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Our Big Epiphany: We Will Earn Money in Retirement

If you’re new to the whole early retirement concept, allow me to disavow you of one notion right away today: You won’t formulate your financial plan once and then stick to it forever.

We haven’t even retired yet, and we’re already multiple plans in. Today we’ll share our journey through a range of plans over the years, but most importantly talk about our big and recent epiphany: that as much as we say we don’t ever want to have to earn money again, we surely will earn money again.

Is this a game changing idea? For many of you it’s probably a Duh! moment, but for us this is an entirely different way of thinking about not just our time in early retirement, but also how we’re planning it all out financially.

OurNextLife.com // Our Big Epiphany: We Will Earn Money In Retirement // Earning Money in Retirement, Planning to Supplement Savings with Income in Retirement

Our Fuzzy Beginnings

For years we had a vague notion that if we saved a bunch of money, we maybe wouldn’t have to work forever. (I’m pretty sure this is what is just generally known as “retirement.”) We definitely didn’t want to work forever, and so the idea of any kind of exit was hugely appealing to us. But we didn’t know any of the details of how we could actually make this foggy notion happen.

So we socked away our pennies, but without a vision for how we’d use them down the road. Somewhere in all of that, we moved to the mountains and made up what we called our “10 Year Plan,” which basically consisted of a general aspiration that we’d figure something out before those 10 years were up. It was more like a plan to make a plan.

Making Plans… and More Plans

Then, like a lot of people, we heard about Mr. Money Mustache, we started doing actual research like reading the Charltons’ book, and we put together our first plan-like object. That plan would have had us retiring round about 2020, which would have beaten our 10 year plan by one year. We call it our risk-averse plan, because it had too many assets allocated in non-growing cash and bonds, and — more significantly — it was based on suuuuuper low estimates of what we could save. You know, because we wouldn’t want to fall short of our goals and feel sad and stuff. Womp womp. (Pretty sure those were the scars from the 2008 crisis talking.)

Fortunately, not long before we started this blog, we realized that we were consistently blowing through those goals, and we decided to step things up. We committed to quitting by the end of 2017 no matter what, we recalibrated what we’d need to save to do that, and we’ve hit or exceeded every target since then. No more sad trombone.

mountaintop-onl-emojis
With our nerd glasses on, the better to see spreadsheets

But throughout all of it, through these past several years of aggressive saving, and especially through the past several years of extremely demanding work and work travel — all things we’d rather not be doing anymore, or at least not at this pace — we had one very clear non-negotiable built into our plan: We never wanted to have to work, ever again. 

We built our two-tiered retirement plan — a more bare bones existence in our 40s and 50s, with a good chance of getting to live larger in our 60s — to protect our 401k assets to give us peace of mind in our later years as a way to get to an exit date somewhat soon while still keeping our early retirement work-free.

And despite how much we feel our work affecting our health and at times our happiness, it somehow never occurred to us that we could exit sooner if we were willing to work a little in retirement. Instead we built more contingencies into our plan, including — ironically — the possibility of working some in early retirement, but only to hedge against sequence risk, not to get us to an earlier exit date.

That brings us to now.

We've had a lot of different plans on the way to our big epiphany that we will earn money again. This changes everything!

The Epiphany: Have We Met Us?

Not long ago, a wise friend told us something that felt very astute, but that was probably just pointing out the obvious. To paraphrase, he said, “You really think you won’t earn any more money after you retire? I’ve met you. You can’t help but make things. You’re good at stuff. You’d have to try hard to not earn at least some money.” 

Palm, meet face. 

All this time we’ve been so dead set against having to work that we never considered that we might want to work, or that the things we might do purely for the love of them might net us some income. I am fully aware of how precious I am about keeping creativity and money separate, but there are about a gajillion other ways we could earn money that won’t violate that taboo. Continuing to consult in a very limited way in our current fields, for one. Helping friends who own businesses. Selling lift tickets in exchange for season ski passes.

Or, much more likely, starting something new that we have time to get excited about once we’re freed from our current full-time-and-then-some careers. As Jim Wang put it, once we decouple work and money, we’ll have a lot more freedom to explore the work we actually want to be doing.

mronl-free-climbing

We’re full of ideas… like that this might somehow not end badly (Always climb with a rope, kids!)

Because, yes, we’ve met us. We’re smart, we’re always filled with ideas, and we’re about to have a lot more time on our hands. I’d guess that virtually anyone actively pursuing early retirement could say exactly the same. So while we may not be able to bank on going back to work (for someone else, anyway), that doesn’t mean we have to assume we’ll never earn another cent after we pull the ripcord next year.

TL;DR? The Short Version

Long story short: We originally assumed we’d never work again after leaving our careers, we built an extremely conservative plan around that idea, and then we realized :::POOF!::: that was silliness.

Our epiphany: Duh! Of course we’ll earn some money in retirement.

Short Version: Our first many plans were based on the idea that we would never earn another cent. Then we realized that's dumb... and not true!

