Content creation: my surprise glidepath into early retirement

My good friend and Two Sides of FI show partner, Eric and I recently had the honor of being interviewed by a well known FIRE community member – Jordan “Doc G” Grumet. The image at the bottom of this post links to that episode of the Earn and Invest podcast. It was a great conversation and I hope you check it out. Having the chance to speak with Jordan was a really positive experience for me in a variety of ways. First, it was a privilege to work with a great interviewer and respected member of this community, and have a really enjoyable conversation with him and Eric. Second, it felt like a kind of acknowledgement that our little project had reached another stage in its evolution. This chat represents the first time that we were the guest on someone else’s platform as Two Sides of FI, and I’m excited for the exposure that this could bring to our little show. Lastly, the experience caused me to reflect on a number of key topics. And one of those seemed an important theme to write about.

Transitions can be challenging

One concept that has come up numerous times on the YouTube channel is the idea of glidepaths into retirement. Often in the FIRE community these relate to finances, like certain asset allocation strategies. But what’s perhaps even more important, are those that have nothing to do with money. Retirement, whether early or traditional, is a huge change for anyone. Irrespective of how long your career was and how happy you were in those jobs, ceasing to do the thing you spent the majority of your waking hours doing for nearly the entirety of your adult life up until that point is a big transition. Even if retirement is something you looked forward to and planned for years, it’s a substantial and often rather abrupt course change. It’s even harder for someone who unexpectedly had to retire.

As I’ve talked about here before, the timing of my own transition could perhaps have been better. I stopped working at my former job in June 2020, just a couple of months into the COVID-19 lockdown. That meant that I was spending a lot more time at home, indoors, very much focused on my new life, often alone with my thoughts. I kept busy, throwing myself into many pursuits – learning, exercise, cooking – just to name a few. Six months ago I made an effort to take inventory of all these things. And the list has continued to grow since! But while fulfilling and fun, these undertakings were not what has most helped me process this life change, and the countless emotions that came with it. Rather, it’s been the unintentional glidepath I stumbled into via content creation.

Surprise! You’re a content creator

As I talked about with Jordan, have written about here, and discussed with Eric on the channel, these creative outlets have truly supported my transition into this next chapter of my life. I don’t want you to think that was some kind of super intelligent plan I had from the start. In my very first blog post I acknowledged that I wasn’t even sure why I was writing! The YouTube channel seemed like a fun idea from the very first time we discussed it, and I certainly looked forward to building new skills as part of that journey. But I didn’t realize just how important these endeavors would be to me in more fundamental ways.

It’s interesting to me how these two projects have served related, but differing purposes. This blog turned out to be so much about processing the emotions I was feeling but didn’t yet understand after leaving my career. I can certainly pick up on that when I revisit my earliest posts. Admittedly, the blog has never found a huge audience and I didn’t exactly go out of my way to promote it nor undertake any SEO to lead others to it. So it has largely been a personal, reflective tool – though I truly appreciate all of you who are here with me, reading. But countless times, simply following the wandering path of writing has helped me understand + work through things I’m feeling. Importantly, some posts have caused me to initiate conversations with my family about how I’ve been feeling, and make needed changes. That’s pretty valuable stuff, to say the least.

Two Sides of FI picked up where writing left off, and has expanded in purpose even further. Unquestionably, I’ve always found value in the chats themselves. It’s been so helpful to have open exchange with a trusted friend who I know will speak the candid truth and help me work through questions. I know Eric finds value in our conversations too and it feels great when I feel like I’m able to help in any way. And as we talked about on E+I, it’s been wonderful to have our now 36-year friendship enter a new stage in its evolution. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. But what I couldn’t have foreseen is how truly validating this experience would be. I wrote all about that idea nearly a year ago. Building and working with our channel’s community has been really rewarding. The exchanges I have help me in many ways, and it feels good to know others appreciate + learn from what we create too. It has definitely helped me grow and understand my own journey that much more.

Adding hyphens to your identity

I spent the entirety of my 23-year career and in my training years prior, identifying as a scientist. While the second half of my career was spent primarily out of the lab, or no longer overseeing teams of lab scientists, it always felt like “who I was”. To that, I could have added other words and hypens, like scientist-product manager-service leader-and so on… And of course I’m also a husband, a parent, a son, among other things. However these days, I’ve become much more comfortable with my identity being much more fluid, and frankly, far less important to define so rigidly. I’m no longer merely a scientist, or any of the other labels I used throughout my career. Now I’m a content creator: a writer, podcaster, a YouTuber, an occasional wine educator, and someone who thinks + talks about retirement, personal finance, and the universe of associated topics often.

