Five Blissful Months of Early Retirement

Five months into early retirement and I have to say I’m loving it.  I’m not sure why, but I think January was my favorite month of early retirement to date.  Maybe it was a lack of holidays which means more free time.  Maybe I’m simply getting more comfortable with the laid back lifestyle.

 

Early Retirement: Month Five

If you want to see a full chronicle of my early retirement adventures, I produced summaries at one monthtwo months, three months, and four months.

Here’s the five month update of what happens when a 33 year old guy with a few kids doesn’t have to work any more:

  • French language studies at duolingo.com – Last month I reported how I slacked off for all of December and didn’t complete any lessons.  January was the opposite.  I’ve been knocking out a lesson or two on most days, and only occasionally missed a day.  I’ve now completed 9 subsections out of 60 or so.  The difficulty is picking up, but I seem to be retaining knowledge.  I’ll occasionally find myself going over French words or phrases while I’m waiting on the microwave or trying to go to sleep.  The individual duolingo lessons don’t take a lot of time to complete, but the daily exposure keeps my brain percolating in the French language.
  • Blogging – My time devoted to blogging seems to be trailing off compared to a few months ago.  However it’s an activity that I still really enjoy.  Sometimes I’ll get this idea or concept in my head and I have to develop that idea into a full blown article.  Like the “reaching the summit of financial independence” article or the summary of our $22,300 in dividend income.
  • Exercise – January is usually the coldest month of the year here in North Carolina.  In spite of that, I’ve continued the routine of walking the kids to and from school.  That equals a 2 mile walk almost every day.  They claim they like to walk better than drive (on most days).  It gives us a few moments of peaceful time away from the ordinary distractions of daily life to chat or just walk quietly and watch the wildlife.
  • Social – Another fun month of lunches out with old friends, play dates for the kids, birthday parties, and meeting some new people.  Still zero feelings of isolation in early retirement.  I managed to have lunch with some old coworkers that I consider friends to catch up on the latest gossip of the old workplace.
  • Oven update – If you read my November 2013 retirement update, you might recall that our 41 year old oven broke in November and we bought a new one.  We received the new oven in early January and it fit into the existing wall opening perfectly.  After a little wiggling and sliding, that is.  Our kitchen is back up to full operating condition, although we did have a ton of other repair jobs around the house in January.

 

Enjoying a nice snowy day.  In the official Root of Good hammock.

Enjoying a nice snowy day. In the official Root of Good hammock.

 

More Fun Times

In addition to fixing a bunch of things in January, I also spent a beautiful winter day clearing out a few hundred feet of waterfront along the lake that abuts our backyard.  It was a beautiful day.  Sunny and sixty degrees.  Just the right weather for working outdoors in winter.  After a long day of cutting down trees and saplings, hauling the felled timber, and slashing through briers and undergrowth, I was wiped out.  The end result is a beautiful cleared waterfront and a renewal of unobstructed lake views from our house and yard.  We also generated a nice pile of firewood.  Since I’m mostly a city boy these days, clearing all this brush and foliage left me feeling like I was George Bush while he was president.  Like I was passing a long weekend on my Crawford, Texas ranch wielding a chainsaw on some unruly branches and unfortunate tree trunks.

Lakefront all cleared up!

Lakefront all cleared up!

After the day’s work was over, we built a small fire ring in the backyard and then lit up some of the day’s cuttings.  Since we are in the city, we are allowed to have a fire for “warming purposes only” with a width no greater than two feet and a height no greater than three feet.  No cooking fires allowed.  No burning yard waste.  Don’t tell the fire marshal, but I interpreted these rules to allow roasting marshmallows and hot dogs.  That’s barely cooking in my recipe book.  And I assume yard waste is an acceptable fuel as long as the purpose of the fire remains warming and not yard waste disposal.

I don’t know why we have never built a fire in the back yard before.  The kids loved the fire.  They begged for the fire the next night and we obliged their wishes.  It was amazing.  The heat from the roaring (two foot by three foot) fire, the cold, crisp winter air, the expansive sky, stars scintillating in a silhouette against the inky black sky.  Even though we were only 80 feet from our house and a couple hundred feet from our neighbors’ houses, we felt like we were in the middle of the untamed wilderness.  The geese on the lake and the owls in the trees kept us company along with the crackle of our fire.  Both evenings by the fire were completely without expense (save a handful of matches), but it was a very memorable experience for us adults, and I can imagine the kids were equally impressed.

There’s something transcendental about huddling around a fire under the wide open sky on a near-freezing winter night.  There we sat, using the radiant heat of the fire (as required by city ordinance) to keep us warm.  We are lucky to have ample material wealth and financial resources to do almost anything we want, yet we chose to pass the evenings in a way that transcends eons.  I could imagine a family similar to ours sitting around the fire 100,000 years ago watching the flames swirl and caress the logs while warding off the evening chill.

Occasionally the sirens from far off fire trucks (not headed to our backyard blaze) or the rumble of the traffic on the interstate would gently remind us that we were still in the middle of the bustling city.  But it was mostly a whole lot of quiet and tranquility infrequently punctuated by urban noises.  As my kids proclaimed, “Best Weekend Evar!!!!!!1”.

