Post FI Notes 20: Newly Retired and Traveling Like Mad!

With two demanding careers and three kids at home, life looked a lot different for this couple just a few years ago.

Having achieved their financial independence number some time ago and now having an empty and oversized nest, they felt comfortable moving on to the next phase of life in their early 50s.

These Californians are now exploring the world and have no plans to slow down anytime soon. How long can this go on? Read on to hear how they got to this point and what life is like on the other side of FIRE.

If you’re interested in participating in one of three interview series (and I hope you are!), 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.

 

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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?

I’m one of the weirdos that have used Mint.com for 12 years so I know our exact expenses for that entire time.  Our annual expenditures spanned from $125,000 to $270,000 with the “home” and the “travel” category battling it out for first place.

Home expenses were nominally $50,000 and we did have years where our travel budget reached that – we like family experiences!  Ironically, the lowest year was 2020, as the pandemic removed our travel expenditure, we didn’t eat out, etc.

Other than 2020, we didn’t really feel like we lived any differently between the fat and the lean years. The major fluctuations were in travel and automobile purchases (we have never had an auto loan). We can comfortably be in that range with the 4% rule, and have cash flowing real estate in addition.

 

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

We are in our early 50s and have 3 adult children, the youngest just starting college this year.

My spouse is a software engineer and we got married in my first year of medical school.  We are located in the Southwest in a HCOL area.  (it was LCOL when we moved here….thanks a lot Californians 😉

 

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

I retired this year after 23 years of practice, with the last 18 years as an owner in private practice (pediatrics).  I was so fortunate to work with my friends as co-owners, so we had very flexible schedules which allowed us to have several weeks of travel a year.

We knew that we would not quit work before our last kid went to college, so there was no reason to stop prior to this year.

 

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?

I don’t believe that FI was a long term goal when I started…probably wouldn’t have done Peds if it was! As I look back and realize that I had been doing Mint for 12 years, I’m guessing it was shortly after that!

Additionally, one of my dear friends was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer around then and passed away within 2 years.  I was honored to provide hospice for her in her home with her family at the end.  That certainly solidified my thoughts on being deliberate with every year of my life.

 

Investing

 

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

30% Real estate

50% Stocks

10% Cash

10% Bonds and Alternatives

 

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

65% Tax-deferred

5% Roth

30% Post-tax

 

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

HSA– We have invested the max in our HSA plans for the last 10 years.  Unfortunately, we used some of the money in the first few years, then got smart about 6 years ago and haven’t been drawing down after that. I have saved all the medical receipts, but likely we will just use after age 65 for medical expenses.

529– We funded the 529 plans when our kids were young. Each of our children had enough in their account for 4 years of state universities.  Any money they received  in a scholarship we got back without penalty, and in addition grew tax-free.

 

What has been your best investment?

When a couple of our kids were at the same university, we bought a loft and converted it into a 3 bedroom rental. We then formed an LLC and got rent from their roomies (and our children).  When the last child decided to go to a different school, we sold the loft in 2021 for a nice profit.

We also invested in, and continue to own, cash flowing commercial real estate.

 

Your worst investment?

Very likely it is the McMansion we bought at a market high in 2006, and because we were too busy traveling this year, we didn’t think to sell it at the last peak…Anyone want a 4,300 sq ft house with 4 full bathrooms in the southwest?

Financially, it was the worst investment, but holistically it is a wonderful neighborhood in which our kids grew up, and we have made lifelong friends.   (see what I did there? It’s all about how you look at it!)

We still haven’t decided if we are going to downsize, which is ironic, as we have been living in a 25 ft Winnebago for the last 6 months.

Additionally, with the pandemic, and knowing we had to hit our FI year, we went toward conservative in a large portion of our investments in the beginning of 2020.  This means we missed a lot of the upside and then got back in for the downside.

But what can you say, hindsight is 20-20, literally.

 

Post-FI Life

 

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

Since I am newly retired, and we started traveling almost immediately, I really haven’t had any time to think about it yet!

We plan to do a lot of skiing this season…and more travel, maybe a camper van in Europe for a few months.

We also have a “five year” bucket list with trips and experiences we want to do while we are still young enough and hopefully parental care isn’t needed yet. While ticking away at them, we are adding new items just as fast.

 

 

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

The more I travel, the more I want to travel.  This summer my hubby and I celebrated our 30 years of marriage and hit the road.  It was incredibly liberating to be on the open road with any possibilities, we could go and do whatever we wanted.

As a couple, we have been in college, training, working, parenting for the last 35 years.  We realize that this time may be fleeting as our health and responsibilities for family may change.

We are in the last month of a 6 month RV trip around the US, staying mostly at State Parks. Tahquamenon Falls State Park in the the U.P. was awesome. There was a 2-hour hike along a waterfall, which ended at a Brewery with live music! There was also a shuttle to take us back down to our campsite after we enjoyed a beer! (that was my shameless plug for Michigan!)

