How to Retire Early as a Digital Nomad with Eric Richard

 Eric Richard

In this episode of the Expat Empire Podcast, we will be hearing from Eric Richard. Eric got interested in the principles of the FIRE movement (Financial Independence, Retire Early) in 2014 and reorganized his life to achieve his financial goals. He achieved leanFIRE in July 2019 by automating his savings and investments, avoiding lifestyle inflation, and utilizing travel hacking to ramp up his savings rate to over 60%! Achieving lean FIRE gave him the confidence to leave his corporate job behind and begin slow-traveling the world. After an amazing year traveling all over the world, the pandemic started and Eric decided to return to Austin, TX, and start working again to prepare for his next adventure. 

LEARN in this episode:

✔ How much money you need to have to retire early and live the life you’ve been dreaming about

✔ Why you should mix the FIRE and digital nomad lifestyles and some tips for making it happen

✔ How to plan for what to do with your time after retiring early (even if you decide to continue working!)

FIND Eric at:

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►  Blog Post on Remote Year:

►  The Nomad on Fire Podcast:

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Welcome to the Expat Empire Podcast, the podcast where you can hear from expats around the world and learn how you can join them.

Hey guys, before we get to the interview, I want to remind you that we’re offering free 30-min consulting calls to anyone interested in moving abroad. 

Whether you’re thinking about retiring somewhere warm, starting an international career, or becoming a digital nomad, we’re ready to help you think through the next steps in your journey. 

Send us a message at to schedule your call today!

With that said, let’s start the conversation.


David McNeill: [0:00:46] Hey Eric, thanks so much for joining us today on the Expat Empire Podcast.

Eric Richard: [0:00:50] Hey, thanks for having me, excited to be here.

David McNeill: [0:00:53] Yeah, it’s going to be pretty amazing to hear your story and what you’ve been up to these last years and how you’ve changed your life in terms of your financial situation and your flexibility to go abroad. It’s something that, in terms of the financial part, isn’t something that we’ve covered too much in the podcast yet. We’re excited to dig into your situation and your experience and learnings as well. Just to start us off, if you could tell us a bit about where you’re from, where around the world you’ve lived so far and where you’re currently living, that would be great.

Eric Richard: [0:01:20] Yeah. Sounds good. I moved around a little bit as a kid, so maybe I started my life as more of a nomad. I lived in four different states just for my parents’ jobs growing up. Originally I usually just say I’m from Michigan. I lived there the longest, I finished high school and college there. Originally from Michigan, but I’ve lived in quite a few other states in the U.S. During my working career I lived in Louisville, Kentucky for a little bit as well as Austin, Texas. Then abroad I lived in South America for a few months, Santiago, Chile, Lima, Peru, Medellin, Colombia and Mexico City. Then at the beginning of last year, I did some traveling in Southeast Asia, spent a little bit of time in Chiang Mai and then was in Canggu in Bali before everything kind of got really crazy with COVID and then returned back to the U.S.

Now I’m back in Austin, happily back in Austin, I would say. There’s definitely, as stuff is starting to open up a little bit more I definitely am getting the travel itch more and more as I see a lot of my friends out there traveling. I do have a really good community, I would say, in Austin, a really good group of friends, my brother lives here. It is nice to have that community and a lot of social activities going on.

David McNeill: [0:02:45] That sounds great. I went to university in Austin, Texas as well, so I love the city, but it’s been quite some years since I lived there. What sort of led you to Austin in the first place and how has that ended up ultimately becoming sort of your home, at least in the United States?

Eric Richard: [0:03:00] Yeah, originally just work brought me to Austin. I had a friend from college that lived here, so I did come to visit one time before in 2015 and really, really liked it. Just loved the weather, love the bar and restaurant scene, so many outdoor activities and such, but yeah, then moved here for work. My brother moved with me, which was pretty cool. When I got a promotion and was moving to Austin and my brother was graduating from college that year, didn’t have a job or anything lined up and I’m like, Hey man Austin’s a fast growing city, large tech scene. There’s a lot of jobs and companies hiring. Why don’t you move down here? So yeah, it worked out well. It just felt like the most natural place kind of, coming back to the US cause I already had a good group of friends and my brother, him and I are pretty close, so.

David McNeill: [0:03:53] Great. It sounds like you did have quite some experiences moving around the U.S. growing up. I did as well. I always wonder how much to tie my interest in going abroad to that experience of even as a younger person growing up in so many different places, even within the United States. Given your experience there, do you think that that really played a role in your desire to see more of the world? Or how did you really develop that initial interest in going abroad?

