I’ve followed the Coast FIRE Subreddit for a long time. Periodically, I’ll jump in and answer questions.
Over the last year or so, I’ve seen one name pop up consistently: Anders Skagerberg. After reading several thoughtful responses, I realized that I’d definitely heard his name before. I did a quick search on the Slow FI Enthusiasts Facebook Group. From that, I realized that Anders had posted back in the summer of 2020 about how he had just learned about Coast FI and was planning to make some big changes after finishing his parental leave.
What a small world!
In case you don’t know, Coast FI (or Coast FIRE) is the point at which you have already saved and invested enough for your traditional retirement. You simply need to let it grow until your traditional retirement age. You don’t need to add any additional investments. In practice, this means that you can choose to only cover your actual costs of living from now on. This can give you a lot of freedom to design your life!
After learning this, I reached out to Anders to find out what he was doing now. Had he indeed taken a Coast FI path? What did that look like? Ultimately, I wanted him to tell me more!
He shared that shortly after his daughter was born, he listened to a Choose FI podcast episode featuring yours truly. This is where he learned about Coast FI. After downloading the Coast FI calculator and realizing that he had already reached it, he made a decision to scale back his work.
He now works part-time as a freelance writer and seasonally as a tax preparer. This allows him to gain so many of the benefits of his ideal FI lifestyle now without waiting to retire early.
I am so honored to have been a small part of Anders’ and his family’s inspiration to take a slow FI path. Let’s get into the interview.
1. Tell me a little bit about you.
My name is Anders Skagerberg. I’m a 30-year-old husband and dad. I grew up in a small town of about 2,000 people, outside of Park City, UT. I come from a big Mormon family of 10 but no longer practice the Mormon religion.
I love to spend time outside in the sunshine. I live in St. George, UT where we average close to 300 days of sunshine each year. I’m here with my wife Paige and our 18-month-old daughter Ruth—the two most important people in my life.
I’m a CFP® professional and enrolled agent. I currently work as a freelance personal finance writer and a seasonal tax preparer. I love personal finance, self-improvement, and the financial independence movement—specifically Coast FI.
2. What deliberate decision did you make to slow down and improve your life? Why did you decide to make this decision?
My life changed the day my daughter was born.
At the time, I was working 50-60 hours a week for a financial planning startup as a sales manager. Back then, it was not uncommon for me to wake up in the middle of the night stressed about work.
My work offered 6-weeks of paternity leave, and I chose to take the whole thing to step into my new role as a dad. I got a small taste of the good life during that six weeks, and I was hooked. I got used to having breakfast, lunch, and dinner as a family.
We went for daily walks in the park by our home. We would walk slowly, smell the flowers, and enjoy each other’s company. I started to play pickleball in the mornings and loved that I didn’t need to rush home to start the workday.
Around that same time, ChooseFI had released episode 229 featuring The Fioneers. That was my first introduction to the Slow FI and Coast FI branches of the FIRE movement. The timing could not have been better.
I had been into the FIRE movement for about 5 or 6 years at that point. But, my focus was on achieving early retirement by maintaining a high savings rate.
So I ran some quick calculations using The Fioneers coast FI calculator and was ecstatic to see that we had already achieved Coast FI!
This discovery led my wife and me into a series of discussions, decisions, and planning conversations to determine what we should do next. In the end, we decided that I could leave my fast-paced job, and trade it in for some seasonal and part-time work.
Now I work from January to April as a seasonal tax preparer for TurboTax, averaging around 20-25 hours per week during the tax season. I also have my own freelance content writing business as well and work between 5-15 hours per work, year-round, as a writer.
3. How has the decision to work less impacted your quality of life?
Downshifting from my aggressive pursuit of FI to coasting is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I get to be an involved dad. I have the opportunity to hang out with my wife and daughter almost every day. I’m so lucky to have found this path at a young age, especially while my daughter is young and we have so much time left together.
I’ll never forget when I read the article The Tail End from the blog Wait But Why. Long story short, the author concludes that by the age of 18, we have spent somewhere close to 90% of the total in-person time that we get with our parents. Reading that as a dad made it crystal clear how important these years are with my daughter.
I’m also a lot less stressed than I used to be. Some of that comes from being more in control of my time. I also don’t have the same weight of work responsibilities bearing down on me. Of course, that doesn’t mean I have no stress anymore, but I’m no longer waking up in the middle of the night, stressed about work.
