Six Months of Early Retirement – Still Loving It!

Six months ago, I found myself suddenly unemployed.  After a day or two of thinking about my situation and my finances, I decided I might as well call it “early retirement”.  Maybe a better job would find me, or maybe it wouldn’t.

I have always heard it takes six months to a year for the reality of early retirement to set in.  First you have to decompress from a lifetime (or a decade, in my case) of working.  Then, with proper perspective, you can move on to the next phase of life.

I think the six month mark is that tipping point for me.  I have moved on from “wow, I don’t have to work any more!” to “ahhhh, what should I do this fine day?”.  Every day.

 

Early Retirement: Month Six

If you want to see a full chronicle of my early retirement adventures, I produced summaries at the onetwo, three, four, and five month marks.

Here’s what I’ve been up to in this glorious sixth month of early retirement:

Learning

One of my hobbies is learning.  I have been plugging away at French lessons at duolingo.com.  I was a good student in January, and slacked off some in February.  But I picked up a new educational endeavor.  In mid-February, I started a Coursera course on Financial Markets with Robert Shiller.  It’s all online and totally free.

So far, I have completed two out of the eight weeks of classes and passed the quizzes (and I scored 88% to 90% on the quizzes!).  Each class features a guest lecturer from the financial industry.  Hank Greenberg, former AIG president, was the first speaker and provided insight into the company’s operations leading up to the 2008 financial crisis and the aftermath of the company’s downfall.

David Swensen, manager of the Yale Endowment fund (all $16 billion of it!), spoke in the second set of lectures about running a broadly diversified investment portfolio with a very long term investment horizon (forever).  His investing approach isn’t totally different from my approach, which makes me feel more secure about my investment portfolio.

The class is a good mix of theory, math, statistics, psychology, business, and history.  Those topics all interest me, so it’s a good fit.  Going into it, I wasn’t sure whether I would make it through all eight weeks, but it has proven interesting enough to keep my attention so far.  Perhaps the best part of the class is that I can view the lectures on my laptop while lazing in the hammock strung across my lakeside patio.  The in-person students are stuck in a stuffy mahogany paneled lecture hall in New Haven.

I’ll be on the lookout for another Coursera course for mid to late Spring (when the hammock-laying weather will be perfect!).  Hopefully I can fit one more in before our big summer adventure to Canada that commences in late June.

Speaking of Canada, I’m hoping to practice a little French while we are up there.  Plans aren’t set in stone yet, but we will probably spend two weeks in Montreal and Quebec (where French is apparently commonly used).  I’ve already put my limited French to use while reading descriptions of apartments for rent in Quebec.  I never figured I would need my French skills so quickly, but that’s life for you!  Time to get back to the Duolingo French lessons.

 

Playing

I keep busy at least a day or two each week with play dates for one of our kids.  Sometimes I’ll pass a friend with kids on the walk to or from school and that will turn into a mid-morning play date.  A big concern of many prospective early retirees is that they will lose all social contact that they normally get through work.  Maybe it’s because I have kids, but I get all the social interaction I want!

In spite of my busy schedule, I managed to find time to play the occasional board game with the kids.  If anyone is a board game enthusiast, we played Ticket To Ride: Europe and Carcassonne.  These two are challenging enough to keep adults engaged, but the rules are simple enough to allow kids (ours are seven and eight) to play and have fun, too.  And beat their old man occasionally.

I also keep busy playing Conquer Club online with some friends.  It’s a turn-based strategy game.  Check it out!

 

Relaxing

The last month proved to be very laid back without a lot of chores or “fix it” tasks.  Instead I spent much of the month catching up on a few television shows, reading books, and relaxing.

One morning, I decided to switch up the routine a bit and not check my phone or email until after noon.  I spent all morning finishing the last two thirds of Candide with my coffee mug at hand.  Mr. RoG Jr. cooperated with my desire to quietly read and occupied himself with rearranging and sorting hairbands and pencils for a few hours.  Half of that time he was also sitting/laying/crawling/climbing on me.  Given my veteran status as a parent, I can multi-task as a chair-climbing post combo and still relax and read a book.

