Valuable Lessons from My Second Year of Freedom

Valuable Lessons from My Second Year of Freedom

It’s insane to me that it’s already been two years since I left my full-time job as a software developer.

To commemorate this special anniversary, I decided to release two podcast episodes…

First Year of Freedom

A reader named Robin reached out and said he recorded himself reading through my First Year of Freedom post and asked if I wanted to use it for anything.

It sounded great and since it’s packed with a lot of interesting insights from my first year of early retirement, I figured I’d publish it to celebrate my second year of freedom.

You can check that out here:

Listen Now

  • Listen on iTunes
  • Stream audio file here
  • Download MP3 by right-clicking here

Second Year of Freedom

When preparing the above episode for release, I realized that I haven’t written about what the second year has been like.

Since I’ve learned even more valuable lessons during the second year, I decided to record another episode talking all about it.

Listen below to find out what a day in my life is like now, hear all the ways early retirement is different than I expected, and learn what all these revelations mean for the future of the Mad Fientist!

Listen Now

  • Listen on iTunes
  • Stream audio file here
  • Download MP3 by right-clicking here

Show Links

Full Transcript

Mad Fientist: Hey, welcome everyone to the Financial Independence Podcast, the podcast that usually gets inside the brains of the best and brightest in personal finance to find out how they achieve financial independence but today is a bit different…

If you listened to Monday’s episode, you’ll know that it is the 2-year anniversary of when I left my full-time job. To commemorate it, I released a recording of a reading of my First Year of Freedom post, which you can check out, and I decided to record this episode of me reflecting on the last year to give you an idea what my second year freedom has been like.

This episode will likely be shorter than you’re used to but hopefully it’ll still give you a sense of what this whole lifestyle is like after you reach your goal and some of the challenges that you face that you may not expect.

I know personally I have not expected a lot of the stuff that’s happened so hopefully you can learn from my experiences and then be better prepared when you eventually quit your job as well.

I think a great place to begin is to actually reflect on my First Year of Freedom post, which you hopefully have read before. Or if not, you listened to being read on Monday in the last episode.

If not, I would suggest go to that. There’s a link in the show notes to that post.

The great news is the only time I actually freaked out about this whole thing was on that first day of freedom, which I talked about in the last post.

Everything else has been really really great.

There’s been challenges, absolutely, but overall the experiences just been incredible.

As I mentioned in that first year post, I was experiencing new things a lot more which has continued into the second year. I recently biked around the Netherlands with some friends, which is been something I really wanted to do for a while.

Just get on a bike for a week and travel around Europe, because it’s so easy to bike around Europe…the infrastructure is great and there’s so much cool stuff to see you in such a small area so there’s a lot of bang for your buck as far as pedaling is concerned.

Since that Dutch trip was so successful, we actually booked another biking trip with friends and had a great time cycling around the wine regions of eastern France and that was it an incredible as well. It just shows the flexibility of FI and what it can provide you because that was sort of a last minute thing.

Our friends were planning a big trip around Europe and asked if we wanted to join them for any piece of it so we just flew out there for a week, biked around drinking great wine, eating great food, and had a really nice time with some friends.

Had we been working, we probably wouldn’t have been able to do that.

So the new fun experiences have continued from the first year and so too has the focus on health. In fact, I think health has become an even bigger focus in the second year because I realized how great it made me feel in the first year and how it’s sort of was like a cornerstone habit that made me healthier in other ways as well.

For example, going to the gym not only made me healthy from the actual going to the gym part but then it made me eat better, it made me drink less beer, because it’s like I’m not going to go to the gym and work that hard and then ruin it with the bunch of beer or something, so it’s been hugely impactful. And it’s been great for my mental health because I feel great, I’m happier, I feel like I’m sleeping better and it’s just been fantastic so later this year I’m going to get my personal trainers, a buddy who just been sending me programs via mobile app, I’m going to get him on the show and we’re going to talk through everything that he’s been putting me through over the last couple of years and it’s going to be a great episode so stay tuned for that.

The decreased stress from the first year has also carried over into the second year, which I’m very thankful for.

