Wow, it has been almost 5 years since I quit my engineering career to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger. Time really flies. If I hadn’t retired early, I’d still be stuck in a depressing gray cubicle feeling bitter about life. Instead, I’m enjoying life and playing an active role in our son’s life. The past five years hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but everything seems to be coming together now. I’m doing really well balancing working on my blog and taking care of our finances along with being a dad and a husband. Our son starting kindergarten at one of our public schools has been a huge game changer. Alas, there are a few things I haven’t been able to get right.
Early retirement seemed like the answer to all my woes when I was struggling through the last few years at my old job. If I didn’t have to work and commute for 50+ hours per week, I’d be able to do everything I want. However, that hasn’t really been the case. I’m still busy and I don’t have time to do everything I imagined. Actually, the problem is that I’m not prioritizing well. It’s not easy to balance everything you want to do and be even when you’re retired. Here are my 5 dreams that did not come true in early retirement.
1. Getting enough sleep
What is one of the first things that pop into your mind when you think about the benefit of retirement? It is being able to wake up without an alarm clock, right? I was woefully sleep deprived during my last 2 years at work and I thought I’d get more sleep once I retired. There wasn’t much time to sleep when I worked a full time job, blogged 3 times per week, and had a newborn baby at home. I’d get to bed around 1 am and be woken up by our baby soon after. It was exhausting and I felt like a zombie for months.
Cutting out full time work was great, but I didn’t get to bed any earlier. When I retired, our son was 18 months old and I was home full time. I couldn’t blog in the day time because he needed constant attention. Blogging had to done after he went to bed so I still didn’t get to bed until around 1 am. I probably got less sleep after I retired. When I was working full time, I was able to work a bit on the blog when things were slow at the office. I could check emails, catch up on other blogs, answer comments, and a few other minor tasks when I was in my cubicle. I couldn’t do any of that when our kid was home and everything got pushed off until after his bedtime.
It got a bit easier every year, though. He began preschool about a year after I retired and I was able to work a bit when he wasn’t home. He started with 2 days per week and increased a day every year. We’ve made a breakthrough this year. Yes! RB40Jr started kindergarten and I have a lot more time to work on Retire by 40 during the day. Now I usually go to bed just before midnight and sleep until 6:30 am. That’s 6-7 hours per night so it’s not bad. Occasionally, I’d be really tired and go to bed at 10 pm to catch a solid 8 hours of rest.
I’d love to get 8+ hours of sleep every night, but I think that will have to wait until RB40Jr goes off to college. I don’t regret starting a profitable blog, but it didn’t help my sleep at all. Someday, I will find a better balance.
2. Play music
Occasionally, I play the ukulele for fun. I tried to learn to play the guitar when I was in college, but I was never good at it. The ukulele is much easier because there are fewer strings and it requires less pressure to fret. That makes it a lot easier to learn.
- Early Retirement Fantasy – I’d play my ukulele while my son listens attentively. He’d want to learn how to play and I could teach him a little at a time. Eventually, we’ll be able to play together and we’d entertain friends and family together.
- Reality – I’d play my ukulele, and he’d be running around being very disruptive. RB40Jr’s attention span is very short so he is interested in music only for a few minutes. He doesn’t want to learn and he doesn’t follow direction when I try to teach him. It’s tough to play when he interrupts me every few minutes. I’m not good enough to deal with distractions while playing.
Consequently, since I retired, my ukuleles are getting dusty. I’m playing once per month at the most. Maybe I can try teaching him again because he’s a little older now. He seems to be able to follow direction better at his classes and lessons than with me at home.
Travel is another big thing people save for after retirement. Most of us get 2-3 weeks of vacation time per year and that’s just not enough. We used to travel internationally about once per year and I wanted to do at least that much after retirement. However, that’s just a dream because we didn’t want to travel with a little baby. It just doesn’t seem worth it to travel when they won’t remember anything.
This is also getting immensely better as our son gets older. We went to Hawaii for a week when he was 3. The year after that, we visited Costa Rica for 2 weeks. Then last year, we went to Thailand and Cambodia for 3 weeks. These trips were awesome and he still remembers a bit from each trip. We also took a lot of photos to remind us of the good times we had.
These short trips are nice, but I’d like to travel more extensively. That’s impossible now because Mrs. RB40 still works and she only gets about 3 weeks of vacation per year. RB40Jr also goes to public school and they really don’t like kids to be gone for long. If a student is absent for 10+ consecutive school days, then the student will be withdrawn from the rolls. Luckily, there were a lot of days off in November so we didn’t have to do this. If we had been gone one more day, we’d have to pull him out of school and reenroll him when we got back.
