By: Revanche

Thinking about FIRE: our why, numbers, obstacles

December 27, 2016

Sunday morning, after the first half of the morning shift, I prodded PiC to go off and do his thing – gym, run outside, whatever. I would occupy JuggerBaby. Ze and I unloaded the dryer together: I pulled out a tiny person’s armload at a time, ze ran it to push each load onto the bed. By the time we were done, there were eight molehills of clothing all along the bed’s perimeter.

We sat down on the bed together, sorting and folding, quietly reading. PiC stretched out on the floor, “for just a minute”, then dozed off. JB and I read several pages, folded half the laundry, and then ze ran for another book. We finished folding the rest of the piles while we read Stomp! six times in a row, always ending with a satisfying ROAR on the last page. It’s a great book. Ze slid off the bed and fetched an alphabet puzzle, and proceeded to identify the animals on the letters. We clearly have some work to do:

Baaa! – the sheep
Moo! – sorry, hippo, you’re a cow now.
RAHHH! – this one is true, lions do ROAR.

Roaring is such great fun that ze had to slide down to share with the now deep in sleep PiC. Standing over his head, ze stretched out zir arms and quietly whispered “raaaahhhh!” Three times, each time more quietly but somehow more emphatically, while I stifled my laughter and carried zir back to the bed: “no roaring at Dad right now, he’s sleeping!”

Ze was so very worried about leaving dad out of the revelation that lions go ROAR that I had to propose a game of Caps for Sale to distract zir wherein you try to stack as many caps on your head at a time as you can.

It was a great weekend. I want more of that goodness, not just on the weekends.

I don’t want to be a SAHM, I don’t have the energy for that, but I do want to have more of those moments.

It’s no secret that I’m building wealth for our future, and lately I’ve been thinking about what and why I’m building towards. Or rather, I’m absorbing there’s more than just the standard “before I become crippled” reason.

For more than half my life, I’ve battled chronic illness twins of pain and fatigue. At 21, I was already exhausted by being exhausted every day of the past 8 years and predicted that my decline could leave me crippled by my 30s. While things aren’t that dire yet, today’s bad days are a few steps up on the Richter scale than a bad day 13 years ago. The consequences are more dire, too. This affects everything.

But more than that, having a great career to support my family just isn’t good enough. Creating a power career, making the money, saving the money, investing the money, making sure we have enough to live til 80 or 90 with adequate care – that was all dreamed of. The bounty of these past few years reminds me there’s more to the journey. There’s joy, and food, and travel. There’s being present in the moment, along with ensuring we’re ok in our old age.

Maybe it’s all the memories of lonely Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks where my family didn’t have time or energy to celebrate, lonely weekends where I volunteered to help friends with their chores so that I wouldn’t be home alone. I was lonely whenever I wasn’t helping my parents work. Now it’s my turn in the parenting seat, and I don’t want to just survive. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to have survived this long. But despite the constant setbacks, the tumult of life, I still find myself wanting more for us. I find myself wanting early retirement so PiC and I can enjoy as much life together as we can.

I only just read Ms. ONL’s posts on why they’re aiming to retire early this week, and this resonates deeply with me. In my case, while my parents were forced into early retirement as well, I’m the one with the disease and no certainty that I’ll have many good years ahead of us. Nothing is promised, so it’s more important to me than ever before that I find a way for us to enjoy as much of our lives as we do have.

What stands in our way: family and uncertain health

I’ve been taking a vacation from my responsibilities as a daughter and maybe some responsibilities as a sibling. The bills are still getting paid but I needed to deal with my feelings about Dad, and how to move forward.

The jury is still out on any responsibilities I have as a sibling. My brother has been nothing but harmful to me, both directly and indirectly when I had to clean up his messes or live with the consequences, except for a very few times he wasn’t. But even if a broken clock is right sometimes, those times don’t mean it’s not broken, right? Bad analogies aside, I needed some emotional distance for a while.

It’s been months and I’m just at the point of accepting that this is the situation. I need to reduce their reliance on my income, and I need Dad to be in a safe situation where his basic needs are met. Whether he decides to meet us halfway so he can be in JuggerBaby’s life or not is up to him. That’s not up to me, and I don’t need to take that on myself anymore.

What I have to decide is what to do now. It should start with moving him to a new place but the rent at the current home is lower than rents for apartments a third that size. He doesn’t need the size but I don’t need the expenses to go up. That’s a huge barrier – his living expenses, and potentially health care costs. I have no intention of planning an exit from the workplace only to find ourselves depleted if he has a long illness like Mom did.

On that health note …

Our ending to 2016 is a jab-to-the-ribs reminder that health costs are neither fun nor small, non-catastrophic costs of elective but not so elective care get serious fast. I don’t expect we’ll keep having expensive “elective” care every year, but it’s not safe to assume we’d want to have the choice should the situation arise. Plus we have a kid who is somewhat accident prone and it’s our responsibility to ensure to the best of our ability that ze gets the best care ze needs.

