I met Liz back in November of last year at the inaugural Cents Positive. While I was so excited to meet blogger friends in person, again or for the first time, I really hadn’t given a lot of thought to the other women who would be attending the event, considering well over half of them were not bloggers (there were perhaps twenty or twenty five bloggers of more than eighty women who attended the weekend).

Other than bloggers, I had only met one other person in real life who had retired by their mid fifties or earlier, and that was my husband’s godfather, who travels with us often. Obviously, there are many others who have also done so, but since the majority don’t talk about it publicly, we don’t really get to know them in the same way.

At Cents Positive though, I met a number of women who had pulled the trigger on early retirement, and many others who were along all different places in their journey to financial independence. Liz was one of them. She retired in the summer of 2017 and, as I found out through conversations that weekend and then later through email and then text, she hasn’t worked a day since.

The idea that everyone who “retires early” find some encore career or other source of income (ahem, like blogging) is perpetuated by the fact that those are the people who tend to write about it publicly. The ones who aren’t blogging or sharing online are simply living their lives, oftentimes very much off line.

Eventually, I asked Liz if she would write a blog post for me here, and I was thrilled when she said yes. We’ve talked about a number of overlapping interests, mostly gardening and sustainability (they have an electric car and solar panels and are using gray water to water their garden), but this post today is specifically about the numbers. She tracked her finances closely through 2018, her first full year of early retirement, and she shared them with me here, as well as some snippets about her life since she walked away from her corporate career.

I’m going to turn the rest of this post over to her and let her walk you through her finances and her life since she quit two years ago. Considering some of what she writes about below, I think I may have to ask her back again to tell us more. Ps – she’s also shipped me a box of hand me down clothes recently, which included my new favorite sweater as well as a new pair of flats – essentials for continuing my clothing ban past two years. New female FIRE friends are the best friends.

Plus hand me down dress from months before (+ very old boots)

2018 Financial Review From a Non-Blogging, Work Optional, High Cost of Living Dwelling Lady

What up fellow work optional seekers?! I love analyzing and discussing finances. And I love figuring out how to live life with a low carbon footprint so it was so much fun to meet Angela at the Cents Positive retreat in Denver last fall. I was quite honored she asked me to write a guest post for her blog.

I had the privilege to pull the plug early from my high stress, but fun and rewarding Corporate America career in the summer of 2017 at age 44. It’s been an interesting almost 2 years for me but that’s a whole separate blog post! I have NOT worked for freelance or W-2 income since my retirement date, and I live completely off passive cash flow from my investments, or as Tanja Hester calls it in her Work Optional book, my “magic money” stream.

I have made the choice not to work for a lot of reasons, but mostly because I have workaholic tendencies and I need to get some space to breathe and figure out where to best use my talents and passions (I’m still trying to figure that out). Since so many people in the work optional space meet their cash flow requirements partially with some sort of income, I thought it might be interesting to see how it actually works for someone without. I’m going to throw out some real numbers.

Before I dig into the numbers, I wanted to share that the post feels both confessional and reassuring. It feels confessional because as I compiled the detail on my expenses, it is clear that I live a pretty rich lifestyle. It feels reassuring because the total cost falls within the passive income generated from my non-retirement assets. I’ll start with this disclaimer: I don’t feel like I live that frugally. I spend mindfully (though I’m far from perfect) and after spending a couple of years obsessing over numbers as I got near to the end of my work optional journey, I didn’t pay too much attention to my spending in 2018, on purpose.

A couple other caveats: I am the proud parent of one 11 1/2-year old child, no pets (we love pets but after losing our 16-year old mutt 4 years ago chose to go without). Also, my partner and I have separate finances. My daughter’s father and I have been divorced for over a decade, and when my partner and I got serious (we married in mid-2016), we chose to keep our finances separate but fair, if that makes sense.

My partner pays half the housing costs and we split other living expenses – more on that part later. Finally, we live close to where we do our routine activities so costs to operate vehicles are quite low. And one is electric and powered by the sun – woohoo solar panels!

So, How Much Did I Spend?

Half Mortgage $10,000 20.12%
Half Utilities – Internet, Gas, Electric, Water $900 1.81%
Health & Dental Insurance – Liz & Kiddo $4,400 8.85%
Half Homeowner’s and Car Insurance $1,700 3.42%
Half Property Taxes $4,000 8.05%
Groceries $5,000 10.06%
Home Maintenance $1,600 3.22%
Gas, Car Maintenance & Registration $1,100 2.21%
Eating Out $1,250 2.52%
Donations & Gifts $1,100 2.21%
Ski Passes $900 1.81%
Shopping/Haircuts/Personal/Target/PT $2,260 4.55%
Kid Swim/Tri Team $2,040 4.10%
Other Kid Stuff – Clothes, Sports Equip, Extra curric $800 1.61%
Kid Proper Race Bike $1,250 2.52%
Travel $3,000 6.04%
Taxes $7,900 15.90%
Cash Withdrawn $500 1.00%
TOTAL OUTFLOWS $49,700 100.00%

2018 expenses

Expense Discussion:

I think the charts make things pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll call out some areas of improvement from my expenses.

