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32 and not knowing what to do
Old 06-07-2013, 08:25 PM   #1
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32 and not knowing what to do

My wife and I are both 32 and have been considering early retirement for a few years now - my wife because she seems to hate any job, and myself because I just love the idea of not HAVING to work even if there are plenty of careers that I find very appealing.

We currently live in Illinois and really dislike it, but we stay mainly because of my job. I work for a small financial firm that in any given year could go out of business or could pay a 500%+ bonus. It seems kind of hyperbolic but it's a very accurate description of the firm.

We spend about 45k-60k a year (without counting health insurance/expenses) and have accumulated about $1.5mm in total net worth including our inexpensive (150k) house. Obviously that's not quite enough to be financially independent, but the frustration and uncertainty, and dislike of Illinois, is just building more and more as we stay here. We are torn between several options:

1. Stay in our current house/job until we are financially independent, which is numerically the best course and what we've been doing for the last several years, but is incredibly frustrating because our house is kind of lame and Illinois is incredibly lame and my company is comprised of an incredibly frustrating group of people.

2. Stay in our current jobs, but move to a nicer/more expensive house to try and make us a bit happier now without making too drastic a change.

3. Quit our jobs, buy a property in Las Vegas (a location we both like), spend several years travelling/try playing poker as a full time endeavor (not a ridiculous idea - I am quite good at poker and my background is engineering and finance so it's not a weird pipe dream). This is kind of scary for me because it really brings the possibility of failure into the forefront of possible outcomes, which I logically thing is unlikely but is still kind of terrifying on a gut feeling level.

4. Quit our jobs, move to northern California/Portland/Washington (my wife loves northern California), get software developer jobs to replace our current jobs and work for the next 5-10 years until we are clearly FI and able to be done working.

My primary instinct is that option 3 will make us the most happy/best outcome choice, but it is a big risk to give up our incomes/jobs at this point. We had been waiting for the affordable care act to make getting health insurance a non-issue, and pretty much as of now (for 2014) it's possible to take any of these possible routes and still have quality healthcare, which was a major concern (or at least excuse) to postpone the decision until now.

In my situation, what would you all do? I feel like I'm wasting my life and potential in my current gig, but obviously it's scary to give up what I have - I make 150k + health insurance + random expenses like internet and health club, wife makes 85k. I have an office and good hours/flexibility but no real personal fulfillment.
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Old 06-07-2013, 08:52 PM   #2
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Hi Droo

I'd do what you want to do. Obvious really!

Seriously, I fit into the 'semi retired' camp as it turns out. We had about as much money as you, and made a break for it. We want to buy a house, so will chew up some not insignificant funds. But what the past two years has taught me, is its not all or nothing.

I needed to know if I had enough 'forever'. Now I don't need to know. Even after buying a house, my funds probably won't cover my expenses in a reliable way. But working 20 days a year will. So I can and will do that.

Have a go at poker. Many people do. Why not you. Think of it like this. If you decided to move interstate, you'd need to sell your house and quit work. Then you'd move and re establish. Why not 'stop off' in Vegas on the way. Maybe rent for a few months. Then its not all or nothing. And therefore less scary. And it might even work out!
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Old 06-07-2013, 09:35 PM   #3
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Hey Droo,

Congrats on the financial work thus far. You and I have pretty similar backgrounds, which is a pleasant surprise.

For candidate #3, I think you're romanticizing the full-time poker lifestyle. Here's why I say that:

1. It's not 2008 any more, and games at the size you'd need to come close to replicating your income level are few and far between, quite hard to exploit reliably, and probably have too high a risk-of-ruin for you unless you really do just want to put your savings on the line -- and, even then, can you? Is much of your 1.5m already after-tax? (Alternatively, would you be willing to slum it at 2/5 for $40-50k/year?)

2. If you are truly a top-tier live player -- and you would likely have to prove that to yourself with a multi-year sample -- I think you could perhaps average $150-200k/year if you were willing to play 10/20 and 20/40nl full time, during all the peak times. That means nights and weekends and all the big holidays and during the series. That many hours in a seat in the Bellagio is a major, major hurdle for most of us who have had real jobs. You talk about "wasting" your life; I'd suggest you think about whether that's waste.

3. You talked about travel, so maybe you were instead envisioning playing the tournament circuit? Go back to item 1 and add a bunch more variance (and therefore RoR) and also a bunch of exhausting travel.

