Category Archives: Happiness

You Shouldn’t Fear Spending in Retirement

I was chatting with my wife earlier today and I mentioned that I was a proud of a something relatively minor in my retirement so far:  I don’t obsess about our spending.  I also don’t ignore it either.   I keep an eye on our spending but I don’t sit down every month examine every dollar in detail.  Instead I keep track of the big picture – how much we spend over  a year and not so much about a given month.

My wife’s reply was to the point “You better not care about every single dollar you spend or what was the point of retiring in the first place?”

She is right of course.  If you have to worry about every dime you spend in retirement it won’t be a fun life regardless of having all the extra free time.

Which brings me to the point of today’s post that every retirement budget needs something: slack or buffer.  Or excess spending dollars or what ever you want to call the concept.  The point is you NEVER want to retire on a shoestring budget with nothing extra in it.

I know when you are saving for retirement there is a temptation to reduce spending as far as it will go to get to your early retirement sooner.  Which honestly that isn’t a bad short term exercise so you know what the shoestring number is but often a short term dip in spending can’t be sustainable in the long run.  Why?  People often will push off replacement of items and make due.  Which honestly can work just fine in the short run.  It just can easily start to fall apart over a long period of time.

For example, I bought a new weed trimmer this morning to finally replace the one I originally bought with our first house over 12 years ago.  Why?  Well the line feeder started acting up during the end of last season.  So this year I just made do the first few times I used it but then the plastic guard with the line cutter broke off.  Now it was just a pain to use the old weed trimmer and while it sort of did the job but only with a lot of hassle and screwing around with it.  So avoiding replacing it would have just ended up costing me a lot of time and frustration in the long run.  Rather than do that I looked for a new one and found a cordless battery powered weed trimmer on sale and bought it this morning.  I already love not having to drag out my extra long extension cord to trim the lawn after cutting it (my previous one was a corded model).

So for a cost of less than $100 I managed to replace my old weed trimmer and also do a small upgrade by going cordless which makes me much happier since I can accomplish the job faster than using my old one.

In the end, I wasn’t afraid to spend the money and I ended up with something better for me in the long run.  That is because our budget includes some slack for the things that do break down over time and need to be replaced.  You can’t predict where these will occur so you best to just add in a buffer or slack to your budget to account for it.

So how do you deal with the eventually replacement of things in your home?  Do you keep a set dollar amount or percentage of budget for your buffer or just use your actual yearly spending with those one off items in it?

What’s It Like To Be Retired

Despite the simplicity of the question:what’s it like to be retired? The answer is a bit hard to explain.

I think also part of the difficulty of explaining what it is like to be retired is the default pictures you carry around in your head of what it should be. For the ‘I never want to retire‘ crowd it would be someone just sitting around not doing anything. For the ‘entrepreneur type person‘ it would be starting a new business idea. And for the ‘burnt out employee‘ it would be an endless vacation but of course none of those are correct.

So the short answer is: it’s like Saturday all the time. You still have stuff to do, but you enjoy your day because you have time to relax and not worry about your job. The long answer is a bit harder to nail down.

I think in part the difficulty lies in the flexibility of the retired lifestyle. The flexibility also means that things shift around a bit more than people are used to. I’m not required to get up at a specific time or do things in any specific order. Other than the occasional appointment or event in my calendar I often had days at a time with nothing booked per say.

I also suspect that it is hard to explain because people really don’t grasp the idea of how much Parkinson’s Law applies to your time. For those of you that forget the law states that a given task will expand to the time allocated to it. So now some mornings I’m into a the book that I’m reading and can spend two or three hours just getting dressed, eating breakfast and reading while finishing the morning pot of coffee.

Another issue that comes up is the fact that I let my inner curiosity guide me a lot more in life now. I’ll read about something in the news and want to learn more. So I’ll do a few Google searches on it, read a few articles and/or watch some YouTube videos on the topic. This can depending on the topic consume an hour or two or even days as I request a book for the library and do further research on a topic. All because I’m curious and I can.

And finally I think one of the major issues people don’t understand is the fact you won’t want to do nothing. Okay, you might be a bit lazy at the start but eventually you want to contribute to something and accomplish something else. People really won’t do nothing for years at a time. The desire to create, build or achieve something is still there after you leave work. Each person will do things that matter to them and not anyone else. So progress on their given goals can be all over the map. So I know retirees that flip houses or run for political office or start a business. Some might become an activist for a cause or volunteer for an organization that matters to them. Then specifically for the majority of early retirees we tend to be self motivated people who tend to like to take on long and complex projects like getting to early retirement. So to suddenly do nothing for years on end is just laughable.

