Financial Independence

Should Canadians Still Invest in An RRSP If They Received CERB During 2020?

Many Canadians struggled financially through a challenging 2020 amid the ongoing pandemic, social distancing, remote work and lockdowns. Some 8.9 million people applied for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), a government fund to help the unemployed during the lockdown. Now that the CERB program is closed, many people are asking what that means for taxes and RRSP investments in 2021.  

Specifically, many people who received a CERB payment still have some of their emergency funds left. As they return to work this year, those Canadians want to know how CERB influences their taxes and whether investing the emergency fund into their retirement plan is a good idea.  

If not, what can Canadians do with CERB funds they still have? Is a GIC investment a better option, or what about simply keeping the benefit for a rainy day? In the article below, we answer those questions: 

What is the CERB? 

The lives of most Canadians changed when the COVID-19 pandemic brought lockdowns and an economic downturn during 2020. Many people were left making financial choices they had never had to consider before. Cutting back if necessary and finding the best financial tools such as the most affordable insurance, best GIC rates, or available benefits became important for most households. 

Canada’s federal government developed several programs to help people weather the economic storm spawned by COVID-19.  

One such program was CERB, an initiative to support workers nationwide financially. It allowed the employed and self-employed to receive $2,000 in financial aid over a four-week period if directly affected by the pandemic. There were seven rounds of CERB funding, meaning some Canadians got $14,000 in benefits. 

What is an RRSP? 

A Canadian Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) is a self-investment plan that lets people establish a retirement fund. Both the account holder and spouse/common-law partner can contribute to the RRSP, with deductibles helping reduce tax payments.  

That’s because income earned in the RRSP is usually tax-exempt if funds remain in the account. Payments received from the plan typically come with taxes.  

CERB, Taxes, and RRSP Payments 

Understanding whether you will pay tax on a CERB fund depends on your taxable income last year and the current marginal tax rate. People have different tax rates, and CERB may affect tax payments on an individual basis. For example, a top-level earner can repay more of the money they received, while low-income Canadians will have less tax liability.  

One recommendation is to leave some of the received CERB payments to cover potential taxes. A good number would be around 30% of the total received. If you lost your job or were partly unemployed, you may have received the total CERB funds up to $14,000. However, people question whether it would be better to park CERB money into an RRSP instead of keeping some of the funds ready for taxes. 

If you have contribution space and funds, contributing to your RRSP can help offset taxes related to the CERB benefit. That sounds great on paper, but there are some caveats that people should not ignore: 

Eligibility Concerns. Since ending the CERB program last September, the government says it has sent 441,000 letters to Canadians who it believes were ineligible for the payments. These “education letters” state that those who received a CERB payment but were later deemed ineligible must repay the money. 

Recipients who have been incorrectly given financing say the Canada Revenue Agency is to blame for providing confusing eligibility standards. Either way, it is risky to rush ahead and invest any CERB funds in an RRSP before confirming eligibility from the CRA.  

Does an emergency fund work as an RRSP contribution? Keep in mind that while RRSP contributions decrease taxable income, they do not remove taxes altogether.

For example, if a person contributes $10,000 to an RRSP, they will not owe tax on that amount. If the person fell into the 35% tax rate, this contribution would reduce their taxes by $3,500 ($10,000 x 35%). In other words, you won’t get a dollar-for-dollar reduction in taxes and may still need to pay some tax on the CERB funds you received.

Another important consideration is the emergency fund may still be helpful. COVID-19 isn’t going away yet, despite Canada embarking on a nationwide immunization program. The pandemic is still here, and further lockdowns are possible. It can be risky to invest the remaining emergency funds in an RRSP if there is a chance you may need the money for living expenses later.

Just remember, the funds in an RRSP can be difficult to withdraw. RRSP holders have to request to withdraw their funds, and the money you withdraw is also subject to withholding taxes. Once you make a withdrawal, you will not be able to get the contribution room back, impacting retirement savings.

Holding out on an RRSP investment. RRSP accounts are great because they work for you to help lower your tax bill from the previous year. That’s one of the main benefits of this retirement investment under normal conditions. However, 2020 was not an average year, and people receiving CERB benefits earned less income during the year. 

As your earnings rise back to normal levels in 2021, it may be worth waiting to make RRSP contributions. That’s because your tax rate was lower in 2020 due to the drop in income. With full employment and earnings in 2021, your rate may rise. RRSP accounts can provide more tax cuts for higher-income tax brackets. That means it may be worth skipping RRSP contributions instead of using them for 2021 earnings because you get a more significant tax cut.  


RRSPs are healthy investments that help lower your tax bill, but timing is everything. Using your CERB funds to pay into an RRSP is probably not the best use of those benefits. If you have some of that cash left, using it to pay your 2020 tax bill is a good idea. Still, it is worth making sure you were eligible for the CERB payment you received before using the funds. 


360 Adelaide Street West, Suite 100
Toronto, ON M5V 1R7


Financial Independence

If You’re Selling in 2021, Fix These Outdated Fixtures First!

Have you ever noticed that every commercial that takes place in a home is beautifully designed, updated, and looks fresh out of a HGTV makeover show? They never show homes with older appliances, pine cabinets, formica countertops and outdated tiling. They never show homes that look like what most of our homes probably look like. 

The name of the game is update, update, update. People want the newest appliances, latest trends, and fixtures that don’t look like they’re decades old. And, if you’re thinking about selling your house anytime soon, you may want to look around your home for areas that need work.

Here are some outdated home features to fix up before selling.

1. Mismatch paint colors, bold colors, and/or wallpaper

You may have painstakingly chosen the paint colors in your home that matches your aesthetic, but not all buyers are going to be smitten with that neon green dining room or that powder room with gold brocade wallpaper. If you’re going to sell, you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and cover the bold colors and patterns with a neutral color palette

Neutrals are more appealing because it’s easier for the buyer to seem themselves and their belongings in the space. Neutrals allow them to pay attention to details in the home without being distracted by overwhelming paint colors.

2. Outdated, stained, or worn flooring

Buyers aren’t going to look too favorably on homes with carpeting that’s seen better days, vinyl flooring from the 70s, or scratched up hardwood to name a few examples. Today buyers are interested in hard surface flooring. Colors and styles can vary, but cool tones, shades of grey, flooring in creative patterns, and (interestingly enough) wood that looks a little distressed. 

