Life After Financial Independence: How Life Changed After Retiring Early

It's been thirteen years since planting my financial independence flag in 2012. I want to share with you some thoughts on how life has been after financial independence. I originally wrote this post eight years after retiring early.

Before neutering my day job income, I feared whether I was doing the right thing financially. What I realized is that the fear of running out of money in early retirement is completely overblown because we are adaptable and resourceful.

Nobody here is too proud to work a minimum wage job if disaster strikes. Nobody here is too selfish not to help out a family member or friend in need. Surely, nobody here is too lazy not to hustle. You will find ways to make things work. Do not worry.

Here are three main points I want to share after achieving FIRE.

Life After Financial Independence: Lessons Learned

1) You change for the better.

There's this wonderful term called “F U Money” out there that's idealized by people who can't wait to have it. Who doesn't want to have enough money so they can tell their micromanager or high school bully to shove it where the sun doesn't shine? I know I did.

But the reality is that having enough money makes you more empathic towards other people's struggles. Your insecurities melt away once you've achieved your goals.

If you look at the Financial Samurai archives between 2009 – 2012, you'll notice a more irreverent tone with lots more comments on each post.

Now, despite the site being 10X larger, there's less comments on each post partly because less people are agitated by what I have to say. I've spent much more time listening to other people's perspectives and taking them into consideration when writing a post. I've also spent a lot more time responding to comments with less snark. You'd think the opposite would happen.

Having money makes you care more, not less.

2) You realize financial independence is just one stop. 

Life is like a juicy mystery novel. You don't want to die before reaching the last chapter because that's where you THINK the excitement and satisfaction lies. What a shame to never find out whodunnit.

The reality is the greatest excitement resides right in the middle where you're struggling to get ahead. It's just hard to see when you're in the mix of things.

The last chapter in volume I is rarely satisfying because you realize there's volume II to look forward to. You simply put your past behind and look forward to a new challenge. In my case, the next volume is starting a family and doing everything possible to be a good father.

Now that I've been a father for six years, I admit it is the hardest job I've ever had. The joys are amazing and so are the sorrows.

3) The greatest reward is helping other people. 

Once you achieve financial independence, making more money starts feeling like a game. It's fun to tinker with new income generating methods because there is no downside. But sooner or later you'll find the joy of making more money to be meaningless.

It's why there are plenty of unhappy rich people. They haven't fully tethered their wealth towards a cause they are passionate about. The best thing about retiring early is greater happiness for longer. It took me ten years of early retirement to realize this truth.

I want to help as many people achieve financial independence ASAP before and after I die. The internet is the best way to achieve this goal because access to my site is free and the content will live on forever. Everybody has something valuable to share.

Don't worry if you can't afford $50,000 a year in college tuition where only the wealthiest or smartest people with the most connections get to attend. Today is about giving access to everyone who wants to learn.

My desire to help people achieve financial independence is the main reason why I wrote a new personal finance book. Buy This, Not That is an instant Wall Street Journal bestseller and is the best book about building wealth and making better decisions you will read.

Buy This Not That International Bestseller

Words Of Thanks Keep Me Going

Every single comment or e-mail from a reader who says how an article I wrote helped them lead a better life gives me a “power up” to keep on going. It's easy to do nothing once you've taken care of yourself and your family. But I see the readers here as an extended family.

Here's a handwritten note I received that I'll cherish forever. I know financial independence is an inevitability for her and her wonderful family!

Financial Samurai Consulting Letter
After receiving this note, how can I not be motivated to continue writing? This note is the best reward I could ever receive.

Keep On Fighting For Financial Independence

Life after financial independence is great. The sacrifices you make today will be worth it. I have no regrets sharing a studio with another fella in my early 20s in order to save money. Yes, it was embarrassing bringing people over at times, but who cares.

I have no regrets waking up by 5 am to work on my side-hustles before work in order to one day break free. Yes, hearing the alarm go off when it's pitch black outside while you're in the middle of a lovely dream is painful, but you'll get used to it.

Yes, I started the modern-day FIRE movement in 2009. It's been a wonderful journey. But what I realize fourteen years later is that you don't need to FIRE to live a good life.

