Yep, I’ve been writing this blog for 10 years.
I already wrote about how and why I started blogging at the 5-year mark. Check that if you’re interested.
But instead of rewriting what’s already been written, I want to focus on today and the future.
Today’s post is a personal update about my current situation and how my life and business are moving toward closer alignment with “the why” of the early retirement goal I set in 2003.
This Isn’t Retirement
I left my unremarkable IT career in December 2022 to be a full-time blogger. The move was a long time coming. RBD was a side gig for more than nine years.
I was able to leave a career I didn’t love for a few reasons.
- Years of saving and investing provided a substantial financial foundation.
- We reached financial independence. Faith in financial math encouraged me to be more bold.
- The investments I’ve accumulated over the past 28 years pay us dividends, which cover some of our basic living expenses.
- Mrs. RBD returned to work part-time, paying us another modest income stream.
- My side business has always provided income. I can grow my income by working on it full-time.
- Cash savings give us wiggle room to cover expenses if we don’t earn enough in a given month.
None of these enabling factors alone supported the decision to quit. But considered together, leaving my IT career was a no-brainer.
Even though this is an early retirement blog, leaving my IT career doesn’t make me a retired person. I’m still working 30 to 40 hours a week as a solopreneur. I enjoy it.
But my workday schedule is so much more relaxed now without a job. I can go to Costco at 11 am to avoid the crowds or take a midday break to swim laps or paint the shed.
I golf 18 holes once a week. On Wednesdays, I walk to the farmer’s market with Mrs. RBD without worrying about missing an MS Teams call to regurgitate the issues not resolved at the last meeting.
This summer, I spent four whole weeks out of town on vacation. I could never have done that as a full-time employee, and I can’t imagine returning to the old ways.
Now that I love what I do, I’m not so eager to “retire”.
I want to become a better online content creator and grow my business to maintain this lifestyle.
That’s not to say I’ve lost sight of my retire-at-55 goal.
It’s just hard to imagine a traditional retirement with three school-aged kids (11, almost 10, 8). Our schedules and family activities revolve around them, which can feel like a full-time job.
I want to do stuff with them when they’re not at school. We went to the pool nearly every available day this summer. We play The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom together — it’s an incredible video game that has strengthened our family bonds.
I’m always available for school field trips, doctor’s appointments, dance recitals, camping weekends, swim practices, birthday parties, and the twice-daily school bus.
This self-employment lifestyle lets me be a super-present Dad.
Money and work are still important. There’s still healthcare to pay for, a mortgage, living expenses, vacations, and college down the road. So, I am enthusiastic about continuing to earn money, but earning is on my terms now instead of an employer’s.
More than nine months into full-time blogging, my self-employment endeavor looks sustainable.
Most months, we still don’t earn enough to cover our expenses. Dipping into savings is uncomfortable, but I’ve adapted.
The rough math behind financial independence says you can safely withdraw and spend about 4% of your nest egg annually and still have enough money at the end of 30 years.
The math is based on elaborate statistical analyses from several studies over the past three decades. If you withdraw only 3.0% to 3.5% of the next egg or add any significant income, there is a near 100% likelihood of enough money to live perpetually.
We’ve drawn down only about 1.5% of our total savings so far this year. Meanwhile, my business income has increased each month, and we’re approaching a monthly cash flow break-even point while mostly maintaining a pre-quitting lifestyle.
I plan to keep growing my income after hitting the break-even point and work until at least age 55. So if we are in the red for some time initially, it’s mathematically OK.
The biggest discomfort has been paying for healthcare. Our COBRA health plan is probably more expensive than we need. However, my son’s medical condition made us apprehensive about switching plans in the first year.
We’ll evaluate other options in November but will probably keep what we have until June 2024.
Business income is susceptible to instability, and hurdles could impact my income. So, I’m building a diverse business that can handle bumpy roads ahead. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
These biweekly(ish) blog posts are a small piece of what I do and make very little money.
I write more search-friendly content, both here and on my IPO website, that most RBD subscribers never see. Those pay the bills.
Personal finance topics can get repetitive. After ten years of writing, I sometimes struggle to develop compelling ideas that I’m excited to write about. That’s part of why I’ve reduced the content I create on RBD.
I’ve focused more energy on my IPO website (spun off from RBD in 2016). I’m writing about venture-backed startups and innovative technologies such as CRISPR, A.I., climate tech, fintech, and cloud computing. Researching and writing about those topics is more enjoyable than personal finance 101 articles these days and has a better ROI.
