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.
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 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.
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.
- 17 ways to have cheap family fun
- Early retirement with kids
- Mrs. RoG’s sabbatical – A mini-retirement
- The early retiree’s weekly schedule, or what I do all week
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