Oh wow, it’s been 8 years since I retired from my engineering career. Time really flies. Pretty soon, I’ll be retired longer than I was an engineer (16 years.) Retiring early might not be the right move for everyone, but it was the perfect move for me. Life has been amazing since I became a SAHD/blogger. If you’re stuck in a job or career you don’t like, then you need to figure out how to make things better. It won’t improve without extraordinary effort and a lot of luck. Of course, early retirement doesn’t magically solve every problem. Life is full of challenges and I have my share.
Today, I’ll give a quick recap of my early retirement so far. Then I’ll share how things are this year. Lastly, I’ll go over a few plans for the future. Check it out.
Early Retirement Recap
First, let’s do a quick recap.
Before ER – I worked in chip design for 16 years. In the beginning, engineering was great and I enjoyed working on the technical issues. Eventually, I became more senior and needed to take on more leadership roles. The career wasn’t a good fit for me anymore because I enjoyed technical work more. Personally, I think every engineer should plan for early retirement.
Year 1 ER – I retired to become a SAHD/blogger in 2012 when our son was 18 months old. That first year was the toughest year for me. Being a SAHD to a toddler was a lot of work. At that age, they don’t listen very well and they constantly push boundaries.
Year 2 to 4 ER – Life became a bit easier once RB40Jr started preschool. In the beginning, he went to preschool twice per week for 4 hours. Later on, he went to preschool 4 times per week. I had more time to work on my blog and my health. It was a good balance. Life gradually improved as our son got older.
Year 5 and 6 ER – RB40Jr started kindergarten and life became awesome. I had a lot more time to myself and he made a lot of friends. These have been the best years of early retirement so far.
Year 7 ER – We had more challenges than usual and I was stressed out. My mom was diagnosed with dementia and we moved her to Thailand. I couldn’t take care of her and my son at the same time. Also, she was starting to lose her English. Eventually, she’ll need to go to a nursing home and it’ll be a lot more comfortable for her in Thailand, especially with the ability to communicate.
Year 8 ER – This has been a strange year. Life was great until the coronavirus pandemic hit. Our governor shut down nonessential businesses and closed all schools. Since then, we’ve been in lockdown and it’s a scary time to live through. Now it’s May, and Oregon will gradually open up soon. There are a lot of uncertainties right now. 2020 will go in the history books, that’s for sure.
Early Retirement is still awesome
I love early retirement because I have a lot of autonomy. I don’t have a boss and I largely control my schedule. Of course, I have some overhead because I’m a stay-at-home dad. When he was little, RB40Jr took up all of my time and energy. However, the SAHD part became much easier as school and teachers took over a large portion of his time. The coronavirus pandemic changed all that.
We’ve been in lockdown for two months and it’s been tough. Now, I’m homeschooling my son and he is taking up all of my time and energy again. I don’t have much time to do my own things. It’s an abrupt change. Mrs. RB40 is also working from home so that’s another challenge we had to adapt to.
After 2 months, things are starting to feel a bit more settled. Homeschooling was hell at first, but it’s getting better. It was a big change for everyone. RB40Jr’s teachers didn’t know anything about distance learning and they had to start from scratch. They sent out a ton of school work and we struggled to get through it without losing our tempers. Eventually, I realized that we don’t have to complete 100% of the assignments. As long as RB40Jr understands the core concepts and does some school work, he’ll be fine. Actually, I’m looking at this as a dry run for Mrs. RB40’s retirement. We want to take a year off to travel around the world soon. Our biggest worry was homeschooling. We don’t want RB40Jr to be behind when we get back. Now we know it should be fine. More on this plan a little later.
Successful Early Retirement?
There are 3 indicators of successful retirement – health, wealth, and happiness. Let’s see how I’m doing in all these areas.
In 2019, I was in pretty good shape. I worked out at home 3-4 times per week and I got my weigh down to 130 pounds. (I’m 5’4 so 130 pounds is about right. It’s not too light.) After 2 months in lockdown, I weigh 136 pounds. It’s stable now so I’m okay with it. The issue is it’s easy to overeat and snack when you’re home all day. I’m sure a lot of people have the same problem and gained weight recently. I’m still doing intermittent fasting so that helps.
