FM and I just got back from two weeks in Greece.

When you think of Greece, what do you think of? Here was what I had in mind:

  • History
  • Views
  • Food
  • Greek crisis

A doesn’t-do-it-justice picture of the coast of Santorini

These were all reasons why I pinned Greece down as the dream honeymoon spot. Yes, even the last one which I thought would make a visit more affordable. Spoiler: I was wrong, damn 24% VAT! Anyway, I digress.

We weren’t in Greece for our honeymoon. We went for a personal finance conference, specifically a Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) conference. Try explaining that to your friends.

Our plan was one week in a very nice hotel near the base of Mt. Olympus (home of Zeus and other crazy gods) for this conference and one week in Santorini and Athens for touristing.

At this point, I will stop calling this conference a conference because that makes it sound boring. Its actual name is Chautauqua and it was really a rendezvous of 30 like-minded people. And what happens when you put a bunch of strangers with similar goals and values in a hotel for a week with no place to go but the pool and bar?

Magic, that’s what happens.

Chautauqua, Where The Magic Happens

We were all followers of the FIRE movement, strange people who eschewed big houses, fancy cars, designer anything and corporate jobs.

Our goals were to earn enough money (financial independence) so that we could eventually stop working, sometimes decades before 65 (retire early). We wanted to spend time doing things we want to do, like travel, volunteer, start a business, or even trapeze around the world homeschooling our kids.

In the real world, talking about money is taboo. But in the middle of nowhere Greece, money was the star. We openly shared financial details of our lives- from salaries to dumb financial decisions our parents made to net worths and our FIRE number (our goal net worth that would let us be financially independent).

Mr.1500’s presentation on day 5

And because we were so open about one taboo subject, we were naturally open about sharing everything else. I heard so many life stories two minutes after meeting someone. One of the most inspirational? Two women with similar backgrounds of marrying young, being stay at home moms with multiple kids, and then having to figure out how to rejoin the workforce and support their family after a divorce. And they still managed to retire early. Truly awe-inspiring.

What We Learned About Our Finances

Thanks to some of our favorite FIRE bloggers and their labors of love in helping us analyze our finances with our goals and specific situations, we learned that hey, we’re not doing so bad!

Because we are two people combining net worths, we could hit our FIRE number sooner than we thought. An actual case of teamwork making the dream work.

Yay, we’re not poor!

As many of you know, we just moved to LA for FM’s job and I have been on the job hunt. It’s been an emotional roller coaster ride filled with mostly crickets, a lot of rejections, and three offers that didn’t end up working out.

I had been feeling dejected and it mostly stemmed from not contributing to our household finances. I’m a findependent woman for goodness sake! I should hold my own.

But what I realized is that this pressure was one-sided and came entirely from my insecurities. FM is 100% supportive of my job search and is more than willing to carry the team. He’d rather me be happy than depressed and stressed-out…whew.

Do you ever look over at your partner and think, how did I get so fucking lucky? I’ve felt that way nonstop since.

Our Plans For The Future

The financial analyses show that we are likely to make more money from the stock market than collecting rent from our condos in Seattle (thank you Kristy & Bryce!). So, we are considering selling them and buying a house here in LA, with help from the in-laws. It’s a bit of a complicated scenario but they’ve suggested gifting us some funds for a house as a wedding present. We could even pay them a little bit of rent for a little bit more funds.

Here are our short-term plans:

  • Find a realtor the knows our target neighborhood
  • FM will work on convincing his parents to sell their condo (it’s a joint venture with his parents) and put down some of the proceeds for our new house
  • I will consider selling my condo, especially if remotely managing it as an Airbnb becomes more difficult
  • I should take my time in finding the next opportunity, or try to create my own opportunity

Conclusion

We were initially hesitant about Chautauqua because it wasn’t cheap. Let me tell you though, the ROI is through the roof. It’s not every day that we get the chance to meet and bond with members of our tribe so when we do, it’s incredible. We now have more friends across the globe who I can’t wait to host when they visit!

As for me, I’m working on being patient in this new chapter of our lives. We spent the second week in Greece exploring Athens and Santorini, and saw the same reoccurring theme. Work to live, not live to work. You know the story of the Fisherman and the Businessman? Witnessing the slower pace of life where it’s normal to sit on a patio of a café and people watch while smoking cigarettes and sipping the same iced coffee for 3 hours made me realize the story is true.

These folks know what’s up

Thank you to every single person at Chautauqua who shared their story and made the week incredibly rewarding, including the:

Organizers:

Alan & Katie from Pop Up Business School

Jim Collins from The Simple Path to Wealth

Kristy and Bryce from Millennial Revolution

Carl from 1500 Days

Mindy from the Bigger Pockets Money Podcast

And attendees:

Kevin from Clackapedia, who is hosting this blog

Brandon from TIL About Myself

Mr. & Mrs. Chaos from Cutting Through Chaos 

Amanda from Scuba Travel Foodie

Amongst many others!