I have been FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) for over a year now and it’s fair to say the novelty has worn off.
No longer do I awake with a start thinking: “Oh God. I must be late for work.” Or wonder why my calendar isn’t packed with back-to-back Zoom calls. Or imagine my phone must be broken because it’s not ringing every ten minutes.
Life has settled into a new and settled pattern. So how does the reality of FIRE compare with the dream? What did the brochure neglect to mention?
Is FIRE how I imagined it to be?
Well, no. I had a fantasy in my head. That I could somehow do whatever I wanted. That I’d learn tons of new skills and become a ripped FIRE-Warrior-Monk.
A master in love, art, philosophy, combat, comedy, and dance.
I exaggerate, of course. But for all I dreamt of soaring once the chains fell off, I’m still flapping with the same stumpy duckling wings I’ve always had.
That’s okay. It’s not a disappointment because fantasies aren’t real. The reality is plenty good enough.
My relationship with time has changed in weird ways
Time is still the great enemy. Even though I’ve got bathtubs full of the stuff relative to my old life.
But the reality is you can still only fit so much into a day. And a mysteriously large amount of it vanishes while you deal with life’s mundanities like fixing the toilet, acquiring food, and navigating customer service lines seemingly designed by psychological warfare experts.
You know how the pensioners in your life claim they’re too busy despite having nothing scheduled bar a doctor’s appointment Tuesday week?
Now I know why! Once you’re no longer spinning plates on your fingers, arms, ears, and toes, you drop the laser-focus on getting stuff done.
Instead, you potter about for Britain. Must-dos get ticked off… e…vent…ually. In between breaks for a natter, a walk, a read, a leisurely lunch.
Left to my own devices I proceed at the pace of a canal boat holiday.
And it’s glorious! The height of luxury.
No longer do you feel squeezed like a tube of toothpaste.
You’re sovereign over your time. You can change the plan whenever. Say “yes” to helping someone out at short notice. Be more emotionally available for those closest to you. Finally catch up with old friends you haven’t seen in years.
Tons of stuff still doesn’t get done. I feel guilty about it because I haven’t shaken off the modern demand to be productive like a 24/7 computer-controlled factory.
But god, this is better.
Real world problems don’t go away
Nobody thinks all their problems will be solved, right? But still, FIRE is presented as some kind of personal End Of History.
Some of the marketing encourages you to believe that FIRE-ees step out of a monochrome world and into a primary-coloured Oz of rainbows, sparkles, and boundless joy.
But this has been The Accumulators’ worst year for a long time in terms of health. Death and life-threatening and life-limiting illness have struck close to home.
Mrs Accumulator and I are okay but others we love have not fared so well.
I’ve never had so many reminders that our healthy years run out and it’s always too soon.
I’m only dwelling on it here because the Monevator community has often debated the time versus money trade-off in the comment threads.
When should you pull the plug on your peak earning years and focus on living more?
It’s a very personal question but for me the answer has swung decisively in favour of time.
I haven’t completely renounced ‘work’
That said – and the thing that’s surprised me most – is that I’ve picked up a reasonable amount of paid work without trying.
Does this mean I’m not really FIRE?
For me, I’m 100% FIRE because I’m in control.
- These projects are a hobby not a hustle.
- I do them on my terms. I’m completely free to say no and nobody’s making me do anything I don’t want to.
- I’ve never had to drag my exhausted carcass through a bad day to meet ridiculous deadlines while fighting political trench warfare.
- If it all dried up tomorrow, I could still pay the bills. I don’t need the money. But I can’t deny it’s nice.
This is a healthy relationship with work which I enjoy. And it’s helped settle me into FIRE for two reasons.
Firstly, knuckling down for two or three days a week to nut out a problem has kept my brain ticking over. It also allows me to feel like I’ve occasionally done something useful. Such as with the social care series.
Secondly, I need some discipline in my life. Committing to delivering something tangible makes goofing off with Mrs Accumulator all the more pleasurable.
Scoffing up coffee and cake after a weekday amble feels like a wonderful treat. But only because we’ve tricked ourselves into believing we’ve earned it by doing some ‘work’.
It’s basic carrot-and-stick psychology. Admittedly we’re beating ourselves with a tickling stick but it still works.
I think there’s something pretty universal about this. There’s a reason why so many FIRE-ees keep starting blogs and YouTube channels.
Note: hat tip to The Investor who saw this coming and would be livid if I didn’t acknowledge his wisdom on this point.
What about money worries?
Inflation is enemy number one for retirees. So it’s not ideal that UK inflation is scaling heights not seen for over 30 years.
Our portfolio is roughly where it was a year ago. That means it’s down after inflation.
Am I worried?
I haven’t spent a penny from my FIRE warchest. The money trickling in from paid projects has covered my outgoings.
The cash I’d earmarked to spend has been rerouted into the emergency fund, which was looking lightweight.
Knowing I can pay the bills by doing a little work makes me think we’ll almost certainly be okay in the future.
Sure, we can Red Team this and scare ourselves with disaster scenarios but I don’t see the point.
I set my sustainable withdrawal rate (SWR) at 4%. We’d only need to earn a third of our outgoings to reduce it to the so-called perpetual withdrawal rate of 3%.
Earning half of your expenses drops your SWR to a near-bulletproof 2%. (Global catastrophes aside.)
I’m less concerned now about decumulation than I was when I listed my backup plans to rescue retirement should things go wrong.
Some Monevator readers have said they’ll be terrified to spend down their resources. But I’ve noticed that people who actually are decumulating typically seem sanguine about it.
My guess is you soon get used to the idea.
I actually feel more relaxed about splashing the cash than I did when in full-on accumulator mode.
Before FIRE, I often regretted inessential spending because it delayed financial independence.
