The Accidental FIRE Journey

It was suggested that since this is a new blog I should probably give a bit more detail about my story.  My “Start Here” page covers to purpose of the blog but I’d like to explain more of my journey to becoming ‘accidentally’ financially independent…..

I’m in my mid 40’s, single, and live in the Washington D.C. metro area. I’m an outdoor sports junkie, which is perhaps strange since I grew up in the concrete jungles of Baltimore city.  My desire to retire early from my day job is to enjoy my hobbies more while my knees still work, or maybe start a business in the outdoor industry. Be it climbing, paddling, cycling, running, snowboarding, hiking, or backpacking, I like it all.

colorado rockies

One Of My Happy Places

From my early childhood, I liked to save things. I would lay on the basement floor with my coin collection – not a historic collection at all, they were just plain old nickels and dimes – and line them up, categorized by the year on the front and count which years had the most coins.  I enjoyed this, but had no idea why. I also started cultivating a habit of delayed gratification, although that didn’t come until my college years.  The delayed gratification did not apply to beer.  Especially in college.

I got my first credit card in college and to this day have never carried a balance once.  It’s a miracle they don’t ban me.  Growing up lower-middle class instilled some values in me that have served me well.  As a kid I didn’t go without, but my parents didn’t have much money and what they did have paid the bills with little left over.  After my first job I started wondering what to do with the excess money in my checking account since I wasn’t blowing it all on beer (but I was blowing lots of it, trust me).

Then I stumbled across an issue of Money Magazine.  I subscribed, I was hooked.  I opened accounts with Vanguard and a few other companies and plowed my savings into mutual funds.  I kept doing this, and never looked back.  I figured everyone else was doing it too because why wouldn’t you!?  It GROWS!  Who doesn’t want more money?  It takes no effort!

bikepacking

Long Distance Bikepacking Trips Are A Favorite

I switched from a dot com company to a Government job and worked my ass off, moving up quickly. I took a second job on the faculty of a large university as an adjunct instructor, even though I didn’t really ‘need’ the money. I always stashed those extra paychecks right into my mutual funds.  As my salary kept going up, my lifestyle intentionally didn’t, or at least not as much.  I shunned new/expensive cars, and expensive rents/mortgages.  I maxed my 401ks and IRAs.  Saving was always a priority.  Always.

During the 2008 crash, I didn’t sell.  All my friends were switching their 401k money from stocks to cash, but I held out.  This too shall pass, I’ll never be able to time the bottom….  I kept on the straight and narrow path of building wealth, but never consciously had the intention of retiring early since I was too young to think about it.  I just wanted security.  And again, the money just multiplies and you don’t have to do anything!!

I managed to make it to upper management at my job, the Director of a large Office,  Around that same time I discovered the Trinity Study through Mr. Money Mustache and well, the rest is where I’m at now. 

sup touring

Paddleboard Touring Is Another Favorite

As my happiness at my job continued to decline, and my realization that my outdoor hobbies are hard to pursue in an office, I started to look into going part-time at my job, which I did a little while back.  I’m fully FI with a good deal of extra buffer based on my current spending.  Full retirement is in my future, probably sooner than later but we’ll see how the story plays out.  I never had the balls to forgo a regular job and start a business, too much risk.  But now I have the safety-net to try that.  Being FI brings so many things.

 

 

Do We Need Another FIRE Blogger?

You’ll have to tell me, but I think we do. Not that the ones out there have any deficiencies, actually they’re awesome.  But the perception with the general population seems to be that we’re outliers or that we have trust funds.  Every time a story of someone going FIRE gets picked up by a more mainstream media outlet you see it in the comments section.  A mix of anger, disbelief, pissy-ness, with a smattering of “I could never do that!”

But they probably can!!!

That’s why I think we need more voices.  If people see it’s way more than just MMM and a few others who have done this, the more they’ll maybe understand that it’s achievable.  Everyone who made it to FI or FIRE has a different story.  Sure, the basic tenants tend to be the same – spend way less than you earn, invest the difference, don’t be a consumer sucka.  But dig a layer deeper and the stories reveal differences, and different paths. I’ve spent ungodly sums of money climbing big mountains all over the world.  A voracious traveler or moutaineer might say “I can’t do that with my lifestyle and passions!”  They probably can, I’m proof. 

Every additional story is more confirmation that this is real and not hype.  I realize that some people are given much harder circumstance in life, but with knowledge and discipline I believe financial independence can be within reach of almost anyone!  I hope someone out there can learn something from my story, as I’ve learned from others.

Thanks for reading!

– Accidental Fire

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29 Responses

  1. Yes, we need another FIRE blogger, exactly for the reason you mentioned. Plus, your writing style is pleasant and informational. Keep it up. As for the business venture, microbreweries are popping up everywhere in VA. Hop on that train, but have a dual store front idea that incorporates outdoor adventure rentals (bikes, paddleboards, backpacking equipment) somewhere near Charlottesville or on the AT.

    Brian

    • Accidental Fire says:

      I’ve never brewed beer but how hard can it be? There’s a place in Elkins WVA just like you described, and I’m sure some others I don’t know about. It is a very tempting idea….

      And thanks for the compliment Brian!

  2. Good luck on the journey and the blog. Looking forward to seeing what you have up yours sleeve for stories to share with us. Yes, everyone has a different story and we all need to tell others. Our circles all intersect with different people and places so without the diversity how can everyone be reached with the message.

