Happy FIRE-versary! Reflections after one year of early retirement

Time flies! I had my first anniversary in my new “job” already last month! June 1, 2018, was my last day at the office! I even got some social media notifications from people congratulating me on the “one year early retired work anniversary,” how awesome is that? I did write a post on the eight lessons after eight weeks of retirement, but I thought I should write an update about what I learned after reaching the one-year mark. So, let’s take a look at my eight new lessons after one year of FIRE…

1: We are happiest when we’re together

That’s good news because extended travel – seven months in 2018 and four months this summer – means that we’re often together in very constrained spaces. We normally try to book Airbnb places large enough so we don’t step on each other’s feet, i.e., with a separate bedroom, living room, etc. But that’s not always in the cards! For example, we did a 16-day cruise last year and a 14-day day cruise this year (both Transatlantic) in a 160 square feet (about 14 square meters) interior cruise ship cabin. If you’re not comfortable spending time together that would be a problem!

Happy together in the Dolomites. Piz Boe, Sella Group in the background, right.

But we do want to spend time together. Especially before Little Miss ERN starts Kindergarten later this year. In fact, having more time together was one of the great motivators for pursuing FIRE! And it was the main argument against the dreaded “one more year syndrome” last year. True, with another year on the job you can lower your Sequence Risk and the risk of running out of money in retirement even more (from 0.01% to 0.001%???), but there’s also a huge downside: the strain this puts on your personal life. When you’re young and have no money in the bank, then opportunity costs work the obvious way, like in the econ textbook: if you want to do anything fun, hang out with your family/friends, etc., you face the opportunity cost of not working. Opportunity cost = lost income. But now the opportunity cost equation is reversed. We got more money than we can ever spend (if my Safe Withdrawal calculations hold up!) and I view work, especially sitting in some office at a mega-corporation, as substantial opportunity cost now.

Valuing experiences and especially family time over material goods has a great advantage. You see, the insanity of pursuing material goods is that there is likely no satiation point. Ever! You can have a nice house and a nice car, maybe even a boat. You will always find another richer person a few houses down the street with an even nicer house, faster car and bigger boat. And maybe a private plane. You will never be completely content. I remember watching shows about billionaires on TV and it always seems even they aren’t content because every billionaire will try to outdo the other. What, you got a 100-foot yacht? Mine is 110 feet! With a helipad! And if you don’t own a Premier League team you’re a lower-class billionaire anyway!

Nice Harbor1
You know you’ve made it when you can dock your yacht in the harbor in Nice at the French Riviera…
Nice Harbor2
… but when you take your multi-million-dollar yacht out to sea, you’ll pass this one, right at the entrance of Nice Harbor. And if your yacht doesn’t have a helipad and helicopter you probably still don’t feel 100% content!

Not so if you value spending time with your loved ones. I can spend those 24 hours with my wife and daughter and there isn’t some fabulously rich person out there who routinely spends 35 hours a day with their loved ones. 24 hours a day is the max. Of course, we don’t have to spend all that much time “chained” to each other (neither literally, nor figuratively). Just the fact that we’re close to each other, even if we do completely different things while at home in Camas, or while on vacation is priceless. Being able to say “I love you” in person and not by text while at the office and being able to play with my daughter without thinking about emails from work is worth more than another year of a corporate salary!

2: I won’t let my blog interfere with my early retirement (yet)

When you retire with a “moderately successful” blog like mine here you come to a crossroads at some time: Do I take this to the next level or keep it mainly as a hobby? I certainly get some advertising and affiliate income now but that neither makes my retirement nor would it break my retirement if the cash flow ever went away. It’s maybe 5% of our retirement budget. But I still haven’t made my final decision on whether I want to go beyond that. Taking my online presence to the next level, whatever shape this would take (I have considered a few options), would have taken a lot more time commitment than I was comfortable investing over the last year. Why should we book all those elaborate and expensive trips (eleven months so far and counting) and then I bring my “job” with me everywhere? Blogging seriously is almost (or more than???) a full-time job, so how would I accomplish that job if I’m sitting here in Florence/Italy enjoying the “La Dolce Vita” and sipping Chianti wine?

So, if you noticed that I publish less frequently and that I don’t respond to comments and emails as quickly as I used to, this is the reason. Blogging has an opportunity cost, just like working in a corporate job. Over the last year, I felt that if I wanted a job I would have just kept my old one. At least that one would pay me more than most blogs would ever generate. And I’d have kept my nice window office on the 39th floor in San Francisco. And health benefits! But again, there’s no final word on any of this yet. All of this may change, once we live in Camas, WA again in a few weeks. Maybe I’ll be bored and I want a job again.

3: Build your community: inside and outside the FIRE community

Retirement can be lonely. In fact, boredom (see #6 below) and loneliness are two of the main concerns of traditional retirees. This is probably not the main concern for most early retirees who stay put in the same location (and in the same house) after FIRE. But for us, one important tool of reaching FIRE was geographic arbitrage; leaving the expensive SF Bay Area to look for a more affordable place in Camas, WA. Naturally, we had some concerns about how we’d like the new community there. But all turned out well. We’ve already met tons of people in the FI/FIRE community. There’s a very active ChooseFI group here in the Portland metro area. Also, just here in Camas, WA (population 22,000, a small fraction of the overall Portland metro area) we already met four other couples interested in FIRE. One couple lives only four houses down the street and contacted me after finding out that Big ERN just moved into their neighborhood, how awesome is that?

