3 Years of FIRE: We Did It Our Way

The last day of work for my wife and I was on 7/19/19, so it will be remembered by our family along with other significant summer commemoration dates. Even though saying goodbye to our coworkers was bittersweet, it felt like a monumental departure.

For a combined 25 years, we worked for a company with investment products that FIRE people adore. Although we have many wonderful memories of working there, nothing compares to having our own time to spend however we please. So, when the time came to turn in our badges, we were happy to comply.

It was a gorgeous sunny day. We expected to wrap things up in a half-day, so we brought our daughter in and said our goodbyes.

Some types of leaders are only born once in a century

One of the last people we said goodbye to was Mr. John (Jack) Bogle, or rather, his statue.

He had died six months before our departure. When I heard the sad news of his passing, we were driving back from North Carolina.

So the most meaningful way to say goodbye was to pay a visit to his statue in the Morgan Court.

3 years of FIRE
Mr. Bogle’s Statue

However, this was more of a thank-you for creating the Vanguard engine, which allowed us to invest for early retirement at a low cost.

Mr. Bogle was a genuine individual. I only had a few hallway encounters with him, but he was always courteous. Some people are self-conscious and look sideways when passing you, so they don’t have to greet you. That was not Mr. Bogle’s character.

He’d always say hello. And he cared deeply about the crew members, as Vanguard employees are known.

We had the honor of having his last book signed by him in his office two years before he passed away.

3 years of FIRE
Mr. Bogle signing his latest book on 12/18/17.

Even though he wasn’t involved in day-to-day operations, his absence was deeply felt by the business and the crew members after he passed away. The man gave his hearts to the company.

To conclude our last work day, we thanked Mr. Bogle, surrendered our badges, took one last look around the campus that had brought us together since we met at work, and drove away, knowing we might never step foot in these buildings again.

Then life got boring, or did it?

Since quitting our jobs, life has been so dull that three years of nonstop blogging have been the most enjoyable thing we’ve done. 😉

All jokes aside, it’s been a truly amazing journey thus far. There hasn’t been a single day in 1,095 days of retirement when I woke up and said, “I’m bored.” “How am I going to spend my day?” It’s more like, “What is most important for today, and what can wait until tomorrow?”

Early retirement has been a time for us to take a breather, clear our schedules of work-related obligations, and make deliberate decisions as we ask ourselves, “Are the actions we’re about to take going to make us as happy as we can be?”

We sort of have a routine

Our roles in our homes are somewhat divided, with each of us doing what we enjoy or can tolerate the most. There’s still room for improvement because Tatiana wants to add a few more activities to her daily routine, but we’ll get there eventually.

What a typical day looks like

There is no such thing as a “typical day” because no two days in our household look the same, but for the purposes of this article, a “typical” day looks like this:

I get up early in the morning with the sun, make coffee, and then write or practice piano.

Tatiana and our daughter wake up about an hour and a half later and we eat a light breakfast. Aside from my coffee, I usually fast until 11 a.m.

We check the schedule for the day at the table. Tatiana usually takes Chica Libre (our daughter) to the park and meets up with other moms on a regular day, while I stay behind and do some administrative investment stuff, mow the lawn, or take care of any other home errands.

It’s the hottest part of the day by the time they get home from the park, so we eat lunch and then go out after 3 p.m. to enjoy other outside activities.

During most of the year (minus the winter), once the hottest hours have passed, we either go for a walk, to the beach, or wherever we want. We then return home to eat dinner, put our daughter to bed, and watch a little TV.

The summer here is long, with the sun setting close to 9 p.m. in late June, so Chica Libre sleeps later in the summer and her sleeping schedule shifts with the sun. In reality, we all follow the sun and our internal clocks in our own unique ways. No more difficult daylight savings time changes for us during our working years.

During the week, we occasionally take a couple of days off to visit a nearby city, attractions or simply go to the beach.

3 years of FIRE

So most days consist of chatting, eating, meeting up with people, looking after investments, household chores, educating our child, recreational activities, occasional doctor’s appointments, reading, listening to music or podcasts, gardening, and so on. It’s a lifestyle by design.

Keeping track of the days

It was difficult at first to keep track of the days, but it is now second nature.

On Sundays, the mailman does not come.

On Tuesdays, the trash is collected.

Thursday afternoons are devoted to The Highwire!

On weekends, we are unable to contact government offices.

Most of Tatiana’s friends with children do not go to playgrounds on weekends because their husbands are home from work and they participate in joint activities.

So we look for cues along the way that will help us remember what day of the week it is.

During the week, we don’t miss hanging out with our working friends because we do family activities together.

3 years of FIRE
Chica Libre feeding lettuce to the giraffes at the Naples Zoo.

On weekends, we usually avoid restaurants because they are more crowded and some have the same dinner menu prices all weekend. We prefer to eat out for lunch during the week to take advantage of great deals.

In that sense, we are similar to traditional retirees. Excursions and activities are treated similarly. We went to the Naples Zoo on a weekday morning, taking advantage of the peace and quiet that being off-peak provides.

On weekends, we get together with our working friends in the area for free or low-cost activities such as going to the beach, parks, birthday parties, sharing meals, karaoking and dancing.

The friends and family we left behind

We are far from many loved ones, but we have an adequate number of friends and family visiting us. It’s nice to be able to clear most of our schedules when someone comes to visit because they’re on vacation. It’s like taking a vacation while everyone else does! 🙂

So far, early retirement is going well. Some activities are completely unexpected and spontaneous, and we love being able to go with the flow.

