How will you answer “What do you do?” in your post-FIRE life?

I have a tonne of things lined up for our post retirement lifestyle. I started two Google Keep lists months ago on my phone to jot down ideas when I am out and about – all to avoid the fear of being bored in our retirement.

 

I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately, as we get closer to our FIRE date of December 2020. Some of the FIRE folk can get very focused on the goal of FIRE and forget about the living between now and FIRE; as well as the living after FIRE.

I’ve noticed it in myself. When people ask me “what do you do?” I respond with my current job and it gives me a certain level of pride. I work in the public service. I work in the PM’s department, no less. I also noticed this tendency to define myself by my job when I was a lawyer. It came with a certain amount of unspoken kudos. In a way, I didn’t have to prove my intellect – my job title did it for me. To date, my role in the workplace has been doing some pretty heavy lifting, in terms of describing who I am. I’ve let my job title describe me for years.

Even in the two years leading up to our FIRE date, I am going to have to start redefining who I am, as I move to lower levels of responsibility in our transition out of the workforce phase. I won’t be leading a body of work – I will contributing to a body of work, of which someone else is leading. This will be a struggle for me – I’m an out-in-front-energising-the-people kind of a person.

Don’t get me wrong – the work stress combined with raising teenagers has been a bit of an overload, and I will be looking forward to less responsibility in the work place. But it leaves me struggling for words when people in future ask me “what do you do?”

Are we retirees? Feels like it will age us before our time. I will be 48 when we hit our FIRE date. Retirement in Australia is usually 65. When I have used this term lately people say I am too young to retire. Retirement conjures up images of endless afternoon teas, afternoon naps on the couch and the golf course lifestyle of the 65 and over. Are we travellers? We will only travel for a month or two in winter each year because my husband likes the routine of home. Vegetable growers? I guess but we will grow mainly in spring and summer. I guess I could resort to this shopping list style of describing what we do.

I could say I am financially independent – but I don’t think it provides enough detail about what being financially independent means. It could mean I am filthy rich or living on social welfare…

In some ways I would like to be a little bit provocative and challenge the status quo. When people ask me “what do you do?” I could say “well…… I don’t work”. But in a way I don’t want to leave the questioner feeling uncomfortable or inadequate. That kind of statement could shut down any conversation. Equally, it could open up a number of questions about why I don’t work. But as a community, even though FIRE awareness is growing, I think it’s still early days for the individuals and families to think about a post-work life, or even a life that doesn’t focus on getting up and working every day. People who know me know the plan; but for those that don’t, I imagine shutting down the “what do you do?” conversation will find people stumped for a follow up question.

I’m having a hard time settling on what the answer will look like. For now, I think I will say I am pursuing a number of projects like sustainability, travel and veggie gardening; as well as spending quality time with my family.

I think this will be a work in progress. How will you answer this question in your post FIRE life?

Advertisements

Creating your own death spreadsheet part 2 – net worth tracking

zoo photo

So… once you have the total cost of your expenses nutted out and indexed for the rest of your life, you come to the part where you need to calculate the income required to meet those expenses. I’ve written about the income my family will need in retirement here but another important part of the equation is to keep track of your net worth – particularly for future planning – and not just the income producing assets. For example, our home is worth nearly $1m, makes up about one third of our net worth and while it doesn’t produce any income right now, it is important for us to keep track of the value in case our circumstances change and we are required to think about how to better deploy that capital for our financial needs.

What is net worth? In my head, net worth is your family assets minus liabilities. Prior to getting serious on our financial future, our net worth would have been barely in the black territory – closer to zero, more like it- as we had a mortgage of $350k. But after some serious knuckling down, some employment payouts and some granularity on the value of my husband’s superannuation pension, our net worth is tracking quite well for our early retirement.

Some net worth trackers out there include the family home; others exclude it. I like to think of the family home as part of the potential income earning asset pool, because you can create ways to use it, like Air BNB, hosting a student; or downsizing later for less and using a smaller capital pool to generate income.

As I share these numbers and the calculation methods, it is not lost on me that my family and I are in an incredibly privileged position. We are both educated. My parents started off in financial dire straits but slowly built some wealth over time (they showed me how to do it, really). My husband’s parents were educated and had successful careers. Both of us were fortunate enough to go to university and have had reasonably successful careers, living in the highest income per capita city in Australia. Jobs are plentiful here. Even though we have both been through redundancies at various times, we have enjoyed a short break and found work within a few months, without any financial losses.

But once again, I find the financial independence numbers for an Australian context hard to find out there in web-land, so I put ours out there to start filling the void. I hope others are prepared to do so too, so we can build a context rich picture for other aspiring financially independent people out there.

We paid down our mortgage following the year of austerity and have no other forms of debt, so I’ll be reporting on our assets only. I use an app called Wealth+ and manually enter the numbers each little while. The numbers fluctuate because we invest the share market; our house increased in value by $50k during the year and we got a closer idea of the value of my husband’s superannuation which boosted our assets significantly. He has a defined benefits scheme and we previously valued it based on his annual statements. Now we have moved the fund to cash and have received a pension estimate from the fund, we have valued his super at 25 x the annual net pension, assuming he lives until he is 80 and draws down from age 55.

So here are the screen shots of the app. We started tracking our net worth on the app in February with a commencing value of $3.423m. As at 28 July, our net worth is valued at approximately $3.545m.

net worth 2

net worth 1

The categories I track are below:

net worth categories

I love watching our progress. Investing and saving can be hard if you can’t see the gains. Knowing our net worth has increased by nearly $120k since I started tracking this February is so motivating and really exciting to show my far-less-interested husband (giggle!) about the progress we have made this year.

