Family of Four Taking Flight to Financial Independence

Month One of Early Retirement

Here we are at the beginning of May, and it’s hard to believe that I am ONLY one month into my early retirement (ER).  So much has happened since my last day of work on April 1st.  The first half of the month consisted of continuing to downsize our things, spending time with family and friends, and prepping for our trip.  The second half of the month has consisted of settling into our new way of life in Granada, Spain


Our new home in the historic Albaicin neighborhood of Granada, Spain.


I have to say ... we are settling in nicely to our new home, and it is going to be very hard to leave this place if / when we decide to.  Life here is much slower paced which is exactly what we were looking for.  I’m learning to really appreciate the little things more.  For example, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays the kids and I get up early (say around 10 am ...ha!) and walk about 10 minutes through the winding streets of our Albaicin neighborhood to the farmers market in Plaza Larga.  This is where we buy our produce; a typical haul looks something like this.  







In this post, I want to focus on two areas of life in ER that I think tend to get the most attention from those who are confused how someone would even think of retiring at 40.


  1. What are you going to do with your time?
  2. What if we run out of money?


What are you going to do with your time?  Or, aren’t you going to get bored? 


After one month of being retired (and almost a year since Tara has worked full-time), I can say with certainty that I am not going to get bored in ER.  Our days here have been full of exploring, World Schooling, shopping (groceries), meeting new friends, reading, and taking naps (my personal favorite ... how has the US not caught on to the importance of a good nap after lunch?!  Ahhh, that live to work mentality).


A Typical Day for Me


8:30 - 9:30 am: Wake Up


I wake up naturally most days (that is without an alarm clock) between 8:30 - 9:30 am.  From there, I get up, exercise, and make the kids their breakfast.


Sometimes breakfast includes treats from María Panadería.

  


10:00 am - 12:00 pm: Adventure / World School


Then usually between 10:00 am and 12:00 pm, we squeeze in some more traditional / at home learning before heading out on an adventure.  Our adventure could be anything from visiting a museum, to visiting the Alhambra, to playing at a local park, or just visiting the local market / bakery for goodies.  




Field Trip to Parque de las Ciencias.


Field Trip to the Alhambra.




Field Trip to the Alhambra (Generalife).


Our park for pull ups and exploring (also featuring our Tortuga day bag).

One of our World School bakery stops.  



2:00 - 3:00 pm: Lunch / At Home Learning May Continue



Last week Tara’s history and art lesson focused on the Alhambra and Tessellations.  You can access her resource here.


Usually after our adventure, we head home for lunch and more World Schooling at home for the kids.  This usually includes reading and writing, math, virtual Spanish classes, science, history, the arts, and budgeting / investing classes (this is a new one that I have put together to teach the kids how / why we do what we do when it comes to anything and everything regarding our money).  Note, Tara will do a post in the near future that goes into more specifics on our current approach to learning. 


3:00 - 5:00 pm: Siesta


After school is wrapped up, it’s time for a nap (for me!).  While I’m napping the kids are usually playing out on the roof deck with their new friend Momo.  This is also a great time to get some reading in.  Luckily Tara set us up with the Houston Public Library on-line resources, so we have free access to thousands of books.  (The kids also have a subscription with Get Epic).


Our landlord’s kitten.  Momo!



5:00 - 7:30 pm: Dinner (Cooking / Dinner)


Once nap time is over, I usually start dinner.  Sometimes while dinner is cooking, the kids and I will head to the park.  Other times we just lounge around.  After we have had dinner as a family (key phrase ...as a family!), it is usually around 7:30 pm.  (Note, the Spanish timing and approach to meals is a lot different than the US way... we haven’t necessarily adapted to all of those changes yet.  Basically, late and light breakfast.  Biggest meal at lunch which would be after 2 pm (followed by a siesta!).  And dinner is more of a lunch ...and late.  We were letting the kids stay up even later when we first arrived, but we decided they needed more sleep.  They are going to bed later than they normally would in the US).