Now we’re here, I think we might as well enjoy ourselves.
For the record, our first-year FIRE spend was £25,000 for two. Versus a budget of £26,000.
Now I didn’t account for 10% inflation or doubling energy bills. We’re heavily exposed to food and heating costs so things will tighten up.
But it still feels like we’re spending quite freely and we can rein things in if needs be.
Ultimately, I’m not worried because I believe that if you can FIRE then you’ve probably got what it takes to handle any bumpy years along the way.
FIRE: my one-year verdict
I don’t do happy-clappy but don’t get me wrong: I’m loving FIRE. It was the right move for me.
I thought my problem was the low-level, chronic stress of working in a corporate environment. And the heartache of letting down my nearest and dearest who needed me there, more than they needed the money.
Luckily for me, that diagnosis was correct. FIRE is just the tonic.
The autonomy alone is worth the entry price.
They say ‘it’s the journey not the destination’. Well, with FIRE it’s definitely the destination.
The journey is agony.
But keep going. I think you’ll be glad that you did.
Take it steady,
Nice update. Yes your social care series was much appreciated, though I still haven’t the guts to build myself a bombproof future plan because I fear it would delay FIRE too much with overly prudent building of reserves for life dribbling in a well appointed prison.
I expect many early FIREers will indeed actually just have portfolio lives of which paid work is a part. I’ve met many early retirees who say they just can’t resist turning down lucrative part time consulting gigs once the corporate politics is gone from their lives. Those retiring just a bit ahead of traditional ages maybe reflect more on the time vs mortality/ill health equation.
This is the post I have been waiting for, a siren call to the Elysian fields of retirement! A come on in, the water’s fine… It seems I have little to fear and the maths still make sense so the notice goes in in August.
I have been a little silent on this forum for a while as work and a few other pressures have been playing tricks on my brain. Another good reason to quit and re-assess exacly what is important.
Thanks TA, watch out for me in the near future.
IMO, this is one of your very best posts.
ER is clearly suiting you, however, you have posted an article that is obviously real and honest and not peppered with golden unicorns, etc. This is not an easy feat to achieve in the written form – especially when describing something that has gone well!
Furthermore, I was chuffed to note that – this far at least – the following have happened:
a) you have gained great reward (albeit not necessarily financial) from doing things that were totally unplanned/unknown about at the outset;
b) you found plenty of subjects to write about as you discovered just how all the moving parts (including you and yours) really interact; and
c) the one you pushed back on most: for a variety of reasons, you may actually de-accumulate a lot less than you think
It is, of course, still early days but well done.
Interesting stuff! I’m a month behind you, and a lot of what you say resonates.
I found it took a lot longer than I thought to decompress after leaving my job, and eleven months later there are still some one-off things on the To Do list that I assumed I’d get done over the course of the autumn and winter – with all this lovely free time I’d have, right? – that are still right there looking at me. What I have found though is that, like you, it isn’t really bothering me. I’m sleeping better, eating better, getting more exercise and out into nature and all that good stuff. The stress of the corporate environment, to which I was not well-suited to put it mildly, was an invisible weight that I only noticed after it had lifted. Boiling frogs, I guess.
I have to say, if you are working 14-21 hours a week on a regular basis it must feel a bit of a stretch to describe yourself as retired, no? FI, undoubtedly, and good on you because it’s people like you who have inspired me. No longer working full time, no longer an employee, no longer needing the money, sure. But the natural meaning of the word “retired” in isolation is that you no longer work! I do maybe a two-day project every month or so (translating to 3-4 hours a week if you average it, although most weeks I do nothing) and I’m still describing myself as a “consultant”.
(Another great thing is having all the time in the world to nitpick strangers over the internet.)
I’m mainly doing the bits of consultancy because people ask me and my gut feel is that I’d like to do it (rather than a sinking-heart “how can I get out of this without burning the bridge?”). I have not struggled with feelings of loss of status, or relevance, or lack of usefulness or purpose in life, as I understand is common among new retirees, but presumably they are the ones who wouldn’t have gone early in the first place. We’re all wired up differently and that’s a good thing. I guess you’d have to ask me in five years’ time though. At the moment I feel like one of those people in a newspaper lifestyle article who e.g. moved to the countryside and absolutely love it… then you realise that they only did it three months ago and they haven’t even had one winter yet.
My experience on the financial side is that, like you, I am not digging into my stores like I’d expected to – partly this is the global hangover of Covid (I’d planned to travel but have not done so), but mostly I am still bringing in a grand or two a month and that has made all the difference.
Stock market bumps haven’t bothered me like I thought they might (now that it’s no longer “great, I can buy at a cheaper price!”), so that’s been a relief.
Inflation concerns me in the abstract because a long period of double figures would mess everything up big time and I won’t be in demand for consultancy work forever, but I’m telling myself it’s a spike due to gas and food and will be back to normal when the Ukraine situation is sorted. Although as I type this I am reminded of the widespread belief in 1914 that the Great War would be “over by Christmas”.
Well done, and I’m really glad you’re enjoying your retirement. Long may it continue!
I “retired” 5 years ago and haven’t looked back since. As you mention, one of the “features” of early retirement is how much health matters – personal, friends and family – assume an ever greater significance (certainly in my case), and it has been an enormous privilege to have the time in which to help those around me. I’m sure it’s time spent that you too will not regret.
All best wishes.
