Last week, the folks over at Our Next Life proposed a challenge called The Road Less Traveled. They laid out what seem to be the “Commandments of FIRE” and they’re hilarious and pretty spot on, you should go read them if you haven’t already. Some of my fav’s are “Thou shalt make thy choosing between Vanguard index funds or dividend-yielding stocks” and “Thou shalt be frugal in all things, and shall not partake of worldly temptations like cable television. Bigger riches await those who partake only of self-powered travel.” Outside of these sort of Personal Finance community commandments, the challenge is what do you do that is different than these sort of “rules” everyone seems to profess and follow. I don’t know that we have much that is different from “The Commandments”, but I’ll let you be the judge.
First of all, let’s call a spade a spade and admit where we follow said Commandments. We have some diversity in our portfolio, but most of it is in Index Funds and when we enact our Lifestyle Change, we’re going to switch most of it to some income earning dividend index funds! Riveting stuff, isn’t it?! We also use the 4% rule along with our carefully tracked spending history to determine what’s a good safe number for us to aim for if we want to maintain our current lifestyle in our Lifestyle Change. Also, we do love biking and get out with the kids whenever we can, but there’s no way at all it’s practical to bike to or from work everyday for me – it’s 29 miles each way, no thanks! While neither of us is in IT, we are both geo-scientists, and until Mrs. SSC left her job a week ago to teach, we worked intimately with engineers most days. Actually, I’ve had to learn more reservoir engineering than I would’ve thought entering this field, just so I can QC my prospects and ideas to see if they’re economic before moving them up, so I guess we’re partially guilty on that commandment too.
So, that’s where we follow said Commandments, but like the challenge proposes: Where are we different from “The Commandments”; how do our choices differ from those around us in real life, and what big plans do we have in early retirement?
For new readers, I keep referring to our Lifestyle Change, because we don’t necessarily want to retire, but we desperately want a lifestyle change, so we came up with the idea of Fully Funded Lifestyle Change. I mean, tomato, tomahto, retirement or Lifestyle Change, but I think there’s a difference in how most people view retirement as being sedentary, involving watching lots of golf, maybe cribbage/pinochle/euchre and naps, loads of naps. God help you if you earn any money, because then you’re “not retired” you’re still working! Gasp! So, balls to all that noise, and we’re just looking for a Fully Funded Lifestyle Change. We may work, we may not, we most likely will volunteer at one or two different things that we find where we relocate, but we will most definitely not be watching golf and napping. Okay, I’m gonna nap whenever I get a chance, but I already love naps, and kids kind of kill naps.
That’s another route where we are a bit different – we have 2 kids. There are a lot of people out there with kids doing this same thing, Elephant Eaters, Ditching the Grind, 1500 Days, Root of Good, to name just a few, but it adds more complexity. Saving for college, full ride or not, clothes, sports/activities, all the equipment for those sports/music/activities, extra food, higher car insurance at some point, great googly moogly it’s just a lot more to think about and plan for.
Frugality – ahhh frugality. We’re not super frugal, there I said it. We’re about to cut the cord on cable, but I’m not above resubscribing to something in september/october if I feel withdrawal from football availability. We’ll see. We also use house cleaners, now only down to once a month, but yes we pay someone to clean our house. If I could find someone to mow our yard and not trench it up, I’d pay for that, but that doesn’t exist, so I spend an hr and half every other week, and 1 hr every week mowing. ( it would SO be worth $20/wk) We paid to get our playhouse put together – it did take the guy the recommended 10-12 hrs and he had all the tools and a system worked out. It was SO worth it. Currently, we have money but not much time, so I’ll trade money where I find it saves me time. It’s win-win because they get money and I get my time back. That will change when i have more time, but for now – I’ll pay instead of being frugal.
We live in a “fancy-pants” neighborhood and a pretty big house… Yep, it’s a McMansion. To our defense, slightly, it is Texas and they do have loads of land to make everything bigger in Texas… Defense over. Ultimately it came down to timing, a 7 month pregnant Mrs. SSC, and a hard deadline on our start date with our new departments, we had 3 previous house deals fall through and ultimately we had to get moved from LA to TX. So, we went from expecting to spend about $400-$450k for a 30-40 year old 2500 sq ft house because we were looking to stay closer to work, but realized that wasn’t going to happen, because we’d still need to upgrade those $450k older homes. NO thanks! Instead we found a nice 3900 sq ft house that’s only 10 years old, and has loads of neighborhood amenities and is just 10 minutes further away from work. And Yes, we definitely plan on downsizing when we move, this house is ridiculous and SO much bigger than we need. On the plus side, I love our neighborhood, all the green trails, lakes we can walk to, daycare we can walk to, elementary school we can walk to, 1 pool we can walk to, and grocery 5 minutes away. It’s great, and if I had to do it again, I’d make the same choice, no second thoughts. I’d just get a longer home warranty so we wouldn’t have to replace one of the AC units out of pocket. Ouch!
Where we’re different from our real life counterparts – we don’t live paycheck to paycheck like a few colleagues we know. We didn’t buy a $200k house, tear it down and rebuild our current house there, and we don’t drive fancy new cars. Okay, I just got a new Jetta, but it’s a basic S model with technology, so I do pretty much everything myself, except for connect bluetooth, it can figure that one out on its own. We also don’t go out to eat every week or go out period. We do lunch dates on our friday’s off, which is every other friday for me, and occasionally will do coffee dates instead, and yes, that coffee date happens at a Starbucks, even though we can make perfectly good coffee at home. We live comfortably but not lavishly, and we save the rest. We like to vacation comfortably, but still go the VRBO route because you can get an awesome house, usually for way less than a hotel cost.
As far as plans for our Lifestyle Change, man, who knows?! I have lots of hobbies: Beer brewing, music playing (banjo, guitar, dulcimer, resonator guitar), gardening, woodworking, fishing, hiking, gaming, I mean, there’s so much to do that I bet it will seem busy as hell living life, taking care of the kids, and trying to find time to squeeze this stuff in. I don’t know that it will actually be different than life now, except I won’t have a “job” to go to I’ll just be living that job. On the other hand, that in itself seems a bit scary…
Did I miss anything? Feel free to let me know.