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Alternative Endings to: FIRE?

Does “RE” have to come after “FI”?…I think so, but I’m not 100% sure anymore.  There are lots of combinations of letters that make up words.  Just like there are lots of things I could do after financial independence.

For my own life, I can order & organize things however I want.  There aren’t set rules!

I mentioned in the last post that a year ago, we reset our financial savings target & pushed out any early retirement plans for a couple years.

At the time, it was a bit crushing to think about a few more years of work.  I was mentally exhausted for a few months (regarding personal finance, I was actually pretty ok in the rest of life).  

Work Changed for Better

Interestingly, over the last year, something has changed for the better at work.

I had a leadership coach help me.  I was apprehensive; he was great.  He was as much psychologist as leadership guru – ends up I probably needed both!

I’ve learned to manage a bit better, delegate more, and appropriately staff my group.  And I get waaaayyy less stressed at work.  We’re getting more work done better, and seem to have a good morale & culture (no turnover in my group in past 4-5 yrs).

Ends up I wasn’t perfect, and my situation at work wasn’t set in stone.  I actually had the ability to play a big part in changing both of those.  Always good to move yourself away from being the victim.

And like I tell my kids – sticking with it through a challenge can leave you a stronger person.

Still Retire?

All of that has left me questioning my sprint to retire early.  I still agree with the general premise: don’t spend and mismanage yourself and HAVE to work all your life.

But was retiring really the appropriate goal – or just a way to get out (and still consider myself successful)?

I honestly don’t know, so I thought I’d write about it to clear up my thoughts.  As I’ve considered the approaching FI (plus buffer), I see a handful of options:

  1. FIRE: FI + Retire Early
  2. FINK: FI+ No Knocking off – keep current role
  3. FIRM: FI + Role Modification at work
  4. FISH: FI + Start Hobby-business 

Not listed (but crossed my mind) was finding employment in another industry at another employer.  At times I’m drawn to something tech company-ish.  Would be a new adventure and learning opportunity.

Problem is, I’d probably succeed best as a coder/programmer.  But I’ve developed too much of a personal/management side to stare at a screen all day.  And too anti-authority to fully step back in as a rank & file employee.  Not to mention that coding seems to be the exact occupation everyone is trying to get out of in order to retire early!  So I’ll scratch that off before the list is created.

Thinking Through the Options


I still have a big pull to #1 – not having a boss or any work to worry with.  Time with my family – both nuclear and extended.  Friends & exercise.  Ability to have hobbies and learn in areas I’ve ignored for years (or a lifetime).  Importantly, a reset for my way of thinking – more about time / less about stuff.

And I would be proud to “do it differently.”  I hate to admit it, but it would be satisfying that even if people don’t understand what I’m doing, they’d be impressed that I don’t have to work.  I think all the blogging early retirees I’ve read have more than a bit of that to them.

I do think I might go a little crazy at home. Maybe I can come up with enough hobbies and projects, but I’m a little concerned. I also have a recent habit of vegging out more than I’d like to admit.  I think I could overcome this, but it would be up to me.

Also, absence makes the heart grow fonder – my wife & kids are definitely happier to see me when we’ve been apart.

So I’m a little less sure of this option compared to 2-3 years ago.  Still seems appealing, but has some drawbacks.

FINK: Stay Put As-Is

The main problem with walking away, though, is the “walking away” part.    We are literally shaping some local neighborhoods (hopefully for the better), and I have a big hand in that.  It would be hard to replace the creative aspect on the large scale that I have currently.

And there is a good level of energy at work.  I work with smart, motivated, passionate people.  Interacting with them sharpens me.

Problem with staying is that I’m somewhat unsatisfied at work in my position.  I’m having trouble pinpointing what it is (I’ve tried to write this paragraph 20 times!).   I think it has something to do with my people management portion of my role being a little to big for my liking.  I prefer to work with a team, but personally have a larger piece of analysis: numbers, scheduling, and design.

On the other hand, being the boss is pretty fun.  I get to go to more interesting meetings, do more brainstorming, and interact with higher level partners.  I think I just like being in the dirt also.

So continuing as-is doesn’t seem perfect to me, even if not close to a terrible fate.

FIRM: Adjust Role with Current Company

Maybe I could carve out another role while staying at my employer?  I think my boss would be receptive.  What would it look like?

  • Work a little more with numbers
  • Less direct reports…maybe only 1
  • Continue working on new project concept design
  • Add in some analysis

As I write it out, it could be a sort of Chief Investment Officer role.  That could be interesting, and I like it as a direction.  I just don’t know that it is the substantive change I’m looking for.