My weight is up a bit, but I’m still healthier than 8 years ago. Back then, I was stressed out all the time. My physical and mental health suffered. I had back pain, panic attacks, tinnitus, dizziness, depression, and more. It wasn’t good. Now, I feel much better. Occasionally, I’d have back pain, but I think that might be the mattress. Other than that, I don’t have any health issues.
If your job makes you less healthy, then you need to change careers. This COVID pandemic is a prime example. So many people became essential workers overnight and they take on a lot of risks. I’m grateful to all the essential workers who are keeping the country afloat, but you have to plan for the future, too. If this is more risk than you’re comfortable with, then you need to make a change at some point. Unfortunately, this pandemic probably won’t be the last one we see in our lifetime.
*If you want to keep your weight down, try intermittent fasting. Here is how I do it. I only eat from noon until 8 pm on weekdays. This cuts down on the calories and I don’t miss breakfast much. I’m busy homeschooling RB40Jr on the weekdays anyway. Try intermittent fasting if you want to control weight. It really works. If you can’t do it by yourself, I highly recommend Martin Dasko’s Intermittent Fasting Course. It was very helpful when I first started IF.
We are a lot more fortunate than many families. This pandemic hasn’t affected our finance too much. The stock market crashed and made a quick recovery. Most of our passive income streams are still functioning relatively well. Mrs. RB40 still has her job. The only major problem is my online income. It dropped over 60% since the pandemic hit the US. That’s not a huge deal, though. Luckily, we never depended on my online income so we didn’t have to change our lifestyle. We already live modestly and there is no need to cut back at this point.
The economy was on a great run from 2012 to 2020. Our wealth building plan worked very well in that environment. Our investment in the stock market and real estate increased our net worth every year since I retired. We also continued to save and invest so that helped a lot too.
The coronavirus crashed the stock market in March 2020, but it came back incredibly quickly. I don’t trust this recovery because the economy is in shambles. Millions of people are unemployed and most businesses are not making as much money as previously. It’ll be amazing if we can keep our net worth gain streak alive in 2020, but I’m not counting on it. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Overall, we are still way wealthier than when I retired in 2012. In a way, this pandemic is a good stress test. If my retirement can survive this crisis, it can survive anything.
Another part of wealth is passive income. Our passive income streams are holding up well so far. If we’re lucky, our passive income should be able to cover our expenses again this year.
- Real estate crowdfunding – I’m pretty lucky here. One project closed right on 2/29/20. That was right before the coronavirus hit the US. A couple of projects suspended their payout until this crisis is over, but most are still paying out. Overall, this is going okay.
- Rentals – I’m lucky here too. We have 2 units for rent and they are both occupied. My tenants have secure jobs so they should be okay.
- Dividend income – A few companies announced a dividend cut or dividend suspension. Our dividend income will be down this year.
Our passive income looks okay so far, but 2020 is still young. We’ll see the ripple effect soon. Luckily, our spending is way down because we’re in lockdown. I think we should still be able to cover our expenses with our passive income. Stay tuned! We’ll see what happens by the end of 2020.
Happiness is tricky right now. Normally, I’m a happy optimist, but this COVID crisis took me down a few notches. It’s hard to be happy in lockdown. The news made me angry. The US government could have done so much better. Anyway, I’m cutting way back on the news and social media. That helps a lot.
Another thing that decreased my quality of life is homeschooling. It’s been tough. I’m not a patient teacher and my son doesn’t like school. We got mad at each other a lot over the last 2 months. It’s a bit better now, though. We’re doing just enough to get by. I think it would be a lot better if we can make up our own curriculum. That’s what we’ll do when we go on our around the world trip. It’ll be mostly learning about the places we visit and minimal math, writing, reading, and science. I’m pretty sure it will be fine.
Overall, I’m very happy with life even with this coronavirus crisis. It would be way harder if I had to work full time, homeschool, blog, and be a good dad.
We’re more fortunate than many families. A lot of people are really struggling right now. I’m very grateful to be where I am. I just hope the curve stays flattened when the economy opens up. Meanwhile, we’ll support the local businesses and hope they will come through this okay.
