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I hit my FI number

A person completes their FI journey after a long slog.

I hit my number. I hit my number. Sweet Holy Jesus, I hit my number! [Falls to the floor and sobs with joy].

Okay, these aren’t quite the scenes at Accumulator HQ – because I’m an emotional pygmy.

But I have hit my number… and I don’t really know how to feel.

I actually hit my FI (Financial Independence) number during the stock market surge in January.


That looked like the end of that dream. I was minded of Alf Ramsey’s words to the England team before extra-time in the 1966 World Cup Final:

You’ve won it once. Now go and win it again.

But the Central Banks came out blazing – better than a Geoff Hurst hat-trick any day – and eight months later “I’m over the moon, Brian” about my Independence Day 2.

2020 has cast an air of unreality over everything so for sanity’s sake I’ve stopped obsessing over my target figure.

That’s meant prioritising cash savings since February. There should now be enough in my vault to see out the next half-decade or so.

If the stock market dives again, I’m not changing the plan.

It’s meant to survive crashes of historic magnitude.

(No, that doesn’t mean it’s safe.)

I did it my way

I’m no poster child for the FIRE1 movement – I’m 48. But maybe my story can offer hope to other late starters:

  • I didn’t set out for the FI Promised Land until age 41.
  • I’ve never earned a six-figure salary.
  • I’m not a tech bro or finance pro.
  • I’ve peaked at mid-five figures in a declining industry.
  • My personal finances were a mess that I didn’t begin to clear up until age 35.

Financial independence can be achieved surprisingly quickly – faster than the 10 years I reckoned on.

The middle years can be bleak but you gain momentum once you’re over the halfway hump.

What now?

Just chillax and enjoy life? You must be joking. That’s not me at all. I need negative energy to feed upon.

But there’s no need to grasp around for any old anxiety. I’ve had mine lined up for ages.

An earlier version of me crashed and burned when I got all the time and freedom I could mishandle. I was like a small child who loved Haribo and then, when given control of their meal plan, ate Haribo morning, noon, and night.

Inevitably there was a reckoning and it still affects me years later.

So this time… no sudden moves. I’ve watched too many others in the FIRE community quit their jobs, move to an exotic new location, and apply for gender reassignment all at once.

That much rapid change is a shock to the system. It’d be too shocking for my system.

I need to take things slowly and acclimatise. It’s not very devil-may-care, but I’m a cautious soul by nature.

Hard-charging for financial independence meant a massive lifestyle shift. But it also threw into relief the many things I’m damned if I know how to change.

I’m wired up a particular way. For better or worse I come with complementary baggage that I can’t just pop down and leave. Wherever I go, I’ll still be bringing ‘him’ along.

I may be FI but I’m still the same sack of problems. I haven’t reached the end of the rainbow.

So I’m carrying on as normal for now. Or at least as normal as it gets in the midst of a global pandemic – which has frankly made me reluctant to even talk about FI these past months.

Stress relief

One thing is for sure, a recession is much less scary for following the FI path.

All those stories back in March about FIRE being over? They were garbage at the time, anyway, but more importantly everybody who was on the FIRE journey was (and is) in a better place for it – whatever the future holds and no matter how far down the track you are.

I’ve seen the look of fear on colleagues’ faces as demand slumped. Then the relief when a client crackled back into life – like radio comms from a rescue team in a post-apocalyptic movie.

But I’ve been sleeping well. KPIs don’t disturb my dreams. I’m not weighed down by that fat-suit of dread that I wore during the Global Financial Crisis. My work stress has fallen away, now that I have the option to walk.

Something else changed, too

During our December FIRE debate, The Investor (and I hate admitting this to him) got to me more than I realised. His crudely repetitious argument for working beyond FI lodged itself in my brain, even though I clearly crushed him intellectually…

I’d always imagined that making FI would be swiftly followed by pulling the trigger.

I set the number so that could be the case.

But I haven’t gone for a super-resilient, sustainable withdrawal rate (SWR) of 3% or less. And I’m on the lean side of FIRE. A little more room for manoeuvre wouldn’t go amiss.

Carrying on working in some capacity seems a lot more sensible than fretting about bond yields. It suits my ‘no sudden moves’ self-management plan.

What I really wanted was an end to work as marred by the riptides of restructurings, obsolescence, misfortune, performance assessments, and all the BS of office politics (you remember offices?)

I’m not worried about any of that now I don’t have to fight for survival in the corporate jungle.

Being able to walk away makes walking away much less urgent.

FIRE-d up

So now I have enough to live on, how am I actually going to live?

That’s what I’ll focus on for the next few months. It’s a liberating feeling.

And I am happy. Did I mention I was happy?

Take it steady,

The Accumulator

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{ 151 comments… add one }
  • 101 Vanguardfan September 17, 2020, 5:24 am

    Ok so can we please stop calling ‘mid 5 figures’ an ‘average’ salary? Planet Monevator is full of very high earners, one would hope bright enough to at least be aware of that fact.
    (Although, as always, you can make statistics say anything – I also found a table that suggests that £50k is close to the mean for a 45-49 year old male – although much higher than the median of course)

  • 102 SparkleBee September 17, 2020, 6:57 am

    A big well done TA especially given the current pandemic and yet you have succeeded in crossing the line and reaching that milestone.

