What will you regret at the end of your life?

I was taken with an article recently that linked back to Bronnie Ware’s blog post (and eventual book) about the top five regrets of the dying. For those who don’t know, Bronnie worked for many years in palliative care, with patients who had gone home to die, usually within 3-12 weeks. From her comments:

“ People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.’

‘When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again.”

She then goes on to list the top five regrets of the dying:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

I looked back at these and thought about what I could do to reduce/eliminate these regrets:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me: While I have enjoyed (for the most part) the work that I’ve done and the life we have built, I have always wanted to do two things: Travel and research/embrace history and remodel houses (at least one house). While we had the chance to travel a lot when I was in Europe with the Army, we haven’t been able to travel anywhere near as much as I’d like. Current plans
    1. With Covid ending, the plan is to do at least one major trip a year, and other side trips, to national parks, historical sites, etc. While I may not be able to visit everything, I’ll visit a lot
    2. I’ve saved up a significant chunk of $ that I could use to fund the purchase and remodel of a home. When I decide to retire early, this will be one of my post-FIRE projects. Looking forward to it.
    3. Continue to work on my “side hustle” (TKD Woodworking) that I can enjoy once I retire
  1. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard: Not sure this is a major regret of mine. While I have worked hard, moved up the ladder, and been successful, Mrs. 39 Months has pretty much ensured that I didn’t become completely wrapped up with work at the expense of our lives together. The work has enabled us to build a tidy nest egg while still enjoying life, and now we are in a position of financial independence.
  1. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings: OK, this is a regret, somewhat. While I’ve never had a problem expressing affection and love to Mrs. 39 Months (lots of hugs & kisses) and telling my family I love them – I have issues in expressing my opinions in situations at work and with others. I’m a middle child, and apparently we typically try to be the peacemakers in the family. I’ll subsume my opinions and feelings for the group in order to make it peaceful. One of the results of this is an explosive temper at times, which is a real issue. Current plans:
    1. Need to start daily meditations to deal with anger
    2. Need to speak up more when I have issues with friends & family – in a polite way
  1. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends: Big problem with me. I typically don’t form close bonds with others, and usually once someone drops off, I don’t seek them out. I have one (only one) friend from high school/growing up, and we talk maybe once/quarter (if that). No college or military friends (which is odd, if you think about it), and only 2 real friends now. No work friends. As you get older, it gets harder and harder to build friendships. Current Plans:
    1. Increase frequency/number of phone calls to friends
    2. Try to schedule times to get together with local friends
    3. Make concerted effort to add to friends in current list of hobbies/professional organizations
    4. Attend college reunions, when possible, in order to try to reconnect with friends
  • I wish that I had let myself be happier: Not sure about this one. I believe I’m fairly happy, for the most part. Part of that is my embrace of Stoicism, as I am getting less interested in things I cannot control. Stopping to look at the news and politics has helped this a lot. Current plans:
    • Continue to practice Stoicism and enjoy what I can control
    • Keep away from areas that just “wind me up” (politics, social media, etc.) with no real impact on my life
    • Pursue areas that will make me happier (see #1 and #3 above)

So what are you doing in life to reduce potential future regrets?

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Mr. 39 Months

What do you do once you’ve reached FI?

As I noted in an earlier posting, we’ve officially hit our FI point, as of Jan 1st, primarily due to the jump in the market at the tail end of 2019. I’ve also written about how I’m concerned that the current market is showing all signs for overpriced stocks, and we are probably going to have a serious correction in the next 12 months. Of course, Covid has further confused the situation.

Still, let us assume everything is “hunky dory” and the stock market will have its typical upward trend going forward, with the occasional dips. What do you do now? Retire immediately? Stay on for “one more year”? Keep going? It’s the eternal question in the FI community, and I’ve got an entire category of blog links to folks who have stepped away, so that I (and my readers) can look for additional guidance.

I’ll start with just the decision on whether to keep working after hitting FI or to separate.

