Ask the Readers takes a break this week. Instead, I’ll review my first six months of financial independence.
The other night, I had a bizarre nightmare. I was with my co-workers at my old work site, begging to get my job back. I felt terrible for quitting.
The nightmare disturbed me so much that I woke up. I eventually went back to sleep, but couldn’t stop thinking about the bad dream the next morning.
Did I really miss my job?
I worked with an incredible group of people. My co-workers were a smart and fun bunch. I admit that I miss the camaraderie.
However, I don’t miss my job. I have no regrets about leaving. So far, my life is better without it.
Did you catch the loaded words in that last sentence? Here they are in case you missed them:
I used these words with intention because early retirement is really just an ongoing experiment:
- Hypothesis: Having more time to spend on my own projects will make for a better life.
- Experiment: Quit my job and do whatever I want between 8am and 3pm when the girls are in school.
- Anticipated results: Life will be better. But what is better? Is it happiness? Is happiness success? How do I measure success in early retirement? More on that in a moment.
I’m only 6 months into the experiment, so it’s much too early to discuss final results. However, this is a good time to stop and take a first assessment.
Six Months into Financial Independence: The Good, The Rad and The Ugly
Exercise: Every morning, the girls and I walk to school. It’s a mile away, so by the time I get back, I’ve already walked two miles which is a perfect warm-up for what comes next. After my walk, I either bike into the mountains, run around the neighborhood or do a P90x workout.
I’m in great shape, maybe the best of my life
- When I left work, I weighed 173 pounds and was at 23% body fat. I’m at 155 now and my body fat is about 18%. I still have some more weight to lose (148 is my goal), but I’m almost there.
- A couple of weeks ago, for the first time in my life, I did 10 pull-ups. See the proof on video here.
- I can run a 5k in under 30 minutes.
- I walk about 20,000 steps per day. Today, I’m near the beach in San Diego and did 40,000 (~18 miles).
The library is my second home: I love to read and the library has become my second office. Also, I like a change of scenery and working at home all day is boring. I usually bike or walk to the library in the afternoon.
I don’t miss the dollars: I was a computer programmer and earned a healthy income. Those big paydays were pretty great. Even though I didn’t need the money the last year of my job, I still enjoyed the earnings. However, I don’t miss the money now. Maybe this is because Mrs. 1500 makes enough so that we don’t have to use our savings?
As our investment portfolio nears $1,500,000 and our net worth nears $2,000,000, worries about money are fading away. Only 5 years, ago, I’d wake up a cold sweat, terrified of going broke. The best way to conquer money insecurity is to save a big pile of it.
If you’re paying attention, you see that I’m going out of order. The Ugly was supposed to come after The Rad. Don’t worry; I did this on purpose. It will all make sense in a moment.
Unhealthy habits! I confine poor diet choices to social situations. And by poor diet choices, I mean beer. This would have worked well in the past because my social interactions were restricted to weekends.
One of the pleasant benefits of FI is that my social life has improved exponentially. I hang out with random friends every day of the week now. And we frequently have out-of-town folks stay with us for extended periods of time.
With my healthy social life came unhealthy food and beer consumption. This is just a matter of self-control that I continue to work on.
One thing that helped greatly is a fitness tracker. It helps me hold myself accountable and I love challenging myself to get out and walk.
Happiness: This is a big one. The most important one. And I totally failed. I thought that I’d be instantly happier after I left my job. This is what actually happened:
I wasn’t any happier. I felt the exact same.
I just assumed that stepping away from my job would increase my baseline mood. While my life is better, automatic happiness didn’t happen.
Before I elaborate, I must say that I don’t like the word happy, at least not when describing long-term state of mind. When I think of happy, I think about laughing at a joke or the feeling after a great conversation with the wife. Or, other activities with the wife…
Happy is short term and silly. What I’m seeking is a long-term, change of baseline state.
Contentment is a better word. Bright, joyful and optimistic are good too. And none of these words describe me. I’ve since realized that I can be content/ bright/ joyful/ optimistic, but it won’t come without introspection and work.
Note: Since I originally started writing this post in August, something else changed and I figured something out about myself. This is a post in itself. More later…
FI: The Rad
Kids: I already mentioned that I get to walk the kids to school. When I had a job, I never had time for this. It’s an incredible way to start the morning, even though my daughters complain fiercely before the walk:
Why can’t we just drive dad?! What’s the point of having a car?
However, halfway into it, we’re having a great time. We talk about our plans for the day and look for frogs in the stream next to the road. There is also evidence to show that physical activity in the morning helps with school.
I’m so thankful that I have the time to walk to school and enjoy other activities with the family.This makes financial independence worthwhile alone.
Limitless, spontaneous possibilities: My friend Alan came to town to run his excellent PopUp Business School for two weeks. As great as PopUp is, I wouldn’t have attended if I had to burn vacation time at a job.
One morning, I decided to go for a hike at Rocky Mountain National Park, just because that’s what I felt like doing that day.
I love that my hours are now a blank slate. It’s awesome being able to wake up and do whatever I feel like doing. No two days are the same.
Writing (and other work): I’ve saved the best for last. Writing is my passion. This is what I was meant to do. I wake up early to write. I stay up late to write. When I go for long walks alone, I’m thinking about writing. While I’m still very much an amateur, I improve every day that I write. I’m so thankful that I get to do this.
The Internet Retirement Police may call my writing a job or work. And they’d be right. This task that I perform makes money. However, the first 3 years that I worked on the blog, I made under $100. It was a passion project and still is. Call it work if you want to, but I’d much rather be doing this than watching TV, shopping, reading celebrity gossip or whatever some others consider fun activity.
FI Life is a Worthy Goal
When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. -Lao Tzu
Becoming financially independent wasn’t easy. I worked many 80 hour weeks.
However, it was worth it. I can’t think of anything more worthwhile than living life according to your own rules. Even though this is an experiment in progress, I know that my life is better.
And if the experiment proves otherwise, I can always go back to a full-time job. At this point, I don’t see it happening. The thought of going back to work now is about as appealing as a tetanus booster shot or a kick in the nuts. No thanks.
It took me six months, but I’ve found my groove. Life is now a satisfying balance of family time, exercise, writing, social activity, coding, reading and travel.
Now that I’ve freed myself from the obligation of full-time work, I’ve gravitated to who I really am. I can be who I’m meant to be and do what I’m meant to do. I’m a writer and entrepreneur. At the core, I derive the most satisfaction when I’m building.
I’m thankful that financial independence has allowed me to figure this out.
Onward and upward!
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