In fact, early retirement / FIRE is becoming obsolete because many have more flexibility to earn in ways that are more enjoyable. Thanks to the internet, nobody is stuck with just a day job they don't like. No college degree is necessary to make money online!

You will regret more of the things you don't do than the things you try. Once you find that wonderful purpose, you'll go on forever. Keep on fighting!

Recommendation To Build Wealth

In order to optimize your finances, you've first got to track your finances. I recommend signing up for Empower's free financial tools so you can track your net worth. You can also analyze your investment portfolios for excessive fee, and run your financials through their fantastic Retirement Planning Calculator.

Those who are on top of their finances build much greater wealth longer term than those who don't. I've used Personal Capital since 2012. It's the best free financial app out there to manage your money.

Personal Capital Retirement Planner
Is your retirement plan on track? Run your numbers for free to see how you stack up.

Negotiate A Severance To Retire Early

Never quit your job, get laid off instead with a severance package! If you plan to retire early because you've achieved financial independence, nothing feels better than leaving with money in your pocket.

My severance package paid for five years of living expenses after I retired in 2012. As a result, I felt more relaxed and free to do what I wanted.

In my latest edition of How To Engineer Your Layoff, you'll learn how to negotiate a severance to live the life that you want. Use the promo code ‘saveten‘ to save $10. The book is now in its 6th edition and updated for 2023 and beyond. 

For more nuanced personal finance content, join 60,000+ others and sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter and posts via e-mail. Financial Samurai is one of the largest independently-owned personal finance sites that started in 2009. Life After Financial Independence is a FS original post.

About The Author

89 thoughts on “Life After Financial Independence: How Life Changed After Retiring Early”

  1. “Today is about giving access to everyone who wants to learn.” This is everything to me. While I definitely am learning more or as much as my readers, I still think that is what keeps me blogging. The hope that people learn from my words…even if they’re mistakes not to make. Thanks for helping someone who’s only at the start of her journey understand the other side more clearly.

  2. Sam, thanks once again for sharing your experiences in early retirement. It’s reassuring to hear that our fear of outliving our money are overblown. A little resourcefulness does go a long way.

    I also liked your points about enjoying the journey. I hope this comment gives you another little “power up” because your wisdom has been very insightful (as always). Thanks again and have a great weekend.

  3. Graham @ Reverse The Crush

    Great post Sam!
    I like how you started off talking about being adaptable and resourceful because you can always get more practical.
    I’m not fully financial independent yet like you, nor have I been off work for as long, however, I’ve taken a mini-retirement for nearly a year now. I can certainly relate to some of the lessons you’ve shared here.
    You definitely change for the better and become almost more in tune with other people.
    And I agree 100% that money starts to pale in comparison to helping others. Though, on my end of things it’s time to get more practical. There’s no way to avoid the topic of money as it’s necessary to life.

    I think it’s incredible to receive a note like that. It really is the best motivation for writing! I feel the same way about comments.
    I worked in customer service for years within the financial industry and received plenty of compliments from clients. But it never made much of an impact on me. On the other hand, receiving a comment on my blog is one of my favourite parts about blogging. It’s making me realize how much I like people again. Before I was beginning to be closed off. I’m very appreciative for anyone who takes their own time to comment on my blog. It really is a major source of inspiration.

    I want to achieve FI so I can work remotely and have a more flexible schedule. Much like you, I want to be able to help others realize that other career options are out there. I just want to write and keep meeting other inspiring people online. I want to continue using my creativity on the blog, because it starts to leak out into other areas of my life. I need to work harder to fully reach FI. Thanks for the extra motivation!

    1. For sure Graham. A great comment, such as yours, is a fantastic motivator, no matter how large your site gets. It’s fun to hear other people’s stories.

      People can be painful, I know. But people can also be kind. So w/ FI, you can choose to hang out w/ the people that you truly like, and not b/c there is some type of ulterior motive.

      Having a creative outlet with a blog, and being able to attract people w/ similar ideology, no matter what they look like or where they come from is great.

