Tag Archives: early retirement

Turquoise, blue and emerald

Fish beneath our Feet: A week in Bora Bora

After 10 years of tirelessly toiling everyday, we sold our business. As a celebratory vacation, we decompressed in Bora Bora for a week. It was like no other vacation we’d taken before.

Bora Bora

Bora Bora

After our jet sat down, we immediately boarded a boat that reminded me of something George Clooney would be cruising along in while visiting Venice.

Retro Boat

Retro Boat

In short order, we arrived at the Four Seasons hotel. It was no ordinary hotel. In fact, our home for the next week was a self-contained bungalow with sections of glass floor where fish swam beneath your feet.

Over water Bungalows

Over water Bungalows

We spent our days on the water. Mastering a Yolo board, sailing, swimming with sharks, or jet skiing.

Yolo

Yolo

Cameron mastering a watercraft

Cameron mastering a watercraft

Each morning we would wake up and take a dive into the ocean from the balcony of our over-the-water bungalow.

Our morning diving platform

Our morning diving platform

Mid week, we boarded a helicopter for an aerial view of the island where you can experience the expansive turquoise, blue and green.

Turquoise, blue and emerald

Turquoise, blue and green

The grounds of the Four Seasons were immaculate as if specifically designed for postcards.

Incredible flora

Incredible flora

Perfectly groomed beaches

Perfectly groomed beaches

Manicured grounds

Manicured grounds

A week came too soon. As we watched the sunset of our final night in paradise, I began to reminisce of how it all started 10 years earlier — with a dream of retiring early and enjoying lifestyle freedom while we were young and energetic enough to enjoy it.

Sunset in Bora Bora

Sunset in Bora Bora

I can’t believe we pulled it off.

About Us

Steve and Lynn Miller reached financial independence in 2012 at age 50 and now enjoy traveling, fitness, cycling, photography and lots of other hobbies.

In his spare time, Steve develops mobile apps. His latest project is an app that allows you to countdown the days to retirement or financial independence: http://www.CountUsDown.com/Retirement.

If you like this blog, you might also like Steve’s We Retired Early blog where he blogs about lifestyle freedom, financial independence, and cool mobile apps.

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Are there Lessons to be Learned after 3 Years of Early Retirement?

Time flies. It’s been 3 years since I said goodbye to the corporate life and a twice monthly paycheck. My wife and I had a dream. We wanted to retire by the time our kids went off to college so that we could travel and enjoy life while we were still young and energized.

So how did we do it? We built a software business with personal savings of $10,000 and sold it 10 years later. It wasn’t easy. It had its ups and downs. Months when we didn’t know how we would make payroll and flying high after landing a large account that could sustain us for months in the future.

In the end, we exceeded our own expectations. 3 years prior to our kids graduating high school, we got the call from a larger company that saw value in acquiring our product line. Shortly after, I said sayonara to the daily grind.

After 3 years of retirement, it’s time to reflect and share with you lessons I’ve learned.

1. Early Retirement Conjures Up Unexpected Emotions

Literally the month after we retired, we saw our boys off to college and began traveling. Starting in Canada, we visited the maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edwards Island.

Prince Edwards Island

Prince Edwards Island (Canada)

We then made our way to the Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu and the Bahamas. We saw extraordinary things. We watched a tortoise painstakingly dig a hole for her eggs.

Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands (Ecuador)

We saw the handiwork of the Incas, appreciating the architecture and incredible surroundings of a civilization that’s now long gone.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu (Peru)

And we watched professional divers descend into Dean’s Blue Hole not to come up again for 5 minutes.

Dean's Blue Hole (Bahamas)

Dean’s Blue Hole (Bahamas)

After returning from this incredible 3 month trip, something weird happened. We started settling into our retired life and I began to feel sad. Before I retired, my employees and peers needed me. They were constantly asking for advice, calling and texting for help and now the phone was silent.

I began to mope around and waste my days fretting about what was next in life. Had I made a huge mistake by retiring early?

2. Boredom is Self-Inflicted

After a few weeks of licking my wounds, I read about this phenomenon known as “retirement depression“. It is common for new retirees to go through this because they are left with lots of time to reminisce about the days when their schedules were full and others depended on them.

After a bit of self-reflection, I came to realize that these feelings were driven by boredom. After working really hard all those years to retire early, I needed to get out and enjoy hobbies that I never had time for before.

