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Old 08-02-2010, 06:56 PM   #1
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Success Stories

Not sure if there is already a thread for this but if there is, I apologize.

One of my favorite things to read on this forum are success stories of those who have or are very close to FIRE. I figured why not start a thread compiling everyone in that category's success stories?

So if you have FIRE'd yourself or are very close to FIRE'ing yourself tell us your success story. What age did you FIRE? What was the road to FIRE like for you? Is FIRE everything you dreamed of? Any unusual circumstances along the way?

I love to dream through others success stories so I look forward to hearing them.
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Old 08-02-2010, 11:25 PM   #2
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In the long years of reading this forum after w*rk each night, the posts here gave me faith that FIRE was truly possible, despite the overwhelming odds and obstacles. So I totally understand your wanting to read some first-hand accounts. I know from personal experience that they are the best defense against Sunday-night nausea.

Eight yrs ago I was broke, dejected, and unemployed after a grueling, six-month j*b search. I took a hard look at my situation and realized I had never really understood the connection between happiness and finance. It's a connection that my quasi-religious upbringing and liberal-arts education had always denied. What a lie.

I was "reborn" as a rabid, prospective FIREee. I studied Terhorst, Dominguez & Robin, and Bogle like holy works. Everything I did was with the goal of relieving myself of the need to trade my time for resources. Eventually I found w*rk, and I began a life of minimal consumption and maximum investment.

Along the way I bought two rental properties. They have been huge sources of stress and frustration for me. Both have dropped drastically in value, and, ironically, the financial obligations, seen and unseen, that they represent are now the biggest threat to a comfortable FIRE for me. Needless to say, I have realized that I'm not cut out to invest in real estate. I realize that other people are.

Stocks and bonds are what make me warm and fuzzy. As much as possible of every paycheck went into index funds and ETFs. No stock-picking and no market-timing. Just continual, mechanical investing. I also did my best to be as valuable as possible to my employers, and I was able to double my salary within about six yrs. I also w*rked side jobs--sometimes two at a time. Every extra dollar went into the FIRE fund. I felt like a warrior feverishly building a fortress against the evil forces trying to enslave me. But they were unwittingly supplying me with bricks!

Early this year FireCalc said I had enough "FU money." The atmosphere at w*rk had been declining steadily for a couple of yrs, confirming my sad suspicion that all j*bs, even good j*bs, eventually decay into something absurd and grotesque. I gave a month's notice and bowed out as professionally as I could.

That was in April. Since then I have been travelling, fishing, seeing friends and family, and generally engaging in not-work. It is a very fulfilling activity, and I heartily recommend it!
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Old 08-02-2010, 11:59 PM   #3
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Good thread and good first story Onward! I hope to read many more.
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Old 08-03-2010, 10:32 AM   #4
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I felt like a warrior feverishly building a fortress against the evil forces trying to enslave me. But they were unwittingly supplying me with bricks!

Early this year FireCalc said I had enough "FU money."
It seems we had a somewhat similar path to FIRE. I can really relate to your statements above.

Thank you for sharing.
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Old 08-03-2010, 02:09 PM   #5
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Good thread and good first story Onward! I hope to read many more.
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Old 08-03-2010, 02:48 PM   #6
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My story is pretty boring really, but here I am 6 months into retirement at age 55 and loving every minute of it.

At age 37 I found myself starting with my 4th company and my 3rd defined benefit pension scheme and I thought, "this sucks, I keep having to start over with pensions, there must be a better way". So I asked a couple of my friends and colleagues at work that I thought could help and they pointed me in the right direction in that I should immediately start socking money away into the company's 401(k) plan and start to teach myself about investing. (my previous companies were English with no such plans).

Lots of reading later I had learned about Asset Allocations, Diversification, time horizons etc, and I decided for me I was definitely going to try and "be" the market rather than beat it. I had a great ride in the 90's with the investments, then had 3 consecutive losing years but kept to my AA (very tough, and pleased to have DW backing me all the way).

Despite worries about company take-overs and losing the pension as many others did, I was VERY lucky none of that happened and I and DW both retired this year as soon as I hit 55 and qualified for ER on the pension plan. The pensions are not COLA'ed but initially they cover 65% of budgeted expenses so I need to only draw down enough from investments to cover the other 35% plus inflation.
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How I was able to retire Early
Old 08-03-2010, 03:29 PM   #7
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How I was able to retire Early

I started out penny-less...

I slept under the freeway overpass and ate out of refuse bins. Life was hard.

Then I found a quarter in the gutter. I used that quarter to buy an apple which I sold on a stand on a street corner for 50 cents. I then used that money to buy two apples and then sold them for a total of a dollar. A dollar then became two dollars. That went on over and over.

And then I cashed in my Trust Fund.

So that's my story on how to retire early. If you follow my path then you too can retire early.
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Old 08-03-2010, 04:27 PM   #8
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So if you have FIRE'd yourself or are very close to FIRE'ing yourself tell us your success story.
I always knew the value of a dollar since I grew up poor and stayed that way for a while. In 1974, when I was 16, I got a job at an insurance agency through a COE program at school.