3. Kitchens with old fixtures, appliances, and more

Kitchens are the heart of the home and buyers want a kitchen that feels more like a dungeon. Buyers want kitchens with stainless steel appliances, islands, walk-in pantries, and stylish backsplashes among other things. Buyers also want lots of storage space so their many small appliances can be tucked away out of sight and have plenty of space so they can stock up on food for emergencies.

4. Neglected patios and/or decks

Patios and decks were incredibly popular in 2020 because people wanted a space in their home where they could enjoy some fresh air. So, if you have a deck whose stain is faded, has loose boards or railings, or the planks are cracking which could cause splinters… You might want to invest some time and money into improving the deck’s condition. If your patio is cracked or there are weeds growing in between the pavers, take care of that as soon as possible. Power washing is also a great way to give your decks or patios a fresh look. You’d be amazed at how old years of dirt and grime build up can age things!

5. Energy inefficiencies

According to insights from top agents for selling in 2021, energy efficiency is a huge selling point for buyers. Not only are they interested in being eco-friendly, they want to save money! You can improve your home’s energy efficiencies by replacing doors and windows, air sealing and insulating your attic, plant shade trees around your home to keep it cooler in the summer, and upgrade appliances and systems to be more energy efficient. 

Sellers shouldn’t have much difficulty selling their houses because there’s no shortage of qualified buyers out there. Heck, there are more buyers than houses in many markets! However, if you want to attract a wide range of buyers and even get multiple offers, you need to get rid of the outdated features and invest in what buyers want. It may cost you money, but if you choose your upgrades wisely, you could add a lot of value to your home. You know the saying – you need to spend money to make money!

Financial Independence

Tips to Master a Hot Seller’s Market and Find Your Dream Home

We won’t sugar coat this: entering the housing market when seller’s hold all the chips means you’re going to have to do everything in your power to prepare for battle. It’s going to be tough to find a house in today’s housing market because inventory is low, as 87% of real estate agents who took part in HomeLight’s 2020 Q3 survey

Don’t worry though – all hope’s not lost! Here are five tips that’ll prepare you for a competitive market and land the house of your dreams. 

1. Learn all you can about your new neighborhood

Whether you’re going to a new job, going on vacation, or looking for a new doctor, you’re going to do your research so you can make sure you know what you’re getting into. The same amount of research should go into the area where you’re hoping to move into. 

You’ll want to know what the school district is like, if there’s an HOA for your development, if there’s access to public transportation and so on. You’ll also want to scan real estate listing sites to get an idea of how far your budget will go toward finding your perfect house.

2. Get your mortgage pre-approved

When you go into a real estate office, a mortgage pre-approval letter will let the agent know you’re serious about buying a house and they’ll know how much you’re able to spend. The letter can also be used as a bargaining chip when making an offer because it tells the seller that you’re primed and ready to go. 

3. Hire a highly qualified real estate agent

The pre-approval letter we mentioned is a good thing to have when you’re looking for an agent, but you don’t want to show your cards just yet. You need to do your homework to find agents who are highly respected in the community, who have plenty of experience selling homes in your price range, and give off the vibe that they’ll go above and beyond for you. 

Why is doing your homework so important before hiring anyone? It’s because the real estate agent you hire is going to play a huge role in sealing the deal and you want to make sure you find someone who is going to work in your best interest.

4. Make an offer the seller can’t refuse

No one wants to spend more money than they have to, right? Of course not! Why pay full price if you can negotiate a lower price? In a seller’s market, you can make a low ball offer, but it’s not going to turn out like you’d hope. Since it’s a seller’s market, 87% of agents said their clients are submitting offers above asking. They’re doing this because the sellers are likely to receive multiple offers and they won’t even entertain a low ball offer. 

Your best bet when making an offer is to make it as appealing as possible. You can bid at or slightly higher than asking price. You can submit a clean offer, meaning there’s no contingencies, no buyer repair requests or asking the seller to pitch in on closing costs. 

Ask your agent what would be the best course of action to ensure your offer will be considered and/or accepted.

5. Include a personalized letter with your offer

You might not think a personal letter would be something that could sway a seller to accept your offer, but 61% of agents say their clients are using this strategy and get good results. Buyers who submit a personal letter shows the seller how important their house is to the family and it shows them that their home will be in good hands. After all, it can be hard to sell a house you’ve created so many memories in! It’s understandable that the seller would want to make sure the new owner will love the home as much as they did. 

The housing market is always changing and now may be the right time for you to make your move. Before you do anything, heed our advice. You can never be too prepared when entering a strong seller’s market, especially if you’re looking for a house in a desirable area!

Financial Independence

Basics of FIRE (Financial Independence and Early Retirement)

With all this traveling going on, we forgot to talk finance! This is a personal finance blog after all. Since we plan to reach financial independence after only 10 years in the workforce, we constantly need a little reminder to keep pushing. Our ultimate goal is to reach FIRE with roughly 25 times our yearly expenses in investments. Achieving this is no easy feat! There are a lot of steps and preparation involved. Going back to the basics of FI is a good way to remember why are we doing all of this.

Today, we are going back to basics and sharing the first steps of our financial journey. The basics of financial independence are not complicated; spend less than you earn, and save the rest. But there is a little more to it.

Here are the basic steps we are taking to reach our goal in this short timespan.


Basics of FI #1: the cutting

The first step we took once we knew we wanted to reach financial independence was to take a deep look at our spending and cut anything we could without affecting our lifestyle too much.

We live in Canada and during the cold winters we can only dream of summer but once it’s finally here, the terraces are so inviting. It’s so easy to go out, eat at some nice Tapas with some drinks but all of that cost money. We were spending hundreds of dollars on food but slowly cut down to a more reasonable budget, while keeping all the fun outings. We just go less often.

Here is the secret; if you go on a complete cash diet and stop buying coffees and eat only Ramen noodles to save money, it won’t last. You will give up and go right back to your old ways.

The better way to do it is to gradually cut things you truly don’t need.


basics of financial independence


We were paying for both a cable and a Netflix subscription. Why? Because we could.

However, could we watch thousands of hours of TV a month? Maybe, be that would just be unhealthy.

We decided to cut the cord and keep the cheapest option. Now, we can watch our shows on demand, ad-free, for a tenth of the price we were previously paying.

