Mini Retirement extending the path to early retirement

Choosing Our Own FIRE Adventure

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I’ve been trying to figure out how to best put all my scrambled thoughts into coherent words, since this has been the slowest whirlwind of my life. That’s part of why I took so long to share this news. I’ve been slowly dropping morsels of my plans by commenting on other blogs or Reddit threads, and I mentioned it in my Women on FIRE interview. Today I’m excited to let you all in on the secret: I quit my job, even though we aren’t fully financially independent. We will need to pad our investment accounts a bit more before I can comfortably say that we are early retired, but…

I quit.

Wow, it’s still crazy to say that. When I discovered financial independence early retirement (FIRE) a few years ago, I didn’t think I would quit before reaching the finish line. Maybe I’d jump jobs a few times to get some big raises, but we’d tough it out since our path really was never too long.

But over the past few years of diligently saving, tracking our spending, and hunting for happiness it became evident that I needed to quit. Well only evident after considering all my options over an excessively long period of time. I debated finding a new job and was even offered one, but I turned it down. I knew I needed a break.

I’m not sure what to call this current stage of my life*:

  • Mini-retirement
  • Sabbatical
  • Risky Early Retirement
  • Starting a new super small business/Entrepreneur

Honestly, I don’t think finding the exact word is really necessary, but I’m finally taking control and choosing my own early retirement adventure. taking a mini retirement

Jumping Off the FIRE Fast Track

Just a few months ago our pack’s FIRE date was three years away, but then Mr. Kiwi quit and took a 60% pay cut. That means our date got pushed out a bit. Now, a few months later, I quit to take a ~99% pay cut. Our FIRE date will totally be up to the whims of the market now. But that doesn’t feel very important, since we’re looking to build the “OR” part of FIOR (financial independence optional retirement).

In theory, FIOR sounds perfect. Build enough wealth to be financially independent, but still enjoy your work and keep at it purely by choice. However, at the start of 2017 neither one of us were in jobs that made the retirement side of the equation feel very optional.

And three years to FIRE feels like a long time when you aren’t having much fun with ⅓ of your time (especially considering you sleep close to another ⅓). Yes, I realize that sounds a bit melodramatic and extremely millennial of me. But I am still shocked that we are so close to full financial independence. I suppose I shouldn’t be since the math is shockingly simple.

The Painfully-Slow Drawn-Out Decision to Quit

My decision to quit was not done on a whim – basically as close to opposite of that as you can imagine. This whole debate (or at least some version of it) has been raging on in my head for the past 1.5 years. Remember when I wrote this article about how to quit? Well, the plan was being set way back then.

taking a slower path to early retirement by taking a mini retirement

I needed to quit because every day of work, I questioned my values. No matter how much I controlled my spending decisions, I couldn’t resolve my internal conflict. My daily work involved making choices that I didn’t support. Unfortunately, that wasn’t super obvious. I wasn’t running around egregiously contaminating the environment. In reality it was many small daily decisions that left me feeling agitated in the evenings.

I studied engineering to protect the environment and improve quality of life. But my work wasn’t fulfilling that mission.

Unfortunately, financial stability is one of my biggest cravings, and a mini retirement would mean compromising some of that. Giving up my guaranteed bi-weekly paycheck was going to be a difficult thing to leave behind. A bunch of questions ran through my head ferociously:

  • Could I happily go from being a DINK home to a SINK home?
  • Am I giving up for all women in STEM if I abandon my day job to pursue a more creative life?
  • Will I be strong enough to put myself out there, take risks, and fail?

*Picture super Mrs. Kiwi the feminist fighting for women to truly get to do what they desire.*

I’m a feminist (duh, isn’t everyone?), and by choosing the life I want and making it happen I can be my best feminist self. Sadly, many women leave engineering around my age, and it’s still a little hard to be part of that statistic.

I weighed pros and cons of quitting/finding a new job/taking a mini retirement. Talked to Mr. Kiwi for hours(/days/weeks) on end, and I finally made a choice. (Being decisive is not one of my strengths, but I excel at being intentional.)

