top of page
  • Writer's pictureMr H

Time To Call It A Draw

I'm starting to bore myself.



If you're in South Africa, happy Freedom day and if you're not, happy Sunday.


I've been thinking about this post for a while and as it's a nice Sunday morning and I'm immobilised for the day through a self-inflicted case of the dreaded Gout, it seems like an opportune moment.


I've decided that this is the last post, at least for now, on TribalFi.com.


On the 1st May 2024 which is a few days away, I'll have been "Retired" for 4 years. I can't believe how quickly that time has passed, but at the same time, making the decision to throw in the towel on my career of 27 years at 43, feels a bit like a lifetime ago. Definitely a different time of my life, that's for damn sure.


I guess the obvious question is why quit the blog? The answer to that is pretty easy, I've done what I set out to achieve.


I started this blog for three main reasons, well four, but the fourth was naive and foolish. Firstly, I was going through a pretty stressful time, I had worked myself almost to death, literally, in 2019 and whilst I made light of it, I sort of knew I'd had a close shave. Mrs. H and I decided that it was time for me to quit even through we hadn't saved as much as we needed. We had already planned to both take early retirement but not for another 3-5 years when we'd saved enough money.


But it happened, and I knew I needed to track the living sh!t out of our finances so I guess the first reason for blogging the journey was as a way of journaling how it was going and making myself accountable by knowing the readers would expect an update. That would keep me focused.

Secondly, it was about convincing myself I had actually achieved early retirement and hadn't just had a mid life crisis at 43 and quit my job to lay on the sofa in my pants playing Xbox whilst consuming copious amounts of corn based snacks and energy drinks. It was designed to give me a bit of purpose whilst I figured out how to spend the rest of my life.


The third reason, which seems kind of irrelevant now but I remember was really important to me at the time was after working for pretty much my entire adult life in people based jobs (mostly in the call centre industry), I was thoroughly sick of listening to entitled people who thought that either the world owed them a spectacular living for just being alive, or that they blamed everyone but themselves that they weren't happier, wealthier or more successful. Like the whole world had conspired to hold them back even though, in their opinion, they were smarter than the average human and were better than at least three people that they could name that were more senior or more liked or more financially secure than them. I wanted to show those people that you can achieve anything you want but you have to decide to do it or you'll die old and twisted waiting for your reward to just turn up. I'm not sure I achieved that but I did achieve not giving two hoots for them or their whining which I think is probably a better outcome!


I now choose to walk a mile in those kind of people's shoes. That way I'm soon a mile away from them and their self obsessed whinging, and I have their shoes.


Then fourthly, 2018/2019 was when the FIRE movement really started to become mainstream as a concept and Mr. Money Mustache who is/was one of the FIRE illuminati was all over daytime TV eulogising about how he only rides a bike now and lives on $1.76 per month, has the best life ever and never needs to work again. Fortunately for him (and according to Google) his blog generated around $400k a year in revenue and he sold it for an undisclosed sum (numbers like $10m were banded about), so I think he can probably afford a decent second hand car by now. I was doing FIRE anyway and I could use $400k a year or $10m ready cash so like so many others, I decided to document my journey and hoped that I might generate a bit of that side-hustle cash.


It turns out that only happens in the movies (or 'merica) and this blog actually costs me around $400 a year in subscriptions and fees. I had some google adverts running throughout and in the last 4 years, they have generated exactly zero, zip nada, zilch, nothing AF. I don't regret the blog for a minute but its a good job I wasn't changing career to be a full time blogger or we'd be homeless.


So why stop now?


Well I feel like I've come to the end of the beginning of early retirement. We're pretty much at our number, Mrs. H has also now been retired for a few years, I've got a nice little side-hustle that will probably sustain us both for a couple more and I only work on average 1 to 1.5 days a week. I've pretty much tried every investment asset class from crypto to cattle and solar panels to stocks and shares and I now have a steady and predictable income from those which (touch wood) will sustain us until long after we start cashing in the pensions.


So put simply, I don't have anything more to tell.