I found all kinds of new hobbies. I began golfing, working on photography, cycling, hiking, boating, fishing, and blogging. A few weeks later, I couldn’t figure out how I ever worked because my days were so full with things I enjoyed. Depression was fleeting, I was now enjoying life more than ever.

Challenged myself to cycle 50 miles

Challenged myself to cycle 50 miles

3. Traveling provides a World of Amazement

Since retiring, we’ve enjoyed some incredible travels. After our first 3 month trip, we spent an entire summer traveling the western United States. We started in the Grand Tetons and went on to visit California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. We capped that summer trip off with an Alaskan cruise.

Grand Tetons

Practicing Photography in the Grand Tetons (Wyoming)

Hot Springs in Yellowstone

Hot Springs in Yellowstone (Wyoming)

Bigger than life Sequoias in California

Bigger than life Sequoias (California)

Majestic Crater Lake (Oregon)

Majestic Crater Lake (Oregon)

Glaciers (Alaska)

Glaciers (Alaska)

Last Summer, we took our youngest (college aged) son to Europe. We built our itinerary around the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain and capped off the trip in the Italian Riviera. We also visited Paris and Portugal.

Running with the bulls (Pamplona, Spain)

Running with the bulls (Pamplona, Spain)

Italian Riviera

Italian Riviera

As much as we’ve traveled, you would think we had seen it all. Not true, every new place we visit amazes us with something we’ve never encountered before.

4. You can still Fuel your Entrepreneurial Spirit after Retirement

Even though I retired early, I truly loved building my last company. It never really felt like work — it was fun, intellectually stimulating and invigorating. You don’t have to give up that feeling when you retire. You can choose to challenge yourself by starting a new business, a blog or working on pet projects.

I’ve recently done just that. I wanted to learn more about mobile app development so I started a project to develop an iPhone app. Since I love to travel, I built an app to provide peace of mind when traveling. It tracks things that are easy to forget (passwords, passport numbers, banking information, software licenses, etc.). I called the app aMemoryJog because it does just that – it securely tracks things that are easy to forget.
Learn More: http://www.aMemoryJog.com

Developing this app was not about making money. It was about doing something that stimulates me intellectually and provides an outlet for my entrepreneurial spirit. I’ve enjoyed it so much, I’m working on my next app. It will be called Count Us Down and will allow you to count down the days to your next big event (like a vacation or even retirement).
Learn More: http://www.CountUsDown.com.

iPhone Apps for Travel

5. Volunteering yields a Great Sense of Satisfaction

My wife motivated me to begin volunteering. She has volunteered for many years and genuinely enjoys helping others. Based on her example, I started volunteering last year with Habitat for Humanity (HFH). HFH builds homes for low income families and each family must contribute a significant number of hours helping to build their home or help build one for another family.

I belong to the Walton County Florida chapter and last year we renovated 1 home for a family and built 2 homes from scratch. Not only is volunteering incredibly satisfying, you get to know the family you are building for and you understand the how important it is for them.

Habitat for Humanity Volunteer work

Habitat for Humanity Volunteer work

Conclusion

Retirement is just another phase of life. Don’t over analyze it. Embrace new hobbies, travel to new places, experience other cultures, stimulate your intellect and enjoy life — you’ve earned it!

About the Author

Steve and his wife built a software company, sold it and retired early. Steve enjoys blogging about about lifestyle freedom, financial independence and technology. If you like this blog,subscribe here to get an email each time he posts.

Steve uses Personal Capital to manage all of his finances and investments because it is free and very robust. If you would like to download a free copy of Personal Capital, you can do that here.

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The Lamb feeding Capital of the World: Really?

Fort Collins: A Rural City

This is the first time I’ve spent any length of time in Fort Collins so it has been fun getting to know the town. Surprisingly, with just over 150,000 folks, it is the 4th largest city in Colorado (behind Denver, Colorado Springs and Aurora).

It certainly has many of the things you would expect in a city — great restaurants, lots of sports stores (REI, Sports Authority, and more local bike shops than you can shake a stick at). But it doesn’t feel like a city. You can drive or cycle around town and you will see old barns and farms just down the road from malls and upscale shops.