Finally, after months and months jokingly telling Mr. Kiwi that I may just walk into the office today and quit. I picked a quitting date. I would get my choose your own adventure lifestyle a little before my 30th birthday. (Ah, I don’t know what to call this!) And I would earn an extra couple thousand dollars since I would stick around to get half of my employer 401k retirement match. (Plus the salary I earned by showing up every day and putting in the work.)

No More Wishing Away My Life

taking a slower path to early retirement by taking a mini retirement
The future looks brighter

That all sounds great right? And picking a firm mini retirement date worked. It even worked on the bad days. It made sitting in tedious meetings a little more manageable. I started working harder, my job started feeling better, but then I started counting down the days.

Counting DOWN the days of your life is no way to live. So, my best friend’s wise voice popped into my head about not wishing my life away and enjoying my work. I dug my heels in, and rewarded myself with promises of upgrading our kitchen with the extra money I was making (a project I’ve been aching to do since we bought the house).

Then I was able to focus on what I want my life to look like after I said goodbye to the 8-5. I took some online courses, had a mentoring call with Jillian (thank you!), and invested in myself and my blog. Mr. Kiwi and I tried out some new hobbies and did some woodworking.

I finished the weeks out still counting those days down, but dreading them a bit less. And before leaping into the nothing, I started projects while still fully employed. I think I accomplished more in those last two months of working than I did all last year.

I used my evenings and weekends more productively. I forced myself to stop watching Netflix (and am saving $7.99/mo!), and I exercised more. Mr. Kiwi and I have sat down to have more focused and meaningful conversations. We discussed projects and goals for this new time in our life. I may not have gotten all the answers I wanted, but we are moving forward and towards a shared vision (compromise is key).

My whole life I’ve been scared of failing. I still am. But I’m the only one who can define what failure really means to me.

I know that this mini-retirement will come with its own set of challenges. As much as we’d all love to blame our jobs for any discontentment, it wasn’t the only cause of my stress. But I have eliminated one source of contention, and I’m excited to be a better blogger, friend, daughter, sister, and partner.

Funding My Mini Retirement

My husband and I have shared our finances since we moved in together, so we plan to live on his income during my mini-retirement. I am so grateful that I have a supportive partner in this journey, and recognize that made my choice much simpler.

taking a slower path to early retirement by taking a mini retirement
These two don’t contribute financially…yet

When thinking about a mini retirement in the US healthcare could be a major obstacle. Fortunately, Mr. Kiwi’s traditional job provides our very affordable health insurance. But to quell my nerves we both got our annual physicals to get clean bills of health before I quit. We’ve opted to self-insure our dental and vision coverage and made sure to get up to date on those appointments before I left my job. (I even had a cavity filled on my last workday.)

If something were to happen with Mr. Kiwi’s job, we have a few other financial options. We have a robust emergency fund and if needed we could tap some of our investments. Obviously, I’ll have the option of going back to work and getting a job at any point. Hey, I’ve already made almost $100 dog sitting. πŸ™‚

Finally, we have some money set aside for my mini retirement projects. I know I would hesitate to spend money during my mini retirement if I didn’t think about it before leaping into the unknown.

Since we’ve both changed jobs in the last year, I plan to write up all the steps we took to prepare for those transitions. With all this change it’s felt like we were juggling lots of optimization options!

The Mini Retirement Plans

Now for the fun stuff. What am I going to do with this newfound time? I’m leaping into the unknown and don’t want to build too much structure immediately. I mostly want to focus on my work, home, and garden.

Work

The thing I’ve been craving most is to find a way to not choose my job or my life. I hope to build an income around work I value as Vicki Robin described in Your Money or Your Life. Yay, I’m launching an Etsy shop, volunteering in my community, and focusing more on Kiwi and Keweenaw.

It all means balancing saying both no and yes more, as I still have limited time!

Home

We also have some major home improvement projects planned this year. I love diving into a new project, learning skills, and DIYing everything. Which is good since I’m tackling all of that these next few months. We’re tearing apart half of our house and updating our master bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, and maybe family room this year. Plus, while the inside is being renovated we can’t neglect the outside too! The roof gets to join in on the party and get replaced this summer.

