Mom inspired to achieve financial independence in wake of tragedy

Posted: 19 January 2021 3:30 am

Her story, plus her 3 tips to help others achieve FIRE.

Our series highlights stories from real people who’ve joined the financial independence, retire early (FIRE) movement. Some have successfully reached FIRE, while others are on track to do so over the next few years. Answers are edited for length and clarity.

  • Name: Dawn Holley
  • Current age: 40
  • Profession: Nuclear medicine technologist
  • Investment strategy: Real estate investing
  • Time in FIRE movement: 4 years

What inspired you to join the FIRE movement?

I was a stay-at-home mom with a toddler when my husband suddenly passed away. We were not at all financially prepared. I was left with no savings, no income and no clear career options.

Before I ever heard about the FIRE movement I knew that I at least needed to achieve financial security.

It took me four years of long days in school, then commuting and working to build a career from the ground up. I battled with a mountain of guilt because I wasn’t present for my young son. But I had to become financially secure.

Once I learned of the FIRE movement, I knew I needed to push beyond financial security and the 12 hour work days so that I could be a better parent. I couldn’t maintain the stress and hustle of a full time career in a high cost of living area.

I was missing all of my son’s school performances and afternoon activities. All the little milestones as he grew older. I felt like I was relying on everyone else to raise my son. He already didn’t have a dad — why should he be without his mother as well?

How did you get started?

I spent the next two years saving aggressively by lowering my expenses. I learned how to stray from the local soccer mom ideal of lavish birthday parties and Friday happy hours. I also learned how to negotiate raises and succeeded to increase my income while working fewer hours.

Still, my son and I both suffered from the stress of life in Silicon Valley. I discovered the FIRE movement and started strategically investing in real estate so I could free up my time to spend more of it with him.

Today, I earn more than ever while working fewer hours. I still have about five more years to go before I achieve financial independence but life is already greatly improved.

Do you have any advice for others looking to join the FIRE movement?

Here are three tips for others looking to achieve financial independence.

It’s not a race to FIRE, for FIRE alone won’t bring happiness.

It’s a journey to create your best life. It’s about creating the time and opportunities to do what you love most with the time we have.

Don’t become overwhelmed with the calculations and changes you need to make right now.

Start by tracking your spending and understanding where every dollar goes. Then, slowly work on lowering expenses and increasing income.

Don’t lose sight of the end goal.

To live a life of happiness and fulfillment. Enjoy the life you have right now while still making progress. Even if it means extending your journey by a few years, you won’t look back and regret the extra time you took to be present for friends and family.

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