Our Next Life Turns 2! // A Look Back, A Look Forward, and So Many Questions

No burying the lead today, friends — it’s our second blogiversary! ONL has been here a whole two years, and has become a super important part of our lives along the way. (And when I say “it,” I really mean YOU, the friends we’ve made through the blog, and the community of folks who read and comment here.) What began as a simple attempt to chronicle our journey to early retirement, because who in real life does this, has turned into so much more than we ever could have anticipated. But we love it, and we love you, and so today we’re throwing a little ticker tape parade for all of us. Group hug, y’all.

To celebrate the occasion, we’ll run down some stats on where we’ve been, talk a little about where this blog is headed, and — the best part — answer some of your questions.

(And if you like this kind of post, check out our first blogiversary post, and a bigger stat rundown on our 100th post.)

Let’s dive in!

It's our second blogiversary! Group hug! Let's take a look forward, a look back, and answer a bunch of reader questions.

The Stats!

Because I know the personal finance nerds out there want the numbers, here’s what two years of ONL adds up to:

Number of posts: 227

Average number of words per post in year 1: 1000-1200

Average number of words per post in year 2: 1600

Average number of words per post in year 3: ??? (Help us all.) ;-)

Number of mystery novels worth of words written so far: 5

Most comments on a single post: 182 (Half of those are me commenting back, because chatting in the comments is the best part of all of this — Though I now write significantly more words in response to posts than I do in the posts themselves. So add on a dozen more mystery novels.)

Number of Plutus Award nominations: 2 (Still feels so crazy to think about the company we were in this past year!)

Number of challenges we’ve issued: 2 (The Road Less Traveled challenge, and the Use It Up challenge)

Number of houses we’ve paid off: 1 (Sorry! I said I’d shut up about it!)

Current combined United miles balance: 1,650,000 (that’s even after cashing in a few recently!) #upsideofworktravel

How many of us will be traveling to FinCon this year: 2 (Mr. ONL is coming! Yay!)

Number of Mondays until we pull the ripcord: 46 (or fewer!)

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What the Numbers Really Mean

In some ways, not much has changed in the last two years — we’re still slogging away toward our BIG GOAL, we’re still working the same demanding jobs we’ve had for virtually our entire careers, traveling too much for work and traveling too little for fun. Even on a fast track FIRE timeline like the one we’ve been all kinds of lucky to be able to pull off, it still takes time, consistency and dedication for those numbers to add up, and saving is 99 percent a waiting game.

But in other ways, everything has changed. Having the idea one day to start writing this stuff down has been the happiest accident, making the waiting game a whole lot more fun, and a whole lot more meaningful. In terms of our own finances, we’re so close to the big goal now, we own the roof over our heads, and we know that blogging about this stuff has supercharged all of our saving and planning. But that doesn’t feel like the important part, though we’re super grateful for all of it.

What matters most to us is how many amazing, like-minded people this blog has let us meet online and in real life who are on similar paths to ours. To everyone who’s commented here, engaged on Twitter or emailed us (even if I’ve been slow to respond!), know that those notes matter to us in a big way. And the friendships that have progressed beyond those notes feel truly special, all the more so because all of this grew out of a little blog whim one day.

Reader Questions

I thought it would be fun in this second blogiversary post to take some reader questions, and I asked folks on Twitter last week what they’d like us to share.

Seeking Saturdays asks: Have you planned what you’re doing for the big reveal?

A: We probably think about how to do the big reveal more than we think about what our work sign-off letters will say! We’re definitely planning to incorporate a contest, whatever we end up doing, and can definitely promise that it will be goofy, because it’s us after all. Let’s just say that we may possibly be storyboarding a video. (Got ideas for the reveal or the contest? Leave ’em in the comments!)

Ms ONL and Mr ONL in the snow
We will always be goofballs, even after the emojis are off our faces.

Noah @ Money Metagame asks: Do you still walk away at the end of the year if the market drops 25% or more by that time?