Every Plan Is Based on Assumptions

We could all probably take a look at each other’s plans and learn a lot about one another. How risk-tolerant or risk-averse we are. How optimistic we are about the future. Whether we’re willing to gamble a little. Because every plan for early retirement or financial independence is based on a slew of assumptions that reveal much about us:

  • Whether we’ll invest for growth or to hedge against risk
  • Whether we’ll bank on market growth in line with historical averages, or dial it back to something more conservative
  • Whether we think we’ll need to spend more or less in the future
  • Whether we’ll tap into assets like home equity or tax-advantaged retirement accounts to fund our early retirement

And in our case, there was one more assumption included that might just be making its exit:

  • Whether we’d have additional income coming in to supplement our passive income

So What’s Changing?

For now, nothing’s changing. We’re still in limbo on our timing until we know how our year-end bonuses shake out, and we’ll have that information in less than two months. Then we’ll likely do a full recalculation of everything:

  • Budget for what we’d like to spend each year in early retirement, based on updated costs (updated utilities, insurance, ACA premiums, etc.)
  • Estimation of how much of our annual income will be covered by dividends, based on recent averages
  • Estimation of how much of our annual income will be covered by loan payments, for the first few years
  • Assessment of realistic interest rates to bank on, based on our asset allocation
  • Resulting “magic number” that spits out for phase one of retirement

We’ll certainly also look then at what assuming a little work income would do to our plans. At this point, as close to retirement as we are, it won’t buy us much of an early exit, but added work income could do a lot for us:

  • Give us more breathing room in the budget in a given year
  • Conserve invested assets because we can sell fewer shares in a given year
  • Provide additional funds for big ticket purchases like an RV or splurgy trips

As always, we’ll keep you posted as our vision evolves!

Related post: The Evolution of Our Early Retirement Vision // Summer 2016 Edition

What’s Your Plan Based On?

We’d love to know how you guys think about this! Do you plan to have income from work in early retirement, or are you in the “Just say no to work!” camp? What assumptions have you built into your FIRE plan? Have you had an epiphany like ours that of course you’ll earn money in the future? Let’s chat in the comments.

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121 thoughts on “Our Big Epiphany: We Will Earn Money in Retirement

  1. I’m still in the vague FIRE stage myself – I’m not even convinced I want the “RE” part. But I do know that I want the FI part. I want work to be a choice and not something I have to do, and I want to be able to live off savings should I need to. I want to retire to something, rather than from something (as many people say), and I don’t have a clear picture of what I would be retiring to as of yet. I definitely agree that working during retirement can be not only fulfilling, but can get you a higher quality of life/lower withdrawal rate than you might otherwise have. It’s an excellent option to explore.

    1. There is no downside to FI! So it’s great you’re pursuing that even though you don’t know if you want to stop working. But the way you describe it sounds a lot like early retirement to me! ;-) But if you don’t know what you want to retire to, then keep working for now, and I bet you’ll have a clearer vision in time.

      1. Exactly where I am at! My “RE” plans are pretty squishy, but I expect we should be able to get there in 15ish years when we’re almost 45. I just watch how unhappy the older employees are at my job and know I don’t ever want to be in the position where I’m stuck long before I want to be done working.

        1. Yeah, certainly not every job and career has the unhappy older folks component, but if yours does, that sure can provide some additional motivation!

  2. “we feel our work affecting our health and at times our happiness”…
    Yes this is how I feel at the moment! So, early retirement for me is more the freedom of working when I want and how much I want, which in my profession is not hard to do as things like part time, locum, casual etc are very common. As I mentioned before, I love my profession but not my job, so that is what I’d love to do :) I would still feel “retired” as I would actually be financially independent… It’s the feeling of being safe a nd being able to work as much or as little as I want!

    1. I suspect you and we aren’t the only ones feeling this way! Work expectations these days are so out of whack with our biology and wiring! It’s so wonderful that you’re in a field you love, and which offers flexibility — I’m excited for you to be able to shift to a more part-time or casual arrangement!

      1. I agree so much that expectations seem to get worse and worse…
        I’m also excited but I still am a long way away ;) luckily the prospect of getting there keeps me on my toes!

      2. “Work expectations these days are so out of whack with our biology and wiring! ”
        SO true, very unfortunately, since even us who love our profession feel so worn out… It’ll take a few years before I can shift to less hours per week unfortunately… But anyways, great post nonetheless!

        1. Thanks, Anne! And yeah, so much truth that we’re all burnt out. It’s hard to see work expectations continuing to get worse and worse, but productivity and profit expectations show no signs of tempering… so the best we can do is try to pace ourselves and make progress on our exit strategies! :-)

  3. Great article – thanks! I too didn’t build any earned income into my final long-term plan but my earlier versions included some. I also didn’t include any inheritances which I’m likely to receive. I think I’m as risk adverse as you!

    Within three months of retirement, I turned down several opportunities for flexible work. Resort communities offer many opportunities to earn a bit of money–and with side benefits of travel, golf, ski or fitness access. I suspect I’ll take advantage of this at some point though I decided to say no this year. I figure I’ll put any earnings towards splurges and travel though I’m spending well below my retirement budget already.

    1. Hooray for risk-averse ladies! ;-) We aren’t planning for any of that stuff, either — inheritances, social security, lots of work in retirement, etc. Any of it could happen, but we don’t want the success of our plan to hinge on it! It’s great that you have opportunities popping up for you in retirement! What a wonderful thing to know you could take folks up on those offers in the future if they sound interesting and worthwhile at the time!