As a family, we were quite social in 2018, which should continue but we are being more intentional about spending less overall and spending less time at a certain craft brewery 1 mile from my house. 1 1⁄2 pints at a time at the brewery once every couple of weeks adds up more than I would like to admit. And, yes, my favorite brewery sells half pints.

Our regular food bill could be reduced as well. We are starting to shift our shopping style and buy only what we need for the next 4- 5 days and despite it seeming counter-intuitive, we are spending less this way and have reduced our food waste. Furthermore, we have shifted to a heavier plant-based diet and reducing our animal protein intake. I don’t pass judgment on how other people eat because I think everybody’s body runs differently but I think that my body and planet are better in the long run through higher levels of plant-based eating.

eat
One of our fancy home-cooked meals accompanied by a local craft brew.

Travel

We love to travel and used points in 2018 to cover the lion’s share of travel expenses. I estimate that we used about $4,000 worth of Chase Ultimate Rewards* and Marriott Pointsfor hotel stays and a car rental, and Delta for several plane tickets. Those points have real value even though I don’t use them optimally according to the travel hacking experts. My primary goal is to reduce our out of pocket travel expenses as much as possible, so with that in mind, I’m meeting our family’s desires. I’m nearly out of Chase points, so I’ll have to embark on a little credit card travel hacking in 2019 to replenish our stash.

(*affiliate links – you can read up here how I used them to fly to Hawaii for $11.20/person and get 4 free hotel nights on the beach earlier this year  -Angela)

snow
We use many of our credit card points and some real money visiting snowy places

There is something I wished I’d done differently on the travel side. I booked some last-minute plane flights to my Grandmother’s funeral in September and paid about $700/ticket instead of using Delta points. I wish I had simply used points. I wanted to save them for some sort of fun trip but wasn’t thinking clearly in the emotion of the moment and paid a premium price for a last-minute ticket to Little Rock, Arkansas.

 

Kid Costs and Activities

I spent a lot of money on my kid’s activities and equipment for her sports in 2018. It was the first year I invested much in these areas – she grew a ton! I got her a used road racing bike in early November (she is a triathlete) for $1,250. It is carbon fiber, has race wheels and a power meter (!!!) and should serve her well for the next few years.

Since I didn’t know if she wanted to pursue her sports more seriously, I held back on spending that kind of money on her equipment until she indicated she wanted to get more serious about triathlon. It probably seems ridiculous to have spent that much for an 11 1⁄2 year old’s extracurricular activities, but in the interest of transparency, I want to be honest about how much I spent.

Maybe you feel guilty about some of the money you have spent on your children or maybe your own self-care? For what it’s worth, I don’t you should feel guilty about spending money on things that bring value, happiness, sanity and health to your life. I expect that some may be critical of these choices, but there are other areas where I spend much less, so I view it as a trade-off.

Her activities are an important part of her long-term development and she is moving along her own path and building new skills, experiencing failures, expanding resiliency and fitness along the way. She just completed an after-school theater program last week, but, alas, that also costs money.

bike
Action shot on the sweet “new” used bike

Taxes

One expense area I don’t see a lot of people in the financial independence community discussing are taxes. If you live in the United States and you have a partner who still works for W-2 income, you are going to have to pay some income taxes and it’s a good idea to make sure you put them into your budget!

The new tax laws made it difficult to estimate so I chose not to pay anything on my income until I filed our 2018 taxes and had to pay a small price for doing so – a $177 tax underpayment penalty. That was an error on my part – and I’ll be paying quarterly taxes on a go forward basis, since I have an aversion to paying any sort of interest.

The donations and gifts line item are mostly donations (we buy or make mostly consumable gifts these days so that ends up in the grocery line item). These are donations over and above grants funded through my DAF (Donor Advised Fund) I set up before I retired. Since that cash was set aside in 2017, I don’t include it in 2018 cash flows (more on this stuff later).

Cash Spending

On the cash side of things, I don’t track where the cash goes when I get it out of the bank. Some of that money went to paying our babysitter, some for my kiddo’s allowance and probably 2/3 went towards going out to eat. Unless we have something where we will be gone for a significant chunk of time, we won’t be using a babysitter anymore and we have cut back on going out to eat already as well as trips to the brewery though I expect my cash expenditures will be about the same this year.

For those who want to dig into the details of my expenses, you can probably see there are a lot of discretionary line items. I’m not that frugal. There, I said it again.

hike
We do a fair amount of hiking on local trails

How did I earn the cash flow to meet the needs of this lifestyle?

To figure out when I could plug into my work optional lifestyle, I loosely used the 4% rule as a big picture rule of thumb but I built in a fairly significant cushion. I focused on deriving all my cash flow from non-retirement assets without having to sell any shares or access any of the principal from those cashflow generating assets. I’m pretty conservative and sequence of returns risk is real and my opinion is that you have a much higher likelihood of not running out of money if you follow a 2.5-3% rule of thumb.

