Doesn't that picture just bring you those summertime vacation vibes? Well, it shouldn't, because this picture was taken in October as the autumn leaves might hint.
Anyway, the point of this picture that I took last month is meant to illustrate the life of a retiree, which as you know I currently am not.
Sitting in a nice hammock on a crisp and sunny fall day in wine country, leisurely reading the Wall Street Journal, and sipping on some green tea, what could be better? Other than the fact that this was around lunchtime on a Monday, and no my laptop wasn't anywhere nearby.
We talk extensively in this community about early retirement, how much you need to save, what percentage of your income to invest, how to save money, where to invest, tax hacks, and more.
Everyone is so focused on cutting spending and romanticizing the power of the stock market, yet not many have an illustrative plan regarding what their life will look like once they actually hit their FIRE number.
Regular retirees are just as guilty of this. I've spoken to clients in my last jobs as well as friends who are always lamenting a rough week on the stock market, or how much they have to pay in property taxes. They work hard, yet also ruminate unnecessarily on how they should save more for retirement.
"I need at least an 8% RoR, just in case I need this money!"
So many crunch numbers on their nest egg numbers, or for us our FIRE number, and yet even once they exceed that, they think "Well another couple hundred grand couldn't hurt, maybe I should keep saving a few more years"
Yet if you ask them, "How do you know if you'll run out of money" or "what is your plan to generate an income stream from those investments", many haven't thought that far, or think they'll figure it out later.
Further, so many people are so busy working and "hustling" to hit their FIRE number, that they fail to determine what their life will look like afterward.
Why put yourself through so much and let so much of your prime time in life float away if you don't even have a plan once you reach your goal?
"I don't plan to retire. I don't see myself sitting at the beach all day."
There have been plenty of stories out there that people who were working to retire early wish they had done it sooner, and yet there are also a group of people who get stopped in their tracks.
They check, double-check, and triple-check that they've reached their goal, turn in their resignation, go out for dinner with friends to celebrate, and then have no clue what they want to do.
So many of us derive our identity from our occupation, that when we leave our place of employment, we find that we must create a new sense of meaning and belonging in our lives.
After the high of retirement wears off, you take a nice vacation, and get used to the idea of going to the gym at 10 am and Costco after lunch, what else are you going to do for the rest of your life?
I'm not one to tell those before me, who already retired, that they should do more. Many of the ones I respect, like Carl at Mr. 1500 days (he blogs, podcasts, and does amazing home renovations!) do meaningful work to fill their days while also giving back.
"How we travel the world while living in our van and spending $4.96 per month!"
Yet other bloggers are happy just traveling all the time, seeking out deals, thinking of more ways to reduce their spending, and what other government handouts or tax benefits they can take advantage of. Is that really the backbone of a healthy society, and how one derives meaning in life?
You've diligently monitored your FIRE calculator, saved, invested, sacrificed, and planned. You deserve a reward and a break. But then what?
Whether you want to FatFIRE with $10,000 per month or hit Coast FIRE with your existing savings if all goes well the day will come when you've accumulated so much in assets that you can live off them and still grow your wealth. How will you pay it forward?
Sure, creating your own blog like a bunch of the rest of us, telling the internet how you did it, is one way. But what are your deeper passions?
"They should do something about it, it's been a pain for years."
What excited you as a kid that you never got the chance to pursue when adulting got in the way? What social causes gauge your interest? What topics at city council meetings or in political debates get you riled up?
This is your chance to make a meaningful impact on our world, find belonging for yourself, and use your newfound plethora of time in a self-actualizing way.
So many millionaire interviews I read are filled with excellent advice and valuable nuggets of information on getting ahead from those who have actually done it, from those who have made it and are now reaping the rewards.
But you know where a lot of them fumble? What's next? What is their estate plan?
Obviously, it's better to be on the safe side of the withdrawal rule, yet do you really think you're going to outlive $3 million when you fight tooth and nail to never spend more than $2,500 per month? And that's before the reality that at some point your house will be paid off and Social Security kicks in.
While we work, we often need to spend our free time unwinding, exercising, relaxing, or running errands. We don't have the luxury of hanging out at the library for hours a few times a week.
We don't have the luxury of watching documentaries or doing research on things that pique our interest. We don't have the time to attend city council meetings.
So bored you're now watching reruns of reruns.
That changes when you hit your number. You don't have to spend time pestering customer service agents for a $5 discount or comparison shopping a pair of socks.
Once you've made it, you're at a point where many would kill to be. Financially secure to be able to do whatever you want, and yet young enough to have the energy to be active before hip problems creep up.
We have a lot of polarizing issues in this country, and one that sticks out is once people retire, they are shunned from mainstream society and so look for belonging elsewhere.
Just look at those huge retirement communities like The Villages, where people retire and they golf, socialize, swim, eat, and do just about any kind of hobby there is until their time is up.
Yet before you plan to retire before 67, which I assume you are if you're reading Financial Fives, you probably want to FIRE between 40 and 60.
Bike trails, parks, libraries, events, and gathering places didn't come with a profit
That's plenty of time to find out how to translate your working skills and passions in a way that improves your community while providing you with a sense of meaning and accomplishment.
Think about all the people who have spearheaded nonprofits around youth development or wildlife protection. Next time you are on a trail, take a closer look at the workers building trails, staffing information booths, or working at grassroots efforts to expand the area. Most of the ones I've seen are in their 50s - 60s.
When you go to a community meeting or city council meeting, you're going to see a lot of gray hairs. How do you think the conversation might change if you brought your younger self there and shared your own perspective?
What are things you wish you saw in your community or city, but have never had the time or effort to attend community meetings to provide your input?
You can't have FIRE without the word Independence. You are now the master of your time, energy, and focus. Use it wisely, engage, and think about who planted the tree you're sitting under at 2 pm on a Wednesday.
Many of the things that are great about our world came from those who paid it forward and wanted to leave a legacy. What's yours going to be?