Slowly Sipping Coffee

Throwing Water on Our FIRE!

I knew things were off the rails when Mrs. SSC said, “I wouldn’t say we’re back to square one, but…” Yep, we’ve been having lots of “those types” of discussions. I think it’s a confluence of a few things really.

  1. The stark reality that when we start building this house, our Lifestyle Change plan is set in motion. Eeeepp!!! That adds a WHOLE lot of gravity to the situation.
  2. What the F are going to do about healthcare and how much is it going to cost us? Depending on the yet unknown cost, we could be way under on our FI number, and need to juggle stuff, find work with insurance, or a side gig that could cover that unexpected cost over what we’re planning for now.
  3. We both turn 40 this year, yipe!! The weight of that milestone (mid-life crises anyone) along with beginning the last leg of our FFLC (Fully Funded Lifestyle Change) journey has us asking a lot of questions. What will our ikigai be in “retirement”? We don’t want to “retire” just to wither away and die early. Do we want to be snowbirds and go live in New England or some other allegedly cooler destination over the hot summer? How does our budget work for that? Do we want to take a “gap year” between leaving the workforce and entering our Lifestyle Change/Early Retirement? Hahaha, a gap year before retirement – what a hilarious thought!
  4. What do we want out of life? See point 3 for why we’re asking ourselves this question a lot more often than we used to. Will we be satisfied with living in Canyon Lake, or anywhere for that matter. In researching for the ikigai post, I discovered that people that had an ikigai (reason to live something driving them to get up every morning, but not necessarily a job) outlived those that didn’t. So, what in our life are we passionate about that will give us that satisfaction. After a summer of being a full time stay at home mom, I think Mrs. SSC is ready to deem it “really hard, and not quite as rewarding as you may think.” I haven’t gotten that opportunity yet, but it is my fear that my current job is WAY easier than becoming the “default parent” once I leave the corporate world.

Those are all the things that have been on our mind lately, and here’s what we’ve discovered.


While on vacation we got to meet up with Jillian, a.k.a. Ms. Montana from Montana Money Adventures. That was pretty awesome getting to meet another blogger in real life, but the 2 hrs that we got to hang out seemed like it went by too quickly. It brought a nice dose of reality from what post work life could be like. She’s been on a mini-retirement/work sabbatical for about 18 months now and has been as busy as ever. Jillian was talking about how she has to prioritize what she wants to work on and what she wants out of her mini-retirement because there is time to do anything she wants, just not time to do everything she wants. Even though we don’t have that amount of free time yet, just planning to get to the point of having that free time available can get pretty bananas pretty quickly.

Do we want to travel? Do we want to live abroad for a year? Maybe we could just be nomads and bounce around the US for 3-4 months at a time in a different part of the country. So many options, so little time to pursue them all.

Our priority is family, but guess what, they’re mobile and can go anywhere we take them. Talk about a heavy responsibility. Do we want to be nomads and they grow up Army Brat style without fellow Army Brats to commiserate with?

Reverse Snowbirds

Texas being Teaxs and our new – alleged – home base being located in Canyon Lake, we’re still smack dab in the Gulf Coast climate. We decided a nice compromise would be “reverse snowbirds” and instead of living in the North and heading South for the winter, we’ll head North for the Summer. Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, etc… are amazing – 3-4 months of the year which would work perfectly for us.

This lets us prioritize family by keeping the kids in a stable home base and group of friends and we can still travel just longer term slow travel style. We can test drive living in other parts of the country and not deal with blizzards or shoveling any precipitation off of anything.

More of this...

More of this…

Finding Our Ikigai

So, here’s the biggie… What are we going to “retire to”? Yep, that’s the biggest question on our minds. Are we going to enter another social desert like Houston? Based on Mrs. SSC’s Facebook group research out at Canyon Lake, no is the short answer. Our neighborhood has monthly get togethers at the pool, so we can start there. School can be another social outlet getting involved there as well, but who knows how that will work out. We’ve got ideas for other things, like my desire to get involved with the Guadalupe Chapter of Trout Unlimited since I won’t be 3 hrs away anymore, but ultimately, we don’t even know what opportunities will make themselves present until we get there. I’m confident we can both find something to get involved in that will be satisfying, but it’s a real concern not having that lined up prior to getting out there.

