It’s been two years since I hung-up my career hat, and traded it for the disheveled hair of a stay-at-home dad/blogger. I gave up the daily grind and found an entirely different kind of life.
Was it worth it? Knowing what I know now, would I have still quit my job? In today’s post I’m going to try to answer these big questions.
Despite what many FIRE blogs would have you believe, there’s always ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ to these sorts of questions. FIRE is not just a carefree life of travel, good food, good friends, and sleeping-in every day.
The real story is always more nuanced. There are trade offs to consider.
Filling My Time
If you asked me two years ago if giving up my job was going to be fun and easy, I probably would have said “Heck yah!”
But the real story is more complicated.
First of all, I had to take on new household responsibilities — like caring for my children, shopping, cooking nearly every meal, and cleaning the house. Being a stay-at-home parent isn’t easy. The reality is these things are a HUGE amount of work. Stay at home parents don’t get nearly enough appreciation for the work they do.
It makes me wonder — How did we ever manage to get all the household work done when Mrs. Tako and I were both working?
The reality is, we probably let a lot of things slide. The laundry piled-up, the floors got vacuumed less frequently, and we made fewer meals from scratch.
Now, these tasks suck-up about half my day. The other half is dedicated to reading, learning, building, working on passion projects, and (of course) writing for this blog.
This is the fun part of my day, and really the best part of FIREd life. It’s the time I control. For me, this is a big part of why I became financially independent. I get to work on things I care about, not what a corporate manager cares about.
I’m free to pursue MY interests that have little or no monetary reward… and it feels awesome!
My Happiness/Stress Level
One of the more common things I’ve read on the internet is “FIRE won’t make you happier. If you’re unhappy now without FIRE, you won’t find happiness after you reach financial independence and quit your job”.
The idea here is that humans are incredibly adaptable. Eventually we adapt to our new circumstances. While we might have a few moments of incredible bliss, eventually life settles down to our own baseline level of happiness. That’s the theory at least…
What a complete load of bullsh*t.
I can’t speak for everyone who reaches FIRE, but I can honestly say that I’m a much happier person today because of it. Yes, really! I am tons happier than I was before. My stress level is now a million times lower.
My stress level is nowhere close to what I experienced while working — I used to have nightmares about work all the time. I would grind my teeth in my sleep and wake up in cold sweats. Work put an immense amount of pressure on my life and I’m relieved not to have that stress today.
I can’t even remember the last time I had a nightmare. I’m no longer forced to work under tight deadlines with terrible people, or live under the threat of poor performance reviews.
Life is so much better.
The Things I Miss
While there are many things I DON’T miss about working a fulltime job (meetings, politics, commuting, reviews, etc), there are a few things I do miss about my former job —
For one, being a stay at home dad is often lacking in stimulating conversation. When you’re working, there’s always people around to have an intelligent conversation with. But when everyone is at work and you’re not, good conversation is hard to come by. Life can feel pretty lonely at times.
I miss the days when I could socialize with my coworkers. As much as I like talking with my kids, they just aren’t the most stimulating of conversationalists.
One of the other things I miss about working, is the food. Believe it or not, I miss the days when Mrs. Tako cooked more meals in our household. She’s actually the far better chef in our house. I do my best to cook delicious and diverse meals on a reasonable budget, but I’m nowhere close to her level. Even at work the food was good — there was always lunches out at fancy local restaurants, and catered meals too.
These days, I usually just eat leftovers for lunch.
Another area I miss is the paycheck. The safety of a steady paycheck shouldn’t be discounted. Jobs pay you on regular intervals, but dividends usually pay out quarterly. We do have a nice annual dividend income, but it’s not a steady income like a paycheck. The amounts we earn from our investments are always changing too. I end-up watching our expenses and income numbers a lot closer than I did before.
Was It Worth It?
After two years of not earning a paycheck, I think I’m a better person for leaving my job. Here’s why:
- I’m closer to my kids than ever before (even if they do drive me crazy sometimes).
- I’ve learned countless new DIY skills over the last two years. I can build/fix/or repair almost anything.
- I’ve read dozens of books over the past two years. Perhaps I’m a wiser person because of it.
- My writing is better than it was two years ago (when I wrote my first blog post). Like other skills, practice makes
perfectbetter than before.
- I taught myself CAD modeling in Fusion 360.
- We travel a lot more now. Last October our family spent a month in Japan, and our next adventure is only a month away! Traveling like this would never have been possible while working.
- My cooking skills have improved somewhat. I’m a passable cook now!
I could keep going, but you get the point — These are skills or experiences I either wouldn’t have, or I wouldn’t be nearly as good at if it wasn’t for FIRE.
Don’t get me wrong — There are days when the kids are driving me crazy, and everything seems to go wrong. Those days, going back to work sounds like a vacation. Ok, maybe not a vacation, but definitely a break. If you ask me on those days, I’d probably say “Hell no! FIRE isn’t worth it!”
Those are just a few isolated days of course. It’s the complete balance of all days that matters.
So is FIRE is worth it? For me it is. I think FIRE is worth it if you make it worth it. This depends entirely upon what a person does with their spare time. Will you learn a new skill? Read a book? Exercise more? Create something? Become a better person?
The Next Two Years
So what do the next two years look like? Rest assured, I’m not heading back to work.
The biggest upcoming change to our lives is going to be school. In just a handful of months Tako Jr. is starting kindergarten. Not only will this lower our monthly financial requirements, it should also free-up more of my time during the day.
I’ll be walking Tako Jr. to school every morning, but after that I’ll have free time — Time when I can improve this blog, or add a “financial coaching” service to my blog! The sky’s the limit!
School also means traveling is going to get a lot harder. We can’t just pick up and leave anytime like we do now. We become slaves to the school calendar, and we’ll probably travel less as a result.
I’d also like to expanding my entrepreneurial efforts in the upcoming years. I’ve got a number of ideas for mini-businesses cooking around in my head, and they usually amount to me making something with my own hands and selling it.
These ‘mini-businesses’ probably won’t make a lot of money, but they do sound like a lot of fun.
That’s my big secret to enjoying an early retirement — Keep trying new things, and keep it fun!