Eric Richard: [0:04:20] Yeah, that’s a great question. Yeah, I don’t know how my childhood influenced it. I would say I hadn’t really done too much international travel extensively, so I don’t know where it really came from. I think just throughout my working career, just long hours and being in a warehouse and whatever, I just, then it kind of really developed and I just thought it sounded so cool seeing people living in just all different parts of the world, then I would say the travel itch really started to build up. I also never did a study abroad or anything in school, so I felt like I had to make up for it a little bit as an adult.

David McNeill: [0:05:07] Yeah, definitely. Could you talk a little bit about the work that you were doing and how that led to these maybe opportunities to travel around the U.S. and travel internationally? Or of course, maybe that was part of your vacation at the time. Just help kind of walk us through your experience in the working world and how that led to a bit of where you are today. I guess that’s a big question, but maybe you could help break it down for us.

Eric Richard: [0:05:31] Yeah, for sure. I studied supply chain management in school, and then I got a job in warehousing in the logistics industry, which overall I would say I have no complaints, it’s has been a good career so far. I was able to earn a high salary, sometimes a lot of physically demanding work you’re on your feet for 12 hour shifts or so. Maybe working weird schedules. I worked a lot of weekends, I worked nights. Overall, I really can’t complain with the high salary, there was definitely some benefits there. Being in that industry, I had the opportunity to move around the U.S. to open up new warehouses or fulfillment centers. That was kind of the U.S. travel.

Then in terms of the international travel, a lot of it was just savings, really having the FIRE mindset and kind of discipline there. To begin my travels in 2019, I had saved up a year’s worth of cash so I felt comfortable leaving the workforce for a year just to travel and enjoy that experience, kind of test out the early retired lifestyle and then just be able to work on kind of fun and creative passions of mine, which was the blog and the podcast.

David McNeill: [0:06:54] Yeah. Great stuff. Could you talk a little bit about for our listeners, kind of break down what FIRE is, if they’re not familiar with it, and how you came across and how you learned about it, and how you implemented it and ultimately got to that point where you’re ready to quit the job I suppose, and to go abroad for a year, like you talked about.

Eric Richard: [0:07:13] Yeah, absolutely. Not a super long story. It started in 2014. I kind of found out about travel hacking. You know, I feel like in my working career, my life always felt pretty routine. I think I was always kind of researching, watching YouTube videos, reading books, or articles, thinking, okay, how could I design my life more and maybe just live a life with more freedom or kind of more excitement and adventure. I’d say the first thing I came across was travel hacking, which is essentially, you sign up for different credit cards to get the…you meet the spending requirements. There’s usually some sort of spending requirement, but then you get sign on bonuses. This is great for travel. You know, a lot of…say you get Chase, Ultimate Reward Points, they have different travel partners. And oftentimes you can find some pretty good deals of exchanging the Chase points for flights or hotels or what not.

At first I found out about that, it seemed super scammy. I don’t know, at first I was like, this can’t be legit, but I signed up for a card and I paid off the balance every month. You do have to be really responsible. You can’t carry a balance and be paying interest, otherwise that’s just going to negate any of those points that you got. Yeah if you do it strategically and you pay off your balance every month, it can be a great way to kind of rack up some Chase points or airline or hotel points or miles. I started with that and got some free trips, just went on a weekend kind of wine tasting trip with my girlfriend or whatever, and didn’t have to pay for the hotel or anything. So I was like, all right, I’m onto something here.

Then I think a year later I came across some FIRE content for the first time. FIRE for anyone listening that hasn’t heard of it stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early. The basic premise I’m sure, I guess I understood on some sort of level, if I had enough money, I wouldn’t have to work anymore, so, okay that makes sense. I think the biggest thing for FIRE that really hit home for me is it really depends on what your expenses are.

I think a lot of traditional financial advice, if you plug in retirement calculator, it’s going to tell you, you need a really large amount of money, like $3 – $5 million to retire. You need all this stuff. But a lot of those calculators look at what your income is. Assuming you spend a hundred percent of your income, which obviously that is not the case, or hopefully not the case for a lot of people out there.

Yeah, looking at it kind of goes off of your expenses. There was a study done, the Trinity study, which kind of came up with the 4% rule and the rule of 25. If you take 25 times your annual expenditures, so if it’s 40, if you spend $40,000 per year times 25, that gets you to a million dollars. Then yeah, looking at that study, they determined that it was safe, that you could withdraw 4% of your portfolio to live off of every year. That would last in perpetuity, it would keep up with inflation. Basically, if you had that amount of money, it could kind of last the rest of your life. With that, I started reading a lot of articles, podcasts, YouTube, just really listening and kind of consuming a lot of content about financial independence. A lot of it I think was kind of due to my job. I just wanted to really wanted to create a free life and kind of wanted to try something different, so I can pause there in the story.

David McNeill: [0:11:14] Yeah. Fair enough. No, it makes sense. I mean, did you find that…it sounds like, as you were saying the beginning of our conversation, you found your job to be having some good benefits, obviously having a good salary, but maybe it sounds like it wasn’t just the most fulfilling thing that you could spend your day doing. Would you say that that’s the case, or, I mean, I guess my question is, do you think that there could be a job out there that would satisfy you on that level or ultimately deep down you knew that after the experiences that you’d had in the working world and the corporate world, that that was just probably not going to align with your long-term goals?

Eric Richard: [0:11:50] Yeah, I think, I mean, there were definitely aspects that I liked about my job, for sure. At the end of the day, I think the biggest thing was the work-life balance. In Austin I had a really long commute. I worked nights. I worked on the weekends. There were a lot of times where I had a good group of friends, but wasn’t able to really see them or hang out with them for weeks at a time. Then it got to the point where it was great that I had a high salary and some of these benefits, but then I felt like I was kind of missing out on some of the best years of my life and not really experiencing a lot. One of my friends also kind of around that time, he began traveling and he joined a Remote Year and spent a year in different cities, a different city each month, traveling around the world with like 70 people and looked like he was just having a blast.

So me I don’t recommend playing the comparison game in life to others, but at that time I was seeing what he was doing and I was seeing what I was doing. I was like, I really need to make a change. I mean, I think it’s kind of…in my mind, there’s tiers of freedom. An ideal scenario I could be a podcaster or something and just talk to super interesting people about topics I’m passionate about and make money from that and do that full-time. I’m working towards that, but that is probably is a little bit more difficult. Right now I have since returned back to work and I would say it’s very much in the middle. It’s very nice. I have a lot more, I have some remote flexibility, I’m working less hours. It’s kind of a much better company culture. It’s less stressful. It’s still maybe not the ideal state. I still have to work a set amount of hours and I’m working for someone else. I don’t have full, a hundred percent control over my time, but compared to where I was before, it’s a much better situation.

David McNeill: [0:13:53] Yeah. That’s a good way to put it. I mean, in terms of indeed those different levels of freedom and flexibility. I feel like I’ve seen that in my career as well. I started out in investment banking, working absolutely insane hours, not enjoying life very much at all. Found my way out of that, thankfully, but still, even as I moved into product management, then I moved abroad after work deployment for a couple months and then actually finding jobs in Japan and Germany and Portugal, I realized that even if I could work from home or work from other countries, I still had the employer as part of that. I still had to work on their products. I still had to kind of do all of those things that are required to be successful working for other people. Now with Expat Empire, it’s sort of an opportunity or a challenge to be able to try to do it on my own without having to rely on other people for visas, having to work certain hours outside of what clients require and things like that. Yeah, I can completely understand that. I think there’s always pros and cons and the grass is always greener as you said, maybe comparison isn’t the best way to do it, but I think it’s good to find a balance that works for you and at that right point in your life as well. I can understand.

Eric Richard: [0:15:04] Absolutely. Yeah. I completely agree with you. I think there definitely is pros and cons to everything. I think, at least in my life, I think my needs or desires have changed throughout the years and stuff too. It’s really kind of just depends on where you’re at in your life and what your kind of goals and desires are at the current time.

David McNeill: [0:15:27] Was your first experience then going abroad, at least for a longer period of time, this Remote Year program, or had you done something prior to that? Just talk to us about maybe how you made the plunge into going abroad being remote and how that experience was on that program?

Eric Richard: [0:15:45] Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I guess kind of to pick up on my story and then I can touch on that. I found out about financial independence. I think there’s a lot of different ways that people have either achieved or pursued financial independence. I just kind of went the route trying to have a really high savings rate and just went with more traditional investments, like index fund investing. There’s a lot of people that have been successful with real estate, with entrepreneurship, a bunch of different things. I kind of went down the more traditional path of I already had a high paying job. I knew that I could kind of cut back on expenses. I tried to avoid lifestyle inflation. I lived with my brother, so I had a roommate to save money. I had an older car, but it was paid off, so that was great with me.

