Highlights of 2021: What did a couple of early retirees do over the last twelve months?
A long winter escape: We spent five weeks in Hawaii. In early January we tested our way into one of the safer areas of the world during the pandemic and spent a month on the Big Island followed by just over a week on Oahu. It was an incredible time to have an apartment for a month, experience moving our daily routine there, and enjoy seeing famous spots with fewer crowds. The more time we spend in Hawaii, the more we love the islands. They aren’t without challenges (cost of living, anti-housing policies, bureaucratic government), but a place we’d like to get to permanently. We have to balance that with how much of the US we want to see in the near term and family considerations.
Surfing: It’s been a good year two of this hobby. Five weeks in Hawaii last winter helped the surfing progress. I got out at Kahaluu at least ten times on a foam board messing around on the outer break and inner reforms continuing to learn what I was doing. We ended our trip in Oahu and that allowed me to surf four times with Doug Nordman of the Military Guide before heading home. In June we bought and worked on a project surfboard for me to learn how to come off the entry level 8’ foam board. The project board is a 7’2, which was nicer to go out in larger swells and had enough rocker to deal with drops when the wind turned offshore. By the end of the fall, I had surfed a couple of hurricane swells and purchased a wetsuit to participate in the once or twice a month winter swells. Next year I plan on replacing the foam board with an 8-9ft longboard and picking up something in the 6’6 range to be able to get down and through the waves on the bigger days.
Bought a new vehicle: The car shortage rumblings were starting in early 2021 and I found exactly what I wanted a few months earlier than anticipated. I’m glad I made the purchase because there’s no inventory whatsoever since. I bought the vehicle outright, selling off a small cap mutual fund that had ripped higher in February then went flat for the rest of the year. The vehicle has outpaced the fund in appreciation over the last ten months!
Wound down the Instacart experiment: The combination of obtainable hourly rate going down at the same time the price of gas and vehicles went up made Instacart uneconomical. This is on top of everything being mostly open now with recreational options everywhere. I think I made four deliveries total in the new truck, most of which were because we needed to go in the delivery direction anyways. This makes me wonder what the future looks like for DoorDash, Uber, and Instacart. There’s a need in the market but I see the business getting compressed from both sides. There’s a floor of pay required before someone will take jobs and run miles / gas on their car, but at the same time there’s a ceiling on what people will pay for a delivery or a ride. These businesses have been supplemented by losses from venture capitalists for years.
Consulting / Work:
I formalized a company to run consulting work through. I’ve experimented with a few different consulting projects to find a balance between what I enjoy doing, what I’m good at, and what provides a reasonable return on my time. The last year with this consulting company has been good, reminding myself what parts of work I enjoyed and what I still don’t. Essentially I enjoy small business and commercial real estate transactions because to me it’s assembling a puzzle that I happen to be very good at. I have 20+ years of human capital remaining in my brain I could put to use, but I no longer need to exchange my time for money.
Time away solidified that I will not work full time or on-site ever again. Three years ago, full time and on-site were the only options and now the pandemic finally changed this in my old industry. I have multiple former coworkers/friends that changed companies and migrated higher in their career. It has me wondering if I end up with a remote and part-time gig working on a team with one of those friends. One opportunity like this come up more than a year ago, it didn’t work out and it was for the best since I wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea. Eighteen months away followed by a year of consulting has given me more clarity about what I would do. The money would have some utility, but it would primarily be an outlet for mental energy.
We saw our net worth grow by 27.5% thanks to a good market and the recovery in many of our value stock holdings that were out of favor in the market for 2020. I’ve avoided the temptation of making a lot of changes, it was mainly logging into accounts and watching it go higher. I also experimented with covered call options. The first year results were minimal, but it’s a difficult income strategy when the market is ripping 20%+ higher. I’m still amazed at how much higher the market has grown since I quit in April of 2019, but the market going higher early in retirement has reduced our sequence of return risk.
The first half of 2021 included a lot of aftermath from my dad passing away unexpectedly. It was a strange mixed family situation and everything moved so slowly due to bottlenecks created by the excess mortality in 2021. Fortunately this was mostly past us by the end of June. Some residual medical issues arose in the second half of the year for Mrs. Shirts and we rearranged some plans while we dealt with that. It’s a firm reminder that you aren’t guaranteed your health tomorrow, so make the best of each day you have. I’m optimistic 2022 will be better on both of these fronts.
Best Books I Read in 2021
Die With Zero: I was first turned on to this book thanks to a Mr. Money Mustache review. Philosophically something I think a lot about is the balance between health, life energy, time, and money. Generally we have the best health and energy and the least amount of money in our 20s, only to see all of these things trend in different directions. The utility of money declines over time while the ability to have more money increases thanks to investment returns and human capital. These are a delicate balance
The AntiSocial Network: Meme stocks were all the rage in early 2021, Ben Mezrich, author of Bringing Down The House, The Social Network, and Bitcoin Billionaires writes this short book about the psychology and perspective of many of the retail investors drawn into this. It was strange to see the outcome of so much pent up energy from changes forced on people.
Most Popular Posts of The Year
2021 came in consistent with 2019 and 2020 (less than 1% variance in pageviews each year). The top articles I published in the year included:
FIRE Planning: What Can Go Right? So much conversation is focused on the final couple percent of success probabilities. Is 4% the Safe Withdrawal Rate? Is it 3.3%? The reality is a lot of things can go right too.
Reflections of Two Years of Early Retirement: How many things about the first two years of retirement worked out how I expected? I’m sleeping better, valuing peace and simplicity, and enjoying better health.
Financial Independence Requires Hustle, then you can Coast: I wrote one of the early articles on CoastFI, but I don’t want people to get the wrong idea. Financial Independence requires work. It requires hustle and discipline. Those $6 lattes do add up, so does pretending to be a 16th century king by going to restaurants and demanding peasants bring you your food. The First $500,000 isn’t easy to save, but once you do, it can afford you significant flexibility and the ability to take the foot off the gas.
Do I Have Any Regrets About Retiring Early? No, but the longer answer required 2,000 words.
What is Financial Runway? Early in our hustle to financial independence we starved our budget through high 401k contributions. It came at the expense of Financial Runway.
Overall I’m optimistic for 2022. Hopefully we see a number of positive things over the next twelve months, including travel becoming easier, the economy and inflation settling into a more normal looking year, and we will continue to enjoy peace and tranquility in the life we’ve designed.
Happy New Year!