Reflections Four Months Into Early Retirement

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This past week marked four months since I walked out of the office for the last time.   Since that day, we’ve accomplished a celebratory trip, picked our first destination to live in early retirement, sold a house, moved, and are settling into a new routine without work.  This has given me time to enjoy a slower pace of life reflect on my time working.  So what does this look like four months into early retirement?

Burnout is a thing: I had breakfast with a gentlemen in the FI space last December who looked at me and said  “you don’t need to FIRE, you need a different job”.  Getting away from the work has given me some clarity: I was long past the point of burnout in my job.  I enjoyed some of the underlying work, but the slow and painful deterioration of the division I worked for inside the company had taken its toll.  Talent was leaving and we were constantly pushed to do more with less.  Leadership managed through fear.  Not only did I work in a poor division, I worked for someone who was ineffective and was recently demoted out of their job.

I hear bits and pieces from friends dealing with the next round of news at my former employer.  Demotions, job changes, management changes, and a lot of uncertainty.  Its tough to see because I was hired into this company’s training program right out of college.  For the longest time “family” and “loyalty” were talked about within the company.  Loyalty has been one way for the last few years.

Don’t consume too much financial news. I’m free of work and find myself indoors during the middle of the day (peak summer temperatures!)  It is easy for me to flip on CNBC and have the financial “news” running in the background.   When the market vets volatile like last week, Facebook and Twitter start filling up with financial news including the word “plunge”.  I recently cut off cellular data access to reduce social media intake.  The market will go up and it’ll go down.  If I really want thoughtful and intellectual opinions on the market, I can use a google alert for some of the majors in the business and just watch/read their interviews.  Experienced investors with large sums of money at risk tend to give more insight than another talking suit on CNBC.

Patience is a virtue: Speaking of all the financial news, holding on to an Equity Glidepath is tough.  I am and will continue to be thankful to Karsten at Early Retirement Now for writing this series and the recent selloff has not impacted us as much.   We designed a 60/40 portfolio to start early retirement and will slowly move this towards 100% equities over the next five years.  The challenge is it gets tempting to buy stock when the market drops. The market recently went on sale by 6% and companies in my old sector (banking) are down more than 10% from their highs. Patience is a virtue and its being tested while sticking to this plan.

Housing: Earlier this month I shared how we lost more than $50,000 in a good housing market on our most recent home sale.  We are now renters and I just shake my head at the prices I see.  Even if interest rates get close to zero I can’t see buying being more cost effective than renting at these inflated prices.  The housing market is slowing quickly and we see declining prices and climbing days on market.  We will eventually miss the house projects and being able to customize a home to our exact tastes/needs, but it just doesn’t make financial sense to buy at today’s prices.  I am happy to be sitting on the sidelines and not a participant in the housing market right now.  

Expenses: We’ve been into our new house for just under six weeks and are still figuring out our run rate on expenses. We burned through our supply of travel rewards and will be paying some out of pocket for our trips over the next six months.  We’re fortunate to be above our FI number and expect to spend more money in our first year.   This doesn’t mean speaking money is easy.   The frugality lever doesn’t just shut off overnight.  Now we have to be careful NOT pulling the frugality lever too hard now that we have more time to optimize each expense.  Realizing we missed an opportunity to save $5 or $10 should not elicit a negative emotional response at this point in our life.  That defeats the purpose of enjoying early retirement.  

Retired Year Are Reverse Dog Years: I loved seeing that line earlier this year and now I feel like I’m living it. I can’t believe its been four months since leaving work. It feels like it was ages ago! After a decade and a half, I think my brain has been programmed to accept one week as a “reset” to get refreshed,  recharged, and back to work.  Later on in my career we took a few two week vacations (which were awesome!), but I still went back to work.  Early retirement just started four months ago, but it seems like ages ago. We avoided putting much travel on our schedule after our move to explore our new location and get used to a routine.

Sunday evenings have been the biggest change.  3pm on Sunday would come around and I would receive a performance dissertation from the boss.  After my irritation levels dropped from reading that, I would then put together an agenda for a Monday morning meeting I led and start planning out the week.  Catch up on a few emails, pull a few reports,  and grumble about the week ahead.    Now Sunday evenings involve this awesome feeling of “no, I don’t have to go to work this week” and involve an evening walk on a nearby empty beach.   Add in sleeping eight to nine hours of sleep a night and removing a Monday morning alarm clock and life is good.

 

                                                   My new Sunday Evening

So what happens next?

More Travel – Over the next six months we have a bunch of traveling planned and should be hosting some people at our place. Our travel plans stay in the US right now and we are scheduling trips around catching up with people we haven’t seen for some time. Our new location should give us an extended fall to enjoy the beach, fishing, running and biking, plus is close enough to drive to a few football games. The six month travel schedule is capped off with spending nearly a month in Hawaii this winter.

Entrepreneurial Hobbies – I miss a little bit about work – Not nearly enough to consider putting on a suit and going into an office and doing it again, but I miss the game. Maybe I should explore some consulting in the small slice of it I enjoyed? That’s not an immediate desire, but something I should consider in the future. It could also involve helping some of my friends who are getting into their own ventures and side hustles. There’s a small piece of me that misses the game.

What does our final destination look like? We are early into our new location, but want to see the rest of the US before declaring any place our final destination. This will probably be a theme of our travel in 2020. Where do we want to live for the next 25+ years? Work made us nomadic for a few years and we don’t want to do that forever. Maybe we’ll stay where we are today, maybe we will move somewhere we’ve live in the past, or it could be a destination we haven’t yet seen. We are thankful to have the flexibility through financial independence to explore this over the next year or more.

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