1000 Days Without A Paycheck

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

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.

the box of shame
Have you ever commuted home with The Box Of Shame on public transportation? I have.

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.

Just like a pair of kid floaties — you won’t learn to swim until you finally lose the paycheck.

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.

Creating delicious food is one of my favorite creative outlets.

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.

My homemade coffee table. It only cost me the time to make.

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.

raspberry pi camera
Fun little projects like this Raspberry Pi camera keep my spare time filled with fun!

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.

Hawaiian Sunset
We’ve traveled to some pretty amazing places over the years…

(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!


Final Thoughts

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.

And I had to prove it to myself that I really could find hobbies that produce money instead of consuming it.  This blog for example — it does make a tiny bit of money.

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”.


[Image Credit: Flickr, DomoKun]

40 thoughts on “1000 Days Without A Paycheck

  • July 11, 2018 at 6:48 AM

    Wow, Mr. Tako- 1000 days is really impressive. Every day that goes by just solidifies that feeling.

    I like the analogy of the floaties- although I’d also think that the dividend income coming into our household is a different kind of floatie- one that continually fills up with more air with each passing year.

    I’m looking forward to getting there too. It will just be a matter of time.


  • July 11, 2018 at 7:11 AM

    Congratulations! Time goes quick.

    Just to clarify, doesn’t your wife still work?

    I would think that it’s pretty normal to be a stay at home dad since there are many stay at home moms. Wouldn’t the true test be if she also did not work for those 1000 days as well?

    Thanks for the clarification

  • July 11, 2018 at 7:30 AM

    Thanks for sharing that experience.

    I like it how you are using that “extra time” creating new things, which in a way is creating value for yourself. Who’s the measure whether that is worth it or not? You are your own judge 🙂

  • July 11, 2018 at 8:14 AM

    I’ve been slightly early retired for about 1000 days myself and your thoughts are very familiar to me. I retired with more than ample investments, like you, but with no kids at home (three grown self sufficient ones, out on their own). I still choose to consult a day a week, sometimes two, to give me some structure and social interaction with my old business and government buds. So I never withdraw anything from my investment accounts as I’m generating six figures in spite of not needing it. I think you are correct that since I am still getting checks I haven’t crossed the mental barrier of feeling OK about living off my investments. But that’s OK, as long as I find the side gigs meaningful I do not see a problem living off of them even if the net result is just a larger inheritance for the kids someday. I did think I might miss work because I really enjoyed it for most of my career but I don’t and I agree, this is a better life.

    Less fear? I get that in context of where your life is right now. But you still have pre-teen kids. After you get them through that and to adulthood then you will be much better qualified to talk about fear. Yikes, I never want to go through anything like that again, and yet, my kids are all doing great now. Trust me, nothing I feared at work, except fearing dying when I was fighting a fire or in a toxic gas release, came close to teen age induced fear!

  • July 11, 2018 at 9:01 AM

    It may seem bleak at the time but looks like your life was turned right-side-up after you were let go. It’s so awesome that you now have a lot of extra time to work on various interests. Time to build a Wall-E for your next nerdy project? 😀

  • July 11, 2018 at 9:02 AM

    Nicely done. It is a strange feeling to step off the employee habitrail wheel of doom, but once you do, it’s awesome.

    I think we’re always going to have fear in our lives, but many folks are fearful of the wrong things. I decided I was afraid of looking back with regrets at how busy I was / what I missed out on when my kids were young, and that fear eventually grew greater than my fear of leaving the Man. Glass-half-empty guy that I am, I planned on being a greeter at Home Depot if needed once my kids moved out (my pessimistic scenarios always seem to leave me almost unemployable…), but investments and my pirate ship of entrepreneurship have improved that lie 🙂

    Congratulations and thanks for making your blog one of the post-paycheck endeavors!

    • July 11, 2018 at 9:38 PM

      I wouldn’t say I’m fearless, but there’s definitely less fear now. I mostly worry about my kids these days.

