If early retirement is your goal, it’s awfully easy to get caught up in the journey and the anticipation of escaping a dreaded day job. So much so, that you could easily lose sight of what your new life will look like when that big personal goal is achieved.
Before setting the early retirement goal for myself, I hadn’t put much thought into what I’d do with my freedom at the “normal” retirement age of 60-something. I suppose there were random visions of doting on grand-kids and tending a garden, or traveling overseas. There wasn’t any thought put into the hour-by-hour day in the life of Cubert, the retiree…
A recent research study suggested that the most enjoyment we get from travel occurs during the lead-up to the trip, not the trip itself. That “anticipation window” is what powers a boost in happiness or contentment. Now, based on that notion, I’m left wondering if the same is true of early retirement.
Will I be let-down that first Monday of new-found freedom, surrounded by something other than steel-framed, canvased-sheathed cube walls?
We all know we ought to slow down and appreciate the little things in life, no matter what our journey happens to be. But it’s hard to smell the roses when your nose is stuck in a cell phone or computer screen all day (fully warranted self-indictment)! Even before we start to think about and shape a post-retirement life, we need to take stock in the present, putting energy into the relationships and joys of today.
I suppose it’s natural as we age, to reverse our earlier longings for time to pass to reach some way-out-there-goal. As a kid, I couldn’t wait for my birthday, for Christmas, and for school to be out for summer. In college, I enjoyed my time away from home, the new friends, all-you-can-eat dorm food, and mid-day naps (among other things). And still, I kept looking ahead to graduation and taking on a profession I knew little about.
As I approached middle age, I started wanting time to slow down. The time-train is moving a bit too fast now, and these achy 40-something knees are really annoying on 5k runs!
Knowing that I need to keep my anticipation in-check, and appreciate life in the present, I can afford to look ahead and shape my first day of early retirement.
Laying it all out in a schedule, my take on it looks something like this:
6:30AM 5:00AM: Wake-up time (Yawwwwn.) Man, it’s sure nice to get up and not have to deal with office politics today. Now back to that dream where I’m retired early and… 6:45AM: The snooze alarm wakes me up for good this time. Let’s get some coffee and breakfast going. While I’m at it, I’ll check in with the twins to see if they’re up and around, getting ready for another day of first grade.
7:30AM: By this age, the twins should be pretty self-sufficient getting their own breakfast going. But I’ll probably help pack lunches. That’s right, lunch-lady, brown bag only for these two!
8:00AM: Walk the kids to school. Can’t beat a nice little five-block scamper to campus. Thank you, city neighborhood!
8:15AM: Back home. What now???
8:15AM: I know, I know, I had this figured out back in 2016 while writing some blog post about what I’m supposed to be doing. I know it doesn’t involve going back to bed or knitting. I got it, I’m volunteering!*
8:20AM: I’m off to a Habitat for Humanity work site, ON MY BIKE. I’ll spend the better part of a regular working day here, putting up siding, painting, caulking, or whatever tasks my experience in houses will safely allow. Hard hats not optional.
9:30AM: While nailing in another piece of siding, I start to wonder whether I’d rather be back in my cubicle, safe from the outside elements, safe from heights, and safe from the pneumatic nail-gun that the job-site foreman is now letting me use without supervision.
9:31AM: No longer wondering. I’m glad I’m doing siding.
10:30AM: Nail-gun nearly takes out left thumb. Still not day-dreaming about the old cube…
2:30PM: The ice-cream truck pulls up. I’ve easily spent 2,000 calories with all this macho construction work by now! Okay, maybe once a week I’ll indulge. Sugar kills, so I take it in small doses. Most times.
4:30PM: The work day is over (maybe an hour earlier, depending how early school gets out.) A lot of good, tangible work was done that will contribute to a safe and sound dwelling for a family in need. I will repeat this work-day two or three times a week, especially in the warmer, construction-friendly months.
5:00PM: Start getting ready for family dinner. I get to be chef!!! Now granted, I have impressive skills when it comes to combining random foods together into a more or less edible dish. But now I’ll have time to get even crazier with that “everything and the kitchen sink risotto!” Muhahaha…
Note: I am extremely fortunate to have a lovely cook in Mrs. AC, who will have paid her dues and then some, by the time I retire in 2020.
5:30PM: The Brussel sprout and bacon pizzas are ready to serve! I pop open a craft beer, or pour myself a small glass of boxed wine. The kids get milk. Whole milk.
7:00PM: Help the kids with any homework they might have. Confession: I detest homework. I still think it’s stupid. Families these days don’t get enough time to bond, and then you throw in homework? I did maybe half of mine when I was in grade school. If I had to go back and do it all over, I STILL wouldn’t do all my homework. Nevertheless, I’ll gladly help the twins with theirs, and call it bonding time with Pops! Plus, scholarships are nice, right?
8:00PM: Kids in bed. Now it’s time for husband and wife to catch up on each other’s day, and take in a little Netflix (maybe “The Office” re-runs, to remind myself of what I’m missing)
10:00PM 9:30PM: Lights-out.
Upon reflection, that itinerary isn’t altogether very glamorous
I mean, we get all keyed up about retirement fun, and ultimately, we’re still obligated to fill 16 waking hours of our day. The biggest difference with cubicle life though, can be summed up accordingly:
- outside, not stuck inside when beautiful weather strikes
- active, not glued to desk chair
- free from office politics and able to focus on producing not drama
- spending more time with my family
- happily becoming a less-stressed version of myself than the cubicle-bound imposter
- contributing skills and labor in a more direct, tangible manner, to a meaningful cause (Habitat for Humanity)
(Oh, and Mrs. Cubert is free from some of her current household tasks, allowing her to focus more on her business. Win-win!)
This particular day in the life is just one example of what tomorrow might hold for us. During summer breaks for the twins, I would expect a mix of outdoor activities, biking, and family travel to be had. But I also expect the kids to join-in on chores, house projects, and some light rental work, to build a good work ethic and money-smarts.
I’m not so naïve to think that all this will work out according to some master plan.
I am, however, a firm believer that goal setting and envisioning outcomes can shape our future reality. Spoken like a true project manager, right?
I enjoy following a number of bloggers on early retirement and have learned a ton from this community, but I’ll come right out and say that I’m disappointed in the lack of commitments my fellow writers have made to volunteering. Most are certainly aiming to donate dollars to charity. Still, with an abundance of time, I’d hope more and more early retirees in the blogosphere come around to the notion of helping others with their hands, or simply their time and talents. Sure, traveling the world is fun, but maybe you could add a little purpose to that passport?
So, readers, tell me what do you envision for your first day of early retirement?
*Alternative day-time activities will include, when not volunteering: Working on our rental properties (maintenance and improvements), working on this blog, and working on our own house projects. Sneak in a run, maybe some kettlebell action at the gym, or a rare, cheap lunch (or coffee) with a former co-worker.
Side-note: My little fantasy retirement activity is to read all the books I’ve been meaning to crack open since before the kids arrived. I’ll find a slice of beach near one of our neighborhood lakes and read until I start to doze off. Then home for nap-time? Ahhh, naps. Remember those, college guy?