Building a Core

This is a guest post by Dave, who is also looking to retire no later than 45, but unlike Tim has no kids and doesn’t want any. Dave is from Ontario and is working towards his CGA certification.

I previously wrote about problems I was having with my back.  At the time, I decided to go to a chiropractor and physiotherapist in order to attempt to rid myself of the back pain I was experiencing.  I did this for a few months, and the outcome was somewhat unsatisfactory.  Rather than continuing to spend money (well, my benefits provider’s money) I chose to go another route.

Starting about this time last year, I worked to get stronger and more flexible, rather than focus on having a chiropractor or physiotherapist work on little muscles.  I have been able to almost triple the amount I can squat, approaching almost twice my body weight (along with increasing my strength in other ancillary exercises) – in the process, my back pain has essentially disappeared.  I’m no doctor or anything, but I don’t think it has hurt me by getting stronger.

I plan on maintaining this level of strength as far into the future as possible in order to stay as mobile as possible for as long as I can.  This, along with a healthy diet will hopefully give me a good chance of being mobile into my 80’s.

Similarly, I have attempted to build a strong core financially.  I am repaying my only outstanding debt (my house) as quickly as possible, and I am going to invest as much as possible in order replace employment income with investment income.  At the core of my financial plan though is the simplicity of keeping my expenses low.

Low expenses, as a part of my financial plan has provided me with more financial independence than anything else I have done.  I make pretty good money right now, enough that I can keep my goal of retiring at 45 in my sights.  If I decide that I don’t want to do the job I’m doing right now (or something like it), I could find a job that pays minimum wage and I’d be fine financially.  Working a minimum wage job  would limit my early retirement opportunities but it does provide a certain amount of security knowing that I won’t be on the street if my company decides they don’t like something I’m doing or I decide I don’t want to work there anymore.

Much like building my core muscles in my body, I constantly maintain the core of my financial plan by monitoring my spending.  I don’t consider myself a miser or anything, I just ensure that if I’m going to spend my money on something, it’s not a waste.

What do you consider to be the core of your financial plan?  How do you maintain your focus on this over time?

Transitioning to Retirement

What makes a smooth transition to retirement? I personally didn’t have anything in mind. In the first week or two that I stopped going in to work every day, I had more naps than I’d care to admit. I’ve also read a lot, but too much of it has been internet news (or entertainment). Something that’s important to me is to spend my time doing things that are worthwhile.  That’s why I’ve decided to spend more time volunteering at my children’s school and at the YMCA.

It seems that volunteering is a common theme among retired people. At the YMCA, I met a woman who explained that she’s currently transitioning into retirement. Without being rude, she is quite a bit older than me, probably nearing the normal retirement age. She worked for years as a psychologist, helping children (eg. with ADHD) adjust to their usual environments, such as school. She has decided that she wants a smooth transition to retirement. Her first step was to stop taking on new clients. Each client is a relatively short term project, measured in months, not years. This reduces her commitment (and income, I assume), without ending it all at once. It also gives her a modest amount of extra free time.

Most people, after working full time for the majority of their lives, crave a routine and a feeling that they are contributing to a cause larger than themselves. The woman I met has chosen to volunteer at the YMCA in order to be part of a group effort and to have a time commitment that builds into her routine. I’ve talked with other people who either worry what they would do with the spare time afforded by retirement. They seem to take literally the proverb “idle hands are the devil’s playthings”.

That may hold true for some people, but having the luxury of being able to choose where and how to spend my time gives me options that wouldn’t be available otherwise. My favourite things to spend my time on relate to my interest in public education. I regularly spend time in our school, volunteering in one or the other of my sons’ classes, or joining them on field trips. I also talk with other parents about their experiences with and expectations for our school. I have the luxury of being able to read news, scholarly articles and books related to the education issues that our school and our system are facing.

None of these activities were planned as a transition to help smooth me into retirement. But I think that a smooth transition is certainly worth the effort. I continue to try and sort my activities into a regular schedule that produces a routine. Fortunately, whenever I feel that I’m wasting my time, I can take my daughter (who’s not in school yet) and play with her. Nurturing my kids is time well spent.

Do you have plans to ease the transition from one stage of life to the next?

Oh Crap, I Forgot What!

I’m currently on a business trip which I made the mistake of packing for at the last minute.  While heading out the door I had the feeling that I was forgetting something, but could not determine what it was.  So I left anyways.

After driving for an hour with that feeling I finally figured out missing: my dress shoes and my bag of all toiletries.  So I had some time to determine what I was going to do about this.

The dress shoes I determined I was just going to live without.  I had black hiking boots on in the car and some jeans.  So I’ll skip my dress pants and wear the jeans to make due.  I’m not buying a new pair of shoes for just two days.

The toiletry bag was more of a problem.  I’m not going away for two days without brushing my teeth..ick.  So I first went to the hotel to assess what they had in the room.  I was somewhat in luck that they had a little tub of shaving cream along with the standard soap, shampoo, conditioner and hand cream.  I also check the guest services list to see if they offer a program to offer a free…whatever…in case I forgot something. No luck there.

So I then tracked down the nearest drug store and went shopping.  I skipped any of my usual products and strictly looked for the cheapest thing I could get (its just for two days so I live with it).  I found a toothbrush on sale ($2) and travel size toothpaste ($1.29) and disposal razors ($4).  So including tax I covered my mistake for $8.  Overall not too bad.

Yet what stuck me about this entire event was how people tend to over pack as not to forget something when traveling.  I forgot two fairly important things and it only cost me $8 and some minor inconvenience.  If you stay flexible about your plans the reality is forgetting something is likely not a big deal.  It will certainly cost you money for the odd mistake, but really carrying every little thing you may need is more of inconvenience with overly heavy bags in my mind.

So how about you? Do you pack light and accept the odd ‘oh crap’ moment or do you pack everything but your kitchen sink?