I continued to work because I got married and it took two salaries to pay our bills. After several years, it didn't take both salaries so I started saving my paycheck. We got used to living on one check and enjoyed watching the savings grow. Megacorp came along for the both of us and offered a pension plan and 401K. We took advantage of the 401K and started learning about diversification and the stock market.

I left my job at Megacorp in 1998 when I was 41 years old as we were in good financial shape. DH continued to work as he enjoyed his job with all the benefits. He also enjoyed me staying home so he could focus on his career while I took care of everything else. It wasn't until a few years later I learned about SWR and the financial calculators available that could project retirement success (or failure); this made me want to learn more so I became more focused on investments and being debt free.

Fortunately, my perseverance paid off because we are now both retired and have been since February of last year.

Being retired and financially independent is a dream come true.

.....or in a nutshell, this is what it says on my profile biography....

Grew up poor...worked...saved...was lucky...retired.
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Old 08-03-2010, 05:37 PM   #9
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I pretty much stumbled into FIRE. I put myself through college, and as the draft was still in effect, I figured a pilot in the AF was better than a grunt with a gun. I stayed because it was fun, well for most of the time.

When I retired from the AF, turns out I could have FIRED then. However, the thought of not working just never came up! It just seemed natural to start a second career. I went into 'the family business' and became a real estate appraiser. That lead to running an appraisal department for a mega bank. After about ten years of that I was given the opportunity to retire again after a bank merger.

This started a third career. DW was a teacher, however, when we were in the AF, and working for the bank, she did not work. We returned home, and she got a teaching job. I started my own business programming appraisal tracking system for banks. This I would call semi retired. While doing this, I was offered an opportunity to become an MIS director for a county official that had just been elected. I took the job because of the challenge. It was 1999, and there were 750 employees, and 14 locations, and NO PC's! The job was to get the main frame through year 2000 and then convert to PC's. Once more I took a job because it seemed like fun.

Seven years ago I found this forum. DW and I had purchased "the lot of her dreams" on a lake with lots of trees. I spent several years designing a house to fit on the lot. DW was busy teaching school and installing systems. Then I found this forum. The more I read the more I wondered if we were FI. I began to more closely track our expenses. This was one of the key exercises in our realization that we were FI. I realized, with some reading here, that I had more than enough to retire. However, work was still enjoyable, so we decided to build the house and be 'Weekenders' for a couple of years. Six months after the house was finished, it was the end of the school year, the pull of the lake was enormous, both of us quit our jobs, and we both FIRE'd!

So I never really had a plan to FIRE. However, all that stumbling around left us with three pensions (one COLA'd), my SS, DW's SS, DW's 401K, my 401k, and no debt other than a small mortgage on the house which should be paid off next year.

So I guess you could say that our route to retirement was multi-legged, without a plan. My advice for what it is worth has been said before here. Life is short, live it to the fullest, and know your expenses, the income seems to take care of itself.

grew up middle class, worked, had fun, saved, married well, and got REAL lucky!!!
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Old 08-03-2010, 07:32 PM   #10
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I'm really enjoying hearing these stories, and learning more about forum members lives and their path to FIRE. Keep'm coming!
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(49, married; DH 53. I am fully retired as of 2015 (well ok, I still work part-time but only because I love the job and have complete freedom to call off if I want to travel with hubby for work), DH hopes to fully retire 2018 when he turns 55 to access 401K penalty-free...although he may decide to do part-time consulting)
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Old 08-03-2010, 09:40 PM   #11
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DW and I are in the midst of our "accumulation phase"... its a grind to put it mildly. It is stories like these on this thread that help keep us (mostly me) going. I have seven years until I'm 45 and it is then that I will exit the meatgrinder that is my career, and I am soaking up the sage advice by those who have preceded me in the hopes that I am in the best position possible to enjoy my life.

Most of all, I want to be able to participate in the the FIRE thread "What did you do today?", and post the reply, "Whatever I wanted....".
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Old 08-04-2010, 01:10 AM   #12
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As I approached the military's 20-year retirement, I spent a lot of time with the self-assessment software and career-search books. After extensive research I learned that submariners make great mid-level managers and nuclear engineers. Gee, really?

Later I was kvetching to my father that I didn't see anything attractive about a post-military career. He said, "Why would you want to do that? Didn't you save any money when you were working?" It had never occurred to me (or to at least 85% of my peers) that I might have a choice.

We'd been tracking our expenses and investing for some time, so we started learning about the details of asset allocation and SWRs. Between "Your Money or Your Life" and FinancialEngines.com we figured it out. A few months after I ER'd we found Greaney's REHP and this board.
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Old 08-04-2010, 06:22 AM   #13
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I'm another one who has sort of stumbled into FIRE. I worked in IT for 25 years and was always pretty clueless about investments - I just put as much as I could into my 401k because I didn't know what else to do with my savings. If I had known some basics about asset allocation and rebalancing withing my 401k, I'd probably be in better shape than I am now, but, I have no complaints. Also, I've always lead a simple lifestyle - that just came naturally to me and I never felt like I was denying myself anything just to save money. I'm single, no children, and always figured that I could retire early at age 55. I mean nobody retires before 55, right?