I also now have a lot more time to be active. For example, I used to play pickleball once a week and hike once every two weeks. Now I can play pickleball 3 to 4 times per week, and I usually go hiking once a week these days.
4. In your opinion, what things in your life contribute most to your happiness and contentment?
I have a few different thoughts when it comes to happiness and contentment.
First, the single most significant predictor of happiness and contentment in my life is the ability to control my time. In his book, The Psychology of Money, Morgan Housel has this quote that I love and try to live by:
“Happiness is a complicated subject because everyone’s different. But if there’s a common denominator in happiness—a universal fuel of joy—it’s that people want to control their lives. The ability to do what you want, when you want, with whom you want, for as long as you want, is priceless. It is the highest dividend money pays.”
I know I’m happiest when I wake up in the morning and can do what I want with the people I want for as long as I want. Coasting as a writer and tax preparer allows me to be very flexible with my work and my life. I set my own hours, choose the projects I will take on, and decide when I will get them done.
Also, to layer on that—one of the best frameworks I’ve come across for understanding happiness comes from Brian Portnoy’s Geometry of Wealth. Long story short, Brian believes that there are four enduring sources of a joyful life. He calls them the 4 C’s: Connection, Control, Competence, and Context.
- Connection is the feeling of belonging you get from your social connections.
- Control is your ability to direct and define your life. (i.e. the ability to do what you want, when you want).
- Competence is being good at something you care about.
- Context is being a part of something bigger than yourself.
Coasting has made it possible for me to level up my life in each of these areas. I have more time to cultivate deep and meaningful social connections. I am in control of my time and get to choose what I will do and when I will do it. I am honing my craft as a writer and it gives me a feeling of competence and satisfaction. And last, I have more time to spend being a part of things bigger than myself. I spend some of that time in my local pickleball community and some staying involved with the FI community.
5. How does working less impact your financial goals or timelines?
The decision to coast to FI was a trade-off. I have more free time and a better quality of life right now in exchange for a longer road to full financial independence.
Before deciding to coast, we were on track to retire around age 40 if everything went according to plan. So we had another ten years of hustling and grinding with a high savings rate.
Now, we will reach complete financial independence while coasting at approximately age 55. So we went from roughly ten years out to around 25 years out, give or take.
That said, the way my life is set up right now, I am getting the majority of the benefits of a FI lifestyle without waiting ten years for full early retirement. I can work flexibly on my terms and I spend a ton of time with my family. We travel and spend time doing the things we love, and I just also happen to work part-time while doing these things.
The big eye-opener for me was realizing that even if I achieved full financial independence I would probably still want to work in some capacity. And who knows, maybe I would have decided to start writing personal finance content then. So I figured, why wait ten years to get the benefits of FI if I still want to work at that point anyway? Why not just start doing the type of work I want now and tap into the benefits of FI by coasting?
6. What enabled you to make this decision to work less?
A few factors helped us make this decision to start coasting.
First, we had already been aggressively pursuing early retirement and had built up a decent nest egg. So by the time we heard about coast FI, we were already where we needed to be financially. That feels like a lot of luck combined with some good preparation.
Second, we’ve got time on our side and plan on staying invested for another 50+ years. With the power of compounding and five decades of growth at our sails we should reach every financial goal that we have, and more. But, and this is the most important piece of the puzzle: we are in no hurry to get there.
Third, I’m in a community that makes this decision seem normal. I have read Mr. Money Mustache, listened to hundreds of hours of ChooseFI, and watched the Playing With FIRE documentary at least a handful of times. I am constantly reading and writing in this FI space. So for me, it seemed perfectly normal to downshift my career at age 30 in exchange for freedom over my time while my assets compound in the background.
For someone else, the decision to coast might seem crazy. But, we all have different reference points. Mine just happens to be linked to this community of financial independence ninjas that approach life and money from a different angle.
7. Were there things in your life you adapted so you could continue to work toward your goals?
One change we made when deciding to coast was we went from a 15-year to a 30-year mortgage.
A little backstory: we had a 15-year mortgage on the first home we bought. The thinking at the time was we would aggressively pay it off and be debt free around the time we achieved full financial independence. But, when we moved to Southern UT, we sold our house and bought a new home. We decided to go with a 30-year mortgage instead of a 15 because the monthly payment would be more manageable for our coast FI budget.
This decision comes with its own set of tradeoffs and might not be best for everyone. But, we decided, based on the lifestyle we want, that having a lower monthly payment is more important than paying off our mortgage in 15 years.