 

Looking Ahead

Well, that’s what happened in month five of my early retirement.  Coming up in February, I’m signed up for a college course on Coursera.  I’ve never done a course through Coursera before, so I’m curious to see how it will go.  I honestly can’t believe how open the educational environment is today.  I’m taking a course in Financial Markets with Robert Shiller, the Yale University professor, noted economist, and Nobel Laureate.  From my home.  Getting an Ivy League education for free?  Don’t mind if I do!

University of North Carolina Law School Graduation (clandestinely wearing my rival NC State University shirt)

University of North Carolina Law School Graduation (clandestinely wearing my rival NC State University shirt)

The fact that anyone can sign up for a course of this caliber amazes me.  But it brings into question whether a traditional four year college education will be the gold standard when my oldest child is college bound in another decade.  I hope to investigate these free or cheap online learning opportunities some more and figure out whether there’s something viable enough to replace a full college experience for my kids.  Right now, a bachelor’s degree (at a minimum) seems to be the gold standard to get all kinds of jobs.  From working in government, I know there are plenty of fairly entry level jobs that don’t require many skills but still require that piece of paper proving you completed a four year degree.

With automated resume screening in most large company HR departments, it can be hard to convince a computer algorithm that completing dozens of courses online from top flight universities around the world is superior (or at least equal) to a degree in Pottery Arts from Middle Southeastwestern Podunk State University.  One day, a formal four year university education might be one of many paths to a successful, high paying professional career.

In other big news, I’m sort of coming out of retirement for at least a few hours per month.  Sam the Financial Samurai is returning to the daily grind to handle the Daily Capital blog at Personal Capital.  Sam invited me to do a little freelance writing for the Daily Capital.  I’m thankful for the opportunity since I’ll be getting paid handsomely to do something I already enjoy (writing blog articles).  And I’ll be reaching an even wider readership than here at Root of Good.  I also love the investment management and expense tracking tools that Personal Capital offers for free to everyone (review here), and I use these tools almost daily to manage my investments and spending.  I’ll be supporting a company I already know and appreciate.

 

The Daily Capital freelance gig might turn into a long term opportunity to do a few articles per month.  In return, I will potentially receive enough compensation to offset a quarter to a third of our monthly retirement expenses.   I’ll share more on the freelance writing gig at a later date.

I hope the Internet Retirement Police don’t revoke my license to call myself “early retired” while still working a few hours per week (when I want to).

In the next couple of months, we have some big decisions to make regarding our summer plans.  I’ll get into those exciting plans in my next post.

 

28 comments

  • Nice! It sounds idyllic and l am glad you are enjoying early retirement. I read somewhere that it takes about a year to full decompress from your working life. Almost 9 months into it, l am beginning to think it’s true. I no longer wake up in the middle of the night wondering if l mixed something up properly, etc. I have to check out duolingo. I want to learn Italian first, then Spanish and French. Your course sounds like fun, l start graphic design school in February, so l am excited about that. Your family bonfires sound lovely! That’s what life is all about!!!

    • I’d like to learn photoshop or some form of graphic editing/design package since I’m such a novice in that area (hopefully it doesn’t show with my pics on here!).

      I’d highly recommend Duolingo. Very accessible and useful if you are a beginner to intermediate I would say. It lacks a little in the pronunciation/oral recitation (you just say things out loud without any feedback), but great for the basics of gender and plurality agreement of nouns, adjectives, and articles. Also great to learn sentence structure, vocab, verb conjugation, etc.

      I think I left the anxiety of work behind long ago, but I’m still adjusting to not having a fixed schedule all day. Oh well, I’ll figure it out sometime in the next few decades I guess.

  • That sounds like a great combination of different activities. I love a good outdoor fire as well and can’t wait until my kids are old enough to enjoy it with me.

    Congrats on the freelance writing gig! I’ve been exploring a few options for that myself and hope that you’ll be able to share some details as it develops.

    • Our almost 2 year old was quite a mess around the fire. We kept a constant vigil over him since he was like a moth to flame – always trying to fly into the fire.

      The freelance writing was unsolicited on my behalf. I’ve had a few others ask me to write, but this was the first opportunity that came along and piqued my interest enough (and paid well enough) to get me to commit time and energy to the project.

  • Following your updates with interest, you do a good job of sharing the good as well as the less than good (e.g. all the appliance issues). If only you could do a post from 10 years in the future…

    • I bet my post from future me would say “Holy crap, I can’t believe it’s been 10 years of early retirement! There have been bumps along the way, but what an awesome ride…”. Or at least that’s the story I’m hoping to write one day at a time over the next decade!

  • I love fires. Even in NYC, I used to have small ones on my old roof deck (in our tiny grill – just put in wood instead of coal!)

    Sounds as though you are living the good life!