Great update! Reads more that you are working part time rather than fully “fired”(suppose that’s where different folks have different meaning on the phrase which is cool) sounds like the work BS stress levels have dropped :), really interesting that you don’t have any hobbies yet that bring a routine. I’m assuming the Mrs is also retired/work free how is she dealing with you around the house? mine says I’d drive her up the wall until I get a routine thus she’s planning on staying part time for a couple of years after I submit the FU email to work 🙂
What a great post! It does take time to decompress (certainly for me), but then you wonder why you put up with all the stress and corporate BS and didnt push back or say no more often! Glad you are enjoying your new life and slower pace. Id still call it retired even if doing a little work here and there entirely at your choice.
Glad to hear that you are a happy FIREE, just as I have been for the best part of twenty years now. Like you, I still run a TODO list but the joy of it is that I can cherry pick from it, depending on how I feel at the time.
Although you may think it premature or unnecessary for yourself, one thing that I have definitely ticked off the list, being currently hale and hearty but not personally wishing to end my days being “chargrilled”, is the reserving of a plot in our tranquil, hillside, village cemetery.
Readers may be interested in the related numbers. The plot itself cost £1,000, to which is added £50 for the small metal plaque, at ground level, bearing the letters “RSVD” and my surname. I went up to the cemetery to check that it was in my chosen place, and it was a very strange feeling looking at it and at the names that will be neighbouring mine in due course! If it seems expensive, it is the purchase of a parcel of land and a deed is issued accordingly.
One point that I learnt and which is worth knowing, is that cemeteries which are not actually the church graveyard, are not the responsibility of nor administered by the clergy. Instead they are within the remit of the relevant local authority, and in some cases e.g. our village this can be delegated to a parish council.
It just remains for me to hang on as long as possible now, in order to make a Monevator-worthy gain on the value of my plot 🙂
We touched upon this in your original post and I mentioned I was interested in your experience about having structure, discipline, and something to work-towards. Thanks for writing a bit about this, and glad you got that all sorted!
Factor – are you not tempted to track them all down and say hello? You’re going to be spending a long time together, after all. Perhaps a few get-to-know-you drinks, and maybe a sweepstake – last one standing gets the pot?
@TA Thank you for sharing your journey 1 year into FIRE. This is really inspiring. I am only starting out, although middle aged (41), been late to take any action and also, mrs isn’t convinced about the whole idea anyway. Despite the disagreement, i’ve made a start from what i can, not sure how many years before the end of tunnel, but all you folks are a living testimony that it is all worth the effort. Thank you for all your posts!
Hi TA a year has gone by so quickly, but glad to hear it’s been treating you well and you are enjoying it.
I appreciate we all have our own definition of retire early and there are no rules but I can’t help thinking you have gone over to TI’s side of the fence and have opted for FI not FIRE (working 2-3 days per week doesn’t really come to mind when I think of early retirement)… are you sure you aren’t really FI and consulting as Snakey has suggested? 🙂
I always wondered whether your £350k ish pot was enough and given the stock market/bond falls and increase in cost of living expenses I was looking forward to some insights as to how this has impacted your mindset/withdrawals etc. Am I a bit disappointed you’ve gone over to the dark side? ….yes….but only because you have been such an inspiration on my journey to FIRE, and I’m still trying to figure out ‘my number’
Would be curious to hear how your hobbies have turned out….gardening….any travelling?
Ps thanks for sharing I always love reading your updates
Encouraging reading given that I have just one month to go. Now everyone at work knows I’m leaving, I keep being asked what my plans are, and in fact I don’t have any plans, other than taking more exercise. I have loads of ideas, and a sort of mental to do list but it’s all pretty vague. It sounds as if this may be no bad thing..
I’ll share a quote from an inspirational boss about ten years ago, who was just about to retire. He said to a much younger me: “when you get to this stage, you’ll do the same calculation as everyone else does: I could just about retire now; but if I work for another 12 months then look how much more money I’ll have! Don’t fall for it. They are looking at life through the wrong end of the telescope. If I came to you on your dying day, and offered to SELL you not just another year of life, but another year of *healthy*, *active* life – how much would you pay me? All the money in the world – that’s what you’d pay me.”
@TA here’s the acid test: so you get talking to that person in the coffee queue or a school friend or whatever who doesn’t know you’ve stepped off the treadmill. After about 2.5 sec they pop THAT question: “so what do YOU do?”
I reckon it took me about two years before I learned to stop saying “I’m an ex-so and so” and instead say with a grin “oh I decided to stop work a while ago, so these days pretty much whatever I like”
Great read. I went FIRE 3 years ago this July. We also sold up our large house and moved into rented barn conversion in a beautiful part of North Norfolk. Fields, sunsets. Maybe wine.
Coffee and cake on a Monday afternoon just because is divine.
Wife and I spend our time helping a particular set of people in need and that has given me a great way to answer the ‘what are you doing’ question.
Expense wise I budgeted for 40k, but looks like this year is going to be 50k. Hum. Need to review that!
My wife has a lovely phrase about how we are living and spending our life: “Front-loading our retirement.”
Echo much of the goodwill expressed and very good to read – a sincere and enjoyable instalment that doesn’t have any casual whiff of BS.
From a “Fire” further down the line-your comment re friends starting to fall by the wayside chimed with me -we are both 75 and in good health so far-not so many of our compatriots
Can I recommend daily exercise-a walk of half to one hour every day will pay dividends-retirement enables this
You fill an hour -you keep fit and you get to think and problem solve
Perhaps you are doing this already
@ TA – I agree with Al Cam: this is is one of your best posts! It’s also very relevant to me, as I am about to follow your example and FIRE in the very near future 🙂
As I’ve come to personally realise, it’s not just trading time for money but also your health for money. Even working in an office environment pays a toll on the many dimensions of health — just sitting for eight hours a day can screw you in multiple ways, and relentless stress affects both mind and body. Don’t just put a price on your time, consider what your health is worth too. I’m now lined up for some serious spinal surgery and could well have benefited from fewer years of office toil.
