“But what will you do all day?” they ask when they hear you are going to retire early. “I could never retire, I would get so bored” they proclaim. Thank goodness there are tons of employers in this world who will gladly tell you how to spend your free time if you let them.
Don’t get me wrong – I get bored easily. The prospect of sitting in a waiting room for an hour without any source of entertainment or external stimulus scares me. It’s even scarier if I’m forced to watch day time TV while I wait.
Fortunately we live in the twenty first century, a glorious time filled with entertainment overload, instant digital connections, and unlimited choices of pastimes (indoors and outside).
The Weekly Schedule in Early Retirement
I thought it would be fun to look at a typical week for me because it might help others figure out how they can fill their free time. The schedule also shows the diversity of daily and weekly activities for me. No two days are alike, and each day typically has a mix of a lot of fun, a moderate dose of physical activity and a small dose of work.
I don’t adhere to a strict schedule since my only recurring time constraints are the morning and afternoon kid drop off/pick up times. In other words, I know where I’ll be around 8 am and 3 pm each day, but otherwise my schedule varies a lot day to day and week to week. This past week was pretty fun, partly because Mrs. Root of Good is on her sabbatical right now so it’s like a test run of early retirement for her too. I loosely modeled this schedule on what we did in the past week.
The legend at the bottom of the schedule breaks out each activity into five categories: Work, Meals, Physical, Fun, and Social.
On a weekly basis, I’m spending my time as follows:
- Work – 13 hours
- Physical Activity – 18 hours
- Fun – 35.5 hours
- Social – 7.5 hours
I tend to spread the work out so I’m not working too hard on any particular day. On most days, I’m not spending more than an hour or two on activities that I define as “work”. In addition to housework and yard work, I’ll spend a few hours each week on “personal finance” which varies week to week but includes paying bills, managing my credit card hacking habit, and checking on our cash flows, spending, and investments.
Personal Capital saves a ton of time since I can check on cash balances at multiple banks and brokerage firms in one place, and get a quick overview of when bills are due. I can check my asset allocation and see if any dividends are waiting for me in money market accounts. I’m no day trader and typically go months without buying or selling anything in our investment portfolio until our investments deviate significantly from our asset allocation.
Physical activity varies a lot by season and daily changes in the weather. Winters in North Carolina are chilly and summers are hot and humid. But even on cold days, it’s often nice on sunny afternoons (with a coat of course). On hot, humid summer days, the mornings are usually the best time to enjoy outside activities. After I quit working, I started walking for short errands instead of driving like taking the kids to school and going to the grocery store or library. This increased weekly physical activity while also saving a few bucks on auto costs. My new shoe costs probably went up though.
I put “adventure time” on the schedule and this is intentionally vague and open ended. Sometimes we’ll hit the road for a walkabout, visit the park, library, and community center, stop at a restaurant, and get back home a few hours later. Or we’ll walk the 3.5 mile round trip to drop the kids off at Grandma’s house. Or drive to one of the city parks or nature preserves and enjoy a fun afternoon exploring along trails and creeks while hoping to see some deer, hawks, or fish. Other times we’ll attend a festival in downtown (living in the city, there’s always something going on downtown).
Fun and social time add up to 43 hours per week. Early retirement is like a full time job where tasks consist solely of having fun and socializing. Everyone has their own definition of fun and their ideal level of socializing each week. I like a lot of solitary activities but also enjoy the company of other people.
I like to read, write, research, learn, relax, enjoy the outdoors, play video and computer games, and watch documentaries, dramas, and comedies on Netflix. Throughout the week I try to get in a little of each of these activities. I rarely do any of these things for more than a few hours at a time, and if I tire of one activity I’ll move to something else more enjoyable for a while.
Sometimes I’ll get really passionate about a particular idea and spend a few days absorbed in that new project. I’ve done that with vacation planning, learning photoshop and foreign languages, and even learning how to blog right before I started Root of Good.
So far I haven’t experienced any boredom in early retirement. But if I do, my first action will be to search for new activities to jump into.
What happens if something breaks around the house or another emergency arises? I’ll be working more for a short period of time and have to cut out some of the fun time during the week. That probably means less time surfing, blogging, and watching Netflix. I’m loving the flexibility of my schedule because it allows me to cope with unexpected issues as they arise and doesn’t mess up my schedule for the whole week since I know I can always have tons of free time after a couple of days.
The Working Man’s Weekly Schedule
Here’s what my weekly schedule looked like when working.
All the fun stuff is crammed into a tiny sliver of workday evenings plus a few hours each day on the weekend. Working late, traveling for work, or kids’ school activities in the evening meant nearly zero fun time on those days.
If something broke around the house or on the car, that meant more work and would squeeze out most of the fun time for a day or two.
That’s pretty much why I chose to exit the rat race as soon as I could. This schedule has way too much red and not enough blue. Yet people voluntarily subject themselves to this schedule for decades at a time. Go figure.
Returning to our youth
Kindergarten was a lot of fun. I don’t remember learning anything because it seemed like we floated from center to center doing fun stuff all day. Looking at the daily schedule for the kindergarten at my kid’s school, I see a lot of parallels to my own daily schedule. It’s a mix of fun stuff, casual learning, and “work” in the form of math, writing, and reading.
I assume it’s no accident that reading happens very early in the day, writing happens in the middle of the day, and math happens late in the day in order to mix the hard work with the fun so the kindergartners don’t get burnt out by day’s end.
Moral of the story: even if you don’t copy my early retirement schedule, consider adapting the kindergarten class’s schedule for your own purposes. Mixing in a little work with the fun provides challenges to keep your mind and body sharp without any unnecessary stress or performance expectations.
What does your ideal early retirement schedule look like?
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