But of course, we don’t want to meet “only” people in the FIRE crowd. The first folks we “ran into” when we arrived in Camas with our U-Haul were our next-door neighbors and they’ve been super-nice and helped us settle in better than we ever imagined. Playgroups for Little Miss ERN are a great way for not just the kids but also especially the adults to connect. Also, the summer hiking season hadn’t even started yet when we left Camas for our April-August 2019 trip, but I’m sure I will meet some new people through that hobby as well. So, to make the long story short, we love the community in our new location and can’t wait to head back there after our four-month Summer trip later next month!

4: I’m still not really comfortable (yet) telling strangers that we’re retired

Meeting new people (see #3 above) always involves that dreaded “so, what do you do?” question. Before early retirement, I always thought that I would very proudly announce that I’m retired. You work so hard and so long to achieve your lifelong dream: financial independence and early retirement in my 40s (and my wife in her 30s). Don’t I deserve to brag with this achievement a little bit? Or even better: really rub it in? Well, so far I’ve always felt that it’d be a bit impolite to brag with our own financial success, especially when you just meet new people. Of course, I don’t want to lie about this issue either so here’s what I’ve tried so far in (truthfully) answering that “what do you do” question:

  • I work from home. (100% correct, plus elaborate further if people ask what exactly I do)
  • I work in finance. (100% correct: I manage our personal finances, plus I blog about (personal) finance. And elaborate further – see below – if someone asks what exactly in finance I do)
  • I’m a derivatives trader (100% correct, I trade options multiple times a week, see a post on my strategy here.)

Why not be 100% clear about FIRE? On the occasions where I did tell people that we’re retired I noticed that, more often than not, FIRE is a conversation killer, not a conversation starter. I think if I tell people too early it puts a barrier between them and us. A barrier in the form of essentially telling people that if they start now they can reach FIRE in about 10-15 years, which sounds a bit off-putting, I admit. Of course, it shouldn’t because most people in the FIRE community aren’t actually retired, and most of them aren’t even close to retirement. But still, it’s a lot to digest if you hear about FIRE for the first time. Of course, once we get to know people a little bit better we will certainly tell them about our FIRE lifestyle. Tell them about my blog. Refer them to the ChooseFI podcast and Facebook group(s). Hopefully bring people on board – of course, without being annoying and preachy. So, I’m just wondering if others had that same experience? Did you plan to “brag” about FIRE but then took a more measured approach when you eventually retired? Or go for the “shock value” every time?

Just as an aside, this whole “I’m retired” issue is even trickier when I talk about this in my native language German. “Rentner” is the direct translation of “retired person” but the word is derived from “Rente” = “retirement benefit” so if you tell someone “Ich bin Rentner” everybody will almost automatically assume you receive a regular, monthly retirement benefit of some sort. Same with “Pensionär,” which is derived from “Pension” (same word as in English) and would insinuate that I’m receiving a pension. The first reaction would be that people will check you out top to bottom and look for any physical ailments that would justify living on government assistance. Then in the absence of any such obvious ailments, you notice how people start thinking “maybe he has some mental issue or something” to justify leeching on the government. An aaaawwwwkward conversation starter!!! A slightly more fitting word in German would be “Privatier” (=person of independent financial means”) but that has a certain “inherited old money, trust fund boy” smell (“stench?”) to it. Luckily, the “so, what do you do?” question isn’t that common in Germany, though!

5: Count your blessings and appreciate all the things that worked out just fine.

Everybody knows Murphy’s Law: What can go wrong will go wrong. But do you know Murphy’s cousin Yhprum? Often we are so fixated on everything that didn’t work out well that we don’t even recognize all the things that worked out much better than we could ever imagine:

  • It would have been the ultimate irony if yours truly, Big ERN, who writes about safe withdrawal rates on the web, happens to retire at the worst possible time, exactly at the market peak. But since June 2018, our net worth actually grew. Not just in nominal but even in real terms, even after withdrawals! Needless to say, I did have some slight concerns late last year when equities stumbled a little bit. I wrote two posts about why we were not too worried about this issue (both in October 2018 and January 2019) and so far – knock on wood – I was right. I’m not saying that we’re completely out of the woods – we will know in another 10-15 years – but so far so good! What can go wrong, didn’t go wrong so far!
  • Our move to our new home in Camas, Washington! Imagine all the things that could have gone wrong! U-Haul tells me they don’t have my truck available on the morning of the move? The moving help doesn’t show up on the day of the move? Being stuck in a winter storm in the moving van on the mountain pass at the California-Oregon state line? On New Years Eve! Crashing the moving van and all of our belongings are scattered on I-5 somewhere in Oregon? Arriving at the house only to find out that it burned down? Or it’s infested with cockroaches? Or the pipes are frozen? I had nightmares about all this in November/December 2018! Of course, everything worked out just totally fine. The drive with our 20-foot U-Haul was a breeze, everything was on time, sunny (but cold!) weather, we arrived at our new home on New Year’s Eve 2018, earlier than we thought, and the house looked just as it was when we purchased it months earlier. We met our next-door neighbors that day and they are awesome! Whew! All those worries for nothing!
  • And many other items I could list here, but I don’t want to elaborate too much more to bore y’all…