But what plans went in a different direction?

What deviated from our original plans?

In life, not everything goes as planned, but having a plan is still beneficial. We invested enough of our savings to be able to withdraw 3-4 percent of our savings each year to cover our expenses. That remained constant.

However, some of the plans we had had to change as we went along, such as the following:

1) Housing

Long-time readers may recall that our goal was to buy a house with cash, sell our rental property, and use the proceeds to supplement our first five years of early retirement.

We saved enough money to buy the house outright. However, we realized that a different approach to our real estate strategy was more profitable.

Instead of paying cash, we put down 50% and took out a mortgage with a 3% interest rate for the remaining half. That mortgage allowed us to keep our rental property.

Instead of selling the rental property, which happened to be worth half of our new home, we decided to keep it and rent it out.

After deducting all expenses, including taxes, insurance, vacancy rate, repairs, and maintenance, the property yields around $1,000 per month.

The monthly rent profit covers the entire cost of our new mortgage and then some. The loan’s interest rate is around $300 per month.

After deducting loan interest, the difference would yield an annual profit of $8,400!

$1000 (net profit) – $300 (loan interest) = $700.

$700 x 12 months = $8,400.

It was a no-brainer for us. We can earn $8,400 per year while having the option to sell the rental property if we no longer want to deal with it. Cashflow is king!

2) We didn’t move abroad

As you can see, we did not relocate abroad and travel the world. We had already decided that we wanted to retire in the United States right before we retired. The series of global draconian measures that occurred during the last two years solidified our decision to relocate to Florida and stay in the United States.

The good news is that our FI number was intended to cover our spending in the United States, so we didn’t have to work any longer to meet our American living standards.

We are in such a good location that we don’t have to drive more than three hours to have a great time with all of the activities available to us.

3) Transportation

The good news is we’re still driving the same car since 2008. The bad news is that we’d like to replace it soon. Our Camry is getting close to reaching 200,000 miles. And, while it is still running great, we want to replace it before some major repairs are required and we are unable to sell it.

As we all know, buying a car in this market is extremely expensive, so we wait as long as we can, even if it takes another year, until we see some dealer incentives and demand slows.

I’m already seeing more hybrids in inventory this month. Maybe that’s a step in the right direction?

4) Investment diversification

Last year, we opened a self-directed IRA so that we could manage a portion of our portfolio. A SDIRA allows us to invest more in real estate, which is part of our long-term investment goal, so we decided to give it a shot. This area of our investments is becoming increasingly interesting, and we will continue to learn in this uncharted territory for us.

We recently made two investments, which we will discuss in future posts.

gray steel fence on green grass field, 3 years of FIRE
Photo by DTS VIDEOS on Pexels.com

So far, we have turned the wheel as needed in early retirement, but do we have any regrets?

Do we regret early retirement?

We’ve probably answered that question by now, but let’s clarify. We have no regrets about leaving corporate jobs to own our time. We love being early retirees. However, we don’t feel like traditional retirees because we have a full plate.

But there isn’t a trace of regret. If I could go back in time and redo the day we handed in our badges, I wouldn’t change a thing. These have been the most incredible three years of our lives, despite the constraints.

group of people on a conference room, 3 years of FIRE
Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

We’re over microwaved lunches. We don’t miss the meetings, performance reviews, vacation day tally, ladder climbing, or business attire. Tatiana has an allergic reaction whenever these things are mentioned in her presence.

I don’t miss sitting in a meeting and looking out the window to see what I was missing, like a child forced to be in a classroom. I’m now spending as much time as I want outside the window during the day, experiencing the world 24/7.

We don’t even miss our paychecks because we never spent them entirely. Our investments provide us with a monthly paycheck now. 🙂

If I had to pick one thing I miss, it would be chatting with some of my coworkers. Speaking of coworkers, my previous boss passed away last month. It was a very sad day for us. He was more than a boss to me because we worked under the same management team for the majority of my time at Vanguard and shared some family activities early on. Above all, he was a wonderful person and family man. He’ll be missed.

He was only a few months older than me, and every time someone my age dies, it reminds me of my own mortality. That’s one of the reasons I don’t regret retiring early. Our time on Earth is limited, and we have no idea when we will leave.

Final thoughts

We’ve completed over 1,000 days of early retirement and I wouldn’t change a thing. I spend most of my days in shorts and flip flops (arch-supporting ones at the insistence of my wife). It’s nice going to the bank for important transactions while practicing stealth wealth without caring if I look like I mean business by the way I’m dressed.

Being present for our child every waking moment is a true blessing. That alone makes everything worthwhile. As my favorite singer, Ricardo Montaner, puts it, “tanta felicidad me da miedo.” So much happiness frightens me.

This could be a much longer post, and I’m sure I’m leaving out events and details because it’s difficult to summarize three years of a life well-lived in one blog post. And I’d rather get out of this chair and seize the day than continue to write. So you’ll hear more as time goes on. 🙂

We must continue to Carpe Diem. Until next time!

What is the first thing you will do when you retire? How are you doing things differently now that you’re retired compared to when you were working?


After dedicating 13 years of his career to Vanguard, José retired from the corporate world at the young age of 44. During his tenure at Vanguard, he expertly coordinated the production of both electronic and print educational materials for 401(k) participants. Now, he relishes in his early retirement, cherishing time spent with his family, indulging in his favorite hobbies, seeking out new experiences, and savoring meals in the comfort of his own backyard.

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