    Look forward to more posts on how to manage finances and navigate the FI path, while working or not, it is now your choice.

    The one thing I pursue FI for, the ability to have choices.

  • 103 The Accumulator September 17, 2020, 10:09 am

    @ ZX – Circa 75% is savings, I reckon. Re: lockdown – yes it’s startling how different the experience could be for people. If you had safe personal space, reliable income and could happily live with only a core of key humans then it was an incredible experience. Suddenly the world was remade for introverts. I felt it too.

    @ Cat793 – I think that’s a good approach – the extra bit of income eases the worry and that’s priceless.

    @ Sparschwein – Cheers! Mrs Accumulator googled your name to find out what it meant – love it!

    @ Richard – haha. Yes that would definitely give me a new infusion of negative energy. Hopefully I can resist the lure of the Dark Side!

    @ MoMo – seven years ago I was reading those who had declared FI and could only wish I was there already. Now I’m kind of rubbing my eyes in disbelief. It will happen for you.

    @ Jonathan – love your train analogy. Also your point about no longer having to fill your head with concerns like, ‘the 3rd quarter sales figures for the Widget 5000’ is a big one for me. I’m looking forward to refilling my head with a broader range of interests and that’s why I think FI lets us be more engaged with the world than ever.

    @ c-strong – yes, sequence of returns risk does loom large now whereas it was once a sort of ugly speck in the distance. Stocking up on cash is one part of the answer. It’s not a bucket approach because I won’t maintain that much cash in the future. I’ll run it down, but a larger slug now will help get me through the nervy opening phase of deaccumulation. I really don’t want to have to wake up in the night every time the market heads into correction territory. Working on in some capacity is another part of the answer. That will lower my SWR and give me some structure as I get used to the new life.

    @ Stu – the toughest part was maintaining the faith in the middle years. Once you’ve set the plan up and the initial excitement fades, it’s easy to give it up like another fad diet. If you can hold on through that period you should be OK.

    @ Calculus – that sounds like a wonderful place to be.

    @ Sparklebee – I couldn’t agree more. It is about choices. FI has always been about empowerment.

  • 104 Neverland September 17, 2020, 10:09 am

    There is this thread on MoneySavingExpert which starts in 2010 where this guy starts talking about having enough money to retire early

    I think in fact he actually retired in 2019, although he did drop to 2/3 days a week the last couple of years

    I am looking to forward to the Accumulator post in a couple of months ‘Why I am still working’ which will have most sequels than Rocky

  • 105 The Accumulator September 17, 2020, 10:11 am


  • 106 IanH September 17, 2020, 10:30 am

    Congratulations! I’m sure you are right to be wary of sudden moves, and if you really do feel innured to “all the BS of office politics” why not keep on for the time being. It just goes to show, I suppose , there is no ‘number’ that can make up your mind about decisions of the magnitude of walking away from secure employment into an uncertain future. And significant others, outstanding commitments and so on all have to be considered and honoured too – no man is an island and all that… Don’t forget though that old Father Time is ticking a box off your personal calendar every day, and be mindful that there’s quite a big differece between the youthful vigour you have as a mere 48 year-old and the encroaching of proper old-age at you may well feel at 68. 20 years dude – do you really want to spend a lot of that time on the tube or in meetings about quarterly sales of hoovers, or whatever it is you do?

    I’m looking forward to the new era of postings on Monevator though – I’m sure you’ve got a lot more to say. Perhaps that’s a starting point for new thoughts on what next for you.

  • 107 Getting Minted September 17, 2020, 11:56 am

    Well done on joining the FI club. 48 is on the young side compared to 55-57 or 65-67, so it’s a big achievement. Having the ability to RE at a time of your choice when going to work should also feel good. I’d be interested to read a more detailed numbers review, and lessons learned, looking back on it all, in due course.

  • 108 Nick S September 17, 2020, 1:31 pm

    Huge congratulations TA,

    you got me started on my journey with investing in index funds nearly 7-8years ago it must be!? Madness! So my thanks for that, my situation is much better than it was. That said, I’m in the horrible middle bit and it has majorly messed with my head with regards to work and meaning etc.

    Have you ever found or read anything useful in regards to your work and purpose/meaning? It’s hard to know whether chasing work that provides meaning/purpose is possible or I’m just chasing something ephemeral that will just keep me occupied until hitting FI. If it is the latter, it makes me a little sad to be honest, exchanging all that time and energy just to escape it, who know I’d want me work to be it’s own reward!

    Congratulations again, you’re taking a very sensible approach and one that’ll produce the best results when you decide to change your working life. Please celebrate/reward yourself, it’s something I find difficult to do but I know it’s a must!

  • 109 Greg September 17, 2020, 2:56 pm

    Very happy for you mate! I am getting close to my number too after 8 years, although that number seems to just increase over time. Most of my assets are not cash flowing so well, hence I won’t be triggering my own leave soon. I do plan to reduce to 60% towards the end of next year though, let’s see how that goes 🙂

  • 110 Aidan September 17, 2020, 4:19 pm

    Congrats! I highly recommend thinking about going part-time – it’s a great compromise and life-style stepping stone. On the other hand, explaining to co-workers why is best kept to yourself. Haters are ?Really everywhere….