Another thing we were paying for was our gym memberships. We were rarely going, and where we would go, it was just for specific classes we enjoyed. Once we looked at our options, we saw that those same classes were accessible individually. Instead of keeping a monthly subscription, we started paying per visit and cut our gym expenses by half.

Finally, the other huge saver for us was the brown bag. We were eating out for lunch every day but it added up to hundreds of dollars each month. Instead, we started preparing ourselves a lunch 2 or 3 times per week and slowly increased every day of the week.

Moving progressively will be easier to keep up and allowed us to cut our yearly spending by half. Over the course of a few months, we were saving thousands! Once we saw a surplus in our budget, we felt comfortable moving forward to the next step in our plan to reach financial independence.


Basics of FI #2: the savings

Working your budget and cutting your expenses is amazing. We can literally feel a tingle when we see our spending drop but what really gets us smiling at the end of the day is saving the difference!

If you save $50 per month cutting your cable subscription but spend $60 on another pair of jeans you don’t need, you are not saving anything.

As we cut our spending, we make sure to save the difference.

The more we cut our spending, the more we can put aside and the same goes for our income. As our income grows, whether through promotions at work, new jobs, or side hustles, we always made sure to increase our savings rate accordingly.

The more we make, the more we put aside.

We shy away from lifestyle inflation and try to keep our needs minimal. The best tip we can give here is to continue living like a student for as long as possible. If you finish college and get your first real job, it’s not the time to go lease a brand new car or buy a new TV, it’s time to increase your savings rate. First to secure a healthy emergency fund, then to invest for our future goals.

Basics of FI

When I finished college and starting working in finance, I remember getting my first bonus and wanting to buy myself a new watch but instead, I did the wise move of investing it all. That money has now grown to almost double what I originally invested.

This definitively had the most impact on our journey. We started investing most of our money through index funds and always kept adding to it.

In general, our goal is to save up (and invest) over 25 times our annual expenses. To get there, we are aiming for a 50% savings rate (currently over 60%) and investing tools to grow our wealth.


Basics of FI #3: the investing

After the savings comes the fun part; investing. Once we had a few extra dollars laying around, we started investing in stocks. We wanted to save up for a down payment to buy our first home. Looking back, we took some unnecessary risks with money we could not afford to lose. We should have stuck to a high-interest savings account since this was a short-term goal. Investing should have been for our longer-term plans but everything ended up OK.

Another big investing mistake was to buy stocks without knowing anything about them and try to day trade. The very first year we started investing, we blindly bought stocks in hopes of good earnings announcements but we honestly did not even know what the companies were selling.

After a few months, we had one bad day where we lost $2,000 in a single day. After that, we stopped trading without research and put a halt on day trading altogether.

Now, we switched to index investing and focus on our long-term goals of early retirement.

Investing in low-fee index funds was, by far, our best financial decision. By diversifying our portfolio and keeping the fees to the bare minimum, we are able to maximize our return over the long-term.

We follow a fairly simple 3-fund approach as the base holdings in our portfolio. We invest through Vanguard, mainly into the Total Market Index fund, Canadian All Cap Index fund, and Total International Stock Index fund.

To see our exact holdings and asset allocation, you can read the latest installment of our Open Book series where we share our portfolios. We also share the reasoning behind each investment we make.

This is a crucial step in our investment process. You should always know why you are investing in a particular fund or stock. Know exactly what is your goal behind each investment.

Whether you are saving to retire early or just to be financially independent, the best advice we can give you is to start now. Compounding returns work like magic and are the best tool to build great fortunes. Even on average salaries.

As millennials, we have decades in front of us and our investing journey has barely begun. For example, if you simply stick your money into a savings account returning only 1%, your money will grow 10.46% over a 10-year span. A $1,000 investment would only grow to$1,104.62 over the next decade.


Reaching FI

Source: Get smarter about money


However, if you start investing in the stock market early on, investment returns of a total market index fund which tracks the entire US equities market has been much better. Historically, it has been averaging around 7% after inflation.

Over the same 10-year time-frame, the same $1,000 would have almost doubled to$1,967.15. This is where things get interesting!


plan to reach financial independence

Source: Get smarter about money


Now, in our case, not only did we start early, but we are constantly investing more. Consistency is the name of the game.

By automating our savings and investing we took the need to think about it out of the equation. We invest part of every paycheck and are simply forced to live only on what is left. You can check with your employer if they offer a savings plan such as a 401k.

Consistently investing in simple, diversified, funds with a long-term goal in mind is the key to reach financial independence. Once you get the basic steps down and get things rolling, you will see your wealth grow considerably over time with little to no effort.


Finally, the why

Never forget why you are doing all of this. For us, it is for the freedom. The freedom of doing the things we like when we want to. The freedom of working on projects we actually want to work on. And the liberty of living at the pace and place we wish to.

Once we reach financial independence, it does not mean we will retire and sit on the beach all day but at least we could. It will be an option for us.

If we want to travel for 6 months, we will.

If we want to work in a coffee shop and chitchat with clients all day, we will. That’s the freedom.

Hope this got your saving train going and we wish you the best of luck on your path to financial independence, Mr. and Mrs. Xyz.



Financial Independence

What is Financial Freedom – Start Feeling Rich

You might have noticed that we have not posted in a while. Not only do we have a little daughter to keep us busy now but up here in Canada, summer has started and we are fully enjoying our free time! For now, we have made it. We are experiencing what is wealth and are truly enjoying it.


What is wealth?

What is Wealth

For us, wealth is not calculated by the size of your yacht or the number of cars in your garage. Free time is wealth.

Being able to spend a year full-time with our daughter is wealth. Walking in the park at 1 p.m. on a Monday is wealth.

In a lot of cases, people have the resources but they do not allow themselves the luxury of free time. Our American culture highly promotes the workplace, long hours, and little vacations but even if you are earning a lot, being stuck in the rat race is just not worth it.


Wealth is not his that has it, but his that enjoys it. – Benjamin Franklin


Being able to relax and enjoy summer is our wealth. We created our own riches by allowing ourselves to enjoy some time off with our newborn, travel the world, and spend time with our family.

We are wealthy in that we have a loving family and that makes us happy. Happier than money.


We created our own wealth

In Canada, new parents get paid parental leave but not everyone allows themselves to enjoy this benefit.

