the process

Don’t Stop at One Audacious Goal // After FI, What’s Your Next One?

We’re currently on a bucket list trip (skiing in Japan!), and though it’s making me slow at answering comments, the trip is such an incredible affirmation of everything that we’re aiming for — the ability to travel to places way outside our norm, the importance of being courageous in trying new things (like learning to speak a language we can’t read!), and our abiding desire to connect with people whose lives are nothing like ours. (Also, in the best surprise of all, we’ve learned that Japan does not have to be expensive. Many of our meals have been in the $2-3/person range, and the cheapest food is still jaw-droppingly delicious. Been contemplating a trip to Japan? Do it.) 

Mr. ONL skiing Japan!

It’s easy to think of financial independence or early retirement as this massive endpoint goal, because it’s something that most of us have to work toward for many years, even those of us who are lucky to be on a compressed timeline. If you’re like us, this might be the biggest goal you’ve ever worked toward, by a long shot. Other than knowing I wanted to earn a full ride for college, I’ve never even had a goal in my mind for anywhere near as long as we’ve worked toward early retirement. But even that long lead-up doesn’t make early retirement an endpoint. (Except maybe for a job you’d rather not do anymore.)

Early retirement is much more a beginning than an ending. 

And for those of us who are lucky enough to reach that threshold, and walk through that door, we can’t just go from Big Hairy Audacious Goal to… nothing. And I’m not even talking about the much-discussed idea of retiring to something rather than from something.

We all have things we want to do in retirement (what we want to retire to), but is your next goal as big, as audacious, as bold as what you’re working toward now? Because if you’re working toward early retirement, we already know several things about you:

You’re focused

You embrace delayed gratification

You’re persistent, and able to stick with a goal for a long time

You think outside societal norms, and determine your own definition of happiness

You’re not deterred when things get tough

For people with those qualities, going from a life focused heavily on this BIG GOAL to a life with no big goal is bound to be a shock. I’d even go so far as to say that most people like us (shout out to our people!) NEED big goals.

Related post: Create a Flexible Vision for Your Next Life // Presence Over Absence

So today, we’re exploring what comes after the big FIRE goal. And we’d love to hear from you guys — what’s your next BIG GOAL? // Don't Stop at One Audacious Goal // After FI, What's Your Next One?

Those of us pursuing early retirement are far from a monolithic bunch, and it’s absolutely possible that some of us don’t need a new goal to focus on after we hit the FI or ER milestone. But it all comes down to that ever-present question of what you want from your life.

Which answer feels most like what you want to be able to say when you look back on your life?

A. I retired early! How rad is that?! Then I did some fun stuff after that, but nothing that adds up to one cohesive thing. It’s cool, though, because did I mention I retired early?!

B. I retired early from my first career, and then I shaped this kick-ass second career totally on my own terms. It gave me a ton of satisfaction. Though I was technically retired, I never stopped working because I got to do exactly what I wanted to be doing.

C. I achieved some truly huge things in life, especially the big thing I was able to do after I left my original career, and felt huge fulfillment from that. And oh yeah, that was made possible by retiring early.

There is no right or wrong answer here. Like every question aspiring FIRErs ask ourselves, the answer is more of a guide to how we might think about the future, and then plan accordingly.

If you answered A, congrats! You’re probably not an overthinking gold star seeker like me, and your next life sounds awfully fun and relaxing.

If you answered B or C, you think of early retirement as less of an endpoint, and more an ends to a means. And that’s a pretty good indication that you should be thinking hard, if you haven’t already, about what you plan to do with yourself after you leave work. (Also worth thinking about: 10 questions to answer before you retire early.)

But let’s go one step farther.

More Than Just a Collection of Things

For most of us, the mundane stuff of life consumes most of our time:

Our days are made up of mostly mundane moments, but what we remember and write about tends to be the good and bad stuff at the ends of the spectrum.

And that will probably still be true after we leave our time-consuming careers, much as we might want our time mix to look more like this: // We remember the bad and especially the good a lot more than we remember the mundane stuff in our lives.

The mundane stuff is the everyday life that might be perfectly pleasant in the moment, but is ultimately forgettable. And the question each of us should ask ourselves is: Is that enough for me?

Maybe it is. Maybe never setting foot in an office again is all future you needs to be perfectly content. And maybe it isn’t.

If you know that you need something more, if you want to live a life that adds up to more than just a collection of things, then it’s time to think about the next bold and audacious goal.

Dreaming Big Like Your Former Kid Self

One of my favorite blog posts from last year was Brandon’s (AKA the Mad Fientist) post about applying to be an astronaut. That’s one of those goals that many of us might contemplate as children, but then we realize that the odds are slim and the climb is steep, and we move on to a more achievable goal. It’s like how I quit figure skating in eighth grade when I realized that I probably wasn’t on an Olympics trajectory.

But in early retirement, we can reawaken those dreams. We can aim — literally — for the moon. And while I am probably not going to be the first 40-something first-time figure skating Olympian, and Brandon is probably not going to be an astronaut (though I’m still keeping my fingers crossed for you, buddy!), there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t remind ourselves of some of the big, whimsical, impractical goals we might have once held as children.

