My Semi-Retired Summer

I’m busy having fun with the family on our seven week vacation in Mexico.  This week we have a guest post from John C who blogs at Action Economics. John was kind enough to share his awesome summer of semi-retired fun.  


One of the major advantages to my line of work is that I tend to have the entire summer off. I work as a contractor at nuclear power plants during refueling outages, which normally take place during the spring and fall months, since the plants want to be producing power during the peak usage summer and winter months. Having summers off helps our family save a decent amount of money and headache by reducing our childcare expenses, but it also gives me a sneak peak of what early retirement may be like. Currently I am planning to hit Financial Independence by age 45, which is “only” 16 short years away. Having the summers off has shown me that regardless of whether I have to go back to work in September, I certainly won’t be bored with a surplus of free time.


Summer Fun:

We have 4 boys ages 12, 6, 3, and 2 so our summers are filled with a ton of rambunctious energy.  Most of the activities we do in the summer are absolutely free and are much more enjoyable since I don’t have to worry about waiting for the weekend. My wife, Mrs. C., only works a couple days a week during the summer as well so she doesn’t miss out on too much of the fun either. Over the years I have acquired a massive arsenal of original Super Soaker water guns and several times during the summer we have water wars that last for most of the day. I fill up all the guns before we get started and the kids have a blast.  We have 4 different hose spigots across the yard so it is easy for the kids to refill once they run out.  We also go on a lot of nature walks to wear the the kids out.


We live about 3 miles from Lake Michigan and go to the beach regularly.  One of the parks around us by the beach has a large fountain for kids to play in and has a nice playground.  There are a few other beaches along the shore that we go to as well and these beaches tend to have a lot fewer people at them than the large beach with the park.

We have several memberships to local organizations that help keep the kids busy as well. Instead of asking for presents for the kids for their birthdays we often ask for memberships for activities instead. We have memberships to our local kids museum, nature center, and zoo. For a family of six these memberships typically pay for themselves if we go twice during a year. One of the nice things about these memberships is that they are reciprocal with many other zoos and museums across the country. When taking a trip we can often stop at a zoo or museum at half the cost of normal admission.



All kids (and adults) need a bit of extra education. I remember during my summer vacations as a kid feeling like my brain was atrophying. I kicked off my summer break with studying for and taking the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) exam in order to help me move up with my employer.  In addition to teaching the kids the basics to prepare them for the next school year I am also taking some extra time to teach them life skills.

Kid 1: Kid 1 who is 12 struggles in school a lot. My parents are kindly paying for some extra math tutoring for him. I will be working with him every day on reading and comprehension as well. Kid 1 is my lazy kid so I am trying to instill a better work ethic in him and will also be teaching him the basics of how to use hand tools, a drill, and some electrical and plumbing repair.


Kid 2: Kid 2 does a lot better in school, but I still will be challenging him to read more difficult books and to get even better in math.  In addition to having him work with Kid 1 and myself with hand tools, I will also start teaching him some simple meals to prepare. Both kid 1 and kid 2 love the “Survivorman” type shows, so we will do a little bit of wilderness survival in the woods in our backyard this summer.

Kid 3: Kid 3 will turn 4 this summer. He is really smart, but gets emotional very easily and will shut down if he gets upset. We will be working on kindergarten prep over the summer even though it will be another year before he goes to school.  Mostly the basics of ABCs, 123s, being able to write his name and recognize shapes.  Improving his communication when he gets upset will be a major challenge that we need to work on.

Kid 4: Kid 4 just turned 2. He loves to talk and talk and talk.  Teaching him as many new words as possible is the best course of action for him.  Once he gets a little bit better with communication we will embark on potty training.

All 4: All 4 kids are on commission and can earn money based on the work they do. Obviously the older kids are capable of doing more work and thus earning more money.  We generally let the kids decide how much of their money to save and how much to spend.  Our kids are very good at saving money and even the 2 year old will do some very small chores to add to his piggy bank.


