The Silver Lining of a Late Start to Financial Independence

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Freddy and Mrs. Smidlap tearing up Bourbon Street

Sure, we made some mistakes along the way

A couple of months ago I posted here about how we made a few mistakes on the Yellow Brick Road to freeing ourselves from the shackles of full time employment.  This involved a bit of a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, some questionable financial moves like cashing out some small 401k’s combined with a little equine enthusiasm (horse gambling!).  I would never suggest any of these dumb-ass-tic moves for anybody trying to do anything productive with their finances, but those are the ugly truths.  There is no reason to try and hide them or polish that turd.  We really didn’t turn start turning this boat around until about 12 years ago nearing or in our 40’s.  We were able to make a nice living and live the life we wanted to live while making up for lost time with regard to our investment accounts and paying off my student loans and our mortgage.  Hell, Smidlapper, don’t judge!  It’s better late than never and the truth is we were a lot more responsible than other irresponsible knuckleheads.

Being older, we were wiser and more calm during the journey

We didn’t get hitched up until 2004 and we were real adults at that time.  We had both seen and done a lot of stuff in our relatively irresponsible youths.  We had each had our share of separate hard times and taken our share of crap.  In short, we had the knowledge and skills and demeanor to handle a crisis.  We had just opened our Roth IRA’s around 2006 when a couple of years later the economy went into the shitter and we watched as all of the accounts lost half their value or more on paper.  We never outwardly felt the need to “act” or “appear” mature.  We still like some juvenile humor and behavior and live kind of a slapstick life.  The thing that doesn’t always show is that while the markets were doing their crazy machinations we kept calm and stayed the course and I even was able to bump up contributions at the bottom of the markets and of course they ended up coming all the way back and then some.  By this point I was reading more and more about personal finance and there was no panic in our household.  I’m giving a lot of credit to that not being our first rodeo.  I have a feeling that if we were in our early or middle 20’s when all that was happening it might have felt a little more emotional and that might have led to some poor decisions.  Thankfully, experience and calm heads prevailed and we yukked it up all the way to not having to worry when Mrs. Smidlap’s cushy full time record label manager gig came to an end in 2017 after a long run.

We handled our income being cut in half in the same calm manner

Around the same time the record label job was dying its death I had the opportunity to get away from the life of swing shift work that was the bane of my existence for about 12 years.  In that time I worked a boat load of overtime and made lost of money all the while sacrificing quality time at home and lots of nights and weekends.  I said “no” to a million events and parties and social opportunities as it seemed I was always scheduled to work.  The dilemma for some might have been the job change came with a pay cut and loss of almost all overtime (which I has largely started to turn down but was still available).  The shift premium alone is 10% and with overtime it was relatively easy to make an extra 25-30k per year on average.  My friend Cal sums it up very well in this excellent post.  Once again, mature adult heads prevailed and I decided to make the move to this cushy day job.  I swear it must have taken 3 months of sleeping at night regularly to calm down and rest up and live like a normal member of the human species.  I think it compared to a person who has been incarcerated in the Gulag and not knowing how to act as a sovereign person.  How did we handle the loss of income?  We started selling our accumulation of stuff and reduced our expenses.  The selling has been very lucrative in replacing income as we has a lot of sought after items taking up space in our house.  I’ll have a whole post on that coming soon.  We stopped taking our dog to daycare and said “no” to some social outings that used to get paid from Sweet Baby’s paycheck.  At no point so far have we felt deprived.  We turned back our vacation travel to one plane trip to New Orleans for my 50th birthday.  There is plenty more we could cut (wine) if we needed to do so and we’re still saving and accumulating for retirement.  The bottom line for us is that the moves we all worth it!  Ours lives have improved tremendously without any anticipated stress from a lower combined income.  Another funny thing happened from her being off work:  opportunity presented itself.  Our friends who own a little wine shop five blocks from our house needed some help and enlisted Mrs. Smidlap’s sharp sales and marketing skills for some part time work.  By keeping calm and not being desperate to go and get some lousy cubicle-based temp. for that sucks up 40 hours per week she was able to do something meaningful to help friends grow their small business and learn the business and all those new skills.  Once again, those skills like not panicking might not have been there 20 years ago but now they’re second nature.  Let the game to you.

The super deluxe unexpected best part of the last start is the great gift of Social Security!

I was just writing about our wants vs. our needs and doing some calculations around the 4% withdrawal rule (let’s not debate that, just use it as an expample) around retirement when I realized something.  Being that we are already a little old in the grand scheme of early retirement, we don’t need to replace all of 40,000 bucks a year solely from our investment portfolio for 25 years or more!  In less than 10 years Mrs. Smidlap can start collecting Social Security and tap her 410k without penalty even sooner than that.  In 12 years I can do the same and we have each wasted enough of our lives working that the withdrawal rate is much less of a concern.  When this occurred to me I just about did a dance and we decided to spend some cash we normally would have invested on getting our house painted.  I know the retirement police might come calling if they find out that we only invested 4500 and 6500 to the Roths this year, but fuck ’em.  It’s one of the perks that comes with having worked for 35 years.  Sure, it would have been better to have started this much earlier but we can’t have those years back when we were working for The Man.  Also, most of the time it wasn’t all that bad, either.  I still have to calculate the estimates for the real life amounts we might receive at age 62 but it makes me think we could pull the trigger a lot sooner than i originally thought possible because we old!  Hooray for the big ol’ Silver f’ing Lining.

How about you?  When was your last Silver Lining experience?

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We’re old enough to maybe live here.

4 Replies to “The Silver Lining of a Late Start to Financial Independence”

  1. Rock on Freddy.

    50 is getting annoyingly near. Less than two years away for me. But there are silver linings all around if I look for them. The first is that we weren’t starting from scratch when we finally got this FI thing kicked off. A few tweaks to the lifestyle setting and now we’re rolling in high gear.

    And there are a few other rainbows in the making:

    Thanks to the rule of 55 I can access all of my workplace retirement accounts in January 2024.

    When I retire I’ll have my health insurance premiums completely covered by my employer.

    In less than 8 years my wife will retire with 30 years of service and start receiving a nice pension.

    We’re less than two decades away from some form of social security.

    And I just found out this week that Jr.’s college fund has a lot more money than I realized.

    On that note I need to get back to the juvenile humor and behavior.

    1. that’s great news about the pension and health coverage. i’m looking at that rule of 55 too in 5 years unless something really pisses me off at this job. looks like neither of our families will subsist on cat food in the future. that juvenile stuff will keep you young, i swear. i’m still telling the tired old jokes i heard in junior high!

What do you think? You must think something. This is the place to let it fly or just say hello.