5 Lessons From 3 Years of Early Retirement

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About this time two years ago, I shared the struggles of my first year of early retirement. That blog post flowed out of me in about an hour. 

A Smooth Sea Never Made a Skilled Sailor

It ended up being one of the most read things I’ve ever written, viewed by several hundred thousand people. Several people reached out to interview me and discuss that article in more depth. After seeing the impact that had, I assumed I would share my thoughts and lessons in a recurring annual blog post.

The next year was amazing for me. In our first winter in Utah, Kim and I each skied 50+ days. Throughout the year we did some awesome family adventures. I found fulfillment volunteering with our local adaptive ski program. After completing a major remodel on our house, it finally felt like home. It was a rare year when everything in our investment portfolio went up in value. I successfully released my book in October. This blog was gaining momentum. 

I chose not to write about it. I’m not sure why. Part of me probably worried it may be perceived as bragging. I’m not comfortable with that. Mostly, I think we learn more from challenges, struggles, and failures. 

Well 2020 has been quite a year on those counts. So here is what I’ve learned…

Plans Are Worthless But Planning Is Indispensable

Prior to leaving my career, Kim and I were part of a mastermind group of couples who were looking to retire early with young children. We stress tested one another’s plans, throwing every conceivable “worst case” scenario at each other to see how it would be addressed.

Last year, I shared that one of the members of our group was diagnosed with Glioblastoma four months to the day after his early retirement. This spring, he passed away. That definitely was not one of the scenarios discussed in our sessions.

None of us planned for a global pandemic that would cause massive economic disruption, inability to travel, or a shift in how we could spend time with friends and families. Yet all of that happened this year. 

If 2020 hasn’t demonstrated that the future is unpredictable, I’m not sure what will. The most perfectly written plans may be outdated by the time the ink dries on paper. The world is constantly changing. 

Though we can’t predict what will happen, we can be cognizant of chance and luck. We can develop a robust planning process that enables us to adapt to better or worse than expected outcomes, even if we don’t know what the causes of those outcomes will be in advance.

This March I shared the thought process I used to analyze how to manage my and my parent’s investments amidst extreme volatility. I reached different conclusions for each of us, then acted decisively despite imperfect information.

Both decisions were correct in hindsight. That has nothing to do with the short term results that I frankly would have never predicted. Instead, they were correct because they were made by following a process developed from planning ahead of time.

You May Never Feel Safe

Can I retire yet? When people ask this question, they’re really asking: Do I have enough money to maintain my desired lifestyle forever? Unfortunately, there are too many unknowable variables to ever answer that question with certainty. 

Ponder that for a minute. It’s scary.

When I left my career in December 2017, we knew Kim’s ongoing income would cover most if not all our expenses. It was still scary to give up the security of the high savings rate we had as a two income household. When the market dropped a year later, it was confirmation that we were right to be scared.

In 2019, the markets rebounded. We were made whole and much more. It was a rare year when virtually every asset class went up. All investors made money, it was just a matter of how much. But everything’s not supposed to go up simultaneously. That’s rare. It couldn’t last. That scared us.

This March, the bottom fell out of the stock market as the impact of the pandemic became apparent. There were debates about whether we were in a recession or a depression. Of course, we were scared.

As the year progressed, many segments of the economy remained restricted. Yet our portfolio started going back up. Over the past month, the pandemic substantially worsened. The stock market set new all time highs. Sometimes things don’t make sense. It doesn’t feel real. It feels… scary.

Do you notice a theme here? As a community of savers, many of us find security in building wealth. We therefore find it scary to spend from volatile portfolios.

It’s normal to be afraid, regardless of what is happening around us. That doesn’t make it healthy or productive. Making big changes requires acknowledging our fears and taking action in spite of them.

Priorities Won’t Magically Change

When sharing my thoughts one year after early retirement, I wrote priorities won’t magically change when you retire. After three years, I believe this even more strongly.

I’ve been talking with readers over the past few weeks. So many of us cling to stories that simply are not true. We use work as an excuse for everything that we choose not to make a priority in our lives or that we’re afraid to do. With all due respect, I’m calling bullshit on the excuses.

If there’s anything that you think you will do in retirement that you’re not doing now, I’m going to be brutally honest. You probably won’t.

There is a good reason you’re not already doing that thing. It is not a priority in your life. If you want things to change, you need to own that.

