Is This What Early FI Feels Like? (Day 51)

by FI Fighter on March 12, 2015

in Health Updates, Thoughts

Duckies

I have now been on a leave of absence from work for 51 days! Yikes, that’s extremely hard for me to believe, and it honestly doesn’t feel like all that much time has passed by already… Wow, in the blink of an eye, almost! Strange, that’s the exact feeling I used to get when I was working the grind 5 days a week as well…

At this point, I wish I could say that “early FI” has been everything I hoped it would be… Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely LOVING my time off from work, and in many aspects I feel that early FI is still extremely underrated. But there’s a catch…

Here are some of the things I’ve observed so far:

Staying Busy

It is unbelievably easy for me to stay busy and keep my days jam packed. I really can’t for the life of me understand how retirees ever feel bored, because if anything, I feel like my days are even more busy now than when I was working! Often times, I find myself wondering, “How would I even be able to juggle all these tasks if I was still chained to the office cubicle?

For instance, right now I’m handling a rehab on Rental Property SH #3. Everyday, this involves me driving around town, looking at different products/materials, and searching for the best prices. I guess if I was still working, I wouldn’t have the luxury of debating any real decisions, so I would instead simply purchase the first item I found at a reasonable price. Right now, I’m able to scrutinize things a bit more and spend more time educating myself. Yesterday, I was at the kitchen and bathroom remodel shop and spent a few hours browsing all the options. I was researching the differences between: quartz, marble, and granite. Ultimately, in the end, I left the store and purchased nothing…

Further, I’m able to take my health by the horns and watch carefully what I’m putting into my body. I go grocery shopping a few times a week, and am buying a lot more produce and green veggies than I ever did before in the past. With fresh foods, they spoil easy, so it’s much more difficult to buy these items in bulk. Also, I’m finding myself spending an inordinate amount of time cooking in the kitchen. For a guy who used to call a bowl of cereal or top ramen a “meal”, times have changed!

With the extra time, I’m also now exercising and meditating everyday. This is something that is not only undeniably beneficial to good health, but something the majority of workers neglect due to their busy schedules. And that’s a real shame… I have to confess, it’s a most liberating feeling to be able to put on some sweat pants, my iPod, some running/hiking shoes, and go visit a trail for some fresh air whenever I want.

Even with all the items mentioned above, I’m still finding lots of free time to socialize and meet up with friends and other investors. I will routinely join some good buddies for lunch, or afternoon snack, and we will kick back and chill for a few hours. Typically, they will have to take off and rush back to some unknown destination, while I stick around, people watch, and just take life slow… Definitely, this is something I enjoy greatly, especially on a nice, warm spring afternoon.

So, these days, I’m: running side projects, eating right, exercising and meditating, socializing, and all together enjoying life… I only wish that I had even more free time, if you can believe that! I still haven’t gotten around to: reading more books, playing guitar, starting new hobbies, and just learning more things, in general…

What’s Stress?

Even with my Adrenal Fatigue problem, I still feel like I’m sitting on top of the world right now. The body is still massively screwed up, unfortunately, so I’m always stuck in “fight-or-flight” mode. Despite that, I’m almost forgetting what stress even is… The thing that was hurting me most and causing me so much anguish is now slowly being forgotten by my body!

And it’s making a huge difference in my day-to-day life. You really can’t put a price on peace of mind and being able to live freely on your own terms. There’s no more looking over my shoulder, worrying about forgetting an important meeting, or racking my brain to no end trying to figure out why the hell something doesn’t work in the lab…

That’s all gone and not missed at all! No more weekly status reports, no more putting on fronts and false appearances because “important people” are in the room, etc. These days, I get to be my genuine self… Life feels so much more REAL now without all the BS.

Even Better

My life right now is arguably even better than it will be once I declare early FI, from a financials point-of-view. The reason? Right now, not only am I living a fully independent life, but I’m still collecting full paychecks, in addition to my passive income. So, in essence, I’m working, without… working.

Granted, this is a result of a serious health condition, and something that won’t last indefinitely, but if I’m going to look on the bright side of things, then getting paid to not work is definitely one of them.

