You’re Financially Independent. Now What?
Today’s guest post comes via Peter Koch who also shares his stories and thoughts with a growing readership on his popular blog, Seller at Heart.
Peter is an international serial entrepreneur who has run a variety of businesses both online and offline. The father of two and huge basketball fan has now reached financial independence, and he often ponders what to do with his newfound freedom and time.
What will you do?
Let’s explore some options with someone who contemplates the question from a practical and very real standpoint. From the Seller at Heart:
You’re Financially Independent. Now What?
When you’ve reached financial independence and are faced with the prospect of retiring, it’s normal to feel a little adrift and unsure of what comes next. Work generally comprises the majority of our adult lives, often eclipsing personal interests and passions in the process. And when you’ve been striving so long for financial independence, it can be a little anticlimactic when your accounts actually reach that target number.
Taking a week or two for self-reflection should be step #1 for anyone experiencing this. Evaluate what you really want out of life and what you want to do, see, and accomplish in the decades ahead. You’ve achieved your big goal…now it’s time to make some new ones. Start with these ideas.
Keep Working (Just Because You Want To)
Being financially independent can mean sipping pina coladas on a beach all day — but it can also mean you continue working. Except now, you’ll know that you’re working because you enjoy it, not just because you need a paycheck. Being financially independent means you get to work on your own terms. You don’t have to stay in a job you hate because you need the money.
Personally, this is the camp I fall into. I achieved FI about four years ago, but I love challenges. Executing product ideas are exciting to me. That’s why I’m still an engineer, that’s why I still sell on Amazon, that’s why I run my website and blog. I do these things not because I have to, but because I choose to.
So if you love your current job, keep doing it! Maybe you only want to work 30 hours a week there or start working remotely — in which case, you now have the leverage to negotiate those terms.
If you don’t love your current job, but still feel the drive to work and be productive, you now have the financial freedom to pursue that dream job you’ve always had in the back of your mind. You could go back and get another degree. Attend a coding bootcamp. Take online classes. Train for an entirely new field.
Essentially, if you enjoy a job, you can turn it into a hobby: an activity you do out of choice, not out of necessity.
[PoF: I am a good example of this. I wasn’t ready to walk away when I was FI. I’ll add The White Coat Investor and Passive Income MD. We’re just three busy financially independent docs who make up the WCI Network, but I believe I’ll be the first to retire from medicine, putting the RE in FIRE.]
Invest Time Into Favorite Hobbies (Or Find New Ones)
Creating music, art, food and drink, or physical goods is something that many people find deeply satisfying. It opens up that creative side of your brain, lets you develop new skills or improve existing ones, and allows you to make something you can be proud of.
If you don’t have any hobbies in mind, try some different ones until you find what clicks. Take a woodworking class at a local community college. Buy a guitar and watch tutorial videos on Youtube. Learn to paint or draw at an art workshop or on your own. Pick up a camera and train your eyes to see the world in a new way. Get some equipment for brewing beer or making your own wine. [PoF: I didn’t wait for FI to start brewing beer, but it’s a rewarding skill to pick up at any point.]
Even if you don’t think of yourself as a very creative person, it’s a skill that, just like any others, can be nurtured with practice. You don’t have to be an artistic savant to make art that’s interesting and meaningful.
Of course, hobbies can be practical as well. Fixing up cars, learning home maintenance skills, and cooking delicious recipes can enhance your life and even help you become more self-reliant in the process. Or you can even bring in extra income by pursuing hobbies you can monetize.
[PoF: Many early retirees are doing this to varying degrees. A few that come to mind because they frequently write up posts about their hobbies in early retirement are Mr. Crazy Kicks, Mr. Money Mustache, Mr. 1500, and the Frugalwoods.]
Buy An RV And Hit The Road
The United States is a big country, but most of its own residents have only seen a fraction of what it has to offer. And getting an RV is the classic way to start your own great American road trip.
If you have friends and family around the country, plan out a route that allows you to visit them. Include your “bucket list” destinations like the Grand Canyon or California redwoods that you haven’t been able to see yet. Hike in national parks and visit historical sites. Take photographs and make memories.
[PoF: We plan to buy an RV within the first year or two after FIRE. JD Roth recently published a thorough recap of his RV adventure, Michelle Schroeder from Making Cents of Cents just traded in her motorhome for a sailboat, and there’s a great European FI blog by the name of Our Tour that goes into great detail of their adventures. Even Boglehead Rick Ferri blogged about his two-year adventure on the open road.
Nick True of Mapped Out Money is another (although not yet FI), and of course, there’s a whole genre of RV blogs written by digital nomads traveling the country while earning a living.]
Travel Internationally And Explore New Cultures
Never got a chance to see much of the world during your working years? Take the opportunity now. Experiencing other cultures can open your mind and give you new experiences and memories to enjoy. People often credit travel as one of the best things they’ve done, and a common regret of many on their deathbed is not traveling more.
