Return From US to India (Part 1) | FIRE
FIRE in India - Introduction and Net Worth
There's no shortage of posts online where people ask how much one needs for FIRE (Financial Independence / Retiring Early) in India and then responders throwing around random numbers that range from practical to downright stupid. Very few people take the trouble to present an honest account of their FI journey, with all the gory details laid down. I'd like to try to fill this gap here by documenting my experiment with FIRE in India. The niche I’m trying to fill is that of a person that made their FI money abroad (US, mostly) and are pursuing RE in India. Since there's a lot I want to share, I'd like to break my post into a series of articles so this one single post doesn't get overwhelmingly long. I'll be focusing mostly on the nuts and bolts of it all where I talk about “How I did it”, without focusing much on “Why I'm doing it”.
Who We Are
My wife and I, 34 and 36 respectively (in 2021), quit our H-1B jobs in the U.S in March 2021 and moved back to Bangalore, India with our 1 year old son. We're both Indian citizens while our son holds an American passport. My wife and I both did our Masters in the US and worked in the San Francisco Bay Area for 8 years and then in the Seattle region for 2 years before pulling the plug and beginning our experiment with early retirement in India.
We have begun our FIRE journey with a combined net worth of $1.3 million (in March 2021), that is all invested in the U.S stock market. In addition to that, we have a 3 bedroom apartment in Bangalore that has been paid off. I'm valuing our apartment at $300,000. This puts our total net worth at $1.6M, although I don't always count our home equity into our net worth.
[Updated] As of 25-August-2022, below is the breakdown of our NW and how it compares to when we started in 2021.
How We Did It
We attained our net worth while holding non-FAANG jobs and working at levels not exceeding senior software engineer. Except for my last two years at Microsoft where the sign-on bonus and vested RSUs bumped up my TC, all through the earlier years, our salaries were under $150K each.
We got to our current figures through a combination of frugal living and aggressive investing, coupled with the incredible bull run of the U.S stock market throughout the 2010s. By aggressive, I don't mean the risky WallStreetBets/YOLO investing style. My braindead strategy was throwing all the money I could into the stock market and buying Total Market and S&P500 index funds. Except for a couple picks like Apple and FB, I never got much into picking individual stocks. I missed out on Tesla and Crypto. Never hit an IPO jackpot. I’m an illiterate when it comes to Options trading. In hindsight, I do feel I missed out on making a far bigger fortune. Hurts a little, but I can live with that.
The areas where we scored big savings were owning a modest car, renting apartments that didn't exceed $3000 a month (South SF Bay), short commutes to work and steering clear of conspicuous consumption. We've never cared for the latest gadgets and gizmos or branded clothing. The biggest savings however, came - an easy guess - by not buying a house in the Bay Area or Seattle region. I'd like to make it clear that home ownership wasn't a good idea for us personally because we had other plans. I don’t narrow-mindedly go around shoving my opinions on home ownership down people's throats. I'd only suggest that you don't buy a home out of peer pressure or because your social-approval chasing, prestige-seeking parents/in-laws push you into it.
Now, before the biased ones judge me for a stereotypical penny-pinching Indian that just hoards all his money and never has any life experiences, I'd like to get that out of the way. We had a great time in the U.S and traveled all over the country, Hawaii and Alaska included. I dearly hold Yosemite National Park close to my heart and have gone on multi-day solo backpacking trips there and went up the cables to the summit of Half-Dome. We had plenty of house parties with friends and ate out a lot. I play the Guitar decently well. We have donated generously to Goodwill and I've volunteered a bunch of times at Habitat for Humanity. I watched one of my favourite bands Guns 'n Roses live in Oakland. My wife watched her teenage sweetheart Enrique Iglesias live twice.
I'm not bragging here but trying to make a point that FIRE doesn't have to come at the cost of making endless sacrifices and lead a dead boring life. You just have to prioritise your wants.
The United States is such a great country and I love it with all my heart. No doubt I’m gonna miss it real bad. If there were no family ties back in India and if there were opportunities to take longer breaks in between jobs without constantly being shackled by H-1B, the US would probably have been my home.
In my next post, I'll write about the financial affairs I attended to before moving back.
I originally made these FIRE posts on the tech forum “Blind” before moving them all into my own blog. The post over on Blind got a lot of great comments and inputs from other readers. You can find the post and the associated comments here -
I’ve started my FIRE journey in India
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