From Engineer to Librarian after Financial Independence and Early Retirement (FIRE)

In this edition of the reader story, we meet Sriram discussing his journey from working as an electronic engineer to running a non-profit library after early retirement.About this series: I am grateful to readers for sharing intimate details about their financial lives for the benefit of readers. Some of the previous editions are linked at the bottom of this article. You can also access the full reader story archive.Opinions published in reader stories need not represent the views of freefincal or its editors. We must appreciate multiple solutions to the money management puzzle and empathise with diverse views. Articles are typically not checked for grammar unless necessary to convey the right meaning to preserve the tone and emotions of the writers.If you would like to contribute to the DIY community in this manner, send your audits to freefincal AT Gmail dot com. They can be published anonymously if you so desire.Please note: We welcome such articles from young earners who have just started investing. See, for example, this piece by a 29-year-old: How I track financial goals without worrying about returns. We have also started a new “mutual fund success stories” series. This is the first edition: How mutual funds helped me reach financial independence.Throughout my educational journey, I pursued a path in electronics engineering, diligently working towards earning both my bachelor’s (in India) and master’s (in the USA) degrees. Upon completing my education, I ventured into the professional world and gained invaluable experience as a hardware engineer at reputable companies such as Sun Microsystems, Oracle, and AMD. I dedicated over 15 years of my career to these prominent organizations, striving to excel in my field.During the early stages of my engineering career, I was filled with passion and enthusiasm for my work. However, this fervour was soon tempered by the harsh reality of the corporate world. Witnessing multiple layoffs at Sun Microsystems and Oracle opened my eyes to the fact that employees were often seen as mere numbers in the eyes of big corporations. This realization prompted me to reassess my priorities and explore my passions outside of the workplace.In my quest for fulfilment beyond my professional endeavours, I discovered a newfound love for long-distance running and hiking. These activities provided me with a much-needed sense of solitude and introspection. During my long runs, I delved deep into self-reflection, engaging in a meditative process that allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of myself. It was during these moments of personal introspection that I felt a strong desire to connect with others outsidethe confines of my work environment.Motivated by this newfound perspective, I began seeking ways to make a positive impact outside of my professional life. I became involved in various charitable organizations, including the Association for India’s Development, Swaram, and the India Literacy Project.These organizations, which focused on initiatives such as education and development, resonated deeply with me. Living in the Bay Area of California at the time, I wholeheartedly dedicated my time and effort to these causes.As I immersed myself in the world of philanthropy, I found myself gradually climbing the ranks within Swaram’s organization. I eventually became Executive Producer and Board Member through hard work and dedication. The stage plays charitable initiatives and the incredible individuals I had the opportunity to collaborate with filled my days with purpose and joy. I spent more time at Swaram than at my corporate job at Oracle.However, the tides of change soon came crashing down. In late 2016 and early 2017, Oracle’s hardware division encountered significant challenges, resulting in another round of layoffs. As someone on an H1B visa, I faced a difficult decision: find a new job within a few months or return to India without a job. Fortunately, I managed to secure a position at AMD that offered reasonable compensation. Nonetheless, this turn of events forced me to confront a dilemma.While my volunteer work at Swaram and other charitable organizations brought me immense satisfaction, they did not provide financial compensation. On the other hand, though financially rewarding, my corporate job at AMD lacked the personal fulfilment I yearned for. This conflict propelled me to reevaluate my goals and aspirations.Driven by the fear of another potential layoff in the corporate world, I resolved to save diligently and pursue a different path. I stumbled upon the Financial Independence and Retire Early (FIRE) concept during this period. The FIRE movement, which emphasizes living frugally, investing wisely, and achieving financial independence earlier, resonated deeply with me.Eager to learn more about personal finance and investment strategies, I extensively researched the subject. I was particularly drawn to owning a rental property that could generate passive income. Although the concept intrigued me, the fear of making a substantial financial commitment held me back. Investing a significant portion of my hard-earned savings into a property was daunting, as any setbacks would significantly impact my financial journey for years to come.Despite my reservations, I persevered. After nearly a year of careful consideration andresearch, I mustered the courage to plunge. Though I lacked real estate and property management expertise, I purchased a rental property in Arlington, TX. Its affordability compared to California (where I had resided) influenced the decision.Additionally, being an out-of-state investor added an extra layer of apprehension. Fueled by my burning desire to break free from the corporate world, I forged ahead with the purchase.To augment my financial strategy, I maximized my 401(k) contributions and took full advantage of the mega backdoor Roth IRA option. These actions were essential in building a solid foundation for my future financial independence.I consistently contributed to children’s education initiatives in India through my involvement with