Burning Desire For FIRE

Financial-Independence-Retire-Early(er). Achieved the first two letters of FIRE, now onto the rest!

One More Year?

Dwight Shrute meme

I tot up my net worth at the end of each calendar month. It doesn’t take long – it’s not as if I have a hugely complicated estate, after all – and I have a table that I record my figures on. I don’t include The Best House in Melbourne’s value on the table because the purpose of the exercise is to track my progress towards my “FI” number. You can’t eat your house, after all!

My ‘FI number’ is the dollar amount that I’ve estimated I’ll need before I can think about pulling the pin on my job. Financial Independence is the goal I’m aiming for. I want to have enough money coming in so that I can afford to maintain the lifestyle I have, along with a few added extras like an overseas holiday every year or so.

I’m a pretty frugal person, so when I say that I’m aiming for ‘FAT FIRE’, I mean that it’s a figure that’s far more than I need to survive on. For many people, my “FAT FIRE” figure will be their ‘LEAN FIRE’ number.

They don’t call it personal finance for nothing!

Anyway, I was totting up my numbers last month and it appears that I’ve passed a fairly significant figure, which puts me at 80% of the way towards my goal. Already! (I was vaguely aiming to get there by the end of the year.) I won’t stay at this level – I’m going to get those security doors and screens I was telling you about last week, along with finishing off the landscaping in the back yard. But still, it’s encouraging to see that this compounding effect that all of the numbers people keep telling us about actually appears to be working.

Last week I was on a podcast, where I was talking with Breanna about how important it is for teachers to get to FI as soon as they can. It gives options and helps us to avoid being one of “those teachers”… the teachers who are burnt out and don’t want to be in the classroom anymore, but they’re forced to stay there because they can’t afford to walk away.

Those of us who are teachers know exactly what I’m talking about – we’ve all worked alongside them. Those of us who have been students know exactly what I’m talking about – we’ve all been taught by at least one person who’s heart has clearly gone out of it, but they plug along regardless.

Teachers like this can do a lot of damage. Kids always know who wants to be in front of them and who doesn’t.

A teacher can make or break kids’ passion for a subject. When I was a student manager I used to interview kids for the subjects they wanted to do for the next year. It was so common for kids to be fired up about a subject because they liked the teacher that had taught them. It’s so important to have people teaching subjects that they love and who eagerly share the really cool things about them.

Now, I’m not saying I’m a burned-out and bitter old crone, but for the first time since I came back to teaching after my 10-year gap when I was raising my pre-schoolers, I can see that the time is approaching when the annoying things about the job will outweigh the fun stuff.

This morning, as my feet hit the floor, I thought to myself, “How about I make it One More Year?” One more year of full-time work, then either pull the pin entirely or drop back to part-time work, but not just for 4 days/week. How about if it was 2 or 3 days?

How would that feel?

One more year of the long commute every weekday…

One more year of getting up in the dark every weekday for most of the year…

One more year of earning over 6 figures so I can Get Things Done…

I reckon I could put up with another year of full-time work if it was the last year of full-time work.

This is an interesting idea for me to kick around. I could always drop back to part-time in 2021 if my ‘FIRE figure’ wasn’t where I wanted it to be, or if the share market looked shaky. One more year of full-time work would mean that all of the big, expensive jobs I want to tick off would almost certainly be finished. Especially if I knew that it was the last year of that level of income.

Then, a trickle of part-time or CRT (supply/emergency teaching) would be enough to have day-to-day expenses taken care of and would keep me in touch with the young folk and all of their newfangled ways.

Hmmm…

I don’t mind saying that the very idea has made a huge difference to my day.

Of course, as Murphy’s Law would have it, once I thought of this, today has turned out to be a very easy day on the job. I read ‘Coraline’ aloud to one group of year 7’s and I watched the movie for 2 periods with the other year 7’s. I’m in front of my angelic year 9’s who are working their way through some language analysis in their textbook and no one needs any help. The only class that’ll have any sort of grunt in them will be my year 8’s at the end of the day.

When I have days like today, I wonder why I’d ever contemplate leaving. Why would I leave such a cushy job paying 6 figures to loll around at home with my dogs all day? Am I mad?!?

Given this, and assuming I’m not actually mad, towards the end of 2020, I’d better hope for any of the following to happen:

  • an annoying helicopter parent to pop up and harass me.
  • a new government teaching initiative to come along that will either offer nothing new at all/has been tried 20 years ago and it didn’t work then either/will mean bucketfuls of extra work for no benefit to the students in front of us.
  • notification that a staff member that I find intensely annoying will be moved to the desk beside mine in the staffroom.
  • I’ve been named to teach year 12 English the next year.

Any one of those will be enough to push me over the edge and get my to drop my hours. A combination of these would probably get me to drop the job entirely!

It’s an idea that I’ll continue to mull over. It gives me time to sort out what I want to do before I jump into anything too reckless. I can access my Super in 3 years, so the part-time/CRT route gives a gentle glide-path down towards being fully reliant on that money.

If I keep on working full-time without any clear end in sight, I can see that I’ll become burnt-out and I’ll be one of ‘those’ teachers.

But I can certainly keep going at the pace I’m at if I know it’s for one more year…

10 Comments

  1. LOL! That brings back memories. My ‘one more year’ lasted all of 2 months!

  2. I must say, I fear of the day I become one of those burnt out teachers. I’m only 9 years into this career, so it’s still early days, but the workload is building at an immense rate. Not to mention the personal pressure I put on myself to do better, to increase standards more, and generally just be a better teacher.

    I too want to reach FI before I get burnt out – I don’t ever want to be one of those teachers that are just waiting to retire. Here’s hoping!

    • If you’re clear-sighted and have the goal in front of you, your odds are better than average.
      I think I’ve had so much longevity because I taught for 6 years, then had a full decade off while I was birthing and raising my kids. I had a solid break. Now, after 14 or 15 years of full-time teaching, I’m looking forward to the new way ahead.

  3. My dad retired early from teaching for exactly this reason (although not with the FI approach you’ve taken!) and after watching my then-11yo be very negatively affected by a teacher who in retrospect was clearly burnt out, I say go for it if the numbers work!! Excited to follow your journey.

  4. You might consider dropping some of your extra-curricular next year so that you’re there to answer questions and lend a hand if needed but also to give yourself a break in the transition year. I’m at the same stage with one year left to reach my financial goal. I am considering working until the end of December of the next year though just so I can finish with the end of our income tax year in Canada.

    • Apart from working weekends and holidays with my Theatre kids, I don’t have any extra-curricula stuff. There may not be a year 12 Theatre class next year so that problem may simply solve itself.
      It sounds like a great idea to tie up your working life with the end of the tax year… unless you’d be better off woring a litt way into the next tax year to save heaps of tax on the wages you earn then.

  5. I was lucky and don’t think I ever encountered a single burned-out teacher. Don’t know how that happened, but I’m grateful. I guess it helps that Alaskan school teachers are paid very well, but still not enough to compensate for all of the work they do before and after school (and during, come to that).

    It sounds like one more year may be all that you can handle, if you can handle that. So I hope for your sake you have more days like today during this coming year and then all the stuff that’ll motivate you to leave will happen at just the right time.

    • It’s astonishing how much more spring I have in my step since coming up with this plan.
      I’m thinking of making a checklist of projects I want to complete before I leave my job. I have a sneaking suspicion that being able to tick them off one by one will also be a wonderful motivator to keep on turning up (at least in the medium to short term!)

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