Looking Back on Two Years of Freedom

We’re now two years into this thing they call early retirement.  In 2017, we left the cozy security and cashflow of full-time work, to start doing our own thing.

I ran through a few observations last year in this post, from our first year of freedom.  So I thought I’d back that up with some fresh thoughts from the last 12 months.

Because as the calendar rolls on, I learn a thing or two every now and then.  Hopefully that continues!  But for now, here’s a few thoughts from our second year of Financial Independence.

 

Your Health Improves!

I haven’t been sick in two whole years!

Well…that was going to be my first line here.  But as I was planning to write this last week, of course, I started getting the flu!  Haha, dammit!

Anyway, I think there’s still a valid point to be made.  We’ve noticed how little we get sick or ill these days, compared to the people we know.

I put this down to three things.  Less stress.  More quality sleep.  And improved nutrition.  All of these factors come naturally as a result of having much more time and not having to rush around like the rest of the population.

This by itself is a massive win.  Some of this will probably come back to a more plant focused diet, in my view.  We started eating this way before we left work and we’ve felt healthier and less tired ever since.

In my shift-worker Storeman days, I remember being tired every single day – it was just a fact of life.  Being able to get regular quality sleep and live a low stress life is priceless.

 

You Enjoy Work Again!

Our first year off was mostly about slowing down and settling into a nice relaxed groove.  This was a natural and enjoyable way to spend our newfound freedom.

But because we felt refreshed and energised, we then decided to put that energy to good use.  So our second year was spent being much more productive as we both began part-time work of different sorts.

In that time, I realised something.  Work is way more enjoyable when it’s optional.

I know we probably all believe this anyway.  But I can confirm it’s true.

What a liberating feeling – to know that what you’re working on, as soon as it no longer feels worthy of your time, you can simply chop it from your schedule.  And just like that, you’ve got your freedom back again, with no real negative financial consequences.

 

Strong Money Turns 2!

A few weeks ago, this blog ticked past its 2nd Birthday!  We now have almost 100 blog posts published, which is pretty cool.  It’s amazing how it builds up over time, just from doing a little bit regularly.

Building up a body of work is kind of like saving.  You tuck away small amounts and before you know it, it’s taken on a life of its own.

Anyway, this blog is essentially the equivalent of a part-time job.  I spend probably a couple of days each week writing a post and drafts in my phone, as well as a bit of time each day replying to comments and emails.

For those of you following at home, you’ll remember I was doing some other freelance writing a while back.  But I stopped doing that to focus on this site.  In the end, I decided I’d rather work on something that’s mine and which feels more important.

And besides, I love the feedback and interaction from readers.  Some of you have even told me you went back to read every single post and even the comments!  Whether you’re new here or a long time reader, thanks so much for your support, and there’s already a ton of new blog posts in the works.

In case you didn’t notice, I’ve created a few resource pages and stuck them in the sidebar.  This makes it easier to find the content you’re looking for!  Here they are…

—  Investing for Financial Independence
—  How to Boost Your Savings Rate
—  Develop a Strong Money Mindset
—  Interviews & Case Studies
—  LIC Reviews Page
—  Our Investments, Spending & Lifestyle

Freedom Can Be Scary!

It sounds weird, but hear me out.  Looking down the barrel at a lifetime of freedom ahead of you is kind of like winning the lottery.  At first, you can’t believe your luck.

Next, you start to realise what this means.  Your mind is flooded with options, ideas and opportunities.  Now you actually start feeling a little overwhelmed.  You now have too many choices!  A first world problem, for sure, but a problem nevertheless.

And it’s the same with Financial Independence.  Having complete freedom can be a little daunting.  Because of this unique opportunity, you might start feeling like you have to do something ultra meaningful in a save-the-whole-world type of way.

But after a while, you realise that just having a couple of enjoyable things to work on that mean something to you, is plenty good enough.  As long as you’re helping others or a cause in your own little way, you’ll derive a sense of meaning from that.

So you can then relax into your new life and work on things at your own pace.  For example, here’s what our lifestyle looks like these days.

 

You Forget That You’re Retired!

As crazy as it sounds, you’ll be going about your day, maybe doing some work stuff, or doing whatever it is you do, and then it hits you!  You remember that all this stuff is optional because you’re Financially Independent.

Or sometimes you might be grumpy for whatever reason and then realise that you’re more fortunate than a large portion of the population, and the rest of the human race for that matter!  These little sledgehammers to the forehead often catch me by surprise and remind me to be grateful.

 

Your Attitude Changes!

Having been away from a typical workplace now for two years, we’re probably slightly different people than before.  You become less tolerant of complaining and other whinging that tends to fill up a number of work-related conversations.

It’s also likely I’ve become more idealistic in my views about lifestyle and money.  In addition, peer pressure tends to have less and less of an effect on you, because you’re not surrounded by it anymore.  Not that it was ever really a big deal for me, as I always felt like a weirdo running my own race.

But as time goes on, it feels more and more like you’re driving down life’s highway in a different lane to other people.  One that drives a bit slower and admires the trees.  Where the passengers calmly chat together in good spirits, as they look over and notice the go-go-go lane, where it’s everyone for themselves, high stress and the goal is to impress or overtake one another.

 

The Best Bits!

It doesn’t take much imagination to come up with what are probably the best things about Financial Independence.  Many of these things I mentioned last year, but they’re worth touching on again!

No daily alarm clocks.  Unlimited free time.  Can avoid traffic.  Very low stress.  Time to smell the roses (literally).  Get to be home with our dog.  Freedom to choose what to work on and when to do it.  More time to eat right and exercise.  Plenty of sleep.

 

Final Thoughts

Our second year of FI was much more productive than the first.  But I think that’s probably how it should be.

Nowadays we feel much more ‘normal’ than we did at the start.  Having things to work on (whatever that might be) brings a sense of normality, purpose and focus, which is a good thing.

It still doesn’t feel real sometimes, to be honest.  But it’s often a subtle reminder to appreciate the life we have.

There’s a fair bit of responsibility that comes with reaching FI.  You’re 100% accountable for everything you do and don’t do with your new-found freedom.  Some people can become lost and depressed as they reach their ultimate goal, but have no thoughts or plans for what to do afterwards.

So it’s all up to you.  You can reach Financial Independence, design your own life from scratch, and do whatever you want!  There’s just one thing you’re not allowed to do…

Complain 🙂

What are you most looking forward to about Financial Independence?  Let me know in the comments…

42 comments

  1. very jealous! started my journey a year ago and can’t wait to reach FIRE like yourself 🙂 keep up the good work

  2. Hi Dave,
    I enjoy reading about the journey of the young bucks like yourself. I think there is an older generation that would love to have embraced FIRE but didn’t have the courage to take on the orthodoxy. As an older reader (52) who gained FI at a much older age (42 years) I would like to pass on my experience for your readership. During my working life, I was surrounded by people who defined themselves by their chosen vocation. So when I decided to up and leave that culture, I was looked upon as a bit of a leper. I think the advantage the FIRE community has over older converts is that you refuse to be defined by what you do for a living. Traditionally, as people moved into our 30s and 40s and celebrate home ownership and starting a family, what you do for work becomes your defining symbol because everyone else in this age group is in a similar economic stage of life. It is generally a very insular time in one’s life so people need to hold onto something that can define them as a person. That probably seems bizarre to those under 30. And then, when you reach your 50s, with 30 years work experience behind you, your status in your chosen field(s) defines your ego. For some, the quest for money is no longer an issue; it is the power that strokes the ego. To embrace early retirement in your 50s means giving up the power base that comes with seniority. Why do you think there are so many middle aged men in senior management roles in Australia? It is not the money. They have more than enough for two lifetimes. Truth be said, they are too scared to look over the horizon to see what awaits them post work life. This is why FIRE is so important for the 20s and 30s of all gender types to embrace because you can unknowingly fall into a deep crevasse if you are not prepared. Keep indulging us with you experiences.

    1. Thanks so much for this comment Steve! Fantastic insights!

      There’s definitely a sense of ‘opting out’ of the standard approach to career, lifestyle and money in the FI community. It’s just a conscious choice for all to make, but it may be harder for the older generation given the embedded behaviours and career = identity thing as you point out.

      I suppose the only way out is to rebuild one’s identity from scratch with other values and traits they can be proud of later in life. Not necessary an easy thing to do though I’m sure.

      Again, great comment mate and thanks for sharing!

    2. Hi Steve,

      I love your insight, I often wonder why people keep working when they have more than enough to retire. I’d jump at the chance!

      Kaz

    1. Cheers FG, appreciate that mate. Thinking about the next 100 posts is a bit overwhelming, but one at a time and we’ll get there 😉

  3. I am so happy that you decided to put so much energy into this site. After years of inspiration from US sites, I have only recently moved into reading Australian FI sites and it has been a brilliant change. You write great article Dave and it is fantastic to have such relevant content.

    I think you and AussieHifire are giving us a couple of major active communities for others to hang off. I have been a lurker in the US sites for years without feeling any compulsion to comment. But in the Aussie sites I figure I actually need to comment if I want to see it all build.

    1. Awesome stuff Girt! Great to have you here and comments are always appreciated. Hopefully we can lure lots more people into the world of Aussie Financial Independence!