If you plan to start exercising, meditating, or eating better when you retire, start now!

If you plan to become a better spouse, parent, child, or friend when you retire, start now!

If you are going to try that hobby, develop that new skill, or learn that foreign language you’ve always wanted to when you retire, start now!

If you want to travel in retirement, start traveling now! (OK, you might want to wait a little bit on that one until it’s safe, but I think you get the point.)

So much of retirement planning is wishful thinking. I was guilty of it, and I commit to being brutally honest about it in my writing so I don’t contribute to spreading that mindset to others. I encourage you to start building your best life today, even if you can’t retire yet.

You CAN Change If You Put In The Work

Change is hard. That’s why it is important to be brutally honest about the stories you create to explain why you’re not already doing the things you say you want to do and know you should.

When I wrote about my first year of early retirement, I wrote about not volunteering or rock climbing more as I said I would when I had more time. But honestly, those are trivial compared to what I was thinking but was afraid to write. 

Throughout our careers, Kim and I had a good marriage. I wanted a great marriage. I used the busyness of work as an excuse for why we didn’t already have that. Things would be better when… That was my story.

In reality, financial independence and early retirement didn’t fix us. It almost broke us. Achieving our financial goals took away a unifying mission. It also eliminated our excuses.

After two and a half years of ups and downs, we finally decided to get honest. And get help. We each stopped trying to change the others’ faults that were so blatantly obvious. Instead, we each learned to look inward, see our own faults, and change ourselves.

To be clear, it was beneficial to have the financial resources and time to do this brutally hard work at this stage in life. To be equally clear, it would have been much easier to do this without the twenty years of baggage we were carrying.

There’s an old Chinese proverb. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is right now. If there are changes you’ve been waiting to make, stop waiting. Get to work.

Be Grateful for Challenges

I’ve always had a practice of gratitude. Kim and I prioritize teaching that to our daughter. We regularly give thanks for family, our health, the beauty of nature, and our good financial position.

If there is one overriding lesson I’ve learned this year, it is to be grateful for everything. All of it.

We are a community of planners. Translation: we’re control freaks. We try to optimize things. We create backup plans for our backup plans.

This year I’ve wasted a lot of time and energy being angry at things I can’t control. 

  • At a virus that took away my freedom to travel and spend time with people I love.
  • At a lack of leadership from our government and a lack of responsibility from fellow citizens.
  • At an earthquake that shook my house this March, adding anxiety and fear when we least needed it.
  • At a back injury that left me unable to do anything but lay on my stomach for weeks.
  • At a spouse who doesn’t share my exact values and outlook on life.

And all of my anger left me in the exact same place… and exhausted. 

In her book Loving What Is, Bryon Katie writes that there are only three types of business in the world; my business, your business, and God’s business. This past year has taught me to live in my business and avoid spending time in the other two. They only lead to suffering. 

There are many uncertainties baked into retirement planning. Life is uncertain. We control freaks need to learn to not only accept, but be grateful for, those things we can’t control. 

You can disagree with me on this last lesson. Many of you will. Good luck with that!

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[Chris Mamula used principles of traditional retirement planning, combined with creative lifestyle design, to retire from a career as a physical therapist at age 41. After poor experiences with the financial industry early in his professional life, he educated himself on investing and tax planning. After achieving financial independence, Chris began writing about wealth building, DIY investing, financial planning, early retirement, and lifestyle design at Can I Retire Yet? He is also the primary author of the book Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence. Chris also does financial planning with individuals and couples at Abundo Wealth, a low-cost, advice-only financial planning firm with the mission of making quality financial advice available to populations for whom it was previously inaccessible. Chris has been featured on MarketWatch, Morningstar, U.S. News & World Report, and Business Insider. He has spoken at events including the Bogleheads and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants annual conferences. Blog inquiries can be sent to chris@caniretireyet.com. Financial planning inquiries can be sent to chris@abundowealth.com]

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  1. “You CAN Change If You Put In The Work”

    Yup. Even though we FIRE advocates strive to “retire”, we want to retire from our W2 jobs, which are probably less than desirable. But we need to realize that in life there will always be work. This is the kind of work I can get behind.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Dave. FIRE (and retirement in general) blogs tend to demonize work as bad and overly glorify leisure as the goal. There is a time and place for both in all of our lives.