Yeah, I moved to Austin in 2016 and really just tried to ramp up my savings. Income, expenses, I tried to just grow that gap as much as possible. From 2016 to 2019, I was just kind of aggressively saving and investing just to kind of have a safety net, I would say I was gradually getting unhappier with my job. I wanted to have that cushion as kind of a backup plan if I decided, Hey, I can’t handle this anymore, I have a little bit of cushion. I mean originally, I think I’m more on the fat FIRE it’s called, which traditionally was classified as over a million dollars in terms of net worth. My goal was to save somewhere between $1.5 and $2 million. I didn’t come anywhere close to hitting that, but yeah, I just decided this isn’t for me anymore. I want to just experience the world and kind of live life a little bit more fully, I guess.

Yeah, originally I thought about doing a career transition. I was like, oh, I might try to teach myself how to code. I’m going to be a programmer because there’s a lot of remote software developer jobs. My job was like the farthest end of the remote job potential spectrum. I was a warehouse supervisor, obviously there’s boxes in the warehouse. It’s a physical location, you have to be there and you probably have to physically be there if you’re supervising and running a shift or whatever.

I eventually decided, I sat and thought about it and I was like, coding sounds really fun. I think that would be a great skill to learn. I still feel that way, but it was a big decision. I thought about it for over a year, but I kind of came to the mindset of like, if I didn’t have to worry about money, what would I spend my time doing? I decided I would really want to travel and I would love to talk to people about traveling and financial independence. That’s kind of where Nomad on FIRE came from. Yeah, I just decided, I had that years’ worth of cash. I was like, Hey, we’ll see where it goes. We’ll see what happens. I had that, left my job. I was also traveling with my partner at the time, she was able to find a remote job. We were like, yeah, let’s join this Remote Year program.

I think I had a friend that had actually done it so that was kind of nice. I had that social proof, I knew someone that did it and had a great experience. It was my first time being outside of the U.S. for an extended period of time and going to some places that I might not have gone to on my own. It was really nice to have that built-in community. There were 28 people in my group, each of the cities have Remote Year staff. So you’re essentially paying them for all the logistics to be taken care of. I paid a set monthly fee, I got accommodations, a coworking space membership, and then flights and stuff between the cities. I would say what you’re really paying for is that community. Having just all the friends and just the different memories and stuff that I made on that trip, that made it worth it. I guess I’m fine, I guess, paying for community if it’s going to help you on that experience. I think I’m a pretty social guy, but it is kind of nice to sometimes have that group structure I would say.

David McNeill: [0:20:18] Yeah, absolutely. Especially when you’re making those memories together, you’re also moving from country or city to city quite frequently. It’s hard to build a unique type of network in a month or however long it is between each location. Having that built in, I think, makes sense. Even on being relatively stationary right now here, and now I’m thinking I actually am about to join a co-working space, just more for the community aspect. Of course I have my desk and my everything, as you can see right now, here in my apartment. Being able to have that community even locally, just the one location, 15-minute walk from where I’m living, is almost invaluable. I can completely understand that, especially in the context of going all over the world in a relatively short period of time.

Eric Richard: [0:21:06] For sure. Yeah. I really like coworking spaces, so I’m with you. I completely agree. I feel like it’s designed for remote workers and people really trying to be productive, so I’m sure you’ll meet some awesome other entrepreneurs and people working on cool startups. I think that’ll be a great experience.

David McNeill: [0:21:26] Nice. Right on. You wrapped up that trip and then what did you think from there? I can imagine that after that great experience bonding with all these folks for that period of time, it must be kind of hard to see that come to an end. What did you sort of think to do after that? Or did you go back to the U.S. at first? What, what was your thought process?

Eric Richard: [0:21:47] Yeah, that’s a great question. Yeah, originally I left my job, I had the year’s worth of cash, but I had some other savings and investments. I really was like, I’m just going to leave my job and I’m going to see what happens. I was like, maybe I’ll travel for a year. Maybe it’ll be two years, three, five, who knows? Did the first Remote Year for four months, like August to November of 2019, and then returned to the U.S. at the end of 2019 for the holidays. Spent some time with family, but then I always knew I really wanted to go to Southeast Asia. Kind of early January of last year, of 2020 flew to Chiang Mai. There was the Nomad Summit there. I wanted to join that event. I had heard a lot of good stuff about that. That was kind of one of the reasons, and I had just heard a lot of hype about Chiang Mai as like a digital nomad destination.