What if we try and fail? What if we suck at socializing and creating a social circle? So many what ifs, so many what ifs… Like everything else related to planning for FIRE or your own Lifestyle Change, it’s all assumptions and managing risk associated with those assumptions. Once you’re comfortable with the risk level for any decision associated with your own FIRE/FFLC plan then you’re set. Maybe we haven’t hit our comfort level with our ikigai yet.

Healthcare Unknowns

Well, the bold font heading says it all; it’s all unknown. We can boost our expected spending on healthcare to $10k, or $15k or even $20k per year and see how that affects the budget, drawdown plan, and depletion rate of our investments, and reshape our plan accordingly. Much like Social Security, I’m just about done counting on any version of government subsidized healthcare and am ready to say F it and assume the responsibility to take care of me and my family and not have to depend on the government.

“The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
Ronald Reagan

We’ll reveal more later how that affects our overall number and timing, but that’s our plan going forward. On the plus side, if those monkeys in Washington can figure out something that works and is affordable, we’ll be that much more ahead.


So that’s what the conversations have been like around the SSC household the last month. Pretty heavy stuff, but really just variations on the same theme the last few years. They’re just getting more serious because the date is getting so close. It’s kind of terrifying in some ways rather than what I pictured. Below is what I thought the last leg of our FFLC journey would feel like.

So blissful and free...

So blissful and free…                                                    

Instead it’s something entirely different.

running fire


Do you get into these mind traps? What do you do to resolve them? Have you hit 40 or gone through a mid-life crisis of sorts? Let me know, I’d love to hear about it!

35 thoughts on “Throwing Water on Our FIRE!

  1. Ms. Montana

    It was awesome to meet you guys too! And I think you can totally take a year off and then just go from there. At lest, that’s what I would tell your employers and colleagues. Who knows what options might come available? The idea of mini-retirement seems to fit us better. Some months or years we will dive into projects and work stuff and other months or years will be more focused on family, travel, gardening or hiking. I know we need more family time now, but in 3 or 6 years? We might find the perfect project to start.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I plan to tell my employers it will be a “sabbatical” as opposed to mentioning the “R” word, lol. I guess the reality is that with my field, as long as the oil price is where it is, it will be really really difficult to get back into this industry,e specially if there is a 1-3 year gap. Maybe not, but I’m not super optimistic that it will be an option.

      However, I’m fine with that, it’s just scary because the job itself is currently fun, rewarding, fairly darn easy, and pays really well. I think that is what lends itself to the OMY situation for most people.

      Your stories and perspective about the kids growing up just hammers that message home for me. I’ve got maybe another 12-15 years with them and the last 4 or so of those they won’t want to hang out as much or do fun stuff together, so i jsut keep hearing the clock tick tock louder and louder on the family enjoyment side of things.

  2. Mrs. Picky Pincher

    As a fellow Texan, I LOVE the idea of going north for the summer. Our winters down here are so mild. Hell, last year it felt like we didn’t even get a winter (60 degrees in February–wat). Congrats on all the impending milestones! Remember that you’re only as old as you feel. 😉

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Oh man, seriously, we only had 5 days of freezing or close to freezing temps last winter. Did I love getting to go for a run in Dec-Feb shirtless and not die from hypothermia, yes. I love the winters around here, but yeah, reverse snowbird sounds like a great plan, and it’s not like we can’t use the lake almost year round anyway.

      As far as feeling old, I don’t really feel old, and am as active now as ever. It’s just the mental aspect of, “huh, I am about 1/2-way thru my life if things go well. Is this really what I wanted out of it? Am I really living it the way I envisioned? How can I change this?”

      Fortunately, we also asked ourselves that question about 5-7 years ago and have been saving ever since, lol. It doesn’t make those life choices or nagging questions any easier to answer, we just have the freedom to change it how we wish. Which is a scary enough thought in its own right, hahahaha.