A: We’ve always expected that a dip that large would happen before we retire, and we’re kind of shocked that it still hasn’t happened yet. But the answer, based on our when the crash comes plan, is: Yes, we’d still walk away from our careers. We’d cut our spending and taxable withdrawals significantly, to match the drop, and probably try to hustle a bit harder at a part-time gig to reduce the shares we need to sell off. But we’re already saving about 20 percent more than we need to account for this, our retirement budget has a lot of wiggle room, and we have more contingencies than a sane person needs. If there’s an absolutely devastating crash, we might reconsider, but that’s about what it would take.

Mad Money Monster asks: How has the journey to FIRE been different because of your blog? Did it speed it up?

A: This one warrants its own post, which we’ll share in February! But bottom line: YES YES YES! Having a blog has sped up our progress a whole bunch of different ways — the accountability, the general level of stoke, the desire to have things to share. Plus, it’s forced us to get a lot more informed about all things FIRE than we probably would have without the blog.

It’s a Kate Life asks: What’s the easiest thing to write about and the hardest?

A: I can definitely tell you the hardest thing NOT to write about: all the stuff that would give us away, but which would make our circumstances a lot easier to understand! But we’ll get to share that stuff soon enough. Easiest to write about is the actual money stuff. Any post with charts always feels faster to write, even though producing the charts takes time. The feelings posts are the ones I procrastinate on the most, but they’re also the ones I feel like I have to write. Especially when I’m asking us all collectively to push ourselves in the direction of social good — like asking everyone who can afford to save for FIRE to give to important causes (ahem, this would be a good moment in history to give!) — I hesitate and second-guess myself a lot. But those posts are also the most satisfying, so it’s worth pushing through.

Net worth components -- healthy growth in 2016
Posts with charts like this one practically write themselves.

Adventures With Poopsie asks: Have you ever received negative judgment on your decision not to have kids and what are your tips for dealing with that?

A: I think we’re now old enough that we’re past some of this (37 and 40), but for years people would ask if we had kids, and when we said no, reply “Well you still have time.” Or the worst was other women who’d say that I wouldn’t ever truly feel fulfilled until I was a mother — fortunately that didn’t happen often. Because I fly so much, the question would most frequently come from business traveler men, and when I told them I don’t have kids, they’d most often respond with some version of “Best financial decision you’ll ever make!” But my best advice for dealing with it is to project confidence in your answer. For the first few years after we got married, people would ask the kid question, and we’d say no in a mealy-mouthed way that invited people to weigh in with their opinions. Now I hold my head high when I answer with a confident and upbeat “Nope!” I’m quite sure the way I answer, as much as the answer itself, communicates that the matter is not open for discussion. (And for the parents out there, we totally love kids and respect your decision all the way. And we’ve argue just as fervently that no one should tell you how to parent your kids as we would that no one should tell us that we’re in some way deficient for not having them.)

Little Green Revelation asks: Favorite places you’ve traveled for work?

A: Because I love my Canadian blogging friends, I am happy to say that I’ve been to most of the major Canadian cities for work, and loved them. Even Winnipeg! Maybe especially Winnipeg! That whole Friendly Manitoba thing is no joke. In the States, I’m always most excited when work takes me to New Orleans and New York City. It’s hard not to feel that New Orleans’ days are numbered given its precarious location on the Gulf, and the increased likelihood of devastating storms with global warming, and it will be a massive tragedy to lose that place. The music, the culture — we’re both so inspired by all of it, and we get there as often as we can. And NYC… no explanation needed, right? But I have had interesting and memorable experiences in so many places I wouldn’t have expected, like the work trip to Dallas where I was caught up in the conversation, and didn’t realize the cab had pulled over before we’d gotten to our hotel. My colleague said, “Get out and look down.” I did, saw an X on the asphalt, then looked up and saw the Texas Book Depository, and understood. Or the times I got to touch fighter jets.

harrier
Me in a cheap suit with a Harrier

Ernie @ Purple Sweatpants asks: What would you say to someone your age who is just starting their journey toward FI?