I think I’m going to “take the day off” more often.  No logging on the computer, no checking email, no doing chores around the house.  Maybe not all day, but at least for a few hours.  Otherwise, I sometimes find my day slips away without any real relaxation or quiet enjoyment.

 

Doing

Even though February turned out to be a very relaxing month, I still managed to keep busy. The kids’ school held their annual Engineering Week and I volunteered for a few days.  On the last day I judged the “rain gutter regatta”.  The second graders built boats out of recycled materials and raced them using human generated wind power down a water-filled rain gutter.  My daughter’s team didn’t do very well, but her class did win the Regatta Cup.  The trophy, like the boats, was also made of recycled materials.

Running Root of Good takes a small slice out of most days.  I made a few tweaks here and there to make things better and to accommodate the changes in some advertising programs.  I also wrote and published my first freelance article in February.

 

Looking Ahead

The biggest thing on my to do list these days is planning our trip to Canada this summer.  We are tentatively planning on leaving in late June and returning to Raleigh in early August.  Hopefully we can work out the itinerary to have us in New York City on the 4th of July to check out some awesome fireworks.

We’re planning a nice slow trip through Canada, spending roughly one week each in Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto.  And then stop by Niagara Falls for a couple of nights on the way back south.  For the weekly stays, I’m looking for apartments or houses.  Since there are five of us in the family, it will be a lot more comfortable if we have some space to spread out.  It also works out to be a lot less expensive, even though we will have much more space.

Apartments also have kitchens.  We’ll definitely be partaking of the local cuisine on offer across the Canadian frontier, but having the option to dine in and prepare something ourselves will prevent restaurant burn out.  And prevent wallet burn out.

We know almost nothing about Canada, and don’t really know what we want to do or see while in Quebec and Ontario.  In addition to researching the accommodations and transportation, we have to figure out what we’ll be doing on our trip.  Guide books are ordered (from the library, of course), documentaries on Toronto, Montreal, Quebec, and Ottawa are queued up on TV and youtube, and our internet browsers are at our fingertips, ready for some virtual sight-seeing.

The trees are starting to blossom which means spring is almost here.  Hopefully it will warm up enough and I’ll be outside enjoying the weather and the wildlife as I skim through the travel guides checking out cool places to visit up north.  I’ll also be heading out to our neighborhood parks with the little ones.

March won’t be all fun and games.  I’ll be stuck inside for a while.  I still haven’t completed our taxes for 2013.  I’m expecting a decent sized refund (have you seen the $150,000 income, $150 in taxes article?), so I might as well file as soon as possible.  I tend to get a corrected 1099-DIV from Fidelity in early March that properly reports tax treatment of an international REIT fund, so hopefully it gets here soon (if it’s coming).

One other task I need to take care of in March is an investment check up.  I like to periodically check on the funds we own and determine whether they are the best choices (lowest expense, lowest turnover).  I’ll also be reviewing my asset allocation and rebalancing allocations that are overweight.

I’ll be using the tools at Personal Capital to check on the asset allocation and expense ratios of the funds in my portfolio.  It’s a great service for investment management and it’s free to everyone (Personal Capital review here).

 

Overall, the last month was very awesome.  Our finances look great and I’m finding more than enough to keep me busy in early retirement.

 

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Did you do anything exciting in the last month?

 

 

55 comments

  • Michelle @fitisthenewpoor

    If was able to retire early, I would probably go the route of learning. If I could afford it, I’d probably take some community college courses or painting lessons. I really wish I had the freedom now to do so!

  • Sounds like fun! I won’t lie, I’m a tad jealous.

    • Haha, same here. I’ve just started my journey to financial independence, but I’m already anxious for the ability to retire early.

  • If you’re staying in Niagara Falls for a while, I can highly recommend the Rainbow Bed and Breakfast – and you can use the kitchen while you’re there for other meals. We were just there for 6 nights in September and paid $540 Canadian. It’s within walking distance of the falls (right off the Peace Bridge), but far enough away that it’s in a residential neighborhood.

    • We are only planning 2 nights in Niagara falls right now. The sheraton we’re booking is on the American side, and it’s almost free with our Starwood points (one of the best values I’ve seen for redemption of these points). That will be our last stop before heading back south to North Carolina. Thanks for the tip though. That’s not a bad price at all, if we can accommodate 2 adults and 3 kids around that price.

