Last week was the one year anniversary of leaving my job. It’s been an interesting and mostly good year, but it took me longer than I thought to find my groove. And who am I kidding? While I’m much better adjusted now than I was one year ago, I’m still finding my way…
If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of. -Bruce Lee
I’m in the best health of my life:
- Last month, I ran a half marathon. A year and a half ago, I couldn’t even run a mile.
- I can deadlift more than I weigh. A year ago, I didn’t even know how to do a deadlift.
- My resting heart rate is the lowest it’s ever been.
At 44, I have no aches. My knees are fine (except when I run a half-marathon). My back doesn’t hurt. My asthma and allergies are gone. I’m driving less and biking more. It feels good.
I’ve also discovered the joy of walking. On good days, I walk 20,000 steps. On vacation or when I happen to have a lot of alone time, I go for 40,000. This year, I’ll walk at least 6,000,000 steps.
Our life is sane: About a year before I left my job, Mrs. 1500 started working again (more on that later). It was not easy.
two kids + two jobs == chaos
I have an incredible level of respect for households with two working parents. How do you hold onto your sanity?
New friends: I’m in Colorado and there are a lot of FIREy people here. It’s fun going snowshoeing on a Tuesday morning or biking in the early afternoon on a Thursday. Before I left work, I worried a bit about the social aspect of FIRE life. Would the only daytime activity be playing pickleball with the seniors at the gym? The worries were unfounded. My social life is better now.
I don’t miss the work part of work: Writing code made me feel good. Before I left work, I was deeply worried that I’d miss this part of my job and I’d have a hole in my life. I’m a builder at heart and creating things gives me great satisfaction. I resolved it by:
- Continuing to write code: It doesn’t make any money (yet), but I still have fun playing with 1s and 0s.
- Continuing to build, just physical stuff: I have loads of plans. This summer, I’m going to build:
- a murphy bed for our guest bedroom
- planter boxes for the yard
- birdhouses with older daughter
I miss my co-workers: I worked with a great group of people that I had known for years. While I worked mostly remote, I still had a chance to interact with them when solving issues and on calls. I still talk to them occasionally, but it’s not the same.
I don’t think about money as much as I used to, but I miss the paychecks. When I worked, every two weeks, I’d get a fat bunch of money to play with. I’d invest most of it and buy fancy beer/pay the mortgage with the rest. I like to earn money. I still earn some (more below), but it’s nothing like what it was before.
Every day is a beer day!: When I worked, I wouldn’t drink alcohol Sunday through Thursday. I wanted to be sharp for my job. Now that I’m free, I let that rule slip. Often, I’ll get an email like this:
Hey, we’re meeting up at <insert microbrewery here> in a bit. Come join us!
Two hours later:
I’ve dialed it way back, but I still jump on these “opportunities” every once in a while.
I discovered that FIRE doesn’t make me happier: This is a big one. I thought that when I left work, I’d be happier. Nope. Instead:
I felt the exact same.
I’m not unhappy, but I’ve since learned that happiness mostly comes from you. I continue to work on this one.
My passive income from the real estate part of my portfolio will soon be greater than my active income ever was: Here are the juicy details of my life as a worker:
- Years worked: 19
- Money earned (before taxes): $1,598,472
- Average income (before taxes): $84,130
My portfolio is split between the stock market and passive real estate investments:
- Stock market: $796,455
- Real-estate: $723,433
In the next 5-10 years, my annual income from just real estate investments will probably surpass what I made at work. This part of my portfolio is invested in a trailer park, syndication deals, private loans and a debt fund. Not working has given me the time to study deals.
The income is low for now. The trailer park needs to be stabilized and most of the money from syndications come late in the deal. When these investments start paying, watch out!
Am I a FIRE cheater?
I am still earning money from active work: Yep, writing about money helps make even more money. This was unexpected. I started this blog for the love of writing. It makes a fraction of what I made at my job as a programmer, but when you’re frugal, you don’t need much either.
