Third FIRE Anniversary (3) – Go Your Own Way

This is the third (and longest) in a series of Anniversary posts marking three years since we embarked on our FIRE lifestyle (financially independent & retired early) back in 2016 …

In my experience talking with people, the first considerations people have when thinking about early retirement are primarily FINANCIAL. You want to feel good about your nest egg, investments, and spending. Next is your SOCIAL connections – as for many people, work represents an important at social group.

Still, the most exciting part of early retirement is what comes third: the PERSONAL aspects of having complete control over your time and the autonomy to do as ‘little as you must, but as much as you want!’

That is certainly what I’ve found as I look at the different dimensions of the Life Wheel. The PERSONAL aspects of a FIRE lifestyle are the most engaging for me. Here are some thoughts on how these areas have matched my expectations going into our FIRE lifestyle …

  • HEALTH / SPORTS – I believe I’ve gotten much healthier over the last three years. I knew I wasn’t in great shape, but I probably didn’t realize how bad of shape I was in until I started playing tennis regularly again. Simply put, I got crushed.
  • I got crushed because I just didn’t have the speed to get around the court like I needed to. After I dropped about 20 pounds in the next 18 months, I started playing much better. Since then, I’ve gained some of that back, but am still playing at a high level and am in my own ‘spring training’ for summer sports right now.
  • Another surprise in this area is that I’ve kept busier with activities in the Winter than I thought I would be able to . Winters in Minnesota are brutal – and it’s hard to be as active as I am in the summer. Still, I have beat my 12K steps/day average over the last 3 years, including the Winter months. Between simply walking the paths in our neighborhood, using our treadmill, downhill skiing, and our weekly curling matches, I’ve stayed moving even through the frosty months.

  • ARTS / CREATIVE – In these areas, we continue to do many of the things that were always on our list for early retirement. On the arts side, we went to a lot of concerts last year ( Paul Simon, Kelly Clarkson, Eagles/Jimmy Buffet, Bob Seger), we got to the Hamilton musical, and attended a few art exhibits that came through our metro area. We also went to a number of museums and performances when we were traveling. I wouldn’t say we are doing more in this area than I expected, but we really had plans to do a lot!

    On the creative side, I continue to love photography, although I am much more likely to just be using my iPhone X than my digital SLR camera. The pictures aren’t quite as crisp, but they are acceptable for my uses and it is so much easier to use. One thing I haven’t been as good at is keeping photos organized. As I take more pix, I create a bigger administrative challenge for myself.

    TRAVEL / PLAY – We had another fantastic year of travel and this area is exceeding expectations. We went to the Holy Land / Jerusalem for a two week trip last July, flew to Toronto for a long summer weekend, road-tripped from Nashville and visited friends in Tennessee & North Carolina (golfing in Pinehurst!), escaped to the Caribbean this past January, and did a one week ‘staycation’ in Minnesota for the NFL Super Bowl. As I wrote last year, we’re using our travel framework, but running slightly under budget.

    Travel has also come to include many of the high-speed ‘pursuits’ that have come with our sports car. With friends, I did multi-day charity road rallies across the midwest to Chicago and across the Great Plains to Deadwood SD & Devils Tower WY. These events, along with track days, cruises, car shows, and autocross have been real highlights of our lifestyle change. (Check out @RallyDevils on Facebook if you are interested!).

    ‘Play’ is a broad category. When I originally pictured it, I thought of things like hosting parties, sneaking into afternoon movies, going to ball games, having game nights, and goofing off with friends (see: Dive Bar Tuesday).

    We’ve been able to do all of these things – and much, much much more. In fact, I would say that this post that I wrote last year about play and being in ‘Kid-ulthood’ is the closest I’ve come to the day-in-day out experience of early retirement. In the past week, I went to a beautiful flower show with my Mom during the ‘work day’ and attended the Final Four NCAA Championship with my Dad on a ‘school night’. After three years, it still feels like I’m playing ‘hooky’ and out playing most days.

    LEARNING / FAITH – I’ve always been an incredibly curious person about the world and it has been a blessing to have so much time to try to better understand everything. When I first retired, I learned what a short attention span I really had. I expected to be able to read a book a month, but struggled through only 2 books in my first year.

    In the last year, however, I’ve joined a book club with some old graduate school friends and also took a few reading recommendations from my son. I’ve now cleared 8 books in the last 12 months and learned a lot. Only one book was a Dan Brown non-fiction. At the same time, I am a voracious online reader, documentary watcher, and especially watching history shows.

    Faith isn’t something I originally had included in the Life Wheel, but a friend & former colleague recently asked me where it was. I acknowledged that not including it was a complete miss on my part and so now I’ve updated and added it in – connecting with learning.

    The spiritual highlight of our early retirement so far has been our trip to the Holy Land this past year. It was amazing on so many levels and really helped me better understand Christianity, Judaism, and the Muslim faiths. We went with a Lutheran Church pastor and had a Palestinian-Christian Guide when we were there.

    When we returned, my wife and I hosted a two-night presentation at our church. It gave us a chance to share what we have learned and the preparation forced us to learn it all again in a lot of detail. I can easily say that this trip – plus several of the books I read in the past year – have really altered my world view and better defined my faith for the better.

    As I hope you can see, there is absolutely nothing ‘boring’ about early retirement if you embrace each dimension of the Life Wheel and pursue your interests. Some of the activities I’ve covered over this series of posts are expensive, but many are free or pretty cheap fun (I just signed up for a whole summer of league softball for just $50).

    As I recently mentioned to a friend (who is still working), there is no shortage of things to do in early retirement – especially when you have all day to dream up adventures!

    Thanks to everyone that has kept up with over the last few years. While I have dialed back a little on my writing, it is still amazing to see the tens of thousands of readers that regularly come to the site. With this ‘Life Wheel’ series done, I’ll get back to my more typical mix of personal finance and FIRE lifestyle posts.

    Please let me know/comment if there are certain topics you would like to see over the next few months and I will get to them. THANKS!

    Image Credit (c)

    5 thoughts on “Third FIRE Anniversary (3) – Go Your Own Way

    1. Great post.

      I also retired recently, almost 2 years now. I appreciate the approach you used to look at RE holistically. I feel the financial side is a great challenge during the pre-retirement, wealth accumulation phase, but now post-retirement, if you have your finances on solid footing, it’s the social and personal life that is most challenging.

      Thanks for sharing the life wheel concept, and I find the things you are doing in RE a good motivation to me to pay more attention to the areas that I have big gaps in, such as, giving and teaching…I just volunteered to help coach my daughter’s middle school soccer team!



      1. Thanks! Helping coaching your daughter’s soccer team sounds like a BIG commitment. That should be a wonderful activity for you to be involved with, though. Our son is off to college, but I would drop everything for an opportunity to do something like that again!


    2. Great follow up to the earlier two blogs on your three years. We’ve found many similar pursuits during our two years of FIRE. I struggle with reading books too…but have hit my soft goal of six per year so far. I actually read 10 this past year. But read online nearly everyday.

      My biggest struggle is my reluctance to commit to anything longer than one day. I find I’m a little more selfish when it comes to my time these days. Our travel goals this year included three weeks traveling to Washington and British Columbia, Canada to spend time with our oldest daughter, which we did in January. We spent a wonderful long weekend in Charleston, SC in February. We just finished a full month in the Florida Keys (March). Will likely make this a reoccurring trip every winter now. We are booking a road trip from Virginia to Acadia, Maine and on to Nova Scotia, Canada in July/August, a trip to Topsail Island with (still working) friends in late summer, and have a return trip to Charleston, SC planned in the Fall. Whew!…busy…fun year.

      Other fun stuff… We have several great college baseball programs near us, so loving my baseball time (especially weekday games!) We just spent a day visiting several local breweries and cideries yesterday, and had a wonderful lunch at one of our favorites. So many options, it’s still like summer vacation to us after two years!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That sounds like you are doing a lot of travel. We average about 35 nights a year – so that’s five weeks. Last year we went a little more, but this year we ‘skipped’ traveling for a spring break since my wife and I are chairing a big charitable fundraiser in June and we need to direct a few more $ to it this year.

        Activities like you going to a midweek college baseball game are the best. As you know, most entertainment/festivals/events happen on weekdays, so anything fun you can do while everyone else is working during the week is perfect. I went to the MN Twins game on Tuesday night this week with one of my brothers. Hardly anyone there!


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