  • I love these monthly updates – it’s great to see what awaits on the other side. It also serves as motivation to get there!

  • Substitute kid stuff with traveling and that pretty much sums up my days. I have been doing the Duolingo Italian, thanks to you. I must admit it’s a little bit easier for me since the hubby can correct me and help out. I am also a student again..intro to Graphic Design. The school is a bit far, but l don’t really mind. I like your update post.

    • Remember the days of squeezing all your interests into limited free time left after working a full week? 🙂

      Kid stuff keeps me busy, but it will taper off some as the little dude gets older (and goes to school in 3 years). A little bittersweet, but that’s growing up.

      Graphic design – I’d like to do that some day. What package are you focusing on? Illustrator?

      • We are doing Photoshop right now which l am quite proficient at so it’s not as interesting. Illustrator part starts in 2 weeks which is what l really want to improve on. Last part is InDesign.

  • Hubby and I retired 8 years ago at age 55 and 53 respectively. We have never regretted it. Retirement rocks!!

  • I was just going to suggest going to an area that speaks French…have fun on that Montreal trip and it’s a great motivational tool to brush up on it before you go there. Good to hear that you are so productive while “retired”…to many people just assume they wouldn’t have anything to do. We work to live…not the other way around.

  • Definitely envious of your amount of free time! I try to spend my limited free time learning and Coursera is fantastic. So many quality courses. The Canadian trip sounds awesome! I’ve been dying to see Quebec City. Pretty neat that it’s the only walled city in North America (north of Mexico).

    • So many comments favorable to Quebec City. I didn’t know it was the only walled city. Neat. I remember seeing some city walls in Veracruz, Mexico I think, but don’t think they remain intact all the way around the old city today.

  • We love Montreal and Quebec! Some places we really enjoyed in Montreal were Mont Royal Park (we even walked through the cemetery, it was just beautiful), the Biosphere Environmental Museum, the Bio-dome and Botanical Gardens which are also right next to the Olympic Park, and Rue St. Denis. I believe it was at the Museum of Contemporary Art where one day, we happened to come upon blocks full of different types of street performers doing awesome things (unfortunately, I cannot remember if it was for anything specific or not). In Quebec, we walked around the old stone walls & fortifications of the city, had a wonderful time meandering along the Promenade des Gouverneurs (we stayed at Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac for one night – it looks like a huge castle – which opened right onto the walkway), and I fell in absolute love with the Quartier Petit Champlain. I don’t remember ever feeling so relaxed and at ease, as I did when we sat down to have a beer outside a cafe, with the accordions playing across the way in the park and the golden sunlight slanting down through the trees, and the sounds of shoes and wheels on the cobblestones.. As lovers of history, we were told that Quebec City was the best place to get the old-Europe atmosphere in North America, and it did not disappoint. I high recommend it!

    • Thanks Jamie! It sounds pretty awesome. I hear so much good about Quebec City I’m starting to think we should spend more time there and cut our time in Toronto or Ottawa.

      That street scene you described in Quebec City is exactly what I’m looking forward to. Grab a little beer or coffee at a street cafe, meander around. Maybe pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it in a park (possibly while the kiddo(s) and maybe adults nap).

      I’ll make sure Mrs. Root of Good reads your comment since she’s been researching “what to see” in each city.

  • Lovely, sounds so fun! I’ll be in Montreal myself in a few months…although only for a few days.

    Local tip for you – sometimes you say Quebec, but I think you mean Quebec City. We do actually say Quebec City since otherwise it sounds like you are talking about the province. I guess this differs from places like New York City, where people will often say “New York” to refer just to the city, even though it’s the name of the state.

    • Thanks for the tip on nomenclature. I definitely mean Quebec City when I say “Quebec”. Whenever I hear “Quebec” here in the south I think the city. I’m a little ashamed to admit this, but I didn’t know it was a province until I started researching this trip. To say us Americans know very little about Canada is probably an accurate stereotype, particularly for those in the South. 🙂

      We’re very excited and Quebec CITY (there I said it correctly!) looks awesome.