So, the lesson here is that when you take a major step like we did – FIRE, a new state, a new home, etc. – you naturally worry about all the things that can go wrong. But make sure that after you executed your plan, you acknowledge all the different things that worked much better than expected. It will make your journey so much more satisfying!

6: Boredom in Early Retirement? Sounds like a non-issue!

So far I’ve not had a boring day in early retirement. OK, maybe I can “blame” this on our travel schedule so far, which has kept us busy, both planning the trips and crisscrossing the globe; 27 countries on 5 continents so far (still missing South America and Antarctica!). In fact, in my 8-week update last year, I wrote that life is almost a bit too hectic when traveling full-time, so occasionally we need a “vacation from the vacation” and simply goof off a day or two every week. So, absolutely, we have not felt any boredom yet! But maybe in a few months, when we’re finally settling down and staying in Camas for more extended periods I’ll indeed get bored.

But I still think that the occasional boredom in retirement is a total non-issue. Boredom compared to what? If you have a job that’s exciting and fulfilling every single day and every single minute then congrats to you. But who has that? To make this relatable, let’s look at some examples. A lot of our fellow FIRE-fighters are in medicine or in the IT field or teaching/academia. All interesting, exciting and well-respected jobs. And in those jobs you’ll find lots of things that will keep you busy at work, no doubt, but probably not in a very enjoyable way!

  • Medical Professionals deal with paperwork, insurance companies, medical malpractice lawsuits, etc.
  • IT professionals deal with debugging code, and – even worse – debugging other people’s code, TPS reports 🙂 etc.
  • Teachers deal with bureaucracy (committee meetings), students with discipline issues, etc.
  • … let’s not forget everybody in Corporate America dealing with mindless weekly meetings, compliance training, sexual harassment training (now called anti-sexual-harassment training, just to be sure), etc.

In other words,

I’d prefer a boring day in FIRE over a busy day at the office doing stupid/menial tasks.

Huh? What? Menial tasks? Did I ever do those? You betcha! I have to be careful because former colleagues (and bosses!) will read this, but I’d have to be either lying or stupid not to concede that even in my generally exciting and fulfilling job I had to do tasks that felt a bit like TPS reports! Again, my job was generally fun and exciting, but there was about 10% of the job that I could have done without! I doubt my “boredom in retirement” level will ever reach 10%!!!

Only a meme. My bosses were actually much nicer than this guy! 🙂

So, the occasional boredom in retirement isn’t a big deal. But what if you’re constantly bored? That reminds me of the following quote:

“If you run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. If you run into assholes all day, you’re the asshole.” Raylan Givens (fictional character). Please excuse his foul language!

Then let’s rephrase Raylan Givens’ quote above into…

“If you’re occasionally bored in FIRE, you’re occasionally bored. If you constantly bored in FIRE, you’re a boring person.” Big ERN

So, in other words, permanent boredom in retirement is likely a deeper issue. It probably lies with you personally and not with the general concept of FIRE! Specifically, I can’t imagine that a “card-carrying” member of the FIRE community has a very high probability of falling into the permanent boredom trap. Remember, we should have read classic posts like Don’t retire from something, Retire To Something. Or Our Next Life’s posts on boredom (Part 1 and Part 2), or Fritz’ recent post on how to live a fulfilled retired life. It’s not difficult to transition into retirement, even as cold-turkey as I did it, and keep a fulfilled and exciting life.

7: Procrastination actually gets worse!

Whatever happened to the hope that once I retire I can take care of all those pesky things that I never got to do because I was too busy? Ha, I learned that procrastination actually gets worse in FIRE. You see, a (mild) procrastinator will get things done while working in a busy career. You have some spare time on Tuesday night? Better use it because that’s the last time for a couple of days to get stuff done! But in retirement? Why do it on Tuesday night? I got time on Wednesday morning. And Wednesday midday. And on Wednesday evening! More time means more excuses to procrastinate!

Well, I can’t be too bad of a procrastinator because I did manage to get stuff done, including two sets of “three letters” behind my name, but just as a precautionary message to all those FIRE enthusiasts out there itching to retire: don’t plan to get too much stuff done, at least not in the first year after FIRE!

8: Everybody is replaceable

Well, almost everybody. Maybe if you’re Kevin Durant and you’re injured for the NBA finals you’re not replaceable.

Side issue: As a long-term Bay Area resident I feel a bit sorry for my former neighbors because the Golden State Warriors lost the finals to Toronto this year. But you all must be huge fans of redistribution and fairness – just look at the California tax code – so everybody must be happy that a franchise that’s never won a title before finally got the NBA crown in 2019!