Early Retirement Projects
The last 8 years have been amazing, but life goes on. The secret to early retirement is to have some goals. You have to stay somewhat busy so you don’t get bored. Early retirement doesn’t mean relaxing around the pool every day. Most people will not be happy with that. You need a few big projects to work on. Here are some of mine.
Fixing up the house
This project is probably on most people’s lists. I went to Home Depot last week and it was super busy. Luckily, they have online ordering and free curve side pickup now. I ordered some decorative fencing for our front yard. That’s our herb garden, but neighborhood dogs keep going into that area. I blame the dog walkers. I guess some people can’t tell herbs from weeds. Anyway, the fence is up and dogs will have to go to the bathroom on the curb strip instead.
We moved into this house (duplex) last year and there are a ton of things to fix up. This house was built in 1890 and the last time it was remodeled was in the 80s.
- Paint – Last year, I recaulked a lot of the exterior and did some touch-up painting. This year, I’ll need to finish up.
- Shades – The window shades from the 80s are starting to malfunction and need to be replaced.
- Remodel the bathroom – We need to replace the sink, flooring, wall tiles, and refinish the tub.
- Remodel the kitchen – I want to replace the 80s era cabinets, hood, flooring, and expand the counter area.
- Basement – This is a huge job and it’ll be on the back burner. We need to pour a new concrete path on one side of the house to keep the moisture out. After that, we can finish the basement.
- Etc… There is plenty of stuff to keep me busy for years to come.
Another project that keeps me busy is blogging. During the normal school year, I spend 20-40 hours per week on the blog, but I can’t right now with homeschooling. These days, I spend about 10 hours per week blogging. Once summer starts, I probably can spend a few more hours on it.
The blog traffic has been pretty stable over the last few years. The traffic varies from month to month, but it’s pretty much the same on an annual basis. The blog income is a lot more volatile, though. 2020 started off really good, then the pandemic hit. The traffic dropped and my blog income decreased by about 60%. That’s okay. Like everyone, we just need to muddle our way through the next few months. That’s life, you have to keep fighting.
This chart only counts 4 months of 2020.
Around the world trip
We want to take a year off to travel around the world. Lots of people did it, why shouldn’t we? Even our neighbor lived in Sri Lanka for a year. Well, it’s daunting. We have our lives here and we’re not ready to let that go yet. However, this coronavirus pandemic helped push us along the way. Things that were daunting don’t seem that scary anymore.
- Homeschooling – It’s hard, but we can do it. It should be way easier if we can follow our own curriculum.
- Mrs. RB40’s work –Work is going well for her, but she wouldn’t mind taking a year off.
- Rental properties – I’ll put our rental condo up for sale after the lease is up. We also have a renter at our duplex, but I don’t think he will really mind. He can keep an eye on our home while we’re gone.
- Finance – Our passive income should be enough to fund a year off. One concern I had was renting out our home while we’re gone. Now, I don’t think we need to rent it out. Our housing cost is pretty low at $1,250/month. It’s low because we live in one unit of the duplex and rent out the other. We can carry that for a year.
- Parents – My mom has dementia and she lives in Thailand with my dad. In 2 years, she will need a lot more help. We’ll spend a large portion of this trip in Thailand so we can spend time with my parents.
Those were my main concerns and they are all surmountable. After RB40Jr finishes 5th grade in 2022, the stars will line up. We should be able to take a year off to go travel. He can start the 7th grade when we get back. One less year of middle school isn’t going to hurt him.
Keep at it
All in all, these last 8 years have been amazing. Life is so much better than when I was working full-time. I don’t regret retiring early at all. If I didn’t, I’d still be stuck in the same old gray cubicle I hated. That’s the real key to FIRE. You make it your goal and go after it with everything you got. Keep at it and good luck everyone!
Thanks again for following my early retirement adventure and good luck on yours! I really appreciate every single one of you.
Sign up for a free account at Personal Capital to help manage your investments. I log in almost every day to check on my accounts and cash flow. It’s a great site for DIY investors.
See my guide – How to Start a Blog and Why You Should. Starting a blog changed my life. It provides some income after retirement and it’s a great way to build a community. Those are the two biggest problems after retirement. It’s a great way to use some of your free time.
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Source: Retire By 40
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