Here I thought I was a pretty decisive guy. Now, it appears my early retirement countdown has been reset, yet again. Plans have hit a snag (or two). At first the goal was to give up my cubicle job in March 2020. Then, it got accelerated to July 2019. Well, here were are, July 2019. And I’m still gonna be carrying a lunch pail for the foreseeable future.
Why am I changing course now? Actually, there are several factors: Fear of missing out (aka “FOMO”), unexpected expenses that popped up, job satisfaction, and you’ll never guess — No solid plan for retirement day 1.
For now, the countdown is reset to month X of year Y. Maybe I’ll just choose to be done by 50? That wouldn’t be so bad. There’s certainly nothing extraordinary about that. It sure isn’t Mr. Money Mustache territory or even Retire by 40 turf.
But I’ve got to remind myself that this isn’t a race. Most jobs and most work are what we individually make of them. That’s what tends to get lost in all the rush and push among those clamoring to retire early (a group to which I’d clung for several years up until very recently.)
Fear of Missing Out (the FOMO Effect)
I just wrote about that Disney Cruise. And I still have all these hedonic treadmill gears spinning about how and when we’ll sail on the next one. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.
There is a phenomenon called “FatFIRE“, a truly American construct that allows the big winners (and physicians) to retire early and not have to sacrifice the fruits of our commercial heritage. Maybe that’s where I’m destined to land? I’m no doctor, but we’ve done pretty well this past decade with the real estate side hustle, so maybe a HeavySetFIRE is the target?
The beauty of FatFIRE is you get to have your cake and eat it too. Tired of working? No problem. You can hang up the job, but avoid having to sacrifice the good stuff (dining out, travel, having kids, a Tesla in the garage…)
If you can muster FatFIRE, there’s less reason to dread your early retirement countdown. It’s all good. FOMO be damned – you’re going to take that trip to Europe, and you might even take the family with you!
It’s a topic I’ll spend a future post on – this whole FOMO thing. A good chunk of our society is continuing to expand its norms via hedonic adaptation. Soon enough, the “haves” will make these accoutrements (big houses, electric cars, private school) the new NORMAL.
The question is whether frugal, early retiree types can avoid adapting themselves. I look around our cute little neighborhood and it seems every other week a new mcmansion has replaced a modest 1500 square foot rambler. We’ve all adapted to “needing” smartphones and tablets, and “needing” two cars in the garage.
I’m still optimistic that our little family unit can stay true to our True North. But I do have some hesitations about how FOMO will affect this guy’s early retirement countdown…
The Snag of Unexpected Expenses
There have been a few of these over the past 12 months. From PRK eye surgery for two ($3,000 – the other half was paid by our HSA), to a new roof on the house ($5,500), replacing a concrete pathway at a rental ($7,500!!!)
And now a new one — some upcoming legal fees for allegedly using a copyrighted image without permission on THIS blog. More on that later.
So, you know, that stuff adds up!
Money “gotchas” present a big variable to anyone’s early retirement countdown. I don’t care how good of a planner you are. Stuff happens. And who knows where future policy decisions on health care will land? What if the kids need braces? Will I eventually need a Tesla Model S? All of these things have to be taken into account.
I’m not certain this falls in the category of “unexpected”, but what about the unexpected cost of FOMO? If we start to pick up new and exciting things to do with our money (e.g., a Disney cruise, or a trip to Hawaii) do these things become habits?
Fortunately, I got to connect with one of my gurus earlier this week. Mr. 1500 (Carl) was in town and I, along with a small group of top-notch local bloggers got to hobnob with our guest at a rather Surly brewery. We got to talking about all my indecisiveness as the supposed early retirement countdown clock ticked away.
See, Carl has been out of the rat race for over two and a half years, and has no regrets. We’re about the same age and have some similar interests, beer and real estate among them. He told me to lock in on passion projects. Figuring out how to best make use of your newfound “free time” is the golden ticket. Indeed…
The Emergence of Unexpected Job Satisfaction
When you get promoted, it’s as if you’re being recognized for surviving the sh*t-show of Corporate America. All of a sudden, there’s a vindication of the political wrangling, monotony, and wasted effort, that goes hand in glove with the big wins, commitment, and resilience you’ve demonstrated.
It’s hard to take a step back when you actually, finally get recognition (take note, all you bosses and managers reading this…) I mean, it’s not like work is paradise now. On the contrary, things got quite hectic right at the time of the promotion, earlier this year.
It wasn’t until May that I decided to double-down on my productivity at work to re-balance time with non-work commitments. Work is still very demanding, but there’s a real sense of achievement and pride when a well-deserved promotion comes along, and you feel your decisions and actions actually make a difference.
Here’s another “out of left field” notion: Global Warming. Yes, global warming is keeping me tied down to my job right now. Why? Well sadly, the weather here in the Upper Midwest has been sh*t. Yes, we live here on our own volition, but no, we do not expect every day to rain, humidity, and clouds. It’s as if we’ve gone straight from winter to Amazon rainforest.
There really is no fear of missing out on outdoor activities, while perched inside the air conditioned confines of headquarters. In fact, I haven’t been able to ride my bike to work more than once, maybe twice a week on average this summer due to weather shenanigans. I don’t mind riding in a little rain, but I draw the line at lightning and monsoon downpours.
No Solid Plans for that First Day of Retirement
There’s an “unevenness” when one partner in a couple retires early, while the other continues to work. It’s also a tad difficult to travel the world when your kids are in school and have begun to establish their own rhythms, routines, and friendships.
Now that we’re locked into a school calendar for vacations, it’s that much harder to book good flights. Everyone wants to go somewhere during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring break. Airlines know it, hotels know it. And Disney sure as shootin knows it.
Even in early retirement, my “vacation” time would not change. I’d still be pretty much adhering to “the calendar”. The one that our local schools publish. Oh, and then there’s the patients who really don’t like it when Mrs. Cubert is away from the clinic for more than a week or two.
So yeah, talk about FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS…
Early Retirement Countdown? She’s Still Ticking!
I really do believe this whole early retirement idea is a sound one. If nothing else, it motivates us to get our financial act together, and maybe even become better stewards of the planet. Ultimately there’s three beliefs at the forefront of my decision making:
- Thou shalt have no regrets when the bell tolls
- Life goes on, regardless of whether you’re in the office or at home focused on passion projects
- You’ve only got one life to live. Each day is a gift. How will you make the best use of that gift??
Whew. That’s a lot to stew on, particularly for someone spotting age 50 on the horizon. If I’m not done by then, my name is MUDD.