Tag Archives: Emotion

The Long Road to FIRE

I’ll be honest after getting to FIRE myself I’ve backed away from reading most blogs on the topic.  My interest has shifted from ‘getting to FIRE’ to ‘living in FIRE’ which changes what I read.  But the other day I decided to skim some blogs and Reddit forums on getting there again and I fully admit I was a bit shocked by some of the ideas out there on FIRE.

Some people are like obsessed with the concept and saving as much as humanly possible, which from a old timer like me (I’ve been writing about this since 2006) is bloody stupid!

Saving a small fortune and then managing your investments is not a sprint which you can see how much you can save for as long as possible.  It is in fact a VERY long journey.  I had higher than average income, little debt and it still took my a decade to pull off.  So the only sane way to really survive the long road to FIRE is enjoy the ride.

What?!?! That’s your advice?  I know not very dramatic but I should perhaps tell a story of my own path getting to FIRE.  At one point I was like those obsessed people,  I had cut everywhere I could and was saving as much as possible but then something went wrong and all my plans blew up in my face. I couldn’t maintain that level of savings for very long because there was next to no slack.  Then it occurred to me to really do this well on the long haul I had to back off on my savings rate.  So we added spending back into the plan which gave us a bit more cushion and add some things back into our lives that we enjoyed.  And honestly the amount of spending we put back in was less than 5% of our savings rate…it didn’t really change that plan all the much (I can’t recall the exact change but it was under a year more of working).

But you know what? It was a world of difference to my life.  I enjoyed the world again.  I mean I was literally a more happy person by just spending a little bit more.  I had found that mythic thing called enough.  Then as a added bonus when something went wrong I didn’t freak out because we had some cushion for those weird things that come up like a car accident.  And then the irony started to kick in…I was beating my new lower goals anyway.  I had aimed to leave work prior to my 45 birthday and I exceed that goal by leaving before my 40th birthday because I didn’t depend on getting a raise for my plan to work.  So every raise at my job over those ten years accelerated the plan.

But the most important thing of all those long years of savings was this: I could literally ignore my savings for months at a time and just live my life.  My life was not only about FIRE…I had a much more healthy and interesting life because I firmly put FIRE on the back burner.  It could just simmer away with a few good habits and so when I was not interested in FIRE I could just forget about it and still make progress.  Thus I never had a full burn out and never entirely gave up on the idea.  I, of course, had moments of thinking: why bother? But I kept saving until I got interested in it again because I was spending enough that I didn’t feel deprived or left out.  I still took vacations, we still ate out and I still made my own wine and beer but yes I also bought some as well.  My kids never felt like we were poor but at the same time I never gave them everything they asked for either.  They grew up loved and with enough things that they didn’t feel left out at school.

In short, I lived the middle life.  Not saving too much and not saving too little but rather saving enough for us.  And here is the fine print: that level of enough spending is different for everyone.  So yes, try to cut back your spending until it hurts, but then back up 5% or so to find your ‘enough spending’ level.  And realize that amount will shift over time.  You won’t always be there but it is worth the effort to try and find your way back because getting to FIRE is a long road.  It is totally worth it but only if you don’t give up your life to get there.  You should be a fully developed person with lots of interests and hobbies otherwise you can find yourself bored in FIRE because you gave up too much of you life and now don’t have anything to do.

So the irony is this: the most successful people at FIRE isn’t those with the highest savings rate but rather those with the most happy lives.  So live life, spend some of your money and stop being a cheap bastard.

Okay, your turn.  How do you keep savings for the long haul?

The New Groove

It’s been almost a year and a half since I left my job and just now I feel like I’m finally hitting my new groove to my life.

That might come as a bit of surprise to some people, but I would say honestly it really does take some time for you to adjust to your new retired life.  The reason is you tend to go through a series of phases when you retire.

The first is the most obviously: the initial high of being retired.  Let’s face it when you finally leave work after all that planning it feels fantastic.  Your walking on air and the world seems to be brighter and happier.  That phase can last anywhere from days to months or if your really lucky up to a year or so.  Then it wears off and while nothing has really changed you start to  think:is this all retirement is?

Ah welcome to being disillusioned.  The next phase of your retirement.  Here is where things start to go wrong and you often don’t know why.  I personally hit this phase in six months (as you can see here). It was a crappy place to be. You can feel unhappy,  anxious, lonely, and even in more severe cases outright depressed.  I personally never got that bad but yes I did hit a low spot there where I was seriously doubting my decision to retire early.  And yet oddly enough this phase of doubt doesn’t really get talked about all that much.  What causes it?  Basically you are missing things from your work life and you didn’t really understand how important they were for you life such as:  a structure to your days, work friends, a sense of contributing to something bigger than you, and even goals with feedback on how well you did on your goals.

Yet after that low point you have a choice.  You can give up and get a job again and return to something like your old life.  Or you can push forward to building your new retired life.  Here is where you start to make adjustments to your new life.  You can add new activities, more social interactions, and even more structure to your life.  You can search to do something you find meaningful and gives you a sense of progress on a goal.  And know this search might take some time but don’t give up on it.  Then finally after a time you will hit your new groove.

Which brings me back to where I started this post.  I finally have a bit of routine to my life that makes me happy.  I’m not bored or lonely.  I feel productive working on writing material for my book which matters to me.  I’ve finally built a new identity of the retiree not the worker without a job that I started at after I left work behind.

There is a long process to get to this point.  It doesn’t come easy and while it can take years to get to a new groove it is possible.  Just stay the course and give yourself some time.  After all, you are retired right?

So retirees, how long did it take you to find your new groove?

Facing Your Fear

This might sound odd but I am grateful for 2018 being a crappy investment year.  Yes, you may now say: WTF?!?!

I think perhaps my greatest fear about my early retirement was the markets would go the hell after I retired and then I would be forced to go crawling back to my old workplace and beg for a job.  Yet after that partly coming true in 2018: the bad stock markets part.  I realized that I don’t have to go back to my old work at all.  I still have a lot of money saved up, I can still live my life and find other means of making money that don’t involve my old job.

In short, I faced down perhaps my biggest fear about my early retirement and realized the greatest gift about early retirement isn’t really about having all this time off.  The greatest gift is the choices that come from having financial stability.  I have time to consider my options and try other things to make money.  I don’t have to reach for my old career for a solution if I don’t want to.  Simply put: I’m not limited by my previous choices in life.

Most of our adult lives we end up bound by our previous choices.  If you buy a car you end up bound by your payments for it.  Or if you buy a big house, you also end up bound by your payments for decades.  And so very slowly you bind yourself to all these chains of monthly obligations that keep you at your job.  You can’t quit without having another job lined up because your payments consume so much of your money each month and you don’t have much for savings.

Yet going for financial independence you in fact create the inverse of that situation.  You pay off your consumer debt and you get more choices.  You can invest a hobby like beer making  to help save more in the future and still enjoy life. Then you pay off your mortgage and get more choices.  Do you want to go part time instead of full time now your mortgage is gone?  You save and invest your money and you get more choices. Do I really want to apply for a job in another industry?  Until one day your investments earn enough you don’t have to go to work each day and your choices explode into a millions of pathways for you to choose.

Now this sense of freedom can be terrifying at first but over time you choose the life you want to live.  I choose to write on this blog because I enjoy helping others get closer to early retirement and help those to adjust to life after retirement.  I choose to help out at my kids school library because I get to spend an afternoon each week in a room just full of books.  I choose my life one thing at a time because I enjoy them not because I need to pay my bills and I’m not afraid anymore.

So what is your greatest fear about early retirement?