As the markets have continued to do well during the pre-coronavirus bull market and the incredible recovery from the “coronavirus crash,” it is no surprise that many stories are floating around the Internet about people hitting their FIRE number earlier than they thought they would. We are no different. As our investments continue to climb and with the promise of a big bonus payout this February, we realized that we were on track to hit our FIRE number this summer instead of next August 2023.
I’ve taken many steps to prepare myself mentally and emotionally to leap into being “retired” at 42. I went to my first CampFI, which is like a summer camp for adults who like money! Not only did I go, but Nana also watched the little FIFs and Mr. FIF came with me! We had a great time together, but I was surprised to see Mr. FIF really enjoy himself. He made new friends that gave him great ideas of things to do with his free time. He talked to a lot of people about starting a podcast (which he hasn’t started, but it’s on his explore in retirement list). I think the most important thing that came out of the CampFI for us was that I went through our financial numbers at great length with Mr. FIF and explained the financial independence concepts that I’ve applied to our situation to determine that we will have ENOUGH by this summer. He agreed and for the first time, was on board with my joining him in retirement this summer.
I thought that was what I wanted. It is 100% why I brought him to CampFI. So, the FI experts, people like Karsten from Early Retirement Now and Doug from The Military Guide could tell him I was right, and the numbers worked. But now, as I get closer to executing the RE part of FIRE, I have doubts. I have run the numbers using so many calculators. My favorite of which is Big ERN’s Early Retirement Now SWR Toolbox v2.0 which tells me historical failure rates of different spending levels based on the stock market’s current high valuation. I’ve also run my numbers through cFIREsim and FIRECalc with and without social security and am still higher than a 95% success rate. All the numbers say I’m good, but WHAT IF?
But What If?
That’s right, what if future returns are not like historical returns? Is there something worse than the great recession right around the corner? What if my meticulously considered “retirement” budget is wrong and I need more. What if I’m not happy spending that little? What if I can somehow spend more in old age than I do with 4 kids at home. I just spent $300 at Costco today on meat and toilet paper, so I can’t imagine that last one, but still. I have so many what-ifs in my head now.
I make GOOD money. If I wanted to keep climbing the corporate ladder I could and I could make even MORE money.
So now I am stuck in a WHAT IF tailspin. I tell myself things like, “one more year never hurt anyone.” I’ve read many FIRE stories of people that made it to their number and then worked one more year just to be sure. It’s a thing we call “One More Year Syndrome”.
Like many, I do not like my job. It isn’t terrible. I just don’t love it. I don’t help anyone. I’ve long since given up climbing the corporate ladder which somewhat depresses me when I see less qualified people climbing ahead. I’m in tech and I have never liked tech. I got a military scholarship for math. The military then taught me cybersecurity and gave me a job doing it. When I got out after 5 and a half years, companies offered to keep paying me well for my skill set. I got the necessary certifications to keep growing my career, but never really put my whole self into it. At that point, as a military spouse, the family came before my career. Mr. FIF and I always discussed life after the military as the time when I would focus on my career. However, the more time I spent in this career, the less I liked it.
I’ve taken breaks throughout my career, usually because a new baby came along. I also don’t long to be a stay-at-home mom. Don’t get me wrong, I love the little FIFs and I consider raising good people to be one of my most important responsibilities. I just do not want it to be my identity. I do not want my only friends to come from mom groups that talk about potty training. Again, no disrespect, there was a time when that WAS all I talked about with other moms, but I was a mom that would rather be at work than changing diapers. I would rather win a work award than be on the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). Mr. FIF was offered a job last year and considered it for a hot second. He said if he took the job, I could quit working now. I told him that would not make me retired early, that would make me a stay-at-home mom and that’s not what I want. I want to share the parenting responsibilities AND chase something more meaningful than my current career. I know that is something that Mr. FIF and I must work on regardless of our “retirement” or financial status.
As I ponder these considerations and scenarios, I tell myself that at 42, the likelihood that I find something meaningful to do that ALSO generates money is high. The likelihood that I will spend less money when I get rid of four more mouths to feed is high. The likelihood that I could go back to my current career field even with a resume gap is high if I keep my certifications active. That is the only way to keep my what-ifs at bay. So, what do you think? Should I stay one more year or should I go this summer?