But if you’re not Kevin Durant chances are that you are indeed replaceable! If you ever hesitated to retire because you worried about what would happen at the office if you left you must be delusional. I always thought that I was senior enough with specialized and unique enough skills and education that I will not be so easy to replace. Hey, I’m not a burger-flipper that they could have just replaced with someone from the street, right? Dream on! Life went on at the office. I got two short emails from the guy who took over some of my tasks. That’s it. After that, the great machine of Corporate America moved on without me.

That’s it for Year One!

There will probably be another update after year 2, with some new insights. Our lifestyle will certainly change again dramatically once our daughter, Little Miss ERN, will start Kindergarten in September. We will finally settle down in our new home, travel a lot less, and go through the Monday to Friday routine again. Maybe I will finally get bored!? Maybe I’ll take on side hustles? Stay tuned, everybody!

Hope you enjoyed today’s post! Looking forward to your comments below!

Picture Credit: Pixabay.com

72 thoughts on “Happy FIRE-versary! Reflections after one year of early retirement

  1. Thanks for writing this, you’ve been invaluable to me writing as someone almost a year ahead. Geographic arbitrage was more difficult than expected, now we have to put together our travel plans

  2. Congrats on year one. In 7 days I complete year 2. What happened to me is my life stripped down to the essentials. If you imagine your life as a spoked wheel your energy is dissipated along each of those spokes if the energy is equally distributed, THE WHEEL GOES NO WHERE it just sits there and vibrates. Each spoke is the wasted busy work that otherwise occupies your time.

    In retirement you can do what is essential. When you do what is essential the spokes all start aiming in the same direction and the wheel starts to translate effectively to a new place. The new place may not involve moving (though leaving HCOL makes supreme sense and it can be viewed as aiming the spoke in the right direction). There is a saying called FOMO and it is something that tends to govern our lives, fear of missing out. It is exactly what the adverting industry is built on and we are so bombarded with advertising it becomes the point of origin and focus in our lives sub consciously. There is an alternative JOMO the joy of missing out. The joy of missing out happens when you choose the essentials. By definition you are forgoing the BS that kept your wheel stuck in the same spot for decades.

    In my retirement I found it to be like I was driving 100 mph for decades and the day I retired I pulled off on the off ramp and things slowed down to 25. s5 was not my limit I could go as fast or slow as I liked, or not at all. My focus switched from being a human doing to becoming a human being and there is great joy in being and not doing. No boredom for me for there is plenty to do, all of it optional and intentional. My time is my own, my bank account supplies my hamburgers and I take my joy in missing out. Not once have I missed the $2000 oil change associated with owning a Mercedes. Not once have I missed the perverse taxation of living in Illinois. Personally I wouldn’t start a side gig on a bet. To me it’s just a symptom of clinging onto a perverse past of enforced doing and destroy the Zen of being.

    I made my plan and it was/is a good plan, a robust plan, a rational plan, a statistically tenable plan, a measurable plan and my financial plan has unfolded precisely according to detail even though my retired life had a couple medical bumps, no worries that possibility was built into the plan.

    1. Thanks for sharing this very personal note! It’s always a privilege to have you here in the comments section. That spoke anaolgy and especially the JOMO are priceless! With so many FIRE enthusiasts that have made it and their experience and inspiration, I’m pretty hopeful that we’ll make it too! Cheers!
      PS: thanks for your past support of the German export industry, especially the big car maker from Stuttgart! 🙂

    2. Very insightful comment. I have enjoyed your philosophy since I heard you on the What’s Up Next Podcast.
      Side note, $2,000 oil changes aren’t really a thing, are they?!?!

        1. Ahh got it. That makes sense. I hope that we are still very far away from when the oil change itself is $2,000. And hopefully it is solely due to inflation and not to the ridiculousness of the stealership 🙂

            1. I was gonna say…while there are in fact $20,000+ oil changes for some very exotic cars, I just had the oil changed on my Porsche and it was $95. Very reasonable.

  3. Big ERN,
    May I start with a simple “Happy FIRE-versary”?!?!?

    Another great post to add to the veritable cornucopia of knowledge that is otherwise known as your blog! My last official day of w*rk (please excuse my use of a four-letter-word) was May 15, 2018. Haven’t missed it since. My experience of the inaugural FIRE year has markedly different experiences, yet, perhaps not too strangely, FIRE has taught me many of the same lessons.

    We relocated over the past year; as a result, I have had the “What do you do?” question tossed my way countless times. Not having a j*b and not looking for w*rk really seems to make the vast majority of people who don’t really know me uncomfortable if I answer the question succinctly with the “R” word. My default answer now to someone I do not know well is “self-employed” and quickly redirecting the conversation to another topic. This has been a real winner for me so far.