A: Any day of freedom you can buy before age 65 is a win, so focus on that instead of comparing yourself to someone who retired at some unattainably early age. Even just being able to retire on your own terms is a win, and something most people will never be able to say. From there, you know all the financial stuff: save as much as you can, but make sure you still enjoy the life you’re living while you’re saving and not scrimping yourself into misery. Automate where possible, max the tax-advantaged stuff, don’t pay high investment fees, etc. etc. etc. Reading a lot of early retirement blogs will skew your thinking and make you believe that retiring at X age isn’t really “early,” but in the real world it’s still freakishly early.

Secret Retirees asks: Are you the real version of The Americans? 

A: We could tell you, but then we’d have to kill you. ;-) But also, no, no we’re not.

What’s In Store for Year Three?

There’s so much we have planned for the blog this year and beyond, and we can’t wait to start sharing it!

You’re going to start seeing us more as soon as we give notice this year — but in the meantime you’ll start hearing us more, first on the Mad Fientist’s Financial Independence Podcast.

We’re also going to revisit some topics we haven’t written about as much lately — namely happiness and self care. It’s strange days in the world right now, so regardless of where any of us are in the FI journey, we can all take care of ourselves and each other with a bit more attention and compassion.

All the while, we’ll be busy building some stuff behind the scenes that we’ll be unveiling as soon as we unmask ourselves later this year. Let’s just say the future will be full of more stories told more ways.

Thank You for Joining Us On Our Journey!

Though this blog is clearly a thing now, on some level we’re still surprised anyone is reading at all. So thank you — the encouragement you’ve shared means tons, and for those who don’t comment (it’s all good!), we still see you represented in the stats and appreciate you dropping by.

So tell us… what would you like us to write about this year? Any other Qs you wish we’d answered here? For bloggers, any big new plans this year? Let’s keep that group hug going in the comments. :-)

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89 thoughts on “Our Next Life Turns 2! // A Look Back, A Look Forward, and So Many Questions

  1. Congrats on reaching two. Like a toddler, you are entering the troublesome twos!! Jeez,many of us are troubled right now to be honest… :-)

    Would love to hear how you are thinking about your asset allocation relative to your age e.g. Percentage of US vs ex US equities, and bonds allocation. And how they may differ in each bucket I.e. 401k’s, taxable. There is a lot of sentiment of late that upping an international allocation is appropriate given rhe cray run that US equities has been on over the last 6-8 years. Home bias can be a problem even for US investors.

    BTW, sorry you were trolled on Twitter along with Penny. Just despicable the disgraceful beliefs that are floating around out there….

    1. You mean I wasn’t already behaving like a toddler?! Well I can change that, because I want to kick and scream right now anyway. Waaaaahhhhhh! (I know you know what I’m talking about.)

      We did share our basic allocation a long time ago: https://ournextlife.com/2015/08/10/goals-reality-and-quirks-our-asset-allocation/. Asset allocation and age is a great question, and probably worth its own post. Short answer is: We aren’t there yet in terms of shifting allocations. We’re still right around 70/30 stocks/bonds, and are diversified across international and U.S. In recent years that has meant lower returns, but we feel slightly safer there than with all U.S. Of course, if our markets tank here, that will tank other markets, so on some level I do think stock diversification is just a nice lie we tell ourselves to sleep better at night. And there are hugely different allocations between our taxable funds and our two 401(k)s, mostly based on the limited fund options our 401(k)s have. But this is worth a future post!

      And no worries on that troll. He even admitted that he doesn’t know any Muslims personally, proving my point, and proving his bigotry. I know that hateful stuff is out there — now I will just be happy if our fellow PF Twitterers will unfollow him. He is still followed by a lot of good people!

  2. Congrats on the 2nd year of blogging, mine was last week, I can’t believe time goes by so fast, looking forward to meet up with you guys at Fincon this year!

  3. Happy second blogiversary! I love that your voice is real, down-to-earth, and talks about so many different angles of the ER equation. Too many PF blogs read as “why I’m better at life than you” and I never get that impression here. I think that’s a huge part of this blog’s popularity, as well as your great topics.

