OurNextLife.com // The Evolution of our Early Retirement Vision, Summer 2016 Edition // How our thinking has evolved on our time, purpose and finances.

The Evolution of Our Early Retirement Vision // Summer 2016 Edition

If you’d asked us two or three years ago what we envisioned we’d do in early retirement, we would have given you some vague answer like, “Travel the world! Climb lots of mountains! Stop waking up with an alarm clock!” And if you’d asked us what we’ll do for money in retirement, we would have said, “We’ll never rely on work again! We’re saving enough so we won’t need to.”

What we lacked in specifics, we made up for with enthusiasm. LOTS of enthusiasm. And just like now, we’d have told you that our to do list was longer than we’d ever reasonably get through, even if we end up having fifty years of free time ahead of us.

But thanks to thinking about early retirement pretty much all the time, reading lots of thought-provoking blogs about it, and of course writing about it in a few thousand words a week, our thinking has continued to evolve.

OurNextLife.com // The Evolution of our Early Retirement Vision, Summer 2016 Edition // How our thinking has evolved on our time, purpose and finances.

The Initial Vision: All Leisure, No Work

At first, we were thinking only about the fun part of life: the adventures we’d go on, the trips we’d take, the hidden backcountry spots we’d discover. We thought more about exiting from work than what we were retiring to. And we thought very little about what good we could do the world, what value we could contribute, other than another vague idea that we’d volunteer “more.”

The Financial Assumptions

From the beginning of our real retirement planning – that is once we got laser focused – we had some fundamental assumptions in place:

1. We’d pay off the house before we retired so we could live rent-free
2. We’d invest primarily in index funds as well as a rental property, to give us a diversified portfolio with multiple income streams (dividends, selling shares, rental income)
3. We’d optimize our post-retirement income to max our ACA subsidy for health insurance

Realizations and Purpose

Along the way, as we’ve thought through a lot of the big questions like how we’ll define ourselves once our careers are gone, we’ve realized that a life of pure leisure sounds fun for a while, but not permanently. Fun is the best thing there is (#funisthebest), but it finally clicked for us that a life of nothing but fun would inevitably lose its luster. Not that it can be sustained every moment anyway, but we want that punctuation, the ebb and flow, the ying and yang, the tension and release, all reminding us to appreciate those moments of transcendence, amazement and wonder.

If life is nothing but fun, after a while we’ll surely start to wonder, “Is this it?” And then what else is left?

We realized that we don’t just want to have fun all day, every day. We want to leave a positive legacy in the world, even if that’s something small, and that means finding impactful ways to serve our community and the planet. We want to know that we’re spending at least some of our time doing something important.

That realization led us to map out our purpose.

OurNextLife.com // Mapping out our purpose in early retirement / Mapping our life purpose / Finding the meaning in our lives

The Importance and Problem of a Creative Outlet

The purpose mapping exercise – which we recommend everyone do (or do Matt’s version) – helped remind us that not only do we care about the fun stuff and the important stuff, we also care about the creative stuff, that unassuming lower right corner of our purpose. I think my biggest career disatisfaction right now is that I don’t have a creative outlet at work (live tweets of work travel delays notwithstanding), and I’ve been missing that ever since I quit my side hustle of many years. In every stage of my life, I’ve built creative outlets of one type or another, often without consciously recognizing that that’s what I was doing. And I think it was in large part that creative vacuum that led me to start this blog.

The problem of creativity, at least in my case, is that I believe wholeheartedly in the Elizabeth Gilbert Big Magic maxim that I never want to put pressure on my creative outlets to make money for us. But that refusal to view creative outlets as potential sources of income also has us considering borderline-crazy things like continuing to work in some unjoyful capacity in retirement, to hedge against sequence (SOR) risks without daring to consider that maybe, just maybe, some of those creative outlets could actually generate a little money.

To be completely honest, I’m genuinely terrified that connecting the act of creating something with the act of generating income will steal all the joy from my favorite parts of life. But I’m starting to realize, thanks in large part to thoughtful comments here, that I’m being a bit too rigid and precious about all of that. There’s a good chance that some of that creative stuff will make some money at some point, and I shouldn’t resist that. So that’s my goal for the summer: embrace unpaid and paid creativity. I’ll report back.

