Happy New Year and Reflections on 2019

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As my last post of 2019, I wanted to say Happy Holidays to everyone. Hope you had a great year, and here’s to 2020 being even better!

Now, at the end every year, in between celebratory champagne and the New Year’s Eve countdown, Wanderer and I always love to reflect back on everything that happened during the year.

And boy, do we have a lot to reflect on.

So much has happened this year! I swear I’ve been saying this every year since we retired in 2015, but every year it just seems to be getting even more cray cray!


Quit Like a Millionaire

2019 marked the birth of our book baby “Quit Like Millionaire”, which rocked up the Amazon charts to #1 in multiple categories. Thank you so much to everyone who supported us and bought our book! Special shout-out to all the Chautauquans and readers who signed up to our book launch team and helped us share and retweet book-related posts/announcements. You’re the best!

Now, as incredible as it is to have published a book, I also realized this year that accomplishing your dreams doesn’t lead to everlasting happiness. If you’re prone to anxiety, it sticks with you, no matter how many goals you accomplish. Even though “Quit Like a Millionaire” became a best-seller, I still lost sleep and had anxiety about what the “next thing is”. As it turns out, becoming FI doesn’t change who you are. It simply gives you the time to work on yourself. 

After nearly 5 years of retirement, we’ve basically fulfilled all our needs on Maslow’s hierarchy, and that’s when we started to think about the bigger picture.

And speaking of the bigger picture…

Playing with FIRE


Playing with FIRE from 99 Bravo Productions on Vimeo.

2019 is also the release of the first FIRE documentary “Playing with FIRE”, which marks a huge milestone for the FIRE movement, as it was featured on US News as one of the top 10 finance movies of the decade! If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you can get it on iTunes, Amazon, Vimeo, and other platforms! And if you have family or friends who don’t get this lifestyle, get this movie so they can finally understand what you’re trying to do. Don’t worry, it might take a bit of time, (I’ve been there), but they’ll eventually come around.

“The FIRE is Spreading”

It’s remarkable how far the movement has come since we first discovered Mr. Money Mustache and JLCollins in 2011. Back then, whenever a new early retiree got featured in the news, words like “cheap skate” or “weirdo” or “privileged brat” would be plastered above their heads.

But since then, more and more self-made early retirees have come out of the woodwork to prove that no, you don’t need to be born privileged to become FI. And recently, in a Toronto Star article in which we were featured, the ubiquitous section where the so-called finance expert spews pithy fear-mongering quotes like “play with fire and you will get burned” has been replaced with:

“They were very smart about it,” added Gray, an Ottawa-based certified financial planner with Money Coaches Canada. She credits the Toronto couple for working hard, boosting their financial literacy and constantly monitoring their finances.

Gray recently worked with a young couple who “were on fire” to follow Shen and Leung’s lead. With two small kids and a house, they wanted to quit their well-paying jobs, sell the house and go off the grid, she said. Her job was “to run the numbers for them and confirm they were on the right path.”

Wow. I didn’t see that coming. 

To quote Brad and Jon from ChooseFI, the FIRE is spreading, my friends! Thank you for helping us spread the message. FIRE may not be mainstream yet, but more and more people are realizing this is not a scam, but a mathematically proven method to living life on your own terms.

Finding Our Peeps

Being an outlier can be incredibly rewarding, but also isolating. This is why we were so excited to be speakers again at the Chautauqua retreats in the UK and Portugal this year. Our Chautauquan family keeps growing and it’s rewarding to see all the lifelong friendships that have been formed. We’ve even been fortunate to be able to travel with a number of Chautauquans this year in places all around the world. Who knows, maybe we’ll form a future travelling Chautauqua commune?

For those of you who didn’t get a chance to attend last year, be sure to sign up on the mailing list to get first dibs on the 2020 Chautauqua to avoid disappointment as these events are limited and sell out fast.


