September 17th marked six months since I gave my early retirement notice and five months since I turned in my keys, laptop, and exited my employer for the last time. The first three months were chaotic between departing work and various boards, dealing with a rough home sale, and moving nearly 1000 miles. Now the pace of life is slowing down and we’re settling into our new lifestyle. So what are some thoughts five months out from leaving my career?
The burden of work is lifting…
The time away from work has given me clarity I never had (or could have had) without the break. I started with the company at 20, entered their training program at 21, and my career/employer was essentially part of my entire adult life. I’ve carried animosity towards the company in the end – poor leadership decisions made it a shell of what it once was and I constantly saw great people mistreated while the source of the problem remained. Qutting didn’t make that animosity go away immediately, but its been more of a slow burden being lifted off my mind.
This has given me a good reflection of what I liked and what I didn’t like about my choice of job, employer, and industry, but more importantly gratitude for the freedom that financial independence is giving me. I’m sure I’ll write more about burnout and the decision to stay vs. go with my employer in the near future. Some of the decision to achieve financial independence then go through with the retire early part of FIRE was running away from a bad work situation.
Do you have to retire to something?
Absolutely not. I hear the advice of “make sure you’re retiring to something” given out all the time. It’s also okay to venture into the unknown. You don’t have to have it all figured and planned out. Financial Independence has given me the freedom to venture into the unknown and I’m not rotting away. In fact, I delivered a retirement notice at thirty six and received a common response of “What are you going to do, sit on the beach all day?” Actually, yes I am (at least for now).
The thoughts and routines of work didn’t just vanish for me, but instead slowly fade away. I no longer have random terrible dreams about work or feel my tension level rising thinking about some dumb decision. The fog of work is slowly lifting and I realize its okay to be open to future opportunities. Becoming financially independent and leaving my career could lead to permanent retirement, a career break and reentry into the same industry, a transition into flexible work, or hobby entrepreneurship. Only an extended period of time away from the only professional life I’ve known could help these answers become clear.
Experimenting in Funemployment.
I heard Brad Barrett summarize a conversation recently on ChooseFI by saying “I want everyone to have options, that’s what Financial Independence is”. FI is Optionality.
Alert…call the retirement police! I’ve been helping/advising a friend’s company that has a unique need for my niche of finance. It’s been a couple of hours of mental stimulation a week and is going to help save them a lot of money while achieving some lofty business goals. We kicked around ideas on payment and settled on an arrangement for a nominal salary through 2020 for a part time, remote work position.
I’ll share some more details later on this in the future, but the decision process included:
- Its work I would do for free and with great people.
- It will delay us entering into the ACA for at least a year.
- It will allow for some tax related moves in 2020 before the risk of the political winds changing (specifically to do a larger IRA conversion and Capital Gain Harvesting) without the risk of being on the ACA and falling off the subsidy cliff.
- The additional income reduces sequence of return risk and helps delay needing to withdraw contributions from our Roth IRAs
How Much Should We Travel?
I enjoyed talking to some fellow early retirees at FinCon about their travels. We haven’t done any multi-month trips in early retirement and are still figuring out what works for us. We moved to a coastal town and have plenty of recreation to enjoy while also always having one to two trips scheduled. Travel is different for everyone, but to us I think traveling for one to three weeks then coming home and having a couple weeks of a routine will be the right fit for us. There’s comfort and familiarity in having a home and being away from that home for more than two weeks becomes a pain.
The Fitness Balance:
I’ve always wanted more time to work out and this was a goal after leaving work. Unfortunately I injured myself twice in unmanly ways related to prepping the house for sale and moving. We’ve still been going to the gym consistently, but this cut into some of my running goals for the year. It feels like I’m finally getting past these nicks and pains and am now enjoying a fitness level at 37 that rivals what I had in college. This is one part of early retirement that has been pretty incredible, including going to the gym during everyone else’s work day.
What About the Location We Picked?
We’re happy with the location we picked to start, but are also thankful that we chose to just rent and will be exploring the rest of the US over the next two years. Moving is a miserable process and we’re are in zero rush to do it again. We picked a coastal city in the southeast to be closer to family and to scratch a lifelong itch we’ve had: Living at the beach. The outdoor recreation is unique and if we move away then we’ve at least given ourselves an experience we will remember for the rest of our lives.
Any area/city is not without its issues – The real estate market is out of whack in the specific areas of town I would want to live in, our paradise tax (rent) runs 38% of our monthly budget, and the area is more spread out than we were used to. We’ll also see how pleasant the winter is because summers have still been hot. We also need to find out group of frugal weirdos to be around and there might not be a large enough population here for those people to exist.
So What’s Up Next?
Thanks to Doc G and Paul Thompson for letting me steal this line (and my sweet new T-Shirt). We plan on enjoying a long fall season at home to get the most out of our paradise tax, have a month planned in Hawaii for January, and are looking at a few other trips to sprinkle in between December and mid-March. Having a little more time to read up on and tweak our investments has been fun and I’ll update this further on the next quarterly portfolio update. I’ll see how the experience in funemployment goes and be on the lookout for other opportunities that are worthwhile. Until then, its time to enjoy an emptier beach and keep chasing some fish out of these grassy marshes.
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