  • 111 veritas September 17, 2020, 5:02 pm

    Congratulations on hitting your number!

    Fantastic post – really enjoyed reading about the pyschological side reaching the milestone

  • 112 The Accumulator September 17, 2020, 7:06 pm

    @ Nick S – While it’s possible to hit the jackpot and find work that you love, everything I’ve read suggests that relatively few do so. Naturally the mega-successful and passionate are most prominent and it skews our view. I became happier when I stopped trying to find my work intrinsically meaningful and focussed more on creating my own meaning from it (e.g. supporting my team, serving my clients, doing my best).

    This is a good video from the School Of Life on how ‘fulfilling work’ is a relatively recent idea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veriqDHLXsw

    I found a few books helpful too. Second Mountain by David Brooks – on transitioning beyond a work life driven by personal ambition and into a more meaningful second phase based on fulfilment through serving the community.

    Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl – an incredible book. Potentially life-changing.

    @ Ian H – Father Time ticking off my boxes – that’s a powerful image! I suspect I might nick that phrase for an article somewhere along the line. Full credit to you when it happens.

    @ All – thank you for the encouragement to share more of the personal details. I’m always a little reticent about it because I tend to think it’s not universally applicable or it’s too navel gazey. Hopefully it’ll be fine when threaded between plenty of the usual Monevator content.

    Deffo think that those advocating a better part-time balance are onto something. But bloody hell… that’s what The Investor said 9 months ago. Damn him.

  • 113 NewInvestor September 17, 2020, 7:31 pm

    Firstly, congratulations on getting there. Thank you for the posts you’ve written on this site: they have certainly helped me clarify my investing approach.

    And thank you for this little gem of yours from an earlier comment, it really made me laugh:

    …Though I can’t help but think it’s The Investor writing after he’s had a skinful.

    Doubtless The Investor was simultaneously muttering remarks such as “Bold as brass, telling everyone he’s now FI. Huh! And a house-is-an-investment denier to boot.” 🙂

  • 114 Gizzard September 17, 2020, 7:33 pm

    You sound a bundle of laughs.

  • 115 Naeclue September 17, 2020, 11:35 pm

    At some point, I would be interested to hear what your decumulation strategy is and why you chose it.

  • 116 Playing with Fire September 18, 2020, 8:06 am

    Congratulations TA! A great achievement albeit the natural conclusion of following all the excellent, simple, difficult advice you share here.

    Has your number changed since you first set it? I find mine increasing for some reasons that were foreseeable (inflation, new mortgage) and others that I didn’t see coming (new potentially expensive hobby, refined ideas about spending, reasonable but non-frugal wants of my SO). I also hate my work less than I did when I first found the FIRE movement which makes it easier to contemplate working longer for a chunkier FIRE.

    I will never find satisfying work, but realising that about myself is very freeing and makes for a happier life (for me). I work for a salary and I work in order to not work. That is enough meaning for me.

    Thanks so much for all your efforts over the year.

  • 117 The Accumulator September 18, 2020, 8:43 am

    @ Playing with Fire – yes, same here, my first number was too tight and didn’t weather well when pitted against tracked expenses. I adjust the number every April for RPI (which was like being pushed back out to sea this year) but still I don’t think my first stab was realistic enough. It needed an amortisation allowance, our personal inflation rate was probably higher than RPI (large exposure to food in our basket of goods), and I built in a safety margin once I learned about dynamic withdrawal rates. On the other hand, learning about the levers I could pull meant I became less of a Nazi about a 3% SWR.

    This is the definitely the stuff of a future post.

    @ Naeclue – Somebody – it may well have been you – suggested doing a Slow & Steady style series on deaccumulation, which I’m definitely going to do. What’s a bit weird though is that all the action takes place once a year. In other words: you assess portfolio, adjust for inflation, sell assets, withdraw cash, rebalance assets, pray you’re not in a historically cursed cohort. But it all happens at once, so there’s not a lot to say for the rest of the year – other than perhaps another check in six months later. Maybe that second annual post could be more about tracking that retirement cohort against its historical precedents or against a counter-factual, ghost car-style alternative strategy. I don’t think there’d be enough material for a quarterly series. What do you think? What does everybody think? What would you like to see in an ongoing deaccumulation series?

    @ New Investor – haha, I shall never live down the ‘house-is-an-investment denier’ shame.

  • 118 MrOptimistic September 18, 2020, 9:41 am

    Well done ( although an arrow on the trajectory diagram might have removed ambiguity: like the politics of the ageing the default direction is left to right) . So what are your life ambitions now, or to quote Lucifer, what do you really desire?

  • 119 Another David September 18, 2020, 10:15 am

    I would be very interested in the deaccumulation series. Not so much what happens to asset values, which is in many ways beyond your control, but what happens to your spending and your psychology along the way. I find my spending keeps increasing every year but a lot of that is due to having kids who are getting older. At the same time I find my core expenses falling now that I have more time and headspace to think properly about how to get what I need and want without buying a product or service every time.

