The Conversation The Fortunate Few Gets to Have

beautiful-ring-book

[ Follow up post to “The Fight That Made Me A Better Wife” ]

So here we both are, after a fight, hanging out on our Craigslist sofa that came with a mysterious orange stain. It’s already pitch black outside because Jared spent another 12 hour day at work again. I’m thinking about our exit strategy after Jared’s not-so-great week at work. The incident had a big impact on me. I didn’t like the angry and stressed out husband I met that day and I definitely don’t care to see Mr. Hyde again. The phone-throwing incident had a huge impact on me. But thanks to that, I got to have the best conversation so few lucky people get to have.

We started talking about the different levels of financial independence and what we needed to do in order for each plan to work for us.

I love to talk financial independence (FI) plans but the husband is only going along with me with more vigor than usual because he feels guilty about the phone-throwing incident. He does not want to leave his job but he does want to alleviate the other stressors that aren’t writing him a paycheck.

“So you don’t want to leave yet?” I asked.

“We don’t have enough saved yet.”

“Yes, I know that, I mean, when we do.”

“Ummm…”

[Several awkward minutes of blinking at each other passes]

“Do you like your job?” I asked.

“Ummmm, yes…it’s good honey. For the money, it’s good and I like it. It just requires a lot of attention so I get burned out with everything else like the house and rental that needs my attention too. I don’t want to retire early unless we definitely have enough.”

“Well I’m not happy with how stressed you are, we have to do something about that.”

It took a cumulative of few hours of discussion (on and off) on the sofa to hash through everything. We were able to look deep within ourselves and pick out what has brought us the most happiness. For Jared, it was just to feel relaxed and hang out with me without 13 chores waiting for him. I told you he’s a total kid. For me, I…wanted to spend my life eating tacos and maybe write a few books to be remembered.😁

We expanded upon why that would bring us happiness and how we could achieve them on our journey through the various levels of financial independence/retiring early (FIRE).

We started out trying to envision our ideal life by scribbling what we wanted on a sheet of blank paper. It didn’t matter how trivial any of it was. My goal was to find items that had common ground in between both of our lists. The simple prompt was just a list of things we wanted to accomplish before turning 80. I found my ideal FIRE ridiculously exciting that I couldn’t stop grinning or peeping at hubby’s sheet.

Related: Why You Should Find Meaning Before You Find Wealth

The exercise took 30 minutes. After that, it was clear that to properly capture the seconds of precious life and expand upon each second for maximum happiness we needed to sacrifice some things.

Big decisions were proposed that day and they solidified throughout the course of the days following:

1) We agreed to sell our rental. 2) Push having children to a later date. 3) Lessen hubby’s commute time to under 15 minutes (crazy ambitious.)

The greatest thing about the 3 things above is how possible everything seems so far. There’s no sugarcoating that money opens doors and we’re extremely lucky.


LILY’S IDEAL FIRE

Gallivant around the Earth for food and YouTubing it.

Start 3 successful businesses.

Write a successful book.

Being able to afford dance lessons, summer trips, carriage rides through Central Park and dining at Red Lobster besides only on birthdays.

Assure generational wealth.

Make history / Wikipedia page.

Do some cocaine on the last day of my life (just curious).

HUBBY’S IDEAL FIRE

Have kids

Be a stay-at-home parent.

Be with family.

Netflix and video games all day.

Learn things and read books.

Never worry about money.

We agree with most of each other’s lists but I have more ambitious/crazy goals than he does. His ideal FIRE life resembles a regular a carefree retirement whereas mine is…more epic! 😎


LEVELS OF F.I.R.E

FIRE Level 1

$40,000/year

1 Million

ETA @ 2020

Age 29-32

That’s just 3 years away! Our family currently live on under $30,000 so going the lean route wouldn’t be much different or a crazy stretch. An annual return of $40K at 4% would mean a clean seven-figure net worth of liquid assets. The biggest pro is how quickly 3 years can fly by. We would definitely be able to optimize the most time with family but we wouldn’t be able to hit much of anything else on the ideal FIRE list. Going this lean would likely make us child-free unless some miraculous reform happened to our health care system. Healthcare is a huge expense. The cost of children is a luxury. Having just one child would cost us $1,000 in potential loss income every month just for room & board.

