Three Months of Early Retirement

turkey

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.

Thanksgiving

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.

R.I.P. Oven.  You were good to our house's occupants for 41 loyal years.

R.I.P. Oven. You were good to our house’s occupants for 41 loyal years.

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 provided an update at one month and two months into my early retirement adventure.  Here’s the three month update:

  • 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:

November 2013 Income

 

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:

November 2013 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.

 

33 comments

  • Congrats on 3 months! I am still a few years away from retirement myself, but the more I plan for it, the more I am motivated to make it happen sooner.

    Good work on the oven! Sometimes you have to go new, but going through the motions of trying to fix, then trying used, then going to new with all sorts of coupons and savings techniques has paid great dividends for you over the years, I’m sure!

  • Good post. I need some inspiration to get my monthly budget down. Looks like you will be completely set for early retirement with these types of budget numbers. Adjusting out for the mortgage and lumpy maintenance expense, you are running around $1200/month for operations.

    • It’s nice that roughly half our $32000/yr budget is lumpy or discretionary to some extent. It means most months we don’t spend anywhere near that amount, and can reduce spending if the portfolio turns ugly.

  • Yea that budget is LEAN. No fat left to chop there at all, nice work.

    You are living the life most of us here aspire to, but there’s no doubt you’ve earnt it so you might as well go ahead enjoy it. Not that you needed me to tell you that! 🙂

    • I feel like there’s still some fat to chop, as we don’t particularly scrimp or save (other than the ingrained shopping heuristics I use for most things, as exemplified by the oven replacement).

      Not that I would want to chop any more fat if we don’t need to. 🙂

  • Justin, you are an inspiration!! Glad early retirement is going well. Can’t wait till we get there. 🙂

  • So, you know how us financial bloggers all pretty much agree that buying shiny new things all the time is overrated? People spend money on toys that make them happy, but only for a short period of time before and then they just have this thing that takes up space that doesn’t bring them any more happiness. I think one of my fears is that after early retirement, the same will happen to the freedom that I just bought – that it loses its luster a bit. I am pretty confident that freedom transcends that effect, but have you found or are you fearful that you might find that your freedom is less valuable to you after a while? That because you don’t dread Mondays that you don’t celebrate Fridays (as a small example)?

    • To a certain extent, yes. You forget the mind numbing boredom you experience sitting in a pointless meeting at work. You forget having to get up at 4:30 am if you have to travel for work or be on site at a very early time. You forget about the office politics. You forget about the small things, like when the elevator in your six story building is condemned because no one fixed it for 8 years and the inspector stopped being nice (true story that happened my last day of work 🙂 I could only smile.).

      I guess even a prisoner serving a life sentence has to make peace with his captivity. If he gets out on parole, eventually the joy of freedom would leave. But I don’t think you can ever lose the appreciation for your own freedom from the time demands and stresses of work. I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t reflect on my circumstances and appreciate them.

  • Nice work with the oven. I like how you exhausted every other avenue before buying new…I wish more people took that approach. Fix first, then buy used, and only buy new if you really have to.

    You guys are looking great from a financial perspective. $1400 a month in expenses is fantastic no matter how you slice it.

    • That approach to shopping is automatic (from years of practicing I guess). You can get stuff near free if you aren’t picky and don’t need it quickly.

      We could have postponed the oven purchase for a while, with the hopes that the perfect oven popped up on Craigslist. But I figured having a barely operational oven might lead to dining out more, which would quickly erode any savings from thrifty second hand shopping. And I ended up getting a steal of a deal on a brand new appliance with a solid warranty instead of a used appliance that would have a small chance of being defective and wouldn’t last as long.

  • Looks like another busy month! People ask me often what I do all day and there is always something to do even if you don’t have a traditional job.
    I envy the 50 posts in queue, I was able to schedule about 2 months of posts before going to Europe but now am really low on content!

    • I should have said “I have 50 more topics to write about”, not that I have already written 50 more posts waiting to be published. 🙂 I usually just publish whenever I have an article finished.

  • Pingback: 40th edition of the Carnival of Financial Independence - Money Bulldog

  • Pingback: Financial Carnival for Young Adults

  • Hey, Justin, sounds like you’re settling into your marathon pace. If you haven’t managed to create some boredom for yourself by now then it’s probably never going to happen. Enjoy life before your kids turn into teenagers and make you wish for boredom to relieve the drama.

    My spouse stalks Craigslist keywords to replace the oldest appliance in our house before it breaks. Within a few months we usually find the fabled homeowner who’s repainting their kitchen and throwing out their old non-matching appliances for pennies on the dollar. After a few years those projects settle down too.

    But you might be waiting a very long time for that “workplace nostalgia” thing to occur!

    • Good idea on the “craigslist stalking” for preemptive appliance replacement. That would be our 41 year old stove cooktop that matches our broken oven. Although the stove cooktop has even less guts to break than the oven. It might be the simplest large appliance in the whole house in fact. Maybe I’ll keep an eye open. I almost bought a neighbor’s cooktop that was only 10 years old or so. He pulled it a few years ago to upgrade after he moved in. Looked almost brand new and it was 30% of the new price!

      These kids are keeping me busy now. I’m sure when they are teenagers it will be a different kind of busy. And because of their ages, we’ll have 12 years of teenage kids here (2018 to 2030). Non stop fun, right? 🙂

  • Pingback: Yakezie Carnival — Fat Guy Skinny Wallet

  • Pingback: Carnival of MoneyPros | Bite the Bullet InvestingBite the Bullet Investing

  • Pingback: Carnival of Wealth, Wristwatch Edition | Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense

  • Pingback: Festival of Frugality | Digital Personal Finance

  • Awesome! Sounds like a very nice month… Enjoy it!

  • Nice work, thanks for laying everything out. Just found the blog via AOL Daily Finance, looking forward to following along!

  • Pingback: Aspiring Blogger – Personal Finance Carnival #21 – December 06, 2013 | Aspiring Blogger

  • How are you getting away with $1450 tax bill? I live in Iowa, which is not exactly a high cost of living state, and my annual tax bill is $4400.

    • That’s just $1,450 for the property tax bill. Our house is valued around $150,000 and we have roughly a 1% tax rate here. That works out to $1450. State income tax was usually a few thousand while I was working, but I expect it to go down during early retirement.

      • Yeah, I was only counting property tax as well. My house is valued at just over $200,000. Our schools better be awesome.

        • I know our property tax is one of the lower rates among cities in NC. And average houses are closer to 200k here in our county (so I’m paying a lower share than others in more expensive neighborhoods). I checked Iowa’s state income tax rates, and they are similar to NC – around 7% average for a middle class income. Some states have low or no income tax rates but big property tax rates.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *