I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get really wrapped up in the saving, investing, and optimizing necessary to reach financial independence at a young age. And where I’m generally willing to do whatever necessary to get there, I’m guilty of sometimes forgetting about how my journey impacts others around me.
While I view few of my actions as true “sacrifices” in the traditional sense of the word because I happen to think that the bigger sacrifice is working for most of your life rather than living below your means, I’m also aware that I’m not alone. Every supposed sacrifice I make along the way affects more than just me, as I have longstanding relationships (and live) with a wonderful woman, her son, and our little Chihuahua, Diego.
So I thought it would be interesting to get an honest and refreshing look at what someone on the outside looking in thinks about all of this – financial independence, frugality, and the sometimes-extreme behavior some of us display in order to achieve what we really want in life.
I’ve actually wanted to put something like together for a while now, but Claudia is a lot more private than I am. I was able to get her to answer some questions, but it was a no-go for a picture. However, I still think there’s some value here. Not only will you learn a little more about her, but it may even be worthwhile to sit down and have a similar conversation with your respective significant others. Communication is really important, and sometimes we take love and support for granted. We may assume that our partners are on the same page and have a similar view on life and finances, but sometimes really having an honest conversation may reveal that there are differences. Communication allows those differences to be bridged.
I believe it’s incredibly important to be with someone like-minded if you want to succeed and achieve financial independence. You can’t have someone who’s attempting to undermine your progress at every turn. However, we also don’t need (or necessarily want) exact clones of ourselves. It’s fun to be challenged by someone who thinks similarly, but not exactly the same. This allows us to grow.
Claudia has been very supportive along the way, but even she has her limits. Although I love her with all of my heart, I’ve sometimes pushed her to those limits. She’ll talk a little about that, her view on all of this, and also give us some background on who she is and what makes her tick. This interview was done via email so that her answers could be unfiltered. I only edited some of her writing for grammar (English isn’t her first language), but this is otherwise all Claudia.
Q: Tell us about yourself. What’s your story? Background?
Little about myself. I was born and raised until the age of 14 in El Salvador. My dad was an orthopedic surgeon and my mom was a stay-at-home mom. We moved to the US in the 80s. My dad join the Navy as a doctor, so we moved from California to North Carolina where we stayed two years and then moved to Orlando where I graduated from High School and got married. I had my first son in Orlando. My first marriage ended in divorce, and by that time my parents were back in El Salvador, so I decided to move back to my birth country. Once there I studied early education and found my calling in life.
In the 90s, I moved to Oslo, Norway. I got a job at the French school in Oslo and stayed there for four years. While in Norway, I traveled around Europe and even went to Israel and Tunis. I enjoy traveling and meeting people. I’m fluent in French and Spanish. I also know a little German and Norwegian. I loved Norway but it was too far for my son to keep a good relationship with his dad and my parents. So I moved back to El Salvador and went to work again in the French school in San Salvador. Once back in El Salvador, I had my second child and I was happy living close to my family. But I love to travel and it was around this time I received a good opportunity to come back to the US and I took it.
2003 was the year that my two sons and myself came back to the US. We came back to Florida. Once here, I studied the Montessori method and became Montessori certified. My oldest son graduated from high school in Orlando and went to the University of Florida for his undergraduate degree. He then went to law school at Emory University. My youngest and myself moved to Sarasota in 2007 where I worked at a Montessori school.
During 2008, the Montessori school that I was working at fell into financial problems and started to let people go. I was one of them. I now work for a small preschool as a voluntary preschool teacher. I don’t make much money, but I have the opportunity to teach underprivileged children and I can teach with the Montessori method.
I’m a happy woman at this moment in life. I have everything any human being could want: love, peace and health. Next year, I turn 50, so I’m very happy that I am healthy and that I have a great man next to me to share my next 50 years with.
Q: What are your views on frugality?
Frugality is a word that I learned from my mom. Even though she was a stay-at-home mom, she always bought things on sale and she never overspent. She always taught me that a dollar saved is a dollar earned. I’m not as frugal a I could be, but I also enjoy making my loved ones happy. I love to go and have coffee with my youngest (children are only children a few years out of our life, so I have to enjoy that time while I have it). My oldest son in now working with the US Department of State, so I’m glad that when he was younger I spent time with him by having coffee and long chats. Now I don’t see him much, as he works abroad. Frugality is a good habit to have. I want my youngest to learn from us about saving. I don’t want him to go into debt for things.
Q: Is it hard to live with someone as extreme as me?
When we first met, Jason wasn’t as frugal as he is now. But little by little, he became more frugal and explained to me what his goal was. It was weird at the beginning, since I have always dated men that would pay for everything. But I enjoyed all the talks that we had about this Early Extreme Retirement movement. The hardest part about it was that we didn’t eat dinner together and that we had to buy groceries separate. For me, food is the soul of a family life. But I knew that at the end if he got to the point that he wanted to be, we were going to share things that we weren’t at that moment. A wise proverb and one that I always tell my little students: “Patience is a virtue”. I can say that it is true. I had patience with the extremes that Jason had to go through to get to where he is now. I wanted him to be happy and I know that he is now happy being home and writing. I’m very happy that I helped him reach that goal. I’m happy when he is happy. It’s a harmony that makes us happy.
Q: What do you think about early retirement and/or financial independence?
My thoughts about early retirement is a good question. I never really thought about retirement or financial independence before I met Jason. I’m a person that goes by a motto: Yesterday is the past and nothing can be done about it. Tomorrow is not promised. Today is the only time that we can count on.
I know that it is not a great motto to live by, but I don’t worry much about tomorrow. Retirement is a weird subject for me. I don’t know if I could ever not teach. I love it and I do think that I can help a young child reach his or her potential. So if I’m physically able to continue doing what I’m doing, I will. I have a friend who is much much older than me and she is still works and enjoys it. There’s no better reward than hear a small child tell you, “I love you, Ms. Claudia”. Plus, I get a lot of breaks – winter break, spring break and one month off in summer. The fantastic schedule is one of the benefits of being a teacher. I don’t need much to enjoy myself. As long as my family is happy and healthy, life is great.
Q: Where do you think happiness is derived from? What makes you happy?
I believe that happiness is derived by the way you live life. I enjoy simple things like teaching, walking , reading, painting, cooking, and spending time with my loved ones. What makes me happy is to be able to spend as much time with the people that I love. I know that life can change in a second, so I try to spend most of my time with Jason, my son, and our Diego. Right now, life is as good as it gets!
What do you think of Claudia’s story? Is it worthwhile to sit down and have this kind of conversation with your significant other?
Thanks for reading.
Photo Credit: chanpipat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Edit: Additional editing for grammar.