I thought I could write about something besides the coronavirus and investments today. This post is about how I feel I am doing one year after achieving financial independence. Yesterday was my one year anniversary of financial independence and has it been the most amazing thing for me? Yes and no. I have learned a lot about what I want to accomplish now that I am no longer tied to a corporate job but my success at accomplishing those things has been mixed. I hope this post can be a source of inspiration and lessons learned for those preparing to get to the next phase of their financial journey.
The Sugar Rush – My First Few Months of Financial Independence
The first positive – I sleep really well these days compared to when I had a job and was thinking about emails, meetings, and work projects on a daily basis. I am one of those people that still dream about failing to graduate college (I graduated 22 years ago) but my sleepless nights almost went to zero the day after I finished working for someone else. You should not underestimate this benefit when thinking about your own financial independence.
The second positive – The family went on a month long vacation during the summer and I had no work emails, calls, etc. to deal with. This was the second time I had done a vacation as an adult with no job and those were two of the best vacations I have ever had. It is really a great feeling to be unplugged and be able to focus on the things in front of you. Being able to live in the moment while on a vacation is really a big upside to this whole financial independence thing. I highly recommend experiencing this type of vacation one way or another.
The issue – The van life is not for me just yet. 🙂 After recharging my batteries and enjoying some relaxing time with my family (I even had a weekly golf tee time with my dad during the middle of the week for a few months) I knew it was time to focus on adding more meaning to my life.
Adding Meaning to my Day
I did not know exactly how I wanted to spend my days after achieving financial independence. To try to get some clarity I began to write about the first forty years of my life, what I liked about it, and what I wanted to do differently in the next phase of my life. After multiple bouts of writer’s block I finally wrote a 100 page book/document that I will give to my kids when they get older. Writing also helped me identify the following areas that I wanted to focus on over the next several years:
- Goal #1: Spend significant quality time with my kids – Goal #1 had to be about my kids. My kids were 8 years old and 6 years old, respectively, when I achieved financial independence. It’s unfortunate that so many families have to spend so much time and energy working at the time their kids could benefit a great deal from their presence (probably ages 5-12 years old). I really wanted to spend a great deal of quality time with my kids over the next few years and expose them to a lot of different experiences. I also want to work with my kids so they can develop a strong level of self-confidence and work ethic.
- Goal #2: Turn our net worth into consistent sources of cash flow – During my 20 years of working I successfully translated a strong work ethic and smart financial decisions into a solid net worth. However, I have not done a great job of building investments that consistently generate cash flow. You can see in this post that I believe the best way you maintain your financial independence is to build a series of assets that can generate consistent cash flow to cover your expenses.
- Goal #3: Develop a platform to share my ideas on topics important to me with others – I feel a lot of my ideas and my overall approach to life have led to my successes in school, in business, and as a family person, but I’ve never really shared these things with anyone except my kids. Hence, FIRE Mountain was created! I see FIRE Mountain as platform that can generate content others can read as they go through their own journeys and it will also force me to continue to learn and improve as I write about my own decisions and experiences.
- Goal #4: Establish new habits that make me healthier and more active – On my last day of work (March 2019), I was 210 pounds as a result of inconsistent eating and exercise habits. I weighed 185 pounds after college. Now that I have the time I want to do everything I can to be healthy and fit so I can achieve the other goals I have for the next phase of my life.
- Goal #5: Build relationships with people that have similar interests as me – Writing about my life-to-date made me realize that the people I have met and interacted with during my journey had a significant impact on my thinking and my life. I think consistently working on my relationships outside of my family will be a real challenge for me but I want to work on it going forward.
- Goal #6: Prepare for the time when the kids have their own lives – I know it is only a matter of time before my kids enter the next phase of their lives and want to spend less time with me and Mom. I don’t want to be left flat footed when this time comes because I haven’t spent enough time thinking about what is next for my wife and me.
How am I doing One Year into Financial Independence?
It is time to look in the mirror and be honest with myself about how I am doing with my newfound financial freedom. Am I using my time to add meaning to my life or have I been throwing it away watching Netflix series and getting up late.
Well, here are the grades I would give myself on working towards each of these goals after my first year of no longer holding down a traditional job:
Goal #1: Spend significant quality time with my kids
Goal #2: Turn our net worth into consistent sources of cash flow
Goal #3: Develop a platform to share my ideas with others
Goal #4: Establish new habits that make me healthier and more active
Goal #5: Build relationships with people that have similar interests
Goal #6: Prepare for the time when the kids have their own lives
I did not like to get Cs or Ds in school and I do not like seeing them here. Hopefully, this post will kick me into gear on a few of these areas. Here is why I gave the grades that I did:
Goal #1: Spend significant quality time with my kids – I would have to say I almost hit this one out of the park. I take the kids to school every day, I pick them up every day, and we have pretty good conversations. I spend a lot of time with them working on their school and sports activities and we mix in fun times (although not enough) with hard work. My kids are doing really well in school and sports and I feel both of them are becoming confident in themselves as persons. I love spending a lot of time with my kids and I have been blessed this year to spend a lot of time with each of them. My biggest accomplishment this year is the personal development of my kids.
Goal #2: Turn our net worth into consistent sources of cash flow – I would have given myself a lower grade but over the last several months I have focused on two investment types to begin to increase my cash flow from my investments. Each of those investments is starting to get off the ground. First, I had sold my position out of an S&P 500 index fund and decided to deploy the cash towards dividend paying stocks. My plan was to invest in high quality stocks that pay dividends when the market had its next correction. Well, it took a year to see that correction but I have been buying these stocks the last two weeks on down days. Second, I have decided to use Real Estate Crowdfunding to invest in commercial real estate opportunities that are cash-flow oriented. I made my first investment last month (you can read about it here) and I have since put in offers to invest in two additional projects. I think I will be writing on my dividend and Real Estate crowdfunding portfolios a lot over the next few years.
