Early on, I knew what I wanted to do professionally

Although my post-retirement plans are fuzzy, my pre-retirement gameplan has long been designed and executed to perfection.

From the time I was five years old, I began pursuing activities that would lead to my major in college and carry me through every step of my professional career. I knew what I wanted to do and even more importantly, I was keenly aware of how to accomplish my goals.

Sometimes I took this innate sense of direction for granted, but for the most part, I was grateful that I knew my path. Few of my peers could match the laser focus I had on my education and work prospects. I remember sitting in a classroom on career day as a high school freshman, and my classmates dug through projected salaries and job examples as I sat back and grinned; I was all set.

Fortunately for me, my interest proved both to be lucrative and to offer abundant opportunities for learning and growth at every level. Even as a kindergartner, I had plenty of chances to engage with my eventual profession.

Turning to FIRE to cope with professional burnout

My career path is littered with burnt out professionals who jumped into other jobs or ancillary roles that aren’t as stressful. It can be grueling and thankless at times.

Just a few years into my first “real” job, I started feeling the heat. I wasn’t ready to run away, but I did start to look for the “next big thing” in my life. I had been developing a passion for personal finance, and it didn’t take me long to catch FIRE Fever.

What started as a nuts-and-bolts approach to getting rich developed into a desperate attempt to find an escape hatch. If I could just glimpse the exit on the horizon, I felt I could grind out getting from point A to point B.

FIRE had taken root in my soul, and I doubled down on cultivating its blossoming and fruiting stages.

With FIRE in sight, what now?

I’m on the last mile of the marathon. I can see the finish line. Beyond that checkered tape stretched out across the path that I’m sprinting along, I can’t see anything. Where does the road beyond lead?

I dunno.

Truthfully, I haven’t a clue.

And that’s a really weird position to be in, for someone who always knew what he was working toward. It’s a mental state that has taken some getting used to: that degree of uncertainty, the longing for something bigger, a constant nagging of “What’s next, Jack?”

Coming to terms with not knowing my post-retirement plan

I decided that I needed to become comfortable with uncertainty. In the upcoming decades, I want to let life lead me, instead of pushing my life through a route that I predetermined. I do want to offer my fate a bit of guidance, though, and I’ve approached this task with a very simple question:

What makes me excited?

I’m taking this question all the way back to childhood, and I’ve started a list of everything that piques my curiousity or lights a little spark inside of me. When I want to learn more or experience an activity or culture further, I write it down. Here’s what I’ve got so far.

What activities excite me?

Flying planesScuba divingSnorkeling
Slow travelFishingBiking
MentoringWriting (literature)Charity

Now that I’m tracking exciting things, how do I pursue them?

First of all – knowledge. I love reading and learning. I’m starting a nonfiction book list and working my way through it. Specifically, I’m researching the places and landmarks that I want to visit. For example, I’m heading to Kauai, Hawaii later this year to celebrate my 10 year anniversary with my dear wife.

Before I go to this wonderland, one of the most beautiful places on Earth, I’m studying the geology of how Waimae Canyon formed. I’m considering island hopping to visit Maunakea, tackling the insane altitude change to drive up the summit, see the telescopes, and then participate in the stargazing activities available. Scuba certification is on my to-do list. With my wife, I’m practicing long hikes so that I can see the Napali coast in person.

As you can see, I’m attempting to combine some of my interests and enhance my enjoyment by expanding my knowledge. That’s the key, I think, to figuring out my post-FIRE journey.

Slow travel is the big one

I want to visit places and actually live there for a while, renting out a suitable location for months at a time. I want to learn Spanish by immersing myself in the culture of a place like Guatemala, which is well known for its language schools.

Immersing myself in foreign cultures, to become a well-rounded individual, is one of my primary goals for the long run.

But I have one big problem: my life is not situated for slow travel right now, and it won’t be for quite some time.

Structuring my future life, post-retirement, to fit my interests

Right now, I have six pets. SIX PETS. SIX PETS!!!

It’s really hard to travel when so many critters depend on me and my wife for survival.

Initially, we started with just two dogs: a Miniature Pinscher, and  a Doberman Pinscher. The combination is downright adorable, and our Min Pin rules the roost. Here they are, young and precious.

Min Pin and Doberman Cuddling

Exhausted after an intense battle, the opponents cuddle viciously

Both of my pups are now 9 years old and are greying rapidly. They’re in fantastic health, and I hope they live long enjoyable lives.

Trials and tribulations of a busted up momma alley cat

After a tragedy that I might one day be comfortable enough to share online, my wife and I inherited four cats.