  4. Sam, it seems like you genuinely care for people. Not everyone is like that. And sad but true, many rich people are unhappy.

  5. Your First Million

    To me, reaching financial independence is just like getting through the front gate. Getting through the gate opens up your time so you can really focus on what is most important in your life whatever that is to you. Financial freedom is just the very beginning of the journey to true abundance. If you want to build serious wealth, financial freedom is the point where you no longer need to rely on a job… so you now can focus 100% of your efforts on exploding your wealth, instead of selling your hours for a paycheck.

  6. Wow, what a powerful note you shared Sam – that must be very motivating! For me, achieving FI is about providing peace and security for my immediate family. After that, we’ll see. If things work out right, I’d love to do non-profit work as well.

  7. “You will regret more of the things you don’t do than the things you try.”

    So true, Sam. Over the course of the last decade I have regularly run into the same phenomenon. I’ve noticed I regret more of the people I didn’t arrest than the people I did. :)

    Personally, I desire to achieve financial independence for my family’s sake. I maximize my earning potential through the legal and tactical application of my mind and body. Should either be compromised, I need a new career!

    Achieving FI provides additional peace of mind that my risk seeking behavior was used to benefit them. Everyone wins.

    Combat deployments left me a little damaged. This life allows me to care for those I care about, but it can’t last forever. I strive for FI so I can continue to care for them even if I lose body or mind. I’ll also have more time to indulge in reading, writing, and violin-ing?

  8. Cecilia-Argentina

    I am new to your site and absolutely loving ALL your posts. My main goal is also financial independence, and I want it so that I can live like a kid: worry-free. Thats where hapiness is to me.

    1. Welcome to my site! Where have you been all these years? :)

      I think you’ve described happiness quite appropriately: living like a kid. This is exactly what i JUST commented on above. I miss just being that care-free kid who rode his bike w/ friends on a quiet street. Our group would get bigger and bigger as we picked up other friends at their houses along the way. Bing bong, “Hi Mrs. Anderson, can Johnny come out to play?”

  9. Thanks for sharing your financial journey. It’s nice to know that there is still life to be lived after reaching our financial goals and ways to stay motivated. I would love to be able volunteer my time towards cause in retirement, especially around financial education. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Great post, just starting on the road to FI has changed my mind set. Less worried about material things, more concerned with hanging out with friends and family.

    I would go for a bike ride with a friend, having fun and staying in shape, over going shopping any day!

    I don’t want to be one of those rich guys driving around in his sports car ALL BY HIMSELF! What’s the point of having lots of money if you have no one to share it with??

    Keep up the great work!

    1. For sure man. Having someone to spend life with is so great. I wish I had a tighter group of friends to just shoot the shit and hang out w/ on the sofa. Everybody always seems so busy. Life gets in the way I guess!

      Maybe it’s just nostalgia growing up as a kid and calling up a friend to ask him to come over and play. I saw my buddy on the tennis court yesterday playing and asked him to come hang over on the deck after since it was sunny. “Nah, got lunch plans w/ the gf.” Aw schucks.

      New years resolution! Find more folks to do nothing w/.

      1. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’re going to transform into your busy friends once you start a family with children. I can’t wait to read that aspect of the blog. It’s going to be an interesting journey. :-)

  11. I can answer the second question. Since achieving financial independence, life has become more uncertain.

    Not uncertain in a bad way, but I used to know I’d be working until sometime after my boys graduate high school. Now, I can (and presumably will) be retired before they even reach junior high.

    Now I have all these amazing plans and options, and am contemplating the best exit strategy from a career I’ve worked very hard to have. It’s a wonderful first world problem to have, but the fear of making the wrong decision does weigh on me a bit.


  12. I’m going to start blogging again on some of these topics, hopefully very soon, but I drop my military retirement paperwork in about a month. With accrued leave, etc., I’ll be done working next summer with my pay continuing through fall.

    We’ve decided where we’re going to settle and have saved enough to purchase a home and live on nothing but my retirement check and savings. This isn’t quite “F U money,” but it puts us in a good spot to take some risks, work to generate some other income streams, and so on. It won’t take too much additional income for us to live very comfortably.