It’s actually amazing how awful stress feels when you are able to design a lifestyle that has very little of it. Recently, we were…I can’t remember what the issue was or why I was stressed, but it was like the first time in a while that I can remember actually feeling stressed and it’s like, “Wow I can’t believe people with stressful jobs and stressful lifestyles go through this all the time and how this is just a normal state for people” because it just feels awful and it can’t be healthy for you. So that’s been an incredible blessing.

Also, I think just my mindset shift with money has changed so much that I am less stressed about a lot of things. Back when money felt like it was scarce or that I needed to save every single penny for the FI goal, I’d worry about lots of things like…What if the car broke or what if something happened and there was an accident and I had to pay for something or what if the hot water heater went out or something.

Now, it’s like, “Okay, there’s enough money there so all of these things could still happen but at the end of the day, you know all you have to do is spend a little money that you didn’t expect to spend and the problem will go away.” So there’s not really any need to stress about it and that’s that’s actually been huge for me. It’s just been such a different outlook and it has allowed me to really not fear as many things or not stress about things that could potentially happen.

Part of this carefree attitude towards money is caused by the fact that money is still coming in so as much as I’d love to write about withdrawal strategies and how that’s been affecting me and how I’ve been selling these investments to maintain my spending and how I’d like to talk about the actual financial aspect of pulling the plug on your job, I really can’t because the credit card tool that I built way before Mad Fientist was even around has been bringing in more money than we actually spend. So it’s a great position to be in but it’s not making me be a very good blogger because I can’t really write about all the things that I planned to write about.

It does show that building these sorts of projects while you are working has the potential to make the transition into post-job life that much smoother and that much easier to deal with from a financial standpoint. Also from a happiness standpoint because if you build something before you’ve left your job, you’re going to have something that you’re passionate about that you can work on after you leave your job so as I’ve mentioned in past articles, the fact that money still coming in, Jill is still working, I worked two years longer than I had planned to…all of these things mean that money is no longer a motivating factor in my life anymore which is really weird to come to grips with.

And that’s what it leads me to the next big thing I learned in the past year, which is learning how to say no to really fun and interesting opportunities that come along. Although I got better in that first year of not saying yes to things just because they could earn me money or they could save me money, I was still agreeing to things because they sounded like they be fun. Having fun is great but it still could keep you from doing things that will give you more lasting happiness and enjoyment.

And that’s something that I’ve realized…I think a lot of my unhappiness during my career wasn’t because I had a bad job, because that wasn’t the case…I had a great job and I enjoyed it. And it wasn’t because I felt like I needed more money to spend money on stuff. It was really because it felt like I couldn’t do the things I really wanted to do and it felt like I didn’t have the time to really pursue the things that I was really passionate about that I thought could give me lasting long-term happiness.

The thing I learned over this last year is that even good stuff can get in the way of that so yes, it was easy to get rid of my job because I was like, “Okay, I don’t really love it so yes, let’s get rid of that and then I can start focusing on these other things.” But then, all these other fun and interesting opportunities arise when you don’t have to worry about money or time but they still get in the way of those things that you really want to be doing!

And that’s something I had to learn the hard way, by overcommitting myself during that first year but now during the second year, I’ve said no to a lot of things, which is really tough to say no to fun interesting opportunities but it has allowed me to get into a better routine and make progress on these things that I’ve always said I wanted to make progress on.

Which leads really nicely into another huge lesson that I’ve learned over the past year, which is the importance of habit.

I mentioned in the past that I didn’t want to travel as much as I thought I would have at this stage in my life. And a lot of the reason is because I get a lot of satisfaction and making progress on some of these things and the only way I can make progress is to have a consistent habit.

To give you an idea of what I mean, I’ll just described a day in my life these days, which may not be too exciting but it is so enjoyable. This is surprising because I never thought I would actually enjoy habits or routine but when you get to design it exactly how you want to, then you actually do.

So normally I wake up naturally around 8 a.m. naturally. I don’t have to wake up to an alarm or anything. I have a nice cup of tea cup of coffee usually try to get some things done on the computer while I’m drinking. That’s actually something I’m trying to change because at first I would check my email first thing in the morning but then that would send me on all these other tasks that I didn’t actually need to complete and it would get in the way of what I really want to do that day. So I’m trying to only check email after 3 p.m. now so that doesn’t happen.

