Crazy Things Made Possible By Early Retirement

For those who love their jobs or those that can’t manage to ever save any money, they may not understand why anyone would want to retire early.  “Won’t you get bored?” they ask.  Not yet!  In fact, having huge blocks of free time opens up a lot of possibilities that aren’t very feasible while working full time.

I used to write a monthly summary of what I’m up to in early retirement like thisthis, this, and this.  I haven’t kept this diary of excitement up to date lately, but I wanted to share a small sample of the tiny and huge things that early retirement permit.

 

Serendipitous discoveries while walking around

I walk my two oldest children to and from their neighborhood elementary school every day.  The round trip is about 20 minutes on the most direct route or 30 minutes if I divert over the river and through the woods along the nature trail in the park.  Our two year old tags along with us like a little trooper every day.

One day this week he decided that watching the roofers tear off old shingles atop a neighbor’s house was The Most Exciting Thing In The World ™ at that moment.  Why not stand on the sidewalk and watch this novel activity?  From his two year old perspective, this was incredible.  There were six guys ripping a house apart from the top down and throwing the shredded bits of shingles, tar paper, and plywood onto the tarpaulin moat surrounding the house.

If we were driving by in a hurry, it’s unlikely that any of us would have noticed this crazy bit of excitement that only happens about once every twenty years (for a particular house).  A few friends drove by on our busy street and stopped to chat while I waited on Mr. RoG Jr. to get a feel for exactly how to re-roof a house, should he ever need that skill in the future.

After 30 minutes, we left the construction site and made our way home, but not before stopping at the stream in front of our house to observe what the little guy calls “big water”.

I’m happy to report that we eventually made it inside the house without further distractions.

 

Visiting the Art Museum in the middle of the work day

After completing my lunchtime volunteering gig, I found myself within a few thousand feet of  the art museum.  I had a couple of hours before my afternoon obligations and a strong desire to see what’s new (and what’s hundreds of years old) in the art world.

I enter the new wing of the art museum and strike up a conversation with the front desk receptionist.  She immediately recognized what kind of a patron of the arts I was, and offered me a membership to the museum.  For only $75!  She must have figured I was loaded since I have the free time to meander around the art museum in the middle of the work day.

Why pay $75 when I had almost the entire museum reserved for myself for free?  You see, everyone else was at work.  I stumbled into a free escorted tour of the collection by an overly friendly docent and her docent-in-training where I was joined by some fellow retirees (three decades my senior) who live in Mexico full time.  That couple plus another pair of young folks roughly my age completed our squad of wannabe art connoisseurs.

The museum has a great collection and I even noticed this gem:

Sometimes a blue trapezoid is just a blue trapezoid.

Sometimes a blue trapezoid is just a blue trapezoid.

It’s just a blue trapezoid.  I laugh every time I see it.  I guess it qualifies as art in some abstract sense incomprehensible to me.  The other paintings and sculptures were way cooler.

 

Month(s) Long Road Trips

We set out on a month long road trip this past summer, but cut it short once travel fatigue set in (and there was that really dirty airbnb apartment, too).  That’s what happens when you try something really ambitious with a two year old and then reality catches up with you!

With a full time job, it’s nearly impossible to get away from the office for more than a week or two.  Now that I’m fully retired and Mrs. RoG is almost there (with tons of time off), we have the flexibility to undertake long trips that are primarily limited by our family’s energy (and secondarily by our travel budget).

What’s next?  I don’t have any clue, but here are a few epic trips I’ve been batting around to see what sticks (and what Mrs. RoG and the rest of the family think).

A North Carolina to California cross country trip.  I don’t know if we want to fit this into a single summer, but it would let us hit a number of destinations in the middle of the US like Nashville, the Mississippi river, Kansas City, Denver, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and many other national parks in between.

A summer in Oaxaca, Mexico.  It’s supposed to have the best food in Mexico, and I love food.  Especially Mexican food.  We could rent a house for a few months and eat our way through all the local markets and restaurants.  I could brush up on my slowly rusting Spanish skills, and our kids could probably gain basic proficiency in the language by the end of the summer.