I’m going to take the lead on all of those projects – project management is my jam. After toiling away in a cubicle working on some hands on projects will be fun. And hey, we could hire out these projects, but where’s the fun in that? We’ll enjoy the improvements so much more if we slowly tackle them ourselves.

Garden

In keeping with my crazy impractical tradition I am planning on doubling our garden again this year. We love growing our own food and all the learning that comes along with that. Our current garden keeps us well fed in the summer. The new expansion will allow us to grow MORE FOOD (variety and quantity) and eat more garden food in the winter and spring. As an added perk we’ll save even more our our grocery budget, maybe we’ll spend less than Kris.

Choosing Our Own Early Retirement Adventure

choose your own early retirement adventure
Headed out for the adventure

While we aren’t financially ready to stop running the financial independence race, we are changing the rules a bit. (Guess what!?! You get to set your own FIRE rules too.)

  • I quit my job to enjoy a mini retirement and find more value.
  • Mr. Kiwi shrunk his salary to build a more satisfying career.

We’re going to play our own game, and finish the race at a slower pace that will be easier to maintain. We want to live our best life, so we might as well start today.

Have you taken a mini retirement? Or left a job without a defined plan? Are you saving towards FIRE or FIOR? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

*My husband, the PhD student, wants me to call it a peri-retirement, but I don’t think anyone would understand that. I’ll try to explain. Have you ever heard of a peri-urban area? Well it’s the area at the edge of a city, the periphery. I’m on the edge of early retirement, but not quite there. Thus, peri-retired.

37 comments on “Choosing Our Own FIRE Adventure”

  1. Best of luck to you! Can’t wait to see how this new life develops for you!

    1. Reply

      Thanks for the encouragement Tonya!

  2. Reply

    CAN I COME PET YOUR DOGS? THEY ARE SO CUTE.

    And huge, major congrats on designing a life you love NOW. I’ve decided to rebuke the FIRE movement for now, and focus on making my present career and life as intentional as possible.
    You sound like you have a good mix of being hyper prepared for the future, but now being able to take a step back and enjoy the present. Major kudos!

    Speaking of your husbands pay cut, did he jump to a different industry & can he coach my husband ?? My husband works in tech, but wants a career change. He just refuses to take a pay cut ugh!

    1. Reply

      Thanks! I definitely need to focus more on the present right now, and I’m excited to be in a position to do so πŸ™‚
      And he went back to grad school, but gets a small fellowship to cover our living expenses. It is kind a repositioning of his career to get to do the work he wants in the long term (research and analytical thinking instead of management). He literally doesn’t care about money, so taking a pay cut was NBD for him.
      On the other hand, I looked at taking a pay cut for more meaningful work, but couldn’t quite jump the mental hurdle. So, a mini retirement should make that a bit easier if I choose to return to traditional employment. For now I’m going to enjoy 6-12 months as my own boss.

  3. Reply

    Can’t wait to see what that ‘I quit’ thing feels like, congrats. I think I have seen you over at Redditt for FI, so that when I say FU you know not to take it the wrong way.

    1. Reply

      It felt right for me. Like a nice calm feeling washed over me. And yep! I’ll know what you are meaning πŸ˜‰

  4. Huge congrats!!! You don’t know what the next phase is going to bring but at least you know that you will control it.

    I’m a numbers nerd and hope you’re going to post all the gory details of your plan to “survive” financially without the paycheck. Details like which accounts you’re going to tap first, asset allocation you know all the super exciting stuff.

    I’m looking forward to reading about how this change affects your life. Congrats again!!!

    1. Reply

      Thanks! And I’ll start collecting all the questions for an AMA about the mini retirement. Mine is a bit easier to fund since one person is still working, but we may need to pull a bit of money from our investments!

    • Joe
    • 2018-04-13
    Reply

    Congratulations and good luck! My last 2 years were very painful. So glad I quit. πŸ™‚
    It’s going to be great.
    Are you planning to go back to engineering at some point or try something else?