  3. So far it seems you have lots to offer! Love the Turnip Fire! stuff. Quite unique.

    Was the first picture taken near DC, or somewhere out West?

    • Accidental Fire says:

      That pic is from the summit of a Colorado 14er named Redcloud Peak. I’m working on climbing all of the 14ers in Colorado, it’s a long journey.

      Thanks for the comment and the vote of confidence!

  4. Joe says:

    You beat me to using this name for a blog, haha…

    I am accidentally FIRE’d too but in a different sense, I left work on a leave of absence fully intending to go back after 6 mos to a year, but I never did. At the time, 10 years ago, I thought I probably had enough to never go back. Only after seeing all the new FI blogs popping up did I realize that I am many times over enough.

    • Accidental Fire says:

      That’s amazing – congrats to you! Sounds like you took what the community calls a mini-retirement and then converted it to a full retirement.

      You should consider starting a blog, sounds like you probably have a great story and lots to teach others!

  5. Team CF says:

    Some people figure out this whole FIRE thing so much faster then others. We are late starters and did the whole luxury car and big home thing first (granted, it was in moderation to many people we know). So we rather quickly turned it around and now go in the right direction. Not there yet.

    Well done mate! Good for you. Looking forward to reading about the outdoor adventures.

    • Accidental Fire says:

      Thank You! Hey, we ALL make mistakes, the best thing is that you did turn it around. Most people will, unfortunately, probably never turn it around and be forced to work until they’re 65 or even older. I hope my prediction is wrong, but I see lots of folks at my job who are that old, and many do not want to be there. A sad fate.

  6. ahalfstick says:

    Great blog. Love the humor. Congrats on getting Accidentally FIREd. 🙂

  7. Hue says:

    Did you make it to Sunshine from Redcloud peak? If not, you’ll have plenty of time to do so during FIRE. 46yr old Denverite here with 26 14er bagged and hoping to bag the rest soon in the next several years of FIRE. Just haven’t pulled the plug yet but we definitely need more bloggers like you.

    • Accidental Fire says:

      Yes, I did both Redcloud and Sunshine in May 2013. You can tell it was still early season with all the snow. I’ve got 53 14ers done, only 5 to go! Should be able to get them in 2018.

      Congrats on your 26! Living in Denver you should have no problem getting them as you can pick the good weather weekends. It’s cost me A TON of money doing them from the East Coast but it’s been an amazing journey and I’ve loved every minute of it!

      Thanks for the kind words and for stopping by!

  8. Fantastic story! Always love to hear successful transitions from the cooperate grind to pursuing passions. As you said, that is what financial independence can unlock for people. Look forward to reading more of your journey.

  9. BusyMom says:

    I was having a moment of doubt. Thanks for telling me why I should continue with my blog. I have no new wisdom, everything I know about FiRE is from one blog or another. But I guess it is still worth it. Thanks!

    • Accidental Fire says:

      But your new wisdom is relating the principals of FIRE to your story and your experiences. I guarantee that’s new 🙂

      Thanks for the comment!

  10. need2save says:

    It’s nice to come across another DC metro area FIRE blogger; particularly someone in their mid 40s like me. As you mention, everyone’s story is a bit different and someone will find value in it. I can’t say we’ve been as diligent as you, but we’ve been on the right track for a while now and should be FIRE’d in about 5 years.

    On a side note, I’m a bit of an outdoors enthusiast as well. Mostly a runner and cyclist, but I’ve dabbled in kayaking and hiking a bit. One of my post ‘9-to-5 life’ goals is thru hiking the AT and I’m definitely looking to do some longer cycling trips.

    • Accidental Fire says:

      That’s awesome! I’ve hiked about a quarter of the AT but in segments. I’d love to do the whole thing one day as well, along with the PCT and CDT.

      And I ride and run a lot, along with climbing and water activities. There are some other DC area PF folks who are into outdoor stuff including Erin from ReachingForFI. I don’t know if you were at the meetup with Tanja from Our next Life in Chinatown a few weeks back, but hopefully we can meet in the future!

  11. Dreaming Llama says:

    Question regarding how you transitioned to part time. I am in lower level management and I see no one in management, especially not upper management, working fewer than 40-60 hr weeks. Did you take a different job or step down in order to go part time? Any suggestions for how to go about doing it?

    • Accidental Fire says:

      I did have to take a different job since I was in senior management. I was very fortunate to have a boss who is great and understanding. He wanted to keep me and help me. Also, I purposely chose jobs in my career based on this – having a good boss who will take care of you. I find that it pays dividends time and time again.

      I don’t know about your bosses but my suggestion would be that if you really want to do it have a heart-to-heart with your boss. If they’re a good person and you think they’ll understand, then they should try to help you. But if you don’t have a good relationship with your boss you might want to move to a different job before you try and get a good supervisor. It’s all about the people directly above you and if they value you and care.

      Hope that helps and good luck!

      • Dreaming Llama says:

        I read your post on Dead Man Walking after commenting here and as someone who cares about what others think it hit a chord. As a manager, though, it’s a very common syndrome for people who are close to retiring even at “normal” age as well as anyone else who others assume correctly or incorrectly might be leaving soon (pregnant women, etc.). Thanks for your reply!

  1. January 11, 2018

    […] I said in my journey post, I think we need more FIRE bloggers because we all have a story.  My story (or movie) is different […]

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