Translating Purpose into Daily Life

With our three-pronged purpose of adventure, creativity and service mapped out, we’ve been thinking more lately about what that actually means for our day-to-day lives and how we apportion our time. We are not interested in scheduling out our early retirement — the very top item on our retirement to do list is to toss the alarm clock (meaning: stop sleeping with our phones next to the bed) and schedule as few things as possible, at least until we get work out of our system. But we are interested in bringing a frame to how we view our days, weeks and months.

And as of right now, we’re thinking that purpose to activity translation looks like:

OurNextLife.com // How we translate our purpose into our days in early retirement

And in some idealized world, that might translate into:

OurNextLife.com // How we translate our purpose into our days in early retirement

We’re going to have to figure out how to balance all three, which we’re excited to experiment with. But it doesn’t seem like too high a bar to do something substantial in every category every week, and maybe even a little something in each category every day. Perfect is never a (conscious) goal of ours, but if some perfect days sneak up on us, we’re okay with that, too.

Escaping the Calendar

For the last month or so, we’ve barely traveled for work, and even though work is still super busy, it’s the most at peace and grounded we’ve felt in a long time. For years, our calendars have been full of work travel, and before that got busy, I had the added scheduling of my long-running side hustle. And this could just be the way I’m wired, but when I have travel or other work on the calendar, I get inordinately focused on that stuff. It’s always looming, stealing part of my attention and energy. Even when it’s an all-the-time thing, it’s still an attention thief. But with it gone this last month, it’s been like POOF, magically more at ease.

What we think that means for our retired future is that we need to stay as unscheduled as possible, and make sure that most of our weeks have no travel or big commitments. Things like regularly scheduled rec league sports followed by pub quiz – that’s welcome. Lots of shifts of fun work? Not welcome. It’s also clear that any work we do take on has to be the kind that’s totally self-directed by us, and doesn’t come with a lot of conference calls. Because I’m totally the person who would let the thought, “I have a conference call tomorrow at 11” occupy all my thoughts today. Instead, any work we do can come with (reasonable) deadlines, but not a lot of meetings in the meantime. Those are the guardrails we’ve realized we need.

Financial Evolution

Though our original vision for early retirement had extremely strict parameters around the type of work we’d be willing to do – which you can basically boil down to, “would we do it for free?” – we’re starting to consider relaxing some of those rules to ensure that our investments stretch farther, especially in the first few years of retirement. But the calendar realization also reins some of that back in, reminding us that we don’t want to do any work, even if we would do it for free, that forces us to keep close tabs on the calendar.

So I probably won’t try to resurrect my side hustle, or at least not right away. I’m hoping I can talk Mr. ONL out of joining the local ski patrol (more so because ski patrol has a fairly high fatality rate, mostly from avalanches – that would not be in the plans. Anyone else want to help me talk him out of it???). And if we do work along the lines of the consulting we do now, we’ll just have to steel ourselves to say no to all the meetings. We’re not trying to build up new careers or maintain our current ones, after all – we’re just trying to stretch our money.

And given everything, how ahead of pace we are, how protected by contingencies, the fact that we have multiple income streams built into our plan and we’ll have a paid off house that could be rented out if need be — I’m starting to feel a bit more chill about all of it. Starting. ;-) And while that may not be an actual financial evolution, and more of a mindset evolution, it still feels like a very good thing.

But bottom lining it, we’re envisioning a future in which work is increasingly likely to contribute to our cash flow in retirement, albeit with parameters that prevent that work from impinging on our time in a way that will make us feel a lot like the work-stressed versions of ourselves that we hope will soon become extinct.

How Has Your Vision Evolved?

We’d love to hear from you guys — both those of you who are working toward early retirement (or just FI while continuing to work), and those who are already retired. How has your vision for your next life evolved? What has been the biggest surprise? We’d love to chat with you about it in the comments!

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64 thoughts on “The Evolution of Our Early Retirement Vision // Summer 2016 Edition

  1. I connect with so much of this right now! After giving up the FT job – I still have a few PT jobs (1 online and consulting in schools) and they seem to consume me now MORE than when they were side hustles – yet the commitment hasn’t changed. I get totally focused on them and definitely need to figure that out. I know others have talked about that as a reason to totally quit – at least for awhile. The one thing that doesn’t seem to bother me at all is the consulting through my blog though. I am doing it for free to build client recommendations and have just loved it. As I write this – it makes me think that I am totally in control (other than choosing a time that works with the client) – but the side hustles still have me working for others… So – thanks for the clarity on that! Love the “Fun”, “Doing Good” and “Creation” model. I think they would overlap in different ways on different days – and that’s what would sustain you.

