It Takes More Than Money to Retire Early: Lazyman

When we think about early retirement, we tend to focus on the money. That’s natural because we need money to retire early. Building a portfolio is a crucial step to early retirement. When I was trying to retire early, 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 lots of people. There are over 11 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. Some people just aren’t a good fit for early retirement. Finance is a big part of the equation, but there is more to it than that. I thought it’d be interesting to see what that elusive something is. That’s why I’m doing this interview series.

Today, we have Brian from Lazy Man and Money, my east coast doppelganger. I met Brian in 2014 and found that we are very similar. We both retired from an engineering career, became a stay-at-home dad, and our wives kept working. Also, he’s one of the few bloggers that started before me! I’m a big fan of his blog.

Can you give us a brief background about yourself? What career did you retire from?

Answer>

I was a software engineer.  I started programming when I was 8 or 9 back in the mid-1980s.  In 2008 (age 32), I transitioned from full-time software engineering to blogging. 

At that time, my military wife was working in Silicon Valley, which sounds like a perfect situation for me as a software engineer.  However, Silicon Valley demands 12-15 hours of engineers’ time (hence the Google/Facebook/Apple campuses).  That doesn’t work for a military spouse, because the military commitment has to be the main priority.  The competing priorities wouldn’t work if we were to start a family.  Now we have two boys ages 7 and 8.

Early retirement means different things to different people. Many people don’t think I’m “retired” because I blog a few hours per day and I’m a stay-at-home dad. That’s perfectly fine. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. What does early retirement mean to you? Do you work at all?

I’m not retired, but self-employed.  I blog, run customer service for a small Silicon Valley company, and sit dogs while their owners are away.  It sounds like a lot and it can be, but I can mostly choose when, where, and how much I work.  It has those elements of retirement, but it keeps me busy.

Like many FIRE bloggers, I prefer to focus on the Financial Independence (FI) rather than the Retire Early (RE) of FIRE.

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

My main financial goal was to be able to “retire” with my wife when her military pension vested at age 44.  We’re 45 now and I think we reached the goal of financial independence.

FI is a difficult calculation for us because we have three rental properties and our primary residence with mortgages.  The kids go to an expensive (but great) private school.  We get a very good military discount making it a reasonable investment.

We could choose to be FI now, but we are not by most measures.  If we sold the rental property with the most equity and paid off the other two and our primary residence we’d reduce our expenses and generate rental income.  This would supplement my wife’s pension if she retired tomorrow.  We could choose to send the kids to public school.

In 2015, I calculated that we’d have around $200,000 a year in retirement income between side hustles, pensions, our savings nest egg, and Social Security.  It’s probably closer to $275,000 now.  With long-term necessary expenses (mortgage paid off, kids gone) of around $40,000, we should have plenty of money for travel or whatever else we can come up with.

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 much effort into the non-financial side of early retirement planning?

I put all my focus into personal finance as well.  That’s another one of the reasons why I moved from software engineering to financial blogging.  I was reading, writing, and connecting with financial bloggers.  Personal finance was more interesting than software engineering in the corporate world.

Nowadays, I spend more time thinking about investments and a lot less time focusing on the basics of personal finance.  I need to work on developing outside interests more.

Where are you in your life cycle? Most people retire around the traditional age – late 50s to early 70s. Their children are grown, their partner 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?

We’re both 45.  Because I have the side hustles and much of the responsibility to get the kids ready for school and after-school activities, I am still full of obligations (unfortunately).  That’s another reason why I don’t label myself as retired – taking care of two kids is a job itself. 

I still have the loneliness of early retirement, simply because I don’t have one career that people can identify with.  The parents at my kids’ school are CEOs, doctors, lawyers, etc., so it’s difficult to explain my blogger/dog sitter/customer support career.  It’s mostly the men making the big money to afford the school.  Some of the women work, but others seem to go to yoga class or meet for coffee to gossip.  The private school parents and SAHD cultures are nearly complete opposite circles of people.

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. Most of them aren’t retired. They still work and contribute to the economy. What make you special? How can you retire when almost everyone else in your position continue to work? Why are you different?

I don’t know why those people with more money than us continue to work.  I think they must either like their job (or aspects of it like CEO power) or have the inertia and habit of doing it.  I’ve asked some of my college friends and they mostly answer something like, “What else would I do?”

