It is my FIRE anniversary.
music selection: “Queen In Love” — Yngwie Malmsteen
Eight years ago today (5OCT2012), I walked out of my workstation at Baker Hughes (BKR) for the last time. I had spent years on the “insider roster” with restricted stock sales, access to “material non-public financial information”, and was entrusted with loads of confidential information about salaries and compensation. They still had security escort me out of the building like there was a risk I might steal a coffee pot on the way out. Such are the ways of huge faceless corporations.
I can’t say I’m proud of my former career. I had some small degree of professional respect and was good at what I did (accounting). But I was doing it tangentially in service to the ultimate corporate goal of despoiling the planet for fun and profit. Fortunately, what I did for a living never became part of “who I was”. It was access to a paycheck for me and not an identity.
Still, I found that even if you aren’t wrapped up emotionally in your work, it takes six months to decompress. At first I slept in every morning. It was glorious. But then I started getting up closer to my old work routine wake time. Without the aid of the alarm clock. When you have nothing coming up in the day to dread, you oftentimes look forward to getting out of bed and starting the day. Even when your agenda is completely empty for the day. Don’t get me wrong. I still sleep in (some times till 11 AM!) when I wake up to a cold house and snuggley/toasty blankets. But it is always at my discretion and on my own terms.
At one point, the post-FIRE period was a personal mission. I felt I had a duty to show other people they could throw off the corporate shackles as well. I started this blog to that effect. Today, I have a few loyal readers and I’m glad to continue this labor of love for their benefit (my “earnings” for the blog are about $200 a year [less than minimum wage]). But I’m truly delighted if someone who feels trapped sees the light and breaks free. I’m past the point of thinking I’m going to “go viral” and start a new movement to retire with less than 15 times annual budget saved.
Honestly, most people are better off indexing and going with the 4% rule. I find a lot of people simply don’t understand options no matter how many times you explain it to them. And some people have a risk tolerance that doesn’t support my style of trading. For example, I helped my father with some banking today after joining for a seafood gumbo lunch. His IRA is in a single premium insurance annuity. His primary criteria for investment vehicles is “it can’t EVER go down. It is everything I’ve worked for all my life.” That meant bank CDs at first and a switch to the SPIA when the rates became more favorable. Today, a taxable account CD was maturing. We were a little stunned to learn the rollover rate was 0.20% (and that was the best option in his zip code after rate hunting). A simple passbook savings at his deposit size pays 0.35% variable. We downgraded his checking and opened the passbook with 100,000 to qualify for the highest rate. Dad is happy with that. Fortunately, he qualifies for what I consider a generous Social Security benefit.
The point is (yes, I do have one!) is most of the people who have come to me for investment advice since I went FIRE 8 years ago have ended up with something very conservative. Usually a mix of indexing and bank time deposits. I’m not looking to proselytize with this blog. If it is “for you”, I’m glad to be of service (although I can’t offer personalized investment advice – license requirements). If it isn’t for you, I still wish you the best of luck and will be glad to discuss the conventional wisdom, including the CAPM model as I learned in grad school (MBA). Promise to spare you the gory math if you happen to be math phobic.
It has been a glorious eight years. In most ways I can’t imagine going back to a career. But I am increasingly interested in giving back by imparting some of my knowledge of US GAAP and accounting best practices. I have a couple feelers out for part time non profit work but COVID-19 and social distancing have made it problematic to schedule interviews. Most positions are on indefinite hold while the pandemic plays out. I’m toying with the idea of buying a professional tax software package and offering discount tax return preparation for seniors and the disabled. I’d just make the various local churches, senior centers, etc. aware of my expertise and rate and do the work from my home in violation of my HOA covenants.
In summary, it is totally possible to retire much sooner than the conventional wisdom states with some savvy options investing and a higher than normal allocation to fixed income. I’m truly grateful. If you have been reading along all these years, I appreciate you. I think I will celebrate tonight by opening a bottle of port and gently sipping therefrom. Hope to see more of you join me in the FIRE cohort soon.
Devour your prey raptors!