    1. Yeah, I completely get what you’re feeling, and it’s been a big moment of reckoning for us to understand that the type of work we thought we might do in ER will probably actually be too stressful because of the calendar demands. And I think it’s good for you to reconsider things not just now, but continually. Maybe you and we will one day get to a place where we don’t mind having things scheduled again, but I definitely think we’ll need an extended period of decompression from that.

  2. I’m navigating the gap right now – the one between my last big thing and my next big thing. I took on a new side hustle, and it is interfering with the creative work I wanted to do this month. I need to seriously think about that. That creative work could be my next big thing. But, I’m still in hustle mode from paying off the debt. I mean, I need to hustle right now to max out my IRA. Maybe once that’s done I can relax for a minute and re-evaluate whether or not the side hustle is worth it. The creative work could lead to new opportunities in my field…but I feel so far behind on my retirement savings that I’m afraid to let go of the hustle and embrace the creative work. My vision needs to evolve, but my current financial mindset needs a big shift first, I think.

    1. You are definitely wrestling with some big questions! Part of me wants to say that maxing your IRA is not worth burning yourself out — you’ve got to make sure that you have time for self-care and if your creative work is an important outlet for you, then I hate to see that get squeezed out, too. But, I also understand how much peace of mind can come from feeling like you’re progressing in your financial health. So I think it’s a question of which of those you value more right now. Good luck navigating it all!

  3. We originally thought that being FI meant we could just be on vacation and travel the world all the time. It sounds fun, but we just returned from a 3-week trip to Europe and while it was great, for some reason, a part of us was tired of traveling.
    I think we just wanted to get back to working, not necessarily our current jobs, but something that requires social interactions, creates a feeling of purpose and gives constraints.
    So we now know we’ll continue working. Probably start our own business(es) and we have 5 more years to start working on these ideas.
    I like the diagram how you balance ‘doing good’, ‘creativity’ and ‘adventure’. I need to try it.

    1. That’s a big realization you guys had! My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I read that you were on your trip in Europe, wanting to get back to work. LOL. But I know what you mean, and think it’s great that 1.) you’re both on the same page, and 2.) that you know yourselves and are focusing your plans around what suits you best. And definitely do the mapping exercise. It was SO helpful to us!

  4. Thanks for sharing your journey of thinking about early retirement–very interesting! I will say–though being a SAHM is not like early retirement–that I have struggled a lot with how to schedule our flexible time during the day. How much time with friends? How much time for structured vs. unstructured play or activities? I’ve stopped striving for balance and instead am trying to base our plans on the feedback of how everyone’s doing emotionally!

    1. You always leave the most positive and encouraging comments, Kalie — Thanks! <3 I can definitely see us struggling as you do with how to apportion our time. We won't be caring for children as you do, but I still think it will be a challenge to figure it out — and I think it will take us time to find the right balance!

  5. Like you guys, our vision has evolved quite a bit from when we started our FIRE journey until now. First of all, we realized a life of leisure would get old, and we really just want a Lifestyle Change, so that was the first big one.

    Also, we’d planned to be set up to not HAVE to work once we quit. However, we both see ourselves working in some capacity, if not still pseudo full time teaching like Mrs. SSC. To Mr. ONL, I realize that driving to the grocery store is WAY more dangerous than ski patrol, but…
    Just a thought experiment: Imagine that you did accidentally die on the job 1 or 2 years into your FIRE plan. Would you still want to go thru with it and think the benefits gained from that job were worth your life? Just a different way to think about it.

    Finally, I see Fun+Doing Good+Creation = a Perfect Week instead of a day. I see myself having a schedule that gets fairly routine but remains flexible so days I want to kayak, I can do that instead of playing music or the kids have a school thing, it’s easy to attend and not feel pressured to “always be doing”. :) for me, a perfect day is the freedom to choose what makes you ahppy and gives your life meaning, in whatever form that is.

    However, I’m sure in another year or two, I’ll re-read this and it will ahve changed to some degree I am not even currently aware of. That’s the beauty and fluidity of life, change is constant.