I always loved those guys who worked at record stores* when I was a teenager, and wished I could be as knowledgeable about current music as they were. (To those under 30, a record store was like Spotify in bricks-and-mortar form, except you had to pay for everything.) It’s not a bold goal exactly, but I love that I soon get to spend hours each week listening to new music and discovering bands who are new to me.

On a more audacious level, the childhood dream I am by far most stoked to reawaken is becoming a true explorer — climbing mountains, traveling in remote areas, staying out for weeks or months at a time. That’s a dream that I instinctively knew when I dreamed it that it was impractical on every level. It’s a dream I harbored in secret, never daring to wish for it too fervently, knowing I’d end up heartbroken when my dream couldn’t be realized. So it feels more than a little bit amazing and magical to know that this dream actually has a chance of coming true. But it will still take tremendous focus and hard work — intense training, expedition planning, and a progression from easier peaks to more challenging and remote places. But if we succeed, our actions will absolutely add up to something.

Dreaming Like a Problem Solver

If you’re more like Mr. ONL and your most memorable childhood dream was, and I quote directly, “to be a gumball machine,” (which I can’t even write without laughing) then a more fruitful avenue of exploration might be to think about some big problem in your community or the world that you can solve.

Early retirees are among the lucky few who actually have time to think in big ways, because we don’t have to spend all of our brainpower on everyday work to pay the bills. This ability to think big is almost a super power — how will you use yours?

If you see a problem and you have some inkling of what the solution might look like, maybe the perfect audacious goal for you in retirement is to throw yourself into finding that solution, and then figuring out the puzzle of how to get your solution out there into the world.

Dreaming Like a Dreamer

For the dreamers among us, your bold goal might have nothing to do with your childhood dreams, or with problems in search of solutions. You might have some notion in your head that others think is crazy — and maybe even you think it’s crazy — but you’ll soon have the chance to pour your time and energy into making it a reality. The world needs more dreamers, and early retirement could be the perfect time to escape all the encumbrances of tradition and societal norms and those who say you can’t. Unleash that dream for us all to see.

The Bolder the Better

Whatever inspires your next goal beyond FIRE, make it big. Make it worthy of the an amazing person who has already achieved something huge and rare. (Because contrary to what FIRE blogs would have you believe, achieving anything close to FI is still incredibly rare, and we are all near-unicorns.) So let’s go, unicorns! Don’t stop at one big goal. We can’t wait to hear what’s next for each of us!

Time to Share!

Here we go — let’s talk big goals post-FIRE! What did you once dream of doing that you could bring back as a real goal, not just an old dream? What’s something new you’ve wondered about but haven’t dared to dream for real? Let’s discuss in the comments and cheer each other on!

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108 replies »

  1. Oooh! For me it’s a HOST of “impractical” childhood dreams. I wanted to be a songwriter and arranger, but I also wanted to be a novelist (fiction). I also really wanted to teach and do medical missionary work. Only really realising the ‘medical’ part of the latter :-)

    I’m only 25 though and FIRE is still aaaages away, so while I truck along with my dayjob (which is, in itself, pretty cool and exciting, but which isn’t my #1 passion) I’m trying to incorporate elements of those dreams into the journey. So it won’t be a “post-FI” thing necessarily, but I’ll definitely have more time and energy to dedicate to getting lost in the creative process.

    A cool thing about this path is that it enables me a little more financial flexibility to develop those interests while I save, and start to think a literally laterally about how I really want my savings to contribute to the world. Just this month a friend of mine who makes incredible music but doesn’t have the highest paying day job needed help meeting a small mastering bill. I was in the position to help without expecting anything in return. It lit a fire in me to wonder whether assisting in similar projects from a financial standpoint might be feasable as an add-on to my FIRE goals. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a ‘real job’ that is both personally AND financially rewarding. I feel really fortunate and motivated to spread it around a little. Who knows how that will translate post FI?

    • I love all of this! Bringing back those childhood goals would be wonderful, but I love the things you’re thinking about now, too. Finding ways to help friends, spreading your motivation, etc. Keep going with this stuff!

  2. That sign you’re standing by says phonetically ‘Speed down’ (as in English) right above the ‘Slow down’. It’s just surprising me a little that that’s standard on Japanese ski slopes? Cosmopolitan bunch, Japanese skiers!
    Thanks for the post!

    • Ah, good to know what it says! Where we are skiing (Niseko), there are many Australians, so it could be that there is more English in use here than in other places!

  3. I think I’m on an “A” trajectory from your 3 plans above.

    We’re all-in when it comes to focusing on kids and their education. If I had point to one goal that would be it. I know that kids aren’t your thing, but joining the circus isn’t going to work for parents. If I skied, it would be difficult to get them to school, ski, and then pick them up.

    I’m trying to figure out what audacious other things can be completed in small chunks of time. I’m not coming up with much besides blogging.

    • I wouldn’t begin to pretend to speak for parents, but I can say we’ve known plenty of folks who had kids and still did amazing things. So I don’t think you should let that hold you back in your imagination! And I completely admire your focus on giving your kids the absolute best start.