      Thanks for reading as always Paul! We should talk about doing a guest post. 😉

      • July 12, 2018 at 3:16 PM

        The pleasure is all mine.

        And I’d be all over guest posting – as host, guest, or all of the above. I just need to get fully back in blogging mode as we’re done with most of our travels and the gears are (slowly) starting to turn again! Let’s talk soon

  • July 11, 2018 at 11:11 AM

    Thank you so much for sharing that. I really am in the same position as you. In my mind logically I think this really should be enough. And then there is some doubt that creeps up with the “what if…” scenarios.

    I am currently taking baby steps by decreasing my clinical hours (cut off 1 day a week) and as I get to a more comfortable point would like to reduce it even further.

    I am probably going to be like you and chart how the finances hold over the first 3-5 years and once I clear that mark really will feel the weight of doubt disappear.

    Thanks for providing inspiration 🙂

  • July 11, 2018 at 12:20 PM

    I agree 100% with your theory that most employees work hard mainly out of fear and not because they love what they do. It’s sad that we live in a world like that. I do think that guys like you and other FIRE bloggers help to open the eyes of others to realize that there can be more to life.

    On another front, did you enjoy cooking before you stopped working or was that something that you dove into once you reached FIRE?

    — Jim

    • July 11, 2018 at 9:34 PM

      I prefer to say “I enjoyed eating incredibly good food before I stopped working” and cooking it myself was really the only way to get it. The quality at most restaurants is pretty horrible. DIY all the way!

      Sadly, I didn’t have a lot of time for cooking. Maybe I’d make a special dish on the weekends and just quick things during the week.

      Mrs. Tako and I traded-off cooking back then. Now, I do the main meal (and lunches with the kids) about 6 days a week.

    • July 11, 2018 at 9:29 PM

      6 years? That’s Awesome FV! Here I thought 1000 days seemed like a lot!

  • July 11, 2018 at 1:03 PM

    Cheers to the first 1,000 days! Though with the cost of childcare around here, I think you’d be hard pressed to fully replaced that cost with after school activities – especially since I doubt you want to do the crazy multiple sports, multiple instruments, etc that seems to be common once you hit grade school.

    • July 11, 2018 at 9:28 PM

      Yeah, I expect the budget will go down some after we start kindergarten. There will be some activity costs, but I think we’ll do “one activity at a time” to keep things sane.

  • July 11, 2018 at 1:21 PM

    I really enjoy your insights Mr Tako.

    Your fear appears to be conquered by plenty but the fear of losing it all remains. You haven’t accepted you could end up in poverty which of-course still a possibility. No one can know the future. To paraphrase Seneca, you could still be crushed by fate.

    After 1000 days of control it seems that your not likely to be cause of failure. Maybe you can temper the fear of losing it all knowing you can control temptations. In my view this is undoing of most who come into money.

    The Bludger

  • July 11, 2018 at 1:44 PM

    So. Much. Congrats! There are many ways life is better with you retired, and I think this blog is a big one! Not that I’m biased or selfish…

  • July 11, 2018 at 2:18 PM

    Congrats Mr. Tako! It’s been awesome to see your journey so far! You are so skilled with DIY! All the food (which I consider DIY), that coffee table, and the Raspberry Pi config. I should start reading a Raspberry Pi blog, I’m sure the bf and I could find cool tech to build that would cost way less. Title: “Smarthome on a budget”. Lol.

    • July 11, 2018 at 9:26 PM

      Oh yeah, I’ve heard it’s really easy to hook them up to Alexa or Google Assistant. Super cheap if you’re willing to put in a little DIY effort!

  • July 11, 2018 at 3:14 PM

    Congrats on the milestone, and I can definitely appreciate the sting you mention of being laid off. I just went through that earlier this year after working for ~16 years for that employer, and while I was able to line up my new job before leaving and walked away with a nice severance–it still stung, more than I usually admit too.