We attempted to find them homes, but no one wants to adopt ugly adult cats with medical records longer than a CVS receipt. The no-kill shelters in our area have waiting lists that stretch out for years, and the standard shelters would surely euthanize the cats within weeks. We decided to honor the deceased caregiver of these cats by bringing them into our home and family, full-bore.

Three of the kitties were scraggly outdoor felines who lived rough lives until we welcomed them into our household. Here’s the one who endured the most, Momma Kitty:

A broken alley cat

My broken kitty, an alley cat who had multiple litters and many ailments

This is my broken kitty. She has been shot multiple times. She’s been hit by a car at least once. Her spine is so twisted that my veterinarian took a free x-ray out of curiosity, explaining his medical interest, “I’m just shocked she’s alive, much less moving around so well.”

That bulge sticking out of her stomach, we feared was a tumor, but was actually a hernia from the lifetime of trauma she experienced. It’s fixed now! But there was no hope in fixing her leg and spine. So she endures.

Despite her crippled body, she is an active and loving animal. She can jump over 3 feet in the air off her one good leg, and she does so with gusto and frequency. She’s an inspiring little babe, and after she became an indoor cat, she has never once considered sneaking outside. She loves her new life. Here’s the clear evidence:

An alley cat turned into a pampered indoor kitty

Sunbathing on carpet? Now that’s how to live!!!

Momma Kitty’s daughter and brother have lived similar lives. All three of these alley-cats have shotgun pellets littered throughout their bodies. Surviving attempted murder and many moons being exposed to the harsh elements, these poor abused kitties are now well-adjusted to being pampered indoor minilions.

Altogether, we have the following animals:

  • Min Pin – 9 years old
  • Doberman – 9 years old
  • Momma Kitty (inherited) – about 8 years old
  • Alley Cat #2 (inherited) – about 8 years old, Momma Kitty’s insane brother
  • Alley Cat #3 (inherited) – about 3 years old, Momma Kitty’s beloved daughter
  • Pampered kitty (inherited) – 13 years old

We have way too many pets to engage in slow travel post-retirement

All of our pets will receive Grade A healthcare and infinite cuddles and playtime for the rest of their lives. They’ll live comfortably and happily in our home until their last days. However, we won’t be replacing all of them after they pass away.

My wife is bonded by her heart and soul to our little Minny Pin, and I’m just a little fond of that cuddlebug too. We have agreed to always have a precious little dog, and we’re negotiating whether or not that pet will be the ONLY pet we have in the future.

Having just one tiny dog will give us the flexibility to bounce around the world, sometimes with the little beast in tow.

Designing a post-retirement lifestyle depends on health

My household pet situation is a hindrance to my post-retirement plans, but it will resolve itself in time. I find it slightly morbid to lay out a timeline for my beloved pets, but I’m a planner. I can see a future for my family that involves less creatures and more time and money available for other interests.

More importantly, I need to focus on my health. I want to be active after I achieve full FIRE status, but my body isn’t cooperating with these plans. Sometime this year, I’ll talk about the maladies that I’ve overcome or coped with, including a long and grueling lunch date with the Grim Reaper himself. But that’s a topic for another day.

Over the past year and a half, I’ve made progress with managing my weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc… but I need to do more. I need to move, to push the elements of my physical health that I can control.

Biking looks to be a key element of the success for my post-retirement life. It’s low impact on my ailing knees and back, and it will allow me to explore and enjoy my current surroundings more thoroughly. I have a nice bicycle, and it’s Springtime, so there’s no excuse for that Trek to be a dust collector.

Don’t wait until after retirement to pursue your dreams

I’m starting right now. This week, I’ll venture on my first bicycle ride of 2018, the first of many. I don’t know if I’ll be biking to lunch, the post office, or out to the countryside for views, but I am 100% committing to doing some pedaling today!

A Charlie Mungerism to apply to post-retirement life

One thing that I want to avoid after FIRE is getting bogged down in commitments that distract me from my interests. I want to follow Charlie Munger’s lead and say NO! to 99% of the opportunities that cross my desk. By protecting my time with this mental model, I’ll be able to say YES! when the chance to engage with the world aligns with my most fervent passions.

Right now, I consider myself to be an explorer of all of life’s possibilities. I suspect that I’ll stumble upon multiple paths that may or may not lead me to a degree of fulfillment.

I’m not chasing happiness, enlightenment, or luxurious comforts. I just want to do things that make me excited, to learn about topics so interesting that I can’t stop researching, to explore parts of the world that astound me, to experience a wide berth of the human condition, to feel and understand cultures in a way that short vacations can’t accomplish.

Dear Life: I’m ready for you. Let’s do this! And let’s start now, no need to wait for post-retirement status.

Starting line

Ready, set, GO! (btw- that’s definitely not me)