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
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.
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.
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”.
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!
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.