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Are You Living The Life You Want?

by retirebyforty on July 14, 2014 · 54 comments

in early retirement, goals and milestones, happiness

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Life is short. That’s what I figured out when I hit my 30s. Before that, I never gave much thought to the impermanency of things. I guess I’ve been lucky and I didn’t lose too many friends and family when I was young. As I got older, I became much more conscious of friends, family, coworkers, and even celebrities who passed away. Micheal Jackson, Christopher Reeve, Patrick Swayze, Steve Irvin, John Ritter are all people I grew up with and they all died pretty young. They made me realized that I have to find happiness now and not put it off for too long.

Anyway, I just gotten news that Dan, one of my coworkers from Intel, passed away. Dan was probably about 15 years older than me, but I’m not really sure. He never took the management route and he still enjoyed the technical aspects of engineering. He didn’t like the corporate environment, though, and he always had something to complain about. He just seemed to be unhappy most of the time and I thought he was going to retire soon, but I guess he didn’t make the jump.

My last few years at Intel were extremely unhappy years and my physical and mental well being were deteriorating fast. I knew that the situation was untenable and I began planning my exit strategy. The money was good, but life isn’t just about money. In 2012, I left my engineering career behind and I’m much closer to living the life I want. We have less income, but we’re much happier overall. If you’re unhappy about your life (job in particular), then maybe these steps can help you figure out a way to move on to the next phase.

Are you living the life you want? life is short

Why are you unhappy?

The first step is to figure out why you’re unhappy. Is it the particular job you’re doing? Is it the work environment and the company you’re working for? Or is it the whole career that’s you’re unhappy with? Actually, I started not liking my engineering job quite a while before I quit. In 2004, I moved from being a design engineer to a hardware validation engineer for a change of scenery. I stayed with the same company, but I changed offices, coworkers, job functions, and many other things. It provided some relief, but eventually I realized that it’s not a particular job that I was unhappy with, but the whole corporate culture and engineering career. It took many years for me, but eventually I realized that I had to find a way out.

Don’t listen to the critics

Recently, I received quite a few emails from readers who are aiming for early retirement. Many of them encounter stiff resistance from friends and family when they shared this goal. The American culture values hard work and quitting your job is a big no-no.  My friends and family  (and some readers) also didn’t understand why I wanted to quit my engineering career. Why spend all that time going to school and building a career, then quit at the beginning of your prime earning years? It’s downright anti-American.

Well, actually I did listen to one critic – Mrs. RB40. She was pregnant when I started Retire By 40 and she didn’t like it one bit. She value financial security (something that was ingrained from her childhood) and quitting my job would put that into jeopardy. I spent two years keeping track of all our income and expenses to show her that we can make it work. We cut out frivolous purchases and saved all my income for two years so we saw that early retirement was financially sustainable. She’s still working so we’re not quite financially independent, but we’re on the way there. You just have to tune out the critics who don’t know your whole situation and focus on showing the important ones that you can make it work.

Find what matters to you

For me, the focus was on getting out of the difficult situation that I was in, but you also have to figure out what to do next. You don’t want to quit your job and sit around all day. That’s an express ticket to Depressionville.  At least, you need to have a short term plan and figure out what you’ll do for a few years after pulling the cord. Some people take a trip around the world. Some people volunteer. Some go back to school to find a different career. The possibilities are endless. Everyone has different callings and you just need to find yours.

For me, I became a stay at home dad and it has been great. It’s really a privilege to be able to spend this much time with my kid. I know it’s not for every dad or mom, but it has been the 2 best years of my adult life. In a couple of years, RB40 Jr. will go off to school and I’ll have a lot more time on my hands, but for now I’m quite busy with being a dad. Blogging also takes up a lot of time, but it’s still fun for me. I haven’t had time to get bored and that’s a good thing. We’ll see how things are in 2 years and I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

Start Now and keep pushing.

