Six months after hitting financial independence, I’ve made good on the retire early part of the bargain.
I’ve left work.
How does it feel? Like I’ve lit the touch paper on a Catherine Wheel of emotion.
It’s euphoric, unreal, wonderful, confusing, and daunting, but in an exciting way.
I feel like I’ve been handed a precious opportunity that I mustn’t screw up. Like it’s all on me now.
No more excuses – be happy or go boil your head!
I resigned a few months ago and worked my notice until departure day last week, when I finally left work.
The end wasn’t like I imagined it would be when I first started down the road to FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early).
My workplace was like a bucket of squabbling rats back then.
In my mind’s eye, my last day was an Apocalypse Now of burning bridges as I dropped truth-bombs from my Stratofortress of freedom.
The reality was nothing like that.
As part of a small platoon of like-minded comrades, I helped clean out the old toxic culture years ago.
Now I found myself trying not to shed a tear as my teammates gave me a send-off for which I’ll ever be thankful and which I’ll never forget.
The last few days were bittersweet like vintage chocolate. (You should know chocolate plays a central role in my life.)
I was privileged to sign-off by exchanging messages of gratitude for the many moments and kindnesses shared between a tight-knit team.
I’m going to miss them. I was lucky enough to experience a Charlie Munger-esque seamless web of trust these last few years. I may never experience that alchemy again.
It’s hard to explain why you have to leave the tribe. I didn’t use the word retirement in talking to my (ex) colleagues, because the term is so loaded.
People think you’re going to spend all day on the golf course or snoozing in your armchair.
But that’s just not me.
So I said I’m stepping back from full-time employment and will spend my time on passion projects, family, and community.
That’s the plan and I really can’t think of a better one.
A couple of astute fellows clocked it straight away and asked me outright: “Are you retiring?”
I admitted that I was and took the “You jammy bast!” ribbing as a double-thumbs-up.
But whether we discussed the R-word or not, everyone understood my reasoning. It’s no secret that we’ve all been collared by The Man; breaking his grip seems to be a universal goal.
Nobody asked me for the secret cage-dissolving sauce, though.
Despite the emotional whirl, the moment I sent my resignation email was the moment the work-related stress drained away. I have felt a profound sense of ease about my decision ever since.
You can’t grow if you want things to stay the same, so FIRE or not, it was time for me to make a change.
We all experience decisive breaks in our lives: leaving home, first job, ending a relationship, changing career, or country.
The end of each era forms the strata of our lives. As I take a moment to drill down into my past, it’s clear that every stage contributed something to the core, and that each is a mixed bag of bones.
Anyway, I don’t want to get too sedimental but whatever happens next will be down to me. It won’t reflect on the concept of FIRE.
It helps that I’ve put some time into thinking about what makes me tick.
What motivates me
- Deep human connection.
- Being part of a cause that does some good.
- Personal progress – feeling like I’m a better human than I was yesterday.
- Simple pleasures – we took to the hills on day one, built a campfire, and watched our cares fade like embers in the darkness.
- Some work (that I choose) and lots of play (there’s still a fun-loving boy in here who wants to know everything about the world).
- The ongoing love of Mrs Accumulator – without which it would all seem completely pointless.
What doesn’t motivate me (much)
- Money – beyond what I need to live.
- Personal politics – one-upmanship, egotism, alpha dog BS.
- Status – eventually we’re all stripped of the trappings: wealth, power, fame, and social approval. You’ll be naked, weak, insignificant, and close to the end. The only thing that will matter is the kindness of others and the love of those whose lives you touched. Choose your circle wisely.
I’m less than a week into FIRE as I write this. I fully admit this is not the new reality. This is holiday mode.
I’m on an amazing trip that’s fired up my brain with the joyful possibilities.
At some stage, that flame will die back down and I’ll go back to operating on a lower burn. But for now, I’m enjoying the gas.
Take it steady,
Pro-tip: a member of the family wisely advised me to start retirement in the spring. There is no doubt that the optimism of longer nights and sunnier days has helped get me off to a great start. Read more about my decumulation plan if this sounds like something that would work for you.