Cattle farm

Cattle farm about 2 minutes from downtown

Old farm in the midst of the city

Old farm in the midst of the city

Located only about an hour north of Denver and 45 minutes south of Cheyenne Wyoming, Fort Collins was named Money magazine’s Best Place to Live in 2006, No. 2 in 2008, and No. 6 in 2010. I can see why.

Early Days of Fort Collins

It all started in 1864 as a military outpost, settled by the Army. The fort was decommissioned 3 years later but settlers colonized here to grow crops — agriculture was definitely the early draw to this area.What was the biggest crop? Beet tops! What? Yep, beet tops were used them to feed sheep and Fort Collins became known as the “Lamb feeding capital of the world“. Who knew?1

Colorado State University (CSU) was founded in 1870 and is now the reason for Fort Collins’ growth. It was originally an agricultural school as evidenced today with a big “A” laid with rocks in the mountains that overlook the football stadium.

CSU

Colorado State University

CSU

Colorado State University

Old Town

Great care has been taken to combat the urban feel of Fort Collins as evidenced in the most popular part of the city referred to as “Old Town”. You won’t see lots of high rises. Instead, it has a sort of town-center type of feel.

Old Town at dusk

Old Town at dusk

Old Town

Old Town

Old Town

Old Town – Union Pacific Railway Building

Old Town

Old Town Square

A Healthy City

Fort Collins, like most Colorado cities, rewards a healthy lifestyle with tons of biking, hiking and running trails. Most streets have a dedicated bike lane. You will see people biking, running and walking even when the temperature is in the teens — now that’s dedication! These are all pictures I took while cycling:

Hiking and biking trails

Hiking and biking trails

Old farm encountered while biking

Old farm encountered while biking

Old weathered house

Old weathered house

Thriving farms

Thriving farms

Old farms

Old farms storing grain

Lots of Lakes and Ponds

In addition to hiking and biking trails, there are also lots of ponds and lakes where you can boat, fish, and admire nature. The largest lake is Horsetooth Reservoir — you can bike to the top if you have the stamina — a mere 1,500 foot climb.

Horsetooth Reservoir

Panorama of Horsetooth Reservoir

Horsetooth Reservoir

Horsetooth Reservoir

Horsetooth Reservoir

Horsetooth Reservoir

Tons of geese on the lake

Tons of geese on the lake

Frozen Lake

Frozen Lake

Tree along the shore of a frozen lake

Tree along the shore of a frozen lake

Brew Pubs Galore

If you like brew pubs, Fort Collins hits the spot.  New Belgium (Fat Tire) is headquartered here and has daily tours and tasting rooms. Odell’s (think Easy Street Wheat beer) is also here and offers tours and tasting rooms where you can sit by a fire and listen to a local band. Other breweries include Black Bottle Brewery, Equinox Brewing, Fort Collins Brewery, Funkwerks, Horse and Dragon, and Pateros Creek Brewery — just to name a few!

From the tasting room at Odell's Brewery

From the tasting room at Odell’s Brewery

Close to Great Skiing

Fort Collins is also close to world-class skiing in Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone, Copper Mountain and Winter Park. Cameron (my oldest son) and I spent a ski day in Breckenridge, which is about 2.5 hours west of Fort Collins. We drove up for the day and had a spectacular time. Breckenridge has opened Peak 6 since we last lived here, with an elevation of 12,300 feet, it offers some really great advanced ski options. Cameron and I skied Peaks 6,7, and 8 while there and had really great snow. Too much fun!

Beautiful day at the slopes

Beautiful day at the slopes

Cameron skiing

Cameron skiing

At the top of Peak 6 (12,300 feet)

At the top of Peak 6 (12,300 feet)

At the top of Peak 7

At the top of Peak 7

Breckenridge Mansions

Breckenridge Mansions

I will leave you with a couple more pictures taken while biking, you can really start to appreciate the beauty of Fort Collins. We will be spending the next couple of months in Florida, soaking up some sunshine and enjoying the flat biking trails!

Ducks swimming next to the biking trails

Ducks swimming next to the biking trails

DSC_0015

Working windmill

Biking and hiking trails

Biking and hiking trails

1From Wikipedia

Odds of Becoming a Millionaire

I recently read an issue of Money magazine whose headline story was “How to reach $1 Million“.   I found it very interesting because it discussed several ways for reaching the status of millionaire and it said that the odds were one in 12.  For us mathematicians, that puts you at less than a 10% chance of pulling it off (8.33% chance sounds slightly more intimidating than one in 12).

