Getting Started

When I first started exploring the idea of FIRE, I consulted a couple of people I knew and trusted who had experience in this area. One friend, who is now in his 70s, retired at age 51. He was on FIRE before it was a thing. The second friend has a real estate business, a day job in technical sales and a side hustle. He is much younger than I am, but he has enough passive income set aside that he could retire tomorrow if he wanted.

Both of my mentors started by asking me how much I’m saving and how much my expenses are. I have an idea of my savings and expenses now, but I have no idea how to estimate what they will be in five years when I hit the target date. In addition, the plan is to move from a HCOL state to a lower cost state, and purchase a new (smaller, possibly fixer-upper) house with the proceeds from the sale of my current home.

Their question was a good one, though. The goal is to save 40% or more of our income before retirement and to have enough cash flow before age 65 that we don’t have to tap into retirement funds (401K and pensions) until regular retirement age. Spending less than we make (a lot less) is a huge challenge for us, especially since we are still paying college costs for one of our daughters and we haven’t historically been as disciplined as we need to be to make this work. That said, we feel like we are in a great place to meet this challenge head on. In a later post, I will share details of our current savings and expenses.

 

You say FIRE, I say FIR

I’ve noticed that “FIRE” (Financial Independence, Retire Early) means very different things to different people. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a good thing. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to finding what works. Purists will say that if you have a side hustle, or if you work part-time, or if you take “mini retirements”, returning to the workforce on and off, then you aren’t truly embracing the FIRE movement. I’ll be 56 in five years, my target FIRE date. Does that still count, since it’s barely what you could call “Early”? (The “FIR” movement doesn’t have the same ring to it). I’d say “YES”!

You have to find the variation that works for you. I had never heard of early retirement, and was not a great saver in my 20s and 30s. My husband and I live in the Seattle area, where we raised our three daughters. Our priorities were different then, and we got a late start saving for retirement. Ideally, we would have started investing much earlier, but it’s never too late! Beginning retirement 9-11 years early, and learning to live happily on 40% of our income is enough to make the “BIG GOAL” worth it. It’s unlikely that I’ll be interviewed on CNN anytime soon but that’s ok. I’m happy to share my journey with others who are working to do something similar, but CNN was never part of the equation.

And so it begins

You might say I’m a goal-oriented person: go to college. Get a job. Get married. Start a family. Get an advanced degree. Change careers. Find my dream job. Get promoted. I’ve had fun with all of that. I love to learn and challenge myself. I’d like to think that I’m on a path to becoming better, personally and professionally, every day.

This year, however, I found myself in a funk. I couldn’t really figure out what to do next. I was happy enough with my job but still felt unfulfilled. My family was doing great, I was having fun with my friends, and I definitely didn’t feel the need to get more “stuff”.

Sometime in late August, I realized that it was the first time I didn’t really have a BIG GOAL to shoot for. About the same time, I had a terrible day at work. I started asking myself, “This is what I have to look forward to for the next 14 years of my life? Really?? This is all there is?”

The thing is, I’ve never been one to settle. I can be unhappy and unfulfilled until it’s time to cash in my retirement, OR I can decide to do something different. I choose to do something different.

As is typical for me, I started researching possibilities. How can I stop trading my time for money as soon as possible? The more I read, the more excited I got. I had never heard of the “FIRE” movement, but one site led to another and another, and I was hooked. THIS was something I could sink my teeth into. I found my next BIG GOAL.

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