    1. (Hey Mr. ONL! Read the thought experiment here! —> ) ;-) I’m laughing because you’re so right that in two years, we’ll both probably look back at this exchange and think, “Oh, we were so naive!” Haha. I think the reality of ER/FFLC will be a lot different from what we think, because it’s one of those things you can’t know until you’re in it, but agree that we’ll really be seeking balance over each week or even each month, rather than trying to check the three boxes every day. And, while we’d like to think that we’ll be either outside or doing meaningful work every day, let’s be honest — we also want the ability to blow a day or two playing video games, so it’s not all high-minded. :-)

  6. “To be completely honest, I’m genuinely terrified that connecting the act of creating something with the act of generating income will steal all the joy from my favorite parts of life.” I think you’re entering into a false dichotomy here – it’s not “create things, get paid, live a life devoid of joy” vs “create things, don’t get paid, maybe run out of money, live a life of creativity and panic.”

    There is an in-between.

    But even beyond the in-between, you have to consider something else: You’re not asking your creativity to support you. You may be asking your creativity to contribute, but you don’t NEED it to support you.

    That’s a huge difference! Of course it’s hard forcing your creativity to support you when it’s the only thing buying dinner tonight, but you guys have a huge safety net. And reading your posts, I suspect that you are not just prepared, but over-prepared for just about any scenario that presents itself – including sequence risk, years of more than 4% withdrawals, wild yeti – whatever.

    So consider a new alternative: creativity that brings you joy, and is respected by others in a way that makes them want to contribute to your mission and well-being.

    1. Haha — you totally called it. We are for sure over-prepared, or at least we will be by the time we call it quits. :-) We may even be prepared for the yetis! ;-) And I love your new way of framing the creativity. And I know my thinking will completely change on it, too, once it’s not such an escape from work. For years my creative outlets have had to function as my main outlet to let off work stress, and once that’s not true anymore, I think it’ll be a new ballgame. :-) Thanks for the thoughtful comment and nudge!

  7. Part of a decision to work more post FIRE depends on age, experiences in the work place. At least for me it does.

    With 26 years in corporate America behind me when our FIRE date hits and safety nets in place wrt SWR, I have absolutely no desire to pursue income generating avenues. Might I end up doing something that is creative and may provide a few $$’s? Perhaps.

    But I have a long list of new things that I want to tackle and enjoy and I can’t imagine they are going to be checked off quickly. Learning new things is going to be a slow and super fun process. Slow living, a bit like slow travel is what I have in mind. No Outlook reminder pinging, no voicemail to remind of a deadline, no alarm clock at an unearthly hour, no pre-meeting to plan for the meeting. No need for speed and busy busy.

    Yet the goal posts may move in a few years on how I think about this and this is the really exciting, liberating thing. I can react to it at my pace and my choosing.

    1. “No Outlook reminder pinging, no voicemail to remind of a deadline, no alarm clock at an unearthly hour, no pre-meeting to plan for the meeting.” EXACTLY. We want to escape the tyranny of the ping. :-) I’m convinced humans did not evolve to handle the constant bombardment of alarms and beeps and all of it, and we live in this state of stress bracing ourselves against that constant onslaught. So YES, let’s escape all of it! So any work we do in FIRE will have to be free from calendar reminders — and maybe you can find some of that too, if you feel drawn to it after you have a LONG period to decompress and find your slow life rhythm. :-)

  8. Ok….
    #1 – you guys have upped the blogging game with the visual graphics
    #2 – another banger of a post, so on the money (no pun intended)
    #3 – who says we can’t have fun make some side money in FIRE
    #4 – I love being involved in non-profits and volunteering, do it !
    #5 – Climb That Damn Mountain

    Sorry for missing so many posts as of late ~ busy rebuilding the website and climbing/hiking everything in sight ;)

    1. Thanks, Chris! Those fancy graphics are just basic PowerPoint smart art. :-) And yeah, the thing we’re most stoked about these days is that we’ve actually been getting out there. No huge summits lately, but we’ve been out hiking a lot more than we have in a while — it feels great! Glad you’ve been out there, too — your pics are rad! :-)

