F.I.R.E Update: Two Months of ‘Semi-Retirement’

After the popularity around my one-month early retirement post, I thought I’d continue checking in with everyone and journaling about our experience with being “FIRE-d” or, more precisely, “semi-retired.” In our first month, we noticed changes in: stay-at home-parenting, housework, dinners, being business partners, sexy time, and creative flow.

Shift in Language

Building custom furniture for a client. Happily “working.”

You can see we’ve already adjusted our language around being early retirees. My husband really seems to feel uneasy about this “retirement” label, and I can understand why. After my conversation with George Sisneros on my “Journey to Freedom” podcast, it makes sense that having a self-image of being “retired” could cause some people to lose ambition or purpose in their life.

The word “retirement” feels almost too untethered. Studies around longevity all point to having a “life purpose” that directly extends your years. In Japan, they call this “ikigai.” Research on centenarians–people who live to 100 or older–all show that you need to have clear meaning in your life–a reason to wake up energized in the morning. Staying active and continuing to pursue your passion or life mission will infuse your days with meaning, fulfillment and happiness. In Japanese, there is no word for “retire.” Retirement translates into a withdrawal of productivity and the contemporary Western view of retirement signals a period of leisure.

My husband and I both love to work. …We just don’t want to work for other people anymore. We thrive on productivity. …We just don’t want to be adding to the output and bottom line for someone else’s business anymore. We will also be productive, passionate, creative, hard-working people–it will just be for our own creative pursuits and businesses.

So, you see, just two months into early retirement and we are already changing our language around it. Personally, I feel comfortable with saying we are “semi-retired.” My husband prefers to say, when asked what he does for a living, “I manage my real estate business.” I feel acutely aware these days of how often we are asked what we do for income. What a strange engagement that our society has normalized.

“Semi-retired” gets my vote. We’ve retired from the traditional workforce, but we do still manage and clean our own vacation rentals for the moment. My husband has started a little side business (more on that in a bit) and I’ve thrown myself into my book writing-blogging-podcasting self-branded venture. We’re the busiest retirees I’ve ever heard of, so because of that, it feels incorrect to say “retired.” Also, this work we are doing is covering our lifestyle expenses and so we have had no need to dip into our investment funds. In the personal finance world, this is sometimes referred to as “Barista FI.” Whatever you want to call it, we sure are enjoying no longer working for The Man.

Accidental Entrepreneur?

Chairs Jeremy built for The Inlet Cottage vacation rental. Peek inside the cottage here.

When my husband FIRE-d, he knew he wanted to dive into woodworking. It was a passion of his that was just simmering and waiting for him to have the TIME to work on mastering it. He wasted no time jumping into the thing he’d yearned to do while wasting away his precious years working at a car dealership. I wanted Adirondack chairs for our Inlet Cottage vacation rental, but they were $250 or more a chair–which is just obscene! So my husband said he’d make me some, instead. A friend was throwing out an old Adirondack chair that had seen better days, so my husband pulled it apart and laid all the pieces out as a template to work from. He made his first Adirondack chair and it was lovely! Each chair got progressively better as he fine-tuned the structure and made it more his own, adding a dose of his engineering background and his creative self to give it his personal touch. Eventually, we had five to go around the fire pit at our vacation rental.

I took photos and listed them on Facebook Marketplace, to see if anyone was interested in him building chairs for them, too. Have they ever! These things have been selling like hotcakes and it has truly surprised us. Never did we imagine Jeremy would quit his job and then immediately have a beach chair business that brought in the same amount of money he was making at the dealership! It’s also been nice to see him exercise his right to select his clients and pace. There have been some inquiries from people he eventually can sense he doesn’t want to to build for. And he can let people know when to expect finished chairs and not feel stressed and rushed for deadlines. He’s truly doing it because he finds it fun. We’ve gotten several interesting custom orders, so these requests have made it even more interesting.