Southeast Asia was next on the list there. I would say it was definitely interesting going there. There was a Remote Year group in Chiang Mai, but I wasn’t a part of that program. It was mostly just me and my girlfriend. Then we hung out with some people from that group. It was kind of nice I would say, it was a nice change of pace to not be on a Remote Year program in traveling a little bit more on our own, if you could call it that. I wrote a long Remote Year review on my site. Maybe you can link it up in the show notes.

I would say being on the program, I felt a lot of social obligation. I definitely spent way more money than I had budgeted. If I spent what I spent on Remote Year, every month my FIRE plans would have gone out the window because I was like, this is way too much. Don’t get me wrong. It was my first few months not working, traveling. I wanted to live up and have a good time and not worry about, oh, this is a hundred dollars or this is whatever. It was a fantastic experience. Then in Southeast Asia, I feel like I really hit my groove as a digital nomad. Living in Chiang Mai, I was only there six weeks, but it felt like I was there for so much longer. It felt like I lived there for three months and was just awesome.

I feel like I had a very good balance in terms of going to the gym. I felt like I was very physically active. I was in good shape. I was kind of really productive with podcast stuff, having fun with friends, going on side trips, going out to dinner with people almost every night of the week. It was just a very good blend of productive/social time. I loved it. The original plan was to be kind of in Southeast Asia until June of last year. It was supposed to be kind of half the year, six months. Then obviously COVID happened so around March, I did decide to return to the U.S. I can pause there.

David McNeill: [0:24:55] Definitely. I mean, it sounds like, yeah, unfortunately sort of had a great thing going and you found your rhythm which has gotta be a great thing to feel at the time. I can only imagine it was quite disappointing to see all of this happen and have to put a stop to that. How did you think about it once you got back? I mean I’m sure it still is hard to make plans, but as you were not beholden to your job at the time, as you were trying to build your podcast, build your blog, build your business and experience some of this retire early type of mentality and type of lifestyle how did you think about continuing that when you couldn’t mix it with the travel that was a key part of your early retirement plan or your personal goals?

Eric Richard: [0:25:39] Yeah, absolutely. It’s funny you mentioned had a good thing going. The one day in Chiang Mai I was like, this is such a great lifestyle. I’m having so much fun. My girlfriend had just gotten a new job and she was like, yeah, this is awesome. We’re killing it as digital nomads. Then a few months later COVID hit and kind of put all those dreams to an end or at least temporarily. But I can’t complain, obviously very privileged and felt very fortunate to have been in that situation to begin with. Obviously there’s been people that have had much worse experiences with COVID. Just want to throw that out there and recognize that.

Yeah I didn’t want to get stuck in Bali. March stuff was kind of locking down. Some travel was shutting down from different places, which in hindsight, Bali might not have been the worst place to get stuck in the world. It’s pretty beautiful there, it’s great. At the time too, I went from not really caring about what was going on. It didn’t seem to be affecting things, to then like overnight, then I did have a little bit of concern. I was like, okay, I’ll just spend some time with my parents kind of hunker down in Michigan and just chill for a little bit. Then I went, like it was a very, it was a pretty quick transition. I did have a company reach out to me, sounded like a cool company. The job wasn’t fully remote, but was interesting enough. It was a very quick transition. I was living a digital nomad, was loving it, planned to have continued that for at least a few years, but then kind of with COVID and stuff starting down, I was like, okay, maybe I should switch it up.

Fortunately I went through the interview process and did return to work and get a job, which was great for last year, because I was like, okay, no, one’s traveling anyway. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything. I was like, oh, I might as well at least make some money if I can’t travel. It’s not like all my friends are doing all this cool stuff and I’m just sitting at home or working all the time. Yeah, I ended up getting another job in terms of Nomad on FIRE, I’m not going to lie. I’m sure maybe you experienced this or other people listening. There was a few weeks where I was just really just kind of down. I didn’t even want to release any podcasts. I was like, well no one’s traveling. This is kind of silly. Is anyone even going to listen to this? But then I think that kind of faded, and then I did take it as an opportunity just to chill, spend time with family and still kind of get some good work done in terms of Nomad on FIRE stuff. Yeah.

Then I started working, moved to Savannah, Georgia for a little bit, which is still super crazy. I don’t know. It’s like I lived there for six months last year from June of 2020 to February of 2021, which is still really odd. I knew it wasn’t going to be a long-term thing. I didn’t want it to be a long-term thing. I guess in my mind I was like, if I’m going to be back in the U.S. either Austin or Michigan, but I don’t really like the snow that much so either Austin or Michigan, so it was just kind of odd. I took this job in Savannah, but I knew I didn’t really want to establish myself there because I didn’t want to live there for that long of a period of time. Thankfully it worked out that just some stuff with work, I had the opportunity to move back to Austin.