The big question when I started this blog was "Can a 43 year old quit his fairly well paid job and make the right decisions so he doesn't have to get another one?" The answer is yes and whilst you need some savings to make it happen and you should probably also figure out a bit of a side-hustle, its actually not that massively complicated.


For anyone coming in late, let me summarise the last four years in a couple of paragraphs and then I'll do my best to share some of the lessons learned so if there is anyone out there considering doing the same thing, I can save you a bit of risk.......probably......possibly......maybe.


How it Happened


I left employment on 30th April 2020 after having resigned in September 2019. It was just as Covid-19 was ramping up into full affect (Talk about one of those "What have I done? moments!). We had around R12m spread across all of our life savings and pension pots which was about $750k or £600k based on the exchange rates at the time. Our living expenses were around R62k / $4k / £3k per month and that included everything. Our magic FIRE number (which is 300 times your monthly expenses) was R18.6m / $1.2m / £930k so we were about 35% short of a realistic early retirement number so I knew there had to be some hustling in my future. The worst thing that could happen is that I'd have to get another job and that seemed worth the risk.


Fast forward to 30th April 2024 and we now have a savings pot of around R18m / $950k / £800k. Our living expenses are now right around R80k per month so our magic number is now R24m / 1.25m / £1m so we're still about 20% short of really being able to say we never have to lift a finger again but our lifestyle is much more comfortable at R80k than it was at R62k and I now have an active side hustle that generates about R2.4m / $125k / £100k for around 50 working days per year and I plan to keep doing that until I'm 50 (2 more years) so I plan to close the rest of the gap through not drawing down from our savings until then. The other question I often get is if I include our home in my numbers and the answer is no because it doesn't generate any income and we need a roof over our head regardless. At a value of around R6m / $315k / £250k for that, our net worth today is right around our magic number of R24m / 1.25m / £1m .


It's almost like we knew what we were doing (we didn't).

So it's all working out quite nicely in the end and hopefully it will stay that way. It hasn't been plain sailing though, there has been a couple of decent market crashes during that period. We were ripped off for about half a million Rand by rogue builders when we were fixing the house up early in the plan and I'm currently dealing with a massive minefield of incompetence around our largest non-pension investment in solar panels but nobody said it was going to be easy people.


OK, now you're up to speed.


I thought the most useful thing I could do as a final blog post was the opposite of writing to the future me. Having spent the last four years actually doing a FIRE retirement journey, I guess what I've learned is pretty useful and it was my own consuming content from everywhere I could get it 6 or 7 years ago that motivated me to actually push the button (that, and a fortnight in the ICU), but if I'd been able to tell myself what I know now back in 2019, I would have hopefully done things a little differently.


So here it is, my advice to myself on the first day of unemployment.


Mr H the younger,


It's your better looking, happier and healthier forty-eight year old self here, howzit!


You'll be glad to know that the earth still exists and Covid is a thing of the past but it was definitely a doozy. The first thing you need to do is stock up on booze for you both and smokes for Mrs. H as those idiots in government are about to ban both for most of 2020 so it's going to get tense brother. You're going to get Covid but it's going to be fine, so don't worry, you're not going to have the shortest early retirement ever.


I know you're feeling a bit anxious right now and also feeling a bit guilty as Mrs. H is still working and there's a sizeable hole in the finances. The consulting hustle is the right way to go in the short term, the work will come so don't sell yourself too cheap and don't worry when you're not busy. You'll wish you relaxed every September and April because you do pretty much all your work for the year in Q2 & Q4 so enjoy the peace when you can. You're not going to hate it but its more of the same as you were doing, suck that up right now, it pays well and it only needs to be a few days per month. I know you think you'll be out of touch in a couple of years but it's not true, plan to do this for 50 days a year until you're 50 and you'll be more than good.


You need to manage the household budget but don't become obsessed by it. There'll be ups an downs but don't try and save money by not going out or enjoying your life or what is the point? The amount you'll save is negligible but you'll make yourselves miserable. Plan for a lot of unexpected costs, especially stuff breaking and needing repair, it literally never stops! Buy some decent tools, you're going to be busy nailing the house back together after neglecting it for so long because work always took priority in the bad old days. All insurance companies are crooks, keep your eye on their charges as they'll keep pumping them up whether you claim or not. Same for Medical Aid, it s a racket so keep on top of them. You'll be much happier if you know the budget is enough and has a bit of flexibility. I know it makes it look as though the goal is further away but the only person you're lying to is yourself and you'll be stressed if you think you're overspending. The cost of living is going to sky rocket and you'll soon need a mortgage for a block of cheese so you're going to need to make peace with spending when you have to.


