FI Gothic

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In 1977, I got my first job. It was at Pete’s Deli. I was 16 and got paid $2.30 an hour.

But look at me now. A mere 39 years later, and I’ve reached my last day of mandatory work. To paraphrase the great Martin Luther King, Jr., “Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty I am free at last.”

Achieving financial independence at age 55 isn’t exactly awe-inspiring. No Mr. Money Mustache am I. But in 15 years (2002-2016), Mrs. Groovy and I went from having a few thousand dollars in savings to having over 30 times our annual living expenses in savings. Granted, this achievement was partly due to luck. We sold our Long Island condo at the height of an epic real estate boom (2006) and walked away with a quarter of a million dollars. But just because we happened upon a boatload of money didn’t mean we were set for life. Just ask the legion of professional athletes who have found themselves completely broke within three years after retirement. It takes work, discipline, and a great deal of thought to make anything grow—especially money. And Mrs. Groovy and I are proud of the fact that we became excellent stewards of our good fortune.

Now before I get to the point of this post, I want to offer some advice to those still working, especially if they’re young. And it’s not the advice you normally find on a site dedicated to personal finance. You know, spend less than you earn, invest in low-cost index funds—yada, yada, yada. No, my advice concerns your soul, not your quest for financial independence. Here it is.

BE EARNEST

That’s it. Go to work and do your job well.

I wasted the first 20 years of my working career. And it wasn’t because I washed dishes, cleaned bathrooms, made popcorn, mixed concrete, and did mundane office work. It’s because I did those jobs half-assed.

It wasn’t until the last 19 years of my working career that I strove to do my best. And an interesting thing happened. I decided to up my game because I thought it would advance my career. And it did. But it also provided something equally gratifying: RESPECT.

I discovered this unintended consequence of earnestness one day while cutting grass for my municipal employer. A car stopped by me and my lawnmower, and its occupant rolled down the window. I went over to the car and braced myself for another diatribe from a disgruntled taxpayer. But the lady in the car came not to vilify but to praise. She said she saw me picking up litter and cutting grass every week and the neighborhood never looked so good. And she just wanted to thank me for all my hard work.

Awesome! In one small way, I made the life of another human being better. It was one of my proudest moments in my career as a public servant.

There were many more such moments to come as I pushed toward this fateful day—my last day of gainful employment. And I won’t bore you with the details. But suffice it to say I never got tired of this kind of validation. It made all the BS associated with work worth it.

Regardless of what you do for a living, you have a choice. You can be a blessing to your customers, coworkers, and bosses. Or you can be a model of mediocrity, doing just enough not to get fired. I’ve done both. And believe me, the former is much more rewarding.

My Artistic Interpretation of Financial Independence

Okay, let’s get to the point of this post. Let’s have some fun. In honor of my liberty, I wanted to do two things. First, I wanted to draw a picture that not only captured the fortitude and spirit one needs to achieve financial independence but also captured the glory of finally owning one’s time and never having to work again. To accomplish this, I decided to fuse a classic American painting with the classic personal finance concept of F-you money. And below is my creation. I call it FI Gothic (short for Financial Independence Gothic). And in case you’re wondering, the models used for this drawing were none other than Mrs. Groovy and me.

figothic

And the Winner Is?

The second thing I wanted to do in honor of my liberty was pick a retirement theme song. Why? I don’t know. I just figured if our President can walk into a room with a theme song, so can I.

So thanks to all the groovy people who voted on this website and in our Twitter poll, Mrs. Groovy and I now have a retirement theme song. And from this point on, whenever we make an appearance, whether that’s walking on stage to address the FinCon faithful or walking into someone’s backyard to wolf down some barbecue, the following song will be played (at least in our heads, anyway).

Final Thoughts

Okay, groovy freedomists, that’s all I got. I promised an epic post to celebrate my last day of mandatory work. Did I pull it off? Or was this post kind of lame? Let me know what you think when you get a chance. And don’t worry about hurting my feelings. I have plenty of time to cry in my pillow now.

