As the Leaves Change, So Does My Sentiment

Just venting a little.  As “seasoned” as I am as a big firm attorney, it really does not take much for me to want to head for the hills and escape it all.  Even a few months ago, I was still enjoying the calm breeze of summer litigation.  Things have only ratcheted up so-oh-little, and I’m already wanting to quit.  The stock market is not helping much, as our net worth has been falling day-to-day instead of creeping upwards towards a yet-to-be-defined target.  Anyways, I’ve been kind of a wimp lately.

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At these times, I start to feel reckless.  Years ago, when I was first getting into the FIRE game, I set my target at $750K ($30K a year at 4%).  We’ve blown past that, and looking back, I can’t believe I was so desperate and willing to compromise my future quality of life.  It took another few years to get to $750K and a few more years to get to where we are now with an additional $650K which I can’t imagine foregoing in exchange for not having to work during those years.  Just seems irresponsible.  But now, I am having the same feelings as I did a few years ago — like FIRE can’t come sooner.  And I feel like I’m willing to cut significant corners to get there.  The rational part of my brain is telling me NO!, but it’s getting drowned out.

Perhaps all of this teaches me an important lesson about myself.  When I’m in a stable state of mind, I make very deliberate decisions, unwilling to drop our standard of living or ignore likely expenses to achieve an earlier FIRE date.  When I’m feeling despair (even if it’s a passing feeling), then I’m often willing to take gambles that I know I might regret in the future.

18 thoughts on “As the Leaves Change, So Does My Sentiment

    • Small changes are a good idea. We’re taking a trip next week which should help. I got a little more stressed when someone at work tried to get me to reschedule the trip. We’re still going, but it seems every step I take is met with a little resistance…

  1. I can relate. I went all in on FIRE about a year ago. One of the best things I decided to do. The alternative of work until 65ish then death a little bit later is absolutely unimaginable at this point. Anyway sometimes I feel like a caged animal. Get me outta here. I need to be doing more important things. For me these bouts of restlessness are all part of the secret mission to get out early. Which for people like us is sooner rather than later.

    Best

      • Currently covered living expenses but not quite to the standard of living I’d like before calling it quits. Long travel, high quality groceries, etc. Maybe 4-5 years. I’m also doing this with kids and a single income now the my wife is at home. The thing with kids is it completely rewires your brain the moment you have one. Happened to me at least. My job is rewarding, good co-workers, decent pay, zero stress. I’m fortunate in that regard. But I feel like I should be at home with my child rather than working. So for now I’m not necessarily aiming at full retirement but maybe 20 hours/week for the structure and stable money flow.

      • Sounds like you are in a really good position! Any possibility to transition to part time in your current role? I imagine if we have kids I’ll also want to spend more time at home.

      • Transition to part time (20-24 hours?) would be the sensible thing for me to do. I work in healthcare and flexible schedule/hours is a nice part of the industry. The thing is about a year and a half ago I got FIRE in my head (probably came across the same blogs you did) and it was all about the pursuit. I may have gone a little overboard.

        I started saving at my first paycheck, upped the savings every year, got into investing and was found I was pretty good at it. A decade passed and I discovered I was in arms reach of FI. I stepped on the gas just to get there. Now I ‘m there and I don’t know what to do. I suppose I’ll keep going to improve post-retirement quality of life.

        Re: kids- They cost less than you think.

  2. Anon- I understand exactly what you’re talking about, I did the same thing and I ended up working an extra year and a half, savings quite a bit during that time.

    But the problem I see with what you said, is that you assume there is an inherent drop in quality of life by calling it quits now. I’m very happy with my ~36K in passive income that I receive from my investments now, and I really don’t see how the quality of my life would be any better with $46K or $56K.

    With $36K and a paid off house, I spend my days reading books, researching new things, and riding my bike. My kids go to a great school and eat healthy (mostly) organic whole foods. And since I have plenty of time, I’m now providing even more of that food from my garden.

    More money would probably just tempt me to complicate my life with bigger/faster/newer stuff, or stressful and unnecessary trips. But that’s just me… I realize everyone’s different, I just didn’t want to leave the article without pointing out that I sensed an assumption that more money necessarily means higher quality of life.

    As the Notorious B.I.G. said, “Mo Money Mo Problems”

    • Thanks for the comment, BNL. You were one of my early inspirations so glad to hear from you. As a lawyer, I’m pretty risk averse, so being in the grey area is not comfortable for me. Cost of living here is really high, mostly due to real estate prices (>$2M for a decent place), and I can also see health insurance and kids cutting really deep into our budget. We’re willing to move to a cheaper area, but haven’t scoped that out yet.

  3. I just spent an hour reading every post you have ever written. I am a big law lawyer and its eerie how similar our thoughts were when you were in my shoes. But as I followed you through time, I kept wanting you to leave and you never did! There is always going to be an excuse for why a certain time isn’t right. You can keep telling yourself just 1000 dollars more and I can leave, but at some point your life will have passed you by. I’m building the courage to leave big law for an unpaid internship in a field I MIGHT like, but I don’t know either. We can never know until we try. I’d like to think this is the advice you would have given me in 2009 and its the advice I’m giving you now. Let go. Wonderful things might happen.

