Reflections on Two Years of Early Retirement

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April 16th marked two years since I exited my employer for the last time.  It’s been a fun ride and one I plan on continuing!  So what are my thoughts now that I’m two years removed?

Related Articles:  

One Year of Early Retirement

Eighteen Months Into Early Retirement

This will be the first part of a series, the first of which are some of my thoughts and the second addressing a few questions readers submitted for this article.  

The Million Dollar Question:

Someone asked me if I would go back to my old job for any amount of money.  I had to think about it for a little while…there’s so many things that could be done with money.  However, I eventually responded “You know what, I wouldn’t go back to that position for $1,000,000 per year”.   That’s significantly more than I was making, but it comes down to control.  I get to wake up and do whatever I want on most days.  I’m under no obligation to take evening/weekend phone calls, prep for next week, or go deal with trivial corporate issues while tiptoeing around some middle/upper manager’s feelings.  That’s not me anymore.  I choose not to give my time away to play someone else’s game.

The interesting part is I was always concerned I wouldn’t be able to re-enter the workforce at the same level. My experience now has been the opposite, I had two inquires in the last thirty days for positions equal or better than what I left! Unless there’s a significant economic or demographic change, companies and small businesses will continue to need good people.

Sleeping Well:

Removing the alarm clock has been incredible. I don’t know any other way to put it. I’ve talked about this in previous posts but it’s still amazing. Quitting work didn’t immediately improve all sleep through. It took more time to figure out exactly how to get a good night’s sleep: no caffeine after 2:30pm, watching sugar intake after dinner, and changing out a mattress. I can get to sleep well now and rarely wake up at 4:30am with my mind racing about “stuff”. I realize I was operating in a constant state of sleep deprivation for most of my career, then offset by a constant intake a sugar and caffeine to help. This just isn’t the case anymore

Better Health:  (Just picture me patting myself on the back)

I am in arguably the best health I’ve ever been in.  Workouts consist of two days on, one day off, alternating between the gym and running.   This didn’t come without lessons though:  I can’t workout all the time in my late 30s.  The motto of “you can still do (almost) anything, but you can’t do everything!”   I thought I would want to run a marathon, but I’ve chosen not to with the tradeoffs it would involve related to the gym.   We’re mostly active on our “off” days and I live in an area where I can usually get a surf day once a week for half the year, which has been a nice addition to the routine.  

I’ve lost a few pounds, gotten stronger, and my suits no longer fit me like they used to. (Maybe I should finally throw out the last ones?)  On the downside, I see that I can’t just work-off a bad diet and eat anything I want.

Valuing Peace and Simplicity:

I don’t talk about this a lot on the blog, but we had two years of challenging medical issues with my spouse near the end of my career. Ten months were bad, followed by another eighteen months of a prolonged and slow recovery.  Dealing with that while being 1,000 miles away from family and trying to hold on to a high level job was beyond difficult.  I don’t think I fully reconciled all of it until I was well past crisis management mode.  My inability to give work my all compounded issues there, while my inability to “fix” the medical issues weighed heavily on me.  I think it took a long time after quitting work and moving for all of these thoughts to settle.  

I now value peace and simplicity in my life, especially as our stash has continued to grow over the past twenty-four months.  Some examples of this peace and simplicity include:

Renting:  I know I’m giving up the opportunity cost of appreciation and my rent will eventually go up, but today I just don’t have to worry about home ownership.  I now go into Home Depot or Lowes only a couple times a year, verses almost weekly as a homeowner.   If something breaks, I let my landlord know.  Depending on the urgency, he fixes it right away or just waits for us to be gone for a stretch of time and he comes over and addresses it at his pace.   It just reduces stress in my life.  I occasionally eyeball a distressed house in the neighborhood and think “I can make some money doing _____”, but I then ask myself what is the tradeoff of peace and simplicity?  We can up and move at any time without sacrificing part of my net worth at the altar of the realtor monopoly.  