The markets are also inflated right now. We might continue to see 3+ years of climbs. My husband believes those aiming for FI/RE would need a market correction first to feel out of the woods. Things would be a little tight for a household larger than 3 on $40,000. It worries me what will happen 20 years, 30 years from now if all that’s covering our bottoms is $40,000 a year. What if property taxes continue to skyrocket? Not to mention the future of healthcare? Hyperinflation? What happens after the baby boomers retire? To the economy? To market returns? It’s all theoretical to bet on $40,000 a year. These 8% market returns and 4% withdrawal rates are historical averages and they do not predict the future. It’s too much uncertainty for my tummy.

FIRE Verdict:

No way, Jose!

FIRE Level 2

$60,000/year

1.5 Million

ETA @ 2023

Age 30-35

This was our original baseline FI number and it is sufficient for a family in a large metro city. Our savings rate should catch up to this goal in 4 to 5 years time. This is as far as we know in terms of job security. Raising a family on $60,000 a year is our emergency eject button if my husband ever wanted to dig his eyes out instead of going to work one day. Thankfully, hubby doesn’t hate his job that much (right now) so that makes things less time sensitive.

The other good news is we are optimistic about our growing savings rate and hubby’s career prospects. After his employment contract ends, Jared can choose to stay with his current employer or move on to something less stressful. I’ve egged him to take on the role of a public servant but the pride he ties to his corporate work makes me think that he will likely stay with his current employer. Even though it is stressful, he enjoys his coworkers and he likes his company.

I’m not sure if $60,000 would be able to support the habit of gallivanting the Earth for food but it would be sufficient for us to be a normal, middle-class family. There will be no private school nor impromptu summer trips to Paris but we would still have it all because we’ll have each other.💑

FIRE Verdict:

Not preferred but doable.

FIRE Level 3

$80,000/year

2 Million

ETA 2027

Age 35-39

By this point, we talked about what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives. Interestingly, I noticed we were no longer having a discussion about money or “but can we afford it?” I also noticed my mood sifted from uncertainty to a fun tone. $40K a year would not buy my ideal without clipping some coupons and adjust the till for unforeseen sacrifices but $80,000 sounds just about right. Hypothetically, our very rough estimate of expenses would look something like this…

Food – $15,000
Kid – $15,000
Mortgage – $15,000
Healthcare – $15,000
Everything Else – $20,000

Total =$80K

I want to budget for dance lessons, college tuition, new roofs, water heaters, summer vacations, dining out, carriage rides through Central Park. This $80,000 would grant us a terrific cushion for almost all things. With traveling and other expenses, $80K won’t last too long but I believe it’s enough. Unfortunately, this is a long 10 years off in the future if we hack it right.

FIRE Verdict:

“Would tech talent still be in demand? I’ll ease up but I won’t quit.”

“Wait, really? You still want to work even if you have a $2 million dollar investment portfolio?”

“If my talent’s still in demand, we would be saying no to a lot of money. $80,000 a year isn’t that much if you have kids.”

“What about spending time with the kids? Having dinner with a family?

“We can buy a condo closer to work and I’ll walk home if you’re just worried about family time. We still come out way ahead if I worked.”

“Hmmm…oh that’s true…”

I found Jared’s answer very surprising. He values security, I knew that, but with 2 million dollars in liquid assets, I’m certain we’ll be OK. I did give a speech about creating generational wealth right before our discussion because I wanted to make sure he knew that was something I was not willing to compromise on. I think my speech got him ramped up and competitive. That may have overclocked him…

FIRE Level 4

$120,000/year

3 Million

2037

Age 43-48

Draw the curtains please, I’m done. $3 million in liquidity would be THE goal. By this point, I want to devote full-time into family, making memories and some creative writing to keep me from boredom. Real wealth is being able to buy freedom without a strand of concern. I highly doubt our annual expenditures could even come close to $120,000 even if we tried. These are post-tax figures! I have a hard time spending $8 on salad (because it’s bloody salad…)

It just seems so far away though. I’ll be over 40 by then. If I don’t have 1/3 of the list of things on my ideals list done by 40 – this girl is going to be mad at herself! I’ve mentioned before I wanted to end up on Wikipedia by the time I’m lying in my coffin. I’m already 26 🙁 I’m not afraid to die, I just don’t want to die after a lifetime of achieving nothing especially after being so blessed in more ways than I could ever deserve.

