month adventure to Mexico and will be giving up my space and would be needing to find something when I get back, in an area where I don’t need the car and could walk everywhere.

    Thanks for sharing your journey with us through this blog!
    And thanks for your Time!

    Cheers

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