  4. When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be an author, an actress, or an artist.

    I still write some essays and am technically working on novel right now – I would love to just devote a whole month or two just to writing and putting my stuff out there. Getting published and pursuing writing would be my next big goal – I’ve literally got a list of things to cycle through in “retirement,” though!

    • That’s so awesome that you’re working on a novel! We have to chat about this. That’s completely on my list, but I haven’t had the guts to start yet. I am hoping to make time for many writing retreats in ER.

  5. *all terms and conditions subject to change without notice*

    My current plan for FI is to move somewhere and have a job that pays the bills and is FUN. I want to get paid to ski in the winter, spend time with family/friends in the spring and fall, and work at a youth camp in the summer. It would be amazingly awesome to work at a ski resort somewhere like….. New Zealand, or Europe! That’s what my ideal life would be like with no partner/kids/obligations.

    • You know my vote is for you to move sooner rather than later. ;-) But your seasonal gig plan sounds pretty great! I’m learning that seasonal work (and the working holiday visas that make it possible) are easier to get when you’re under 30, so chop chop! ;-)

  6. Since I was in 7th grade, my dream was to be a teacher. It’s nice when life works out. Or maybe I’ve always dreamt small, I’m not sure. I’ve written about it before, but I would love to be able to open a literacy initiative somewhere in our country and somewhere beyond One day :)

    • Too funny! Under my picture in the yearbook it says, future plans “science teacher and swim coach” and I can check both of those off! I really haven’t given future “big goals” much thought at all. I just haven’t had the time or energy to do that – but this is a great reminder to do some dreaming. We are in Florida and just went to check out a big public park with a 50 meter pool – so that got us excited to get back in the water (since we were both swimmers in our youth). I can see us getting involved in Master’s swimming competitions now that we’ve given up running marathons. The bigger dreams need to be something I focus on in a few months. Trying to stay focused for the next four months on the short-term so that I navigate good decisions there first!

      • Wow, that’s amazing you stuck so close to your goals! I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know my career existed when I was in high school. ;-) And I think you’re right to focus on your short-term goals for now, especially since you clearly have some new dreams in mind. How many marathons did you guys do? We have done five between us, though it’s been a few years now. Not sure our knees want us to do more, but maybe we’ll get that itch again after we quit working full time!

    • I’m super impressed by you and Vicki, both of whom actually turned your career dreams into reality. We both fell into our careers, and not that that makes them bad, but I bet it’s more satisfying to feel like you’re fulfilling some destiny. :-) And I am totally rooting for you to pursue that literacy initiative and make it thrive!

  7. For me it will be to live in exotic places for some period of time and truly experience what it’s like to be a local. We will do it via an even probably, but still in the plans.

  8. I think you said it best with this quote: “Early retirement is much more a beginning than an ending”. That’s the key. Early retirement isn’t just the “end of your career”. It’s the beginning of the next phase of your life…a phase filled with much more enjoyable things. Things you want to be doing. Things that bring value to your life and the community around you. Things you probably never had quite as much time to pursue back when a full-time job was wasting (erm: “taking”) away so many productive hours of the day.

    Definitely sounds like you guys are enjoying Japan. I lived there for three years when I was much younger. Looks fun!

    • I don’t think I knew that you lived here! Where and when?? Do you speak Japanese? I am so glad I studied up a little before coming — has definitely helped with some things. But I’m worthless at reading the signs. ;-)

      • How awesome! We’re a little north of there now on Hokkaido, about to head down to Tokyo. Even if you don’t remember it, what a gift that you got to spend part of your childhood abroad!

  9. Looks like you are having a good time – and I’m food jealous right now.

    Can we get an explanation on the gumball machine? You can’t just drop that out here!

    • Hahaha — I think Mr. ONL just had a limited imagination as a kid (pretty sure we’re talking toddler years). ;-) Or maybe he had a highly advanced imagination and I just can’t even comprehend his genius!

  10. Oooh, I’m jealous of your trip to Japan! :)

    Very true. I think too often we focus on the “Happily ever after” without defining what happens after you reach the goal you worked so hard for. I’m not exactly sure what FIRE life will look like (I have another ten years to go), but I would like to work on my own terms, cook, wake up naturally, and hopefully play with our kiddos. My boldest dream would be to turn my blog into a great stream of side income. :)

    • What a great way to put it — “happily ever after” skips over the actual real life part of life! And you have tons of time between now and FIRE to figure some things out, plus you have lots of time AFTER you get there to figure things out too. The important thing is knowing you need new goals at *some* point. ;-)

  11. Isn’t this the most fun part of dreaming about FI? Those crazy, wild can-I-really-do-this kinds of dreams! Whether we fully retire early or semi-retire, we can’t wait to do more traveling. Like you, we’d love to spend extended time in foreign lands, exploring and getting off the beaten path. Fortunately for us, we work in education, which means large chunks of time off, so if we save well, we’ll be able to take off for a month or two in the summer to travel!
    Other than travel, we want to be outrageously generous. We’d love to set up scholarships at schools we attended, help fund our relatives’ college, support an orphanage in Haiti financially and through volunteer work, and more. It’s pretty exciting!
    Japan sounds awesome (although I’m not a fan of language that doesn’t even use the letters I know)! Have fun!