Income Sources

Peer Street Income $26,000
Private Equity Investment Cash Flows $16,000
Other/Miscellaneous $2,000
Vanguard Dividends $13,600
Total Inflows $57,600

cash inflows

I chose to use Peer Street (peer to peer short term lending on residential and commercial real estate) and a private equity investment (underlying assets are real estate bridge loans as well) to meet most of those cash flow needs. I spent 20 years in the banking industry and I have a pretty good understanding of this type of investment; however, I don’t recommend it in general.

In fact, I decided to scale back my Peer Street investment significantly in 2018 and use the proceeds of the loan repayments to pay off the mortgage on my house which, while not the highest and best use of those funds, allowed me to lock in some returns and reduce my housing costs for the future. I noticed a decline in the asset quality of the Peer Street loans so paying off the mortgage and reducing my taxable income in the process feels like the right decision.

$500 of the other line item represents an Electric Vehicle Climate Credit for driving an electric car (I have a 1st generation Nissan Leaf I bought used in late 2015 for $7,500). I also earned $140 for excess solar production. It’s a fun feeling getting a return on the investment I made in our solar panels and the electric car (also, I have no electric bill). The rest of that other category was random stuff I sold on Craigslist like my kid’s old bike, her outgrown ski gear and several other odds and ends. I don’t expect to have that income in the future.

hcol
I live in a HCOL area but I don’t think I ever want to leave these ocean views.

What Will Things Look Like Going Forward?

Since I made a couple of significant changes to my income stream, you might be wondering what things will look like in 2019 for me. My biggest expense – half of the mortgage – is gone!

Because I paid off the mortgage, my partner decided it would be fair for him to pay for all the property taxes and utilities and to cover my health and dental insurance on a go forward basis. He had been paying half the cost of the mortgage, property taxes, and utilities for about 5 years which, all-in, was less than the cost of a 1-bedroom apartment in our city so it feels like a fair arrangement for him to cover those expenses which are still less than he was spending monthly when he paid half the mortgage.

Finally, my daughter’s father and I have a civil relationship and we discussed our kiddo’s insurance coverage in 2018 and he agreed to cover her from now on. Yes, things could change for him and I’m prepared to step up and pay for her coverage again should something unexpected occur (and I have cushion built into my budget for this) but my hope is this continues.

This is my planned expense situation for 2019:

Shopping/Haircuts/Personal/Target/PT $2,150
Half Homeowner’s and Car Insurance $1,700
Groceries & Supplies $5,000
Home Maintenance $1,600
Gas, Car Maintenance & Registration $1,100
Eating Out $1,250
Donations & Gifts $1,100
Ski Passes $900
Kid Swim/Tri Team $2,400
Other Kid Stuff – Clothes, Sports Equip, Extracurric $800
Travel $2,000
Cash Withdrawn $500
State and Federal Income Taxes $6,000
TOTAL EXPENSES $26,500

2019 expected

Now taxes and groceries/supplies represent most of my expenses. I’m hoping I will spend less than I’m projecting due to some other more intentional habits I am employing in 2019 but I just don’t want to expect that things will be all that different and be surprised at the end of the year when it isn’t.

food
Eating more like this is 2019 might reduce the food bill.

Something else I’m thinking about on the expense side are donations – I set aside a chunk of money when I went work optional in 2017. I want to find a way to continue to give and fund the DAF. Since my 2019 projected expenses are well below my rule of thumb spending big picture plan, my hope is that I start putting more into that fund – for some reason $4,000-$5,000 sounds like a good annual goal donation number though I’d like to give more.

I’m putting a number out there because I feel like it will help keep me accountable, not to make anyone feel any guilt about whether they are donating less. I should have an income surplus if my income continues as planned. As I was writing this piece, I realized that my travel hacking more or less offsets my planned donations and putting it into that perspective makes me more convicted to give. My privilege allows me to arbitrage credit cards to travel. It’s kind of amazing to think of it that way.

What About Income in 2019?

Peer Street Income $12,000
Private Equity Investment Cash Flows $16,000
Other/Miscellaneous $500
Vanguard Dividends $13,600
Total Inflows $42,100

2019 inc

My income streams in 2019 should shift and the chart makes it easy to see that I should receive about 1/3 from each income source. I didn’t set myself up with a large amount of savings/cash to “spend down” in retirement. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think that’s a bad way to manage things. I simply chose a different approach.

I try to always remember that no plan is perfect, I can’t control most of the outcomes, and, moreover, I don’t know what I don’t know so any rules or investment guidelines I set for myself are ultimately arbitrary and won’t make a difference should a black swan event occur. My plan allows me to sleep soundly and more importantly, has allowed me to enjoy myself and spend very little time thinking about and managing my investments.

Airbnb Dreaming

I’m currently exploring the construction of an apartment over my garage to use for Air BnB/VRBO purposes. The costs are not insignificant and the regulations on these types of units in my city seem to be changing pretty rapidly so I’m not sure if that will happen.