  • 120 Greg September 18, 2020, 10:24 am

    Regarding: What do you think? What does everybody think? What would you like to see in an ongoing deaccumulation series?

    I’d love that! As others have said, for me too this blog was a big part of the journey these last (7, 8?) years, so it would be great to also cover the next logical stage of deaccumulation. I may be wrong but it does certainly feel like there is a lot less out there on that phase of FI, presumably because the beginning of the journey inspires many, while fewer get to the goal at the end.

    Also I totally get the hesitation about offering more details into how you got there – one reason (besides my inability of and passion for writing ) that I never started a blog is that I always felt like there’s just to many individual things that wouldn’t be relatable to others. Then again I always love to read how people got to “their” FI….so perhaps you should write about it 🙂

  • 121 Degrees of Freedom September 18, 2020, 10:26 am

    Massive congratulations!
    I’m a long time reader (since 2015 anyway!) and first time commentator. Just want to say this blog has helped me so so much; thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    My finances were a mess in 2015 and I’ve slowly dug myself out of a debt hole since. I became debt free by the end of 2017 and reached 10k in savings for the first time in my life by the end of 2019. An unimaginable amount before! 5 figures!

    By the end of this year I should hit 21k spread across various cash accounts, LISA and S&S ISAs as well as low-mid 5 figures in my pension. This blog and its community has been an inspiration and overall good to the world. So please keep it up!
    Thank you, thank you once again. Congratulations and enjoy yourself!

  • 122 The Rhino September 18, 2020, 10:38 am

    @ZX – good work on the sabbatical, is that a repeatable thing or a one off? i.e. could you follow in indeedably’s seasonal working pattern or something along those lines?

    I’ve had spring summer off too, but key difference was it wasn’t of my choosing. Still quite enjoyed it, but it was interspersed with anxiety of the ‘I’ll never work again’ type variety.

    Lockdown meant I couldn’t do certain things, removing the need for me to decide not to do certain things, which made my life a bit simpler, and simpler is normally better – I quite enjoyed it.

    Back to grindstone shortly though, this time its a complete reinvention – London Fintech! I’ve no idea if I’ll be able to hack it?

  • 123 Al Cam September 18, 2020, 11:35 am

    I agree with Greg; real lived deaccumulation experience is rarely written about – especially in the UK. There are, of course, a few notable exceptions – who I may have mentioned previously. I would imagine that there is plenty of space for good quality deaccum stuff from your “pen”.

    I suspect you will find there is lots for you to write about as you discover just how all the moving parts (including you and yours) really interact – which may well not be quite as you had always assumed or even imagined!

    As many a mountaineer would attest the descent is often far trickier than the ascent.

  • 124 Nick S September 18, 2020, 11:42 am


    thank you for addressing my comment, interesting video, also read Frankl and had the second mountain on my reading pile, you’ve just bumped it up!

    “I became happier when I stopped trying to find my work intrinsically meaningful and focussed more on creating my own meaning from it (e.g. supporting my team, serving my clients, doing my best).”

    So essentially performing the same role but putting greater emphasis on serving? Did you find that tough at times? I feel like I get paid basically the same amount whether I work like a dog or whether I slack (that said, like you the slacking doesn’t fit me well.)


    “I will never find satisfying work, but realising that about myself is very freeing and makes for a happier life (for me). I work for a salary and I work in order to not work. That is enough meaning for me.”

    Did you struggle to accept this? I’ve tried viewing it this way and I just cannot get it to fit, it feels wrong to me. Perhaps naviety? Perhaps just hard to accept given I’ll have at least a decade to go unless I hit some good fortune. Any recommendations well received!

  • 125 Brod September 18, 2020, 11:47 am

    @TheDeaccumulator – I too think it would be great. As you know, ERN has done a fabulous job on various drawdown strategies in his SWR series, although from a US perspective, so I’m not sure there’s too much mileage there. But the psychological/mindfulness approach may be interesting – after the market dropped 25%, how are you feeling? Are there any UK specific wrinkles that could be addressed? Tax and benefit gotchas? (Caveated – seek advice, don’t rely on a stranger from the internet)

    @Another David – your spending keeps increasing due to the kids getting older? That’s depressing.

  • 126 Another David September 18, 2020, 12:14 pm

    @Brod – Yes, because older children need proper shoes and clothes, they eat more food (and no longer get free school meals), and they start to do a wider range of activities, all of which cost money. But I’m writing this from the perspective of somebody who didn’t waste much money when they were babies. We were fine with hand-me-downs and didn’t feel the need to buy loads of specialist equipment. If you spent thousands on your babies then you probably won’t find costs going up so much. Also if you paid for childcare then that of course reduces once they start school as you only have to cover the holidays.

  • 127 ZXSpectrum48k September 18, 2020, 1:01 pm

    @Rhino. 2020 was just an anomaly. Sabbaticals aren’t easy in my line of work as the bonus is on a calender basis. The CIO always says in Dec he wants me next year to take 4x the risk to make 2x as much. I nod but ignore. Anyway by mid March, I’d made 3x using 0.5x the risk. Target 150% achieved after 2.5 months. I felt justified in telling him “job done, bonus now pls, I’m off, see ya in the Fall”. Amazingly he accepted. I think at that instant he had much bigger fish to fry (or to be precise, fire).

