Category Archives: Retirement

Life After FIRE – Two Months In

Pardon? Two months…I have been off work for two months already?!? Where does the time go?  Seriously, the last 60 days have just flew by.  It feels like I got to financial independence/ early retirement (FIRE) just last week.

So you can likely tell that the idea of being bored isn’t an issue for me.  As I was telling a friend recently I still have the same problem I did at work: more stuff I want to do than time to do it all.  I took the first six weeks or so as a relaxing break where I didn’t expect myself to do a whole lot and I still got a lot done.  Most of accomplishments were a backlog of little items that needed to be taken care of like some home repairs, renew the passports and do some planning for my novel.

Now in November I’m focusing on writing the first draft of a novel which has seemed to solve one of my earlier issues of not feeling productive.  Writing every day has provided a nice outlet for getting something done but I have noticed that some other things have been sliding a bit longer than they should.  Mainly I think that is because I’ve averaging 2000 words a day which is a good pace to get a draft of the novel done quickly but it seems to be cutting into getting some other items done around the house like I’m behind on my wine making (my wife gives me a year end deadline to clean out the freezer of fruit we collect during the summer and I should be further along on my batches of wine at this point).  Longer term I think I will scale back that daily writing goal a bit but for now I’m giving myself permission to focus on the novel for the month.

I think something else that has helped me feel more productive is learning more on my newer hobby of beer brewing.  I started a beer appreciation class  this month focusing on craft breweries in town which has been both educational and fun.  I’ve also gotten involved in a local brewing club which has given additional insight on brewing from grains (rather than the pre-made wart kits I’ve been buying).  I’m now starting to think about making the jump to that process but I need to price out some equipment first.  All of this is of course leading to meeting new people and getting out of the house which is also healthy.

One particular lesson that has really hit home for me since I early retired is this: FIRE doesn’t change your core personality.  You see I had this lovely fantasy in my head that I would be more active and perhaps start exercising regularly when I left work. I would like do running or yoga like every other day.  Of course, I’ve never made working out a priority earlier in life so this really hasn’t changed that much once I retired.  Yes I get out for more walks but I still don’t step inside of a gym and I won’t start either.  Yet on the other hand I plan to start doing more yoga at home this winter since it is hard to get a walk in on those really cold days (ie: lower than -30C).  So overall I have improved, but just not that much as I fantasized about.

On the money side of the life things are going well.  The investments shot up in the last month which helped put my mind at ease.  Also my old job paid out a small amount today which I had thought should have been on my last cheque so it was a bit of a surprise to get it.  Of course it still feels weird to not be increasing my net worth by huge contributions each month.  I occasionally get this brief bursts of worry about having enough money but then I remind myself I’m in this for the long haul.  So I shouldn’t worry too much about the month to month shifts in our investments.  I’m also happy that I’m not frighten to spend money so far.  While I’m aware I shouldn’t be making large unnecessary purchases, I don’t worry about buying something little for myself like a coffee or a snack.  I just keep to my usual habit of not doing it all the time.

Then finally, the last insight I’ve noticed is I don’t miss work at all.  Like none, zero or nothing.  I don’t miss the meetings, the people that don’t pull their weight, the internal political stuff  or even my work tasks.  All that low level stress is just gone.  It’s odd that I really didn’t notice that stress until it vanished.  If anything, the only thing I sort of miss if some of my co-workers who I used to chat with on a regular basis.

Any questions?

Officially Unemployed and Loving It

Okay, I work up this morning and I’m officially unemployed (or retired) and loving it.  You see I’ve been living in a lovely little dream world for the last six weeks.  I was done work on Sept 15 but I was officially still on vacation during the last six weeks.  So I still had a pay cheque coming in, benefits to use, but no workplace to go to or alarm clock to wake up to.

Honestly I think that is the perfect way to break yourself into early retirement.  A nice long vacation at the end of it to give yourself time to mentally adjust to things without having to worry about the money side of the equation.  In our case, it also allowed us to get in one last set of eye exams and new glasses for my wife under my benefits before they ran out.  Also it gave us some time to absorb a few last minute expenses before the cash flow from my job dried up.

Now I move from this being a concept to being my reality.  The safety net is gone and I’m on my own in the world.  Am I frightened? To be honest, just a pitch of it. But if I had to pick an emotion I would say I’m more excited now.  After having the last six weeks off (and by the way I give my workplace credit they didn’t call me once!), I’m feeling good about this entire thing.  I’ve got more than enough to do and if anything time seems to be moving along even faster than when I was at work.