Goal #3: Develop a platform to share my ideas with others – Do not let great get in the way of good. A problem I had growing up was only doing something if I was great at it. My childhood was a case study for having a fear of failing and such fear limited some of the experiences I could have had in different areas of my life. I have fought this fear my entire adult life and I work hard to try new things even when I might fail at them. This will be my fortieth post on Fire Mountain and each time I publish a post I am a little nervous that it is not good enough. I feel I am overcoming this fear and I am happy with my progress so far and I look forward to writing posts a few times a week.
Goal #4: Establish new habits that make me healthier and more active – I got off to a good start with this goal by exercising daily and eating better. My weight was down to about 200 pounds after being at 210 pounds when I stopped working. Then I got plantar fasciitis, a really painful foot problem, and my vigorous workouts in the morning became hobbled walks during the day. I weighed myself this morning and I weighed 207 pounds. I still feel much better than I did before I stopped working and my foot problem is getting better so I want to do a lot better here during the rest of 2020.
Goal #5: Build relationships with people that have similar interests – I probably should give myself an F on this goal but there are two things that have salvaged a D grade. One, my wife and I have become friends with some of the parents on my daughter’s soccer team and they are a great group of parents. I hope to spend more time with them in 2020 and build some lasting friendships. Two, I started teaching a class at a local law school and I have met a lot of nice students that are fun to teach. However, many of the things I wanted to do, like joining a group of investors, have fallen by the wayside. I did sign-up for the FinCon2020 conference later this year so I hope to meet and build some relationships with more like-minded people at this event.
Goal #6: Prepare for the time when the kids have their own lives – I finally realized that achieving this goal means spending more quality time with my wife. We do a lot of things as a family but I need to do more with her and her alone. She is a great partner for me and I need to show my appreciation for her more often. We did get a dog and I think he will be loyal to us after the kids no longer want to spend time with us. 🙂
Things I Need to Do Better Year 2
I came up with a list of things to help me get better grades next year:
- Change my Morning Routine – I need to get back to waking up a little earlier and getting in that morning workout. It makes me feel good and gives me more time during the rest of the day to focus on the other areas that I prioritize.
- Spend Quality Time with My Kids Outside of Sports – My kids are budding scholars and athletes but I need to remember to build in activities that do not always have a purpose. It is okay to play “Alien Attack” with my daughter as we chase our “alien” dog around the house and try to get the aliens out of him. The dog does not enjoy the game but my daughter and I do.
- Help My Wife Achieve Her Own Financial Independence – My wife had a pretty good part-time gig that she enjoyed. It brought in some money and she still got to be home a lot. That part-time gig went away earlier this year and she is now working full-time (she could not find a part-time role that she wanted). We are making more money from her job but she gets home much later. I feel a bit guilty about this unexpected role reversal and I need to make sure we do our best to get to a point where we can be financially independent as a family.
- Push Myself to Do Even More with Fire Mountain – I have some pretty fun plans here regarding videos and e-books so I need to push myself to get these things done in a timely manner and not push them on the back burner.
- Remember to Enjoy the Moment – My goals are no longer career or work-oriented but they can still get in the way of enjoying the moment if I become too obsessed with them. I want my goals to guide my choices and how I spend my day but I do not want them to become my life.
Lessons for Those Striving to Achieve Financial Independence
Know what you want to accomplish after financial independence. I think I would have had a better first year if I had established a better image of what I wanted my day to look like after financial independence. We are creatures of habits and so getting rid of the structure work requires was a little unsettling for me. It would have been less of an issue if I had that image of what my life would look like afterwards. I am still fine-tuning this image but hopefully it will become more crystal clear to me this year.
Focus on your health. I noticed I felt a lot more limited with what I could do in my first year after my plantar fasciitis limited what I could do with my kids, my workouts, and my outdoor activities. To be honest it sucked to be hobbling around for a few months. It was a big flashing warning sign to me that I need to focus on being a healthy person if I want to fully enjoy this new phase of my life.
You still need to have purpose and routines post-financial independence. I have written about the power of habits – see here. To me, building good habits after work life is over is the key to optimizing my day and achieving what I want to achieve. Without my work to structure my day it is my own good habits that give me the structure I need to accomplish things that are important to me. For example, a good routine could mean getting up early enough to make sure I walk my kids to school instead of throwing them into the car to get them there last minute. Good habits are a big factor to whether I have a fulfilling or wasted day.
Think about how your life after financial independence impacts your family and friends. Most of your family and friends still go to work every day and probably will for a long time. What does that mean to you? Do you want to work a little longer to help your partner/spouse get financially independent, too? Do you need to find additional friends with the same goals as you? Is this a topic of discussion with current friends or are you better off not discussing it, etc.? I am actually going to be speaking at a lunch for potential incoming students that are considering going to the law school I graduated from and I am thinking about how I discuss my new life. Do I celebrate it and use it as a source of motivation or do I stick to my prior year talking points?
My Major Take-Away After Year One of Financial Independence
The first major take-away for me is that achieving financial independence is a great opportunity for me, and anyone that achieves it, to do more with our lives. We can choose to focus on people and causes that are important to us and worry less about making our finances work. We get a lot of flexibility with our life choices.
The second major take-away for me is that you still have to get after it. Using the discipline and work ethic I used to achieve my financial goals needs to be used to make progress on the things that are now possible for me. I feel really good when I have a full day with my kids, working on my investments, teaching others, or writing posts that I hope others enjoy and learn from. It feels like a lost opportunity if I spend too many days being lazy, laying out by the pool or playing golf. I have more flexibility to do these things but it has been less rewarding for me if I let those lazy days pile up.