He also started making lightweight nesting beach chairs. We have a prototype we are fine-tuning now and I’m about to take over the canvas ordering and sewing. I imagine this will turn into an Etsy site, as it’s shippable.

Present with Family & Friends

Took a sailboat ride with my uncle. Here’s a video of the day.

The majority of this month has been spent hosting, entertaining and hanging out with family & friends. We had three back-to-back visits: over a week with my uncle, a long weekend with one of my sisters, and almost a week with my husband’s childhood friend and his family. What was particularly great was that we were able to be super present and available the entire time. Usually, before my husband FIRE-d, I was the one entertaining for most of the week and then my husband would only have the two weekend days to hang out with visitors. It was great to do everything as a family at long last!

There were so many times while my uncle was here that we were redoing something we had enjoyed a few years prior. Each time we said “yeah, let’s do that again!” we realized that my husband had missed out the first time around. How much of life did he miss out on, because he was working for a paycheck? It was so great to take him along. I’m so grateful we worked so hard to get him off of the 9-5 hamster wheel.

No More Nail Biting

Probably needs a manicure, but I’m just excited to see the WHITE part of my nails for the first time since I was… three.

Here’s a weird one: I stopped biting my nails this month.

This is huge…I’ve been biting my nails since I was four-years-old! I’ve tried and tried and I’ve never been able to break the bad habit. My nails have been bitten down to the quick for as long as I can remember. I think I’ve had three times where I grew them out for a week, max, and it drove me nuts the entire time. Nothing in the world seemed to motivate me enough to break my anxious neurosis. Not an upcoming wedding, not an upcoming photo shoot, not even a pandemic with a killer virus on the loose.

I’m not sure how to explain this but I’m guessing I have a lot less cortisol running through my brain. I have always bit my nails when I was even the slightest bit anxious–simply driving my car down the street would seem to be enough low key anxiety to make me put my fingers in my mouth. I guess having my partner around to balance the workload of business and life has cut my stress level down drastically. I don’t have such a neurotic urge anymore.

I hope I keep this up. I’ve always been annoyed at my inability to control myself. Time will determine if this is truly a side-effect of a stress-free early-retirement.

Other:

In other news, I’ve been carving out more time to set up podcast interviews (if you haven’t listened to the Journey to Freedom Podcast yet, what are you waiting for! ) I’ve been enjoying this immensely–the entire process! I love researching guests in advance and coming up with questions, I enjoy the organic conversation, and I find the editing and podcast creation satisfying as well. I feel like I was meant for this.

I got to attend a two-hour web call with Joshua Becker and ten other minimalists and/or financial freedom content creators–a few of which I was already big fans of! It was very inspiring and motivating and I can tell that some cool collaborations are going to come out of these newly forged digital friendships.

Our garden is taking off. Jeremy nurtures that and I’m most excited about a plump little watermelon that is an accidental survivor from our compost. What a fun surprise! Jeremy continues to make jellies from all of the fruit (today he is making papaya jelly because our trees are producing a lot).

We are planning on ripping up the flooring in the condo vacation rental’s bedroom and in the cottage vacation rental’s bathroom and putting new flooring down. This feels like a daunting task, but is important in our “Bullet Proofing” goal for 2021. We want to make these places as low maintenance as possible so we don’t have to worry about much once we jet out.

I just booked a trip to see my bestie in Fort Worth in a couple of weeks! It will be just me…no kids! Excited does not even begin to cover it. Jeremy is looking for good swell + good ticket fares so he can plan a surf trip as well. It’s exciting to be vaccinated and have a little more normalcy around travel. We are both aching to get out and about.

I think that covers Month 2 for us. It’s been an interesting journey and this is most certainly only the beginning.

Chillin’ on the beach…

Let me know if you like these updates! I post pretty much daily on Instagram if you want to follow along on our journey as we explore what this ‘freedom’ really means to us. I’ll take notes and let you know what this next month brings…