One of my favorite things about blogging is the connections we’ve made with our readers – whether in person as we travel (over a dozen meet-ups last year!) or over the internet.
This e-mail from a reader caught my attention last week:
I hope you and Daniel are doing well and enjoying semi-retirement! I’m hoping you could share some advice that you’d give to your 23 year old self.
I got my bachelors last year in Marketing and have worked for a cool, highly successful company in a southern U.S. city since, salary about $40k pretax. But here’s the thing, Matt, you’ve ruined me.
Since I discovered semi-retirement was possible at a young age, I’ve become obsessed with the concept. I’m a rock climber, mountain biker, etc., so the thought of being able to pursue those hobbies full time while my body is at peak health is incredibly enticing.
I’m not sick of working, as a concept, though I am so sick of marketing. I am more like you than the rest of the FI community in that I have no problem working again someday; in fact I know I want to. If I could find a way to semi-retire for a few years, I could use that time to pursue my age-restricted hobbies and develop skills for re-entering the workforce.
So, what would you tell yourself at 23 to make early retirement planning less painful, more productive/efficient, or what have you? And any advice for my specific situation?
My response quickly turned into a multi-page letter, and I decided to post it here.
Here are five pieces of financial advice I’d share with myself at age 23.
Three hundred sixty-five days ago, Daniel and I did one final check of our possessions, started up the engine of our van, and pulled out onto the road. We’ve been gone eleven of the twelve months since.
I liked the poetry of starting our travels on the spring equinox. The end of winter and the beginning of a season of life and light felt like an apt metaphor for this new season in our own lives. We’ve watched sunrises and sunsets in forests and deserts, slept under the stars, hiked among ancient cultural wonders, and trekked through towns and countries I couldn’t have pinned on a map.
By no means has every day been perfect. Approximately three seconds after we first pulled out of the driveway, I looked in the rear view mirror and watched our newly purchased five-gallon water carrier go flying off our storage platform, bouncing off the bed before settling against the driver’s side sliding door. There were still a few kinks to work out. But in spite of a few little mishaps, it’s been the longest year of my life in the best way possible.
I’ve been feeling inspired lately. A couple weeks ago, two of my favorite personal finance bloggers wrote remarkably similar posts discussing the need for big ambitions and new projects in early retirement. Mrs. Our Next Life described them as “your next BIG GOAL,” while Mr. 1500 Days framed things slightly differently as “passion reignited,” writing that “work is the key to happiness.”
My takeaway from the two pieces was the same: most people pursuing a big goal like financial independence aren’t going to be satisfied living without another big goal in the future.
So much for my plan to sit on the beach and drink margaritas for the next sixty years.
Life sometimes seems to fly by at a blistering pace, doesn’t it?
“I can’t believe we’ve lived here for almost two decades,” my mom once told me about the house they seemingly moved into yesterday.
“The days are long, but the years are short,” a friend recently shared about watching her kids grow from toddlers to adolescents practically overnight.
It might not feel like it every day (especially when we’re endlessly refreshing investment account balances or counting down the days until our next work holiday), but the older we get, the more quickly the years seem to pass.
Is there any way to combat the perception of this merciless acceleration? How can we make our limited time on this earth seem to last as long as possible?
Daniel’s mom bought me a t-shirt.
It was very nice of her to think of me. A shirt is one of the few gifts I can actually use right now, and it’s been a long time since I last went shopping for clothes. It’s the newest thing I own by far.
Can you keep a secret?
Just between you and me: I can’t stand this shirt. When I wear it in public, especially if we’re on a trail or in a National Park, I find myself crossing my arms so that other people can’t read it.
The shirt in question
Cute, right? It’s so relevant to our travels! WOOooo, we’re free spirits! We go wherever, whenever. We’ve thrown caution and risk-aversion to the wind. “There’s no need for a plan,” we tell people. “Just go!”