We’re in Newport, Rhode Island, and I see a lot of people caught in lifestyle inflation.  About half the kids in my sons’ class live in houses that are worth more than $1.25 million (we bought ours for $400,000).  Maintaining their old, historic homes is not cheap.  They have fancy cars, send kids to an expensive private school, plus a beach and/or yacht club membership.  In short, they aren’t focused on FIRE.

I don’t think we’re special other than my wife accidentally getting me hooked on FIRE in 2005 when we were dating.  She’s special because of the military pension, which also paves the way for cheap healthcare and a GI bill that will support much of the kids’ college expenses.  I wish I could bottle that retirement formula and give it to all our readers, but I can’t.  If not for the military pension, we would still likely be FI, so I hope readers don’t make the military pension the main take-away. 

Instead, I would say focus on either loving what you do (and being great at it) or developing multiple income streams to help you transition to something else.

What was your biggest challenge after early retirement?

I wrote about it before, but it’s the non-financial aspects of early retirement.  Right now I can throw my time and attention into the kids.  They probably won’t want Dad around much when they are teenagers.  My wife should be well-retired by then, so maybe I’ll do less of my side hustles and spend more time with her.  She’s been on hampster wheel of trying to get a promotion at work for the last 5-6 years.  There are limited number of positions and tough competition, so it requires a lot of long hours.  She doesn’t have the personality to just coast like me.  When she’s done we might have to both re-discover who we are.

Would you change anything about the way you retired from your job? Sometime, I wish I stuck around for 6 more months. I could have worked out a deal and get a severance package instead of walking away with nothing.

I thought that leaving my job and working on my own terms would be fantastic.  It was for a while.  Looking back, I gave up on software engineering to go to full-time blogging too early.  It would have been better if there were 40-hour a week engineering jobs in Silicon Valley.

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?

I don’t spend a lot of time reviewing our finances because I know them so well at this point.  It’s only about an hour or two every month.  However, I am genuinely interested in business and investing as hobbies.  I also have to write about them for the blog.  I spend about 15-20 hours a week on all that.

What’s your next big dream?


I’m so focused on kids and money these days that it only makes sense to me to combine them.  I’ve got a start on a new website blog KidWealth.com that I’m hoping to launch in September.  Long term, I want to make it more than a blog.  If you want to contribute, please contact me.

Thank you Lazyman!

It’s interesting that Lazyman thinks of himself as self-employed rather than retired. We’re both in a very similar position in life and finance. I think of myself as more retired than self-employed. It’s been a gradual process for me. When I retired from my engineering career, I spent a lot of time blogging and being a SAHD. I was busy, but I was so much happier than when I was working full-time. It felt like being retired. Over the years, I cut back on work and now life is even better. Now, I think I’m 75% retired and 25% self-employed. Heh heh. It’s all in the mindset. You just have to find the right balance for yourself and don’t worry about anything else.

Thanks, Brian for covering for me. I’m camping in Yellowstone this week. It’ll be great to getaway from everything.

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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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15 thoughts on “It Takes More Than Money to Retire Early: Lazyman”

  1. I definitely agree with the part of this post where you focus on the FI over the RE part of FIRE.

    For me personally, I feel like no matter how much money I have, I’ll still want to do some sort of side hustle on my own. Even if I were to quit my W-2, my own personal dream isn’t just to “coast” and do nothing. I personally enjoy the process and the game of business and making money, but just not at the expense of doing it for a large corporation and having a manger breathe down my neck.

    I also feel like focusing on FI instead of RE is also great for couples. If a couple is aligned and always want to do attack *something* not just for the sake of money, but for the sake of exploring / being curious to all the amazing things that life and the entrepreneurial journey has to offer, things are much less likely to get boring or stale.

    Personally, I feel like even after I reach FI, I wouldn’t necessarily “RE” and just coast. Coasting just seems so bland and boring. But financial independence seems exciting and attractive to me. Guess I’ll know more about how FI feels once I reach it though!

    Reply
  2. I’m always very envious of you and Joe for having working spouses! It’s nice to have a steady paycheck, subsidized healthcare, and also some separation at home.

    No matter how hard I’ve tried, I can’t get my wife to go back to work! Ha. I’ve really tried. But I think it’s time to give up.

    Maybe I’ll go back to work myself once the pandemic is over. Fun to get back into a group setting.

    Sam

    Reply
  3. Great interview with Brian here, thanks Joe! Really enjoyed it.

    Hey Brian—

    “She’s been on hampster wheel of trying to get a promotion at work for the last 5-6 years. There are limited number of positions and tough competition, so it requires a lot of long hours.”

