🐧 My FIRE Alternative Strategies

Evolution of FI Games, Semi-Retirement, Fractional Work, Geoarbitrage, Buy a SMB
April 21, 2024


Today, in 10 minutes or less, you'll learn:

  • The Evolution of Financial Independence Games 🕹️
  • My Approach 🙋
  • Semi-Retirement (Barista FIRE) ☕
  • Part-Time / Fractional Work 💼
  • Geoarbitrage 💼
  • Buy a Small Business  🤝

FROM OUR LABS

🚀 Last chance to get early access to my May 6th cohort

Enrollment opens for Remote Side Hustle next Wednesday (PST).

As a waitlist member, you’ll get 24 hours before we announce it to the rest of the world.

Why join the Remote Side Hustle 4-week cohort program?

  • 🌏️ Job security doesn’t exist - Recently, Alphabet cut 12,000 jobs in its largest-ever layoffs. With the ZIRP era over, many loyal employees are discovering that there’s no such thing as job security.
  • 🗺️ Step-by-step lessons - 15 bite-sized video lessons on how to launch your remote side hustle and detailed workbook to ensure you have actionable steps and resources to succeed.
  • 📽️ LIVE office hours & breakouts -You’ll get live guidance from me and discuss and exchange feedback with students during breakouts.
  • 🫶 Community and accountability - Meet and build alongside a like-minded group of professionals from tech, finance, and other diverse industries. Weekly accountability challenges (and prizes!)
  • 🏇 Limited spots available - Act fast! We have over 550 people on the waitlist—but limited seats available (This helps us to deliver a better experience.)

As a waitlister, you’ll get all this value for $158 USD (20% off).

Lock in this steal of an investment in yourself while you still can. Due to popular demand, I will likely increase the price of my next cohort by 2x.

Ready to get started?

Join the first official cohort, starting May 6th:

Save my seat in Remote Side Hustle.

🔥 My FIRE Alternative Strategies

My geoarbitrage and FIRE alternatives articles were surprisingly popular.

In light of tech layoffs and economic uncertainty, It’s becoming clear to me that many high-performing professionals are seeking alternatives to the conventional pathways to financial independence.

I received several questions about my personal FIRE Alternative Strategy, so in this newsletter, I’m sharing a short breakdown of my financial independence approach.

The Evolution of Financial Independence Games 🕹️ 

Growing up, I loved playing strategy games like Starcraft.

Perhaps that’s why I like to think of each financial independence pathway as a different game you can play (with different rules).

In the 2010’s, the popular games were:

  • Work 9-5, climb the corporate ladder, and retire at 65 with a pot of gold
  • Play the startup lottery in your 20’s and 30’s, hit 1 jackpot, and transition to investing in your 40’s
  • Work a normal job in your 20’s and 30’s, but save and invest 30%-50%+ of your income to FIRE in your 40’s

Now in the 2020’s, I expect the number of games people play to explode. They can be more highly customized to your lifestyle and career goals than ever before.

This is due to several major societal and tech trends:

  • Rise of part-time, flexible work - After Covid, people care about flexibility more than ever. They want to spend more time focusing on family, kids, health, etc. In December 2023, an all-time-high of 22 million Americans chose part-time work.
  • Rise of remote work - Harvard Business Review reported that executives expect remote work to continue increasing from 2023 to 2028.
  • Adoption of AI technology - The next wave of AI tools will enable individuals and smaller teams to accomplish more output than ever before. LLMs are just the beginning. For example, I’ve used tools already for content writing, editing, repurposing, data analytics, meeting summaries, and customer insights extraction to accelerate my operations.

I truly believe we’re going to see all kinds of creative mash-ups in the next few years.

My Approach 🙋 

First, I’m going to quickly share my recent history for new readers (long-time readers, feel free to skip these bullets):

  • Pre-2019 - Lived in San Francisco, California for 7 years, working as a product manager for Dropbox and growth-stage startups.
  • 2019 - Traveled the world. Experimented with being a digital nomad and remote product coach in Asia, Europe, Latin America.
  • 2020-2023 - Moved to Singapore to work for a regional fintech startup, Xendit. Weathered out Covid in the Red Dot.
  • 2023 - Left my full-time job. Started my consulting and media businesses. Got married. Lease expired in Singapore. Stayed in Saigon for 6 months, then moved to Mexico City.
  • 2024 - Signed a 1-year lease in Mexico City to pursue goals like gaining Spanish fluency, exploring Latin America, and gorging on delicious tacos.

My long-term goal is to build and grow a portfolio of beautiful businesses that I’m proud of—while building a lifestyle I enjoy and that can eventually support a family.

Here’s the strategies I’m using to achieve this goal:

  • Semi-Retirement
  • Part-Time Work
  • Geoarbitrage
  • Buying Small Businesses

Semi-Retirement (Barista FIRE) ☕

As I wrote in 9 FIRE alternatives, Barista FIRE is where you save until you reach a point where you only need to work part-time (or earn investment income).