4. I like lots of places, including Las Vegas, but I don't think I could live there year round. You'll really compromise in a bunch of quality-of-life aspects. That said, some people do love it, and the cost of living is attractive. (You didn't mention any kid plans, btw? Schools are a clear problem.)

5. The long-term surviving player pool, at stakes meaningful enough from which to derive a decent living, is really small. And the people who have the character type needed to do it, year after year, in many cases are either bored out of their minds or are just kind of, well, boring people living out a pretty shallow career. Rarely do I detect much sense of fulfillment in the lives of these rounders.


You can probably tell I'm not a big fan of going whole-hog on your option 3. On the other hand, I do think it can be a great supplementary gig if you can relocate yourself and have a more traditional day job. I also think it might be a nice bridge into semi-retirement, wherein you could dial your commitment to it up or down on a whim while backstopping yourself with a big bankroll.

Some of your other candidates seem decent to me. The only one I don't like is #1... with your level of success and at your age, you have plenty of career capital and choices. The worst of all choices would just be to stick around doing something that sucks for years, slavishly chasing some accumulation target you'll easily hit anyway (eventually) if you can maintain some level of positive cashflow.
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Old 06-07-2013, 09:49 PM   #4
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Droo. Welcome to the board. Congrats on your net worth. You say you are not quite financially independent, but you are really not that far away either. Do you have a specific number in mind needed to achieve FI? You are doing great for your age. Speaking of your age, you are still very young. Even if you take option 4 and work for 5-10 more years, your portfolio might have to last 60 years.

I'd be curious as to how the $1.55 mm is currently invested - I know $150k is in the house.

I know almost nothing about poker and cannot advice you in that area.

Don't feel like you have to answer my questions if you feel uncomfortable putting this information on-line. But the main thing is you should know what they are and be comfortable with them. Good luck and keep up posted.
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Old 06-07-2013, 11:29 PM   #5
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In my situation, what would you all do? I feel like I'm wasting my life and potential in my current gig, but obviously it's scary to give up what I have - I make 150k + health insurance + random expenses like internet and health club, wife makes 85k. I have an office and good hours/flexibility but no real personal fulfillment.
Have you ever worked anyplace else in your life?

I'm 36, worked 8 years for a family construction business, and had some very good years financially - but the job and stress was literally killing me. And I'm not exaggerating it by saying that because I had to deal with a few pain-in-the-ass clients, or because the company had a no-tolerance policy on the types of shoes you wore or the type of pants you were allowed to wear: the stress literally wore my very being down from screaming fits from family, general contractors, and even a union tradesman who was mentally unstable and forgot to take his meds one day and nearly ended up in a fistfight with me because he left work early and was docked 30 mins (note: he's 6'4", 350 lbs, and rock solid, whereas I'm 5'9", physically fit, but wouldn't last 1 round with him in a truly crazed state). I honestly had to force myself to walk through the door everyday and not simply turn around and never come back. The only thing keeping me there was the carrot of a big bonus because the project was insanely profitable.

In situations like mine, I would wholeheartedly agree that just the money isn't necessarily worth it.

However, when I left the family business, I landed my first job at a non-family company....and realized that EVERY company, and EVERY job has a range of otherwise dysfunctional people who make you realize that you didn't quite have it so bad.

Honesty, what is the worst part of your job now? You say that you feel like you're giving up potential and have no fulfillment....but really, what kind of fulfillment do you want from a job? Did you stumble upon the ER forum because you were bored and it suddenly sounded like a grand idea? Or do you truly want to retire early no matter what, so you and your wife can follow your true passions?

If it's the later, then why would you move across country now for you and your wife to try your hands at something new, at a lower salary, just so you can hopefully retire anyway in 10 years down the road (instead of staying where you're at now and retire in 3-5)?

You need to realize that no matter where you end up, both of your jobs will have something bad. It could be micromanaging boss(es). Co-workers that are loud. A company culture that doesn't give a rat's ass about the personal lives of the employees and expects you to put work before family. The list can go on and on...only realize that you never get to pick which dysfunctions are present! And they may appear and disappear for indeterminate lengths of time.

Sure, you can find 'fulfillment' in a different career....but also find true headaches, true stress, and true insanity so crazy it makes you want to beat your head against the wall to drive out the latest crazy thing your coworker/boss just said or did.

