By all accounts, I should be happy, or at least content, with my career. I earn a comfortable salary and my job is relatively easy. For the most part, I set my own schedule and work on whatever tasks I feel are appropriate on any given day. Sure, I have suspenses to meet and meetings I must attend, but nothing too stressful or overbearing. I even exercise at an onsite gym on most days.
So what’s the problem? Everyone needs to make a living, right? We’ve all been told go to college, work for the next 40 years, then retire in your early 60s if you’re lucky. That’s the traditional roadmap society expects us to follow. You trade the prime years of your life for a paycheck. This can’t be the only way!
While I should be busy at work creating process maps and charting my development plan, my mind is wandering to more enjoyable things I could be doing instead like evaluating possible business ideas or investment opportunities, working on projects around the house, taking the kids to the pool, tending to our backyard vegetable garden, or planning vacations.
Shortly after I started working full time, I realized the traditional 9-5 job wasn’t for me. I dreamed of an early retirement where I’d have the freedom to do anything I wanted. At the time, I thought this would come at age 43 after finishing up a 20-year active duty military career. Well, I separated last year after nearly 9 years of service, so that idea is out the window.
Or is it? In late 2013, while searching early retirement forums I came across a blog that would change my life and give purpose and direction to my goal: Mr. Money Mustache. For those who don’t know, MMM and his wife retired about 10 years ago at the age of 30 to start a family and spend their time however they wanted. In 2011, he started a blog preaching, “Financial Independence Through Badassity.” Hell yeah, that’s what I’m talking about!
Being a naturally frugal guy with an analytical mind and decent salary, I was instantly hooked. How could my family replicate what MMM had done? I knew if my wife and I both stayed on active duty and each got a pension, we could retire in our early 40s and be reasonably set for life. But that wasn’t good enough. Was there a way we could do it much sooner while raising three kids?
Right around the same time I discovered MMM, the military announced it would be undergoing a wave of force reductions. My career field and year group was hit especially hard (which is ironic since there was a huge push to recruit engineers while I was in college). Based on my rank and time in service, I was offered a severance package equal to approximately 80% of my total annual compensation to voluntarily separate. After running the numbers and weighing the pros and cons, I decided to drop my papers and left active duty in September 2014.
So now what? Taking the lump sum separation pay increased our net worth about 15%, but it wasn’t enough to retire. Before leaving the rat race for good, I wanted to build our stash a bit more and fortunately landed in my current position. I also joined the reserves to continue my military service and hopefully finish out the remainder of my career on a part time basis to earn a reserve retirement which pays out beginning at age 60.
That brings us to today. At a time when I should be setting goals to climb the corporate ladder, I’m plotting my exit strategy. This is our journey to financial independence, a healthy life, freedom, clarity, and happiness.