Vagabundo: Reaching FI by Accident in Brazil

It’s guest post time! Vagabundo is originally from Brazil but has lived and worked in various countries. Now back in Brazil, he’s finding that he’s almost reached FI without ever actually planning to do so. If you speak Portuguese be sure to check out his blog Quero virar Vagabundo.

My Story

I was born into a working class family in the suburbs of São Paulo, Brazil. After graduating with a degree in IT I spent a couple of years working for various companies in different locations within Brazil. In the early 2000s I was offered a job in Germany so I moved there.

Six years later I was bored and needed a change so I got a transfer to the USA. I figured it would be good because that’s where most of the tech companies are located and maybe later I could grab a job in one of them, make money and work on interesting projects while having a good quality of life (California was my goal back then). When the sub-prime crisis crushed my American dream by making all potential jobs and promotions disappear, I decided to return to Brazil – which was still booming back then – so that I could earn more, work less and enjoy life. The funny thing is, back then I didn’t know that that move would accelerate my path to FI.

My Journey to FI

In Brazil we have more take-home pay than in Europe, but everything we buy is heavily taxed. Still, for people in my profession I think it’s easier to reach FI here than in Europe as long as you don’t follow the herd. Brazil is a consumer culture – Europeans are way more frugal than us.

While I’ve always been good at saving money, I never quite knew what I was saving for. Coming from a family with limited resources I was used to living with less stuff, but I never dreamed I’d be able to quit the rat race someday. I was taught to live frugally simply because we never know what the future may bring. Looking back, that was the main thing that brought me to the doors of FIRE.

I found out about the movement early this year, after a couple of years of googling around terms like “how much do I need to retire?” The first blog I found was GoCurryCracker! but it didn’t appeal to me. After that I found 1500days, which was a shock. I thought “so this guy is gonna quit corporate life at age 45 and raise two kids ?!?” Right after that I found the famous Mr. Money Mustache. Curious to know whether FIRE could be possible in Europe, where taxes are usually high, I found Frugalisten and What Life Could Be. It took a couple more days until I found some Brazilian blogs too. At this point I was already converted to FIRE.

My Tools and Strategy

The Vanguard Nest Egg Calculator was one of the staple tools of my FI discovery. Later I refined the calculations to fit my personal reality. Another cool and easy-to-use tool is the FI calculator I found on the Frugalisten blog (German only). Nowadays my favorite tool is Google Finance because it’s free, online and easy to use. It’s a pity they’re going to discontinue the portfolios feature, but I’ve already created a Google Spreadsheet to replace it.

My FI strategy is to live well below my means, enjoy myself and invest smartly in assets I understand and feel comfortable with. I invest in stocks, mutual funds, REITs, and bonds (both private and government). I keep refining the numbers, but right now I estimate that I could quit the rat race in two to three years. I’m already thinking about taking a short sabbatical next year.

My Blog

In 2017 I started my blog Quero virar Vagabundo (the name roughly translates to “I wanna be a slacker/vagabond”) to share investment tips and learn from other bloggers about strategies and the mindset needed to achieve financial independence. I mostly write about my path to FI in Brazil. My favorite post is the one describing how I found out about the FIRE movement. I like it because FI is a concept that knocked on my door a few times but I never believed it was possible for a regular working class guy.

“Real Life”

When I’m not blogging, I work as a systems consultant. My job involves talking to customers either remotely or on-site to learn about their processes and then mapping them to implement a pre-packaged system. I also do some programming when necessary.

I’m also an investor and an amateur guitarist.

My goals in life are to exercise more, read more and do more slow travel around Asia, the USA, Canada and Europe. Other than that I’m still thinking about what I’m going to do once I reach FI and what I’m going to tell my friends and family. It’s such an unusual idea in my social circle. I’m contemplating a few things, like becoming a personal finance adviser and/or a music teacher. That’s something I could tell people when they ask what I do for a living, although they’ll never understand why I quit a high paying job to teach music to kids for example. Also I definitely want to move to a smaller city with a lower cost of living, I just don’t know where yet (in Brazil or abroad).

Quick-Fire Questions

If you could change anything about the education system of your country what would it be?

I would make financial education a mandatory subject. How can a country become rich if its citizens don’t? Kids should learn basic financial math and what interest is. Once you know what interest is and how it works, you’ll never want to pay it – you’ll want to receive it instead!

Which three people would you like to go on an all-day drinking session with?

Maybe Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page and Bill Gates. Why these people? Two of them are musicians that I admire, and Bill because maybe he could get me a high paying job so I could reach FI sooner.

What’s your definition of happiness?

Happiness is in the small things, the simple things. It’s not possible to be happy all the time. Small drops of happiness every day will eventually make you happy in the long run.

What’s your advice to people just starting out on their path to FI?

The earlier you start the better. Time is the most powerful component when it comes to investing. Also, don’t inflate your lifestyle as you progress in your career. Enjoy it and reward yourself but don’t miss the opportunity to invest in a better future.

Thanks very much Vagabundo for sharing your story with us. If we ever learn Portuguese we’ll definitely have a look at your blog. Good luck for the rest of your journey to FI – and for your new life once you reach it!