The world has so much to offer, no matter what your interests are. Are you a nature lover? Hike beautiful trails in Switzerland and New Zealand. Do you love trying new foods? Visit some of the food capitals of the world like Paris and Tokyo. Are you a history buff? Explore castles in Scotland and WWII sites in Eastern Europe. Want to try your hand at motorbikes and street food? Explore Southeast Asia. Love beaches? Admire the beautiful pink sands and blue waters of the Caribbean.
Traveling can easily be done on a budget if you want to conserve funds, or you can go big and reward your hard work by staying in luxury hotels on the trip. Whatever your style, get out there and see a few more corners of this beautiful planet. You won’t regret it.
[Most early retirees do some extensive traveling, but few travel as extensively as Jeremy and Winnie of Go Curry Cracker or Kristy and Bryce of Millennial Revolution. And Jason Fieber, Mr. Free at 33, up and moved to Thailand.
Honorable mention to Justin and Kaisorn from Root of Good. Their blog post series on their family of five’s nine weeks in Europe is fantastic.]
Get Involved In Volunteering And Philanthropy
All you have to do is look at Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Mark Zuckerberg, and others who’ve achieved great financial success to see what they have in common: a history of philanthropy.
If you find yourself in the fortunate position of having more money than you know what to do with, donate some to a cause you believe in. Or contribute personally to someone in need on a platform like GoFundMe.
You don’t necessarily have to contribute monetarily to make an impact, either. Use your professional skills to help charities, use your influence to advocate for causes, or use your time to do boots-on-the-ground volunteering. Seeing the kind of impact you’re able to have on the world is a reward well worth it.
[PoF: I’m a big proponent of charitable giving and recently donated a week’s worth of my anesthesia services in Honduras. I do much of my giving via a donor advised fund, and I’ve got a list of about 20 other bloggers who do the same here.]
Stay Mentally And Physically Active
Relaxation is great, but for most people (especially those as driven as people striving for FI tend to be), too much of it will start to grate on you after a while. Even after you retire, be intentional about seeking out ways to challenge your brain. Read books that give you different perspectives. Start research projects on topics you’re interested in. Play brain-stimulating games like Sudoku or Lumosity. Seek friends who you can have spirited debates with. If politics is an area of interest, consider running for local elections and brainstorming ways to improve your community.
And make time to keep your body active as well–the health benefits of regular exercise can’t be overstated. Choose an activity you enjoy, whether it’s swimming, kayaking, weightlifting, or even just going on a walk every day. Seek out new scenery and appreciate how it feels to move and make your body stronger.
[PoF: The FI community may not be as the fit as the CrossFit community, but there’s some significant overlap. Former All-American linebacker “Coach” Chad Carson comes to mind as an avid athlete, and my friends at Waffles on Wednesday are always running, biking, and hiking.
Brad and Jonathan of ChooseFI talked about having a skinny waist and fat wallet in their 10th episode, and the vast majority of “FIREwalkers” have some sort of workout routine. I heard Mr. Groovy can do 27 dips. That’s a lot of dips!! He clearly knows how to stay fit for a better retirement.]
Bonus: What I Don’t Recommend
It’s a common retirement dream to open a pub in town and spend your days chatting with regulars, drinking your favorite beers, and having your friends come over whenever they want.
But let me tell you…owning a pub or bar is nowhere near this idyllic. It is nice in theory but the reality is something different. I’ve done it, and it’s a hell of a job.
Originally I opened the pub because I really liked the idea of having a meetup spot for my friends and being able to sit at my own bar drinking free beer. At the time, my father told me not to do it, with one simple reason. He said, “I am 60 now and none of the bar owners I knew from my generation are alive anymore.”
I should have listened to him. The stress is intense. You are married to the business. You’ll have to deal with unsatisfied customers (even if there’s no reason for dissatisfaction), corrupt inspectors (they will always find a way to write you a ticket for something), and drunks. [PoF: In other words, it’s exactly like working in the Emergency Department.]
Employees will steal from you, and your friends (drunk friends to be precise) will act like they own the place. Not to mention that you are in constant contact with alcohol, so many bar owners start to drink–and drink in excess–sooner or later. Bartenders and owners are over twice as likely to die from alcoholism.
Trust me, unless you have a long history o bar management and know it’s something you actually enjoy, steer clear. You’re much better off brewing or mixing drinks as a hobby.
In the end, financial independence is exactly that–independence. The freedom to do what you want, when you want. Everyone’s journey will look different, and that’s exactly what keeps life interesting.
[PoF: There goes my microbrewery idea. Guess I’ll stick with blogging for now.
Thank you, Peter, for giving us some food for thought on the post-FIRE life. Be sure to check his site out to see what else the financially independent man has to say. ]
Do you have a plan for what to do after reaching that magic FI number? Will you retire right away or continue working? What are some of the things on your bucket list?
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