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Subject:  How I'm headed to FIRE via Uncle Sam, etc Date:  8/9/2003  8:04 AM
Author:  SuaSponteMark Number:  252 of 5341


I've been working for Uncle Sam for the past 8 years, and given my continued ability to serve and get promoted, will be able to take a pension, likely as a lieutenant colonel, in another 12 years.

During a recent training deployment to Africa, I was nugging away at Excel. I'm an utter Excel fanatic, and love doing "what if" on there. This time, I wasn't just "what if-ing" for some questions like what happens if the market's ROR is 8% instead of 10% and such micro issues, but asking the big one - what if I stop working at 43?

With my taxable accounts, Roth, and my TSP (government's 401(k) plan) I think I can do it! I'll receive half my base pay as a pension and augment with these vehicles.

I think I can do this because I've removed myself from many of the trappings of material things. I have a paid-for car that I think will last for a long, long time - it's a modest Acura, and they rate at the very top of Consumer reports' list of lowest long term maintenance vehicles.

Also, I am in a modest house that barely cost me more than 2x my annual income, and I'm fully satisfied with it. I don't have any desire to "upgrade" to something with a fatter mortgage, though then again one day I may get married and have a brood and things change. However, I could actually have no car and retire quite comfortably where I am. Within a 5 minute walk is a grocery store, a drug store, a photography store (my sole indulgence and big hobby), and a great cafe that I love.

I've considered working past this hypothetical retirement. I'm a pretty decent photographer, and have shot two weddings for friends and family to great success - comments from the newlyweds were my photos turned out better than the pros, especially for the informals. I've considered becoming a CFP as I enjoy talking finance with others and helping them meet their goals. I do this often at work with my young soldiers, and have gotten many of them enrolled in the TSP instead of chasing new wheels/party lifestyle/etc with their small paychecks.

Someone was asking me recently why I would be so frugal. I think it's all about choices. If I want to or am able to continue to serve past 20 years, I can. Having the option to not need to do so would be fantastic. I would hate to be the tired looking Walmart greeter - obligation is something I don't abide by, when it comes to having to work to keep food on the table.

My significant FIRE inspiration was my folks. They were teachers, and never earned very much, but through renting real estate and doing a lot of the work on weekends and living a reasonable lifestyle that wasn't filled with lavish expensive toys and such, they were able to retire at 53. They live on a golf course on a gated community that my sister and I have dubbed "the kingdom," and have not a care in the world.

A common question they ask me when I call is "what day is it?"

Wouldn't that be nice...

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