The big announcement
My subscribers may have noticed a little PS at the bottom of my last email. It said:
“I’ll be back next week with a big announcement… probably the biggest one yet on this blog!”
Today’s the day!!!
Well, today’s the day, and I’m sharing the big announcement. It’s still surreal to me, but it’s true—M and I have reached FIRE! 🔥🔥🔥
That’s the news! Mic drop… see ya… I’m outta here.
Of course I’m not leaving. Like it or not, I’m in this for the long haul. I’ll continue to blog here at Eat Sleep Breathe FI—even post-FIRE.
That means you’ll still get my How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life interviews, other FI-focused content, and updates on our post-FIRE life.
I look forward to sharing how we navigate this new chapter of our lives—starting with this post. I’ll detail when we achieved FIRE, M’s retirement decision, the reactions of our family and friends, and much more.
But before we get started, I want to address the elephant in the room…
FI versus FIRE
Since the beginning of this blog, I’ve tried to mostly use the term ‘FI’ (financial independence) instead of ‘FIRE’ (financial independence, retire early). I briefly mentioned the reasons behind this in one of my early posts:
I take no issue with the term ‘FIRE’ (financial independence, retire early). And yet, I mostly use the term ‘FI’ (financial independence). Why?
It’s because confusion about the word ‘retirement’ is a roadblock. I’d rather remove the confusion and make things clearer.
We’re all better off spending less time arguing with others about retirement and more time striving for FI. (Which is what’ll actually allow us to retire!)
So, why am I using ‘FIRE’ now?
1. Times have changed
The FIRE community has evolved and become increasingly mainstream. More people are talking about and representing FIRE accurately.
2. FIRE describes our situation
We’ve reached FI (financial independence) and plan to live what most would consider an RE (retired early) lifestyle. To me, retirement (whether early or traditional) means:
- No longer having to work for money.
- Any work (paid or unpaid) is optional and purely for enjoyment.
M and I meet both those retirement ‘requirements,’ so I’m comfortable labeling ourselves as FIRE. (Go ahead—come at me, Internet Retirement Police!)
However, even though I’m comfortable saying that we’re FIRE, I still believe FI is what we should focus on—the RE is entirely optional.
I imagine you’ve got a few questions. So, I decided to turn this post into an interview with myself. (This is turning into a bit of a habit!)
I tried to think of all the questions I’d have for someone who’s newly FIREd, then asked them of myself below. Let me know in the comments if I’ve missed anything!
When did you find out you were FIRE?
M and I found out in May of this year (2021) that we’d hit our FIRE number. Coincidentally, this was the same day that M received his annual letter notifying him of his pay increase and bonus.
So, on the same day that M realized he’d be making more than he’d ever made before, we also realized he could walk away—if he wanted.
How old were you when you hit your FIRE number?
When we found out we’d achieved FIRE in May, I was 42, and M was 45. We’re now 43 and 45, and our kids are 16 and 13.
Why didn’t you reveal the news sooner?
It all came down to M’s job. He wanted to see his project through, and he also wasn’t sure if he was ready to retire.
So, to give M time and space to make the decision, we decided to keep the news private. However, we did tell a handful of family and friends early on—it was too hard to hide it from everyone!
I’ll share their reactions later in the ‘interview’.
So, is M going to retire?
After many months of debate, M’s made his decision. Yes, he’s going to retire! He finally gave his notice a couple of weeks ago. (Which is why I can finally share the news here.) His last day will be Thursday, November 18, 2021.
That marks the end of 36* years of working, 22 years in the videogame industry, and nearly 19 years at his current company. It’s been a long run.
*M started his first job at his parents’ bike shop—at the age of 9! He cleaned mowers and tuned bikes there until he turned 16. M remembers those years fondly. It was fun spending time with his parents and brother, learning new skills and earning money. Since then, he’s continued to work every year of his life.
Didn’t you say M loved his job?
Yes, I did, and it’s still true! M still loves his job and knows how lucky he’s been to have had the career he’s had—and at such an amazing company.
It’s hard to imagine a more ideal work situation. He gets to work with talented, passionate people, be creative, and learn new skills. He also feels that he’s making a difference for his company and in the lives of his staff. It’s an incredibly rewarding job.
M’s experienced so much and made countless memories in his 19 years with his company. (So have the boys and I; his company worked hard to include partners and kids at their events.)
M will miss many, many things about his job. I know it’ll be bittersweet for him when he signs out of Zoom for the last time in November.
So, without a doubt, M has loved (and still loves) his job. That’s why he needed so much time to be sure about his decision. He flip-flopped on it nearly every day. But after many discussions, we realized that retirement was the right choice.
Okay, so why is M retiring?
So, if M’s not retiring to get away from his job, why is he retiring? He and I have had a lot of conversations about this, and it boils down to this: he wants more time freedom.
With his eye health* continuing to decline, our boys growing up, and relatives aging and ailing, we’ve realized that life’s too short. As much as M loves his job, it eats up an outsized portion of his days. That’s time that he’ll never get back.
Continuing to work would largely be for earning more income (albeit very enjoyably). But at this point, we have more than enough to live off for the rest of our lives. For us, more time is far more meaningful than more money.
That’s why we’ve made the decision—now is the right time for M to retire.
*I share the sad details about M’s failing vision in this post.
Is it hard walking away from the income and benefits?
Yes, it really is. Very much so. This was another reason why the retirement decision was so tough for us. It just seems crazy to walk away from a job you love, that earns you good money, and offers amazing benefits.
These are the proverbial ‘golden handcuffs’ that lull so many into one more year syndrome. M and I very nearly fell prey to it—despite my previous belief that we’d be immune!
It was very hard not to consider the extra income that another year (or more) could bring. After all, the triple benefits of working longer are nothing to sneeze at:
- You continue earning and investing more income.
- You’re not withdrawing from your investments.
- Your investments have more time to grow.
It also seems completely counterproductive to work so hard all your life, reach your peak earning and career years… then opt-out. Who does that?! It feels like such a waste; such a huge opportunity lost.
And yet, when M and I sat down and really looked at it, really searched deep in our hearts, we confirmed again that retirement was the right decision. As I mentioned earlier, even though he loves his job, M’s main reason to keep working would be to earn more income.
But we’re not fancy people. We live very happily on less than most, and we padded our FIRE number, so we already have more than enough. So, really, more income wouldn’t mean a lot for us at this point.
What it would mean is M giving up precious time with his loved ones. But for what? More money that we don’t need? For us, that’s not a worthwhile trade-off. When you look at it that way, the decision is crystal clear.
So, yes, it does hurt our FIRE sensibilities (a lot!) to walk away from a good job and good income. But with our core values in mind, we have zero doubts that retirement is the right decision. That makes it less hard (but still not easy!) to walk away.
Why didn’t M retire as soon as you reached FIRE?
As mentioned, we hit our FIRE number in May. So, why is M retiring six months after that? Well, as mentioned, one reason was that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to retire yet.
In addition, there were other important reasons:
- We were in the middle of refinancing our mortgage (aka investment loan). Obviously, that’s not a good time to quit!
- If M was going to retire, there was a list of things we needed to wrap up, use up and plan. We needed time to sort these things out and get them done.
- We wanted to give our nest egg a little more time to grow (to give us even more of a safety cushion).
- M would need time to wind down at work, transition his team, and give them time to find a replacement.
I’m glad we gave ourselves six months of space. We were able to go slow and really make sure M was ready to retire. Then, once he was sure he would retire, we could deal with all the things that retirement would entail.
What’s M going to do with all his newfound time?
So many things! Here are just some of the items on his list:
- Even more time with the boys and me.
- Work on his classic Mustang with his dad.
- Help his uncle work on his classic car.
- Woodworking with another uncle.
- Visit his grandma and other relatives more often.
- Spend more time with friends.
- Bake traditional dishes with his mom.
- Cook more of his favourite dishes and learn new ones.
- Make pottery.
- Take courses (automotive, welding).
- Continue to volunteer at a local high school.
- Teach digital media classes.
Of course, M will also be helping me even more around the house, including some bigger projects that we never have time to tackle:
- Patch and paint our walls.
- Paint the outside of our house.
- Renovate our backyard.
- Start a small container garden.
These lists are just a starting point for M. We expect things to change over time and as his interests evolve. But that’s why retirement’s so great—he’ll finally have the time and mental bandwidth to just explore and enjoy!
What if M gets bored?
M’s favourite answer to this is something a friend from work said: “It’s not my fault if you don’t have hobbies.” Along the same lines, The Accountant from FI Garage said on a recent episode, “If you’re bored, you’re a boring person.”
We’ve yet to meet a retired person who’s bored or out of things to do. In fact, most of them are so busy that they often wonder how they ever had time to work! Whether you retire at 65 or 45 makes no difference—humans want to fill their free time doing meaningful, non-boring things.
So, no, M will NOT be bored after he retires!
How are you going to handle all that time together?!
I don’t know—aaack! Just kidding. 😉
The truth is, we’re quite confident that we’ll be okay spending a lot of time together; it’s been the norm for most of our relationship. When we started dating in art school (way back in 1997), we saw each other nearly 24/7 for three years!
Soon after, we bought our house, moved in, and carpooled to and from work together—even more togetherness! It wasn’t until our first son was born and I became a stay-at-home mom that we started spending longer days apart.
Related post: Chrissy’s backstory
When M started working from home at the beginning of COVID, we again saw a lot of each other. He also took three whole weeks off this summer to hang out with me and the boys. (And, pre-COVID, we took many 2–3 week vacations with all four of us crammed, with his parents, into their motorhome!)
As you can see, we enjoy and are very used to a lot of time together! So, a lot of togetherness will be nothing new. M will also be plenty busy once he retires, so I’m pretty sure we’ll have no issues with stepping on each other’s toes or getting on each other’s nerves!
Nevertheless, I know it’s inevitable that our couple and family dynamic will change. We’ll be mindful of that and navigate things as we go—much like we always have.
Do you have any regrets about your FIRE journey?
Only that we didn’t know about FIRE sooner! We’ve always been good with our money. But we’d be so much farther ahead if we’d known about next-level FIRE optimizations (like leveraged investing) right from the start.
They paved the way for the rest of us by sharing their mistakes. Namely, they rushed to reach FIRE at all costs and believed (wrongly) that FIRE would solve all their problems. We learned from them and did things differently.
That meant putting a lot of effort into living a life we’d be thrilled to retire into—long before we reached FIRE. This mindful approach made for a happy and fulfilling FIRE journey with almost no regrets.
Related: We chose to pursue Spouse FI as a way to make our journey to FIRE happier and healthier.
Also, I highly recommend following The Fioneers. They believe that “the journey should be as remarkable as the destination”. That’s exactly the mindset we approached FIRE with!
How do you feel about M retiring?
I couldn’t be more excited for him. Seriously—I feel giddy every time I think about it! I’m like a kid waiting to open presents on Christmas morning. (I’ve even got a countdown timer going on my phone!)
M has worked so hard for so many years. It’ll be nice for him to finally have a break. I can’t wait for him to enjoy his new life and all the time freedom he’ll gain.
M’s retirement is also exciting for me because it’s the culmination of the last seven years of my journey into FIRE. Since first discovering Mr. Money Mustache in 2014, I’ve worked tirelessly to reach FIRE so that M could be free.
Pursuing FIRE was my way of thanking M for toiling away so I could stay at home with our boys. Even so, FIRE really was a joint effort; M earned the income, and I did my best to be a good steward and grow it.
We achieved this goal together. And now, we’ll both get to be at home to enjoy our boys’ remaining teenage years (and some of their young adult years) before they move out.
How did your boys react to the news?
Our boys are very FIRE-savvy and have known our plans all along. So, when we told them the news, they were excited and happy—but not surprised.
When I think about this, it’s kind of odd and definitely not ‘normal’ for 16 and 13-year-olds to know about and understand FIRE. But then again, FIRE isn’t normal (though I think it can and should be).
To be perfectly honest, though, I’m glad my kids are ‘abnormal’ in this regard. FIRE is already shaping their decisions about the careers they might choose and how they’ll spend and grow their money.
M and I learned to be good with money through ‘osmosis’—our parents simply modeled good money habits for us, and we internalized them. I’m thrilled to see this natural form of learning repeating itself in our kids.
All our open discussions about FIRE, money, and investing have helped our boys internalize money lessons that will serve them the rest of their lives. That’s second-generation FIRE in action!
How did your parents react?
My dad was very supportive and happy for M. M’s parents were likewise supportive and happy, but they were more apprehensive. (Naturally, since he’s their son!)
We invited them to share their concerns with us, which we then discussed together. We also went through our many contingencies and explained how our withdrawal strategy will work. I’m glad we did this because it turned out to be a valuable exercise for all of us. (So much so that I plan to write a post about it.)
I think M’s parents are just a little less fearful now, but I suspect they’ll always worry about us. That’s just what parents do, and we love them for it!
How did other family members react?
M also told his uncles, aunts, cousins, and our siblings that we’d reached FIRE and he was planning to retire. Everyone was happy and excited for him.
His uncles and aunts are all retired and knew how much he would enjoy being retired. His cousins and my siblings know about FIRE, so they got it right away. It was nice to be able to chat with them about it and discuss their FIRE plans too.
M’s brother, like their parents, had his concerns. However, he came on board after we shared our contingencies and plans with him. FIRE isn’t his thing, but he understands why M’s retiring and is fully supportive.
After addressing everyone’s initial questions and worries, they’ve all cheered on M as he approaches ‘the end’. We feel so fortunate to have the supportive and understanding family that we have.
How did your friends react?
Money is not at all taboo amongst our family members, but it can feel awkward to discuss it with friends. That’s why I’ve been more secretive about FIRE around our friends. However, we did share the news with a handful of our closest friends.
They were, of course, happy for M. But I think they were also too polite to ask how and why! I hope more of our friends will feel comfortable chatting with us about FIRE—even if they’re not interested in the RE part. I’d be more than happy to share our experience and knowledge with them.
It was nice, though, that one of our friends shared my podcast with a mutual friend. That friend then reached out, and we met over a few Zoom calls. It was fun helping her figure out ways to optimize her money as she shifts into her own early retirement.
I love being able to help people (especially family and friends) to do even better with their money. Admittedly, it’s a bit uncomfortable to bring up the topic of FIRE. But if it sparks ideas and mindset shifts in even a few friends, it will have been worth the discomfort.
How did M’s co-workers react?
For obvious reasons, M’s co-workers were the last to find out. He has a lot of genuine fondness and care for his work friends and colleagues, so it’s been a bit emotionally taxing for him to break the news.
However, the reception has been incredibly warm, supportive, and positive. That’s helped M to feel okay about walking away from his amazing job, co-workers, and company. (It’s still really hard—he’s questioned his decision many times.)
Most of M’s colleagues have, like our friends, been too polite to ask for more details. I can only imagine what they’re thinking—did he get an inheritance or win the lottery? Or maybe he’s burnt out and is leaving whether he has the money or not… and he’ll eventually be back?
LOL, I don’t know, but I really do wonder! I hope they don’t actually think any of the above! And, as with our friends, I hope more of them will feel comfortable asking M for more details, then be inspired to look into FIRE.
There were some surprising moments, though—M discovered that a couple of his co-workers knew about FIRE and are on the path or planning to get on the path soon! How cool is that?
All in all, it’s been a good experience for M to break the news. Now that everyone knows, he can focus on finishing up everything he’s committed to and helping his team transition.
Wrapping it up
It’s been a busy, emotional time since we found out we’d reached FIRE. (There’s a lot to plan and do when wrapping up a decades-long career and cutting off your most significant source of income!)
But we’re in the home stretch now, and FIRE is feeling more real for us. M and I are allowing ourselves to get more excited about all our new adventures to come.
Thanks for joining me on our FIRE journey up to this point. I look forward to sharing our post-FIRE journey with you—bumpy and unpredictable as it may be!
Wait, that’s it?!
I can already hear some of you grumbling, “Hey, what gives? You didn’t mention anything about your investments, withdrawal plan, or even the 4% rule. What kind of ‘I’ve reached FIRE’ post is this?!”
You’re right. I left out all that critical info! To my credit, I’d initially planned to include it. But as I saw the post expand from 1,000 words to 2,000, then nearly 4,000, I decided to break this into two (or more) posts.
I also think it’ll be better to write that post after we start withdrawing. That way, I can share more accurate and actionable info. So… hold tight—the numbers and tactics are coming!
Note: If you’d like to be notified when I publish that post (and all my latest posts) be sure to subscribe to my email list via my contact page or via the box at the top of the sidebar (desktop) or below the comments (mobile).
Any other questions?
Let me know in the comments if there’s anything I missed. Also, if you’ve FIREd or retired yourself, I’d love to hear your tips for transitioning into this new phase of life.
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