But after drinking a cup of coffee, I would head down to the gym and usually spend an hour to two hours there, just lifting weights, which as I said before, I’ll talk more in depth about when I get my trainer on the program. Then, I usually stop by the grocery store or the butcher on the way home and pick up some stuff for lunch.

I then come back, get a shower, make a huge lunch, since it’s probably the first time I’ve eaten all day (which I’ll also talk about in the health episode), and then I’d spend the afternoon working on the important project that I haven’t actually even shared with you guys yet but I will soon, I promise. There’s a lot of Articles I’m planning on writing about this because it’s been such a struggle but also so rewarding.

So I try to work on that until Jill gets home, if she’s working that day, and then we’ll cook dinner together, have a nice dinner, maybe watch an hour of stuff on Netflix, maybe work a little bit more on some of the projects, maybe do some mad fientist stuff in the evening, and then I try to get to bed by 11 so that I can read until I fall asleep, and that’s usually by midnight.

That’s a pretty typical day but that has taken a long time to get to that stage because you need to figure out what times are good for you to do certain things and when you have the motivation to work hard on certain things and when you don’t.

That’s taken a lot of trial-and-error and I’m going to write about some of this stuff because it’s super important I think to having a life that you’re happy with because like I said before, I think a lot of my own happiness is knowing that I should be doing something else or want to be doing something else but not having the motivation to do it or not having the time to do it or not having the money to do it.

When you reach financial independence, you have the money and you have the time but the motivation is still the thing that could trip you up and it has over the past year or two for me so I plan to get into what worked for me and what hasn’t in future articles but for now I’ll say that habit is the one thing that makes the biggest difference.

If I can get into a routine and I can stick to it, then it makes everything so much easier and then I always go to bed feeling like I did the right thing that day and I feel like I made progress on things that are important to me and it hasn’t been a motivational struggle because it’s routine and it’s normal.

Since my normal day-to-day life is so efficient and focused, that makes me enjoy my vacations more and my trips more so when I go to the States and visit family, I can just relax. And even if I’m not as productive there and if I’m not making as much progress as I would like, at least I know that when I get back I’m going to be making a lot more progress and will be a lot more effective at everything I’m trying to do and that lets me just relax and not feel guilty about it on those occasions when I am somewhere else.

That brings up another point…that’s another reason why I’m trying to limit the amount of trips that we take and limit the amount of fun things that we do because if my whole life is that, then I can’t really feel good about my routine because I’m not doing it anymore.

So it’s been challenging but I feel like I’m making good progress and I’m excited to share some of that with you later in the year in future articles.

I have to say this is a lot different than I expected when I was planning to reach financial independence. I did not think of any of this stuff and it was all the fun things that I was hoping to do like travel and hang out with friends and family all the time and just have the life of leisure and enjoyment. But all that stuff is only really enjoyable when you’re working hard and you feel like you deserve it, like you’ve earned it, so that’s why the focus has really shifted for me this year.

Being a blogger, it’s interesting because you can sort of look back on what you thought you wanted and what you thought you were going to do.

Back in November of 2012, I wrote an article called The Perfect Life and that was an exercise that my wife and I did when we just try to sit down and plan out what are perfect life would look like.

This was a great exercise and it was one of the reasons that Jill, my wife, actually got on board with the whole idea of financial independence.

So I definitely recommend you do it but just know that whatever you think your perfect life is will likely change by the time you actually have the power and the time to live that.

Looking back on that article from 2012, it looks like I did get some of the stuff right but I missed out a lot of things.

My core focus back then was going to be on friends and family, traveling, learning, and creating.

The friends and family thing…absolutely, that’s been great.

The traveling, as I mentioned, I don’t need to do as much of that as I thought I did.

The learning and creating…that is a huge focus and that is something that is been really bringing me a lot of Happiness.

So back then I thought that we were going to live this 3-6-3 plan I called it, which was 3 months living in the States visiting all my friends and family, 3 months traveling somewhere else in the world, and then 6 months living in Scotland and hanging out with Jill’s friends and family.

