Apart from the thousands of folks who have read our blog since we started it in April this year, we’ve really not told a soul about our early retirement plans.
Not that you guys don’t count, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to share secret plans anonymously with the entire world, than in person with family and friends. The online FIRE community is a wonderful validation of our dreams and aspirations, but outside of that remains real life and ‘regular’ people. Family and friends who have most likely never considered the possibility of living life without working until 65 years old.
So what’s it like to start telling people?
We have been finding out recently. Gradually over the last few months we have begun to tell a select group of important people in our lives, (we swore them to secrecy of course!) and we can honestly say it has been a very positive and freeing experience.
One Story Four Ways – How It Went Down
1. The Friends
Some of our oldest friends are back in the UK. While we don’t see them or even make contact often enough, these are good, good friends. The kind of friends where frequency of contact doesn’t matter. The kind of friends where you can simply pick up where you left off, whether that was a week ago or several months ago.
Mr. PIE and I have each told one of our very good friends back home about our early retirement plans. It began in April when I traveled back to the UK to visit with family and friends. I spent part of my long weekend with an old friend and filled her in on our plans. (Old: we’re both getting on in years AND we’ve known each other since we were 4!) It didn’t come as a huge surprise to her – I’ve tossed around similar ideas with her for a while. However, actually laying out our plan in its full glory was a new step.
And her response? Nothing but support and positivity. She didn’t want to know anything about the financial part of the story and was fully on board with how wonderful this would be for the kids. Couldn’t ask for better!
Mr. PIE also recently confided in an old (yup, we’re all old!) college friend on the phone. Yet again, this conversation was easy and well received. It came as no surprise to him that we were ready to pull the rip cord and be done with corporate life.
Mr. PIE’s friend is also planning and saving for his own retirement, albeit with longer timelines than our own. The interesting side of this conversation was that he assumed that we had a financial planner, and was startled to hear that we were willing and able to handle that side of things by ourselves.
This has been a recurring theme in several exchanges we have had lately, whether the dialog is actually about retirement or just generally about handling money. We have to remember that not so long ago we also fell into the category of people who said something along the lines of “I can’t be bothered with dealing with that” and “leave it to the experts”. This is an aberration to our ears these days, but it has also become obvious that these conversations are not opportunities to re-educate. I have personally noted on several occasions that the listener physically and mentally shuts down when hearing about going it alone without a financial advisor. I’d liken the response to putting fingers in ears and singing “la, la, la I can’t hear you!”
The next friends on the list to tell are some very good friends we have in our own town here in the US. Let’s call them Dan and Jane. (Oh boy, if they ever find this blog I’m in trouble!) We came to a point with Dan and Jane where we would have come clean about our early retirement plans or find ourselves in discussions where we were blatantly lying – or at very best, seriously misleading them. It’s entirely the kids fault! We knew that the chit-chat would inevitably turn to middle school choices for our oldest kids, and with that comes the reality that our kids won’t be attending middle school in our town. We decided to bite the bullet and tell them.
Here we met with more astonishment than with other friends, but that rapidly turned to understanding. These are friends who have stayed with us in our mountain home. They have borrowed it for a get-away weekend for themselves. We’ve skied together and compared notes on mountains. They have the unique position of having glimpsed our future life and what it will have to offer for us.
We did have to nudge them along to our way of thinking about quitting work though. Of course, it’s a hard concept to grasp when you haven’t spent as much time thinking about it as we have. Dan went through the very visible process of turning this idea over in his head, suggesting a few thing we could do work wise, only to be told that we really didn’t plan on having to work. We talked about schools and what the kid’s futures would look like. Overall it went pretty well, it’s good to have them involved.
Result: Buddies on-board with our plans who have no worries about our ability to do something a bit unusual.
2. Mrs. PIE’s Parents and Family
Given that my parents have known me for 42 years, they already have a pretty good idea that whatever I’m doing it won’t be predictable. I have the feeling that their policy with me is to expect the unexpected. I took the opportunity on my trip back to the UK to talk with them about our plans. As I know what’s important to my parents, I focused on the personal side of early retirement as opposed to the financial considerations.
Here, as I expected, it took a little longer for the reality and enormity of the situation to be absorbed. After several rounds of explanation that “no, It’s not just me quitting, it’s Mr. PIE too” and “yes, we’re selling our house and moving”, it started to sink in. As anticipated, my Mum’s first comments were, “well, as long as the boys are OK” and “what about schools?” Also as anticipated, the news is still permeating. Even now a few months on, I chat on the phone with my parents and I can tell they have been thinking it over. “You’ll have to find something to do” they tell me, to which I smile, knowing full well we’ll have plenty to do.
