October 19th marked six months into the adventure of walking out of the only professional employer I’ve known with the declaration of early retirement. What has this looked like since I left work?
The “Vacation” Part Only Feels Like The Last Three Months
The first three months of the early retirement adventure was busy, outside of a trip to Moab, the time was focused on managing our home sale process and finding a new place to live, then packing up and managing a cross country move. We opted to take a long vacation before declaring early retirement, but that vacation came at the expense of scrambling some to figure out our next location.
Corporate Detox is Real
I didn’t realize just how burned out I was from my job until I stepped away from it. With how busy the first three months were, I was deep into mid-August before I fully let go of thinking about my old company/job and former professional identity. The phone calls and texts with friends from work are becoming less frequent, probably because we have less to talk being away from the latest drama. I had to let go of all the “caring” that was inside for the last sixteen years, which isn’t easy. My remaining interest about my old employer should be: 1) 0.5% of my net worth in their stock, which I can’t sell until next year when I can harvest the gains tax free and 2) A desire for them to remain solvent to pay a small pension (or just to make me a small lump sum offer).
Am I Retired or an Entrepreneur?
I told myself I would commit to a minimum of eighteen months before anything meaningful that would resemble work. My thought was based on walking out in April gives me one year and an extra summer to decide if this was permanent or not. So far my business-like activities have been consulting for about three hours a week for a friend & former client, making $32 on Job Spotter, and writing more this non-monetized blog. The consulting work will come out to about 30% of our annual budget for 2020, so I’ll stick with the label of “Early Retirement” or “Career Break”.
I enjoyed coming across a forty-year old quote from my great grandfather’s retirement announcement when he was asked what he was going to do next: The response was “Its like vacation – I get to do what I want when I want”. That sums it up for me as well. I expected the entrepreneurial bug to bite at me harder, but I’m not there yet. The longer that I’m away the more insane the traditional 8-6, Monday through Friday work schedule looks. I listened to an interview recently and wrote down this quote: (The interviewee commenting on the best advice he received) “Work for knowledge and/or equity. If you’re only working for a paycheck, it better be large enough to buy a company”. Nobody has offered me a paycheck big enough to buy a company or equity, so I’ll keep gaining knowledge.
We grew up in the Southeastern US and moved back here after a four and a half year stint in Texas. At times it feels like we haven’t traveled enough since moving, but we’ve taken full advantage of this proximity. We’ve visited our hometown twice in the last three months, with my better half getting some extra time due to a hurricane evacuation during Fincon.
There’s been a quick trip into Atlanta to visit friends, see a baseball game, and do some trail running near where we used to live. I made back to back trips to DC, once to Fincon and a second time to see long-time friends. We also even fit in a trip to New England to visit some other family and take in opening weekend of college football. All of this was accomplished with less time and hassle than it used to take traveling from Texas. Leaving the job has also given us the ability to travel in the middle of the day & middle of the week, reducing some of the chaos of peak time travel.
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Changing the Money Mindset
One of the most interesting evolution has been the mindset related to money, inflows have become outflows from the investing account. This was more difficult than expected at first. We were building our financial independence fund for the last fifteen years, only to have that math flip and inflows suddenly turn into outflows. Coming to terms with that change doesn’t happen immediately.
The first couple months were anything but “normal” on the expense side, selling the house plus a general “do it ourselves” move created budgetary destruction $50 to $300 at a time. The scarcity mindset can go into overdrive when a combination of: 1) Income stops 2) Expenses temporarily increase and 3) More time is available to focus on said lack of income and increased expenses.
We’ve always tracked our net worth and recorded the month-end balances. It was fun when contributions were going in monthly and the market kept going up over the past 10.5 years. That same tracking sheet has helped calm down my scarcity mindset when it comes to spending. We are following a safe withdraw rate, trusting the equity glide path, and enjoy a little extra money coming in for a cushion on expenses. Some months will be over our set 3.83% withdraw rate, some months we may be under, but a little extra income more than covers the difference. Six months in I think I’m finally chilling out
Planning Some Longer Travel
This has been a goal in early retirement that we kick off in January with our longest consecutive trip ever to Hawaii. That’s getting closer and we need to write down a wish list of places to see. We’re probably going to stick to the US (send National Park/Outdoor recommendations!), but are considering taking a Mediterranean Cruise in Europe and spending some more time there on either side of the trip. Some small travel hacking opportunities open up again in November once we’re below the 5/24 rule again. It “feelt” like we haven’t done a bunch of travelling, then looking back at all the pictures from the last three months and I’m surprised with how much we’ve done! This is in addition to exploring the coast and spending a lot of time with one of my favorite neglected hobbies – fishing.
When its all put together, I can confidently say Financial Independence and Early Retirement is turning out to be much better than working in my old career. I don’t see that changing any time soon!
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