It Takes More Than Money to Retire Early Interview: Mr. Tako Escapes

It takes more than money to retire early interview: Mr. Tako escapesWhen we think about early retirement, we tend to focus on the money. That’s natural because we need money to retire early. Building up a portfolio is a crucial step to early retirement. When I was trying to retire, it was all about how much we spend and how much passive income we need. However, it takes more than money to retire early.

We have done well over the years and saved up a good amount. That’s true for many people. There are over 18 million millionaire households in the US now! Most of these millionaires are still working hard. Clearly, money isn’t the only requirement for early retirement. Finance is a big part of the equation, but it takes more than money to retire early. I thought it’d be interesting to see what that elusive something is. That’s why I’m starting this new interview series. I’ll interview bloggers and regular people to discover what that elusive quality is.

Today, we have Mr. Tako. I’m a big fan of his site – Mr. Tako Escapes. We’re similar in many ways. He is a stay-at-home dad and his wife still works. Life can be hectic with 2 kids, but he is doing a great job with them. I really admire that. Enjoy!

*Please volunteer to be interviewed for this series. I’d love to feature more early retirees.

Q: Mr. Tako! Can you give us a brief background about yourself? What career did you retire from? What was your age when you retired?

Thanks for interviewing me, Joe!  I’m not certain you could say I ever had a “real” career.  I never had a stable job or a stable income source for more than a couple of years.  I’ve worked in all kinds of jobs in a whole bunch of different industries!

You could say my career was kind of a disaster right from the get-go.

Straight out of college I took a job with a small startup software company in Oregon, and I had hopes of “making it big” with stock options.  Of course, this was right around when the big “.COM” bust happened.  My dreams of making it big blew-up in a cloud of worthless digital smoke.

You see, the startup ran out of seed money and ended-up shutting it’s doors a mere 1 year after I started working there.

After that, I bounced around and took a lot of different jobs to pay the bills – I worked for an ISP for a few months, a travel agency for 9 months, a game company for two years, an advertising agency for about a year, and so on.

I had a lot of bad luck, and could never really find a job that stuck.  As a result, I never had a stable income source from which to build my asset base.  I didn’t have it easy.

But that’s life.  You play the hand you’re dealt as best you can.

Maybe that’s why I was so attracted to financial independence – I learned early on in my “career” that I couldn’t rely on a job to provide any kind of financial stability.  I needed passive income to survive.

That career disaster is what really pushed me to learn about finance and investing.  I studied and invested with as much money as I could scrape together.  (Although some years I didn’t manage to even save a dime!)

Eventually, I reached financial independence when I was 38 years old.  Certainly, I wasn’t the youngest person to ever reach FI, but I did so by squeezing blood from a f**king stone – that stone being my terrible train-wreck of a “career”.

Q: What were your financial goals and how long did it take you to achieve them?

Honestly, I never had financial goals like “reaching a net worth of one million dollars” or anything of that sort.  I struggled with periods of unemployment and low pay during my career, so my “goals” were always just staying ahead of the bills and investing whatever I could to build up passive income.

It started small of course, I started by paying my loans and then investing whatever excess I had into the stock market.  (The returns from my early investing forays did manage to beat the interest rates on those loans, so this worked out OK.)

What’s the secret sauce you’re wondering?  Over the years I just built-up some frugal money habits without knowing it.  One day I realized my portfolio was spitting off enough passive income to pay a small bill like my power bill.

That moment changed my life forever.  It felt incredible to have passive income doing the work for me.  No longer was I at the mercy of a jerk boss or a financially unstable company to pay my power bill.  I had conquered that bill.  For life.  That was an incredible feeling, let me tell you…

That was the first sign that something could actually be stable in my life.

That little tiny success drove me forward and made me continue down the path of FI, by building even more passive income to conquer even more of my bills.

It was a kind of success, but only by inches.  (Or centimeters if that’s your unit of choice.)  Eventually, I conquered all my bills with passive income, and decided to leave the working world to be a “stay-at-home dad/investor”.

Q. When I was planning my early retirement, I was consumed with the money part of it. I didn’t put much effort into the other details. I’d say it was 90/10, financial/non-financial. What about you? Did you put any effort into the non-financial side of early retirement planning?

It was all about the money for me.  My focus was on the money because I had to make rent, pay down my student loans, and paying off my car.  At my lowest point I couldn’t even afford to put gas in my car or buy groceries.  I walked everywhere and had to borrow money just to eat.

I wasn’t the kind of person that spent (wasted?) money on fancy restaurants, or alcohol either.  Every penny I had (and more) went to paying down my debts and staying alive.  I lived the kind of life where you boil rice in a pot and opened a can of beans for dinner.  (Not joking, I really did that)

It was enough, but just barely.  Everything was a luxury I couldn’t afford… and that includes thinking about things like “retirement”.

To put it bluntly, life taught me many hard lessons early on.  I learned the value of a dollar, and the ability to live with very little waste.

These days though, I’ve loosened up a lot.  I can now afford to have a little fun without worrying where my next meal is going to come from.  Having a lot of passive income can take a lot of the financial pressure off, let me tell you!

Q: Where are you in your life cycle?

Most people retire around the traditional age – late 50s to early 70s. Their children are adults, their partners and friends are stepping back from work, and their parents may have passed. In short, you have a lot fewer obligations at a later age. To go against the grain and retire in your 30s or 40s can be lonely and challenging. Do you think it is difficult to retire early with all these obligations?

Well, I’m currently in my early 40’s.  Mrs. Tako and I have two kids.  I didn’t think it was too tricky to retire with kids and a house.  We just decided to save more money before we called ourselves financially independent.  You hear about young-childless couples retiring with one million dollars, right?  Well, we had over twice that when I finally “retired” from work.  Our portfolio has also grown since I left my day-job, so I’m not terribly worried about the numbers.

This year we’ll spend less than 3% of our portfolio.  That covers everything from housing, transportation, to childcare, and food.

Currently, we have one child in the first grade and the other goes to daycare.  Things are still a little bit tight because we’re still in the expensive stage of having kids – paying a $1600/month daycare bill.  That should disappear once our youngest starts kindergarten.

I hope we can get our budget down to a 2% withdrawal rate from our portfolio.

As far as my parents go, they’re both happily retired in rural Washington.  They don’t really have a need for money out in the country and should have plenty of assets.  I probably won’t need to provide financial support for them.

Interview: Mr. Tako Escapes

It takes more than money to retire early

Now let’s focus on the intangibles. To be blunt, lots of people have more money than you and I. Most of them aren’t retired. They still work and contribute to the economy.

Q: What makes you special? How can you retire when almost everyone else in your position continues to work? Why are you different?

Am I special?  I’ve always been a bit of a weirdo.  I’m not a social butterfly, and I don’t like big parties.  Maybe I’m just a bit shy.  I’m the kind of person that would rather read a book than attend a big party.

Yes, in high school I was that quiet kid that was always reading.  This behavior continued through college and graduate school, and even until today.  Some of those books happened to be about business and investing.  I happen to be pretty good with numbers too.

Couple all of that with a difficult career (read: I worked for some really sh*tty human-beings), and you can easily see how I got from point-A to point-B.

I think it was almost inevitable that a social-misfit like me would gravitate to a concept like financial independence.

In that sense, it’s a perfect fit because I don’t need to worry about impressing a boss or co-workers.  Work is frequently a  popularity contest, and that’s something I’m NOT good at.

Now, instead of trying to impress people day-and-night, I get to skip that stress.  I get to focus on raising my kids, investing, travel, blogging, and doing all the things I enjoy.

Incidentally, my blog is in case anyone is interested.

Optional questions from the readers

Q: Why did you pursue early retirement?  What made the FIRE folks evaluate life and said this path is the right one for me?

Honestly, I just fell into it.  I needed the passive income to bridge the gaps during my “career”, and I just kept building that passive income up to the point where I could finally relax a bit.

I just built a financial fortress brick by brick and this is where I ended up!

Q: Now that you don’t spend 8-10 hours working in a full-time job, what are you doing with your time? What’s your typical day like? Do you have a problem finding things to do?

There’s absolutely no shortage of things to do.  I’m busier than ever.

Part of the time I’m blogging over at Mr. Tako Escapes and being a stay-at-home dad.  I spend a lot of time with my boys and I also enjoy building things (you can regularly see pictures of my creations on the blog).

We also travel quite a lot, but nothing quite as frequent as a full-time travel blogger.

Life is actually much fuller now that I’ve left work.  Instead of saying “no I can’t do it” because I have work obligations, I find myself saying “yes, I can!” to many more things.  My schedule is so much more flexible now and that allows me to take on a great many cool new projects!

<Joe> You can see what my typical day is like here – My Unglamorous Early Retirement Lifestyle.

Q: What was your biggest challenge after early retirement?

Actually the biggest challenges I have, are the same challenge I’ve had all my life – Talking to people and making friends.  I’m not very good at charming people.

Now that I don’t work a 9-to-5, I hardly see other people during the day.  After about 9am the suburb where I live is completely deserted.

This makes it very hard to make new friends or expand my social circle.

<Joe> I have the same problem, but it’s a bit better now that our son has friends at school. I talk to other parents so the kids can come over for playdates and such.

Q: Did you make any big mistakes? How can we avoid them?

I recently did a post about my biggest financial blunders.  Probably the biggest loss I’ve endured had to have been from shorting stocks.  It’s risky folks.  Don’t bother with shorting.

 Q: How much time do you spend (per week or month) reviewing your finances, or reading about retirement finances/investment/etc., now that you’re retired?

Again, I have a blog post where I talk about how often I check my investment.  I check my balances about once a month and then put together a monthly summary of our financial status.  In total, I probably spend between 4-to-10 hours a month actually managing our finances.

It sounds like a lot, but in practice, it really doesn’t feel like much.

As far as reading about investing and finance, I’m always reading.  Constantly!  I spend around 21 hours a week reading about investing and/or personal finance.  That’s about three hours per day.

Q: What aspects of the 9-5 do you miss?

Not a damn thing.

<Joe> Exactly how I feel!

Q: If you’re married or have a partner, what does your partner think about early retirement? Is he/she on board? Did early retirement change your relationship?

It was actually Mrs. Tako that suggested I should retire early.  We’d talked about doing it for years, but I’m an extremely cautious person.  I didn’t think we were ready, but she talked me into it when my last job ended.

I took on a lot more of the household tasks like cooking, cleaning, and childcare to take some of the burdens off Mrs. Tako.  I really don’t mind it either!  Being a stay at home dad is kind of cool!

That said, she’s still working because she enjoys her work and the social atmosphere her workplace provides.

Overall, I think she’s pretty happy with the arrangement.  She gets to work in an environment she enjoys and still gets plenty of time off.  (With over a month of PTO!)

interview: Mr. Tako Escapes

Thank you, Mr. Tako!

That was a great interview with Mr. Tako. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. It’s like we’re twins! I’d really love to meet the Tako family in real life someday.

Ok, I need your help. I love this interview series, but I need more people to interview. The problem is this is a long post. It’s a lot of work! Please volunteer to be interviewed. I’m desperate to continue this series.

Let me know what you think of this interview series. If you have any questions you’d like to ask, leave them in the comment as well. I’ll add them to the interview. Thanks!

Previous Interviews

The following two tabs change content below.
Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

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.

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30 thoughts on “It Takes More Than Money to Retire Early Interview: Mr. Tako Escapes”

  1. Great interview. I recently found Mr. Tacko’s blog and its exactly what I had in mind when I started mine. Would love to help out as well, but I may be too early in my journey. Sadly, I won’t make it by 40!!!!!

  2. Love both RB40 and Mr. Tako Escapes!

    I think Mr. Tako is being a little humble with his success, with a portfolio invested in the market for the last twenty-two years he would have managed to contribute $70,000 per year to reach his net worth. Doesn’t sound like much of a dumpster fire to me!

  3. Great blog as always. If ever you want to interview a Canadian couple that live out of passive income (real estate and our Registered Retirement Savings Plan RRSP) since last May at ave 49 and 48 when we retired you can reach out.

  4. I love both your blog and Mr. Tako’s, Joe. I grew up in Portland so always enjoy reading about life there.
    I didn’t realize Mr. Tako had had such A rocky career path: that instantly made him more relatable to me.
    I find it hilarious, however, that you presented two guys congratulating themselves on being FI / RE when they’ve got working spouses and kids at home. I and probably thousands of women are in the exact same situation. (My husband could afford to retire, but prefers to keep working). Is it only amazing and worth a write-up if it’s men who are doing the SAHP deal?

    • I’m a SAHM. I think the difference is that Mr. Tako and RB40 have the money for him to retire. I don’t have a stash o cash to replace my income. That’s why I don’t consider myself FIRE’d. It is definitely worth a write up that you’re FIRE’d! Don’t sell yourself short.

  5. Great interview with Mr. Tako! I can relate to most of this, but my favorite was:

    Life is actually much fuller now that I’ve left work. Instead of saying “no I can’t do it” because I have work obligations, I find myself saying “yes, I can!” to many more things.

    I feel the same way – it’s like life just opens up once you FIRE. Being able to really just enjoy every moment without feeling rushed it so wonderful. It even gave me a chance to meet Mr. and Mrs. Tako this past summer, which never would have happened if I was still working.

    Nice job on the interview!

  6. I feel like there are some big gaps here because I don’t see how he could have such a problematic career and retire up to 2 decades early. Maybe Joe earned & saved enough to never have household income again, but did Mr Tako? I don’t want to play Internet Retirement Police, but I feel like there are a lot of missing pieces here. As far as I can tell from both your stories is that without your working spouses (and presumably their benefits), you would both still be out earning a paycheck. I wish that was laid out a bit more clearly.

  7. this is going to be a good series. i’ve always gravitated to the DIY and make your own way types who come from humble beginnings. i never had a “career” what i saw as a series of jobs. it just goes to show what you can accomplish.

    tako: i read about your millionaire pants and had a story about those. i had a couple of pairs of those dickies work pants back in 2001 when i worked with concentrated nitric acid every day. the wore like iron that that stuff is nothing to toy around with. fast forward 15+ years and i sold both pairs on ebay for probably $30 total, even with the acid stains. turns out the kids think they’re retro cool and hold their value!

  8. The lack of a social outlet is one of my biggest concerns when I retire in a few years. My wife has 13 years left to reach her pension, and she likes her job as a teacher. I guess I could try and find one of those old men meet for coffee type clubs. I have a few more financial goals I would like to meet first, but this is really the scary part to me.

    • It is a big issue for many people, but it wasn’t a huge deal for me. I never developed a close friendship with most of my coworkers. Most of my close friends already left or got fired/layoff by the time I retired. Luckily, I have my son, his friends, and their parents to socialize with. That’s good enough.

    • Litter picking! Beach clean ups! Plogging! Plalking! We are financially free but have chosen to both keep on working because we love our jobs. But being active in a social cause us a great way to stay connected. Social connectedness is actually very important to keep healthy long term. Great series Joe!

  9. I’ve often said that Joe is my blogging twin, but now I’m wonder if Mr. Tako is. We aren’t exact twins, but I felt we had a number of things in common in reading this.

    I love this series and I’d like to volunteer to be part of it. I think I might have some unique answers to some of these questions.

  10. Love hearing about people who made it to the other side. Too often we hear only about FIRE in theory by those who are pursuing it but have not pulled the trigger (myself for example).

    It is tough to get out of one more year syndrome which is where I am. I actually hit the goals I wanted to when I first started out but have not pulled the trigger. Part of it is being more conservative now that I am actually here at my previous goal line. I moved the goal posts a bit.

    I am curious about why one of your children is in daycare with that expense when you are a stay at home parent.

    • I think it’s good to be more conservative right now. The stock market valuation is very high and there are a lot of uncertainties. Some padding is really good at this point.
      As for daycare, it’s probably just easier and kids can learn to socialize early. Our son was in preschool part-time when he was little.

    • We keep one in daycare because it’s a language immersive daycare. We want him to learn a foreign language at an early age, and his daycare is 100% in a foreign language (i.e. not English).

      He’ll graduate and finish this summer though, so that expense will disappear soon.

  11. Awesome, one of my favorite bloggers on the blog of one of my other favorite bloggers! The think that I admire about both you Joe and Mr. Tako is that you both have tremendous discipline in virtually all aspects of life, and that’s a key to getting to FI, staying FI, and being happy.

    “Why did you pursue early retirement? …. Honestly, I just fell into it.”
    Be careful, you’re going to start sounding like me now 🙂

    Great interview!


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