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78 Comments

  1. Congratulations!! And welcome to the club, come Monday you’ll feel a different person not having to get out of bed (although I never regained the skill of sleeping in again). The mere fact is, you will have the choice.

    • Mr. Groovy

      You are so right. It’s amazing. I still get up around 5:30-6:00 every day. But there’s never a feeling a dread. No files to produce. No conference calls. No deadlines. And Sunday nights are particularly enjoyable. We stay up until 11, and sometimes we even have a few glasses of wine. Like you said, life is a lot easier when you have “choices.” Thanks for stopping by, my friend. And thank you for welcoming me to the club.

  2. Mr. Groovy

    I love it, Bill. But I can’t take all the credit for the song choice. I had it in my final four but the voters made the final decision. But what a great decision it was! And thanks for teasing out the main point of this post. “Be honest, pursue quality, and have a purpose for living. More money usually doesn’t solve people’s problems, but smarter, stronger character usually does.” Those two lines say it all. Thanks for stopping by, Bill. I really appreciate your contribution to our conversation.

  3. I am enjoying the theme song right now over my laptop speakers. I’ll have to plug it into my home stereo later and dance to it. Besides a writer, there are 2 other things I love to be known as: 1) An incredible dancer, life-groover. 2) Home stereo aficionado. I do not lack quality speakers or amplifiers in my house. (My guilty pleasure)

    Your first paragraph is awesome. I think in the financial blogging world, so many writers miss the important steps to building a quality life. Be honest, pursue quality, and have a purpose for living. More money usually doesn’t solve people’s problems, but smarter, stronger character usually does. That’s the stuff I love to read about, because I have found, when I invest in improving my mindset and character, more money and opportunities naturally flows into my life. You could say I found my path to wealth, simply by finding my path to being a smarter, stronger, more genuine person. Thanks. Can’t wait to be as free as you. I’m on my way at age 36.

  4. Mr. Groovy

    From one Mr. G to another, thank you. We had a lot of fun with the artwork. I laugh every time I look at it. And congratulations for being on the cusp of retirement. It’s amazing what people can do in ten years or less when they put their minds to something. I look forward to reading about your retirement countdown. Cheers.

  5. Very inspiring, Mr. Groovy! Love the artwork. I am in the same age range as you and have been fortunate to learn from numerous mistakes. and I have been able to sock away FI money over the past 8 years through frugality and saving a high percentage of my income. We will retire in a year or so, and feel lucky about our situation.

  6. The majority of the FI community do seem earnest to me. I think you need to be, you need to enjoy not only the destination but also the journey and its hard to do that being half assed at your job. Congrats on retirment 🙂

    • Mr. Groovy

      Agreed. The FI community is surely earnest. And for the most part, our posts are preaching to the choir. But that’s okay. There are always newbies to the FI community, and there are always FI curious people who stumble upon our posts. So there’s a chance our posts are doing more than stating the obvious; they’re actually helping someone improve his or her life. I sure hope so, anyway. Thanks for stopping by, Sarah. And thank you for your kind words.

  7. The post was freaking awesome. Congrats on reaching the finish line. The part about working hard, giving it your best, etc., really resonates with me. Sometimes you can slip into half-assed mode…especially as you get more comfortable in your job/role. But you just need to remember that good things come to those that work hard and try their best at everything.

    Take care and congrats again!

    Bert, One of the Dividend Diplomats

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thanks, Bert. I really appreciate your kind words. Learning to program definitely helped me stay clear of half-assed mode. There were always things to improve in my work place, and every week I would try to automate at least one aspect of my job. Sometimes the automation was simple (exporting data to a spreadsheet), and sometimes it was grueling (turning a 4-hour QA job into a 20 minute QA job). But regardless of how trivial my improvement was, it was always nice knowing my work week wasn’t for naught. I did something constructive. Oh, life’s little victories!