Look yourself in the mirror, and ask yourself "If we move and get jobs we truly love, except several things make our lives truly miserable at work, are we going to be happier?" Or would you rather wish you had kept you current boring jobs that will allow you to retire much sooner, and which really aren't all that boring afterall when you look at what the alternative is?

And remember: just like there's a big difference between a good company because of their good products, and a good company that would make a good investment, there's a huge difference between a 'fulfilling career' and a good career. You can have the best/most fulfilling career, but have it located within the worst company/coworkers/boss. And ask yourself if falling in love with your work on a day to day basis would really overwhelm all of the negatives that WILL be at your other job.

Also, don't forget the other aspect: a great career isn't necessarily going to be the romantic fantasy you imagine. Think it will be great just being in software development? Wait until you find out that you spend more time in meetings, arguing with clients, explaining to your boss why the project went over budget and past the deadline (despite them ignoring the fact that they didn't give you all the details until the 11th hour) than you do actually in the nitty gritty of software development. Think that career sounds as sexy as it did before? Just wait - you ain't seen nothing yet.
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Old 06-08-2013, 02:07 AM   #6
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I would say NO to option 1. No reason to be stuck in a house and a job that you dislike. Are you in the Chicago area? If so, try renting an apartment in downtown Chicago and see if you like that urban lifestyle - it really is amazing. If you go with Option 2, I would suggest renting instead of buying - in case you want to try 3 or 4 later on. How about an option of changing your job? Or try a few months of option 3 (but rent instead of buying in Vegas) enroute to option 4? Things get clearer as you try a few things and decide what you like/dislike.
We lived in the chicago area for a number of years and left our jobs to chase our dreams - travel, 'living' in different places, part-time gigs, volunteering, etc. Things we would regret not having tried. After 4 yrs of nomadic life, we are now temporarily settled in the Bay Area for almost 2 yrs now. We like to be flexible, so we rent. And we will move on again if we want to. In our 40s now, no kids.
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Old 06-08-2013, 06:41 AM   #7
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My wife and I are both 32 and have been considering early retirement for a few years now...
...3. Quit our jobs, buy a property in Las Vegas (a location we both like), spend several years travelling/try playing poker as a full time endeavor... My primary instinct is that option 3 will make us the most happy/best outcome choice, but it is a big risk to give up our incomes/jobs at this point....
In my situation, what would you all do? ....
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Old 06-08-2013, 08:51 AM   #8
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Hey Droo,

For candidate #3, I think you're romanticizing the full-time poker lifestyle.
I appreciate/agree with all of your points - and the fact that any table I've ever played at has at least 3 people I would just as soon avoid talking to at all.

I would definitely not be trying to make $250k a year playing - just a couple grand a month to give me something to do and supplement spending money. Just like with working, I certainly don't want to end up moving across country and feeling trapped doing something else that I end up not really liking that much.

You're right about Vegas schools - I forgot to mention that neither of us wants kids (still waiting to see if the wife changes her mind for the next couple years - I don't think she will but if she decides she wants children I think option 4 wins by default.)

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Do you have a specific number in mind needed to achieve FI? You are doing great for your age. Speaking of your age, you are still very young. Even if you take option 4 and work for 5-10 more years, your portfolio might have to last 60 years.

I'd be curious as to how the $1.55 mm is currently invested - I know $150k is in the house.
I wanted at least $2.5mm plus a paid off house, which would provide anywhere between 75k and 100k in income which would be plenty for the two of us. I find myself kind of mentally justifying lowering that number now

It's invested tax-efficiently by asset class (e.g. reits and bonds are in retirement accounts). All the funds are low cost index funds.

My Retirement: $380k, all tax deferred
Wife Retirement: $204k, half of it in a roth
After tax money: $800k
House: $150k (paid off, low value)

Asset allocation is currently a bit skewed because we have been setting aside money for a down payment/full purchase of a new house in cash, but the targets are:

15% Junk Bonds
15% High Grade Bonds (currently 24% due to down payment money)
15% US Large Cap
15% US Small Cap
10% Intl Large Cap
15% Intl Small Cap (includes emerging markets)
15% REIT

These targets would need to change a bit if we actually retired, but even in retirement I would be at least 50% stocks.
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Old 06-08-2013, 09:18 AM   #9
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I'm originally from Rockford, IL. so I totally get what you are saying about living there. Never going to live there again. My wife and I moved to Colorado in '92 when we were in our early 30's. First near Denver, then after about 5 years, up in the mountains.
We used to vacation here for a couple of weeks every year, so we decided to move here permanently. Been out here for over 20 years now and still feel like we are on vacation every single day. She's been retired for 2 years and I'll join her in that at the end of this month.
It worked out great for us, so I say follow your passion, but be smart. We were able to arrange jobs before we moved - my wife was able to transfer and once that was confirmed, it only took me 3 hours to find a similar job by networking through my contacts. Two weeks later we lived here. That was an exciting time for us.
Almost anything out west is better than Illinois. (and...financial institutions are big in Denver - just sayin...).

No offense to those who love Illinois, but...escape while you can. Good luck!
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Old 06-08-2013, 09:32 AM   #10
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Have you ever worked anyplace else in your life?

Look yourself in the mirror, and ask yourself "If we move and get jobs we truly love, except several things make our lives truly miserable at work, are we going to be happier?" Or would you rather wish you had kept you current boring jobs that will allow you to retire much sooner, and which really aren't all that boring after all when you look at what the alternative is?
The only other jobs I have had are basically high school/college kid jobs plus one technical internship. I have been at this same company for over 10 years now. I have a very nice setup here at this point. I recruited a college friend to work there with me, and the two of us basically thought of, designed, built, and continue to maintain every aspect of the company's operations. The only thing we don't do is the sales/marketing, because we aren't any good at it and don't really want to do that in the first place.

My wife definitely wants to not work - she has far more flexibility than I do to move jobs (she makes less, we use my job's insurance, and she interviews better) and I have repeatedly tried to get her to think of something she would enjoy doing, regardless of pay. I think her main issue is a combination of not really knowing what would make her happy (except not working) and a fear of being unable to perform well at a new job. She also REALLY wants to leave Illinois, so I don't think a new job here would change very much but a new job somewhere more fun to live would be an improvement.

I think the worst parts of my job is not knowing whether it will be there next month or not, and not really being able to do anything about it. Also, I could probably already be retired except my opinion on the trading strategy (which is what I designed/tested/implemented) was overruled because the management had a feeling that bond prices were going to crash in 2009, which cost us about 30% in performance over the next couple years. I think this was a pretty common opinion at trading firms at the time, but is still pretty hard to think about.

There are obviously day to day annoyances, but in reality I know my job has many less of those than an average job, which is a big part of the reason I stay.
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Old 06-08-2013, 09:40 AM   #11
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I would say NO to option 1. No reason to be stuck in a house and a job that you dislike. Are you in the Chicago area? If so, try renting an apartment in downtown Chicago and see if you like that urban lifestyle - it really is amazing.
I used to live downtown (printer's row) and commute every day. This was in 2002/2003. The commute was mostly OK then, but still annoying - nowadays the traffic is so much worse I wouldn't try it.

Chicago is a nice city, but we are really sick of the giant void of stuff to do within 4 hours driving. If I were going to change jobs anyway, it falls under option 4, so we can explore somewhere new with better weather. That is a big reason San Francisco is appealing.
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Old 06-08-2013, 09:47 AM   #12
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I'm originally from Rockford, IL. No offense to those who love Illinois, but...escape while you can. Good luck!
Congrats on your retirement. My parents actually moved to Rockford while I was in college and all they do now is complain about it (and yet they have been there over 10 years). Just the hour+ drive through nothingness to get there is painful.

