Operation Non-Legal Eagle

This bird is lucky. He is not a legal eagle. He is a Bald Eagle. A non-legal eagle. One day, I aspire to emulate this bird; to also not be a legal eagle.

Bald Eagle--Great Bear Rainforest
Bald Eagle–Great Bear Rainforest

I’ve become a bit obsessed about this aspiration. My latest early-retirement hero has fueled that obsession. I crunch numbers on this calculator like a woman possessed. Posts like this one on the 4 Percent Rule have me feeling heartened. Instead of thinking I have to continue in my mind-numbing, soul-sucking profession for Ten More Years, it’s possible I could be done as early as the close of 2016. (And giving up booze has given my savings rate a bit of a boost.)

Although the end date is still somewhat malleable, I’ve begun a countdown of sorts: inspired by this post, I’ve stuck neat little rows of Post-It flags inside a cabinet above my office desk. One flag for each remaining week. Granted, I’ve got a few more rows than he does, but knowing the end is indeed in sight makes continuing to report to work each week slightly more tolerable. I’ve had the pleasure of removing two flags, already.

Operation Non-Legal Eagle is in place. There’s nothing more to do for now, other than to relax and allow the passage of time to do its work on my growing nest egg. And to dream of how my life will look once I’m free to spread my wings and fly. (A bit overboard with the puns, I know.)


  • I really need to sit down and crunch numbers like this. Sometimes when I think about the massive wall of student debt I’m trying to scale, I just want to curl up and cry.

    Right now I’m just focusing on the staying sober bit, but eventually I’d love to be where you are. I’m so far from being an eagle, I might as well be a worm :(.


    • I have been in that exact spot. My law school debt was enormous (the size of a mortgage) and carried a 7.5% interest rate. I bought stupid shit rather than throwing every spare penny at it. What a huge mistake. Once I became responsible for managing my mother’s finances, I became a quick study. A very good place to start, not overwhelming and very entertaining reading, is http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/blog/. This guy turned my financial life around. Your strategy of keeping your focus on the #1 priority (sobriety!) is right on. But this guy might provide fodder for wiping out that student debt, and let you know it’s very doable. And the money saved not buying booze will help!


      • Bookmarking the site now. Thanks for the tip… it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who’s managed to blow money that should have been thrown at student debt. I have so much regret for my first 5 years out of school… ugh! I’ll definitely give this a read.

        Liked by 1 person

  • And here I thought I was your prime early retirement inspiration. No matter. I did it at age 55, which was 15 years ago. I detect lots of planning and minutia cluttering your mind. Perhaps it’s a lawyer thing. Maybe that will work. I did virtually no planning.

    You did not ask, but here is how I did it.

    1. No debts, none.
    2. A modicum of income to get you to age 62.
    2. Do it.

    I moved to Mexico, and it’s considerably cheaper to live here. It’s far nicer too, a bonus. As mentioned, scant planning was done. I decided to retire in August of 1999, did it in December of 1999, got rid of 99 percent of my “stuff,” and I was in Mexico lugging two suitcases at the end of January 2000, a month later.

    I did lots of worrying during late 1999, mostly about finances. I did have investments — stocks and bonds in mutual funds. But just think of it as jumping off a cliff and putting your fate into the hands of Destiny.

    It worked better than I ever dreamed. The bizarre thing is how I have more net worth now than I did in 1999, and I haven’t worked a lick since then. The Goddess looks after you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, planning and minutia and clutter! Which is why I need to retire. I don’t think the Three Black Cats would take too kindly to being shuttled off to Mexico in a suitcase. And having an elderly mother to look after puts the kibosh on that kind of freedom. For the time being, anyway. I have no debt other than a mortgage. At 3.5% interest, it hardly makes sense to pay it off early.

      There is something to be said for jumping. It’s taking a lot of self-control for me to step away from the eff-you-BigLaw ledge these days.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No everyone can just chunk it and leave. But you can find a workable variation.
        Consumerism keeps many in that “live to work” rather than “work to live mindset.” Once you’ve cut down to “real needs” vs just “wants” you can gain control.
        Goals are good – and you are right on target actually planning and doing. Then you regain control of your destiny and life rather than letting the mall/media direct it.
        If you’ve got ancient relatives you are responsible for, or a chronic disease or illness that tethers you near medical teams, well, life intrudes. Still despite the economy, and all the personal obligations you can still be the free eagle and live on your terms. Easier than ever to work contract/ part time in projects once you have had a career/reputation for good work established. More and more are utilizing work at home, piece work, and internet commuting. Live on your terms. You can do it and are well on your way!


        • I was definitely a consumer. The practice of law, at least the kind of law I practice, practically requires it. Fancy car, fancy clothes, fancy home. Luckily I kept above the fray for about the past decade when it comes to the bigger-ticket items, like houses and cars and boats. And now I’ve foresworn virtually all of it. Funny how just striving for freedom results in a bit of freedom. I love the idea of contract work, but for the fact it would require me to continue doing legal work. Maybe once free of a formal practice, it wouldn’t be so distasteful. Something to research while I add to my stash. Having a side income would add to the comfort level and get me out the door earlier.

          Thanks for the encouragement!

          Liked by 1 person

          • Many arenas require costume and settings. It easily becomes a trap.
            You have training and skills that are marketable and can transfer to other markets. All sorts of companies like to have a legal expert on call for all sorts of things – even reading scripts/books to make sure the story is accurate. Research skills transfer across disciplines, too. Just widen your view and keep your ears open for potential for the future. Sometimes volunteer work puts you in contact with groups/people you would never expect need your skills – part time paid work appears. You just never know who you’ll run into. Life will show up. Hang in there.


  • You’ve really given me an idea! Thanks! No, not about the flags, but about putting serious effort into planning how I truly want to spend my days… mulling now, mulling.

    Liked by 1 person

  • I love reading this! Manifest it! ๐Ÿ™‚ Also, we took our kids camping in the beautiful Gorges du Verdon this week and I saw a live eagle. It was thrilling.


    • Camping! Sounds wonderful, Dinah. I haven’t done actual camping in ages. I googled Gorges du Verdon. Luck you! It looks spectacular. I don’t think I’d seen a bald eagle before this trip. We saw many, and it was thrilling every time. The one I posted here was very cooperative in allowing me to get the shot.


  • Ella, this is so exciting, you’re so close! I’m really happy for you. Your financial-goals posts have been inspiring me, and I’m totally going to check out the mustache link. I’ve been enjoying a mini-breakโ€”my first real break from work since I started working at about 15. And do I have anything to show for all that work? Not a whole lot. Things need to change now, to make a difference later. Congratulations on seeing the light ahead, and I look forward to reading about your progress!


    • Thank you, Lou! I keep paring down how much it takes to live on, and the quit date keeps getting nearer. Glad to provide inspiration. I feel a bit evangelical about frugality and saving so as to live life on one’s own terms. It’s definitely been a change in priorities for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I can totally relate to this. I’m actually re-evaluating my idea to take a my 12-18 month break from work, as it will seriously deplete my savings. How much better to work towards an early, permanent break? Man, I swear I can hear a choir singing when i say that! (:

        Liked by 1 person

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