7:30 - 9:00 pm: Chat with Family and Friends 


After dinner the kids usually take their baths and settle in for the night.  We have found this to be a great time to chat with family and friends back home in the states (since we are 6 or 7 hours ahead from Texas and the East Coast).  That keeps everyone busy until about 9 pm or so.


10:00 pm - 12:00 am: Netflix and Lights Out


Between 9 pm and 10 pm the kids go to sleep and that gives us a few hours to relax and catch up on some Netflix.  We usually call it a night around Midnight.


If the first month of retirement is any indication, we are going to stay plenty busy in our ER.  The only difference is now we are spending our time doing things that we WANT to do not things that we NEED to do.  There is a big difference.  


What if we run out of money?


As you know by now our early retirement (ER) plan is based around the 4% safe withdrawal rate.  If you need a refresher on what that is ... read this post.  The cliff notes version is save up enough in low cost investments (like VTSAX for example) and once 4% of your total investments covers your desired cost of living you are set to retire.


Upon planning for our early retirement, I always liked the idea of using geographic arbitrage as a strategy to live below our means and still have a high quality of life.  This idea, along with the desire to live in a Spanish speaking country (for ours and the kids own learning purposes), led us to Spain.  


Through speaking with other expats, I had a pretty good idea that Granada would be a great place to kick off our ER journey.  However, it wasn’t until I got here and settled into our neighborhood that I realized just how great this whole geographic arbitrage thing is going to work.  


May is the start of our first full month in our new home so I don’t have any official numbers to report on what it is going to cost us to live here, but I have a decent idea.  Based on our first couple of weeks here I think we can afford to have a high quality of life here for around $2,000-2,400 USD per month.  That number is for a family of four and includes rent, utilities, groceries, medical / dental, and spending money.  I will put together a detailed post on all of our May expenses in early June (including a three night trip to the beach in May!).  


Comparing this level of spending to our current investments we can afford to live on a withdrawal rate of less than 2% by being in Granada, Spain.  At this level of withdrawal rate there is absolutely no doubt that we will never run out of money, and in fact our investments will certainly grow to a level that is well over and above what we will spend in our lifetime.  Not so shabby.


View of our neighborhood from the Alhambra.



So ... what are we going to do with our time?  We are going to do a lot of learning, exploring (and traveling!), relaxing, reading, playing, and napping!  The best part is we are going to do it all together as a family.


And ... will we run out of money living this way?  Not a chance.


How do you plan to spend retirement?  Or how do your currently spend your time in retirement?  Need assistance with getting set up with financial success?  Reach out, and let’s talk.  You can also comment below.


-Erik







Early Retired and Finally in Spain: Madrid

On April 12, 2021, we officially landed in our new home country of Spain (what was moving internationally like during COVID-19?  Read our latest post here.)!  It has been a long journey, but I believe the wait will prove to be worth it.  Since our flight landed in Madrid, we thought it was a great opportunity to experience the capital city of this beautiful country (before we headed to Granada).  We stayed in Madrid for two nights, and it was a great experience.  In this post, I am going to go over our expenses while in Madrid along with where we stayed and what we did.  


Plaza Mayor

Expenses / Activities


Apartment

Transportation

Food

Museum

Exploring


Let’s break down each expense to give you an idea of what to expect when you visit Madrid!  (Side note from Tara ... we were not aiming to fit in a ton of sightseeing like a typical tourist.  We were trying to rest up from our flight / rest up for our travels to Granada ...and see a little bit of Madrid while we were there.  We knew we would be back!).


Apartment


We booked the apartment through Airbnb back in March (while still in Houston) and the total cost for 2 nights was $160 (132 euros).  This apartment had lots of great reviews that made picking it easy.  The pictures that are shown on Airbnb were accurate, and the hosts were super easy to communicate with.  Also the location of this apartment was great in that it allowed us to walk everywhere we wanted to go in the city.


The Airbnb living space.