I’ve given notice and have 2.5 months to go.
Your comment about political trench warfare resonated so hard my spine vibrated.
I’ll miss heaps about my job but not that.
A great update, been looking forward to this and it’s a huge motivation for those of us still on the FiRE treadmill.
I don’t envisage doing any paid work myself, but who knows, when the time comes.
Lovely to hear that, a year in, you have no regrets. We are 4 years in. We manage in an income of £20k and dip into capital for renovations of our doer upper. Time and freedom to choose have made us wealthy.
Nice update TA, thanks. As others have said, it is continuously inspiring and informative to have honest and real life insights, especially as someone about a decade-plus behind!
The key initial in FIRE for me is the I.
Agreed. Great update. Far move valuable imho than those on the journey (not that these aren’t useful in their own way).
Once one is FI, then the ability to plough one’s own furrow not at the direction of ours whether that be paid, unpaid work or just lounging around pursuing hobbies or the general minutiae of life is incredibly valuable as this £800m net worth rather smart individual can attest to.
I also think some paid work will help one emotionally as well as fiscally navigate a sustained bear market particularly if your time frame is long. Appreciate that can quickly morph into just working for a living and so the balance is key.
@ Truly FIRE – “working 2-3 days per week doesn’t really come to mind when I think of early retirement” I’d agree if I was still doing my old job part-time, or something that felt like my old job. But I’m not. I have no teams, no clients, no targets, no performance management, no stress. I’ve turned down jobs that look like that.
What I am doing is writing. Which is something I really enjoy but had lost sight of. Writing was what I was originally hired to do back in the mists of time. But very few can make a good living doing that.
So you take the management path. And though I remained on the creative side of the business, you inevitably move further and further from your original purpose and motivation.
I didn’t anticipate writing taking up as much time as it has. But I feel like I’ve reactivated an old muscle that I’d let waste away. I’m enjoying putting it to good use again. And it earns me a few magic beans which can help renovate the house we love. So the core elements of autonomy, mastery and purpose have all fallen into place with this one. (Mastery is a WIP, obvs.)
The point of FIRE is to give you the space to create a different life. Do I feel FIRE or FI? I feel FIRE. Life is very different now.
Another way of looking at it… The most famous proponent of FIRE is Mr Money Mustache. One reading of his story is MMM was once a computer programmer. Now he’s a part-time property developer who monetised a blog.
It isn’t earning money that matters. It’s what you’re doing with the time. And what you’re giving up by taking it.
“Am I a bit disappointed you’ve gone over to the dark side? ….yes…”
I hear you. I felt the same every time one of the FIRE-ees I followed waved a little white flag and went back to work. I felt it because it said to me: “Maybe this FIRE business isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe the same will happen to you. The whole thing will prove to be a massive disappointment and you’ll still be unhappy.”
But I’m loving FIRE. It’s not a disappointment. I urge everyone on the FIRE track to keep going full-speed ahead.
The difference in how I feel is night and day versus my old life.
I was always going to stay productive even though I consider myself ‘retired’. Writing is one way of doing that right now. I’m in discussions with an old friend about a mentoring project. It’ll be paid if it comes off. But it sounds like a good use of some of my time. I’d be mad not to give it a go, I think. It could be really interesting and worthwhile.
Sorry – that was a long reply. But you, Snakey and Miner2049er have rightly zeroed in on my greyzone approach to a major FIRE issue. So I thought I’d give a fuller response to this topic than I managed in the post.
Gotta go catch up with my mum for fish and chips now 🙂
But I’ll be back later with my responses to some of the other questions.
Thank you all for some truly lovely, funny, and thoughtful responses to the post.
Great write-up. This sentence caught my attention more than the rest:
> For the record, our first-year FIRE spend was £25,000 for two. Versus a budget of £26,000.
Many questions come to mind, such as:
– What area of the UK (or abroad) is this budget being accounted for/spent?
– Is the figure per-head (you + Mrs Accumulator), or you alone?
– I assume you have no debt and no dependants (aka no mortgage and no kids), correct?
Apologies if the questions have an answer elsewhere!
The whole business of how much you spend in retirement must vary hugely and depend on personality, financial commitments and, not least, financial resources, etc. I imagine there is no real magic number and most of us are adaptable when push comes to shove. I think we could survive very comfortably on about £24k if necessary.
For the record, we are retired, in our 70s and have no mortgage as you might expect. We do still have self-imposed financial commitments to others, mainly family, of 7k a year. We keep good records and spent around £36k last year. We are in line to blow £48 this year. We can afford it and are truly blessed.
This response is as valuable as the article. Not to downplay or devalue your hardwork but the message you get across over the feeling in a relatively short comment is invaluable. It talks to my of the niggling doubts I have about my own FIRE journey and gives me huge motivation to keep my head down and not take my foot off the pedal. Thank you.
Correction: £48K not £48 though that should have been obvious.
We live in Stirling, Scotland.
Thanks very much TA – I love these updates. It’s amazing how much I find myself smiling and nodding in agreement as I read them, as they rhyme so much with my experiences.
Although I was proficient in the corporate world, I didn’t really enjoy it – I always felt that I wanted more control of my own time/life. I came out of the workforce just over 4 years ago now (albeit it was initially supposed to be a 12-18 month sabbatical…). In the first year I unexpectedly lost my Dad, and I will be forever grateful that I took the leap when I did, as it enabled me to spend more time with him than I would have otherwise. I do the occasional bit of project work here and there for others now too, sometimes paid, sometimes for fun, but it’s only if I want to.
Although we tried to keep a balance with ‘living today’ during our journey, it was sometimes a bit of a slog (isn’t life though…?). However I now frequently thank my younger self for persevering, putting us in a position to be able to ‘buy’ as much time as we can have (which is priceless) for an absolute bargain!