Parents can share the time off or take it together. However, few are actually taking full advantage of it. Various social factors like the stigma faced by fathers at work might be keeping dads at the office but it should not be so.

Some might think they are indispensable and that their office will not function without them. Nevertheless, you should still take full benefit of time off. This goes for vacation days too. You are not that important, business will go on, enjoy the luxury of time off.

It is such a shame that in the United States, only 54% of employees use all of their paid time off in the last 12 months, according to Glass Door. The average American worker leaves almost half of there vacation days on the table and a whopping 2 out of 3 employees report working while on vacation.

You are not indispensable, unplug from work and enjoy the luxury of free time.

Typically, dads get only 6 weeks fully paid by the Canadian parental leave program. In my case, my employer offered to top-up my first 6 weeks and I then extended the governmental leave to the maximum. After the 9 months at partial coverage, we decided to extend my paternity leave a few more months at our own cost.

After the 6 weeks I get covered at 100% my salary, my income dropped but the math checks out. We will be able to cover our expenses without touching too much of our savings. Since we saved so much in the past few years and we are living a simple lifestyle, we have the flexibility to take more time off even on a lower paycheck.

That flexibility is our true wealth.

If we had a lavish lifestyle, living paycheck to paycheck, we simply could not afford to take a pay cut for an extended period.


Parental leave on savings


Things are slowly getting better. In Quebec, where we live, 86 percent of recent fathers claimed or intended to claim parental-leave benefits in 2015. That is a huge jump from 28 percent in 2005. Similar results were seen in other countries when they introduced paid paternal leave such as in Sweden where fathers get 480 days of 80% paid paternity leave and Norway where they get 49 weeks fully paid paternity leave.

In the States, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, mandates a minimum of 12 weeks unpaid leave to mothers. However, the guidelines are strict and only 59% of American employees were eligible as of 2012. On the bright side, four states currently offer paid family leave: California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. California is the first state to offer six weeks of partially paid paternity leave to fathers.

It is really to the employer discretion to shape their own maternity leave policy. Alternatively, you can create your own wealth with diligent savings and flexible careers. Having a healthy emergency fund, maxed-out retirement accounts, and a flexible budget is the key to freedom.


What is Financial Freedom?

It is not the digits in your bank account that counts.

The days off are the real gold.

You might think that a raise is completely out of the question. Your employer might not even be open to the conversation but negotiating more vacation days is always an option. Allowing you more time off does not cost them anymore but increases your total compensation.

Think about it, if your employer has a budget for your position, giving you more time off will not affect the company’s budget whatsoever. You will simply do less work for the same salary and, therefore, increasing your freedom.

Don’t be the 54% who do not even use their vacation days, enjoy your freedom.

Salary is not the only raise you can ask for. When times are tough, sometimes intangibles are the best option. The best opportunity to negotiate for intangibles is once you have a job offer but it is also appropriate to bring them up when negotiating for a raise.

To help you achieve a healthy work/life balance, ask for things like:

  • Flexible work hours
  • Ability to work from home
  • Shorter work week
  • Condensed week (like four 10h days)


Feel wealthy with less

Wealth is all relative. You will never feel wealthy if you expect to have the biggest yacht or nicest house on the block. With that attitude, even if you do get the biggest yacht, you will want something else once you do. Even billionaires can feel unaccomplished. If you can find content with that you have, you can be wealthy.


He is the richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature. – Socrates


We are fortunate to live a minimalist lifestyle and live on only half our income. This allows us to take so much time off now without feeling the hit. We might not save as much as we used to but we can still live the same, simple, lifestyle we used to even on partial salaries,

Take the time to enjoy what you have, the freedom you have, and appreciate wealth.

Being wealthy is simply a state of mind. Once you feel wealthy, you are.


Financial Independence

Your Money Mindset is Keeping you Poor

The way you think about money can easily prevent you from building wealth. Making more money can be a great thing but it all comes down to how you perceive it. Your money mindset might be preventing you from attaining your true potential.

Do you resent wealthy people or cast them into a negative stereotype?

If so, you are negatively impacting your relationship with money. Your subconscious mind will block you from attaining any real wealth. If you think money is a detriment in your life and it is pulling you down, you are looking at it from the wrong angle.

Be aware of your money challenges and how you perceive money. Accept your present reality, be open to change, and do your best to improve yourself.


Building wealth with a good money mindset


Myth: Money is the root of all evil

Unlike the popular saying, money is not the root of all evil. Money is the root of freedom, endless possibilities, and abundance. Money lets you do what you really want to do with your life. As Justin from The Root of Good puts it; money is good!


 Money is the root of all good. 

If someone tries to persuade you otherwise, then they probably want some of your money, so watch out! – Justin


There is a big difference between wanting to make money just to have more money and building wealth. If you are just accumulating more stuff, and pursuing a materialistic abundance, maybe more money will not benefit you in the end.

Building wealth buys you freedom. Money can be the root of good when used for good. JL Collins calls it; F-you money. He defines this as; Not enough [money] to retire on perhaps, but enough to say F-you if needed.


There are many things money can buy, but the most valuable of all is freedom.  Freedom to do what you want and work for whom you respect. – JL Collins


There is nothing evil about that. Accumulating wealth to gain freedom is a loyal calling. If you love money, you are not a shallow, self-centered and selfish person. You simply know what you want to work towards your goals to achieve them.


Myth: I will never have enough money

Building your wealth and accumulating F-you money is all good but how on earth am I supposed to do get there?

Having an abundance mindset rather than a scarcity one is crucial. Saving money is all in the mindset. I have seen 6-figures earners who were poor because every dollar they earned went right out the window.

Living paycheck to paycheck is drowning. It renders you a slave to your income. However, breaking the cycle is not impossible. If you are in a situation where you are simply not accumulating any wealth, spending every penny that comes to you, it is time to review your finances.

  1. Look for expenses to cut
  2. Cut, cut, cut (easy, right!)
  3. Pay off debt ASAP
  4. Dance a little just because it feels good
  5. Invest all that money you just saved
  6. Automate your finances
  7. Relax and let it grow

Once your finances are on track and on auto-pilot, compound interest will work its magic and you will grow rich.

You need to believe in your wealth. Even if you are not “rich” yet, your actions and attitude will reflect your mindset. That is when wonderful things happen. You will get that promotion you always wanted, land that big contract, or get the new job you just applied for. When you truly believe you are worth more, you are!

