Two Years Later: Is FIRE Worth It?
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!
59 thoughts on “Two Years Later: Is FIRE Worth It?”
Congrats on FIRE. I’m also living a FIRE life and loving it. Nothing beats not having the work related stress and its prolonged affects.
Regarding “I would grind my teeth in my sleep and wake up in cold sweats.”
I suffered from these issues as well for years due to work related stress. Stress can lead to much more serious problems down the road.
For me personally, not having work related stress is the biggest benefit of living a FIRE life. I’m hoping it would add years to my life.
Thanks Mr. ATM! I think FIRE can lead to longevity advantages too! I wrote about this recently: https://www.mrtakoescapes.com/does-fire-have-longevity-advantages/
When you mentioned food, I thought you were referring to the free food at work hehe. I LOVE free food at work. It’s like eating out without having to pay. I even wrote a post about this. I’m a terrible cook, so that’s also one of the reasons why I like office food. But if your wife is a great cook, then yes, I’d miss that too.
I know the answer would be Yes even before reading this post. FIRE is worth it just based on your stories hehe. Happy FIREing!
Heck yeah, free food at work was great! But I probably ate too much as a result!
Thanks for the kind comments as always Ms. FAF! 🙂
Lol, even with my kids being older, sometimes I am happy to get away and go to work:)
Have you and Mrs Tako considered getting a house cleaning service? I get my kids to help on the week-ends but sometimes I think I am ready to pay someone to do it for me! Not there yet but close:)
Pay for a house cleaning service? Nah… I just need to train the kids better! 😉
As someone still stuck in the grind, I love reading this sort of report. It sounds like you’ve got a pretty great life going there and I’m sure your kids love having you around so much. I’m looking forward to reaching this point in my own life and taking stock of what changes and what doesn’t.
Good luck Andy! You can do it!
Great read. Thanks for sharing. Thanks also for your honesty and nuance. That is important stuff that gets glossed over on a lot of FIRE websites. I have seen many of these same changes in my life since I went to part-time work. The biggest obstacle was when other people know I’m “off work” on Wednesdays and Fridays and so they try to fill my time. I’ve gotten better at setting boundaries and saying no. Some of the work, I’m glad to do though – like being more supportive at home. I agree the housework is time-consuming. There was a lot of neglected areas in our life. I’m still getting caught up.
I wonder if you could simulate a steady paycheck by depositing your dividends into an account that would serve as the source for your bimonthly cashflow? Ever try that?
Thanks WealthyDoc. Basically I only transfer cash when the bank account needs it. Dividends are probably just as secure as a job, but mentally it doesn’t feel that way to me. Probably something I need to get over. Too many years spent as a wage slave. Old habits die hard.
Yes, a regular paycheck is like a drug for sure. Currently I “Pay myself last.” I work part-time but I didn’t even notice any change when I cut back from full time. For a long time, I have artificially made myself a low “paycheck” going into checking every two weeks. The rest of the check, bonus, raise etc goes into investment accounts. If I stop working, I don’t see why I would need to change any of that. My income source would change but my “paycheck” could still come in as a transfer every two weeks. That way our budgeting stays the same. Just an idea. I tend to think a little differently from normal folks though!
I feel the same way that things will not change for us – just the source of the “paycheck” would be the transfer instead of a paycheck.
Sounds like a fantastic couple of years (with some adjustment I’m sure!). I’ve seen the stuff you’re cooking and, if your wife is a better cook than you, I need to stop over for some dinner! 😉
Being able to focus on spending time with your kids without worrying about other things that you have to squeeze in during off hours of a job seems well worth it alone. That’s the biggest reason I started down this path in the first place.
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Hi Jim! We’d be happy to have you over for dinner anytime. 😉
It’s been a great couple of years… not without its challenges of course, but good nonetheless!
The really tough days with the kids are fairly infrequent, so I feel like our time together has been a positive.
