Remember Jake, who used geo-arbitrage to escape the rat race? We’re back in the Monevator snug to hear from the man himself whether his FIRE reality has lived up to the dream, one year on.
I have often found myself reflecting on life during the last 12 months. Especially so at a funeral I recently attended.
It was nice to hear all the stories and kind words that people had to say about this individual. Inspiring to hear how positive they were during their lifetime. A glass half-full kind of person.
I have had inflection points like this before. Unfortunately over time the light dims on them.
This time I aspire to be more intentional. There are only a limited number of good healthy years left.
FIRE by the numbers
Financially our first 12 months of FIRE went well. Our net worth on 1 Jan 2024 stood at £964,000.
For the sake of clarity, the net worth in my original FIRE-side chat was the value I took on a random day in early 2023. Specifically our net worth (excluding our house) on 1 Jan 2023 was £845,000.
This net worth figure climbed above £900,000 (again excluding our house) for the first time in June and stayed above that level for most of the rest of the year, with the brief exception of October.
We spent just under £32,000 during the year. That amounts to a 3.77% withdrawal rate.
We had been heading for a 3.30% withdrawal rate with a total spend of just under £28,000. But at the end of December we booked a 2024 family holiday at a cost of £4,000.
One caveat to our 2023 spending is we did not go on holiday. Instead we had plenty of family days out during the school holidays. Although we did book and pay for that 2024 holiday, we’ve yet to enjoy it!
There was approximately £3,000 of spending on a few (hopefully) non-regular bits, including some plumbing and insulation work.
Investing in the face of inflation
All the asset values in our net worth are nominal, and of course our net worth in real terms has been impacted by the recent high inflation.
We are heavily invested in equities, which hopefully will offset some of the negative effects of inflation.
Still no bonds and we’re still overweight America. I know this goes against the conventional wisdom out there. But currently I seem to have a mental block as I can’t bring myself to diversify into bonds and a world tracker. I may have to learn this lesson the hard way.
Having neither worked nor received any salary for a year, it’s a slightly surreal feeling that our nominal net worth has increased during this time – despite 12 month’s worth of spending being deducted.
It’s notable too that thanks to the price of most things we buy going up with high inflation, our bills are bigger than I might have expected had inflation remained subdued.
We are in the fortunate position that we don’t have a mortgage, and thus have not suffered at the hands of higher interest rates like so many homeowners.
During the past year I’ve attempted to adjust my mindset towards being more flexible with our spending, as opposed to my previous accumulation, saving, and investing mindset. The decisions and actions we took before are not necessarily what’s appropriate in our de-accumulation life.
I don’t mean spending large amounts of money on unnecessarily expensive items. Rather, spending little and often so we can enjoy days out together as a family, especially while our children are young.
I still look for value for money. But I want to put more emphasis on the joy that our family will gain from these experiences.
We’ve still not told people in our local area of our situation as financially independent early retirees. Only our family and old friends are aware we’re no longer working.
Most of the people we know in our local area are parents whom we’ve met via our children. I’ve observed the way some of them talk about money, finances, and wealthy acquaintances. The impression I have is that a lot of our new network are middle-earners who appear to put more emphasis on spending money, rather than saving and investing.
I think some may have mindsets too entrenched to appreciate the long-term hard work, planning, difficult decisions, grit, and delayed gratification that helped us arrive at where we currently are.
In contrast, having lived through it I’m obviously well aware of all the work I did that provided the money that I then invested, which in turn enabled me to leave that world in the rear-view mirror.
During the last couple of years at work I had an on-going internal debate of when enough was enough. I could have carried on for another year or two for the extra money, or because I was scared and fearful of the risks involved. But mentally I felt I was in the fast lane to burnout. I needed to end the journey.
Going with the flow
It’s surprisingly difficult to explain how we’ve spent our time since I left work.
Our days are still structured around our children and the school run. Which, for example, stops us from spending the whole day away from home. But I really treasure the time on the school run. Children grow up so quickly and I missed this in the early years.
Some of my time has been spent recovering from the stress, anxiety, and tension that I felt daily while in the corporate world. I’m learning to try and look after and understand myself more. To be kinder to myself, to not to be so self-critical, or to put myself under unnecessary pressure. I keep reminding myself that I can slow down.
There are some days when I don’t want to do anything, so I don’t. My mood may be low. Doubts and negative thoughts can creep in. Then there are other days when I feel the need to accomplish something. It’s nice to be able to listen to my body and mind when deciding what to do for the day. Rather than having the decision taken out of my hands by the corporate machine, as in my previous life.
I often spend time outside in the garden tidying up or going for walks around the local area. This enables us to enjoy the simple pleasure of observing the changing seasons. I’m fishing again, which is a wonderful way to spend time outdoors close to nature. If the weather restricts me to indoors, I will potter about, listening to music, reading, catching up on Monevator articles, doing household admin (I still write to-do lists), planning little projects. Sometimes I like to just sit down in peace alone with my thoughts.
This may not sound as exciting as some envisage their future post-work life to be. The excitement comes in different forms. Being able to observe our children develop and grow – witnessing those moments that bring them joy and intrigue without the interruption of the next urgent work emergency – is priceless.
Five things that went as planned
Financially we were fortunate that the winds of the American markets were behind us in our first year. This helped ease the initial fears of dealing with the de-accumulation phase and sequence of return risk.
My wife and I are in this together as a team. We have a joint objective to enjoy and make the most of our new family lifestyle.
In moments of contemplation, I’ve realised that giving up employment is not as scary as I had built it up to be. It’s easy to focus on the worst-case scenarios and ignore the potential benefits.
There is a feeling of freedom to finally have control and independence over our time, finances, and our direction of travel as a family.
The work-related stress has disappeared and hopefully over time this will benefit my long-term health. I sometimes smile to myself at a distant memory of a former boss misunderstanding me once again.
Five things I’ve learned or recalibrated
I had a fear that my work had become the main part of my identity over such a long period of time. It was a very stressful and demanding role that I found little enjoyment and even less meaning in. The jury is still out as to whether I’ve managed to re-discover who I was before my sentence in the corporate world.
There is not as much time available as you dream there will be, especially with children. I have multiple ever-increasing to-do lists on the go at the same time. I’m not sure how we ever managed pre-FIRE!
I’m still trying to understand if I need more structure in my day, in addition to the school run. Fortunately, there are no imposed deadlines on discovering what works in my new reality.
I suspect I haven’t fully decompressed since leaving employment. Being able to relax is a skill I am slowing re-acquainting myself with.
I wrestle with the dilemma of whether I should tell people that I’m no longer working. I have almost been caught out on a couple of occasions when people have asked how work is going, or whether we have any time off over the holiday period.
After a long and sometimes frustrating journey, we arrived at destination FIRE. And just like that, we are already advancing into our second year of early retirement.
We have the freedom to live the life we want on our own terms. There are potential risks on the horizon and plenty of challenges to overcome. But we feel we’re in a better place to prosper as a family.
Thanks so much to Jake for letting us know how he’s faring with FIRE. It’s good to hear from the other side of the rainbow! But what do you think readers? Should we make such occasional post-FIRE follow-ups a feature of the FIRE-side chats, or would you rather we focused on new stories? Please let us know in the comments below, along with any reflections or questions about Jake’s experience.
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