A Million Dollars is not what it used to be

According to Money magazine, the main outlets for becoming a millionaire are from real estate, owning and selling a business, investing, climbing the corporate ladder, and becoming a super saver that lives on beans and rice, water and nothing much more than that.

I meet people all the time that have dreams of retiring early, making their own way and living the good life.  I think the biggest things that keep them from their dream is fear and risk of failure, so instead of pursuing their dream, they play it safe.   My wife always says if it were easy, everyone would do it.  She’s right — it takes lots of hard work, sacrifice and resilience.   So let’s talk about 3 strategies:

  1. Risk mitigation
  2. Realizing your fears
  3. Sweat equity

Risk Mitigation
So how do we mitigate risk?  First, identify the risk(s).  For us, building a new software business without any outside funding carried the risk of running out of money from being unprofitable which meant we would not be able to carry on.  To mitigate that risk, I continued software consulting as I was building the business — that brought in the required cash flow needed to fund the business until it was self-sustaining.   Even as Lynn did our company financials, she worked outside of our company to help fund our cash flow.

Taken at Shell Island, Panama City Beach

Realizing your Fears
We get freaked out about all kinds of stuff.  What happens if I don’t make it?  What happens if the economy tanks?  What happens if someone sues us?  Fear is not a bad thing — it keeps you in check and helps you make hard decisions.   The best way to come to grips with your fear is to plan for the worst case.

  • What would have happened if our software business model was wrong and unprofitable?  I would have went back to consulting and been just fine.
  • What happens if the economy tanks?  Well, it did in 2001 and 2008 and we came out fine.  We did it by refocusing and leaning out our expenses.   We even sold our larger house and more expensive cars, replaced by a smaller house and much older (paid off) cars to lean out our expenses — so that we could plow more money into the business.  That’s the commitment level that’s needed.
  • What happens if someone sues us?  We had good contracts in place with each of our clients and we owned an umbrella insurance policy to protect our personal assets from this type of risk.

Sweat Equity
As my wife says — if it were easy every one would do it.  It’s true, it takes a lot of really hard work and sacrifices.  When times were lean, we did more of the work rather than sub-contracting it out.   At times, we did our own marketing, Google search engine optimization, website design and refresh, programming, and helped with sales.  We renegotiated contracts for better rates, reduced our expenses, and kept laser focused on our daily cash flow and financial statements.  When times were good, we banked money to prepare for the rough patches.  All of this took much more than your normal 40 hour work week.  But we always celebrated our successes and spent quality memory-building vacations with our kids.

So how much is enough to retire?
Most people are not sure about how much it takes to retire.  It’s really a simple formula and depends on how much you need to live on from year to year.  You can figure it out from 2 different angles:

  • Do I have enough now to retire?  Take the amount you have saved up and multiple it by 4% and then by 5%.  That gives you the range you can live on because to ensure that you won’t have to work again, you need to keep your expenses within that range of spending per year.  If you had $1 million, that means you could spend between $40,000 and $50,000 per year and should not run out of money.  A million dollars is not what it used to be, but I know many early retirees that are living on that level of income without any hardship, travelling constantly and are enjoying life to the fullest.  Don’t believe it? Check out http://www.RetireEarlyLifestyle.com — Billy and Akaisha retired at 38 years old and are now in their late 50’s and live a very exciting life on less than $40,000 per year.
  • How much will I need to retire?  Figure out the amount you need to withdraw per year and multiple it by 20 and then by 25 and that gives you the range ($40,000 per year times 25 equals $1 million for the conservative range and $50,000 times 20 gives you $1 million for the slightly aggressive range).

Conclusion
Don’t let fear rule your life.  Create a plan, list and manage the risks, and move forward.  As an aside — I found a really good website that explains investing in layman’s terms.  It was written by early retirees Kevin and Valerie Cooper: http://coopsecondact.wordpress.com/investing-101/.  I hope you find it helpful.

About Us
Steve and Lynn Miller reached financial independence in 2012 at age 50 and now enjoy traveling, fitness, cycling, photography and lots of other hobbies. In his spare time, Steve develops mobile apps. His latest project is an app that allows you to countdown the days to retirement or financial independence: http://www.CountUsDown.com/Retirement.