Reflections on Seven Years of FIRE

I am Lizard King of Financial Velociraptor; I’ve been blogging about my early retirement and approach to trading since 2015. 

I’ve been retired since 5OCT2012.  Today, I’m reflecting on the upcoming seventh anniversary of my emancipation day.

First off, this isn’t to brag or toot my own horn.  It is to give back to the community and let the people who are still on their financial independence journey know that 1) the end goal is achievable by normal people like me and 2) it is SO worth it.

I am enormously happier now that my schedule is my own.  And I have learned a few things after seven years of self-reflection that I’d like to share.


The biggest thing that has changed since going FIRE for me has been improved health.  I feel so much better and have so much more energy.  It is ironic because now that I don’t need a ton of energy to get everything done (there is less that needs to be done and more time to do it), I have more than ever.

People have told me that I look better too.  And it isn’t just the weight loss. I have a sort of post-retirement glow now where my deep contentment comes through in my eyes and face.


Initially, after retiring, I spent a lot of time sleeping.  You don’t realize just how much of a toll sleep deprivation takes on your body or just how long it takes to normalize your circadian rhythms.  Today, I sleep less, probably 7 hours a day.  But the quality is so much better.  When you have to be up for a job and a “clown car commute” through traffic, you are under a lot of pressure to get your sleep in at a specific time.  I find that inhibits quality sleep.

These days if I find myself up at 2:00 AM tossing and turning, I don’t push myself to sleep.  I get up, check email, drink some water, and maybe do some light cleaning or reading.  I feel no stress about missing sleep because when I inevitably get tired around lunch, I can take a nap.  I go back to bed whenever I’m ready or even not at all.  It is such a relief to not lie in bed under mental stress because of heavy demands the following day.  And friends noted within about six months that the dark bags under my eyes had disappeared.


When you work long hours, your diet suffers.  In my case, it was fast food, usually Taco Bell for dinner after work.  And a meal that was probably too fatty and too salty from the lunchroom cafeteria for lunch.  Now, I have time to make delicious complicated salads.

Today’s includes green leaf lettuce, beets, grated squash, baby carrots, broccoli, sliced tomato fresh from my garden, red onion, raisins, croutons, imitation bacon bits, mushrooms, black olives, grated cheese, jalapenos, and low fat ranch dressing.  It was delicious, low calorie, high fiber, and low fat.  I also had a can of sardines over crackers to add some protein.


I didn’t get enough exercise in while I was working.  Now I never fail to get in three weightlifting workouts a week and usually get a couple of cardio sessions in too.  Today’s workout went well with all lifts completed.

I put in bonus time on the bike for cardio because when I went to leave it was raining.  I was free to do another twenty minutes and not worry about who would complain about me being late.  And the gym is mostly empty at 3 PM on a Wednesday.

I’m stronger, more limber, and firmer as a result.  And I look better naked.  I do have to keep the special Lady Lizard in my life satisfied after all!


I’ve lost over 50 pounds, rather effortlessly, and kept it off.  I’m still not down to my ideal weight, but I’m getting there at about a pound or two a month without making myself miserable.  Ten pounds a year starts to add up if I’m making an effort.


Admittedly, this is in the Too Much Information department, but my BM’s are so much better.  I’ve become convinced that work-related stress produces hormones that act as binding agents.

Now, it is a joy to pass a smooth stool effortlessly.  If I could do it again now that I understand how important that is too good health, I’d recommend anyone still working on getting more fiber in their diet.


I didn’t realize it while I was working, but my mental health was less than ideal.  I have a mild case of Tourette’s Syndrome.  My tics made me pretty annoyed when I was working.

When I removed stressors, they largely subsided to where they are usually unnoticeable by strangers.  I had non stop delight at first, but after the first year or so, I slipped into deep contentment with myself and my lot in life.



I no longer sometimes feel defeated.  If a challenge comes up, I always feel actively I’ll find a way to overcome.  Before things sometimes seemed impossible and I’d want help.  Now I start eating the elephant one bite at a time.


I used to be very concerned with what other people thought of me.  I’ve had to learn since retiring that what I did for money was not who I was.  And that when people judge me, they are the ones with a personal problem.  Time off builds self-esteem.


I have more time for the family now.  I sadly didn’t get to spend enough time with my mother before she died.  But I now have lunch with my father about four days a week.

We take trips together and sometimes talk on the phone or get together to burn a fire during the winter months.  It matters.  If you have a family you care about, giving them your time instead of more money is the best thing you can do.  Focus on what matters.


One of the greatest gifts of early retirement is the time to think.  I quickly discovered I didn’t know who I was as a person outside of work and finally got to get in touch with what mattered to me personally instead of what some boss thought should matter.


I’m convinced the reason I was unhappy as an accountant and why so many people are unhappy in their careers is their job does not conform to their core values.  Hell, most people when you as what their core values are can’t give you a straight answer.

What do you the odds are you can select a career that is a good fit if you don’t know what matters to you?  I’ve found authenticity and flexibility are super important to me as well as humor and music (more below).


