Where to FIRE/Semi-FIRE? 43-yo Bay Area biotech hippie

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bliss88
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Where to FIRE/Semi-FIRE? 43-yo Bay Area biotech hippie

Post by bliss88 »

Greetings all. First, thanks for creating this great Community, Jacob!!!

I learned about Jacob, MMM, and the FIRE community fall of 2013... coincidentally, by chatting with a couple biking home from a climate-change related speaking event at the Grand Lake Theater (for the Bay Area folks who know the area). I'm 43.5yo, living in East Bay of SF Bay, and over the last year or so, the feeling of wanting to get off the career-mainstream has felt stronger.

Would appreciate input from the community re: ideas on an "exit plan" and timeline?

Not sure if this long intro should actually be in "work-education" sub-section but I'll post it here until others advise otherwise.

* Why I got into biotech: reading science reporters in my newspaper report on how DNA fingerprinting could be used to identify people uniquely

* Why I have continued in biotech: google Pivot Labs (an example of using our knowledge of microbial science to help agriculture reduce the use of environmentally damaging nitrates and phosphates)

* Why I'm feeling burned out with biotech: In early 2017, I switched from being a problem-solver in the lab to selling the technology / services that scientists need to work on problems (scientific sales) b/c 1) the lifestyle was more flexible (I decided my hours much more than when I was in the lab); 2) I got paid a lot more; and 3) I enjoyed the diversity of research projects, people, technologies, and companies I learned about while interacting with clients

However, now after almost 4 yrs of being a scientific sales rep/"business development" person (that's the fancy title), I'm feeling burnt out. With the need to meet one's quota and make as many client deals as possible in a 3-month quarter, I don't feel like I am deriving the relationship-building that I initially felt like I could do when I started. I also feel less excited by the technology going into healthcare when so much focus is really on the profit margins ("portfolio management" is about choosing the right diseases to develop drugs against based on profit forecast). I understand, we're part of a capitalist "growth economy" and someone has to pay for the 99% of drugs that fail. But nonetheless, the fun/love of science gets stamped out of me with all the thought about profitability.

Originally I was thinking keep working until I have $1M x 3% rule (I'm conservative), would enable $30k/yr to ensure I can afford healthcare + higher cost of housing in California.

However, I'm thinking, can I FIRE sooner??? The post by Canoe "Web of Goals" resonates with me b/c I too want to pursue projects/work that promotes physicality, social interactions, learning, and where I can perhaps earn $ to be semi-FIRE or lean-FIRE?

Where can I live FIRE where I can reduce my cost of living AND still have the weather and safety and access to clean water and healthy food AND be surrounded by community of people that I would enjoy?

Also, what is a way to practice househacking without actually committing to a mortgage (eg to test the theory that maybe I will enjoy learning how to do home repairs, which, if this were to be true, would enable me to feel ok with buying a house where my criteria are met)?

Finances:
Invested: $800K (95% index funds like VTI /5% bonds); $50K in cash
Debt: 0
Housing: renting (no mortgage or property ownership)
Expenses: on average $24000/yr ($1100 on housing + food + gas + car insurance + occasional eating out + health insurance + gifts + a few airplane trips to visit family + gym/fitness pre-COVID = $2K/mo)
Investing/saving per year for last 2 yr: ~60-75% (depending on the year)

Values re: where I live:
* TOPOLOGY: I LOVE hiking and walking and cycling up hills. I don't even need big huge mountains Colorado-style, I just need hills that go up say 1500' in say, 2-4 miles. So living somewhere in the midwest probably won't work for me. I'd like to live within a bike ride (eg 2-3 miles to get to a base of a hill) of hills or up to 20'-30' drive to some bigger hills/mountain (for SF Bay people, I have the privilege of being 25' drive from Mt Diablo to get my cardio exercise!)

* ECOSYSTEM: TREES. I enjoy greenery.

* WEATHER: I don't think I'm cut out for extreme cold/rain/snow. I dated someone from Maine for a year and spent a total of 4 weeks in the Boston/Maine area spread over 2 winters (including Bombagenesis winter)... too extreme for this Filipina mango (I was born in the Philippines)

* COMMUNITY: It would be great to have a community like MMM has in Longmont but even without a formal FI community, it would just be great to have people as neighbors who are into diy, frugality (for the environmental good that it does, such as fixing things vs buying new things), entertaining via making dinner and having friends over vs going out; Eg access to low-cost practical classes offered at a community college

* URBAN AMENITIES: not too far from an international airport (I DO want to travel but slow travel where I may be in 1 place for 1+ month volunteering/learning/working)

RE: part-time work/semi-FIRE: I think I would really love to teach science in a community college b/c (1) the demographic of the students are ones that really need help to get a leg up/start a career; (2) it would be a way to keep learning about the interesting developments in science?

But this last bit is not a must-have... b/c perhaps the practical hands-on learning I can do such as learning how to make things with my hands may end up being more fulfilling than academic work. Eg I've always wanted to learn woodworking such as furniture-making... I took shop in junior high, not typical for girls).

