A Chat with Mr. Tako

A Chat With Mr. Tako

Mr. 1500:  Hi Mr. Tako!  It’s great to talk to you again… I haven’t featured you since we did that 10 Questions post last year. What’s happening?

Mr. Tako:  I’m doing fantastic! Life has continued to improve since I left work – it’s never been better actually!

Mr. 1500:  Hey, that’s great! Since you’re one of the few who has passed through to the Other Side, I wanted to ask you a few questions. Loads of us write about the pursuit of financial independence, but not many of us have actually done it.

Mr. Tako:  Sure Mr. 1500, anytime! Grab a seat, your tasty beverage of choice, and fire-away with those questions!

Mr. 1500:  I’ve been thinking about post-work life lately, but like many other people close to FIRE, it’s difficult to pull the trigger. What was the kick in the ass that convinced you to finally quit? Was it difficult?

Mr. Tako:  It was difficult, but probably not for the reasons your thinking…

The company I worked for actually closed down their local office here in Washington… as part of a “money saving effort”.

It was a very bad sign, and added a lot of stress to my life for months.

The office closed, but the plan was all the employees would work from home. This was great while it lasted because working from home is ten times better than commuting every day. I really enjoyed it.

Over the next few months the business deteriorated further. Myself and the rest of the local employees were eventually given layoff notices.

The office was closed and I was laid off, but I still managed to score a free TV!

That was the “kick in the ass” that set things in motion for me. The prospect of spending months and months looking for a new job really depressed me… I was in a funk for awhile.

It was Mrs. Tako who said to me one day, “You’re always talking about retiring early to spend more time with the kids… Why don’t you just be done working for awhile?”

Mr. 1500 note: How awesome is Mrs. Tako? You found yourself a keeper there Mr. Tako! 

We’d been saving and planning our early retirement for years. Like you, I’m a pretty cautious guy and didn’t want to jump into it unprepared. I re-ran all my numbers and made pro forma budgets to see if we could really do it.

Our net worth was a little over $2 million at that point (now 2.5 million).

In my projections we were going to generate enough dividend income to cover most of our expenses. It looked possible.  So one day I just stopped looking for a new job.

Mr. 1500: And life got better after that?

It did! The stress of looking for a job disappeared, but there’s always unknowns. For example, the cost of healthcare. It’s a big issue in the U.S. and probably won’t get fixed anytime soon. Anyone planning early retirement really needs a strategy to deal with unknowns like that.

Mr. 1500: Does your wife still work? If so, how does that dynamic work?

Mr. Tako: Yeah, she’s still working.

We’re taking the cautious route with our early retirement. Putting a toe into the water to see how things feel. Checking for blood-thirsty sharks, that kind of thing…

We decided to start our FIRE journey cautiously. There’s no point in jumping into the deep end when there might be blood thirsty sharks below.

I quit first… to test out the waters. The plan is that she’ll follow when we’re feeling confident that our sequence of returns risk is minimal.

Market returns the first few years are super important for long-term ER success, and there’s no rule that says we have to jump into the deep-end first.

Hell, maybe Mrs. Tako will never quit. She seems to enjoy working… We had a long talk about this recently, and she sees benefits to working that I never did. 

She really enjoys the socialization – The interaction with co-workers seem to be positive, and she goes out for lunch with her girlfriends frequently. She enjoys her work (most of the time).

Meanwhile, I take care of chores around the house, like the cooking, grocery shopping, vacuuming, home repairs … that sort of thing.

Mrs. Tako comes home to a hot meal and a clean house. I think she likes it. It makes her working life a bit easier… so the dynamic works out for us.

Wouldn’t you like to come home to a delicious sushi dinner like this? When I’m not writing about all things financial, I’m making delicious and affordable food – like this ridiculously good sushi.

Mr. 1500 note: I love sushi. So Mr. Tako, is that spare bedroom clean? I work for sushi. Why do all of that housework yourself when you can outsource?

Mr. 1500:  So, how long did it take you to fall into a rhythm once you left?

Mr. Tako: I think it was couple of months before I really relaxed and started enjoying life without a job. My FIRE rhythm ended-up being really similar to my work-from-home rhythm, just less stressful.

I get up at the same time, eat at the same time, and go to bed at the same time. None of that really changed.

It was the bits in-between that really changed – Suddenly instead of spending my days in conference calls, I’m taking care of our youngest son during the day. 

He was only seven or eight months old when I first left my job… really just a baby. He keeps me busy.

But there’s still plenty of time in the day for naps and working on personal projects.