Arriving at our apartment, we were greeted by the very nice housekeeper who let us into the space a little earlier than we agreed upon with the host, which was nice.  The space was clean and devoid of clutter (the way we like it).  The beds were comfortable, and all of the appliances were new and functional. 


The host checked on us throughout our stay to make sure we had everything we needed, and they even called us a cab on our last day to take us to the train station.  Overall, staying at this Airbnb was a great experience.  We would absolutely consider staying here again the next time we are in Madrid.  


Airbnb kitchen space.


Airbnb living space.


Airbnb master bedroom.  Also featured ...our Tortugas!

Kids bedroom in Airbnb ...also featured some of their toys and Tortuga bags.


Apartment Total: $160 (132 euros)


Transportation


We took taxis twice while in Madrid.  The first time was when we landed at the airport, and the second time was when we went to the train station to leave.  Both experiences were great.  For the first taxi, we exited the airport, and there was a line of cabs ready to go.  He spoke very little English, but we were able to communicate well enough to get where we needed to go.


While in route to our apartment we mentioned that we were heading to Granada in a few days, and he started going on and on about how great Granada is (apparently he was from the area).  I didn’t understand everything he was saying, but seeing and hearing his passion for Granada was pretty awesome.  


This cab ride took about 30 minutes and cost us 40 Euros ($48).


The second taxi drove us from our Airbnb to the train station (Puerte de Atocha in Madrid).  This ride took about 10 minutes and cost about 5 Euros ($6).  Like the first driver, this driver was also very polite.


All in all we found taxis in Madrid to be reasonably priced, safe, and efficient.  


Transportation: Approximately $54 (45 Euros)


Food




Another reason the location of our apartment was so great is because it had two grocery stores very close by.  One was literally right across the street (less than 1/2 block away), and the other was about a 5 minute walk. 


The grocery store across the street was more of a small produce mini mart.  I purchased produce a couple of times, and each time the total came to about 10 euros ($12).  A typical haul included: broccoli, carrots, potatoes, apples, bananas, grapes, plums, and strawberries.  I found the prices to be very reasonable. 


The second grocery store was more of a traditional store.  I also went to this one a couple of times, and each time the total came to about 20 euros ($24).  A typical haul from this store included: bread, crackers, ham, cheese, Nutella, cereal, milk, toothpaste, mouthwash, etc.  Again for the amount of stuff we bought, the price always seemed very reasonable to me.  I would say it was slightly cheaper than what I paid back in Houston.  





Two of us (Tara and our youngest) had a late lunch out one day that was less than 15 euros ($18).


We also stopped at a small bakery in Plaza Mayor and bought a fresh loaf of bread for 1 euro ($1.20), and we got breakfast at a little cafe that included pastries, coffee, juice, and fresh bread for 5 euros ($6).


Food: Approximately 81 euros ($98)


Museum


Lichtenstein sculpture at the Museo Reina Sofia.




The one thing that Tara insisted on doing while in Madrid was to visit the Museo Reina Sofia to see Picasso’s Guernica (unfortunately no photos allowed of Guernica).  We actually bought the tickets for this visit online back in March for a total cost of approximately 40 euros total (10 euros each) / $48.  Note, if it works with your schedule, they do offer free access days / times.


The museum was MASSIVE, and we only had about an hour or so to check it out, so we spent most of our time on the floor with the Picasso piece.  As Tara explained, this is one of Picasso’s most important works of art or possibly his most important piece.  I know she is thrilled to be in Picasso’s home (España!), and we look forward to visiting this museum again (along with many other museums, art history sites, architecture, and so on).


Museum: Approximately 40 euros ($48)


Exploring


Besides the museum, Tara decided we needed to also do some exploring in Madrid ... maybe a park, famous plaza, and market would be good with the kids.


(Note, this wasn’t really exploring, but another big task that we mentioned in a previous post was purchasing new phones, getting Spanish numbers / Orange phone plans.  We will probably save all of that information for another post).