    Good stuff! Enjoyed the post– as always, food for thought!

      1. Army!

        I’ll start posting at my blog again and maybe I’ll be able to glean something of value to you. I’ve been pretty deliberate about making sure I understand myself, my interests, abilities, etc., so I know what sorts of things I want to do, am willing to do, and will steer clear of completely. I’ve accumulated quite a few mentors too, who have been very helpful. The real key seems to be to put yourself in a financial situation where you don’t need to panic yourself into the wrong thing.

      1. Thanks for the encouragement Sam! Can you drive a manual? If so, let me know when you want to take it for a spin.

        (And you know that there is much, much more to life!)

  13. One word: family

    I was fine working crazy hours, saving crazy money in my early career.

    Now with 2 wee tykes, I want to be able to spend more time with them (would love to be a stay at home dad), as well as teach them everything about money and freedom my parents never taught me but had to learn slowly and painfully over the decades.

    It’s less about the actual dollars, than about your relationship with money and how you use it to your advantage.

  14. Those notes are so powerful when it comes to what we enjoy doing – especially in thankless jobs. My volunteering with juveniles in the juvenile justice system has been ongoing for half of my life – the last six years I’ve been incredibly involved.

    I’ve seen probably a thousand different kids and their families. And yet, I can still tell you every single kid who has ever hugged me, or written me a letter, or somehow hunted me down to “share the good news” of how I influenced them for the better. I don’t know their names, but I remember their words and their faces. And I can usually remember what essay topic I gave them.

    That’s what makes life worth it. It’s great you’ve found a purpose and calling in financial blogging. It’s also nice to feel wanted. Thanks for the story.

    1. I’d love to learn more about your experience and takeways volunteering w/ juveniles. Maybe a guest post perhaps? I got in trouble as a juvenile as well and experienced the whole system. Yikes. Helped set me straight b/c I could have easily fallen down the wrong path.

      1. I would certainly be interested in sharing my experiences in juvenile justice. I work with a pre-trial diversion program, so the kids get arraigned and them come into the program. Upon complete, the record is never filed with the state attorney, and thus no charge ever exists.

        I’ll e-mail you some ideas in a few days. I’m super busy right now as I sit for the Florida real estate exam tomorrow. My life has been on hold studying, so I’ve got some catch-up to do.

  15. I say that 100 comments within 24 hours of a post is pretty stellar. What did you average in the past? And certainly your readership hasn’t dropped off, right? Perhaps you’ve explained your position so well in your writings that there’s no need to comment. Or perhaps your ideas are too sensitive in nature that no one wants to imprint their online, lifetime identity to the same ideas. Anyway, you get the point. There are many reasons why your comments aren’t what they were. The search engines will take care of the other trailing entries.

    Financial Independence represents freedom for me. Freedom from worrying what an employer would say or do if it were found out that I wrote some of those controversial posts back in the day. Freedom to hop on a plane and go off for a few days without worrying about work email or utility bills pulling up. And freedom to pursue other ventures, as necessary, when I want, like spending months in Panama teaching English as a second language.

    I’m a few years away from that and more. It works out magically that I retire the same year my son graduates high school. Perhaps, then, I’ll revive the ole blog. Hell, maybe I’ll make it a travel blog.

    Keep up the good work. Been reading since 2011 and don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

    1. Hi Romeo,

      I think I averaged maybe 35 comments (not written by me) in the past. But comments don’t scale, b/c if it did, the comment count would now average 350 a post on average :)

      Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about myself, what I miss, and what to look for. Therefore, I’m much more thorough and thoughtful now. Articles used to average 800 words, now it’s double.

      I’m excited for you to hit that pension mark and have that freedom within the next 5 years once your son goes to HS. Can’t believe he’s 14 already! Nuts!

  16. I am a longtime reader of this site and articles like this article is very inspiring and really make my day. I spent many years on Wall Street but burned out and had kids, and a switch went off where I didn’t want to head into the office on a Saturday morning but instead wanted to play with my son. I am really focused on gathering the courage to make a bold move with my career and want to build something that helps others achieve their dreams just like this site does. You are an inspiration Sam! Thanks and keep these posts coming. I am close to FI – would be there already if I didn’t like in San Fran Bay Area and had a little greater risk tolerance!