      1. “Retiring” while your wife still works and covers all expenses doesn’t really count, now does it. Also make money off a blog about retiring early kinda skews the picture too.

        1. I left my career as a physical therapist at 41 years of age. My wife cut back to part-time work at age 35. We moved across the country to pursue the lifestyle we desire.

          A traditional retirement of no work/ no earned income and living only off investments is possible, but we found it would feel restrictive. The path we’ve chosen allows us to live the lifestyle we desire with a lot of freedom while maintaining an abundance mindset.

          If you’re genuinely interested in understanding what we’re doing and if there’s anything you can learn from the blog, this is a good place to start to get an understanding.

          If you’re not genuinely interested and just were stopping to tell me my retirement experience “doesn’t really count” then you’re entitled to that opinion, and I wish you well.

  2. “We use work as an excuse for everything that we choose not to make a priority in our lives or that we’re afraid to do. With all due respect, I’m calling bullshit on the excuses.”

    love it! this is your writing at its best, Chris. Honest, insightful, deep, and challenging. Well done, friend.

  3. Very apropos quote of Byron Katie. And you may recall her conclusion that ultimately, it’s ALL God’s business.

    1. Thanks Michael. I actually didn’t recall the conclusion. But I’ll be spending time with that book for years to come. Her concepts are so simple, yet they profoundly challenge my way of thinking in ways that I clearly need.


    1. Thanks Susan. I think the unique value a blog offers over experts and corporate websites is sharing honest personal opinions and experiences. Though it’s frankly hard to put yourself out there publicly, so I appreciate the kind words.


    2. Chris, I have read all of your articles and your book. I joined my wife in early retirement in July at age 54 and am starting to experience the truth of what you are saying about the ups and downs, the strengths and worries, the abundant time to indulge interests and the need to fend off boredom in early retirement. We, too, are grateful for this rare gift and I don’t regret the experience. However, I think you and the Mad FIentist, especially, are carving out a valuable and more realistic FIRE 2.0 niche exploring how FI on a day to day basis is more complex than the shiny object on a pedestal and happiness ever after that most bloggers up to now have made it. Thanks for your honesty.

      1. Thank you for reading and for the kind words. I agree that I have enjoyed watching and learning from Brandon’s evolution at the Mad Fientist. I would also point you to Tim Ferriss’ writing and podcast, evolving from life optimization and achievement, to finding a balance between productivity, efficiency, and achievement with purpose, impact, and joy for the sake of joy. Best wishes for a retirement of continued growth, learning, and development.


  4. Really wonderful post, Chris. I so appreciate your honesty. And re the first part of your post, on planning: the retirement plan we created after you wrote about the usefulness of such plans was the rudder we needed in the storm that was the first half of 2020. It helped us know exactly what to do (in most cases, absolutely nothing). Thanks so much!

    1. Glad that you took that to heart and found it useful. Likewise, we didn’t take any drastic actions this year. We added a little gold to our portfolio, shifted a little bit away from my propensity to be a minimalist and towards my wife’s propensity to be a prepper by stocking up our home with more food, water, paper products, etc. than we traditionally have in the past. But overall we followed our principles and they’ve served us well.

  5. Nice article. I think it is worth noting that although the future is quite unpredictable in the short-term, many things are predictable with a reasonable degree with certainty in the long-term and plans oriented towards the long-term won’t be worthless by the time the ink has dried. Over the span of a couple/few years, I suspect with a reasonable amount of confidence that the pandemic will be over, people will begin travelling, shopping, and dining mostly like before, the market will regress back to the mean, people will continue to disagree on politics, etc.

    1. Phillip,

      Thanks. I appreciate the nuance. I think principles and values are timeless, or at the very least should be changed slowly and only after great thought. How things unfold in real time is pretty unpredictable and random. The key to success in my mind is how you can stay true to your core values and apply principles to these constantly changing conditions on the ground.


    1. KT,

      Good question. I agree there is a lot of value there.

      A reader of my original blog reached out to me. I invited another reader I had talked to a few times and then two blogging friends. One couple dropped out, but the other 4 of us (at least a few each time) continue to meet monthly.

      I’ve considered trying to facilitate similar groups through the blog because I value it so much, but it seems like a lot of work to match up the right people and I haven’t taken the initiative to figure out a way to do it yet.