    The one word that I think sums up my initial year and encapsulates some of your lessons as well is intentionality. It is disquieting in many respects to have infinite possibilities to choose from on a daily basis without the constant distractions from the commitments from paid w*rk. So much so that many of the opportunities on where to spend my time are evaluated in how committing to a what will be an activity will affect my “freedom” to pursue other future opportunities. A strange form of “analysis paralysis” that obtains a reality of blissful procrastination at times. On the other hand, this intentionality has provided the gift of much better awareness of the present (pun intended) and has allowed me to better align my chosen activities with things that matter most to me while I am slowly coming to terms that, even without my time being burned by a j*b, I simply cannot do everything that I would like to.

    1. Haha! W*rk is indeed a four-letter-word! 🙂
      Thanks! And a belated Happy First FIREversary to you as well, Dr. FIRE! Thanks for sharing your personal story. Couldn’t agree more on the new “analysis paralysis” issue. Well said!
      Yes, I’ve also tried “self-emlpoyed” plus the other responses and it normally shuts down the discussion pretty easily.
      Cheers! 🙂

  4. Professor ERN, I greatly appreciate your candid observations and experiences from your first year in retirement. Congratulations and hope you and your beautiful family will have many more years of enjoyment. I love your yacht “keeping up with the Joneses” example. I could not stop laughing since my wife and I recently downsized to a condo in the downtown Tampa district called Channelside. Our condo has beautiful views of waterways, downtown skyline and the largest port in Florida where recently all the buzz in the neighborhood was the world’s largest yacht parked just outside the building under going repairs. I jokingly would tell my family and friends that it was ours. LOL. In all seriousness, I took number 5 to heart since I have always been a worry wart. I worry about my ailing and elderly parents, my oldest daughter not getting traction on a career yet, etc. which might derail my retirement. Fortunately, I have a great wife who balances my worries with optimism and great appreciation for what we have accomplished and currently enjoy.

    1. Thanks, Eduardo!
      Yes, the yacht example is everywhere. Also noticed that on several trips to Florida (Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale) and then obviously here in Nice/France.
      Glad you liked #5. I’m a worry wart, too as you can imagine with my SWR Series. So, it’s helpful to also appreciate all the things that worked out well. 🙂
      All the best and enjoy your beautiful home state FL!

  5. I am a few months behind you. So far, in 10 months, the minutes I have missed work is a big fat zero. I tend to just tell people I am on a career break. I have revealed to a few people that my career break is intended to last around 45 years!

    Totally with you on the procrastination issue! There are also things I thought I would do more of which have actually stayed around the same although the time of day I do them has changed.

    Hope you continue to find time to blog. Yours is one of the best out there.

  6. Wow, 1 year already!??! Six years in and I can tell you it doesn’t get old. From reading your 1 year in review post I can tell you will be a long term FIREee (assuming *this* time it’s not different and you don’t have to return to work due to being broke-ish!).

    A couple of points – I like the billionaire’s yacht comparison. Someone will always have more resources than you and can buy sweeter yachts, but that’s no reason to continue working forever. If you’re happy and you have “enough” then that’s all you need!

    Secondly, I wonder if you’ll be more comfortable saying “I’m retired” in another year or three. I still take a second to think whether I will tell someone I’m retired or whether I say “I’m in finance” or “I’m a writer/I run a website” etc. Depends on the situation though I tell people I’m retired a lot more often these days. The graying of the hair (what’s left of it) makes it a little easier to believe without someone thinking I’m on a disability check from the govt or something!!

    1. You could try “im Ruhestand” in German – that term is less associated with a state pension and less extravagant than “Privatier”. But it’s certainly not the perfect choice either.

    2. Thanks, Justin! Very wise words! I’ll rely on your guidance since you’re so many years ahead! Good to know that it will become easier to simply spell out what we’re doing here. I wonder if I should also occasionally try “I’m unemployed” for the shock value of a different type. 🙂

      1. I feel like “I’m unemployed” invites a pity party. Or they try to find you a job lol. Like the $12/hr kind (or maybe the $18/hr kind where you live 😉 ). “Hey I saw Walmart/Home Depot/etc are hiring…”. Maybe less so now in blazing hot economy of 2019 but back when I mentioned “I’m unemployed” in 2013 when I quit, people genuinely thought I couldn’t find a job.

        Stay at home dad is a good one too. It’s literally true, and more accurately describes a big part of how I spend my time without necessarily getting into the financial aspects of my life.

        1. Haha, good point of course. The reason I haven’t tried “stay at home dad” yet is that my wife already used that. Then people wonder how we can both be stay at home parents and we’re back to square one and trying to explain how we don’t work and we get back into the finance issues. 🙂

          1. Yes – it is a bit of a weird conversation when people realize you AND your wife are stay at home parents. I like the truth though – hard to argue with that. 🙂

  7. I’m definitely not planning on rubbing it in when I’m FI. But odds are I’ll be doing some work anyway. However, even now when people ask what I do, I try to not answer about work stuff because I spend more time not working than working. I may as well answer what I do with most of my time instead of the paycheck bits.

