Early Retirement: One Year Later (An Honest Assessment)
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).
Other than a couple of early projects mentioned, I really haven’t shown them off a lot here.
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]
63 thoughts on “Early Retirement: One Year Later (An Honest Assessment)”
Thank you for sharing your perspective Mr Tako on your one year of retirement. While taking care of your small children is probably a very difficult job, I think it is more worthwhile endeavor than filing TPS reports or updating memo’s about them. I know from a personal experience that I really enjoyed spending time with my dad when I was little, and he was in between jobs for a few months. Children do develop to be better people when their parents are around, in my opinion.
As far as the markets, they are a little high. But I am starting to see some decent opportunities show up. I agree that entry valuations are important, as is growth in underlying fundamentals ( EPS) that ultimately drive dividend growth.
Based on my limited observations, it looks like you take a more “active role” in portfolio management, is that correct?I think that readers may be interested in learning more about your investing strategy.
Good luck, and wish you many more years of financial independence.
Thanks DGI! I’m not sure if I qualify as “active” or not. Most of the time my assets stay pretty much the same! It seems pretty passive from my point of view.
But yes, we don’t have all of our assets just thrown at mutual funds. I spread it around between index funds, individual stocks, preferred shares, and sometimes bonds.
I prefer to allocate capital where it will earn me the highest returns (long term).
Earning a return is the most rational way to approach investing, as opposed to just blindly believing that what has happened in the past will miraculously happen in the future. Good luck in your retirement journey!
More power to you for doing the stay at home dad thing. My wife recently became a stay at home mom. I love my kids, but some days I actually look forward to going to work as a break.
Some days I need break too!
Really appreciate your perspective. I am a WAHM, my career allows me to work at home, so I do. My kids are older 19(lives in LA), 15, 15 and 7. They love it that I am home when they arrive and most days have a snack. The youngest has a half day on Wednesday so that has become his day. We go to the park, run errands or just hang out.
In my experience, because I have put so much time into my kids, they still like hanging out with me alot at teenagers. I think you will find that because you are home with them the same will be true for you.
I sure hope so! Thanks Marisa!
You guys appear to be in great shape, financially. I worry a bit about the markets potentially being overvalued, but that sentiment, which is fairly widely held, should be factored into current prices, right? Efficient market hypothesis and all.
Even if we do see a bear market soon, your family would likely be fine if neither one of you worked another day in your lives. Enjoy them!
Assuming the market is efficient can be hazardous to your financial health. 🙂
Instead, I prefer to think of it as “sometimes” efficient, and other times horribly inefficient.
Congrats on reaching 1 year free! I agree that not all of retirement is roses, but it sure beats work 🙂 I too have been busier than I expected since quitting. I do not have any little ones to watch after though, being a good parent is a whole other ball game. Best of luck to you on year number 2!
Thanks Mr. CK!
Hi Mr Tako, Great post – one of your best. I would like to have you elaborate on your concern about the markets being overvalued and perhaps facing an early retirement failure. From reading your blog, I know you are not a super spendy family, so I doubt you are having to spend more than 4% per year. I thought the point of dividend investing was to have dividends that would persist even in a bear market? I am not understanding the scenario you picture in which your passive income would not support you (ER fail)? As I am ambitious for ER myself and am also concerned about overvalued markets, I would like to better understand. My sincere best wishes, Aperture.
Check out my post about financial independence failure. There are several scenarios, such as a protracted decline that would almost certainly cause some dividends to be cut.
If the recession is shallow and short, then most dividends should remain uncut.
I also expect our family expenses to grow over time, especially given the healthcare situation in the States. We have two kids, and I expect their individual expenses will climb over time.
Thank you for the honest article; it’s really encouraging. I’m pretty sure you’ll see that lay off as the best thing that has ever happened to you. The key point is that you were financially stable at that time. This should be a key message for everyone: invest for your future while you work and then nothing bad can happen to you!
Yep, I’ve always been one of those people that’s very financially stable. There are very few financial safety nets for me!
I think only the best blogs acknowledge the rough parts of FIRE. 🙂 Man, I’m glad that it worked out that your net worth was so great after the layoff! It would have been pretty rough if you had significant debt. It just goes to show that being debt-free is never a bad idea. 🙂
That is so awesome that you get to spend time with your kids. It’s a shame that more people don’t have the opportunity.
