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Why is FIRE so bittersweet?
Old 06-16-2020, 07:10 PM   #1
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Why is FIRE so bittersweet?

Hello Forum -

I learned about FIRE about a year ago from a friend that off-handedly recommended I check out FIRECALC when I asked what he did to be able to quit his job. What a rabbit hole this has been!

Hoping to get some feedback on our plan - but also some input on the crazy emotions that come into play with this whole thing (at least for me anyway).

Info:
- 42yrs old, my partner 38 and our son 2.
- NW $4.5mm
- Investments: $2.5mm ($1.7mm taxable, $800k IRA/401k/Roth)
- Portfolio makeup: 60/40, VG, 4 funds including int'l
- Real Estate: CA house $1.6mm, WA house $300k ($785/mo income)
- Cash ~$100k
- No debt
- Current Expenses: $107k/yr (in the last 12 months, lots of fat to trim)
- Retired Expenses: $100k/yr (accounts for $20k/yr health insurance)

Our basic plan is to save up to about $200k in the next 6-12 months which is totally doable given our income stream. Then FIRE sometime early next year and spend some time figuring out where we'd like to relocate to. Ideally we live off of cash for a year or two cruising around. Find a place (likely in the Pacific NW) to call home and buy a nice but reasonable place there with the proceeds of our CA property. At that point we'd plan to invest at least $800k into our taxable account - pushing our portfolio to ~$3.3mm still with no debt.

We are expecting some withdrawals to pay for college when it is time ($200k over 4 yrs in 16 yrs) and even with that we are FIRECALC'ing OK.

Thoughts?

On the emotional side of things - did (or does) anyone else have a bittersweet feeling? Some days it tears my gut apart to think about working one more day and not being able to help raise my boy and call the shots on how I spend my time. Then other days I see meaning and purpose in my work and I think... it's not so bad. Anyone else feel this way prior to making an exit?

Thanks for creating such a great community - hoping to be able to talk to some folks more candidly about these things then I can with nearly everyone else in my life.

2ndAct@42
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Old 06-16-2020, 07:54 PM   #2
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If I had your assets and plan, I would be already be gone. I think you are good to go, especially if you have the padding in the Budget. Life is too short. You have done very well!
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Old 06-16-2020, 09:15 PM   #3
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Everyone is different on feelings about work after FI. I imagine that more people in their 40s would feel attraction of still working for the enjoyment.

We have two close couple friends in their mid-50s who have been working for the anticipated grandchildren. Both were exposed to downtime because of lockdowns. One guy is United Global Services road warrior for an international oil/gas company--he typically is on the road internationally, but now is zooming from home--and discovered that he enjoyed the time with his wife and in the house/neighborhood. He's applied for a buyout that the company is tendering and will likely be retired this year.

The other guy, however, is an orthopedic surgeon and was figuratively experiencing DTs at being unable to do surgeries. Once his hospital opened elective surgeries back up, he was a happy camper. So for him, despite an enviable financial position, he won't be retiring in his 50s. (Then again, he can take a week off every month, which mitigates the work factor!).

Only you and your spouse can make the decision--and most people can go back in some capacity if they decide they made the wrong call. So don't unnecessarily burn any bridges if you decide to R.E. after F.I.

And yeah, 42!! Congrats.
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Old 06-16-2020, 10:08 PM   #4
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We retired about your current ages no kids though. Nothing bitter about it, frankly. I had long given up on the idea of work being a source of sanity, let alone meaning or purpose in my life. I had confidence that striking out on my own would bring new fulfillments as there were so many things I was eager to do and explore.
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Old 06-17-2020, 04:40 AM   #5
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FIRE'd 3 years now. No bitter, all sweet!
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Old 06-17-2020, 05:37 AM   #6
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During my last few years of w*rk, restructuring made things bitter. I exited on my terms ~3 years ago and retirement has been sweet. I left the bitter back there.
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Old 06-17-2020, 05:41 AM   #7
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Welcome to our wonderful forum.
On a simple basis, you would have a 3.0%WR without any SS. You should be good to go.
Life is short. I could not have retired in my 40's (vs 57), but would have if I could have and I also mainly liked my job.
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Old 06-17-2020, 06:09 AM   #8
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Nothing bitter about it.
7 years after ER for me and DH it still feels great, even though we did enjoy (most of) our jobs before.
There is so much to do and to learn, we are still waiting to get bored.
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Old 06-17-2020, 06:16 AM   #9
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I think... it's not so bad.
Well, that's high praise indeed!
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Old 06-17-2020, 06:46 AM   #10
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Mostly sweet for me, but of course there is always some bitter mixed life and work. Life isn't perfect same as work but have to find a way to make it a positive thing.
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Old 06-17-2020, 07:09 AM   #11
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I miss the community of people that I worked with, seeing them everyday, socializing casually. But your mention of meaning and purpose is in play for me as well. Most of my life I worked in the world of nonprofit fundraising (my last job was here in Switzerland and my wife and I decided to stay on). There was a lot of satisfaction in seeing how my skills and labor directly helped the organizations I worked for. In addition, it was very gratifying to help people to act on their values and thus become philanthropists (regardless of the amount of giving---I've shepherded multi-million dollar gifts during my career but the best and most memorable for me was one for just $3; but that's another story!).