Keep up the good work.
@Seeking Fire #25…….Mr Thorp – one of my heroes. Unfortunately for me i knew absolutely nothing about his long running successful trading fund until AFTER it had been wound up. Not that i’d have been invited to invest with him mind.
For years i only knew of him as the maths whizz who took on the casinos, and won. I was devastated when i saw the annual % gains he churned out, once he turned his attention to the stock market. And to think that around that time i was fervently reading his Beat The Dealer book, trying (and failing) to memorise and put into practice his blackjack system. Aaaargghhh!
I’m 18 months into my retirement, I have found this which article worth reading both before retirement and since:
It is updated at least once a year so should always be relevant. Yes the contributors are all which subscribers which will skew the results but they supply spending breakdowns for several scenarios which you can tailor to your own circumstances. Suspect utilities section will feature big in the next update!
Indeed. Every one of us has it different for a reason or another.
I believe it’s important for readers/FIRErs to understand that there is *no way* a family with kids would be able to do live off £25k. Even for individuals it’s going to be a significant undertaking and could result in putting significant constraints and trade-offs.
Heck, I know of a FIRE-ista who said on his blog that he had not even bought/used deodorants at some point in his life so that he would be able to save! I think that’s extreme. But it’s a possibility. Again, every one of us has it different for a reason or another.
Aspiring FIRErs who live in places like London, and/or have a mortgage, and/or have/plan to have a family, and/or have dependants (location + debt + having to feed/care for N individuals – these being the major “FIRE metric movers and shakers”)
, understand this: there is going to be a steeper mountain to climb. Doable, yes. But make sure you turn around and enjoy the view from time to time while you do that. There’s going to be many awesome sunrises and sunsets along the way, not just the one seen from the top.
In My Shed (#32)
The Which? article you reference is excellent. It more or less confirms my guess that we could live comfortably on £24k (especially where we live) and luxuriously on their luxurious £41k. Our current expenditure of £48k less our optional beneficence of £7k arrives exactly at Which?’s £41k.
However, as Jon (#34) correctly reminds us, these figures are averages and, say, a couple in London with 2 kids and a mortgage would definitely need a lot more than £26k.
For those who haven’t read the annual Which? report the current survey results are:
For essential/comfortable/luxury lifestyles: Couples 18k, £26k and £41k and single person households: £13k, £19k and £31k. Their breakdown into items of expenditure would be helpful for FIREes.
This compares to the numbers quoted in Retirement Living Standards (https://www.retirementlivingstandards.org.uk/) of:
Couples £16.7k, £30.6k and £49.7k, single person £10.9k, £20.8k and £33.6k.
As these are averages, something in between then!
I’m a couple months behind you and always look forward to your updates.
This morning I received a note from HMRC saying bascially that I was no longer a person of interest to them, i.e. do not need to return a tax self-assessment anymore. While this makes complete sense and will save me some hassle each year, I felt a brief pang of loss, perhaps of status.
Anyway, 10 months post-FIRE and I still run out of time to get-things-done each week. We have a school-age child and during the weekend and holidays, I often find myself looking forward to them ending so I can get back to the peacefullness and creativity afforded me by retirement and my projects.
We managed to secure an allotment tenancy before I retired and among other things, this has been great for learning new skills, creativity, socialising and physical activity. It also means I now own two sheds!
Just recently, I’ve created a small workshop in my “home” shed where I can operate my pilar drill, bench vice and other engineering tools away from the family and alongside a separate area for soldering/electronics/microcontroller projects.
While primarily a space for growing fruit and vegatables, the allotment has also provided an opportunity for me to revisit my oldest and almost forgotten hobby from my youth – electronics. The plot now sports an off-grid solar setup running a remotely manageable (via 3G dongle) camera, WiFi AP and several microcontrollers 24×7. I’ve created an electric anti-slug fence and am continuing to develop a range of detectors, monitors and actuators reporting back electrical data, sunlight, temperature, rainfall and most importantly – how much water is in the water butt. 😉
I have no doubt that my current interests will satify/wane at some point and I’ll move on but I really have no inclination or “spare’ time for paid work. I don’t expect this to change until I have the extra freedom afforded by an “empty nest’…
Assuming you have a DC and/or SIPP, once you start to draw you will almost certainly have to become reacquainted with HMRC – sorry!
Well I have been retired for getting on for three years and when asked what it’s like ( well ok if asked…) I would say it’s like not having toothache. As for time management, yep. How did I ever get up, have a shower and breakfast in 40 minutes ? It is clearly impossible in under 2 hrs 40 mins. Mind you, I have never yet gone to the garden centre for lunch, or wished to, so there is clearly a lot further to fall. Early days.
I’ve been wondering about an update as I am lagging TA by two months on my FIRE journey (we’ll call it that for ease of reference). I’d got used to the quarterly update pattern and glad to know all is going well TA and that this post a being later than the quarterly interval was not because something untoward happened.
My story is that my health had taken a turn for the worse after I had decided to pull the trigger but before I actually FIRE’d. After my last day of 9-5 what ended up giving me structure was the routines and disciplines I developed for eating, exercising and sleeping. This extended to rejuvenating my fascination with learning science which I loved as a kid and did at uni. It clearly had a purpose as I wanted to learn about my health condition, but I enjoyed the academic aspect of learning how the body works as much. The internet is to be thanked. I was filling my nerdy side with tracking all sorts of bio markers rather than that being restricted tracking spending and modelling decumulation. I was surprised at how much of your health you can actually track yourself without needing expensive equipment. Being informed is most helpful too when seeing doctors as sometimes they are compromised by time and even their own knowledge.
