August Update

GraphA Whole Lot of Nothing

After a nice spike up last month, our investments as a multiple of annual spending dropped a bit from 16.0 to 15.4X over the past month. There is not much to report for the month.

Investments were up .63%, driven mostly by our automated monthly contributions. Markets were pretty flat.

Spending was up substantially from last August bumping our average monthly spending by about $200. However, most of this was due to paying a month ahead on our annual home, car, and umbrella insurance policies. We also made a run to Sam’s Club to stock up on some supplies we will need. Both of these spends were done to manufacture spending to get a credit card bonus that we will use for an upcoming ski trip that we want to book soon. Take those expenses out, and we were right about on pace with last August. Overall, a pretty boring month which is OK by us.

What’s the Purpose?

Long time readers of the blog may have noticed a shift in theme from when we started it over two years ago. When we started out, I was very much into the technical aspects of how to retire faster focusing on how to be a better investor, how to increase your savings rate, etc. Our recent post about “Our Ultra-Conservative Early Retirement Plan” revealed what many may consider not looking much like retirement at all, especially for Mrs. EE who plans to keep on in her current work situation for a while longer.

This transition began when I became a big fan of Todd Tresidder at the site Financial Mentor a few years ago. His work has been very influential on our planning which is reflected in my writing. He was the first person in the early retirement community that I heard express the opinion that retirement is not all it is cracked up to be. He describes the start of his early retirement as the “pro-leisure circuit” which was fun for a short while, and then became very unfulfilling. He emphasizes that most people focus on retiring away from a job or lifestyle that they do not like. However, many tend to just assume that we are going to retire to something better. Without having purpose and meaning in life, I don’t know if that will be the case.

This past month, I came across three awesome articles from the early retirement community that touched on this theme in different ways. This is a topic that I think needs more spotlight. I would encourage everyone to read and think about all three if you have not already.

Physician On Fire on Michael Phelps

Physician on Fire wrote an awesome post, “Money, Achievement, Fame, and Suicidal Ideation” The post examined the struggles of Michael Phelps leading up to the feelgood story of his comeback at the recent Rio Olympic games. In the article it is pointed out of Phelps:

  • He had money.
  • He had fame.
  • He had won more Olympic medals than anyone, ever.
  • He had no will to live.

It is a powerful reminder that the things we think will or should make us happy often do not. For all of us in the early retirement community who are trying to design a better way of life, I think it is a point worthy of considerable time, thought, and energy.

Slowly Sipping Coffee on “Ikigai”

Over at Slowly Sipping Coffee, Mr. SSC introduced me to the word ikigai. It is a Japanese term meaning “the reason to wake up in the morning”. The post points out that finding your ikigai is literally a life or death decision, associated with a longer life expectancy as well as better general overall health.

This is definitely something that I have noted in my physical therapy practice. I have had the opportunity to know numerous patients from their working years and then having the opportunity to follow up with them in their retirement years. I see many retirees with no reason to get out of bed, and the tendency is that they get old and unhealthy very quickly. A great example is a recently retired physician who I have cared for in the past when he was practicing. He recently returned for a consultation after retiring. When I asked him how he was enjoying retirement, he was very candid. He hated it. He had devoted his entire life to his profession, while he neglected other aspects of his life. He was now lacking purpose without work. He was depressed. In fact, the reason he was there to see me is that he felt the only thing that gave him any enjoyment was going to the gym. He literally started spending hours a day, exercising 6-7 days each week because he had nothing else to do. He ended up hurting himself overexercising. The injury took this away, causing him to be more depressed.

On the other side, despite my interest in FIRE, some of the people that I most respect, find interesting, and enjoy working with are people who continue to work into their later years. Jumping to the front of my mind are a current client who is 93 years old . She still works part-time for her son’s business a few days a week. Another example is a former client/friend who passed away this past month in his mid 80’s and never retired. He was literally still working, making business phone calls, from his hospice bed. These people do not work because they have to, but because their work gives them purpose.

As I read the “ikigai” post, it made me realize why I relate so much to the SSC blog. Like us, they started all in on the idea of early retirement, but realized that there is a better way. Their idea of a “Fully Funded Lifestyle Change” allows for the benefits of more freedom with our time that we so desire. However, it also allows a role for continued work in some capacity that provides fulfillment and purpose. The beauty in my mind is that this allows for a much better lifestyle sooner, while taking away much of the stress and anxiety of watching every dip in the markets and watching every dollar that you spend living a more traditional retirement.

Freedom Is Groovy on Being a Righteous Mofo

Mr. Groovy wrote a great post about being able to use FI to do more good in the world, or in other words be a “Righteous Mofo”. He included this quote that I think about often: “Render money irrelevant, and a man can afford to be honorable.” 

I spend a considerable amount of time and space on this blog being critical of the financial industry. However, I do not think that people who go into this industry are inherently bad or evil. It is simply a fact, most of the models they work in require decisions every single day that put clients’ best financial interests directly in conflict with their own. If an adviser wants to eat and have a home, it is not a matter of if they will compromise what is best for clients. It is simply a matter of how much they will take away from what is best for clients and whether they will be transparent with this or do it through deception and hidden fees.

While the conflicts in other industries may not be so obvious, they are there every single day for all of us still working for a living. I would imagine if we took an honest look in the mirror, many of us choose ourselves when having to decide whether to put a few more dollars in our own pockets versus leaving them for someone else. Working in the healthcare industry, I see this every day both on the insurer side and the provider side. This is one of my biggest frustrations working in a field where people’s lives are literally at stake and they are at their most vulnerable.

