The “FIRE” part of FIRE Travel Family stands for “Financial Independence, Retire Early”. In this post, we will answer what it means to be an early retiree. Or at least what it means to us…at this point. As with everything in life, what retirement means to us can (and likely will) change over time. Life is dynamic and we plan to stay flexible so we can live our best life. Additionally, our kids are small now. Who knows what will change over time for both them and us as our family ages. With that said let’s cover a bit of background about our situation…
What is early retirement?
We officially retired early on Labor Day, 2021. We closed our businesses, sold our house and cars (and most of our possessions), had a retirement party, and started traveling. Many people have asked us, “What do you mean you are retired?” Often accompanied with another remark about being so young. Thanks for the compliment! People often also say “How do you think you can retire early?” The power of math is what helped us know we could retire. It is not some intangible feeling. It is not a date on a calendar or an age we had to turn. In our view, it is knowing our assets, expenses, lifestyle, and goals. It is knowing what we must spend money on, what we want to spend money on, and where we can cut corners.
On the negative side, we have had several “Who do you think you are?” and other questions where people think we are somehow dismissive of their life or work ethic. For us, this reflects more about the person with that opinion than anything in our lives. This should be able to go unsaid, but our early retirement is not a judgment of anyone else or their lifestyle. We also know some people truly love their jobs or companies they own, which is great! We are doing what works for us and understand this is not something that everyone can or would even want to do. Our choice to retire early is our own and we are genuinely excited about it.
What early retirement does and does not mean to us
For us, retirement is a relatively simple concept. It means time and choice over possessions and displays of wealth. We do not have to do a job that we do not want to do. If we choose to never work again we should have enough money to live on for the rest of our lives. Early retirement means the freedom to do what we want. It means we get to choose how we live every day. Early retirement for us means that we are able to world school (home school while traveling) our kids. It means we are nomadic when we want to be. It gives us the freedom to live basically wherever we want. Of course, this is within limits. We still have stuff we have to do just like everyone else.
What retirement doesn’t mean for us is that we are crazy rich. We don’t plan to own a house, expensive cars, expensive hobby items, or other depreciating assets. We are not buying a yacht or private plane anytime soon (but we are open to gifts!). And to be straightforward we really have to monitor and control our spending. If we make poor financial decisions or outspend our budgets math starts to work against us and we are forced to work again.
How can this work?
Part of how we are able to retire is the concept of financial arbitrage. Put simply this means the money you have in US dollars goes further in countries with less valuable currencies. Countries in Central and South America, Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia provide some of the best places to stretch our dollars. We know that we can travel for cheaper in many developing countries full-time than we could have lived in the United States! And most of the time we can have a nicer standard of living while traveling.
Since we are traveling in the United States right now we knew we had to work hard to keep expenses down. This meant we are traveling in our van and tent camping. We also make most of our own meals and we are avoiding the most expensive tourist attractions (for example – no Disney World while in Florida). And we have observed that our kids often enjoy the free or cheap things in life more anyways at their current young ages.
Retirement doesn’t mean that we will never work again. Instead, it means we don’t have to ever work again. This is a simple but incredibly important and powerful difference. It is likely that we will take on projects in the future to make money. However, we will only do things we want to do and which engage and fulfill us. We get to say no automatically to everything else. And if we don’t like something we start we always have the power to walk away.
What are the downsides?
Interestingly, early retirement also means more work in some ways. For us, we now must be even more planned out for how we handle investing, income, and taxes. We have to be even more aware of changes in how our medical insurance will be handled as US Citizens. Additionally, we have to think through how sometimes large expenses will impact our retirement savings and plan accordingly. We have to make sure that we are able to schedule the needed appointments when we are back in a short time frame for our family.
As an example, when we left for this trip we should have gotten the flu shots for our kids while we were still in Iowa. But we didn’t and that meant that only Becky and Brock were able to get the shots while on the road using insurance. We also may do certain medical procedures while on the road now. As it stands right now Becky and Brock do not have dental insurance. So we will likely do cleanings and dental work in countries where it is both cheap and still have high standards.
We just have certain items that now require a little more thought and creativity to make sure we are staying on budget and still prioritizing the well-being of our family. If we were citizens of just about any developed country other than the United States this wouldn’t even be something we had to deal with. But it is what it is.
In summary, financial freedom is life freedom. We get to design our lives how we want. We will do what is fun, for as long as it remains to be fun. For instance, if we are traveling and don’t like something we will make changes. This could be how we are structuring our day, what we are doing, or even what location we are in. Financial freedom is family freedom. We get to be involved in everything our kids are doing now.
Already the time with the kids has been amazing. Seeing Kyra start to read and learn math has been a real pleasure. Being around and seeing how Verity’s vocabulary is expanding rapidly has been incredible. Financial freedom is choice freedom. We now get to start every choice with an open path ahead of us. Some people might see this as a scary thing. For us, it means we get to do the things we have always wanted. Then when we want to do the next thing, we get to start over and plan it out again.
After a few months of being retired, we can both say that we love it. Although, sometimes it still doesn’t feel like we are retired. It just feels like a long family trip so far. But we are starting to adjust to the freedom we now have to live life the way we desire. As we travel and spend time together in early retirement we will learn, adapt, and grow. Early retirement gives us this time and freedom.
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Written: 12/1/2021 (and before)
Edited on 12/6/2021 (fixed grammar mistake); 1/17/2022 (for SEO)