Financial Independence, Retire Early (or ‘FIRE’) is the domestic monetary policy that says when you have enough, you stop working. After all retirement is just earning money by other means.
I’ve gone the FIRE route and are stopping regular, salaried work. While I’m not sure that this will mean stopping all paid work (‘retirement’ itself being a concept that is changing), it does mean stopping any notion of a ‘career’ and simply getting money through anything that works – barring illegal activities of course!
A corollary of taking early retirement is the “just one more year” syndrome where you feel that you would like to stop working but think that one more year of a regular salary can help you pay off the mortgage, get the children through university, create a nest egg, or whatever. I encountered a quite few colleagues who felt this applied to them. Once I started planning and saw that my outgoings could be controlled and that I could achieve what I felt was a comfortable existence the idea of trying to make extra money seemed ridiculous. When would enough be enough?
You’ll never get as much income as when you are working and if you really cannot make your outgoings be less than your incomings, then you will never be able to stop work. As someone noted usually the event that gets you to stop thinking this way is something like a big workplace bonus, a buyout or redundancy offer, a friend’s health crisis or death, or a personal health crisis. For me it was a mix of redundancy offers which seemed to come around every couple of years (I personally sat through about five over the last ten years) combined with some maths that showed me I could survive outside the system. Once the next offer came around, I jumped at the opportunity and was the first to apply.
But it took guts to stop the job I had continuously for 25 years. I still have a very small mortgage (which will be paid off from my redundancy lump sum) and my grown up children still haven’t fledged yet. I walked back from posting my papers with tears in my eyes, and are still washing those decades of work out of my hair.
But the sheer energy and happiness I have now is amazing. I’ve helped with a week-long children holiday club, helped Syrian refugees in Europe, and gone on an overseas trip with my church. I’m looking at helping build houses with Habitat for Humanity, and exploring other things where my skills fit with a need. Every day I look forward with expectation as to what I can do and create without any feeling that I have to do tasks.
I’ll close with a quote from one of the early retirement forums:
“It’d be especially sad to work longer for more money while missing an opportunity to do the tremendously satisfying things that don’t happen to require much money at all.”