Despite what you might think, given page after page of work related content, I haven’t entirely forgotten that this is supposedly a blog about financial independence.
That’s right. It’s time to talk a bit about FIRE.
I hinted in my Year 10 post that I’m becoming impatient with the whole working thing. I know I can take a large block of time completely off work and I’m tempted to do it. Further, I’m really looking forward to doing nothing for long stretches.
This line of thinking becomes more dominant in my train of thought. During my time with Mega, I start to focus (almost?) obsessively on quitting. While I know I haven’t saved enough yet, I do have this magic number in my head that I’m striving for and I tricked myself into believing I’d leave the job when I hit it. That number was a 500K net worth.
I have to say that on the one hand, thinking about RE was good because it’s a form of optimistic dreaming. And dreams are energizing and motivational. But on the other hand, I think that obsessively focusing on this, or anything else for that matter, probably isn’t all that healthy.
This was the year I keyed in on our current residence as being a source of financial trouble. I’ve mentioned before that it’s a 650K place with about 1500 sq. feet.
I’d run the numbers and I knew that the place was costing us a ton of money, and we were just throwing it away. Also, at this point it was clear we weren’t going to have children, which meant we could get a smaller, cheaper place without any fear of needing to upsize at a later date.
But it seemed as though we were stuck. My wife and I had decent commutes to work, in opposite directions no less. If we moved, this was sure to be disrupted.
Additionally, she had absolutely no interest in finding a new house purely for cost reasons. Her viewpoint — which is perfectly valid, by the way, if not all that frugal — is that we can afford it, and we’re comfortable, so why would we go and muck everything up with an unnecessary move?
Thing is, in my mind, it is necessary. We would save close to 18/K year instantly by downsizing to a place in the 300-350K range.
This is a battle that continues to this day. We like our house and like where we live, but it costs too much. Back in Year 11, I could at least justify our situation by saying “Oh well — it’s not like I could afford to retire right now, even if we downsized.”
But that’s no longer the case. The new reality is that if we downsize, we can both quit — easily, safely, and responsibly.
Put another way, there’s zero doubt in my mind that we’re currently working solely to afford our home.
On a very different topic, right at the tail end of my experience with Mega, Mr. Money Mustache launched his blog.
And it was incredible. To see someone younger than me achieve the feat of early retirement was extremely motivating and exciting. I immediately started following his posts with great interest. Although he doesn’t generate nearly as much content nowadays, it remains my favorite ER site. In particular, the forums are quite active, full of intelligent and practical users who want to help people out — including, occasionally, me.
At the same time, I hit and surpassed my 500K net worth target. The only problem is that I simultaneously realized that 500K net worth alone was not enough to cut it for retirement, given my current spending rate of 25K-30K. (The variability is almost entirely due to home improvements.)
It’s precisely at this juncture that I made two key decisions.
- I had to leave Mega right away. I couldn’t see holding on to a job that seemed to be getting worse every single day, especially when I knew I had at least another year or two of employment to go. Two years at a really horrible job lasts a LOT longer than you think and I saw no reason to put up with it.
- It’s suddenly important to start firming up plans to leave my industry. How much money do I really need? Will I actually be downsizing or not? I’d been on work-save autopilot for a while now, but it was time to switch controls of the FIRE ship to the manual setting and bring this sucker in for a slow, methodical landing. Aside: I think this is an important step for everyone getting close to the end of their journey, to create and finalize plans for making the jump to a work-free existence. It simply takes a while to figure out the logistics that are going to work for your own unique situation.
On another positive note, I find that I am continually grateful to be on the FI path. All I need to do to feel incredibly good about my life is to imagine going to work every day with a zero net worth.
Because as difficult as I find it right now, at least I know I’m going to be done with it soon. If I didn’t have a stash, I’d be looking at at least another decade or two of the same old same old before I was done.
And believe me, it already felt pretty damned old.