      In the meantime, I suppose the best way to find people with similar mindsets and create your own group would be to meet people through online groups such as FB groups of online forums. Another option when the world regains some normalcy is attending local Choose FI group meet ups, Camp FI events, etc to meet people with similar circumstances and goals and start asking people. Hope that helps.


  6. Chris,

    Boy, after just six months post-FIRE myself, I can identify with so much of what you’ve written here. Thanks for such an honest post, as always. Humans are emotional creatures after all, yet so many blogging in the FIRE space don’t give the emotional aspects of FIRE their proper due. I pulled the retirement trigger mid-pandemic this past June, so naturally there was some additional anxiety from that on my end. But years of preparation remind me that my strategy is sound and we are in good shape. Keep up the great work!


    1. Thanks Jason. This has definitely been a challenging year for everyone, so has to be an incredible mix of emotions to take the plunge in the middle of it. I wish you the best.


  7. Power Article Chris. I had to read it twice. We are grateful you keep pushing your audience to save more, invest smarter, and retire sooner. Your honest point of view that life can be better on the other side of full-time, economically driven employment, is a great reminder why so many of us are involved in the community. The anxiety of the pursuit, with the iteration after iteration of safety buffers, is so prevalent. I do worry that the anxiety that was a powerful force to get us going down the freedom path might now be an obstacle to making the next set of changes.

    1. I think that’s very insightful dap. A lot of us save because we feel insecure and anxious, thinking that once we save $X, we’ll suddenly be a different person. Saving because you’re content and don’t need to spend everything chasing happiness is good. So is saving to have options and resilience. But money is only a tool, and it’s easy to forget that and make financial goals more important than they actually are.

  8. Chris,

    I have to be honest with you. Sometimes when I read your blogs I think of you as a doom and gloom guy who tries to dissuade me from wanting to retire (for the reason you’ve pointed out: mostly w2 at the moment, but also in my case due to crazy life of raising kids and doing w2 job at the same time and keeping the house in tact). But at the same time this blog attracts my attention because it balances out all the rest of cheerleaders (aka FIRE promoters to generate more clicks). Not that I read much these days in the PF area, but still… Since I’m an awful worrywart (sounds like you have such a dilemma as well) it’s not bad to read other cheerful blogs to be inspired, but I prefer reading in the forums where I know nobody is selling nothing :-).

    I also notice that some PF blogs disappear. Not too long ago I discovered a FIRE blogger that I thought would be good to read only not to be able to locate her blog anymore. Would anyone here know “TheFrugalEngineers” Hopefully, she took her blog down for different, not sad reasons, like your friend PIE. That was a very heart wrenching story to read and that’s a sad part for myself…..reading such stories makes me afraid to retire thinking what if my DH gets sick and need money… I think I’m not only a control freak, but also a freak controlled by fear and money….save save and save more money and then what?!? It’s darn scary to retire early though I’m a bit older than you.

    1. S&M,

      I appreciate your perspective and honest feedback. I definitely would not consider myself a “doom and gloom” guy at all in my day to day life. When I started reading FIRE blogs, I agree they mostly felt like cheerleaders who were selling something, to be clear a dream and not consumer goods, that was too good to be true. As I said in the intro, I maybe go out of my way to a fault to give a different perspective. In my effort to be balanced and nuanced, I may go too far to the other side of doom and gloom.

      To be clear, if I didn’t feel this was a worthwhile path, I wouldn’t be so dedicated to sharing it with others. I think that’s why many people start blogging. But blogging is time consuming and it takes a long time to build an audience, so only those that are really passionate about sharing the message stick with it very long.


      1. Your blog and articles are for people who have money to put aside to save or even better, to invest. I started my career as a physical therapist assistant at the age of 39 with a salary of $28,000 a year. Now after 21 years into the profession, my salary is $52,000 a year, and I bring home $2800 / month after taxes. My rent is $1,610 / month. Plus electricity, gas, phone. I cannot afford cable TV or internet. Most of my furniture is picked up from street. I had never own a car. I haven’t been on vacation for over 20 years. I have a dog and a cat, both rescued. I am working in acute care hospital. My back is killing me, my hips hurt. I am too old for this job. I cannot do this beyond 62, and I absolutely need to retire in 2 years. I have 403B, which is very small and was never match by my employer. When I retire, my pension and social security combined will not be enough to pay my rent. What kind of lifestyle are we talking here? I can go straight to shelter!