  9. Oh my gosh, where do I start? Our retired life is so different from what I expected it’s difficult to even find a starting point. I guess the primary difference is I’m not working! At all, at anything. Our original plan included me working for an employer that would provide medical insurance. By refining the budget (cell phones from ATT at $178 to Consumer Cellular at $52, television/internet/landline through Comcast at $175 to internet only at $60, fuel from $400-$500 monthly with two gas guzzlers to $50 with a hybrid, etc.), I was able to accomplish enough cost savings to make even the original $800 monthly premiums (now $945) doable. Obviously having no mortgage helps. I thought I’d want to work, and I’d miss working, but I don’t (at all), and I sincerely doubt that will ever change. Surprises? Medical care is costly and 80% coverage basically translates into several bills from varying entities for even basic care. Avoid the emergency room, challenge bills whenever necessary, take advantage of no interest payment plans and above all, get healthy and stay healthy! Another surprise: utilities are much less expensive up here. I haven’t seen a water bill over thirty dollars, and in the Bay Area it was never less than triple digits. Veterinary expenses are lower per visit, but there are many more visits with our six aging pets. We will not be adopting any additional creatures as our current furry family shrinks; we’ve learned something else in retirement: be aware of things that keep you tethered! Between pets and projects, we frequently postpone or simply don’t do many of the things we thought we’d do. Aging pets take a level of compassion and care we’re not willing to trust to third parties, and we feel the impact on our plans daily. We adopted two rescue kitties the last two years I worked, and while I would do it again (I can’t imagine my life without them), I don’t recommend it. The fewer the obligations, the better off you are. I thought we’d have an RV by now and be traveling the country, but it’s just not practical with two surgeries looming for Mr. AR and two elderly, medication dependent dogs (the boat will have to suffice). Our time will come, but it may be a few years. Other surprises? I spent thirty five years thinking I “loved” DIY home improvement projects and extolling the virtues of doing everything yourself, but I’m finally tired of it. We’ve started hiring help (yard crew, bug guy), and farming out big jobs like drywall. We’re just getting to the point where the price we pay for the physical labor exceeds the financial butden of having a professional tackle the work. Additionally, having moved from the pricey Bay Area to the sierras, the costs of such things are refreshingly reasonable. The biggest surprise, hands down, is that I’ve found contentment doing nothing but sipping coffee on the deck watching the boats on the lake, or seeing lightening crack across the dark sky during a sudden mountain storm, or taking a drive through the hills and valleys just seeing Mother Nature perform her majestic magic. I have never known the serenity of a mind not filled with “To Do” lists, at least not that I can recall. It’s been a revelation to me that people actually live this way, without stress and worry and drama and strife. It only took me sixty years (I just had a birthday) to discover we’re actually meant to be happy naturally. Who knew?

    1. Belated happy birthday!! As usual, so many good notes in here for all of us! We’ve been there with DIY fatigue, and hope you can rekindle that love after you get some distance from it. We’ve always had to let time pass after each big project before we had the stomach to take on the next one, but we always end up finding that enthusiasm again. On your notes about pets, it’s like you were talking to me directly. :-) I could definitely see myself wanting to adopt every sad, lonely dog at the shelter (we’ve adopted two in the last two years!), but our strategy to stay unanchored is to adopt only small dogs that could travel in an RV with us, or can do things like ride in the car without taking up much space and stay in hotels. And the medical expenses — I recently read that CA ACA premiums are going to have another big jump next year — I thought of you right away, and those high premiums you already pay. I hope it’s not too brutal. I love that you guys continue to be so happy and content with your mellow new life!

  10. We have no idea. Which is why we’re frauds! :) But overall, right now, our vague plan is VERY similar to yours… for us, fun plus good-doing plus creation would be the perfect day. And we’re focusing a lot on trying to do as much of those things now as we can.

    1. I am off to read your post (got hung up by all these travel shenanigans!) but you are NOT frauds! :-) I’m with you — fun + creation + good doing = YAY! And yes, totally, so important to do that stuff now, too! That’s really why I’m finding time to blog despite crazy work, and still finding ways to be involved in our community — but can’t wait to ramp that stuff up once we don’t have work consuming most of our time (including our top secret media collaboration!). ;-)

  11. I hear you on the creative part! A good chunk of the reason I want to RE is so I can work on all the creative hobbies I have (knitting, quilting, stained glass, woodworking) that I just don’t have time to do right now!

    I also want to use my free time to give back. Growing up, I was heavily involved in Girl Scouts, so I’d like to work at a local camp to mentor the next generation of girls. Then I can spend the rest of the year traveling, skiing, visiting family or whatever else strikes my fancy.