It’s just amazing how off that would be now!

We tried to travel for 3 months and we realize it was way too long so now I think we’re more one month travel, max.

We also tried to travel and see friends and family in the States for about 2 months and we realized that was way too long too. And it’s not because we didn’t like seeing our friends and family but just not having a home for that long and not having that routine is is just really disruptive. So I think we’re one month max on that side too.

That just means that most of the time we’re going to be in Scotland, which is great!

I did mention in that post that I wanted to spend some time in Thailand, Guatemala and Ecuador and I’m happy to say we hit all those places up since then so that’s cool to see!

The other thing I thought I’d do is create businesses but as I said, when money stops being a motivating factor…you know some of those ideas were just money making opportunities and it’s like, “Well that’s not a really good use of your time, if you know more money is not going to make that big of a difference.”

The other thing that I mentioned in that post was maybe doing a PhD program, which is something I still want to do someday.

I am putting that off to what I’m calling my second retirement, because I feel like there’s so much I want to get accomplished that I still feel like I’m working super hard and I can see a time when it’s like, “Okay I maybe I’ll do a Ph.D program for fun.”

One of my buddies has said that he wants to come over and do a Master’s so maybe I’ll just do it with him for fun.

Then, my proper proper retirement will be being a ski bum on a mountain somewhere and maybe working part time for ski patrol and throwing avalanche bombs and stuff like that.

So what you think you want is maybe not exactly what you are going to want to once you get there so just be flexible, think of other options, experiment, and just have fun with it because that’s really the whole point.

And that brings me to the biggest realization that I’ve had over the last year that I don’t think I had as much in first year…it’s just how good this is and how lucky you are to be able to control all of your time.

There’s been so many times over this past year where I just get this feeling of elation. Really, there’s no reason for it, there’s no external stimulus that caused it…it’s just a moment of pure joy.

Just knowing that you’re in control of your time and knowing that you can do whatever you want and it doesn’t matter if you get kept up late one night because somebody’s noisy in the street or something because you can sleep in the next day, if you need to.

And it’s just these unexpected moments of just pure gratitude that you’re lucky enough to be in this position that you’re in and to be able to live this lifestyle and to have the low levels of stress.

That’s just happened so many times over this past year and a lot more than the first year. I think in the first year I was just really thinking about things and still in the old sorts of mindsets but now it’s just like, this is a new life and I guess every so often I would realize that, “Hey, this isn’t just a vacation or a temporary thing…this is life now and I feel unbelievably lucky to be living it.”

Hopefully this is helpful to you as you’re planning your own departure from work eventually. And hopefully it gives you an idea of where I think the Mad Fientist is heading for the rest of this year and into next year.

I’m going to be focusing a lot on building the lifestyle that you’re hoping to build because I as I said, I’ve had my struggles and I’ve learned a lot about that so I think for the rest of this year there’s going to be a lot of articles focused on that (i.e some of the things that have worked for me and haven’t worked for me) so if you’re interested in learning more about that stuff, then absolutely subscribe to the email list and you’ll get notified as soon as a new article gets published.

There are currently 80,000 people subscribed, which blows my mind, but hopefully that shows that I’m not spamming people and people aren’t unsubscribing.

If you want to subscribe and also get a PDF of all the great advice I’ve received on the podcast over the years just head over to madfientist.com/advice and you can enter email just there and you’ll get a PDF containing tons of great advice I received from all my guests on the podcast over the years.

So that’s what my second year of freedom was like. As they say, time flies when you’re having fun and that definitely was the case. I really can’t believe it’s been two years since I left my job but it’s been a wild ride, it’s been extremely exciting, and I can’t recommend it enough.

For all of you out there who are still on the path to FI and are finding it to be a bit of a grind, trust me…it’s absolutely worth it and all of the things that you’re learning about yourself as you struggle through these times are going to definitely help you build your ideal life once you do walk away from your job.

Thanks a lot for listening and we’ll be back to the normal interview format in the next episode. I have some good ones already recorded that I’m excited to share with you.

See you next time!

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