What's the single best thing about being financially independent and retiring early? Tough question, and one I'll try to dodge because I don't know how to distill it down to just one best thing.
Not being tied to a work schedule is huge for me - we no longer have to wait for the weekend to squeeze our plans into two days, or a few weeks of annual leave for something bigger. FIRE means we can do things whenever we want, and if that something lasts for weeks or months, that's mostly OK too.
I don't know if the flexibility to do things when I want is my "best thing" answer, but it's certainly somewhere near the top. It's what I thought as Sally and I drank coffee in a small café in the sun, looking at the mountains. I still pinch myself to believe this is what my FIRE Thursday looks like!
Sally (my wife, in case you're new to my blog) was a reluctant early retiree. She enjoyed her teaching job and she liked where we lived - we were expatriate workers, and leaving our jobs meant leaving the country. In fact, she was determined not to retire, preferring the "if it isn't broken, don't fix it" approach. In the end, we agreed a compromise where Sally would take a year off so we could travel before she returned to work.
That was three years ago. As we sat in the café, I asked if she still planned a return to work. Her answer was no, she's also got used to enjoying the flexibility. She still works a little, online tutoring two days a week, so gets to teach because she enjoys it, but because it's online she keeps her flexibility too.
That flexibility means that we can enjoy time with our daughter when she comes to visit this week. After that, we head to the UK for four or five weeks, before I go to Berlin to run with some friends. That's us busy for the next eight weeks - that wouldn't have fit into my old working life.
It's good that we can travel a little again, although it's certainly not simple. I hoped that being fully vaccinated would make things easier, but it's not yet the case. To visit the UK, we will have four Covid tests, one pre-departure and three post arrival (day 2, 5 and 8) and must still follow a strict quarantine for five days. We could reduce this to three tests, but that increases the quarantine to ten days. I would have thought the combination of being vaccinated and taking a pre-departure test (and possibly one arrival test) should be sufficient. The politicians haven't had an easy task to deal with Covid but, even so, with a few exceptions, I don't think many have scored highly with their performance.
Back to the benefits of FIRE, these messages with a friend (we were arranging to go running) highlight why I like the flexibility of not being tied to a work schedule. I guess you can tell that the blue boxes are me!
What else is on my mind in this rambling FIRE post?
I enjoyed reading Retire by 40's post How I made $2,500+ last month by charging scooters. One of the biggest barriers to FIRE is having the confidence to actually make the leap from working life to early retired life, and money is often at the top of that confidence dilemma. Joe's post is a reminder that there are ways of topping up the money pot should it be required. I find such posts helpful, they give me the confidence to make decisions that I might be struggling with.
Another thing crossing my mind more frequently these days is that we can't always rely on being able to do something tomorrow, next week or next year. For example, I used to travel frequently to Jordon for work, giving me a wonderful opportunity to visit the historical and archaeological city of Petra. But each time I was in Jordan, I put the Petra visit off until my next trip, right up to the point when the work visits stopped without me ever visiting Petra. My assumption that there would always be a tomorrow, another work trip, was wrong and I missed out. In a recent post, I explained that my Mum didn't get her tomorrows when she was struck by Alzheimer's at a young age. And in the last week, two people close to us have been diagnosed with health issues - the most important thing is that they recover quickly, but a by-product is another reminder to do the things we want to do now, and not to keep putting them off for tomorrow. FIRE gives me the chance to do that, my task is to ensure I make the most of it.