Do you calculate your net worth? What method do you use? How do you find it compares to the US versions of FIRE?

How to start you own death spreadsheet in Excel – part 1

death spreadsheet overview

Grimly titled but the death spreadsheet is the most useful spreadsheet I have ever created.

I created the first version of this document back in 2014 when I felt like I was trapped in an awful job, earning quite well but job stress was out of control and I wondered if I had to tolerate this level of angst and frustration for the rest of my life.

To wrestle back some form of control, I decided to create a spreadsheet to work out exactly how much we needed to earn to live a reasonable life – for the rest of our lives. To build this spreadsheet, David and I had many conversations, over a period of time, to think about and design the type of financially independent lifestyle we would be happy with. An extravagant, luxurious one? No – not really our thing. A really nice lifestyle that includes international travel once a year, travelling within Australia, going to other capital cities, money for our hobbies/passions, time for volunteering and one home renovation project a year? Yes, definitely. I’ll take that version of financial independence any day of the week.

In 2014 we were close to paying out our mortgage, so our expenses were about to change considerably. I also knew both had good superannuation or retirement savings, so I wanted to understand, excel spreadsheet cell by cell how much we needed to earn in order to be financially independent.

And so the death spreadsheet was born. On the top line, I created a table out to David’s average life expectancy and mine (there is a little age difference 😊). Then I plotted out our expected income and expenses until we died. Fun, huh!?!

Key assumptions for the spreadsheet:

  1. Indexation of 2% for wages and our superannuation pensions (except for mine – I’ll take a flat rate)
  2. Inflation over our lifetimes (around 2%)
  3. Conservative estimated earnings on our investments at 5% over the next thirty or so years.

I created detailed expenses tabs that adjusts for this year and next when our expenditure circumstances will remain the same. In 2020 we expect to be paying for only one child in total – the other children may be living here and eating with us, but they will be largely responsible for their own expenses.

I have highlighted the current year we are in, and the year my husband’s superannuation commences ( I LOVE to see those two drawing closer together – means we are closer to financial independence).

You can see our net result bounces around a little but that’s ok – over the 12 year period, it works out about even. In my next post, I will detail how I have calculated our expenses over this period, and how I have calculated how our investments will support us in our two stage financial independence plan, paying down like an annuity.

Excel has saved my sanity! Never thought I would say that out loud to the world…..

 

So why financial independence and how does it relate to simple living?

living area

This is a quiet nook in the corner of our newly renovated living area.  I’ll do a house tour later this year.

So why financial independence and how does that relate to simple living?

I love the fact as humans, we are constantly evolving and changing.  I have always had a really big thirst for knowledge, and when I am really interested in a topic, I emerge myself in all available material to learn and grow and connect with like-minded people.

I have found this is absolutely the case on my simple living journey.

First came the feeling over being overwhelmed. With five kids more than half time, a busy job, two kids with mental health issues and interests outside of work, I felt I was never on top of things and always running behind.  My to do list was always longer and greater than 24 hours in any day and I never truly felt like I could sit down and relax.

My health started giving way and I realised things needed to change.  So we created the year of austerity to pay down debt and not be a slave to full time employment.  We achieved this goal in 2015 after some hard work and a small inheritance.

During this time, I was also organising the whole house like crazy.  I thought if I made some sense of the physical chaos in my life, simplicity would descend upon our household like some kind of magic.  A place for everything, everything in its place.

But of course, I organised every drawer within an inch of its life, felt only marginally less overwhelmed and realised I just needed to downsize and declutter.  For a while I donated, sold and gave away stuff in my house like a possessed woman.  Gumtree, eBay, Vinnes and Buy Nothing New became my best friends.  We also renovated which provided a great opportunity to reassess a lot of clutter in our house. The downsizing was enormous – I stopped counting at 25000 items, and I forced myself to reassess all purchases, use up all cosmetics, audit the fridge, pantry and freezer……..

I found the two upsides of decluttering were:

  1. The house felt refreshed, sorted and clear of things that previously made my brain ache. I confirmed in the maximalist/minimalist debate, I’m definitely in the latter camp, although far from living out of my back pack with less then 100 items to my name.  Funnily enough, the first year of our retirement David and I have decided we will go through the house and declutter again as a first priority because we can still identify many items that need to go.
  2. We spent so much less money following a consciously commitment to this form of living and this has enabled greater savings for our FIRE plan.

Once I discovered the FIRE community and worked out we could work less I immediately amped up our savings plans and began consuming everything I could on saving, investing and planning for an early retirement. I realised the FIRE path was really one that could really support my goals of living simply and with less stress.  FIRE became the wind beneath my simplicity wings and the two goals merged into one. I reduced my working days to three a week and began living a simpler life – with a longer term financial plan.

So – in short – from overwhelm to organisation to minimalism to FIRE.  I’m sure it’s such a well-worn path. With December 2020 looming, it can sometimes be a source of overwhelm all on its own, but I am looking forward to writing about our plans for our post FIRE life and all of the hope for a peaceful life it holds. For me, financial independence and simple living are inextricably linked.  To live a simpler life I need to have a source of passive income to pursue the things I want to pursue – be fast when I want to be fast and slow when I want to be slow.

Are you on any of the paths to financial freedom or simple living? Have you been down a similar path?