Another benefit to escaping to southern Mexico for the summer is, strangely enough, the weather.  North Carolina summers tend to be really hot and humid (87 to 89 degree average highs and average high dew points over 70 degrees).  Even though Oaxaca is much closer to the equator, their “summer” runs from March through May and by June the climate cools off.  The June through August period in Oaxaca is unfortunately the rainy season (no rainier than NC), but the high temperatures hover around 80-82 degrees and the dew point remains a fairly comfortable 60-62 degrees F.  In other words, we could probably spend a lot more time outside in Oaxaca than we could in Raleigh, NC during the summer months.  And we would have a brand new (to us) medium sized city to explore.

 

Perpetual Travel

If we let the travel bug metamorphosize into a full grown beast, we have perpetual travel.  For us, this might include leasing out our home in Raleigh long term and then hitting the road for many months or even years.  Then we could travel as slowly as we want and make our way around the world at our own pace.

With young kids, I don’t think we will do this in the next few years.  It would require us to rethink how our kids are educated and what kind of lifestyle we enjoy most.  I really like having lots of unstructured free time at home, so I’m not sure I could commit to the perpetual travel lifestyles that the folks at Go Curry Cracker and Retire Early Lifestyle enjoy.

We love to travel, but having the comforts of a home base waiting for us upon our return is wonderful.  We will have to get a serious long term trip completed before we consider the perpetual traveler lifestyle.

 

Homeschooling

Now that I’m free all day, I could pull our kids from their neighborhood traditional school and teach them at home.  I don’t really know a lot about homeschooling right now, so I have a lot to learn before I could consider this option.  Those who homeschool swear by it.

We treat traditional schooling as just one part of a full education for our kids.  Traditional school can’t teach them everything and can’t cater to their exact interests that change over time.  Their school does a great job of providing options.  We are very happy there, so it would be hard to leave it behind.

The biggest benefit to homeschooling would be complete freedom to travel whenever we want.  We managed to “homeschool” the kids successfully while on a week-long cruise to Mexico and Central America this past September.  They missed a full week of school but didn’t seem to get behind.  They had homework from school which we supplemented with our usual extra assignments of reading and writing.

 

It’s all about freedom

Who knows what we’ll end up doing in the future?  I know we have an unlimited range of choices before us.  Without the constraints of full time work, we can choose whatever we want.  At the least, we won’t be spending the next few decades locked in a cubicle responding to emails and attending boring meetings.  Hopefully we’ll stumble into random (and planned) exciting and interesting experiences for a long time to come.

 

 

What crazy thing would you do if you suddenly had unlimited free time?  

 

 

36 comments

  • Vawt @ Early Retirement Ahead

    If you drive through KC you have to eat at Joe’s Kansas City BBQ (formerly known as Oklahoma Joe’s). It is KC’s finest BBQ establishment and one of the best in the country! I am sure you don’t have many good choices for BBQ in NC…

    I am looking forward to retiring early for many of the reasons you posted here. Spending a summer in Mexico (my wife’s parents are both from Mexico) would be great for our kids. I want to be able to participate with their sports teams or whatever activities they get involved in besides being just the transportation service.

    I also want to be able to volunteer and give back to the community. While I get to do some of that now, it would be easier if I didn’t have the shackles of a full-time job!

    • Thanks for the KC tips. Yeah, we don’t have a lot of good BBQ here in NC, and definitely none ever comes out of my kitchen! 😉

      • For BBQ in NC: Parker’s near Wilson is pretty darn good. My grandparents have a favorite near Charlotte too. I miss BBQ that isn’t tomato based since I live in PA now.

        • I went to Parker’s a long time ago. It did not disappoint.

          For anyone looking for good BBQ in Raleigh, I like Cooper’s in downtown Raleigh. Skip The Pit and head to Cooper’s instead.

  • I like to sit and stare out the window at the nice view from our house! 🙂

  • That’s it . . . that is the reason we are striving for FI. Baby Breeze loves tractors and construction trucks, so many times we drive past these tractors rushing to work/school/shopping/etc and I think “if only we could just stop and watch the tractors for a few minutes”. [Guess it is like smelling the roses, but Baby Breezes isn’t into those yet!]

    Looking forward to the options that early retirement brings, and realize now that we need to do this sooner than later. Keep up the great posts.

    • Throughout life, it’s way too easy to forget to literally stop and smell the roses. I’m glad I find time for that now. And watching construction crews with my 2 year old. 🙂

  • You nailed it! But you have to add Seattle to your must-visit destinations!

    • Seattle?! It’s soooo far north! 😉 I’d like to visit some day. I imagine the weather there is way better than it is here in North Carolina in the middle of summer.