    1. Good point! I remember, when still working I would sometimes answer only very generically. I would sometimes even respond “I’m a programmer” which used to be what would do most of the time at work. Especially when folks looked like they had an axe to gring with the evil finance sector. 🙂

  8. Congratulations on successfully enjoying year 1! Great summary on observations. I FIREd in 2018 too and went through almost all the same issues. One thing that surprised me was my reaction to hearing that a former colleague was hired to a competing firm with a meaningful level/title upgrade, to Managing Director. You having been in banking know that’s not an easy feat to accomplish in this day and age. This drove me crazy for a day or two because this person was not someone I respect for their intelligence or integrity or leadership qualities. I thought that when I took myself out of the rat race, I would no longer care about this sort of thing. It’s an ugly side but I’m working on it.

    1. Thanks! And congrats on your own FIRE in 2018!
      Good point: I kept up with some of the things going on at the office, too. Some pleaseant and some not so pleasant news so far. But why should I even care? This will take a while to go away! 2-3 years into FIRE, I’m sure this will not matter anymore! 🙂

  9. Congrats on your 1-year FIRE anniversary, Big Ern! I was very struck by your thoughts on opportunity cost, and the way that it inverts from time=money to money=time as you get closer and closer to your FI number. That has definitely been my experience as well. Lately, though, I’ve also been adding another component to the equation: the value of youth and good health.
    I’m not exactly sure how to quantify it, but the premise is something like this: a vacation when you are young, athletic, energetic, etc, is relatively more valuable than a vacation when you are older and more decrepit. We recently took a cruise to Alaska on which we did epic hikes at every port stop, and so many of the lovely older people we met on that cruise advised us, “take as many vacations as possible while you’re young,” with the general theme being that one’s ability to fully maximize vacations and adventures declines a lot as the decades go by.
    Often in FIRE, I hear people say things like, “the $5000 you spent on X would have become $40,000 in 30 years if you had invested it instead.” Ok, true, but it might well be that I had exponentially more fun on that $5000 trip now than I would have had on a $40,000 trip 30 years from now (not to mention the obvious fact that I might not even be alive 30 years from now!). There’s probably no reliable way to quantify the “youth-value” of taking adventures when relatively young (though it anyone could do it, I’d bet on you!), but it’s definitely something I tell my younger friends in the FIRE community: pursue FIRE by all means, and don’t spend money foolishly, but if you have the opportunity to go to Burning Man in your 20s, or do the Tour de Mont Blanc in your 30’s, etc, take those opportunities because you will always be able to earn money but you won’t always be able to scale 12,000 foot peaks!
    And speaking of scaling peaks, as a fellow 6 foot 6 inch hiking enthusiast, I guarantee you will not be bored once you return to Camas. There is amazing hiking in the Columbia Gorge (I particularly recommend Indian Point, which recently gave us some breathtaking views!). And if you do get bored with hiking that area, you’re welcome to visit Southern California and climb Mt. Whitney with us!

    1. Hi Adam!
      Very true about the experiences we have now vs. later. We did a few cruises during the last year and had exactly that thought: we’re so blessed to be able to go on all those adventures when still young. I hope I’ll still be doing those when I’m in my 80s but it’s so much easier now! Without the oxygen tank!
      Will check out the Indian Point Trail later in August. Looks very tempting! Thanks for the pointer! Please give me a ring/send email next time you’re in the OR/WA area!
      Also, about Mt. Whitney: do you do this one regularly? I climbed Mt. Whitney once in 2008 with a group that does it every year. Probably the hardest day hike I’ve ever done! Grand Canyon Rim2Rim was a piece of cake in comparison! I couldn’t sleep the night before because of the excitement (or maybe the altitude at Whitney Portal???) so I started the hike at 2:30am after maybe 2h of sleep. One of the greatest mountian adventures ever! It’s on my to-do list for 2020 or 2021! 🙂

      1. Man I totally agree — I’ve done the rim to rim as well, which was hard because of the heat but nothing compared to the difficulty of Whitney! We do Whitney every couple of years — and it’s definitely tough to sleep the night before knowing you have to get up at 3. But so, so worth it. In my opinion it’s one of the most beautiful hikes anywhere — right up there with the Tour de Mont Blanc and the Napali Coast on Kauai. I grew up in Washington State and still go back about every other year to visit and hike — will for sure let you know next time, and we’ll find a time to do one of the big ones. And let’s stay in touch about Whitney — would be really fun to get an FI group together for it whenever you decide to come down!

  10. Well, I gotta tell ya, this article was awesome!! Finally I was able to understand its English language LOL. You have to be honest, your PhD driven articles are *very* hard to comprehend for people who have perhaps a quarter or less of the brain as you do ;-). Now, if you could ‘translate’ of some of your SWR articles, it would be neat.

    But anyway, congrats! I cannot believe one year was already up. Times flies indeed!
    # 5 is totally ME, unfortunately, and that’s why I’m still not retired though I could.

    BTW, I forgot, was option trading part of your retirement strategy?
    If it’s OK to ask, what kind of financial strategy do you do now? Do you live of your taxable account while doing some IRA conversions to a Roth IRA or no conversions because it doesn’t make sense due to a tax bracket?
    If you haven’t written, what does your family do in regards to healthcare/dental/vision insurance? Have you dropped life insurance policy too?
    What kind of insurance do you use for your long-term traveling?