As others have noted, having one parent at home *used* to be normal. But something changed culturally. Maybe people are just more addicted to luxury and spending now…who knows!
It wasn’t all that long ago that having one stay at home parent was the norm! I think you guys will do fine and I applaud any SAHD for blazing the trail. My hope is that one SAHP, male or female, becomes the norm again for future generations – it is so much better for the kids, the working spouse, the household, the school district, reducing wasteful consumption (fuel, fast food), etc. And with productivity continuing to increase, it seems as if lower employment should be inevitable.
Thanks for the great blog too!
I’m only three months in myself and am still figuring out my routine. But generally my experience has been the same as yours.
It’s awesome that your kids are still young and you can invest the time with them now. You will NOT regret it!
Love hearing your perspective. Sounds like early retirement life is the way to go. That’s great you are able to spend more time with the kids. 🙂
Hopefully we’ll see the market take a step back and present some buying opportunities in the upcoming months.
I hope so too!
I’m surprised you have child care expenses of $1220/month according to your September report. That cost makes me think it’s 5 days per week, 8 to 12 hours per day – drop off at 7 AM or so and pick up around 5 PM. You devote paragraphs and posts to saving a few hundred dollars per month on food costs or utility bills but you have 25% of your expenses going to child care which is definitely appears to be a luxury for a family with a stay-at-home parent. Is it your plan to carry that cost until the boy enters kindergarten?
I can imagine why you would want to have the boy in daycare but given that you characterize the expense as not “absolutely necessary” I wonder if you are being penny wise/pound foolish in your cost savings focus.
Dan, I think you misunderstand. It’s not about the cost of the daycare. The kids attend a language immersion daycare. They are learning fluency in a second language…something I can’t teach them. That’s an educational cost Mrs. Tako is willing to work and pay for.
Everything else though…that falls under my control.
Great article. I’m a little more than 4 years into FIRE and loving it more every day!
I don’t think I’ve read about how to moved into early retirement. I hear that sometimes it’s pretty hard to make the transition and actually let go of the 9-5 because of the “well, maybe I’ll work just one more year” syndrome. So in a way, I guess that’s pretty good that you got forced into it.
It sounds like things are working out well for you. Congrats on the 1 year!
Thanks Jim! It’s worked out OK so far!
We had a LT in the navy who would say we may have been handed shit but we are gonna polish it. I was like so whats the difference between shit and polished shit?
Good job. The markets will go down eventually but if you have a solid plan with dividends rolling in nothing to worry about.
Happy FIRE birthday Mr. Tako! The thing I loved the most about this post was your observation that you had not a single “bad day” this year. That is such a phenomenal thing – it should be highlighted, or in a larger font or something.
I’m glad you are enjoying your time at home with your kids. Honestly, I’m not sure I could do it. I find very young kids are really quite boring. Now that my daughter is a Toddler I enjoy spending time with her much more than I used to when she was say 10 months old. She is much more interesting and fun now but I don’t think I would enjoy a whole day with her every single day. I expect that this will get better with age (right up until the time that she transforms into a hormonal, moody teen).
Has your relationship with your wife changed over this past year?
I don’t think our relationship has changed much…I think she actually likes our current setup.
I do like our current setup, actually. At first, I wasn’t sure if I would be okay with it as a long-term thing. But, things are going well. Couple most positive things I see are: (1) Kids get to spend more time with their daddy. (2) We are under much much less stress than we would have if we were both working. Work could get stressful, and that coupled with time pressure of getting everything done after work (making dinner, clean-up, bathe kids, squeeze in play time with kids, etc.) is even more stressful and exhausting. I can’t imagine how much stress we would have exposed to our kids on the daily basis if we were both working. Well, even if neither of us worked, it would be already pretty challenging at times just purely from raising two strong-minded, active boys in the house… 🙂 So if we both worked…? Urgh, not good for us or kids…
Instead, Mr. Tako gets some break from kids when they are both in daycare. When the littlest stays at home, the guys get to spend time together building a nice son-and-dad bond (or so I hope 😉 ). Kids and I come home to a warm dinner after a long-day of work/play/learning, and that leaves us some extra time to play and goof around in the evening before bed time, etc.