2021 early this year, I moved back to Austin and yeah, it’s been great. I would say my thoughts on kind of FIRE and digital nomading have evolved. One of the reasons I did want to return to work too, is I never hit that target financial independence number. I never felt confident. I wasn’t going around saying like, oh, I’ve retired early. I just kind of left my job and was like, oh, I’ll take a gap year. Just kind of see where it goes. I do eventually probably want to own property and raise a family. I’m not married, but I do want to get married in the future and have children. I knew I didn’t have enough money to sustain that lifestyle with the amount of money that I had when I left my job.

Sometimes I was loving living as a digital nomad and traveling, but there were some times where deep down, I felt guilty about it. I felt like I was, it’s like, Hey, you’re a healthy 30 year old, like you could be in the workforce working. It felt a little selfish that I was just enjoying myself and I could have been jeopardizing, I guess…it hasn’t happened, but I could be jeopardizing my future wife and children, kind of their happiness and their lifestyle. I’m out here spending money just traveling the world having a good time. That is a goal of mine. That was another big factor for me returning to work as well.

David McNeill: [0:30:53] Yeah, definitely. How do you actually think about that, I guess let’s call it the guilt, as you said, because I guess my concern, as I think about living, doing the retire early financial independence and so forth being more nomadic is that I’m concerned that that guilt might always be there. I’m curious if you’ve come to any, I don’t know, realizations or conclusions that helps you to feel some confidence that, of course, once you get a certain amount of money under your belt, if you’re able to do so then maybe you feel it les., But do you think that it really kind of requires having that reaching your financial goal in order for you to feel less if any guilt or have you come up with any creative solutions for trying to lessen that feeling I guess?

Eric Richard: [0:31:42] I don’t know about the guilt piece. I mean, I’m with you. I think that could always be there. I think a lot of people are not…the goal isn’t to retire early. It seems like a lot of people have kind of came to that conclusion. Some people use financial independence, retirement elective. I guess in my mind and kind of how my thoughts have evolved on it, I don’t think anyone, especially at a young age is just going to truly retire and sit on the beach or play golf or drink margaritas or something all day. That’s not feasible. If you’ve been busting your ass and grinding it out for years that might be awesome for like a few weeks or a month, but then you’re going to be like, shoot, what am I doing with my life now?

I think the biggest thing, and to avoid that guilt piece is like, what’s the next mountain to climb? What am I working on now? I think what’s so powerful about financial independence is you can pursue those things that aren’t big money makers on the surface. Maybe there’s a cause that you’re super passionate about that you’re not making money from it, but you can dedicate so much of your time to helping push that cause forward. I think that’s what’s powerful about it.

For me I love doing the podcast because it’s really enjoyable and hopefully as a benefit people listen to it and get some good information from it and are able to make positive life changes. I did that truly just because I was passionate about it. If I eventually make money from the podcast, sweet. That’d be fantastic. That’d be an awesome job, but I started doing it just because I was passionate about it and felt like I could help others doing it.

David McNeill: [0:33:32] Yeah. Excellent. In your experience, you’ve pursued this FIRE lifestyle, but you’ve also tried to take that into a more digital nomad or more nomadic experience as well as we’ve talked about today in this conversation. Why do you think that it’s important for people to maybe mix those two ideas? Or why is that something that really is important to you in terms of sharing through your podcast and your blog as well for Nomad on FIRE.

Eric Richard: [0:33:59] I think combining living as an expat or digital nomad with kind of financial independence principles, that’s a super power right there. If you’re trying to pursue financial independence it’s, it’s growing the income piece and it’s reducing that expense. Instead of worrying about how much a Starbucks latte is, why not move somewhere where the cost of what you’re paying in the U.S. is like a third or a half. Immediately by buying that plane ticket, if you could reduce your expenses by 50%, that’s so powerful. I talk a lot about geo arbitrage. I think Tim Ferriss is maybe the first one that came up with that and the four hour workweek.

But it is just amazing you’ve been a lot of places around the world, right? It is crazy how much cheaper it is in so many places around the world without sacrificing your kind of standard of living. There are some great things about the U.S. You can drink the water. There’s huge grocery stores that have a bunch of different things, but there’s a lot of amazing things very comparable in a lot of places I lived. I guess in Chiang Mai for example, both months that I lived there, I only spent $1,800 total, which depending on who you ask, that’s too high for Chiang Mai or you could have spent more. I thought that was perfect for me because I didn’t really budget or really keep a close eye on what I was spending.