We have great insurance now, but I have to do research and guesswork to estimate what it could cost us in retirement, assuming another ten years in the workplace.

If I had to say, I’m probably less than optimistic about our future goals, though not deep into pessimism territory. This isn’t a bad thing – it keeps me driving forward, it keeps me from feeling complacent and being complacent.

:: What are your thoughts on your eventual retirement? Do you have a good idea of how you’d like it to look? How are you planning for it?

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich. *

16 Responses to “Thinking about FIRE: our why, numbers, obstacles”

  1. I can see your passion jumping off the page in this one! I think life teaches us things, especially when they have been difficult. It’s up to us to listen and decide what we can do with that info going FORWARD. Like, you negative experiences were the catalysts for me to also pursue FI. I never want to feel like I can’t walk away from any situation. Feeling trapped is the worst. Best of luck in 2017!
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…2016: The Yin and the YangMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      Tonya – that’s so true. We have to choose to actually learn lessons from our past and then decide how we’re going to do better!

  2. It’s so hard for me to articulate my thoughts on retirement. I’m all over the place. There’s still the pipedream of the literacy initiative somewhere (warm preferably). But mostly, I think about my health and my hobbies. My dad retired this year, and I haven’t been able to bring myself to blog about it quite yet. The short version is he built his business from the ground up, and I think he misses it dearly. For his birthday, he wished for his job back. Ditto for Christmas. I think once he gets into the groove, he’ll be more content. He did backbreaking work until he was almost 70, but it was also his passion. So I’m thinking a lot about cultivating passions and finding ways to let them bleed into my personal life, not just my professional life.

    Lovely post as always. Thank you for the important food for thought, especially as we get ready to close out the year. Wishing you health and happiness, friend!
    Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies recently posted…A Glimpse Inside 31 Days of KindnessMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      It’s taken a long time to get to this particular point, and it’ll take time to set things up properly so that we can actually live this dream. You’re making a lot of good moves to give yourself choices in the future, that’s the key right now.

      I hope your dad finds a good way to enjoy his retirement, I’m sure it’s hard to let go of your work and your passion at the same time, even if it was tough on him physically.

  3. The health part of FI is never far away in my mind. A few years ago my husband went into septic shock following a surgery, and almost died. He was away from home for a month in the ICU, hospital, and a rehabilitation facility. Even though it was years ago it still impacts our lives, and changes the way I view FI and life. Reaching FI means I won’t have to worry about something bad happening because we’ll have the resources to deal with it. And that health crisis helps keep the balance of life and work in perspective.

    • Revanche says:

      Health crises – you know of what I speak! It’s the biggest piece of all in the puzzle of how to put together our future.

  4. Linda says:

    My move to the Bay Area is having a significant impact on the financial plans I made back in Chicago. With higher housing costs here, I may still be paying a mortgage well into my traditional “retirement” years, and my current financial plan is based on a monthly budget that doesn’t allow for the mortgage payment.

    More and more, I’m meeting people here who sort of shrug their shoulders and say they will likely have a mortgage until they die, and what’s the big deal? Certainly I’m not trying to leave a legacy to anyone, and if I do die without having a paid off house I have to wonder if it is a big deal; I just need to plan budget projections to account for the change. This is counter the standard FIRE advice to pay off your mortgage as early as possible. I need to do some more research into the pros and cons.
    Linda recently posted…Two years inMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      Normally that kind of thinking would be anathema but honestly if you can make the numbers work and are able to enjoy your retirement when the time comes even with the mortgage, what IS the big deal if you still have a mortgage when you pass?

  5. “There’s being present in the moment, along with ensuring we’re ok in our old age.” I find being present in the moment one of the most difficult things in life. I’m so happy you managed some of those moments recently, they really are the ones that seem to make life the most vibrant.
    Mel @ brokeGIRLrich recently posted…Financially Savvy Saturdays #175My Profile

    • Revanche says:

      It’s one of the challenges that comes with having the ability to step OUT of the moment so frequently, a small but insidious one.

  6. What a great piece of writing!

    I sincerely hope that in the VERY near future science will find something to ease your pain and forestall further disability. In the meantime, though, you never fail to put me in awe of your strength and resourcefulness. <3

    Early retirement? Well…if I were your age, my concern would be whether there would be medical care available at all for the unemployed elderly. In the current political climate, we can expect Medicare to be gutted. And entre nous, I can’t even imagine where I would be without Medicare: the six surgeries occasioned by the breast-cancer-that-was-not-cancer and the intestinal blockage caused by scarring from an almost forgotten appendectomy racked up well over $100,000 worth of bills. So much more that at about a hundred grand I lost track…I really have no idea how much that horror show cost; only that if I’d had to pay for it out of pocket, I would no longer have enough in savings to support myself today.

