I’m proud of what I’ve done to the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) community. Once upon a time Mr. Money Mustache and Early Retirement Extreme dominated the demographic; MMM still does. The shtick of the community focused on the ER part of the equation. FI was a tool to live ER.
Guys like Pete at Money Mustache retired early and enjoyed their life of freedom. Time with the wife and kid/s was paramount. Then the community was infiltrated by the travel guys. ER was no longer enough! Now you had to travel the world before your fourth birthday to be average. (Okay, folks around here were older than four, but you get the drift.)
The FIRE community continued growing new arms. Some focused on ER; some focused on FI; some traveled; some became home bodies. With all day on their hands it is no surprise many took up hobbies and side gigs.
The side gig is the most awesome part. Once you are debt free and have a couple hundred grand invested, a side gig makes it possible to bow out of a traditional working life during the core years of adulthood. Conferences sprang up all over the country, nay, the planet. The phenomenon was in full bloom!
I was fortunate to catch the early part of the MMM movement. Pete became a client on our first encounter without any effort by yours truly. I’m not complaining.
The FIRE community was still fragmented until MMM drew the pieces together with his mega blog. The FIRE community was mainstream and mass media was taking notice.
I was now considered an insider and accepted for the most part. It made me as uncomfortable as hell.
At first I felt guilty I was so old (at 50!) and not retired. What a screw up! I toyed with retirement many times in the past, even before I drank deep from the world of FIRE. Each time I planned my orderly exit I changed my mind. Three times I set up a countdown clock. The last time the clock granted me three years to work out the secession of my firm.
As the clock ticked inexorably closer to doomsday I chickened out. When truly faced with retirement I flinched every time. I liked my office. I loved the work. I loved the clients, even the annoying ones. And the employees were a pleasure to work with.
Once I was officially inside the FIRE community a crisis set in. I’m too old to brag about early retirement and didn’t want to quit in the first place. My solution was to become an apologist. It was an unconvincing performance. I’d write about my imminent exit from the profession only to reassure my clients who read such posts I will be around for a long time.
I was BSing somebody and I had to figure out who before the house of cards collapsed. It didn’t take long for me to come to my senses and say what I meant: Retirement is BS. At least for me.
Some people thrive in a traditional retirement. Some folks love traveling. I travel for business because it serves a purpose I find useful so I tolerate the headaches surrounding travel. (In the last five years I traveled once for a non-business purpose: the eclipse. I’m a science nerd. What can I say?)
People like me, filled with ideas and energy, have no business cashing a check and riding into the sunset at any age (at any age!). Can you imagine Steve Jobs quitting? Heck, no! He worked what he loved until he couldn’t stand. He lived life by his terms. He lived right.
The same can be said of Warren Buffett or Bill Gates or Elon Musk or Richard Branson or Mark Cuban. These guys are juiced with the challenges of life. It’s not the money! After a point money is only a scorecard and a limit on what ventures you can pursue. I’m not anywhere near as talented as these men, but I share one characteristic with them; I want to keep pushing forward until my body can’t cash the check my mind writes.
When you do what you love it takes on the characteristics of an addiction. If left unchecked it can ruin relationships and health.
Working long hours with few days off eventually takes a toll. Recently I wrote about forensic accounting. In that post I mentioned the most likely person to commit fraud against a company. The malefactor frequently is a good friend, the best employee or the person who never takes time off. My advice to all business owners was to give all employees paid vacation and require them to take the time off. It solves the problem of temptation with your best people. Vacation time is when the misappropriation of funds is discovered. Hard to cover your activities when you’re not there.
Outside the demographic I am relatively unknown. Most of my readers are other bloggers and deep insiders of the community. (Someday I’ll grow up and be a real blog.)
I opened this post with the statement “I am proud of what I’ve done to the FIRE community.” I’ve been around the halls of this beast to recognize a few patterns taking shape.
What was a dedicated group of people hell-bent on retiring as soon as possible (and before they turn 40 at the latest) is pushing back out to sea. The focus has turned more to the FI part of the formula.
The number of people who contact me to thank me for making it okay not to travel when they retire is pleasing. Better still, I see many people going back to work or starting their own FULL-TIME business. The side gigs are growing up!
Some are bloggers, but the whole world can’t be successful bloggers! Variety gives life the spice it needs to make it worth living.
The FIRE community is partially responsible for the abnormally low labor participation rate. Economists and government officials debate what has changed. They should have asked me. I’d have told them, “Give me some time while I smack these guys up besides the head.”
Early retirement is NOT for MOST people! Without calling people out by name, I can share a few stories of people who rejoined the “rat-race” and finally realized there are no rats! It was all between the ears!
There is an IT guy who retired at a very young age and bought a farm in Washington State. He loved his farm and had a similar background to me. In the past few months he notified people he knew he wanted back into his profession. He was hired quickly and he is happier than ever. He missed the office. I hear ya. A life of helping people has its rewards.
A couple retired as teachers in their late 20s and traveled the world. This last year when we met at Camp Mustache in Seattle the husband said he was no longer retired as he was working a business idea. The wife was publishing books! (Last I checked that is a job, a career.) I tested the husband by repeating several times he was still retired. He insisted he is not.