  • Hi there!
    First, I love your blog. I read some blogs about early retirement or financial independence for some times now and have in mind to start a blog at some point… but never really ready for this, but I guess it’s like actually making the step in quitting regular job, we’ll never be 100% sure it’s time. Anyway, I’m investing in real estate and dividend stocks to make passive income to finally be “retired”, and like you, learn (I just installed MosaLingua to learn Spanish) and enjoy time with the ones I love!

    Anyway, about your trip in Quebec city and Montreal, I guess I can help as I was born in Quebec City, lived there until I left at 20 and now living in Montreal for 10 years. I know these two cities pretty well! I’m French native, and now pretty much bilingual so je peux aussi te parler en français pour te pratiquer! 😉

    Maybe I can write a bit more later as I don’t have that much time right now, but first for languages, in Montreal you will probably be able to do whatever you need in English, but not everybody will understand you, depending of where you are. In Quebec City, it’s different… English won’t be enough everywhere, so quit procrastination and learn! haha actually it’s true, you will probably be fine in restaurants downtown but French will really help.

    For what to seein Quebec city, obviously the famous “Chateau Frontenac” and “Quartier Petit Champlain” as someone already mentionned are very nice to spend time, just relax and enjoy outside entertainment. For the picnic with kids, the Plains of Abraham are the place to go. A lot of history there (the historic battle between French and British: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Plains_of_Abraham) and very nice and huge park, where you can see stone walls and great views.
    In the time you’ll be there (From July 3rd to July 13th), this is the “Festival d’Été de Québec” (http://www.infofestival.com/). A lot of shows and things to do, you have some activities in the afternoon for kids and bigger shows as well. Paul McCartney was there a few years ago, Celine Dion performed an exclusive show last year… this is the biggest festival in Quebec City during summer time!

    For Montreal, the “Place Jacques-Cartier” is very nice, in the Old-Port, I guess it’s the place Jamie V talked about. Public performers, nice pubs and restaurants, near the old port where you can have a walk and a lot of stuff to see and do. There is always some festival in Montreal as well during summer!

    • C’est tres bien, merci beaucoup pour l’information! J’aime parler avec tu pour practiquer! I’m sure that’s not 100% correct but hopefully close enough 🙂

      Thanks for all the information. I was hoping some locals from Montreal and Quebec City would provide some advice on their hometowns.

      Any thoughts on dividing time equally between Toronto/Ottawa/Montreal/Quebec City? Or would you spend more time in Quebec City, for example? How about costs for accommodations and dining in those four cities. Roughly equal?

      As for blogging, go for it! There are a few free places to start blogging that are all web based, or you can get hosting at a lot of places for under $100/yr usually and get your own domain name (included in the price!). Once you get your own “self hosted” site, and get wordpress up and running, it’s all web based writing blog posts and uploading photos after that. I’m using host gator for hosting (check out my “recommendations” page if you want a little more detail on my thoughts on host gator).

      • Your French is good! 🙂
        As for the time between each cities… I always find this hard to answer as you never see the cities you live in with the same eyes as a visitor. But I’ll try anyway.
        I would say that during the time you’ll be here, Quebec City will have a lot for you because of the Festival d’Été. The programs will be available in the next months (shows and activities). Montreal has a lot lot of different things to see, eat, and experiences, this is one of the most multi-ethnical city in the country, with a Little Italy, a Chinese part (with everything written in Chinese, things to sell in grocery stores I’ve never seen before, etc.), etc. Restaurants are famous in Montreal for quality and diversity.
        Ottawa is a more “low-profile” city, but still interesting with the Canal Rideau, parliement and many interesting museums (if you’re into history and a museum type) of war, aviation, money, science, etc. Maybe I wouldn’t spend as much time there then other cities.
        Toronto is also famous but here in Montreal, it’s known as a “boring” city (sorry for all from Toronto here)… as we don’t see much more than we already have in Montreal except even more traffic and they have the Maple Leaf NHL hockey team (which Canadians fan hate!! haha) But I’m not a Canadian fan anyway, I hate them myself (coming from Quebec city I grew up hating Canadians, as a Quebec Nordiques fan… even if they left 20 years ago). Anyway, I’m not saying it’s not worth it, I like Toronto, the CN Tower worth a visit and I guess there’s other things to do. To be honest, I don’t know the city that much.
        I would recommend maybe a bit more time in Quebec city, as it’s more unique, and like others mentionned, it’s compared to “Old World” or has a little something that makes you feel like you’re in Europe or France (never been there myself, but it’s what we’re told).
        Montreal has a lot to show you as well, and maybe Ottawa and Toronto a little shorter trip.