At the beginning of this year we mentioned our New Years resolution is to get a FIRE TV show made. Now, there are things in development I can’t talk about yet, but stay tuned next year for some exciting news!

And with that, Wanderer and I would like to wish all of you a Happy New Year. Thank you all for reading, and stay tuned for a breakdown of our 2019 spending, earnings, and investments in the new year!

How has your 2019 been? What are your plans for 2020? Let me know in the comments below. 

And finally, let’s all say good-bye to 2019 in style:

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37 thoughts on “Happy New Year and Reflections on 2019”

  1. Wow, what a year! Congratulations on all your accomplishments. I know you worked hard for them. Happy holidays and good luck in 2020. Maybe we’ll run into you guys again next year. 😉

  2. Congratulations on your book! I’ve still got to read it. Do you mind sharing some of your pros and cons of writing the book?

    Such a busy year in 2019. So what’s next on your Maslow‘s hierarchy of needs?



    1. Thanks, FS! I would say the biggest pro is the impact–all that positive e-mails and social media messages we get from readers on a daily basis. The downside is marketing. Man, marketing is hard work.

      My next need is just learning how to “be” and not “do”. As I get older, I realizing that if I’m also stuck in “future planning” mode as an overachiving A-type, I don’t stop enough to smell the roses. So I’ll be doing a lot of that.

      Hope you have a wonderful 2020 with your family!

  3. As fellow a FIRE discoverer in 2011 and another Canadian family who has reached FI in our early 30s, I too agree that the FIRE sure is spreading! And it’s so wonderful to see!!

    Amazing year for you guys in 2019 and I’m sure this new decade will be filled with more greats.

    Your book was awesome – I’ve recommended it to many people we know, both Americans and Canadians.

    We are hosting a local free viewing of the Playing With FIRE documentary in Calgary in February so we’re excited to continue to spread the fire. Very much looking forward to a FIRE tv show to share with others too!!

    Cheers to a fulfilling 2019 and an exciting 2020 ahead!


    1. Thanks, Court, for spreading the message and for your kind words on QLM! Let me know how the screening goes 🙂

    1. Ditto, Sara! It was so nice to meet you both. Bryce especially loved his deep philosophical discussions about DS9 with John 😀

  4. yet another failed FIRE on the news feed today. He was critical of bloggers, how they ‘try to out do each other’.

    seems, ya better have a passion once ya get out of a Dodge, as boredom and rising costs of living can slowly erode. In addition i think the reality of 2018 markets returns hit many hard (balanced funds were down 3%). recency bias has its ways of false sense of security. Worry, doubt start to creep in

    1. I think that FIRE is not about outdoing one another. FIRE is about having option to do things which one likes without the burden of finance.


  5. Bravo on the great year and thank you, thank you, thank you for keeping up regular blog posts throughout all of your other accomplishments instead of converting to sometimes posting the way many other bloggers do. It is much appreciated!

    1. Thanks, MJ! Yeah, I see how tempting it is to stop posting once you reach the FI goal. It’s hard to get retirees to do stuff ;D Luckily, we just enjoy writing so can’t stop doing it. Glad it’s been helpful to you.

  6. Currious but why happy holidays rather than Merry Christmas?

    Never liked HH seems so meh, kind of like a weak handshake.

    Regardless Seasons Greetings anyways

    1. Some people don’t celebrate Christmas. Meh. It’s just a random choice of words. I grew up not celebrating Christmas so I’m not that attach to it.

      Seasons Greetings works too 🙂 Have a good one!

      1. Interesting, due to a church I belonged to we (our family) stopped celebrating Christmas for a number of years, so when people said Merry Christmas I always said Seasons Greetings. Obviously retailers don’t allow the fact that not everyone celebrates Christmas get in the way of good sales 😝

  7. “After nearly 5 years of retirement, we’ve basically fulfilled all our needs on Maslow’s hierarchy” is an illusion.