As I think about what gives me purpose in life, a huge one is serving people. This is what drew me to become a physical therapist. This is also what drew me to share my financial mistakes and experiences through my writing. I want to stay involved in some way in health care and/or personal finance after reaching FI and “retiring” from my profession. Figuring out ways to help people live better lives by improving their health and finances, without all of the conflicts of interest that go into traditional medical and financial models is an exciting challenge that I look forward to.

What’s My Purpose?

I do not know exactly what projects and passions I will pursue once I leave working a traditional job. I am not sure what my typical day will look like, or if I will even have a typical day. However, I have put much thought into finding purpose and meaning in life.

I want to spend a lot of time being an involved parent and a more fully engaged husband, rather than being constantly overwhelmed rushing from thing to thing. I want to reconnect with my passion for the outdoors and find more time to connect with friends and family on a deeper level, all three of which have been badly neglected due to a too busy schedule. I also plan to reserve a part of my time for meaningful work serving and helping others.

I have many concerns about FIRE. Being bored and without purpose is not on the list.

What’s Your Purpose?

How about you? Have you considered what your purpose will be in life after retirement, or at least not needing to work for money? Do you plan to incorporate paid work in your life when you no longer need to? What is your purpose? Share your thoughts below.

 

14 comments on August Update

  1. Thanks for the mention! I’ve definitely thought about my “post-retirement” purpose and at least initially plan on the Stay at Home Dad role. I’m more aware than most that this may not necessarily be a fulfilling ikigai, and am okay with that, but that’s the initial plan.
    Second to that will totally depend on where I am living and what’s available to do that also seems fulfilling.

    Like the Freedom is Groovy post you mentioned, what would I want to do if a job isn’t needed for money’s sake? That too is a pretty powerful question. I probably won’t be able to answer it until that bridge pops up before me and I know what my options are.

    Great post, with a nice tie in of some recent themes around the PF community!

    1. I also like the stay at home dad role and being very involved, but think I’ll need something more to stay challenged. I like the idea of working with flexibility in schedule (writing) or seasonally for short stints (travel jobs) versus having my entire life revolve around other people’s schedules. I think that will be enough to keep me engaged, but agree that we never really know until we get there.

  2. I can appreciate your focus on creating a vision for your early retirement lifestyle. It’s easy to develop tunnel vision when all energies are directed towards the solitary goal of reaching your number to afford an early retirement.

    Thank you for the mention of my Phelps article. It fits in well with the theme here. He lacked purpose when he retired, and it nearly did him in.

    Love the posts from SSC & FiG as well. In fact, both of them made an appearance on my site via the Sunday Best.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

    1. Thanks for the kind words. I really thought the Phelps article was interesting. In addition to the financial lessons, it is a reminder to not judge others as we often have no idea what struggles they face on a day to day basis. Keep up the compelling content.
      EE

  3. Great post. There are a lot of elements that are very relevant to me today, to my thinking and to our approach in development.
    What if we design life today so that retirement away from it is not needed? Me too, I need to keep purpose in life. Working hard on figuring out what that would be for me.

    thx for the insigths

    1. Glad I could challenge you to think about things on a bit deeper level. I do not know if any of us ever know an absolute purpose or optimum path and I think embracing the uncertainty is a big part of the journey.

  4. Like financial planning for the future, where it is really hard to make accurate predictions, the same applies to our purpose. However saying that, it will involve a lot of the outdoors (hiking, skiing), volunteering for who knows what in the town we are moving to and a lot of engagement with kids school and activities.

    We also aim to do many home projects ourselves and learning to do much more than we actually have time for now because of work schedules.

    If I look back ten years ago to what interested me and drove me then, it is quite a bit different to what it is now. I can see the same applying 5, 10 years from now. And I am a Type A planner!!

    Flexibility to roll with the market curveballs and life interest pursuits is key I think.

    1. I agree with your sentiments completely. This is where our idea of redundancy combines with the idea of a “FFLC” to produce a lot of flexibility to change courses versus the idea of being tied to a particular budget and lifestyle characterized by a more traditional early retirement. As pointed out in the article, it allows for more security and allows for changing your lifestyle quicker. To your point, it also gives that flexibility.

      Thanks for the insights!

  5. Wow …. lots to chew on in that article, EE! Good stuff.

    I think a similar idea to purpose is calling, which used to be more of a religious word referencing the clergy. But I think FIRE lets us be more authentic towards that calling, if we’re willing to listen. So we can move towards projects and a profession that calls to our passions and our skills, regardless of its salary (or lack thereof in the case of parenting).

    For myself, I’m financial independence as a stage where we “stop selling out and start doing what matters. ” We all sell out some, but the goal is to sell out less and less. I could do the same job as before FI, for example, but not sell out – as you referenced with many in the financial industry. I want my motivations to be that I’m doing a job, a project, or something important because I’m good at it and because it helps people. Sometimes that will be in a business context, in which case I’ll need to make a profit to sustain the business. But sometimes I’ll donate my time.

    The fun part is, financial independence gives us that choice.

    Thanks for sharing those articles. Good reads!

    1. Chad,

      I love this idea of authenticity vs. selling out. As much as freedom with my time, this is the thing that drives me toward FI. I really love the quote about rendering money irrelevant allowing someone to be honorable. I think it is sadly lacking in our materialistic culture, where many people are driven primarily by money. I know this is something we’ve gone back and forth on before when I wrote about REI’s “get outside” campaign last fall, but I admire people/companies that are able to find a balance of being profitable while also staying true to a set of core values. It is pretty hard to do if the primary thing you value or need is more money.

  6. I absolutely intend to keep working when I achieve FI, but only at my own business that I now work nights and weekends. The work I do there is really good for the world and provides me incredible fulfillment. I won’t work full-time, but I will keep up a 20-25 week schedule most likely. That gives me enough structure without preventing me from doing the other things I love.

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