  4. Your brain is clearly working overtime:) It is an exciting time for you and it will all shake out in to retirement very soon. I tend to look at any potential earnings (and we think there will be some) as extra / bonus but not something we actually have to do. I plan to keep my hand in with travel writing and we may do some seasonal work (or may not). The difference is we can please ourselves and this is what is great and it also means that we can hopefully splurge any earnings on a treat (a trip to the US for example).

    1. That pesky brain — it never shuts up! :-) That’s exactly how we think about earned income in retirement, too — it’s all bonus, not something we NEED to go out and get. And I love how you put it: doing things to please yourself instead of worrying about how much money it’ll earn you.

    1. Thanks, Taylor. :-) And yeah, I still think that, even with this epiphany, I will sleep better at night knowing that we don’t NEED to earn any money. We can just let it be gravy. That feels like the right balance, at least for the short term.

  5. ONL, you’ve hit on what I refer to as the “FIRE dilemma”. FIRE is a nonstop trade off between the “What If’s”. What if….health care costs continue to escalate at 10%? …..portfolio returns get slammed by sequence of return….. inflation hits, hard. ….etc etc.

    For us, we’re going to plan “One More Year” beyond the point of “FI”, before we “RE”. We’ll still retire at a young(ish) 55, and are planning to NOT earn any $$ post retirement. Pressure’s off. If we decide to work post retirement, it’ll be for non-financial reasons.

    It’s a tough analysis, with no right answer. We’ll all keep blogging, it’all be interesting to compare our paths over the coming years.

    1. That is always how we’ve thought about it, too. We might work, but we won’t make that choice because of money. The difference now is that we’re realizing that we could choose to work for non-financial reasons but still end up earning money, which will stretch our assets farther. Win-win. And yes, I’m so curious so see how all of our journeys unfold over the years! :-)

  6. I mean…you’re writing a book, right? And selling your beautiful photos. And putting your 139245726129 other talents to use. You guys are the best. I hope, no, I know, you’ll have an amazing retirement. And I’m so excited to see you sans-emoji. It’s amazing how logic crashes over us in waves. :)

    1. Haha — Yes! Doing all of those things! I’m a doer by nature, so now, in hindsight, it seems silly to think that I clung to the idea that all of that doing would earn zero dollars. Of course it will earn something at some point! And yeah — can’t wait for the emoji-free future! :-) xoxo

  7. Glad to see you’ve come around:)

    I credit my own epiphany to the idea that the people that have the most money usually have no desire to retire, while the people most desperate to retire will often never be financially free because they either don’t make enough or have built a lifestyle they can’t afford without an ongoing paycheck. This led me to research where the whole concept of retirement came from. It was a product of the industrial revolution to get rid of people who weren’t useful anymore. People didn’t originally choose to retire, they were retired!

    Put it all together and a traditional retirement doesn’t make much sense to me. Why not find something you want to do that you don’t ever want to retire from and build a life around that ASAP, rather than kill yourself to get to a traditional retirement that very few people if anyone stick to anyway? Just my $.02

    1. Who knows if any of this new thinking will actually change our plan. ;-) We’re so close to pulling the plug at this point that it probably still makes sense to work until we hit the magic number. But we’ll happily conserve our assets in years when we earn more, or maybe we’ll let those be splurgier years. We’ve always assumed we would work in ER, we just didn’t think about that work as necessarily earning money — D’oh! ;-)

  8. Well, Fritz at the Retirement Manifesro just beat me to it. Thanks Fritz!!

    I will be pulling the ripcord at age 51 and have no intention to work for money. 25 years in the corporate world is enough for me to call time on work. If any early retiree has a low enough WR, there should be no need to work to hedge risk, generate income. If John Bogle is right about future expected returns, we all need to plan for much lower returns than the last few decades have provided. Annoyingly, Mr Bogle tends to be right on many projections he has made over his lifetime in the investing world…!!🙂

    The common element we all have is to be flexible as our plans evolve. And to be flexible as the market situation dictates. Here’s to looking forward to not TOO much flexibility!!

    1. God love Mr. Bogle — we’re definitely planning on lower future returns. (My test for our plan is whether it works with only 2% annual growth — I’m overly conservative on the financial front at least!) There’s a very good chance we’ll look back years from now and realize that we worked longer than we had to, because we’re assuming no future work AND we’re assuming tiny growth in our investments. But those assumptions are what let me sleep at night! We’d rather know that we control our own destiny than be constantly worried that our plan will fall apart if the markets don’t keep up.

  9. This is pretty much my answer to people who question the 4% rule. If you are the type of person that is industrious enough to save and invest a bunch of money and leave the workforce early, you are probably also the type of person that will make some money in retirement, even if unintentionally. We are an ambitious lot (just with a different view of ambition than the typical worker), and ambitious people have trouble doing nothing.

    1. Totally agree! What’s funny is we’ve never once envisioned “doing nothing.” We just didn’t think that the stuff we’d be busy doing would pay us. Oh well… still learning over here! :-)

  10. I think the idea is to plan so we don’t *have* to work, but we certainly can if we choose to. And, like you guys, I fully see that as being our reality once we hit the road full time. Whether it’s blogging or photography income, or maybe taking a small job here or there around the country, we’ll earn money. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when, and what we feel brings us some happiness out there on the road.

