Coasting to FI: Semi-Retirement Interview

coasting_to_fi_semi_retirement

Welcome to the second article of our Semi-Retirement series! Today I have something special for you: An interview with someone who has been semi-retired for over a decade and enjoys every minute of it.

A few weeks ago I published an article on Coast FI. One of the readers who posted a comment on the article is Burrow. He mentioned that he had been “Coasting (on the Coast)” for 10 years. I was intrigued and reached out to him to see if he wanted to be part of our Semi-Retirement interview series. He agreed and you can read all about his story in the interview below.

Burrow was able to semi-retire in his 30s and has enjoyed an enviable lifestyle on the NSW South Coast ever since. Like many, Burrow started off with a plan to retire early. But when he got close to Financial Independence, his desire to stop working altogether disappeared. Instead, he decided to semi-retire and coasted to FI. His nest egg will provide an income if and when he decides to stop working (which he says he might never do).

The funny thing is that Burrow did all of this before FIRE became a thing. There are lots of blogs about people on their way to FI with plans to either fully retire or semi-retire (Money Flamingo included). However, there are not many accounts of people who have actually achieved this goal, so talking to Burrow was a great opportunity and I really enjoyed learning more about his story. He has been living what many of us would consider a dream lifestyle, and I think we can all use his story as motivation.

Let’s get into the interview!

P.S.: Burrow has kindly agreed to answer some reader questions in the comments, so if you want to know more, ask away!

Burrow, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m 53, going on 33 (although my body begs to differ) and live on the beautiful South Coast of NSW. I moved here about 12 years ago with 2 kids in tow, to be closer to family.

I’m a self-employed health professional, work part-time and suffer a permanent case of OMY syndrome [One More Year syndrome]. Actually, I love my work (because it is part-time) and never really plan to retire. I rather see it as a piece in the mosaic of a varied and balanced life that gives meaning and structure. The financial rewards are really not a consideration because I’ve been FI for quite a few years now.

Outside of work I try to be active every day, do some reading every day, hang out with my boys, manage my SMSF and non-super portfolios, catch up with friends and just enjoy my space.

What does a normal day look like for you?

A normal day combines a bit of work time, a bit of kid time and a bit of me-time. I don’t have a significant other at the moment, so the equation might change a little down the track.

You have been semi-retired for a long time. When and why did you make the decision to slow down?

I’ve been semi-retired for over 10 years. I was very lucky to earn a solid income right out of uni and become financially educated from an early age. I worked hard, owned my own business and then a few more with employees. They set me up for life. The combination of a high savings rate and time has meant I have been able to take a few sabbaticals along the way and then cut back to part-time in my 30’s.

The irony is that I planned to be FI and RE from an early age (well before FIRE was even a term), but the reality of FI is you get the freedom to choose from multiple work/life options. At the pace I was working in my 20’s, early retirement was a dream. Now that I’ve cut back significantly, work is way more enjoyable and I have no desire to give it away.

It sounds like you “accidentally” semi-retired on your way to FI. What was your initial motivation to pursue FIRE?

My initial motivation was that I have always enjoyed so many different things out of life and didn’t want to be ‘stuck’ doing any one of them for 40 hours a week, 48 weeks a year for 40 years. Freedom is probably the best word, to do what I want, when I want without financial compulsion.

How far along the path to Financial Independence were you when you decided to cut back? 

That is a tricky question to answer because as a single guy, I had periods where I worked full-time, long hours and then took months off and went backpacking. That was especially possible when I had the businesses spitting out a passive income… I could travel full-time and still make more than I was spending. When I got married and had kids, the FI equation changed somewhat and I ramped up the hours again, but only for a few years. I had discovered that a ‘middle way’ works better for me than ‘all or nothing’.

How long did it take you to coast to FI after you semi-retired?

In the end, I think I stumbled into FI, only realising I was there in hindsight, but that would have been less than 5 years after semi-retiring.

You used to own businesses and have investments inside and outside of super. What is your overall investment strategy and how has it changed over time?

Yes, I used to own 3 businesses that spat out passive income for further investing. Once my portfolio reached a level where it could sustain me I sold the businesses (to employees) and now work as a solo-preneur. My overall investment strategy has always focused on direct Australian shares and managed international shares (ETFs, LICs, unlisted funds) but I’ve tweaked the approach over the years. I now prefer quality growth companies, outside the Top 50, which I can preferably hold for decades.

What advice would you give someone on the path to FI?

Advice to a budding FIREy? Know your why. To paraphrase Victor Frankl, with a big enough WHY you can bear almost any HOW. But I would add that without a why, the how doesn’t matter. We need something to retire TO. And in some cases, like mine, complete retirement might not even be the ideal.

 

I hope you enjoyed reading this interview!
In the comments: What would you like to ask Burrow?

 

 

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17 thoughts on “Coasting to FI: Semi-Retirement Interview”

  1. Do you ever feel judged for working part time? I feel we have a culture in Australia that looks down on idleness and values busyness.

    Reply
  2. Absolutely Catherine. The follow up question to “How you going?” is often “Busy?”… and people wear it like a badge with pride. It’s almost as if NOT being busy = failure in contemporary society. Depending on who’s asking I might explain my situation honestly or I might give the impression I’m full-time, without leading on that half of that is an unpaid labour of love. Does that help?

    Reply
    • Your comment really resonates with me. The whole busyness culture is definitely something I noticed when I moved here from Europe. The world thinks Australia is the laid-back country, so this came as a big surprise.

      It’s one of the things that annoy me most about working here – if you take time for a walk at lunchtime you must not be busy enough. I have also been called “half-day harry” on several occasions.

      I actually like to get my work done quickly and work without distractions, then move on and enjoy my day. It seems like I would get more respect if I spent half my time on Facebook or news websites while looking busy/exhausted and most imporantly spending 10+ hours at my desk.

      Reply
  3. No questions.
    Like you, I’m in my 50’s and I’m dropping back to part-time work next year. (Can hardly wait!)
    I’m FI, but I’m continuing to bring the income in just in case. I really don’t want to have to eat cat food in my 90’s!
    Congratulations on building the life you have. I hope I’ll be feeling like this next year!

    Reply
  4. Love this! Thank you for sharing. I was just wondering if property played a part in your success? Didn’t see it mentioned in the interview.

    Reply
  5. Apart from a commercial property in my SMSF (work premises), I have no property exposure Ben… and no leverage. Peter Thornhill influenced me in this decision.

    Reply
    • Hi! What made you decide to buy a commercial property? Is this where one of your businesses were? I totally agree with you about part-time and how people view it. My current role applauds people who work 10+hour days and not going for lunch is seen as a badge of honour. Needless to say I’m clashing hard with that ethos!

      Reply
  6. hi burrow – what would you do if a new life partner with less money came along? is it important to you to find someone who is in a similar financial situation?

    Reply
  7. It’s a very good question fihugger. No the money is not important, but the attitude and values they bring are. I’ve heard it said that 2 savers or 2 spenders coexist well (albeit with very different financial outcomes) but a saver with a spender will struggle. It’s an important conversation to have early.

    Reply
  8. Hi Money Flamingo and Burrow,

    Great article – I really like the concept of a gradual retirement or the ability to work part time in a less stressful and more enjoyable role as you coast towards Financial Independence. Some really good advice in this post so I will be sharing it to my readers and listeners.

    cheers,
    Capt. FI

    Reply
    • Thanks Captain FI, glad you enjoyed the article. I truly believe that semi-retirement is a great choice for most people on the path to FI. I hadn’t heard of your blog, looking forward to checking it out!

      Reply

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