Retiring Early To Do Art Full Time

Aug 11, 2017 / Day Job & the Practical / goal setting / financial independence retire early (FIRE)

So recently, I got obsessed with FIRE. Do you know what that is? It stands for Financial Independence Retire Early.

I’m not sure how I got into this topic, but it had something to do with looking at my new artwork for the past six months and writing that mid-year review blog post.

I spent every weekend for the first half of the year on A Million Suns, trying to finish it, but when I first looked at the whole work-in-progress a few weeks ago, I got scared. It just didn’t look good.

Artistic Failure Hurts

I should be prepared for moments like this. Artistic setback is common. I should not abandon the work and throw in the towel just because the work is not promising. I took a step back and thought about how to improve.

I had to be honest with myself: I wasn’t devoting enough time to my artwork.

That’s when I started thinking I needed to do art full-time.

Day Job Benefits from My Artist Mindset

Since graduating from my MFA three years ago, I’ve championed the idea of combining a day job with art-making. My day job definitely benefits from my artist mindset. I still think it’s the best way to go. I have a day job so that the money-making part doesn’t have to enter the picture and stress me out. Currently, I’m one of those weekend artists. I work full time during the week and then do art during the weekend.

But perhaps this isn’t enough. I need to do this full time, or as Stephen Pressfield (author of The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle) calls it: turning professional.

So I started thinking, “Is there a way to do art sooner rather than later?”

And that’s when I discovered FIRE:

It got me thinking if they can do it, why can’t I? I could retire early and devote more time to art.

High-Level Plan for Retiring Early

FIRE people recommend that the first thing you need to do is establish a baseline. How much money do you actually need to live?

If I were to retire early, I estimate that I will need 40K to cover my annual living expenses. I don’t have any debt, I don’t have a mortgage, I don’t have a car, I don’t have cable. I’m frugal by nature. I recognize that even in the 40K estimate, there is fluff. A lot. I’ve started to keep track of my actual expenses to validate this 40K estimate.

How Am I Going to Fund $40K?

I get to benefit from the choices I’ve made in the past. Through habit and luck more than design, I’ve been continuously saving for 25 years. So the fact that I was an accountant at the beginning (as opposed to being an artist from the start) has a silver lining after all.

I’ve always thought I was on the wrong road: choosing a practical and safe career rather than pursuing something that was more creative. Right or wrong, it doesn’t matter now. It’s done. All I can do is start where I am. I can quit my job and have a safe cash base to draw on while I build my art career online.

An art career will take time obviously, so in the meantime, how do I bridge the gap that is not covered by my investment portfolio?

Well, the goal is to make that gap with income that I will make through art. I will not actually be twiddling my thumbs once I retire. Retiring may be the wrong word to use. Maybe it should be a career switch.

What if I Make Zero Income from Art?

If you were to read FIRE blogs, an annual withdrawal rate of 4% from your investment portfolio is considered to be safe (i.e. at this withdrawal rate, it is unlikely that you will run out of money before you die). Some blogs, like, mention 3%, which would be more conservative. So this means for example, that if you need 40,000 every year for your retirement, you should have an investment portfolio of 40,000 / .04 = 1 million dollars. If you want to be more conservative, then you can set your withdrawal rate to 3%. In this case, you will need 40,000 / .03 = 1.3 million. The more conservative you set your withdrawal rate, the larger your investment portfolio has to be.

The Epiphany

Here’s what I realized: At the rate that I’m saving, I will reach this goal in 2 years.

A lot of assumptions are built into this scenario in terms of my health, my job performance, unexpected life events, taxes, inflation, and the performance of the stock markets. I invest in index funds so they generally track market returns.

The bottom line is I could devote more time to art without worrying too much about money. I’m using what I’ve achieved so far to transition to something else. Call it retirement or career switch. I’m FIRED up again.

Useful FIRE Resources

If you want to read more about Financial Independence and Retiring Early, I’ve done a lot of binge reading in the past several weeks.

Blog Posts:


“I’m Just Not Creative” Says the Robot

What I Would Have Done Differently To Become An Artist

Haircutting 101: the Coronavirus Edition
Coronavirus vs FIRE
Simple Retirement Calculator

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