How to hit FIRE in your 40s living in an HCOL city with Caroline

And how to buy 10+ properties in 10+ years in your country and abroad

In today’s episode, we will speak to Caroline from Costa Rica FIRE.

We have already had a few guests talking about how they intend to reach FIRE (Financial Independent Retire Early), and this mostly happened through living intentionally and investing in the stock markets via index funds (whether directly or through tax-advantaged retirement accounts). This time, however, Caroline will tell us how she reached FIRE under “exceptional circumstances”: She stumbled upon the FIRE movement in her 40s, she and her husband Scott have 2 daughters, their strategy was to focus on Real Estate and they did all of this while living in New York, a high cost of living area! 

Costa Rica
Who wouldn’t want to retire there?

We will discuss Caroline’s journey and she will share how she and her husband managed to change their lifestyle completely and reached FIRE. And we will also discuss how they managed to buy property after property both in the US and abroad (Costa Rica!).

Listen here

…or listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

This episode is for you if you have been pondering about reaching FIRE but think you’re too late or that it is not possible since you live in a high cost of living area. It is also for you if you are looking at investing in real estate and purchasing multiple rental properties locally and abroad.

Key Takeaways:

  • There are many ways to reach FI(RE): “Classic” FIRE, Slow and Fast FI, FIRE without being aware of it and FIRE in your 40s by investing in Real Estate.
  • Before hearing about FIRE, Caroline and her husband Scott were doing things the traditional way: They had good jobs, they were saving through their company retirement plans, they also invested in rental properties to supplement their income but once they heard about FIRE they started asking themselves questions differently: How can I do it? Is there a way for us to reach FIRE? For them, it was all about scaling their real estate portfolio to secure that recurring stable cash-flow. They already enjoyed managing their first properties and did not want to rely solely on the market movements of the stock markets.
  • If you live in an HCOL (High Cost of Living) city such as New York, there are possibilities to invest in more affordable housing in the suburbs or in a cheaper area for example. This could be an investment that will appreciate significantly in value over the years (no guarantees here though, you will need to do a ton of research to “buy smart”).
rental condo
A condo complex in Costa Rica where Caroline and Scott own 2 vacation rental condos
  • This is what allowed them to start investing in more properties by using the HELOCs and cash-out refinancing.
    • HELOC: Home Equity Line of Credit, you are basically borrowing against your home, this is a separate line of credit.
    • Cash-out refinancing: A cash-out refinance is a similar mechanism where you replace your existing mortgage with a new home loan (bigger than the value of your home). The difference goes to you in cash.
    • I have benefited from similar mechanisms when I lived in Norway. I borrowed against my home, so there are possibilities to do that in Europe as well.
  • Regarding researching properties abroad, the same rules as in your home country apply: Do your research on the neighboorhood, look for practical aspects, weather, build your local network, talk to local RE agencies, visit many places to get a feel, run the numbers,…in addition to all that, once you found the property you will need local people to help you manage that property since you cannot be there all the time.
  • Financing for properties abroad can be difficult if you rely on banks. They might be restricted with issuing loans to foreigners or will ask outrageous interest rates or securities. It is possible, tricky but possible.

Who is Caroline?

Caroline Ceniza-Levine, along with her husband Scott, owns 10 rental units in various US cities and in Costa Rica and runs CostaRicaFIRE, a travel, real estate and FIRE site. In addition to investing in real estate, Caroline works as a career coach, writer and speaker. You can see her career advice in Forbes Leadership and other media outlets. Scott and Caroline met in high school and have been married for 25 years. They have two daughters and split their time among NY, FL, and of course, Costa Rica.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine in Costa Rica
Caroline Ceniza-Levine in Costa Rica


A little side note: When I started the podcast, I did not expect I would talk so much about the FIRE movement (this is already the fourth episode on the topic). I do not consider myself as part of the movement, nor am I an avid pursuer of FIRE. I am more looking at the FI part.

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