    1. I totally love your vision of your future — crafts, camp and skiing sound like the perfect combo. :-) Summer camp was hugely formative for me, so I love that you’re focused on passing on that experience to the next generation of girls.

  12. Pursuing FI a lot more than early retirement for now, we are a long ways away so not much has changed to date.

    I think you should look into a natural cross between creativity/helping people that brings in money.

    Tackle it the same way companies tackle going green in a way that also helps the bottom line. Example: create a bottle that uses less plastic – it’s better for the environment, costs less and is good PR.

    If you know the area, setup a guide/ travel service for people unfamiliar with the area for a small fee – it’s a win/win in my eyes. Bringing more enjoyment to the people coming to town, save them time and you get a little extra cash

    1. I love point, and that’s definitely something we’re thinking about. In that purpose post, we talked about seeking out projects that combine one or more of our priority areas. Like doing documentary shorts that shine light on important issues while also giving us something creative we’re making. Or doing videography on our mountaineering adventures. Etc. But I love your ideas, too!

  13. Wow you are thorough. I love your diagrams! I think because it’s kind of far off, I think of it in vague terms. That being I’d like to keep working but only on passion projects, and preferably for myself…not someone else, although that might change if it’s in the realm of service as well.

    1. Haha — that’s the nicer way to say, “Wow you are anal and neurotic!” Just kidding. ;-) Even if you are thinking about the future in vague terms, there’s still value in doing some kind of mapping exercise, even just about things you want to do in the next year or two — I’m certain that the themes will be the same for the short-term and long-term, and we’ve found it really helpful and inspiring to have some thematic frames for our life. It helps us weed out the stuff that’s not important to us and focus on the stuff that is. :-)

  14. You always provoke lots of thoughts in me . . . I’d like to share just a few. I created a vision/mission/values statement for myself for this summer and one aspect of it is that I wanted my life to be “nicely paced and move in rhythm with my family, friends and environment.”

    What that actually means in terms of what I do each day (similar to your creativity, service, and adventure) can change. I may spend lots of time creating one week, and more time on an adventure another week (or it may dominate just a day). Anyway, I think you’ll find your pace.

    Also, I have a side hustle knitting business and there are times when I think I should do more knitting for gifts and less for selling BUT learning about the selling and marketing has been part of the fun. Also, if I know I can try to sell something, I may be more open to trying to make something new–even if it’s not my style. So something may end up being a side hustle and even more enjoyable because it is a side hustle (or it may be that you totally never want to sell your creative endeavors)

    1. I LOVE that you did a mission/values statement! And you’re definitely right — we’ll find our pace, though we expect that to be its own process. I love that you’re selling your knitting products. What’s funny is I have actually sold some creative stuff before, and I enjoyed doing that when I just had an idea, executed it, and then sold it after the fact. As soon as there started to be demand for the products, it wasn’t fun anymore. (Man, my creative resistance is strong!) So I either need to work on breaking down some of that resistance, or on finding ways to create a system where there’s no expectation for the products, but I sell them when I have them. :-)

        1. Good to know! I think at least in the short term I’ll focus on the kind of creativity where maybe I sell it after I’ve made it, but I don’t have anything promised to anyone. :-)

  15. It seems like you guys have really analyzed this well. Being able to create something and provide something good to society is very important. I think I will be one of those people that never fully retires. Retirement for me is being able to live off of passive income and being my own boss. Being able to reschedule things on my terms. You are right. Too many fun days will eventually lose its luster.

    1. I don’t know if we’ve analyzed it *well* — but we’ve certainly thought a lot about it! ;-) I think your vision sounds awesome — working for yourself and doing work that feels interesting and fulfilling to you is pretty much the best!

  16. Oh man, our early retirement plans have changed big time over the last couple of years. Our original plan was to retire in Sedona, AZ. But the trouble there was it would have required working longer because, naturally, we’d need to pay for a house. Then, we had come up with a truly insane idea of renting apartments every year or so in different places around the country because we liked to travel and see new things. But, that would also require us to work longer due to the nature of rent, and we’d have to go through the pain of moving all the time and living in potentially sketchy areas to keep costs down.

    Then, we settled on what truly makes sense for us – living in an RV and traveling the country full time, off-grid (some of the time) and incredibly cheaply. These plans are what’s enabling our retirement at the end of the year rather than in 2018, which was the original plan with Sedona and potentially the apartment idea. So yeah, big changes on our end.

