So never say never,-Wax (Limousine)
The pain from the past makes the pleasure way better.
You gotta feel the lowest lows to get the highest highs,
Blow your nose, dry your eyes.
Open roads waiting and its time to drive,
Isn’t it scenic after?
7/17, 5:30am: I’m lying in bed thinking that I quit my job over 3 years ago and I completely missed the anniversary. My departure date was 4/13, so I blew it by more than three months. Usually, I remember milestones like this, but not this time. Oh well. Better I forget my Freedom Date than my wedding date:
Anyway, I like to reflect on life. Backtesting isn’t the right word, but I do like to contemplate big decisions.
FIRE Saved Our Asses
Folks like to talk about the upsides of FIRE:
- I’m going to Southeast Asia!
- We’re hiking the El Camino!!
- RV life!!!
But, FIRE’s underappreciated (and most important) value is realized when life throws some crap at you. 2020 has been an interesting year. And by interesting, I mean shitty.
Home School Hell
My routine was violently flogged when schools closed down. Mindy and I had never considered homeschooling our children. It isn’t for us. However, in late March, I became a teacher. It did not go well.
Our school provided no instruction, only assigning homework. It was up to the parent or parents to teach the material. Older Daughter did well. Younger Daughter fought us every step:
I’m at home! I’m not supposed to have school here!
I HATE Kahn Academy!
I want my real teacher!
It was one of the most tedious experiences of my life. On the worst day, it took 10 hours to complete 2 hours of work. Not good. While daughter’s attitude could have been better, I was most of the problem.
And, I can’t imagine how difficult the situation was when both parents worked.
But I have nothing to complain about. Not having a job gave me the time to
fight with teach (used in the loosest of terms) Younger Daughter. I also had the flexibility to support my family when my dad was ill.
When life is good, it’s great. But when it sucks, I’m thankful that I have the buffer of FIRE.
And hard times are part of life. People die, but we move on. A vaccine will come out eventually and the virus will be defeated. The shitty times make you appreciate the good ones that much more.
What Do You Do All Day?
When I tell another person that I’m retired, they usually look at me with a confused look. And then the questions start. One of the most common ones is this:
What do you do all day?
That’s impossible to answer because every day is different.
I’m finishing up this deck now:
The Trex decking gets *&^%ing hot, so I’m building this fancy pergola for shade:
If the girls go back to school this fall, I’ll finish my basement finish which came to an abrupt end when COVID arrived.
What I’ve learned is that my happiness comes from building stuff and solving problems along the way. Some would refer to it by a foul, 4-letter word. Get your mind out of the gutter. I’m talking about:
Before I left my job, I loved building software (I just didn’t like all of the bureaucracy and time constraints around it). Now that I’m done, my challenges lie in the physical world:
- I’ve never built a deck before. Designing and building the fancy curved one was a lot of fun. Also, bending Trex for the curve was a PAIN IN THE ASS! But still rewarding. Except when I set the Trex on fire… FIRE >>> fire in most cases.
- The pergola I designed spans 25 feet. It was an excellent challenge.
- I’ve never finished a basement before. Loads of new skills to learn!
I have plenty more projects for our home to design and construct. And then I’ll be on to something else.
Happiness On FIRE
At the core, the premise of FIRE is the same for everyone:
Accumulate enough money so you can live life according to your own rules.
That may not be easy, but the mechanics are simple:
- Create a money surplus and invest it into index funds.
- When you can live off of 4% of your savings, you can leave your job.
The complicated part is figuring out what happens next. I call it Life 2.0. Money won’t solve happiness or fix much of what’s wrong in your life, but it can facilitate solutions. Successful Life 2.0 comes from a careful assessment of your values, experiments, and introspection to figure out what your meaningful work is.
And everyone is different. I’ve had a great time working on projects around the home. But a carpenter who wants to FIRE may hate what I’m doing:
That stuff was my job!
Finance is deeply personal. Mindy and I owned our home outright but took out a mortgage because we like to leverage debt. I find that most in the FIRE community hate this idea. I don’t think either stance is wrong. It just comes down to risk tolerance and living the life that allows you to sleep well.
FIRE is even more complicated than finance. The point of it is to live a better life than you would have had you stayed at your job. You’re trading money for time. But you better have something good to do with that new freedom.
Humans aren’t made to sit around all day. If I had the choice to go back to work or watch 8 hours of TV all day, I’d choose the former in a second. The core of my life now is work, but I choose my projects and execute them on my own schedule. Some of them will make money. Others won’t. When they make money, it’s a side benefit. The goal must be happiness.
So, the first 3 years (4/2017 – 4/2020) of FIRE were mostly great. The last couple of months have been shit*. Whatever. This is the rhythm of life above-ground; ups and downs. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Life goes on until it doesn’t.
Your goal should be to make the best use of your time. Plain and simple?
When you step off the normal path and start to forge your own path, there are some things you’ll have to figure out. Difficult and complicated.
But figuring it out is much of the fun.
I think my best days are still ahead though. I hope the same is true for you.
So never say never,
The pain from the past makes the pleasure way better.
*One more thing about my dad (I write this because maybe it can help you): My dad wasn’t always the easiest person to live with. As a child, I resented him because of his drinking. Living with someone who abuses alcohol is agonizing. But, he was a good person at the core. He taught me how to work with my hands and told me to treat the world right. But perhaps because of my resentment, I never felt like I had a close relationship with him. He wasn’t a touchy-feely kind of person either, so that didn’t help.
My dad was 72 when he died and I was 46. In 46 years of life, I never had a deep conversation with him and I regret that.
If that conversation would have happened, I would have asked him about some of the awful things he did. A simple apology would have gone a long way for both of us.
I would also have thanked him for the great things he did too. My life turned out pretty good and I owe much of that to him.
So long dad.
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