On the investments, I know you think you're an investing genius. You're not bro. Put at least 75% of your net worth in Offshore Low Cost Index Tracking ETFs and forget about it. You need 12% annual return to hit your goals and they will provide. You're going to see lots of opportunities for bigger returns like in Crypto or thematic ETFs and crap like that. Don't go into the light, it might make you some money short term but it's not sustainable to beat the market and you'll waste weeks pouring over spreadsheets and all that nonsense. Be obsessive about fees. Like insurance companies, the finance industry is rotten and will rip you off. Anything more than 0.5% is not good value and a good ETF with Vanguard (an oasis in a see full of detritus) is less than 0.1%. Don't invest in anything that's not in some way regulated, protected or has a secondary market, trust me, there's some seriously bad investments out there. I could give you the lottery numbers but that would be boring. Instead, invest in AI and especially GPU manufacturers, trust me, its going to be the next industrial revolution.


Get out from behind your laptop, I know it feels like a safe space but you're going to turn managing your finances into a full time job. Don't feel guilty for spending time on your hobbies, that's why you did this. Work when you have to work but don't work for the sake of it. You're going to get into gardening, woodworking, 3D printing, cooking, electronics, home automation, CAD and a bunch of other geeky shit you enjoy doing and you're going to be quite good at some of it (Sorry champ, not all of it). And stop looking for the money-making angle in every hobby, it's OK to do stuff just for enjoyment, you take "making money from what you enjoy" too far and you don't actually need the money if you just invest like I'm telling you.


You're never going to be bored. You are though going to feel like you're wasting time or being unproductive. Get over it, it's OK, that's the idea. Slow down and relax. Take breaks from what you're doing and have lunch / breakfast / coffee / walks with Mrs. H and Winston the wonder puppy, that's why you retired. Don't forget, most of your friend's are going to be at work all day so you'll need to occupy yourself. Most importantly, do it, don't plan to do it. Once you get into the groove of enjoying yourself, you'll do it more and enjoy it. There's nothing wrong with taking an afternoon nap and Winston fully agrees.


Get some exercise and take better care of yourself. Burning the candle at both ends for so may years took its toll on your body and mind so you've got to do better. Guess what? in a few years Mrs H, is going to be in the gym every morning and off the smokes, no shit! You'll still be a lazy fat git but you'll still be off the fags. You need to drink less and you know it and the gout is going to remind you regularly. Cannabis is going to become legal in South Africa so maybe swap the pop for a gummy every now and again, it'll do you good.


I know you have lots of big plans for travelling and all of that but it's going to need to wait for a while as Winston is not going anywhere for many, many years (thankfully) and you're going to become a Grandpa so you're travel budget is going on spending time with those two. There'll be time for all of that later. Don't confuse going to the UK to see the family and friends as a holiday, it's going to be exhausting and expensive. You'll still go but maybe make more of a priority of a holiday for yourselves rather than trying to make everyone happy and killing two birds with one stone. Spend some time with dad.


Most importantly, don't worry about money so much. Stick to the plan and it'll be fine. Do spend time on doing all the things that you wished you had time to do when you were working. Get outside more and get some sun. There's no money in blogging but you'll meet some cool people doing some cool things because of it. Get an accountant to do the financial pen-pushing. Don't pay for financial advice, you are better qualified on your finances than they'll ever be and there is no such thing as "independent financial advice". Trust your own research, it's usually right and what you save on bad advice will be more than when you're wrong.


You are spot on when you chose to set 12% annual return as your target, it's achievable, sustainable and realistic. Don't get cocky if you make 20%+ one year, you'll pay for it the next year. You'll do a little better but you're also going to have unexpected expenses so it will even out. Simplify everything, it's OK to experiment but only use cash you're happy to lose. Give your self a small amount of fun investing money so that you leave the lion's share alone. That will scratch the itch until you grow up!