I started blogging in 2010 and left my career in 2012. Is it really that easy? No, it didn’t just take 2 years to achieve my goal. I saved and invested since I started working in 1996. My goal wasn’t early retirement then, but I’m extremely glad I started investing so early in life. Early saving and investing gave me more choices. I really think you should save as much as you can when you’re young so you will have more choices when you’re older. You might love your job now, but who knows how you’ll feel in 10 or 20 years.

If you want to change your life, then you need to start now. Read a lot, meet some people who are living the life you want, and write up an exit strategy. It may take years, but you just need to start now and keep pushing.

Life is a journey

It took me a long time to realize that life is a journey and the journey is what you make of it. You don’t have to let others dictate the way you live. You can try different things and if it doesn’t work out, try something else. Right now, being a stay at home dad takes up a huge amount of time, but I know it will change. I used to be much more rigid and thought I had to stick with my career. People passing on around me really opened my eyes and showed me that life is short. My worst nightmare is to work at a job I don’t like and die at 55. I would have spent a huge chunk of my life doing something I didn’t enjoy. I would have missed out on these 2 awesome years with my son and I wouldn’t even realize it. That’s just me, though.

What about you? Are you living the life you want? If not, what are you doing to change it? 

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{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Jackson July 14, 2014 at 12:26 am

Followed a similar pattern to you,aged 49,now living on alot less money,but have a great life.The term “less is more” certainly has some sway in my life.All the best to anyone thinking of changing their life.

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retirebyforty July 15, 2014 at 10:42 am

Less can really be more sometime. More junk doesn’t make life better, right? We just need to find out what’s really important to us.

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Maverick July 14, 2014 at 12:41 am

Very timely, Joe…I just wrote this to an old high school classmate the other day…”I had a wake-up call last year. My chief engineer (a few yrs younger than me) collapsed at work with a brain aneurism. Two wks later he died, left behind a wife and two kids about to go to college. While we all have relatives and friends who pass away, but for some reason his sudden death impacted me greatly (and I only knew him as a work colleague). Maybe this is my mid-life mortality crisis? So I began to lose interest in work, then researched / ran calculations again on how to retire early (the internet is wonderful in this regard). The old quote is that no one lies on their death bed wishing they spent more hours at work. That resonates with me now. So now my interests have turned back to all my old hobbies and to discover new experiences. What an interesting path our lives have taken…”

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retirebyforty July 15, 2014 at 10:44 am

Oh no! That’s tough with 2 kids. As we get older, we really need to find what makes us happy and live life the way we want. Work can really be such a drag sometime.

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Kate July 14, 2014 at 2:56 am

Not really, because my husband is working far away from us because we just live in a small city and there are no good opportunities here. Hopefully, we can be together next year.

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retirebyforty July 15, 2014 at 10:45 am

Sorry to hear that. Hope you can make it work next year.

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CL July 14, 2014 at 4:16 am

No, today I am not living the life I want. I’m turning my resignation letter in within a week, though, and then I’ll be working a fun part-time job alongside trying to get a new business off the ground.

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retirebyforty July 15, 2014 at 10:18 am

Wow, that’s great. Good luck with your next adventure.

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Jon July 14, 2014 at 4:20 am

Awesome post! Saving when you are young is so important. You never know what situation you will be in in the future. When you have a large savings cushion, you have options. You don’t have to stay in that job you hate and be miserable, you can leave and pursue what really matters to you.

It’s also great that you pointed out to find what is making you unhappy. Some might just assume it is the job and take another position at the same company. They’ll find, as you did, that it is something bigger and they really have to look deep within and be honest with themselves to figure it out.

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retirebyforty July 15, 2014 at 10:19 am

Yeap, saving early give you a lot more choices. I didn’t realize that when I started, but I’m very glad that I did.

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Stefanie July 14, 2014 at 5:26 am

The changes I’ve made in the last couple of years with my life and my blog have completely changed me and set me on a much freer and happier course. People were definitely skeptical at first, but as I’ve garnered more success, they’re all coming around.

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retirebyforty July 15, 2014 at 10:20 am

That’s great! Sometime you just have to believe in yourself and go it alone. It’s great that you’re able to convince your friends and family. I know it can be tough initially.

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John July 14, 2014 at 5:36 am

Sorry to hear about your former co-worker. I went through a lot of this when I left my job about 2 years ago. I just saw that I was so unhappy and really came to see that life was way too short to spend it that unhappy. Life is never perfect, but I’ve never been happier and I’m doing what I want, which is priceless.

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retirebyforty July 15, 2014 at 10:21 am

That’s what I finally realized. Life isn’t perfect, but we have to try to make it better.

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Steve July 14, 2014 at 5:55 am

Good topic Joe, I was thinking about this over the weekend. One problem is how unclear it can be, for instance when I was up until all hours with a caulilcky child, was I living the good life? Well, I love having children, so overall the answer is yes, but at that particular moment the answer would have been no. My wife and I were talking about what we want to do when the children are grown and moved out, where we might want to live, etc. The biggest danger is wishing your life away. I began to realize just how awesome life is right now and that I need to savor it, because it is fleeting and bad things can happen outside of your control. I’m still struggling over the idea of when to take early retirement once you hit FI, but also very thankful to be in this moment even on a Monday at work. Thanks for reminding me.

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retirebyforty July 15, 2014 at 10:23 am

Whew, luckily our kid wasn’t that caulicky… You’re right. At some point, we need to learn to enjoy life now (within reason.) Life is short and you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow.

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Adam July 14, 2014 at 6:59 am

I’ve been following your blog for about a year now, and I finally got up the nerve to take a similar step. I just put in my letter of resignation last week for my high-paying job with great benefits/pension. I’m only 36, so it was a tough decision, but I’m happy to say I’ll be focusing on growing my part-time business into my new full-time gig. I can’t tell you how relieved I felt once I made the decision. Money will be much tighter, but I know my wife and I will be much happier. Thanks for helping give me the insight and confidence to take the plunge!

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retirebyforty July 15, 2014 at 10:25 am

Congratulation and good luck with your business! You won’t regret it. Even if things didn’t work out, you can always find another job or go back to school.

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Merlion July 14, 2014 at 7:53 am

I am at a crossroad in my work life and mulling over a decision whether to stop pursuing a full-time job. Thanks to blogs like yours, I realize that I am financially secure and would be able to retire (I turned 50 this year). A coworker at my previous company in corporate America died at 57 shortly after he retired. This was one of the wake-up calls plus seeing all the stress that my former coworkers still working at the company are enduring.

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retirebyforty July 15, 2014 at 10:26 am

Good luck with your early retirement. Life doesn’t have to be about working full time. Once you reached FI, you can work as much as you like. 57 is way too young.

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The Stoic July 14, 2014 at 8:22 am

Excellent reminders on the importance of living our lives the way we really want.

I spent the past fourteen years working as a paramedic and have become way more familiar with death than I really wanted to. I dealt with things that most people don’t think will happen to them. Car accidents, strokes, heart attacks, etc. all things that they really didn’t see coming. Afterwards I would wonder if when they woke up that morning was there any inclination that their life was coming to an end in a few hours. Were things left unsaid or undone? These experiences left me with the notion that our existence is very temporal and its end may be decades down the road or right around the next corner. Carpe diem takes on a whole new meaning…

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retirebyforty July 15, 2014 at 10:28 am

Thanks for your perspective. That’s right! We have to live life the way we want. You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Today is the best day of your life. :)

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Dividend Mantra July 14, 2014 at 9:42 am

Joe,

I’m with you. I decided I also wasn’t living the life I quite wanted, and changed things pretty dramatically. Some people may think it’s crazy to leave behind a stable career making $50k+ per year, but I think it’s crazy to let money dictate one’s decisions and happiness. I’m now happier than I’ve ever been after leaving behind a full-time job to pursue writing.

I also used to think in strict terms in regards to work and a career. But life is way too short to think like that. Nothing is permanent, and you can make changes as you go. It’s a lot more fun that way anyhow. Life is definitely a journey. Gotta keep moving, learning, changing, adapting, growing. Staying stuck in the same place for too long kills the spirit.

Best wishes.

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retirebyforty July 15, 2014 at 10:29 am

Congratulation again. It great that more people can take the jump to pursue self employment and their own interests. Life is a short journey and we need to make the best of it. Have fun while we can, right?

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Mom July 14, 2014 at 12:44 pm

My father passed away before he was able to retire, so I’ve seen that same situation. It happens – although we all hope it doesn’t happen to “us”. I just put in my resignation today, but I’m moving on to another position. One that I hope I will enjoy as much as I did my old position and with more opportunities for saving more money in the next several years. Then we’ll see where life takes us.

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retirebyforty July 15, 2014 at 10:30 am

Good luck with your new position! Sorry to hear about your dad. That’s tough.

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Michelle July 14, 2014 at 3:39 pm

I am now living the life I want. Switching to the self-employed life has treated me well, and I’m so glad I changed to this. I can now work from wherever I want, and create my own schedule so that I can do what I want outside of work as well.

P.S. I just typed this comment from a cruiseship. That’s the life! :)

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retirebyforty July 15, 2014 at 10:31 am

It’s great to hear you’re doing so well. Enjoy the cruise! Must be nice to be location independent. :)

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Jason July 14, 2014 at 5:46 pm

Good article, Joe

Just met up with a friend yesterday and I got similar news. He told me that one of our old co-workers had died at 60. Not incredibly young, but young enough to be still hopeful for good years ahead. It was an aggressive cancer and he was gone only a few weeks upon hearing the bad news.

I’ve always been trying to find a new direction, but this kind of thing really gives you more courage to push a little harder.

But, it’s tough to find a new direction when the one you’ve got is so well-worn. What actually do you DO with yourself? That’s what I’m struggling with now, finding out the next step. The problem is that, by now, I’m so burned out, nothing seems worth my time.

I also think that people who work a demanding career become “institutionalized”, much like long-term prisoners do. And, as much as they chafe against the high demands and constant pressure, they eventually lose the ability to have a life without it.

It’s funny, I always thought that the hardest part of things is always the financial part. But, this is actually a very simple part of it all, especially if you put forth diligent effort. The bigger questions about life cannot be solved by diligence, cleverness, or other types of effort. I’m not sure WHAT it actually takes, but when I find out, I’ll let you know.

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retirebyforty July 15, 2014 at 10:34 am

I think 60 is still pretty young these days. There are a ton of things I’d have left to do if I work full time until 60. Work just take up such a huge chunk of our lives.
You should take a sabbatical and see what you can do. I’m sure you can figure something out. You just need to step out of the situation for a while and get away for a bit. Maybe take a long trip.
You’re right about the financial part. It’s difficult, but it’s methodical. The really hard part is trusting yourself enough to go for it.

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IWFreedom July 14, 2014 at 8:21 pm

Joe I like your words of encouragement!- It helps us 9-5ers to learn from someone has been there before.

I definitely will not live the life I want until early retirement.

Based on my projections I have about 10 years left-Although I don’t dread going to work every day, work doesn’t give me the passion that spending a free day with my family does. I find that staying disciplined in my retirement planning brings contentment as I know the current sacrifice is going for a good purpose.

I don’t want to be “that guy” who is stuck working at job he hates until 65 with nothing to show for it because all the money was wasted on frivolous things.

Thanks- Michael

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retirebyforty July 15, 2014 at 10:34 am

Good luck with your early retirement. 10 years will go by pretty quickly so you’ll be there before you know it. Enjoy life in the meanwhile, though. :)

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Retire Before Dad July 15, 2014 at 4:40 am

RB40,
A number of years ago two events happened at my job that changed my perspective. The first, a coworker had a stroke in the office and died. He was about 60. I can’t think of a worse way to go. Another guy who sat near me around the same time, his wife became I’ll and passed. He was about 60 too, and needed to keep working during and after the crisis. Both events made me realize how important it will be to not be tied down to a job at that age. Neither coworker was near retirement. Since then, I’ve made sure that I don’t need to have my job. I want to be working there. But if push came to shove, I could quit and be OK for a long period without working.
-RBD

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retirebyforty July 15, 2014 at 10:36 am

Yeap, life is fleeting. I can’t think of a worse way to go either. That’s just super depressing.
Nice job getting setup to get out if needed. Most people don’t have that choice. I bet it made the job much less stressful too.

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Jon_Snow July 15, 2014 at 5:38 am

Gave my employers my official notice of resignation yesterday.

The life I want will commence in about 2 months.

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retirebyforty July 15, 2014 at 10:37 am

Congratulation! What will you do next?

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Little House July 15, 2014 at 7:15 am

Sorry to hear about your co-worker. Mid-50’s or so is much too young to die. I’m living the life I want, especially when it comes to work. I love teaching and plan on doing so for another 13-20 years. But….I do know that as I get older, I have less patience (for whiny kids, that is ;) ). So, I’m working on a plan that will allow my to retire in 13 years instead of 20+ in case I’ve had enough whine…would you like some cheese with that?!

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retirebyforty July 15, 2014 at 10:37 am

That’s great! I think being a teacher would be fun for a few years, but I don’t know if I can put up with a whole class of whiners. One kid is already driving me nuts! :)

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Shane July 15, 2014 at 8:18 am

Another great post. Life is too short. Either find a way to cut back and scale down your expenses and/or find ways to increase you income without sacrificing yourself and time to be around the ones you love. This post was a great reminder to remember what is truly important in life.

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Kenny July 15, 2014 at 9:23 am

RB40, this is amazing that you and a few others have been able to do this…….It is completely against the grain of the US Culture, unless of course the industry pushes one out of the job.

I am in a unique situation being in the 50’s and having enough assets to last a lifetime, but being caught in the golden-shackles of making money. It is REALLY REALLY REALLY HARD to walk away cause in my mind (as a highly competitive person), I am trying to always compete with myself, and people that I know.

I am already self-employed with a six figure income outside of work, and a six figure income at work. The rental assets itself are doing well and my most recent venture of starting to do day trading is starting to show some new colors and new income stream of $4K to $8K per month.

Then, why am I so bent on not being able to break the golden shackles? I don’t know the answer, but it is definitely clear that it may be because it is the American thing to do. 168 hours a week is quite a time to kill every week, in year 1 through 30. I have just attempted to do a Working-Retirement Career 2.0 modeling, and I will put a lot of answers to the negative questions you posted above that started with “Why are you unhappy”. Lets see what it leads me to in the next 12 to 36 months. My lack of motivation itself will probably sunset my career and give me a golden parachute of $100K or so to quit! Who knows!

Just being honest with my dilemma and your post comes at a great time for me. Thank you for the great blog, and even though I am on many other blogs, I look forward to yours since it is time for me to think through your questions. Please continue posting the questions that make us look inside for our own answers (avoids going to advisors for simple answers!)

Kenny

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retirebyforty July 15, 2014 at 10:41 am

Hi Kenny,
I’m sure quite a few people are in your position. You should try taking a sabbatical for a few months and see how you feel.
Good luck with your working retirement plan. I think that’s the best way to retire, actually. Find something you really like to do and work as much as you’d like.
Best,

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SavvyFinancialLatina July 15, 2014 at 12:35 pm

So much has changed in the past couple of years since I graduated college. I’m like a lost soul. Part of me wants to runaway and start working at a hostel in exchange for free stay lol! I definitely know corporate is not something I enjoy doing.

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Skylash July 21, 2014 at 12:54 pm

I was completely into my career when I graduated school. I felt challenged, I worked hard, and it somewhat paid off, but I have realized the corporate world is also not what I’m looking for. I developed a passion for travel but my job and my semi-inflated lifestyle is making it hard for me to break free.

I feel the world we live in is so complex now and I just want to go back to a simpler life.

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Even Steven July 15, 2014 at 1:07 pm

As far as telling friends and family about the journey to early retirement, I tell them under the presumption that they will think I’m crazy. The journey is fun and it’s great to share with people with comments or blogs that drink the kool-aid and believe it can happen.

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Brian July 15, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Thanks for this post Joe. As much as I like reading about the financial number-crunching, it’s these more touchy-feely posts that are more meaningful (at least to me :)). All I can say is that my worst day as a layoff-ee has been better than the best day at work during the last 3 months I was there.

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Melanie @ My Alternate Life July 15, 2014 at 10:31 pm

Sorry to hear about your co-worker, Joe. :( Death can really wake you up and remind you life IS short. I wouldn’t say I am living the life I want quite yet, but I’m getting there inch by inch.

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Syed July 16, 2014 at 8:25 am

Great reminder. We only have a limited amount of time on this Earth so we should try to make the most of it. I’ve been finding chasing this consumer culture to be very unappealing, so being frugal and spending time with family and nature seems to be the best way to go. Best of luck on your continued journey.

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Kraig July 20, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Joe,

I am living the life I want. Like others above, I too left behind a $60k/year job to launch my own business. I got paid well and was saving 60% of my income for several years, reaching the point where I the job became optional. Once I realized that I no longer had to be miserable, I left to do what I really loved.

I’m glad I made the move, because LIFE IS TOO SHORT to defer living the life you want to live. MANY die before they reach “the life they really want to live”. I’m not doing that. I made the move at 29, and now at 30, I’m REALLY LIVING. I know I won’t regret it.

It’s funny how I’ve now built up an income that supports me after only a year. Looks like I won’t have to touch all my savings after all. Financial independence, here I come!

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retirebyforty July 21, 2014 at 9:14 am

Great job with your last cash flow report. Your income is great. I think it’s best to try self employment while you’re young. If you don’t like it, you can always go back to work. I’m sure you’ll get to FI someday. Good luck!

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Soldier chick August 22, 2014 at 4:07 pm

Leaving the Army after 16 years and surrendering my pension. I to, have realized that life is too short to “suck it up” for four more years.

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retirebyforty August 24, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Good luck! It’s too bad about the pension, but when you gotta go, you gotta go. I’m sure you’ll find something better.

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J. Doe August 25, 2014 at 11:42 am

I didn’t live the life I wanted for a while, but this year I feel I am getting a lot happier. I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur, and being stuck at a job for almost 9 years now (I’m 29 and have been working since 21) made me a little depressed. But I found my soul mate and married this year, and also started investing in real estate. Having a little side business to work on makes me a lot happier and gives more purpose to my life, and makes my working days at my 9 to 5 more bearable. Knowing that the money I bring in from work will be immediately invested in our real estate business puts the fun back into work.

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Kathleen Janoski September 1, 2014 at 9:12 am

I retired from the military when I was 45 – far too young I thought not to be working. Went back to school, finally completed my B.A. and then ended up working part-time by choice. No benefits – no sick days, no vacation days – the only time I was paid for work was when I showed up. All this was perfectly fine with me because I had health care from being retired military.
However, over the last few years, the job became unbearable. I worked for a hormonally challenged 30-something who was the classic textbook case of a narcissist. In addition, I had some health problems from sitting all day and working in an office that did not have any windows, the walls were painted a putrid yellow and fluorescent lights buzzed overhead.
The final straw was when I received a lecture because I had planned a trip to Paris (planned 6 months earlier with the bosses’ OK).
So one very cold February morning, I e-mailed my letter of resignation to HR effective immediately.
And it felt great.
Now I am so busy I don’t know how I ever had time to have a job. I truly feel that God gave me my life back.

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retirebyforty September 1, 2014 at 4:59 pm

Thanks for sharing your story. Did you get retirement benefit from the military? That’s the good thing about a military career. It’s great that you were able to walk away from your recent job. It sounded terrible. Life is too short to put up with that kind of crap. Are you working on something now?

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