  3. Elephant Eater

    Yep. That pretty much sums up our lives as well. When starting out, I thought that this was a financial problem that needed solved and that is such a small part of it, and many of the parts that are financial involve big assumptions that are largely out of our control anyway (healthcare, investment returns, inflation, interest rates, etc).

    Just finished a first draft of our monthly update and spoiler alert, but the main point is that the big positive of being in the FIRE community is that even if shit totally hits the fan and everything goes sideways, we just end up back where the other 95+% of the population is anyway, so might as well get rid of the fear and anxiety and just embrace the adventure.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      For real, the finances are just the smallest part of it, except for you know needing them to do anything else, lol. I also didn’t expect how much mental drama would unfold around things we can’t even control. No wonder people get OMY syndrome.

      It’s freaking scary. 🙂

      Exactly, as far as if it all goes south, we’re back in the mix with the rest of America. They are making it work, how is it that we can’t figure out how to make it work as well? I hear you on that. Just embrace it and step off the ledge and see what comes of it.

  4. Mrs. Adventure Rich

    I love the idea of a “gap year” before your FFLC retirement job 😉 You bring up really interesting thoughts and concerns about the FFLC. We are pretty far from FI, so I typically glaze over the details of what a FFLC/FI scenario might be for our family. But reading about your thoughts helps to make me realize some of the details I hope to be considering sometime soon!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I wrote that and then literally started laughing. It’s like when a highschooler says “I’m just gonna take a year off to relax and whatever before college.” Now I think, “Relax from what? You haven’t done anything yet?!” lol
      It just seems so ridiculously lavish or extravagant to take a year between work and retirement. hahahaha

      The financial aspect starts becoming the least loud voice in your head the closer you get. It’s all the other what if voices that pop up and start whispering, then talking at a normal level, and before long it feels like they’re shouting over each other. It’s very interesting and kind of difficult to quiet them down even though i know, we’re 90% prepared for this whole thing.

      Good luck on getting to your FIRE date and I know there will be more of these types of mini-freakout posts along the way, to help you realize even more stuff you may not have thought about. 🙂

  5. Oldster

    Enjoyed the post (and the angst). Anyone confronted with as big a life change as this is going to experience anxiety. If you didn’t we’d have to doubt your sanity. Take it slow and know that you can un-retire if you choose. I agree with Mrs. Montana there is no requirement of an all-in commitment. Ask for a leave of absence from your job. If you get to the end of it and life has been kind, and you find your icky guy (love that), then make it permanent.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Well, I plan on framing it as a sabbatical/leave of absence setup, as opposed to “retire” when I leave. Not that it would guarantee anything, but I’d at least leave on good terms if I wanted to try to come back to the same company.

      With Mrs. SSC still teaching the first year or 3, it will let us phase our life into that mode and see how well we’re doing budget wise, mentally, socially, etc… Plus, I hope to ahve found some other “job”, hobby, passion or whatnot by then too. If not and we’re like, this isn’t for us, I am positive I can work out something to do on our next adventure – wherever that may take us.

  6. Jason

    I can definitely vouch for New England in the summer. However, in your FFLC is Mrs. SSC going to continue her lecturer job? If so, couldn’t you just get healthcare through her position?

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Yeah, NE in the summer is great, especially since we’d miss black fly season, woohoo! There’s alos the NW in the summer, or the Rockies in the summer… Basically anywhere but the Gulf Coast for the summer, lol.

      She does plan to continue her teaching job and we would get health care through her university, so that’s good. However, she doesn’t want to do that for the next 10-15 years and/or feel trapped/obligated to keep having to make the commute and keep that job JUST to have health insurance. Which I totally understand and support.

      There are things in the works that could make it easier – if she was a researcher and didn’t have to be on campus as much as an instructional faculty. If the funding for 2 Phd students and herself comes through from a smaller company and she can parlay that into a consulting gig/LLC setup rather than take the funds thru the University, since they take half. That could potentially lead to me being a paid researcher/consultant for that yet to be created company which would alleviate a lot of this angst.

      There are a lot of irons in the fire, but pulling the trigger or getting close to committing to building a house 3 hrs away from where we are now makes them that much more real. Especially since most of these are “future” if this/then that sort of situations that aren’t “real” currently.

  7. TheMoneyMine

    I’m only 35 but I feel like I’ve had my mid-life crisis already… I wonder how that’ll feel in 5 years.
    What my wife and I have decided is that our ikigai will be to do whatever we can to show our daughter what’s possible in life. So we plan to start or take over a business in the next 5 years so that we can teach her entrepreneurship for example. I think it’s also a way for us to try ‘the next challenge’. Life is short and we don’t want to regret not trying!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I’d say less mid-life crisis, more “Is this really, really, really what we want to do? Is this the best plan forward for us? Is there another plan we hadn’t thought about that may fit us better? Maybe we shold revisit all of our plans, just to be sure” lol

      On the plus side, we’re at basic FI now. we’re SO far ahead of the typical American at 39/40 yrs old and are looking at being able to retire and possibly never having to work again by the time we hit 42. That’s pretty freaking amazing.

      It’s just the hard hitting reality of committing to spending $300k or so building a house that really smacks the dreaminess out of your mind and reminds you – this is for real. My brian: “You’re really doing this, huh? This is a HUGE $$ commitment to this plan of yours. You sure you got all the kinks worked out?” hahaha

      More of those sorts of mid-life crises instead of, “I want a motorcycle!” Although I did bring that up and our oldest played the “you’ll die on a motorcycle like my friend’s dad…” card, so no motorcycle for me… 🙁

      We plan similarly – to show the kids there are alternatives to the “traditional” life in however that may play itself out. W’re excited about the next phase of our life, it’s just scary when you realize you really are walking away from a really easy, rewarding, very well compensated job to – not that. 🙂

      1. TheMoneyMine

        If this is about the 300k$ house building, could you put this in perspective and get a mortgage for it + rent / sell your current house? It is a huge commitment but if you don’t stay in the houston home, you can get either income or equity out of it.
        A bike would be nice, I agree 🙂

        1. Mr SSC Post author

          We haven’t decided to mortgage, pay it in full or pay half, mortgage half for a bit. Unsure there but keeping options open. We looked into renting our house, but it would be a wash at best, but most likely a net negative, albeit small. Selling it and using the extra capital to replace some moeny from the Canyon Lake home build would probably be the best option, financially.

          I signed up for a riding course so I could get my license and everything and then our oldest played the death card… Mrs. SSC’s reaction was “If you want to do something stupid that could end your life early or make you a vegetable, I can’t necessarily stop you” lol. It still seems like a lot of fun though.

  8. Brian

    I’m in NY, and you don’t want to be anywhere near here in the summer, go further North. 🙂 I’m over 40 and we did have any mid-life issues. Our focus is launching our three teenagers into adulthood, saving, and decide on where we want to settle in the future. So all lots of similar decisions. check out the local civic association, community groups, volunteer organizations etc. I’m sure they could use some wisdom on finance or FIRE.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      We managed to hit MT and Glacier National Park one of the weeks they stayed in the 90’s the whole week. It was ridiculous. But, also in July, so what do you expect. We jsut needed more elevation to be honest. 🙂

      The decision of where to settle in the future can get really complicated really quickly. We’ve been trying to decide that for about 4 years now. We’ve gone from VA, to NC, to MT, to ID, to AZ, to CO (very briefly lol), to OR, and now are sort of mostly settled on hill country in TX. There are a lot of groups around that we should be able to become active in, in some fashion, so I’m not too worried on that aspect.

      It is a ‘Yuge step though walking away from a comfy, well paid job to hoping you accounted for everything.