Laugh!  It releases endorphins and lets you not take yourself too seriously.  I now do a Sunday Punday on my blog where I post five jokes or memes, usually pun related.  It makes me happy.  Don’t live a humorless life.

“I went to the zoo.  There was a baguette in a cage.  The zookeeper said it was … bread in captivity.”


I listen to music, probably more than twelve hours a day now.  It wasn’t practical when I had a desk job.  You couldn’t play it out loud from the cubes, and I’ve never been able to tolerate earbuds.

Plus, I think management frowned on the impression if someone appeared not to be 100% focused on their work. I have lots of Pandora stations and am abusing the free platform.


This is the least important part, but I find people just don’t read my stuff if I don’t talk about money.  Believe me, that once you have enough, you’ll quickly realize it is a trivial thing.

Anyway, I am a FIRE heretic because I think the 4% rule is bunk and a retail investor can withdraw safely at a higher rate with just a little maneuvering.


Your bond allocation is essential.  I target a 40% fixed income and will be increasing when the credit cycle turns, and there are great bargains in the distressed bond space. There are lots of closed-end funds that trade for a discount to their net asset value that is invested and bonds and pay upwards of 10% a year even in this low market rate environment.

I’d be glad to share how you find them to anyone who emails me at financial [dot] velociraptor [at] Gmail [dot] com.  I recently bought JQC when it was yielding over 16%.  A fixed income portfolio yielding 10% and comprising 40% of the assets covers the 4% rule before considering any capital gains from the equity allocation.


Three sectors are traditionally higher yield in the US markets.  This is because these three sectors have a tax incentive to distribute all of their cash profits substantially to owners.  These are Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), Business Development Companies (BDCs), and Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs).

Yields over 8% are common while still enjoying modest capital appreciation over time.  I keep another 20% here.


I keep the remaining 40% of my portfolio in options.  I know this scares a lot of people because options CAN be risky.  But if you are using them right, you will always structure a trade such that it lowers your risk instead of increasing it.

I recently gave tutorials on how to buy net debit spreads that put only a few hundred dollars at risk, have protection against up to a several percent moves in price against you and have hundreds of percent expected annualized returns.  You can read these tutorials for Bull Call Spreads, and Bear Put Spreads by clicking the links.

About the Author

Lizard King is early retired from a mind-numbing accounting career. He was first in his family to go to University and had to figure out a way to pay for that himself.  He retired from the corporate world on 5OCT2012 at the tender age of 40 anyway.  He blogs at, listens to music and has a peculiar obsession with velociraptors.

5 thoughts on “Reflections on Seven Years of FIRE”

  1. I was always curious about Master Limited Partnerships. I know MLPs trade on exchanges but I am curious how big of a market is for MLPs? In other words if I want to sell it right now will there be a buyer?

    1. Goat Finja,

      MLPs are fine for liquidity. I don’t know anyone that has ever had a liquidity issue with them. Also, there are many ETFs, ETNs, and CEFs that you can use. You’ll want to read up on the prospectus and understand them. Most are structured as a c-corp. So you give up some of the tax benefits.

      An MLP etf I used is MLPA. Likewise for BDCs I used etf BIZD, and for REITs I use SRET, REM, REET, VNQ, and VNQI.

  2. Goat Finja,

    Most are highly liquid. If you are concerned about liquidity, avoid microcap MLPs. By definition they are involved in infrastructure and usually represent multi billion dollar assets. It is unusual for them to be too small to have good liquidity.

    The price behavior can be a little irrational (that is your edge if you let it be). For example, pipeline MLPs are basically toll roads. They earn revenue on the volume of hydrocarbons they carry and are largely insulated from commodity pricing. But they often track the price of oil and gas. Hint: use that as your signal to buy low and sell high.

  3. Great post Financial Velociraptor.

    I have been reading your blog for about a year or two. I haven’t dipped my toes into options yet, although I do use a few option-focused ETFs and CEFs (ex: etf QYLD, cef QQQX).

    I completely agree with you on the fixed income, high-yield RICs, CEFs, etc. I don’t have a fixed asset allocation. I’m also not retired yet, but getting close.

    The first thing I did was build up a dividend growth portfolio using etfs VYM and VYMI, split 50/50. I have around $400k in those and 2019 div income should be around $16k. Div growth rate should be around 6%-8% most years.

    I’m now building up my high yield income using ETFs and CEFs. Targeting fixed income, the high-yield RIC sectors, and option income. I am working on building this up to $100k-$200k range for income of around $8k-$16k per year. To retire I need around $24k per year and I have $16k already from dividend growth (which took a long time to build up). I figure I can get the remaining $8k in just 2-3 more years. I’m 43 right now.

    1. jh,

      Thanks for reading and gogogogogogo!

      I can’t give personalized financial advice (licensing issues) but I tell everyone I think your fixed income allocation is essential in FIRE, especially in the beginning when you are most exposed to sequence of returns risk.

      Psychologically, it is also important to sleep at night. You don’t want to trade work stress for a different type of stress!

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