Frankly, it will be a bit of a hassle and a lot of work and will require more active management than my current income stream. It also means that some cash is tied up on that investment during the construction phase without earning a return so there is a real opportunity cost moving forward with it.

It’s fun to think about, though, and see if there is a way for that to become a 4th income stream. I have several neighbors who have already taken the plunge and are earning good chunks of money so I’m intrigued and feel like it could be a long-term viable strategy. I live centrally (quite close to the airport) in a city where people vacation.

On the surface, it’s an excellent place to have an AirBnB. And if you’re like me and thinking, long, long, long term, it might provide enough income for me to age in place in my home as well as some additional funds to help my child with post high school education, should she choose that route.

If you are curious about Airbnbs as a traveler instead of a side hustler but haven’t stayed in an AirBnB before, I would highly recommend it. We love the flexibility it gives us while traveling as a family – full kitchen, laundry, and extra bathrooms, and it’s usually considerably cheaper than a hotel, especially when you travel as a group. If you’re new to AirBnB, here’s a link for $40 off your first stay (affiliate link). And check out my post on how to travel more sustainably with Airbnb while you’re at it!

Conclusion

Thank you for following along with me and my 2018 financial journey. My hope is that I added some sort of value to you in your journey. Since I hadn’t paid much attention to my finances in 2018, I felt like I needed to do a deep dive to determine my areas of success and where I could improve and in so doing, I felt like I tightened up my own financial picture.

I also made peace with choosing to spend more in the areas of my life that bring me the most value! Since we are nearly halfway through 2019, it’s probably time for me to dig back in and see if I’m making progress. In the meantime, please feel free to share your own successes and failures or whatever else is on your mind in the comments.

-Liz

Ps – let us know what you think! She’s open to coming back for another post in the future, so let me know what sounds interesting to learn more about her story 🙂

64 thoughts on “Retired At 44 (Guest Post From A Non-Blogging, Work Optional High Cost Of Living Dwelling Lady)

  1. Thanks for sharing, Liz! I really enjoyed this post. I too wonder about exactly how we will continue to give money after we retire. It sounds like as part of your separate finances, you cover all of your kid’s expenses yourself? And taxes too. My husband and I have separate and combined finances. Most of our investments are separate, so we struggle with how to cover the taxes on those since if the working spouse was not working, there would be a much smaller tax cost on the non-working spouse. We ended up concluding there that taxes are a community expense, regardless of what they’re covering. Previously when we were both working, we each paid the taxes we would have paid single and then half of the difference between that and MFJ, but that broke down with one person not working…

    1. Leigh, great question. My partner is a stepdad and we agreed that I cover all her expenses. If for some reason I was experiencing some sort of financial hardship, he agreed to help with them, but I’m not, so I cover them and thus, hasten his path to being work optional. On the tax side, we actually each pay our fair share. I do a little spreadsheet up with each of our income and what the taxes we owe on them – different investments are taxed at different rates (like interest income is taxed at your highest marginal tax rate). He pays his taxes through his regular payroll though. The number represented in the chart was what I actually owed when I filed taxes since I had slacked off and not paid any quarterly taxes in 2018. Hopefully that makes sense.

      1. I love that real numbers bring up questions like these to work through!

      2. That makes sense 🙂 I did some back of the envelope math and it looks like you’re sort of doing what we tried at first – a mesh of calculating what we would each pay not married and then sorting it out from there and you have enough income that you would pay taxes on it not married. I’m not retired yet and took a health-related sabbatical, while my husband is still working, and we have a bit more of a hybrid system than it sounds like you guys do. I don’t have enough separate income that I would pay any taxes on it single (whereas you do) and he saves so much taxes from us being married versus him single, so we just lump all of the taxes into a community bucket at the moment. Thank you for talking about separate finances!

    1. I also invested for years but didn’t discover the FIRE movement until September-ish 2015. Crazy, right? I was always on the path but I didn’t know. Few tweaks here and there and I put my plan in place and was off to the races.

      1. In a way I think this might be better because you’re blissfully unaware during the slog years!

  2. Thank you for sharing this! My spouse and I are 45 and very close to being work optional as a couple. In taking in all the FIRE resources, it often feels like if you retire early you have to set up a blog or podcast!!! I live hearing stories from folks just living a life.

    1. The VAST majority of FIRE folks don’t have a podcast or blog, but they’re a lot harder to find because of it 😄

    2. Ya, I think that part of me thought that too but when I started to dig in and realize how much work having a blog (I didn’t even entertain a podcast) would be, it was a hard stop. I do appreciate all the content from these bloggers and the important community building function they serve so I do my best to love on the ones that bring me value (although I know I’m leaving awesome ppl out, I just can’t do too much).

      1. Yeah… podcasting is even next level as far as work is concerned 😅

  3. Thanks for sharing Liz’s story. It looks like the money part of it is going very well. Nice job!
    The Airbnb unit sounds interesting. It’ll be a lot of work, though.
    What about things other than money? Are you happy that you retired early?
    Best wishes.