  9. It’s good advice when given with nuance. Now is the best time to exercise, spend more time with my kids, and enjoy camping. But with work commitments, that’s about my bandwidth. When FI hits, I can perhaps negotiate to spend some time learning a language and an instrument in addition to the other, more important, priorities in my life. What i see as a strength of FI is using that time when I’m at work for other pursuits. Fortunately, people like you rightly point out that our largest priorities can be worked towards in the present, and the less pressing but still important life goals will be given time when we/I cut back on work in the future.

    1. Peyton,

      Yes, the key is nuance. If you go back and read my one year post retirement post, the things I was already doing while working, such as skiing and spending time with my daughter, I did much more in retirement. That’s because they were obviously important to me, which is why I was already finding a way to do them even when I was busy.

      I also have picked up new hobbies in early retirement, most notably mountain biking and gardening. Retirement is a great time to discover new things that you may not have even thought about because you didn’t have time when working. I had no idea I would like either as much as I do and never really thought about them.

      What I have a problem with is things that people say that they want to do and say are important, but that they don’t do at all but think they will do in retirement. That sounds like something that simply isn’t that important which is why it isn’t already happening.

      Just my $.02 from my experience and observing others. YMMV


      1. Hi Chris

        I love the spirit of this post and I’m sorry for the loss of your friend. I really respect your writing and your knowledge… thank you for being such an amazing resource for those of us learning about and striving to reach FI! I usually never leave comments but some things have been rolling around in my head since I read it so I wanted to drop a comment but it looks like Peyton beat me to it! I agree that there’s no need to wait to do pursue things that are important to you. I have performed a time audit because I want to be intentional about where my time is spent and I agree with Peyton… with my days filled to the brim (devotional, prayer, exercise, personal hygiene, work, meals (prep and clean up), reading for 30 minutes a day) I find I have about 90 minutes “to myself”. When you throw in working on our budget, spending Sunday as a rest day for church and spending time with family, and the standard household chores (grocery shopping, etc.) there really is very little margin. If I decided I wanted to fill this time with other things that are “important” to me, I would literally be burning the candle at both ends. I am looking forward to retirement (I’m 50 yo and we are 3 years from retirement) to be able to have more free time to pursue all the things I don’t have the time or freedom to do now. I guess I took issue with your perspective that “ We use work as an excuse for everything that we choose not to make a priority in our lives or that we’re afraid to do. With all due respect, I’m calling bullshit on the excuses. If there’s anything that you think you will do in retirement that you’re not doing now, I’m going to be brutally honest. You probably won’t. There is a good reason you’re not already doing that thing. It is not a priority in your life. If you want things to change, you need to own that.” Respectfully, that may be true for some, but definitely not for all. There are a lot of people who “can’t find the time” for this or that, but spend a TON of time on social media. And there are some of us that really just cannot add one more thing to our schedule because it will break us.

        Thanks again for your perspective. Keep doing great things. And congratulations to you and Kim for doing I the work to make your marriage stronger. I ordered Byron Katie’s book after reading your post and I’m looking forward to doing The Work.

        1. Thanks for the thoughtful comment Karen. The goal of this post is to challenge the way we think and the assumptions we make. I certainly don’t believe that I know all or that any of these things are rules. They are simply my honest observations from my journey and patterns I see in others I meet along the way.

          I would push back on you a little bit and ask why that that point made you feel uncomfortable to the point that you ruminated on it and decided to leave a comment when you normally don’t. Maybe it is something that you should spend more time thinking about or discussing with your spouse or other trusted advisors.

          You don’t mention what you’re not currently doing because you’re too busy. What are those things and why aren’t you doing them now? You mention having about 90 minutes a day to yourself. If there are things that are important, why haven’t you started devoting 30 of those minutes a day to that thing? Or 90 minutes, one day per week?

          You do mention things you are doing already. You’re clearly are a spiritual (religious?) person who prioritizes daily devotional & prayer time and every Sunday to church. You clearly care about your physical and mental well being with regular exercise, personal hygiene, reading. You also are a family person taking care of household chores and noting making time to spend with the family. Those are all great and I anticipate you’ll do more of all of those things when you have time, because they are clear priorities that you find a way to make time for even when you are “too busy.”