The last two years have taught me a lot of things. Some of them I come to on my own, while others were born out of conversations had on 2SFI or in the E+I podcast linked here. What I do know is that content creation has most certainly aided my transition into this next phase of my life. I have become increasingly comfortable with the idea of “being retired” from my former career (no matter what “the R word” actually means!) It has not only helped me gain comfort and confidence with where I am in my life, but also brought me myriad other benefits. I have no idea where this journey will take me, or how long the writing + recording will continue. For now, I am still really enjoying it! Above all, I’m so thankful for anyone here with me on this journey. I appreciate your support, the feedback you provide, and wish you all the best. Be not afeared! 🙏

Click the image to check out the podcast episode!

How time flies! Reflections on a two-year milestone

Two years ago today I drove to work and walked into my office for the last time. Shortly thereafter, I briefly met with someone in HR, turned in my company ID and laptop, and exited the building, no longer an employee. I’d performed this routine a number of times before at other companies, but this was the first time I’d done so with no new job lined up. I was unemployed – forever, perhaps, leaving my 23-year biotech career behind. This was indeed intentional, as I’d achieved my financial independence (FI) target a year prior, and was now “retiring” early (RE) – starting the next phase of my life. I had no idea what was going to come next but I was really excited about it!

One more year?

As I recently wrote all about, I’ve done a lot in the two years since that day. Taking inventory of what I’ve tried, learned, accomplished, and enjoyed, was a really valuable exercise. I’ve certainly felt busy very often, and looking at that list after writing it reinforced to me why that was the case! This time I’ve had, while often strange, has been incredibly valuable to me. As we recently discussed on an as-yet unaired episode of Two Side of FI, I wouldn’t trade anything for all that I’ve gained by deciding to take this path.

In that conversation, my show partner and great friend Eric asked me a question posed by one of our viewers:

“Knowing what you know now, would you have worked an extra 1-2 years that would allow you to build up additional buffer, such that some of the tougher decisions you’re making now (and stress that goes along with it) would be less of an issue or not at all.”

The spirit of the question was financial in nature, but I spoke to it more broadly. I’ve not yet watched the video recording, so I don’t know precisely how I answered. But I certainly recall the spirit of it as it’s easy: absolutely not. Sure, by continuing to work and banking another year of savings, mathematically one can only feel more secure. In doing so, you’d have more funds in your portfolio, additional cash reserves, etc. Perhaps you could use some of that money to buy something fun for yourself – maybe an RV, like so many retirees enjoy. That’s certainly a possibility too. However, that would have meant trading away my experiences over the last two years. And I’m unwilling to do that.

731 days of learning

Sure, I know what some may be thinking: trips could have been put off to a future date, coursework could have been undertaken at another time, and so on. But many if not most things would surely be different as a result. We can’t merely “cut and paste” the chapters of our lives as if we were writing a document in Microsoft Word. How can I look at the experiences I’ve enjoyed, time with family and friends, the memories I’ve made, and say “sure, if I could rewind the clock I’d do it all differently”, and elect to work another year or two? It’s unfathomable to me.

I’m so incredibly thankful for the experiences I’ve had and the memories I’ve made over these past two years. I’ve learned much along the way, most of it about myself. This time to reflect, and I believe, grow – greatly concentrated due to COVID-19 lockdowns and a lot of time spent at home, has been priceless. All retirees surely must go through this period of introspection and searching given the magnitude and suddenness of this life change. I don’t mean to say that I’m special in this way. Rather, I’m merely noting how much I have valued this time that I’ve had to think hard about my nearly 49 years on this planet, my successes, failures, and everything in between. Not to say that I have it all worked out – far from it! I’m merely getting started, I think, but every journey begins somewhere.

I’ve done and learned a lot in these past two years. In some ways it was very much as expected, but there have been so many more ways in which I was surprised (more on that here). I’m truly enjoying this opportunity to explore new interests, to learn, and grow. If I knew a genie, I wouldn’t choose to change my path to this day. I am truly grateful for the experiences I have had, and for this time with my family. I feel very fortunate and am thankful for all that I have. Here’s to whatever the next two years brings!