    1. Thanks so much for all of that, Kalie! It is definitely a pet peeve of mine when people do something once and are suddenly experts, and blogs often foster that mentality. For all I know, we’ve just had dumb luck! It’s so much more fun to just share the journey anyway. :-)

  4. Happy 2nd Blogiversary, ONL!

    That’s a lot of United miles, which I’m secretly envious of!

    What are your plans on spending them the following year?

    Here’s to another great year!

    1. Thank you! And yeah, it IS a lot of miles, but remember this: We earned most of ’em the hard way. We’re talking butt in seat for the equivalent of weeks each year, for many years! And we have a LOT of plans for them, since those miles will support our travel for years to come! We haven’t decided yet what our first big trip will be, but we will report back. ;-)

      1. Nice! Most of my miles haven’t been by butt in seat but more from credit card sign up bonuses. I look forward to your big trip report!

  5. Congrats on 2 years of blogging! I had no idea just how hard it is to blog until I tried it so I find it super impressive that you have great posts not just once a week, but twice!

    Thanks for answering my question :) Also, I think you’re on the right track for topics for this year. I know I could use some inspiration and feel-good posts about how to make the world a better place right now. Any tie-in to personal finance is an added bonus :)

    1. I’m sure I also had no idea how much time this would end up consuming, even though I did have a blog before this one. But this is just such a different animal — much thinkier posts plus an incredible community to engage with, all of which equal more time. So now I would say to someone: start a blog if you want to drop all your other hobbies. Hahaha. (But also for real.) Thanks for your nice note, too. :-) And more feel good posts are definitely on the way — we need them as much as anyone!

  6. Congratulations you guys! It’s amazing that we only discovered your blog maybe a few months ago, but it feels like we’ve been on the same journey forever. It’s amazing how much we all have in common. I hadn’t realized when the kids question came up, you guys had decided the same thing as us, not to have kids. Not that we don’t love kids, but it just wasn’t for us.

    Hmm, what to write about this year. Well, we’re all about adventure, so are there any BIG adventures that you’ll finally be able to take on after you retire that you couldn’t before?

    1. I’m glad you found us, too! Always love meeting couples with similar interests and life plans. :-) And I’ll give that adventure question some thought! We have about 500 big trips we want to do, so it’s tough to narrow it down! ;-)

  7. Congrats on your blogiversary, and a big thanks and Heck Yeah! to your answer about kids. When you two retire maybe you can be our travel buddies :)

  8. Hurray for two years (and I can’t believe your blog is only two years old)! I love your non-condescending, engaging, encouraging style of writing. I almost always come away from reading with something to ponder and a personal challenge! Looking forward to reading in 2017 and seeing where it all goes for you guys!

    1. Thanks so much for all of that! I’m always puzzled by people who think, “I did this thing once, so now I’m an expert!” And so I never want to pretend to be that expert, I just want to write how I talk to friends. :-) That’s the best compliment that the posts have that impact on you. You totally made my day!

  9. Would you like to borrow a couple of kids? ;-) I think I would have said that kids might not be a good fit with your dream of having the world’s largest Bag o’ Glass collection.

    The X in Dallas is pretty amazing. If you get a chance (say at FinCon this year) and if you haven’t seen it, check out the JFK museum there. It is amazing. I’m not a history buff, but I could have stayed there all day.

    Looking forward to the reveal stuff. I actually like the non-money parts of your articles more than the money ones. I’m not Monty Brewster-level sick of reading about money yet, but I have my fill of money writing at times.

    1. Well I DO aspire to own all the glass! Hahaha. ;-) And yeah, I definitely want to go to the JFK museum when we are in Dallas, though if this year at FinCon is anything like last year, there will be zero time for a field trip like that. And thanks for the feedback on money vs. non-money posts. I figure others have the money stuff well covered, plus it’s just not rocket science, so I’d rather write about all the rest of life. :-)

    1. Thank you, my friend! And it was fun to answer those questions — back when we were starting out, we answered more random Qs like that, but now I tend to write very topic-focused posts, so it was fun to go back to the old style for a moment. :-)

  10. Hard to believe you have the success you do and you are only 2 years old…I actually thought it was longer. Goes to show you what hard work and dedication can do for you with a whole lot of authenticity and love for your followers. Congratulations to the both of you.