    1. I’m so so so happy I retired early as I was living my life at an unsustainable pace and even though I was only 44 and had maintained good levels of fitness throughout my life, I experienced a couple major health issues – an ulcer and thyroid cancer, both of which I attribute to my high stress lifestyle. I don’t rush around anymore constantly bogged down by “what’s next?” and feel like I’m a better parent and partner. I’m lost sometimes and my identity is less clear to me but I’m ok being in this space for the time being as I’ve found things that give me a sense of purpose while making space for other opportunities that arise organically. I did not have a plan or something to retire to but I think it’s been good for me to be confused and have space to question and explore. I’ll stop there! Thx for the great question though!

      1. I retired early as well, 49 1/2, from a corporate job(2015). I could relate to Liz’s story so well. I feel like we could be good friends as we have similar interests and hobbies. I have workaholic tendencies too and it did me good to walk away and re-evaluate my life. I will admit, I’m confused and often want to go back to work as I feel my confidence and identity are slowly slipping away. It has been four years and I still can’t get over my need to return to work. But yet if you ask me if I love my life, the answer is absolutely! I loved this story and thanks for sharing.

      2. I wonder why you’re feeling that way now – it sounds like you and Liz might have a lot to talk about! 🙂

    2. Those kinds of questions are exactly why I think I need to have her back for round two 😉

  4. What a great story! It’s nice to hear from people who have actually retired and are living off investments, and especially from a non blogger! I always find it interesting to see different peoples plans for early retirements and how they find their lifestyle. Definitely some great things I’ll be keeping in mind when the time comes!

    1. There are SO many different lifestyles that are open to you once you hit FIRE, but we sure don’t hear about the lives that don’t revolve around the internet as much!

  5. Thanks for sharing! It’s interesting to see what post-work life looks like, money-wise. I think it’s great that you take your daughter’s interests seriously enough to invest in quality equipment like the bike. Pricey, sure, but if she’s serious about triathlons then it’s integral that she have solid gear. Besides, summer camps/activities can easily cost that much over the course of the few years the bike will last. So it evens out.

    Good luck in 2019. I hope the projected income streams keep coming through for you. It’d be pretty exciting to have that big of a surplus without working!

    1. Thank you for noticing the surplus! It is nice and it makes me more comfortable to know I can pay for big expenses when they happen. I bought a used bike that new was close to $5,000 with all the upgrades – and the previous owner was on her tri team and I knew that it was meticulously maintained. From my research, buying a used carbon fiber bike is a bit risky because it could have a cracked frame and you can’t see it. My kiddo attends a Spanish immersion public magnet school and she is bi-literate above grade level in reading, writing and speaking and that was “free”. 🙂 Public school has been a great fit for her so far and hopefully grades 6-12 will continue that way. Anything after school costs money as do all her sports but I don’t mind supporting them and made sure to factor those costs into my planned expenditures upon retirement. I’m not concerned about her actual results – I am focused on the process and progress and I check in with her every couple of months about whether she wants to continue pursuing swim and triathlon. I grew up chasing a soccer ball around so watching her pursue these endurance sports has been a learning experience. And true, when I was working, I paid $2,000 for camps over the summer (9-10 weeks of camp) on top of $200 or so each month for aftercare when the school day ended.

      1. I feel like that big surplus is even MORE important now than while working, because if you’re working you can find ways to infuse the cash a bit easier.

      2. One thing I failed to mention is the reason I have a surplus of income. I set my work optional goal numbers at a number where I can afford housing and health insurance expenses on my own. We are healthy and happy but it’s nice to know that if something was to change, I’d be fine on the finance side of the equation. And I know ppl feel uncomfortable talking about these things but unexpected things like death or health emergencies happen and those things are completely outside our control.

      3. Oh I LOVE this. Like Tanja talks about – financial independence not financial dependence!

  6. Thank you so much for posting this! Reading about bloggers retiring early doesn’t seem real because “they have a blog”. (Regardless of the facts that blogs don’t wake up one day and shit money). This post makes me think that early retirement can be for realz!!

    1. I have another story coming in the queue, but it’s taken a while to get him to finish it because he’s been too busy enjoying life! 😉

    2. Ha! Well I dabbled with the idea of starting a blog but I wrote two posts and the amount of time it took me to write the posts (and I still felt like they needed a ton of editing), edit photos and figure out how I wanted everything to look was not acceptable with my #1 retirement rule which was and still is: don’t sit and work on the computer all day.

      Also, I think I’m too sensitive and not brave enough to put myself out there like Angela and so many other bloggers do. It’s a big risk and one that I didn’t think would be good for a healthy mental outlook for me.

      1. And as we’ve learned recently, even the most supportive and welcoming bloggers get attacked on occasion 😉 Selfishly, I don’t hate that you don’t have your own blog because I get to share it here!