However, true abundance starts with you appreciating what you already have right now. Be grateful for what you have and you will have more but if you are never happy with what you have, you will never have enough.

In addition, saving and investing is awesome but it can make you miserable if taken too far. If you cut too much, you will hate it and fall right back into your old ways. An easy trick we use is to have a Fun fund; money aside just for outings and activities. We suggest using high-interest savings accounts for your Fun fund so, at least, it will earn a little interest in the meanwhile.


Invest in yourself

Your money mindset is your own. You are the only one who can change it and improve it. You need to define what you really want, who you want to be and work towards this better you. Only you can achieve that.


Invest in yourself to change your money mindsetRead more books and blogs

Never stop learning and seeking out new information. Even if paperbacks are not your thing, there are so many amazing blogs out there to help you reach your full potential.

We like to follow Sam Dogen, Pete AdeneyZach, Adam, Joshua Becker, and Jeremy and Winnie just to name a few…


Work hard like there is no tomorrow

Having a money mindset also means that you work for what you have. You deserve wealth but wealth requires hard work.

If you are unhappy about your situation, work on it. Either on your finances, habits or even at your job, there is no lazying around.


Be in control of your money

No one cares more about your money more than yourself. Take control of your wealth and financial future.

Creating multiple income streams or passive incomes are an awesome way to stay on top of things. Similar to having F-you money, having multiple income streams makes you less dependent on your day job. Once you have the freedom to say no to things you do not feel like working on, you can focus on the amazing things you love.


Look forward

Finally, to complete your money mindset makeover, you need to forgive yourself for past mistakes and look forward. Being mindful of the long-term is the key here.

Any choice you make today can affect your future-self. Having a long-term vision of your life and finances opens you to a better money mindset. You will make better decisions and smarter moves looking forward.

Once you realize that a dollar spent today could have grown in the future, you might think twice before spending your whole paycheck on a 5-star vacation. (Why pay when you can travel for free anyways?)


To conclude, having an abundance mindset rather than a scarcity one will change the way you live. It might not suddenly increase your income ten folds but it will make you feel wealthier, appreciate your current situation and set you for a better future.

Mr. and Mrs. Xyz


Financial Independence

7 Lifestyles of Financial Independence Early Retirees

Once you achieve financial freedom, the world might not change but it will definitively change your world. Once your investments can sustain your lifestyle, you’ve made it. You are free.

Once FI, you can then choose to work, or not. You can choose to travel the world or keep working on projects which you are passionate about.

Some reach financial independence and retire early, others simply enjoy the freedom to slow down their work life and live a little.


Choose your financial independence lifestyle

With the FI movement getting more and more popular, we are seeing an array of amazing lifestyles people are creating for themselves. From cruising the world to van life to geo-arbitrage, the possibilities are endless.

If you think outside the box, the world becomes your playground. The structure and limitations society has to offer is not the only possible way of life. In some cases, people live alternative lifestyles to drastically lower their expenses and reach financial independence quicker while others are a way of life they created only once reaching  FI. In either situation, these extraordinary people went all in and created a lifestyle around their wants and needs.


Van life, even with a family

If a giant McMansion is not your thing, how about living in a tiny van? That is exactly what Andrew, Stacey, and Rowan chose to do. This family of 3 bought a 1999 Volkswagen Vanagon camper van and designed a lifestyle of family adventures for themselves.


Camper Van Travel with a Baby From Youtube


They are not fully financially independent yet but the van life is a great way for them to travel for less and spend more time with their newborn. This is also an amazing way to reach financial independence faster since they are reducing their expenses considerably.

With a van, they are able to have water, cooking facilities, a bed, space to stand up, and plenty of storage for the baby’s stuff like diapers, blankets, a car seat, etc. for a fraction of the price of more traditional travel.

On the plus side, this lifestyle is super cheap, allows you to travel extensively, and to reconnect with nature. However, the downsides include the many material sacrifices needed to fit in such a small accommodation, mechanical issues and power and sewage scarcity.


How about traveling the world in an RV?

If you need a bit more space, you could always start shopping for an RV. That’s exactly what our friend Steve from Think Save Retire did when he retired at 35 years old. He is now traveling in a 200 square foot Airstream with his wife. Exploring the continent, and enjoying these small living quarters.

They saved 70% of their income for several years and has now that they have reached financial independence, they have built a lifestyle around their love of travel.


Picking Up Our Airstream From Youtube


They have a great post on why you do not need a huge house and they are the perfect preachers of this. They sold their house and now live in an RV fulltime!

It is slightly more comfortable than the van life but still is a radical lifestyle change.

On the bright side, this arrangement can be achieved for a lesser cost than owning a home, allows you to travel extensively, and to reconnect with nature. However, some disadvantages include the smaller living quarters, mechanical issues and the need to connect in campgrounds for power and sewage.


Meet the full-time Cruiser 

From down-sizing to grand living, meet Mario Salcedo.

The round-the-world cruise has long been one of those brass rings of retirement but Mr. Salcedo has taken this to a whole other level. Since he reached financial independence 20 years ago, he has been living on cruise ships permanently.


Retire Early on a Cruise ShipSource: Scott McIntyre for The New York Times


Mr. Salcedo estimates he has been on 950 cruises and logged 7,000 “cruise days” at sea. – The New York Times


It’s not something we would think of doing but that’s what makes him happy so he has built his lifestyle around it. Although full-time cruising costs him roughly $70,000 per year, he has created a lifestyle which makes all of this possible.


I decided I had enough of the corporate world, and I wanted to spend the rest of my life traveling the world – Mario Salcedo


Once he retired from his corporate job, he started an online investment management business which he now operates as he cruises around the world.


Meet the Happiest Guy in the World From Youtube


Now, if that is not the perfect example of creating a lifestyle around the life you desire, I don’t know what is. He wanted to live on a boat and was sick of wasting time on the things which did not bring value to his life (cleaning up, dishes, cooking…) so he designed a life perfectly aligned with his desires.

The good things about such a life choice are that it allows you to travel extensively, is truly all-included, and maximizes your leisure time. However, the high price tag, lack of stability and connection, and potential monotony of being on a boat all-year-round could outweigh the positives.


Debt free with a tiny home

Now back to earth, housing costs are through the roof and even the smallest condos are far from affordable in most major city centers. People are now taking on huge mortgage debt to pay for guestrooms they barely use and that second living room they so needed.