    I’m finding it hard to go back since a) I don’t like any form of work b) it’s having less impact. It’s clear that in the last few years work/savings is becoming far less material impact vs. investment portfolio returns. A 5% move in markets is now an average year of after tax savings. It probably now requires another 20 years of work to double net worth (assuming no portfolio returns). I suppose that is the reality of the ‘snowball’. I don’t have an ‘FI number’ like TA but perhaps my definition of FI is simply when work is just a perturbation of my net worth.

  • 128 Al Cam September 18, 2020, 1:49 pm

    You may find this post about the “snowball” interesting:

  • 129 Naeclue September 18, 2020, 2:23 pm

    @TA, a review and thoughts on the various popular drawdown strategies (glidepaths, McClung, age in bonds, etc.) from a UK perspective would I am sure be of interest to many people.

    My initial drawdown strategy was based on a trickle investments in and trickle them out approach, maintaining my 60:40 portfolio in deaccumulation, lazily setting an annual budget of 3% start of year total investment value, excluding property. It worked well, but that’s because I did not see a significant collapse in the portfolio value (it generally went up!), so we never saw a huge drop in the budget. Not really a good strategy for the long term either as it would likely mean our beneficiaries ending up with large IHT bills.

    Varying income according to investment returns is I think essential, but a straight 3% of portfolio value was potentially too variable.

    Inheritance, helping offspring (how much can you afford to give away and when) and IHT issues start impacting deaccumulation planning as well, but maybe you have not considered these aspects yet.

  • 130 The Accumulator September 18, 2020, 8:08 pm

    @ Mr Optimistic – Have you been put up to this by The Investor? He’s been haranguing me for seven years about that pic not reading left to right. I drew it the other way because, to me, it symbolised a journey from the old world to the new. But now Mrs Accumulator has weighed in on your side too

    @ Degrees of Freedom – thank you for saying. It sounds like you’re on your way now. Keep going!

    @ Nick S – yes exactly that – helping others is the surest way of helping ourselves. I hear you about the financial reward not reflecting your efforts but personal reward rocketed once I stopped measuring progress in pounds and job titles. I don’t mean to make it sound straightforward. It’s not a panacea. I’ve never found a happy switch I can just flip. There are inevitably tough times but I’m in a much better place now versus ten years ago for changing my expectations about ‘what should happen.’

    @ ZX – Nicely played. I have never taken a sabbatical because I couldn’t imagine how I’d come back. Just had to keep going hard in one direction.

    Without a set target, how do you reflect upon IanH’s observation that “old Father Time is ticking a box off your personal calendar every day”?

    How will you know when you’ve done enough?

    Thanks all for ideas for future posts. Keep them coming.

  • 131 Playing with Fire September 18, 2020, 10:25 pm

    @Nick S

    I spent a LOT of time assuming the opposite to be true and trying variations on work to make it more meaningful (work harder, slack more, did a “save the world” type job, switched to a training role, switched back). None of it worked and the process was exhausting and unfulfilling. By the time I’d come to the conclusion that there was no magic passion job out there, it was so obviously true (for me, people are different) that I didn’t find it a struggle to accept it. It was more that I’d stumbled upon a mathematical law.

    By compartmentalising work into a thing that I do rather than who I am; I find I have more energy for things out of work. I think of the next years of work as a time to prepare for what is coming next. For me that’s two specific hobbies, fitness for those hobbies, and curating other minor interests. It was helpful to imagine I FIREd already; what did I wish that I spent the past few years doing make the most of it (fitness and languages are examples, music or art for other people, making and strengthening relationships, etc).

    Would it help to allow a fixed time to throw yourself into finding your calling, and accept that if it hasn’t made itself known in a year, then you don’t have a calling at work? You can still find satisfaction in some work activities, and outside of work, but you might not be someone who will look forward to work every day.

  • 132 Matthew September 18, 2020, 10:29 pm

    For deaccumulation I reckon everyone needs a certain amount of guaranteed income (annuity/db pension/cash) or at least access to money Ie equity release, and on top of that you can have a more speculative layer. I would definitely not go out of my way to leave an inheritance – giving a child good advice and showing them their options should be more than enough to help them – if we didn’t get given the money ourselves and worked (or risked) to get it then by rights that should primarily be ours to enjoy. Kids can have any unspent leftovers of the 4% (or 3%) rule. They need an appreciation of the value of money themselves and the satisfaction of feeling like they independently achieved things

    If someone has no one to leave a legacy too, I wouldn’t hesitate to use equity release, even with kids it might be worth doing it to invest or just to consider it as a line of credit as an emergency fund of sorts

  • 133 Nick S September 18, 2020, 10:59 pm


    If you weren’t measuring in pounds etc, how did you measure in terms of people helped? It sounds ambiguous? Apologies if I’m coming across as difficult, I’ve just been focusing on this stuff for far too long without answers, it’s rare you speak to intelligent people who have not only been in the same position but have essentially made it over the obstacle you’re standing staring at. I’ve tried to mentally transport myself to money being no issue but I struggle to imagine it with much clarity. My best guess is I’d still do some skill which could be done within a job, so it makes sense to try and align myself with that job to get paid for said skill-building. Probably I’ve just read so much content on meaning/purpose I’ve convinced myself I need to do all these good things when in reality if I was FI I’d be covered in cheeto dust in my bath on a Tuesday afternoon…


    Thank you for the respond, I really appreciate it, you never found meaning in your various pursuits then? It has been a topic I’ve been pondering, your path is eerily on point with my planned attempts to find fulfillment/meaning in work. I have infact worked a social good job, to a large degree it unfortunately just felt like the same crap for less pay. As such I’m on the edge in terms of career changes or whether I just need to suck it up.

