Part 1 – The Working Years

Introduction

This is where I document my pre-retirement time off. So far each one will be four weeks each. Success will be determined by fairly loose criteria which will probably be refined later. As you’ll see there is a direct influence from LAF’s Three Weeks Off Series. He does such a good job at look at the psychological aspect of FIRE, and it would be smart to at least glance at my future in a similar way. So here it is.

While reading this, one might ask how I manage to get so much time off. Truth is, I banked probably 90% of my vacation time while expatriated in Germany. Working and living there basically was a vacation, so I didn’t need to take much paid time off. I left Germany nearly capped at  about 360 hours and only took 30 hours or so during March. Using only 40 hours per pay period also helps stretch the surplus.

Pre-FIRE tests

We all want to be Financially Independent. There’s the dream, the planning, and the occasional taste.

Part of my plan for FIRE involves pre-FIRE tests. I’ve got a reasonable, hypothetical budget but without actually testing it I don’t know if it’s legit.

Will $2,000 a month be sufficient? It sounds like enough for a single guy but things add up quickly. Plus, I’d say I’m only junior mustachian myself. I’m smart, but am also coming down from relative spend-thriftiness.

Talk is cheap. Let’s put this life of leisure to the test! It’s also worth noting that all tests have taken place post Fi-piphany.

Test #1, March 2015

Location: Louisiana

Duration: 1 week

This was the first vacation in a 1.5 year deployment and it had been six months since I left Germany. I was good and ready for a break.

First stop – Home of record to visit my sister and niece for one week.

Positives

  • Saw them
  • mostly kept up with running

Negatives

  • Not much else for me to do there. Lots of down time.
  • Got sick. That sucked.

Conclusion: Sadly a week was sufficient. We lead two very different lives.

 

Next stop…

Location: Vermont

Duration: 3 weeks

This was a good break. First time seeing the parents in a while. Lots of lounge time, but it was better.

Positives

  • Saw my parents
  • super comfortable house to chill in
  • saw other family members
  • good stereo for listening
  • great beer and booze
  • great food
  • went snowboarding
  • was outside a fair bit
  • saw old friends

Negatives

  • drank too much booze. Gotta cut that down.
  • spent ~2k. Much of which was on booze and fancy food. Some on a gift ($300 router for Dad)
  • didn’t keep up with running like I could have, because: booze.

Could have done more

  • snowboarding
  • outdoorsy stuff
  • exercised

Conclusion:

Overall it wasn’t too long. I was definitely ready for some Me time but that’s to be expected. The time off was well received and easily spent. I could have easily stayed in Vermont another month.

Test #2, October 2015

Location: Munich, Germany

Duration: 4 weeks

This was the second and last vacation of a 1.5 year deployment. It will have been six months since the last vacation, so again I was super ready.

This is also a very interesting time because I’m going primarily to see a woman. Spoiler alert: She’s amazing.

I’m already spending $47 a day on AirBnB accommodation, so I shouldn’t go crazy with extras. Luckily I’ll be able to utilize the grocery stores and bottle shops to save.

This is also a great opportunity to test traveling without a fancy laptop. I’ll only have my Chromebook, iPhone, bluetooth headphones, and Kindle. It’s already making me nervous.

Key takeaway’s from prior test

  • Less booze.
  • Keep exercising.

Goals

  • Keep up with exercise
  • Keep DuoLingo streak
  • Spend $$ efficiently

Positives

  • Grocery stores nearby for cheaper eats
  • Keeping up with fitness
  • Good internet finally

Negatives

  • All most too much dwell time due to lack of recreational gear and trying to stick to budget
  • Blew through my proposed booze budget.. by day two or three!
  • The girl didn’t work out. Severe bummed-out feeling.

Some notes of the trip:

October 6th.

I arrived one day late because the flight was cancelled. The brakes were broken. Shrapnel, and stuff. When I arrived, the subway station was closed so I couldn’t take the S-Bahn to Munchener Freiheit. I took the Lufthansa bus instead and it was really nice. It had wifi for crying out loud! I could smell freshly cut grass and clean air and I knew it was going to be good.