On the other end of the spectrum, some are building their future in tiny homes, living debt-free, and enjoying their freedom.


70 Year Old Builds Innovative Off-Grid Tiny House From Youtube


Imagine having a cost of living so low that you can actually watch your bank account grow just from your government pension. Well, that is just one of the benefits that Peter Matheson discovered when he built and moved into his off-the-grid, super tiny house on wheels in Grand Forks, British Columbia.

He always enjoyed building and the creativity of trying to fit things into a smaller space. Once he volunteered at a cold weather shelter and helped design some tiny homes for the homeless, he then felt the need to experience it for himself. That’s when he built his own 125 sq. ft. tiny house.

He is now retired debt-free and enjoying a life of leisure in British Columbia, Canada.

It all comes down to priorities. If having two living rooms is not in your priorities, then why pay for that?

This way of living is really cheap, allows you to leave a minimal impact on your environment, and to reconnect with nature. However,  one has to consider the many sacrifices needed to fit in such a small accommodation and some municipalities have by-laws against tiny homes.


A homestead instead?

If small is not your thing, how about a 66-acre homestead in rural central Vermont. That’s what Nate and Liz along with their daughter and dog are doing. While working high-paying jobs, the Frugalwoods used extreme frugality to allow them to save 71% of their income and they have now reached financial independence at the ripe age of 32.


What a well-off couple learned from cutting consumer habits From Youtube

If you enjoy hikes in the woods, working on the land, and being close to nature, homesteading is a great way to live in the midst of it all. This rural lifestyle can be a lot of work but it can be very healthy, appeasing, and relaxing.

Another alternative to this is cottage-living. We are thinking of this once we achieve financial freedom. Buying a cottage would be cheaper than living in town and would get us closer to the nature we love. With city home prices skyrocketing, living a bit further from civilization might be the way to go.

On the plus side, this lets you reconnect with nature, disconnect from the busyness of the city, and live from your own land. However, the downsides include a dependence on cars, long hours of manual work, and long drives to get anywhere.

Liz just released her first book, Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living which we highly recommend. It is a great read and complement to their blog.


Geoarbitrage to retire early

Another option if you are location independent (such as not having a fix work location since you have reached financial independence) is geoarbitrage. This entails living in a lower-cost of living country or city to benefit from a lower-cost lifestyle.

This might mean moving to a cheaper state or tax-free country to cut your spending once retired. Another great life hack (if you can pull it off) is to use geoarbitrage while working remotely. This can drastically increase your savings rate and let you achieve financial freedom faster.


Geoarbitrage to Financial Freedom


For example, our friend Mr. Crazy Kicks is currently shopping around Central America for a cheap place to live. We really like the idea since, once you retire early, there is no obligation to stay in a high-cost of living neighborhood or even country.


We’ve already investigated retirement destinations in Costa Rica and Spain, so we jumped on an opportunity to fly to Belize for free. – Mr. Crazy Kicks


Why not explore the world and save while doing so?

What is amazing about geoarbitrage is that it lets you live in warmer climates or different cultures than you might be used to, and it can be cheaper than to live than where you come from. However, a major downside is that you might need to give up your citizenship and might be leaving a lot of friends and family back home.


Just never stop exploring

On the same lines, if you are financially independent and like to explore the world, you could become a perpetual traveler.

Go curry cracker lifestyleThat is exactly what Jeremy and Winnie over at Go Curry Cracker are doing, even with a kid. They have been to dozens of countries and, just like us, mostly travel for free using rewards points.

This lifestyle is definitely not for everyone since perpetual traveling can get exhausting but if you are an avid traveler, go for it!

Traveling full-time can be fun and eye-opening, can be done cheaply with the help of rewards points, and is a great way to discover the world. However, a major downside is that you might be leaving a lot of friends and family back home and it can get exhausting.

Finally, there is always the option to stay home, exactly where you are, and stay put. But that’s boring! 🙂

We hope you find your own calling and create your ideal lifestyle. If there is anything we missed, please share along in the comments! Mr. and Mrs. Xyz.


Financial Independence

We Joined the Mr. Money Mustache Cult!

We have been looking for guidance, looking for a guru and, finally, we found him. He was right in front of us all along.


Mr. Money Mustache, our frugal leader.

Our majestic FIRE king.

We all bow to the supreme badassity emperor.

We are the Mustachians!


Our charismatic leader; Mr. Money Mustache

Mr. Money Mustache has increasingly become an object of worship for us. Throughout the years, Pete Adeney Aka, Mr. Money Mustache has guided millions out of financial mediocrity. His devotion to help and spread the good word has had drastic effects on the masses and has reached about 1 in 200 Americans.


People think of a cult as a bad thing, because they’re thinking of Waco, Texas and Kool-aid, but, really, it’s just a social organization structure which is a basic built-in thing to human beings, and it’s what allows us to live together and cooperate. – Pete Adeney Aka, Mr. Money Mustache.


Our majestic leader has three major goals:

  1. To make you rich so you can retire early.
  2. To make you happy so you can properly enjoy your early retirement.
  3. To save the whole Human Race from destroying itself through overconsumption of its habitat.


Our manuscripts

JL Collins Simple path to wealthFrom the historic manuscripts by MMM – to the investment bible by JL Collins – to the community scriptures from the Boggleheads,  Mustachians have plenty of teachings to read through. The beauty of our cult is that, although very simple concepts are preached, one can go deep into minute details and optimize his lifestyle to the last little facet.


Our process

The coercive persuasion of our supreme leader had us reduce our spending, save over half of our income, and enjoy the simple things in life. Based on the ancient principles of Stoicism, he enlightened us on the detriments of living an overly-materialistic life and helped us focus on freedom and happiness instead.


Wealth. Freedom. Self-actualization. Learning. Generosity.


By depriving ourselves, living way under our means, we are able to save a large portion of our income and invest towards our financial freedom. We, Mustachians, value material things less and avoid Hedonic Adaptation to optimize our happiness.


A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone. –Old-time Mustachian H.D. Thoreau, 1817-1862 


Here we stand.

Riding our bikes through town, rain or not.

Living on the border of poverty, saving towards the million.


How to follow Mr Money Mustache Principles


Oh! And happy April Fools everyone.