    • Don’t let the strange characters keep you away from the Asian countries! This trip has been wonderful despite the language challenges, and I’m so glad we finally got over the intimidation and came here. I love your travel goals, of course, but especially love how focused you are on generosity! That’s so, so important and you totally rock for thinking about how you can help others. :-D

  12. Where are you in Japan? Last Oct we stayed in an AIr B&B in Osaka and went on day trips from there. Noodle shops were typically the best value.

  13. Spent a wonderful summer in Tokyo many many years back. Congrats on making your dream journey!

    While I love a good dream and heartily encourage having big ones, I’m happily living my little dream now – raising my boys, working towards a secure retirement, early or not.

  14. You know, during college I was never bored. Our college courseload was about 30 hours per week + about 10 as study and homework and I had minimal overhead on top of that. No cooking – ate at the cafeteria. Minimal cleaning because I was living in a minuscule room with roommates. All in all, I had about 45 hours in a week booked with things that I had to do and about 4 months per year absolutely free. I had all that time and I was never bored.
    Why would early retirement any different? I’m guessing with walking my dogs and with home maintenance and gardening and cooking and just generally more chores to do on a regular basis, I’m probably looking at around 30 hours per week of work I have to do. The rest of 15 hours can be spent on learning, investing and probably volunteering for about 4 hours pe week.
    If we manage to have kids, I’m probably looking at around 60-70 hours per week so you know, no time for boredom.

    I don’t think I need a big goal, just a life lived on my own terms.

    Though becoming involved in politics feels like a very good cause at the moment.

    • I think boredom is less the issue than just having a sense of accomplishment. The difference with college was that you were aiming toward something, and at the end of the four years, you had a degree. If you spend your time similarly after ER, you won’t necessarily have something to show for it, but if that’s cool with you, then awesome! That’s why I think it’s important to know yourself and what matters. I am an accomplishment-seeker, so it would make me sad to feel like I had frittered away years without having something to show for it, but I know the world is (thankfully!) full of people who are not like me in that way! :-D

      • “frittered away years without having something to show for it” :). Yeah, I call that life :). I guess it’s all about how you decide to give your life purpose. Some, like Steve Jobs might decide that building a tremendous company from the ground up is their life purpose. A yogi might decide that meditating all his life is accomplishment enough. A mother in Ethiopia might decide that just keeping all her children alive is her big achievement.
        For myself, I wish to smile every single day of my life and also, make somebody else smile. That’s my enough. I will consider my purpose accomplished if I manage to see the good and the joy in this wonderful world and I manage to spread that joy around for the as long as I can live.

      • There is 100% nothing wrong with thinking of that as life. It’s just all a matter of what you want out of life, and that could be totally different from what I or someone else want. I’d be bummed not to have something to show for the years, but others might be totally content with that, and that is what’s important. It sounds like you are focused on your enough and living your purpose, which is what truly matters — living with intention. And at the end of the day, that will mean you have something to show for that time. ;-)

  15. Love this post! I’m still early on my fire journey, but I’d take my side hustle of teaching yoga “full time” and teach more day time classes to connect to a different community. I’d even start writing that yoga alignment book/e-book and record youtube videos. The possibilities are endless when I’m in charge.

  16. Yes! I love that thought that it’s really a beginning. Our first BIG GOAL is probably going to be hiking the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. I’m sure this could change because we’ve been having so much fun with our dance family, but maybe! A few others sprinkled in there would be living in Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, or maybe north in Quebec City for a couple months. When you put it that way, we need to get on the ball and make a bucket list of our next BIG GOALS! Woohoo!!!

    • Ooh, how fun! Is it hilarious that whenever I picture the AT, all I can think of is deer ticks?! I’m like, “I’ll do the CDT and PCT instead, thanks.” Hahahaha. Pretty sure I’m missing out on a great experience for having this dumb fear of something so tiny. ;-) And I love the idea of living for a time in all those places abroad!

  17. I have lots of big dreams though I haven’t really settled on any one yet. Can my dream be “saving the world”? I think I’m still idealistic enough that I want to work on that. We just watched the movie “The Big Short” (awesome, awesome film if you haven’t seen it!). Spoiler alert, but all the problems with the last financial crisis have not been solved. Can I do something to better understand those issues and go advocate for change? All between dropping off my kids at school and picking them up at the end of the day? May be a little ambitious, but I think I might try.

    Right now I find that my dreams change frequently, so I think the key is going to be identifying one problem that I can really work on in the time I have, and focus on it for as long as I feel motivated to do so. Oh, also, tons of travel thrown in during school vacations!

    • Have you read the Big Short? It’s worth reading if you haven’t, because it goes into way more detail than the film. In case you need to ruin your day. ;-) I think having lots of dreams that change is all good — as long as you know that you need to have new goals at some point… though sounds like that won’t be an issue for you!

