July 13, 2022
It’s mindblowing that 5 whole years have passed since I quit my full-time job.
On one hand, it feels like time has gone by fast. Yet, on the other, that so much has happened during the same period.
Most of this blog’s content is about building up your finances so you can attain a level of financial independence and, hopefully, retire early. To complement that, I want to share more insights from the other side.
In this post, I share what I’ve been up to, where I spend my time, and some thoughts I’m having along the way in this fifth year of early retirement.
By the way, you can read my thoughts, reflections and lessons from my first four years of FI here:
Maybe I’ll continue this lifestyle theme as a semi-regular update. I often forget that it might be interesting to hear how someone is actually using their freedom. Because in the end, that’s what all this is about!
So let’s do the rounds, in no particular order…
We’ve enjoyed going along to tree planting days in various parts of the regional park this year, as has been the case for the last couple of years now.
During May, we were even invited to a volunteer appreciation dinner which was a lovely surprise, and gifted some uniforms too…
And of course, the winter months meant that long-neck turtle hatchlings were emerging from nests in the garden of our rental. Regular readers will know this is a yearly occurrence and something that I’ve been excited to take an active part in.
Since moving here, we’ve safely released 298 turtles to the water’s edge of the nearby lake (yes, I’ve been counting, and yes, it’s an enormous lake).
Seeing those little turtles take their first steps and then later seeing them swim away or wander off into the wetland never gets old. I feel lucky to even see them, let alone be able to help them in some way.
After checking the nests – which are protected with covers – I find some hatchlings which have emerged from the ground. So I collect them in a tray and let them warm up in a sunny and safe area.
Later, I release them a short distance from the water and let them decide where they want to go.
Many times, they don’t move a muscle until they feel it’s safe. So I sit there and wait, keeping as still as possible. Then, eventually, off they go!
Some hide in the grass or reeds. Others make a dash for the water. And a couple even head left or right, wanting to go somewhere else entirely!
As you’ll be aware, my writing and content production hit a bump in the road earlier this year due to ASIC’s new guidelines. Luckily, this has turned into more of a speed-bump and lane-change as opposed to a brick wall.
While Pat and I did decide to end our much-enjoyed FIRE & Chill podcast (and sadly his website is down until further notice) there were many kind and unexpected offers of support.
One of the companies which has come out and is trying to create a safe place for finance and investing discussion (including sharing individual experiences) is Pearler.
Given how much my audience and Pearler’s customers likely overlap, accepting an offer to do some exclusive and collaborative content with Pearler was easy. It’s a natural fit and everybody wins!
I’ve written a couple of articles so far, with many more in the works. By the way, supporting this content is the best way to keep more of it coming, so do check it out and maybe even drop me a comment over there 😎
You might have heard that earlier this year we bought a house. It has now been partly renovated to make it a little nicer (aka less shitty) than before 😉
The floor was grossly stained carpet and vinyl. We also had a, um, lovely brown feature wall. We decided to go with a light colour throughout and darker tiles, which we’re very happy with!
Still to come is a bathroom reno. Pretty sure the current bathroom is original from 50 years ago, complete with purple bathtub! 😂
The main reason for buying this place is the location, which is a stone’s throw from our previous rental. It backs out nicely onto the open parklands (pic below). By the way, the turtles live in the lake just behind those trees!
We’ll probably get some outdoor stuff done too, like a new fence and a shade sail. To start with though, we did splash out and buy three fancy bird baths!
There’s a ton of birdlife around, so we love spending time outside, listening to the birds and watching them do their thing.
I gotta say, even without doing the work myself, the whole house situation has taken far more time and mental energy than I thought. And that’s been a bit frustrating.
Maybe it’s a personality quirk, but I start to resent things which take up disproportionate amounts of time. That’s because there are so many other things I’d also like to do.
Obviously, spending too much time focused on one thing takes away from everything else. That’s true even after you leave the full-time workforce and have more time than you ever had before, because the number of things you can do infinitely expands.
Another thing that I’ve been working on during the last 12-18 months is the Strong Money Book. After I’d nailed down the sequence of the book, writing it wasn’t all that difficult since most of the concepts and principles I’ve written or spoken about in various ways before.
