choosing our financial independence day

this post gets personal. again. and long. but we’ll start with the easy stuff.

we are not the sort to plod along toward a vague goal. nope, we’re of the concrete goals variety. the map-it-out-for-me and show-me-the-spreadsheets types. the tattoo-the-end-date-on-my-forehead-and-make-it-official kind.

so here’s that tattoo on the forehead: we’re going to retire in december 2017.

we were spurred to write this post by even steven money, who is now tracking bloggers’ projected financial independence days. and december 2017 is ours.

here’s the rest of our story:

though we’ve been planning for our early retirement in a general way for several years, we had always assumed an end date of 2019-2020ish, which would put us in our early 40s. we already shared the reasons why we want to hurry up and retire already, but honestly didn’t think anything before 2019 was realistic. lots of us in the fi/re space tend to talk like early retirement is the only goal, but of course that’s hardly ever true. we’re trying to plan for other major life goals as well, many of which have big financial aspects. saving for a home, saving for child expenses (not true for us, but true for many), taking the occasional vacation, saving for a car, perhaps caring for family members, and all the while trying to save for early retirement (taxable accounts) and “regular” retirement (tax-deferred accounts). it’s a lot.

and we’ve had setbacks. four years ago, we bought the home we call our “retirement house,” and we moved away from the big city we loved to a small town that’s close to the outdoorsy things we fill our time with. we deliberately bought less house than the banks said we could afford, and made sure that we could put 20 percent down, and get a 15-year mortgage with a payment we could cover on one income if we had to. (sharing that mostly to establish our frugal cred.) but, we didn’t sell our small place in the city right away. actually, we hung onto it for two years, while we decided if we could really do small town life full-time. result: we feel sure that we’re happy where we live now, and we’re grateful to have had a safety net of our city place while making that decision, but we also spent a lot of money paying two more years of mortgage payments on a more expensive place with a higher interest rate. the one silver lining is that we sold when the market had picked back up, so we did okay when we sold. but all those months of mortgage interest still took their toll. they were setback one. flash forward to a year ago, when we learned that a loved one would be willing to move closer to us, so we could provide greater care, but with a catch: we would need to buy the home for the loved one to live in. we could charge rent and have the house as an income property long-term, but we were still buying another house. fortunately, this would be in a city much cheaper than ours. we bought the house, and said goodbye to a big chunk of savings with that down payment. that was setback two.

then last year was a tough year personally. we’re a dink household, and we both have equally stressful, high-pressure jobs. we each work upward of 50 hours a week and travel a lot, just in an average year. but some years are much busier than that, and last year was one of those. though our jobs are technically 9-5, the truth is that one of us will often be away for two or three nights a week, while the other is working late into the evening most days. and when one of us wants support from the other, it’s unlikely that the other will be available at that time. we both felt out of sync, and neglected. and we realized that it was our jobs that were making us feel that way. our marriage is the most important thing to both of us, and we have always believed that no job is worth jeopardizing that.

so we made a decision: even if we hadn’t hit our goal numbers, we decided that we’d only endure one more exceptionally busy year. and that led us to our new target date: december 2017. this felt big and scary, to commit to a date with no guarantee that we’d have enough saved, but also not big and scary, since it was still three years off at that point and therefore didn’t feel entirely real. it still doesn’t.

but here’s the good news: we’d actually been killing it on the early retirement planning front, even if we hadn’t been killing it in other aspects of our lives (like, say, spending time together). despite purchasing the rental property (which we hadn’t planned for financially), we still hit our end-of-2014 mortgage payoff and investment targets. knowing that felt pretty incredible.

so we accelerated our projections and realized that in three years we could actually be in a position to retire permanently, and never need to work again. but if we reach the end of 2017 and we don’t quite have enough to retire, then we’re willing to hustle with side gigs for a few years, until the numbers add up. (you can read about our two-part retirement plan here, to explain how we are thinking about this.) our plan is to have the house paid off before the end of 2017, so that we can live super cheaply if we have to. and we have several options open to us, from the reviveable side gig we’ve talked about before, to the possibility of doing small consulting projects for current and former clients.

a little hustling will be worth it if we can leave the stressful and divisive jobs behind. of course, given that we’re well compensated in those jobs, we don’t want to give them up just yet, because of what they’re letting us plan and save for. it’s about choosing the balance that we can live with, and right now, a little less than three more years feels like something we can handle.

so that’s the story of how we chose our financial independence day. do you have one? or even a decade in mind? please share!