Finally, trust the process and your decisions. This is going to be the best decision you ever made and whilst, like everything, it will have it's moments, you'll be happier healthier and more content. You've been given an opportunity most people can only dream of so follow my advice and don't screw it up. I know you won't listen and you'll learn from your own mistakes but try not to be stupid (or more stupid).


And let me at least leave you with a couple of mind blowers for the next four years:

  1. In a couple of months when Covid is rampant, Donny Trump is going to suggest on live TV that you could inject bleach or have a light shined inside you to protect against the virus. Fortuantely, he loses the presidency at the next election. Guess what? He's the lead candidate in 2024 for re-election!

  2. Prince Charlie becomes King Charles the third!

  3. A whole bunch of wars get triggered by Russia invading the Ukraine and governments around the world all start threatening each other with Nuclear annihilation! It hasn't happened yet but don't make too many plans beyond 2025 yet.

  4. Mullets and moustache's come back into style and kids start wearing 80's fashion. They look ridiculous and the 2023 rugby world cup looks like it happened in 1986! Don't worry, we win it again.


Strap yourself in champ, it's going to be an interesting few years,


Mr H The Elder


Well I guess that's it.


Any regrets? Just one. It's 1000% ego but as a child growing up, being a millionaire (being defined as having 1 Million Great British Pounds in the bank) seemed like the ultimate dream to 8 year old Mr H and whilst I get it's not like that anymore, there's a part of me that still wants to be able to say "I made it". It'll definitely happen one day but I did get dangerously close in 2022 but never quite got over the line. After that the South African economy continued to tank and my net worth actually reduced in GBP terms. So I'm looking forward to the day that happens even though I'm sure it will be entirely underwhelming but it will remain a personal life goal until it's done.


That just leaves me to say thank you to anyone and everyone who ever took the time to read my ramblings. I've met some great people as a result of posting here and its really helped me stay sane knowing there are like minded folk out there. The one thing that early retirement can do is make you feel a bit like you're on your own which inevitably leads you to ask if you're the idiot or the pioneer!


For anyone who is considering a FIRE lifestyle, retiring early or just thinking of changing their life or career path, I can thoroughly recommend it. It's not without risk but in my opinion, the rewards are ten-fold the risks and lets not forget, the worst that can happen is you need to get a job.


In the meantime, keep living.


Mr H, signing out.





105 views3 comments

Recent Posts

See All

3 Comments


Shane Perrier
Shane Perrier
May 01

Hello Mr. H,

WTF... I cannot believe you want to stop this blog, its been such a pleasure reading your blog every month and getting an update of your investments over the years and months, it has inspired not just me, but many others on their FIRE journey. More so i will miss your pun, funny language and take on life and all the anecdotes along the way. You made yourself REAL sharing the ups and down of your life which made it more interesting and fun to read and that there was a real person behind that screen and not just an AI bot. ;)


I (We) will miss all the lovely updates, but i must also say i…


Like

manfred.bortenschlager
manfred.bortenschlager
Apr 28

Hey Mr H, thanks for writing this up! It's a very useful post with lots of lessons learned. Thanks for sharing. Generally, I have been following you for a while and read most of your articles. Very inspiring and I got and tried lots of ideas from your articles. I am 43 and not retired yet but on my way. My original goal was to retire with 41. But then I decided to postpone that a bit and instead focusing on my health already and enjoy life more now. I think it's the better way to not go crazy trying to achieve early retirement as soon as possible but totally forget that we have a life right now, too ;) Al…

Like

rraouldv
Apr 28

Very sad to see you go. I have been reading your posts since you commented on Stealthy Wealth a few years back. Its pretty telling that all the SA fire blogs have gone dormant, one by one. I think many of those people are no longer in SA. I still believe FIRE is a very worthy pursuit, even if the hype has moved on. I am either very close to FIRE or very far depending on the different scenarios I foresee for SA. I do think though, that part time work will be part of my future for at least another 5 years (I am now 47). Al the best man, you did it, and you are not alone, many…

Like
bottom of page