At the age of 45, I’m healthier than I’ve been in decades. My weight is about 155, a two-decade low. Yesterday I ran a 5k faster than I’ve ever run one before. It’s all because of FIRE.
About The Time A Friend Said FIRE Would Kill Me
When I first discovered FIRE way back in 2012, I embraced it almost immediately. I say “almost” because I thought Mr. Money Mustache was some kind of a scam:
Retirement around age 30? Bullshit!
But, I gave him a chance and realized that it all boils down to simple math. An hour later, I was hooked:
Whoah, I’ve discovered something amazing! I want to tell the world!
*cough cough, blog*
And I need to tell my friends and family too!
This didn’t work out so well.
You’ll Die Young
One of the first friends I told about FIRE had a shocking response:
You’ll die young if you quit your job now.
When I asked him to elaborate, he told me that mailmen die shortly after they leave their jobs. I have no idea where he heard this, but I haven’t been able to corroborate this claim.
But there may be a grain of truth in there. If your life is defined by your job, if you validate yourself through your work, if your social life consists of hanging out with your coworkers, then you may be in trouble. Quit your job or get fired and you’ll have a massive hole in your life.
The solution is to build a vibrant life outside of work. You should enjoy your job and be on friendly terms with your coworkers, but build a tribe that exists outside of your job.
While there was some truth in my friend’s assertion, he also missed something big that I know from personal experience. FIRE has the potential to extend your life, perhaps considerably.
My weight started climbing when I started my first real job and steadily increased for the twenty years that I worked. Towards the end of my career, my weight crept up over 180 as my gut grew ever bigger. Around the age of 42, I had a physical and learned that my blood pressure was 130/80. Since then, the American College of Cardiology has redefined hypertension. Per the new guidelines, I was hypertensive:
One of my first priorities after leaving work was to get my health in order. While it took a while to find my groove, I was now able to work on myself. I had time and I had willpower. Regarding the latter, a stressful, full-time job drains you. Throw in two kids and on some days, the very last thing you want to do after a hectic day is get on a treadmill:
Two years after departing full-time work, I’m in a much better place. Today I weigh 155.6, a loss of 25 pounds from my peak. My blood pressure is under 120/70. I don’t cringe when I look in the mirror. My knees don’t hurt when I run anymore. Life is different now:
And fitness, frugality and FIRE are all related:
- FIRE gives you the time to work on yourself. On most days, I spend at least 2 hours engaged in some type of physical activity. I walk for at least an hour each day. Every other day, I do a strength workout. When I’m not lifting weights, I’m running or biking.
- Frugality gives you the motivation to walk or bike instead of drive. Because you don’t have a job, you have the incredible luxury of time. It’s OK to take an hour to walk to the library and back. If you’ve completed a 5-mile run but still feel good, keep going! I also have the time to prepare more meals at home. I’m more frugal because I’m FIRE’d which has led to better health.
- I have better fitness because I have the time and willpower to work on myself. Because I’m more fit, I’ll spend less money on health care which increases my chances of a successful FIRE life.
It’s all related but much more than that, it’s symbiotic:
Before I quit, fitness seemed like a bolt-on part of my life that I frequently let fall off. Now, fitness is ingrained in me. In my daily routine, I walk or bike most places. I get joy from experimenting with healthy recipes. Part of my new social life is going on epic hikes with friends. This new lifestyle will pay dividends for the rest of my life.
Never forget that health functions similar to compound interest. The high blood pressure or extra weight you have at 40 is slowing destroying your body, even if you don’t realize it. Arterial plaque doesn’t accumulate overnight. The artery that bursts in your brain doesn’t happen by chance. Cardiovascular health issues are often the result of decades of neglect.
Life Is Good
To my friend who told me that I’d die young as a result of early retirement, the opposite is true; I’ll most likely live longer with a higher quality of life because I don’t have a job. The truth is closer to this:
I would have died young if I continued to work.
And if some tragedy strikes me down at a young age and all of this fitness was for nothing, at least the years that I did have were good ones. Being on top of a mountain with friends on a weekday or running a 5k with your daughter is infinitely better than a cube.
And to those who say:
What if you run out of money?
I’m more concerned about running out of life. And I’m fairly certain my life would have run out earlier if I had stayed at my job.
Epilogue: 5K Times
- 2016: 34:30
- 2018: 29:59
- 2019: I’m still waiting for the official results, but I believe my time was less than 28 minutes, beating my old record of 29:59 by more than 2 minutes. CORRECTION: I was optimistic! My official time was 28:21, not as good as I thought. I’m still happy to have beaten my best time by over 90 seconds. There is always next year. I will be back!
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*Only if your life is pretty bad to begin with.