When writing a blog post, I don’t like to sugar coat the shit.
I prefer to display the honest reality of financial independence, including the all rough bits! Sure, I could probably have a bigger blog audience if I focused only on the roses. But that isn’t my goal.
I believe my readers want to hear the balanced story of early retirement…both the shit and the roses alike. It takes both to grow a garden.
Today, I’m celebrating my 1 year “early retirement” anniversary. My first year of FIRE is now complete, and it feels like a pretty big milestone.
That means it’s also time for an honest assessment of how this first year went down!
My Last Days At Work
One year ago today, I was a remote employee of a company based out of New York City. I worked in the local office and mostly enjoyed my job….despite having to work the occasional weekend.
But that all came to a screeching halt in late 2015 after the local office was closed.
All of the employees based out of Washington (state) went from being “normal” office employees to “working from home” employees, by the end of 2015.
We were told closing of the local office was a “cost saving initiative”, and it wouldn’t affect our jobs. That proved to be a false promise.
For me, the “working from home” plan didn’t even last two months. I got my layoff notice at the end of October (2015). Every single local employee was eventually laid off…save one individual who has been retained for “maintenance” work.
That’s how it all started…with a layoff. I began my sojourn into early retirement almost as an accident. The layoff just proved to be a good starting point for the next stage of life.
If my friends and neighbors ask, I now tell them I’m taking a sabbatical to be a stay-at-home dad (which is technically true).
However, if this “sabbatical” keeps going like it has been, it might not ever end.
From a financial perspective, 2016 was one of our best years ever.
I started this journey with a net worth of just over $2 million dollars. One year later, our net worth has increased more than $300,000 dollars. That’s a pretty phenomenal increase considering I’m not even working.
Roughly $100,000 of that growth is from real estate equity, and the other $200k is from capital appreciation and dividends.
Our dividend income this year probably won’t match the incredible numbers from 2015, but 2016 won’t be anything to spit on. Dividends should be a little under $48k by the end of 2016.
From a financial perspective I’m extremely pleased with the results from the first year. We lived a completely normal life, and our financial situation remained on solid footing…despite the fact that I had no W-2 employment.
I’m feeling confident our finances are off to a good start!
One of the main reasons for my early retirement was family. I wanted to spend more time with my boys while they were still young.
First off, I need to say this: Being a stay-at-home dad is way harder than you think. It’s a tough job!
My “job” responsibilities included — all the cooking, cleaning, taking care of the kids, yard work, home repairs, and doing the shopping. After a year of this, I have to admit that having a 9 to 5 job is probably easier than being a stay-at-home dad.
Life isn’t always about choosing the easy path though. I don’t regret being a stay at home dad, but it’s by far the most tiring job I’ve ever had.
It’s one of those jobs you really don’t respect until you’ve done it for awhile.
The good news is, I’m now much closer to my kids than I used to be. Before early retirement, I probably only spent about 2 hours a day with my kids. Now, I spend a lot more time with my kids. I make them homemade meals every day. I care for them when they have a sick day. We play games. We draw together. We go for walks around the neighborhood. If they wake up in the middle of the night (which happens all the time with young kids), I’m there to solve the problem. Not quite as good as “Mom”, but not far off the mark either.
I’m really glad I got to do this. It’s tough, but there will come a day when their lives are filled with things like school, friends, and activities. Spending time with Dad is going to become “uncool” at some point.
When that happens, I’ll be doubly glad I got to spend this time with them.
Hobbies, Blogging, & Travel
Early retirement wouldn’t be worth it if I only spent my time slaving away as Mr. Mom. Thankfully, I do get time for some fun personal projects, like this blog!
The blog actually sucks up a HUGE amount of my spare time, more than I actually planned…but I really enjoy it. The process of writing helps me organize and clarify my own thoughts. I find it to be a useful tool.
During the past year, I’ve posted 92 articles to this site (including this post). If a post averages about 6 hours to write, that’s 546 hours I’ve put into just writing alone. Blogging requires a significant time investment!
[Side Note: I need to do a whole series of posts on blogging, but so far I haven’t gotten to it!]
This spring I also decided I wanted to spend more time building things. Why building things? Because I enjoy it! Back when I was a kid, I was always making things…and yet somewhere along the way that passion got lost. I think it was smothered by work. But financial independence has away of awakening these old passions, and suddenly I want to make things again.
There’s something about the process of creation and obsession over fine details that produces a feeling of satisfaction in my brain. Mostly this means building things out of wood. Wood is cheap (aka free), and tools are readily available (aka ‘nearly’ free).
I’m still practicing. Hopefully, my skills will improve, and I can finally show off some of the finished projects.
Overall, it was a great year for all kinds of hobbies and fun:
- In April, we took a week long trip to Hawaii (I wrote three posts about it: Lodging, Food, and Activities).
- We took multiple weekend road trips to the Grandparent’s house.
- I read a bunch of books on my backlog!
- There was even time for playing a few video games! Namely, Fallout 4 and Forza Horizon 3.
- We attended the Washington State Fair.
Despite our reduced income levels, the entire family had a huge amount of fun!
Early Retirement Concerns
Retiring early doesn’t mean life is all flowers and sunshine though. I still have plenty of things on my mind.
My biggest concerns right now is that the market is significantly overvalued. After 7 years of positive market returns, valuations may have gotten ahead of themselves.
For someone with a lot of cash to invest (like myself), this is a serious concern. No one recently retired wants to invest at top of the market. My financial independence could end up being a big failure.
My second big concern is the fact we’re going to miss our dividend income goal for the year — by several thousand dollars. While I originally planned for us to live off dividends alone in 2016, we probably won’t make that goal.
This isn’t a catastrophic problem though — Mrs. Tako is still working, so we don’t actually need to sell assets to fund our lifestyle.
Our expenses also include a significant childcare expense, which isn’t permanent (or absolutely necessary). If Mrs. Tako decided now was the time to quit her job, we could pull the little guys out of daycare and save ourselves a lot of money. That would immediately put us back on track to living off dividends only.
Was It Worth It?
So after one year, can I say that all those years of saving are worth it?
Yes, I think so! At least for me…
Most weekdays are very quiet. Everyone I know is at work, and my neighborhood is empty. For certain people (those who need significant social interaction), this could be considered a lonely existence. They might actually hate a life like this, and want to head back to work.
I happen to like it. It’s quiet, and life is pretty simple.
Now that I’ve gotten a real taste of freedom, I realize I have no desire to go back to work. Life is just better now. Not perfect, but definitely better.
The year had its ups and downs throughout, but on average most days were really good days. It was rare occurrence that I had anything resembling a bad day this last year.
An average day of early retirement is far better than my best days at work.
Frankly, I’m happier than I’ve ever been, and I hope this is the first year of many.
[Image Credit: Flickr]