Somewhere around age 45 it occurred to me that I should start looking at my finances to see if I really could retire at 55. Still clueless, I signed up with Ameriprise and worked with one of their FA's for a couple of years. That experience left a bad taste in my mouth and I decided to see if I could manage my own investments rather than paying some FA a high annual fee for the rest of my life to do it for me. I started Googling about ER and investing, I found this site, I read the Bobleheads Guide To Investing, and for the first time in my life, I felt that I could manage my own investments wisely, and at least as well as the Ameriprise FA was doing. I also realized I was in far better shape to FIRE than I ever imagined.

At age 48, I was laid off from my j*b in IT. I wasn't too worried financially but wasn't exactly sure what to do at that point. That's when I wrote my 1st post here, got some other opinions on my financial situation, and it gradually sunk in that I could call this FIRE. That was a little over a year ago, and the past year has been great!!! Probably the best year I've had since my last year at college. I'm thoroughly enjoying every single day and when I bump into former co-workers, they always say how great I look - I've lost weight, I look soooo relaxed and happy. (Did I look that bad before? ).

Like I said, I sort of stumbled into FIRE. Always having a LBYM lifestyle, and lucky to get laid off at just the right point in my life, I could not be much happier than I am right now.
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Old 08-04-2010, 06:28 AM   #14
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I don't consider myself a success story at all...just a survivor of the vicissitudes of life. I now think that at times I must have lived my 20's, 30's and 40's in some kind of fog...just meeting the things that cropped up on a day to day basis as best I could wtih no real thought or planning. I guess I figured my husband would take care of all that. Story of my adult life in a nutshell: college, marriage, work, kid, housewife, back to work, lost husband, my fifties(still working). It is only recently that I have begun to educate myself as to finances and investment and make lifestyle choices with the goal of retirement planning. It is never too late!
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Old 08-04-2010, 06:51 AM   #15
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I don't consider myself as successful in FIRE. Heck, I retired as an "old guy" when I turned 59 ...
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Old 08-04-2010, 07:25 AM   #16
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I didn't FIRE, I timidly semi-retired at the ambiguous age of 61. It took me two years to decide we had saved enough; another year to realize that my profession was a job (a damn good one) but not all there was to my life, and finally a year or so to let the Great Recession recede. Modest background and middle class upbringing, no inheritance to speak of.

That's what worked for me all around. Not exactly an inspiring, dramatic story, I guess. Aside from driving a few fellow forum members nuts, I have no regrets about my decisions.

Just a reminder that not all FIRE stories involve torture chambers in corporate America, bosses from hell, toxic boredom, living on $1.29 a day for 14 years, a large pension, or a sudden move to Thailand.
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Old 08-04-2010, 07:43 AM   #17
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Just a reminder that not all FIRE stories involve torture chambers in corporate America, bosses from hell, toxic boredom, living on $1.29 a day for 14 years, a large pension, or a sudden move to Thailand.
Gee, I was going to post about how I lived a life of immense self-sacrifice and overcame tremendous odds, but here comes Rich to pee rain on my parade...
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Old 08-04-2010, 08:25 AM   #18
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I did not forsee being able to retire early until I was in my late 30s (late 1990s). However, besides always LBYM, these are the key decisions which led to my ER in late 2008 at age 45:

(1) Knowing at age 20 that I never wanted to have kids.

(2) Paying off my student loans (only about $8k) by age 24.

(3) Starting to invest in mutual funds at age 27.

(4) Refinancing my mortgage at age 28.

(5) Starting to invest in stock mutual funds at age 31.

(6) Paying off my mortgage at age 35.

(7) Semi-retiring at age 38 so I could reclaim my life and lessen my lousy commute.

(8) Being lucky enough to work for a company which went from not-for-profit to for-profit in the mid-1990s and whose company stock rose 3000% in 12 years.

(9) Found a good, high-yield (not junk) bond fund to invest proceeds ($300k) of the company stock when the economic downturn depressed its NAV in late 2008 to boost my ongoing monthly dividends. (See my signature line.)

No kids, no debts. My recipe for retiring at age 45.
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Old 08-04-2010, 08:28 AM   #19
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Gee, I was going to post about how I lived a life of immense self-sacrifice and overcame tremendous odds, but here comes Rich to pee rain on my parade...

Ahhh... go for it.
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Old 08-04-2010, 09:45 AM   #20
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the meatgrinder that is my career
I love that word "meatgrinder." It's so ... vivid and accurate.

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I now think that at times I must have lived my 20's, 30's and 40's in some kind of fog...
I feel exactly the same way, up till my late 30s when I "got religion" and vowed not to be an economic pawn any more.
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