Six months ago, I found myself suddenly unemployed. After a day or two of thinking about my situation and my finances, I decided I might as well call it “early retirement”. Maybe a better job would find me, or maybe it wouldn’t.
I have always heard it takes six months to a year for the reality of early retirement to set in. First you have to decompress from a lifetime (or a decade, in my case) of working. Then, with proper perspective, you can move on to the next phase of life.
I think the six month mark is that tipping point for me. I have moved on from “wow, I don’t have to work any more!” to “ahhhh, what should I do this fine day?”. Every day.
Early Retirement: Month Six
Here’s what I’ve been up to in this glorious sixth month of early retirement:
One of my hobbies is learning. I have been plugging away at French lessons at duolingo.com. I was a good student in January, and slacked off some in February. But I picked up a new educational endeavor. In mid-February, I started a Coursera course on Financial Markets with Robert Shiller. It’s all online and totally free.
So far, I have completed two out of the eight weeks of classes and passed the quizzes (and I scored 88% to 90% on the quizzes!). Each class features a guest lecturer from the financial industry. Hank Greenberg, former AIG president, was the first speaker and provided insight into the company’s operations leading up to the 2008 financial crisis and the aftermath of the company’s downfall.
David Swensen, manager of the Yale Endowment fund (all $16 billion of it!), spoke in the second set of lectures about running a broadly diversified investment portfolio with a very long term investment horizon (forever). His investing approach isn’t totally different from my approach, which makes me feel more secure about my investment portfolio.
The class is a good mix of theory, math, statistics, psychology, business, and history. Those topics all interest me, so it’s a good fit. Going into it, I wasn’t sure whether I would make it through all eight weeks, but it has proven interesting enough to keep my attention so far. Perhaps the best part of the class is that I can view the lectures on my laptop while lazing in the hammock strung across my lakeside patio. The in-person students are stuck in a stuffy mahogany paneled lecture hall in New Haven.
I’ll be on the lookout for another Coursera course for mid to late Spring (when the hammock-laying weather will be perfect!). Hopefully I can fit one more in before our big summer adventure to Canada that commences in late June.
Speaking of Canada, I’m hoping to practice a little French while we are up there. Plans aren’t set in stone yet, but we will probably spend two weeks in Montreal and Quebec (where French is apparently commonly used). I’ve already put my limited French to use while reading descriptions of apartments for rent in Quebec. I never figured I would need my French skills so quickly, but that’s life for you! Time to get back to the Duolingo French lessons.
I keep busy at least a day or two each week with play dates for one of our kids. Sometimes I’ll pass a friend with kids on the walk to or from school and that will turn into a mid-morning play date. A big concern of many prospective early retirees is that they will lose all social contact that they normally get through work. Maybe it’s because I have kids, but I get all the social interaction I want!
In spite of my busy schedule, I managed to find time to play the occasional board game with the kids. If anyone is a board game enthusiast, we played Ticket To Ride: Europe and Carcassonne. These two are challenging enough to keep adults engaged, but the rules are simple enough to allow kids (ours are seven and eight) to play and have fun, too. And beat their old man occasionally.
I also keep busy playing Conquer Club online with some friends. It’s a turn-based strategy game. Check it out!
The last month proved to be very laid back without a lot of chores or “fix it” tasks. Instead I spent much of the month catching up on a few television shows, reading books, and relaxing.
One morning, I decided to switch up the routine a bit and not check my phone or email until after noon. I spent all morning finishing the last two thirds of Candide with my coffee mug at hand. Mr. RoG Jr. cooperated with my desire to quietly read and occupied himself with rearranging and sorting hairbands and pencils for a few hours. Half of that time he was also sitting/laying/crawling/climbing on me. Given my veteran status as a parent, I can multi-task as a chair-climbing post combo and still relax and read a book.
I think I’m going to “take the day off” more often. No logging on the computer, no checking email, no doing chores around the house. Maybe not all day, but at least for a few hours. Otherwise, I sometimes find my day slips away without any real relaxation or quiet enjoyment.
Even though February turned out to be a very relaxing month, I still managed to keep busy. The kids’ school held their annual Engineering Week and I volunteered for a few days. On the last day I judged the “rain gutter regatta”. The second graders built boats out of recycled materials and raced them using human generated wind power down a water-filled rain gutter. My daughter’s team didn’t do very well, but her class did win the Regatta Cup. The trophy, like the boats, was also made of recycled materials.
Running Root of Good takes a small slice out of most days. I made a few tweaks here and there to make things better and to accommodate the changes in some advertising programs. I also wrote and published my first freelance article in February.
The biggest thing on my to do list these days is planning our trip to Canada this summer. We are tentatively planning on leaving in late June and returning to Raleigh in early August. Hopefully we can work out the itinerary to have us in New York City on the 4th of July to check out some awesome fireworks.
We’re planning a nice slow trip through Canada, spending roughly one week each in Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto. And then stop by Niagara Falls for a couple of nights on the way back south. For the weekly stays, I’m looking for apartments or houses. Since there are five of us in the family, it will be a lot more comfortable if we have some space to spread out. It also works out to be a lot less expensive, even though we will have much more space.
Apartments also have kitchens. We’ll definitely be partaking of the local cuisine on offer across the Canadian frontier, but having the option to dine in and prepare something ourselves will prevent restaurant burn out. And prevent wallet burn out.
We know almost nothing about Canada, and don’t really know what we want to do or see while in Quebec and Ontario. In addition to researching the accommodations and transportation, we have to figure out what we’ll be doing on our trip. Guide books are ordered (from the library, of course), documentaries on Toronto, Montreal, Quebec, and Ottawa are queued up on TV and youtube, and our internet browsers are at our fingertips, ready for some virtual sight-seeing.
The trees are starting to blossom which means spring is almost here. Hopefully it will warm up enough and I’ll be outside enjoying the weather and the wildlife as I skim through the travel guides checking out cool places to visit up north. I’ll also be heading out to our neighborhood parks with the little ones.
March won’t be all fun and games. I’ll be stuck inside for a while. I still haven’t completed our taxes for 2013. I’m expecting a decent sized refund (have you seen the $150,000 income, $150 in taxes article?), so I might as well file as soon as possible. I tend to get a corrected 1099-DIV from Fidelity in early March that properly reports tax treatment of an international REIT fund, so hopefully it gets here soon (if it’s coming).
One other task I need to take care of in March is an investment check up. I like to periodically check on the funds we own and determine whether they are the best choices (lowest expense, lowest turnover). I’ll also be reviewing my asset allocation and rebalancing allocations that are overweight.
I’ll be using the tools at Personal Capital to check on the asset allocation and expense ratios of the funds in my portfolio. It’s a great service for investment management and it’s free to everyone (Personal Capital review here).
Overall, the last month was very awesome. Our finances look great and I’m finding more than enough to keep me busy in early retirement.
Did you do anything exciting in the last month?
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