My Dress Rehearsal With Post FI Life

During the latter half of 2018, I trialled Post FI life (even though I haven’t officially FIRED).

Before I delve into my experience, I drew a little inspiration from some FIREHub blogs. Hence, I want to give a shout out to Cheesy Finance and his lonely experience.  Indeedably and his semi-retirement lessons. And last but not least,  Young FI Guys reflection on retirement.  

So, in July this year, I finished a long slog (just over one year) of a project in Germany.  The last country on my 50-month fast track plan (which I plan to detail in another post). I went ‘hardcore’ and did 6 and 7 day weeks (most weeks) for the tenure of the project. I learned an important lesson. There’s a thin line between opportunity cost and burn out.

I guess what I’m saying is, it was ‘worth’ it to knacker myself.  

If you’re going to go ‘all in’, I feel you have to fight for what is yours. So, after a lot of politics (because my line manager never got paid overtime) and heated debates (because other contractors from other agencies never got overtime at a special rate), I managed to negotiate double time on a Sunday and time and a half on Saturdays, on a half decent rate.

I’m not a natural born haggler by any means. But when it comes to projects, I put on a mask and negotiate for all I can get.

Because sometimes, greed is good.  Otherwise, the agent is going to take their share and the path to FI is going to be a longer one.

So I basically got decent terms for myself AND for others on my team too (contractors through the same agency as myself).

Anyway, by the time I finished the German project, I already had a 12-month contract signed and sealed with an Italian agent, however, this fell through in the end.  Because contracting isn’t always set in stone.

They wanted me to go to the United States, but I’m banned from working there (long story).  Plus, I don’t want to do long haul projects anymore.

So…this was a blessing in disguise and forced me to carry out a dress rehearsal for FI. Sometimes you just have to trust the benevolence of the universe.

Decompression

I’ve never used that word before. I’ve always taken a rest after projects, where it’s taken me 2 weeks to get back to my old self.  This time though, I’m older (strangely enough).  What I also didn’t mention, I did 8 months of 6 day weeks (with a 10-day break, every 8 weeks) on an Indian project, previous to the German one.  Without much of a break in between projects.

So inevitably, I got burnout and it wasn’t very nice. My emotional intelligence (EQ) was all over the shop. I was going to draft a separate post on it, but I think everyone gets the gist.

Some FI’ers may identify with this?

As they push themselves to new levels of net worth, passive income and savings rates. Be kind to yourself. Or at least, negotiate decent terms if you’re going to burn yourself out.

And I’d say this is a good first stage to post FI.  Take much-deserved rest/ decompress before heading off on an adventure/ starting something new.  Replenish your energy levels first or you won’t be any use to anyone, or yourself.

Finding a Routine/Rhythm

After sorting my head out, it didn’t take too long to find a routine.  I had enough knowledge built up from my mini-retirements to kick me off. Anyway, I like to break my day into morning, afternoon and evening routines.

Mornings

Every morning was busy and productive where I implemented a health regime into my routine.  So I went to the gym 3 times a week, cycled twice a week and treated myself to the thermal/ medicinal baths one morning every week.  In the summer, the thermal baths are replaced with an outdoor swimming pool.

I still do these activities when I’m working. However, I have to ask myself how effective is my workout at the gym. Or, do I enjoy the gym/ cycling as much when I’ve put in a 60-70 hour week?

With regards to any other hobbies I have, I’ve put them on hold until I reach my FIRE date. Because it will involve me travelling to other countries and spending more.

Evenings

The evenings consist of Internation events (social), Meetups (technical) or dating. For any other quiet evening, I’m happy to chill out with Netflix.  I’ll watch Netflix in the evenings, as long as I’ve had a productive day.

As the time swept by, I found myself opting out of evening events.  I got lazy and stayed in my little bubble.  Being an INFJ personality, I naturally opted for a cosy sofa and Netflix.  I realise I need to make more of an effort to interact and socialise on these occasions.

Weekends

Just to point out, I managed to build some consistency and fulfilment to my weekends in Budapest.  So, if I’m away travelling/ doing ad-hoc consultancy during the week, I have something to come back to at weekends.  Which is very important.

Afternoons

All that stuff you can’t get done during your working hours. Well, I had enough time to blitz that.  However, this is where I struggled.  This was the void in my day.

Sure, I had ‘stuff’ to do but nothing defining.  I had this vision of me with my high nelly bike, cycling over cobblestones and through courtyards to this ornate, old library where I live.  And pounding away at a keyboard every afternoon churning out post after post.