8. How did your pursuit of FI help or hinder your decision to work less?
In our situation, pursuing financial independence made this whole thing possible. If we hadn’t been aggressively saving along the way, we would not have been in the position we are in to downshift and begin coasting.
9. How will you continue to design your life from here?
Life is one big evolving journey, so I am open to the inevitable changes that will come. At this point, we’ve found a nice rhythm after coasting for the past 18 months and expect that to continue, but are open to change. We do plan to have more kids, so we expect our financial responsibilities to increase over time as our family grows.
Also, I would love to get to the point where I can step away from seasonal tax prep and only work as a freelance writer year-round. But, I expect that it will take at least another year if everything goes according to plan, or, at most, 3 years if everything does not.
I’m also keeping myself open to the idea that although we are coasting right now, that doesn’t mean we have to coast forever. Circumstances might change, and I am open to the idea that we might need to change our plans to accommodate. That said, we plan on coasting for the foreseeable future and are enjoying the ride.
10. Why and when do you think someone might consider “downshifting?”
I actually wrote an article about this titled “10 Reasons You Might Decide to Coast to Financial Independence Instead of Pursuing Fire.”
Here are some of the reasons that stick out to me:
The first is that the time you have right now is uniquely valuable. An example of this would be if you’ve got young kids or aging parents and want to maximize your time together. Also, if you want to travel while you are young. Let’s face it: while you might enjoy backpacking around Thailand in your 20s or 30s, you might not find that an appealing journey in your 60s or 70s.
A few more reasons are if you are feeling burned out in your career or simply want to pursue more meaningful work right now, even if it means taking a pay cut.
I’ll admit, when I first started coasting, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. I tried to convince anyone who would listen that it was the best thing they could ever do. I still think it’s incredible, and it can be great for many people, but it’s not for everyone. Some people would rather keep going at their current pace and reach full financial independence earlier than if they downshifted. I respect that. It wasn’t the path I chose, but I understand their rationale.
At the end of the day, deciding whether to downshift comes down to understanding the tradeoffs. You can have more free time and balance now, but you will extend your path to ultimate financial freedom.
11. What advice do you have for someone considering a similar decision?
My advice for someone considering a similar decision is to give it a shot. You can plan, wonder, and analyze all day long, but the rubber meets the road when you decide to start coasting or downshift to a slower path to FI. I chose to quit my job and transition to seasonal and freelance work, but that doesn’t have to be your path. Downshifting for you might look like working one less day per week at your current job, or it could mean finding seasonal work that allows you to work six months on and take six months off.
Don’t be afraid to use your imagination, and remember that there is no limit or boundaries to the work-life arrangement you can create. The worst case is you go back to where you started. One of the most freeing thoughts is: If coasting doesn’t work out, I can always go back to what I was doing before. No harm, no foul.
Thank you, Anders, for sharing your story with us.
Like Anders, I love to shout the Coast FI message from the rooftops. I know that not everyone needs to or will take a Coast FI path. But, I do know that so many people (particularly those who have been diligent about their personal finances for some time) might be surprised by how close to Coast FI they actually are. Or, they might be there already.
Coast FI snuck up on me too. When I learned about the concept in 2019, I calculated our Coast FI number and realized that we had already reached it. After that, I realized that there was no need for me to increase my hours at my part-time job. I could keep working 3 days a week and focus on my life outside of work.
Learning that he had reached Coast FI enabled Anders to leave his stressful full-time job. He traded it in for part-time freelancing and seasonal tax preparation. This provides him with the majority of the benefits of a FI lifestyle without waiting 10 years to retire early.
I loved his question, “Why wait 10 years to get the benefits of FI if I’ll still want to work at that point anyway?”
I had this EXACT SAME thought in 2019. After hearing the stories of people who had reached FI, I learned that most of them continue doing paid work anyways – not because they have to – but because they want to.
Under the right conditions (type of work, amount, flexibility, etc.), most people actually really enjoy work. So, I set out to figure out the work I’d want to do after reaching FI and learn if I could generate income doing it. I knew that would allow me to transition to my ideal FI lifestyle a lot earlier.
I also love Anders’ discussion about what makes him happy:
- Getting to do what he wants
- When he wants
- For as long as he wants
- With the people he wants to do it with
I think this drives so many people’s goals to reach FI. But, what they don’t realize is that they could get these benefits a lot earlier by pursuing a Coast FI lifestyle.
If you’d like to learn more about Anders and follow his journey, you can find him in the following places: