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What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?
Old 01-17-2005, 07:16 AM   #1
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What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?

Random poll. What was the moment that you realized that you didn't have to work until a 'traditional' retirement age?

Was it a gradual transition? Was it a moment where the lightbulb kicked on and you said "wow, I don't need a job"? What outside influences contributed to your decision?

I come from a fairly conservative midwestern, blue collar family. When I was in high school, I had an aunt and uncle that sold their home, bought a travel trailer and a Suburban, and headed west to roam around. Their kids had just entered college, and my uncle (a lineman for the local power company for 25+ yrs) could get work nearly anywhere through his electricians union. My family was in an uproar about how irresponsible and crazy it was, but I always admired them for chasing their dreams. In some ways, I wished I could go with 'em.

That idea sort of smoldered until a flight from Dallas FW to LAX just over a year ago. After my laptop battery died, I picked up the American Airlines magazine from the seat pocket and happened across an excerpt from An Embarrassement of Mangoes by Ann Vanderhoof. When I got back, I sought out the book from Amazon and read it twice, then made the wife read it.

For those who haven't read the book, Anne and her husband worked out a plan to take 2 years off and sail the Caribbean. I'm sure everyone who reads the book says 'gee, what if?' ... for me, the question kept coming long after I'd read the book. The wife and I were already well on our way to paying off the Visa demons ... but what if we didn't stop there? What if we retired, changed careers, or as we call it "do something else." A year later, the idea hasn't gone away, but instead has gotten stronger. But looking back, the moment that changed my life was there in seat 27C of that AA S-80 at 28,000 feet. I don't mean to make it sound like a religious moment ... there weren't any choirs singing and no heavenly light, but looking back it did trigger a chain of events that has made me rethink who I am and what I want out of life.

So that's mine... what about you?

[Edit] Proofreading fix.
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?
Old 01-17-2005, 07:20 AM   #2
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?

For me it was more of a realization that I couldn't work that long than a realization that I didn't have to.

Shortly after MBA school and accepting my first job I found myself standing in the corridor of an office building staring out the windows at the Smoky Mountains and realizing that I wanted to be out there more than anything else in the world. Within twenty minutes I was concocting a spreadsheet at my desk and a year after that I was already debt-free, maxing out my 401-K, and about to buy a house.
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?
Old 01-17-2005, 07:41 AM   #3
 
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?

Sept 1963. They made me go to school. First day of first grade. A truely miserable propostion. Going thru life being told what to do by clueless stupid people.

This feeling was reinforced time and time again in almost every situation that was not of my choosing

At least as an adult I was getting paid. Unacceptable to have to work for a living when there were others who did not. I saw the money as a weapon. Like that little ballpeen hammer the guy had in The Shawshank Redemption.

My mind was almost never on my work in a longterm sense. Only at the moment. My life since age 6 was characterized by concentrating on retirement at the earliets possible moment
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?
Old 01-17-2005, 07:50 AM   #4
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?

I knew absolutely nothing about ER when I was a teenager, but even back then I remember not wanting to work until I died or was too old to enjoy life anymore.

I experienced too many people dying young and too many people dying before collecting their first social security check and too many people getting so old they couldn't travel or do the things they wanted to do when they were younger. I guess spending a lot of time with older people made me realize I would get like that too.

So out of the blue, I picked 50 as my final retirement age no matter where I was financially. Since then I my ER plan has evolved into a more "mature" plan with more understanding of how to make it all work, and I've reconfigured my plan to semi-ER at 35.
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?
Old 01-17-2005, 08:05 AM   #5
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?

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Going thru life being told what to do by clueless stupid *people.

This feeling was reinforced time and time again in almost every situation that was not of my choosing

At least as an adult I was getting paid.
Just curious if you ever became self-employed? I had similar feelings in elementary school and the thought of being "bossed" around as an adult scared me to death. After brief employment with a "boss" my nightmare was confirmed so I quit and I've been self-employed ever since. If I'm going to bust my hump I'll do it for myself, but I won't do it for a company under a "superior."
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?
Old 01-17-2005, 08:48 AM   #6
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?

What trigged the thought of ER was the realization that there are more interesting things to do (i.e, biking, reading philosophy books, hiking, gardening, etc) than playing politics at the office or struggling to survive in the corporate jungle.
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?
Old 01-17-2005, 09:02 AM   #7
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?

In 2000. I had quit one job after burning out--although at the time I didn't realize I had burnt out--and shortly after had another company go under on me. (Actually I quit before they went under; never tried to collect unemloyment compensation.) I was 30 and going through that "who am I and where am I going" thing and came across the Retire Early Home Page discussion forum (at TMF) while learning personal finance.

Before that it hadn't occured to me that I could plan ahead and retire early; I had always thought of age 60 as retirment age.

Now that I'm thinking outside the box and eliminated debt I have a plethora of intriguing choices although I haven't shed the security of my corporate job even though I've been borderline burnout for over a year now. (Now that I recognize it I can cope with it better and avoid rash action.) The choices include working for max income/savings, working for job enjoyment, working for time freedom, part-time work, work for myself or various mixes of the above plus time off between gigs.

The first time I had a view of a possible alternate career path was when I went rafting in Colorado quite a few years ago. Our raft guide worked as ski patrol, raft guide and archaeologist helper (oil companies had to stop and bring in crews to excavate if their oil hunt turned up old human artifacts). What a life...even his jobs were fun. I was tempted to ditch my corporate job and live like that but even though I wasn't on a particular career path I still had steady benefits income and expenses (debt) and couldn't give them up.

I notice in myself and other employed posters the clinginess to the perceived security and comfort of our corporate jobs, but it seems like everyone here who has left a corporate job has only positive things to say about the experience. Even I wouldn't go back and undo my 2000-2001 experience because even though it was financially hurtful in the short term I think I gained much much more personally and even financially for the long term. And I notice that seemingly everyone who retired had unsolicited job offers after doing so. And my return to the golden handcuffs was not in the manner I was seeking but at a much higher salary.

The anecdotal evidence I see says--as long as one's financial house is in order (no debt, some savings)--quitting a job is nothing to worry about and usually leads to more rewarding--financialy and otherwise--things. I'm only talking the talk so far, though.
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"Didn't you save any money?"
Old 01-17-2005, 09:17 AM   #8
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"Didn't you save any money?"

My epiphany came during the military's post-DESERT STORM drawdown. I'd been trying to get sea duty in Pearl Harbor (to be stationed with my spouse) and the assignment officer had shopped me around to five or six different submarines. It was quite frustrating to watch him fumbling for a job in one of the nation's largest submarine homeports "just because" I wanted to live with my spouse. (Like Oliver Twist asking for more gruel.) I was finally slated to relieve a guy who'd started coughing up blood (personality conflict with the CO) but I was beginning to realize that the Navy wasn't exactly a family-friendly employer. The ensuing tour of bringing order out of chaos, followed by the worst shore duty ever, didn't improve my attitude.

Luckily the drawdown had inspired many convenient self-assessment & career-finding services, including personality inventories and interest surveys. Seeking enlightenment, I was drawn like a moth to the flame. Much to my surprise I learned that I'm an INTJ (my spouse is still laughing). After several hours (and hundreds of questions) with the interest surveys, I learned that my avocation was to be... a nuclear engineer. (Gee, never saw that one coming.) Subsequent research with Nelson Bolles' "What Color is Your Parachute?" didn't improve the situation.

I started talking with shipmates who'd made the transition and I didn't discover anything better. By now the research had been perking along for over five years and I was teaching at a training command, a hotbed of unsurpassed military career-transition contacts & opportunities, and I was still coming up dry. I enjoy teaching but I wasn't sure that I wanted to spend a couple decades at it. The whole career-search experience did not inspire self-confidence.

So one day I was bitching about the situation to my father and he said "Why do you want a job? Does the Navy pay enough pension? Didn't you guys save any money?" Whoa. Never thought about "why" before, just "how".

T.Rowe Price's retirement calculator was encouraging. Financial Engines was even better. By the time the bear market started to growl we suspected that we could save money faster than the market could drop. And when the markets re-opened after 9/11, we ran the day's numbers and STILL had enough of a chance to make it worth the effort.

When I found the Terhorst's book I remember thinking "Damn! Five years too late!!"

It'll be three years next month. I haven't had even the slightest glimmering of desire to return to any kind of work, let alone nuclear engineering. I don't think I ever will...
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?
Old 01-17-2005, 09:21 AM   #9
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?

Quote:
What trigged the thought of ER was the realization that there are more interesting things to do (i.e, biking, reading philosophy books, hiking, gardening, etc) than playing politics at the office or struggling to survive in the corporate jungle.
I couldn't agree more. I recently finished my last day at a mega-sized law firm, having been told (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on who you ask) that I wasn't going to make partner. In the weeks leading up to my last day, and in the past few days since then, I've come to the realization that my position with the firm was just a job, and that I was simply a fungible billing unit within the machine. The partners didn't care whether I was happy -- only whether I finished their projects (and billed their clients enumerable hours for my work).

The fortunate thing that I did, whether consciously or unconsciously, was not to spend the very large paychecks I was receiving every two weeks to compensate for the stress or my unhappiness. Although I haven't been eating ramen and sitting on milk crates, I didn't buy the new BMW 5-series or the $400,000 house in the suburbs that I "needed" in order to be a success.

At present, I'm re-evaluating what I really want to do with my life, rather than what the career path demands or other people expect. Having the cash cushion gives me the freedom to do so without worrying too much about money. My career has seemingly just started, so it's too early to hang it all up. However, I now know that I don't have to work for a pinhead partner who simply takes credit for my hard work or is so insecure that he'll sabotage my career just to maintain the facade that the client actually needs "his" advice. [Apologies for the venom, but I've had some time to reflect.]

As for the mental trigger for wanting to ER, I think it was gradual rather than an epiphany. It was the realization that I just didn't have to live the way that I was living, while I watched life pass my by. There are so many things I want to accomplish in life, and working late nights and weekends is not one of them. I've been there, done that, and I don't want to go back.
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?
Old 01-17-2005, 09:30 AM   #10
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?

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At present, I'm re-evaluating what I really want to do with my life, rather than what the career path demands or other people expect.
Po Bronson's "What Should I DO With My Life?", http://www.pobronson.com.
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?
Old 01-17-2005, 09:57 AM   #11
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?

Quote:
Po Bronson's "What Should I DO With My Life?", http://www.pobronson.com.

Sorry Nords, but I read the book and found it to be so much drivel. I understand the premise, but the case studies Bronson uses are completely inapplicable to me, and gave me very little -- if any -- insight into what I really want to do with my life. In fact, the book simply seemed to be all about Bronson rather than the people he interviewed -- almost a catharsis exercise.

Not to hijack the thread, but at present I'm following a very simple analysis. I'm drafting five lists:

Dreams List -- an item-by-item list of what I would do with my life if I had unlimited time, talent, and money.

Goals List -- a list of the specific results I want to accomplish during the next twelve months in both my business and personal lives.

Values list -- a prioritized list of what I believe is most important to me in terms of relationships, concepts and feelings.

Action Plans -- a list of the objectives or steps that must be completed in the successful accomplishment of each of my goals.

Daily Activities list -- a prioritized list of all the individual activities, both business and personal, that I intend to accomplish during the current calendar month. The priorities determine those activities I intend to accomplish during the current day.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled program.
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?
Old 01-17-2005, 10:21 AM   #12
 
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?

My dad was an engineer who worked until he was 70. Everyone else I know typically retired at 62 or 65. So I had pretty much thought that 62 was the earliest I could escape the rat race.

My parents were very frugal. I had adopted some of their habits and was living beneath my means, but was still spending money a bit frivolously by retire early (RE) standards.

I was idly typing things into Google about 6 years ago, when I thought of typing "retire early" just to see what, if anything, would turn up. I got a ton of hits. Then started sifting through them. Most of them were junk. Then I ran across intercst's site www.retireearlyhomepage.com

It was like hitting a gold mine! He had a ton of spreadsheets that I could play with to my heart's content, he had great advice on how much you need to have saved-up before you could retire (25X your living expenses), he had himself as an example of someone who had reitred early (at 38!), he had great advice on investments (to avoid financial planners, to seek out ultra-low cost funds like Vanguard's, etc.)

With this lode of RE information, I figured out what I needed to reach financial independence (FI). I cranked-up my savings rate to 35%, moved my investments to Vanguard mutual funds, and started researching the early retirement packages at work. I got to FI a little over a year ago. Now I'm so close to getting an early retirement package (Including health care benenfits) that it's worth my time to stick around the corporate world for a little longer. I'm still mulling over whether to leave at the end of '05 or work a few more years as my pension will grow about 6-8% per year for the next few years.

Regardless, having my "go to hell" stash of cash has lifted a huge load off my shoulders. It's amazing how free I feel. No longer do I feel like I have to keep chasing the elusive brass ring (the next promotion).

EngrGal
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?
Old 01-17-2005, 10:48 AM   #13
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?

I spent years wishing and hoping and planning and scheming my way into my Dream Job. I landed it in August 1989. Then I lost it in the recession of the early 90s. I found another job quick enough, but it wasn't the Dream Job. I hated it that that had been taken away from me, and I hated the feeling of financial vulnerability that forced me to settle for something less than what I truly wanted to do with my time.

From that time forward, I was determined to find A Better Way. The quest for A Better Way led me to the discovery of the book titled Your Money or Your Life. Joe Dominguez discusses lots of philosophical stuff in that book, but then there comes a point about two-thirds of the way through where he just says it plain and simple--it is totally realistic to believe that you can save enough to win financial freedom early in life.

There were clues as to where he was going with the argument a few pages before he actually said the words. I remember today how I felt when I was reading those pages. My heart started beating faster as I anticipated what was coming. I intentionally slowed down my reading pace so that I could enjoy the experience of the discovery just a little longer. Then I read the words where he just flat-out said it. I started jumping up and down and running around the room. When my wife got home, I started telling her about it and didn't stop talking for about two hours.

Joe Dominguez will always hold a special place in my heart for writing that book. That book changed my life. One time I was at a party and I mentioned that it was my favorite book ever and someone asked what was so special about it and I was struck dumb for a moment because I had so many things I wanted to say that I didn't know where to start. Fortunately at the boards I get to tell the story a little bit at a time, so that the chapters come in at least somewhat manageable lengths.
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?
Old 01-17-2005, 11:41 AM   #14
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?

Oh, man. "Fungible Billing Unit." It's enough to make me want to lie on the floor and bellow for whiskey.

The Nobel Prize for lifelong achievement in phrase-coining goes to the Great Gatsby. Really, really apt. Thanks.
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?
Old 01-17-2005, 01:58 PM   #15
 
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?

I had been planning on ER for 2 decades. But when my boss decided that he was going to 'change' my job, I went home and ran some numbers. I came in the next day and said that I thought about the new position and I decided to retire instead. -

Look on his face - Priceless
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?
Old 01-17-2005, 02:34 PM   #16
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?

I was layed off at age 49 and while looking for another - it dawned on me that I didn't need one.
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?
Old 01-17-2005, 03:02 PM   #17
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?

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Oh, man. *"Fungible Billing Unit." *It's enough to make me want to lie on the floor and bellow for whiskey.

The Nobel Prize for lifelong achievement in phrase-coining goes to the Great Gatsby. *Really, really apt. *Thanks.
I didn't coin the phrase, but it sounds like you (and probably many other people on this board) had an allergic reaction to the imagery it evokes. Nevertheless, being just another cog in the machine is an indisputable fact if you don't own the company (or the law firm). Adopting the opposite perspective (i.e., that you're indispensable) will only result in your learning that you're not, most likely during worst time (e.g., a downturn in the economy or when you don't win the office politics game).

From reading some of the posts, it appears that the mental ER switch flips on during two different circumstances: (1) reaching FI and an unacceptable working situation (or lack thereof), or (2) recognizing the fact that "if you're not busy living, you're busy dying". It's sad that most people will never come to the ER realization at a point in their lives when they can truly enjoy the idea of ER. They've painted themselves into a financial or psychological corner. Either they can't afford to ER (even on a minimum amount of money), or they can't mentally handle the idea of pursuing anything other than what they've been doing for a career.

Perhaps I'm being overly-simplistic in saying that "life is not about work -- it's about living," but what else could it be about?
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?
Old 01-17-2005, 03:40 PM   #18
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?

Quote:

I didn't coin the phrase, but it sounds like you (and probably many other people on this board) had an allergic reaction to the imagery it evokes. Nevertheless, being just another cog in the machine is an indisputable fact if you don't own the company (or the law firm). Adopting the opposite perspective (i.e., that you're indispensable) will only result in your learning that you're not, most likely during worst time (e.g., a downturn in the economy or when you don't win the office politics game).
One of the biggest influences on me over the past several months was the movie/book Fight Club. I don't know of another work that's as blunt about our society's obsession with consuption and political correctness (with perhaps the exception of Office Space). Obviously this movie has been out there for several years ... it wasn't until after my flight to LAX that I watched the movie again with a much different perspective.

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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?
Old 01-17-2005, 04:27 PM   #19
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?

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Perhaps I'm being overly-simplistic in saying that "life is not about work -- it's about living," but what else could it be about?
I agree. Life is living for the NOW -- not the past or the future. Aristotle said that to live a good life meant being reflective and developing your capacity for wisdom, courage, generosity, and friendship.

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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?
Old 01-17-2005, 07:43 PM   #20
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Re: What (Mentally) Triggered your ER?

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What was the moment that you realized that you didn't have to work until a 'traditional' retirement age?

Was it a gradual transition? Was it a moment where the lightbulb kicked on and you said "wow, I don't need a job"? What outside influences contributed to your decision?
Combination of factors

1. DW chronic health problems. Basically for some years she had been playing in pain yet able to advance in her profession. It was taking a toll. The times when she had to be out for days at a time were becoming more frequent and if we were going to enjoy a long and happy life together, it was time to look for alternatives to the traditional 60ish retirement program.
2. I found myself in a situation where a coworker was attempting to sabotage my job, i.e. make me look bad, place blame, set himself up as the good guy in the bosses eye. Unfortunately my boss bought into this charming fellow's line of BS and life in the work place became less than satisfactory. Again, what were my options for the future, if my career proceeded on this track it sure wasn't going to be much fun, and my options for changing jobs were very limited, if they existed at all. Why not figure out a way to join DW in some kind of pre 60 year age out?
3. The actual investigation of my retirement benefits. They always existed, but like most I'd just never truly taken a good look at what was offered to employees of the agency I work for, the numbers, the age restrictions, health benefits, etc. What I found was remarkable, while the actual financial payout would be minimal, employees with as little as 5 years of service could receive a pension as young as age 50. Obviously the more years of service, the better the reward, but that age would become our targets (DW and myself) to develop a seven-year plan. We made this discovery at DW's age 43, my age 43 & 1/2.
4. Pretax savings. Now that we realized there was a light at the 50 tunnel, we crunched the numbers and calculated what our pension benefit would be at that age, and it just was very minimal, basically about $1250 each. Nevertheless we determined that we could survive on 30k a year, and it would be inflation indexed (cola'd) to attempt to keep up its buying power. The PLAN called for us to begin to ramp up savings into our respective 457 accounts (like a 401k) for the remaining 7 years to give us a fund to draw fun money from for those items outside of normal living expenses, i.e. travel, crafts, and of course guitars.
5. Other interests. We discovered numerous time consuming activities during our time together that we enjoyed a whole lot more than working at our present jobs. However these other hobbies and crafts, and their associated costs would likely not generate significant income. The sooner we could get out of the daily grind with basic expenses covered, the sooner we could devote our time to those things that we enjoy.

Cut to the chase. It was realizing six years ago that FIRE was something we both wanted and needed, then determining it was in fact possible. Even though there have been some rocks in the road, there have also been some major milestones realized along the way, including finding this great site.
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