I grew up with the notion that, due to the immense (please drip that word in sarcasm) expenses of daily life, I would essentially never retire and, therefore, work until I drop dead. This idea was fueled by a lack of knowledge of everything regarding personal finance. I was raised in the average-American two-parent home by blue-collar parents who pay their bills on time and sock away a portion of their money to their employers retirement plan (and state pension plan for my dad.) Although we never had any deep conversations regarding my financial future, my dad would always try to get through to me the importance of saving. However, I still remember believing that I wouldn’t be able to retire even if I had a million dollars saved, which always seemed like some inconceivable number anyway. Also, Social Security would be non-existent (I don’t really know that but I’m still not counting on it.) It wasn’t until around the time of our son’s birth, in September of 2014, that my wife and I had the epiphany that our financial decisions needed a serious overhaul. We have been fortunate to have never struggled financially or ever miss a payment on anything we owe but the fact of the matter was…we knew that “normal” was no longer cool for us anymore.
So, although later in my life than I should have, I did what any sane person suffering from a lack of knowledge would do…I learned. While I do not pretend to know even a fraction of what I would like to, I believe I now have a solid foundation on which to continue building. The Mr. Money Mustache article I linked to in my last post, titled The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement, in all its simplicity, was truly life altering for me. I had been planning to work my whole life, but now here is a common sense solution to not only retire, but retire early! So that is exactly what we intend to do.
I just turned 29 last month. Our current debt snowball has us on a roughly estimated track to be debt free in 30 months…quite likely even sooner. Thirty months will put us in the summer of 2018. I’m locked into a contract with my current job position for another year-and-a-half for getting my student loans repaid; I love my job, where we live, and couldn’t be happier to be getting that weight off our shoulders. As a federal employee, a portion of my check is paid into the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS,) which is the pension fund. If I stay in my position for at least five years, I have the option of leaving my paid-in portion in place for a deferred retirement and, once I reach the “minimum retirement age” of fifty-nine-and-a-half, I would qualify for a monthly pension based on my five years of service. If I leave before five years, my paid-in portion is returned to me and I can do with it as I wish. I would like to stick around for the five year mark so I can leave the money in place because, if I ever rejoin government service, I do not want to have to “buy back” my previous service time. Long story short, my five year anniversary will be in March of 2019, so it’s quite likely we’ll stick around until at least that time.
So here’s where we’ll stand at my five-year anniversary: 1) debt free for at least six months; 2) six (or more) months worth of stacking up G-bars in our Emergency Fund; and 3) hammering out the details our next great adventure. At this moment, that adventure entails my joining one, or more, nursing travel agencies (thus the reason for the “travel” part of this blog’s name) and the process of transitioning toward a new career path. While I will continue to work as a nurse in the same fashion I do now, we will have the opportunity to essentially go anywhere in the country that we want. Additionally, one of the greatest perks of travel nursing is FREE HOUSING! We will be debt free, owing only our monthly cell phone payment, car insurance, and buying food. Topping our list of destinations is Hawaii and Alaska. We’ve actually been thinking that we could quiet likely fall in love with Alaska and never leave; also, we are hoping to take a trip there sometime in the next year or two, so that may only further solidify that possibility.
While traveling with essentially zero expenses, we will have ample opportunity to continue saving up cash reserves, while also maxing out our Traditional IRAs and whatever employer plan I have available at the time. Following our time in Hawaii and Alaska, assuming we ever leave, we have been seriously considering the idea of purchasing a Silverado and an Airstream and living on the road while traveling cross-country. Having the ability to make these purchases outright without financing is the ideal goal and here’s why…
The subtitle of my blog is “Our Path to Early Semi-Retirement.” The “semi” part refers to what traveling in an Airstream would allow us to do. If we pull this part of our plan off, we will travel and I will continue to work either one or two travel nursing assignments per year, typically lasting three months each, while some may be as short as 7 days. Having made more than enough money to live on for the remainder of the year, we will then travel around this beautiful country and give our son the greatest education and experience that we possibly can.
This semi-early retirement, at the ripe old age of THIRTY TWO, is essentially sustainable forever, barring any catastrophe preventing me from being able to work, and will allow us to continue socking away retirement investments, catapulting us towards our Financial Independence Day (cue the fireworks, please!) However, we don’t know exactly how long we will do it. That will depend on a multitude of factors; namely, how well our son enjoys the lifestyle of travel. In the utopian version that plays out in my head, we, including our son, meet many friends along our journeys, affording him the opportunity to make friends with individuals from all walks of life spanning the continent. As we plan to homeschool him, we are aware of many towns and cities with groups of home-schooling families who often get together for interaction and activities, as well. This concern, among others, will be the ultimate deciding factor in how long this plan lasts. There’s also nothing saying that we won’t skip the Airstream all together, continue traveling around for nursing agencies with no expenses, and reach our FIRE goal even quicker.
I am a rather firm believer that attitude and adaptability has a major impact on your happiness in most situations. And the beautiful part is, if we all of sudden come to the decision one day that we want to stop traveling and “settle down” somewhere, then that’s what we’ll do. Nothing is set in stone. Who knows? Three years from now, our minds may have changed completely…but I doubt it.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?