  • As a guy who is currently taking classes to finish my 4-year degree, I completely agree that it’s something to ‘check the box.’ Will it help me in my current position?? No. Will it help me if my job goes away and I have to convince the computer algorithm to not exclude me? Unfortunately yes. Great thing is by the end of this year I’ll be done!

  • Congrats on your freedom! I’m also using Duolingo for my French skills so I don’t lose them. I started in high school and got a degree in college even skipped around Paris for a short time. I struggled with conversation and listening comprehension which isn’t uncommon no non-native speakers. If you’d ever like to practice let me know!

    • I’m at an embarrassingly low level in my French language, but perhaps one day when I get a lot better I’ll look you up! Pretty cool tool though. I hope to stick with it, and maybe after 3-4 years I can complete all the modules in the 5-6 languages they offer.

  • Posts like this are inspiring. I’m not retired yet. but I plan to be soon. However, I need to admit that I’m not comfortable with the idea yet. It still all seems very foreign and unknown to me (Will I be bored? Am I making the right decisions financially? Should I save up more before I retire? Wait, maybe I have enough now?)

    Anyway, I’m encouraged to read about your adventures. Duolingo and other online courses are on my retirement bucket list too. Can’t wait to hear about your travel plans! Travel is my #1 priority after I leave the 9-5.

    • I’m lucky my employer decided it was time for me to go! 😉 I think I would have continued working for a few more years. Was it the right choice to declare myself retired? I won’t know for a long time unfortunately.

      I think the fact that you have a bucket list indicates you can fill up your time if you make the plunge into early retirement.

  • I started using Duolingo to practice my French again. Have to get started again. Great reminder!

    • You can set duolingo to email you daily at a given time. Mine pops up at 4 pm, so I’ll usually squeeze in a lesson in the evening if I haven’t already completed one during the earlier part of the day.

  • I find it amazing that Ivy league level education can be free…well minus the degree. I’m hoping there will be changes in the way advanced education works because those tuition costs are insane…hopefully by the time our kids are college bound. I wish I had more free time to take advantage of these courses. It’s funny that when I was young I just wanted to get out of school…but now a days, I yearn for the days I can just sit their and learn. I love learning. Good luck with the French. My wife speaks Spanish and I’ve tried to improve my Spanish by speaking to her, but I’m not too diligent with that.

    • I know! I was browsing the course offerings and saw “financial markets” and clicked. Hmmm sounds interesting! Woah, it’s taught by Robert Shiller who teaches at Yale! The course says it required 6-8 hours per week but I think it’s only a 6-8 week course, so I can probably manage it.

  • RoG, if you want to learn a language. Speak it! Go to a website like Italki and enroll with another person in a language exchange. This can be done entirely for free and will expand your language skills multiples better than duolingo. It will probably be a little nerve wracking, but much more efficient on improvement/time spent.

    • Thanks, Mr. Jackson! I just signed up and “followed” a few people. Looks very promising. And intimidating.

      I offered English in exchange for French on my profile. I’ve done a couple of language meet ups in person in the past and it really taxes your brain.

      When you say “enroll with another person”, is that just contacting them and setting up a mutually agreed time to skype or google hangout or whatever? Or does italki have a formalized enrollment process?

      I’m not sure if I’ll benefit more from talking or learning duolingo, since I’m a fairly visual learner. But I’m open to trying out different things.

    • I 100% agree with you! Immersion method is the best. I can’t tell you how many people I know from school who can’t speak a lick of French even though we invested years into it. I’ve seen some sites like this before where you just find a pen or speaking pal essentially. I wasn’t sure with the time commitment and time zone differences how well this works? Let me know how it goes!

      • I think the time commitment might make it hard for me. With 3 unruly kids running around, it can be hard to find a specific block of free time. That’s one reason why I like the duolingo format. I can focus for 5-10 minutes, fail once or twice, and keep at it. Or skip till the next day. I’d hate to get 2 minutes into a conversation session with someone and suddenly have to take a break to change a diaper, console a screaming toddler or worse. I know I’m not going to be fluent from simply completing duolingo sessions, but I can always work on fluency later.

  • I’ve been taking Coursera classes since they’ve started several years ago. I’m also signed up for Schiller’s class this March. There have been several others at the graduate level for financial markets and financial econometrics – tough, but I learned a lot. As long as you have the self discipline to watch the videos and *do* the work, they’re not any different than college classes – except you don’t have to show up for class at a specific time.

  • Congrats on the new gig! I haven’t heard about coursera before, I’ll definitely be checking that out and seeing what classes they have available.

  • Will be providing the post this week! I figure I might as well do it during work hours than weekend hours. I’ve got a problem with keeping my hours part-time, which is what I assumed when I took on this role. 5 weeks have passed with only 7 weeks left to go. Let’s see what happens then.

    Have fun with your classes!

    • Maybe you can negotiate for full(er) time if that is what you’re wanting to do.

      Wow, time flies. My class starts in one day! Back to school for Root of Good…

  • Just dropping in to say Go Pack! Glad you kept it real! I graduated from NC State in 2004. We’re just up the road in Morrisville so it’s neat to read your blog knowing you’re local.

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