I briefly spoke to my brother too. We haven’t talked about this as much as we should have yet. He only had the chance to give me his gut reaction on hearing my one to two sentence explanations of our plans. It was an fascinating yet understandable gut reaction that I expect to be hearing from many more people as time goes on: “I don’t think I could do that, I’d be bored. I like my job.” We have more to talk about!
Result: The cogs are still turning and the news is still sinking in, but Mum and Dad are accustomed to being surprised by me.
3. Mr. PIE’s Parents
Mr. PIE was eagerly looking forward to a long weekend trip back to the UK in September for a friend’s reunion from his Alma mater, the University of Glasgow. This was going to be a great opportunity to meet up with old friends, drink too much beer, enjoy great food, and share their respective journeys in life. Below is a picture of his Alma mater. Can you say Hogwarts? If you ever get the opportunity to visit Glasgow with your kids, take a trip to the West End and spend an afternoon roaming the cloisters, quadrangles and buildings of the University. They will absolutely love it! It feels like a magical place and it was certainly a fine establishment for Mr. PIE to get his education.
Anyway, this was also an opportunity to spill the beans in person about our plans with his Mum and Dad. Unfortunately, due to work commitments (Ugh! – a phrase we will never ever use come July 2018), he could not make the trip and this plan was knocked firmly on the head.
Undeterred by this disappointment of not being able to see his Mum and Dad and of missing out on the university reunion, he set to work on Plan “B. Knowing that Mr. PIE’s Dad has a penchant for a good book, an idea started to form.
We had recently read and reviewed The Simple Path to Wealth by Jim Collins. Suddenly the “Ah Ha!” moment came upon him. With not a moment to spare, he dispatched the book by mail to his parents in Scotland and enclosed a little note inside the front cover to the effect of:
“Thought you might like to read this book. Enjoy! Once you are finished, let’s chat about some plans that we are very excited to share with you. Love…..”
About 10 days later, our home phone rang early on a Sunday morning. It was Mr. PIE’s Dad. Mr. PIE answered. It was clear the conversation was turning quickly to the book after the usual stuff about the rotten weather in Scotland had been shared. Mr. PIE’s Dad had apparently devoured the book within 8 hours of getting it into his hands. He waxed lyrical about Mr. Collins being a very smart man. He honed in on the avoidance of credit card debt, the power of saving into your 401K from an early age, the suite of different investment offerings from Vanguard and the tale of Mike Tyson and his opulent spending habits. In short, he quickly understood the tenets of wealth building! This was not really a huge surprise as Mr. PIE’s parents had never lived beyond their means, never carried significant debt and paid off their mortgage at a young age.
After a moment’s silence, the question was excitedly asked:
“So, are you retiring early? Is that your plan?”
Mr. PIE’s answer:
The conversation that followed was easy, although it never specifically turned to money. The Simple Path to Wealth turned into the Simple Path to Share our Plan. Thank you, Mr. Collins.
Result: simply, a big success!
4. The Ex-colleague
This ex-colleague should probably be in the ‘friends’ section above, but she’s a very special case. That’s because she quit my company about a year ago now for what she has termed – among other things – her ‘first retirement’. She’s single and had worked her way up to a senior position in my department over several years. Even before she quit, she spent a lot of time traveling globally with Habitat for Humanity, and this is one of the things she wanted to spend more time doing.
I had lunch with her recently, and of course I couldn’t keep our plans a secret. In fact I was pretty excited to be able to share them with her. But how would she react? Would she think I was crazy given the huge difference in our personal situations?
She was delighted and instantly understood everything I was saying. It was cathartic, liberating even, to be able to talk so openly and freely without having to go into detailed explanations of the concept. The preamble was out of the way, we dived straight into the nitty-gritty and discussed healthcare, taxes, how my colleagues would react, how wonderful it would be for the kids, and how much travel we would be able to do. I went back to work smiling
Result: A buddy on board who is as excited about our plans as we are – and a great resource too.
Overall, telling friends and family has been a positive and liberating experience. It’s good to have real life friends to talk with about our plans. As much as we appreciate our on-line interactions, we’re always aware of the effect of confirmation bias. It’s the internet – you can find a group of people to agree with you on pretty much any subject. This has placed our plans in the light of day in real life.
We now have a number of supporters on our side who we know are rooting for us. We know there will be several ongoing conversations about our plans as the news continues to sink in, and we even hope that knowing our plans will spur more questions from friends and family members who are intrigued about how our finances work. Whatever they want to ask us now, we’re willing and happy to share the joy.
Have you shared your plans with anyone? How did it go? Any conversations looming that have you worried?