The trade-off is:

  • You’re giving up some income, status, and time to “retirement”
  • In exchange, you save on time to making “fun money” or doing work you enjoy

I’ve unintentionally experimented with this strategy and liked it.

How I’m implementing semi-retirement (for illustrative purposes):

  • Downsized my expected annual income in semi-retirement by ~40%
  • At my current level of spending, this pushes my official FIRE date (”retirement”) back by 5 years*
  • BUT I get to work on businesses that make me “fun money” 5 years earlier

Calculate your own semi-retirement strategy using this Barista FIRE calculator.

*This does not include kids or health care expenses, which I don’t have the numbers for yet. Once I have a clearer sense, I’ll do a deeper analysis.

Part-Time / Fractional Work 💼

Part-time or fractional roles are typically ~10 to 30 hours per week.

They’re cost-effective solutions for employers—usually startups with more limited budgets— who are looking for deep expertise (ie executives) without paying for a full-timer.

On the other side of the deal, it’s a good deal for fractional workers:

  • Upside - You can gain skills, expand your network, and further your career in your industry with reduced time commitment
  • Downside - Context switching, difficult to manage time expectations particularly for startup clients

In the past couple years, I’ve been engaged in some form of part-time work as a:

I’ve used this strategy to generate 5-figures of income and stay involved in the tech industry while gaining more work flexibility.

The trade-off is this requires lots of context switching (>2 fractional clients at once is challenging), varying time commitment, and investing in your network.

The majority of my consulting or advising clients have came through my network, while coaching clients came through referrals / Linkedin.

Geoarbitrage 💼

I’ve shared several geoarbitrage strategies, which help optimize costs and increase profits for individuals and businesses.

For example:

  • Moving from HCOL to LCOL cities
  • Getting a job with a global employer
  • Hiring remote talent in affordable businesses

My wife and I personally found relocating has positively impacted our bottom line.

When I moved from the US to Singapore, I made a lower salary in Singapore than if I worked in a comparable role in the US. But I ended up (significantly) net positive after taxes due to lower cost-of-living and taxes.

Then, when my wife and I stayed in Vietnam for 6 months, our housing costs shrunk by 60%:

  • $4,800 SGD (~$3,570 USD) for a 1-Bedroom 1-Bath Condo in Singapore’s Robertson Quay
  • $1,400 USD for half of a 3-Bedroom 3-Bath Luxury Serviced Apartment in Saigon’s District 2 (shared with another couple)

In Mexico City, our cost-of-living is in between Vietnam and Singapore. So we’re still saving a significant amount compared to the US or Singapore.

This is a very well known park in one of the most exclusive zones of Mexico City.

Buy a Small Business  🤝

This strategy is less about freedom, but more about gaining ownership and enjoyment in business.

It’s where you invest a certain amount of your money into purchasing a cash-flowing small business with long history of performance:

  • Upside - You become an owner, generate cash-flow, grow your skills, and build your network in the industries your businesses are in.
  • Downside - This is not for people who want a true “retirement” per say. It’s actually a lot of work.

For the past couple of years, my wife and I have been exploring this as a path to business ownership. We hypothesized that we’d enjoy this path much more than simply climbing the career ladder or trying to get a seat on the right rocket ship.

Since then, we’ve also watched friends and peers step into searcher roles in the entrepreneurship through acquisition (ETA) space. Our interest has grown.

We’re aiming to start a more earnest search in mid-2024.

Our high-level criteria (more to come):

  • B2B commercial services
  • Anywhere within the US (eg Texas, Michigan)
  • Potential for 10%+ YoY Earnings Growth
  • Add value through Online Marketing/BD, Automation and Offshoring
  • Annual SDE of ~$300k-$500k

If you have any potential leads, please reach out. We’d love to chat!

🌐 Beyond your borders

🇹🇷 Türkiye has launched a digital nomad visa – here’s how to apply (link)

🎨 This Dad Started a Side Hustle to Save for His Daughter's College Fund — Then It Earned $1 Million and Caught Apple's Attention (link)

🇺🇸 The lowest salary Americans will accept at a new job reached a record high (link)

📆 Invest for the Decades, Not the Years (link)

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📆 How I can help

That’s all for today!

Whenever you’re ready, here’s how I can help you:

1. Join my Side Hustle Crash Course (free) - Click here to receive my free, 5-day email course teaching you how to build a profitable side hustle.

2.
Join my Remote Side Hustle 4-Week Program - Save your seat for my May 6th cohort (sold out last cohort).

3.
Work with my tax team - Get personalized guidance from a US expat tax professional.

4.
Sponsor this newsletter - Get in front of over 6,000 professionals and business owners in the US and Singapore.

For daily insights, follow me on Linkedin or X (@dexteryz).

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Dexter Zhuang

Dexter is the founder of Money Abroad, a website and newsletter on building wealth for global professionals. Over the last 10 years, he's been a product leader, product manager, consultant and coach at companies like Dropbox, Xendit, and growth-stage startups across the US, Asia Pacific, and Latin America. His work has been featured in global publications like Business Insider, CBS, US News & World Report, and Tech in Asia. He graduated from Dartmouth College.

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