Places I have traveled /lived short term in that got me thinking about what I enjoy in a community:

* Cordova, Alaska (one summer): I loved the access to nature, small tight-knit community; no community colleges though, and not thinking I'd like the winters
* Redding/Old Shasta, CA (Jan - May): I also enjoyed the access to nature, but summers are brutal; not sure how to make friends out there without a job or other focus that involves regular interactions with others
* San Diego, CA: I like the weather in the winter; otherwise too warm/dry/not enough evergreen trees (I guess I fell in love with the redwoods when I moved further north)

Where is there in the world that is like Marin county, or Santa Cruz, California, but without the pricey housing?!

RE: considering living in New England: I would need to try it for a year perhaps to see if I could enjoy it?
I have a friend (also in biotech) who used to live in Santa Rosa who moved to mid-state Mass. to live a "permaculture" lifestyle, eg raise 3 hogs, 5 goats, grow her own food, and share a hayfield + solar panels with a community of 6 other families. And she still works in biotech (A true biotech hippie!). She has come to appreciate the 4 seasons as well as what her $ can get her living out there vs in CA. Note: she also is looking to find more flexible income stream (she commutes to Boston 1x per week) so nothing is perfect.

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Alphaville
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Re: Where to FIRE/Semi-FIRE? 43-yo Bay Area biotech hippie

Post by Alphaville »

bliss88 wrote:
Tue Dec 15, 2020 10:46 pm
Where is there in the world that is like Marin county, or Santa Cruz, California, but without the pricey housing?!
tulsa, oklahoma? not that i'd ever live in oklahoma. but if forced at gunpoint, it would choose tulsa :lol: (trees, nice hills, universities, an art scene of sorts).

btw have you read the ere book?

oh and welcome to the forum. it was an interesting first post, good headline got me here.

alternative to tulsa: stay put in ca and get a room in a house?

idk.

also, curious: could you get back from sales to the science? or have you now missed the train?

but the book: besides the web of goals, there's the skills bit, essential to beat the high drawdown.

also curious, because why not: would you ever moonlight as a biohacker/diy entrepreneur?

eta: another ere-friendly area people have discussed here is raleigh-durham, which might offer trees + your choice topography. im not into red states, but ymmv. plus it's a biotech cluster should you feel tempted to re-engage.

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unemployable
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Re: Where to FIRE/Semi-FIRE? 43-yo Bay Area biotech hippie

Post by unemployable »

Boulder. You'd fit right in.

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Alphaville
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Re: Where to FIRE/Semi-FIRE? 43-yo Bay Area biotech hippie

Post by Alphaville »

unemployable wrote:
Wed Dec 16, 2020 12:16 am
Boulder. You'd fit right in.
boulder is $$$. housing cost is bananas.

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unemployable
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Re: Where to FIRE/Semi-FIRE? 43-yo Bay Area biotech hippie

Post by unemployable »

Alphaville wrote:
Wed Dec 16, 2020 12:25 am
boulder is $$$. housing cost is bananas.
He somehow pays $1100/month in Berkeley. He can figure it out. Among other things, rents in most college towns have cratered thanks to the corona.

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Alphaville
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Re: Where to FIRE/Semi-FIRE? 43-yo Bay Area biotech hippie

Post by Alphaville »

unemployable wrote:
Wed Dec 16, 2020 12:31 am
He somehow pays $1100/month in Berkeley. He can figure it out. Among other things, rents in most college towns have cratered thanks to the corona.
she, i believe.

anyway, i've no idea on what that money pays for in berkeley or how old is that lease (old = good). but i've looked into moving to boulder before, and nope nope nope... desirability correlates with price. millionaire athletes drive up the market. have not looked since before pandemic, but v shape is not forever.

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EllaHamilton
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Re: Where to FIRE/Semi-FIRE? 43-yo Bay Area biotech hippie

Post by EllaHamilton »

Prices have risen so much because of the pandemic. Soon, when all this is over, prices will drop to $ 600-700.
Last edited by EllaHamilton on Thu Dec 17, 2020 3:52 am, edited 2 times in total.

2Birds1Stone
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Re: Where to FIRE/Semi-FIRE? 43-yo Bay Area biotech hippie

Post by 2Birds1Stone »

bliss88 wrote:
Tue Dec 15, 2020 10:46 pm
Where is there in the world that is like Marin county, or Santa Cruz, California, but without the pricey housing?!
New England is grey, wet, and cold half the year.

I would strongly look into Portugal and Spain. Portugal would likely check most of your boxes! It's a wonderful place to make a home base.

sky
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Re: Where to FIRE/Semi-FIRE? 43-yo Bay Area biotech hippie

Post by sky »

USVI, cost of living is not low, but might be manageable with an ERE lifestyle.

classical_Liberal
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Re: Where to FIRE/Semi-FIRE? 43-yo Bay Area biotech hippie

Post by classical_Liberal »

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chenda
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Re: Where to FIRE/Semi-FIRE? 43-yo Bay Area biotech hippie

Post by chenda »

2Birds1Stone wrote:
Wed Dec 16, 2020 2:14 pm
New England is grey, wet, and cold half the year.