Once Mrs. RB40 retires, we will be able to travel more during the summer break. However, I don’t like traveling in the summer. It is so beautiful in Portland and there are so many fun things to do. I’d rather stay here in the summer and travel when the weather is bad. Traveling is also a lot more expensive during summer break. I prefer to travel in the shoulder season, spring or fall.
Anyway, here is my most ambitious travel plan to date. I want to take a year off to travel around the world in 2021. Mrs. RB40 would be retired by then so she won’t have any constraints. We’ll “road school” our son for a year while traveling around the world. We’ll be back in time for him to start Junior High School. The logistics are pretty daunting, though. I want to sell our condo and put everything in storage. When we get back, we’ll move into our rental duplex. It sounds good in theory, but would it really work out? We also need to figure out how to get prescriptions and health care while we’re overseas. Lastly, blogging about personal finance would be tough when we’re on that kind of trip. I’m not sure if it’s going to work out, but I’ll try my best to get this trip together for 2021. That’s just 4 years away so stay tuned and see if we can get this show on the road. J
Groan… Exercise is another common item on the list for post retirement. Everyone needs to get healthier and it’s tough to find time when you’re working so much. We’re all getting older and health deteriorates over time. I can’t behave like I’m 25 anymore.
Interestingly, exercise wasn’t difficult when I was working full-time. I used to go to the company’s fitness room almost every day at lunch time. I’d work out a bit, do yoga, or take some other fitness classes. It worked very well because it was part of my routine. I’d eat lunch at my desk when I get back from the fitness room.
I was hoping to stay active after I left my job, but it just didn’t work with a little kid at home. We’d go out to the playground and I could be active there. We played chase, hide and seek, and other kid games. It was fun, but I didn’t get the work out that I wanted. It also rains a lot here so we couldn’t go the playgrounds that often.
After 18 months, I joined a gym and aimed for 3 days per week. However, that didn’t work out, either. Something always came up and I usually made it to the gym only once or twice a week if I was lucky. It is finally looking up, though. Once RB40Jr started kindergarten, I planned to go work out every day that he is in school. I’ve been largely successful and going to the gym is part of my habit again. It took almost 5 years to get to this point and I hope I can keep it up. Now, I just need to get Mrs. RB40 on a fitness program. That might be impossible because she hates to sweat…
5. Stop saving for retirement
Alright, here is one that is working out in my favor! I planned to stop contributing to my retirement accounts after I quit working full time, but it didn’t work out that way. Here is what happened.
In 2012, I maxed out the contribution to my old 401k over the first 3 months of the year while I was still working full time. I wasn’t going to have much income after I retired so I thought I’d better get the last bit of retirement saving squared away. That year, my online income was about $15,000. I planned to use that income to help pay the bills after I quit my day job.
However, my online income improved in 2013 to $33,000. So I opened a new individual 401k account at Vanguard in November and contributed the max ($17,500) in one shot. I also added $6,000 as employer contribution. The great thing about the 401k plan is that the contribution is not taxed. That’s why I have been investing most of my online income since 2013.
Check it out.
More than half of my online income went into the i401k since 2013. It’s been a little over 3 years since I opened this account and the value is already $125,000. That’s pretty amazing. I also contributed the max to my Roth IRA. It’s pretty amazing that my retirement accounts are still growing after I quit working full time. Of course, this is all possible because Mrs. RB40 is still working. If she wasn’t working, then we’d need this money to pay the bills. Her income has increased considerably since 2012. That’s why I can invest most of my online income at this time. You read more about my online income here – 2016 Blog Income Wrap Up.
Early Retirement is Fantastic
What can I say? If these 5 things are all the only surprises, then early retirement must be pretty darn good. That last one doesn’t even count because it will help our retirement in the long run. Also, everything is getting better as our kid ages. It was a lot of work to take care of a baby, but now he is in school. That gives me a lot more time to focus on my agenda. Everything is getting a little better every year and someday all my dreams will come true. I’d get 8 hours of sleep per night, play music, and exercise a bit, while traveling the world. Sounds great to me!
Early retirement is fantastic this year. I finally feel like I’ve arrived at an ideal (relatively) lifestyle. Well, I’d like to do some meditation, yoga, or Tai Chi. These activities would help calm my mind and slow down a bit. There is always room for improvement.
If you’re retired, what turned out differently than you thought? If you’re not retired yet, what changes do you want to make after you retire?
image credit: Kyle Bianchi