FIRE.042 FIRE ignition,Day 1=free

I wanted to share my FIRE ignition, the final “pages” of corporate life and beginning of FIRE. They are the chapters of my life story, the Acts of my life’s play. I had read Mr. 1500’s final months story and absolutely loved it. I thought my story was so VERY similar in case anyone wanted to see another perspective. Thinking about it, I think Brandon’s/Mad Fientist transition was very similar too, but the international version. We all could have resigned earlier, but kept working (over working-bonus saving) because we enjoyed the work. More specifically, enjoyed the power of being in control of our employment status, see FU money. (Umm, working from home helps big time!)

My FIRE really happened on July 4th 2014. Independence Day for sure! BUT, I’m too smart to resign before a holiday so my last day of employment was 7/7/14 to make sure I was paid for the holiday. That holiday was hundreds of extra dollars just by waiting one more day and not even having to work that day. In so many ways, I live a charmed life. I know it and I treasure it. You can do the same.

So, I loved my job. I worked from home on a flexible schedule. I was a “computer guy.” My title was Infrastructure Architect/Program Manager. I worked with our company sites all over the world. Close to 125 sites in most regions. I’d lead system deployment projects as well as escalations that the help desk, 2nd tier, 3rd tier or local techs couldn’t figure out. It was great, being able to solve someone’s problem so they could get their work done and go home and enjoy their evening. In my mind, I was just a helper/fixer but my scope and criticality were pretty massive.

I’d get started 6:30-7a so I could grab any issues that happened in Europe before their end of day. I’d close issues before someone left for the day which helped them feel better about their evening. I’d then shift into US/Americas issues and see how I could help. Of course meetings on plans/schedules/etc happened through the US workday which was ok. Conference calls aren’t too bad. I was so lucky because I was able to squeeze in my workouts (gym, bike, run, hockey, whatever) for an hour or so anytime during the day when I wasn’t too busy. I would then start to wrap up my day around 5-6p when Asia was coming online. It was nice to try and get their issues closed during their morning so they weren’t struggling all day. I’m not a one-man follow-the-sun support person so all my contacts knew to get with me early/late in their respective day.

I love(d) fixing things. I worked with people on different continents every day. I love working with people from other companies on connectivity setups/troubleshooting. I had a great team working for me all over the US and support in other countries. It was great, but, over time the IT dept leaned out. Every 3-4 years we’d had RIFs and a couple team members would be let go, after about 6 rounds of this over 15 years the team was beyond thin. I lost the last two guys that worked for me in summer 2013. They traveled a couple times per month to sites for projects. I was lucky, with my team in place I traveled once per quarter or so to sites around the world and that was perfect. Once my team was down to me, then I started traveling every other week. That messed with my schetchle and my ability to control what I loved. I tried being a team of one for a year until …we’ll get to that.

Let’s jump back. I have saved some of my pay since I started working summer jobs in high school. I saved during my college jobs and as a professional. In 2005 my wife and I started on a seven-year plan to FIRE in 2012. We saved a little more during this time than normal but still lived a great life along the way. (We were lucky to both be professionals). We met our goals (“the number”) in 2011 so my wife retired early on our wedding anniversary that summer. Since I loved my job, and I worked from home, I just kept working (over working). The difference was when over-working, I saved ALL of my paycheck and we lived off our “FIRE” budget as an experiment. We did do a couple projects on the house and a trip to Europe on our “extra, since-I’m-still-working” money, but mostly lived off our planned budget amount. Pete The Planner calls this Mock RETIREMENT.

So from 2011 until 2014 my wife was the only one “retired.” In 2013 her work asked her to do some part-time, 2-3 day per week consulting, I continued over worked from home. In summer 2012 we bought a vacation trailer near the beach. This was our “since-I’m-still-working” money and like a bonus payable over a few years at the beach. It was “free” beach living. The coolest part was that I could work from “home” at my beach home. Some days/weeks in the summer, while at the beach, I would work in the morning and take half a day of vacation in the afternoon. These half vacation days stretched my vacation time to months of half-days. This made working so easy, enjoyable and still very productive to my customers.

In spring 2014 (about a year after my team was laid off) I read a work policy that allowed 30 days of leave without pay for personal reasons. I decided July would be my month off. I notified my boss in May that I was requesting July off. My boss was supportive but HR declined my request because my personal reasons did not match their policy. Apparently, you need some disaster to request personal time. I had no such disaster, I was loving life. I regrouped and told my bosses (who were great) I was going to take July off—no matter what—because I wanted to enjoy a break for myself. My boss tried to offer a vacation shuffle/etc but it didn’t seem truthful somehow trying to squeeze this out.

GET THIS. I gave my job to a senior! So I told the megacorp I was taking the time off in July, 40 days notice, on July 7th, and I suggested we bring back one of my teammates who was laid off the prior year. He was 60+ and not getting traction getting a new position over the past year. I suggested two weeks overlap/training to get him back up to speed on the new technologies and they went for it and brought him back on contract. I was so happy. I helped a great guy get back into the workforce, utilizing his skillset, in a familiar situation. How cool is that? (over 3 years later he’s still employed with a nice paycheck for his family).

Recap:

  • End of May asked for July off—denied.
  • June 1st asked to cross train my senior replacement—accepted.
  • June 15th cross training replacement began.
  • July 4th got paid to celebrate Independence Day (at beach trailer).
  • July 7th my work accounts were shut down.
  • July 8th woke up and went for a run in the morning with no logging in to check on Europe.
  • July 9th went to the gym in the morning…repeat over and over for three+ years.

Here’s another tip “retirement in a trailer” is not a bad thing if you have a good trailer in a great location(s). There’s a whole culture of seniors who live in “Park Models.” Many have a summer mountain park model trailer, as well as a warm winter location park model. Two trailers can be cheaper than one house, plus you get two locations. Just be careful on the monthly space rent.

Takeaways:

  1. We hit our “number” and it was nice but didn’t change a thing.
  2. working in a job you love makes the day great, but being FI gives you ALL the power for your employment situation, FU money.
  3. leaving a working career (“retiring”) does not mean you won’t work at all. My wife and I find we get asked to consult or do little projects (I teach at a comm. college) so it may be possible to make some money to put towards your spending BEFORE you even need to think about your 3-4% withdrawals.

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