FIRE Verdict:

“YES! Screw you guys, I’m goinggggg home.” (Jared actually said that! 😆)

We are so so so blessed to even have this discussion and entertain these crazy benchmarks. Look, momma, no benefactor!! I hope I’m not coming off ungrateful by earmarking the different levels of financial independence and rejecting them. That’s not my intent. This was just me and my husband’s discussion condensed. F.I. is doable but since everything in life is negotiable and relative, our numbers are different. People envision different goals for themselves within the realm of those possibilities, makes sense 🙂

Are you one of the lucky few to have had this conversation? What is your ideal life and income after FIRE? What is on your bucket list?



46 thoughts on “The Conversation The Fortunate Few Gets to Have”

  • Hi Lily,

    Thought I’d chime in from the land of the dead! I actually shared your last post with Mr. NA because we are both too all-too-familiar with the possibility of working on a bad team at a large tech firm.

    One thing that really helps us is we’ve established that he’s allowed to have “man time” built into the schedule. This usually consists of the following: listening to music on his noise-cancelling headphones, Youtube marathons, and 99% of the time, video games. He’s an introvert at heart, so he needs the time to “recharge” after a bad day at work, or if a project is going not-so-well. I have come to accept that two hours of video games is beneficial to his emotional well-being if he has a lot of frustration or angst over work things.

    BUT, like you, I like an efficient household where we don’t live in squalor. So, after much trial and error, Mr. NA can escape to his lair as much as he needs after work on week days [he usually gives me a heads up and a vague time estimate. ” I need man time for two hours after dinner”]. We set the timer on Alexa, and I’m not allowed to bother him unless there’s a dire emergency. When that time is up, he has to be social and open to maybe doing a chore or two depending on the time.

    As for weekends, we sit down and we have a conversation of what HAS to be done around the house and what we’d like to get done. Then we build a rough schedule where we can slot in chores, errands, and more “man time” if he needs it.

    Working in corporate America as a software developer can be super stressful. Maybe this “man time” concept is worth a shot to help Jared preserve his sanity a bit longer as you work towards FIRE.

    • Ha holy crap (and I don’t usually swear!) Man Time sounds hilariously perfect! Oh I wish I applied this principle this weekend. I made sure Jared had a relaxing weekend by absorbing the chores and letting him sit on the sofa to watch Stranger Things, but he seemed on his toes for some reason.

      I think you are absolutely right about introverts needing time to recharge. He doesn’t say he hates his job. He usually comes home and zombies out then do it all over again. So that’s normal? Weirdddd.

      • Yup, can confirm that your hubby being brain dead after work is completely normal. Couple hours of video games and allowing him to zone out does wonders.

        Work life has been crazy- I recently got promoted (yay) but have worked 50+ hour weeks including weekends as of late (boo). Mr. NA was involved with a large product launch so he’s also been working crazy hours and has been “hiding” from me with man time. 😂😂 For some reason, he doesn’t find my incessant chatter soothing, haha.

        Give man time a shot- maybe the thought of knowing that he can unwind with video games, YouTube videos, etc will help your hubby through awful work days.

        • When he came home today I asked him if he wanted to watch Netflix and he looked at me like “whaaattt who is this person?” He definitely deserves time. I think your advice made my marriage better. It’s not easy working so much.

          Speaking of which, yay!!! Goods to you girl, 50 hours isn’t that bad. Save up all them coins and FIRE, then there’s lots of time 😀

  • Lol, I had to smile at Jared’s list – Netflix and video games all day & a stay at home dad! I guess we know what the kids will be doing:))
    I know the rental is a big headache but does it generate enough money for you to hire a property manager? It is such a great way to accumulate wealth. I wish I did it in my 20’s . I am thinking of selling mine but it’s because it doesn’t generate enough cash flow for a property manager otherwise I still think real estate is a great investment and should be part of any diversified portfolio. Whatever you both decide to do as far as FIRE, you are both very young, take the time to enjoy some of your money now. Travel the world before you have kids, it is much easier and you guys are in a great financial position already. Are you considering side hustles in retirement?