  7. I loved reading this – thank you, Liz! I am yearning to retire but alas, it will be many years before I can do so. I would love Angela to bring you back to tell us about your journey to retirement- when did you decide you wanted to retire early, what were your struggles, wins, how long it took you etc if you don’t mind sharing.

    1. I think there is enough interest I’m going to have to do my best to have her back 😉

    2. Thank you so much. And if I may paraphrase – are you looking for my origin story and time frame? If it makes you feel any better, I discovered this community in September-ish 2015 and basically realized it was what I always wanted to do but never thought I actually could do. Stumbling upon the work optional space changed the trajectory of my life in the coolest way possible.

  8. This was an amazing post! I loved hearing from someone who retired early about how they manage their finances. It’s fascinating!

    Liz – I would absolutely love to read a follow-up post about how you’ve chosen to spend your time post-retirement, and what you are finding fulfilling and what’s was different than you expected!

    Thanks again for writing this!

    1. Right?? There’s something extra awesome about hearing from someone who has already pulled the trigger and is living it.

    2. Thank you very much. Follow up request duly noted. I’ve got some ideas brewing already based on the questions here. I don’t like to spend too much time on the computer and I know Angela has a ton of stuff ready to go for the blog, so no promises on time frame.

      As a teaser though, I honestly had nothing specific to retire to nor did I set any big goals the first few years of my retirement other than to make space for “what’s next”. I know that it’s different than the advice most people give but my partner and my kiddo have given me enough purpose to never feel totally lost.

      I have baked more chocolate chip cookies in the past two years than I had in the previous 44. 🙂

      1. You know I have incentive to have you back as well – I know we chat but I do love reading full chunks in blog “story” form too! 🙂

  9. Sweet story and pics – especially the bike pic 🙂

    Sounds like you and your husband have made all the right moves and it’s great to hear from a non-blogger. There’s so many more of ya’ll than there are of us!

    1. To be clear, my partner has not met the requirements he needs to go work optional. He is on his own path and may never fully stop working because he loves what he does (he thinks he will go part time in 5 years). And we have separate finances. All my assets are ones I accumulated through long term investing of my excess cash flow from my job. I own the house we live in and owned it well before he was part of my life. We joke that he used to pay me “rent” every month before I paid off the mortgage at the end of 2018. He covers my medical and dental insurance because on his own, he wouldn’t be in a position to have a choice to pay off the mortgage. And he covers the property taxes as of this year. The total amount is about 40% less than he was paying when I still had the mortgage so it was a mutually beneficial decision to handle it that way. We don’t share any bank or brokerage accounts. I don’t feel like I need to defend my choices but I want others who may want to be financially separate from their partner to know that it’s acceptable to live that way and not be apologetic. I had a privileged education and a killer work ethic both of which enabled me to excel in my chosen field.

      We are a biking family and each have more than one to ride in the garage though the 11 1/2 year old has by far the nicest bike. She also rides the fastest! I’m actually in the planning stages of building an electric bike to use for errands. I like biking for them, but it takes too long to get them done on the regular bike. I have a decent amount of time in my day, but constantly have a lot of projects so I’m hoping the electric bike will enable me to get those tasks completed faster. That’s a project I’m starting in a couple of weeks!

      1. *my partner loves what he does and when he comes home from work, he doesn’t have to be attached to his phone or email so he doesn’t have that soul-sucking component so can actually turn off when he leaves!

  10. I am a 45 year old woman with a long term partner, separate finances. Keeping things separate works for us, too! ::fist bump::

    It’s interesting that we have struck a similar balancel on housing in our expensive city. I own the apartment, no mortgage, and he pays me “rent.” The amount he pays is about 1/3 of market-value rent, which feels fair to both of us. I bought and decorated the place before I knew him, so he’s living somewhere that doesn’t fully reflect his preferences. And I wouldn’t share a 1-bedroom apartment with anyone else, so I don’t expect him to pay more.

    Like your partner, mine is also not close to FI, and will likely work another 10+ years after I stop full-time work next year. He says it won’t bother him for me to be at a more flexible life stage. He has a pretty flexible occupation, which should help, and I plan to do volunteer/project work after I “retire,” so I am hoping there won’t be tension.

    One of my guy friends is in a similar relationship (split finances, close to FI), but the dynamics are different — he feels shame at the idea of not funding his wife’s retirement. (Fortunately, she is quite close on her own :). His feeling might be a male bread-winner mindset (or awareness of male privilege?), because I feel no guilt at all about retiring significantly earlier than my partner! I have the more public-service-oriented career of the two of us, so that might be a factor — if my partner were, say, a teacher, I might feel more obligation/desire to shoulder more expenses out of appreciation for his work.

    I am curious to hear more about the relationship dynamics play out around different FI schedules, if there is more to share. Thank you!

    1. I love hearing this story as well! I think some hybrid version of shared/split/totally separate is way more common than general personal finance information would lead you to believe.