But seriously, this is the best way to see the U.S. We’ve been staying 2-3 days in each park and doing the “best” or “iconic” hike or attraction along the way.  Additionally, when staying at a state park, you can be next to a million dollar RV (yup, they exist) or a family living in their RV, and everyone there is having the same fun.

It does make you wonder how much money you actually need to be happy.  We also have been visiting friends and family that we haven’t seen in years, and we are able to park our house in their street! (We call that, Moochdocking)

 

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

Up until this year, I was involved with National Charity League with my daughter. After that large time commitment spanning 6 years, I took a hiatus.  I am still looking for what I would like to do, going forward.

While I don’t miss work yet, I do miss my friends there.

I also miss holding babies and talking to kids.  This is the first year that I had no idea what was going to be the popular Halloween costume! I am trying to refrain from walking up to random kids and talking to them and I am the only one on an airplane that actively tries to sit by children. I additionally like to shock parents by guessing, with freakish accuracy, how old their baby is.

 

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

Start maxing out your 401(k) early. When we were younger and had a young family and started a medical practice, we didn’t have any time to pontificate about ways to maximize every dollar, but we did always max out both of our 401(k)s. Time is on your side.

Put time into planning for your life.  Financial success might not mean happiness. Of course there is a minimum amount you need to have for a baseline, but we came to a FI number AND a FI year.

There is a tendency to increase the number as you get closer…..”just one more year

We listed all that we wanted to do with our lives and many of these things have an expiration date. An Epic ski pass won’t get used as much in 10 years. International travel will get more difficult. The desire to get a captain’s license to charter boats may fade.

 

 

Are there any changes in your health/habits since retiring?

I have “never” been a good sleeper.  I would go to sleep fine, but then wake up after 3 am and not be able to go back to sleep.  I just would be unable to “turn off” my brain, thinking about “did I check this lab?”, “did I finish that note?” and worrying about my patients.  After a few nights of 5-6 hrs, I may get 7.

After retiring I have been getting a solid 8 hours.  I would like to say I wasn’t a ‘stressed’ person, but maybe I was.

I was assuming that I would eat better when I retired, but with traveling, there are so many restaurants and breweries to try!  As an indicator of my lack of willpower, the third entry on my phone google search history is “fudge near me”, so there is some room for improvement!

My husband also has had intermittent back pain for 10 years while being a desk jockey, he now has lost weight and had no back spasms in the last 6 months.

It’s difficult to quantify the soft and unmeasurable effects of retirement that we are benefiting from. In addition to health benefits, I’d like to believe that I am a more supportive mother, daughter, friend and spouse as my focus isn’t divided.

I would like to think that I was awesome to start, and my husband agrees with that (smart guy) but carefully noted he recognizes an improvement. I like having “play time” where nothing is scheduled and there are no time pressures. It’s like being “Vacation-version of (insert your name here)” all of the time.

 

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

I would like to hear about 2-5 years after FI, especially in those that incorporate a lot of travel. We know we aren’t going to keep up this speed of travel and will have some home-based stretches of time.

We don’t want to wind up watching TV, and you can only read so many books.  What is the daily mix of activities for a fulfilling retirement? I know that there will be a wide variety of answers, but we are interested in how others approach this.

 

PoF: Catch all the future interviews from those just getting started, at a crossroads, or at the end of their FI journey with a free subscription to Physician on FIRE.

 

 

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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.

 

5 thoughts on “Post FI Notes 20: Newly Retired and Traveling Like Mad!”

  1. After you guys finish traveling, you will likely be helping your children take care of their children (especially since you love kids so much). That’s what my retired parents are doing and we are so grateful!

    Reply
  2. Subscribe to get more great content like this, an awesome spreadsheet, and more!
  3. Inspiring and great post! As a FM physician, glad to know you can each FI in your early 50’s.
    Would’ve like to know more about your real estate properties. Who manages them when you travel? Do you still manage to profit if you hire a property manager?
    Happy travels!

    Reply
  4. So inspiring! Feels like you have been making great choices and are reaping the rewards. Love the strategy for parks. I’ll need to check out the U.P.

    Reply
  5. omg! well done love you’re loving life. doesn’t sound like you need advice on what to do with retirement, and if staying home i’m sure you will occupy your time. I haven’t retired yet, but if I retired and was staying home, there are so many shows to binge watch on! How about Lost, Dexter, 24, Game of Thrones? also, you guys like video games? try beating the Final Fantasy series. also the AFI top 100 movies would be a great thing to do in retirement? also, sounds like you guys are pretty athletic. Beachbody now has a streaming service to do multple workout programs- why not do P90X? also, Pickleball is getting pretty popular.

    I am so glad you are enjoying retirement. I hope to be in the same situation, but if you are staying home, try doing some of the above 🙂

    Reply

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