I wish you all the best in all things. Thanks for being with me on this journey. 🙏

Optionality: An Amazing Superpower

Most people are familiar with the old adage “Fortune favors the bold”. Apparently this phrase goes back more than 2000 years, and is one common translation of a Latin proverb. A great related quip is “Fortune favors the prepared mind”. But I think we can do even better than that one, so here is yet a third gem of similar vintage:

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”

-Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger (Seneca)

I absolutely love this quote because it says a lot in very few words. In my writing, I’ve acknowledged the role that good fortune plays in the success of many – including myself. We all understand the idea of “good timing”, right? But to succeed, you must be sufficiently prepared to take advantage of the situation when it arises. This element is often under-appreciated in my experience.

Today while hiking I got thinking about the related concept of optionality. This term comes up often on Two Sides of FI, most recently in an episode about market volatility. My show partner Eric and I love optionality. That is, whenever you can take decisions that enable you to have more options down the road, this is invariably a good thing. On my hike, I thought about all the times where I’d done things that enabled optionality and how that worked out for me. Here I’ll share just two of the disparate ideas which came to mind.

Building breadth is a powerful enabler of career optionality

While not explicitly described as enabling optionality, this idea came up several times in my previous Keys to Success series. This wasn’t initially a deliberate strategy on my part – I’m not so clever. But after a few jobs I realized the power that came from broadening my skills + experiences. On reflection, I understood how in each successive company and role, I was learning new technologies, developing new management skills, and understanding new industries. Each of those added new tools to my arsenal which in combination, could be leveraged to advance me in my future roles. They gave me more options!

One example of this was in a pivotal role in my career which I’ve written about before. In this case, I was offered a job which on paper I wasn’t even qualified for: running a customer support organization. I had never worked in nor led such a group before! Sure, I knew the technology area, had a solid scientific background, and had managed teams before. Why would they take such a chance? Were they just desperate?

My new boss confided to me a year later that it was my broad base of experience that got me the job. He’d hired me because with my diverse background, he’d determined I had the skills both for the job at hand and also provided the company options for how to use me for future, not yet identified needs. He was impressed that I’d had such broad experience and success in a variety of different roles. In his mind, that meant he was bringing optionality in the company. Over time this idea played out, as I moved through several different roles in the company. This was a turning point in my career, and I carried this important lesson learned into the roles that followed.

Optionality is essential for financial + mental health

In the Two Sides of FI show linked above, Eric and I talked about the merit of a fixed income allocation in your portfolio. That is, having sufficient assets that aren’t stock-based, such as bonds and cash. The latter are viewed by many (particularly younger) investors as unattractive, boring, or even “bad” ideas – even for those nearing retirement or who have already retired. While incorrect, their thoughts are understandable, since the only market many of them know is the past >10 years of a bull run. Cash (ugh, inflation!) and bonds look pretty boring compared to a booming stock portfolio.

Needless to say, as soon as the market started dropping, those comments fell off quickly. Why? Well, at least partly because those people are too busy freaking out about their net worth plummeting to comment on our videos. I like to think still others are acknowledging what we already know: along with a risk-appropriate asset allocation, having financial optionality is essential. This is particularly important for those who are already drawing down their assets, because they are no longer earning income from a job, and don’t want to run out of money. What do I mean by that?

Having an appropriate cash position means that you can fund your lifestyle without having to sell assets you don’t want to sell. Why wouldn’t you want to sell them? If the market is down, you’d have to sell more shares of stock or a mutual fund to generate the same cash vs. when it’s up. This is inefficient and effectively “locks in a loss” in a down market. Similarly, you’d rather refill those cash reserves by selling bonds, which would be expected to hold value better in a downturn vs. stock.

Having financial optionality is essential, because you don’t need to take actions you don’t want to take. You have choices because you’re prepared for contingencies. But wait – in a good year, won’t my portfolio return be lower than one 100% in stocks? Absolutely! But I don’t care, because I need to have appropriate options in place during a downturn, like now. I’m sleeping fine despite all this churn because I have optionality on my side.


There are a whole host of areas in which I feel optionality is incredibly valuable. I suspect with a little thought, anyone reading this could identify at least several ways in which they’ve benefitted from it. If optionality is not something you’ve deliberately thought about much to date, I’d recommend it. Leverage this superpower for yourself!

image credit: Alexander Schimmeck on Unsplash