  9. Mrs. PIE

    I’m so happy that you wrote this post. It lends a lot of reality to the ‘sometimes over enthusiastic’ FIRE social media. When it comes down to it, the changes we make in our lifes have to work for us, and be the right thing at the right time.
    Mr. PIE and are are in a similar phase. The trigger pulling time is close and the questions and doubts are getting louder.
    A couple of things keep us committed. One is the severe dislike of our alternative life if we don’t carry out our plan. I have a blog post in my head entitled ‘if not FIRE then what?’
    That sounds like we’re trapped in a corner with no alternatives, but in reality we have many alternatives. Non are as right for us as our FIRE plan.
    We have questions, oh boy, do we have questions! But when we read post from the Mad Fientist that seem to cover all the possible emotions we may have, and the phases we will most probably go through, we feel much less alone in our doubts.
    We do the math regularly. We plan for the % market downturn that would quash our plans. But ultimately it comes down to what is right for you. You have nothing to prove to anyone. Just doing what is best for you and your family.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Thanks, it was a little cathartic to write as well. 🙂 It’s easy to hear the doubts get louder and louder and seem more real. Like you mention, what’s the alternative? Is it better than the plan? If No, then stick with the plan, lol. Seems like a simple enough logic problem, but the underlying psychological angst gets in the way of a seemingly simple decision.

      That’s been one good outcome of joining a FIRE Mastermind sort of group. Realizing that everyone has these same doubts and feels like it’s not all sunshine and fields of gold we’re waltzing through.

      Even if we enacted the plan and the market dropped and we “lost” 40%, Mrs. SSC will still be teaching, we’ll be covering expenses to not really dip into the investment stash and I can always look for other income if need be. We’re smart, we’ll figure something out, right?

      Good luck getting your own issues worked out, but it sounds like you’re already there. 🙂

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      That’s a great point, it doesn’t have to be black and white. I just know that exiting my industry, it will be really really hard to ge back into if I wanted to go that route. If retirement’s not for me, I’m still young and can find something else to keep me busy and bring in income, so there’s always that to look forward to.

  10. RocDoc

    I really enjoyed the honesty in your post. Thank you so much for describing what you’re going through in such detail. I’m going through many of the same thoughts and concerns you’re having as FIRE approaches. It’s a relief to know I’m not the only one.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Thanks! I haven’t talked to anyone that’s getting close to FIRE that doesn’t have those same thoughts and feelings. It’s helpful to hear and bring some reality to what actually happens inside your head, or at least mine, when you get closer to the end goal.

      Nope, you’re definitely not alone. 🙂

  11. saveinvestbecomefree

    Thanks for writing this post. My wife and I are in the same boat. We’ve solved the financial part of FI but there are just too many options available now and we’re very slowly working through what we want to do before stopping work. I don’t think there is a single perfect option (it’s likely our lives will be very different 5 years from now than we think) but I would like a joint plan that we’re really excited about to start and we’re not there yet.

    I’m glad you posted this since I think a lot of people go through this challenge and we don’t see much posted on this important topic.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Thanks, and remember, it doesn’t have to be all or none, black or white. I know it feels that way at times though. In my industry, I’m moving away from the epicenter of jobs, and will have a hard time re-entering that workforce, but I think I’m getting more and more okay with that. Even if it means I end up working in some other career altogether. There are a lot worse things I could be dealing with in the world.

      Good luck on you guys making your transition. It’s amazing that the hardest part has nothing to do with the finances of it, you know?

  12. Prudence Debtfree

    “Have you hit 40 …?” Yeah. 14 years ago! As usual, I really appreciate your honesty with all of this. Most people have run-through-beautiful-fields visions of FIRE, but your thoughts and conversations as the possibility approaches shed new light on it – or at least on the transition towards it. For me, I think it will be an easier change (in 2 years) simply because many people in my age group retire. You and your wife would be in a very small minority retiring in your early 40s. One thing I would say is that while you do need to make an initial plan, it doesn’t have to be binding and inflexible, and it doesn’t have to be long-term. Starting out with travel around the US (and Canada?) with your kids would be awesome. Longer term plans will develop with time – and keep life exciting. You don’t have to have it all figured out ahead of time. You are on to something great here! (And sorry, but I have to say it. I’m so grateful for our Canadian health-care health system.)

