Two Years of Financial Freedom

Today is the beginning of April 2021; two years since leaving my job as nurse faculty for a Midwestern University, where I had taught nurse practitioner students for the previous 7 years.  We had been preparing to leave our jobs for quite some time. Mr. Sunshine left his a year previous – see this post here.  It was still very scary. Two years ago, on April fools day (2019), I resigned. I thought the timing was fitting. While I had a contract with a guaranteed salary and benefits, I had become unhappy, stressed and filled with anxiety following some major changes (one of which was the end of the graduate nursing program – where I taught). 

So what has the past two years held for us? Initially it was very nerve wrecking to jump off the cliff of early retirement, until I realized that we simply reorganizing our priorities.  Both of us continue to earn money and remained active in our professions.

Mr. Sunshine stopped working as a mechanic for Ford in (June 2018).  He has since built a local reputation for being a reasonable priced mechanic capable of fixing nearly any thing (cars, trucks, bicycles, etc.).  He works his side hustle “making old cars great again” as time permits between our travels and time with family.

As a nurse practitioner, I have maintained a small clinical practice with patients in a local nursing home for nearly ten years.  This brings in a small amount of monthly income and allows me to maintain my clinical skill set while providing close management of these complex clinical patients.  It also provides me with great personal satisfaction and purpose.  This provides great benefit for both my patients and me. 

Additionally, I am enrolled in a nursing PhD program and continuing to pursue this degree.  I am nearing the end and have been hard at work with my dissertation research. I enrolled in this program before deciding to retire. I continued, as I may desire to return to the faculty role in the future.  I really did like my job, just not my Dean. I also really enjoyed teaching NP students; it was the culture (change) in my University that finally led to my resignation. In addition, I have been fully funded for my study – no cost to me at all! I love to learn and so since it is not costing me any $$$ – why not?

For the past two years we have been selfishly employed, setting our own schedules and doing what we value most – helping others and traveling. Oh, and we adopted a new member of our family – Barkley – our smart and loving golden retriever/yellow lab! Being mostly retired, we have plenty of time for walks and play time. She has been traveling with us beginning the day we picked her up.

We discovered that being financially independent or selfishly employed allows us to travel slower and enjoy more (while spending less). We have taken a couple full month trips out West to see the national parks (Glacier, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Rocky Mountain NP) and enjoy many epic hikes. We have spent the past two winters in Florida and Alabama, avoiding the cold, dreary winters of the Midwest.  This year we enjoyed being snowbirds for 3 1/2 months. As I write this blog we are preparing for a couple adventures coming up soon. Freedom from schedules set by others (traditional work) gives us the option to drive and camp for months versus a traditional one week vacation. If we had both been working traditional jobs the need to cram travel into a one week window of vacation would drive up the price and remove the enjoyment. Slow travel is the way to go!  Slow travel is much less costly and much more fun.

Financial Update:

Health Insurance – Our health insurance through the marketplace was definitely a sunshine win over the past 2 years. We switched to a market place plan when my coverage at work ended in May 2019. We now have better health insurance than we had while I was employed at the University.  Our current plan costs us 97 cents (yes, that is right, less than a dollar) with coverage as follows: $450 annual deductible and $900 out of pocket max, $5 office visit co-pays and prescription coverage. April 1, 2021 new subsidies went into place so if you have the marketplace plans, check to see if you qualify for a lower premium. A special Marketplace enrollment/change period has been issued as part of recent legislation related to COVID.  

You can read a bit more about the health insurance market place and subsidies in my prior blog here.

Net worth– Our net worth grew by $66,000 in our first two years of financial independence. This would have been much larger but we paid cash for a new jeep in 2020, reducing our cash bucket by about $35,000. Our investments have done well over the past two years. While I was in near panic when everything dropped in March 2020 due to COVID – I am proud to report – I was able to weather the storm!  We did not sell (we didn’t buy either – so still room for improvement). I just steeled myself to ride it out – and we did!  Others I know sold and missed out. I am still flabbergasted that the market recovered and even hit record highs since that time.   

Income– Our income remains about $1000 per month from our side hustles. The remainder of our income comes from our cash accounts.

Expenses– Our annual expenses are budgeted around $37,000. Much of this is discretionary spending and can be lowered if needed. 

Bottom Line– our net worth continues to increase each month. I know that this trend will likely not continue every month. Eventually the economy will be receding, but it is great to experience such positive growth in our first two years. Overall, the past two years have been successful with plenty of blue skies and rainbows. Where we go from here, remains to be determined. I have one year remaining to finish my dissertation and graduate the PhD. Then we will be facing the decision of whether to return to full time employment in academia. There are many variables that factor in to this decision and I will spare you them at this time, but know that the decision will not be tempered by economics but rather by our values. Do I value the contributions that I can make to society with my research enough to return to full time employment? Stay tuned and find out. Thanks for reading about our journey. Feel free to leave a comment about your journey, we would love to hear from others.

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