Mr. Money Mustache is not a cult. It is in no way brainwashing or pushing certain beliefs but it is an amazing resource and Pete has shared great thoughts and concepts over the years. He is far from a manipulative cult leader. His fans may be vocal and adamant but it is only with the best intentions.

In our case, we do follow a few key principles shared by Pete and adapted a few others to our own situation.


The bikes

First of all, riding your bike everywhere in town is one of the teachings of MMM. He is a strong proponent of the car-free lifestyle – combining bikes and bike trailers, with car sharing, carpooling, rentals, and Uber/Lyft rides – even if he recently bought one himself.

For us, living car-free sounds like a great idea but it is not nearly as practical. Even living in the city, we greatly enjoy the outdoors and like to drive out to mountains, national parks, and explore our country. We currently own two cars, which we bought used, and could live with one.

We currently live close to work and only drive long distances for activities which bring us happiness. Of course, we still own bikes, bicycles are fun.


Living under $30,000

Pete and his family live on a small budget, nearing under 30 thousand dollars every year. Quickly glancing at our $50,000+ spending it seems like we are burning through the dollar bills like fire. However, Pete does not have a mortgage. If we deduct the $18,000+ we send away in mortgage payments, we come out much closer to his yearly budget.

He is doing a great job and his frugality has definitively inspired us to cut down our spending. Over the last few years, we saved tens of thousands by simply living a simpler life and detaching ourselves from materialistic possessions.


The rule of free

Once early retired, MMM shares that most of us will continue to generate some sort of income and will continue to be productive. Reaching financial freedom is simply a tool to quit working on the boring things and start working on things you truly enjoy and makes the world a better place.


I try to make all spending decisions as if the price were $0.00

And I make all work and income decisions as if the wage were $0.00



Once you have saved away enough to sustain your lifestyle indefinitely, there is no more need to endure the office politics or slowly die in your hour-long commute.

You are free to pursue projects you enjoy, even if they do not generate any income.

This is exactly how we plan to spend our retirement once we reach our number. We are currently pursuing a few side-hustles and hobbies but would like to devote more time to them if we did not have the 9 to 5.


Your debt is an emergency

Finally, one more thing Pete advocates is the urgency of paying down debt. We discussed this topic before and truly believe living a debt-free life is possible, accessible, and will benefit anyone who tries to do it. Consumer debt is a huge problem in America and, while more and more people take on debt, we are trying to pay off every last penny we owe.


The interest savings could also be used to shave decades off of your mandatory working career. – Pete


At this point, we do not hold any debt, except for our mortgage. We are currently doing accelerated payments to pay it off as soon as possible but we are still focusing on investment contributions since the interest rates are at all-time lows.

We hope you are having a wonderful Easter and if you did not know about them yet, check out the Mustachians cult. 😛



Financial Independence

How to Become a Better Person

The count-down is on;

we are having our little baby girl in about a month from now!

With so little time left before this life-changing event, we decided to write down an action plan with quick and simple improvements we could do to be better people, and ultimately, better parents. A little self-help is always good.


Becoming a better person

With a few weeks left before the birth of our new baby, our short-term action plan revolves around being as prepared as we can be, without getting over-paranoid about it. By breaking it down in a few weeks and repeating the motions, we should get a few key things accomplished.

This week, for example, we are reading a lot of books on delivery and parenting and are getting ready for the big day. We changed our diet slightly to accommodate the higher needs of Baby. Mrs. also started to follow a series of exercises and is taking pre-natal yoga classes for a few weeks now.

We simply want to stay healthy and be ready to welcome our baby into this wonderful world.


Finding your better self


Once we go on parental leave, we will have the time to practice things, learn new skills, and work on certain traits we would like to improve. One thing we would like to practice is our third language; Spanish.

Since it is the second-most widely spoken language in the world, after Mandarin Chinese, with 400 million native speakers around the globe, being fluent in Spanish seems like a great way to expand our horizons and help us along in our future travels. Our current Spanish level is pretty basics, we traveled to Spain, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, and Costa Rica without any problems but we could not fully communicate our thoughts if we had to start a debate about Star Wars vs. Star Trek if we had to.

At least, it is closely related to French so the learning curve will be much easier. Going forward, we will try to step up from our tourist level to a quasi-fluent level in the next few months. Using apps like Duo-lingo, Speak Tribe, or Memrise, we should be able to advance pretty quickly.


Self-improvement plan


Another thing we would like to improve is our current sleep schedules. We are both late risers and our current work schedule allows us to go to bed late and wake up late. However, the recent changes Mrs. has been going through gets her in bed before 10 p.m. and she usually wakes up early due to baby kicks or soreness. Going forward, Baby will keep us up all night and wake up before sunrise.

To get enough sleep, we need to get in the habit of going to bed earlier and getting up sooner. Not only for our own good but also for our future grade-A student. A recent Texas University study found that students who were early risers scored better grades than late risers.

Getting up early makes you happier and more productive. Even millionaires tend to be early risers so why not join the crowd? Looking at some of the most financially-successful people around, 89 percent wake up between 4:30 and 7 a.m. while only 11 percent slept in until 8 a.m. With our current anywhere-between-8-and-9 a.m. uprise, we are far from 4:30 a.m.


Source: Forbes


Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” – Ben Franklin


Our action plan is to gradually wake up about 15 minutes earlier for the next 4 weeks and, by then, we will wake up a whole hour earlier. By minimizing the use of the snooze button and trying to get up as soon as the alarm goes off, we want to put this hour to good use. Over the long-term, an earlier schedule will be better aligned with our kid’s schedule and allow us more time with her or more time to be productive before she wakes up.

Further on, we would really like to improve our time management system. We are pretty good at getting things done and we both use to-do lists to follow up on things. A great new app we discovered recently is this calendar Countdown widget. It lays out your calendar events in a to-do list fashion with a countdown timer beside each event. This way, we can input everything in our calendars without the need for multiple apps. We used to get lost with separate notes, to-dos, and calendar apps.

Obligations will only increase with a kid and we want a good way to manage appointments, bills, chores, and other tasks between two phones and computers. If you have any suggestions, comment them below.

With better systems, we hope to improve our time management and get more things done in less time. Once we master that, we will end up with more free time to do things we enjoy playing with our little girl.