    2. I love hearing about others who handle their finances separately because until I went to the Cents Positive retreat, I’d never met anyone who did it that way. There were so many women there who handle things like I do. And I would love to share about our relationship dynamics because I think we have a pretty interesting and uncommon situation. My partner is a nurse, a female dominated profession, and I was in the commercial lending industry, a male dominated profession. He makes great money but there’s not a ton of upside. For me, the harder I worked and the longer I worked in the space, the upside was only limited to the number of hours I actually wanted to work and have a healthy work/life balance. I was never truly unplugged because of those soul sucking smart phones and physically paid the price with some health issues the last 4ish years at work. 🙂 When I come back for round 2, maybe I can share some more about how things work? I know there are some days he comes home and is shocked by how little I get accomplished but others shocked at how much I accomplish. I don’t feel any guilt about retiring early either and I’ve been vocal about him not making plans for my time. And we didn’t meet until our late 30s, and I had a good foundation already and while he hadn’t made terrible choices, he hadn’t made a lot of great choices and despite earning a higher than average income, he was still living paycheck to paycheck. Interestingly enough, after he made a few tweaks to his money behavior and sold his house, he has a significant chunk of change after only a short time. That above average income coupled with low housing and vehicle costs speeds up the process to FI for sure. In general, I handle more things to keep our household running but I don’t do everything. The wheels are turning for me to come up with some things on this topic as well.

  11. I found this post so fascinating! I am in the very early stages of evaluating where I’m even at today and reducing expenses. I love seeing someone on “the other side”. I have dealt with stress-related health issues (such as GI issues, ulcers, thyroid, and hormonal issues) that will probably never fully go away, and that is one motivation for me to keep things on track (financially, health-wise, etc.). Luckily I am doing really well right now, but should these issues progress, I would like more years rather than fewer to enjoy life with less discomfort… and maybe living a more self-defined life (rather than my 7:00-3:30 life) would help ease some of the stress- and activity-related symptoms

    1. Wow. I have dealt with an ulcer and continue to deal with reflux and also had thyroid issues. Interesting that you have had similar types of issues. Though I haven’t really spoken about it much, I dealt with thyroid cancer in late 2015 – had it removed, did my radioactive iodine treatment and have been clear since. I’ve been pretty health focused since retiring but the problems haven’t fully gone away – I still take a daily PPI (proton pump inhibitor) and after all those years of sitting too much, though I’ve been doing all sorts of good things to my body – lots of hot yoga, weights and hiking, I’m sore all the time. I attribute it to the fact that I’m likely opening up lots and lots of layers of tight fascia but there are days where I get frustrated by it – like this morning, my elbows and forearms were hurting way too much doing simple kettlebell swings. And I ran yesterday 1 minute on, 1 off for 15 minutes and my feet are so angry this morning. I’ve been patient so far, but I guess lately my patience has been tested. 20 years of sitting for a job 8 hours-ish a day, 5 days/week isn’t going to be undone in 2 years.

      1. Yes I have Hashimoto’s, so eventually my thyroid will be completely kaput. I have other autoimmune issues that cause inflammation, sore joints, etc. I feel your frustration as these things will likely never go away (though I go through phases where it subsided). I go through periods of being very health conscious but it ebbs and flows, I need to force myself to be disciplined. What’s the point of all of this saving if I won’t be able to enjoy it at some point? …by the time I retire, I’ll probably be between 20-30 years of sitting too. Ugh!

        Cheers to you for working on keeping yourself healthy, even when it’s an uphill battle. I hope we’ll hear more of your story soon, thank you for sharing!

  12. It’s so cool to see Liz’s real numbers and her projections into how her costs (and income sources) will change in the coming years. As another non-frugal person, I appreciate seeing what she spends on her kid. We try to spend on places that matter for our kids which means we’ll invest in their activities when the opportunity arises.

    1. Thank you Laurie. We don’t do big presents for birthdays or Christmas and don’t spend a lot on her clothes. We gave her the race bike for her birthday/Christmas present this year but she would have gotten that anyway. I figure spending money on activities is like how I prefer spending on experiences. I think everybody’s kids are different so you have to make the best choice on how to handle your child’s education based on what works or doesn’t work but public school has worked fabulously for her and we hope that it continues that way.

    2. Agreed! And only in this community are those total numbers in the range of what could be called “non frugal,” because I still think they are totally reasonable!

  13. I’m curious how you managed contributions to 401k while working? We are 33 and 36, and based on current trends are likely to have more than enough funds in IRAs and 401k beyond 59-1/2, however the work optional date is mostly limited by funds to cover from work stop date to 59-1/2. We’re maxing our 401k’s, but given that we’re more than comfortable in these funds we’ve debated scaling back our 401k contributions in order to increase our after tax accounts that we’ll use to cover the gap until we reach 59-1/2. Did you have similar issues, and if so did you do anything about it? I know it’s the “right” thing to do for us, but it feels so wrong to forgo the current tax savings.

    Thanks and I love the post!