    I don’t share the sentiment about working hard out of fear, as I have found that I work hard for the people on my team. Earlier in my career I would have agreed, but while not financially independent yet, I feel far more comfortable in the face of losing my job at any time. When laid off, I took a month off before starting the new job and it was glorious, so I can only imagine what 1,000 days have been like!

  • July 11, 2018 at 6:33 PM

    Huge congrats man, so awesome. I’m sur I’ll be reading your “2000 days without a paycheck” post as well one day.

    And that coffee table is gorgeous!

    • July 11, 2018 at 9:25 PM

      Thanks AccidentalFire! I got tired of poor quality Ikea furniture and decided to make my own that was stronger.

  • July 11, 2018 at 9:42 PM

    Love the title! Very creative way of framing it. I may have to borrow this idea when I hit 2000 days in a half of year. 😉

    Your coffee table always amazes me! (I bet you could sell that for a lot of money if you wanted) And, the raspberry pi cam is sweet.

    I hope to see you still writing when you hit day 10,000!

    • July 13, 2018 at 12:15 AM

      Thanks Michael! It is a pretty sweet coffee table. So glad I spent the time to make it!

  • July 12, 2018 at 11:11 PM

    I wouldn’t worry too much about the kids (I know, easier said than done). They’ll be great. They’ve got two responsible, caring parents who are there instilling real life lessons as they grow. That is the single most important factor.

  • July 12, 2018 at 11:42 PM

    Well done Mr Tako, that’s mighty impressive that you’ve already been retired for 1000 days. And I love how your money mindset has evolved over that time, to a place where you are comfortable the money will never run out.

    • July 13, 2018 at 12:14 AM

      Thanks Ms. ZiYou! It certainly has been an evolution, and it’s not done yet! 🙂

  • July 13, 2018 at 5:50 AM

    That is really impressive. Having that knowledge that you don’t need a job is so great. Well done to you, looks like all that hard work has paid off.
    Awesome work, Cheers.

  • July 13, 2018 at 12:54 PM

    “I realized then, I was only an employee. In today’s world, employees are commodities.”

    So true. No one is immune from lay-offs. When people get into massive mortgages, consumer debt, and spend like there’s no tomorrow, expecting their jobs to be there forever, that’s terrifying.

    Congrats on 1000 of retirement! Learning to live without a paycheck is a process that takes time, but once you get over the fear and realize your portfolio is doing just fine, it’s the greatest feeling!

  • July 14, 2018 at 4:42 PM

    Thankyou from someone who has unexpectedly found themselves unemployed and over 60….. Now contemplating retiring or semi retiring……… Still got bills to pay…….

  • July 14, 2018 at 8:28 PM

    To a large business, employees can come to be seen as breathing widgets. It isn’t right and it isn’t universal (thank goodness) but some businesses want employees to live in fear (and coincidentally be in debt) in order to keep leverage over them until the business decides to relocate the widget. It is a power to the business, to keep staff ‘needy’ and afraid.

    Good for you and the readers of your excellent blog for seeing the truth and changing the power dynamic in your favor.

  • July 15, 2018 at 3:51 AM

    Awesome post, Mr. Tako! Congrats on reaching 1000 days without a paycheque. That’s extremely impressive. Perhaps it was fear that drove you to accumulate a net worth of over 2 million in the first place. It’s great that you were able to attain a more creative life with more personal projects. That’s one of the main things I long for. Your coffee table looks fantastic btw. Looks like quality craftsmanship. Thanks for sharing about your journey.

  • July 16, 2018 at 7:18 AM

    Good for you!! Fear sometimes (ironically) makes us stronger, if you can make a good use of it.
    Being biased or obsessed to one thing over the others without question (like working so hard for your employer) is something we need to avoid consciously..I would like to take a similar stance when it comes to FIRE..what we gonna do after FIRE. Investment but what for if we suffer a lot of burden or stress? Weirdly it goes better more often when we do not care about small fluctuation in the market.

    Thanks for sharing, Mr. Tako.


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