  18. I had the notion in my head of what I was going to say and even went and got the link before I even got through the second paragraph. Then I finished reading your post and yup you did exactly what I hope you were going to say….mountains :)

    I plan to devote my time this summer (I will be leaving work in June) to trying to complete my Island Alpine Qualifiers.

    Maybe some peaks down your way when you guys are FIRE too
    Great post and have fun in “JAPOW” as my friend who is there calls it.

    • That’s so awesome! I love that you had a specific THING that you are pursuing in the mountains. Sometimes it can be tough to have that direction when there are so many options. Deciding which peak or circuit to do next can get challenging, especially down here with our permit situation (don’t know if that’s an issue for you!). But at least we can soon so most of our pursuits in the non-peak times, which will help a ton!

  19. Being able you step away from the 9-5 just gave us more hours, energy, and focus for all the other things that are important to us. We have always had huge non-financial goals, now we get to double down on those. The second 2/3rds of my life will be much more interesting and impressive than the first 1/3.

  20. Another great post! The record store annotation cracked me up. First of all, I’m so glad you’re having a good time in Japan and getting a glimpse of what awaits the two of you in 2018. You are going to have a blast!

    I think my vision for FIRE falls somewhere between the non-goal orientation of A and the big things in B/C. I have no intentions of not “working” again in some form, but I want to do it at a more relaxed pace than anything I did career-wise, still leaving time for the fun stuff that doesn’t necessarily add up to one cohesive thing. It’s all about balance.

    I’m not sure I agree with the urgency in thinking really hard about what you’re going to do with yourself post-FIRE. I did plenty of brainstorming (some of which I’ve shared on the blog), but I don’t think you must commit to one big thing right away, especially when you haven’t yet met your retired self. The joy of FIRE is exposure to a hundred new things and ideas, one of which is sure to spark some inspiration as a project or new calling. I say take your first year (or more) of FIRE to just take it all in, be open-minded to new things, and let inspiration find you. If you’re active and maintaining your curiosity (to your point last week), you’ll find plenty. And if we’re lucky, there will be many years left to pursue all sorts of passions.

    • Agreed on figuring things out organically once you have freedom to explore new ideas full-time.

      As for my big, ambitious goal: grow all my food (for some length of time :)

      • Totally with you. Having space to reawaken your imagination is so important! And I LOVE your food-growing goal! We joke that if climate change gets much worse, we may no longer have snow in the mountains, but at least we’ll have a longer growing season for a garden! ;-)

    • Thanks! And you’re making me realize that I didn’t actually articulate this very well. I think I MEANT to say that you don’t need to have all the goals thought out, especially because — as I’ve written before — I don’t feel sure at all that we even really know our post-retirement selves. We need to allow some time to get to know those new people and what they want out of life. So what this should have said is that you should expect TO HAVE goals again in the future, but leave lots of room to explore what those could be. Or maybe have one or two things you know you’re going to pursue post-FIRE (like your travel plans you had lined up), but still leave space for discovering the rest.

  21. I know I want there to be _something_ after (oh boy that sounds a lot like hoping against hope that death is not, in fact, the end) RE. However I am purposely not setting a specific goal at this time. I feel that all my life so far has been about predetermined, specific aims and goals. I am very curious to find out what will pop out of my brain if I give it true down time and freedom. If I say to it, “Go forth, be a little kid again. After you get your chores done, all you have to do is play and dream and imagine”. I want to teach my mind to learn to dream and imagine again, and for that I think I need to let it run wild.

    • Our blog is called “our next life,” so you don’t have to apologize for saying something that sounds like reincarnation. ;-) And I love your approach of waiting to set more goals to see what you want to do. We’ve long said that retirement will be when we figure out what we want to do when we grow up. We know some things we want to do, but there’s much more we can’t know until we cross that rubicon, and that’s great by us. ;-)

  22. I am a B or a C person.
    In my last blog post, I tried to bring the story of FI being means to an end, not the end goal. SO, I fully agree with you.

    As you know, I do not plan to wait for FI… When dreaming BIG, I would be able to become a finance related coach to people, to help them out or be part of something that started small and grew big. My current focus is on the latter via the startup. The former requires me think about what exactly I want to do and how that can reach a big enough audience. I tried options, the people interested are limited…

    • I was thinking of you yesterday while skiing… we saw a family with two little girls absolutely shredding deep powder. Reminded me that you don’t have to stop living life when you have kids. So many people say, “We’ll do that when the kids are older,” but this family proved you don’t always have to put things off. ;-)

      • So true… We took a few years to realise this, and go full steam ahead. We stay frugal while doing, nevertheless, it is harder to be FI soon. Was tough to accept, it is what it is… Ski with 4 will always be double as expensive as ski with just the 2 of us. Enjoy ski in Japan. Does that mean you eat sushi on the slopes? Would be cool!

      • Yeah, I understand! This trip has been a reminder that we want to go everywhere and do everything, but we have to pace ourselves if we want to reach our ER goal, and then afterward if we want our money to last! ;-) And yes! There is sushi EVERYWHERE! Including on the slopes.

