Hi, I’m Julie. I’m in my 30s, I’m single, and I’m traveling the world on $27,000 a year. And as of December 2021, I’m FIRE’d, which officially stands for “Financial Independence Retire Early.”
I know I don’t look like the stereotypical retiree. I’m not in my 50s, 60s, or 70s. I don’t wear khakis with tennis shoes, I don’t golf, and I don’t earn Social Security or a pension — nor do I have a trust fund, have I won the lottery, received an inheritance, OR won a big lawsuit with monetary damages.
So then how did I get here, and why is early or temporary retirement such a head-scratcher?
According to Oxford dictionary, retirement is “the action or fact of leaving one’s job and ceasing to work.”
And what then is work? Work is defined as “mental or physical activity as a means of earning income.”
OK. By the definition above, I’m retired. I have left my employer, I cease to work, and I cease to earn (significant) income.
But Julie, you say. You have a blog that serves ads, you have a coaching and mentoring business where you charge for your time , and you have dividend-producing investments— all that generates income. And you’re writing a book that will presumably not be free. (Indeed.) You’re not retired… all of that is work. You’re still working, even if you’re working for yourself!
Sure, I reply. I suppose you could call it work, but nobody is making me do it, nor am I making any kind of substantial income — in fact, I don’t really want to dedicate the time required to make a substantial income, nor is any substantial income guaranteed. I didn’t quit my job just to jump into another full-time job — I care about my TIME.
TIME: THAT’S WHAT THIS IS REALLY ABOUT. (And since website hosting and business startup costs are expensive, I currently take a loss… so there’s that.)
So, what do I really mean when I say I’m FIRE’d, semi-retired, or temporarily retired?
After chewing on this for a while now, I’ve finally gotten the answer and I want to enlighten you all: being semi-retired, or retired for that matter, is less about income and less about work — and more about mindset.
- I answer to no employer; my time belongs to me.
- My mental energy belongs to me, and I can use it in furtherance of what I care about, which may or may not earn me income.
- I don’t have to worry about my next paycheck or count down the time period between jobs.
- I live a pretty simple, minimalist lifestyle within the budget I’ve set, and I’ve set my budget based on assumptions and historical data, of which there is a margin of error that very well could require future adjustment.
- If I decide to pick up work again, it’s because I want to and I choose to, and ultimately, I get to decide what that work looks like.
- Nothing is permanent; or more accurately, everything is temporary and change is inevitable. Never say never and never say always: you’ll end up wrong.
Will I HAVE to get another job again? No. There are affordable places in the world where I could live should I never want to lift a finger again. (That’s mindset: I don’t HAVE to do anything.)
But I may WANT to work again, should my choices dictate. But probably, definitely, not in the way that a lot of people work — because they have to, because they’re trapped in a debt cycle, because the lifestyle they’ve chosen comes with a never-ending financial responsibility, because they care about status and appearances and bigger and better and more. Not me.
Never having to “work” again — depends on a few things:
- Principal: the amount someone starts with (and incremental additions, as applicable)
- Withdrawal rate: someone’s rate of spending
- Time to grow: amount of time the principal has to grow and compound (trends show it takes 7 years for investments to double, on average)
… and because I’m a young 36, I have plenty of time to track these areas, adjust the levers as I need to, AND take advantage of compounding.
The goal, put most simply: that the growth of my principal (and incremental additions) will be a buffer for my withdrawal rate for as long as I live.
In future years… I may choose to expand my lifestyle, I may choose to spend more time in HCOL countries, and I may make certain choices that require a bigger yearly budget. If I make those choices, I’ll probably take up employment… but it will be recreational vs. required, and I will take care to ensure it is in alignment with my aspirations and goals.
I hereby call this “Financial Independence Recreational Employment!”
And by the way… in a world where people have income-producing hobbies, side gigs, temporary work, affiliate revenue, passive income streams, investment and dividend income… there are a lot of options, and making money does not necessarily = “work”. (Nor does “work” necessarily = making money… hence the loss I take on this blog!)
So call me retired or don’t call me retired, I don’t care. All I know is that I’ve had this taste of freedom and I refuse to give up my time again on someone else’s terms.
And you know what else? How you define yourself is personal. It’s my life. I get to define myself at the end of the day, and I’m comfortable with this. You get to make your own choices, develop your own mindset, and chart your own path. Don’t squander it. 😘