Glad it’s working out for you! It seems like you’re in a good position for two of the biggest factors: you have purpose and you’re not unhappy in other areas of your life (I assume).
I can imagine anyone that FIRE’s and has an issue with one of those, it wouldn’t feel like they solved anything.
Yep, it’s true… I’m happy with other areas of my life. Life is pretty good.
I joined Fire when my kids were 14 and 16. I wanted to be there for them when my wife passed away, and It was my life’s best decision. I began to work at home, I was able to go to all their after school and sports events, meet all their friends and their parents, and join the community in ways that I was never before able. I was able to free myself from “working for someone else” and began working on and for myself. It’s been 10 years now, both kids are launched, and it is and was the right thing to do for my kids and myself.
also, i can now cook too!!
Awesome story Mr. Lubosky! I hope to replicate some of that same success and eventually “launch” our kids!
Seems like a long ways off though! 🙂
Glad to hear FIRE has been a great experience for you! I hope we can all experience the happiness you have found sooner than later. Had to laugh at the kids driving you crazy at times. We have a toddler so I can relate. They can go from lovable to tyrant in the blink of an eye!
Oh, you’re telling me. ‘Tyrant’ is an understatement. *Sigh*
Thanks for the kind words Mr. Defined Sight!
Thanks for this honest portrayal of FIRE life. We’re pretty far from FIRE, so far that I haven’t even really decided it’s a goal yet. I feel a mini-version of your sentiments even when I work from home for a day or two.
It does really seem wonderful to stay home with your kids at those ages even as it’s utterly exhausting and maddening at times (a “days are long, years are short” kind of feeling).
I wonder if introverts v. extroverts feel differently about FIRE. I’m an introvert and actually get a fair amount of my social interaction at work. Sometimes I wonder if FIRE would make me a shut-in 🙂
You know… I don’t really worry about labels like introverts and extroverts. I’m happy to spend a quiet day entirely by myself. Does that make me a shut-in? I try not to worry about labels. 🙂
Great post Mr Tako, I found myself nodding along to most of the pros and cons you raised.
One of the reasons I ended up settling into a semi-retired working pattern was to periodically escape being the full time chauffeur/cleaner/concierge/cook/nanny.
Nobody sets out to take advantage of my “free” time, but little by little it gets taken for granted. I found the hard reset of working full time for a couple of months over the winter while the kids are at school is sufficient to restore the balance… for a while!
Have fun with your new hobbies once your kids are at school during the day.
Thanks Slow Dad!
Great post, love the honesty. I can relate on your comment about stimulating conversations at work. I’m down to working only 20 hours a week at my W2 job but I still notice the difference. The three days each week that I’m home are definitely a bit more lonely and can be isolating at times.
And that last pic of your son with the shovel deserves a caption – “Did I give you permission to take my picture?” 🙂
I try to get out for walks and shopping trips to avoid the isolation. Once in awhile I meet up with Mrs. Tako for lunch. But yeah, it’s quiet.
You get used to it though. 🙂
Hi Mr Tako,
Those people who say FIRE won’t make them happier clearly did not have a stressful job 🙂 if they did then they would get it!
That said I do agree it’s important to put some thought into developing hobbies and pastimes – otherwise it could get boring.
I can’t wait!
Yep, it’s super important to have something you’re passionate about! It also helps to have friends and acquaintances to share activities with.
It sounds like you’ve found a balance that works for you, and life will keep changing as time goes on and your kiddos grow up. Every phase of life has its own special beauty 🙂 I’m mega jealous of the ability to travel so much, working with a limited number of vacation days and always having to find coverage when you do go somewhere is my least favorite part of the 9-to-5 life. Glad it was worth it for you Mr. Tako! And we on the internet are more informed and entertained because of you and your blog.
Gosh, thanks Budget Epicurean! Super nice of you to say that! I’m actually really thrilled you visited and commented on my humble little blog! 🙂
Lovely post! Such a breath of fresh air to hear the honest truth about life after FIRE. And I have to say that your left-over lunch doesn’t look all that bad. Can’t wait to hear how the next 2 years go!!
