2020 was supposed to be our year. The year we would retire early and start traveling the United States. We’d even picked July 4th to be our first official independence day from work.
It was the summer of 2013 when I first stumbled across the personal finance blogging community and the financial independence retire early (FIRE) movement. To say it changed the course of our life is not an exaggeration.
While the information I started reading about wasn’t secret and some of it not necessarily new to me, it wasn’t until then that I began giving proper attention to our finances.
I was an avid reader and began implementing the things I was reading about.
We began cutting unnecessary expenses, finding more ways to save when spending, increasing our incomes, contributing more to retirement accounts, index investing, etc. In short, breaking the cycle of thinking “more stuff equals more happiness” and becoming better at putting our money to work for us.
Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me. Carol Burnett
We initially hatched a plan to retire in 2024. As a result of being fortunate enough to increase our incomes, save more money, and earn significant returns on our investments, we were able to move the date up to 2020.
But then I left my full-time job (in 2018) earlier than expected. Initially, we thought my quitting would delay our plan a year or two, but a healthy economy and strong market returns helped us continue to grow our net worth and reach financial independence.
So we were back to thinking 2020 would be the year my husband could call it quits. We’d sell our home mid-year, travel the U.S., and reside in Florida between trips.
The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails. William Arthur Ward
2020 started well enough. Sure, I was a bit stressed with my responsibilities as conservator and guardian for my aunt. Yet things were humming along. I was able to sell her house in late January, and she was getting along well at her assisted living home.
In early February, I flew down to Florida, looking forward to a month of sunshine and relaxation. My husband, John, was set to join me for a couple of weeks, then he would head home, and I would fly to California with my mom to visit my son.
But then…well then everyone’s life changed.
All great changes are preceded by chaos. Deepak Chopra
John was laid off from his job the first week of March and travel plans got canceled. Then my aunt fell and broke her hip on Friday the 13th.
After her hip surgery, she had another medical scare. And finally, two back and forth trips between a nursing home and the hospital with a misdiagnosis of Covid before she finally passed mid-April (not due to Covid, but likely a different tragedy of the pandemic).
Through it all, I was so grateful I’d stumbled upon that first personal finance article years ago, which led us down a path to financial security.
To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly. Henri Bergson
As much as we wanted John to be done with working in 2020, with all the chaos we experienced in the first third of the year, we came to realize we weren’t quite ready.
We still had many decisions to make that we’d put off when I became deeply involved in caring for my aunt. Decisions about health insurance, where we were going to travel, what we were going to travel in, and more.
Plus, the house wasn’t ready for market, and the world was dealing with a pandemic.
When life changes to be harder, change yourself to be stronger. Unknown
So we refocused and got to work.
Fortunately, John was able to secure new employment within three months.
While he was off, we threw ourselves into projects around the house. John painted, and I cut and hung hundreds of stone pieces on the exterior to further enhance the home’s look.
We toyed with the idea of putting it on the market in June but ultimately didn’t, worried it wasn’t the right time.
In September, we changed our minds.
Every new day is another chance to change your life. Unknown
We witnessed a neighbor sell their home in less than a week after receiving multiple offers over the asking price. So we began to wonder if maybe it was a perfect time for us to sell. It was.
We listed our home in mid-September and had an offer over asking price within six hours of it being on the market. Even though we had a weekend full of showings booked, we knew they were the perfect buyers.
We’ve since closed on the house sale and moved to a small rental home we’re subletting until mid-2021.
To get here from there, we needed to get rid of lots of stuff.
We were able to sell some things, and some we left for the buyers of our home. While we tried to donate many things, we couldn’t find a center with the space to take them. Unfortunately, that meant some things ended up in the dumpster (sorry!)
To reach a port we must sail, sometimes with the wind, and sometimes against it. But we must not drift or lie at anchor. Oliver Wendell Holmes
We’re still in the midst of unpacking and settling into our new surroundings. I still have many things to sell or donate before next summer, though, or John may start traveling without me.
I’m also in the middle of settling my aunt’s estate through probate, which is providing great inspiration for the book my Women Who Money co-founder Vicki Cook and I are currently writing (details to come).
And John and I still have those final decisions to make on…insurance, travel destinations, transportation, and John’s official early retirement date.
So while 2020 has been full of unexpected challenges and change, we’re grateful we can still focus on our goals. And look forward to independence day 2021.
Did you make any significant changes in 2020? What goals or changes will you be making in 2021?