We’ve been offline for a while. Did you miss us?
These past few months have been surreal, and they’ll perhaps go down as the highlight of all our travels.
We spent a week in April motorbiking from town to town across northern Thailand. We took cooking classes in Chiang Mai and Penang. We explored the bustling urban centers of Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. We enjoyed visits from our families and kicked back on the beaches of the Andaman Sea. We learned to scuba dive (!) and found ourselves face-to-face with a massive whale shark one morning – a moment I will absolutely never forget.
One of my best friends – we’ll call him Dylan – also happens to be one of the smartest people I’ve ever known. You’d recognize it in an instant if you met him. He’s intellectually curious, up-to-date on seemingly every current event, bitingly clever, and one of the funniest people I know.
Dylan and I met as coworkers at my first full-time job. He’s exactly the kind of person you’d want on your team. Not only is he one of the hardest workers, but his analytical skills are off-the-charts. Lob out any idea or question – whether it’s “Why doesn’t this restaurant take reservations?” or “What will happen if the individual health insurance mandate isn’t enforced?” – and he’ll probably have a page-long list of hypotheses and well thought-out analysis ready to discuss in minutes.
Somehow, the guy is even more qualified on paper. Dylan has five degrees, all of them from the kind of world-renowned academic institutions that would make even the most demanding helicopter parent proud. He’s worked for the most competitive employers. And did I mention that he’s personable and good-looking to boot?
Dylan is the kind of person who should have all the leverage in the world in finding the ideal job, right? I can’t think of an organization that wouldn’t get tremendous value out of hiring him.
Indeed, he currently works for the most highly-regarded company in his field. I would guess he’s earning at least $200k per year, plus a big annual bonus.
Yet when I asked Dylan how work was going in a recent conversation, I was disappointed by the answer.
“It’s kind of a grind,” he told me.
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.