October 27, 2023
Welcome to the second edition of this new series.
This is where I do a quick zoom around our life and share some more details from behind the scenes of early retirement.
After numerous requests for more info on what life is like ‘on the other side’, I decided to start this little series.
By the way, you can check out the first one back in April here.
And if you want to see my reflections on a year-by-year basis since reaching FI and leaving work, check out the following posts:
If you type in the blog’s search bar “year in review” you’ll find even more lifestyle updates (there’s actually more than I thought).
By the way, I’ll be making a central hub for all my ‘Post FI’ related content soon. Given it’s some of my most-requested topics, it’ll be good to have an organised page with all the related posts and resources there.
There’s plenty more in the works, but let me know if there’s a certain aspect of post-FI life you’d like me to talk about, and I’ll get onto it 🙂
For those that have joined the Strong Money community recently, here’s a little context:
— We’re a semi-retired couple, with one dog, who left our full-time jobs after becoming financially independent back in 2017.
— In 2022, we purchased an old house in Perth to live in and have since renovated it (with some more works still to do).
— We enjoy our free time, and live a very comfortable yet relatively simple life. Travel is generally local WA trips for now, so we can take our dog with us!
— We’re not really into fancy stuff. We buy whatever we need and anything else that seems worthwhile, without following any kind of budget.
This has become kind of a running theme of what I’m known for. Maybe more than my writing haha 😅
So, at the new house we had a bunch of turtles lay in our yard last year, though it was certainly less than our previous rental house.
All up we had about 9 nests or so I think. And from this, we had 43 hatchlings that we were able to safely release at the lake. While this is less than previous years (the best year was an insane 155!), it’s still awesome.
This puts the total tally of hatchlings released to 345 since 2018. The best part is, almost nobody in the community would even know it’s happening. I actually find that really amusing, almost like a big secret noone knows.
I’m not sure how many of those little ones are still alive, but it’s surely helping to stop the decline in total numbers. Who knew you could make such an impact without a ten year study, a government initiative, or a corporate sponsored program? 😏
The overly bureaucratic way we try to solve every problem drives me absolutely insane. Often we make things more complicated than they need to be. In many cases, like this one, it just takes a few people giving a shit to start making a difference.
Anyway, I love it – such a magical retirement hobby!
I’m still loving writing too, and have absolutely no plans to stop what I’m doing.
Any day that I’ve made progress on an article or at least fleshed out thoughts on a topic is a day I enjoy most.
For example, the Notes app on my phone is chockers with ideas and I keep adding to it all the time. The hard part is sifting through the list and figuring out what to cover next, which actually gets a bit overwhelming sometimes.
But I’m not complaining – it’s still super fun! I love being lost in ideas and thoughts and fleshing out different ways to look at things which are hopefully helpful or interesting to other people (that’s you!).
Related to this, something amazing happened recently…
That’s just incredible, I genuinely find it hard to believe.
Guess what? I actually thought to myself: “Imagine if I sold 10,000 copies in like 10 years, that would be amazing!”
But it didn’t take 10 years… it happened in 10 months 🤯
I think that actually puts it among the more successful books, considering most titles don’t sell more than 1,000 copies (there’s conflicting info on that, but the number isn’t very high).
Regardless, I’m blown away – thank you all for your support and spreading the word. The best part is the feedback of people getting value from the book. That’s the most rewarding part for me.
Since the last update earlier this year, we’ve both been to visit family.
I went to Victoria, and Mrs SMA went to Darwin and Singapore.
It was really great to hang out with my family in Vic. Coming home I’ll be off the booze for a while as we seemed to drink most days, either at home or at the pub 😂
Fun fact: my Dad is a retired taxi driver, with a Scottish accent. Anyway, we hung out chatting, watched a few movies, went out to eat, and I even managed to get him to go for a nice walk through the local wetlands (he’s a non-exerciser so that’s quite an achievement haha).
We also went poking around the nearby towns like Inverloch, Cape Paterson, San Reno and Cowes. All lovely places that many Melbourne folks will be aware of (my home town is the less nice Wonthaggi).
All I noticed are two changes:
1- Housing continues to modernise and become fancier (even in non-wealthy towns like mine).
2- There are more cafes and eateries than ever before.
This is a trend that has played out across Australia (and developed countries) as a whole. And this trip reminded me that it’s trickled down everywhere. If we’re not at work, it seems we’re out eating or drinking coffee somewhere!
Some less enjoyable outcomes now.
In late September, our lovely boy lost his battle with cancer. Thanks for the love from everyone so far too, I do appreciate it.
Here’s the backstory: our boy first got a cancerous lump almost two years ago now (mast cell tumour for those curious). We’ve treated it with various options including surgery, chemo, and tablets.
The cancer ended up coming back slowly and spread further into his system. We were actually about to start a ‘management’ plan, since he was living with it (and the meds) relatively well overall. But that changed quickly.
Within two days of seeing the vet about an ear issue, where he was bright and happy, his energy dropped and so did his appetite. He’d also had some diarrhea issues on and off due to the meds.
But this time was worse, and after he refused to eat one night – something he’d never done in his life – we knew it wasn’t good. Very soon after, it became clear that the best thing to do was put him to sleep.
So yeah, not good. Really fucking hard. Even writing those words is difficult.
I guess there are a couple of silver linings though and things to be thankful for:
— There was no drawn out pain and suffering.
— He lived to a good age (10 and a half), beating the average age for a bulldog of 8-10.
— He had a fantastic life full of love and fun.
— He got to spend the vast majority of it with us at home with him thanks to FI.
So we’ve actually been fortunate in the grand scheme of things. It’s heartbreaking to hear about dogs (or kids) getting diseases at a super young age, which they never recover from.