Thanks Mrs. Wow! I’ll be blogging about it, don’t you worry! 🙂
Mr. T I read that with interest because we retired at the same time. My kids had all left my house and payroll though and my wife retired decades ago so I have much more time to allocate as I choose. I fill 16 hours a week with paid consulting, 10 to 12 with volunteer side gigs and the rest with running, tennis, church, fishing, hiking, skiing (last week!), travel and blogging. I can confirm as a formerly happy 9to5 guy I’m even happier now! As an engineer I have to quantify so I’d say I went from a good 1X to a great 2X on my happiness index. I haven’t identified any negatives. Only not ever knowing how to explain what I “do”. Loved your post!
Such a wonderful blog! You are a great writer and an inspiration to us all! This quality time and example you are setting for your children is priceless, not to mention eating quality homemade food will have a lasting impact on your family. Looking forward to your next blog and joining you on the path to FIRE!
Congrats! I’m with you on the whole you won’t be happy after ER.
Life is so much better after early retirement for us too. I just depends on your situation. ER is what you make of it.
Enjoy kindergarten. Hopefully, your little dude won’t be as much trouble as our. 🙂
I’m a little more than 5 years FIRE and still loving it. I can’t imagine having to go back.
Also, I am human or cephalopod and have checked the appropriate box.
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You are definitely loving FIRE from what I can tell. You are right, staying home parent often don’t get recognized as much. It’s a lot of work looking after kids, especially when they are young.
Congrats on the last couple of years. It will be exciting to see what the next 2 years brings for you. Wishing you the best of luck as you continue these endeavors.
Sounds like a solid trade off to me. Intelligent conversation and food will improve over time. It’ll be pretty fun with kids when they’re older.
My hubby gets free meals (3 square better than home meals) at work. Except it’s wasted on him because he’s not a foodie. He’s taste buds are… pretty dead. You can thank his mother. She’s allergic to salt, garlic, ginger and spices. He once looked at me chopping garlic and remarked “oh that what whole garlic looks like.”
Well that sounds encouraging! So where are you off to on holiday next? – Niagara Falls, Ottawa and Quebec City/ St. Lawrence River area is nice in the summer and/or Banff, Jasper, and Vancouver Island / Victoria … also in the summer are nice … CPO, From the Far Side of the Planet …
Thanks Mr. Tako. It’s great to read about life 2 years in. I’ve been FIRE’d about 4 months now and it’s comforting to know I’m on the right track even as I continue to decline very well paying jobs in my old field of work. The thought of going back to that field with the stress and commute and never ending meetings with very long days is stressful. In some ways I do miss the “extra” money but the time spent with the little one and the experiences so far can’t be bought. Thanks
Thanks for the honest article, Mr Tako. A lot of people give the impression that a FIRE life is perfect but there definitely are still some shortcomings. But that is what makes life interesting and also different for each individual. Some people that are introverts may enjoy a simple life of spending time on their hobbies by themselves whereas others may want to do activities with their friends but find it difficult if they are all tied up working if they haven’t reached FI.
Nice! Let’s have a chat in 2 years to see how I’m doing (ok, not FIRE, but will be a stay at home dad!) and if I feel the same way. Still seems like the right thing to do: FIRE
Nice recap at the 2 year mark. It’s definitely the journey, not the destination, and FIRE for you sounds like a more pleasant and interesting journey than the one working for the Man. Congrats and keep ’em comin’!
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Thanks for the honest take, and I especially like the takeaway that you’re less stressed and happier. I suppose I was buying into the baseline-level-of-happiness research.
Do you suppose there might be other things at play here? That is, it’s not really the lack of work that’s making you much happier, but the addition/trade of other activities that are just better overall?
That is to say, if someone had a less stressful job (i.e. – one that didn’t involve the kind of nightmare inducing stress you’re talking about), might the pre-and-post retirement happiness levels be more comparable?