    How hard has it been, on you two, to accept that state? Both for her to recognize it and continue to pursue it, and you, to see her struggle with it and—presumably—wonder why she continues to do so. Hopefully, that’s not too deep/difficult of a question, but this is something Jenni and I struggled with for some time—finding the “right” time to make changes.

    Cheers, thanks for the enjoyable interview!

    Reply
    • My wife’s military promotions happen once a year in June. We wait for the “Million Dollar Email” – (https://www.lazymanandmoney.com/waiting-for-the-million-dollar-email/) on pins and needles.

      We didn’t know it was a hamster wheel for several years. The recommendations on how to be promoted were delivered piece-meal… get a certification… get a masters (to add to the Pharm. D.)… lead a big organization… no not the national pharmacist organization, an organization that advances the Public Health Service. The goal posts are always moving.

      This year the recommendation was to move to area that has a higher billet (a quantification for job with more responsibility). We’ve done that three times and each time they’ve lowered the billet as she took the job so it wasn’t higher.

      I could go on and on.

      Circling back to your questions… continuing to go on the hamster wheel for a promotion is nearly worth a million dollars. Her evaluation is almost always at the top of the list but just outside the promotion range. It’s got to be tough for here.

      It’s been tough for me as well, because I had to do most of the child raising stuff, until the pandemic happened. She’s able to be around a lot more (as I guess everyone has).

      I can’t speak specifically for her, so this is my view.

      Reply
  4. I love this and would love to connect with Lazyman. I live in Providence. Great interview and hope you enjoyed Yellowstone Joe!

    Reply
    • It’s very, very hard to make money blogging. A lot of people asked me about it in 2008 when I was making $40-50K, maybe more. I think it’s gotten more difficult every year and it’s a lot more work just to make half that. I have an advantage because my blog is older, I’m not sure how it works with new blogs nowadays.

      I don’t want to sound discouraging. If you love it, then that might be the most important thing.

      Reply
  5. I agree that one of my biggest holdbacks to retiring early is not financial but what would I do with my time during the week? All my friends work and my kids are in school during the week. This year I started taking Fridays off and more vacation which I am able to do because of finances and I’m self employed. Next year or the year after, I’m looking at cutting out Mondays. I hate the rigid thinkers out there that feel you have to be either 100% retired or working. Some financial independence can let you cut back on work hours or go to a job you might love but that pays less. I do think it is very important to have a plan for what you will do with your time. Sitting on the couch to watch tv or play video games everyday for the next 30-40 years is not healthy.

    Reply
    • Some careers/positions are full-time or nothing. My wife’s military position is full-time. If she leaves then there’s no going back. If you can manage a position in your field that has flexible work hours, that’s a great step to FIRE in my opinion.

      I still have a good amount of paying work, but also keeping up the house and kids is a lot too. I barely watch TV except Red Sox games in the background while working or reading online. I don’t play video games at all.

      I did take my first surfing lesson today.

      Reply
  6. That point about “rediscovering” themselves once the kids get a little older struck home with me. It’s something I’ve seen with many married couples… FI or not.

    Some couples go on to find new activities and shared pursuits, others simply break apart.

    Finding common goals, hobbies, or aspirations is very important for any couple. Don’t let it slide even if you are FI.

    Reply
  7. Joe, you say, “Now, I think I’m 75% retired and 25% self-employed.”

    I am very similar since I work very little, given that I am lazy and have been all my life. But I still work, even though at 72 years old, I have enough money to live comfortably without generating any work-related income.

    When people ask me, “Ernie, why do you still work?”, I jokingly reply, “Because millions on welfare depend on me.”

    Reply
  8. I’ve been married 43 years and slightly early retired for five years. My wife and I have always shared a number of hobbies: team and recreational tennis, running, fishing, hiking, bushwhacking, off roading, pickleball, shooting, skiing, cooking and travel in the US and overseas. I also have always done a lot of volunteer work while my wife has “adopted” several people keeping in touch, cooking occasional meals for, and planning activities to keep them active. The biggest risk to early retirement is losing your marriage, in my opinion. And the greatest cause is lack of shared interests after the kids are out on their own and have little time for you. Developing these shared activities (as well as some individual ones), and I don’t count watching TV as one, is an important part of planning for retirement, more important even than the financial stuff. For many years kids can be the glue that hold a couple together but when that changes in retirement it might be too late to find other interests if you haven’t been developing them for many years.

    Reply

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