It might make sense to try this sooner rather than later, and see how things go.

FISH: Start New Business

If I can’t figure it out at my current job, then I could always hang my own shingle.  I certainly like the idea of being the owner rather than just some people’s boss.

The adventure of doing it along, choosing my own path, and living with outcomes of my own decisions.  Pretty enticing to me.

And really, starting a real estate company is not as daunting as some other businesses (manufacturing, etc).  I could be generally active – looking for land & deals, while trying out some of the benefits of early retirement.  In real estate, there can be a fine line between having your own business and being retired.  Actually getting a deal going successfully is the hard part.

The key for me would be keeping perspective on things.  It could quickly become stressful and more than a full time job.  It could also risk assets that I’ve built up for retirement.  Predevelopment efforts cost money to consultants (architects, engineers, etc).  So some overfunding (that we’re already doing) of our personal savings may come in handy.

There’s also a chance that I get sucked into the trap of buying things and being focused on material wealth and success.  I have a real concern with this.  Would just be something I have to watch.

But that concern could be mitigated by keeping things small.  I don’t need to take over the real estate world.  So it could be fun to work on smaller scale urban infill real estate projects and/or adaptive re-use of buildings.

It would be nice to keep up the network of colleagues & contacts I’ve built over the last 15 years.  Lord knows networking exhausts me.  Might as well maintain that asset.


In Conclusion

I think some order is coming into my head.

I’ll probably hang on in my current role for at least the rest of this calendar year.

Then maybe transition to a different role internally, with less personnel oversight.  I’ll probably start planting seeds with my boss this summer.

Lastly, roll into early retirement and/or new business, assuming the new role at work isn’t the cat’s meow.  At this point, I’d lean towards a handful of months at early retirement, followed by starting a business.   “Business” being too formal of a term, really.

Whatever-I-call-it would be a limited enterprise – maybe building a single family house or finding an old building to rehab.  All the while, a key goal being to not overextend my personal time or financial resources.

I’ll keep the deadline of our FIRE savings goal for a final decision.  Maybe 12-18 months….FIRE may still be spelled F-I-R-E.  But it’s seeming somewhat flexible.

9 thoughts on “Alternative Endings to: FIRE?

  1. You don’t HAVE to work until your FI goal and quit your job. While that is definitional FIRE, life doesn’t follow definitions. My current plan is actually quit my career before FI, take some time off, and then start some consulting or a business. My goals are ever-evolving and that’s okay.

  2. Retirement doesn’t mean you have to stop working. At least for me it doesn’t. FIRE just opens more opportunities that were closed, it gives an ability to work or do what you want, when you want it and how you want it .

  3. I’m going through these thoughts every day these days. I’ve been early retired for 10 years already and still wonder if I should spend time to generate more active income. To get retirement ready, I sold off over $10 million in an asset that today would be worth over $200 million.

    Before you pull the trigger, make sure your head is in the right place and won’t look back with regret. Make sure you know why you are leaving. And that you are ok with a $5 million lifestyle vs a $10 or $20 or $100 million lifestyle. Some people will say you can always go back if retirement is not satisfying you, but not every situation can be recreated. Your skills are probably more transferable to being your own boss. I admit I am an extreme three standard deviation example.

    1. Wow that’s quite an opportunity cost. If you don’t mind me asking – what type of asset was that?

      Well said: “not every situation can be recreated.” That’s a good summary of one of my biggest holdbacks to quitting. I work with good, smart, capable people on interesting/complicated projects that have a higher than average chance of success. It will be hard to recreate if I decide 5-10 yrs down the road that I want back in. So that’s why we increased our savings target.

      Still on the lower range of what you mention – I don’t have a fancy enough palette for a $100m lifestyle!

  4. I should add that you have a lot of other options… take on less projects, change your role, change your job, start setting up your own business first, etc, etc. For me, I was too burned out to consider those when I retired. But I have an A-type personality. When I’m given an assignment I put myself into it 150%. A lot of people at work didn’t and had a more balanced lifestyle.

    At the end of my employment, I was even offered flex hours from any location in the world that I wanted. But I knew that because of my personality and sense of responsibility, I’d still be working 12+ hours a day on my laptop at any location and thinking about it while trying to fall asleep.

    1. Interesting thought: start a business before leaving…? Although it would be real estate, if I could keep it non-competitive then that could be a cool option. Thanks, and I’ll have to give that more thought.

      Given your disposition, you may have actually gained that $190m in value for the ten years of life you got back from work!

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