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!