          Another priority I notice in your life based on this comment is money. Work fills the rest of the time. You’re clearly looking forward to retirement and having more time, so I assume your primary reason for working is to gain more financial security. You also mention time working on your budget. Do you think this value/priority will completely disappear when you are 53 if it is such a big priority at 50? Do you think you may start spending some time working on other money generating projects, even if you earn less and enjoy them more? Do you think you’ll spend more time optimizing your budget and doing things to be more efficient? What if we have a stock market correction in the next three years and your net worth then is the same as, or less than, it is today? Will you feel secure and just ignore money because you’re now retired and completely set for life without a money worry for the rest of your life? I could be way off base, but I doubt that. That goes along with my earlier point that you may never feel secure, but is the type of magical thinking I see a lot of people incorporate on the way to FI and early retirement.

          I hope that helps you. Thanks for taking the time to read and leave such a thoughtful comment. These exchanges of ideas help me and other readers learn and grow.


  10. “If there’s anything that you think you will do in retirement that you’re not doing now, I’m going to be brutally honest. You probably won’t.”

    Now that statement is interesting, as my father did just that: once he retired and moved back to his home town, he got a garden and picked up gardening, a hobby he had abandoned almost 30 years before. He did it until we had to move, and our new flat had only a balcony, He could have gotten himself a garden all the time, but apparently, thinking our place of living would not be permanent and maybe not being able to put much energy into it after work, he never did. But he looked forward to do just what he did once he retired.

    So, I don’t say this statement is wrong in general, but apparently there are exceptions. I’m just not really sure how these can be identified beforehand.

    1. SWS,

      That is a fair comment SWS. There is nuance there. See my reply to Peyton where I address this one comment above.


  11. Chris, I’ll respectfully disagree, just slightly, with the wording of one of your points: Plans MAY be worthless, but they can often be revised and reinstated at a later date without requiring a return to square one. A concept that might not work at all right now might certainly become appropriate again in the future or, at least, provide a good foundation on which to build. As a life-long planner, I do agree with you that planning is indispensable. Some individuals who wouldn’t think of trying to find a location they’ve never been to without GPS directions up on their phone will go through life without a financial roadmap for their future. But an observation on planning – anyone who blindly follows the lead of financial pundits proclaiming “the best way” to financial success is potentially setting themselves up for failure. Just because thousands of people have successfully done it “this way,” doesn’t necessarily make it the best way for a particular individual. You proved that when comparing your investment situation to that of your parents. But, too often, people don’t take the time for serious introspection, the time to develop a solid understanding of their values, tendencies, determination and their real tolerance for risk. Planning based on someone else’s attributes or investing methods can only be successful under the umbrella of similar beliefs. My way might not be your way, but if I’m 100% confident that my roadmap is the right one for me, the scary times won’t rattle me as much. I’d rather drive than just be along on someone else’s ride.

    1. Mary,

      I agree with you 100%. I think we’re saying the same thing, just with different verbiage.

      I just spoke with a reader who wanted to sit down with a fee only financial planner. The planner wanted to charger her $7,500 to create a financial plan. No follow ups. No ongoing relationship. That would cost extra. $7,500 for a plan.

      Maybe I could have been more explicit, but that is what I think of as a plan that would be worthless. Planning, going through the process whether on your own, with a group of peers, running scenarios through a calculator, and/or with an advisor who takes time to educate you so you understand the process behind the planning, developing principles and identifying values that will guide you through an unknowable future is invaluable.

      Hope that clarifies. Thanks for keeping me honest!


  12. “Be Grateful for Challenges” That’s stoic philosophy right there. Excellent post…definitely thought-provoking. The part about doing things now instead of waiting until retirement struck a chord with me. I must admit some of those things you listed are on my ‘to-do’ list, but I should be doing them now. Food for thought, thanks.

  13. Chris,
    Hey!! I hope you have been well. I am sorry I haven’t kept in touch. Just saw in your post about David (I wasn’t aware). I know I when I left the Mastermind, David and Emily were just coming on board and I didn’t know them all that well. Yet still, my heart goes out to Emily and her family. My cousin passed away in her early 20s from the same type of cancer. You truly never know, huh? Grab today by the horns, folks

  14. I’m so grateful for bloggers who keep going after their FI goals are ‘achieved,’ showing that we don’t magically become different people when we aren’t dependent on a day job for income. Thanks for being real about the continued challenges and how you’re working to overcome them.

