Let’s begin with some definitions:
leanFIRE: Retiring on just enough to exist. You may have to:
- eat dog food
- live in a musty basement
- keep the thermostat at 55 in the dead of winter
But you don’t have to work.
fatFIRE: Retiring with way more than you need. You can:
- go to Taco Bell every night for dinner (skip the $.99 menu and go for the big-ticket items!)
- enjoy triple-ply toilet paper (your delicate tush deserves the ultra-plush!)
- travel to exotic locations in your fancy camper-van
When I quit work, I wanted neither leanFIRE nor fatFIRE. Wife Mindy would not have been happy eating pet food and I never wanted to eat at fancy restaurants like Taco Bell every night.
We Could Have Failed
Looking back, we may have come close to subsisting on cat food:
Prior to quitting work, I thought that we’d need $1,000,000 to retire. Per the 4% Rule, that would allow us to live on $40,000 per year. The problem was that we never actually kept track of our spending; I just pulled the $40,000 number out of my keister (“buttocks” to the layperson).
Anyway, when I did start keeping track of spending some years later, the actual number was more like $60,000 per year. Whoopsie!
But then, some things went our way:
I had never thought that Wife Mindy would go back to work. However, at about the same time I was hanging up the keyboard, she dusted hers off. This was the result of serendipity (“a happy, chance event” to the layperson) and hard work. BiggerPockets is most likely the last job she’ll ever have and she’ll leave whenever she no longer likes it. In the meantime, the extra money has been nice.
If someone had said this to you on January 1, 2020:
In the next 10 months, a pandemic will kill over 1,000,000 humans worldwide and put the president of the United States and the prime minister of the United Kingdom in the hospital. Furthermore, it will shut down parts of the economy for extended periods of time.
And then that person asked:
How will the stock market react?
I’ll bet you wouldn’t have said that the markets would be at all-time highs. But here we are. And that isn’t the whole story. Since I quit way back in 2017, the markets have been on a tear:
Side-note: The incredible unpredictability of the markets is why you should NEVER TIME IT!
I started this blog to amuse myself, fix myself, and hold myself accountable. Then, some of you started reading my silliness and it started making money. That was never my goal, but I’ll take it*.
Mindy obtained a real-estate license a while ago. The only reason she got it was to save us money on transaction costs when we flipped homes. But now, lots of friends want to buy houses in Longmont and ask her to represent them. Woo hoo, more money, more local friends.
Big Tech, Big Money
I’m a nerd obsessed with nerd things. This even means investing. Before I knew what an index fund was, I bought Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Tesla stock. Being stubborn (not selling) has served me well:
So now, we find ourselves sitting on a net-worth of over $3,000,000, way more than we ever planned for or even imagined. And the batsh*t crazy thing is that I believe the best is yet to come. I believe that Tesla has a decent shot at becoming a $2,000,000,000,000** company by end of decade.
(I could say “2 trillion,” but typing all of those zeros is a lot more fun.)
So, we’ve found ourselves in a position of fatFIRE, from a money standpoint at least…
When leanFIRE Goes To fatFIRE
So now that the bank account is fat, we can live and spend pretty much how we want. We can’t buy a yacht or helicopter, but there are plenty of other ridiculous objects we could throw our money at. And, I would throw my money at them if I thought they could make me happy. More on that in a moment.
Here is how fatFIRE has changed our lives:
I Don’t Sweat The Little Stuff Now
I was at Home Depot over the weekend buying insulation for my soon-to-be-finished basement. While there, I wondered if I should put sound deadening material in the ceiling to help muffle noises from above.
I thought about my daughters’ rivalry (“violent fights” to the layperson) that go on for many hours every day:
And immediately put the sound insulation material on top of the pile:
I’ve been known to research stupid little purchases for hours. It feels good to have let this go. You only have so much time and so much mental bandwidth.
I Still Optimize Though
That $850 pile of building materials only cost $725 because I downloaded a coupon. Before driving to Home Depot, I thought about everywhere else I had to go and figured out the most efficient way to route my trip. I also took the seats out of the vehicle so I could maximize my load. I’ll always be an optimizer. I have no tolerance for waste.
The Big Stuff Doesn’t Matter Anymore
I used to lust after silly things when I was younger:
Some day. I’ll have a Ferrari and a $10,000 home theater system!