I went out to eat whenever I wanted, if I wanted to go on a side trip I went to it. I had a very nice condo with a pool where I stayed. I really liked the gym that I went to. That’s just kind of where my spending for the month shook out, which for me was amazing. In Austin usually I spend $4,000 plus a month, so that’s more than 50%. Just the power of geographic arbitrage, especially if you’re pursuing financial independence. If you’re making like a Western salary but you’re living on that much lower cost you can save and invest so much more or if you’re already retired your money is going to go so much further.

At least I understand family obligations. There’s a lot of reasons why you might not want to travel, but I always think even if you…you don’t have to spend your entire career. I think especially with more companies and positions going remote, I like to just kind of throw it out there if people are interested, why not consider spending at least part of the year abroad.

David McNeill: [0:36:51] I want to maybe not poke a hole in that, but just ask a slight sort of variation on that, which is, I also see at least here in Europe and granted, what you’re talking about is in Thailand, for example. In Southeast Asia it’s a different story. I think that’s why a lot of digital nomads go there. I totally get that. Maybe parts of…well, there are pockets all over the world where these expenses will you can afford for much cheaper than you would be able to in America, a lifestyle that is really attractive. However, if you’re coming into Western Europe, for example, while it may be cheaper, even here in Portugal compared to what you experienced there in Austin, granted, what I’ve seen is like almost every European capital or major city, especially places that people tend to want to go to, have just been taken over by Airbnb’s could be considered exorbitant rates on a nightly basis.

And as you talked about in your experience in the Remote Year program, you were spending, during that time, more than you wanted to, and it kind of would have not worked for you from a financial perspective if you did that day after day, year over year. While there are opportunities to live life very cheaply, you’re also comparing it to Austin, Texas, which you know, is not the cheapest place in America to live as well. I’m just kind of curious what you think about that? Is it really important to ultimately find those opportunities in the American large cities in let’s say in a tech job or things like that, to be able to get that high salary and then to go to the extremely cheap locations? Or do you find that people are able to make this work in a way that they can go across Europe as well? I mean, I know these are like a broad generalization, but I would just like to hear your thoughts on that because I see here, the price is going up and up, more and more real estate being taken by expensive Airbnb’s. Places being knocked down, built up again in a much fancier way, but in a way that no local could ever pay for practically. Curious in your thoughts for that.

Eric Richard: [0:38:50] Yeah. I mean, I think it’s always going to come down to personal preference. The goal might be to stay in the U.S. but move out of that city and have a huge piece of land and live in the country or something. It really depends on what you like to do. I think it is important to, yeah, you kind of called it out there. It’s important to really think about what you want. You don’t want to retire on X amount of money, but you could only afford to live in Thailand or some of those cheaper places. Which maybe that’s what you want to do and that’s fantastic. However anyone wants to live their life is good by me. I think that is an important thing to consider. If you want to travel and see other places in the world, yeah, obviously there’s places in Europe where the cost of living is going to be much higher. That net worth or that number that you thought you needed to have you might have to expand on it.

I’ve talked to some people that are like, I don’t agree with the FIRE movement because I don’t want to be stuck with just X amount of money per month. I’m like, yeah, yeah, I get you. I see where you’re coming from, but it’s then obviously you would need to increase your number. If you’re like, I don’t think I could live off of $2,000 a month, then it’s like, well, okay. Yeah. Well, what are your expenses and what would be a number per month that you would feel comfortable?

David McNeill: [0:40:20] Right. I think that goes for anybody who’s trying to retire at any point in their life whatsoever. I mean, of course, maybe the math is different if you’ve have less years to worry about in terms of funding. This is a core problem for anybody thinking about whether they want to continue working or retire at any point in their life.

Eric Richard: [0:40:41] It does seem, at least from my experience, there’s a lot of people that have blogs or have written books about Financial Independence, Retire Early. It seems, in my experience, a lot of those people, even though they have “retired,” have found a way to make money doing something else, even if they weren’t trying to. Just by chance, they were so passionate about whatever topic they kept working on it and eventually were…even if it’s not a lot they’re making money. Again, there’s not a lot of people at an extremely young age that I’ve seen that are truly retired. They’re not making any other money besides off of their investments that they had.