Making Money:  This has extended to other opportunities to make money.  I did well with bank account signup bonuses last year, but what’s the hassle of having accounts spread at so many places?  Fidelity Investments has been irritating me over the past four months with unprofessional actions by a specific department, but it would be a pain to move accounts around, even if there are nice signup bonuses.  I do some occasional consulting work, but still get a twinge if I think an assignment might cause a disruption in my peace and simplicity.  I’ve been selling (covered) call options against my taxable portfolio as an income and risk mitigation strategy. It was fun at first but now that I’ve figured that out my risk/return sweet spot it now starts resembling seems like work.

Reducing Stuff:  Dealing with my father’s unexpected passing over the last four months has made me hate “stuff” even more than I thought I did.   It was also three weeks of constant chaos which reminded me how much I valued peace and tranquility. Moving constantly helped us be minimalish….but stuff still collects over time.  Hobbies and interests change, and when they do, those possessions need to make an exit.  I want to make a conscious effort to reduce stuff over the next six months.

Moving Again:  We ultimately want to get to Hawaii full time.  This would not be without its challenges right now.  There’s almost no housing inventory in what we’re looking for to either rent or buy and I would need to get a mortgage to pull it off (only 25% or so of our assets are outside of retirement accounts).   Am I willing to pay the price to do that?  Moving is a giant pain and I might be fine just staying there for a month or two a year for the next two years while things settle down and I navigate additional funds free.  That “price” might also require taking a remote job for long enough to get a mortgage, but today my peace and tranquility is more important to me.  

Wrapping Up:

I wouldn’t trade my life today for my life five years ago.   I still occasionally want to pinch myself when I wake up to realize this is now my everyday life.  Sure there’s room for improvement, but I can’t emphasize enough what freedom of my time is like.   Be on the lookout for the second part of this series, which will include:

  • What do we do for health insurance?
  • Exactly what are we living off of and the order of withdrawals
  • Was the FIRE journey worth it?
  • What do I wish I knew in advance?
  • How did I plan for the non financial part?

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9 Replies to “Reflections on Two Years of Early Retirement”

  1. Great write up! I appreciate the sections on renting and reducing stuff. Having lived in the same place for more than a decade, the prospect of moving is daunting. The prospect of renting rather than owning (and maintaining) certainty does sound attractive though.

    I’m somewhat relieved to hear that you’ve quit the covered calls. I’ve seen options figure into the investment strategies of some other early retirement writers and it always seemed too complicated and hands on for my personal taste.

    I’m looking forward to the next post that dives more into the tactics.

    1. Thank you!

      I haven’t stopped the covered calls, but have stopped watching it constantly and just look at it like a monthly transaction. I sell them 45 days out, close at 15, and repeat the process. I exchange some upside benefit for some downside protection

  2. Great post Mr. Shirts, Hawaii would be a huge change indeed. But if that’s where you guys truly want to be, I think you should really try and make it happen. Rent first, buy if you can, but get there and give it a shot. What have you got to lose?

    1. Thank you! We’re considering that this fall, will need to take a couple weeks and go search for a rental to pull it off

  3. A year after I retired slightly early a recruiter called me with a million dollar offer to come back to work doing the job my previous boss had done. I didn’t even hesitate, what good is another million when I’ll never spend what I have now? I told her thanks, but no thanks. And gave her the name of a couple of my still working friends.

    1. I love this response. Both of the inquiries were through former coworkers who’ve moved on to different companies. They know I’m serious about retirement now

  4. Good topics to think about. As you get older with all your responsibilities, it can be harder to keep up with any job especially a demanding higher level one when you have some kind of family crisis. Im only doing part time seasonal work now, and when my Mom had her car accident, it was good that I basically had the time to do what I needed to without worrying about a full time job. I agree about stuff too. At 52, I’ve got a lifetime of stuff to go through that is going to be a lot of work to pare it down. Now Im much more careful what I buy. I’ve done the sign up bonuses too for accounts and credit cards and made out pretty good but now Im much more selective as it just turns out to be more accounts to manage and keep track of. I have been valuing my “peace and simplicity” more these days too.

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