FI

Two Years of FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early)

kaiona beach

Our second year of FIRE included some stereotypical beach lounging! (Pictured: Kaiona Beach, HI)

Another year of FIRE!

It’s November 18 today, which means another year of FIRE (financial independence, retire early) has passed us by… and I almost forgot to write this post!

That should give you a clue as to how our second year of early retirement went! In short, it was BUSY—but all for good reason! 😉

For more details…

To celebrate our one-year FIRE-iversary, I went in-depth into our FIRE plans with a four-part AMA series: 

Nearly all the info I shared in those posts still applies, so check them out for all the numbers, details, challenges, and triumphs behind our early retirement!

How it’s going

Early retirement continues to be amazing! It’s been everything M and I hoped it would be… and then some! I can’t say enough good things about living the FIRE life. 🔥

We have no regrets and do not miss our hectic, pre-FIRE lives one bit! As I look back on our second year of FIRE, these are the things I cherish the most:

  • Having a full-time co-parent in M as our kids enter young adulthood (and need us as much as they ever have). 💗
  • The luxury of being able to take on jobs or projects just for fun—even if they’re low-paying (or unpaid).
  • Having the time to give back by volunteering, helping family and friends, and engaging in our community. 
  • Vacationing in Hawaii for 25 days (and not needing to ask for permission to book so much time off)!
  • The frequent realization that every day is the weekend for us. 😎
  • Having the time to continually chip away at long-standing items on our to-do lists (even as we continue to add new projects and tasks). 
  • Not needing expensive hobbies and interests to keep us happy, fulfilled, and engaged—we keep finding so many free and low-cost things to do!
  • Having enough time to cook even more than we used to. (We enjoy eating out less and less and don’t see as much value in it these days.)
  • Being able to spend as much time as we want on tasks that others might consider too time-consuming or not worth the effort. (For example: mending clothing, repairing our cars, DIY cosmetics, signing petitions and letters to support environmental and LGBTQ+ issues.) 🏳️‍🌈
  • Having the mental bandwidth to work on constant self-improvement (and being able to teach our kids these skills as they need them).

For us, FIRE and all the benefits it brings are the ultimate luxuries! I can’t imagine a better use of our money than having all this time freedom. 👍

Silly stuff

Another luxury that FIRE has given us is the time to do silly stuff. It’s a running joke between M and I that whenever he does stuff that’s 100% for leisure, he says, This is why I retired.”

For example:

  • Cuddling Mika on the couch—often for an hour or more. (M says he quit his job to become Mika’s bed.) 😆
  • Learning, practising, and mastering algorithms to solve Rubik’s cubes.
  • Doing jigsaw puzzles.
  • Working on pencil drawings. 
  • Painting Ghibli movie backgrounds.
  • Being the best plant dad ever!

There are so many things M fills his time with everyday—including some of these ‘silly’ things. Neither of us can imagine how we could ever be bored in retirement!

Our income 

2023 was our first full year of receiving monthly withdrawals from our investments. (I’ve quite liked getting paycheque-like payments coming in every month!)

These withdrawals fully funded our non-discretionary spending (e.g. groceries, gas, utilities, etc.) and most of our discretionary spending.

We also received several large chunks of income via three large tax refunds. (They were previously held up by CRA as they reviewed our investment loan interest deductions.) 

However, our regular RRIF withdrawals cover all our necessary spending, so we didn’t need the income from these refunds. We held back a little bit, then reinvested the rest in our non-registered accounts. 

In addition to our tax refunds, we also earned little bits of income, which we spent on fun/extra stuff:

  • A small amount we held back from our tax refunds.
  • My blog (however, income was waaay down this year). 😕
  • Two years of previously-earned USD blog income that I converted to CAD.
  • Bank interest and cashback from our credit cards.
  • Cashback rebates from Rakuten, Great Canadian Rebates, and CardSwap.
  • M’s one-hour-a-week tutoring gig.
  • Small tax refunds for filing medical expenses that I’d missed in previous years.
  • Craigslist sales.

One source of income we don’t include

One income source I don’t include is the CCB (Canada Child Benefit). Ever since our kids were little, we’ve always invested the CCB in their informal trust accounts.

It never added up to much anyway, since our income was relatively high until M retired. Also, Kid 1 aged out this year when he turned 18—so it’s only Kid 2 who gets the CCB now! 

I know we’re very fortunate and privileged to be able to invest the CCB for our kids. Many families (including my family when we were growing up) depend on the CCB for everyday expenses. 

I’m grateful that the Canadian government provides this income to families who really need it (and that they claw it back from families like mine, who are self-sufficient—it’s only fair and the right thing to do). 👍

Our spending

Note: Since I don’t yet have our November and December 2023 spending, I’ve estimated our total 2023 spending by adding up the last 12 months (November 2022–October 2023).

Our overall spending increased by a small amount compared to last year (about $1,500). But different categories saw dramatic increases or decreases. Here’s what went up or down significantly (and why):

What went up

  • Gas: We and the kids were A LOT busier this year! (On most days, all four of us are headed in four different directions. 😵)
  • Car maintenance: I needed new tires and had to replace part of the exhaust on my Mazda 5. (But M took on other repairs and maintenance himself, which saved us a lot of money.)
  • Medical: We’re all healthy and well, but everyone needed more medical care this year.
  • School fees: Kid 1’s graduation events, various Grade 12 fees, and university application fees really added up. 
  • Mika: She had her first dental cleaning ever—and it wasn’t cheap! (But the good news is her teeth are in excellent condition, with no extractions or extra procedures needed.)
  • M’s classic Mustang: M did all kinds of repairs, maintenance, and improvements himself—including some big projects. Even so, we spent more on his car this year than last. 
  • Travel: We took our first trip out of the country (to Hawaii) since 2019! It was one of our biggest expenditures in 2023, but was very affordable for a 25-day trip. 😎

What went down

  • Home maintenance/improvement: We didn’t have the huge, one-time expense of a new patio cover like we did last year. 
  • Eating out: It’s getting way too expensive to eat out, so we did less of it this year. (We’ve also had more time to cook at home.)
  • Gifts: We didn’t have any weddings to go to this year, so that saved us several hundreds on gifts compared to last year!
  • Alcohol: Who needs alcohol when retirement’s been mostly stress-free!

Our investments 

Our portfolio still hasn’t returned to its previous high, but it’s definitely on the road to recovery this year. I hope we’ve moved past the lowest point and that we’ll finally see a full recovery in 2024. 

However, I know that’s likely wishful thinking—world events continue to create instability, which investors never like. 😓 Even so, we can and will continue to weather the volatility indefinitely.

Thanks to excellent planning and our low withdrawal rate, our portfolio is sustainable and will survive this rough patch. It’s been a longer and bumpier recovery than we’d like, but we’re still sleeping fine and feeling optimistic!

Our withdrawals 

We’re continuing to withdraw from our RRIFs only. Based on today’s portfolio value, our 2023 withdrawals will work out to a 3.5% withdrawal rate. (This includes tax that was withheld, which I expect will be partially refunded to us.) 

I’m very happy with our 3.5% withdrawal rate as that’s generally considered to be fail-proof—even for a retirement that will last 60+ years. Also, given that our portfolio’s still well below its peak, I’m pretty thrilled that our withdrawal rate is as low as it is.

Note that I haven’t included the withdrawals for our investment loan nor the value of the leveraged portion of our portfolio. That’s calculated separately as the math for that isn’t based on the 4% rule. 

I’m very grateful that that’s the case! Due to all the interest rate increases in 2023, we’ve definitely exceeded 4% in withdrawals from that account! Even so, I’m not worried because rate increases were factored into our plans. 👍

For more info on how the math for our leveraged investments works, see Part 3 of my One Year of FIRE AMA and search for the question, “How do you factor in the interest rate on the leverage when you apply the 4% rule?”—I explain all the details there!

Closing thoughts

Sadly, I’ll have to end this post here. 😓 I was hoping to write a lot more than this, but the realities of early retirement foiled my best plans!

I simply ran out of time and didn’t want to miss publishing this post on our actual FIRE-iversary. So I hit publish on this post anyway—short and imperfect as it may be!

To summarize our second year of FIRE, I would say it was just as wonderful as the first (and maybe even more so). M, the kids, and I continue to live our best lives and look forward to many more FIRE-iversaries to come! 🔥

I would love to hear from you and would be happy to do a mini AMA in the comments. If you have any questions you’d like me to answer, feel free to post them below!

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As always, however you show your support for this blog—THANK YOU!

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28 Comments

  • Reply
    Shaidah Karim
    November 19, 2023 at 9:17 am

    As always, great post. I love that M retired to be Mika’s bed. Similarly, everyday feels like a weekend day and we often forget which day is garbage day (it changes after every stat). We are also staying active and super busy but this time of year is a bit hard as it gets dark at 5. We live mostly outside so coming in early means we need to find some indoor hobbies. Anyways great post my friends and reach out when you want to visit!!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 19, 2023 at 10:09 pm

      Hi Shaidah—as a fellow dog parent, you understand how easy it is to spoil these fur babies, LOL. You and hubby have not slowed down one bit since you retired. I still can’t believe he thought he’d be bored! Would love to hear what new indoor hobbies you come up with… maybe we’ll have to plan a visit to see!

  • Reply
    Court @ Modern FImily
    November 19, 2023 at 11:35 am

    Great update! Love heading about the post FIRE side of things. I had to chuckle with your fun hobbies – Nic too is trying to master the Rubik’s cube algorithm!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 19, 2023 at 10:13 pm

      Hi Court—ha ha, I didn’t realize Nic was also working on her Rubik’s cube skills. Have you seen “The Speed Cubers” on Netflix? It’s a touching and entertaining documentary about speed cubers. Nic might enjoy it!

  • Reply
    Max
    November 19, 2023 at 12:46 pm

    Hi Chrissy, I’m happy to hear that everything is working out for you and your family. Yes, it has been a challenging year in many ways, for all of us, but I’m sure the future will soon look better again, it has been that way for a long time and I don’t see why that should change anytime soon. Hang in there and you will get through this rocky time with flying colors.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 19, 2023 at 10:16 pm

      Hi Max—you’re absolutely right that over time, the world has moved in an overall positive direction. It’s hard to see us emerging anytime soon from the darkness and divisiveness we’ve all been mired in for the last few years. But I know we’ll eventually get there. Thank you, as always, for sharing such wise and helpful words.

  • Reply
    Jill S
    November 19, 2023 at 5:49 pm

    “My blog (however, income was waaay down this year). 😕”

    I think you may want to be more pleased about this than it seems. I bet a lot of your traffic was coming from the podcast (and Twitter) and I think it’s more worthwhile to have your time back from the podcast (and to not help Musk with his traffic, but that might just be me).

    Curious how having an 18 year old will impact this coming year, depending on where they go for post-secondary, and for what an 18 year old means for the informal trust. But I don’t have kids so it’s not important, just a curiousity.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 19, 2023 at 10:33 pm

      Hi Jill—you’re totally right about the good reasons behind my decreased traffic. As much as I still miss the podcast and the good old days of Twitter, it has indeed been nice to have that time back. (And you know I’m 100% in agreement about that Mollusk creature! Twitter has become a cesspool of toxicity. 😫)

      Re: our 18YO, he deferred his enrolment at UBC until September 2024 and is taking a gap year. We’ve loved having this extra time with him, but it’s sure kept us on our toes! As for his informal trust, it can stay open indefinitely—even into his adult years. However, I’ll need to ask our planning team if we can officially attribute all the income to him now? (Or maybe when he turns 19 as that’s the legal age in BC.)

      Great questions, Jill! Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment. 😉

  • Reply
    Finn
    November 19, 2023 at 7:23 pm

    great updates. But what did you do? You said what M did but not you.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 19, 2023 at 10:52 pm

      Hi Finn—I didn’t realize that I said so little about myself! This is what happens when I don’t have enough time to write a proper post! 🤦🏻‍♀️ To be honest, I’ve never been fulfilled doing “silly” things… even though M would love for me to relax more and just do stuff for fun. He tries to get me to stop being busy and doing stuff all the time, but I never listen!

      It’s just that I get restless when I’m overly leisurely and am happiest being productive and being the best mom I can be. I enjoy simple things like taking Mika for long hikes, watching Netflix with M, chatting with our kids, helping my sister in her library, spending time with M’s parents and other family, etc. Just everyday, meaningful (to me) things!

      That’s not to say FIRE hasn’t benefitted me too—with M retired, it’s given me more time to do the things I enjoy and at a more leisurely pace. Thanks for asking. It was a thoughtful question!

  • Reply
    Virna
    November 20, 2023 at 1:41 pm

    Happy 2nd Fire-iversary!!! Just had my meeting with Ed Rempel’s team and sadly we are 10% behind our goal because of the market. I’m hoping that the market recovers soon and I can retire earlier than expected. So happy you are enjoying your retirement. How was your Hawaii trip? Hubby and I went in September for my birthday and I found Hawaii to be very expensive!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 21, 2023 at 10:29 pm

      Hi Virna—ugh, I feel for you! It’s no fun to hear that you may need to delay retirement. However, you’re better off than those of us who are already retired as you get to buy stocks on sale! In the end, you’re just building up an extra-safe nest egg, which is an excellent thing. 👍

      Hawaii was lovely! I shared some photos and a mini trip recap in my “end of summer” update post. You’re right that it’s very expensive (and even more so now, with inflation still running high). We were fortunate to have had free accommodations, which helped A LOT!

  • Reply
    Loonies and Sense
    November 21, 2023 at 9:13 am

    Great update, Chrissy. It seems like you’re both finding your groove and enjoying the fruits of your labour.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 21, 2023 at 10:54 pm

      Hi Loonies and Sense—thanks for stopping by and commenting! Yes, with each passing year, we are indeed finding our groove. Like the path to FI, retirement is also a journey. 🙂

  • Reply
    Chris
    November 24, 2023 at 3:39 pm

    Hey Chrissy – I’ve enjoyed your blog and found some interesting ideas as my family pursues our own FI journey. A couple questions:

    1) You mention “regular RRIF withdrawls” – how are you able to withdraw from your RRIF given your ages?

    2) Being a Vancouverite I’m interested in working with a Financial Planner – could you refer me to yours? I also have Informal Trusts for my kids established and practice leveraged investing.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 26, 2023 at 8:45 pm

      Hi Chris—these are great questions! Here are my replies:

      1) It’s mandatory to convert your RRSP to a RRIF by December 31 of the year you turn 71. But you can actually convert to a RRIF anytime before that, which is what we’ve done. The mandatory withdrawal amounts are very, very low at our ages (I believe around 2%), so we withdraw more than is mandated by CRA. The benefits of converting our RRSPs to RRIFs early is that we can withdraw monthly and not have to pay withdrawal fees each time. Also, no taxes are withheld on the minimum withdrawal amounts. I hope that all makes sense.

      2) I work remotely with Ed Rempel and his planning team (who are located in Ontario). We couldn’t be happier with them. You can reach out to them directly via his website (no referral required from me)!

      They’re always happy to welcome new clients who are the right fit for them (which it sounds like you probably are). They sometimes have a waitlist as they’re quite popular, but it’s typically no longer than 2-3 months. Feel free to email me at chrissy (at) eatsleepbrreathefi.com if you have any questions. 🙂

      Thanks so much for reading my update and taking the time to comment!

  • Reply
    Maria @ Handful of Thoughts
    November 25, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    Great 2 year recap. I’ve found that as I work less, I always find more to do and am never bored. Sounds like you and M are the same.

    I work with many older teachers who have not thought about what retirement looks like for them. It definitely leads to some great conversations, helping them think things through.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 26, 2023 at 8:51 pm

      Hi Maria—I love that you’ve found so much freedom and enjoyment already by working less! But I’m sure you have very little time to be bored as you have two young kids!

      It’s fantastic that you chat with your older colleagues about retirement. I hope you’ve planted some seeds to get them thinking about retiring INTO something rather than AWAY from their jobs. It’s so sad to hear about people who lose their sense of purpose in retirement, then have a mental health crisis. For most people, some pre-planning and forethought can help a lot to mitigate that risk.

  • Reply
    Teresa
    November 28, 2023 at 9:44 am

    Even though we were skeptical about M retiring at a young age and wondered how it would go, it makes us really proud that you two have accomplished your goal and are so happy with the way things have gone despite some setbacks with the markets. I certainly have learned lots from you and if I had listened to you earlier, I could have retired before turning 68! All good though as you continue to be our guide!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      December 3, 2023 at 11:40 pm

      Hi Mom—we’re just happy that you were still supportive of our decision even though you were skeptical and worried. It was a big leap of faith for you and dad! 68 was still a great age to retire at. Nothing wrong with working a bit longer to gain that much more financial security! Even so, M and I are glad you finally retired and get to enjoy your go-go years. 🙂

  • Reply
    Kathryn
    November 29, 2023 at 11:42 am

    I want my daughters to follow your plan!

    You barely worked and was essentially a stay at home mom.

    Not sure why you need to early retire from that but whatever.

    But great plan to just marry someone who can earn income and then you can stay home and collect child tax benefits.

    Very smart plan indeed. And still afford to live in Vancouver too.

    Much better plan than trying so hard to make it out there.

    I think my daughters will be happier if they follow your plan.

    I am sending them to your blog.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      December 3, 2023 at 11:53 pm

      Hi Kathryn—if your daughters think FIRE is the right choice for them, please do send them to my blog or the many others that are out there! The FIRE community would welcome them with open arms.

      Regarding your other comments about me, you’re 100% free to draw your own conclusions, but I can guarantee you we didn’t reach FIRE by me “barely working” and “marrying someone who can earn income”. If only it was that easy! 😂 If you’re interested to learn more and see how we actually reached FIRE, there are plenty of posts here that you can peruse.

      PS I did “retire” from my non-profit job when I became a stay-at-home mom. But contrary to your comment, I don’t consider myself “retired” from being a stay-at-home mom as I’m still very much a SAHM and have no plans to ever “retire” from being a mom to my kids. 😉

  • Reply
    Christopher Go
    December 2, 2023 at 10:31 am

    2024 will be my first year of full retirement so this post couldn’t have come at a better time. Thank you so much Chrissy for sharing your experiences on this blog. I am hoping to be busy for all the good reasons as well. My main takeaway is retirement has allowed you to focus more on your family and yourselves which is what a RICH LIFE should really look like.

    Kudos to you and M for reaping the fruits of all the excellent planning and for being an inspiration to others!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      December 3, 2023 at 11:59 pm

      Hi Christopher—it’s always so nice to hear from you. M and I are thrilled that you’ll soon be joining us in retirement. Hooray! Yes, your main takeaway is exactly how we would define a rich life. I’m excited to hear how you’ll be enjoying your well-deserved retirement. Congrats again, my friend!

  • Reply
    Gabby
    January 13, 2024 at 7:14 pm

    I am late to the game – just catching up on your blog posts!

    So good to hear you and your fam had a great year 🙂

    All the things you and M are doing retired, is exactly what I want to spend my life doing, once we hit FIRE. Its the little things: focusing on the family, being able to cook all your meals, spending time on reading, self-improvement, health etc. – all things we neglect when we spend so many hours working for someone else.

    Thank you for continually being a shining light in the community – especially based in Vancouver, where cost of living is so high. I have moments of doubting whether it is possible. Regardless, I love having a tangible goal rather spending our hard earned money on whatever we feel like – we have a purpose!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      January 21, 2024 at 10:28 pm

      Hi Gabby—sorry for my late reply. It’s so nice to hear from you! I love how the FIRE community is so dialed-in to the things we truly value… and that they usually happen to be the little things. Even better—for the most part, they’re things that are low or no-cost. 👍

      I can understand the moments of doubt, especially in the current environment we’re in. I also feel it, with the markets not fully recovered and interest rates and inflation still affecting us. It’s good that you’re able to focus on a tangible goal—I have no doubt you’ll get there (and likely faster than predicted).

      Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. I wish you all the best for 2024!

  • Reply
    Jacky
    February 8, 2024 at 7:54 pm

    Hey Chrissy! I just read your post (it’s my first time on your blog) and enjoyed it.
    Thank you for sharing it and being so detailed and transparent.

    I was actually wondering what was the earliest age to convert a RRSP to a RIF and I got the answer by reading the comments section! I will update my notes. =)
    I actually thought it was 55 but found contradicting info online.

    I am close to reaching FI and am now reading/searching more about the decumulation phase.
    Your blog will be very valuable I am sure. =)

    Cheers!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      February 13, 2024 at 7:59 pm

      Hi Jacky—it’s tough finding non-mainstream personal finance info, especially for Canadians. I love that you were able to learn more about RRIFs from the comments! My readers leave the best comments and often help each other with the knowledge they share. 🙂

      Congratulations on being so close to reaching FI! It’s been a tough slog for investors the last few years, but I’m sure you’ve been happy with the recent recovery. Perhaps you’ll reach your goal sooner than expected!

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