  23. I have a whole host of things I want to do that are meaningful to me, even if they matter not at all in the grand scheme of things except to those individuals I might be able to help, whether dogs or foster kids or others who need a hand. I’m ok with that because really in the universe-level grand scheme of things, nothing I do matters that much. That’s not me being wildly negative though, I just mean that if I can get to the point of being comfortable with early retirement numbers, then I can make choices for myself for once, and not only after I take everyone else into account. That will be a wide swath of activities, meaningful and not, and it doesn’t need to be defined right now. It’ll just be a hell of an adventure being able to fully prioritize myself.

    I hope you’re keeping a record of some of the places you’re eating because Japan’s on the list and eating is the entire reason for it :D

    • Comment entitled, “A Nihilist’s Guide to Goal-Setting.” Hahaha. Just kidding. I know exactly what you mean. Though I still tend to be stubborn and think we have to at least TRY to make a positive impact, even if we are a drop in the bucket. But you are also looking out for so many more people in your life than we are, so I completely support wanting to shape your own retirement entirely on your own terms, including both the meaningful and relatively meaningless stuff.

      And re: Japan, it’s a little tougher for me than for most people because of the celiac/GF stuff (tougher in Japan than I would have expected!), so I know I’m missing a ton of the good stuff. But there’s still been plenty that I’ve loved… and we aren’t even to Tokyo yet!

  24. I have two major post-FIRE goals: (1) write fiction, get short stories published in literary mags, and have a book published by a traditional publisher; (2) get my PhD in economics or public policy. There are a lot of other things I want to do along the way and probably would whether I was FIRE or not: have kids of our own, become a foster parent when our kids are grown, travel. In short I’m super psyched for our post-FIRE life. ‘Twill be awesome.

    • Those sound like great goals! We’ve both contemplated going back to school, but ultimately don’t want to pay that much for a degree that doesn’t earn us more — curious if you already have a masters that would make the PhD a shorter program? Either way, I love the idea of learning just for learning’s sake. And totally same boat here on the literary goals. :-)

  25. Yeah, food in Japan is CRAZY cheap! At least compared to NZ. But seriously, the quality you get for what you pay (and quantities are decent) is amazing. I’m so jealous! Enjoy :) I’m dreaming of fresh fish, ramen and udon…

    • We have also found the expensive food, which does seem to make up most of what is available in a ski town (some things are universal, I guess… you pay the mountain tax everywhere!). But even just the convenience store food is shockingly good! Total eye-opener for us.

      • The convenience store food! In Niseko, my brother and friends and I would storm the place after a night of drinking sake and full-on wrestle each other to find and snatch the last packs of gyozas! I LOVED the convenience store food! The one in Niseko would run out of pretty much everything every night, and a new truckload of fresh stuff would arrive overnight. Such great memories!

      • Fortunately Niseko now has a few more stores than just the Seicomart (we grew partial to the bigger Lawson), so we never had the empty shelves problem! (Or those long crazy lines!)

  26. I wasn’t much of a dreamer as a kid after trying to become a Gummi Bear fell through. I aspired to get an occupation, much like everyone else beginning around age 9. Trying to think bigger now… :)

    • Awwww, sad that dream couldn’t come true! ;-) And wow, that’s impressive that you were job-focused from such an early age! But I like the idea of dreaming beyond the job now. :-)

  27. I’m pretty much a B although my partner is probably more of an A! I love what I do and can’t imagine not doing it in some capacity (as a volunteer or in an advisory / consulting kind of way) as long as I’m able!

    • I think that might be the dynamic with Mr. ONL and me too. :-) I think he’s more an A, I’m definitely more B or C, and will always try to find ways to be useful and to tackle creative projects… I can’t imagine not doing that stuff!

  28. After reading this blog consistantly for quite some time this post finally pushed me to comment. My wife and I are at a point in our lifes not dissimilar from you and Mr. ONL. We are in our mid/late 30’s in Seattle, both have good jobs and no kids. While technically we have reached FI, we both feel having a little more financial cushion is worth the tradeoff of continuing to work. While the similarities are significant, the fact we are heading to ski in Hakuba (Japan) today was just too much. We love to ski and do so most weekends. It is a hobby/passion that will definately play an increasingly significant role in the next phase of our life. If by chance you are skiing in hakuba or staying at the morino lodge over the next week, it would be great to meet. While the chances are small our schedules align, the similarity to date gives me hope. If not, thanks for the thought provoking and inspirational blog!

    • I will give you a full response soon, but we are skiing up in Hokkaido, not in the Alps. Bummer! It will be an awesome trip for you guys, though. Have fun!

    • Okay, bigger response! Thanks for reading and for commenting at last! It’s always great to hear from others in similar situations. I hope you guys have a fantastic time in Japan! Our week here so far has been magical, and we are off to Tokyo in a few days to get the city experience here too. Let us know how your trip was when you get back!

  29. Man, I love your blog! Makes me think. Hard.

    For me, the initial goal is the travel N. America in a 5th wheel for 6 months out of the year, perhaps working “seasonal” jobs for fun along the way. I worked in National Parks as college summer jobs (Yellowstone & Glacier Bay National Parks), and have always wanted to go back. Now, I can!

