This is our long awaited summary of the CampFI: Mid-Atlantic camp that we attended in April of this year. You readers have been clamoring for this synopsis and review long enough (full transparency: literally no one has “clamored” for this).
So, to get this show on the road, we had no idea what to expect from this trip. When others would ask us what we were going to, we had a hard time explaining exactly what it was. “Financial conference”, “Financial camp for investors”, all of these things to other people sounds like the most boring weekend ever imagined, and we had no idea if it was going to be that boring or not. We were nervous and maybe even a little apprehensive. It’s safe to say that all our worries were washed away practically immediately. A CampFI consists of a few dozen people (size depends on the particular camp) all getting together for a long secluded weekend and listening to a few keynote speakers while also making and fostering relationships with other camp members.
(Mrs. RRR and I listening intently to Justin’s Talk)
Hunter Post – Framework to Reach Your Optimal Level of Fitness
- Hunter volunteered the morning of his talk to run a group exercise. Mrs. RRR loves her sleep, so we unfortunately missed out on this, but it was a perfect segue for Hunter and his talk. Based on the name of the presentation, it should be pretty obvious that his talk consisted of different fitness topics, but primarily focused on the diet portion of fitness and really broke down macro-nutrients and the different types of carbs and fats. It became a running joke from this point forward that you couldn’t let him see your desserts at any meal.
Karsten “Big ERN” McCracken – Why Retirement isn’t as Simple as Saving for Retirement
- Karsten gave a pretty sobering talk about sequence of return risks and how returns actually look when the market tanks. He also spoke at great length about safe-withdrawal-rate (SWR) and how being open to drawing down your portfolio to $0 only increases your SWR by 0.5%. You could tell based on this presentation why Big ERN is the mastermind behind the “Ultimate Guide to Safe Withdrawal Rates” which is currently a 23 part series on his blog: Early Retirement Now.
Justin McCurry – Developing an Early Retirement Budget
- Justin from Root of Good gave a great talk on how to budget for living in early retirement. He is definitely an appropriate resource for this topic because he retired at 33 years old in 2013. Many people have spoken and posted at great length about developing a budget to get you to early retirement, but there aren’t many explanations on how to budget your expenses once you get there. A key take-away from this talk was that you shouldn’t factor large one time expenses into your yearly budgets, but that these should be added in to your net worth themselves. For instance, if you are planning to pay for college for one kid at $40k, you shouldn’t budget in an extra $2,000 a year over 20 years, you should just wait until you have $40k more in your total net worth.
J.D. Roth – The Power of Purpose
- J.D. from Get Rich Slowly had the pleasure of having the more philosophical topic of the power of having a purpose. His talk revolved around the why of financial independence, what your motivations were to get out of the working world, and if you couldn’t optimize your career or job to mitigate the aspects you don’t enjoy. He also touched on the return of time vs money if you weren’t enjoying the career or job you were in. Why spend 5 more years in a position you hate, when you could find a better job that may pay less, but you’ll ultimately be happier even though it may take you a little longer to get to FI.
Joel LaRosa – My Financial 180: From Six Figure Spending to Financial Independence
- Joel from FI180 talked about his personal turnaround when it came to frivolous spending and lifestyle inflation. He and his wife were both high earning engineers, yet in 2012 had a negative savings rate! He was very transparent about their spending mistakes, including: getting 100% financing on a house at the peak of the market right before the housing crisis, going out to extravagant restaurants, spending thousands a month on shopping sprees, etc. As I’m sure you can guess, since this is a financial camp, Joel and his wife turned their life around and reduced their spending by over $75k a year once they found out about the FIRE movement.
Luckily, the camps have plenty of free time scheduled in so people can mingle, have time to themselves, or entertain themselves in any way available. The first night we were there, we essentially had an AA meeting where everyone sat in a circle and introduced themselves and told everyone their “poison” of choice. There were real estate investors, index investors, HSA masters, gift card resellers, learn-as-you-go and put it all on youtube farmers (okay, maybe there was only one of those), AirBNB owners, bloggers, lawyers, and so much more. After we introduced ourselves, we had a friendly competition to see who had the highest mileage car, and I’m not ashamed to admit that our ’97 Camry aka Money Machine won me the grand prize with 293k miles on her.
The next morning, before his talk, Hunter Post was kind enough to run a group exercise for anyone interested in getting up early enough. Anyone that knows Mrs. RRR knows that waking her up early is probably the most unsafe thing I could do in those woods, which includes the company of snakes, spiders, bobcats, and bears. So of course, with my safety in mind, we rolled up to the group exercise late and ended up doing our own little circuit workout. But there were plenty of others that did all sorts of exercise including the group exercise, a group who ran, a few did yoga by the river, and dozens slept off all the beer they’d had from the night before.
After the talks that day, we went on a “team building” exercise, which was where the camp counselors abused their power and used a group of adults to practice and trial out the new games they would subject children to all summer. Then we had a choice between a “high ropes course” which included a zip line, a climbing wall, and other various climbing outdoorsy stuff; or you could go kayaking and canoeing. Mrs. RRR and I both picked the climbing stuff. It was exhausting, yet fulfilling to accomplish the rock wall, the “giants ladder”, and a log walk that was essentially a tightrope walk 50 feet in the air.