So with all that said about what early retirement isn’t, what am I doing with my time? The same things I enjoyed doing prior to retirement. I read a lot, enjoy some movies and TV shows (on Netlix or DVD from the library), cook, brew wine and beer, visit with my friends, do family activities like playing a board game or going swimming and of course writing on this blog and other projects. I just tend to do more of those things and take my time to enjoy the present more. I know hardly earth shattering but that is what I care about.

What do you plan to do in your retirement? Or what did you end up doing if you are retired?

Life After FIRE – Six Months In

Recently it occurred to me that I was closing in on six months since I left work and started my early retirement which honestly hit me with a bit of shock. Six months?!?! Really?!?! Already!

Perhaps why it snuck up on me is rather simple: I haven’t been remotely bored and I have to be honest that I haven’t been that busy either.  At least in my head I don’t think of myself as ‘busy’.

What I define as ‘busy’ was that frantic pace that used to be my life versus now where I move a much slower pace  and where I am calm and relaxed (most of the time). Previously at work there was this low level stress that didn’t seem like much at the time, but now I really notice the lack of it.

I think I under estimated this entire concept of detoxing from work after you retire. I thought because I wasn’t highly stressed from my job or I wasn’t ill from my work that I won’t need much time for detoxing but I was wrong. Instead of stress or sickness, I was very infected from work on having a certain level of productivity in my life.  During my career it went like this: I had to do this project at work, then do this home repair project on the weekend, and then see these friends because it has been like six months since we saw them.  And then repeat that almost every day. I had a standard in my head of what being productive meant and I didn’t realize how high it was until after I left my old job. So during the first few months of my early retirement I was concerned about my lack of accomplishments. What was I getting done with all my new found time? To be honest it wasn’t much in least in the terms I would have previously measured it.

I would have previously ticked off what I did in the last six months along the lines of:

  • Finished a first draft of a novel
  • Started editing a second novel
  • Got this website back up and running (with help from friends)
  • Read 45 books
  • Watched over 15 seasons of TV shows
  • Completed a online course on working at libraries
  • Volunteered once a week at my sons’ school library
  • Took a beer appreciation class and joined a beer club to learn more about brewing beer
  • Brewed 24 L of beer and 86 bottles of wine
  • Dusted off a very old hobby and started playing D&D again with a group for the first time in twenty years

The issue I think was I was so used to thinking in numeric terms that I failed to realize my biggest accomplishment during this six months of early retirement was adjusting to an entirely new lifestyle and changing my definition of ‘busy’.

There really is no road map for what to do once you leave work. Your time is now effectively entirely under your control and that level of choice is nearly overwhelming at the start. So I rather glad I had previously developed a ‘want to do’ list with things for me to do with my time after leaving work. Some were very easy items like take a walk around the park one day while others took a week or more such as taking a online course. The point was to get out of my usual life and specifically do things that I had dreamed of with my time.

Yet now I don’t recall the last time I looked at that list. It has literally been months. It is less important to me now as I have a bit of a rough routine to my week that I’m enjoying. But that list was useful as I continue to enjoy some of those little things that I can do now with my time. For example, a particular favourite item is going out for fast food breakfast. I can usually pick up a breakfast for less than $10 for me (and with a coupon my wife as well) and I like to do it perhaps once a month or so. The novelty of the experience is simple: I NEVER got to that during my working career and I really do enjoy the occasional breakfast out.

Now with this new lifestyle I am comfortable with who I am and I have this nice calm state and I finally feel ready to take on some more projects. I had previously avoided taking on too much for a while to let myself adjust to my new definition of being productive. But now I feel ready to outline a schedule on when to publish my first novel. I also want to do planning for some other big items around the house like the kitchen renovation and getting a plan together for adding a front patio to the house.

I’ve learned the world won’t end if I decide to be lazy once in a while and even for months at a time if I want. And in the end I learned that a good life isn’t measured in items done off of your to do list but rather in the content feeling of completing things that matter to you. Regardless of how minor or silly those items appear to others. This is your life so remember to live it for you and not what others think. I am an early retiree and now I’m okay with being that.