    Regarding work, yeah – nothing is in the plans, but we’re open to any and all opportunities. I’d like to explore the possibility of sponsorships or bringing in some money through my photography and/or videography. Work camping is always another option. Seasonal work is yet another one, though that is probably a little lower on our “will do” list.

    1. Yeah, you guys are the poster children for evolving plans — in the best way possible! And it sure seems like you’re happy with the current path forward (selling your houses, living in the Airstream), which is the best outcome possible. I remember reading your blog back when you were still talking Sedona, and seeing the plan evolve — and that was all actually influential for us, and reminded us that nothing is set in stone. Sometimes when you write about something on a blog — as you well understand! — it’s easy to feel like you have to do that thing then. But instead we’re trying to share our thought process. Who knows, by the time we quit next year, we might have an entirely different plan still! :-)

  17. I like the idea of doing a purpose mapping exercise–Right now, I only want to think about a fun-filled retirement because it’s what keeps me going at work! As I get closer to being FI, I’m sure my priorities will change like yours did. I love the idea of filling my days with volunteering. There are so many organizations and events I’d like to get involved with if I had the freedom (financially and timewise) to participate; mentoring, helping at animal shelters or cooking at soup kitchens, even working things like food or music festivals would be an easy way to feel like I’m fulfilling a purpose while also getting out, being social, and having fun.

    1. Do the exercise! Highly recommend! I bet you’ll find that you’re drawn to more of the service stuff than you are currently thinking about — or at least that was true for us! We were getting through work every day by thinking about the fun stuff, but when we did the map, we realized that making a difference in the world is just as important to us. And now I honestly get through work by thinking about the good we can do later (while ALSO having fun, of course!). ;-)

  18. It’s great to see that your entire plan continues to evolve. Being able to adapt to changing circumstances is probably one of the most common traits among the FI pursuers. As your plans for FI have changed your financial plans have to change and adapt as well.

    1. Thanks, JC! It’s funny because we’re normally inclined not to write things in stone, and to stay flexible, but there’s something about memorializing our plans here on the blog in writing — which I know you understand! — that makes it feel like we HAVE to stick to those plans. So sometimes we need to remind ourselves that it’s fine and actually GOOD to keep evolving in our thinking and planning.

  19. I’m happy you are being so flexible with yourself and allowing new ideas to change your thinking on some matters. I’m still in the working FT + LLC work on nights and weekends hustle. I’m planning on being delighted by leaving the FT work and only doing LLC work 20-30 hours a week. Ask me again after I’ve done LLC work as my only income and employment how I feel. I am sure it will change.

    1. I’m sure plenty more new ideas will keep coming along! It seems like whenever we make plans, then some better ideas pop into our heads. Haha. And what’s your timeline for leaving your full-time work? It sounds like you are working your butt of around the clock — I hope that’s not something you’re having to sustain for several years!

  20. Great Post!
    This post really resonated with me because my vision has definitely evolved in the last year as well. While I was working for the brokerage, my long term plan was to live off dividend growth stocks and by doing some trading. But now, after taking a mini-retirement to test it out, I realized that I would still need more fulfilling work. That’s where blogging/writing comes in. It’s challenging to earn money from a blog. I enjoy improving at writing, design and photography. It’s fun to engage online and run social media accounts. I like how it’s something you can do for a lifetime and that it’s progressive. That said, I think the combination of investing, blogging, and marketing is really the ideal FI pursuit for me now. I also think it’s great that you’re embracing paid and unpaid creativity outlets now. I’m looking forward to hearing you report back :)

    1. That’s so great that you’re so into blogging, and want to make that a core piece of your FI life! If you find a way to make it work for a lifetime, please share your tips! It seems like a lot of folks move on after a handful of years, but it’s such an evolving medium that, like you, we see tons of potential.

  21. Part of our motivation for taking a full year off was to test run several aspects of early retirement. Now that we are 8 months in, the results are interesting. Dealing with social pressure was much harder than expected. (But that might be because we have 5 little kids, and people think you should hold on to ANY job for dear life if you have kids.) The finances have actually worked out much better than I expected. It is a learning curve, balancing rest, family, friends, with projects, creative endeavors, travel, ect. This year has been much more informative than I could have imagined, about things I hadn’t even considered. So while you might not have all your answers on day 1 of early retirement, by continuing to refine your plan it will only get better as you go. =)

    1. That’s so great to hear your experiences from your “test run.” I’m *sure* you get lots of critiques from people whose opinions don’t matter about how crazy it is not to work with kids. Good for you for following your inner compass! And yeah, we’re pretty sure that actual ER will be quite different from what we imagine, so maybe all this planning and thinking is ultimately just academic. :-) We’re fully open to that possibility!