  17. While either at fi or close enough to be inconsequential I don’t want to retire early. However having grown up in a family that lives paycheck to paycheck the situation of Fi gives me a feeling of security that I feel is needed. There is no worrying about losing my job and not being able to support my family. That is priceless.

  18. I have a lot of reasons but they mostly orbit around the idea of being free to make my own decisions and pursue my interests without needing a paycheck.

    Building my own business and passive income streams is right up there with FI for me as well. I don’t like working for other people, it’s only been 5 years and I am over it

  19. Your post is timely! I have been FI at 50 years old for 3 months now and love waking up every morning to choose how to spend my day. Family time has become more meaningful. However I have been feeling anxious about not having enough $$ that I’ve debated whether or not to monetize my time with another 9-5 job. I am glad to read that you think it’s overblown too (i.e., running out of $$).

    1. It’s normal to feel anxious about not having enough $$. Just remember that before you got to your definition of FI, you already made all your calculations. And if you want to earn some side income, you can if you look.

      The longer time passes after work, the less you will worry about money b/c you’re making what you have work. I suspect you’ll get antsy if you don’t find a fun activity to regularly do. Find your tribe! Mine is with tennis and blogging.

  20. Financial Panther

    Thanks for the sharing these thoughts Sam. I remember when I started getting interested in personal finance, your blog was the first one I came upon, even before MMM. While I don’t always agree with everything you say, your blog has taught me more than I ever thought I could learn from a blog. Really appreciate seeing your commitment to helping others.

  21. As a long time lurker and admirer of Sam and this site, this is a very inspiring article and reminds me of what has provided me with the greatest happiness in my life – helping others achieve their dreams. I am frustrated as someone who feels like I should have that FU money already, if I lived anywhere else than in the SF Bay Area an/or if rates returned to anywhere approximating reasonably historical averages. I wish I had the courage to quit my corporate tech gig (itself a downshift after years on Wall Street I had kids and realized I no longer wanted to work 100 hours per week and miss out on their lives). I have been trying to find something I can write passionately about on an informed basis and for which there would be a good sized audience and I will continue to focus on discovering that!

    1. Hi Gab, at least you downshifted right? I went straight to kinda Zero b/c I didn’t see any other options, and then had to work my way up. Probably teaching your kids good is one of the best rewards of all!

      Ever thought about just relocating? Almost anywhere in America except for Manhattan is cheaper than SF.

      1. Thanks for the note and I agree in theory I would be able to do that! My wife and I do love it here and she loves her job which keeps here. Your post on “The Fear Of Running Out Of Money In Retirement Is Overblown” was very helpful in demonstrating that even in the SF Bay Area (and excluding your tremendous passive income for comparison purposes), I really don’t need to do this. I think I want to remain employed in order to facilitate easier approval for new property purchases when the next real estate downturn occurs, with the risk being that like you said the unicorn IPO market materializes before that downturn can occur in any material sense….worst case, which is not that bad :), unlike you will have to look further afield to build a real estate portfolio capable of generating sufficient passive income streams.

  22. While I have not reached financial independence my financial burden has decreased substantially over the last 6 years from over 100K in personal debt to on my own path to FI. I can absolutely say things have changed especially over the last year as my personal debt was paid off. I agree with all 3 statements, I feel like over time I have become a better person.

    Nice meeting you Sam, hope the jet ski ride was enjoyed. Also funny note another blogger said Financial Samuari is here and I responded with how I wanted to meet him but not sure what he looks like. Her response was he looks very California and San Francisco, haha I wasn’t even sure how to respond but it made me smile. Enjoy the weekend.

    1. That’s a pretty appropriate description! It’s whatever you think California and San Francisco looks like. We all create our own image in our desired way of somebody else, or some other thing, hence I enjoy not ruining for everyone.

      I had a different image in mind of you compared to your avatar. I don’t think you are razor blade bald right?

