It’s official. We’re FI/RE’d!
Wait. What? How did this happen?
In short, not exactly by choice, then exactly by choice. Let me explain.
Not so long ago, in a land not so far away, my wife and I ran the numbers and officially marked our early retirement date – 2021.
But wait. It’s not 2021 yet. Is it???
No no, you’re right. It’s still 2019. You didn’t fall into a cryogenic bath and sleep the last two years of your life away.
Oh, good. That was a close one.
No, shortly after we put that date on the calendar, my team at work got the call. You know the call. The “thank-you-for-your-service-but-your-service-is-no-longer-needed” call.
This wasn’t entirely unexpected, as the company was going through several rounds of layoffs, but you just never expect that your number will get called…until it does. Our team was in a bit of shock.
Sweet and Sour
I went home that day and my wife and I discussed how awesome this news would be for us if it really were the year 2021. But, alas, it wasn’t. So I initiated the standard job hunting protocol of updating my resume and LinkedIn profile and started the search for my next corporate jobby job.
But the truth was, it wasn’t all bad news. There were 3 things that turned out to be pretty great.
- We had about 2 years of living expenses in our emergency fund between our savings account and taxable brokerage account. This was money we could get our hands on right now, completely separate from our retirement accounts. Having this much saved certainly wasn’t the case for everyone getting the call, so that put us in a very different emotional position.
- I worked at an awesome company with amazing benefits, so getting laid off included getting paid for 2 full months while I looked for another job. That was incredible! What company does that? We definitely recognized this as a huge blessing because we’ve known people at other companies who literally had to sign papers at the HR meeting and got escorted out of the building by security. This was a much more soft exit.
One of the first things I looked at in the packet they gave us was the severance pay. Two weeks pay for every year of employment. Having worked there for nearly 13 years, that was quite a chunk of change. Another fantastic rainbow on an otherwise cloudy day.
Looking at those 3 blessings, we can see that we definitely put in our share of hard work into number 1, but number 2 and 3 were just benefits of working for a great company. Benefits that we know not everyone gets to experience, so we didn’t take them for granted.
Wow! If I found a company like that I would try to stay there as long as possible.
I agree, and that’s what I did.
During the day I continued doing the job-hunting dance scouring the internal job postings and applying for any that fit my skills, but in the evenings my wife and I sat down and ran the numbers.
We took a hard look at what things would look like if we moved up our retirement date from 2021 to 2019. It turned out it was only a 20 month difference, not a full two years. That made things a little better.
Then we calculated in the severance pay – about 6 months worth of expenses. That took us down to 14 months. I really just needed a job for 14 more months.
Then we found out we were going to get paid for any unused time off we had. I had over 8 weeks of unused time off.
That brought us to 12 months. I only needed a job for 1 more year.
You can probably see where this is going.
Making the Decision to Leap
Every evening my wife and I would talk about the pros and cons of committing to another job for a year vs. just calling it done and figuring out how to cover that gap year. We decided that if I found a job at my company that I could really love and commit to for a year, then it would be worth it to stay on a little longer.
And I was lucky because over the past 13 years I had made several friends throughout the company, many of whom I reached out to and were actively working to make a spot for me on their team. There were no guarantees it would happen, but it was nice to know that people valued what I did and what I could provide.
I had several informal interviews for “possible future positions”, but then I got a call from HR for an official interview in a different area of the company. This interview was with a team I knew nothing about, but the job title was the same as mine and the job description looked just like what I did every day. That sure was convenient.
Ten minutes into the job interview I realized they had posted the job as my same job title, but they were actually looking for a completely different skill set. I let them know as much. They appreciated my honesty and asked if I knew anyone with those skills. I gave them a couple names to pursue.
Ultimately, though, that entire day felt like a sign that our early retirement date had been moved up for us. All day I had these nagging questions going through my head.
- What am I doing here?
- Do I really want to be here for another year?
- What am I doing with my life?
- Why am I wearing this awful suit?
Walking out of the interview I knew I was emotionally done. I was ready to move on to the next chapter of our life.
And so was my wife.
Spousal Support is HUGE
Of the two of us, my wife is definitely the more conservative, cautious, and just plain rational human in this relationship. In fact, when I brought the news home that I was getting laid off, she was actually excited…which was not what I was expecting. She was ready for our journey through corporate America to be done as well…even if the numbers on the spreadsheet didn’t fully add up.
Her typical black-and-white, by-the-book attitude was largely silent in our conversations. Instead she was excited about the next chapter in our journey and ready to start as soon as possible.
And so, the day I walked out of that job interview, I had mentally already moved on to the next chapter.
The Next Chapter of Our Lives
Our oldest son just turned 9 in April. That means for nearly a decade my wife has chosen to put many of her life skills and passions on hold to be a full-time stay-at-home mom. Today, of course, we have 4 kiddos with the youngest not quite 2 years old.
Part of the dream of early retirement has simply been to raise our children together; to travel, go on day hikes, spend time at the pool, jump on the trampoline, cover the entire driveway in chalk, ride bikes, kick the soccer ball, blow bubbles. You know, the big things of life.
These are things my wife and kids already do, of course, but I never get to participate because “daddy has to work”. But now daddy is home and gets to have fun too!
Another part of the early retirement dream is to transition more of the child rearing responsibility to me so that my wife can start pursuing more of her hobbies and passions that she’s put on hold for so long.
She loves to sing and write music, but she hasn’t touched her guitar or the piano in years. We have an entire recording studio setup in our bedroom that has also not been used in years.
She’s been involved in different choirs over the last several years, but even the smallest engagement has been a huge effort on our part to make sure we had child care, or that I was home from work on time to get the kids dinner, or even that I could take the kids for an hour or two on the weekend so she could practice.
Now that I’m home full-time, she has more time to fully engage in these things, knowing that the kids are taken care of. (Well, mostly taken care of. I’ve been told jelly beans don’t constitute a healthy lunch. The kids disagree! So go have your fun, momma! We got this.)
I’ve got other hobbies I’d love to jump into as well. After playing nearly every day for 10 years, my own guitar has collected a healthy layer of dust sitting in the corner of our living room. I’ve still been taking pictures, but probably have 500 or more sitting in the queue waiting to be edited. I haven’t updated my photography site in years.
And, of course, I started this blog with grand dreams of sharing our financial journey, only to discover that blogging is pretty time intensive and ain’t nobody got time for that! (Well…except all you awesome people who have done an amazing job writing on your blogs regularly and sharing your awesome journeys with us. You amaze me!)
Being home full-time is a game changer.
The Short Term
For now, we’re focused on our upcoming month-long trip to Costa Rica in July. We almost cancelled this trip when I found out I was getting laid off, but as we talked about what we wanted our lives to look like in retirement, we realized this trip is exactly what we want it to look like.
- Slow travel.
- Spending more than a week at a time in another country.
- Learning to love and appreciate the diverse cultures around the world.
- Raising our kids with an awareness that the world is bigger and brighter than our city or state or even our country.
We’ve been brushing up on our Español and look forward to slow traveling through Costa Rica for a month.
After that we’ve got a week-long back-to-school beach trip scheduled with some great friends. We should already be plenty tan from our Costa Rica trip, so what’s one more week on the beach, right?
Then it will back to school, and our family will get to discover what our new normal looks like.
The Long Term
Full transparency – we don’t have a solid game plan for what our schedules look like long term, or exactly how we’re going to cover that gap year. That may seem foolish, and that’s likely because it is, but the temptation to keep plugged in to the steady paycheck for one more year, then one more year, then one more year after that, is a recipe for living the type of life we never wanted to get caught up in.
The truth is, many people have taken much greater risks with far less cushion than we have in order to build the type of lifestyle they wanted. Were we really so scared of failure that we were unwilling to take even the tiniest leap of faith? Worst case scenario, one of us…gulp…gets a job to cover that gap year.
Seriously, the failure scenario is spending one year going back to our old normal. I don’t think that qualifies us for any grand risk-taking awards.
More to Come
So there you have it. We are fully aware that we don’t know what we don’t know. We expect to discover new and amazing things along the journey, so even our list of passion projects right now may not be the full or most important list in the next 6 months…or even 3 months.
Things are very much wide open at this point. We have some plans, but we are holding them very loosely.
We know that we aren’t going to tackle everything on our passion list in the next few months, but that’s the beauty of early retirement. We don’t have to.
We’ve got the next 40 years to play around with all these ideas.