In general, I would say that any life circumstances (no-stress job, stressful job, or no job) that leads to less stress seems to result in greater happiness.
Simple yes, but that’s my experience. 🙂
Very good article. I am basically financially independent now. My biggest expense was paying for college for my 2 kids at $100,000 each. Too expensive!!! If not for that I could have retired earlier.
Long time reader, first time poster. Really enjoying your blog and getting to daydream about achieving my own FIRE goals. One thing to keep in mind about $$ your children cost you is all of the new things they’ll be exposed to once they start school. For me, I saved thousands in childcare costs once they started going to school, but then I spent hundreds on all the new opportunities school created. Sports, Instruments, School Trips, Clubs, etc.
You’re great at building a budget so you may already have this on the radar, but it’s a rude awakening as they get older and develop more expensive interests. Cheers and thanks for writing!
Yep, we’re well aware. Going from $27k in childcare to a few thousand $$ annually for the kids shouldn’t be a problem. Regardless, the growth trajectory of our portfolio should cover it. 😉
Thanks Tako san. As often I love reading this kind of article from you because I feel like my FIRE life will be very close to yours. It is invaluable to read about the “cons”, when most other FIRE bloggers would want their readers to believe it’s all unicorns and butterflies. I stopped trusting many FIRE bloggers, in particular the DINK ones, not that their stories aren’t true, but because I just can’t relate to their lifestyle. Having constraints such as school time is a real thing that these people don’t have.
“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.”
You can speak for me too! I’m SO much happier once I FIRE’d than before. It’s not even a comparison. I think the people who aren’t happy before or after maybe using FIRE as a way to get away from existing problems. You can’t just run away from problems, you have to run toward something better.
And I’m with you on the whole “starting mini-businesses” idea. The brain loves novelty (I think that’s why travelling makes me so happy–you never get bored of change), so starting new projects challenges our brain and makes us grow as people and that adds to our happiness. And the best part? Doing it on your own schedule.
I noticed after taking a week off during last years holidays that by the end of the week, I was actually ready to go back to work! Toddlers are relentless buckets of energy. With my wife being a SAHM, sometimes I feel like an intruder in our home who just makes everything more difficult because she has such a good routine. It doesn’t help that I can be really lazy when I’m using time off, because it’s hard to shake the habit of feeling entitled to do nothing when on vacation. But now I have to think of my time off also as her time off, and sometimes I take vacation to give her a break instead of me.
Kids are hard! I’m planning on hitting FIRE when they are in grade school. Hopefully with them gone for several hours every day the transition to being home with the Mrs. full time won’t be as difficult.
Thanks for giving a balanced opinion on the matter. I just took a long break from work and it wasn’t all fun and games. There are perks, but you also have to find socializing and meaning elsewhere. Also, I really missed making money!
I hope to do a monthlong trip to Japan one day – or maybe a year. Or five years. We’ll see.
Glad to read that we share some of the same pros/cons of FIRE. Like you, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. But, it’s fascinating how it’s evolved… I’m almost 5 years in now. Having my son enter kindergarten in 1.5 years is a bitter/sweet thought.
BTW, I eat a lot of leftovers for lunch these days! 😉
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Great post! I’d like to hear more about your experience with Fusion 360. Is it a hobby, or do you see yourself designing things? How hard was it to learn?
It wasn’t hard to learn at all. There’s literally thousands of videos out there on youtube detailing the various features.
It’s definitely a hobby, but I already use it to design things I’m building.
Honestly, not wanting to be a SAHM is probably the biggest reason I’m not in a huge rush to hit FI (but I also enjoy my job). Working 80% time means I still have time to get a ton of chores done during the week, but still get that stimulating adult time you speak of 😉
That said, if my only choices were full time or to stay at home, I’d have a lot harder time saying that work was worth it.
Great perspective, Mr. Tako! Thanks for sharing. It’s awesome to hear an honest perspective from sombody who’s been there and done that.
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