The editing process, however, has been the real challenge. Deciding what stays and what gets chopped. Where to expand on an idea and where to simplify. It’s a balance between making the book as simple as possible, while giving someone all the critical information they need.
I now have an editor helping me through it and providing great feedback and ideas on where to improve. Having spent so much time looking at the content, I definitely needed an outside voice who wasn’t so close to it.
Publish date is still expected to be towards the end of the year and I’m really excited (and also a little scared!) to get it finished and have it out there.
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s going to be all of my favourite lessons, principles, and philosophies blended and morphed into a straight-forward guide on how to achieve financial independence in Australia.
I’m not expecting it to be a best-seller or anything. I just want it to be available as another option for those who don’t want to read all the blogs, listen to all the podcasts, browse all the forums, and so on. Anyway, I’ll keep you updated as things progress.
Our finances are travelling along in a healthy manner. In the last 12 months, our net worth has actually increased despite the falling stock market (thanks to Perth property – jeez, almost never thought I’d say that!).
Our investment income is now set to be higher than ever, after investing a lump sum following the sale of our old home (which became a rental). I’ll probably write more about that soon.
Your wealth is cool to think about, but it does become the less exciting part of your life after you retire. Because you end up focusing on all sorts of other interesting things.
I’m not sure how much I’ll share around our finances going forward, since it’s starting to get a little boring for me to write about. I also don’t think it delivers a whole lot of value.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll probably still share what we’re doing and why. But it’ll probably just be as part of the conversation while writing an article. So, the portfolio updates might be a thing of the past, especially because, you know, ASIC.
I’ll never withhold information that I feel will be genuinely helpful for you. But at the same time, I don’t want to share semi-meaningless updates for the sake of content and satisfying curiosity. In any case, I think the general talking points are far more helpful than the personal details.
With the newly beefed up share portfolio, our annual investment income will likely now match our living expenses. Then, of course, we have some part-time income, and 3 more properties to offload, which will give us further cash to invest, improving the situation further.
So, maybe I’ll do these ‘early retirement updates’, where I serve up more of a lifestyle platter with a side dish of finance?
I actually like that idea, especially since you don’t get to read/hear many examples of how early retirees are living. Anyway, that’s how I’m feeling about it – let me know what you think!
Free Resource: I created a spreadsheet to keep a running estimate of my dividend income and wealth breakdown. I’ve used it for years as a way to help plan my finances and watch my progress over the years. You can get it below.
I haven’t read all that many books in the last 12 months, which is something I’d like to change going forward. For a few reasons…
Lately, I also seem to keep feeling distracted with random things going on. Or maybe it’s simply technology destroying my attention span? It’s been well documented this is what’s happening to us!
Anyway, I’ve long been a fan of rap music and decided to listen to a couple of audiobooks by rappers who are getting into the personal development space. These books were The Perfect Day to Boss Up, by Rick Ross, and Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter by 50 Cent.
Both were enjoyable listens, sharing personal and business lessons they’ve accumulated over the years. I love that some artists are now trying to help the younger generation by passing on some wisdom.
While rappers are often synonymous with flashy wealth and talking shit, a few are making a point of encouraging youngsters to save money, build businesses and make investments, instead of thinking short-term, chasing fast money and blowing it even faster. That’s progress I like to see.
Well, one thing that’s playing on my mind is our dog is undergoing cancer treatment.
He developed a small growth on his back paw. It didn’t go away and got a little bigger so we went to see about it. Apparently, it’s called a Mast Cell Tumour. This one had spread to the closest lymph node, so it was recommend both were cut out as soon as possible.
The surgery went very well and scans showed no cancer was detected further in the body. We were relieved. But as we learned, the odds are quite likely that it had spread (yet the small cells weren’t yet detectable).
We could’ve just left it at that and hoped nothing came of it. The other choice? Chemotherapy. This would give the highest possible chance of halting/killing/reducing cancer growth going forward.
If we did nothing and cancer developed, it would basically be too late to treat it effectively. So, we decided to go ahead with the chemo and hope that does the trick (still no guarantees though).
Chemo consists of 10 fortnightly treatments in total, and thankfully there are rarely side effects (the dosage is far more gentle than for humans).
He’s almost completed the entire treatment plan, and there has been no re-growth of the tumour or any other detectable issues. And apart from the annoyance and anxiety for him heading to the vet, our boy is just as happy and hungry and playful as usual.