Royal Botanic Gardens


El Retiro Park


El Retiro Park


We walked through the Royal Botanic Gardens and El Retiro Park on a rainy day, and we got lost but eventually found Plaza Mayor. Tara was hoping to get us to Mercado de San Miguel nearby, but unfortunately it was closed due to COVID-19.  All of these places will be worth future visits and more exploring next time.


Exploring: $0 / 0 euros


Total Cost for Family of Four to Visit Madrid (approximate):


Airbnb = $160 / 132 euros

Transportation = $54 / 45 euros

Food = $98 / 81 euros 

Museum = $48 / 40 euros

Exploring = $0 / 0 euros 


Total (approximate): $360 / 298 euros 


After spending just two days in Madrid, I found myself enjoying the city.  The people were friendly, the city is affordable, and there was a lot to see and do.  We will definitely be back!


Have you been to Madrid?  Any suggestions for our next visit?  Comment below.  Want to read my previous financial post?  Check it out here.  Eager for your own flight to financial independence?  Reach out to me here.


-Erik


Moving Abroad: Four Take Flight During A Global Pandemic

In the last few weeks we retired early (financial independence retire early (FIRE)), obtained our Non-Lucrative Visas, moved abroad from Houston, Texas to Granada, Spain ...and all during a global pandemic.  Whew.


No wonder I am tired?  Thankfully we can embrace the siesta in Spain!


What was it like to move our family abroad?  And during a global pandemic?



Granada, Spain



First, we’ve been preparing for a few years to travel lightly.  We travelled like turtles with our belongings mainly on our backs.  No checked luggage!  (Some people travel like this ...some opt to load up as many suitcases as an airline will let them.  Some opt to ship a little or a lot over.)  So what about all our stuff?  Part of this new journey of ours focuses on people and experiences over stuff.. so we wanted to get down to minimal.  We purged a lot.  Then we got down to important keepsakes and such.  Luckily we have very generous family members holding some items in the US.  (We do plan to ship our kid’s golf clubs soon).


Travel Gear 




What travel gear did we use?  And what made the cut?  Erik did extensive research, and we went with all Tortuga bags.  We got the largest Tortuga Setout Backpacks for us, and two smaller ones (Tortuga Setout) for the kids.  Erik ended up carrying the kids bags, but as they get older they will be able to carry them on their own.  In retrospect, we could have maybe gone even smaller for them.


I also got a Tortuga Setout Laptop Backpack that I wanted to keep under the airline seat with me.  It’s also been great for daily use in Granada, Spain.  The kids carried on their back Tortuga Setout Packable Daypack.  We’ve had these two bags for a few years now.  These are great for carrying a few lightweight items if you don’t mind the inability to organize the items within the bag.  They did the trick for the kids (they basically carried a few toys).


We also had some packing bags / cubes we got as a gift, and then we bought the Tortuga packaging cubes that specifically fit the bags.  What about smaller stuff?  I wanted to buy reusable bags.  Although geared towards kids, (I have tried many reusable bags) I really like Bumkins.  They do have some prints that could work for adults too.


Bags: Tortuga


Packing Cubes: Tortuga Packing Cubes


Reusable Bags: Bumkins


So what made the cut in the bags?  To sum it up, minimal clothing wardrobe, minimal shoes, very minimal bath / body products, tech / camera gear, a few important items, and a few important toys.  And of course ID / passports, and important Visa paperwork.  Oh, and our PPE gear.


Clothes: Erik and I have been working on our travel clothes for a while now.  Most of our clothing is from Bluffworks.  He also has a few items from Myles Apparel.  I also have travel jeans from Aviator and comfy joggers from Vuori Clothing.  We have underwear from Uniqlo (I have bras from Pepper), and we have socks from Bombas and Smartwool (and we have a few other winter items from Smartwool).  Erik’s jacket is from Arc’teryx, and my jacket is from National Geographic Craghoppers.  I am not sure that my exact one is sold anymore, but you can maybe find a similar one.