    When work is just that, do you not struggle to give it a decent effort? Adopting that perspective, I can imagine getting landed with a piece of work late afternoon and thinking, no chance, rather than getting on with it and that becoming something that would erode value in things I produce over time.

    Interesting idea, I’d probably be close to burning that year already with setting myself for various potential career paths to try. I do love learning which makes it interesting but I’ve put a bit too much pressure on myself to finding some sort of calling I can achieve mastery in.

    Do you find it hard to not resent work from your current viewpoint? I could see it becoming something toxic for me pretty quickly.

  • 134 Snowman September 19, 2020, 7:49 am

    Well done TA!! Must be a great feeling.

    I reached financial independence accidentally after a project I was working on ended and then after deciding to take a break, I almost accidentally realised I was financially independent. So didn’t get your thrill of reaching the number.

    Only advice I would offer is to do your own thing. And remember that any positive things that work gives you (apart from the salary) can be easily replaced, for example by doing voluntary work or by doing some work that is low paid but rewarding.

  • 135 Playing with Fire September 19, 2020, 8:19 am

    @Nick S
    “I have infact worked a social good job, to a large degree it unfortunately just felt like the same crap for less pay.”

    Ha, I’ve said the same thing!

    I’ve thought repeatedly that I was about to find meaning, as I was starting or in the early stages of a new role, that this is the one. This is what I was born to do, this is what will fulfil me and this is how I will change the world… I’ve never found lasting meaning. Months later I’m disillusioned, dreading Mondays and second-guessing what is wrong with me.

    I do absolutely resent working, but accepting that I resent work and will always resent work makes that resentment far less of an active problem. I know that even if my job was tasting vintage wine while listening to my favourite band live and saving all the starving orphans, I would still resent it after a couple of months and the sense of obligation would suck the joy out of the wine I loved. It sounds counter-intuitive, but knowing that I would resent even this job puts my current job into perspective. Have you read about people who turn their hobbies into a full-time job and then start hating the hobby because they have to consider their client and do it all the time? I’m 100% that person. Knowing that it isn’t the job’s fault makes it easier to suck it up. My resentment is a quiet voice in the corner rather than a shouting noise that consumes me.

    When I get asked to do a crappy task in the afternoon, I find it reassuring to remind myself that it is “work” and you are getting paid for this, if it was meant to be joy and light all the time it would be called “fun”. My motivation is higher knowing that I feel crap when I’m behind on my work and better when I’m on schedule. I think a degree of detachment helps me when I need to prioritise what is truly important to a work project and what is a “nice to have”, but not worth breaking the project budget or burning out over. I’ve observed in the past that there is a poor correlation between the amount of my soul I pour into my work and the value that it provides to my client and the value that is recognised by my employer. This approach makes the balance better.

    For me, focusing on well-paid work has been a benefit. I know that it isn’t easy to just go and get a well-paid job, especially in these times, and that our society is strange/broken about the type of work that is highly paid and the hard, important work that is rewarding with clapping on a Thursday and low wages. It’s easier for me to commit to a sprint to FIRE than a marathon of happy work. At one point I was against commuting into London because commuting is the opposite of fun. When speaking with a recruiter I named what I thought was an astronomical wage that I’d need in order to make it worthwhile: I got it and seven years later I’m earning double that. My FIRE timeline tumbled, it was totally worth it. I still hate commuting, but by reframing it as the cost of earning in London and living in a cheaper town it’s far more manageable.

    This all sounds very negative, but I’m upbeat most of the time. There are plenty of tasks at work that I actually enjoy and look forward to. I just know that I’m working to earn and live rather than living for my work.

    I’m on the MMM forums if you want to discuss more.

  • 136 John B September 19, 2020, 10:31 am

    @Playing with Fire

    I agree that some will like most any job they are in, and others will dislike them all. I only enjoyed one job in my career, and after 15 more years and 7 more jobs I hated, I was all to ready to FIRE. Its working with people I don’t like, they just do things wrong. But I learnt to play the system with contracts and tax breaks while not spending more. Now my conservation colleagues annoy me, and I’ve abandoned one online project because the others were rude. No team spirit for me.

    If you like working with people, you need a job or job-like thing, but it can be great to escape it all.

  • 137 The Accumulator September 19, 2020, 11:00 am

    @ Nick S – you’re not being difficult at all and it’s an interesting topic. This may sound ironic springing from a post called “I’ve hit my number” but the key is not to measure such things. Goals and targets are replaced by doing things because they mean something to you and those you care about. For example, if you felt a sense of joy, connection, or self-respect from helping the proverbial old lady across the road, you wouldn’t then set yourself a target of helping six other old ladies across the road this week. Instead, you’d know that you’re the kind of guy who helps old ladies across the road (when they’d like you to) no matter how busy and stressed you are.

