Woohoo! I got my second Covid vaccine shot. Soon, we’ll be able to go out like in the good old days. Boy, it has been a strange year. Our son studied online and Mrs. RB40 worked from home the whole year. Our small home got quite cramped with everyone there 24/7. (We live in a duplex.) Fortunately, our tenant went to Europe for 9 months. We agreed on 50% off rent and the ability to use his living room as office space. It worked quite well.
Recently, our tenant came back so we have less space again. However, RB40Jr started going to school a few hours per day. Mrs. RB40 also goes to the office occasionally. In 2 weeks (after 2nd shot), she’ll be able to go out more and travel for work occasionally. Things are slowly going back to normal. Whew!
It’s been 9 years since I retired from my engineering career. This past year was the craziest retirement year so far. However, it was still way better than my last years at work. Back then, I was a miserable jerk. Even the worst year in retirement is better than work. Ha!
Early retirement really isn’t for everybody, but it is perfect for me. I love my life today. I have a lot of autonomy and I can do whatever I want. Strangely, a year of pandemic seems to bring this reality to many people. Workers got a taste of working from home and they loved it. Many older workers also plan to retire early. The pandemic showed us that life is short. You have to enjoy it while you can. If you don’t like your work, then it’s time to figure something out. Mrs. RB40 is one of those workers. Now, she’s ready to take a year off (2022) and see where to go from there.
Early Retirement Recap
First, let’s do a quick recap.
Before ER – I worked in chip design for 16 years. In the beginning, engineering was great and I enjoyed learning and working on the technical issues. Eventually, I became more senior and needed to take on more leadership roles. The career wasn’t a good fit for me anymore. Personally, I think every engineer should plan for early retirement.
Year 1 ER – I retired to become a SAHD/blogger in 2012 when our son was 18 months old. That first year was the toughest year for me. Being a SAHD to a toddler was a lot of work. At that age, they don’t listen very well and they constantly push boundaries.
Year 2 to 4 ER – Life became a bit easier once RB40Jr started preschool. I had more time to work on my blog and my health. It was a good balance. Life gradually improved as our son got older.
Year 5 and 6 ER – RB40Jr started kindergarten and life became awesome. I had a lot more time to myself and he made a lot of friends. It was a bit turning point.
Year 7 ER – We had more challenges than usual and I was stressed out. My mom was diagnosed with dementia and we moved her to Thailand. I couldn’t take care of her and my son at the same time. Eventually, she’ll need to go to a nursing home and it’ll be a lot more comfortable for her in Thailand.
Year 8 ER – This was a strange year. Life was great until the coronavirus pandemic hit. Our governor shut down nonessential businesses and closed all schools. We didn’t do much.
Year 9 ER – We stayed home and life slowed down to a crawl. We didn’t really mind it because we enjoy being home. Then, I went to see my mom in Thailand. Life was almost normal there at the time. There were only a few Covid cases so I had a nice break during the peak of the pandemic in the US. It was so nice that I had a hard time adjusting back to life back home.
Early Retirement is still awesome
I love early retirement because I have a lot of autonomy. I don’t have a boss and I largely control my schedule. Of course, I have “work” because I’m a stay-at-home dad. When he was little, RB40Jr took up all of my time and energy. However, the SAHD part became much easier as school and teachers took over a large portion of his time.
2020 was a crazy year, though. I had to help with schooling and being a SAHD took up a lot of time. We got through it, though. Virtual schooling kept improving and it’s quite good now. RB40Jr doesn’t need a lot of supervision anymore. He can log on, join the meetings, chat tech support (his teacher), and do most of the online lessons by himself. Actually, he learned a ton about technology. It’s pretty amazing. Being a SAHD is easy again because he doesn’t need constant supervision anymore.
Successful Early Retirement?
There are 3 indicators of successful retirement – health, wealth, and happiness. Let’s see how I’m doing in all these areas.
Last year was not good for me. My weight increased from 130 to 138 pounds. RB40Jr also got chubby. We were home all day and it was super easy to snack constantly. Mrs. RB40 took up baking during the pandemic so that didn’t help. We all gained weight.
Fortunately, I went to Thailand and quarantined for 14 days. They provided 3 meals per day and that was it. No snacks, junk food, or sugary drinks. The serving size was also much smaller than the US serving size. I got down to 132 pounds and kept it down since then. You could order extra food from room service, but I only took advantage of that a few times. I wanted to lose weight.
There is another piece of bad news. My blood pressure is high. My doctor put me on medication to control it. I guess that’s part of getting older. Other than that, I’m pretty healthy.
Early retirement was good for me because I was stressed out all the time when I was an engineer. I had back pain, panic attacks, tinnitus, dizziness, depression, and more. It wasn’t good. Now, I feel much healthier.
*If you want to keep your weight down, try intermittent fasting. Here is how I do it. I only eat from noon until 8 pm on weekdays. This cuts down on the calories and I don’t miss breakfast much. Try intermittent fasting if you want to control your weight. It really works. If you can’t do it by yourself, I highly recommend Martin Dasko’s Intermittent Fasting Course. It was very helpful when I first started IF.
We are a lot more fortunate than many families. This pandemic didn’t affect our finance too much. Mrs. RB40 kept her job. My online income decreased about 20%, but we weren’t dependent on that so it wasn’t a big deal. The stock market crashed, but it came back like a hurricane. We stay invested and our net worth increased quite a bit. It’s pretty crazy how well investors did in 2020. Our passive income streams took a hit, but it’s recovering.
All in all, we are much wealthier than before I retired. Of course, a lot of that is due to Mrs. RB40. She is still working. The real test will be when she stops working next year. You’ll have to wait and see if we can continue to grow our wealth after 2022.
Last year was stressful because of the pandemic. However, I was still happier than when I was an engineer. We stayed home and enjoyed ourselves for the most part. 2020 would have been a lot more difficult if I was single. I’d be so lonely if I had to go through 2020 by myself. Mrs. RB40 and RB40Jr enjoyed being home. They are homebodies and didn’t have any problem at all with the lockdown.
Another issue was my mom’s health. It was great to see her in Thailand, but it also made me realize that my dad needs more help. He tried hiring some helpers, but it never worked out. Next year, I plan to go stay for 3 months so I can help out more. In fact, I should do that every year. Why not?
Overall, I’m happy with life. I just hope school opens up like normal in the fall. That would be perfect.
Early Retirement Projects
The last 9 years have been amazing, but life goes on. The secret to early retirement is to have some goals. You have to stay somewhat busy so you don’t get bored. Early retirement doesn’t mean chilling at home every day. Most people won’t be happy with that. You need a few big projects to work on. Here are some of mine.
Fixing up the house
This project is probably on most people’s lists. It is endless. This year I plan to build a covered pergola over the deck. This will provide shade and help channel the rain away from the house. That’s the main project this year. (We decided on doing just one big project per year. Otherwise, it’s just too much.) I also have a few other small projects like painting, replacing the hallway fixture, and power washing the deck. Someday, I’d like to live in a home that requires very little maintenance.
Another project that keeps me busy is blogging. However, it has been difficult this year. I had a great time in Thailand and it was tough to get back into the routine. Writing became much more difficult than in previous years. I feel like my passion for FIRE is slowing seeping away. I’ll keep blogging this year and evaluate the situation again next year. We plan to take a year off to travel around the world so that might give me the jolt I need. I could write more about traveling and the nomadic lifestyle.
Blogging is still fun, but I need to figure out my next big project.
Around the world trip
We want to take a year off to travel around the world. Lots of people did it, why shouldn’t we? Even our neighbor lived in Sri Lanka for a year. Well, it’s daunting. We have our lives here and we’re not ready to let that go yet. However, this coronavirus pandemic helped push us along the way. Things that were daunting don’t seem that scary anymore.
- Homeschooling – It’s hard, but we can do it.
- Mrs. RB40’s work –Work is going well for her, but she is ready to take a year off to figure things out. If she doesn’t like early retirement, she can find a job afterward.
- Rental properties – I’ll put our rental condo up for sale after the lease is up. We also have a renter at our duplex, but I don’t think it’s a big deal. He can keep an eye on our home while we’re gone.
- Finance – Our passive income should be enough to fund a year off. One concern I had was renting out our home while we’re gone. Now, I don’t think we need to rent it out. Our housing cost is pretty low at $1,250/month. It’s low because we live in one unit of the duplex and rent out the other. We can carry that for a while.
- Parents – My mom has dementia and she lives in Thailand with my dad. My dad is taking care of her, but he needs help. It’s stressful. I’ll spend a large portion of this trip in Thailand so I can help out. Mrs. RB40 can spend a similar amount of time with her parent.
Those were my main concerns and they are all surmountable. After RB40Jr finishes 5th grade in 2022, the stars will line up. We’ll take a year off to go travel. He can start the 7th grade when we get back. One fewer year of middle school isn’t going to hurt him.
Keep at it
All in all, these last 9 years have been amazing. Life is so much better than when I was working full-time. I don’t regret retiring early at all. If I didn’t quit my engineering career, I wouldn’t be this happy or healthy. I might not even be wealthier with the bigger paycheck. When you’re unhappy, you spend money to try to make life better. Who knows? I’d probably had a midlife crisis and gone off the rail if I was still stuck in the old gray cubicle. That’s the real key to FIRE. You make it your goal and go after it with everything you have. Life is short. Don’t spend it working in a job you dislike. Keep at it and good luck everyone!
Thanks again for following my early retirement adventure and good luck on yours! I really appreciate your support.
Sign up for a free account at Personal Capital to help manage your investments. I log in almost every day to check on my accounts and cash flow. It’s a great site for DIY investors.
See my guide – How to Start a Blog and Why You Should. Starting a blog changed my life. It provides some income after retirement and it’s a great way to build a community. Those are the two biggest problems after retirement. It’s a great way to use some of your free time.
Disclosure: We may receive a referral fee if you sign up with a service through the links on this page.
Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!
Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.