    • Haha, thanks buddy. :-) I hope you’re going to put up a big map somewhere and put stars or marks next to all the national parks as you visit them, so you can check them all off!

  30. Going to Japan is on my todo list as well

    how much of the language did you learn before you went? and have you had any problems with the language barriers?

    • I did the full level 1 Pimsleur course (audio only, no reading), and bought a small phrasebook, and both have served us well so far with minimal need for the Google translate app. It really feels like Japanese people are super helpful and friendly and do their best to understand what you want even if you can’t outright tell them. Don’t let the language barrier hold you back!

  31. This is exactly what keeps me up at night – how do I treat this gift of early retirement and not waste it?!? This article was very helpful – but I will still probably need a huge white board to keep up with the random ideas I have about how to spend my early retirement years!!

  32. I can absolutely relate with the shocking transition from leading a stress-ridden, goal-driven, career-oriented existence to a carefree, and unlimited life. As an early retiree (retired at 42), I spun my wheels for far too long until I realized (as you mention) the need to continue to have goals.

    The great thing is that these goals can be fun! (and thus far they sure have been). I’m working my way east now. Currently in Romania (haven’t found any vampires yet, but the hunt is far from over). Japan has always been on my list, but I’d never considered skiing there until you mentioned it. Sounds fun (and the cheap food some delicious!)


    • Hi Gabe! Your trip sounds wonderful! And if you’re a skier, definitely put Japan on your list. There is plenty of price gouging here like in any ski destination, but the lift tickets are about a third what they’d cost in the resort towns in North America, and there is cheap food if you look for it. Totally agree with you on the goals — they don’t have to be hard slog goals, they can absolutely be fun ones! But as you’ve seen from your own life, it’s important to have them! :-)

  33. Have fun skiing in Japan. It’s a fun country, and while it can be extremely expensive, it doesn’t have to be.

    I’ve been there many times and done things both the frugal way and the expensive way.

    Enjoy yourselves and tell some fun stories when you get back!

    • Thank you! It has been an incredible trip. And the skiing itself is the cheapest we’ve seen anywhere… under $40 a day for our lift tickets. We’ve had some splurges too, of course, so it’s not all frugal travel. ;-)

  34. Also an avid fan of the mountains — climbing them, snowboarding them, spending time in their amazing environment. Knew several years ago that I wanted to be a climbing guide, so I set out a list of things I needed to do to accomplish it. I ticked them off one by one, and in Sept. 2013, I gained my Rock Instructor certification from the AMGA. No sooner had I posted it on Facebook than an acquaintance who owned a guide service said, “Come work for me, dude.” It was such a thrilling thing for me. And so I went to work for his guide service part-time on weekends while I continue to slog it out in my day job for two more years (I’ve got an enviable pension waiting at the end of it). I love the job. I get to help people overcome fears, realize goals, and give them confidence to pursue their own dreams. I’ve had some amazing client interactions that have left me with the most incredibly satisfying feeling. Once I FIRE, being a climbing guide will be my full-ish time job (4 days a week max, probably — I want plenty of time for my own objectives!). The next goal is to get Personal Training certification; I’ve been a gym rat pretty much all my life (since age 14 or so). I know I can also reach people and affect them in positive ways through personal training, too. I’m also very likely going to pick up snowboard instructing or ski patrolling in the winters as well. Finally, my Big Idea goal is to start a non-profit that teaches inner-city minority youths to rock climb. Beyond reaching and underserved population with whom to share the hobby that has given me so much pleasure, I have a bit of selfish motivation as well, and that is this — with our changing demographics in the U.S., the great outdoors is going to need champions other than privileged white people. If we don’t get people of color from our urban areas invested in seeing our national parks and forests as worth protecting for uses other than extraction, then they are doomed. And while I don’t have children of my own, I still want my siblings’ kids, and their kids, and the kids of people who I’ve never met, to know the beauty and majesty of these places, for their good and the good of our planet.

    • I love all of this! Your part-time guiding sounds like pretty much the perfect transition into post-FIRE life, and if you do everything else on your list, you’ll practically still be working full-time! ;-) I especially love your Big Idea goal, and wonder if you’ve thought about expanding beyond inner city kids, just because there are tons of PoC and other people living in poverty in suburbs and small towns who lack the same opportunities, and it would be wonderful to help them too. Like the number of kids in our mountain town who’ve never skied or slept in a tent is super sad. We hope to help change that after we quit!

  35. My FIRE dream includes having time to do theatre again. Onstage and backstage. I love it, but having my own business and a FT job precludes it. I will keep my business during FIRE, but work significantly less. It’s a small version of some of my big dreams, but theatre was the only constant in my childhood that was pleasant. My favorite thing in the world is an empty stage; it is nothing but possibility.

  36. I’m definitely more of an A. The reality is that it will probably be a B or C because, I get restless and after getting a few things ticked off the list, I’ll need something satisfying to do while the kids are at school. Seeing some schedules from Root of Good and others, I know the reality is that I’ll be plenty busy with life, exercise and life.