Mrs. 1500 earns money: Mrs. 1500 left her career to raise our children. However, just as our youngest child entered kindergarten, she was offered her dream job. Am I retired or just Mr. Mom?
We don’t have to worry about health insurance: This is the biggest fear for some. Not us because Mrs. 1500’s job gives her great, affordable insurance.
Am I Really Retired?
I have an answer to this question and I’ll tell you what it is in a moment.
I have a hard time wrapping my mind around my situation. Here’s why: Mrs. 1500 and I were both doing for free what we now get paid to do.
- In the first 3 years, this blog made $100.
- Mrs. 1500 wrote blog posts for her employer for free before they started paying her for it.
We were both doing what we were passionate about. But now, we make money. Funny how that works out.
Considering the above, do I really fit into this FIRE space?
Kindof. Yes. No. Maybe. Dunno.
Both of us could close up shop and walk away. Neither of us wants to though, at least not right now. Writing is my therapy and it’s a lot cheaper than a psychiatrist. I also enjoy interacting with all of you crazy people.
So, what do I think about my situation? Am I really retired? My answer is:
I don’t know and I don’t care. What I do with my life now is done with no regard for the potential to earn money.
To put it another way:
I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing.
Does the blog feel like work sometimes?
Yes, but most of the time, I truly enjoy it.
Do I work 40 hours a week on the blog?
Nope. Not even close.
Does the income help?
I save it, but a safety net is a safety net. I’m insecure about money, so having more helps me sleep better at night. Our lifestyle isn’t any different.
Do you do other work?
I sure do. I work on my home. I still code. I help friends fix stuff around their homes. None of these activities pay me anything (the code might someday though), but good work is the fountain from which spews a meaningful existence.
Mr. 1500 note: “…the fountain fron which spews a meaningful existence?” That sentence is horrible. Spew? I almost spewed in my mouth reading it. Calling Ernest Hemingwrong! That choice of words is just one of the reasons you’re writing here and not on nytimes.com.
Mr. 1500 note: Wait, I’m writing notes to myself in my own post. What the…
Mr. 1500 note: Dude, you’re like carrying on a conversation with yourself here. Pull it together! Right the ship! Get back on track!
Where was I? Oh yeah, I was talking about work. I enjoy the balance that work gives me. It’s not the same kind of work that most people picture in their mind’s eye. I work for personal satisfaction, not money. It’s nice to write on the blog for a couple hours in the morning or fix a bike or build a planter box. In the afternoon, I exercise or read a book or go down to the stream to watch the Canadian geese pollute the landscape with their crap.
I need work. A life of perpetual leisure would be torture to me. The balance that work gives puts my psyche in a sweet spot.
And one more thought about FIRE:
The FI (financial independence) part is way more important than the RE (retire early) part.
You can do anything you want when you’re financially independent including staying at your job. Although, if you do this, I hope it’s because you love your job deep down (don’t come down with a case of One More Year Syndrome). I also hope that if you do decide to stay at work, you negotiate a sabbatical just to see what life is like on the other side.
Where Do I Go Now?
I’ll never go back to full-time work. I’ll also never stop working. However, I’m doing my work. I’m doing the work that makes me feel good at the end of the day.
Living this way is incredible and far more interesting than when I had a full-time job.
I’m thankful for the opportunities that this life grants me. I get to travel. I get time to take care of my body. I get time to work on relationships. I get to play with plastic dinosaurs.
I have no idea of what I want to be when I grow up, but now I have the time to figure it out. Every day is a little different and this is how I like it. A life of stasis is incredibly boring. It’s so much better this way.
The journey is different for all of us, but if you’re here right now reading these lines, I hope that you too set FIRE to your life one day. Life is pretty good here on the other side.
But now, I’ve rambled on long enough. It’s 63 degrees outside and the sun is shining. I’m heading out to wander aimlessly around the neighborhood for a bit.
See you around.
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