Want to know EVEN MORE about us? Today we had the pleasure of being interviewed by the great Mr. 1500 Days! Check out our interview.
One morning while we were in Hawaii during Christmas time, Mr. T and I left our sleeping kids in the care of my parents and took a walk out onto a rocky point to watch the sunrise. It was still pretty dark when we arrived, so we sat and watched the waves crash against the rocks. As we sat, we saw a group of fishermen getting ready to fish off the point. They spent about twenty minutes setting up their poles, baiting them, and casting out the lines. Then, they tied bells to the poles and walked away. I watched them leave the poles behind, get out some food, and start visiting with each other. I’m used to Alaskan fishing, which is very hands-on, so it surprised me when they walked away. And I kept staring at the bells.
As I thought about those fishermen, I realized what a great analogy it was for our journey to financial independence. Several lessons became clear as the sun rose:
- Set it up and leave it alone: There is a heavy emphasis on automation in your finances. This is the prime example of why. Those fishermen set up their fishing lines to catch fish and then they could walk away. When you automate your savings, you don’t have to fish hands-on. You can set it up so you never see the money and you don’t miss it and then you can walk away and worry about other things.
- Enjoy Yourself: After the lines were cast, these three guys got out a feast and had a big picnic. They were laughing and eating, and hanging out in their shorts and sandals on a beautiful day watching a beautiful sunrise. If they had been so caught up in fishing, they would have missed out. This is the constant struggle with doing something as aggressive as retiring early with kids. We need to cast out our lines, but we need to leave them alone so we can actually focus on what’s most important: relationships (and food!).
- Get up early: Both literally and figuratively, this is an important lesson. These guys were not lazy. They were out before the sun was up and they were hustling to set up their lines. The morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. If we wake up at the last possible minute, we start the day rushed and behind.
- Cast Your Line: Mr. T and I were also up early and sitting on the very same point. But we were unprepared and did not cast out a line. Even though we were in the exact same place at the exact same time, we had 0% chance of catching fish because we didn’t cast a line. If you don’t try, you won’t catch. In finances, you should dream big and you should try things you want to do even if you don’t think you’ll catch anything. You have no chance if you don’t cast your line.
Early retirement is kind of like having a baby: When you decide you want it, you want it RIGHT NOW, but you have to wait. When I was ready to have a baby, I wasn’t ready to have a baby in nine months. I was ready to bring home that baby right then. When I decided we should retire early, I wanted to be done that day. But instead, there were/are YEARS before we get there. But with my first baby, after I had suffered through nine months of pregnancy (hard work!), I appreciated that baby so much more than if I had just been able to pick one up on a whim. Early retirement will feel great. But knowing that we worked hard and sacrificed will make early retirement feel even better. Hard work is satisfying.
Early retirement requires planning, saving, and giving up some things now for that future freedom. But there is also a balance required between planning for the future and obsessing over the future to the detriment of the present. Having kids drives this point home more clearly. Penny, my oldest, is seven. When we hit early retirement, she’ll be 14. The difference between a 7 year old and a 14 year old is the difference between wanting to be an author/artist/scientist and wanting to date 2022’s equivalent of Justin Bieber. I want to be there for that transition. I want to give her opportunities while she is still open to them. I just asked her this week if she had an opportunity to go to school in another country next year where she doesn’t know anyone or stay at her current school, which she would choose. She said: “Another country! Definitely! I could always make new friends.” It will be interesting to see how that answer changes. And hopefully we’re not too late when we’re ready.
Everything is a trade-off between time now and time later. We’re in a constant struggle between hurrying to retirement and enjoying our time together now. Mr. T has decided to keep his current job even though it doesn’t pay as well because it gives him 6 weeks of vacation and that’s a trade-off worthwhile to us now. We’ve chosen to have two cars despite the costs because it gives us more time together now. On the other hand, we’ve chosen to stay in our small house with our girls sharing a small room because we would rather have opportunities in the future rather than live in a bigger house now. In our race to financial independence, it’s important that we tie our bells on our fishing poles and leave the line alone to enjoy what’s happening now.