How cool is that? Retirement is no longer the preferred method of living! I don’t care what anyone says, but I’m taking a bow for that. Yes, I know it was all them, but they read this blog and I know, I just know I planted a seed where it was okay to run a business and dump the whole retirement thingy.
There are plenty more stories to share, but they have to wait for another day. We need to move on to the real reason for this post.
Physician, Heal Thyself
I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I am very tired and in desperate need of a nap. Ah, heck, let me just come out and say it. When FinCon is over next week I am quitting. Done. Cashing it in. No longer will I be the demographics apologist.
For a month.
I am tired. The workload has been grueling and it is taking a toll on my health. I don’t sleep decent anymore. My mind races with ideas and obligations. In short, I’m wore out.
The finally straw came in the last month when my office staff rose up in a coup and forced me into a corner. They used my own words against me. (How dare they?) They pointed out employees, by my own advice, must take a vacation every year. It says so in the forensic accounting post.
I protested. Unfortunately, my team has been reading my words too closely and used it against me as a weapon. How can I embezzle funds from my own firm? (Don’t answer that.) The tax pro in the office reminded me when I am as exhausted as I am I am no longer efficient, a form of stealing from the company.
They are right. I finally finished a coal mine valuation a month and half late. It took me triple the time required because I worked from a position of exhaustion. Stupid. I want to help people, but I help no one until I take care of myself.
Let me just cut to the chase. I will be out for the month of November. I have a few consulting appointments I will honor and maybe 10 hours of other work in the office for the month. That’s it. Finite.
You, kind readers, are the lucky ones. My fun time includes writing and reading. I’m still working on a 250 page book I started three weeks ago. I’m that tired.
Without the constant demands of the office I can enjoy quiet reading time. There are multiple posts I want to write that require more time. Remember the post I promised offering over $600,000 of deductible contributions to retirement accounts? Yeah, me too. I have all the material, but I haven’t written the darn thing. It requires more than my mind has left to offer. And I better hurry up because there are deadlines to consider! I’ll get it done, but it will require some readers to hurry. You have every right to blame me for dropping the ball.
Most of all I will sleep during November. Elon Musk runs several large companies at once. I am no Elon Musk. I don’t even make a good Keith Schroeder at times!
I need a break. A gap year doesn’t work well in my profession, nor with my personality. A month will be the break which refreshes. I can focus on the blog which is a significant break from managing an accounting office.
I can’t lie around all day. Maybe the first two or three. After that I need to fill my day with meaningful activity.
I’m salivating over the posts I can write in advance for tax season and the guest posts I’m sure to be asked to provide at FinCon. I am excited for the change of pace.
And Now You, My Dear Friend
Normally this type of activity would happen behind the scene. I’m facing burnout and finally fessed up to needing a timeout.
But what about you?
The reason you lust for retirement so badly is because you are exactly like me. You are tired. Tired of the rat race; tired of running to keep up; tired from the long hours.
According to the dictionary, retirement means used up, useless. Neither I, nor you, are retired or should be. Like me, there are times you need a nap. Dr. Accountant prescribes an ample dose of rest.
A gap year is fine. Some people handle a year or two off without a problem. If you tend toward my anxiety levels a month can do the trick as well.
My absence at the office isn’t the end of the world. Playing with my blog is a few hours per day. I’ll have plenty of time to read, walk around the farm and chase Mrs. Accountant around the house. (Ewww!)
When November is over I should be refreshed and ready to go for another tax season. A gap month doesn’t mean complete absence. Collecting money and recording the business’s progress never grows old. I’ll show up at least once a week for that.
Payroll is a different story. Paying employees is money going out and I never feel warm and fuzzy about that. (I just said that because employees read this blog and I wanted to mess with them. I’ll know first thing when they read this post.)
As much as I rail against retirement and travel, I still firmly believe in time off and yes, even travel. You can love your work, but never forget your family. When they feel it, it is time for a break to spend time with the people that matter most. The kids grow up fast and significant others need snuggles. (So do you.)
Don’t be mad if you can’t book an appointment with me in November. It’s not happening. Most days I’ll be at home. Several books are lined up ready for consumption.
If a crazy accountant from Wisconsin can take a break from his lovechild, so can you.
And you should.
Note: In case you missed it, I will continue my regular publishing schedule in November.
Here are my notes for this post from a month ago. I encourage readers to take a week, a month, a year, or whatever time is needed to recharge. Everyone has something to give, but only if they are healthy. Retirement is overrated. A vacation or stay-cation is just what the doctor ordered in most cases. The truth for you and me is we will perform better, get more done, when we have ample “me” time.
Taking off November so I don’t burn out.
Will still write (will write more, in fact) because it is what I enjoy.
This is a healthy thing. Too much work, even work you enjoy, can damage performance.
I will handle normal office work in November, but will add no new non-emergency appointments or consulting. I am taking the break which refreshes and encourage you to do the same when you notice you are losing your edge from pounding too hard.