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Categories: goals

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40 replies »

  1. Congrats on setting a date. Must feel great to move it up a little. And finding a side hustle that one of you enjoys, that brings in a little moolah shouldn’t be too hard. I think I’d take up woodworking for a little bit, and make a little workshop in my garage. Even if it doesn’t bring in that much, I’ll enjoy it and every extra buck will help!

    • Woodworking — how cool! Yeah, agree with a side gig that lets you use your hands and be creative would be a lot more fulfilling than plonking on the keyboard all day long like us office zombies do now! :-)

  2. Congrats on setting such an ambitious target date, I will be following y’all’s progress for sure! I too have thought about setting a target date (especially after Even Steven’s tracking page) but haven’t had time to sit down and crunch the numbers.

    • We definitely encourage you to do a target date projection. Even if you don’t stick to it, it’s incredibly motivating! Doing it helped us pick up the pace and have a concrete reason to spend less, save more.

  3. I think setting a retirement day is a wonderful way to keep you motivated and your eye on the prize. That said, my wife and I don’t have one, yet. :)

    At least, not nailed down to the month. My goal is to retire by the time that I am 40, which’ll be in seven years. Could we retire earlier? Sure. But, we have plans for the future where it’ll be nice to have a little additional cash in our pockets when the time comes to finally call it quits, at least to full time work.

    We are narrowing down some time in 2020 to be my official retirement year – which will still be a cool two years ahead of schedule. So another 5 years of work and around another couple hundred thousand in savings. Can’t hurt. Won’t hurt. :)

    • That plan sounds great! We’d love to pad our stash a little more, but just don’t want to put our marriage thru that much job stress. All about finding the balance that’s right for you.

  4. Boy, I wish we were as confident in our “end date” as you are! Our target is 2025 but that’s really just a hope for right now (especially since it’s so far away still) and a lot could change in that time. I think it’s awesome your date is just on the horizon and I’m assuming it makes it easier to decide to make the tough decisions like enduring “one more exceptionally busy year” than being 10 years out ;) I’ll be interested to see how everything goes and we’ll be rooting for you to make it!

    • Thanks! It’s both easier and not easier to endure things. :-) sometimes it’s frustrating that we’ve worked on this for years, saved a lot, and are STILL working. But mostly having the end in sight helps!

  5. That is a bold goal, I like your style! Dec 2017 is just around the corner, this must be exciting to be so close to your goal. I’ll for sure follow your progress and will be looking forward to see you guys cross the finish(/start?) line!

    • Thanks! It’s still a lot of days of work between now and then, so it doesn’t always feel around the corner. :-) But it gets closer every day.

  6. First off, I love your blog. thanks for finding me! I LOVE what you said ably work vs marriage. my partner and I go through the same thing. opposite schedules, never seeing each other, feeling disconnected. the impact that being “at work” 40 hours per week has on my relationships with loved ones is one of my main motivators for early retirement. I hate feeling like I am neglecting those dearest to me because I’m too busy working.

    • Thanks so much! Sadly it seems what we experience in our marriage and you in yours is becoming more and more common — but good for you for using that as a motivation to save up and get on the FI/RE path. And thanks for reading!

  7. Congratulations on picking a retirement date! That’s so exciting and right around the corner. I am envious and think about early retirement almost daily! Good luck with your final year of non FI.

    • Thanks! And the date is even closer now than when we wrote this post. ;-) I will say… it never gets easier to be patient. You just have to will yourself to get through it. Good luck!