Mr. 1500: Tell me more about what are your days like. Did you know what life would be like when you left?

Mr. Tako: I had no idea … not a clue! 

Part of my day is being Mr. Mom to our youngest son. This was really tough when he was just a baby, but it’s gotten easier as he’s gotten older.

He’s walking now, so we do all kinds of stuff together – go for walks, coloring, reading, watching Sesame Street, visiting the park, or whatever.

I also do a lot more cooking and cleaning around the house now than I used to. I make every meal from scratch, and we end-up eating some really great food!  (Less than $500 a month for a family of 4!)

That’s something you almost never hear people say about in FIRE – The food gets better because you have the time to do it right!

My favorite part of the day is afternoons. That’s usually when I work on personal projects.  I like to build all kinds of stuff, and find it’s a particularly satisfying use of my time.

If you want even more detail, I have a post on my blog that covers my daily schedule in more detail.

Mr. 1500: Do you have any regrets? Have you ever considered going back to work?

Mr. Tako: Regrets? Well, there was this one time in college when I’d had a bit too much to drink at a party…

Mr. 1500:  Ummm, been there, done that. No further comment. How about regrets about leaving work?

Mr. Tako: Oh, you meant regrets about retiring early! Forget I mentioned that other story…

So far, I have NO regrets about FIRE. Loving the hell out of it. Life is sooo much less stressful now without having to please a bunch of jerk bosses all the time.

Sure, I don’t have as much money to play around with these days…but I enjoy the challenge of doing things for free (or nearly free). That means building solutions from free resources (aka stuff people give away) and DIYing a lot of home repair myself.

For example: I recently needed a better side-table. Rather than buy one, I designed and built my own for absolutely nothing. All of the materials were scrounged from free resources.

Any fool can spend money to solve a problem, but how many people do you know that  build their own solutions? Not many I would guess.

The art of building and engineering on a small scale has gotten lost. Most people buy solutions to their problems or pay someone else to take care of it. That also means they need a large salary and stressful job to support that lifestyle.

It’s a fun intellectual challenge for me. I get to learn all kinds of stuff.

Mr. 1500: What would you tell someone (like me) who is still has doubts?

Mr. Tako: Just do it. If you have the opportunity to ease into it (like I did), then even better! 

What’s that old saying… “It’s better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all.”  Yeah, that!

Besides, what’s the worst that could happen? Maybe you burn through too much cash and go back to work after a few years?

If that happens, just put “Sabbatical” on your resume for the years you weren’t working.  No harm no foul.

Mr. 1500: Anything unexpected?

Mr. Tako: Mostly just positive stuff. 

Like, you won’t believe how much faster grocery shopping goes on a Tuesday morning. In and out. No lines or parking problems! It’s a huge time saver!

One unexpected thing I should bring up is the negative reactions I get from people when I tell them I’m a stay at home dad. 

They won’t say it, but I get the impression people think it’s wrong for a Dad to stay home with his kids. It’s the little frowns, or questions like “So when are you going back to work?” or “You’re still not working?” that tipped me off to this. I really get a negative vibe about it…from Moms especially.

It doesn’t bother me, but it does feel strange. I always thought those sexist ideas about a man or a woman’s role were dead.  Apparently not.

(Shark Image credit: http://bit.ly/2leLl3M)

Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom Mr. Tako!

Join the 10s who have already signed up!

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41 Responses to A Chat with Mr. Tako

  1. Tawcan says:

    Great interview and lots great insights. Hmm I seem to remember seeing those questions from you Carl. Too bad I’m not at the other side yet.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to post this Carl! I hope you found answers helpful.

    And yes, the spare bedroom is open for whenever Mrs. 1500 kicks you out.
    Mr. Tako @ Mr. Tako Escapes recently posted…Have You Met The Dividend Achievers?My Profile

  3. Horatio Spifflewicket says:

    Actually, my wife (who left work to be home with our twins) gets the same commentary from the moms who work outside the home.

    I think there is just this idea in American culture that says work inside the home isn’t as valuable as outside the home. Which (now that I think about it) may be leftovers from the 1950’s idea that work inside the home is “women’s work” and therefore much less valuable. So Mr. Tako isn’t off the mark. (it is still ridiculous, though)

    I long for the day when I can do that work, inside the home. But for now, having one parent at home to be with the twins is better than having zero but getting to FI sooner.
    (And now you know where my priorities are)

  4. Great to hear from someone who’s been there done that with early retirement. I can see the negative feedback from moms who are working. Some people just won’t understand.

    Do you think you would have pulled the trigger had your job not gone away?
    Go Finance Yourself! recently posted…Leverage Your Way to More MoneyMy Profile

  5. Very interesting Q&A. It’s nice to hear from folks on the other side sharing their experiences. I found it interesting how your grocery bill is so reasonable for a family of 4. Never thought that the food budget could actually go down once in ER, but it makes since if you are making more meals from scratch like you said. That would be one benefit for my wife and I. We enjoy cooking together (I do at least, she probably just sees me as an obstacle in the kitchen…) and would focus on cooking even better and healthier meals at home.
    The Green Swan recently posted…Sharing My Retirement Plans with My DadMy Profile

  6. I feel like everybody that has jumped into early retirement says they love it and they wish they had done it earlier. Great interview and I think it’s really interesting that Mrs. Tako chooses to work and enjoys the socialization outside of the home. I think that’s awesome that they are both living out their dreams and enjoying life 🙂
    Mustard Seed Money recently posted…Why You Probably Need More SleepMy Profile

  7. Great interview. I wouldn’t have the patience to be mr. mom, so I have to give you a lot of credit. After a long weekend with my boys I’m often ready to go back to work for a short break. How do you handle getting Time away from the kids during the day?

  8. JohnD says:

    Long time lurker, first time poster. Thanks so much for insights. As someone who is trying to figure out how all of this is supposed to work, it’s great to be able to come here a get some good information from people who have done it.

    I totally get the stay at home Dad stigma. I was a stay at home Dad for a year and a half due to a move for my wife’s work. The little comments like, “Oh, isn’t it nice of you to give your Wife a break.” or “It must be really hard for you to take care of these kids all day.” No, actually, I’m just being a Dad. And between my wife and I, I’m the one better suited to stay at home with the kids anyway. My wife would drive herself crazy in about a month. Just a personality thing.

    Oh, and don’t even get me started on the Mom groups. Going to the park and trying to be nice to the ladies there was challenging. I could talk to them all day long about the best way to remove a stain and saving money grocery shopping. But the minute I try to engage them you’d think I had Free Candy scribbled on the side of my van. Sheesh. I just want to set my kids up with some friends, not hit on you. Dad groups are pretty slim pickings, but if you can find one they are great. I wouldn’t trade my time I had with my kids for anything, though.

  9. Mr. SSC says:

    Nice interview, and even though that’s my plan as well – quot work to transition to stay at home dad – my buffer will be that both kids will be in school by then. Like FTF, I’m not sure I’d have the patience for 24/7 type of SAHD role. Maybe I’m not giving my self enough credit, but I know it would be rough.

    Mrs. SSC and I had a similar discussion about her not retiring anytime soon because she likes her work now and gets a lot of satisfaction out of it, through teaching kids (oung adults) and doing research. So, now we’re just waiting to hit that number or for her to find a different position outside of Houston and the transition will be in motion.

    It’s great knowing that groceries go down too. Although I could’ve guessed based on how much convenience we pay for currently. 🙂
    Mr. SSC recently posted…“Intimate” Interview at FruclassityMy Profile

  10. Love the end table! This is inspiring! I’m glad you are enjoying your early retirement. Posts like this just keep me motivated when I sometimes feel myself backsliding.

  11. I like the idea of doing a partial FIRE first to make sure things go well. But yeah, that kinda sucks for the spouse who continues working. 😉 I would definitely make Mr. Picky Pincher my little errand boy if I continued working while he had FIRE. But that’s good that Mrs. Tako actually enjoys working. Some people have no qualms whatsoever with working, and that’s fantastic. FIRE is about having the CHOICE to quit working if that’s your thing. And that’s most definitely my thing. 🙂

    I love that you and Mrs. Tako also reversed traditional gender roles. I’m the breadwinner in our household so it would be me who continues working while Mr. Picky Pincher stays at home. I’m not sure if he likes that idea, though, since he’s more conservative about those kinds of things. It works for some people. 🙂
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…Updated Easy Homemade Yogurt RecipeMy Profile

  12. I love the thought that I’ll get to make all our meals from scratch when we retire! I love cooking so the thought of spending a few hours in the kitchen to enjoy a homemade meal actually relaxes me. And bonus, our grocery budget decreases! How awesome is that?

  13. Mrs. BITA says:

    While getting laid off must have been all sorts of rough at the time, it is nice in hindsight to see that that may have been what saved you from the one more year syndrome.

