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.
Let’s dive in!
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 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!)
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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. :-)