  8. Congrats on being done with the grind, that’s awesome! I love the artwork, very nice!

    I hope you guys have a groovy time, and I can’t wait to keep reading about the post-work adventures you get into!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thanks, Mr. SSC. So far, so good. We’ve been retired for a week now and haven’t come closed to being bored. Blogging certainly helps. I definitely need the structure and deadlines it provides.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Everyone needs a retirement theme song. It’s the best way to stay motivated once the big day has arrived. After all, it’s kind of hard to stay glued to the couch in retirement when your theme song is “Born to Run.” Thanks for stopping by, Roamer. And may I suggest “Roam” by the B-52’s as your theme song?

  9. Congrats on your last day of mandatory work! What’s your plan now? Non-mandatory work or enjoying some leisure time? 🙂

    I love that your advice is to work hard, no matter what your job is! My job is kind of boring, and it’s easy to do juuuust enough work to stay. But I really do care about things getting out on time and try to take initiative–it’s paid off in the form of a promotion! Plus management knows I’m a team player and committed to our client’s needs. Not too shabby. 🙂

    I’ll probably do mandatory work for another ten years (boooo), but it doesn’t have to suck along the way. There are plenty of lessons to learn and experiences to have!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Excellent point! When I was going through the motions, work did suck. But when I decided to do my best, work gradually became enjoyable. Like you so aptly put it, “there are plenty of lessons to learn and experiences to have.” Thanks for stopping by, Mrs. Picky Pincher. You made a very insightful contribution to our conversation.

  10. Epic post! Any post that has its own theme some and remastered American classic painting has got to be epic!

    Congratulations on reaching this HUGE milestone and also for sharing your great advice. Do the best you can at work each day and good things will happen. That has always been my approach.

    Congrats!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thanks, Jon. Love the way you summed up my advice. “Do the best you can at work each day and good things will happen.” Excellent motto to live by.

  11. This is great! Congrats to you guys. I bet you feel like 30x your expenses!

    After some quick calculations this weekend we hope to follow in your footsteps in about 3 years. Thanks for being an inspiration in the community!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thanks, HNRE. I really appreciate your kind words. And I certainly look forward to reading about your next three years. The journey is as great as the destination.

  12. Mr. Groovy

    “The ability to be a blessing is, in the end, something that transcends money and becomes your impact in the world!” What a beautiful summation of the point I was trying to make. Thank you, Chris. You really made my weekend.

  13. Congrats! Your point on working hard and being a blessing while your working is really important. I suspect that not only will the people who do this be able to reach financial independence earlier, they’ll also have more a satisfying life after the end of mandatory work.

    That ability to be a blessing is, in the end, something that transcends money and becomes your impact in the world!

    Awesome advice – thank you and congrats!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thank you, Vicki. I really appreciate your well-wishes. It’s a great opportunity. I just hope Mrs. G and I take advantage of it.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thank you, Martin. I really appreciate your kind words. And I hope I don’t disappoint you. Freedom, like the mind, is a terrible thing to waste.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thank you, ZJ. So happy you could celebrate with us. Nothing like a happy dance and a glass of wine to start off the weekend.

  14. Congratulations ! I can’t imagine how that must feel. I am still 10 years away if everything goes as planned. I am looking forward to reading how you are occupying your time. Please keep writing and let us know if the reality is as good as the dream. Kudos !! Cheers

    -Brian

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thanks, Brian. That’s my biggest fear–wasting the copious amount of time I now have to pursue the things that excite me. But I do have a great partner (Mrs. G), so I think I’ll be alright.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thanks, Gary. It’s so surreal. I can’t believe I wake up tomorrow and I don’t have to surrender 8 hours of my life to anyone.

  15. HAPPY RETIREMENT!!!!!!!!!

    I’m so happy for you two. It’s great to read about just how hard you worked to get to this point, and your admirable work ethic along the way. I really needed this reminder to take some pride in my work, and think of it as more than just an avenue for escape.

    Have a great weekend celebrating!!! The picture is awesome and sufficiently epic for this special occasion.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thank you, Harmony. We had a lot of fun making FI Gothic. It definitely captures the spirit of financial independence. And thank you for recognizing one the key points of the post: pride in work. I believe it was the economist Walter Williams who said, “There’s no such thing as lowly work, only lowly attitudes.” Doing your job well is key to building a rewarding life. I’m so glad I realized this before it was too late.