organizations like AID, Swaram, and the ILP. Recognizing education’s transformative power, I was convinced that investing in the younger generation was crucial for lasting societal change. The youth possess a malleability that allows for greater impact and a fresh perspective, making it easier to foster change from a clean slate. Therefore, supporting education became a significant priority for me.As I pondered my post-FI (Financial Independence) plans, I embarked on the journey of fatherhood. Witnessing my firstborn’s early affinity for reading, my wife and I prioritised surrounding him with books. During our regular visits to the local library, I was captivated by the inspiring library system in the United States. The experience sparked a longing to provide similar opportunities for children in my hometown of Chennai, India.I began collecting books for the library to turn this vision into reality. Some were purchased for my own children, while others were acquired through monthly used book sales at our local library. Towards the end, I initiated book drives at my children’s schools and contacted Bay Area friends, requesting used book donations. These efforts resulted in a substantial collection.In May 2022, I decided to relocate to India, and by August, my shipment of book boxes had arrived. I officially registered my library as a non-profit trust in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, in mid-December. Finally, on January 1st, 2023, I proudly launched my non-profit children’s library, Prakrith Arivagam.In the initial stages, my library had only a handful of regular members, with a few friends providing financial support. However, the membership numbers fell short of my expectations in the first three months.Thankfully, my story caught the attention of Vikatan, one of the oldest Tamil magazines, and they featured it as a video on Vikatan TV’s YouTube channel.Subsequently, Kungumam, another Tamil weekly, published an article about me and my library in their print and online magazines.Media coverage-Prakrith ArivagamThese two media coverages generated significant publicity for my library, leading to a surge in new member registrations. However, there was an unexpected consequence.As word spread about the library’s popularity within my community, my house owner discovered that I had transformed my living room into a library. Unfortunately, he did not embrace having a library on his premises for unknown reasons.Consequently, I must now find a separate location for the library, which incurs additional costs, that I currently can’t cover. These expenses include commercial rent, utilities such as electricity and internet, and necessary furniture.Though initially daunting, I am grateful to have supportive friends offering financial assistance. While I have not yet reached my fundraising target, I am confident I will attain it soon. Once the library is in its new location, I can launch a more aggressive publicity campaign without fearing displacement.With determination, I believe that the library will become self-sustaining within a year or two, eliminating the need for regular and frequent fundraising efforts.My journey towards financial independence and pursuing my passions has been filled with challenges and triumphs. As I continue to navigate this path, I remain committed to positively impacting the lives of others, particularly in the realm of education.Through my library and involvement in charitable organizations, I hope to inspire and empower the next generation, helping them realize their full potential and create a brighter future for themselves and their communities.If you wish to contribute to Sriram’s cause, you can do so in the following ways.Fundraiser-Prakrith ArivagamGPay-Prakrith ArivagamBank account details:HDFC Selaiyur BranchAccount Name: Prakrith Charitable TrustAccount # 50200077126322RTGS/NEFT IFSC Code: HDFC0000676Reader stories published earlier:As regular readers may know, we publish a personal financial audit each December – this is the 2020 edition: How my retirement portfolio performed in 2020. We asked regular readers to share how they review their investments and track financial goals.These published audits have had a compounding effect on readers. If you would like to contribute to the DIY community in this manner, send your audits to freefincal AT Gmail. They could be published anonymously if you so desire.Do share this article with your friends using the buttons below. 🔥Enjoy massive discounts on our courses and robo-advisory tool! 🔥 Use our Robo-advisory Excel Tool for a start-to-finish financial plan! ⇐ More than 1000 investors and advisors use this! New Tool! => Track your mutual funds and stocks investments with this Google Sheet!Follow us on Google News.Do you have a comment about the above article? Reach out to us on Twitter: @freefincal or @pattufreefincalJoin our YouTube Community and explore more than 1000 videos!Have a question? Subscribe to our newsletter with this form.Hit ‘reply’ to any email from us! We do not offer personalized investment advice. We can write a detailed article without mentioning your name if you have a generic question. Get free money management solutions delivered to your mailbox! Subscribe to get posts via email! Explore the site! Search among our 2000+ articles for information and insight!About The Author Dr M. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the founder, managing editor and primary author of freefincal. He is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. He has over nine years of experience publishing news analysis, research and financial product development. Connect with him via Twitter or Linkedin, or YouTube. Pattabiraman has co-authored three print books: (1) You can be rich too with goal-based investing (CNBC TV18) for DIY investors. (2) Gamechanger for young earners. (3) Chinchu Gets a Superpower! for kids. He has also written seven other free e-books on various money management topics. He is a patron and co-founder of “Fee-only India,” an organisation promoting unbiased, commission-free investment advice. Our flagship course! 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