    It is certainly possible not to earn a single dime after early retirement, but me thinks that you’d be saying “no” to an awful lot of opportunities. But thankfully, if you want them, they generally present themselves because when people do good work, opportunities just seem to “materialize”. :)

    1. That’s a great way of putting it — we don’t want to HAVE to work, but we will almost certainly choose to, even if it’s just fun work. And yeah, once the future is wide open, it’s hard to imagine those opportunities NOT presenting themselves!

  11. We’re 36/37 now, and we should be able to retire by the age of 48 or so. Since our kids are only 5 and 7 though, I would guess we’ll work until we’re around 55. My goal is to work A LOT now (and we are) and then coast through and work part-time in my late 40’s and 50’s. I really want to get my kids through college and weddings, etc. before I throw in the towel. Of course, I have been saving for their college educations since they were babies.

    Since our work is all online now, I imagine we’ll work part-time and as we want until we no longer can. I look forward to the day when I can work 10 hours per week instead of 40-50.

    1. You’re definitely echoing something that we hear a lot from parents: the desire to keep working until the kids are out of college just to be sure that they’re set up well. And I think that’s awesome to want to provide so much for them! (Though as someone who knew I wouldn’t be able to get much money for college from my parents, I can also tell you that that way is fine, too! It made me aspire to earn a full ride, which I did, and the tiny amount of debt I graduated with was a really good lesson in why debt is evil.) ;-) I bet that slower work pace will happen for you guys soon!

  12. Knowing you a little better now I can also see how you could easily do something that made money in “retirement” but with something you really enjoy. I feel that way too. I’m always coming up with ideas and new things I want to explore. The good thing about being FI is you can explore without the pressure of always producing income!

    1. Thanks for saying that. ;-) The elimination of the pressure is the thing I look forward to most! I’m super excited to just get to try things without having the stress of *needing* them to be successful!

  13. I plan to pull the plug from my day job most likely before FI because of the fact I plan on still making money – somehow. Whether that’s contracting work, Uber, small business, consulting, etc., I have no idea. But when I pull the plug in my 30’s I know there will be tons of opportunities to earn more money.

    1. That makes sense — and if that’s always been your vision, then it probably doesn’t feel like such a revelation like it does for us. ;-) We’ll probably still aim to hit our magic number, but we’ll be happy to get some of that retirement work gravy!

  14. I expect to be dependent on some sort of side income after “retirement” but part of that is my goals are to be working for myself instead of someone else before officially being “retired”

    I really enjoyed Jims previous post – if it doesn’t feel like work and brings in some cash – win/win

  15. Don’t feel bad – I just realized two days ago EXACTLY how life changing owning one rental property would be. And then I got light headed and had to sit down when I realized the impact owning two or more rentals would have. TL:DR I’m for sure going to quit my corporate job before I’m 30. :O

  16. Between my wife’s military pension and our rental properties, there’s always been some assumption that we’ll continue to earn money in retirement. I presume, I’ll still be able to make some money as a blogger as well. I started dog sitting last year and it’s started to take off as well.

    Those four things (plus whatever Social Security after it is reformed) are all money we’ll earn in retirement. There’s a big push to save and grow this huge nest egg and draw it down. That’s certainly one way to do things. We’ve built up a nice nest egg by mostly maxing out our retirement accounts each year.

    It sounds like it is good to plan for no income to be earned and consider it a nice surprise unless you really are excited about a specific encore career like Jim wrote about. If you wanted to be ski or mountain climbing instructors it might be easy to pencil in a thousand or two a month.

    1. Oh man, how we would LOVE to have a pension! :-) What a great thing. We’ll have rental income and dividends coming in automatically, and then assume we’ll sell shares, too, but if we can minimize the shares we’re selling, we’ll be happy campers. (We’re also not banking on Social Security — so if we get it in our late 60s or whenever else, it will be gravy.) And yeah, the way you put it is exactly right: plan for no income, and consider it a nice surprise if it happens.

  17. I am absolutely planning on earning money in Early Retirement. My version of FIRE includes leaving my FT work to work 1/2 to 3/4 time at my own business taking the sort of clients I want. Enough work to keep me engaged and happy, but not too much to keep me stressed. Money in and not just eating up savings. Letting the investments sit.

    1. That sounds like a great vision — especially since you’re already building a business that feeds your passion! You’ll have the ability to shape your work to fit your life, which will be so wonderful.

  18. I think my wife and I started the same way – earn enough to never have to work again. Our epiphany was that we could earn our financial independence in phases and not wait until someday. The idea was to cover 50%, 75%, 100% of BASIC needs with passive real estate income. In between each phase we’d work hard to earn and grow, but at each milestone we’d take a break, relax, reassess what work we liked, and decide how to change our approach.

    The beautiful part was that after each milestone we had less and less need to do work we didn’t like. We could adapt our approach because we had a nice financial base. Blogging and teaching was one work pivot for me. I could make much more income flipping houses or buying more rentals, but I don’t love it as much! And so far blogging/teaching has been a very small income, but I’m ok with that for now. Financial independence allows you to put your passion and your mission first, but ironically the money opportunities tend to flow over the long run. I think it’s because that approach is so different and stands out compared to other businesses who need to grab at every dollar.

    I have no doubt you will find plenty of authentic, fun ways to earn money with much less effort than a day job. Entrepreneurship has its own creativity. Your art is contributing in a way that people perceive as valuable while still staying true to yourself.