    • Thanks for the comment, Aiden. I’m flattered that you spent so much time reading my blog. It’s funny how Biglaw shapes people in very much the same way. It is hard to leave. Not just because of the money, or the ego boost, but also lawyers are pretty risk averse people. Back in 2009, I was hoping to leave as soon as I could cover my expenses with my passive income, but lo and behold my expenses kept going up (mostly because I got married though and wifey did not want to live with my roommates). I do wonder if I’m just running on a treadmill with a carrot strapped to my head…I think subconsciously I have been sabotaging myself so I could hang on for a few more years and taper out. Makes the decision easier if it’s made for you!

  4. Stumbled across your blog and like Aiden devoured it all. I’m a 3L starting big law next fall and just starting to get into FIRE. I’ll be starting out with a full 250k in student loans and climbing from that to FI seems insane (even with big law pay).

    Any advice to someone just starting out about how best to approach big law with the goal of reaching FI as quickly as possible?

    • Thanks for the comment. Glad you are thinking about FIRE so early. It definitely will give you options down the road. Your question alone is worthy of much discussion. I may even write a post to address your question, but here are some quick thoughts on the financial and career fronts.

      1. Don’t live alone, get roommates. The difference between $2,500 in rent and $800 in rent will mean you can save an extra $20K a year (after taxes).
      2. Live close to the office. Biglaw is already demanding and you don’t want to waste an hour (or more) commuting each day.
      3. Minimize your taxes. Subject to your debt payment plan, try to max out your 401k, Roth (using backdoor), and HSA (unless you have some health condition in which case a traditional health plan might be more suitable).
      4. Take advantage of firm perks. My firm offers dinner at 6:30 pm. Before I got married, I always took advantage. In NY, people can take cabs home after 8 pm.
      5. Reduce and/or eliminate all recurring expenses. Drop cable and get Netflix. Drop Verizon for Ting. Don’t get a car if you live/work in a city. Etc.
      6. Depending on your city, see if you can get your total annual spending under $30K a year (not including your loan repayments). That’s doable as I’ve been in the most expensive areas in the U.S.

      On the career side:

      1. Manage your image! Don’t pester people with too many questions. Don’t kiss up. Be likeable. Don’t back stab. Don’t admit to mistakes before you’ve completely analyzed the situation and determined whether that is the best course of action. As soon as you have enough experience, start acting like you’re at the next level and you will be treated that way.
      2. Don’t take things to personally/seriously. People may treat you poorly, but don’t let it get to you. But don’t let yourself be a doormat. You’ll have to figure this one out depending on your own personality and firm culture.
      3. First time through the wringer will be the hardest. For example, the first time at trial will be miserable. I’m sure it is similar on transactional side for a closing or whatever. Just put your head down and get through it.
      4. Don’t get too caught up in FIRE the first few years. Setup your financial framework and put it on autopilot. Then figure out how to survive in Biglaw without distractions. You need to last a few years and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel yet.
      5. Don’t let anyone know about your FIRE plans. Don’t let on to anyone that you’re really frugal. In other words, your work clothing should all be presentable. Get your work clothes tailored. Don’t wear cheap rubber soled shoes. Let them think you’re one of them. That said, don’t feel any pressure to conform to them. Push comes to shove, you need to maintain your FIRE timeline. Bring your lunch to work 4 days a week and eat with others on Fridays, etc. It’s a fine line to walk at times, but you’ll figure it out.
      6. Watch your health. Eat healthy and workout. It’s sad how many lawyers get fat and out of shape. People really do work themselves do death. Make this a priority in your life.
      7. Maintain balance. Do something fun in the mornings to get your mind off work. Like go for a run, etc. If your firm is not a face time firm, leave whenever you are not busy.
      8. After you establish yourself, you may quickly learn that asking for work when you are slow is never the way to go. Others may disagree, but if you do good work, you will never have to ask for work. Take advantage of the downtime.

      Just my initial thoughts. May write a more detailed post in the future.

    • I’m not a lawyer and cannot comment on anything related to that. I assume you are in your mid 20s. I can say that if you are thinking and eventually doing this stuff now you are 90% of the way there.

  5. Your reply about advice for the new lawyers should be a post of its own.

    It sounds like you have the ” one more year ” issue.

    So do you have a finish line established?

    • Thanks for the reply Roamer. My wife and I are currently discussing what the finish line should be. She is a little more conservative / traditional than I am. The initial goal is $1.5M. If we keep going, I suppose $2M is a good secondary goal. Thing is, if we call it quits now, we will have to move and we don’t know where we want to go yet.

  6. Pingback: Winter Update and a Resolution | Thoughts of an Anonymous Lawyer

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