    1. Aw, thanks bud! I’m really proud of the hard work and dedication I’ve put into the blog, but it’s still so crazy to me that anyone reads at all, let alone keeps coming back and commenting! Haha.

  11. Congrats on year 2 – always look forward to your new posts! I’m coming up on my 2nd year end as well in May and I noticed that I’m writing much longer articles this past year as well. Now I look back at some of the older posts and think “what the heck was that?!”

    Hope to get a chance to meet you guys at FinCon in October!

    — Jim

    1. Thanks, Jim! It is interesting how we get more long-winded, isn’t it? ;-) And looking back at those old pieces and thinking, “Yuck!” means you’re growing and improving, and that’s good, right?! Glad you’re coming to FinCon! Look forward to meeting you then!

  12. WAHOO!! CONGRATS ON YEAR TWO! I hope you read that in cadence as I wrote it.

    Also, I’m not sure I realized there were only a few months difference between our blogs. FM will be turning two in March! ……..still trying to come up with fun ideas for my blogiversary post. Way harder than it seems.

    1. Thank you, Gwen! And I didn’t realize our blog babies were so close in age, either. I do sometimes think about generations of blogs, like people who started in the last year are all buddies, and those of us who started in 2015 all seem to have clustered together. Funny how that works! And for your post, I endorse asking for Qs on Twitter!

  13. Congrats on 2 years! That’s awesome.
    Not having a kid is your own choice. I wouldn’t worry about what other people say. We have one kid and he takes up so much of our time and attention. It’s tough being a parent. FI would have been a lot easier if we didn’t have a kid.

    1. Thanks, Joe! And we’re completely content with our choice on kids, so it’s never about caring what others think, it’s just more about not wanting to get an earful from them about why we’re doing it wrong. (I’m sure you’ve experienced this as a parent! Every parent I know has gotten plenty of unsolicited parenting advice from strangers, relatives, etc.) But I’ve gotten pretty good at shutting that conversation down before it starts. ;-)

  14. Congrats on Year 2!

    And thanks for answering my question, let’s hope for everyone’s sake that the market just keeps going up (although we all know it has to drop eventually…). I’m also anticipating some kind of drop before we’re able to call ourselves FI, but it will be interesting if it doesn’t happen like in your case. May need to build in some extra buffer like you have.

    Cheers!

    1. Thank you! And thanks for the good question. We’ve definitely thought about that a ton, and though I stand by that answer, it would obviously be an entirely different test to quit for real in the midst of a nosediving stock market. That’s a whole lot different than answering the theoretical question! :-) But you can never go wrong with a little extra buffer.

  15. I think another reason the kid answer is going over better is it’s becoming more common to go without. As a look around about half my friends have gone without. I don’t remember that being so large with my parents generation. Back then typically no kids meant either medical issues or the creepy uncle the never married. Now your in good company.

    What does life hold for you after retirement?

  16. Happy birthday! I loved this answer – “Any day of freedom you can buy before age 65 is a win, so focus on that instead of comparing yourself to someone who retired at some unattainably early age. ”

    We so easily compare ourselves to others when we should be comparing ourselves to ourselves. :)

    1. Thank you, Jim! I really do believe what I wrote — it’s so easy to read a bunch of blogs and think that if you don’t retire by 35, you’ve somehow done it wrong. But that’s comparing yourself to this tiny fraction of a tiny fraction of people, which is no way to be happy. :-)

  17. I like reading the good times happening ONL. I know you guys are actually ski equipment salesmen across the country so need to share the mystery with me, I already know.

    It’s amazing how much a little blogging, some interaction, and accountability can get you going even faster on the FI path. Cheers to year 2+!