    1. Reply

      Thanks! Your post of FIRE for engineers was spot on, it was a great start to adulthood, but then stalled out.
      My plan is to not return to engineering, I may do some international development or volunteer work that uses those skills and my license.

  5. I’m so excited that you’ve made the official announcement!! There’s very little point (in my opinion) to stick with something that makes you so unhappy if you have other options.

    Also, this is 1000% me: β€œBeing decisive is not one of my strengths, but I excel at being intentional.”

    1. Reply

      Thanks!

  6. Reply

    Congratulations:)
    I hope it will be everything you are hoping for!

    1. Reply

      Thanks!

  7. Reply

    Congrats on the decision to quit your job. Dragon Gal quit her teaching job last summer and has been enjoying her freedom. Work options still seem to find her, but she is able to pick and choose what she does.

    I look forward to hearing about all the steps you took with your job transitions last you. And can’t wait to read about the next phase in your life!
    –DGuy

    1. Reply

      Thanks and congrats to Dragon Gal and you!

  8. Reply

    Big congrats to you for quitting your job and now your in control of what’s next. Your going to be busy with the kitchen renovations, launching an Etsy shop online, expanded garden and the blog. Looking forward to reading all your upcoming adventures on here Mrs. Kiwi.
    Thanks for the mention btw!! Hopefully both of us sets a standard on low grocery spendings

    1. Reply

      Thanks Kris! I definitely have plenty of plans to fill my time!

  9. Reply

    Wow, that’s HUGE – congrats! Fear not, smart and resourceful people like you two will get by, and thrive. You just might have some unknowns to wade through. But that will be the journey, and the journey will be an adventure!

    1. Reply

      Thanks! We’re excited to have more control on our adventure.

  10. Congrats!

    The last time I quit a job without a backup, I was 21 and freshly graduated from college. It (and a grueling job hunt) was my reward for putting myself through school and saving a decent nest egg. I don’t know when we’ll have enough money for one of us to quit like that again but I’m working toward that future anyway πŸ™‚

    1. Reply

      Thanks! This is the first time I’ve ever quit without a backup job. It makes the whole quitting thing a lot more stressful, but was so worth it!

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  12. Congrats on your new adventure!

    1. Reply

      Thanks Amy!

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  14. Reply

    I am so glad for you – I agree that “Counting DOWN the days of your life is no way to live. “, but that is exactly what I am doing. I can’t wait to quit, I am glad that you did.

    1. Reply

      Thanks! It was a slow and tough decision to make, but I am excited about this big leap!

  15. Congratulations, that is incredible! The control that you gain and, like you said, being able to set your own FIRE rules is very cool to see in action. Look forward to keeping up with your adventure and hope to one day be in your shoes, keep it up!

    Ryan

    • Operation Husband Rescue
    • 2018-04-19
    Reply

    It sounds like you have more than enough planned to keep you busy! That’s super exciting. You have some fulfilling projects ahead of you. Congratulations!

    1. Reply

      Thanks! It’s been a fun adventure so far!

  16. This is how my wife and I approached this. I left work last year as we had more than enough achieved FI to cover all the expenses my income looked after. My goal now has been to enjoy my early retirement having fun and focusing on my blogging and freelance…I guess it is work but to me it is just fun. I am working on trying to make just enough so that I can continue to let all my investments grow and keep our cash savings topped up to meet our cost of living. My wife continues to work at her store and she loves it so that works out great for both of us. Best Wishes to you both as you continue to forge down this new and exciting path.

    1. Reply

      Thanks Chris! We are working to build a more meaningful life. Stories like yours helped give us the courage to pivot πŸ™‚

      1. All the best as you navigate this fun game of life πŸ™‚

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    • Mr. Financial Freedom Project
    • 2018-04-25
    Reply

    Kudos on choosing your life above your job. I wrestled with the concept of quitting my former job for years and years as well. It’s no way to live. It’s a liberating feeling to finally take the plunge, and start working on coming alive to who you truly are once more. That’s what financial freedom is all about! Best wishes on your new adventure!

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