    1. Thanks for this comment, Chad! I love that you’re finding so much satisfaction in blogging and teaching. I feel the same way, though I’m definitely super hesitant to monetize the blog — bigger subject for another time. ;-) I think you’re right, though, that once we’re freed from NEEDING to make money, what we do will be more authentic and come from a place of love, which people are likely to sense. It’s all so exciting to think about!

  19. The two tier model is exactly our plan. We just need to make a little money to help pay a part of the monthly expense. This will keep our withdrawal rate low until we’re more comfortable. I realized this very early on and it was always my goal to retire part time. Retiring full time sounds very boring to me. Work is good for you especially if you like it.
    You don’t have to be FI to retire early!

    1. In our case, the two-tiered plan is driven by saving really well in our 401ks from an early age, but saving less in taxable accounts. The good news is we should be able to increase our standard of living when we’re 60+! And we’ll for sure always work, but we never want to spoil the fun of it by forcing it to pay our bills. ;-)

  20. I can totally see myself as being in the “just say no to work” camp if I had sufficient assets, because I’m definitely on the lazy side.

    That being said, I’m never one to say no to new opportunities. So if there’s an opportunity that comes along that doesn’t feel like the traditional definition of work, then sign me up.

    I don’t have enough to never work again, but I have enough to choose the type of work I accept for a good while. Can’t complain about that….

    1. I love that way of thinking about it — you’ve put yourself in a financial position where you CAN take on opportunities that come along, instead of being chained to a job because of debt or financial insecurity. That’s a great place to be, even if you don’t have a clear vision for your future. Keeping things open ended in the best way possible sounds pretty great!

  21. I think it’s cool that you’re allowing your plan to evolve. I’ve never been able to quite relate to the never-working-again thing, but the idea of de-coupling work (aka, creating things of value) and money makes a lot more sense to me.

    1. I’m a tinkerer. I’ll never stop tinkering with the plan. :-) But I love how much the PF community continues to push our thinking — it would be hard NOT to evolve! And you know I’ll always work in some way — it’s just a new (and obvious) idea to think about that work actually making some money. ;-)

      1. Yeah, the decoupling work and money thing seems less like trying super hard to make sure your work doesn’t net you a single cent (haha) and more like just recognizing that sometimes there will be an overlap and sometimes there won’t.

        1. Yeah, perfect way to put it. I actually think I was thinking before of erecting a wall between what I’d spend time on and the ability to earn money from it, and that’s silly. We’ll do the things we want to do, and maybe sometimes we’ll earn a little gravy from it. ;-)

  22. As we are all aware, being FI provides flexibility. That flexibility includes earning money.

    The evolution of your plan is very instructive. It shows that as one becomes more informed about the details (e.g. investing, taxes, healthcare, etc.) and develop stronger saving-muscles one becomes more comfortable with the uncertainty and risk. A key take away is to start saving early. With a better understanding of yourselves you are able to adopt the FIRE templates to your situation. Your progression seems logical to me.

    My original plan was early retirement by age 45. Now I am thinking of my money as young man and old man money – thanks for that idea. From now until age 60 I aim to follow the mini-retirement path and after age 60 to be retired. The mini-retirement path is appealing to me because I prefer to work on projects for several months to a couple of years and then move on. And the longer breaks between jobs provide great times to play in the mountains and travel.

    Someone stated the importance of planning long before FIRE.

    “Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.”
    -Winston Churchill

    1. That Churchill quote is so apt! Totally agree that planning is important even if none of those plans come to fruition. We’re big believers in the two-tiered plans, so your approach sounds great. And here’s to as much time in the mountains as possible while we’re still able-bodied!

  23. My wife and I absolutely will earn money in retirement. She’s a little more pessimistic on the how, how much, and when since she wants to know all the details.

    We’ve struggled with a lot of the same thoughts and questions that the two of you have been facing. I know that my income earned during retirement will come from where my passions lie and I’m open to the potential that it may mutate into full time work. The key is that it must not feel like work to me. I also am open to the possibility of working for someone else, with other people, or even for an employer provided that their goals are highly aligned to my goals.

    As for our financial and retirement plan, it feels like it’s constantly undergoing revisions. I’m quite risk averse, but optimistic about our ability to earn more money during retirement. My wife desires a larger margin of safety with less reliance upon earning money during retirement.

    1. You guys sound like you have similar dynamics to ours! I’m definitely the one who has always wanted a larger safety margin, but I’m evolving on this front, too, as I realize that we’re so likely to earn income after we quit. But amen to it not feeling like work — that’s super important for us, too!

  24. Nice progress in mindset! Hang on for the next 2 months!

    As I do not dislike my job, a job has been part of my FIRE plan. Actually, I call it semi FIRE as I plan to work half time to keep me busy and challenged.
    A lot of recent podcasts I listened at point to that: after some time of doing travel (or other things) people start to “work” again.

    A plan in the back of my head is to take off 1 additional month of holiday per year as from next year. It will delay everything and add so much more now!

    Let’s see…

    1. Thanks! In two months, we’ll have so much more clarity about the end game — very exciting. As you know, we’ve always planned to keep doing things that would make us feel challenged, but we assumed all of those things would be unpaid. Now we’re changing that view a bit. ;-) I love the idea of taking extra holiday every year to keep yourself motivated!

