I just finished watching Stage 2 of the Tour De France. I won’t go too sports geek here – but Mathieu van der Poel won the stage with an incredible effort at the finish. Watching him, I was sure he’d attacked too early and would fail. He was clearly redlined and probably hoping he crossed the finish line before he passed out.
I feel a bit like that as I work on closing out this school year while optional retirement looms in just a few days. The students have gone for the summer. Most of the staff are on vacation. Yet – there is still so much to do! Rather than coasting out of my 20 year career, I’m working hard to make sure things are better for my successor than they were when I started this job.
It’s simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting.
For the past few months, I’ve put aside most things while waiting for that optional retirement finish line to appear in the distance. I haven’t really felt it until recently. That may be a good thing.
As I approach it now, I’m just starting to think about what the future holds. I’m grateful to know there IS an end coming and excited to think about what comes next. I’m not quite ready, but that’s also part of the anticipation.
Today, as I push toward the finish line, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. That gratitude is powering me more than the still-nebulous future freedom.
It’s an indescribable feeling to be a poor kid, who has always worried and stressed about money, feeling now financially secure. My future options aren’t dependent on what I can earn or driven by a fear of not having enough.
I’m so grateful to have reached this point having worked in a career that I love. A job that matters. That contributes. I didn’t grind a job I hated – I gave my all to a career I loved, but need to step away from. At least for a bit. All of those things are amazing.
I’m profoundly grateful that my partner took the leap of faith with me. She got fully on board with my “crazy ideas” of working toward a goal of financial independence. Together we’ve made lifestyle shifts like downsizing our home, saving an incredible amount of our income in tax advantaged accounts, and setting regular financial goals. I couldn’t have done it without her.
I’m grateful that our newfound financial control allows us both to make choices that feel right for us. I’m taking a pause (who knows how long?) and may explore other areas of interest. She’s decided being in her classroom is what she loves. How fortunate we can make those choices without income driving us.
I’m grateful for the HR Director who talked me into signing up for my 403b years ago. Even though I only started with a small amount – it’s mattered. Not using the full power of our educator investing options is one of my biggest financial mistakes. But, he stopped it from becoming a bigger one.
I’m grateful for the online financial independence community. The content creators and writers who share their possibilities, perspectives, and plans. There are so many – and that breadth/depth of content is important. It allows each of us to find an approach that works for us, to discover little wrinkles that may not be covered in mass market pieces.
For my specific journey, these have been critical:
ESIMoney – The millionaire interview series was the first online financial reading that really hooked me – precisely because it allowed me to learn about lots of different perspectives and approaches. Some circumstances I couldn’t relate to and some approaches seemed off, but others resonated deeply. I was grateful to read each one.
It was in one of those interviews that I first discovered the 457b, an amazing benefit I’d been completely clueless about. I credit that discovery with helping to rocket our financial plans forward.
JL Collins – The stock series is an original piece of FIRE reading. It’s a straightforward, and accessible introduction into simple investing. The Simple Path to Wealth takes it to the next level, and is still my most gifted financial book.
Early Retirement Now – The safe withdrawal series has been critical in helping me overcome my fear of financial insecurity. There is no amount of money that will make me feel totally secure – but Big ERN’s series helped me dig deeply into the concept and run my own numbers in such a way that I can intellectually be comfortable with what we have. That matters. A lot.
Afford Anything Podcast – There are lots of good podcasts out there. Paula Pant’s was the best mix of finance, humor, and decision-making for us.
There are many more – I’ve read literally thousands of pieces of online financial content and listened to 100s of hours of podcasts. Every single one has contributed.
I’m grateful to have this site, and more than 30,000 readers a month so far this year. It’s helped me think, share, and be accountable in ways that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. Thanks to each of you who have read, shared, and commented.
I am especially thankful for those educators who share their financial progress with others. It helps break down the stigma of money topics in our profession. It shows other educators what is possible. It’s helped me work toward my mission of supporting other educators to financial success. Check out Educators Writing About Personal Finance, and my Educators on FIOR interview series to access this group.
I’ve been so fortunate to have amazing people in my life. I won’t stop sharing it – this is just a start.
Next Steps – Still Forming
Speaking of sharing – I haven’t done a very good job on this site for the past few months. I promise I’ll get back to it.
In the short term – I’m taking an extended vacation from work for the first time in a long time. Then, I’ll figure out my new routines and where I want to focus my time.
One area I know will become a priority – this site. Starting in August, you’ll see a regular posting schedule again. I’ll restart my email list (sorry!) and you’ll get a monthly update there from me.
You can continue to expect a mix of money, career, and decision-making. Just with a slightly different perspective. More regular than it’s been lately. Thanks for your patience.
Optional Retirement Ahead
After working toward financial independence for years the finish line is right there. Three days away!
I think I’ll make it before I pass out.