On June 28th of this year, I passed something of a milestone. I have now lived over 1000 days without a paycheck. It’s the longest period in my adult life that I’ve gone without a single paycheck from an employer.
Through the application of a frugal lifestyle and careful management of our investments, we’ve been able to live a pretty incredible life during these 1000 days — traveling around the world, eating delicious high-quality food, living in a nice home, and raising two wonderful children.
Honestly, I couldn’t ask for anything more out of life. I literally have everything I could possibly want from life and our investment portfolio continues to grow, ensuring that we’ll never run out of money .
It’s an amazing life, but I wasn’t always this confident. My life has changed considerably over these last 1000 days…
Day Zero was the day I received my very last paycheck. I was less than pleased with my life that day. My former employer, (for which I’d worked incredibly hard) let me go like so much trash. It left me with a bad impression of the corporate world.
It wasn’t a personal decision of course, they laid everybody off in our office. The company had made a strategic financial decision to close the office on the west coast (the main office was in NYC) and they laid-off everybody.
Nobody was spared, or given the option to remain employed. We all had to start looking for work.
I guess those facts should have made me feel a little better, but the layoff still stung. I’d worked really hard for that company, putting in 50 or 60 hours a week (including my weekends). I’d been rewarded for all that hard work too — I got promoted and ended-up managing a small team of 8 employees.
I was responsible for making big decisions that impacted the company to the tune of millions of dollars in any given month… so I felt pretty important.
After the layoff, I was reminded just how unimportant I really was.
I realized then, I was only an employee. In today’s world, employees are commodities. Easily replaceable commodities in the giant pool of global employment. Most jobs can now be moved across the globe to whatever low cost location where the company can find the skills and manpower to replace you.
Labor no longer matters. It’s capital that matters now.
A Life With Less Fear
So I have a theory. The theory is that employees work hard mainly out of fear. Fear of keeping the boss happy so they won’t get laid off. Fear of running out of money. Fear of not being able to pay their mortgage or keep up with car payments. The fear of having less than others.
NOT because they love the work. They work hard because they’re afraid of what might happen if they don’t.
In my own work life, I was afraid of running out of money like everyone else. Yes, I was afraid. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Even though I’d been carefully saving my money for over a decade, I was still scared.
I started Day Zero with that fear of “running out”, but over the course of the last 1000 days I’ve conquered my fear. I now live my life without fear because I know without a doubt that we’re not going to run out of money.
Even if my investments earn 0% for the rest of my life, I still have enough saved that I could comfortably live into my 80’s without touching social security or even my tax-advantaged retirement accounts.
I could live a really nice life like that.
Even better, the odds of earning 0% for the next 40-50 years seem extremely unlikely. There will certainly be market ups and downs during that time period, but it’s likely we’ll earn over 0% in the long-term.
That means my life is going to be filled with plenty … even without a job.
For most workers, it’s hard to imagine a life like that when you’re tied to the umbilical cord of a corporate job.
Arguably, I knew the Tako family was financially independent even before I got laid-off. I didn’t really need to be afraid, but fear isn’t rational like that.
Just like learning to swim, you fear the water until you’re experienced enough to know that you won’t drown. It takes time and practice to become a good swimmer, and feeling comfortable with financial independence is like that too.
You have to learn how to swim in the waters of life without a paycheck. That paycheck is like a pair of floaties — holding you up out of the water. Until you take them off, you won’t learn to swim.
Now, after 1000 days, I think I finally can say I have the experience and confidence to believe I won’t drown.
A Life That’s More Creative
My life has changed in other ways too. Before financial independence, I had very little room for creative expression. My days were spent either commuting to work, working, or coming home from work. What little free time I did have at home was usually spent taking care of our two boys.
I felt like a robot with no autonomy and it was soul sucking. The demands of work and family life pretty much ate up all of my spare time, and the only time left was for a couple hours of sleep.
Life is different now. Instead of living my life according to the demands of a corporate employer, I’m free to pursue my own ambitions in my spare time… and there actually is spare time!
I now have time for personal projects, the stuff of my own creation.
Not only am I writing on this blog, but I’m constantly experimenting with new food recipes and building whatever new ideas I can dream up.
It’s not just food either — in 2016 I built a coffee table and featured photos on this blog. I literally use it every day.
While I don’t often take on big furniture projects like that, I like to build things around the house like coat hooks, organizer boxes, and even little Linux cameras.
While these don’t seem like anything earth shattering, it’s a creative outlet. I could easily spend a few dollars to buy an equivalent coffee table or coat hook — but that’s not really the point!
I do it because it’s fun. I love building things no matter how simple they might be.
A Life That Costs About The Same
Depending upon which retirement camp you belong to, spending can either increase in early retirement (due to extra entertainment costs) OR spending will decrease from all the extra frugalness available to underemployed individuals.
Here’s the thing — outside of daycare expenses, we really haven’t seen big changes in our core spending. The biggest variable in our spending has actually turned out to be travel expenses. Depending upon where we choose to travel it can wildly affect our spending — Our 2016 vacation was a trip to Hawaii ($3000), 2017 was a trip to Japan ($2690), and 2018 was a trip to Texas ($2249). The cost of these trips varied significantly.
(You can read all about our travel adventures under the Travel category)
Daycare for the kids is an expense that’s going to end eventually too — Over the next couple of years our kids are starting school and we’ll be free of expensive childcare. I expect the part-time daycare expenses will eventually morph into smaller school expenses.
More free cash is a good thing!
So yes, my life has changed considerably over the last 1000 days, but not in the way I expected. My biggest challenge was getting use to not having a steady income and conquering that fear of “running out”
Kinda silly for a guy that retired with a net worth over $2 million dollars, right?!
Building the confidence to live without a steady paycheck does take some practice. I had to convince myself our spending wouldn’t really change and it took nearly three years of tracking our spending before I believed it.
So is it a better life than what I had before?
Indubitably. A life with less fear, and more time for creative pursuits feels like a life I want to live. While there are definitely “ups” and “downs” to a financially independent life, on balance there’s far more “ups” than there are “downs”.