Three Months of Early Retirement
Thanksgiving is over and Christmas is less than a month away. Here I am three months into my early retirement. This is hard to explain, but it seems like I was working just last week. All the good and bad memories of the workplace linger in my mind. It also feels like a distant memory because the mental images have begun to dull with time. It’s a strange feeling, as sometimes I forget I don’t have to do anything in particular on Monday mornings, like get up for the morning commute. There is no more Sunday evening dread of the impending work week. I’m still waiting for the nostalgia of the workplace to set in.
November was early retirement month #3 for me. And it was a busy month. Thanksgiving was awesome. We hosted the Thanksgiving meal for Mrs. Root of Good’s side of the family. Almost 30 hungry relatives descended on our house Thursday morning for a feast of turkey, stuffing, and all the fixings. Her family brought some Southeast Asian flavors with the traditional papaya salad and a cassava root dessert.
A Thanksgiving Disaster – Almost
Thanksgiving turned out perfectly in the end. This outcome wasn’t a certainty in the days leading up to the big feast. We had a major equipment malfunction when our in-wall oven decided 41 years of continuous operation was enough. I diagnosed the failure with the help of youtube and my voltmeter. An $18 replacement part was quickly purchased (thanks Ebay!), packaged up and sent by USPS Priority Mail from Massachusetts. Once I received the part and installed it in my oven, I realized the oven still didn’t work. My fix had failed! My first failed appliance repair. My spirit was broken for at least 15 minutes.
It turns out my voltmeter was defective and could not correctly measure ohms of resistance on the thermostat I was trying to replace. I thought the suspect part was shorted out (zero ohms) when in reality the thermostat produced the 16 ohms as expected (verified with my newly acquired voltmeter).
I declared the oven dead. It had a good 41 year life. It’s antiquated age also meant replacement parts are difficult or impossible to find, and when found, tend to be extremely expensive. In troubleshooting the oven, the next part to replace would have cost $100 at amazon. For a used part.
Instead of buying $100 band-aids for the old oven, I bit the bullet and decided to drop some money on a new(er) oven. The natural thing to do is search craigslist for an almost brand new, rarely used oven that some sucker (who doesn’t even cook) wants to get rid of because they are remodeling and they don’t like the color of their “old” oven. After pursuing a few leads and coming up empty on the right size of in-wall oven (27″ width to be exact), I switched approaches and started searching the new market.
Lowe’s had a great Black Friday sale (a week before the actual Black Friday) and I picked up a $1200 oven for around $500. To get to that price, I used Lowe’s gift cards bought at a discount online plus a 10% off coupon ($2.29 on ebay) plus an online shopping portal (thanks Mr. Rebates!) for 2% cash back. This is slightly more than the $350 I had planned for oven replacement in the home maintenance line item in my retirement budget.
The new oven had a two week delivery schedule, so we made do with our broken oven for Thanksgiving cooking. The broken oven only turns on and off – there is no longer any temperature control. All the dishes turned out fine (with us carefully monitoring the baking) and we served Thanksgiving at 12:30 p.m. as planned. The only compromise was conscripting family into cooking the turkey for us.
What else have I been up to in month #3 of retirement?
- I’m still working on the French language at duolingo.com. I haven’t touched it in a week or two since I’ve been busy with the holidays and some other fun stuff.
- Blogging – I have slowed down a bit. I’m getting into a groove of putting out a post or two per week. That’s a comfortable pace for me without getting worn out. Quality, not quantity, right? I still have at least 50 more topics in the queue and 4-5 draft posts under development right now. I can’t foresee a time when I have nothing of value left to say.
- Exercise – Even though mornings this time of year can be cold in North Carolina, I have still managed to walk to and from school with the kids every day and walk to most other destinations in the neighborhood. This means a minimum of two miles per day, and sometimes up to five miles per day of walking.
- Social – Thanksgiving means seeing lots of family and friends. And Mr. RootofGood Jr. keeps me social at least a few times per week with playdates. I’m still enjoying occasional lunches out with friends, which is a nice break from singing the ABC’s all day with Mr. RoG Jr.
- Entertainment – I really enjoy reading books. It’s a great free activity that I have enjoyed since childhood. Lately, I have been on an African kick and have at least a few more titles on that topic before I move on to something else. I tend to get interested in a particular subject, then explore that subject in depth by reading four or five books (fiction and non-fiction). Then I will get interested in another topic and repeat the in depth exploration. It’s great to have time to indulge this curiosity.