        For prices, you’re lucky as Canadian dollars lost more than 10-15% vs. USD in the last months. Your trip will be 10-15% cheaper than last year! 🙂 I would say Quebec and Ottawa would be a bit less expensive, Montreal and Toronto should be similar.

        • I finally picked up my Canada travel guide from the library and so far Toronto does look the least appealing of the four cities we planned on visiting in Canada. Maybe we’ll cut that part of the trip to a couple nights and spend more time in Quebec City.

          We don’t care for hockey at all, so there’s no allure of the maple leafs in Toronto.

          I saw the exchange rate was heavily in the USD’s favor versus one year ago. Pretty exciting to see quoted prices and then mentally knock 10% off. That $500/wk apartment is only $440. A $10 restaurant meal is $9. I just published an article on choosing travel destinations based on foreign exchange rate fluctuations. Canada might be the best example of a good place to visit right now to take advantage of the weakness of the local Canadian dollar.

  • When my parents toured Canada with my Mom’s choral group, they particularly enjoyed Quebec City versus Montreal. I remember them saying it felt more “Old World”.

  • This is the first time I have read your post. How do you manage financially with no job??? I am sure everyone would love to retire early but money is a main concern. Thanks….

    • Thanks for stopping by, Marge!

      Here is a full listing of all all posts if you want to read up a little.

      Here’s an overview. Basically, I saved up enough money so that I can spend a small amount of it each year (roughly 3%) and live indefinitely. We spend about $32,000 in retirement, so it doesn’t take mega millions to fund our lifestyle (just a little over a million). Saving like crazy for 10 years and investing it in equities led to the seven figure portfolio.

  • RoG, Keep sharing your monthly updates. I love having something to look forward to and living vicariously through you for now! 🙂 Going from Bankruptcy to Financial Independence is slow going, but we are starting to see momentum now and I can almost taste the freedom. Love the free courses and other activities you are finding to keep yourself engaged, while finding a way to get some use out of that hammock.

    Mama Breeze

    • Once you get on the path to FI, each year is easier. Yes, that hammock has been an excellent value – my brother in law brought it back from Cambodia and I think he only paid a few dollars for it. Almost 10 years hanging outside and other than some stitching from me to patch the occasional hole, it’s holding up pretty well.

  • Jenna @ UpstartFinance

    Learning is one of my favorite activities, too! That’s definitely part of lifestyle/ retirement plans.
    *
    I just signed up for a Photoshop class to learn how to do some simple things. Should be fun.
    *
    So many people say I want to learn a language some day. And your some day is today 🙂

  • I’m in Toronto – perhaps we’ll have a chance to meet up. =)

    Museums? The Ontario Science Centre? Maybe some fancy-ish dining at the restaurant at the top of the CN Tower? (Prix fixe is not that much more than admission and includes the trip up so it can be worth it.) Ethnic neighbourhoods and international food? Maker spaces like Hacklab? See which neighbourhood is having a festival when you’re here – there’s almost certainly going to be one.

    • Yeah, hopefully we can meet up if our schedules permit. We’ll definitely be hitting up some of the ethnic neighborhoods for some good food!

      • Frugal favourites:

        – Pho Hung (Spadina – Kensington Market): pho is great, or try the bun if you want something cooler
        – Ka Chi (also in the neighbourhood): Korean food; the pork bone soup is yummy and frugal, and stone bowl bibimbap is nice too
        – Banh Mi Nguyen Huong Food Co. (just up the road from Pho Hung): $2 sandwiches
        – Burrito Bandidos (Peter Street, bit of a walk from the CN Tower): you go down some stairs to get here. Very little seating, but good for grab-and-go.

