Post FI Notes 017: Couple in Mid-Sixties Seeking Nirvana

All Indian religions assert nirvana to be a state of perfect quietude, freedom, highest happiness as well as the liberation from attachment and worldly suffering and the ending of samsara, the round of existence.

Or at least so says Wikipedia.

For today’s couple, reaching financial independence hasn’t yet meant attaining that state of nirvana, but it does mean they can live a more reflective life, and in particular, enable our interviewee to hold out for the perfect fit for late-career employment…

…even considering the most recent market swoon. Read on to see how life after FI works for today’s interviewee.

If you’re interested in participating in one of three interview series, please download the most appropriate form for your life situation: FIRE Starter, FIRE Crossroads, or Post-FI Notes. To see other posts in the series, visit our Q&A archive.

 

 

Getting to Know You

 

You’re financially independent. About how much does your household spend in a typical year? How much could you spend while still abiding by the 4% rule?

We spend between $170,000 – $195,000 per year. We could spend about $325,000 a year if I simply divide our net worth by 35 years and a little more if I use the 4% rule. I am not using any growth percentage for my net worth and given the current market flux, most of us will be digging back from a 10-12% hole for some time.

I prefer to be conservative in my estimates and assessments given that I am more aggressive in my stock investments. I have had very little luck in real estate and hence reluctant to put any money into it (which is probably a mistake).

 

Tell us about your household. How many people and at what ages? Are you supporting anyone outside of your home? Where do you live? 

My wife and I are in our mid 60s and about to begin Medicare in the next 6 – 12 months. We have an adult son in his early 30s and we currently support him with monthly expenses, as he entered medical school after working for 6 years. We will continue to support him with living expenses–about $3,000 a month for the next 15 months–until he begins residency.

We are both retired, my wife in 2020 and I at the beginning of this year. We live in St. Petersburg, Florida, a lovely community in the metropolitan Tampa area. We are a low key couple and don’t have expensive tastes. We enjoy cooking at home and actually don’t eat out much, as I am a committed vegan and like a variety of foods.

 

Are you still working? In what career? Did your work schedule or attitude towards work change once you knew you were FI?

My wife worked as a pediatric intensivist for 27 years until she retired. She never focused on money beyond the basics and feels totally comfortable with her FI.  I have had a 33-year career in telecommunications until participating in the “great resignation” at the beginning of this year.

While I am looking for work currently, I am determined to only take a role that is a fit for me from a professional and cultural values system and from that perspective, YES, my attitude towards work has changed. While I know that I am FI, emotionally I am paranoid that it will not last.

As a first-generation immigrant, my mindset is similar to previous generations that went through the great depression in the 20s; I did not have a safety net when I first came to the US in 1980 and have always believed that I need to ensure my financial well-being regardless of market conditions.

The hardest part for me is the ability to spend from my savings and being comfortable with it.

 

Was financial independence a long-term goal of yours? Did you think you might retire early or be able to do so when you first got started in your career?

While FI has been a long-term goal for many decades, I never contemplated retiring early.

 

 

Investing

 

How is your nest egg invested? Approximately what percentage is allocated to stocks, bonds, real estate, and alternatives?

I am invested as follows:

  • 70% in stocks/mutual funds
  • 25% in bonds/cash
  • 5% in alternatives.

I never include my house value or equity as part of my net worth.

 

Are your investments primarily in tax-deferred, Roth, or “taxable” post-tax accounts?

Unfortunately, 50% 0f my investments are in tax-deferred IRAs, 35% is in taxable accounts, and the remaining 15% is in Roth accounts.

 

Do you have investments in an HSA? How about 529 Plans?

I have an HSA account worth about $18,000, and we have liquidated our 529 accounts.

 

What has been your best investment?

My best investments have been total market low-cost mutual funds that I invested in and simply let them be.

 

Your worst investment?

I invested in a real-estate deal back in 2011 and lost over $200,000 over a period of 10 years. If I had simply left it in a total market index fund, I would have done so much better.