At the 10 month stage though I did start wondering whether FIRE was working for me. Healthwise, there is no question that I have come on leaps and bounds and for that alone it was worth it. I simply could not have given the same attention to health without the time and lack of stress. Some of the reasons I questioned FIRE was I was wondering: whether I was really contributing to the world, whether the lack of income would bite me later despite the numbers stacking up, and finding that (other than virtually) I know nobody who can relate to the situation of FIRE. Its quite a long conversation to explain that in your early fifties you are in the position because of a certain level of frugality historically and planned for the future.
Then something happened. Similar to others some part time consulting work came to me a few weeks ago despite my making no effort to seek it. I’d done a few days in the early months of FIRE but nothing after that. I was able to tailor the commitment so thought I would try it and see. Doing the work over the last few weeks has helped with my doubts about FIRE but not in the sense that I should seek such work in the future but in the opposite way. It helped to clarify to be confident in my numbers, to not lose the gains made healthwise, and not to begin the slippery slope to abandon the new life journey that I’ve barely begun.
@ bbobbins – Agreed on social care. I’d rather take my chances on living life now than try to hedge out every last risk. Maybe extra hard sudoku and the invention of the exoskeleton will keep me going.
@ JimJim – Wow, so close! Looking forward to hearing how it goes in August.
@ Al Cam – Cheers! That’s lovely of you to say. Very much appreciated.
@ Snakey – “I’m sleeping better, eating better, getting more exercise and out into nature and all that good stuff.” Same. There’s a raft of ancillary benefits which are core to quality of life but which you’d hesitate to mention in conversation. One of the things I’m reflexively doing is downplaying this aspect with friends who are hard at work. It feels boorish to harp on about how wonderful it is whenever I’m asked, “How’s retirement?”
Of course, Monevator is a safe space where these things can and should be said!
“Another great thing is having all the time in the world to nitpick strangers over the internet.”
Haha! This did make me laugh. The other thing worth mentioning about my labours is that if I’m not feeling it on a given day then I might knock it on the head after a couple of hours and do something else. If Mrs TA suggests going out for a walk then I’m not chained to a desk. OTH, if I go down a rabbit hole of research and lose myself in flow-state then I might keep going for ten hours straight. Minus being interrupted every five minutes with urgent email nonsense. The freedom and lack of BS is transformational.
“I have not struggled with feelings of loss of status, or relevance, or lack of usefulness or purpose in life, as I understand is common among new retirees, but presumably they are the ones who wouldn’t have gone early in the first place.”
It could be that your consultancy work is key to that sense of stability you’ve found? I was talking to my Uncle recently – a wise old bird who retired early but at a more conventional age. He said he struggled initially – not quite knowing what to do with all his free time. But he’s flourishing now. Partly because he’s doing a little consulting on projects that make use of his unique skills. The projects sound genuinely interesting, he’s engaging with the world, and getting paid into the bargain.
@ Factor – thanks for the info. It’s not something I’ve looked into but my time will come. That must have been an eerie feeling for you. Something akin to a memento mori?
@ Nkanani – good luck! Perhaps you’ll win her over in time.
@ Nebilon – I did have a list of things to look into post-FIRE – very few of which I’ve followed up. No time! What kind of responses are you getting from colleagues?
@ Mjcross – You’re absolutely right to emphasise the words ‘healthy’ and ‘active’. We’ve had reason not to take that for granted this year. It makes you realise there’s not a moment to lose.
@ Kevin Harvey – that sounds just about perfect. And front-loading retirement has got to be the right philosophy as per Mjcross’s comments on using our time well.
@xxd09 – couldn’t agree more. Health and fitness is (almost) everything. Mrs TA lost mobility earlier this year and the initial diagnosis suggested worse was to come. Thankfully that verdict proved wrong and she’s on the mend. It was a real scare though.
@ Tom-Baker – thank you! And at last! Let us know how it goes for you.
@ Eddie – I’m very sorry to hear that. I hope it goes well and you’re back in action before too long.
@ Barry – I’m excited for you. What are your plans?
@ Weenie – It’s funny but I didn’t envisage it either. As long as you’re free to pick and choose – that’s the main thing.
@ Laurene – you’re doing very well to come in at £20K. Some wouldn’t imagine it’d be possible but you sound more than content. Any tips?
@ Seeking Fire – thanks for the link. Thorp is clearly someone who knows how to be happy.
@ Jon – south-west England. The figure is the total for two of us. I think we could get it down to £18K if we had to but that’d be tight. Correct – no debt, no kids. Big chocolate problem, mind.
@ Rosario – Have doubts shows you’re giving a momentous decision the respect it deserves. You’ll still be in an enviable position if you decide to be FI instead of FIRE later.
@ AlwaysLearnin – “it was sometimes a bit of a slog (isn’t life though…?)” Completely. In the age of image-shaping on social media it’s easy to think everyone else is having an amazing time, just skating through life. The truth is… more ordinary.
You must be very glad about the time you got to spend with your Dad. Your reflection reminds me of a Victor Frankl quote: “Suffering is inevitable. It’s how you choose to bear the burden that is meaningful.”
@ Mezzanine – haha. There is something slightly insulting about that HMRC language. Still, it sounds like you’ve graduated up a few steps on Maslow’s Pyramid with this talk of multiple sheds and anti-slug defences. Heaven!
@ Mr Optimistic – not having toothache sounds brilliant! Completely with you on the 3 hour morning routine. Can’t be done in less. Also, I too live near a garden centre. They do lunch you say? Interesting…
Greta article and comments, my 15th year of FIRE, state pension is coming into sight in a couple of years. It’s great, little stress, plenty of time to keep very busy
I find that spending is significantly higher than the amounts discussed, we do a lot of travelling. However if we had to cut spending we could do so and quality of life would probably not change that much !