        Stuff to try: poutine (fries, gravy, cheese curds) – it’s a Quebecois dish, so you can skip Toronto and have this in Quebec if you really want to. There are a few poutineries in Toronto.
        Tim Hortons double double roll-up-the-rim thing – if you’re a coffee person. Not particularly good coffee (or so I hear; I don’t drink coffee), but very Canadian.

        BlogTO and Yelp have lots of restaurant reviews.

        • Awesome, thanks for the tips! I’ve added those to the massive trip planning spreadsheet. Mrs. Root of Good loves pho and I love burritos.

          And poutineries. Cracking up at that word for some reason. We just made poutine for the first tiem after seeing it on a travel documentary. It was pretty good and reminded me of mashed potatoes and gravy (we used tater tots instead of french fries).

  • I can’t wait to try early retirement, hopefully my dividend snowball will roll quickly and gather many dividends.

    I will probably choose to enhance my learning and to travel to broaden my horizon’s.

    Best Wishes

    FI UK

  • I found your site on MMM. I am obsessed! I started my path by reading Rich Dad. My husband and I own rental properties and net about $5,000/month. Our expenses are slimmed down to about $2,000/month plus $1,000 (rental loan and equity line = $100,000 total debt). He left his job to manage the properties. I SO want to retire from my job. I know how precious life is (I work at a hospice) and our 2 girls are growing up fast!! Should I take the leap?

    • $5000 income, $3000 expenses? Sounds like you are financially independent to me! Consider all the extras you might pay for in retirement, like additional vacations, health insurance, dental insurance, etc. Here’s how I figured out my own retirement budget based on what I spent while working.

      • Thank you for your quick reply. I looked back at your budget. Ours is very similar. I can still cut a few things. This is exciting!
        I have looked at several sites but can’t find anything that shows me how to use my rental income as an income. I can’t plug in the numbers to see how the future looks like you would with a set amount in investments.
        I started the PC site. Maybe it will help me.
        Thank you for taking time to share your information! Puts a new perspective on life!

        • I’m no real estate investor, but consider things like tenant vacancies, long term upgrade/remodel costs, defaults, etc. A great resource for real estate investors are the forums at http://www.biggerpockets.com/. You might get an idea of how much margin of safety your $5000 income has. I imagine you can expect at least $3000-4000 of monthly income in a worst case scenario. So if the income is that likely to remain that high indefinitely (and keep up with inflation since you can raise rents), then you look pretty sound.

          Also check out “firecalc” or “cFIREsim” calculators. You can input an income stream in both those calculators. Whether you call your $5,000 income something like $4000 to account for a margin of safety is for you to determine.

  • Glad you are enjoying early retirement six months in! Learning and free time are what I’m most looking forward to… That and relaxing on the beach… at least for a few months, anyway 🙂

  • O Canada! Nice choice. I haven’t been as far east as Montreal and Quebec but we did do the Niagara/Toronto loop two summers ago and followed it up around the eastern coast of Lake Huron.

    We didn’t care for the touristy part of the town in Niagara but the park area around the falls is really well done with manicured gardens, etc. We also had good experiences camping in a few of Canada’s provincial parks too if you are into that kind of thing.

    • I think we’ll have 2 nights in Niagara falls. And we’re getting a free hotel very close to the Bear Island national park. Mrs. RoG and I have been to Niagara before, but the kids haven’t.

      Thoughts on Toronto? We’re thinking of limiting time there to 2-3 days and spending more time in Quebec City and Montreal. How many days did you spend in Toronto and did you feel like it was too much or not enough?

      • Native Toronto-ites (Torontonians?) may disagree, but yeah 2-3 days feels about right. We spent 2 nights. Our boys were obviously younger (6-ish) but highlights for us included going up in the CN Tower, Hockey Hall of Fame, St Lawrence Market, and generally walking around downtown and hanging out near Roundhouse Park and HTO Park along the waterfront.

  • Retirement definitely looks different for the two of us but as you are proving; early retirement is not only possible, it is a great way to live!

    • Our retirement might look like yours in a few years. SE Asia is definitely on the list, and we might spend a summer there in a few years. We almost headed that way this year, but opted for spending the summer somewhere more tame (and close to home) – Canada along the St. Lawrence river.

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