I reckon I wanted to follow in the footsteps of Mr Jason Fieber, one of the early adopters of the FIRE scene.  The first guy I followed. And an avid dividend investor like myself. I admire his consistency and passion. And most of all, his story.

I’ve learnt, I naturally like writing a couple of hours every morning (which is also part of the morning routine), or maybe one full day a week. But, not every day. It’s not me.

Even then, my writing has waned. Even stopped completely.  I learned if I have something planned in the afternoon (e.g. some sort of work or purposeful thing), I will make a concerted effort to write in the morning.  i.e. I have a timeline to abide by.

Hence, I’m looking for some sort of sideline to fulfil my afternoon. Whether that’s:

  1. Study/ gaining a certification
  2. Playing a musical instrument
  3. Starting a lifestyle business
  4. Learning a craft
  5. Volunteering   
  6. Learning a language                                                                                          

That I’m not 100% on yet.

I will definitely sign up for Hungarian lessons (enough to get by), but it won’t fulfil all my afternoons. 

As I’m still in the accumulation phase, I don’t want to spend that much on travel.  However, not travelling this much has made me realise, I still want to incorporate travel into my FI plan.

So, short-term travel will naturally be part of my Post FI regime, it will bring focus and break up a routine when it starts to become militant or monotonous. And make those weekday afternoons more interesting. 

Discovering New or Lost Loves

1. Cooking

I’m really glad to be cooking again (as I stayed in hotels/ serviced accommodation mostly for the last 4 years).  Even if I had all the money in the world, I wouldn’t eat out that much. It gets boring after a while (especially on your own) and eating rich food all the time isn’t good for you.

So, I grocery shop at the market on a Saturday morning now.  That way:

  • I reduce my overall grocery bill
  • I’m buying fresh (the fruit and veg does last that bit longer than big chain supermarkets)
  • I love the market scene and giving back to the locals

I make breakfast, lunch and dinner six times a week and ‘dine out’ on a Saturday.  Sunday is now my special day for making homemade soups and casseroles (and refrigerated in Tupperware for the week ahead). Well, Gulyas in particular.

2. Table Tennis

I now make a concerted effort to go to Table Tennis (Internations event) on a Wednesday.  I used to play league table tennis in my University days and participated in competitions. I wasn’t brilliant but loved all the spin variations and would take part in topspin rallies to please the crowd.

3. Hydro and Balneotherapy (Hungarian Mineral Waters)

This used to be part of my regime after I finished a project.  As in, go to some health and well-being centre (e.g. Panchakarma in India) and switch off.

Now I incorporate the thermal baths into my routine every week.  And it makes all the difference.  There have been studies carried out and hydro and Balneotherapy is thought to improve:

  • Hand osteoarthritis
  • Chronic low back pain
  • Neck and lumbar pain
  • Inflammatory and metabolic indices

Like everything though, you have to go on a regular basis, not just once in a blue moon.

These 3 activities above provide ‘flow’.  I get lost in the moment and switch off from the outside world.

Contentment

When I finished a project in the past, I used to get this Xmas feeling. 

I would stick a pin on the map, and go wherever the heck I wanted (to a certain degree).  I would do my best to incorporate a snowboard or windsurfing rig/ surfboard into those plans.

It was important I had a budget on spending though. Hence, I didn’t do that Heli-boarding trip in Kamchatka (think black sandy beaches and nature at its finest) or do a windsurfing master class in the Marshall Islands. I never actually travelled on that spectrum.  For me, it was crossing the threshold of financial budgets.

But I did snowboard in one of the most Northerly ski resorts in the world (Riksgranson) and witnessed Aurora Borealis.  Where the tip of Norway and Sweden intersect (200km from the Arctic Circle).  I remember sitting on a glacier and texting (years before social media was implemented) my friend about my adventure.  He received it on a bus in Ballsbridge in Dublin, in the pissing rain.

Or deep powder boarding in Hokkaido, in Northern Japan over the Xmas period. I hired a guide to take me off-piste, through the woods and under the cable cars. I met a couple of guys from New Zealand and we ended up partying at the Shibuya crossing in Tokyo, for New Years.  I met the most gorgeous Japanese girl that evening.

But I’m too old and ugly for that sort of stuff now.  What I’m saying is, do your own thing…now.  If you’re that way inclined. 

The way I feel about travel now differs from what I felt about travel in my mid 30’s. And that differs from what I felt about travel in my late 20’s.