  • I’m looking forward to the unstructured time. No need to rush anywhere or get things done on any particular time frame. I think the first month or so of us not working will involve a lot of sitting on the couch vegging just because we can – *then* starting to ramp up things we want to do while retired 🙂

    • Take six months to sit on the couch and veg out if you want! 🙂

      I wasn’t really looking for any major adventures or projects for about six months. The beauty of early retirement is you can do whatever you want on your own schedule.

  • All of the above?

    I like the little things… waking up without an alarm clock, having no idea what day of the week it is, playing guitar whenever I want, riding a bike in the middle of the day, sipping coffee while watching people fight traffic on their way to work

    The medium things are nice too. Learning Chinese, perfecting my Stairway to Heaven guitar solo, rediscovering the 6-pack I last saw in high school (it’s under there somewhere)

    The big things are also great
    Hatching a baby (3 more months!)
    Spending quality time together
    Living wherever we want for as long as we want
    Being able to say No
    – sorry, I’m not looking for new employment opportunities
    – this rain is ridiculous, No, I won’t go outside today
    Being able to say Yes
    – absolutely, we would love to have lunch on Wednesday
    – of course, we can help with that

    • Sounds like you’re enjoying the life, too! 🙂

      I like your saying YES and saying NO responses. Definitely used those when possible.

      We spent most of the daylight hours today “hiking” to one of our favorite restaurants. 52 degrees, sunny. Perfect weather to go out for a long walk and enjoy the outdoors. And large quantities of sushi, steak, and “Chinese” food.

      You guys will definitely enjoy not having to work when the little one comes along. Spending all night awake with a baby isn’t so bad if you can sleep all day after that. However being up in the middle of the night then having your alarm clock go off a few hours later isn’t fun.

  • With unlimited free time, we will make things – all sorts of things… Veggies in the garden. Home-made bread. Pickled veggies and jams in jars. Veggies and fish in an aqua-ponics system. Quilts (I don’t even know how to sew, but I could figure it out!) Fresh eggs from our chickens. Home-brewed beer. I could keep going, but I think you get the idea. The best part about making all of those things would be that the minis would be there to make them with us. So we’d really be making memories together. And that is all the reason I need to strive for freedom.

    • I’ve totally had those days where I’m like “why NOT spend a few hours baking bread/roasting a pork shoulder/crafting naan or tortillas from scratch?!”. The results are often mixed, but it’s always fun to try.

  • For us I think it’s going to be a lot of slow travel (sailing is our dream) or decompression and personal development in our small town. Lots of time at on the beach, or riding around enjoying the weather that we miss out on being in offices 9-5 every day currently.

    • I think the small things like enjoying where you live are as important as the big things like slow travel. And being able to spend time outside when it’s nice is pretty cool too. I recall the soul crushing disappointment of returning to the office after dining outside at lunch or returning from a walk around downtown and going back inside the office building.

  • Sounds like you are taking full advantage of your free time and it sounds amazing! If you go to KC, you must check out the BBQ. I recommend Oklahoma Joe’s (now called Joe’s Kansas City) and Jack Stack for sure. Also make sure to check out the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and if you can, go to a KC Chief’s football game (loudest stadium and amazing tailgating).

    A summer in Mexico sounds like an amazing life experience for your family, I definitely vote for that.

    I can’t wait to have the freedom that you described here. Keep up the sharing of your amazing experiences and opportunities!

    • I spent a few days in KC on business a long time ago and we hit 3-4 BBQ places. Definitely some good eats to be had. I think we went to Joe’s, can’t remember where else.

  • Another nice post! Keep em coming.

    Since I’m currently far behind you, might I suggest you do a post on why earning a high income is important to get to early retirement?

    Seems I read often about how to save on this and that etc.. I agree with that, but the equation is completely different for someone making 75K vs 150K.

    We are currently in that situation — So 2015 will be the year we transition to a higher income situation to address that. Seems if I live on 35K and take home 150K that I have a lot more money to invest.

    In fact, if we do that, then retirement is only 3 years away. If we don’t it is more like 10 years.

    Thanks again for you work on this blog.

    • Advice for those making a low to moderate income:

      1. Save all you can. Like you say, spending $35k per year on a $75k salary and saving probably $35k after taxes won’t get you to early retirement nearly as quickly as if you save $100k from a $150k salary. But $35k will double in 10 years and double again by 20 years. $140k in 20 years just from one year of saving today = early retirement before you know it as long as you keep saving.