- More entertainment – Computer games! Kingdom Rush Frontiers was released in November and I have already beat the game on the most difficult settings. Great free flash game for those that like the tower defense genre. Hey, it’s a guilty pleasure! Now what will I do in December??
- Taking care of Mr. RootofGood Jr. and my daughters continues to consume a lot of my day. Mr. RootofGood Jr. will be in school in another 3 years, so I know one day I won’t be as busy with him. His time demands are usually a positive influence. He’ll pull me to the back door and urge me to go outside and play with him. That might lead to an afternoon sitting on the back deck watching him play as I lay in the hammock reading a book. There are worse ways to spend a couple of hours!
I still don’t feel like there are enough hours in the day to do everything that interests me. Some very early retirees worry that they won’t have anything to do to keep them busy which will lead to extreme boredom. I don’t recall a single second I have been bored since retiring early. I’m not saying I’ll never be bored in the future, but I simply can’t foresee it ever happening from my perspective today.
We haven’t really done any big vacations or trips since I retired. My last day of work coincided with the kids’ first day of school. School means we aren’t able to go away for more than a couple of nights. We have been discussing a big trip next summer. This trip might turn into a month or two of living abroad. I’ve been thinking about Mexico in particular, but there are a few other countries that have popped up lately (Spain being one of them). I don’t have any additional details to share at this point, but I’ll be putting up some additional posts as we get further into the planning.
Income and Expenses
Let’s look at the Root of Good household’s financial activity in November.
Personal Capital made it really easy to take a quick look at my income and expenses, and then drill down to areas of spending that were unusually high. Keeping track of our investment portfolio takes two clicks and is incredibly easy with Personal Capital. If you haven’t signed up for the free Personal Capital service, check it out today.
Here are our Personal Capital displays for the month:
Our income remained steady in November. Mrs. RootofGood’s take home pay accounts for most of the monthly income. The family loan we made in October entered repayment and we actually received a double payment in November. We also received $60 in dividends and interest income in our taxable accounts. We didn’t see much investment income in November. However, December will be a huge investment income month since most of our mutual funds and ETFs pay quarter end or year end dividends. This should amount to a few thousand dollars at least.
Now let’s look at expenses:
In total, we spent about $1,400 after subtracting out the mortgage payment (which will go away soon). Since we budgeted around $2,700 per month for retirement, we are well under budget for November. December and January might be uglier since we will have Christmas gifts, the annual house property tax bill ($1,450) and the auto insurance bill for six months ($255).
For November, the groceries are roughly in line with the amounts we budgeted for retirement spending. The grocery expense includes eight cases of diapers (that should last 3-4 months). I bought in bulk in order to get a 20% discount. We also bought food for Thanksgiving for around 30 people.
Our restaurant expenses were below budget. In fact, the November restaurant expense was $37 since we received $30 back from American Express’s Small Business Saturday promotion. They offered a $10 statement credit when you spend at least $10 at any local business. We have three American Express cards. We also had tons of Chinese and Mexican take out for free courtesy of American Express!
The $125 electronics purchase was a new LCD computer monitor I picked up from a sweet Black Friday sale. There’s an $80 rebate and a $30 American Express statement credit waiting for me, so the net cost should be $15. Not a bad deal since it is replacing a 14 year old CRT monitor. The energy savings alone should be $6 per year from switching to a more energy efficient device. Better computing experience while saving money. What’s not to like?
The one notable expense that is much larger than normal is the “home maintenance” of $408. This includes most of the expense for the in-wall oven replacement. Every year we have a few lumpy expenses like this. A new computer, an auto shop bill, new tires, home repairs, or a new appliance. We plan for these lumpy expenses in our retirement budget, so they don’t come as a surprise at all. It is unlikely we will spend another $500 on an oven (or any other appliance or home repair) for the rest of 2013. Over the course of the year, we will end up spending much less than the $2,080 budgeted for home repair.
Overall, November was another great month to be retired early. I’m still not completely comfortable sitting back and enjoying life while not being productive (in the paid employment sense). But I realize I have to define my own metrics of what constitutes living a successful life. And I’m okay with that.