I’m Bringing Back Summer Breaks

I'm bringing back summer breaks!Do you remember summer breaks when you were young? I barely remember them anymore. (I’m 46.) Those hot summer days all ran into each other. But I still recall that awesome feeling when school let out. Summer was full of possibilities and I had endless time to do whatever I wanted. That’s the taste of freedom for kids everywhere. Unfortunately, we grew up and summer breaks disappeared. The average American worker gets 10 days of vacation per year. That’s much less than a full summer break. Most people (52%) don’t even use all their vacation days because they’re afraid to be away from work*. That sounds crazy to me. I’ve always taken all my vacation days when I worked full time. It was part of the benefits package and I needed to get away from my stressful engineering career. Now that I’m not working full time anymore, I’m bringing back summer breaks1 It’ll be great to spend the summer with my son instead of sending him to day camps like most of his friends.

*Evidently, American workers think they’ll fall behind if they take a vacation. They think their employer will appreciate them more if they take less time off.

Early retirement

In 2012, I retired from my engineering career when I was 38. Driving away from the office for the last time felt exactly like the beginning of summer break. However, the euphoria was a bit premature. After quitting work, I became a stay-at-home dad to an 18-month-old toddler. That’s the busy stage of being a stay at home parent. I really couldn’t do anything productive while he was awake. Being a SAHD was job 1 and blogging trailed a distance 2nd. Luckily, RB40Jr slept a lot at that age. I was able to work Retire by 40 whenever he slept/nap.

That first summer was great. I spent it exploring the city with RB40Jr and unwinding from 16 years of stress. We didn’t go too far because traveling with a toddler is a lot of work. You have to bring all kinds of kid stuff.

SAHD became easier

As our son got older, things became easier on the SAHD front. RB40Jr started going to preschool a few days per week and then moved up to full-time public school. He just finished 3rd grade and he is ecstatic to be out of school for the summer.

Normally, being a SAHD is very manageable during the school year because our son is in school from 8 am to 2 pm most weekdays. I could work on my blog, run errands, exercise, and do my own things. I had a good balance between being a SAHD and blogging during the school year. The spring of 2020 was different, though. Our school closed down due to COVID-19 since spring break. We reluctantly took on homeschooling and found that it was hell. Nobody was prepared for it and we struggled a lot in the beginning. After a few weeks, we adapted and didn’t follow the teacher’s plan 100%. We focused on the core subjects and avoided spending too much time on the frustrating parts. Homeschooling got a lot better toward the end, but we are both ecstatic that it’s over. Now, we have to figure out what to do during the summer break.

Last year, I cut way back on blogging over the summer so I can focus on being a SAHD. It was great. I worked about 10 hours per week and spent a lot of time with RB40Jr. I sent him to a soccer camp for one week, but that was it. This year, we probably won’t send him to any summer camp. COVID-19 is still a big issue here.

The big problem this summer is that many places we used are shut down. The pools, libraries, museums, arcades, jump gyms, and other kid-focused facilities are closed. I guess we’ll focus on outdoor activities this summer. We’ll go hiking, kayaking, and fossil hunting. It will be fun. I need more ideas so let me know if you know some good outdoor activities for kids.

Anyway, that’s why I’m cutting back on blogging this summer. I’ll write a new post for Monday and repost (rewrite) an older post on Thursday. Sometimes, I might post just once per week. This is part of my plan to slowly cut back on work.

Ramping down work

This summer, I plan to work about 10 to 15 hours per week on Retire by 40. This is part of my long-term master plan to ramp down my working hours. This reduction goes hand in hand with my early retirement withdrawal strategy. I’ll work less as we approach full retirement age. At some point, I’ll go to this schedule year-round. Check it out.

  • Engineer (22 to 36) – I routinely worked 50 to 70 hours per week and a lot more during busy times. That’s what many companies expected these days from their exempt employees.
  • Engineer/blogger (36 to 38) – I started blogging in 2010. For 2 years, I worked full time during the day and blogged at night. Back then, I rarely got to bed before 1 am. At that point, I cut back a bit at my engineering job and worked about 40-50 hours/week. During busy times, I still had to work a lot of hours. Blogging took 20-30 hours per week. It was a crazy time.
  • SAHD to young child/blogger (38 to 42) – Being a SAHD was easier than working full time. However, I had to spend a lot of time with RB40jr. At that time, he needed constant attention and I couldn’t do anything productive while he was awake. I spent 20-30 hours per week blogging after RB40Jr went to bed.
  • SAHD to school-age child/blogger (42 to 48?) – This is where we are right now and it is great. I have a lot more time for myself after our son started school. I still spend about 20-30 hours per week on the blog. That’s about perfect during the school year. I’ll work 10 hours/week in the summer and fall.
  • SAHD to a teen/blogger (48 to 55?) – At some point, I’ll go to the summer schedule year-round. There are numerous blog posts in the archive that needs updating. Also, I’ll be ready to work just 10 hours per week very soon.
  • Future (55 to 65) – Eventually, I’d like to cut back to just a few hours per week with blogging. Blogging is still fun, but I want to relax more when I’m older. I plan to do this when RB40Jr goes off to college. We’ll travel a lot more and I’ll be ready for a relaxing retirement by then.
  • Full retirement (65+) – No more blogging. I’ll have to figure out a different way to stay busy. An idle retirement isn’t going to work for me. This is a long way from now, though. I’m sure I’ll figure something out by then.