    Moreover, you’d seek to make a connection while you’re doing it – ask the person how they are, ask to see the picture of the grandkids they mention, say how nice it was to meet them. As opposed to whisking them through busy traffic at top speed, dumping them on the other side, before dashing off to a more important appointment. AKA going through the motions.

    Anything more is a byproduct of being yourself and living your values. You do it because you know it’s a good thing, or it makes you feel happier in some indistinct but certainly noticeable way.

    Do this enough and you’ll experience a compounding effect. A stronger sense of self-worth. Belief that you’re on the right track. You’ll be less mentally vulnerable to the vicissitudes of corporate politics, fashion, or opinion. Perhaps your community will take notice and think more of you too. Perhaps one day you’re in trouble and people unexpectedly come to your aid. That’s a happy byproduct, not something you wish for, or seek to engineer.

    The important thing is to build some sense of the person you want to be, the things that really matter, to notice what does and does not make a difference to your wellbeing.

    I think it’s difficult to retain a sense of what really matters to us in the face of the conventional programming. In much the same way that it’s difficult to stick to broccoli when you live in a sweet shop. It can be helpful to write your own list of values – ideally borrowing liberally from the wisest minds of the past 3,000 years.

    I have to keep reading and reminding myself that I haven’t just got a screw loose. We’re constantly bombarded with images of what ‘success looks like’. But most of it is advertising. There are jarring reminders everywhere that we do need to adjust our sets. A couple that stuck with me:

    Listening to Olympic athletes talk about their obsessive devotion to winning that gold. One glorious day it all pays off. They mount the podium to deafening acclaim, and they feel… empty.

    Mo Gawdat – former Chief Business Officer at Google – talking about the day he knew he needed to change: he’d just bought the latest addition to his fleet of supercars. Sat in it for 20 minutes feeling happy before the emptiness returned. Like Dr Jekyll no longer able to keep Hyde at bay because his serum no longer works.

    Many many others – some of whom are superstars by standard lights – discover that they no longer want to renew their subscription to society’s gym. Your mind and experience seem to be sending you the same signal. It doesn’t mean that the path you’ve been on was a waste of time. It could be that we simply reach a crossroads later in life, and we’re meant to take a different turn. David Brooks makes a powerful case for that in Second Mountain. It sounds like you may have reached the top of your first mountain.

    I do believe that work has inherent benefits but it’s only one timber of my house. The problem with corporate life is it tends to overstep its boundaries. Apparently our hunter-gatherer forebears ‘worked’ for 20-30 hours a week. Spending the rest of their time with their families, playing, sleeping, lounging about, telling tall tales no doubt. That sounds about right. I don’t believe any of us are meant to spend 50-80 hours a week obsessing about the Widget 5000.

    Like Playing With Fire, I haven’t found the answer in work and experience tells me I shouldn’t expect to. The answer for me lies in broadening my conception of myself and how I connect to the world and others.

    You’ve likely come across this Alan Watts’ quote but it sums it all up beautifully: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHnIJeE3LAI

  • 138 The Accumulator September 19, 2020, 11:03 am

    @ Snowball – It’s been ages – congratulations!

  • 139 Aussie_fan September 19, 2020, 11:30 am

    Congratulations Accumulator – that is an awesome, and well deserved, achievement. I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts here over the years, especially the sprinklings of dry humour. Please don’t stop writing for the blog!

  • 140 Sara September 19, 2020, 2:22 pm

    @TA I am a bit behind the curve but “Congratulations and Jubilations”, champagne corks etc. I am nearly there myself but I’ve made changes already knowing that I am really close. Last year I had a new manager who was a total pain in the arse and made a job that I mostly enjoy far less enjoyable. So I decided to reduce my working hours by one day because life is just too short. Two ironic things happened – the manager changed again and a pandemic. New manager is so far much less of a pain. Do I regret reducing the hours – not one little bit 🙂

    I am lucky enough to have as “safe” a job as it is possible in current times but knowing that I have enough finance behind me if anything should happen AND to tell them where to stick it if needed is just such a massive weight off my mind.

    Congrats and well done again.

  • 141 zipzapzoom September 19, 2020, 8:46 pm

    Congratulations TA! Really happy for you mate!! All mountains are equally difficult to climb 🙂 so please enjoy your accomplishment before preparing for the second mountain.

    I achieved my lean FI number a couple of years ago but didn’t feel secure or confident enough to RE. It is not so much the financial security aspect that is holding me back, but the fear of leaving the game in my prime, and what would I productively do to fill the time. I work in a job, where if I leave the game, entering it again after a few years will be nearly impossible, and moreover, I don’t have a side hustle/hobby to fill the void/structure. Really interested to see how you get on with the next phase of your journery.

    Best Wishes…

  • 142 The Accumulator September 19, 2020, 9:13 pm

    @ Sara and Zipzap – You both sound like you’re in a good place with options aplenty. I think it goes to show that there are many roads to FI.