I would strongly look into Portugal and Spain. Portugal would likely check most of your boxes! It's a wonderful place to make a home base.
+1. Very affordable, great climate most of the year, very vibrant walkable cities, food, culture, good international connections, mountains, you could definitely retire tomorrow on your current assets.

anesde
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Re: Where to FIRE/Semi-FIRE? 43-yo Bay Area biotech hippie

Post by anesde »

chenda wrote:
Wed Dec 16, 2020 3:36 pm
+1. Very affordable, great climate most of the year, very vibrant walkable cities, food, culture, good international connections, mountains, you could definitely retire tomorrow on your current assets.
+2

But stop telling everyone. It’ll be overrun :)

Toska2
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Re: Where to FIRE/Semi-FIRE? 43-yo Bay Area biotech hippie

Post by Toska2 »

Bozeman, Montana.

Upside:
Ultramarathon capital of the world
200+ miles of trails within an hour's drive
Vibrant college town known for engineering
Short drive to yellowstone and glacial national parks
5000-8500' elevation
300 days of sun
Skiing with 15' of snow


Downside
2-4 weeks of -10°F is possible
Daily temp swings upto 30 degrees because of no waterbody near by.
Everybody that got priced out of San Fran, Denver and Boulder are going there. Price and culture changing fast.

bliss88
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Re: Where to FIRE/Semi-FIRE? 43-yo Bay Area biotech hippie

Post by bliss88 »

Thank you all for the great suggestions, really appreciate it! Curious is there a section in this forum for expat ERE's or those considering it?

@chenda and @anesda: do you both have experience living in Portugal? I have also read about Portugal being a great destination for FI. If you would be open to a PM/chat, just let me know? Thank you! I've also read Costa Rica and Cuenca, Ecuador. I speak Spanish decently so Spanish-speaking places could be attractive (plus I will meet a goal of improving non-English language skill!).

@toska2: thanks for pointing out Bozeman. Bozeman, MT would be my kind of place, along w/ WY (was backpacking in the Tetons)... but seems cost of housing has gone up? I just checked zillow... only 3 properties appeared for sale <$300K?

The idea of making 1 location that isn't perfect weather-wise be homebase and spending the less ideal seasons elsewhere is appealing too.

Btw. I'm a she/her.

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unemployable
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Re: Where to FIRE/Semi-FIRE? 43-yo Bay Area biotech hippie

Post by unemployable »

Bozeman is the most expensive place in Montana, as it's close to both skiing (Big Sky) and Yellowstone, and it has become hip and like draws to like. If you don't need to be close to both these things the rest of the state is cheaper. If you're going to be doing a lot of driving to recreational activities anyway it probably doesn't matter much where you live.

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Alphaville
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Re: Where to FIRE/Semi-FIRE? 43-yo Bay Area biotech hippie

Post by Alphaville »

costa rica sure but it's expensive, you can probably live cheaper in florida. but what about panama?

ecuador i'd avoid due to ongoing political instability. in south america the most peaceful and stable location these days might be uruguay, but again pricey, considering alternatives.

i'm assuming you wouldn't move to the philippines due to politics?

chenda
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Re: Where to FIRE/Semi-FIRE? 43-yo Bay Area biotech hippie

Post by chenda »

bliss88 wrote:
Fri Dec 18, 2020 4:27 pm
@chenda. have experience living in Portugal?.
Yes, sure drop me a PM :) Turkey is another low cost option I would consider.

Frita
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Re: Where to FIRE/Semi-FIRE? 43-yo Bay Area biotech hippie

Post by Frita »

Not much will be on the market in BozeAngeles this time of year. Look around April (+/-) as late spring and summer are the selling window. Another option would be to contact builders of condos/townhouses (newer area, close to Big Box shopping, further from the mountain and old downtown) to determine what’s available pre-sale. Compared to Whitefish, MT, and Jackson Hole; it’s still accessible though not as desirable IMO as 20 years ago. (I personally wouldn’t want to live in Livingston, Belgrade, etc. and drive. Many do.)

Missoula is a lower cost option. Bigger small city, not as dominated by the uni, more river culture in the summer, no major downhill skiing venues, more of a hippie vibe. The downside is winter inversions with grayer skies.

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Re: Where to FIRE/Semi-FIRE? 43-yo Bay Area biotech hippie

Post by Seppia »

Every single time I was in Utah I asked myself why it’s not a more popular destination.
Not being able to live there when I pull the plug is probably the only reason I regret not having a US passport.
The most beautiful state in the US in my opinion.

chenda
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Re: Where to FIRE/Semi-FIRE? 43-yo Bay Area biotech hippie

Post by chenda »

Seppia wrote:
Sat Dec 19, 2020 4:52 am
Every single time I was in Utah I asked myself why it’s not a more popular destination.
The landscapes are indeed impressive. I'm not sure how walkable the towns are though, even downtown Salt Lake City was quite quiet, although you could certainly live there car free. Although I haven't been there for many years so it may have changed.

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