All of our clothes were very well researched, and in many cases specific for travel (such as light weight, quick dry, wrinkle free, etc).  And some items are just well made and will stand the test of time (for example, our socks).


What about the kids clothes?  We took this much less seriously.  They grow so fast so we didn’t want to invest in too much clothing,  We brought basics (like for a week), and we bought some more when we arrived at El Corte Inglés for some colder weather clothes.  We will probably do the same or check out Zara in May to get some more warmer weather clothes.


Shoes: All of our shoes are either Vivobarefoot or Xero.  They are barefoot and lightweight shoes.  Better for your feet and travel!  I also have a pair of MoMA Vans I got for Christmas that I brought.


Bath / Body Products: I decided to take very little of these.  For the most part, you can buy whatever you need once you get there.  Bath / Body products tend to be heavier and take up some space anyways.  I ended up bringing just a few essentials to get us by ..or a few items I use daily / may be harder to find.


Tech / Camera Gear: Let’s talk about the latter first.  I decided to bring my nice Nikon camera.  I want to focus on more and better photography eventually.  I also brought our son’s new Polaroid; I want the kids to play around with photography too.


We decided we needed to upgrade our tech in order to communicate better with family / friends, for World Schooling, etc.  I already had a new iPad from early 2020, but we bought three more iPads for Erik and the two kids so they could each have their own.  I already had an Apple Keyboard and Pencil, and Erik got a case and keyboard off of Amazon.  It probably isn’t the greatest, but it works okay.  I also got a new iPad case since I tend to break things easily.  I got it from SUPCASE.  I can take it off at home if I choose to use the keyboard.  We got the kids their iPad cases off of Amazon.


We bought our headphones from Cowin, and the kids headphones (volume limiting) from Puro.  All four have Bluetooth and wired capability.


I also got an iPad adapter to be able to use some other devices and connections, and we received some electrical adapters as gifts so we had those already.


What about phones?  This is a big question for many expats.  It may require a whole separate post.  We decided that we needed new phones anyways.  We purchased new phones in Madrid and went with the Orange cell phone service so now we have Spanish cell numbers (which we felt we needed for their school and doctors).  We kept our US numbers and switched them to Tossable Digits (Google Voice wasn’t available for our numbers).  We are communicating with family and friends in the US mainly through our iPad / Apple services, WhatsApp, Facebook Instant Messenger, etc.


A Few Important Items / A Few Important Toys: For me this included some jewelry / purses (or bags), a few art supplies, and a few Christmas ornaments.


For the kids this meant some jewelry, their travel journal and compass, and the toys they wanted to bring that fit in their small Tortuga.  I ended up making extra space in their larger Tortugas so we did fit some toys in there.  What did they end up picking?  Not completely comprehensive, but our son picked ...his Nintendo Switch, two important monkeys, baby blanket, action figures / Ken, small cars, marble game, and maybe a few other miscellaneous items.  Sadie picked her American Girl 1980s Doll - Courtney, 3 Husky Stuffed Animals, her baby blanket, her baby doll accessories (she bought a baby here in Spain), and a few other miscellaneous small toys.


Erik made sure we had two copies of the Bible including a Kids Bible.


ID / Passports / Visa Paperwork: Of course we have our IDs and Passports, and our Visa Paperwork.  I tried to make all other important paperwork and items digital copies.  I found some sturdy file folders at Target to hold the Visa paperwork.


PPE: We are currently living through a global pandemic so what PPE did we bring?  I have a fantastic and talented friend that makes our cloth masks so I had plenty of those to bring.  I also ordered n95 masks for the adults for plane and train and future bus travel.  I also had on hand disposable adult and kid masks so we can double mask during riskier situations like travel.  I ordered adult and kid size disposable gloves, but I didn’t even find those necessary.  I had some wipes and of course hand sanitizer too.


