I’ll start by acknowledging that this might get an eye-roll or be categorized as a “first world problem”, or just a “FI/RE pursuit” problem. In other words, a good problem and one I’m happy to have. The purpose of this post is to remind ourselves of how far we have come and how to enjoy the remainder of the FI/RE journey.
We haven’t traveled this path before. The end-point is unknown. The timing is inexact. There will be pitfalls. There will be successes. We have a hazy view of the future with some idea of the types of experiences we want along the way.
Way off in the distance, barely breaking the horizon, is the glow of early retirement. We know it’s real, we’ve heard about it from those who have seen it. There are marvelous stories of how one can choose work as if it pays zero, or actually zero. Carefully sipping money from a source that will never run dry.
Over the past three years, we’ve cut over-consumption, saved an emergency fund, purchased a home with 20% down within reasonable commuting distance of our jobs, paid-off student loans, replaced a money-pit vehicle, optimized our income tax strategy, found a low-fee index fund, and started to pay off the mortgage early.
And now we wait.
While it has been a productive and exhilarating few years, the remaining benchmarks on our way to FI/RE are a much longer way off. In the distance are what seem like a dwindling number of achievements at an order of magnitude higher. Save for Miniskate’s and future-skate(s) college*. Pay off the mortgage early. Save our RE stash.
These achievements will require a large amount of money and time. At times our progress seems slow, but we’re persistent. We’re Thriftyskate’s and we’re going to get there. Increase savings to shorten the time. Decrease savings to lengthen the time. It’s very simple math.
Given our current employment situation our incomes are more or less set although we have some ideas for side income up our sleeves. That leaves expenses as the main adjustable factor in our wealth accumulation strategy.
If our focus is on a distant savings goal, that means expenses need to be constantly evaluated to keep the timeline as short as possible.
I once joked with a pregnant Mrs. Thriftyskate that we could go out for frozen yogurt or retire 3 minutes sooner. We went out for frozen yogurt I am not allowed to make that type of joke again.
As we pursue FI/RE, we’re constantly faced with choice on how closely to watch our spending. Sometimes we become too obsessed with every purchase. This leads to purposely avoiding different experiences as they may present unplanned expenses. Hanging out with friends turns to weekends spent at home. Delayed vacations become no vacations.
The bottom line is we don’t want to wake up one day with our retirement pot in hand but have lived a life of deprivation to get there. We need to enjoy the journey.
That is why we have decided to take a family vacation to a National Park this year guilt-free. We’ll also take a few long-weekend type mini-vacations. We’re not straying from our careful spending lifestyle, but we will open up the coffers a bit in the name of experiences we want to have. These expenses are very much aligned with what we value in life. Time with our family, freedom of choice, enjoyment of nature, and relaxation.
And now we live.
*We’re still trying to decide how to handle saving for college. We both benefited from partially paid college tuition. It’s something we want to provide to our children if needed. For now, we have settled on getting to know the kid(s) first and seeing what makes sense in the future.