(Me being the test dummy for the handles on the climbing wall.)
That night, after some liquid courage, the karaoke began. I’m not afraid to admit that I coerced 5 others guys into starting a boy-band with me and we proudly sang Backstreet Boys. Not to be outdone, Mrs. RRR and a few ladies jumped in and sang some Spice Girls. There were people singing show tunes, Disney songs, the most surprising rapper I’ve ever seen, hell, there was even a German song that no one understood that got thrown into the mix.
(the Financial Independence boy band)
Of course, no financial independence meet-up that includes the guys from ChooseFI is complete without board games. There were a few hours each day that some people utilized to go canoeing, play board games, throw frisbee, catch up on sleep, or just sit around on the dock with others drinking beer and talking.
Food & Lodging
This camp had a couple of options. You could go for the base “chalet”, which is apparently Swiss for “screened in porch”, or the Watson Lodge. The “chalet” was a 20 sq ft open air shack with bunk beds made for tweens, and the walls were tastefully adorned with various versions of “Sierra was here 2k10” and apparently the results of a pizza eating contest. Really though, it wasn’t all bad, the “mattress” was the standard thickness size of “slice of bread”. In all seriousness, it was much like tent camping, which I can tolerate at a much higher level than Mrs. RRR. There were some camp-mates who were kind enough to let us steal their accommodation in the Watson Lodge for the last night since they had to leave early. Brief rundown of the amenities in the lodge: walls, running water, electricity, A/C, mattress, sheets, bathroom, kitchen, coffee maker, wifi. We were living like kings that last night.
(First hand look at our chalet, graffiti and all)
On another note, the food was very good. The first night the vegans and vegetarians had to go to the back and ask for food from the kitchen like it was drug paraphernalia, while everyone else ate off the buffet line. What are we? Second-class citizens? I don’t think they expected that many plant-based people because every other meal, we had our stuff out on the buffet line with the other food, which was very inclusive of them. Breakfasts consisted of the typical American breakfast of pancakes, sausage, eggs, fruit, etc. The lunches and dinners varied every day though with an eggplant pasta dish, faux meat or bbq sandwiches, tacos, and all sorts of stuff. The desserts weren’t half bad either with cakes, pies, cookies, brownies, etc. I can say with complete confidence that despite my best efforts, I probably gained 5 lbs while I was at this camp.
Mrs. RRR and I had one of the best weekends of our lives here. Everyone of the camp members were amazing people and we’ve made some great friends. We’ve been keeping in touch with other camp members via email and social media, we’ve been giving some real estate advice to people who want to invest in our area, and we’ve even met up with friends that we met from the camp when we’ve been traveling. The talks were very informative, and even the speakers were very approachable. Everyone was there to learn and have a great time. To meet others from around the country that are a part of the FIRE movement that seems so secluded to us in our current area is genuinely priceless.
Other Bloggers from CampFI
Be sure to check out the bloggers below. However, don’t think that CampFI is just for bloggers. Of the 70 attendees there, only 15 of them were bloggers.
- AArdvark Advisor– Andy and I hit it off over the weekend and not to be braggadocios, but we killed everyone in Kan-Jam. (He’s the one who put together this list that I shamelessly stole from his write up of the camp, so definitely check his blog out!)
- Clackapedia– Kevin basically runs the internet. He’s the man behind the curtain starting and running a whole bunch of blogs in this space.
- Fiology– A great step-by-step approach to work towards FI, my boy Aardvark advisor is featured in lesson 2.
- Ms. Fiology– (no relation to the above) The ultimate redemption story, and her blog got started over the weekend at camp thanks to Kevin.
- Reaching for FI– HCOL city, lower salary, ain’t no thang. Anything is possible with this much hustle.
- Guy on FIRE– A living example to shutdown any excuse for not buying rental property in the DC area. He’s also 100% transparent about the numbers which is refreshing.
- Money Letters 2 My Daughter– Jackie wrote a series of letters to teach her teenage daughter about money. Now she travels all over the place educating high schoolers and their teachers about all sorts of finance topics. Badass.
- The Give and Get– I like to dig into the psychology of money and happiness, but Lisa does a way better job than I probably ever will. Lots of insight.
- Teal Collar– Luke is who I’ll use if I ever want to buy a house in Richmond. His blog’s got great advice around all topics housing.
- College Factual– Added a lot of great information to the discussion on colleges during the roundtable.
- Richmond Savers– Started by one attendee and now under the loving care of another attendee.
- Seonwoo’s Musings– Lots of great posts going deep into the numbers on optimizing your finances.
- Jazz and Lee– Documents their awesome round-the-world trip.
- I Love FI– One of the newly born blogs from this weekend! I can’t wait to see what she’s got in store for us.
- Miss Mazuma– The Mazumites are a new cult, just getting off the ground. In the year 2023, they’ll take down the Mustachians and reign supreme over all FIRE seekers.