“And how much did that cost?” you’re probably wondering. Look, it’s a shitload of money. All up, maybe $8k. Or $10k+ if you include the initial surgery.
But honestly, I couldn’t care less. I would happily pay this bill (and more) every single year for the next 50 years if our dog could live that long. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that!
Anyway, he’s doing fantastically well and we’re enjoying every day with him. Here he is, in his element, destroying a cardboard box into a thousand pieces😁
Managing my time is, strangely, an ongoing battle with myself. There’s an urge to be engaged in useful activities to make the most of whatever time I have available.
But then, equally, I also want to leave lots of space for doing whatever I happen to feel like doing on the day. Say, if something comes up or we just want to do something in particular. Otherwise I feel sort of like a robot.
Here’s what I mean…
If I’ve already planned my day, then go off and do some random thing which seems interesting, I’ll feel annoyed that I didn’t get stuff done. On the other hand, if I leave too much spare time available, inevitably, I’ll end up doing a bunch of shit that’s not very important or fulfilling.
Things like reading articles I don’t need to read, looking at social media, checking notes in my phone to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything, and going over ideas or planning future days as an ironic way of procrastinating.
So, it’s a balance. The key, for me at least, is planning important stuff, but also leaving in a generous buffer of unallocated time, and just accepting that it’s never going to be perfect. I’m getting better at it, but it’s a challenge nonetheless, and still far better than not having that time. Speaking of which…
I know some of you are wealthy enough to leave work right now. Yet you stay in the comfort and security you’ve become accustomed to AKA The Golden Handcuffs.
It’s understandable, because change is often scary. But do you really want to look back with regret later at all the freedom you could’ve enjoyed and the wonderful experiences and perspective it can lead to?
“Yeah, like what?”
Well, that’s the thing – you’ll never have the chance to find out if you stay in the snug-but-suffocating cocoon of full-time employment. That’s the whole point!
For example, I had no idea any of these things would pan out like they did. Like zero clue. Writing a book, moving and buying a house, turtles, planting trees – none of these things were planned or even ideas when I left work.
You can’t map this shit out. Nor should you want to. Because when you have the time and space to think more about life, who you are and what’s meaningful to you, that’s what can lead you in all sorts of weird and wonderful directions.
You get to experience life as a self-directed, independent human being. More than anything, you get to experience life as a beautiful adventure, not some fucking roadmap with Siri and a spreadsheet telling you where to go!
I know you’ve been mapping your goals and your life for probably the last 5-20 years. But you have to let go of the reigns a bit to get the most out of this next chapter.
Strangely enough, the uncertainty is actually the best part. Imagine if the next 50 years of your life was 100% predictable. How boring and depressing would that be?
If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that every single one of us is going to look back at our lives and wish we had more time, not more money. And we’ll all wish we had the courage to do the things we said we wanted.
And saying “my job isn’t that bad” is probably the saddest answer I could hear. If we unpack it, this statement is coming from fear of uncertainty.
Unfortunately, there are no magic tricks to get you over this hump, other than to remind you that you’re already rich and if you don’t like freedom you can always go back to work, doing as much or as little as you like!
I don’t say any of this to judge you, but to encourage you. Please think about it.
I wrote about this topic in more detail, discussing how to handle many of the fears surrounding early retirement: How to Actually Pull the Plug and Leave Work
Given its been half-a-decade now of early retirement, I’m feeling quite reflective at the moment. Well, I’m always like that, but maybe more than normal!
I hope this post shows you the way life can unfold in strange and amazing ways when you have the time and space to just follow what seems interesting and worthwhile.
“The meaning of life is to do things for their own sake” – Naval Ravikant
So, if you can’t imagine what you might do when you leave work (or even if you can), just trust that while you can’t foresee how things will play out, that’s also the the beauty of it.
Believe in your own ability to make the most of it. Not in an ambitious to-do list kind of way, but as a casual explorer who’s grateful for the opportunity.
Because at the end of the day, that’s what financial independence is: an opportunity. An opportunity to live a better life. Maybe even, your best life.
WANT PRACTICAL NO BS FINANCE CONTENT EVERY WEEK?
Join thousands of readers and subscribe to the Strong Money Newsletter below.