This setup allows us to sit and watch kids and appreciate our life (when they are not screaming their heads off…) And I get to appreciate Mr. Tako for spending time with kids, keeping up the house, and keeping us well fed. We have it made. 🙂
Always great to hear from the missus. My wife has a similar view, but after 4 years she is starting to think about ER too. Her job is getting stressful and she wants more time at home. Beware… ER is infectious. 🙂
It’s so nice to hear about the shit as well as the roses. Only the truth can be perfect – whatever it is. I’ve mostly flailed and failed at adjusting to FIRE. Did I get this right – the little kids are still in daycare? How many children do you have?
And if this is the top of the stock market… what to do with the cash? (I’m out of the market for about one month now, and not buying into the current housing bubble for investment properties, so I’m unsure which way to turn.)
We have two kids. Yes, some days they are at home with me, and some days they are at daycare. It’s a language immersion daycare, so it’s about more than just someone watching them. They’re learning fluency in a second language.
Those are beautiful kids! And lucky to be learning a second language at the RIGHT age to do so. Good for you all!
Like we’ve discussed before I feel you are overly conservative. You have 2.3 millions, even if your investments barely keep up with inflation (they’ll do better than that), that’s 46 years of life at 50k a year (I’m not sure how much you spend so I’m throwing a semi-random number here). Plus you have your wife’s salary meaning you’re not even touching those yet.
To me you’re totally good to go at this point 🙂
Thanks for the honest “review” of RE here. I want to try the Stay at home dad thing, but I’m also worried I could end up not liking it as it will make me realize my corporate job wasn’t as tiring as I thought it was 🙂
Corporate jobs are a cake walk in comparison! 50k a year is pretty close to what we’re spending, but it will start to go up as the kids get older. That’s what I’m mainly worried about.
That, and I think the market might be ready for a pretty big haircut.
It’s great to hear your perspective, particularly since you have one of the highest net worths of the “early retired” crowd, which seems like it comes with its own benefits and concerns. I’ve always thought your posts were well written, so I’m not surprised to hear that you spend six hours on each. Congratulations on your one year anniversary and very much looking forward to following along for the next year.
Thanks for sharing and congrats on your one year ER anniversary! I appreciate all the details you shared here – both the good and the “not so good” (since none really seemed bad!) I love the second language immersion daycare – what a neat option. Here’s to more years in ER – certainly seems like you are doing very well!
Thanks Vicki! Yeah, there’s nothing really “bad”, but (as any parent can tell you) having young kids is exhausting. Now imagine doing that 24/7 on very limited sleep.
First, thanks for documenting your thoughts in this blog. I enjoy reading it and I find we have similar feelings on many issues – probably the reason I read. Beyond that, I think so much of the early retirement experience can be related to “Hedonic” (is that the correct spelling) adaptation. We grow used to the new situation (not having to deal with work and the associated stress) and it becomes our new normal without an appreciable change in our happiness. However when we take the moment to be present and think about the situation – and how nice it is not to have to deal with all those stressful situations that arise in daily employment….in our souls and our cells we know how wonderful we have it. But in moment to moment happiness, just like when working, you have to be aware and choose it. And it is nice to have the freedom to select the activities for each day that will encourage the happiness experience (I do not have children so you are a bit more constrained in that area…but your kids are so cute that I think they are a wonderful constraint).
I am interested though (I probably missed it), why are there high day care costs affecting your expenses if you are doing the stay at home Dad thing. I thought that would eliminate those costs. May be the naive question of a “non-parent” but would appreciate your reminding/educating me on that front.
Anyhow, enjoy your blog and its content. Thank you for bothering to write it.
Thanks for this post, Mr. Tako. It gives a clear view for those looking for early retirement and how one can plan for it.
That’s great man. It sounds like a mostly positive experience. I don’t see anything too bad either. Everything is going really well for you. I really enjoy ER too and hopefully it will continue for a long time. My biggest problem was keeping cool with my crazy kid when we spent all our time together. Now that he’s in kindergarten, life is smoother.
Great net worth increase too. 15% in one year is really awesome.
I really liked this post. Im from Brazil (dont repair my poor english). Congrats for your early retirement !! Im doing some invests here in my country. In Brazil, we are in a big crisis, but im doing whatever i can to invest and be patient for some years. I will be entering every month your blog!! Congrats again man!!