  15. I really do find it so condescending when I’m told that there is nothing I do now that I’m retired that I couldn’t do when I was working. The freedom and choice that retirement provides is something that I don’t see how you can ever match while working. Whether it’s not having to get up at 6am, not having to commute, not having to work, being in charge of your own time, being financially independent, they are all some of the many simple benefits of retirement that are difficult, or impossible, to achieve while still working. I am doing so many things in retirement that were impossible to do when I was working and my life is so much better for it.

    1. I really enjoyed your post and this thread. I read many posts but normally avoid the comments and have never left a comment before. However, I felt compelled to comment,regarding your back pain.I would suggest getting on to Amazon.com and reading the reviews about Dr. john Sarno’s first book, “Healiing Back Pain: The Mind Body Connection”. There are about 2000 reviews and his book has about a 4.7/5 average review. Dr. Sarnos book cured my back pain. As a PT you may not agree with his theories but I am 110% convinced he cured my back pain.

      Every day is a gift and we have to take advantage of every day we are given. FI is not the Cure-all or End-all, but can certainly provide one with many more options. I am an engineer, am 68, but may never completely retire as long as I keep my physical and mental health. I have achieved FI, but really enjoy what I do and do not want to stop. Now I no longer have management, operations or sales responsibilities and do what was always the most fun, technical work and mentoring. I am fortunate that my services are still needed, are recognized and are beneficial. I always s tell my kids that the most important thing is to find a profession/job that you love and that you enjoy doing and the $ will come. Now it helps that I selected a profession that has above average pay, but I subscribed to the FI mantra of getting a side gig which was rental properties,save whatever you can and hold off on those big purchases until later in life when you can buy them with cash. While not easy, it is a recipe that works.

      1. Thanks for reading and taking the time to write Vic.

        Re: back pain. I’m back to 100% now. As a physical therapist, I knew what was going on and how to treat it, but I have a new appreciation for how debilitating an acute episode of back pain can be after my experience this summer. I’m not familiar with that book, but I will say to be careful with cause-effect relationships, because most everyone has back pain at some point and it almost always gets better in time, even if you do nothing.

        There is a lot of wisdom in your last paragraph. Thanks for sharing your experiences and insights.


    2. PD,

      I agree that retirement gives you much more time and control of your schedule. My point in this article is to get people to ask and honestly answer what they will do with this time. I’m sharing my experience and that of many people who I talk to who blame many of their problems on work, and think life will magically be better when they retire. It can be if you’re intentional with how you use your newfound time in retirement. But there are a lot of things that you can and should be addressing right now, even if you’re still working. I’ll firmly stand behind that point.


  16. Hi Chris! My husband and I are not yet retired and even though we are in our mid-sixties don’t have any solid plans to do that. Mainly becuase we are doing, (as you suggest(, all the things most people put off doing while they slave at a job they dislike just to sock money away for that golden time of retirement. Instead we have lived most of our life doing what we call “rightsized.” In other words, we only work at a job that suits us with LOTS of freedom and a decent income. We don’t overspend and that frees us from working at jobs we dislike for 10-20-30 years. We travel, exercise, live in a way that fulfills our dreams and desires nearly all the time. We can’t help but think that if more people “rightsized” their lives by discovering what really matters to them, and then figuring out to most easily fit that into their world, they would be far better off. Then they won’t get to the end of their life regretting the choices they did make. I’m guessing they won’t be so afraid of not having “enough” either. Thanks for a though provoking post. ~Kathy

    1. Thank you Kathy. IMHO you’re doing it right. So many people mindlessly spend everything chasing happiness while so many FIRE types do the opposite and try to save everything to retire as soon as possible to some magical time when they’ll be happy. In between, there is a big fat sweet spot that many of us completely overlook because we get caught up in these narratives and don’t take time to ask better questions and seek better answers to life’s challenges. Kudos to you for finding a different path that works for you.


  17. Hi, I like your quote from Field Marshal von Molke that “Plans are worthless but planning is essential” – so true. And, we have another saying in the military, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.”

    Really enjoy your post and thank you for putting this information together for us.

    Semper FI

    1. I knew that was a military idea. I thought that was an Eisenhower quote, but couldn’t find a definitive source to whom to attribute it

      Thanks for the kind words.

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