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What Comes Next After Retiring Early?

As mentioned in the previous post, there’s no reason that millennials can’t look forward to early retirement. If you’re one of the ones who have been able to accomplish this feat, you might be wondering, “what comes next?” I wanted to highlight this story from NextAdvisor in partnership with Time, that features Bernadette Joy, founder of Crush Your Money Goals, who have had to ponder just that.

Bernadette mentions that after five years of managing their budget, growing their income, and paying down $300,000 of debt, she and her husband had hit the goal that they thought would take at least another decade. They had hit their FI/RE number. What that meant was that they finally had enough money in investments to be able to become work-optional. For them, that meant their number was $900,000, which would give them enough income to cover basic living expenses of about $3,000 per month.

However, as they say, when one door closes, another opens. The next phase for them would involve mastering their tax and drawdown strategies, detaching from career-based identities, and learning how to be able to relax for the first time in their adult lives.

She goes on to cover what they’re doing now that they have hit their FI/RE number.

So Long Forever Home and Forever Career

No longer facing pressures to have to go work for more money, Bernadette mentions excitement in being able to try new kinds of work that she and her spouse have an intrinsic interest in. “AJ has been exploring old hobbies like collecting and trading comic books, which has been more about meeting the small business owners who run these shops and treasure hunting more than the money itself,” she said. Bernadette says she’s become even more interested in creating personal finance content on social media and courses, as well as writing articles and speaking at live events.

This concept has also given them the freedom to not have to stay put in one place. Their goals include moving to a new city every few years, or having smaller homes around the world, rather than just one big home that they buy and pay off for 30 years as their respective families did.

After hitting their number, they paid down their 4-bedroom home in Charlotte, NC, they bought a smaller condo in Asheville, NC. After discovering the smaller condo didn’t require the maintenance a larger home requires, they sold their Charlotte homestead, and that the smaller location better fit their definition of retirement.

A Little R&R

Bernadette says that on her site she always asks her students what they would do if they were to retire early. Common answers include:

  • Travel
  • Spend More Time With Family
  • Pick Up New Hobbies

Common goals for anyone for sure. Bernadette and her husband were excited to be able to do these in their thirties and forties instead of waiting until the “golden years.”

With their roles becoming fully remote, they took full advantage of being able to work from anywhere, while giving themselves a chance to slow down on their investing, re-route some funds for vacations, eat out more, board games and take in live entertainment.

However, they forgot one of the crucial parts of retirement. Rest and relaxation.

Come to find out, arising in a new city every few days wasn’t exactly that thrilling, instead discovering the preference of sleeping in one’s own bed. Most of the 100 games her husband acquired during the pandemic have started to collect dust. There has also been a discovery of not exactly looking forward to the large crowds at concert venues.

Instead, they are now looking forward to focusing on productivity and achievement, prioritizing rest and relaxation for the first time. Ways to do this have included journaling (off-screen of course!), scheduling in downtime – no television, computer, or phone, going for simple walks, and more.

Never Stop Learning When It Comes To Investing

Once they hit their number, their current investments – mostly in index funds and ETFs – had started to go downhill due to the stock market volatility. But like any investment strategy, the key was patience. Bernadette reminded herself that those dollars were there for the long haul, and she needed those to do what they needed to for the next few decades. Dollar-cost averaging would also play a part, but perhaps less aggressively.

New investments they have begun to look into include REITs, traditional real estate, NFTs as well as other small businesses. Other opportunities have included opening her own 401(k) through her business for the first time, as well as working with a tax professional to convert their traditional 401(k)s into Roth IRAs over the next few years.

Health Comes First

What kickstarted this journey for Bernadette and her husband though was probably something many of us can relate to. Not putting enough focus on our mental health and well-being. When starting out, she was working a full-time job, as well as a side hustle, and attending grad school at the same time. She mentions not knowing at all where she would get the resources to pay off the $300,000 of debt that had been accumulated.

Now that the debt is in the past, she mentions being most appreciative of being able to now have the time to focus on the basics of healthy living – sleeping normal hours, exercising more regularly, eating intentionally, and spending more on medications and supplements that she had long ignored. Now, if they get sick, they no longer have to rush back to work right away and can instead focus on getting healthy first. Even today, they schedule time and money to still see a therapist regularly, taking breaks during the week, not just waiting until the weekend for self-care.

She does mention the realization that for obvious reasons everyone’s financial situation will be different. For any readers out there that have hit their FI/RE number, what have you discovered in early retirement? Feel free to leave a comment below!

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