  25. I’m so excited for you guys!
    For me, earning income without a formal job is tough. Friends and family think I should be the “rich doctor” so we often foot the entire bill and we’re happy to give our time and efforts to help anyone we can, though others would be paid for the services we provide.
    Our goal is to have enough in the bank in a few years to technically be FIRE but to work enough to meet our annual expenses and let our nest egg grow until it gives us a very comfortable cushion before we start to withdraw anything.
    Maybe when I quit medicine I can come work for you!

    1. I think it’s great that you’re able to give like that to help others! That’s definitely something we want to do a lot more of in retirement. Need help moving? We’re in! Need help building a new website? On it! Renovating your kitchen? Sign us up! (Of course these things are far less skilled than providing actual care!) We technically hit FI earlier this year, but are going to keep working just a little longer to get to a place where we’ll be fine if we don’t earn more money… but then if we do, hooray! But we’d also like to be able to give more of our time away for free, for sure!

  26. This is a great read! Yes, I believe that trying to not make money in early retirement would be difficult, haha. I still see myself doing something – good/bad thing is that I love blogging so I’ll probably just keep doing that. I would like to take a year completely off, though.

    PS You should totally get an RV. We love traveling full time in one :)

    1. Thanks, Michelle! Yeah, now that I’m thinking about it this way, it does feel like a no-brainer that OF COURSE we’ll make *some* money. Certainly if we keep blogging! And the RV question isn’t IF, it’s WHEN. Though I think we’ll stick to part-time RV living, so we’re looking at a little micro class C. ;-)

  27. I’m tentatively planning to pull the plug on my day job in Dec 2017 (at 35 years old) as well. At that point I’ll still have my side business that I can run from wherever. It’s in the travel industry, so I get lots of perks like staying at $500+/night all inclusive resorts for free!

    I know I’m going to make money through the side business, but the income is so inconsistent that it’s hard to add it to my plan. This year I had a month with over $8,000 worth of commissions and two months later it was $900. Last year had a month of $75 in commissions sandwiched between two $3,000 months. It’s a great side income, but terrible main source of income. If I knew the side business income would stay consistent, I would walk out of my cubicle right now.

    I enjoy tinkering with the business and I have several other business ideas that I would like to explore after quitting my day job. So yes, I will make money during my retirement, but I don’t feel comfortable relying on the income to pull the plug *too* early. Perhaps I could get within, say, 5-10% of my RE number and then quit my job, knowing that over the next few years I’ll still have some sort of income to bridge the gap.

    1. I definitely understand your dilemma! Though it sounds like you’ve created a pretty ideal set-up in the sense of having something super flexible to fill the void left by work when you do pull the plug next year. I think your idea of getting close to your ER number makes tons of sense (though we’d probably just go ahead and try to hit the number, because we’re cautious like that — then the side biz money can be gravy). Good luck making that decision! And enjoy your last year!

  28. You guys are still really young so doing some part time work might not be a bad thing and will probably help your portfolio over the long term. Its certainly better than working full time every week. You’ll probably feel better about your finances if the markets go down for a while. The trick is finding the right part time job that suits you.

    1. Completely agree! We have always planned to do work, but just didn’t think of that work as having any relationship to money. Haha! We figured we’d do a lot of volunteer work, keep writing without worry about whether it made money, and work on other creative projects that might not ever “pay off.” So that plan isn’t changing, we’re just recognizing that some of those things could earn some cash along the way. ;-)

  29. We’re in the same boat – our plan has evolved to the nth iteration that it currently is, and it is in no means the “final” plan. There is no “final” plan nor will there ever be. :)

    Decoupling money from work is the exact reason it was such an easy decision for Mrs. SSC to lose 3/4 of her income by teaching. We haven’t felt it financially affect our lifestyle in any way except a lower savings rate.

    Like you, we realized early on that there is literally no way Mrs. SSC will be able to “not do something” and if she can find something she likes that trades some $$ for some time, then win/win. While our plan is good if we don’t get income ever again, if we add even a mere $10k/yr into the projections, we’ll die rich… Rather our kids will get a nice leg up when we kick it. Hahahaha

    We know that wherever we land we will have the opportunity for some part time type of work, we will just get to choose what kind, how much, etc… and not have to take what’s available due to being short on cash.

    1. Same boat all the way except that Prof SSC made the leap to her “fun work” before you guys hit the big number. We’ll make the leap after we hit it. I think it’s good for folks early in their journeys to see how much the plans evolve for all of us — it takes a lot of the pressure off to get it perfect on the first try. Because, as you said, there will never be a final plan! And yeah, since we have no kids, we’ll have to figure out who will get the big funds we leave behind! Hahaha.

  30. What a cool journey–I love hearing about it and your latest epiphany! We have always imagined we’d do some work, probably for some money, whenever we retire. I think most people who can pull off ER are bright, talented, hard-working people who are going to stay busy and productive one way or another. We’ve talked about consulting and/or working part-time for a nonprofit for very modest compensation.

    1. Your vision matches ours closely — we just figured we would donate our time to the nonprofits instead of getting paid for it… not that we’re above getting paid, just that we thought it would be nice to make our work purely service-oriented. But I still think we’ll end up earning *something* one way or another!