Home Improvements:

Home improvements are certainly a big part of our summer.  Mrs. C. just acquired several giant boxes approximately 12′ long by 1′ wide by 2′ deep for planters for practically nothing.  Getting these in the right spots, painted, and filled will be very labor intensive and will make our yard look a lot nicer.

In January we acquired 4.5 acres of adjacent land to our home by purchasing the old railroad bed that runs behind our neighborhood.  The land is 60′ wide by approx. a half mile.  There are several trees that are down across the path that I need to clean up and get out of the way. There is also a train bridge going over a creek on this land. My goal is to build a safe foot bridge and clear out a nice fishing spot on the creek.  The old bridge is rotting away and isn’t safe for the little kids to go across on.


A major improvement we are looking at is paving the end of our driveway and putting in a basketball hoop. This one will be a bit costly, but it’s been on our radar for several years. In addition to providing us with another fun activity it will also help with the drainage of our driveway during heavy rainfalls.


Going Forward:

I am certainly thankful that the job I have allows me to be able to spend more time with my kids in the summer when they are out of school. I miss a lot when I am travelling, but having these three months off certainly balances that out.  Now that we have the two little kids having the summers off saves us a lot of money on child care and allows Mrs. C. to maintain her job.

At age 45 all of our kids will be grown, which will take away a good deal of the activities I spend my time on during my summers off currently.  It is entirely possible that by age 45 I will be a grandpa several times over, since my oldest boy will be about the age I am now.  I consistently have more ideas of things I would like to do than time I have to do them, which is a good indicator for the future.  If I go even 2 or 3 days without moving forward on something I get stir crazy. I am capable of figuring out fun, interesting, and productive things to do with my time, which is half the battle with early retirement.



What would you do this summer if work wasn’t in the way?



Root of Good comments:  Thanks John!  Great insight into what’s possible when you have large chunks of free time and your finances under control.  I’ll share a few of my posts from the archives that are relevant to what John talks about. 

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  1. John nice score on the extra acreage! Although a lot of future work it will be a nice addition to your property once all setup. Maybe even get some small powersports going for the kids 😉
    Looking forward to checking out your site as well!

  2. Whoa, 4 boys. I can’t even imagine all the troubles they get into. 🙂 You sounds like an amazing dad. Enjoy your summer with the boys!

  3. You’ll reach FI at 45, which will be in 16 years. So you’re 29, and one of your kids is 12, so you had him when you were 17? I’m not judging here, just asking if the math is correct. Being able to plan for FI at 45, while you had your first kid at 17, sounds like a pretty impressive thing to me.

    I’m probably prejudiced here, but I would assume that people who have kids early and people who plan so long ahead for financial independence, are probably 2 groups that do not interest a lot. Congrats on that.

    1. The 12 year old is my step son, I met his mom when I was 18 (she is 4 years older than me) and I stepped into the role of stepdad when we moved in with each other a couple months before I turned 19, when kid 1 was almost 2. Our first couple years were rough due to having kids young, but if we weren’t in that situation I don’t think I would have focused as much on building wealth and trying to get ahead. Being a dad gave me that extra motivation to get on the right track.

      1. That’s really great that it worked out like that. You know, my younger cousin had a child when she was 16 or 17. Her son just graduated from high school, is going to college in engineering in the fall (on a really big scholarship).

        His parents married young. My cousin finished college, ended up getting a PhD in physics. Now she’s in her mid-30’s and almost an empty nester, enjoying backpacking trips and teaching kickboxing in her spare time from her day job. Some people really “step up” to young parenthood.

  4. Stockbeard beat me to the punch! I am pretty sure that I did not know anything about FI or money management at 17! Congratulations and good luck!

  5. Sounds like an awesome set-up! I’d love to have the summers off :). And, your new acreage looks beautiful–what fun for your kids to explore! We’re planning on early retirement in a few years and one of our big motivators is to have the time to be there for our kids–just as you described. Enjoy your summer!