    I hope I’m not asking invasive questions. IMO, they’re all practical questions and I’d be curious to hear the answers if possible.
    I hope you’ll write occasionally at least. I like the pragmatic tone of your blog.

    Thank you.

    1. Haha, thanks a lot! You know, the funny thing is that the math-articles flow much easier. The non-math blog posts are the hardest for me to write. Lots of edits before they flow the right way. So, unfortunately, I will mostly keep writing mostly those incomrehensible articles, HAHA! 🙂

      I started the option writing in 2011, but only on a very small scale (<10% of the portfolio). Accumulating assets was mostly through boring equity index funds. But now, I'm running the put selling at 35% of our portfolio. It's serious business now!

      Haven't done Roth conversions yet because we still have some pretty large taxable income this and next year. Still thinking about it.
      Some other updates (health care = MediShare, dental = self-insured) will probably be part of a future post. Stay tuned! 🙂

      1. Yay, you read my mind!! I even wanted to suggest writing an article to update your readers on the choices you’ve made and what you consider to do later in regards to what accounts you’ll be using first, conversions, healthcare, and the like. Maybe you’ll be able to ‘steal’ some time from your free time to write about this and share with us.
        Medishare? Is this for the health insurance in the USA or for traveling outside the USA? At least I’ve never heard of this organization providing the usual medical insurance but I could be mistaken.

        I’m looking forward to your next article. BTW, it’s true (for me) and agree with Bob Jane below that PF blog-sphere has become very saturated and I’ve lost interest to follow them, but yours is still welcome in my inbox ;-).

        1. Thanks Mrs. Greece! Good to hear from you again and thanks for the kind words.
          Medishare is primarily for the U.S. coverage but they do cover medical expenses in other countries too (so they say).
          Best of luck!

  11. Happy FIRE-versary ERN, and congrats on a well earned and a well used first year! I look forward to all your posts but this one I particularly enjoyed. You see, I left the workforce on July 5th (coincidentally Independence Day weekend) to start my FIRE adventure. 🙂

    A couple of things particularly grabbed me on this. The first is the opportunity cost and time vs income comments. I left a job and took a six month work sabbatical at 35 (I’m 53 now). A big risk but ultimately it proved a great decision. I had never heard of “FIRE” back then, but the time/income risk/value conversation became real for us during that period.

    Once i re-entered my career we started doing the math, educating ourselves, modeling out what would be needed to engineer a more permanent exit from the workforce (also in a high COL area, NYC metro) while still balancing life along the way. And now, like you, here we are!

    The second is about not being ready to tell new people you’re retired. Yeah, get it. Definitely not bragging. Actually trying not to talk about it at all if we can avoid it. In fact we talked to very few people over the years about our PLAN to retire early.

    Human psychology is weird. Haven’t worked out how to predict when it ok to talk to about it, and when we should avoid the conversation so we’ve tended to not talk about it. That was easier while employed obviously. We need to work out how to frame it now in a way that’s truthful, respectful of the process FIRE demands, and hopefully respectful of the challenges others may have (whether real or self-imagined).

    Thanks for your work here, we are very appreciative you’ve chosen to share it with us. Best to you and yours as you start year 2!

    1. Nice! Congrats on FIRE-ing! Thanks for your perspective! I would have liked to do a mini-retirement/sabbatical but never had the opportunity (guts?) to actually do it. I’d certainly recommend it to everyone. Glad it worked out for you!
      Best of luck! 🙂

  12. Time really does fly. I feel like I only discovered your blog not too long ago when you were just about to pull the plug yet it’s been a year now. The blog continues to be the best in the FIRE community and really the only blog I still follow in general. I am always excited when my RSS feeder shows me a new post from ERN.

    While your best work is probably all the financial side of things, I am always excited to hear about you and your family’s retired life so please don’t stop updating unless the opportunity cost isn’t worth it haha

  13. Congratulations Big ERN on your one year anniversary! My one year anniversary was a few months ago. Although my coworkers and friends warned me I would be bored in retirement, they were completely wrong! It just isn’t an issue. Traveling with family (with the help of travel hacking) has kept me busy, but I am quite content at home just taking my dog for walks and preparing meals for my family. A simple life works for me!

    Since I have implemented your naked short SPX put strategy, I suppose I could answer the “So, what do you do question?” the same way you do, although it feels a bit odd to call myself a derivatives trader when I only work about 15 minutes per week! I still am in the honeymoon phase of your strategy which I started implementing four months ago – in that I still haven’t had any of my SPX put options expire in the money (knock on wood).

    I am glad to know you are a fellow fan of the movie “Office Space” – an absolute classic that I recently introduced to my teenaged kids. That movie was one of the things that motivated me to retire early and walk away from my job in the insurance industry. I definitely don’t miss the TPS reports!

    1. Thanks, Stephen!
      Good point about the put selling strategy. I would probably spend a little bit more than 15 minutes a week on the pure trading. Also but monitoring what’s the SPX is doing, doing some record-keeping, even just reading the WSJ to keep up with the econ/finance news would probably all be several hours more every week. So, I don’t feel “guilty” about the “option trader” label. 🙂
      Also, glad you like the movie Office Space. It’s a classic. And watching it again at different points in your life/career is so worthwhile! You learn somthing new every time! 🙂

    2. “I did nothing. I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be.”