  31. Great read ONL! We do plan to work in some extend in early retirement… I’ll probably continue working on my photography and cookbook businesses. I might decide to work part time with my current job. However, our FI assumptions do not include us working to give a conservative view.

    1. Those things sound great, and I’m sure you’ll continue earning money off your photography and cookbooks! Agree with you, though — it’s smart not to build *required* work into your financial projections!

  32. I’m not in the “say no” to work camp now that I am FI but boy is it hard to get up and go to work right now. My full-time temporary job ends Friday and I will be VERY happy to have some time back to choose what I want to do. I think that I will always make money doing some things I enjoy doing. I’ve found now that I left my regular jobs that I get offered a few jobs a week – no kidding. It’s great to pick and choose – and I think I will get much more “choosy” over time :)

    1. It sounds like your “full time” temporary gig has been much more than full time, so I don’t blame you for being eager for it to end! I don’t think we’ll be eager to take on anything remotely full time in retirement, but like you, we hope to be super choosy, and only pick the projects that sound especially fun. :-)

  33. Ha, this is great. I’ve been thinking about this but in relation to taking time off for kids. I imagine I’ll earn SOME money during that time, but I don’t want to rely on that – be a great bonus but I won’t be counting on it when planning.

    1. Yeah, I think that’s exactly the right way to think about it. That money is bonus or gravy, it shouldn’t be part of the essential plan. But it’s a little bit hilarious to me that it somehow never occurred to us that some of our fun work in early retirement could actually make money. ;-)

  34. Although we don’t plan on needing to work once we retire early, I think there are going to be blocks of time where we want to work.

    One thing I would like to try is teaching at a community college. It certainly doesn’t pay anywhere near what I make now, but I think I would really enjoy it. Once we have financial independence, the pay doesn’t matter – I get to do and try whatever I want whenever I want.

    1. Absolutely! Getting to try different things is one of the things we are most looking forward to. Have you read the blog Slowly Sipping Coffee? The woman in that couple recently left her high paid corporate job to teach at community college. And she is super super happy doing it!

  35. Funny, I just wrote about the exact same thing !

    For us our plan do not requires us to work. But there is a lot of potential reason to “work” once FIRE.

    Either because for some activities, it makes sense to be paid. (Writing books, teaching…). And some professional activities can be rewarding, even if it is just the occasional contract (programming in my case).

    And even if we plan carefully with a lot of safeguards, retiring early still feel a bit surreal (Hey, we really managed to do this ? ). A few years of investments returns, and normal spending should make this more tangible :)

    So finding side activities that are fun and a bit lucrative can make the transition smoother (and add still another layer of safeguard.)

    Anyway we are full of ideas and have plenty of creative hobbies, and something tell me that some of them may end up making money… so who knows =) ?

    1. You’re so similar to us! “Full of ideas and plenty of creative hobbies.” ;-) As you said, surely some of them may end up making money, so why fight it? And agree 100% about pursuing activities that are rewarding — though we still hope to make that choice on completely non-financial grounds.

  36. Hahaha, I read the title and laughed because I was like, well that’s pretty simple. But it’s something I never would have thought of either. Especially with early retirement it’s even more likely. I don’t think it’s necessarily considered “work” or “plans to make money” if it’s a hobby that you enjoy doing and would be doing regardless of income.

    1. Ha — I know! It IS simple. I don’t think that anything has changed in what we’ll do — we still want to choose our activities and “work” for non-financial reasons. But looking back, it seems a smidge naive that we never considered that all that stuff we’d be doing anyway might actually net us some income. ;-)

  37. why not, right. Parking golf carts a few times a week at a nice golf course might be fun and pay for your monthly gas bill or grocery bill…My wife and i just hit our 13 year anniversary and had a long discussion about what the future for us holds. We have reached the point in our finances that we can more clearly see a future that has options. Our daughter is now 10 years away from graduating high school which also seems like a benchmark of ‘what’s life gonna be like in 10 years’. As others have mentioned i to have a desire to keep working until my daughter is out of college. There is a strong possibility of going part time at my current employer the last several years prior to a mid 50s retirement. The more i think about it, going from full time to part time could be a nice transition for my wife and i.

    1. Haha — Your idea of “fun work” and my idea are different! But if you love driving golf carts, then great. :-) I am personally not planning to agree to any retirement work that requires regularly setting an alarm clock! I think the transitional plan you’re considering sounds like a great way to go both for the financial transition and for the mental one.

  38. While I fantasize about never working again. I know I will probably work in some way the rest of my life. Like you I think I am wired to be creative and share my talent and skills with others. What that looks like, I’m not sure. But while I definitely won’t bank on income in retirement I have a hard time imaging that I won’t be consulting some in retirement.

    1. You’re definitely where we are on this — not banking on the income to make the retirement plan work… but not turning that income down, either! :-) The ultimate goal is not to make work decisions based on money, but instead based on whether we WANT to do that work — what a wonderful gift it will be to get to make decisions that way!

  39. If Mr. BITA was reading this he would be all annoying and brimming with “I told you so’s”. One of the first things Mr. BITA said to me when I articulated an early version of our retirement plan was “You’re talking about us? There is no way we’re going to be making no money for the rest of our lives!”

    I started down this road thinking that it is going to be really, really, really (did I make my point? Maybe I need more reallys) nice to have the option to not have to earn at all ever again. It is probably going to be even better to earn a little, when I feel like it, doing something that I enjoy.