  8. I sort of arbitrarily chose June 30, 2017 as my date during the 1st quarter of 2016… I wanted to get another year of 401K and company match under my belt, and I knew I would really struggle making it through the entire year, and I figured it might be fun to retire about the same time my kiddo gets out of school and have a fun filled summer with her. The weird part was, choosing that date gave me so much new found energy to work my butt off and I blew through all the little goals I had set, and about a year ago, I came clean with my company and discussed my plans with the powers that be. Until a couple of months ago, mostly everybody thought I would come down with the 6 more months or 1 more year syndrome, but I haven’t. You got this. You are almost there! Part of me wishes I could have walked away in March, but I’ve gotten to introduce all my important business relationships to colleagues who are taking over those relationships the past couple of months, in sort of a farewell tour fashion. I have a feeling you may also get to experience some of this. Mostly people leave to go work for a competitor – it’s a completely different dynamic when you are just leaving. It was a little awkward at first, but the openness, honesty and authenticity I’ve shown has allowed for positive responses. I think there are probably some people who think I’m crazy, but they are keeping their mouths shut. :)

    • I wonder if you realize that that’s a big upside of being on the super-condensed FIRE plan — that it’s easier to sustain that fired-up energy over a shorter term. We were definitely fired up when we started, then we hit the doldrums, then last year was crazy hard, and now we feel mostly energized again. Just interesting to note. :-) And I love that you’re getting the feeling of the farewell tour. I don’t know how much we’ll feel that since we’re off-site, but I do think it’s different when colleagues leave for grad school or to stay home with kids vs. to go to a competitor. So curious to know how it will shake out for us!

  9. I work from home too, though one of my colleagues is in the same city so we have been doing face to face farewell tour lunch meetings with those business relationships. I flew out to do one important warm handoff meeting with a different colleague.. and then the rest have been and will be over the phone. I’m flying out to “corporate” in a couple of weeks and will get to hand off things to the new team lead taking over for me and say my good byes to all the folks who have helped me be successful over the years. That will be the last stop on the tour and I have no idea what will be going through my mind at that point. Here’s a tip: have a few canned responses ready for why you are making the choice to retire early. The list is really long for me, but having some responses at the tip of my tongue has helped especially for those folks who can’t wrap their heads around why anyone would possibly do this. The canned responses also help break the ice and start an interesting conversation for the folks who are intrigued. I’ve put myself out there and gotten to know a handful of colleagues in new and interesting ways these past 6-9 months and it’s been an awesome experience.

    • OH, gotcha! I didn’t realize that. Well then it could end up being very comparable. I’m glad they’re flying you out for a farewell visit. We’re planning to insist on that, but it’s hard to know whether they’ll allow it. The people will likely want to, but the money is another issue. ;-) It’s good advice to have canned answers, though we both work in sufficiently demanding subfields that I suspect most people won’t question it. Our few colleagues who know understood it instantly.

  10. I expect to quit on my 45th birthday. It is really not base on anything (will almost be fi not counting ncluding house) , I assme by then my dogs will have passed (like you I have no children) I want to slow travel for as long as want (currently planning 2 years to start with) then if I want to stop I might get a house, become a kayak guide, traveling all over to do it or travel around in an RV. Working partime might be necessary for insurance and extra money which is fine, I am open to working at low paying boring jobs. If I buy a house I hope it somewhere I can house hack

    • Have you done extended travel before? My two cents is to make sure you like that before you embark on something as long as two years, just to be sure it actually suits you. I used to dream about long, slow travel, until I realized that three or four weeks is my max, and after that, I start craving my own bed and own kitchen. Of course, we have other friends who travel full-time and love it! So what matters is living the life that feels best to you. :-)

  11. I’m excited to say that though I didn’t have an early retirement date when I started reading your blog, which was about a year and a half ago at least, I have a tentative date now. It’s pretty far off–December 2028–but that is A-OK. I will be 54 and hopefully very secure.

    I love that in this post you ponder whether your employers will fly you back the last week of work and now in just a week, you’ll be there! I hope it is fun.

    • Oh my gosh, that’s so awesome!!!! :-D Congrats on setting your date — and you probably already know that I think you’ll get there sooner than 2028. ;-) And yeah, LAST WEEK. It’s so surreal.