I know its a bit of cliche but honestly I am already starting to forget how I fit work between everything else I’m doing each day.  I’m almost caught off guard when someone asks what I’ve been up to as I have trouble summarizing it all since it can be all over the map in a given week.  For example this week I:

  • Baked some muffins and scones for future breakfasts
  • Volunteered at the school library for 2 hours (which they are ridiculously thankful for since their librarian’s hours got cut from a 0.8FTE to 0.2 FTE this year).
  • Brainstormed ideas for my novel that I’m writing in November and started organizing the major plot points
  • Wrote two blog posts
  • Played Torchlight for a few several hours
  • Finished Arrow season 5 and started watching Flash season 3 (both borrowed from the library)
  • Cleaned up the yard (raked leaves, trimmed plants, put away patio furniture)
  • Got my flu shot (and took the rest of the family to get their shots)
  • Read about 3/4 of my current book

And that list if literally of the top of my head I’m certain I’m forgetting more than a few items.

Oddly the only thing I’m struggling a little bit with is: what level of being productive do I want to aim for?  Because on one hand I am getting lots of things done but on the other hand I feel like I’m being too lazy some days.  So does that really matter when you no longer have a job? Does it matter if I have a lazy day now and again? What level of productivity would I like to see myself achieve or am I’m being an idiot for even caring about that?

As you can see I have more questions than answers I think this is mainly because my ‘to do’ and ‘want to do’ lists don’t seem to be getting much shorter.  I add items to both just about as fast as I finish items and for some reason in my head I thought I would be taking them off faster than I would be adding them.  Of course that ignores the application of Parkinson’s Law, which would mean I’m never finishing my ‘to do’ list so I shouldn’t bother trying too hard.

Now you see what early retirement does to your poor brain: you have time to worry about questions no sane working person would even consider asking.  Oh well, such is the life of the retiree.  I guess I will sort it all out in time.

Giving Up on Numbers

First let me state this for the record: I am a numbers geek!  And not just a passing sort of geek who tracks his spending and net worth on his blog.  Oh no, I am in fact a professional engineer number geek who worked at creating corporate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to track the company’s environmental performance. I lived, ate and breathed data and calculations during my career.  I created Excel sheets and databases that give people the sweats just looking at them and take over 20 pages of documentation on how to use one of them.

So when I tell you I’m starting to care less about numbers in my retirement that should strike you as a bit shocking.  After all most of my personal self worth was defined by numbers like:

  • How many steps I took in a week according to my FitBit app on my work phone.
  • How much my net worth increased each month.
  • How many words I could write in a day on a novel.

Yet as I’m spending more of my time just enjoying life after leaving my job I’m been reminded that the best things in life can’t be measured or quantified by numbers.  You don’t measure:

  • The pleasure of an afternoon nap.
  • Or the colour saturation of fall leaves as you go on a walk.
  • The satisfaction of fixing something by yourself.

And this shift can be incredibly difficult for a numbers geek like me.  After all I used to more or less live by the phrase: what gets measured gets managed.  So to not measure things on purpose initially feels wrong or sacrilegious to me but I’m starting to realize that just because you can measure something doesn’t mean you should.

Case in point is I am no longer tracking my steps during a week.  My old work phone allowed me to track that without any extra hardware by just installing the FitBit app.  So I used to review that daily to see how I was doing.  And initially that information was useful, it helped me get into the habit of taking walks during my lunch break at work.  Yet after I quit my job, I handed that phone back in the work phone and my new phone doesn’t allow that sort of tracking. So I could break down and buy a tracking device but I choose not to do that to see what the difference was.  After all, if I missed it I could ask for a tracking device for Christmas.

And here is the thing, if I was tracking my steps I would guess I am moving more after leaving work but I no longer care about how many steps I take in a day.  I used to feel guilty at the end of the day if I didn’t hit my daily goal when I was tracking or I would do silly things like walk around the house just before bed double checking the locks just to hit my target.  Where as now I know I have my busy days where I walk more and less busy days where I walk less.  So my activity level seesaw during the week but the point is I feel good about my activity level so who cares what number is associated with that level.  In short, I care more about how I feel than an objective number telling me how I should feel.  And for a numbers geek like me that is a bit of a break through.  I will say I still miss knowing an exact number but I have been beginning to see sometimes that the un-measurable in life is the better way to gauge your life.

And this is starting to bleed into the rest of my tracking in my life. So while I do have a goal on my Goodreads account for books to read this year (80 in case you are wondering) I no longer care if I hit a particular number.  Why?  Because last year I realized I was putting off reading some particularly long books because it would lower my count for the year.  The tracking was starting to pervert my decision making to things I never intended by the tracking in the first place.  The point of the reading books goal was to make time in my life to read, not to favour shorter books over longer ones that I really wanted to read.

Yet the one item with respect to numbers that I still am struggling with is tracking my financial performance because on the one hand I need to know if things are going off the rails with my retirement plan but at the same time I want to live my life instead of  just checking some numbers.  So what is the right frequency of checking?  I currently do it monthly out of habit but should I switch to quarterly or just do an annual check in?  I don’t know because sometimes looking at the numbers put my mind at ease while other times I find them stressing me out.  I suspect the answer might be keeping the monthly for the next year or so to let me get used to this new life of using my assets instead of just growing them, but at some point I would like to be able to care less about my net worth and more about just living my life.

So my fellow number geeks, what are your thoughts on tracking things in your life?