    1. Haha — I feel you on the “really really reallys”! ;-) (And on the know-it-all husband! LOL) I think where we’ll end up is relishing not making choices about what kind of work to do based on finances, but instead based on what we WANT to do. And then if we happen to earn a little money doing that, great!

  40. In my case, I am coming to realize that my work is an avocation, not primarily something I do for money (although I did negotiate to be well remunerated). I do it because I am interested in doing it, and if I was no longer being paid (e.g., if I retired), I believe that I would continue doing projects similar to what I am doing now but on my own time. (And some money would probably flow to me from that.) Although I have reached FI, I think I will want to keep on working in some capacity as long as I have lots of flexibility in how much time I have to commit, and which projects I take on. My workplace offers me quite a bit of autonomy and flexibility, so maybe semi-retirement is the right option for me. (An exception was a four year administrative stint I completed recently that required crazy long hours and work I did not enjoy – I did not and would not continue in that role.)

    Basically, I have discovered that once you reach FI and the money part is solved, money becomes essentially irrelevant in making life choices.

    1. I love hearing stories like yours, of people whose work becomes a true passion and calling. How wonderful that your vocation and avocation align! I think if that were true for us, we’d be fine working much longer, since we have no problem with work itself, but instead struggle to see how we can sustain the current pace that our careers expect of us. I’m definitely excited for you that you can keep doing what you’re doing in a flexible capacity that will still allow you to do other things, but keep pursuing your work passion while earning some income. It’s one of the best gifts to be able to do what you love without worrying about the money piece!

    1. About 8.3%, though could be more by the time it’s paid off because rent could go up a little. Not as high as it could be, but definitely within the bounds of acceptable, at least for us!

      1. that’s a high cap rate. may I ask if it’s in a coastal city or in the mid west? Seems tho the cap rate in coastal cities are around 3 to 4% whereas in the mid west could be in the double digits. thanks for sharing

        1. You mentioned you live in the west coast. Do you hire a property manager? I always wonder if investors are comfortable buying property out of state where they cannot regularly attend to it. I’m on the best coast as well, and am aware the farther away from the coast, the higher the cap rate will be. But personally I dont’ know how I feel about buying property that I can’t attend to. Thoughts?

        2. We don’t live on the West Coast. We live in the mountains of the Intermountain West. ;-) Totally with you, though, on not being comfortable with property far away. I admire people who can do that, but that is not us!

  41. This is a great post, great blog, just starting to go through all the articles. Love the outdoor pics, keeps me motivated to keep going.

    You are not alone in this epiphany, I went through the same realization and moved up my date. I would love to read more in a future post regarding possible part time income/trade you guys might be thinking about like working for season lift passes that you mentioned.

    I’m starting to gather a list of possible things that interest me that does not involve a cubicle: NP camp host, REI, library page, cruise worker, etc. Jobs that I may consider as fun where the income is a bonus but not a need.

    1. Hi Tony! Thanks for reading and for the nice compliment. :-) Great suggestion for a future post — some of the things we’re thinking about are ski patrol, EMT, library admin, various allied health jobs, doing social media or blogging for friends’ businesses, seasonal ranger and paid speakers. :-)

  42. Hi, great blog! Have just started paging through it, but very interesting so far. You guys are in a somewhat similar situation to me, so I’m extra-interested in how you’re looking at this. So, when working for an employer, you won’t really need this (other than for small items or training costs), but if you’re going to be your own boss to generate income post-retirement, you are likely to need to front some capital. How are you budgeting for this? Being in a similar situation as yourselves, I’m having trouble figuring out how to account for the upfront costs of my retirement hustle without knowing what that hustle will be. Whether it’s renting office/manufacturing space, buying materials, or even hiring someone, the costs can range pretty widely. Have you guys thought about what your post-retirement work might be, and how much it might cost you upfront (or in total, if the business fails to generate any revenue)?

    1. Glad you found us! Thanks for digging into the archives. :-) And this is a great question. The short answer is that we’re expecting most of our post-ER work to be of the information variety, and likely part-time consulting, so really only requiring a laptop and a little wifi. Some of the things we’re thinking about for the blog might require a little equipment purchasing, but nothing major, and certainly no hiring of employees or renting of space. So I know that’s completely unhelpful, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t think we’d be willing to take on that level of risk in retirement that fronting capital would require. We’d rather just work a little longer in our current jobs!

  43. Man, I wish I could get my lovely ice to think about the ER part. If we could agree on a retirement lifestyle, we’d be there now. I admire all of the people thinking about the FIRE concept. Late career these days stinks, and I hate thinking about having to go through it when we have worked so hard and saved so much. In two years, our only child will be done with high school and we have at least 60% of college saved for. So, I look at it as having two years to try and convince my wife that we have options beyond the daily grind. Wish me luck and carry on all you FIRE do’ers or wanna be’s! Live long and prosper….. doing what you want to do!

    1. My two cents from having had a LOT of people ask me this question: I think it works better to ask a partner what they want out of life, what adds the most value and what doesn’t, rather than trying to convince them to buy into your vision. That way you can work together to craft a shared vision instead of one partner feeling like they’re having their arm twisted or like their vision doesn’t matter. Good luck! :-)

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