Given spending is around 2.5% of assets there seems to be little virtue in worrying about it.
Freedom to take time out to help others, keep fit and study subjects of interest are great, but the ability to ignore the foolish and impolite behaviour of those I used to have to dealt with is priceless.
Thanks for your interest. My plan is to finish work, spend more time out in the wild with our two big dogs, catch up with my interest in astronomy (not conducive with the 9-5), photography and my neglected motorcycle. I’ve already established that I will need to plan my week’s tasks and recreation, so it doesn’t just lapse into YouTube and couch.
My SO and I have discussed selling up in the city and moving to the country, but that decision is not to be made until we’ve been out of the prison camp for a year. One big change at a time.
Living in New Zealand we’ve finally had most of our COVID restrictions lifted, so we’re off to the UK to visit friends and family after 3 years and then cruise from Bordeaux to Barcelona. Already one of the benefits of owning our time has hit – we must disembark the ship at 8am and the best plane home is at 9pm. Rather than wrestle bags at El Prat for 13 hours we’ll add an extra day and leave the following night and park the bags at a hotel.
That simple task of adding a day without consulting a calendar or requesting leave approval is of towering significance. Of course, I had to explain it to the dogs but they’re direct reports, not management.
Having been a mover and shaker in my industry for 25 years, when news came of my departure from my company, I was made an extremely attractive offer from a competitor. Pavlovian, I was excited by the potential challenge, captivated by the improvements I could make …… then realised that would be same old crap, different letterhead.
So ultimately, a little dabble in consultancy as a hobby might make sense but if it doesn’t those stars are not going to photograph themselves.
@TA – many thanks for this encouraging update!
As someone who is about to take that leap (Jul 4) although leave myself a safety net of locum (or casual) work in the local hospital there is a degree of trepidation given the state of the markets and on the part of my SO as I don’t share her love of gardening. But I’ve got some personal plans include involvement in trapping lines to help Predator Free NZ 2050, hitting the gym more often and more tramping and cycling together.
@Barry – good to hear there are other avid followers of Monevator down here! And I’m headed back to the UK in a few weeks too.
@all – many thanks for your comments and insights! I’m feeling a little less nervous now, and more confident I’m doing the right thing in these uncertain times.
@ Ownitall – that’s an affecting story. And given the amount of change you’re navigating it’d be surprising if you didn’t have doubts.
I think you’re right to have faith in the numbers and, more particularly, your self.
Monte Carlo simulations of financial futures don’t speak to the most important part of the equation – the human element.
I’d wager that most people on this thread are more than capable of negotiating tricky economic waters.
Our second-guessing, planning and constant reappraisal (often known as doubt) is the byproduct of being people who understand the risks and are unlikely to sleepwalk to disaster.
It’s a bit like *not* being the sort of person who rocks up for a trek of the Brecon Beacons in plimsolls, white jeans and a fitted T-shirt (as I saw some younglings do one changeable day).
Re: the numbers (and calling back to Truly Fire’s question on this point).
I’m more happy than ever with my lean FIRE choice. Aside from the ability to pick up decent paid work and, eventually, a State Pension, two financial products make me think our finances won’t look like a failed SWR sim:
Equity release – I’m getting more comfortable with tapping into our house equity come the day. I’ve recently had a conversation with a clued-up family member who’s taking this route. The current generation of equity release products look like they come with plenty of options so there’s no need to fall into any elephant traps if you do your homework. I need to deep-dive into this but I’ll report back when I do.
Annuities – I’ve mentioned this before but the numbers really do look good vs drawdown if you annuitise much later in life. There are plenty of options available to protect family members from the ‘drop-down-dead the day after signing on’ scenario so this option looks like a no-brainer if we make it to our late seventies.
@ Barry – well that all sounds pretty fantastic. I hope it goes exactly as planned! And it sounds like you’ve dedicated a generous amount of management time to comms with your four-legged team.
Your ‘one big change at a time’ maxim should be spread far and wide through the FIRE community in my view.
It’s quite likely that some people take to FIRE like ducks to water and some realise they’ve made a mistake quite early on.
But momentous change takes some getting used to. I’d guess that many of us would do well to gently acclimatise ourselves.
@ britinkiwi – Good luck! Good luck! Although I don’t think you need it given a well thought through plan like that. By the time you leave, spring won’t be that far off which will surely help with morale? Though of course there’s the ever present danger of being sucked into the gardening 😉
Look forward to hearing more about how you adapt once you’ve taken the plunge.
I liked the article and I can agree with a lot of your observations of retirement. The one about time and how it seems to mysteriously disappear into thin air once you retire is very accurate – it still goes nowhere, you still don’t really get that much done or not as you would expect now that you’re not a part of the rat race. It’s right though that you do take your time, allow yourself to be side tracked and as you say potter about half the day.
What made me laugh was when you quipped about the older folks who are always too busy, despite having only the one appointment in the diary for next week! So true. I know a few like this (including the mother in law) who often say – “I can’t that week, the man’s coming to do my feet” or “the Rington’s man is coming” or even sometimes “not that day, I’ve got the bin men coming.” I hadn’t heard about the law that says your bins won’t be emptied unless you’re there and waiting for the ceremonial bin hand back. You can’t tell them though – they won’t listen. I think change is the devil to them – routine is what they live by. Just have to nod, agree and go with it – if only to keep the peace!
It’s nice to hear you feel you did the right thing and are enjoying retirement. I feel the same and don’t miss work at all – glad to be rid of it with all the stress, rushed life in trying to cram stuff in around it whilst often working 6 or 7 days a week.