      What a fun Sunday at the peer. Did you guys go paddle boarding? I hadn’t jet skied in years and it was such a blast. Almost got stuck in the seaweed look at the mega mansions off Coronado Island!

      1. What’s funny is I usually have my head shaved this is the first time in 3 years that I haven’t.

        We did go SUP which was fun more to say that we have done it to my surprise it is exercise also, just disguised very well.

        I was able to get a glimpse of California living and costs included but amazing none the less. Glad you enjoyed the final day.

  23. 1. I love this blog, and check it daily (multiple times a day like a lab rat hitting the reward button.)

    2. That person has the most beautiful handwriting I’ve ever seen. I’m ashamed of mine.

    1. Hah! Glad you enjoy the site Matt. It’s very fun for me as well. The only issue is having around 27,000 unread e-mails as a result! Good thing I’m getting good at forgetting in my older age.

  24. Sam, FI has provided so much more fulfillment in my life simply because I have the choice to focus on what I value whenever I choose. Currently, that means I’m spending the majority of my time with family. It also means that I can give back more to others too. Thanks for sharing your story with others and making an impact. That handwritten note is better than gold! Likewise, you are forging a path for other PF bloggers to contribute their own message. Thank for the encouragement. It was great meeting you in person at FinCon!

  25. I appreciate the honesty and vulnerability in this post, Sam. You have so many devoted readers because we all feel like we *really know you* even though most of us haven’t met you in person. That’s why you make such an impact with every article, IMO.

    My motivation to achieve FI is all about legacy. Sure, I want to live a great life in and make mark in every chapter of it, but I want my life to have an impact upon my children and their grand-children long after I am gone. Thoughts of changing my family tree – permanently – keep me going strong when I want to quit.

    1. Appreciate the note. The mind begins to change once children are in the picture that’s for sure. I’ve never thought about “changing my family tree.”

      But now, I’m curious about checking out for DNA and my family tree to see how far back my lineage goes.

      Will be fun!

  26. I want to achieve FIRE so that I can wake up each day and choose what I want to do, to spend more time with my family, and travel the world. That’s why I too wake up each morning when it’s pitch black out and work long hours. It won’t be this way forever! Good read while we head into the weekend.

  27. I am not financially independent yet, but I have been doing well in the past 7 years. I run my own small web design business from home, raise my kid and enjoy an almost ‘retired’ lifestyle (I work about 2 hours/day, earning enough for us to live well). same with my husband. It’s been a really great change for us all and being able to raise our kid ourselves is priceless.

  28. The ‘scoreboard’ of how someone’s life is going is usually money, but once that is handled, it is almost like the scoreboard changes to impact. So by helping people gain financial independence, they can move on to helping other people.

    1. Your theory makes sense to me. Once humanity “wins” something enough, we are apt to change the rules of the game to keep it interesting!

      1. The only issue is 100 years ago some people thought we were quickly approaching that level of humanity winning (see John Maynard Keynes – Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren).

        Unfortunately ‘winning’ is a moving target. He predicted people would work less since they could live a comfortable life on just 20 hours a week. Instead consumption increased and people work more to feed their desire for consumption.

        Maybe there is a limit though? Millennials also seem to be wired a little bit differently in this regard.

        1. It could be! This reminds me of an argument I’ve had with fellow cops. I say no matter how many guns I may want, I only NEED a long gun, handgun, and backup (tactical flexibility). I’m content with that and invest my money elsewhere. The vast majority of my peers and elders are still amassing armories despite only having two hands each. It’s hard to halt the endless pursuit of life, liberty,and property (like Jefferson’s alleged first draft spells out).

  29. What a perfect post to round out the week. I share a lot of your same sentiments. I think financial independence has made me a better person and also given me more perspectives on life. Having the opportunity to travel has been a big factor in opening my eyes to how different we all can be, yet the same in so many ways. It’s also helped me start more chapters in my life and allowed me to give back in a lot of different ways.

    I love that letter you received from one of your clients. So thorough, thoughtful and also some of the best penmanship I’ve seen. I have horribly ugly handwriting, so I’m always impressed by people who have the skills to write with perfectly curved and graceful lettering. I need to learn how to write like that.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top