I’m also saying, I feel more content now. Having lived out a few ‘dreams’.  Sure, they didn’t all pan out. But travel or living out something you’ve desired fulfils you.  Live your dream, whether that’s staying at home or abroad. Hence, I don’t feel the need to bugger off for a long stint anymore. 

So, I spent most of my FIRE dress rehearsal ‘at home’.  Getting registered on the system, researching dentists and healthcare, building community, new clients, payroll systems, building relationships, viewing property, getting to know my new city and integrating myself into society in Budapest.

And Starting a FIRE Meetup to help locals, meet international mindsets and very interesting folk who are heading up startups.  That’s been rewarding to me and hopefully to the locals, digital nomads and expats.

So, back to the snowboard thing. I don’t need to travel to the opposite side of the world anymore.  I can catch a train from Budapest Keleti and travel to St Anton, Austria (at the Ski resort) with no change of train.

People

Are you a coconut or a peach?

I’m most definitely a coconut.  I don’t let that many people in. But when I do, they’re in for life. 

Sure, I’ve met a tonne of folk in Budapest now.  I’ll engage in small talk at these Internations events, shoot the breeze at these Meetups or exchange pleasantries during my dates.  But there are only 3 people I truly connect with here.  Where I share my deepest thoughts and desires.

And people are very important during post FI phase. The heart of everything.  I’m building this up slowly because good people take time.

Losing My Identity

I guess I encountered an identity crisis during my FIRE dress rehearsal.  Without jetting off to the next project to an obscure country, who am I without that?

That’s why I’m choosing one place to live in (most of the year) and one lady to grow old with (still working on that)

And part of this process is changing my lifestyle.  As in, not ‘living it up’ anymore. I haven’t been for a few years now. It’s alright when the client is paying for it, but as soon as they pull the plug…

Only the Lonely

Now and then, I experienced a little loneliness and started addressing my Why.

 

Again, loneliness can be remedied by making an effort to socialise more and planning specific or tailored events.  Or whatever your social or creative outlet is.

Or, just trying something.  Because perfection is the enemy of progress.

So, loneliness is maybe not the problem. It’s probably laziness and getting too comfortable in my own skin.

I do miss the craic from my last project in Germany.  There were no cubicles or open-plan offices (ugh, the worst).  Just a crappy old Portakabin where we more or less did our own thing and had a great laugh. We were in our own little bubble. I met a good friend on that project and still keep in touch with him today.

Reflection

This post FI dress rehearsal has also been a time of reflection.

The last 20% of any project is always the toughest, as in closing things out.  Like the closing stages of FIRE. 

I sensed that unwanted feeling, where nobody (big corporate) loves me. I wanted to be needed.  By something.  But big corporate is not the answer for me anymore.  I’ve never really felt part of the system.

I need and want to be running towards something that serves my soul.  I even feel the clients and agents know my game now.  I’ve flunked a few interviews this summer/ autumn, by telling the truth and not playing the game.

But I’m tired of wearing a mask now. 

We put ourselves under incredible stress to reach this milestone.  The last 2.5 years have been really tough.  Because I was used to ‘LITE’ mode with regards to the accumulation phase (before I discovered FIRE).  However, ‘TURBO’ mode is a rollercoaster ride. With bumps, ups and lots of downs.

Doubling down on debt, working silly hours and sidelining life will take its toll on you eventually. 

On the flip side, living out a few of my dreams have been incredible and I feel extremely grateful. 

The problem with me, I was always searching for Nirvana. A higher high.  And I found it.  But then I wanted more.  But as I found out by experimentation, life isn’t about temporary highs.  I’ve never really taken the time out to smell the roses. I guess I’m only starting to smell the roses now.  And they smell fairly sweet, albeit a few thorns.

Takeaway

I used the time wisely to build the start of new beginnings in Budapest.  Which I’m enjoying, it’s my kind of world.

However, I now realise, there’s a bit of a hole in the afternoons.  After a long spell (6 months) off work, I have some ideas on how to fill this going forward. 

Short-term travel and a smidgen of long-term travel will be very welcome in my FI plans and will fill some of those afternoons. As will ad-hoc consultancy work.  But I just need to find out my why…

My health and well being is much more important going forward. If any client tells me “But, we’re on the critical path”, I’ll walk or they can fire me.  Fortunately, I’m in a position to do that now.

So now I will wind down slowly (as opposed to cold turkey), and opt for shorter hours as I approach FI.

Thanks for stopping by. Now I would like to hear from you in the comments:

Hows your FI journey going so far?

Are there any stumbling blocks on your path to FI?

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