As I’ve said before, I think the absence of bad luck can (and should) be considered good luck. Those who get to live a typical lifespan are fortunate nothing bad happened to cut that short.
Choices matter, but even I as a strong believer in personal responsibility acknowledge that not everything is within our control. Sometimes things just happen, and sometimes the odds don’t play out in our favour.
As you might imagine, there’s kind of a hole in our lives at the moment. Not just emotionally, but I mean practically too. At least a couple of hours every day was devoted to spending time and energy with our boy. I’m not really sure what I want to do with that time yet (not much at the moment).
Far as I can remember, we haven’t done anything to the house since last time.
We’re getting a new front fence soon though! To replace the current massively cracked brickwork which is partly falling over!
After that, we’ll probably get the parkside fence done. That one is super old wire mesh, like an old school fence – it’s ugly as shit. I’ve also cut the bottom section of it out so turtles can come underneath… so I did kind of make it worse 😁
Some other ideas are for future improvements are in the works, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
You might be thinking, “Jeez Dave, you’re spending a lot on this house.”
That’s true. Partly because the house we bought was in a dump-like condition. And partly because we’ve already hit FI and are earning additional money, so I don’t mind spending more.
To be crystal clear, if I wasn’t FI yet there’s absolutely zero chance we would’ve went with this option! Freedom comes before any fancy shit, at least that’s my view.
Our financial plan continues as normal.
Well, it’s not really a financial plan as there’s no document. But my made-up transition strategy from property to shares 🙂
It goes roughly like this: sell a property every couple years, and put the money into shares. Surplus monthly cash also goes into shares (if any). That’s it.
It’s all pretty flexible too. If it doesn’t seem like a good time to sell, or may be more profitable to wait a year, we’ll do that. I won’t always get it right obviously. But I’m just trying to improve the outcome a little if possible.
That flexibility didn’t exist in the first part of FI. We needed to sell because we needed the money to live on and pay other property expenses since our share portfolio wasn’t spitting out that much income yet.
I also refused to incorporate any part time income into our plans. Why? Because I didn’t want to rely on it and have that start to drive our decisions. That’s just a less free mind-state to operate from.
Nowadays I’m bit more pragmatic, as we’re now both comfortably settled in part-time work we enjoy. We also now have some beefy dividends rolling in which are a constant reminder of the optionality of such work 😁
By the way, if it sounds like I’m just making this shit up as I go, it’s because I kind of am. I do have rough long term plans, but what I’ve learned is the details always change so much that it’s a waste of time and effort to try and script everything out perfectly.
Here’s what I mean…
Imagine you’re captaining a ship. This ship is built for treacherous conditions. You’re headed for an island 10,000 miles away. There’ll be plenty of waves along the way. The course you take will change. Some parts will be rough, others smooth. You’ll have to adapt to changing conditions. But if you just focus on the island – your general long term direction – you’ll figure the rest out along the way.
In August, I was invited to be part of the Australia-wide Rask Roadshow for their stop in Perth.
It was my second time on stage, in front of a 100+ audience, so it was a bit scary. But I think it went pretty well!
It was great to hang out and chat finance and FIRE with a bunch of locals, and judging by the sellout crowd, I dare say Rask will be back next year! They did a great job putting on the event, so big shout out to them.
Some pics below. You can see I’m having a grand old time. Judging by my face, I’m guessing the question was, “tell us how much you miss your old warehouse job.” 😂
In other news, we got some chickens which needed re-homing. They’re actually pretty funny to watch and have their own personalities. Here they are trying to tuck into our dog’s brekky, with him being extremely tolerant!
In terms of lifestyle, we’ve been splashing more cash this year on time out having coffees and food at various places.
One of my favourite things to do is get a coffee and go for a relaxing walk along the coastline. Perth really does have some amazing spots. This is at Quinns looking out towards Mindarie.
We’re also still going for regular bike rides through the nearby bushland. On one occasion, I was lucky enough to stumble upon some endangered black cockatoos having a munch on some seed cones.
If you’ve seen some of my previous updates, you’ll know that most of this is the things we always do!
But there is one new activity I can tell you about: learning Spanish.
We downloaded a free app called Duolingo and we’ve been doing a lesson each day. They’re super quick, it only takes a few minutes, and it’s actually pretty fun.
I chose Spanish because I just think it’s a cool language which has interesting-sounding words. Also, some of the words are a little similar to English which makes it easier and more approachable. Maybe I’ve just watched too many drug cartel movies and become enamoured with the language 😅
In wrapping up, I want to share an inconvenient truth.
Once you reach financial independence (or semi retirement) and build your new life, it will eventually feel… normal.
By normal I mean the novelty wears off and your life isn’t drastically different from everyone else’s. You do some work, you play, you relax, you go places, you have a routine, you try new things, and so on.
Despite the complete independence and optionality of it all, in the grand scheme of things, it’s pretty similar. The differences lay in the flexibility of being able to change anything that’s not working for you. And therein lies the subtle magic of having financial freedom.
Once your life is designed the way you want it (even when you’re still tweaking things), you can begin to feel ‘normal’ again. So don’t forget to slap yourself awake sometimes and realise how good you’ve got it!
Sadly, the novelty of early retirement does wear off to some degree once you’ve crafted a lifestyle you enjoy. I think sometimes we hope that novelty will last forever. But it doesn’t, and there’s actually nothing wrong with that.
Instead, what you’re left with is a warm and mild level of background contentment, knowing your lifestyle is all by design. So if you decide you need more (or less) excitement, outdoors, productivity, learning, socialising, adventure, mindfulness, and so on, you can begin weaving that into your current life starting immediately.
And eventually, you get to a point where you feel as though you could continue your current lifestyle indefinitely.