  4. I love the last line of this blog! Nearly everybody I know, close family included, complains about something almost every day. And almost every one of those people have it better than most. I feel like if you are lucky enough to go one better than average and achieve FI, you have no reason to complain because you are designing 100% of your life. Excellent post Dave!

    1. Thanks Luke – it’s a good reminder because I think we all forget how good we have it from time to time. Glad it resonated with you mate.

      1. Our generation are like the ‘chosen ones’… literally nothing to complain about when you compare our lives to basically any other life at any other time of human history. It should be a crime to squander it.

  5. Great Message Steve! I am a similar age to yourself, in my 50’s…and I am aiming for Fire eventually… Can you pass on some of your journey about your path to Fire ?
    Thanks Brad

    1. Appreciate the feedback Brad. I don’t want to hijack Dave’s blog so I will be brief. I owe my father a huge debt of gratitude because he put me on this path (ideas) before I knew what was actually happening. In simple terms, it was the Peter Thornhill mantra – Don’t spend more than you earn and don’t borrow more than you can afford. That is easy to understand but difficult to apply when so many of your peer group are diametrically opposed to these ideas. The most defining moment for me was being made redundant in the depths of the 1991 recession. It took an huge emotional toll on me as a 25 year old but it was a sliding doors moment. It basically got me thinking about how to go about building an asset base that could provide a future income stream as a cushion should I fall on bad times again. The next defining moment was meeting my life partner who shared similar social and financial values to me. We all go through distractions and challenges along the way (that is life) but every time one comes up, my experience is that someone or something will appear to shine a beacon as long as I am open to the idea. It sometimes comes disguised as a threat or a crisis (e.g. redundancy). My journey has been full of distractions (like everyone else) but since hitting 40 I have consciously chosen to avoid beating myself up for my failings and move on with the benefit of hindsight. Love the work Dave is doing and happy to post the odd comment along the way if I think it may be of benefit.

      1. Great reply Steve! May i ask what field were you employed in and then what course of action did you take to get out of the rut and move on a prosper??

        1. Hi Shannon,
          I worked in the accounting profession and then the finance industry as an adviser on taxation law and policy. Course of action – predominantly shares, contrarian thinking and a fair bit of luck. Shares – the Hawke/Keating tax reform measures of the 1980s lay the foundation for a radical shift in the way companies rewarded shareholders – from tax-free capital gains to more emphasis on dividend payouts. That gave me the initial impetus to “dip the toe”. Contrarian thinking – I realised very early on that my beliefs in terms of consumption, saving and investing were not aligned with that of my friends, work colleagues and acquaintances. Rather than bow to the pressure of peer group, I chose to self-analyse why I held the beliefs I did. That process lead me down a path that eventually collided with the principles of Peter Thornhill and others in the mid-1990s. Luck – I was fortunate in my timing having avoided the 1987 market malaise and cut my teeth in an era when governments were prepared to sell off the farm (e.g. CBA, CSL, TLS) and big conglomerates were spinning off successful businesses in their own right (e.g. WOW).

  6. Congrats on reaching 2 years FI (and 2 years blogging!)

    I personally wished I had found your blog a lot earlier than I did. What you’ve achieved at your age is something I would have liked if only I had the discipline to stay on top of my investments instead of muddling along without a goal in sight.

    Hearing your story makes me even more determined to achieve my goal. Looking forward to FI one day!

    1. Thanks Ms FireMum, that’s great to hear. You’re well on the way so I don’t think you’ll have any problem hitting your goals!

  7. Good to hear that you’re still enjoying life and keeping busy Dave!

    I think for me there are a number of things I’m looking forward. First and foremost being there for my kids more. I try to be a good dad and play games and sport with them, teach them and be a big part of their lives. But realistically when you’re away from them most of their working hours it’s hard to have as much of an impact.

    Secondly spending more time travelling, trail running, reading books and stuff on the internet. With limited holidays and only a bit of time on the weekends (and the sacrifice of it being time away from the wife and kids) there is only so much you can do. Once I retire though, lots more time and I’ll be able to do stuff like trail running when the kids are in school, or have more time with them after school so I don’t feel so guilty about going for a run for a few hours on the weeked!

    And then last but not least, just not having to go to work and answer to other people. I like my work, it’s good fun most of the time, but if I didn’t have to do so to pay the bills and set the family up for early retirement, I wouldn’t do it.

    So plenty of stuff to look forward to.

    1. Could have been written by me, this post. I drop my 2yo daughter off at family day care every morning and she routinely tells me she’d rather come to work with me than go there. I know she has fun, but she misses me and I miss her. If it wasn’t for FI it would make absolutely no sense to do that in mindless ‘hamster wheel’ fashion forever.

      I feel guilty working, exercising, socialising with friends, etc. when my kids miss me and still want to spend time hanging out with me. It’s very hard to prioritise everything and I’m looking forward to the day when I don’t have to worry as much because I’ve freed up 40+ hours every week forever.

    2. Sounds like you’ve thought about it a lot, which is fantastic! And it all sounds pretty awesome! There’s a danger of just wanting to get there and not considering the ‘after FI’ side of things, which I was guilty of until late in the journey.

      Looking forward to hearing about your early retirement adventures mate 🙂

  8. Congratulations on your 2-year milestone Dave! I really enjoyed reading this blog – I don’t do enough reflection these days and this was a pertinent reminder…

    I felt like I could see the smile on your face as I read ‘The Best Bits’ section… It sounds like you’re settling into FI-life well.

    Way to go 🙂

    1. Thanks Kurt!

      Haha yeah posts like this are often written with a smile! Being an introvert, reflection seems to be almost my default setting, but I have to snap myself out of it or not much gets done!

  9. This post has come along at the perfect time for me.
    I was going to do “one more year” of full-time work, then drop back to 3 days. But my mother is really unwell and I can see that she’ll need ferrying around to Drs appointments etc, and it isn’t fair to expect my sister to do it all when I can afford to drop my hours. So I’ll be chatting to my principal in the next couple of days.
    I’m thinking that having some extra time to get things done, instead of crowding everything into the weekend will be a VERY nice luxury.

    1. Sorry to hear about your Mum, but it’s really good that you can afford to choose your priorities a bit more. That’s the wonderful thing about having a solid financial situation – you can make decisions like this and get a little more freedom in your life.

  10. Dave,
    Knowing what you know today and knowing how little we all knew about the world of the J.O.B. in our teenage years, what would be your message to the teenagers of today? Maybe that could be the subject of future post – What I would tell my 15 year old self? Just a thought!

    1. Wow this is a big question, and a fantastic post idea! Thanks Maurie, I’ll write this down!

  11. If I had children, undoubtedly, the want for FI would be so I could spend that time with my kids because them growing up only happens once. Since children isn’t in my horizon though, I’ve had to readjust and reflect on other reasons for FI. And I think there is much power to be had in being able to go to work because I want to, and not because I have to.

    I am passionate about my job and I love every minute of it. But I’d be lying if I said that the pay cheque that comes with it isn’t one of the reasons I’m there every day. My father told me yesterday that I need to keep climbing the ladder because I need to keep increasing my income, but that really begs the question – is leadership just an avenue for more income? Because I don’t think it should be, one should only embrace management/ leadership if they are truly invested in it but when money / income figures come into it, it all gets a bit murky.

    Plus, the ability to travel and see the sights without worrying about how to fund that lifestyle – that’s what I’m keen to have after obtaining FI for myself!

    1. Great comment Pia 🙂

      Having the choice over how much we spend time at work (even if we love it) is still incredibly valuable. It’s interesting to hear this from someone who genuinely loves their job, because most of us probably want FI in part because we don’t care all that much for the work we’re doing.

      The first thing I think about the ladder climbing approach is why? If it’s for more income, then what? If it’s for the top job, then what? What is the end point, is what I’m always wondering? More money = better life = problems solved? Who knows. At some point there has to be a point to it all… like freedom and finding meaning in something. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Hi Dave,
    Congratulations on the second anniversary of achieving Financial Independence. I am one of those who read every post on your blog and it introduced me to things I did not know about. LICs for one.

    1. Hey Mr D. Thanks for being such a loyal reader! Great to know you’re getting something out of the blog!

  13. Thanks Dave, I love reading your blog.

    Read this post a few times over, over a course of a few months. A poignant reminder for me to get to smelling the roses sooner rather than later…b/c I actually am in a position do so (but it will involve liquidating at least 2/3’s of our property portfolio and investing the proceeds in a perceived ‘more risky’ asset class).

    Not sure why I can’t bring myself to do it. Maybe it’s the fact I started buying property 20 yrs ago and don’t want to dismantle what I’ve built. Maybe it’s the massive CGT bill that awaits, or the hassle of selling and staging properties etc. Truth be told, it’s infinitely easier to buy than to sell!!! Nevertheless, this hesitancy is holding me back from lazy Groundhog days…which I embarrassingly covet.

    Wish I had some already FIRE folk talk some sense into me. For now, all I have is this great blog!!

    1. Thanks for the comment David. Great job getting yourself in such a great position.

      Don’t think of it as ‘dismantling’ what you’ve built – think of it as realigning your capital with your goals, which at this stage is going to be about generating income to live off. It’s the property portfolio that’s holding you back from freedom – that’s how I framed it in my mind to bite the bullet and start selling. The hassles in doing so are only short-lived, the freedom is forever…

      Hope that helps, and thanks heaps for reading!

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