    1. Dude, stop outing us! ;-) And all so true… except for the *little* blogging part. I think this definitely now qualifies as a LOT of blogging. Haha. Are you guys going back to FinCon this year?

      1. Ok I blog a little, you blog a lot:)

        We are taking 2017 off. Just to many vacation plans, weddings, etc that are on the list this year. You know they don’t give you enough vacation. I’m waiting for your announcement of who you are then the wife and I are showing up at your house, that’s normal right?!

  18. Congrats!!! I can’t imagine how exciting it must be to know you’ll be able to retire this year! It’ll be nice to “meet” you guys when it’s official. In the meantime, enjoy skiing, enjoy the last few months of official employment, and Blog On!

    Thanks for the mention; I am definitely look forward to the February post :)

    Mad Money Monster

    1. Thank you! Of course it’s a weird and uncertain time in the world, which is tempering a lot of our excitement, but it’s still exciting for sure. And thanks for the great writing prompt! :-)

  19. I only just stumbled across your blog very recently but happy 2 year anniversary! What little I know of your story has been super inspiring. As someone new to the PF blogging community, it’s easy to feel a little behind so thank you for the reminder that “any day of freedom you can buy before age 65 is a win.” Looking forward to reading more great stuff here!

    1. Hi Kate! So glad you found us. :-) And it’s awesome to know that you’ve found some of our stuff inspiring — I truly believe what I wrote about any day of freedom. Don’t get caught in that comparison trap! ;-)

  20. Congrats on the 2 year blog-iversary! I realized we missed ours by a couple of months when I fnally posted about it, whoops. That’s life for you, keeping you busy, missing all the important things. :)

    Like some have mentioned, I’ve also looked back at some older posts and thought, Blech, just from composition, style, and arrangement being so just, blech… I sitll like the content, but it’s ahrd not to go back and add headers and tweak things to some articles, lol.

    Looking forward to reading more in year 3 and beyond and meeting you guys in Dallas. October is going to come so slowly this year…

    1. Thank you! I could totally see myself missing the blogiversary, but I had it scheduled in Asana for months to remind me, because otherwise my brain is a sieve. :-) I’m with you on the old posts. I’m actually happy with the writing, but the all lowercase, the lack of headers and visual breaks… I don’t know how anyone got through any of them! No wonder more people started reading when I started formatting posts like a real blog does. Hahaha. And soooo excited to meet you in Dallas… I’m still holding out hope that you can convince Prof SSC to pop in for a day (she wouldn’t have to pay — no one checks badges). But I agree with you… this year will be the slowest of all time. :-(

  21. I can’t wait to hear why you got to touch a Fighter Jet! That’s awesome. I think at least a 25% buffer/overage is sensible for nest eggs in really uncertain times.

  22. Congratulations! Two years of such amazing posts is just…amazing! I love your long posts – so just keep them coming! Can’t wait for Dallas – by then you will be SO close to the end (or maybe there if you jump ship early!) You are way more creative than me – so I clearly have no advice on the reveal ;)

    1. Awww, thanks, Vicki! Though if you go back and read the early ones, they weren’t so amazing at all. Hahaha. I can’t wait for Dallas either! So excited to meet you.. and to be SO CLOSE at that point! Eeek!

  23. Your blog is totally awesome. My husband and I are definitely the “weirdos” among our family, friends (and most people we know) in that we also decided kids were just not for us, but also because we are both almost retired in our 40’s. (I think some people believe we are spies or involved in illegal activity just because our lifestyle is so different! Hee hee, let them wonder.)

    It is so refreshing to have people like you who seem to totally understand how we feel! There is no one in our real lives who is following a similar path. Thanks for being such a great source of support and inspiration as we get nearer our own FIRE!

    1. Thanks so much, LG! It’s awesome that even if we don’t know others in real life who are doing something similar, we can still find each other here. :-) I loooove that some people wonder if you guys are spies — we get that question surprisingly often, too. Hahaha. Oh well… soon we can share what we actually do!

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