But I don't miss the hell of the work itself and the pressure of steadily increasing demands to raise more and more each year. I loved the donors and the missions; the workplace BS not so much. So, now I do pro bono consulting here and there...just enough (like once a year or so) to keep my hand in. These clients often initially offer to pay me and I politely decline (although I tell them to keep their expectations of me the same as if they paid for my services). This now doesn't feel like work; I'm a volunteer.
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Old 06-17-2020, 07:26 AM   #12
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Financial independence is one thing. Retire early might be different. I consider us, DH/me retired. But, DH wanted to keep his foot in the door, keep in contact with friends and colleagues in the industry. He consults from home earning @ $42K/year. I'd say he works < 20 hours a week.
-We are debt free
-Live on approx. $60K/year but Firecalc gives 100% at $130K/year spending
It all depends on your perception of Retire Early. Financial Independence is key, IMHO. You look like you're financially independent. What do you want to do with your time?
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Old 06-17-2020, 07:31 AM   #13
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I think it all depends on what your job was before you retired. The other posters are right in that you will not miss the pettyness of office politics, the cruelty of corporate life and the lack of hours that you could call your own. But the loss of purpose is real, especially if you were in any kind of leadership position. Hard to explain, but the best way that I can describe it is that though your life can remain large, you sense of size in the world can get a lot smaller. You become a small fish in a big ocean. If you were used to managing big projects, directing big teams and dealing with big budgets then all that goes away. I know this is all BS anyway but this responsibility has been something that defined you for years and now its gone. The fact that you are retiring early also means that you know you still have the capacity to do more big efforts but are choosing to not tap that capacity. The sooner you can accept that you are fine with being an unimportant little minnow the faster you can get over this, but it is real, especially for so many of us who were defined by what we did at work. There is a personal challenge buried in this and you have to really learn to be really humble. Basically you are chucking all of the status elements that were in your life before away and then shrinking your sense of self to fit.
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Old 06-17-2020, 07:40 AM   #14
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I did mostly enjoy my work, and was blessed with wonderful coworkers and an awe-inspiring manager. So I did have some bittersweet feelings when I stepped away from that world last August. I figured I'd miss it for awhile at least, but was surprised that I've hardly missed it at all! Just a few small pangs lately with the lockdowns, when I've thought, "Geez, if I'd know this virus thing was coming, I might have worked another year."

Regarding moving to the PNW: you do realize it rains here nine months out of the year, right?
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Old 06-17-2020, 08:03 AM   #15
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Or one could turn into an oldster like some around here, who still expect to roll over everybody the way they apparently did at work.

I haven't observed a lot of humility, to tell the truth.
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Originally Posted by Puravida1 View Post
I think it all depends on what your job was before you retired. The other posters are right in that you will not miss the pettyness of office politics, the cruelty of corporate life and the lack of hours that you could call your own. But the loss of purpose is real, especially if you were in any kind of leadership position. Hard to explain, but the best way that I can describe it is that though your life can remain large, you sense of size in the world can get a lot smaller. You become a small fish in a big ocean. If you were used to managing big projects, directing big teams and dealing with big budgets then all that goes away. I know this is all BS anyway but this responsibility has been something that defined you for years and now its gone. The fact that you are retiring early also means that you know you still have the capacity to do more big efforts but are choosing to not tap that capacity. The sooner you can accept that you are fine with being an unimportant little minnow the faster you can get over this, but it is real, especially for so many of us who were defined by what we did at work. There is a personal challenge buried in this and you have to really learn to be really humble. Basically you are chucking all of the status elements that were in your life before away and then shrinking your sense of self to fit.
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Old 06-17-2020, 08:24 AM   #16
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Welcome.
Financially, it looks like you are good.
Mentally, not sure.
What to you want to retire TO, rather than From a job?
Have you read Ernie Zelinski "How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free"? It has a great Get a Life Tree exercise. Good info
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Old 06-17-2020, 08:36 AM   #17
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Puravida is spot on. Your identity and value can get very wrapped up in work and it can be difficult to have that loss. I found I got over it pretty quickly, but not everyone does. The upside is that at 42, if you find there’s something you’re missing, you’re still young enough for a second act in the workplace. And being FI gives you choices. This has been the biggest ‘aha’ for me. My old employer tried to hire me back for a short term job last month. Part of me wanted to do it, but the more I got pulled in, the more I realized what a nightmare it was going to be. Nope, not interested.