On the journey to early FI, most people hope and pray that they will one day earn enough passive income to basically replace their earned income from a W-2 job. Well, what it would it feel like if you could earn even more than that? Let’s say 1.5x, or 2x your working salary? That’s where I’m at right now, and yes, I’ll admit, it can do wonders for giving you peace of mind. I was extremely conscientious of my spending early on because I thought my work paychecks would be frozen, but because they aren’t, I’m able to operate with a lot more breathing room. This means I don’t have to dip into emergency savings, I get to buy more stocks, and just eliminate another potential stress element from my life.

To make this work in “real FI”, again, I will most likely have to leave the Bay Area and find a cheaper place to live. Early FI and pinching every last penny doesn’t exactly resonate as a smashing good time in my eyes…

Reflection

We are all people with hopes and dreams. Due to the hustle and bustle of everyday work life, a lot of us tend to lose our identities over time. I know that I most certainly did. With early FI, you get the opportunity and blessing to rediscover yourself. These days, I’m having more internal conversations and monologues than ever before…

What’s the meaning of life? What can I do to better myself today? How am I making a difference in this world? What really matters to me? How can I achieve it?

Those questions above are ones that I would never give more than a passing thought when I was working; I was simply too busy using up all my time trying to make someone else rich… After a day’s work, a broken down and tired version of myself was all that I would have left to work with… Those thoughts wouldn’t cross my mind because all I could ever think about was crashing on the sofa, trying to unwind and decompress after another long, draining day…

The people who I have spoken to during my “sabbatical” have all told me that I look different… There’s an extra bounce to my step, and a lot more happiness in my voice. My doctor even said that our second encounter last week was night-and-day different from our first meeting at the beginning of my treatment. He said I was a lot more cognizant and sharper with my thoughts… And it’s only been about two months… Imagine what the results would be like after 2-3 years? I might become an entirely new person…

That thought not only intrigues me, but excites me to no end…

Debunking the Naysayers

The early FI aspect of my time off is going even better than I could have possibly imagined. No, my health isn’t perfect yet, and I’m still working judiciously to fix that, but otherwise, things are absolutely splendid right now.

To all the naysayers out there who claim that early FI isn’t all that it’s hyped up to be… I don’t even know where to begin… If you’re bored with early FI, then you are bored with life… Or just a boring person! 😉

I’m having the time of my life! And I haven’t even gone out and done anything CRAZY yet… I’m still in the Bay Area, living a most “mundane” life. No, I haven’t traveled or backpacked through Europe yet… So, it’s definitely not the allure of something new and shiny that’s giving me all this excitement.

Everyday life can be so beautiful if you just let it all soak in. Detach yourself from greed, desire, and all the other ills as much as you possibly can… And you will be free… You will be able to appreciate all the simple blessings that make life so magnificent. Just being able to go hiking after lunch on a beautiful day fills me with immense joy… Getting out of the office and lab? Therapeutic. I despise drama and BS more than anything….I don’t need rules and regulations. I don’t need a boss.

I am someone who has quite frankly just always desired freedom and control of my own time. When it comes down to it, “some birds just aren’t meant to be caged… Their feathers are too bright…” If the rat race doesn’t resonate with you, and if it never has, then it just never will. If you are that type of individual, then you’ll also find early FI to be the most liberating thing possible for your health and soul.

Yes, I’m still planning on returning to work… But I will be dreading that day!

  • I love life without stress.
  • I love the slooooooooow pace of life.
  • I love being able to control my time and destiny.
  • I love lazy days where you accomplish nothing but happiness.
  • I love sleeping in and taking mid-afternoon naps.
  • I love being able to exercise multiple times everyday.
  • I love being able to meditate and connect to a higher power spiritually.
  • I love eating right and nurturing my body.
  • I love being able to more meticulously manage my side hustle projects.
  • I love being able to hang out with friends and not have to stare at my watch.

Life is wonderful. I’m loving it… I’ve gotten my sneak peak and now I want infinitely more of it…

At this point, I wish I could say that “early FI” has been everything I hoped it would be… I was wrong and miscalculated… It’s even better than I could have ever imagined!

Early FI can’t get here soon enough! 🙂

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Midwestern Landlord March 12, 2015 at 9:46 am

Nice post. I found that time goes by fast in early FI as well (just like when I was working). The big difference is, you are in control of your time, environment, daily activities, etc. So if time is going to go by quickly in either scenario, I would just assume have a say in how I spend that time.

I really liked your perspective on losing your identity in the workplace. That very much resonates with how I felt as well. As much as I tried not to let that occur, the reality is it hard to keep it from happening. When ALL of your income is coming from a job, it just totally depowers us as human beings to be ourselves at all times when the corporate hierarchy is watching every move we make.

My path was real estate. And I think we can all agree, real estate can be a faster path than saving $ in a 401K. It does take a little work from time to time. But so does a job. I always found it a little odd when my co-workers would grind out week after week at the office but wanted to have nothing to do with income producing real estate. So they can continue to grind out week after week at the office and I will continue with early FI.

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2 FI Fighter March 12, 2015 at 9:17 pm

Midwestern Landlord,

Definitely, being able to control one’s time fully is what life is all about. Similar to you, I am using real estate as my primary investment vehicle to get to early FI.

Yes, I also find it somewhat peculiar how many people can dedicate their entire lives to working for an employer, but won’t put in any efforts towards learning how to invest… Over time, this can’t help but make you more and more dependent on an employer who’s loyalty to you will always be tied to nothing more than numbers.

In the workplace, we are all replaceable.

Hope you are enjoying early FI and reaping the rewards of all your hard work.

All the best!

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3 Dividend Growth Investor March 12, 2015 at 9:57 am

I am glad you are doing better. Hope health improves dramatically – without health ( mental and physical), one cannot enjoy FI.

I agree with you that only boring people get bored. If you have important people/interests/passions in life, you will spend time toward those. So how can you get bored?

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4 FI Fighter March 12, 2015 at 9:19 pm

DGI,

I’m with you, without good health, life isn’t much fun, or worth living. Thanks for the support! I’m doing my best to get better.

I’ve got a lot of passion for life and can’t wait to invest my time fully to the things most important to me. Even now, I’m waking up each morning excited and pumped up for the upcoming day.

Best wishes!

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5 Rat Race Quitter March 12, 2015 at 11:56 am

“some birds just aren’t meant to be caged… Their feathers are too bright…” — Bonus points for quoting Shawshank again!

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6 FI Fighter March 12, 2015 at 9:20 pm

Rat Race Quitter,

LOL! I can’t stop quoting that movie, can I? I guess that’s my go to freedom movie. Too many good lines to choose from 😉

Take care!

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7 Nuno March 12, 2015 at 2:51 pm

Didn’t realize you weren’t at work now.
Have a great time with your FI days!

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8 FI Fighter March 12, 2015 at 9:20 pm

Nuno,

Thanks! I’m doing my best to maximize and enjoy each and every day.

All the best!

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9 Gen Y Finance Guy March 12, 2015 at 2:51 pm

I took a 1-day sabbatical yesterday because I just needed it. I am definitely one of those birds not meant to be caged. Starting my finance blog 6-months ago was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have connected with so many people, and now more convinced then ever that I need to do what ever I can to break away from corporate.

Although it will likely be a few years before I make the official break. I am going to do more 1-day sabbatical’s even if I don’t have the vacation days. It was so liberating to have control over the entire day and work on the things I find important and meaningful.

My wife is on board and plans to do the same thing. Are game plan initially is to take 1 extra day off in any month that doesn’t already have a 3-day weekend. We are also planning a 10-day vacation in August.

I have also been working a lot on mastering the blend of my day job and working on the things that matter to me. My job has a tendency to steal a lot of my time outside of a normal 40-50 hour work week. So I am reclaiming some of that time during the day by delaying delivery of certain assignments.

They will get a full 40 hour productive week for me. But anything beyond that will be at a 50% utilization rate.

Glad things are going well for you my friend.

Cheers!

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10 FI Fighter March 12, 2015 at 9:22 pm

Gen Y,

Yeah, I totally hear you on that — Starting this blog was one of the best decisions I ever made. Being able to connect with so many other like-minded individuals can’t help but motivate me more to keep going on this journey and keep pushing forward.

I love your gameplan, and that’s a great way to keep refreshed and prevent burn out. I was a pretty reckless worker when I was younger and kind of wish I took more days off for R&R.

40+ hours is more than enough. Glad to hear you taking back more of your life.

Best wishes!

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11 No Nonsense Landlord March 12, 2015 at 7:55 pm

Keep milking it. I know people that milk the system for years, taking 100+ days off every year.

Sooner or later, it won’t work out. Come back to work for a few weeks every so often just to get back to short term, rather than long term, disability again.

I am getting ready for my retirement too.

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12 FI Fighter March 12, 2015 at 9:24 pm

Eric,

My intent isn’t to milk the system… I used to work extremely hard, so in a way I feel like I have paid my dues. Right now, I have a real medical condition and am working very hard trying to get that resolved.

I’m not trying to extern my time off anymore than necessary, but on the bright side of this stressful ordeal is that it has given me a glimpse to explore what early FI life might look like. I’m grateful for that opportunity.

All the best!

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13 t2s March 12, 2015 at 9:10 pm

Honestly I’ve enjoyed reading your blog but you should be careful what you write. People like you are the reason taxes are as high as they are and people feel entitled to stuff. I live in the bay area as well and have an extremely stressful job. You should be embarrassed telling all of us that as a single guy making double the wage or more of the average American, that you just can’t handle it. Instead your blog the last couple months have been almost bragging that you somehow have stress that merits taxpayers paying your paycheck for you.

Tsk tsk. I hope your blog goes back to how it was or else you lost a reader.

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14 FI Fighter March 12, 2015 at 9:31 pm

t2s,

Unfortunately, there’s a disconnect there, as I have never felt entitled to anything… I’m just trying to focus on the bright side of things, if you will.

My situation right now is not one I would ever wish upon anyone else… What I am going through is no fun, believe me! There’s absolutely nothing to brag about. But rather than get down in the dumps and blame the world for all my struggles and problems, I’m trying to turn a negative into a positive. I think that’s a much better alternative than wallowing in self pity and feeling sorry for myself for having a serious health condition.

You might not be fully aware of my problems, but I assure you I am not simply coasting by trying to milk every taxpayer of their last dime to support my lavish lifestyle. I worked extremely hard in my career and these last 8 years to get to where I am today. You could say I paid the full price of admission and my pound of flesh.

Stress kills and is extremely toxic. I’m living proof. Lots of other people see that and that’s the reason they strive so hard for early FI. If there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel to look forward to, then there really is no hope…

Hope is a good thing. And I’m optimistic I’ll get better in time. In the meantime, I’m going to smile and enjoy life 🙂

Take care!

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15 JC March 13, 2015 at 8:59 am

It’s pretty amazing what you can do with a little bit of time away from work and to focus on yourself. My days were jam packed whenever I was out of work and I honestly loved it. I didn’t have to worry about a meeting or some project deadline. I got to do whatever I wanted each day and one of my big priorities was health. I was able to get into the best shape of my life, although unfortunately that’s long past but I’m working back towards it.

I’m glad you’re enjoying your taste of early FI.

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16 No More Waffles March 14, 2015 at 6:38 am

FI Fighter,

I’m really glad to read this post as it pretty much confirms what I thought FI would look like. I don’t think I would have it any other way.

And on you feeling more busy than ever, that’s exactly what my (obviously long-time) retired grandfather always says: I have more things on my hands now that I’m retired versus when I was still at work. And that coming from an 81-year-old says something.

Hope you continue to enjoy your early FI,
NMW

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17 Jason @ Islands of Investing March 14, 2015 at 12:54 pm

Hey FI Fighter,

I’m thrilled to hear that your pre-early retirement period is going so well! Inspiring to hear the things you’re focusing on and the way you’re spending your time – all things I’d love to be doing more and more! I’m trying to get up earlier and earlier in the mornings before work so I have time to do some of these things like meditating which has been great, but it’s only a fraction of what my ideal days would look like 🙂

After 10 years with the same employer, I’ve just become entitled to ‘long-service leave’, a 9 week paid sabbatical! I’m just figuring out whether to take it sooner or wait until my kids are a little older (or even cash it in and move to a new job, but that’s my least preferred option at this stage), but either way I’d hope to feel as fantastic as you do about your extended break from work!

Keep looking after yourself FI Fighter!

Cheers,

Jason

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