I hear a lot of good things about Denver and have been there a couple times. Our friends here have a house somewhere in the mountains within an hour - I can't remember the name of the town - so I'll have to take them up on their offer of the place and check out the area.
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Old 06-08-2013, 10:00 AM   #13
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Hi Droo. Congrats on accumulating a hefty amount at 32 ! Reading your OP, what I first got out of it was that you want to not HAVE to work, your wife hates any job, and you both dislike living in Illinois. Hmmm.... What about finding a lower paying (if necessary) even part time j*b for both you and your wife, ones that you like [there are things I am sure you wouldn't mind doing] and moving to a location that you both enjoy. There were too many 'dislikes' in your opening paragraph to make one think that a move and non-work would make you happy. Money is a tool towards happiness. But what would you and your wife want to do and where, in order to take a better shot at becoming happier?? Do not think that just retiring and moving out of state will give you eternal bliss. Just my thoughts.
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Old 06-08-2013, 10:46 AM   #14
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I'm originally from Rockford, IL. so I totally get what you are saying about living there. Never going to live there again. My wife and I moved to Colorado in '92 when we were in our early 30's. First near Denver, then after about 5 years, up in the mountains.
We used to vacation here for a couple of weeks every year, so we decided to move here permanently. Been out here for over 20 years now and still feel like we are on vacation every single day. She's been retired for 2 years and I'll join her in that at the end of this month.
It worked out great for us, so I say follow your passion, but be smart. We were able to arrange jobs before we moved - my wife was able to transfer and once that was confirmed, it only took me 3 hours to find a similar job by networking through my contacts. Two weeks later we lived here. That was an exciting time for us.
Almost anything out west is better than Illinois. (and...financial institutions are big in Denver - just sayin...).




No offense to those who love Illinois, but...escape while you can. Good luck!
ssssssssssshhhhhhhhh !!!
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Old 06-08-2013, 10:54 AM   #15
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Droo, my initial thought was "another one of these crazy Vegas dreams". I am going out there within the next week and usually am out there 6 times a year for sports betting , not poker. This is my NFL season win total trip. I personally would love to live there, but I then I would get caught in the trap of thinking I could make money on a daily basis, then I would be broke and back to work! But, hey, you are young ,no kids, and have already proven to be a financially sound person. If you follow through with your plans, just already have "option 2" in place if this doesn't work out for you. Then if it doesn't work out, you will know when to cut bait and start over again. Good Luck, sounds exciting!
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Old 06-08-2013, 10:59 AM   #16
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ssssssssssshhhhhhhhh !!!
Oh yeah, forget all that Colorado stuff I mentioned. It's really cold and icky here. and those 300+ days of sunshine a year are highly overrated. No reason for anyone to move out here or anything . ;-)
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Old 06-08-2013, 10:59 AM   #17
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Maybe Droo and Brewer should get together. Brewer has a job he doesn't like in Denver and when he leaves, perhaps Droo could apply for it, so he could be unhappy in Colorado! .

I'm joking of course, but I do think that ideal jobs and places are almost impossible to find, especially together, nowhere is perfect, and a positive attitude makes any burden lighter.
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Old 06-08-2013, 01:50 PM   #18
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The fact that you say you want to have $2.5mm makes it appear to me that you are risk adverse. Option 3 seems a bit risky, so I'm surprised that its on your list.

Option 4 is the most appealing to me. Do you know anyone in the area ? Are you skills transferrable ? What are the downsides of that option ? Working another 10 years until you are 42 is still a super early ER and would be something to be very proud of.

Congratulations on your nest egg and on thinking about the future !
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Old 06-08-2013, 02:23 PM   #19
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The fact that you say you want to have $2.5mm makes it appear to me that you are risk adverse. Option 3 seems a bit risky, so I'm surprised that its on your list.

Option 4 is the most appealing to me. Do you know anyone in the area ? Are you skills transferrable ? What are the downsides of that option ?
I actually thought that planning to live for (hopefully?) 40+ years with a 3%+ withdrawal rate would make most people say I'm too risky.

Skills are very transferable - I have done everything involved in running what is basically a technology driven trading firm. Database design/optimization, web application design/programming, built the network infrastructure and maintain all the servers, designed/oversaw the buildout of a high density server room, low latency financial programming for both live execution and historical testing, managed the small technology group we had (only 5 of us at max), etc. I even get to help people figure out their email when they type in the wrong password. All of that stuff is really just the means to accomplish the financial research/strategy development that I am also in charge of.

In some ways I worry that the variety of tasks kind of hurts me when applying for jobs, but I don't really think I would have any issues getting a technology job in a decent metropolitan area. I don't think I really want to work in finance ever again - shuffling money around and taking a percentage of it isn't very satisfying.

One of the main concerns that would be nice to have answered is how much a multi-year sabbatical would hurt my employment prospects at future jobs. If I took 3 years off to travel the world and then looked for a job again, how much does that 3 years hurt me? Would limiting it to 1 year make a significant difference?
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Old 06-08-2013, 02:25 PM   #20
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To answer the OP's question, I would choose option 1.
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