    • Hehe, travel plans before kids is a definite. I have lots of side hustles lined up. I want all of them! Jared can relax and cozy up but I’m going to hustle my pants off 😀

  • Yes, definitely had this talk! And it’s always after hubs has the same stress breakdown that Jared had.

    You’re definitely still young, so waiting a bit to have kids isn’t a big deal. But I had a question…. would y’all move to a less expensive area to live? That could cut the needed amount down, shortening the years. I’m all about fire and all, but you have to enjoy today and not put everything off. I think that tends to be what many in the FIRE community think is needed. But only living for the future makes life incredibly unenjoyable.

    I think our husbands are a lot alike, because that sounds like his ideal retirement. Plus, he wants some type of work he enjoys that helps others in some way…. not sure those details yet 😁. I’m all about writing books and maybe becoming a speaker one day, God willing. Oh, the bucket list conversation….

    • Haha I have a bucket list post that might be 30 pages. And yesssss, I’ve soooooooo entertained the thought of moving somewhere cheaper than either coast. That was my #1 strategy for 🔥 earlier but he shot it down. Jared’s not into moving away from Seattle. He likes Seattle a lot, it’s sunless and gray, perfect for introverts.

  • This is another awesome post! Mr. FAF and I haven’t talked about our FIRE number yet, but I’d like to have as much money as possible *grinning*. $2M at the absolute minimum. I’m extremely risk-averse and don’t want a financial catastrophe (i.e. medical expenses) to ruin our family. Also, for us, we need to take care of two sets of parents (4 people) who are likely to have health issues when they get older. I’m not sure when Mr. FAF and I will ever be able to retire.

    Mr. FAF likes his videos games too. We have gotten into so many fights about his video addiction. As far as I can tell, he no longer plays video games (at least when I’m at home). I usually give him 30 mins of video games if I catch him playing. Mr. FAF also likes drinking by himself in his study room. He always asks me if he can drink, which annoys me bc he will keep nagging if I say no. When I say yes, he acts all surprised and asks me to say No. He’s so weird sometimes @_@

    • Ohhh FAF I didn’t even think of that. I assumed Mr. FAF’s parents were more than covered but he’s an only child huh? 4 is a tough number. I have my parents but Jared’s parents are doing great. Does he turn red in the face when he drinks (asian glow?) I think Mr FAF need some man time like Ying said.

      • Lol his face does turn red when he’s drunk. But usually I know he’s tipsy when he starts talking about his (wild) hopes and dreams for the future lol Plus, he just sounds funny.

        Mr. FAF does get his man time (he doesn’t have to do a lot of the housework), but my blood pressure somehow just goes through the roof whenever I see him play video games. it’s ok if he drinks beer (not orange juice lol), watch TV shows or hands out with his friends.

        Mr. FAF’s parents are covered, but we want to be on the safe side since the retirement and healthcare systems in China are a bit unpredictable at the moment.
        Ms. Frugal Asian Finance recently posted…Real Estate Scam, Overpriced Stock Seminar & Investment Lessons

  • We never had this conversation. I was completely burned out and I just needed to get out. It took me some time to convince Mrs. RB40 that it’s the right move, but we both got on board pretty quickly. The stress really got to me.
    Jared likes his job now so he should continue to work. My prediction is that his feeling will change at some point if he doesn’t move up in the company. In the engineering world, you can’t do the same thing and be satisfied. I liked my job when I was in my 20s, but it got terrible once I became more senior. Good luck.
    Joe @ Retire by 40 recently posted…Cancun Trip Report Part 1 – Seeing The Local Color

    • I think so too Joe. 100% word for word actually. I remember your post on why you quit and it reminded me sooooo much of my husband. He doesn’t like to move up past a certain point because of the social/managerial duties involved. That’s why we have $60k a year as level 2. I think Jared might enjoy his job for 4 years more, get discouraged and lost, then leave. Or he becomes a senior developer and hate it then leave.

