As I recently shared, back in late April I became unemployed after declining a forced job relocation and a COVID hiring freeze. While that may sound awful to many, I don’t see it as such. It is arguable that I have reached the definition of FIRE status, though I would not turn down inspiring work (paid or unpaid) that I come across. Time flies, and it’s now been just over 6 months since I left work, so I wanted to provide everyone with a transparent update on what it has been like to no longer be part of the workforce. A little “FIRE porn”, if you will.
Freedom from Work-Related Stress:
Naturally, right? Spending most of my adult life in a very competitive, high-achieving, demanding corporate culture definitely changed the way that I was hardwired. The complete removal of myself from that culture wasn’t 100% positive or easy (more on that in a bit), but on the net, my stress levels are definitely lower. I’m exercising more, sleeping better, and allowing myself more space to not feel like I always have to be productive.
In the first few months I was having these odd FOMO dreams with people I used to work with in the past that seemingly had the intent of trying to lure me in to returning to work environments that no longer even exist. They almost had a “showing up late to a test” dream/nightmare vibe to them. Those have dissipated.
I do miss the interactions with work friends on a frequent basis (especially with the limited interactions during COVID), but I certainly do not miss the politics, mandatory self-promotion, and external pressures to always produce.
Biking has Grown from a Hobby to a Passion:
Biking has been my primary hobby and passion in the last 6 months and will be for the foreseeable future. I’m up to about 1,250 miles biked in the last 6 months – all on roads and trails. I’ve lost about 17 pounds of fat, without changing my diet at all (if anything, I’m eating a bit more to cure the hunger to replace the calories burned). I was able to get a great deal on a full suspension mountain bike (my first) from a friend and have really enjoyed putting it to the test on some challenging local trails.
More biking naturally leads to more bike maintenance (and more costs). I’ve always wanted to learn how to fix things on our growing bike fleet – but never felt like I had the time to do so. Not anymore. In addition to partially building the new full suspension bike, last fall I purchased a used mountain bike for Mrs. 20SF that needed a number of new parts and upgrades. Through the help of YouTube and a friend, I’ve learned how to install and adjust new brakes, bleed hydraulic brakes, install a tubeless setup on bike tires, make proper derailleur adjustments, install an entirely new drivetrain (shifter, cassette, derailleur), and much more.
There were a number of growing pains, and going DIY did require me to purchase a mini bike shop worth of tools, but most of those tools have already recouped their cost versus alternatively taking the bikes in to a shop for a fix – and will save me thousands moving forward. Bonus: I now can diagnose issues and fix them whenever I’d like versus having to drop off my bikes for days or weeks at a local shop and lose valuable saddle time.
I did have one bad wipeout on the trail, but have fully recovered outside of a cool scar on one of my pecs where I slammed into my handlebars after clipping a root with a pedal at high speeds going down a hill.
Purging Our House of Clutter:
I’ve been on a big EBay selling kick lately. One person’s junk is another’s treasure. It truly is amazing what you can get for old items that you no longer use or need that someone else is specifically looking for – from unused bike parts, to old shoes and clothing, computer parts, video games, sporting goods, and collectibles. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, but doing research on pricing and competition, taking good photos, and creating compelling listings is a time intensive process that I felt like I did not have the time for previously. Now I do. And I actually enjoy it quite a bit. Buying and flipping used items as a consistent future income source? Hmm…
In addition to the physical clutter is an increasingly large load of digital clutter that has built up over the last few years. Reducing it will be a BIG project to focus on, eventually.
Catching Up on Neglected Consumer Comforts:
The prior modus operandi on most consumer purchases for me was to put out fires that popped up (e.g. replacing something that had broken or become completely obsolete). No fire meant “good enough”. And while that is mostly still the case, I now have the time to go a tad beyond firefighting, in my own responsible way. Some examples include:
- Selling an old cable modem that no longer obtained the speeds we were paying for and replacing with a used one that did, while turning a profit in the process.
- Finding custom-made replacements for back pain inducing 16-year old couch cushions (instead of buying a new couch).
- Grabbing a Nintendo Switch and some games, and fully financing them through the sale of old Super Nintendo games.
- Buying new bike parts and clothing and selling old versions.
- Fixing up some nagging DIY projects around the house, such as an inefficient toilet valve, basement lighting, etc.
You know how weekends (or whatever the non-working equivalent is on your schedule) become this mad rush to get chores and other necessities done, and maybe, just maybe fit in a little bit of relaxation, if you’re lucky?
Now, I don’t have to have that mad rush to get everything done, so I can enjoy some true relaxation time. I can wake up in the morning, have a nice breakfast, and slow-sip coffee, without rushing or watching the clock. I can take personal time throughout the day to read or get chores done without feeling guilt or stress. I can bike whenever the weather is nice versus the rare non-work times when I have time and the weather is nice. I like that.
The Absence of Corporate Pay, Benefits, and Perks:
Going from a high-paying job at MegaCorp with great benefits and perks to an absence of those things is definitely a shock. And particularly so during a year of high market volatility and in a low interest rate environment. The shock, in my case, is not from financial struggle (through a high personal savings rate and low safe withdrawal rate, I have reached financial independence status), but from the sudden absence of steady bi-weekly (and quarterly) accumulation. It’s a transition, for sure.
Aside from the pay, my previous job at MegaCorp came with a pretty significant package of benefits and perks that was difficult to part from. Much of my first month, post-employment, was spent researching how to replace them. Thankfully, Mrs. 20SF had some decent insurance options for us to choose from that we had never used previously. If you find yourself in a similar loss of employment benefits situation, make sure you get an official “Termination of Health Insurance” letter from your prior employer if you plan to move to your spouse or domestic partner’s employer insurance. This will likely be requested, in order to get approval as a “qualifying life event” outside of open enrollment periods.
Then there were the perks. I had been using my employer’s Macbook Pro as my primary computer, an unlimited mobile phone plan, and a number of other perks that I had to spend a good amount of time researching replacements for, while holding off long enough to find palatable deals. At least there wasn’t a corporate vehicle to separate from…
COVID-19 Cancelling Plans
Many of the things I envisioned myself doing in absence of the time burden of employment have not come to fruition. Volunteering, traveling, visiting friends and family more often, attending any sports/entertainment event that I would like, or simply going out for drinks on a weeknight – are all things that I had envisioned, but have all been put on an indefinite hiatus. I realize that this is of small consequence compared to the terrible losses many others have suffered from COVID (see my detailed list of COVID relief measures), but that doesn’t make it any more palatable for me. At least the inactivity has temporarily saved me some money, as a silver lining.
Time Management/Focus in Chaotic Times
While free time has been great, it occasionally can be too much of a good thing. In addition to COVID-19 upending everyone’s lives, 2020 has been awful in so many different ways – the related economic crisis, the deaths of so many political/cultural/entertainment icons, the racial and political divisions that have divided the country, the seemingly unending stream of political scandals and election drama, the barrage of climate-related natural disasters – it’s been a true [email protected]$k. With 40+ hours of work-related distraction per week, maybe this all would be easier to avert my eyes/ears from? I don’t know – you tell me. Being confined to home has not helped with this, but given the potentially indefinite COVID prevalence, I feel the need to find more ways to cut down on the consumption of so much chaos and focus more on meaningful or at least calming pursuits.
For those who have personally FIRE’d or left their jobs, I’m curious to hear what your personal observations have been too.
Until next time.
Update: check out my 1-year of FIRE update.