  • 143 Matthew September 19, 2020, 9:32 pm

    I think the problem with work for most people is the format it comes in – too rigid, too pressured, whilst people will happily do chilled out &convenient but low paid work like yougov surveys, casual work and self employment (promises convenience but not so much in reality)

    So maybe division of labour is only efficient when you’re paying by time, whereas if you pay by task people will work cheaper and happier

    Remember too that all work is valuable to whoever pays for it even if it seems abstract and that a “permanent contract” doesn’t force you to stay. We apply for jobs and celebrate when we get them, we take up “the man’s” offer to sell our time and work, we need to remind ourselves how fortunate we are to have work. We would still face hunger and need for shelter even if there was no corporate overlord to exploit our work, and we attain a much better standard of living and quality of products and free time than we could ever hope for if you lived self sustainably off grid

  • 144 ZXSpectrum48k September 20, 2020, 1:36 pm

    @TA. “old Father Time is ticking a box off your personal calendar every day”. I don’t disagree. I set a stop date at which point, whatever the numbers, I can give it up.

    I reached what most people would have considered FI in 2010 (late 30s), about 2% in SWR terms. The big issue then though was developing a strong sense of guilt/anxiety after having children. The world I’ve brought them is shaping up very badly. So I wanted to tip the playing field as much in their favour as I could. It wasn’t enough for me to be FI. My children also needed to be FI. This became the new (albeit somewhat vague) stretch target.

    This year, the combination of work and the portfolio both shooting the lights out, means those targets have been reached. I carry on because it’s an unstable equilibrium (perhaps the portfolio drops 25% by year-end etc). Yes, the pot is now much bigger, spending modestly higher but asset valuations are far worse. I do think long-bond real yields and equity yields matter.

    I also carry on because I reached that level rather faster than expected. The period 2014-17 was a heavy slog, slow progress. I thought I’d hit my stop date before hitting the target. Suddenly it all turned around and, boom, I was there. It was one reason I took the sabbatical. Time to think. Time to try being a professional bum. It suited me well (as I expected). I went back to work because there is little need to rush decisions.

  • 145 Jim Mcg September 21, 2020, 4:19 pm

    Well done TA. Of course the worst thing in the world is not getting what you want, and the second worst thing… 🙂
    I hit my FI target a few years ahead of my plan too, providing I kept within certain spend parameters. But that felt a bit unrealistic as your spending plans can change. A bigger question was could I allow those spending plans to actually increase? Could I treat myself? And, if so, by how much? For me, the saving and investing became the easy years. The harder ones came when I had to decide how to de-accumulate. What was a safe spending level and how wide was the margin for error? Partly in order to give me a wider margin for error, I went back to being a wage slave. Best decision I made.

  • 146 The Accumulator September 21, 2020, 7:57 pm

    @ ZX – I hope you get another chance to ease off again soon.

    @ Jim – Do you now view work with renewed enthusiasm after your decumulation experience? With the benefit of hindsight was FI a waste for you? Or does the security give you more freedom to work on your terms?

    It’s good that you’ve found the right balance now. I wonder if you went back into the same career or struck out on a new path? I think there’s a lot to be said for being able to reinvent yourself in later life.

  • 147 Hare September 25, 2020, 9:59 pm

    Congratulations. I have a case of the warm and furries. I love the new name The Deaccumulator. It’s a subject rarely written about and even rarer written from lived experience.

    Blog posts I’d like to see:
    – Using natural yield and capital gains rather than selling capital
    – Accumulating without the assumption of a pension (or without much of one). This is because pension contributions are tied to employment earnings and if a person’s income/earnings are not employment related, stashing a whole bunch into a pension isn’t an available option
    – How to do one’s best with FI when a person’s income means it’s never going to happen (very low incomes etc). I’m thinking big improvements in financial stability could be made even with the knowledge that FI will not happen but quality of life in terms of feeling better
    – Ermine put forward that he doesn’t have bonds in his portfolio because of a DB. I would love to see that explored.

    Plus more fabulous posts like this on how it is for you. It’s so valuable.

  • 148 miner_49er September 28, 2020, 1:28 pm

    It would be nice to here about how to deal with the Anxiety or have to change mindset of having to use this stash of money we have been collecting/accumulating over the years? that may/will start to reduce.

  • 149 The Accumulator September 29, 2020, 12:57 pm

    @ Hare and Miner – thank you for the ideas both – have cut n paste on to my list.

  • 150 Nick S October 3, 2020, 10:23 pm


    Any chance you could give an example of the switch from finding an increase in wage meaningful to something more ambiguous? I guess it seems like you know you’re on the right path but if it’s mentoring someone to a promotion for example…this seems unrelated to specific technical skills, it’s more about being a good person. If the technical elements or the ‘work’ doesn’t matter much then I guess there’s no point in switching jobs or developing much in that technical sense?

    I did read The Second Mountain and re-read the section on vocation. I found it underwhelming to be honest. Seems his premise is basically that something will bubble up and grab you, not much you can do other than say yes to every opportunity apparently!


    I’ve lots of questions if you don’t mind, clogging up the comments section here though so I’ll attempt to find you on MMM forums


    Do you enjoy your work at all?

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