  • You guys have such a great head start since you’re so young! 🙂 $3M is a LOT of money – I’d be fine with even half that. It’s great that you guys are having these conversations now and see how you align on things.

    Kristin and I have them every now and then. I’m not sure we have totally settled on a final number yet. I could do with less than what Kristin prefers, so my number I think is naturally lower. Most likely we’ll reevaluate as we get closer to our bare minimum amount and see how our lives are going and what we want to do.

  • Thanks for another thoughtful post, Lily. I could have done without mention of the mysterious orange stain, but no post is perfect, right? Mrs. G and I are pretty much on the same page when it comes to bucket list items. We want to visit all 50 states and also travel to Ecuador, Thailand, Vietnam, and Australia. We’re retired now and a 4% withdrawal rate would give us $15K-20K annually for travel. That’s one of the benefits of living in a low-cost state (North Carolina). Would you and Jared consider leaving Seattle? Doing so would definitely lower your FI number.
    Mr. Groovy recently posted…Groovy Ranch Has Finally Been Found

    • Haha the darn stain won’t come out! What is it!

      I so so so want to leave the cement jungle. Everytime I see Frugalwoods or Mrs AR’s photos I get acre jealousy. Jared does not want to leave though – he’s stated it several times. Shrubbery = spiders. Sighhhh. I’ll work him until he agrees. Can we go to your groovy ranch?

  • It is so great you guys are planning on financial independence starting early. When we were that young, I don’t even think FIRE was a thing. If you plan on financial independence, no matter what life throws at you, you will be fine because you’ll always have some money in the bank (or investments, etc.)
    You will most likely hit your goals much earlier than planned. It’s pretty incredible to see how quickly wealth grows once you hit your first benchmark.
    And kids, all I can say is that they are MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE than I ever thought possible. Everyone talks about college as the big expense, but it’s the little things you don’t think about that really add up.
    Keep on track. You guys are doing a great job!
    Dash2Retire recently posted…Will Our Housing Bubble Burst? TWICE?

  • Your husband’s Ideal Fire is awesome. You can tell he’s burnt out and just longing for some relaxation and time to enjoy the simple pleasures. We’re always so busy and there’s a million things to do, sometimes I just want to spend the weekend doing absolutely nothing.

    • Confession, I’ve never been to a Red Lobster. But I hear people glow about it after a birthday there. It sounds magical and special. Jared said something about cheese biscuits? Mm I wanna try that…

      We have totally different goals and we’ve known that for a bit. He’s simple and I’m saucey 🙂

  • I don’t have the patience to wait until full salaried FI to retire. And I’m certainly not waiting until FI to have kids (biological clock be ticking!). I think I’ll probably make it to a paid off house and 25-30k/year before semi-retiring (probably working part time as a consultant for an additional stream of income to supplement). That’s enough for us to live simply. I feel like, at that point, the extra security on top will not be worth the sacrifice of time doing what I want and spending more time with my family.

  • We have had this conversation many time since on our path to FI so far. It has changed a lot through the years, but the basics stay the same. Our household in theory is more comfortable taking risks! This summer we even threw around the idea of FI with $400k (AKA quit now and run away into the sunset), but that would have required moving and seemed too risky! It was moreso a thought experiment.

    • Ohhh yes been there. I math-ed if we could do it now at 600k liquid and some home equity but Jared said “no, not without a market correction.” I think you and I have to wait Ms. KK.

  • Aww, Jared’s version of FIRE was so cute. I actually think your FIRE 2 level is good enough! I mean, you’ll still have the Airbnb income, right? I couldn’t wait longer than that to actually start living it up, though. I think there’s a balance you can strike.

