The greatest thing about a FIRE lifestyle and early retirement is having time, time to do the things you've always wanted to do, even if that is nothing.
Another great byproduct is being on top of your personal admin and the amount of stress relief of knowing the car tax is all up to date and all of your policies like medical aid and insurance are all taken care of. I underestimated how much that stuff bothered me and I didn't even know it until I removed it. It's a true statement that financial independence and early retirement brings a lot of inner calm and piece that you don't know you could have. Not worrying about money, work and then not neglecting the important things like spending time with family and looking after your health is truly good for the soul. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is considering putting in the hard yards in order to reach financial freedom.
I've always neglected my health. I'm not really sure why. I guess in my younger years I just thought I was bloody invincible! I had a fairly normal working class upbringing and in my late teens enjoyed binge drinking and probably more than my fair share of recreational drug abuse (Hey! don't judge me, It was the 90's in the UK, acid house and raves. Apparently I had a great time!). When I "grew up" a bit and started focussing on my career I was first to arrive, last to leave and might as well have had my Blackberry (remember those?) surgically attached to my hand when I wasn't staring into a laptop. As I became more senior, there was more indulgence in the form of client dinners, corporate getaways and Friday afternoon drinks (that generally turned into Friday night or even Saturday morning drinks). On top of all that I've always had a great circle of friends who I actively socialise with and we enjoy big nights out as well as long braais (barbecues) under the african sun with a glass of something cold and a plate full of a varied selection of animal.
And frankly, it's been absolutely bloody brilliant!
One of the negative side effects of FIRE is that you become significantly more aware of your mortality. Why? Because you have to spend a large amount of time doing financial planning and tracking to make sure you don't run out of money or even worse have to get...... a job (dun dun duuuuuur). Most FIRE planning basically orbits around when you're going to die, unless you're Fat Fi where you plan to never eat into your capital and leave it to the dogs home or some such when you jump off the mortal coil.
I've always countered those negative thoughts by putting my stake in the ground that I'm going to pop it on my 100th birthday. It's a good round number and will represent a good innings, I think of it more of a competition than a commitment. I intend to be a very grumpy old man so if I make it to 100, I will have failed to be grumpy enough that Mrs H or another close relative won't have "Accidentally" wheeled me into the road in front of oncoming traffic or "miscounted" when giving me my happy pills!
Unfortunately, and probably due to my exuberant life to date, I found myself in a situation that even if I manage to navigate the Cluedo style gauntlet of my twilight years, 100 is severely in question and I may need to reevaluate our FIRE plans if intend to leave this life with what I came in with; my birthday suit and a smile.
A few months ago I had a routine blood test as part of my 6 monthly check-up with the quack and it would seem my kidneys are not quite what they once were, in fact they're a little less than half what they once were when it comes to cleaning my blood. A retest a couple of months later has confirmed that there is indeed a bit of an issue and at the moment the culprit seems to be a lifetime of anti-inflammatory painkillers (NSAID) that I've taken since I was 8 years old due to having an arthritic condition called Ankylosing Spondylitis (Say that with a mouth full of sweets). Without getting all medical, AS is basically that my spine keeps growing throughout my life and will probably eventually fuse. As you can imagine, that hurts sometimes so I take (took) drugs like Ibuprofen and naproxen to reduce swelling and help me get through the occasional flare-up. Apart from that I live a fully normal life and my hope is that a medical discovery is made before said spine goes stiff and Mrs H will have to push me under the truck rather than wheel me. However, anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen are kryptonite for the kidneys and it would seem I may have over indulged over the last 37 years.
So to get to the point, my kidneys are being overly stubborn and down right unreasonable when it comes to cleaning my blood and apparently that is no bueno. Chronic kidney failure can't be reversed but fortunately it can be stopped from getting worse at the stage I'm at (for anyone who is desperately interested, that is Chronic Kidney Disease Stage 3a). if I don't make some change now, I could get to stage 4 which means there's a good chance the deterioration will continue and the next two stops on the bus are kidney dialysis, transplant or an early departure, none of which sound like my idea of a good time.
So, I haven't knocked my block off to retire at 43 to be knocked off my block before I have time to enjoy it. So it's on like Donkey Kong people.