 

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Post-FI Life

 

What do you like to do with your free time? How much free time do you have these days? 

I spend a lot of time outside – running, walking, biking, and swimming. We have a great group of retired friends and given the warm weather here all year round, we get together frequently and enjoy board games and general discussions.

 

Do you enjoy travel? Tell us about a favorite trip you’ve taken.

We do love travel and a recent trip (prior to the pandemic) was a 9-day trip to Greece. This fall, we will be going to Yellowstone National Forest.

We had originally planned a Viking River cruise in Europe with 10 other couples but canceled it due to the Russia-Ukraine war.

 

Do you incorporate giving (money or time) into your post-FI life?

Yes, we established a donor-advised fund (DAF) with an initial contribution of $100,000.

 

If retired, do you miss work? Do you get bored?

I don’t necessarily miss the work as much as I miss the camaraderie with co-workers and the opportunity to mentor colleagues and associates.

 

What advice do you have for others hoping to achieve the financial success you’ve found?

I try not be pedantic in my guidance – everyone needs to think through their motivation and desire for financial independence. My only guidance would be to think about it at the beginning of your career so you have the time to execute your plans.

Also, don’t be mesmerized by the “high” life that your friends are living – many of them are in significant debt for the fancy Porsche or Mercedes and none of it will ever give lasting joy or happiness. FI is one aspect of your life’s well-being– be introspective, understand your objectives, your motivations, your biases and blind spots and plan accordingly.

Be humble and curious to learn from others. Strive to create a friend’s circle with people across the economic and social strata – get out of your comfort zone.

 

Finally, is there anything under the sun that you’d like some help with? The hive mind would be happy to weigh in.

My greatest need is to understand how to steer clear of the noise in the market and be comfortable with what I have and know I will be okay for the long run. Being at peace with what you cannot control is the greatest challenge.

While I am not religious, I am spiritual, but attaining nirvana from a mind/consciousness perspective seems a goal beyond reach.

 

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I thank today’s interviewee for sharing their story, and I’ve shared my feedback privately with them. I wouldn’t want my opinions to influence yours. Please give your take and answer any questions they have had in the space below!

Again, if you’d like to partake in a future Q&A, please download a FIRE Starter, FIRE Crossroads, or Post-FI Notes interview form.

 

4 thoughts on “Post FI Notes 017: Couple in Mid-Sixties Seeking Nirvana”

  1. A great share. It reminds me that one of the major factors in being content/happy is being content with what you have.
    Amazingly many of us with enough are still striving for more.
    While my net worth is lower than this couple, when I take into account a modest pension and SS I too can probably spend double what I spend.
    My approach once I hit 59.5 is to withdraw the amount I can spend, pursue legacy/giving now with my adult children, and put the rest in DAF.
    We each have to find what is enough for ourselves, but for me I haven’t found a reason to have more than enough.

    Reply
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  3. Congrats man! You should be very proud and it sounds like you are spending enough to keep you happy 🙂

    In terms of tuning out the noise of the market, cut the cord! At least that worked for me where cable was getting super expensive, so now I just use streaming services which doesn’t have the financial porn exposure that basic cable does.

    Reply
  4. Hearing your story is both helpful and inspiring. I find estimating future expenses to be the most challenging thing about personal finance.

    Could you comment on whether your expenses went up or down after retirement?

    Or a rough breakdown of expense categories (30% housing, 20% travel?)

    Reply
  5. Nice networth!, Not sure why you feel anxious about spending; my observation has been that people who do not have a stream of automatic income have less confidence in spending their money.
    I know of people with lower networth but income from rental properties or reat estate funds (e.g. $ 2 mils of RE funds provides about $120 K of income per year without touching the principal which is growing at inflation rate or higher~ 4-6%), not sure if this is feasible for you or not given the capital gain tax if liquidate (unless you use part of your roth).
    Could you elaborate more on your expenses, 170-190K seems quite high for two people.
    Thanks again for sharing your finances with us.

    Reply

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