Pluses to continue to Work:

  1. Our current status is that we are both gainfully employed in jobs that, though not entirely enjoyable, aren’t so repellent we just want to get away. We’re well compensated, and with no debt, this gives us a lot of free income. Of course one of the things having the jobs restrict is free time – which is what most folks in the FIRE community discuss.
  2. One of the other benefits of the job is the social aspect of it. While we are both working from home, we do have online meetings, emails, and other conversations with outside reps. In the age of Covid, this is very important, as it gives us the chance to interact with the outside world, something which is difficult to do right now outside
  3. Medical: Ah, one of the big ones for our community. For the first 6-12 months, we’d be using Cobra, so my medical would be 3X what I currently pay. While I budgeted in medical if we retired in 2020, I know that the medical we currently get from my work is superior to what we’d get on the open market once the Cobra ended (note: I’d have to take Cobra, because the large amount of severance money I’d get would kill any chance of our income being low enough to get subsidies for medical)
  4. Physiological advantages of continuing to work. My generation (baby boomers) generally determined their worth and identity off the work they did (for better or worse). I have had a lot of restless nights this month as I have struggled with the idea of what to do next with my life. If I’m not an engineer in logistics, what am I? What is my purpose for continued existence? You may laugh, but it really is a challenge for me.  

Minuses to continue to Work:

  1. Lack of Free time. I was able to carry over 7.5 days from 2020, so I’ve got 26.5 days (5 weeks) I can use them fairly easily. Mrs. 39 Months carried over a week, so she has three weeks of vacation. With that, we’ve got t sandwich in trips to see relatives, our 35th Anniversary, some dulcimer conferences she wants to take and backpacking trips I want to go on
  2. No ability to engage deeper in the hobbies that I enjoy (woodworking, backpacking) and to explore new interests (history, travel, etc.).
  3. No ability to take extensive trips to visit my mother in Tennessee. She is in her mid-80s now, and doesn’t have forever on this planet. We typically see her once a year, for a few days. I’d like to spend more time with her, especially since my Stepfather passed away last year. She is alone in a big house.

I’m not sure if my musings have helped me reach a final decision. Like a lot of folks, I think these thoughts lend themselves to “status quo” decision making, where folks just stay in place – sometimes for years! For the moment I’ll continue to ponder this.

Next Time, I think we’ll discuss the topic of moving now that we’ve hit FI.

Good Links on this subject:

Living a FI

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Mr. 39 Months

Excellent post at Go Curry Cracker on the cost of his lifestyle if he had to have a job

You can argue with some of the specifics of his math, but not the overall message, which is that you expend a lot of your income just in working (taxes, transportation, etc.) – and you don’t have to spend it if you aren’t working!

Excellent post from Go Curry Cracker on 2000 and 2008 retiree status

We’ve all seen the articles and data on ‘sequence of return risk’ where, depending on how the markets do in the first couple of years of retirement, you can be in great shape, or you can be in a world of hurt.

Go Curry Cracker has spent the time to do the numbers on how things are going for folks that retired right around the time of our two most recent “crashes.” An excellent read!

I know there is a lot of talk about a pending recession in the US. All I can say is, its going to happen sometime, so don’t panic too much. Stick with your plan, and be flexible depending on the market.

Mr. 39 Months

What Does Your “Year 2” Look Like?

For most folks in the FIRE community, part of what motivates us is the free time we hope to have once we hit our “number.” Time to pursue other goals, hobbies, time with family & friends, etc. We look at the future and imagine all sorts of things we would be doing once the need for money is taken care of. Often this involves extensive travel (both in the home country and throughout the world). It can be very exciting.

Most folks have a long list of what they intend to do in their first year – but what are your plans for year 2? Once you have checked off all the immediate ideas and needs, and you are starting towards the long, daily “grind” of being financially independent, what is your life going to look like. It is this part of planning that many FIRE folks fall a little short of – yet it is here where we will be spending the vast majority of our time. How do we plan for year 2?

What are you passionate about?

One way is to ask yourself what are you really passionate about? What gets you out of bed in the morning, gets your blood flowing when you get the chance to do it. It may be volunteer work, working on your house or garden, a specific hobby, or spending time with your family. Take  the time to sit down and ponder/meditate on what you are passionate about and use that as a basis to plan your year 2 activities.

Not a race, not one answer

One of the mistakes folks make when they think about this is to believe that it is a one-time decision, and once they start down the road towards activities for year 2+, they will be stuck in it. Nothing is further from the truth. Almost everyone will have changing interests/passions over the next 10, 20, 30 years – as their life experiences change them. Look at what you want to do now, but don’t beat yourself up that you might change your mind. In the engineering world, its called “paralysis by analysis” where you keep analyzing without actually acting. Feel free to make a decision with the full knowledge that it isn’t going to commit you for the rest of your life.

Learn to enjoy the present

Typically, year 1 of FIRE is a frantic time, running around and doing all the things you’ve always wanted to do. Year 2 and beyond is much more about relaxing and enjoying the present in a more unstructured manner. Make sure that while planning year 2, that you don’t “over-plan” year 2. Leave yourself plenty of time to relax and just “enjoy the present.”

In the end, the primary benefit of hitting FIRE is you are given the “Gift of Time.” You should make some serious considerations of how you intend to use that time, once the initial “bloom” of retiring early is done. While you don’t need to being too crazy about analyzing it, take the opportunity to look into it.

Other similar links

Mr. 39 months

How a 4-day weekend affected my views on FIRE

In the United States, we celebrate our independence day on July 4th, with parades, bands, fireworks, etc. Its typically a pretty big celebration, especially in my part of the US (I live close to Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was written and signed). Most folks have off (some stores and food places stay open) and we have barbeques and family/friends get together.

This year, July 4th fell on a Thursday, so my company (and many others) also had Friday off , for a 4-day weekend! We had friends over to barbecue on Thursday the 4th, went to a movie on Friday the 5th, and worked around the house and did some house maintenance on Saturday the 5th. However, by day four (Sunday) we were starting to be at a loss for what to do. We ended up just “bumming” around the house, and then finished up with our Sunday evening “get ready for the workweek” tasks.

It was that evening that it hit me. This would be what retirement would be like if we didn’t focus on what we wanted to do once we hit FI and stepped away from regular work. I’ve written numerous times on the need to have hobbies, and to find ways to keep yourself occupied once you decide to retire. This just drove that point home!

So I thought through my hobbies and plans for retirement, and did some additional brainstorming, and here is where I am at right now, as far as plans once we retire:

  • Hobby: woodworking (may turn this into a minor $ generator)
  • Hobby: backpacking/complete the Appalachian Trail
  • Travel:  1-2 big trips a year, plus minor ones
  • Work: Temp/seasonal work, to keep my mind in use and to have some interaction
  • Volunteer: Build homes with Habitat for Humanity
  • Volunteer: Continue to work with my professional society and outdoor club
  • Volunteer: Looking for ways to take my professional and financial skills and help people with them
  • Teach: Either my hobbies or my professional skills

It could keep me busy, but I’m still concerned. It will be something that I will be keeping a close eye on in the years ahead.

So what are your plans for once you “retire?”

Mr. 39 Months

It still appears the 4% rule is valid

It still appears that the 4% rule works out, based on a recent review of Kiplingers

The article provides a lot of “qualifiers” and notes that this is a backwards looking analysis (i.e. its looking at past performance, and you can’t guarantee it will work). Still, the original 4% analysis done by William Bengen, covering a wide range of 30-year periods, including the great depression.

From Investopia: “The 4% rule was created using historical data on stock and bond returns over the 50-year period from 1926 to 1976. Before the early 1990s, experts generally considered 5% to be a safe amount for retirees to withdraw each year. Skeptical of whether this amount was sufficient, financial advisor William Bengen conducted an exhaustive study of historical returns in 1994, focusing heavily on the severe market downturns of the 1930s and early 1970s. Bengen concluded that, even during untenable markets, no historical case existed in which a four percent annual withdrawal exhausted a retirement portfolio in less than 33 years.”

My personal opinion is that the 4% rule is still valid, and you can probably go 4.5% or even 5% if you are sure to invest in equities.

What is your opinion?

Mr. 39 Months