Welcome to the Finding FI interview series where we highlight and learn from individuals focused on achieving financial independence and the strategies they are using. Everyone is at different stages of their FI / FIRE (financial independence, retire early) journey, so let’s learn from their personal stories and be inspired.
Finding FI Interview #41
Today my special guest is entrepreneur and author, Gary Grewal. Gary is one of the most well-rounded individuals I know. He has a genuine passion for helping others AND sets a high standard for himself. Take it away, Gary…
Finding FI Question #1
What’s your story?
My name is Gary Grewal, I grew up in Northern California and over the last 6 years have lived in every time zone in the contiguous United States. I love biking, tennis, water sports, and vegan food. I took a career in financial planning because I feel personal finance knowledge can truly change the direction of someone’s life in a drastic, positive manner. I’ve started two businesses, bought and sold 7 different cars, and negotiated almost everything I can while becoming more involved with volunteering and philanthropy.
I grew up in Rocklin, CA just outside Sacramento, entered the financial planning industry after college in 2010, and received my CFP in 2016. I love the variety of clients that I have the privilege of helping. Everyone has unique goals and challenges, and I feel privileged with the expertise to greatly impact someone’s future with financial planning. Outside of work, I own a zero-waste moving box rental company, love to read, cook, and volunteer for various causes related to sustainability.
Michael here – Wow! A zero-waste moving box rental company is awesome. Sounds like a solid business PLUS it’s great for the environment. What kind of cars do you buy and sell? The car markets are absurd at the moment with the shortage of chips backing up inventory for several months.
Finding FI Question #2
What types of routines and/or life hacks do you use?
I’m a huge fan of automation. Not only for bank accounts, savings, investing, and bills, but automated decisions! This might sound crazy to some, but I have the same brunch each Monday, Wednesday, Friday, etc to make meal prep easy (love gourmet protein smoothies).
I also read 10 pages a day before I flip open my work computer (thanks to The Slight Edge!). I meal prep enough on Wednesday nights to last me the week, minus weekends where I tend to eat out or with friends because you need balance in life!
Michael here – Yay for automation! And what a great bedtime routine. I typically listen to 50 pages per day.
Finding FI Question #3
What 3 things that you are you most proud of?
My ability to graduate college and obtain a Master’s debt-free, starting investing from a young age, and my adventurous spirit. I am very privileged and had help from the family the first two years of college (also moved home to save money) and then after that scholarships and being frugal was able to cover the rest. I am lucky in that I was averse to debt from a young age, namely because I knew it’s something you have to pay back and images of the mafia in the movies appeared in my head.
I was able to obtain my Master’s by having my employer pay for it, taking it 100% online. That was huge for me because I wanted to at least get a Master’s degree to teach community college one day. I think too many adults who don’t have the right influences flounder in their younger years and I want to do what I can to help integrate them successfully into society.
Michael here – hey, I wouldn’t want Joe Pesci breaking my knees either! Haha. That’s fantastic that you were able to get a master’s degree debt-free. Great job leveraging resources around you. You will be a wonderful teacher someday!
Finding FI Question #4
How far along are you with your FI or FIRE (financial independence, retire early) journey? When did you first hear about FI/RE?
I would say I am about halfway there. I don’t plan to retire early because there is so much I want to try my hand at, like politics, real estate, event planning, and sustainability.
The very first money book I read was Rich Dad Poor Dad, but for FIRE, I think it was coming across an article from Michelle at Making Sense of Cents and how she bought her home at a very young age and grew her blog to a point where the income from that was enough to cover her income.
Michael here – Michelle is great! I featured her in my book – The F.I.R.E. Planner.
Finding FI Question #5
Why does FI or FIRE appeal to you?
Michael here – Good point. It’s really fascinating how WHEN we graduate or start working can affect our financial trajectory. I often wonder how much of my “success” is a function of actual “luck” vs. “effort”.
Finding FI Question #5
What type of FIRE are you pursuing (i.e. leanFIRE, FIRE, fatFIRE)?
Michael here – Sounds like you’ve got a pretty balanced gig going, so wish you the best as you explore your many options and opportunities ahead!
Finding FI Question #6
Do you believe sacrifice is necessary in order to achieve FI? Why, or Why not?
Yes, I believe sacrifice is 100% necessary to reach FI. This doesn’t mean to cut to bone on expenses and live in a dark studio apartment in the middle of nowhere. However, if you buy whatever you want, or spend more than you make, I just don’t see how you can hit FI.
Now, I have read a few millionaire interviews where they are a high-income couple or have inheritances, RSUs, or business sales to draw from. That’s another story and more power to them. If you can spend $100k a year your whole working life and still retire at 40, who I am to tell you otherwise!
In my opinion though, if you don’t sacrifice, the journey won’t be as rewarding, and you don’t get as much fulfillment when you do reach that point. It’s kind of like being good and eating veggies and beans during the week, just to have gelato and cookies on the weekend. If you have gelato and cookies every night, will it taste any better or feel any more special on the weekend? Now I’m hungry, and I don’t eat dairy!
Michael here – Haha… I love this question. Everyone has a different take on sacrifice. Is there any good vegan gelato out there?
Finding FI Question #7
What are your favorite FI or FIRE websites, podcasts, blogs, etc.?
Financially Alert of course! Excellent variety of topics and website design.
I would also have to say Chad from Clipping Chains, Budgets Are $exy, and Trip of a Lifestyle. I love authentic, vulnerable blogs where you get to know the person. Not just blogs that write reviews on various topics just to jam in a bunch of affiliate links.
Michael here – I agree. Information is great, but tie a person and their story to it and it’s much more digestable and entertaining.
Finding FI Question #8
Do you actively speak with others about FI / FIRE?
Yes, I do! I try to be as active as I can on other blogs and online forums while writing a post every Thursday on my blog FinancialFives.com. I love learning firsthand from others who have come from similar backgrounds or experiences, learning from their mistakes and obstacles, and creative ways to accelerate their journey. I used to love various YouTube channels as well, it’s kind of hard to judge a book from the cover as sometimes the thumbnails just seem like clickbait and the hosts don’t always have the right knowledge or experience to be speaking in such regard.
I am trying to find the right balance between talking to my friends about FI and not seeming like a know it all. I have some friends who could benefit from the knowledge, and sometimes I get too excited and take over the conversation. I want to help, so I need to be better about listening and not talking or being self-righteous.
Michael here – You don’t come across as the self-righteous type. It’s always a fine line of how to approach a topic with someone. I do my best to wait until they ask me, then it’s game on. 😉
Finding FI Question #9
Is a side hustle a key component of your FI / FIRE journey? (i.e. second job, side biz, real estate investing, etc.)?
Michael here – Your book was great! It came out before mine and I loved all of the practical tips, plus it was an easy read.
Readers, what is your favorite takeaway from Gary’s story?