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Well, at least our initial lifestyle change will keep Mrs. SSC teaching for 2-3 years. It may go longer, but she really likes it and worries about what she would do if she didn’t teach. Plus, it provides healthcare, covers almost all of our expenses and will be a nice transition into “retired” life. I’ll just become a stay at home dad and whatever else I do to keep busy, but it will probably be closer to 45 before we’re both fully retired.

      I like keeping our plans open and flexible so it doesn’t seem all or nothing type of view on it. Things change, lifestyles change and I’m supremely confident even our plan will change. Oh, and definitely want to come and enjoy Canda with the kids. So many cool places to visit, it will be fun mapping out plans for each area and timing and all of that.

      I wish we had a similar healthcare setup, it sure would make some things a lot easier. 🙂

  13. Eddy G

    Sounds like you are a worrier – like me! Also in Texas and on the fence. My spreadsheet says I am ready to FIRE but am not certain if I’ll have major regrets in a few years – especially if the market turns. Good to hear there are others in the same boat.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Anyone close to that point or alreadya t the FI stage has these same worries. You’re not alone in the least. In my Mastermind group, we have been discussing this exact type of thing that everyone is experiencing.

      It’s tough having such a big life change and even though yours/our spreadsheets say we’re good, it’s those little doubts of market corrections, healthcare affordability, and who knows what else that creep in to keep us working one more year, and then maybe one more, and then maybe another for good measure.

      It’s tough…

  14. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

    Between y’all here and Ms ONL, and just knowing myself, I have no doubt that I’ll have similar feelings by the time we’re nearly ready for FIRE. We’re getting through a very expensive year right now but I already know where my focus is going to be come the new year. Heck, if I’m lucky, I can shift it over by the end of this year. Stretch goal!

    And that’s because I’m going to be staring down the barrel of my own midlife crisis in half a decade and I hope that 40 year old me is going to be glad for the legwork I’m doing right now. Just like you are now glad that you’ve had these thoughts 5-7 years ago.

    I was commiserating with my friend’s kid whose family travels a lot (Army brat). Poor kid lamented that it had been nice but he was just so tired of being on vacation, he was more than ready to be home again. Do you know how your kids feel about the possibility of being semi-nomadic?

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      OMG, this is the year of spending on our end too. Oh well… I ahve to say hitting 40 today, I can say that I am SUPER appreciative of 35 yr old Mrs. SSC and myself putting as much focus towards FIRE as we did then. 🙂 I just realized I have 21 months of work left if I choose and wow, just wow… It’s pretty liberating to put a for real number to it and contact the home builder to get that ball rolling and making concrete plans towards that.

      It’s pretty awesome.

      I think that we would definitely work out some sort of travel scenario in which we would balance the work and home. I know the kids will ahve inputs and we don’t want to wreck them or get them to become travel haters, but it would be nice to spend a month or 2 somewhere outside of the heat each summer.

      I think if they got to help choose where to go and what to see, that could help a lot. Also, knowing that we’ll be back in 4-8 weeks may help with that too. Personally, I like travelling but some of the best parts are pulling back into my driveway and beong able to lay down in my own bed at night. I’m not too much of a wanderlust spirit in that regard. We’ll talk with them and get their input into the whole idea.

  15. ambertreeleaves

    thx for sharing your thoughts and concerns in the last part of the FIRE journey. When we get there, the ikigai question will pop up for us as well. Right now about 70pct of that is my work in a startup, 25pct blog and 5 pct volunteer work in school.

    And I got 41 a few days back… I fully understand the midlife crisis thing. I expect it to last baout 10 years!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Happy late birthday, and hopefully the mid life crisis doesn’t last 10 years. 🙂 I wish I had time to do more volunteer work at school, but since my work schedule is practically the same as the school schedule, unless it lands in the evenings when Mrs. SSC isn’t teaching or one of my Friday’s off, it is lacking quite a bit.

  16. Andrew

    Fellow Houstonian in his 30s grappling with all of the same big questions about moving into a life worth living. My wife and I are expecting our first child in several months and it has me thinking hard about reprioritizing things. Thanks for the blog, it’s nice seeing someone else’s journey.

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