Furthermore, I rarely invest in individual stocks anymore, which used to be a primary topic here. I’d rather spend time with family or my business than researching stocks. I’m using ETFs for new investments instead.
All-in-all, this experiment seems to be sustainable over the long term. I’m elated because I now love my profession, almost to the point of never wanting to retire from it.
In 2003, I set a goal to retire at age 55, one year before the age my Dad retired. I was 27 at the time.
The blog name Retire Before Dad reflected that goal, giving me a platform to write about how I’d reach my early retirement goal through investing.
The motivation behind the goal was my desire to travel in retirement.
I traveled extensively in my mid-twenties, visiting about 45 countries. The sooner I retired, the sooner I could return to exploring the world again without the constraints of time or money.
I expected to endure a travel gap (between ages 35 and 55) to start a family, build a career, and amass a modest net worth. During the early years of parenting, I never expected much travel, which has proven true.
I’m 48 now and approaching my original retirement goal age. The retirement travel I envisioned long ago — spending months at a time overseas — is still a decade away.
But family travel is possible now. So far, we’ve focused on family visits and exhaustive theme-park-related vacations.
Starting in 2025, we plan to start leaving the country.
Our first trips will be shorter vacations (e.g., 10 days in Europe, Canadian train or road trips, Caribbean resorts), but we aspire to take month-long trips each summer to Asia, Australia, and maybe even a family semester abroad.
But there are two significant challenges with family travel.
- It’s way more expensive than solo travel.
- School and kids’ activities limit trip durations.
We’ll create incredible memories as we travel as a family. But I’m really looking forward to retirement travel — just me and Mrs. RBD, taking it slow around the world.
My business is location-independent, so I can work from anywhere. That should help fund these adventures along with credit card travel rewards.
But I don’t want overbearing workloads while I’m traveling.
I want to retire and travel instead of work while traveling.
Travel will be my focus in the decade ahead, so my mindset is shifting from investing and financial independence toward a family and retirement travel lifestyle. The transition may lead me to a new business venture.
There’s a growing consensus that blogging is dying or already dead — a victim of artificial intelligence, YouTube, TikTok, email newsletters, Instagram, or name your villain.
Saying blogs are dead is a bit extreme. Online content creation has been evolving since the beginning of the internet. The evolution continues today and always.
People these days seem to have less patience. Personal stories — like the one I’m telling you today — take too long to read and don’t give consumers the dopamine rush they get from 10-second cat videos.
I write fewer articles like this because my money story has become less interesting.
Long-form content must be helpful or entertaining to keep a reader’s attention. So, I aim to write more helpful content aligned with what readers tell me they are interested in or what a broader audience is searching for.
There are many forms of online content now, and consumption preferences are changing.
The younger generation prefers short-form videos. Every morning, a young girl walks down my street with her head down, earbuds in, looking at her phone.
She’s not reading RBD blog posts. But she’s also not my audience.
Middle-aged folks have more patience for reading articles like this and enjoy audio and video formats.
I’ve long wanted to expand into new content formats to reach people who prefer other consumption media and to present a more authentic online persona. Being anonymous for many years made that impossible.
All of my focus is still on writing for my two blogs and an occasional feature at the HumbleDollar. I’m still refining my content creation and publishing rhythm.
Adding another content format today seems overwhelming. Nonetheless, I intend to experiment with new endeavors in the next 12 months.
Covering the same financial topics I’ve written about the past 10 years — those exhaustively available throughout the online world — is unlikely.
Don’t hold your breath for The Retire Before Dad Show.
I met a somewhat famous and accomplished author and entrepreneur at a conference as he was signing books. He briefly asked about my story. As I talked about what I’d accomplished with travel and my blogs, he inscribed a message inside the book.
It simply said, Craig, What’s next?
Featured photo via DepositPhotos used under license.
Craig is a former IT professional who left his 20-year career to be a full-time finance writer. A DIY investor since 1995, he started Retire Before Dad in 2013 as a creative outlet to share his investment portfolios. Craig studied Finance at Michigan State University and lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and three children. Read more HERE.
Favorite tools and investment services right now:
High Yield Savings — Put idle cash to work. FDIC-insured savings products.
NewRetirement — Spreadsheets are insufficient. Get serious about planning for retirement. (review)
Fundrise — The easiest way to invest in high-quality real estate with as little as $10 (review)
M1 Finance — A top online broker for long-term investors and dividend reinvestment (review)