'You can't put a price on freedom' says FIRE blogger Pat Seyrak


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If you believe retirement only happens when you reach your 60s - and you want to retire earlier - then read on.

We've interviewed seven Aussies who are working towards financial independence, early retirement.

Welcome to the FIRE movement.

pat the shuffler early retirement

Pat Seyrak, 30
Aim: retire at 35
Income needed: $40,000 a year
Investment strategy: shares and ETFs.

Pat has a firm number for his financial independence: $1 million. He plans to reach it by December 2023 when he is 35. So far the millennial is almost a third of the way there, hitting $300,000 and aiming for an investment portfolio of $1 million in today's dollars to provide him with an annual income of $40,000 for the rest of his life.

Pat, who sets out how to "buy back your life" on the website lifelongshuffle.com, kicked off his mission to retire by going through his bank statements from the previous year to understand where his money was going. "Like a leaky bucket, I worked to plug all the holes," he explains.

He has cut three big spending areas: accommodation, transport and food. "This is where the 80/20 principle applies. For example, 80% of your savings can come from optimising just these three areas of your life. Everything else is just icing on the cake.

"I decided that I could easily live a great life, and in many ways an even better life than before I had this goal, all the while reducing my expenses, consumption and waste and doing more things for myself."
He rents a small home close to work and walks and cycles whenever possible. "Cars are enormously more expensive than most people realise," he says. "Ideally, everything should be within walking or bicycle distance, such as work, children's schools and a supermarket."

Pat learnt how to cook well: "I prepare the vast majority of my own dinners and lunches and this saves me a fortune compared to eating out often."

He has also learnt to do his own repairs.

Pat's investment plan is simple. "The only way I know to build wealth is to do it slowly and methodically. Dollar-cost averaging into diversified broad-market exchange traded funds over an extended period of time."

Saving hard now means that he can reduce the amount of money he needs in the future because his savings are earning an income.

He doesn't like the word frugal to describe his life. "Because many people seem to associate it with self-deprivation, which is simply not how I like to live. Nor 
do I feel anything I am doing is extreme.

"If I were to be honest, I would consider the way in which most people live their lives to be extreme - paying much more than they need to for just about everything and spending their entire pay cheques, regardless of how large those pay cheques may be."

Slaving for 30 years to pay off a mortgage isn't part of Pat's plan. He prefers to spend time with friends and family.

Pat has a retirement plan that includes plenty of energetic activities such as playing music, learning a language and joining the State Emergency Service. As an engineer he is interested in the practical side of building. "Mostly I just want the freedom to live each day as I see fit and dedicate as much time as I would like to my passions and hobbies. I would like to be able to balance productivity and free time and not be forced onto a schedule."

- Mustachians Australia Facebook group.

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Susan has been a finance journalist for more than 30 years, beginning at the Australian Financial Review before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald. She edited a superannuation magazine, Superfunds, for the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, and writes regularly on superannuation and managed funds. She's also author of the best-selling book Women and Money.