It is 6 weeks until I can get another blood test and between now and then I need to make some pretty major changes to repent my sins of the last 45 years and swap the family pack for the 6 pack. According to the Prof I visited last week the key to reversing my fortune is Blood Pressure, Blood Pressure, Blood Pressure (those were his exact words). I assume he means lowering it!
So after some long chats with both Mrs H's (that's my wife and my mum, in case you thought I was some kind of bigamist) and a whole lot of soul searching, I've decided to actually start behaving like a proper grown up, start taking care of my health and embark on a personal transformation journey that would make Weight Watchers wince.
So dear reader, I plan to be half the size and twice the health of the man you don't see before you today. I intend to live until 100 and I intend to enjoy my retirement and execute my plan of travelling the world and I certainly do not intend to be booking a dialysis appointment in every country we land in.
So how? Allow me to introduce you to the MRH100 Diet. Cunningly simple in it's design and hopefully sustainable in it's execution. 5 simple rules:
Get Active - No less than 10,000 steps per day
Hydrate - Drink no less than 2 litres of water per day
Low Carb Living - 10% Carb / 20% Protein / 70% Fat in the diet
Intermittent Fasting - 13 hour fast initially rising to 16 hours over time
No Drinking On A School Night - Friday & Saturday night only
Now some of you sport billy's may be looking at that and thinking "That's just normal, I do more than that in my normal life". Well screw you and get off my blog! Let me show you how that stacked up for me just a couple of months ago and for probably the last 10 years to provide some much needed context.
Get Active - 3,000-7,000 steps per day, often in the direction of the fridge or the liquor store
Hydrate - 3 cups of coffee daytime, rum with diet pepsi nighttime
Low Carb Living - Can I have chips with my lasagne? Garlic bread?
Intermittent Fasting - Breakfast between 8-9am, dinner between 9-10pm
No Drinking On A School Night - Every night is Friday night, I'm retired!
I'm 190cm tall (6'3'') and 158 Kg (348lbs). I take medication for arthritis, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides.
I am going to be 100kg and only take meds for arthritis (but not anti inflammatories).
So as I type, I'm 4 days in to my initial 6 week plan. I haven't touched a carb, I've drank 8 litres of water so far this week, my last alcoholic drink was at 9pm last Sunday. I'm averaging 9500 steps per day, I've fasted for 41 hours so far this week and as of this morning I've lost 6kg (13lb) and currently weigh 152 kgs (335lb) so I have already achieved over 10% of my goal, not that it's a competition or anything!
I have splurged on some high quality tech for both Mrs H and I so can now track pretty much everything that's going on from exercise to blood pressure to macronutrients to sleep patterns to heart rate to blood oxygen levels, bone density, muscle mass, fat percentage and water content. Those kidneys don't have a chance of slacking off!
I'm struggling to sleep partially due to the need to get up 4 times a night to pee after drinking 2 litres of water on semi-functional kidneys and partially due to not having a nightcap or two. I have a headache from the lack of carbs and I feel slightly nauseous from the high fat diet. I can't wait for Friday to have a beer but a part of me feels like I shouldn't bother. I'm determined to hit my goals and excited about the catalyst this will be to my FIRE journey. I feel good.
This might not feel like something you would expect to read on a personal finance blog and believe me, I'd prefer to be writing about something else but wherever you are in your journey to early retirement (i'm guessing that's why you're here), there's some really important financial and life lessons here:
You can't buy your health
You can't buy time and you can't go back
Life is what happens whilst you're waiting for it to start
Do it today, you don't know what tomorrow might bring
If you're not having the best times of your life, you're doing it wrong
It was a health catalyst that finally allowed me to build up the courage to press the button, quit my job and retire early just over a year ago. Whilst it would be easy to get all worried and concerned about this situation ( I have my moments), I much prefer to see this as an opportunity to supercharge our FIRE and accelerate all of our plans to live the life of our dreams and apart from my lack of urgency, there is almost nothing stopping us from doing that now.
So it's time to crack on.
I know that a few of you how read my rants and raves will want to know how it's going so I'll pop a little extra section into the monthly update on how it's progressing. That will also keep me honest and motivated as I don't really do the public embarrassment of failure (the ego still lives on).
Until next time, when normal financial shenanigans will be resumed, keep living