  14. Happy FIRE-versary, Big ERN!

    reading your post, I was pretty shocked to realize it’s been almost four years since my own last day at work – and I’m still not comfortable with being completely open about my non-work status with people that I meet casually. I can’t bring myself to say “ich bin in Rentnerin” oder “ich bin in Rente” either. It feels too old and too much like endings rather than new beginnings, which becoming FI was all about for me. I do think “Privatier” would be correct – fun fact: I saw the other day that you can actually pick “Privatier” as your occupation when opening a bank account, so it’s apparently not too old-fashioned. But like you I’d be hesitant to use that label, it’s probably too loaded. (Personally I love the term “Lady of Leisure”, but I get the feeling any translation into German might produce some terrible misunderstandings 😉 ).

    Depending on the situation I usually say that I work from home, or that I work free-lance on projects. I tried out saying that I take care of some rental apartments we own, but I didn’t feel comfortable with it. Unless I talk to people who are into personal finance and FI themselves, it feels too close to bragging to me.

    Enjoy your travels in Europe – loved to see your picture of Piz Boè/Sella Group, that’s a great area for skiing, too. (And the food’s so good, mmmh…).

    1. Thanks/Danke Katrin!
      Thanks for sharing that. Yes, I can see that I might not be comfortable for another 10-20 years. Looks like we’re on the same page so far. Had to laugh about the “lady of leisure” 🙂
      Yeah, we really enjoyed the Dolomites a lot. Already picked a few spots we have to visit again in the future.

  15. Happy fire-versary!! And thanks for this blog that always leaves me wanting more.

    As for the burning question of how to answer “what do you do?” I’ve thought about that a lot as I get closer to my own day within the next few (?) years. I usually approach things with humor so here are my top 6 answers:

    -I’m gainfully unemployed
    – I’m a kept man.
    – housewife.
    – cabana boy.
    – certified professional beer taster.
    – I’m leading a life of idle leisure.

    I have a lot of gray hair, so “retired” is very believable. But where’s the fun in that?

  16. Congrats on year 1 ! I can relate a lot to your report. Well, i just FIREd and answering the “what do you do” question is really tricky as you explained. When you say that you work from home they usually ask for which company you work for. What do you do in this case ? I’ve settled with the answer “I am a freelance remote software engineer”, so it’s not entirely true but enough to start conversations and get prospect friendships moving. So far i’ve been quite busy due to relocation (another point I relate a lot to you) and looking forward to the ER boredom 🙂 Mach es weiter, great blog !

    1. Thanks, LadySod! Very good point: after the first answer better be prepared for follow-up questions. Normally people want to know at least what industry and even company. So, “finance” and “self-employed” works well for me.
      Thanks/Dankeschön! 🙂

  17. Great post. This is exactly what I expected FI and early retirement to look like. You’ve gained the freedom to do what you want, in your case travel, blogging etc etc. I’m not looking to have to give up work but the freedom to choose whether to work/ which role/ how many hours etc etc. You seem to have got it nailed so congrats and happy 1 year anniversary.

  18. Congratulations on your 1 year anniversary! Even if you are not blogging/responding to comments as much as you may have in the past, we all certainly appreciate your input when you can offer it (including on the ChooseFI podcast). I’ve always heard that the, “what do you do,” question was mostly a US thing. I’ve always wondered what people in other countries ask about in its place, because I can’t seem to think of much if I don’t know the other person very well. (Of course, I’m not the biggest fan of small talk)

    1. Thanks for the kind words, J!
      Ohhh, there are lots of things to talk about: in the UK the weather, What car do you drive (in Germany)? What (soccer/football) team do you support? Complaints about gas prices, taxes, etc. 🙂

  19. What an amazing year!

    I’m about 3 weeks away from being where you were one year ago. We have some travel plans, but won’t be moving at a frenzied pace. We’ve booked four one-month long Airbnb stays overseas — two each in Ecuador and Spain.

    I feel like I may want to slow down with the blogging at some point, as well. I’m impressed that you’ve been able to dial it back. I don’t think I can do that just yet. I want to say where it goes if I keep up the pace. But someday…


    1. Thanks, Dr. PoF! Awesome plan! Love to read more about that on your blog!
      A less frenzied travel schedule will certainly help. We plan to revisit some of our favorite places and then also do longer stays in the future. Much more relaxed! But to figure out what those favorite places should be we tried to sample as many places in 2018 and 2019.
      All the best and Cheers!

    1. Great! If you do your homework, not just the naive 4% Rule but a more personalized analysis (see Part 28 SWR Series), then there’s no reason the one more year. You’ll never get those years back! 🙂

  20. Hi,

    I am about three months in FIRE. It has been an enjoyable and energy-charging rest for me. Your one year anniversary view is great and serves as a mirror knowledge for me. Wish you many more years of fruitful FIRE.


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