    I don’t have any big goals post career. Hang with the kids and be involved in their lives is basically the main focus. Beyond that, planning what we’re going to do over the summers is the next one. I eventually want to hit a baseball game in every park, I’ve only made it to about 1/5 so far. My other non-trad goal is building a wood strip canoe from scratch.

    Otherwise, who knows. I’m sure I’ll find some volunteer work to do or maybe even low pay part time type of work as opposed to volunteering but with the same types of organizations. I just don’t know yet. So exciting!

    • I think being involved with your kids is HUGE and will totally count as a major goal accomplished, simply because most people don’t have that luxury. So don’t downplay it! Also, re: the canoe, are you Ron Swanson? Fortunately I get to find out for myself soon! Hahahaahaha.

  37. Great post! I’m so glad to have found your blog. I have gotten to the point of diminishing returns on reading more about saving strategies and tax-optimization (not that there isn’t always more to learn or be inspired by), but I love that you touch on so many of the more abstract parts of early retirement and financial independence that go beyond money.

    I only recently started to think about what my real life goals are and to realize that FI more than a goal itself is a means to an end. With that in mind, I’m hoping to start to better define what the goals I am hoping FI will allow me to achieve are and how I can start working towards them even before reaching FI.

    Our plan for our post retirement life is buying a catamaran and slowly sailing around the world. But although I’m still very excited to do that, I’m realizing I don’t think it will be enough for me. What really brings me happiness is making a measurable difference in people’s lives, so now it’s on to figuring out how to incorporate meaningful service work into our sailing life. Maybe the trick will just be traveling slowly enough to be able to get involved in the communities we visit. I have over 5 years to figure that out though, so there’s plenty of time!

    • I know what you mean! There is not an unlimited amount to learn about money strategies, and sooner or later, you hit that saturation point. ;-) And then it’s great to think about the other big life questions that go along with all of this. It’s great you’re already thinking ahead to some of your larger life goal questions. And a nice thing about early retirement is that you don’t have to do everything at once, so maybe you sail around the world, and then spend a few years focused on a big service project, and then you do the next adventure. Not every activity has to check every box for you. Like we want to do tons of service stuff, too, but sometimes we just want to go ski for totally selfish reasons. :-)

  38. I have some big plans for a goal that will happen in about a year, but not ready to share quite yet. I am like you… I have to dream big. The old SMART goals are far too boring for me. I’m a bit of a risk taker and when an idea takes hold of me watch out… I like to ask “Do you have dreams or do your dreams have you?” I also dubbed my own DUMB goals on my website: Daring, Uncomfortable, Meaningful, Bold.

  39. I have ideas, but I’m also living a cool life I didn’t imagine 10 years ago. I have found the plans the universe has for me often aren’t what I had planned so I have learned to go with the flow some times. It makes that ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years ‘ question at work tough. Because if there was a need for me in a different department that was a career growth move, I’d be up for it, vs just progressing up the ladder in this department. I have also realized I don’t have the tooth and nail fight for a c suite personality, or in other ways the disposition for some parts of it (decisions in the very grey realm, or the responsibility for some of the decisions made).
    For now, having the goal of FI is enough for me. Once I get there I’ll see what opportunities come my way.

    • The great thing is I don’t think we have to pre-plan everything or close out those life-changing opportunities that come our way to set some new goals. I think you’re totally right that early retirement should very much be about getting to know ourselves and seeing what comes our way, but it doesn’t hurt to create some direction for ourselves as well, so long as we stay flexible. :-)

  40. “Whatever inspires your next goal beyond FIRE, make it big. ”

    This resonates so well with me. There are so many ways I see I can help make this world a better place. I have so many ideas… it’s almost overwhelming :-)
    This question of purpose post-FI has been in my mind for a few years now. And while it’s not defined yet, I am not too worried. Once you’re FI, the possibilities are almost infinite!
    There are so many people that need help, so many causes that are worth fighting for! The main question in my mind is: how can I make sure that what I do is what will have the biggest positive impact. How can I maximize this incredible potential to do good?
    While I am clearly driven by positive impact, I also know that I will take some time to take of myself :-)

    The real reason I am writing to you is because I have not found much content on this topic in the FIRE blogosphere: the bigger purpose, the next big bold goal after FI. I am really glad I found your blog, and this post in particular.
    I have the impression that many people are looking at FI as a way to escape their 9-5, and then that’s it. I know it’s not really the case, and that everyone has projects for after FI. And while I totally respect this choice, I can’t help but feeling a little sad. I feel that we don’t see how much potential being FI can have.

    I see FI as an enormous advantage in life. It allows you to “work” and do good without being affected by money. Normally, most people act (or are forced to act) in the interest of making money. Being FI allows people to do what’s right, without having a hidden agenda or being corrupted by the need to make a living out of it. This give FIRE people the potential to make real change and work on important things in life where corporations and government do not see any potential profit/benefit.

    Sometimes I think it’s just because FIRE people do not realize that they have such a power. Or maybe it’s just me who is too idealistic? But maybe we can help FIRE people to see how much of a positive impact they could make?
    What do you think? Is there a way we could harness this amazing power? I think this is quite a unique opportunity to make a real difference in a world where so much is driven by money…

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.

    Sorry for the long post :-)