One of the questions we sometimes get from the very few people we talk to in person about financial independence is what we plan to do when we retire early. I think this is a very important and valid question that needs to be thought about carefully. It is not just about hitting a number and then pulling the plug on mandatory work. There has to be a larger set of goals driven by what you truly value as important in your life, and not simply “I am going to hit my number then quit my job”. I have read too many stories of people who retire early, or even those who retire later in life that have no idea what to do with their sudden freedom from working a consistent job. Some end up going back to work while others might feel lost with what to do during the huge increase in free time. Our drive toward financial independence is not driven by a dislike or hatred of our jobs. In fact we both have more flexibility in our careers than most people, and we both feel like we are doing work that is important and provides a significant amount of fulfillment. I have stated in a couple of posts that I plan to leave academia shortly after reaching financial independence, but there are circumstances that would keep in the job longer if I was given more latitude to cut out the parts that are draining and detract from the real work I want to accomplish through. I just want to be upfront that given the right circumstances, both of us may work a few additional years completely on our terms after reaching financial independence (a work optional life). So with that important note here are our primary plans for what freedom and retirement look like…
Not spending any additional time with our kids
Of course I am playing with this sub-heading here and treating it like a typical news headline that you would read online and now I am going to turn it into something completely different in the text. Really though, the sub-heading is true. We currently prioritize time and activities with our children (and each other) above everything else and it is one of the areas we freely spend on in both time and money. We are fortunate that our jobs provide extreme flexibility and gives us options to spend as much time as possible and do things with them now rather than hoping we can do more later. This is one of the huge benefits we both have in our current careers, and to be honest sometimes makes me struggle when I think about walking away from my job. Outside of the time they are in school at least one of us, and most of the time both of us are spending our time engaged with our children. This includes a significant of travel with our kids which leads me to the next section…
Aside from our kids and each other, travel is something we have prioritized in our life, and it is hard to see how we could possibly do more once we are financially independent. To be honest it might actually decrease a little bit because I will be traveling less for work which is one of several ways we have been able to travel so extensively. Just to give you an idea of how much focus on travel, since January of this year, we have gone on a major trip almost every three weeks. This has included both domestic and international travel to places such as England, Spain, France, Portugal, and Aruba. This is an area of purposeful spending based on the value it brings to our lives. Don’t get me wrong we do a significant amount of travel hacking and know how to maximize points and rewards in addition to minimizing costs (off-peak travel) but even with that, we still spend about 10% of our budget yearly on travel. Without the travel hacking, and benefit from combining work trips and family trips, we may not be able to do nearly as much. Although recently we have started to discuss that once we are FI we may consider world-schooling our kids.
Music, and Performing Arts
One of the things I have truly missed in the second stage of my career is having music, dance, and in general, performing arts as a significant part of my life. Both of our undergraduate degrees were in music, and we both taught for six years in public schools. I taught both music and dance at a high school, and my wife taught middle school band and guitar. For a while I was able to continue performing (and teaching) after I stopped teaching high school, but once my university career was in full swing (and the kids came along), I lost the time to do anything with something I spent so much of my early life perfecting. My wife still plays guitar and piano occasionally, but I think it has been almost four years since I played an instrument, and ten years since I have been in a dance studio. I often miss that creative outlet, and this is one area that I expect to have significantly more time for once I leave my job. As a bonus this is something that costs very little money, and I might even go back to teaching and giving lessons part time!
This one is fairly straightforward, but I suspect that both of us will be doing a lot more volunteer work in several areas once we have more time. We make some time for volunteer work already, but we have specific areas where we would like to do more.
I think that covers the areas we have thought about and discussed fairly well, especially from my perspective. There are of course many smaller focused things I am planning as well, but I thought writing out the top areas would be sufficient for this post. The key here is that we have taken the time to really think through what our life will look like after we reach financial independence.