Updated FIRE plans
In October, just over three months into my job with Hell, I decided to start looking for something else.
You might think that I reached this decision purely because I was lazy and wanted to work less. Mostly it was because I couldn’t stand the sense of fear from the rest of the team around the CEO.
You’ve probably had an experience with a rescue animal. These are nice little mammals who have had the misfortune to be owned by awful human beings who put cigarettes out on their skin and kick them around the house.
I felt like I worked for a company full of soon-to-be rescue humans. I couldn’t watch it anymore. The abuse, I mean. Satan leaned into Namager, our CSO, and our main account manager, and even, at times, me, without restraint. He created his own circus of stress and suffering while surrounding himself with people who were too afraid to do anything other than his bidding. El Diablo clearly took pleasure in dispersing a fog of unfiltered chaos onto the people under him.
Here’s the part I didn’t expect: Namager started to buckle under the pressure. He’d been terrific back at StartupVille, but after being stuck under Satan for a while, he started to make unreasonable demands of his own. I could tell that many members of the engineering staff were working until 3AM on a regular basis, only to have to wake up at 8, join an engineering call, and do it all over again the next day because Namager was cracking the whip. Which he did because he felt he had to.
Satan had transformed my old friend into a crazymaking goblin king.
So what does this all have to do with FIRE?
Simple. It was time to get serious about my exit plans from the working world. I absolutely, 100% had to leave it, and sooner rather than later.
Because in my mind, I’d completed my final experiment. So much for the advice that says “Follow your passion, and work will feel like play.”
Totally invalidated. At this point I’d tried a large enough sampling of jobs to know that the employment environment is universally bleak. In fact, the only place where I was happy (StartupVille) was essentially a dead company which demanded very little actual work from me.
Just to repeat a point: I’d now held a position which allowed me complete control to do whatever I liked and this power didn’t do anything for me to increase my overall job and life satisfaction.
That beautiful, idealistic advice from economics professor Larry Smith that I discussed way back on page 2, which tells people to go out there and pursue your business passion?
Wrong, plain and simple. Every single person I told about my job said that I was “lucky,” “fortunate,” and “blessed” to have a director-level position at a startup. But they didn’t know what they were talking about. In reality, living out the existence of one of these high-responsibility, workaholic people was worse than I could have anticipated.
Like I said, sure, I had power to do what I liked. I could tell people on the engineering team that I needed this or that to meet some objective that I thought was worth doing.
So bleeping what? There was no joy in it. I’m not sure why so many people pretend that there is.
At this point I felt as though I’d completely exhausted all available options to me, in terms of finding employment that would satisfy me as a person. Without a shadow of a doubt, work sucked. I no longer felt as though I just wasn’t giving certain opportunities a chance. I clearly didn’t suffer from any fear of having too much responsibility or flying too close to the sun like an office-spawned Icarus.
In summary, I’d given the ideal of work every chance it deserved, and it’d come up short every single time.
In October, around the same time that I’d decided to look for alternate employment, I also began doing research on how much is enough to retire. Between me and my wife, our net worth was around the 1.1M mark, including equity in our house, and I started to think that it was almost unbelievable that we couldn’t just retire yet — you know, say goodbye to it all and quit the madness of modern-day employment. One point one million!
This began a time of mental transition for me. I stopped focusing on saving and instead honed in on the next steps in our overarching journey.
It was during this time when I learned about the 4% rule via the Trinity Studies.
And I found that we were very close to being able to do it. If we downsized to a 200K residence, and could restrict our spending to 40k/yr, we’d be there.
But it’d be tight. Plus, I didn’t quite trust the Trinity studies, for various reasons that I won’t get into here. (My feelings are best summed up with the phrase past performance does not always equal future success. Look at Japan’s last decade and the underlying reasons for the anemic growth if you want a fun research project.)
At any rate, I decided that what I really wanted was to downsize my career immediately. I’d make less money for a couple more years while allowing my stash to continue to (hopefully) grow in the market.
I set a new (and final) target number: 650K in assets with a paid off house, with my wife having a similar sheet. This would bring our total net worth to about 1.5M. With this arrangement, we could go with a significantly safer 3% withdrawal rate, which would still allow us to spend 40K a year. I felt very confident that these numbers would be enough for us — and the truth was, we weren’t far off from our current position. I estimated 2-3 more years, tops.
And I set a new target for employment as well. I wanted to find a place which a) didn’t require overtime, b) had minimal or no on-call and c) didn’t contain a single Satan-type employee.
My search took me away from corporate america and into academia. I’ll get into more of the details around the search in my next post.
For now, it’s probably enough for you to know that I was interviewing in November, and by the beginning of December I’d become reasonably certain that one particular university was going to make me an offer.