Aside from being relatively tired today, I’m thrilled that this house is quiet. My ears are still adjusting. Beer is good. Life is good.

October 8th.

Went running at 9:30am at the English Garden. Did sort of an odd loop that was anywhere but straight. 5.5kms in 30 minutes. I’m trying out the Nike+ app to track the runs. So far it’s pretty good, and it works without an internet connection.

I wandered around to five different stores trying to find the Marillen Schnaps that is so good. Nobody had it.

October 15th.

Okay, I’m officially missing a good pair of headphones. I may need to look into IEM’s for portability.

October 17th. I’m clearly in JDGAF mode. I think I like it. I’ve slept in late. Drank plenty. Not cared plenty. I think I’ll sleep in more tomorrow.

Test #2 results

What I’ve missed

High-fidelity audio. I need some better headphones and my music library. Two weeks in and I’m hurting a little for the sound. Gimmie gimmie my LCD’s. Gimmie.

Walking is good, but damn I need some wheels. A bicycle preferably. Beautiful women in skirts and heels use this mode of transportation. It just makes sense. I bought a Penny Board and it’s been great so far. Feels good to have some wheels.

Snowboarding and Paragliding. I need these things. I miss them terribly.

Whole, natural food. While I didn’t know this ahead of time, my body has told me that I’ve missed superfoods immensely.

Processing power. This Acer Chromebook does fairly well for casual working and light work, but I do just a bit more and it just hasn’t been quite enough. I need a proper OS and hardware. Macbook Pro is good, if a bit much. 11” Macbook Air would be perfect.

The English fucking language. Yes, this is totally a Me problem. These last two weeks have been a little hard.

What I’ve not missed at all:

A vehicle. Traffic is insane and people drive like shit. It’s so dangerous just to go out to dinner.

Mobile phone service. My host kindly provided me a duplicate sim, but I only made one phone call and have otherwise used wifi hotspots throughout the city to satisfy my needs. I don’t think I need a data plan. Ting or Republic Wireless at the very most. When I had the data I was actually distracted enough by it at a lovely park to bust out the phone and check Instragram. Face-palm.

Anxiety about all the free time

Many times I found myself thinking that I should be out doing something. But what? LAF hits the nail on the head again with this post.

update 29 November 15 – the book ‘Slowing Down to the Speed of Life’ has really helped!

Anxiety about being alone

The girl completely fell through. It was the biggest failure in the past five years, easy. Such a letdown. I built what I thought was a solid connection in the past three or four months, and I was confident it was going to work out. That’s why I took the risk, and there was definitely risk involved. Maybe we’d get a little close but she’d be reluctant because of the distance. Maybe she’s going to be just like her writing, and we’d fall in love while walking through the English Garden, kicking our feet through the leaf piles on the paths. We’d have long, thoughtful conversations about our desires and dreams, full of energy and spark that our writing had yet to convey.

Or things would come to a screeching halt. Quickly.

What the fuck just happened?

Failure happened, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Monetary goals

Overall I was unable to maintain my $65 per day spend rate for a 24k per year spend rate. It was mostly due to accommodation being so high, but also I blew through my booze budget. I ate well, bought a few material things that would be otherwise unnecessary if I had access to my own things (that are in storage while I’m deployed). But sometimes it felt like I was sacrificing what I wanted to maintain a low spend rate. Europe is naturally expensive, but occasionally I just wanted to dine out more. I could have traded my beer coins for lunch money easily, but that’s a whole ‘nother thing to work out.

I think I need to up my annual spend rate to more of an “early retirement budget” like Root of Good does. I can cap it at 30k and still be at a 3% withdrawal rate. The withdrawal strategy will have to change a little bit, but not much.

Recording the numbers

I decided to log everything in the trip, excluding airfare.

Conclusion

  • Increase FIRE budget to $2,500 per month.
  • Need an initial home base.
  • Need access to recreational activities and my own gear, for sanity sake.

Test #3, March 2016

Post deployment time off has been awesome! This post nearly sums it up.

 

May 2017. Enough’s Enough. I’ve had enough of this job. Time to exercise the F-You Money and revisit Part 2 – The SuperPlan.

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