Psst. This is the only post this week, there’ll be no post next Monday (Christmas), but there WILL be a new post on Wednesday, December 27, with our financial wrap-up for the year, and the first January post will be on Wednesday, January 3. Normal Monday-Wednesday schedule resumes January 8!
Today we’re waking up without an alarm, whenever we feel like it. Mark won’t groggily dial into staff meeting at 6 am Pacific. I won’t spend a half hour answering work email on my phone before I even brave the cold and get out of bed.
It’s Monday, we aren’t working, and we aren’t on vacation.
While we wouldn’t proclaim to know what early retirement feels like just yet, we’re about to find out, because we reached our goal. Now, our next life begins!
The last lines of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the original one from the 70s, not the weird remake with Johnny Depp) keep running through my head:
Willy Wonka: But Charlie, don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted.
Charlie Bucket: What happened?
Willy Wonka: He lived happily ever after.
While it’s too soon to know if we will live happily ever after — heck, the markets could wipe us out tomorrow — we can’t imagine it feeling better so far.
We said goodbye to our colleagues last week at a few happy hours and a goodbye party, and got some incredibly touching notes, including this card my company made me:
There are a number of things we think we might miss about work, but the thing that I’m proudest of, and which came through loud and clear in the notes, is successfully enabling talented people to spread their wings and grow in their skills and confidence. My management style has always been based on letting people figure things out rather than being more prescriptive or micromanaging, and while that looks messier at times, the proof is in the cards and words I got on my way out of how much folks appreciated the opportunities that came along with that approach. I was fortunate to learn from some incredible mentors when I was younger who gave me the chance to see what I could do, even if that meant possibly failing, I paid that forward, and I’m confident that the group of awesome folks I’ve worked with and managed will spread that to the next generation beyond them. I’m thankful to have gotten that affirmation on the way out, to know that I’m leaving a legacy behind. I wouldn’t begin to claim credit for their awesomeness, but I’m proud to have played a small part in shaping in.
I’ll let Mark tell you about his final days in the newsletter, but the notes he received that I read sure seemed like some powerful stuff.
The Retired Life Begins
Since Saturday, we’ve started each day saying, “Happy retirement,” to each other. And then we quickly ask whether we’ve each exhaled yet. (Answer so far: Not yet, but getting there.) We’re already had time, though, to do some solid relaxing.
It’s weird knowing that we don’t have to check email compulsively anymore, or to look at an hour-by-hour calendar. Days are now laid out in broad strokes, not small increments, which aligns to my new rule:
No more than one appointment a day, unless we’re traveling.
We’re currently getting ready for Christmas, which we’ll spend with family, and then attend the Denver-area meetup in Longmont on Tuesday, December 26, at 5 pm at the MMM World Headquarters. (Bring something to share if you plan to join, or just show up and hang out!)
I’m doing two last remote workdays on December 27 and 28 to qualify for my company’s 401(k) match, so will be finishing up a few little admin tasks those days, before toasting my “official” early retirement on December 28. It reminds me of how I finished my coursework and walked in my college graduation in May 2001, but my diploma is dated August because I had to wrap up one last independent study project before graduating technically. Tiny delay on a technicality is apparently my thing.
Current To Do List
We’re crossed off almost everything on the to do list at this point except for two things:
The DAF contribution amount will be clear next week, and I’ll touch on that again in the year-end financial wrap-up.
And on health care, though open enrollment ended in most places last week (December 15), we have two factors that let us delay making a final selection: 1. Leaving work counts as a “qualifying event,” and enables us to have in essence a new open enrollment period. Because our end date is after the open enrollment deadline, that’s a qualifying event. 2. California’s open enrollment goes to January 31, as do many other states who have their own exchanges.
We know the health insurance that we’d like to buy, but the biggest hiccup we’re having is figuring out what doctors are on what network. We assumed that if we’ve been on a Blue Cross plan for many years and bought a new Blue Cross plan, that we’d have access to the same docs, but that’s apparently not the case. Stay tuned for more on this. (There’s also, of course, the question of what the new tax bill will mean for early retiree health care — and implications for traditional retiree health care, if the Medicare cuts currently being discussed materialize. Stay tuned on this stuff, too.)
Plans for Year 1
We have several things planned for year 1, but also huge expanses of blank space in between, which feels exactly perfect.
We’re going to Taiwan and also hope to make a brief trip to Europe to see the Rhine Valley before a relative there moves out of the area. We have a trip to New York set to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway (and also to have a meetup — stay tuned!). And there will be several financial independence events sprinkled in there, too. Along with what we imagine will be several jaunts to follow snow during ski season, or to go hike or climb in places that grab our attention. We’re keeping things as open as possible to allow us to do things on a whim.
We’re also planning this spring to launch the next podcast, Adventures in Early Retirement, and to see what other creative projects grab us. This will be all about following the fun, not worrying about money.
But speaking of money, we will each likely work a few small projects related to our now-past tense careers in 2018, largely just to provide a little more cushion to offset the unpredictability of health care at this point. The tax bill’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act individual mandate, as well as the administration’s attempts at cutting the cost reduction subsidies (currently being challenged in court), will all impact our health care, and given that there’s been this drawn out delay in finding out what those changes will be, we feel like continuing to hedge things is our best bet. We feel completely confident financially in all other things, with our super conservative plan girding us. But man, that health care x factor is frustrating.
Beyond the travel and the little bit of work, year 1 is all about relaxing and healing, especially during what we expect will be a multi-month detox period. Catching up on sleep is priority #1, followed by fine-tuning our eating and figuring out a new set of workout habits, in addition to all the skiing, hiking, biking and climbing.
Plans for Year 2 and Beyond
Here’s my favorite part of the year 2 plan: There is no year 2 plan! We have nothing at all planned — or even envisioned — beyond roughly next September. We’re just going to see how stuff goes in 2018 and then decide what and how much to plan. Given how much we loved Japan earlier this year, if we love Taiwan as much, then we might decide we need to spend more time in 2019 exploring Asia. Maybe we’ll decide, though, that we like being home the best, and will travel less than we’d expected. Maybe some new opportunity will arise that we can’t even imagine right now, and we’ll pour all of our energy into that. We have no idea! And that sounds soooo perfect.
Your turn! For those of you who’ve already been down this road, what should we be thinking about in the initial days of our early retirement? What do you wish you’d known or done differently? For those who are working toward the goal, what do you want to know that we can share? What would you be doing right now if you were in our shoes? And speaking of reaching goals, what milestones have you achieved lately that we can help you celebrate? Let’s chat about all of this in the comments!
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Categories: we retired early