    The bottom two layers grew within you!

    Most people are much more biological than they can consciously perceived!

  8. Congrats on your book. I couldn’t agree with you more when you write that getting rich isn’t about money, it’s about time and how you use it. That’s something to keep in mind in 2020 and beyond.

  9. I’m still angry at you because you weren’t around a billion years ago when I was in high school and college to tell me about FIRE that hadn’t been invented yet! Boo-hoo!

    But it’s never too late to move in the right direction!

    Hey, about your movie–have you managed to place it in any theaters, maybe off-the-beaten-path type flickhouses?

    I’d love to see a showing here in Taiwan. I bet you could get a venue at someplace like the Taipei Film House (former US Consulate that has 2 nice restaurants and a small movie theater for mostly non-US foreign movies) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taipei_Film_House
    or the former Republic of China Air Force Headquarters: http://www.overthecity.asia/hiddentaiwan/2016/11/6/taipei-air-force-headquarters
    If you ever plan such a move, let me know & I’ll blast the news out of Facebook to expats of all stripes. You might be shocked at the variety of folks that show up.


    Dan V
    Still angry! 🙂

    1. Haha. I’ll let my parents know–they should’ve gotten busy earlier.

      Dan, if you’d like to set up a local showing in Taiwan, feel free to connect with Scott, the producer via http://playingwithfire.co/, and maybe something can be arranged. Thanks for offering to share it!

  10. Done! Now it’s your turn to go back in your FIRE Time Machine and get the folks to get busy! Ha ha ha!

    Dan V

  11. Congratulations on all of your accomplishments this year! I remember last year people were going crazy for that Marie Condo show on Netflix and a bunch of people were jumping on the minimalism bandwagon so hopefully your show can be as successful as that one was but for FIRE instead.

    Our most immediate plans for 2020:

    my spouse just finished the 2nd issue of his comic and will be releasing it for free online within the next week and he has already started working on another project.

    I will be signing up for another season of choir and plan to re-record all of my original songs and record a couple that I wrote years ago but never released.

  12. Congratulations on all your accomplishments. That’s a pretty cool year that I would consider an epic one! Would you consider this year be your best in retirement yet?

    Two great points from Casey Neistat that have resonated a lot for me as I closed 2019:
    – Time goes faster as we age. (For instance for a 5 years old, a year is 20% of his/her entire life while for a 30 years old, it’s just 3.3% of his/her entire life – or 6 time faster)
    – Life is defined by what we’ve done in the past as well as what we aspire to do in the future. As a teenager, much of our life is defined by what we want to do in the future and we live in this future. But as we age, so much of how we are is define by our past.

    What’s the bottom line? “Life move pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might just miss it :-)”

    Hope you will reflect on those thoughts as much as I’ve been as we’ve been designing what we wanted out of this brand new decade for ourselves!

  13. Love your Blog and read your book last month, it was amazing. Honestly the best finance book I have ever read and I think it changed my life.

    I started my personal finance journey in 2017 (when I was only 18/19). I am now 21 and am absolutely OBSESSED with learning about FI and finance in general. I actually work for two financial advisors and worked at a bank previously.
    I am constantly crunching the numbers. I know my husband and I can retire at 30 if we want to, or work until 32+ and be extra comfortable in our retirement. (and we have medium incomes) We are only 21 and 23, but we have a positive Net Worth, even though we have a mortgage. (Owning a home of our own was something we really cared about. The house is small and was only $135,000, but is nice quality. We live in a small town in MN so housing is VERY cheap.)

    Just wanted to say thank you for putting your story out there and sharing your experiences and exact numbers. I plan on doing the same because it can be so beneficial for others! I’m trying to help friends and family as much as I can also.

    You and your husband are awesome, Thank you!

  14. Happy New Year! It took willpower but the final crumbs of the cheese straws have been thrown in the trash and all the Christmas candy has been consumed.

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