David McNeill: [0:41:23] It seems to me that, I guess, as you’re talking about, and as you’ve tried to do with your business, that the natural movement seems to be once you’ve made “enough money,” whatever that is for the individual, a lot of people will end up trying to start blogs, YouTube channels, become a “influencer.” I think we’re all guilty of this to some degree, or I don’t know if guilty is the right word, but you get my point. I’m just curious if that’s what you’ve seen as well, or what do you see that people end up doing when they’ve achieved their lifetime ideal financial goals and targets? Is it, I know it can be a million things. I’m sure some people it’s volunteering and different causes and some people it’s yeah maybe building a YouTube channel and presence. Do you have any other thoughts about kind of the things that people end up involving themselves in to keep things interesting and busy and adventurous for the next 30 years let’s say?

Eric Richard: [0:42:16] It does seem that a lot of people have blogs or YouTube channels or write a book and stuff, but I think it’s cool. I think it’s really interesting. It’s cool that financial independence is becoming more mainstream, I would say and some of these different ideas are catching on. There’s a good amount of books and there’s like a documentary that’s out there which is pretty sweet. I’ve seen, I think some people are just focused on their passions, one guy’s big into making music so he’s kind of been doing that. The other one has a coworking space. I’ve seen a variety of different things. I think it kind of cool.

David McNeill: [0:42:56] It gives you the opportunity to do what you want I guess.

Eric Richard: [0:42:59] Yeah. Yeah. Those personal passions. Then if you have any of those things in terms of like making the world a better place.

David McNeill: [0:43:09] Yeah, absolutely. Cool. Well as we wrap up here, do you have any other specific advice for people who are trying to become financially independent and retire early and or mix that with a digital nomad lifestyle as well? I know we’ve talked about a lot in this conversation, but if you have any parting thoughts or advice, I’d love to hear it.

Eric Richard: [0:43:26] Yeah. I think the first piece is education. So I would just…blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels, kind of whatever your preferred medium of content is. I would just start to look into it. Get as much information as possible, and then start small. If you invest even a hundred dollars a month, that’s not a huge amount, but I think you’re going to see a lot of progress from those small incremental wins. I think a lot of times people are like, oh, well, it’s only $10 or, oh, it’s only $50 what’s the big deal, but those small amounts can really compound. There’s an investing app I’ve used before Acorns. I don’t know if you’ve used that or heard of it.

David McNeill: [0:44:15] I’ve heard of it, yeah.

Eric Richard: [0:44:16] Yeah, it’s just, I don’t know if it’s the best. I think their fees are a little high, but it just essentially rounds up to the nearest dollar and just takes that money and invests it slowly, based off of all your spending. Then you can set that you put extra amount in each month. I started that in 2015 or so maybe, just cause I was like, oh, I’ll just put some extra things in there. Just the power of compound interest, I think I have over maybe $7,000 in that account or something now. It is really amazing just having those small targets and what it can build up to with compound interest. I would say start small and then challenge yourself to kind of ramp up that savings even further.

David McNeill: [0:45:04] Awesome. As far as the financial education side of it that you talked about, of course, we have to talk about your podcasts and blog and everything. Nomad on fire, please tell us about it. Where can we find out more about it, what you’re trying to do with it and and who would be the best target to check it out?

Eric Richard: [0:45:21] Oh, awesome. Thank you. Yeah, come check it out or The Nomad on FIRE Podcast. If you want to connect, I’m always down for a chat, send me a DM on Instagram @nomadonfire there. I would say that’s the social media platform I’m most active on. It’s kind of what we’ve talked about today, really trying to combine the principles of financial independence with the digital nomad lifestyle. I try to have a good variety of guests. Some are, I would say, a little bit more rare to kind of have FIRE and Digital Nomad folks that have kind of both of those things combined. There are a few guests and conversations I’ve really enjoyed that have had both pieces of those, but a lot of kind of cool travel stories. A lot of Digital Nomad type of content. Haven’t gotten into the financial independence piece as much as I have wanted to but later, later this year, I definitely plan to reach out to more kind of fire folks to get a little bit more of that content. Yeah, if anyone’s interested, come check it out.

David McNeill: [0:46:32] Great. Well, we’ll have links to everything we talked about in the show and of course, to your podcast and blog as well in the show notes. Thank you so much again, Eric, for joining the podcast. It’s been a pleasure to speak with you and look forward to where things are headed for you in the future.

Eric Richard: [0:46:44] Yeah, David, thanks for having me. This was a blast.


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As the founder of Expat Empire, David McNeill is focused on inspiring people to move abroad and showing them how to do it. David started Expat Empire because he has a genuine passion for living abroad. He left the United States in 2014 and has since lived in Tokyo, Berlin, and Porto.