    1. Ok, let me start with, I am not a financial professional, BUT you can do a quick google search to find the data and the folks who have done the math and intuitively it makes a ton of sense to max out your 401K first. In the first few years I was working, I did not max out my 401K because in the late ’90s early ’00s my company would only allow me to contribute up to a maximum % of my income – I always did the maximum % I was allowed. For the last 16 years of my employment, I always maxed out my 401K. ALWAYS. And I front end loaded it so that it would be maxed out earlier in the year. 401K is pre-tax money so you are automatically getting a higher return on it and since tax laws can change, trying to anticipate your tax rates 30 years in the future isn’t even worth your time.

      Are you doing conventional or Roth IRA contributions? You are allowed to access the Roth contributions but not the earnings and appreciation penalty free generally. The math with the conventional IRA is slightly different because you are using post-tax income to invest in the IRA but still reducing taxable income is helpful.

      Most importantly, I think of it like this (rudimentary math): with 401K contributions, you make $1 and you invest $1. With after tax investment contributions, you make $1 but you are only able to invest $.75 or $.70 (depending on your tax situation) after you pay your state and federal income taxes (you still pay the medicare and social security taxes on the income before you contribute to your 401K, I know but there is no way to avoid those as a W-2 employee). Since building your work optional nest egg works in a geometric and not a linear fashion, building up that base amount where the compound interest really starts to take hold is a key to speeding up your path to financial independence. I can’t remember exactly but I think after $150,000 in savings, the curve starts to steepen pretty dramatically and then continues to steepen and another inflection point where it steepens more around $400,000-$500,000 (don’t hold me to those numbers).

      1. *think of it like a race to get to those inflection points and the power of compound interest will take over!

  14. This is such a great post and the comment sections is filled with great info! Thank you for sharing your story Liz. My only question, and simply cause I always love learning from people that have achieved this : is there anything you would have done differently along the way? Like pulling the trigger sooner or did a form of coast-FI and letting your saving grow as you supplement your cost of living with part-time work? Or anything else that would be valuable for a mom who is 5 years away from their number 😊?

  15. Ms. Mod – these are some great great questions! I was a business development person in the banking space financing commercial real estate properties. My career was one where I don’t think there was any way to do it well part-time, like I would be taking part-time pay for full-time work. And any other part-time work choice wouldn’t have made sense for me. I also don’t think I would have done anything differently along the way because I didn’t even discover I was on the path to a work optional lifestyle until September-ish 2015. And less than 2 years later I pulled the trigger. Discovering that I was on that path and could actually walk away made the last 19-20 months feel so different and lighter, though it was still hard and stressful. Frankly, because I was essentially already to my “minimum” work optional number when I discovered this community, it gave me license to speak out more at work and be a better advocate for other women colleagues. To be fully transparent, I had a career that was very high-paying especially the last 4 years because I was at the absolute peak of my skill set and it felt so good to do my job in a masterful way. I don’t mean to sound arrogant (my intention is to come off as confident) – just I was finally at the point where I didn’t have any imposter syndrome anymore and I knew my skill set and work ethic was pretty awesome. I did my own business but also managed a team of 5 other people which was also fulfilling and allowed me to pass off relationships to team members when I walked away. It was important for me to finish things off with high levels of integrity and that’s how it happened and I walked away feeling no regrets and felt like I left at exactly the right time. I got probably the most complicated deal of my career pulled off and closed 6-8 weeks before I left, one in which I had invested 2 years of time and effort. My company even threw me a retirement party and flew myself and all my team members out to celebrate with me. Anything I would have done differently would have involved my investment choices 15-20 years prior because I didn’t do those things in anywhere close to an optimal way.

    1. I forgot to address the Mom part, lol. Not sure what your kids’ age(s) is/are but I got a piece of advice from a mom friend who took a couple mini-retirements in the course of her career whose opinion was that the kids need you more when they are older – tweens and teens – than when they are younger. Things start to get more complicated at those ages. The funny part was – she gave me that advice a few years before I was married or even thinking about kids! It stuck with me, though. I left when mine was 9 1/2 and now she is 11 1/2. She needed more help from me when she was younger but life is infinitely more complicated and interesting now and I’m glad that I feel in tune with what’s going on with her life and I’m available and present. Also, I get to indulge her interests – she’s into open water swimming (it’s a weird skill she has) – and I found a 1 mile race for her a month ago and at the last minute, I had the time and energy to bring her to the race and she had so much fun and the smile on her face both before and after the race was priceless.

  16. Awesome detailed post, thank you. Wife and I just took early retirement. 41 and 37 years old. I just started a blog, so perhaps i’ll Make a few pennies off of that, but I don’t count on it. It’s more for fulfilling what I consider to be my purpose in life, versus sweating in a hot corporate office. 😀. Thank you again.

    1. Congratulations! Way to make the leap. And blogging can really be a fun thing 🙂

  17. I love, LOVE this post. Thanks for sharing your story Liz and being transparent with your numbers. Someone mentioned this already, but the information in the comment section is also golden.

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