We reached Flamingo FI six months ago and are now officially semi-retired. In this post, I’ll talk about our plan to get to FI in the next 10-15 years while working part-time and without saving and investing another cent for retirement.
The Race to Flamingo FI
Here is a quick recap of our plan (you can find more details here):
In Phase 1 (Accumulation) we saved half of our FIRE nest egg (12.5x our annual living expenses). This is how Flamingo FI got its name by the way – it’s FIRE standing on one leg (like a Flamingo!). We reached this milestone in October 2020. Our nest egg consists of a diversified portfolio – ETFs, individual shares and index funds inside and outside of superannuation, real estate, cash and fixed income.
We are currently in Phase 2 – Semi-Retirement. In this phase, we are no longer actively adding funds to our nest egg. This means that we can work part-time and only need to earn enough to cover our ongoing living expenses. Our nest egg does all the hard lifting in the background. As long as we don’t touch it and let it do its thing, we should hit our FIRE number sometime in the next 10 to 15 years.
Once we hit our FIRE number we can retire completely if we want to. At this stage, I don’t see us retiring completely as we both enjoy working, especially if it is interesting work in a low-stress environment and only a few days per week (or months per year). But who knows, plans change and it will be nice to have the option. Eventually, Traditional Retirement will be an option as well. If we stay in semi-retirement for a while after we hit FIRE our nest egg will continue to compound in the background and our golden years should be exactly that, golden.
The Casual Stroll from Flamingo FI to FIRE
So, how exactly do we plan to get from Flamingo FI to FIRE without lifting a finger?
Let’s have a look at our progress so far. Avid readers of this blog will remember the monthly progress updates we published during the accumulation phase. This is what our graph looked like when we hit Flamingo FI back in October 2020:
The reason we went from almost zero to 12.5x our annual living expenses is that we invested 50% or more of our after-tax incomes from our corporate full-time jobs. Investment returns only made up a small portion of the growth of our nest egg.
This will change in Semi-Retirement. From now on, we count on our investments to get us from where we are now to FIRE. This will of course be a much slower yet enjoyable process as we will only need to earn enough money to pay the bills, not to fund a retirement nest egg. Instead of the race our path to FI has been so far, this next chapter will be more of a casual walk.
If we can achieve a 7% return (inflation-adjusted), we will hit FIRE in about 10 years without adding another cent to the nest egg:
An average return of 7% after inflation seems realistic and actually pretty conservative compared to historical returns. We use this number for all of our projections.
“What if you don’t get 7% returns?” is probably one of the most common critical questions I get in response to the plan we have laid out. The answer is simple – then we’ll simply stay in semi-retirement longer. And since that is what we are probably going to do anyway, regardless of our FIRE status, it really won’t matter much if we get a lower average return over the next decade or so.
Let’s have a look at our path from Flamingo FI to FIRE if we only manage to achieve an average return of 5%:
Still not bad at all!
I would argue that even if we end up staying in semi-retirement for another 20+ years, working 2-3 days per week without any financial stress whatsoever, our quality of life will be better than that of 90% of the working population. Not a bad worst case scenario if you ask me.
And remember, it could also go the other way. What if over the next few years we achieved 10% inflation-adjusted returns?
We’d be done in 7 years from now!
The truth is that no one knows what the future holds (as 2020 has shown us all!). What I do know is that I want to enjoy more freedom and have more time now while we have a young family and are in good health. Our approach allows us to do just that.
For most of us in the FI community, FIRE is all about freedom and reclaiming our time rather than actual “retirement”. When we combine semi-retirement with a Coast FIRE approach (like Flamingo FI) we get our lives and time back much sooner than with the traditional FIRE approach AND we will become financially independent eventually. This type of semi-retirement really offers the best out of both worlds!