      1. I think the planning, scheming and dreaming is great! But there are always a few surprises to keep life interesting. =) For example, we decided not to invest any money this year. Oh, man do I hate it! It’s totally driving me crazy. I really had no idea how much it would bug me. But now I know. =) Apparently after 14 years of laser focus on paying down debt and growing our net worth, I just can’t go cold turkey. =)

        1. Hey at least you can take comfort knowing that you’re avoiding buying high this year! Seems like everyone believes the market is due for a big correction. ;-) But it’s a good point that going cold turkey is a hard transition. When we interviewed the Charltons here, who wrote the book How to Retire Early, they said something similar. How hard it is not to invest when the market dips.

  22. The purpose mapping vision is nice to do. We finally started to answer the question: what if money is no obstacle. We made this exercise on the plane to Budapest where we would meet other bloggers.
    We now need a review and some grouping. I do think we will use it to reach early half financial independence ( a new idea I explore). Initially, it was work till we reach the number, then top. Okay, we will be bored, lets do some work after that. And now, what if we declare ourself free now?

    1. Ooh, I like the sound of this “early half FI” — can’t wait to hear more about it. I’m glad you did the purpose mapping — and thinking of it in terms of money as no object is a great way to do it. I like that you’re thinking about how to build flexibility into your plan so you can keep adapting as you go! And how was Budapest??? We have met a few FI bloggers, and have loved it every time — hope you had a similar experience!

      1. In my head it is very clear. getting it o paper i something else… First, I hope to get the purpose mapping out.
        Budapest was super. Meeting other FI bloggers rocks! and the thermal spa is great as well…

        1. Haha — I know that feeling! I have about 50 partial posts written that started out clear in my head but just didn’t come out right in writing. :-) So awesome you met other European FI bloggers. Hope you’ll write about that, too!

  23. Another impressive and insightful post, asking the deeper questions. I have the exact same risk aversion (and neuroses) that you do. But trying to be cautious actually helped me experiment and define exactly what I wanted to do.

    My plan – continue working for ONLY 3 years post FI as a precaution against SOR and to build up some cushion. Not “just one more year” syndrome but a planned precaution.

    BUT… knowing I had reached FI allowed me to “ease up a bit”. My work can be life consuming and relentless. The Calendar stress you refer to was the worst thing. Even when at home, work was still in the back of my mind. I couldn’t enjoy fun things quite as much because I knew there was something else pending.

    So with FI achieved, I started giving up the crappy duties that were time sucks. I had recruited my replacement and started the phased succession plan. I did have to reconcile not getting those “gold stars” of recognition as much but TOTALLY worth it. Now with the decreased stress and lesser hours, I am MUCH happier. I have always loved my job but at times it was all encompassing. In more manageable doses, it’s a blast. I originally wanted to create some FIRE safety margin (and that’s still the primary goal) but the luxury of not having to always say “yes” has made it easy to envision some work long term as a great option to balance “too much fun” and pad the finances.

    I would have NEVER thought that prior to being in the middle of it. I was rushing at full speed to an early exit and a life of leisure, personal projects and fun. My OCD/anal retentive approach to mitigating the risks of retiring early allowed me to actually experience that it really isn’t bad at all when you can work on your own terms!

    So my suggestion – work a little (consulting, side hustle, whatever) after FI, to satisfy your need for caution (it sounds like you know you need that reassurance mentally even if you don’t really need it financially) and use a year or so of doing that as an opportunity to gauge if continuing to work, but on your own terms, checks all the right boxes for you or not. No reason you can’t halt it any time you want if it isn’t for you!

    1. It sounds like we have a lot in common! Both how we deal with the work stress, and all of the risk aversion. I think your suggestion to work a little for a year or so into FIRE is a really good one both in terms of financial caution/psychological reassurance and balancing out the fun. Your point is SO important that by cutting back some of the stressful pieces of work and making it more about working on your terms, you actually aren’t feeling such a burning need to quit completely.

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