  6. In a lot of ways, we are doing the same things we would do even if work wasn’t in the way. I have a job with great leave benefits and I earn a lot of “Travel Compensation” hours whenever the days I travel on extend past eight hours. Therefore, I use a lot of that time to travel – enjoying a long weekend in San Diego next month – and enjoy days off in the middle of week here at home. On such days the wife and I always find things to do: golfing, going to the gym, local events, etc.

  7. I would trade longer hours or traveling part of the year if I could have 3 months off during the summer as well. If I had 3 months off during the summer I would read more, nap more, and travel.

  8. Wow – 4 boys. My brother and I are only two years apart and we were a handful for my parents! 🙂

    I think you have done an excellent job creating fun activities and teachable moments for your kids. Having that land and projects, will provide some nice skills for your boys later in their life.

    Good luck on your financial independence journey.

  9. Holy camoly, I have a hard time wrapping my head around your being 29 with a 12 year old, and being a grandpa at 45. Though really, I have more than one high school friend with grandchildren … and I’m 45.

    On the other hand, I am 45 with a 3 year old, and I have OTHER high school friends with babies, and one who is pregnant. Craziness! I thought being pregnant at 42 was bad, 44 or 45? Yikes.

    I love reading about your summers. Work DEFINITELY gets in my way in the summers. I’d love a “summer camp” for adults. I have many friends with summers off – teachers, contractors, whatever, and I’m a little jealous. My summer is more of the same, juggling daycare and summer camps.

    I was musing late last week about what I’d be doing if I had summers off.
    #1: lots of beach time, hikes, etc.
    #2: bubbles and drawing on the back patio. We also have super soakers, which the boys love (mine are 9 and 3), but we are in a terrible drought here in CA. So I limit their use. My poor 9 year old asked “What if I used the toddler’s bathwater?” Um, no.
    #3: trips to see family on the opposite coast. Likely I would try my hand at credit card churning, and go out for a month or more. Spend lots of time on grandpa’s farm (my stepdad), and a shorter amount of time on the other grandpa’s lake.
    #4: summer driving/camping vacations – this is tough due to the age of the younger one, and the older one who gets carsick. But my vacation is SO limited to the school system, that we rarely get to go on actual vacations. Unless it is school holidays.
    #5: crafts! I’m a quilter, and I dabble at knitting and crocheting. I would love to have more time to work on these things. And maybe even garden. And can things like jam and salsa.

    1. The drought in CA is crazy, my Sister lives out there as well, Hopefully you guys get some sustained rains in the coming months.

      One of my bosses always say, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.” Having kids early means missing out on some for the partying and misadventures that my friends have been able to do in their 20s, but most of them are just starting to have kids now and I will have time kid free on the back end, in theory.

      My grandpa is 70 and now has kids the same age as my kids. He married a younger woman and they adopted a couple kids. I couldn’t imagine raising kids at that age, but it is possible!

      1. Yep – my friends up the street have 4 grown children and a few grandchildren. And they adopted 2 more children around my kids’ age. They are about 10-15 years older than we are (so, late 50’s) and their kids range from 5 to 35. Totally do-able.

  10. Hey, John. I also live in West MI. We probably live about an hour apart. I just spent a few minutes at your blog, and I just have to say how much I admire you and dig your blog. What you are doing is amazing–both with your income and for your four boys (three of which were not born to you). Your voice is definitely needed in the FI community. So much of it is dominated by people who have very high earnings, and few (if any) children. I hope you keep writing, because I want to keep reading!

  11. John (and RoG),

    Nice post. I spend a fair amount of time myself thinking about ways to achieve financial freedom sooner to have just the sort of freedom you describe in this article.

    It’s amazing what life has to offer when we free ourselves from the daily grind of punching someone else’s clock. To answer the question… I would spend more time playing tennis and running outside this Summer if I was completely free of work concerns. I suppose I do a fair amount of that already as well, though.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking read,
    – Ryan from GRB

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