    I don’t think my husband cares about FIRE. He has a really stable job that he’s OK with. However, he said I could retire early if I wanted. So I guess I’ll be stay-at-home wife if I don’t have kids. To me, FIRE means having all the time in the world to work on creative projects, volunteering, etc. I’ve quit jobs a couple times and in the months of Funemployment I’ve always had a smashing time, working on projects and doing cool stuff. This makes me feel confident I’ll never really end up being ‘bored’. But I think entertaining myself is probably a byproduct of not being supervised as a kid 🙂

    • Fire level 2 is good with me and yes we will likely still do airbnb. It’s exciting to think we’ll be done in 4 years but I’m not even going to entertain that thought until we sound. Kids could get expensive $$. Would you ever want you own clothing label? I read Vera Wang didn’t start her brand until she was over 40. And it was by accident because she wanted to be an editor.

  • I love how detailed you go about your money. I don’t focus on it too much but I really ought to, considering the extravagant things I want like a house here in Hawaii and to travel at least once a year, with a possible second kid in the mix. Reading blogs like yours inspired me to really sit down and do the math. Though I don’t go as detailed as most of your PF bloggers do, I have a more realistic sense of when my husband and I can accomplish what we want. I wanted it in 2 years. Turns out it’s more like 10. But, I’ve come to accept that I can’t have everything (hard for a perfectionist/Type A/baby of the family who’s used to getting almost everything).

    I don’t think you writing this out at all is ungrateful. Frankly, more people need to sit down and do this. Enjoyed this post!

    • Thanks Slyvia! Hawaii is really pricey. Other commenters asked if I would relocate to FIRE sooner, is that something you would do? Not that anyone could sell me away from Hawaii, it sounds awesome.

  • We have also had this discussion. We have set our date more on contracts ending than any particular final wealth level. Personally, I am sick and tired of work and ready to quit, so we are working on FIRE through side income. As soon as your side income equals your expenses, then you are free as well. Neither of us hates working, I just want location independence and time for myself that my current process engineering job just doesn’t afford.

    I think you will live just fine on $80,000. Let me know in a couple years how Jared is feeling with his job.
    Justin @ Atypical Life recently posted…4 Vital Personal Finance Lessons Learned From Apple’s Latest iPhone X Release

    • I don’t think Jared would enjoy his work past 4-5 years to be honest. I can almost bet money on it Justin (;

      Your fire sounds like mine! I want to be location independent too. Where do you have in mind for a dream place?

  • This is an amazing discussion to have! Mrs. Minafi and I have been together for 11 years and I don’t think we’ve delved into this topic this much. Kudos to you’ll for continuing through the hard part of the discussion to get to the fun part.

    I really like the breakdown of fire “levels” as well. Having each of those levels with the corresponding year breakdown and what’s in them is a really nifty idea for helping you both get on the same page on what each tier looks like. I’d be curious — after you’ll had the “fire goals” set out, how did you’ll end up deciding to break that into tiers? (or was that an exercise you did after?).

    I’m aiming for something between your level 3 and 3.5 myself. With no kids, and somewhat cheap lifestyle, that’s already plenty for everything. Maybe after doing an exercise like this with my wife we may end up realizing it’s actually overkill!

    • Thanks Adam you brilliant genius!! 🌟
      The tiers were in my head. I’ve been thinking about each level for a while now. The excerise was just our ideal fire goals and we smooshed that into it’s appropriate tier. $1mil, $1.5mil, $2mil and then $3 mil.

      Woahh, no kids and a frugal lifestyle, I don’t think you’ll need level 3-3.5 right? I bet you could wing it with 2!

  • great discussion Lily. I like your FIRE levels and setting achievable goals. Is it an option for you to work while Jared takes some time off when you have reached a certain FIRE level? You sound like you have a ton of energy still and maybe having some downtime will be helpful to Jared to recharge.

    • That’s the plan for post FIRE. I honestly don’t have any post FIRE lay around, playing video game plans. I’m going to be more busy as Jared winds down. That’s why he’s going to be a stay at home dad hehe.

      As of right now, Jared’s earning power is peak game and mine would be a fraction.

  • You have some nice options to consider. I vote for level 3 or 4. I am more comfortable with work stress than the stress of running out of money tied to level 1 or 2. I rather have some breathing room when in comes to being able to spend. Level 3 or 4 makes even more financial sense if you are planning on having a child or two.
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