FIRE: Our Midlife Crisis
“One of the great realizations of life can come from discovering that the outputs you are being compensated for are not exciting or fulfilling. When that realization comes, it’s time to honor that truth and make a change.” pg. 189. Brendon Burchard’s “High Performance Habits”
Overwhelmed is the main feeling I’ve had since the end of February when we finally got up the gumption to make some difficult decisions we’d been putting off for over half a year. In hindsight, perhaps these weren’t the wisest moves to do all at once—because a massive amount of change all close together can really stress a human out. But hey, you can’t have an adventure without feeling a bit stretched. Read on to find out more about what we’ve been up to lately:
Sometime last year we realized we’d hit what I call lean FIRE—the number that (including the worth of our house) is 25 times our annual spending. So hypothetically we could retire and live on a 4% drawdown rate—but dang, the paperwork involved with accessing our asset protected status assets. #PaperWorkHeadAches
The other issue with reaching FIRE is that it gives you too many options (first world problems, I know). That is if you’re willing to make changes to your life when you hit FIRE. It’s hard to cause massive upheaval—like quitting jobs or moving to a lower cost of living area.
Right now though, neither one of us are ready to walk away from working in American medicine completely. But doing the same thing for the next ten years…well that’s just a money jail. And it’s time to break outta this joint!
So that played into our thinking about “What do we do next?”
Asking this question led us to talk about even more issues.
Physicians ponder Midlife Mortality:
What if we don’t live to see traditional retirement age? We see people our age dying all the time, leaving kids behind. We both have friends from med school or undergrad that have died already.
Since when did we get “old” all of a sudden? We have arrived at the old age of young and are about to be at the young age of old. This is a crossroads, and we want to slow down and choose our next steps wisely.
What do we do with the remainder of this one precious life? Our young boys are still at an age where they want to hang around us—though this won’t last for long according to our friends who have older children. These friends have told us traveling in the summer with older kids will become more problematic as tweens/teens want to go to camps with their own friends—so if we’re going to travel extensively in the summer, we should do it now.
We’re at T minus ten years for our older son leaving the house, so what to do with this last precious decade? Should we take a gap year now? But we aren’t those types of people: you know, the ones with degrees in sainthood who can travel for a year year with their family. We’re a family of (mostly) introverts who like to stay home and venture out periodically. And besides, our oldest isn’t interested in world schooling right now and DH and I aren’t either (though I am open to the idea later on).
What would happen if we tried something different with our lives? What would that look like and what should it be at this stage? How should we approach that?
Our kids don’t run our household, but we wanted to hear their thoughts, so we had open discussions about what their goals and values are so we could take their desires into account while we were figuring out what to do. (I already ask them frequently what they want to do more of—this is a huge reason why we bought a camper.) They have shown an interest in learning Spanish, but they want to be in one place, not traveling around all the time.
So we took all that into account while mulling things over. We took over half a year kicking ideas around until finally, at the end of February, we decided what to do for at least the next year of our lives.
First, we had to do something about my VA job.
I’ve completed my 5 years as a federal government worker. This means I should receive the teeniest of pension, which should allow my children to pay the taxes on my diapers when I’m in a nursing home.
Now I’m ready to move on from outpatient palliative care and try something new. I officially quit my job on May 8th. Goodbye cheap health insurance, hello 18 months of expensive Cobra.
Like Dragon Lady recently said to me: “It’s so hard when everything is so comfortable—comfort kills!”
True that. Staying in our current situation, repeating the same year over and over, would be the easiest, less risky/scary thing for us to do. But we’ve felt like, since last year, all our ties in Tampa Bay were loosening—that it was time to move on and get out of our comfort zone so we could grow.
Staying comfortable is why we kept putting off moving to a place we’ve felt called to since last July. We’re accustomed to the Tampa Bay Area and knew it’d be a lot of work to change things up. Plus it was super hard to leave some seriously awesome friends here.