Actually, this year will be the 3rd time I cut back like this. I tried it for the last 2 summers and it worked out quite well. The blog traffic dropped off a bit, but that’s how it is every summer. That’s the advantage of having passive income. I can take it easy when I need to.

ninja slackline

Bringing back summer breaks

Okay, now for the summer plan. We’re not taking a big trip this year because of COVID-19. We are not ready to fly in an airplane at all. RB40Jr can’t even keep his mask on for 30 minutes. Instead, this year we’ll have fun around town and visit closeby attractions. We might take a longer road trip to California if things look okay there.

Here are some of the stuff that I plan to do with my son this summer.

Backyard projects

  • Deck and balcony – Our deck and balcony need a new coat of stain. I need to get a power washer and sander. Hopefully, Junior can help a bit when we do this.
  • Home improvement – I have a few projects on the list and I’ll make RB40Jr help. We need to replace the bathroom sink, anchor the bookcases to the wall, get new window shades, paint the front porch, fix a big paint bubble, and more.
  • Backyard camping – We’ll camp in the backyard this year because I’m nervous about the campgrounds. Will they be safe with so many people sharing the facilities? I don’t know, but safety first. Junior will invite his friends over so it will be fun.
  • Work on our YouTube channel – We started a food channel on YouTube. Subscribe to our YouTube channel here if you want to see what we’re up to this summer. We’ll cook a lot and review some food carts this summer.

*Let me know if you have a good project suggestion for an 8-year-old boy. I’d like to do some kind of science project, but I’m not sure what.

Local fun stuff

  • Library – I think our libraries will open soon. RB40Jr usually participates in the summer reading program so we’ll do that if we can.
  • Playdates – I’ll try to schedule 1-2 playdates every week this summer. The kids don’t need much supervision when they come over. They can play inside or go out in the backyard. This is the best and easiest way to entertain RB40jr.
  • CA trips – I want to take a 2-week road trip to visit friends and families CA. We’ll visit Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Sequoia, Palm Spring, and San Jose. That’s a lot of driving, but I think it will be fun.
  • Local hikes – I’ll take RB40Jr to explore some local trails in Forest Park, a huge park in Portland.

Alright! This should keep us busy for half the summer. The main thing is to keep RB40Jr occupied and get out of the house as often as we can. If he’s not busy, he will play with the tablet and Xbox all day. I guess that’s the same for every kid. Seriously, if I don’t tell him to stop, he’d be on the tablet for 6 hours straight. Summer should be good this year. I like the idea of reducing work as I get older. Going from full-time work to full retirement is a jarring transition. It’s way better to slowly ramp down on work.

What’s your plan this summer? If you have kids, do you send them to camps or let them entertain themselves? Have a great summer!

Sign up for a free account at Personal Capital to help manage your investments. I log in almost every day to check on my investment accounts and cash flow. It’s a great site for DIY investors.

See my guide – How to Start a Blog and Why You Should. Starting a blog changed my life. It provides some income after retirement and it’s a great way to build a community. Those are the two biggest problems after retirement. It’s a great way to use some of your free time.

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

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90 thoughts on “I’m Bringing Back Summer Breaks”

  1. That is great to explore meaningful identities for after you want to move on to the next stage of life. So much of life is continuing to challenge oneself and grow into our own awareness which can be done at work or “in retirement.” I don’t think any of us should ever retire from personal growth. Best of luck in your continuing journey.

  2. Re: Science project – if the classic volcano with baking soda/vinegar isn’t big enough of a blow up, why not try the diet coke/sleeve of mentos trick? It’ll make a huge mess and put a big smile on both your faces 🙂

    Good luck!

  3. I was already working on few projects on our house. We have two vegetable bed on backyard. Planning to double this summer. This is fun work plus saves on grocery. No plan so far regarding travel. Seems like there is 2 nd wave coming. Already record hospitalization in Texas this month.

  4. Hi RB40,
    Your blog is really inspirational to me as I am in the planning stage of starting my own blog. I’m realizing more and more how much work it’s going to take to start it up and keep it running (and I do hope to make money from it in addition to it being a check for me). Keep up the good work and I’ll let you know when I do start mine up!

  5. i think you’re gonna like that champoeg state park. we only have made it to the entrance. one of these years we’ll look far enough out to book one of those cabins in there on reserveamercia.com (i think). our favorite oregon winery, sineann, is basically right across the road from there about 1/4 mile down from the park entrance. if you call ahead the tasting was always free. tell ’em you know freddy!

    y’all are really thinking about walking on that slack line? i like that spirit of adventure and danger.