If I thought something was going to bring happiness, I’d buy it without hesitation. However, the Happiness Filter is a strong one through which most objects do not pass.
Making Money Is Fun
It’s been years since I’ve watched a TV series. My entertainment is studying The Future (in caps and bold for dramatic emphasis!). I may or may not have sat on the toilet for an hour this past weekend devouring videos of Tesla’s latest FSD (Full Self-Driving beta). Sometimes, I even invest based on my toilet-time-learnings. My other current obsession and potential investment is SpaceX. Rockets, oh yes…
And I talked to a friend over the weekend about a couple of new ventures. Entrepreneurship is fun. It’s even more fun if you’re doing it with friends and the primary goal isn’t money.
Side-note/ don’t-sue-me stuff: Don’t take investment advice from me! I have a VERY HIGH tolerance for risk. Also, why would you take investment advice from someone who writes about toilets and plays with plastic dinosaurs?!??
Giving Away Money Is Fun
I’ve started something new with the daughters. In between fights, I have them research charities and we donate money every month to our favorites. Our last two donations when to the Arbor Day Foundation (yay trees!) and Save The Children (Yemen is an incredibly sad tragedy of horrible scale).
Giving money away:
- teaches my children about generosity
- teaches my children about the less-fortunate
- makes me feel all warm and tingly inside
I’m a natural-born pessimist so that heading wasn’t easy to write. However, most of the time, life turns out OK.
There are a million people who will tell you not to trust the 4% Rule or tell you that a health condition will drain your bank account or say that the world is about to change and the stock market is doomed. I think that these arguments discount the benefits of early retirement. Because I have time for fitness and I no longer have a stressful job, I’m more likely to have fewer health issues. If my bank account starts running low, I’ll move to a cheaper part of the world.
Your life won’t be the same as mine, but I’ll bet that something you do in retirement generates income. If you’re frugal, even small amounts of income go a long way to increasing success. For example, if you can live on $40,000/year, a small hustle that brings in $10,000 brings your 4% withdrawal down to 3%, greatly minimizing risk.
Don’t let others’ fears get in the way of your dreams.
Lifestyles Of The Dirty And Smelly
I’m happy for our new fatFIRE riches. But perhaps the most interesting part is what hasn’t changed. The car I drive is from 2003. Taco Bell still tastes good. I mow the lawn and shovel the driveway. I still work really hard too.
I’m about to finish up my basement. We’ll add almost 600 square feet of living space to the home including a new Thinking Throne (“toilet” to the layperson).
About a month ago, I patched up the floor I had opened to add the new thinking throne. I was hauling concrete down to the basement in 5-gallon buckets. It was rough work. After about 20 minutes, I encountered Younger Daughter who had a look of revulsion on her face:
- Daughter: Dad! You’re so dirty! And what’s that smell?
- Me: Me!
- Daughter: Oh, yeck!
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
*Making money in retirement is a controversial topic. Am I really retired? I don’t know and more importantly, I don’t care.
Writing these ridiculous blog posts with stupid pictures and 7th-grade humor makes me happy.
I’ll add $60,000 of value to my home by finishing off the basement. The sense of accomplishment and learning new skills is why I’m doing it though. The work makes me happy. The space I’ve created for my family is going to be awesome.
My favorite quote on the topic of meaningful work comes from Voltaire’s Candide, one of my favorite books:
“I should like to know which is worse: to be ravished a hundred times by pirates, and have a buttock cut off, and run the gauntlet of the Bulgarians, and be flogged and hanged in an auto-da-fe, and be dissected, and have to row in a galley — in short, to undergo all the miseries we have each of us suffered — or simply to sit here and do nothing?’
That is a hard question,’ said Candide.”
**Tesla! So yeah, I just said that the company may be worth 2 trillion some day. Those who look at Tesla as a car company are getting it all wrong. Tesla is many things including battery technology, manufacturing, and green energy production. Perhaps the most interesting part of Tesla is the services it is starting to offer with the car. Full Self Driving, insurance, supercharging, and infotainment come to mind. The breadth of what Tesla is doing is amazing and will change the world if it pulls it off. Don’t expect this to happen overnight though. This story will play out over many years. Meet me back here in 2030 and we’ll see if I was right.
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