Hi! Welcome to the blog!! You can call us the Figs (technically FIGs — an acronym for (almost) Financially Independent Government Workers). It’s not the best acronym (where’s the W?). Also, I chose Figs instead of the capital acronym since it’d be annoying to write FIGS every time like I was screaming at you.
You might be asking yourself, “Who are these people and why should I read this blog?” Good questions! They are questions that definitely can’t be answered in one post alone. I find that I like to read blogs about people that I can relate to or have something in common with. So I hope to cover who we are in this post (so you can draw a venn diagram of our shared interest and decide whether you want to read more).
Our government careers
I (Mr. Fig) have worked for one agency or another of the federal government since I was 18. I didn’t officially start in the retirement system until I was 22 though. So I have 2 service computation dates- one for RIFs and another for retirement). I started in the wage grade system (as a WG-2) and moved into the General Schedule as a GS-3 and have worked up many grade levels since then after I graduated college, and later graduate school.
Mrs. Fig is 3 years older than I am and started her state government career 2 years ago in 2016. Before that, she worked for over a decade in the private sector.
I married Mrs. Fig when I was 22. Now in my mid-30s with 3 kids of my own, I am shocked that I would have made that big of a decision when I was essentially a baby, and can’t image how nervous our parents must have been. I bring up the fact that we were married so early because I think it is a key part of our FI journey.
When we got married, we had absolutely no money. I was just about to graduate with my undergraduate and start graduate school while working part-time for the government, and Mrs. Fig had just graduated with a masters degree and could only find a part time job. But we were committed to each other and committed to a better financial future.
We have always been able to talk about money. Every time either of us has gotten a raise or had another kid (which means more daycare and less money to save/spend) we’ve had a “finance summit”. Finance summits are where we (1) put the kids to bed early (2) pour ourselves a drink (3) sit down with lots of sheets of white paper (4) have big money conversations, write down lots of numbers, and come up with a decision of what to do. We’ve made finance summits fun. I think it’s one of our key secrets to our marriage.
Our FI journey
We started our married life as students– I was finishing undergrad and my wife had just finished graduate school and just started her first “real” job. In some ways we were lucky because we hadn’t had any time for hedonistic adaptation to take hold. We were used to living like students, and our finances dictated that we continued that lifestyle for another couple of years. Mrs. Fig would take on babysitting jobs several nights a week (which was okay because I was always studying).
Our finances improved greatly these first few years of marriage. I think if you looked at our taxes, our income increased by almost 10,000 per year for ~10 years. Which sounds impressive unless you realized we were starting with a gross income of about 10k.
While financial independence is a relatively new addition to our lives, every time our income increased, we made conscious decisions about where that money was going and it never just rolled into joint checking where we paid our bills. We always had it roll into a savings account for a specific goal (i.e. “car fund”, “home improvement fund”, Roth IRA, etc). In this way, we avoided increasing our standard of living (too much) as our incomes increased. Although, to be fair, we did have some major lifestyle improvements, including moving to a house in a very walkable/bikeable neighborhood “downtown”, and then fixing up the house, since it was a defunct rental property.
While we just learned about FI in 2018, it was an easy transition for us because we were already savers. We just never realized that we could actually *leave* our jobs before we were at “minimum retirement age”. Once I had that Road to Damascus realization that given our incomes and spending patterns that I could leave before “retirement” I was completed changed and am now “burning” about the FIRE movement.
The Fig family
So that’s the short version about who we are. We will cover lots of topics, from general FI and life hacks, to very government specific topics like annuities, TSPs, FERs, etc (governments are great at TLAs ). And because we’re a family, we’ll have posts about being a frugal family as well.
Here are the members of the Fig family, with my imagined answers to the question “Please tell us about your favorite way to be frugal”. Somehow I imagined us up on a stage in a pseudo-beauty pageant (or frugality pageant I guess).
- Mr. Fig: “My favorite way of being frugal is to save energy around the house. Mrs. Fig is very dismayed by the amount of spray foam I’ve used in my lifetime”
- Mrs. Fig: “My favorite way to being frugal is to cut the grocery budget! I’m always trying to spend less than last month. This concerns Mr. Fig because he thinks we need to eat.”
- Fig1 (grade 5): “I don’t know. I don’t have a job yet. I like to talk about frugality a lot. Mostly with my parents, but sometimes I’ll bring it up in social situations that embarrass my parents.”
- Fig2 (grade 1): “IF I HAVE A DOLLAR I WANT TO SPEND IT RIGHT NOW”. (Fig1 and Fig2 are on different ends of the marshmallow test)
- Fig3 (preschool): “I don’t care about frugality. But I also don’t need stuff either. Just mommy. I *need* mommy to hold me.”