    Our plan also calls for a ‘split’ retirement. In our case I’ll go first and Mr. BITA will follow me 4-5 years later. I can’t wait, but I also have some apprehensions. I don’t think I’m cut out to be a full time stay at home mom (Toddler BITA should be in kindergarten by then so at least it won’t be all day long). It bugs me (though it shouldn’t) that most people will just assume that we are a household of traditional roles (Mr. BITA the earner, I the homemaker). I worry that all Toddler BITA will remember of her childhood is that the man is the breadwinner and the mom stays at home. I have apprehensions, but none of them (I think) are strong enough to keep me from retiring early when the time comes.
    Mrs. BITA recently posted…Fear versus FIREMy Profile

    • The world finds it much easier to accept a man as early retired even if his wife is working. You’ll probably be labeled as a stay-at-home Mom by many, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

      It’s okay to be both early retired and a stay-at-home spouse, just like Mr. Tako is.

    • Mrs. Tako says:

      It’s all perspectives, Mrs. BITA. Remember what you and Mr. BITA are trying to achieve is such an AWESOME thing! Financial independence, along with securing more time to spend with Toddler BITA. And sounds like Mr. BITA will follow you soon after anyways. I wouldn’t worry about Toddler BITA remembering old traditional view and what not. She’ll remember spending lots of time with her parent, learning from you and having her dad joining the group AND learning how to be wise about money and finance (and not to care about other people’s silly perceptions). Forget about who the breadwinner is. You’ll be teaching her a whole a lot of more important things to remember. 🙂

      • “I worry that all Toddler BITA will remember of her childhood is that the man is the breadwinner and the mom stays at home.”

        Interesting because I have another friend worth over $3,000,000 and one of the reasons for not retiring is that he worries what his kid will think of him.

        To him and you I say, it’s not like you won’t be working. You’ll be writing or making end-tables (Mr. Tako style) or who knows what…

        • Mrs. BITA says:

          Good point that. I certainly don’t want to end up like Mr. 3 million.

          I’ll stay away from end-table making though, me and all of my ten thumbs. Or not. I could stand to lose a thumb or too. More handy would certainly be nice.
          Mrs. BITA recently posted…Fear versus FIREMy Profile

      • Mrs. BITA says:

        Hey Mrs. Tako! *waves* I don’t think I’ve ever spoken with you before.

        “Forget about who the breadwinner is. You’ll be teaching her a whole a lot of more important things to remember.”

        Love this.
        Mrs. BITA recently posted…Fear versus FIREMy Profile

  14. Brian says:

    Can’t recall anyone ever making the leap to FIRE and regretting it. Having a spouse and implementing the split retirement plan seems like a nice way to test the waters (wink, wink, hint, hint Carl) It seems like it relieves a lot of stress on the family dynamic to even allow one spouse to continue working if they choose. I know having my wife or myself home day to day would make things easier on our day to day lives.
    Brian recently posted…The Cost of SeniorsMy Profile

  15. Joe says:

    Mr. Tako, You have an awesome life! Sounds just like mine. Heh heh…
    Life will get even better once the kids are in school.

  16. Culturally people are wired to think that people who stay home aren’t producing anything worthwhile. I would argue quite the opposite, especially considering the deterioration of American households because parents don’t get the time to spend with them. Kudos to you for being brave enough to stop working, but also to be a true parent.

  17. My wife has stayed at home for five years now, but I have to admit, I don’t think anyone calls a woman “retired” when they sacrifice for their families (I do jokingly to her, and now she jokes back and calls herself retired). At $2M, though, you clearly are well above the FI level, congratulations.

    I too have been reflecting a lot, recently, on what I’ll miss about work. It’s refreshing that you have had such a good experience.

  18. That sushi…nom. So pretty!

    I think we may follow a similar path: me starting off, with Mrs. Done by Forty working for a little while longer as she didn’t have the joy of establishing a professional career just yet. Plus, there’s all the benefits of lessened risk. 🙂

  19. Joe says:

    Mr. Tako, how did you score the free TV? Nice TV stand!

  20. Nice to meet you again, Mr. Tako! That sushi looks really amazing and delicious, I’m willing to work for some just like Mr. 1500 is. 🙂

  21. Stafford says:

    Great interview. Reading early retirement success stories like this are very motivating! Mr. Tako, have you and your wife ever considered geographic arbitrage to help your money go even further? It’s something that my family (wife and 2 small kids) are currently thinking about. We are considering basically selling our house and most of our belongings here and just hitting up airbnb’s around Europe for a good chunk of each year. You can really get some fantastic deals in some great cities for under $1000 per month. No utilities, no car payments, no worries!

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