  16. Congrats to you both!!

    I started reading your blog after hearing you on RPF. Super idea for the Jr. IRA!! I have loved reading your writing and always enjoy your point of view – this post is no exception! I can’t wait to see what the future brings for you. 🙂

    • Mr. Groovy

      It’s a great but scary feeling. I just hope we use all this free time well. Thanks for your kind words, Maggie. I really appreciate it.

  17. Well, first of all a hearty congratulations on reaching the big day!! The end of something and the beginning of something even greater.

    Great song choice if I say so myself. If you have never seen Bruce play, I would highly recommend it.

    Loved the artwork and the melding of two themes in a very clever and classy way.

    Now with all this time on your hands, just remember “Time flies and you are now the pilot….”

    Enjoy this weekend and beyond!

    • Mr. Groovy

      It’s hard to believe a song that mentions “suicide” is the perfect anthem for retirement. But it is. The Twitter voters made a great choice. And I love your point about managing time. We’ve been good stewards of our money. Will we be good stewards of our time? Oh, the pressure! Thanks for stopping by, Mr. PIE. Always appreciate your thoughts.

  18. That is awesome! Congrats on being done. Getting financially independent at 55 isn’t so bad! Most people won’t be done for another 10 years or more!

    You should get yourself on some more podcasts now that you have this free time. Really enjoyed hearing you on Radical Personal Finance some time ago.

    • Mr. Groovy

      My friends are shocked that Mrs. G and I are retiring. They’re all looking to retire in their mid to late 60s. And thanks for the thumbs up on my RPF appearance. I cringe when I hear my Noo Yawk accent. Thanks for stopping by, FP. I really appreciate your kind words.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Definitely surreal. But we’re the ones who are really envious. We beat you by a couple of months, but you beat us by twenty years! Definitely looking forward to your Airstream adventures. And can’t wait for you guys to roll into the southeast so we can meet up. Thanks for your kind words, Steve. Made my day.

    • Mr. Groovy

      We didn’t consider putting the artwork on the wall. What a great idea. Love the way your mind works, Matt. Thank you for suggesting that.

  19. Congrats, Mr. & Mrs. G! I can’t wait to hear about your upcoming adventures… and see more of your artwork!

    I’m sure that in retirement as well as your more recent working life you’ll set the bar high.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thank you, Julie. Our adventure for 2017 is going to be building a house. Our marriage survived us both working from home. Will it survive building a house?

    • Mr. Groovy

      Chinese take-out, cocktails with Doc Porter’s vodka, and a few episodes of the Trailer Park Boys on Netflix–what a great way to celebrate retirement. Thanks for your support, Ty.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Yeah, we escaped New York in 2006. Mrs. Groovy is a Brooklyn gal, and I’m a Long Island boy. We have a lot of fond memories of our New York days, and there are a lot of great people up there, but we don’t miss it. We much prefer the laid-back South. Thank you for your kind words, Brian. I really appreciate it.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thank you, TJ. It’s definitely surreal. I’ve been working since I was 16. Can I survive without the daily grind? I think so, but only time will tell.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thank you, Penny. That art appreciation class I took in college really paid off. Prior to taking that class, I was aware of the famous picture of the farmer and his wife. I had no idea it was called American Gothic.

  20. I assume today is your last working day? Or when was your last working day this week?

    Now you’ll work only IF you wanna! The beatnik cats are FREE!!!!! I’m so happy for you and Mrs. G.

    So what will you guys do with your time now? What comes next? Are you really going to FinCon 2017?

    P.S. Are you going to come out of the anonymous blogger closet?

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Lila. We’re about 50-50 right now on FinCon 2017. Dallas is a fun city and we got a bunch of friends there. So we’ll see. It all depends on our move to the Wake Forest area goes. If we get things wrapped by the end of the summer, we’ll probably go. And we’re still debating about coming out. We like the anonymity, but we have nothing to hide from our employers any longer. The plot thickens.