We have young kids and have kind of half pulled the plug. DH still consults and his income covers about half of our expenses, though they’re higher than yours. He’d like to continue consulting for a few years, if the work is there.

A few things to think about, in case you haven’t. Are more kids potentially on the way? Kids are expensive and those expenses can be unpredictable. We started both kids education funds early, but didn’t fund them fully the first few years. Now at 2&5 this is 20+K a year. Also, make sure you’ve got full health insurance and dental in there. We’re closer to 30m medical for a family of 4, once you account for deductibles, out of pockets, etc... All it takes is developing one health issue and those numbers increase significantly. There are lots more little things like this and the reality is that of course you can live on your projected expenses, especially if you relocate to a lower col area. But you might be cutting some things you may be taking for granted on your incomes now and with kids the ‘extras’ many people assume they’ll provide for their kids add up fast.
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Old 06-17-2020, 08:44 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by audreyh1 View Post
We retired about your current ages no kids though. Nothing bitter about it, frankly. I had long given up on the idea of work being a source of sanity, let alone meaning or purpose in my life. I had confidence that striking out on my own would bring new fulfillments as there were so many things I was eager to do and explore.
+1. All sweet, no bitter.

I also had a fear (although slight) that I was retiring way too young and that my life may not have purpose. I was fortunate in that I had a j*b that I did enjoy (most days) but it was a means to an end...and ultimately I decided that my life was not going to revolve around having to w*rk (a four letter word if you notice) and that I could find other things to occupy my time.

Now, almost 6 years into this, and I have never been happier. It's difficult to explain, but as I have mentioned before on the forum, I think being FIREd is akin to summer time as a kid. Remember when you were out of school for the summer? The freedom? The excitement? The fun?!? For me, FIRE is very much like that except now I don't HAVE to go home when the streetlights come on if I don't want to!

In the end, the freedom has been the best part. Being retired has allowed me to go back to school for something I would have never done otherwise. It allowed me to give my full attention and duty to my Dad in his last months/days and I have been able to give 100% of my attention to my DW while she had a major surgery and now radiation. I have not been tied down by a j*b dictating that I share my time with "the man".

I know...a wall of words. It appears that you have your financial ducks in a row and I can understand the trepidation of leaving something you have become so accustomed to. Nonetheless, I FULLY recommend retiring as early as you can. I don't think you would have any regrets.
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Old 06-17-2020, 08:52 AM   #19
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Nothing bitter about it, frankly.
+1
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FIRE'd 3 years now. No bitter, all sweet!
+1
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Nothing bitter about it.
7 years after ER for me and DH it still feels great, even though we did enjoy (most of) our jobs before.
There is so much to do and to learn, we are still waiting to get bored.
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+1. All sweet, no bitter.
+1

There's nothing bitter about it, IF you (the OP) are ready to retire. Sounds to me like you are not actually confident that this is what you want to do.

My username used to be "Want2Retire", until I retired in 2009. And believe me, I really wanted to retire! No ambivalence at all and retirement has been even better than I had hoped.

Making the decision to retire is not trivial. The ability to make good, well thought out decisions and follow through on them (rather than waffling) is something I actually learned at work. Back then it was part of what I got paid for, and in retirement this ability has served me well.
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Old 06-17-2020, 09:27 AM   #20
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Being retired is pretty darned good; I don't miss work one bit.

I would suggest gardening as a post retirement activity. The weather, weeds and bugs don't care at all how important you were or thought you were. They'll try to destroy your crop all the same. And when you've finally coaxed that perfectly ripe, beautiful and delicious heirloom tomato from the the plant to your plate, you'll have a satisfaction that no job can give you. We have a plot at the community garden. Most of the other gardeners are also retirees. I could not tell you what a single one of them did for work, and they don't know what I did. We talk about what we've planted, how it's growing, what might help with the pests, how we are coping with the weather, what we might try next year and such. Just a bunch of people who enjoy a wholesome activity out in the sunshine and fresh air.
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