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.
We didn’t expect to be in Mexico in February. We had been planning on heading to southeast Asia shortly after the holidays. Then Daniel’s brother gave us four free flights on Alaska Airlines – with the catch that they had to be used by the end of March. Hey, we can’t resist a good deal.
We arrived in Puerto Vallarta at the end of January. We boarded a public bus just outside the airport, fumbling with our newly withdrawn pesos and looking for a seat that wasn’t creaky or broken. I couldn’t stop smiling. “This is what we’re supposed to be doing,” I told Daniel, beaming. Traveling in the U.S. is great, but getting out of the country is just the best. We love the new experiences. We love pushing our comfort zones.
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.
This is the third installment in our series in which we share our cost of living as we experiment with different FIRE adventures and travel to destinations around the world. Our first #vanlife trip in the western U.S. came in slightly under budget, while our backpacking trip around Eastern Europe was a bit more expensive.
We spent another three months on the road in our van this fall, reaching 25 states and 3 Canadian provinces. It was a great adventure, and we loved seeing new places and returning to some old favorites. I can’t say I’d recommend such a brisk pace (or van camping in the northern states late into autumn), but seeing our friends and family around the country was well worth it. If you have the flexibility, though, leave in spring!
Our trip started with a cold but gorgeous few weeks in Montana and the Canadian Rockies, took us through Yellowstone and Grand Teton, and hauled us all the way out to the Midwest for a good friend’s wedding before we took the long southern route home.
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.