Four Taking Flight


So then I packed ...repacked.  Packed again.  Took stuff out.  Packed again and again.  Then it was time to travel during a global pandemic.  What was that like?



.


We had airline credits with Delta and TAP Air Portugal All of our plane experiences and our train experience we received individual hand wipes and in some cases individual hand sanitizer as we boarded.  We flew from Houston’s IAH to NYC - La Guardia to see family before heading to Spain.  It wasn’t required, but we got COVID-19 tests in Pearland, TX before flying to be safe(r).  These seem to be covered by insurance.  The airports in Houston and La Guardia seemed to be a little busier than I thought they would be (despite Covid and a 6 am flight).  But Delta was still skipping the middle seat when we flew.  Note, we did have to fill out an online health questionnaire for NY State due to COVID-19 At the time, Delta did not have onboard refreshments like normal, but they did bring around bottled water / treats in individual packages.


We normally would take the bus / train to get into Manhattan, but due to Covid and our bags, we took a taxi (and rolled down the windows).


Another big stressor for those moving on the Non-Lucrative Visa to Spain is the current COVID-19 test requirement.  You have to have a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival to Spain.  They also require (check with your consulate for any changes!) on the test results: your full name; passport number; date of the test; identification and contact details of testing location; test technique used; and of course negative results.


This was all challenging, but not impossible.  My sister sent me a testing location near her: Sameday Health.  I contacted them via phone and email, and they said they could provide what we needed.  (I should have known it would not be THAT easy). We booked two appointments since we were concerned about any possible flight delays.  We booked one Friday at 5 pm (our flight was Sunday at 11 pm), and we booked another one Saturday at 8 am.  We did pay out of pocket for the PCR test in SOHO NYC which was quite a lot, but Erik had health money put aside for this purpose (you could probably file a claim with insurance though).  The actual testing for the entire family went smoothly both times (and all negative tests!), but the test result page didn’t go so smoothly.  They got our results back in under 36 hours, but the result page didn’t have what we needed (as they originally stated it would).  I immediately called the number on the results page.  The number actually directed me to the lab that completed the Covid test.  The woman on the phone was very kind, but said she didn’t understand why Sameday Health is promising people all that information on their results when they don’t normally provide that info.  She directed me to an email, and she said they would fix our result information page.  I also contacted Sameday Health and made the same request.  Thankfully both places were quick and helpful and fixed our result page immediately with everything we needed for travel.  Note, we also needed to fill out online questionnaires for both Portugal and Spain.  I printed out QR codes once I completed both questionaires.


...after many years of preparation, we were finally ready to take flight to Spain!  What was that like during COVID-19?  We flew on TAP Air Portugal from Newark to Madrid with a one hour layover in Lisbon.  Newark’s security was very busy (not our airline), but our flight was very empty.  Maybe 50 people or less.  Note, your printed at home boarding pass is not enough.  Go to the counter at your gate and get another one.  They did check our Covid tests here, and they checked them again when we went through customs in Portugal.  The plane was so empty we spread out and each had a row.  They served two meals on the overnight flight...a late dinner and breakfast.  They also gave the kids a bag of nice goodies.  I would definitely fly TAP again.


We were concerned about our one hour layover and missing our second flight.  Turns out we landed early, and we were okay with time to spare.  The second flight was also fantastic and a quick flight to Madrid.  It was a smaller plane, but it wasn’t full (also TAP Air Portugal).


Once we landed in Madrid we got a taxi to our Airbnb.  At that point we were exhausted...especially the kids, so staying a few days in Madrid before heading to Granada was a good idea.  We will save that visit for another post!


There you have it ... we finally took flight (and during a global pandemic)!





How do you prefer to travel?  Pack light or no?  Have you flown yet during COVID-19?  If you have specific questions about taking off with a Non-Lucrative Visa, moving abroad to Spain, or questions about travel during COVID-19, please comment below!


Want to learn more about how Erik may be able to help you take flight to financial independence?  Read more here, and contact us.


-Tara