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.
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…
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.
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.
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!
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