Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. –Mark Twain
I think a lot about my life. Probably too much…
Phase 1: Normal life
Dates: 1973 to October 2012
Money: $0 to -$60,000 (college debt) to $700,000
My original life’s plan was to retire in my 60s. I call it my normal phase.
At the age of 38, I found myself married living in a normal subdivision filled with normal cookie cutter homes. Mrs. 1500 and I had purchased two new cars and produced two children. We parked the cars in the 3 car garage and parked the children in our 4500 square foot home. The notion of leaving my job before the age of 62 or 65 never crossed my mind. I had known of no one who had ever left work before their 60s. This is what I had known:
Put 10 or 15% of my income into the 401(k).
Work for 40 years.
Move to a warm state and start drawing from the retirement accounts.
I wasn’t completely normal though. I enjoyed earning and investing money. I worked hard at my job and increased my income quickly. At the same time, Mrs. 1500 and I flipped houses. We made the mistake of not maxing out our 401(k)s every year, but still managed to accumulate a healthy chunk of change. In October of 2012, I had about $550,000 in investment accounts and $150,000 in home equity. Then came the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
Phase 2: Run to a big pile of money
Dates: October 2012 to early 2016
Money: $700,000 to $1,500,000
I started this blog because of a Google search. I had very bad day at work and googled something like.
I don’t want to work until I’m 65.
Or maybe it was:
How do I retire early?
Whatever it was, the search led to JD Roth and MMM. At first, I didn’t believe their message; no one quits work before 60. Then I started digging into the math. People lie, but numbers don’t. Their messages were true.
I did my own math and calculated that if we moved into a modest house, we’d be able to live on $40,000 per year. Based on the 4% Rule, I decided that my goal was to accumulate a million dollars with no debt. I later changed my mind on the latter, figuring that it would be better to leverage mortgage debt at historically low rates.
We sold our McMansion, moved to a smaller home, and started saving more than we ever had before.
Phase 3: What am I running to?
Dates: Early 2016 to now
Money: $1,500,000 to $1,630,000
Early in 2016, I realized that there was something missing. And that something was big. It was this:
I was running away from a bad situation, but what was I running to? Quitting work just for the sake of retiring is a horrible idea.
A life without purpose is an empty life. Work is one of the keys to happiness, but let’s redefine the word. Pre financial-independence (FI):
Work: What I do in my cube every day to earn money to buy food, shelter and entertainment.
Post FI, work takes on a new and better meaning:
Work: A meaningful activity you perform for the benefit of yourself and/or others. You may or may not earn money, but you will feel better about yourself because the work gives you something more. This work makes you feel good at the end of the day.
I had no idea what my work would look like if I left my job. I let worry and doubt enter my mind:
How much of my FI life would I have to figure out before leaving my full-time job?
If I didn’t have it figured out, was I willing to quit and just hope it came to me?
And most worrisome:
Would I be bored?
I hate being bored. Sitting around with nothing to do is torture.
Phase 4: Figuring the rest out
Dates: Now to death
Money: $1,630,000 to ???
This original purpose of this blog was to document my money journey. Now, I realize how silly that was. The journey was never about money. It was never about leaving work. Deep down, it was about figuring out who I am and my core principles. To put yourself on the same page as where I am now, ask yourself this question:
If money didn’t matter at all, say you came into $10,000,000 tomorrow, would you still be working at the same job in a month?
Most of us would say no. That’s the easy part. Now ask yourself this:
Once you quit you job, how will you live your life in such a way that you’re happier, more content and fulfilled?
I’ve considered this question almost every day for the past 9 months and have come to some basic conclusions:
- I’m a builder: I love to make things. I get the same satisfaction whether writing code or building stuff in the physical world.
- I need new challenges frequently.
- I love to write.
- I can’t sit still.
And more than anything:
- I still haven’t got it all figured out and probably never will. And I’m OK with this. Finally. I’m a planner and don’t like loads of uncertainty. On the other hand, a life where every week or month is planned for the next decade would be incredibly boring.
One thing that I’m sure of is that I can’t be the person I want to be with a full-time job. There is just too much I want to do and not enough time. I want to be a good dad. I want to be an entrepreneur. I want to devour words for three hours a day and write them for another three. Hell, I now realize that I’ll never have enough time.
FI will Change You (For the Better)
And one observation, perhaps the most incredible one of all, is something I’ve seen over and over. When people follow their hearts and start doing the work that they love; the work that they were meant for, they do incredible things.
- MMM is slowing changing the world, word by word.
- My buddy Brad from Richmond Savers and Travel Miles 101 has built an incredibly successful business around helping people with reward travel.
- Liz (Mrs. Frugalwoods) was born to write and it’s reflected in her success.
- J$ got fired from his job and is now killing it over at Budgets are Sexy and Rockstar Finance.
I don’t have the same mind as MMM or the writing skills of Mrs. Frugalwoods, but I have my own set of dreams. My book project and online business that I’m building may not be successful. However, I’ll die with no regrets because I tried.
I can’t wait to see where Phase 4 of FI takes me.
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