    Social Security also is on the chopping block. Again: how can people your age even imagine the possibility of retirement without Social Security as a fall-back? As a practical matter, as you reach your late 50s and 60s, you are not going to keep your high-paying jobs in a culture that regards the aged as the New N*****. Believe me: you will be laid off, and you will not be able to get another job, unless it’s stocking shelves at the Walmart.

    With a Ph.D., 15 years of teaching and university administrative experience, and 15 years of journalism experience, the best I can do today is part-time adjunct work that, when unpaid course prep and grading are factored in, pays LESS than minimum wage. The old minimum wage, not the new one. Look at the faces of adjunct faculty and you’ll see this workforce is staffed by people who cannot get decently paying work because of their age. Many, maybe most younger workers are in professions and trades that don’t even provide that kind of low-paying peripheral work for laid-off and “retired” staff.

    Without Social Security, I would be up the creek. I’d planned to work until I was 70. Instead, I was laid off at the depth of the Bush Recession. Despite applying for every job I even vaguely thought I could do (and several for which I was ideally qualified), I could NOT get hired. Period. I was forced to start taking Social Security at 64, six years before I’d planned to do so and at a time when the value of my investments was bottoming out. If my house had not been paid off by then, I can’t even imagine where I’d be now…surely not in my home, though.

    Your generation will see Social Security much reduced or possibly taken away from you altogether. That will make “early retirement” far more difficult or even impossible: you will have to salt away a ridiculous amount of money to sustain you to the end of your life expectancy. For most people, early retirement will be effectively impossible.

    If I were a young person with brains and talent today, I would be looking at employment in other countries. NOW. I would not delay. Even though taxes are bracing in more enlightened countries, out-of-pocket medical care and old-age living expenses will cost younger Americans as much as or (probably) more than their counterparts in Europe and Asia pay for those services through their taxes. We’re already seeing the Third-Worldization of America. This is the time for young, capable Americans to avoid a pretty grim retirement-age future by emigrating to countries that are not on the decline.

    Want to retire early? Go someplace where you can afford to retire. Before it’s too late…
    Funny about Money recently posted…Gardening, Baking, Loafing…My Profile

    • Revanche says:

      It’s a bit sad that I’ve really just given up on any major scientific breakthroughs for the pain, especially as a woman. But it’s freeing too, it’s let me stop hoping for what may or may not be, and focus on doing what I can with what I can see ahead of us.

      That said, absolutely the almost-certain loss of dependable health care is an enormous issue for us, and why I’d need to have piles and PILES of money saved in many places before I’d feel confident in taking retirement. I’ve had too much experience with life without insurance.

      But neither can I plan to work into my twilight years either. As you experienced, and as my parents experienced, not everyone can.

      The “good” thing is that I have never considered receiving Social Security. It never factors into my plans because I sincerely doubt it’ll exist in any reliable form when we’d be qualified for it.

  7. I relate to so much of this. In an attempt to prolong my “energy years” (that’s my name, not a medical term, AFAIK), my plan is for me to leave my job within the next year. If I don’t, the travel & the schedule really, really cause health issues. Unfortunately, as I know you’re so aware, the cost of housing here is a problem & gets in the way of that plan.

    My husband loves the bay area, and I love being married/him, so we will likely stay in the area until the kids are done with high school. I’m hoping to move into something part-time in the next year or so.

    The days are exhausting, but it really goes too quickly. I want so many moments with the kids. I refused to travel in Q4 so I could attend all of their soccer tournaments & state cup matches. It was so worth it when they told me that having me there for all of the games meant so much to them.

    Happy new year to you, Revanche!!! I hope 2017 is a year full of blessings for you & your family.
    Hawaii Planner recently posted…A few frugal thingsMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      Yes, housing here is just absurd, isn’t it?

      Would you be able to stay in the your field, if you were to go part-time? Sometimes I think just working 3 days a week would be preferable to retiring entirely, early.

      That’s so awesome that you enjoyed making that choice for their games, and that they expressed their appreciation of your choice!

      Happy new year, and all the blessings to you and yours as well!

  8. Healthcare is a GIANT wildcard. Especially now. I have no idea how to even begin to plan for that in this moment in the world. But I echo your thoughts. When I’m on trips with my whole family, I think: “this is what I want all the time!”
    Maggie @ Northern Expenditure recently posted…The Money Moose Survey!My Profile

    • Revanche says:

      I DO have babysitting help in this dream world of mine. There’s no way either of us would survive chasing JuggerBaby 7 days a week without it 🙂

      But yeah. Healthcare. SO unpredictable.

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