Raising a good person

We want to pass along as much knowledge as possible to our daughter and raise her to be a well-rounded, thoughtful, grateful, amazing human being. Raising kids is not an easy feat, we personally do not have any experience in child upbringing yet but, as any new parent, we are jumping in the game and hoping for the best. Of course, there are a few things you can do to help your child become a better person.

One thing we wish to teach our kid is to be open to multiple cultures and languages. When they are young, kids can easily learn new dialects and quickly absorb knowledge. At home, we speak both French and English and wish to raise her to be fluent in both languages.

As part of our own personal growth, we plan on elevating our fluency level in Spanish and wish to teach it to our daughter too. Starting with basic words, reading bed-time stories in Spanish, to fluent conversations, there is plenty of room to learn together. Since it is so widely-spread around the globe, we think it would be a great language to teach her.

Learning together like that will be a great way to connect and learn more about her. Howard Gardner, a researcher from Harvard, established eight ways kids learn best, which include musical, logical-mathematical, linguistic, and interpersonal traits. By paying attention to our little girl and spending time learning with her, we can try to identify her specific learning style and help her grow even more.


Being a better parent


Jointly with these efforts, traveling will also be a mind-opening experience for our little one. With over 195 countries in the world, there is so much to see. So much to learn. So much to explore.

We are planning to apply for her passport shortly after birth and bring her along a few trips before she even turns one.

We want to raise a caring, grateful, respectful daughter and plan to provide all the love and attention she needs but also act as models and mentors for her. This is why, not only do we have plans for her, but we also have plans to improve and develop ourselves as persons.

Do your best, be your best.



Financial Independence Saving

How to Organize your Finances and Stop Wasting Time

We invest for our future and our family’s future, but why? We are building wealth for a greater purpose, to buy ourselves financial freedom, but to what point?

Some obsess about money while others are oblivious to it. We try to live a calm and relaxed life without focusing on money too much while still looking at our finances enough to optimize it properly. Just like with anything, there is a balance to be found.


If we command our wealth, we shall be rich and free. If our wealth commands us, we are poor indeed. – Edmund Burke


Being completely blind when it comes to your finances, might get you to miss a few payments, pay interest you could avoid, and miss out on proper investment returns. On the other hand, if you are obsessed with your financials, you might make bad investments decisions, or miss out on more productive opportunities because of all the time you spend looking at your finances.


Are you financially blind?


The financially blind might:

  • Overpay almost everything he buys since he is never price-shopping.
  • Be late on credit card payments, or worse, keep a balance and pay interest.
  • Invest in products most marketed to him such as actively-managed mutual funds and end up paying high management fees on his investments.
  • Overpay his taxes.


On the other hand, the financially obsessed might:

  • Spend hours couponing to save $1 on a product he does not need.
  • Get emotional with his investments since he is following news and looking at price movements every day and end up making bad decisions.
  • Spend hours looking at his investments instead of enjoying life.
  • Spend sleepless nights and stress about small corrections in the markets.


The secret here is to find a balance. Even if finances are not your favorite subject, you do not want to completely close your eyes to them. And on the other hand, if you cannot get enough of it, you do not want to obsess about your finances to a point where it takes away from your quality of life. In the end, it’s just money.

Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto introduced the Pareto’s Principle back in 1906, better known as the 80/20 Rule. The 80/20 Rule means that in any situation, 20 percent of the inputs or activities are responsible for 80 percent of the outcomes or results. This is a great way to organize your life and dedicate your energy to the most productive tasks at hand.

This can be applied to so many things in personal finances. For example, you can get 80% of the rewards focusing on only the top 20% credit card offers. Travel hacking does not need to be complicated if you focus on what is really worth your time. You can also get 80% of the savings with 20% of the price-shopping efforts, and so on… Trying to optimize every single aspect of your life can be tiring (if not impossible) so focusing on what is most important is crucial.

In a given month, our time can be allocated to various “tasks” like looking up the current credit card offers or reviewing your investments. We structure these tasks to optimize our own time, stay efficient and avoid going crazy over finances.


How to organize your finances

Credit card offers

These activities should not take more than an evening. We check deals sites and a few bank websites to compare current credit card offers less than once a month and apply for the best ones. We also follow a few travel blogs and track our current cards but do not spend more than an hour per month on travel hacking.



When it comes to shopping, we shop for our groceries once a week and buy most items on sale. We do not use coupons but rather use credit cards to maximize our rewards and lookout for in-store promotions. We try to avoid the convenient, higher-margin, grocers and rather shop at discount stores for most of our basics. Time-wise, we are pretty efficient in a grocery store and know where the good stuff is located.


How to save on groceries


The secret is to only shop outside the aisles. You can quickly get all your produce, milk, meats, fish, bread, and get all your shopping done relatively quickly. Most grocery stores are configured that way. All the processed food is in the aisles, shopping the outside will keep you healthier and the save you a lot of money.

The other shopping we do is done online or at particular stores when we know exactly what we are looking for. In both scenarios, we price-shop quickly online to make sure we are getting the best deal. Clothes or everyday essentials can always be found on sale.


Investment check

Once a month, we check our investments, review our contributions, and adjust our asset allocation in an hour or so. Whenever we have some investment play we want to do with a small portion of our portfolio, we might spend a few extra hours researching a certain stock but this is not part of our 80/20, that is just for fun.

Most of our gains come from boring investments which never need additional research or even frequent price checks; index funds. Our 20 is mainly to keep our portfolio at our desired asset allocation and make sure we contribute enough to reach our goals. Since we want to reach financial freedom in less than 10 years, we are trying to invest at least 50% of our income.


Bills review

We also keep an eye on all our bills to make sure everything is in order. With apps like Mint or Personal Capital, we verify all our expenses to make sure we did not overpay anything. We review our bills to make sure everything is up to date and call any provider that might have overcharged us.

We end up saving a lot on our cell phone, internet, and other recurring bills simply by being aware of what they charge us every month.


Stop being late on your bills


Credit card payments

Finally, we set up all our credit card bill payments to pay the full balances and never pay a cent in interest. This is a crucial step in our financial plan. There are no rewards worth paying 20% interest on credit cards.

The minimum payment is not the required payment to avoid interest charges. By the end of each month, we pay our bills in full and on time by electronic bill payment through our bank.


Are your late paying your bills?


Stay organized and once everything is in place, it should not take much of your time to optimize your finances and spend more of your time doing things you truly enjoy. Financial freedom is attainable, you simply need the right mindset for it.