The whole Tampa Bay Area is booming (so if you’re looking to work hard and make money, come here). As a result, the housing costs in our peninsula have skyrocketed.
Saying we’re not comfortable keeping up with the Joneses in this area is an understatement. The lifestyle here is a bit of a bubble. There’s a lot of wealth in this peninsula and it’s on full display—to the point that if you live here, you become so accustomed to it that most other parts of the US look “poor” in comparison (which is laughable, since we, as a nation, are so wealthy).
So it’s bittersweet to write this: we have to leave so we don’t stagnate and also to make sure our kids can grow up in a less affluent area. I feel like the children living here are under tremendous pressure to excel so they too can have the same—or better—lifestyle they’ve grown up with. I need to give my kids the freedom to choose to do whatever they want with their lives—even if that means choosing lower paying jobs than what their parents had.
But Why move to Gainesville, Florida?
A friend said us moving to Gainesville is our midlife crisis. No, that came earlier—it was deciding what to do after hitting lean FI that was our “crisis.”
I have family in Gainesville, and we’ve kicked the idea of moving up there around over the years. The kids have been asking for a more country-type lifestyle (they also want a farm. We said no to that—but I let them adopt a cactus this last week, so that must count for something).
We knew from research that because Gainesville has so many graduates that want to stay after graduation, it’d be challenging to find a job there. Everyone here in St. Pete who’s ever lived in Gainesville lights up when they hear we’re moving there and say with longing they wished they still lived there.
When we first decided to move, we didn’t have job offers there. This is where you have faith that life will work out. DH is now in the process of credentialing for a part-time job up there. I’m going to focus on the family and getting us settled in, so I’m on Sabbatical and will send my CV out for part-time work after the first of the year. Probably.
We’ll rent for the next school year and go from there. I’m asking DH about possibly doing some outside the box thinking on housing, but who knows what we’ll do.
All I know is Gainesville has a vibrant FI community with some seriously cool people I’ve already had the pleasure of meeting. The city is big on solar power and is one of the most bike-friendly cities we’ve ever biked through (yes, we’re biker nerds who bike through areas we’re considering moving to). I find the traffic much less stressful than the jammed streets I deal with in St. Pete. And I’m sorta okay with possibly going back down to one car (as long as DH is lit up like a Christmas tree) as there’s less traffic and more bike commuters in Gainesville.
And despite what people in St. Pete have said to me, there’s racial diversity in Gainesville. Actually, if you compare the charts in Wikipedia, there’s more diversity up there than in St. Pete. And DH and I loved the fact that while touring the kids’ new school last November, we heard people speaking Spanish.
Struggle is part of anything in life that is truly worthwhile.
Now we’ve said goodbye to the house that was our home for the past 5 and a half years. Our belongings are stored inside 5 Uhaul pods for the summer. And we asked ourselves, why not go somewhere before we move for the kids’ start of school in August?
Plan A for the summer was me attending a writing program, but alas, I wasn’t one of the 15 students they accepted. Instead, we had five weeks to pack up our house and put together a Plan B. We opted for slow travel, focusing on one city with a side trip to another country. Last year we’d researched the possibility of moving to Medellín, Colombia for two months. Well, now we’ve done it—except for 2 and a half months!
At first, I thought we were perhaps a little foolhardy to move here as I found the whole idea a bit nerve-wracking beforehand. But I refuse to have my life’s actions (or inactions) dictated by other’s fears! 💪🙌 And as a good friend recently said to me: Fear is systemic, and it’s time we reject it! What we’re doing is indeed scary and difficult, but aren’t all fantastic things in life something you have to work hard for?
And now, here in Medellín, my heart is content—but I’ll write more about this in future blogs over this summer.
Tune in next time where I’ll answer all the questions people have peppered us with since they’ve found out our plans. Until then, take a look at your finances and learn more about how to handle them better: You got this!
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