That said I agree with your reasoning about doing bits and pieces of work just as and when/part-time if you ENJOY it such as a hobby and it enhances your retirement rather than takes away from it. If that’s the case and you’re free to do it when you choose and possibly can work from home then so much the better. I think as long as you are certain you would rather do that with some of your time than other things (only so much laying on a beach and/or scoffing coffee/cake you can reasonably do – well before you get bored or 30 pounds heavier and develop diabetes) and personally I never had scaling Mount Kilimanjaro or bungee jumping on my retirement bucket list even if I could!) If these bits of work also bring the bonus of a few extra bob that means you don’t have to dip into your retirement pot so often, then why not?
That’s not to say that others who prefer to completely finish work as they don’t enjoy it in any way are wrong either. I cannot work now, through ill health, but I have never missed it or felt at a loss, I am never bored and always have loads of stuff to do and still not enough time. However I like the outdoors – walking, cycling a bit and if I was well enough, I maybe would try to pick up a bit of “fair weather” gardening work here and there as I enjoy it so fully agree with you.
I do believe time is the more important though as you get older and you should choose what you do wisely even if it is just relaxing for a bit doing absolutely nothing. Apart from the boring chores you can’t really get away from, I try not to do things I don’t enjoy or at least minimise them. Personally I don’t really find investment that exciting or interesting as such but just a means to an end, that’s why I’m still a beginner – in fact I only really started investing in mainly passive funds last year due to inflation robbing my savings but at the minute am down by more than the inflation! I am fully invested in your philosophy of passive index fund investing as I like the ease, simplicity and minimum effort and time.
Neither do I like DIY, find it a pain, so I don’t really do it. So my house isn’t modern and just get tradesmen in when I really have to – you know when it is broken, worn out and had its day but otherwise I can’t see the point in shelling out to replace perfectly good stuff. (Think I am a frugalist.) Am I or the missus bothered? No because neither of us like DIY or endlessly having workmen around like some in family seem to (you know the types – have a new bath/shower room, kitchen, wardrobes, conservatory, orangery, sauna, hot tub, bar, garden room, glittery disco ball, …….blah blah blah…….. fitted every few months and seemingly redecorating something – probably even the dog, about every 2 minutes.)
Its easy to go on working too long thinking in your head how rosy life is going to be and how it will pan out for you and then “bang” in an instant everything changes. This happened to me (and others I know) and is such a salient point that you brought up about health. I always wanted to retire around 50 but in my early 40’s had to reduce working to look after my parents after they became ill with a number of serious health conditions. They subsequently passed away in 2019 & 2020. I then thought I should work more again to try to make up for this period and forget about retiring early. However I got worsening health conditions unexpectedly in 2020 and have not worked since so have been forced into earlier retirement anyway and is another reason why I decided to invest savings to try to earn a bit of a return (but daren’t look at my investments at the moment.)
I don’t regret retirement as like you I like the time to take things easy, get up later, have 3 cups of tea and leisurely breakfast and all that – but I would have liked to have been a bit more prepared with pensions/finances to transition. I have also had quite a few other family/friends pass away far earlier than expected. You make a very good point about the trade off between time/money and that working till the last minute possible to make sure you have your retirement nailed down to the last buck may not always be in your interest as I have found. I know its all crystal ball stuff but if I had known what I now know I would have retired earlier and done stuff like travel a bit more than I had time to when working. Later things you planned to do can become very difficult/impossible when these unexpected life changing events occur.
You have to be realistic – the statisticians are always harping on about longevity and how the average is going up every decade and all that. Not meaning to be pessimistic but obviously many people equally don’t get near the average, never mind live beyond it and they tend to live with more severe and disabling conditions when they do which place huge limits on their life/what they can do (as I can testify with my parents) but we always think it won’t happen to us – but it can and does turn up to throw a spanner in your plans at the last minute.
I also think many people over estimate how much they need in retirement – most people I know once they get into their mid 70’s/80’s if not before, have slowed down, become ill, don’t have the energy/desire/will to do as much, many don’t travel/eat/consume alcohol as much etc. and that’s if you live that long. If you need care and worry about funding that then that is beyond most people anyway and I can’t factor that in – will just have to accept what hand dealt in that case.
I know this is a long piece but I thought your article was interesting and am new as I said to investing and your site – in fact only this year. So think I now need to begrudgingly read more on asset allocation to try not to lose too much more of my retirement funds. I do like simplicity but the layered pot/bucket approach sounds like more sense although undoubtedly more work.
All the best.
@ Albert – Thank you for your thoughtful and positive comment. Your point about how things don’t pan out as we planned is powerfully made. That truism has never been more on my mind and is a major reason why I doubt I’ll ever regret pulling the trigger.
If you’d prefer to keep things simple but retain the benefits of a diversified asset allocation then these pieces may help:
Right, I’m off to buy one of those glittery disco balls you recommended 😉
Re: ‘Our portfolio is roughly where it was a year ago. That means it’s down after inflation.’
Now that’s impressive! Mine’s down 17.57% and I’ve just completed my first year of FIRE too…. A lousy time to retire as far as inflation and markets are concerned, but absolutely the right time for me as a human. I’ve not done a stroke for a year other than perform domestic rituals interspersed with as many trips as I could afford – some with family, some alone and others with friends. Sure I’m a bit annoyed that my portfolio is down the best part of £100k, but I wouldn’t go back to work for all the tea in China.
@ funny munny – thanks for stopping by! Loved this: “I wouldn’t go back to work for all the tea in China.”
I know exactly what you mean 🙂
Prompted by your comment, I’ve just checked my portfolio 7 months on. I’m down 10.7% in the last year. Add on 10% inflation and that’s bear market territory. Ouch.
Thankfully cash reserves and a little bit of income from writing mean I don’t have to touch it.