Very interesting to hear how it is going from someone who has “made it.” I would certainly like to spend more time with my kids. At my age and status though I need to show my kids that hard work and dedication are necessary and will pay off later. So perhaps in a few years I can show them the payoff that comes from patiently and diligently working through the years.
It’s true! They don’t call it *anal*-ysis for nothing. We’ll probably be fine.
I’ve been reading about secular stagnation recently, and a lot of very smart economists think it could be the “new normal”:
Under such a scenario, living-off current income in ER is even more important!
That’s great, Mr. Tako! Thanks for sharing the roses and the shit with us, I enjoyed the honest look. I can definitely see how being the SAHD would be quite busy. There are lots of responsibilities with raising kids, you can’t slack off on that job! Plus all the household responsibilities, no easy task by any means. But that is so fantastic you’ve gotten closer with them. I’m sure when they are older and look back on it that will feel quite lucky to have you around so much too.
Your post’s title caught my eye since I’m 4 months new at having quit my day job myself. I’m impressed with your honesty re homemaking is hard work. I’m a guy and like it when other guys are honest about how hard wives work. 🙂
My enabler for me quiting was the result of my wife and I’s 5 yrs of insanely hard work building a rental portfolio that pays well over the take home I had from an engineering day job. Rentals are not recession proof but we can drop the rent to 1/2 and still take in more than what our burn rate is so we do spend time ‘thinking’ about strategy, but we aren’t worrying either.
[Edited for brevity]
Every time I think of an “office” my hair stands up and break into sweets and am very very thankful that I can now ponder whether to do more emails or yoga!!!
Having the choice is priceless. Now I need to make better use of my every increasing in value seconds. 🙂 Thanks Mr Tako for the read and few minutes of forced thinking about what I know I need to do, here on.
I am a stay-at-home mom to 2 kiddos 1 and 4 so I totally understand. It was a rough transition but I am grateful I get this time with them 🙂 We are way off from retiring but one day hopefully.
Thanks for reading Jen! Good luck to you!
I’ve just discovered this site, and have a question: do you have health insurance through Mrs. Tako’s employment? If so, have you looked into the cost of health insurance for your family should Mrs. Tako want to retire also, or perhaps be unemployed for a while?
I ask because it’s the high, rapidly rising, and largely uncontrollable cost of health insurance that spooks me the most about retirement before Medicare age.
Thanks, and I’m happy to read things are going well!
Yes, I have a post that covers these questions: Adapting to healthcare changes
I was laid off in June this year, so I found this really interesting. Whilst people keep telling me I must be bored, that genuinely isn’t true. I spend 2 days each week volunteering for a local advice service, some time job searching (now isn’t the right time for a sabbatical for me, although we can manage on one income), walking, visiting family, and picking up all the housework. Oh, I finally got round to starting a blog too! The biggest frustration is the evening meal everyday, I feel like the day is tied to that sometimes.
I don’t think I’ve been bored once in the last year! Thanks for reading Sarah!
Thanks for sharing! I decided about 1.5 years ago that early retirement probably wasn’t going to happen. So I went per-diem and do some side jobs on my own. Like you, I am way happier and feel in control of my life!
Great Read! With that cash surplus and fear of downturn in the market, have you considered investing more in real estate?
I’m mostly a REIT investor when it comes to real estate. Property in my area is extremely expensive and cap rates are minimal at best. That said, if REITs took a dive, or the local real estate environment changed I might be interested.
That’s great that you are enjoying your time. I think having kids helps keep you busy. I don’t have kids and I didn’t do well with early retirement. I wrote, worked out, traveled, tutored, volunteered, etc… but I just still missed the professional work world, mostly for social reasons and team building, but there is no way I would go back full time. Now, I work on a part time, per project basis. This way, I can continue to bring in money for more investing and saving, but I can travel between projects. It is the best of both of worlds for me in my situation. Plus, I get to keep my skills up, because you never know when a great opportunity to work for a non-profit, or serve on a board will come along. For me, life is an adventure, and I love being in a spot where I can pick and choose and have a variety of experiences.
I love this post! Sharing the warts and all is a kindness to yourself and others. I’m sure your boys love having you around to parent them so much.
Thanks ZJ! I certainly hope they do!