      2. Save consistently. The first few years of saving “only” $20k or $30k can be psychologically challenging. You can see a couple thousand dollars per month being siphoned off to savings (which means much less consumption today!), yet the next $100k milestone doesn’t move much closer with each passing month.

      2. Bank raises, don’t increase your standard of living. You might earn $75k today, but as you get raises over time you can afford to save more.

      3. Save any money freed up from frugality. As life goes on, I find more and more ways to economize. That means more savings power.

      4. Take advantage of any tax breaks available in the lower income tax brackets like the retirement savers contribution credit. This can be a few hundred up to $2000 dollars for a married couple.

  • Thanks for the post, RoG. I’m almost there myself and your detailed descriptions of how things are going continues to provide inspiration. I frequently catch myself wanting to stop and smell the freshly dismantled shingles but usually work prevents this from happening.

    Blue Trapezoid 4LIFE.

  • Have you tried Stephenson’s BBQ on Hwy 50 south of Raleigh? It has always been our favorite. It’s still cooked over wood. I like their BBQ chicken too. Yum!

  • Young children (2 – 10) are fantastic when it comes to understanding what life is all about. Whenever I wonder, what the heck would I do all day if I retire, I look to them for inspiration. Unfortunately mine are morphing into young adults. Maybe if I were a pop-star and the world bent to satisfy my every whim and cared about my drama, then maybe I could fill my days like that (some adults seem to try…), but I think I’ll stick with playing outside and tinkering instead 🙂 I’ll have no trouble keeping busy for the rest of 2014, got some time off and this is the easy, low-maintenance time of year in Houston. Happy holidays ‘Goods!

  • I have never made big money. When I worked for the state my salary was less than 30,000. When I retired. I went to work for a private company and my salary increased to 35,000. But I have always saved IRA, 403b and 457 plans. I didn’t retire super early but still managed to retire at 58. Because of my pension and savings I was able to retire and provide caregiving for my parents. It’s not how much you make. It’s how well you save. Start early and save,save,save. Compounding is an amazing thing.

    • That’s amazing! And proof that you don’t need a six figure salary to retire early (58 is still early by most people’s reckoning!).

      When I worked for the state, I knew a lady that was counting down the months to retirement. She was 44 years old and about to receive her full pension. She started working at age 17 in the typing pool as a secretary. She worked her way up to office admin or something like that and I think made about $50,000/yr right before retirement. Her pension is around $30,000/yr! And she can still find other employment after “retiring” to take her pension.

      You’re right – compounding IS an amazing thing. With time, even small amounts of money grow large.

  • You guys are doing it right! We are way too busy for our own good. We don’t have as many of those serendipity moments as previous years now that our kid is in preschool. It will be more fun in the summer when the weather is nice again. We need to go out and explore more.

  • On the homeschooling thing you could also look into online public schools or hybrid online schools. In California there are a lot of these outfits popping up, of various quality, that could give you more flexibility while still retaining the backstop of qualified instructors. That may be a better alternative than disconnecting from organized school altogether. http://www.greatschools.org/school-choice/virtual/6983-hybrid-blended-learning.gs?page=all

    • Thanks for the heads up, Calwatch! There are certainly a lot of options out there if we seriously pursue homeschooling. And in the last 10 years so many new tech-based options have come online too.

      I was just checking out Khan Academy. I might have to “trick” my kids into learning some on there. As I mentioned in my article on schools, education doesn’t begin and end at the front door of the school building. 🙂

  • I am planning to quit my not-so-liked job soon (hopefully), but not retire. My dream has always been to own businesses, so I’m hoping I can do that and enjoy it. And keep investing money in passive income streams. My plan is to have businesses and a flexible schedule, so I can take more time off. My spouse is getting ready to start a career in teaching, and I am hoping to both we able to take month long trips to Europe and travel a lot more when my schedule will permit it. We both like to travel, so that’s what we’d do with more time off. We also want to have kids, and would be nice to spend more time with them than I would with my current job. To me, financial independence is all about making your own schedule and having time to enjoy life. It’s not about the big house and expensive cars.

  • Hi RoG,

    Thanks a lot for these kind of articles!
    It helps a lot to see other who managed to reach FI and what they do nowadays with their free time.
    So please keep writing this sort of follow-up blogposts!

    I think the first thing I would do with more free time would be to write more posts myself than I have the time to do at the moment.

    Have a nice Sunday!

    Cheers from CH.
    MP

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