    • Sounds good. We’ll take a day trip soon. I think you’ll have to book the cabin as soon as it becomes available. Those cabins go fast. We’ll check out Sineann too. Thanks!
      Oh, I moved the slackline much closer to the ground. It’s hard to walk on. I couldn’t even do 2 steps.

  6. My kids will be attending camp in the summer. We will also sprinkle in a couple of vacation trips to have some family time.

    Hopefully you and your family will have a great summer!

  7. We used to go day camps while we worked part time but are skipping it this summer. Instead we told our clients we need a break (traveling 8 weeks and moving out of state), so this summer is mostly just closing out existing work. I think 10-15 hours a week sounds great to give plenty of time for exercise and self care while the kids are in school too.

  8. Oh summer breaks! I work as a long term sub now so I “technically” would have a break if I wasn’t going into job hunting! The kids are very excited I can tell and we are just trying to contain them and enjoy our last days together as a class. It is crazy the difference that happens from kid to adult when it comes to vacation days. It is a big reason why I am hesitant to transition to an office role, but I think stability is also nice when I am young and don’t have kids. .

    As for the summer, I 100% agree that cutting hours in favor of being with your son is the best thing to do. (If you let him be, he may never get off the technology! It’s so addicting for adults and kids! ) He is so lucky to have a SAHD and the summer is a special time for kids. I would say go outside more and learn from/explore nature, the park, store, as well as just spending quality time together. 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment. My son is enjoying the first week of summer now. He loves it.
      I’m sure he’ll get bored later, but the first week is awesome. 🙂
      Have a great summer!

  9. DC1 (age 12) wants to do a youtube channel this summer (for magic tricks), but youtube’s TOS make that difficult until a kid is 13 (presumably he could do it under one of our accounts, but DH doesn’t want to do that). We told him that he should make the videos and post them in half a year, but he seems to prefer to put it off.

    • Ahh… Thanks for letting us know. I’ll use my channel for now. It’s not serious anyway. He doesn’t know how hard it is to build a following. His YouTube world is skewed. He thinks it’s easy to get millions of followers because the people he watches have them.

  10. I like the plan, Joe! Taking more time to spend with the kiddo, especially when there’s the constant temptation for screen time, seems like a great way to spend your time in FI.

  11. Sounds like you have a great summer planned!

    I work, so no exciting summer plans. But I’m looking forward to the DC trip right before and for FinCon. (I’m going a few days early to do the tourist thing.) I haven’t had a vacation since last FinCon, so I’m VERY much looking forward to the break.

  12. Summer breaks had always been peak childhood, it’s a shame most have to wait til their 65 to even think about having one again! You should consider some activities like taking RB40Jr to a local Rock Climbing or “Ninja Warrior” gym. If he loves the slackline he’d probably get a kick out of either of those.

    • That’s a great idea. I’ll check around. Recently, I saw a Groupon for a local rock climbing gym, but I didn’t want to buy a 10 pass ticket. We’ll try a session and see how it goes. Thanks!

  13. Italians workers get a whole month off in summer. It is so good the drug stores are closed.

    They also get a lot at Easter and Christmas. We can learn from others.

  14. Are you going to…

    Don’t let you babies grow up to be engineers? (Rather than cowboys.)

    (I have been wondering if there are less women in engineering because they are smarter.)

    • Not sure the song, “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys (or Engineers?)”, alternative of “let’em be doctors and lawyers and such”, would be better than be engineers.

      The above are not necessarily capitalists.

    • If our son likes it, then yes. An engineering career is great. I was able to save a lot of money and many of my friends still enjoy being an engineer. I’ll just have to make sure he understands that there are alternative to being an engineer for 40 years. Be ready to change career if it doesn’t work out.

  15. Inspiring article on building the life you want to live. I spent a good deal of time driving through France – and it was largely paid for by dividends and gains in the stock market. So perhaps that’s a case of investing now to give you more options tomorrow.

  16. Your schedule and timeline goal sounds perfect! Though I’m sure you could probably cut out the blogging completely after age 50 since your passive income will supplement your lifestyle (e.g. dividends).

    Your Iceland pics are so great so far, love the food!! I regret a bit that we cheaped out on the food front in Iceland and brought a suitcase of food haha- should have had a $20 hamburger!

    • I would hate to cut out blogging completely, though. It is a fun hobby and a great way to pass the time. Cutting down to one post per week is a much better option to me. We brought some food too. Mrs. RB40 hated lugging it around. 😀

  17. Man that sure is a nice plan! But me, I really enjoy coding so I think it’s not a burden, rather a passion and a source of income, also being able to help others. So I might as well code till the end of life hahaa.

  18. As a teacher I love summer breaks! We go to the beach, library, and free activities. No camps or away vacations for us though. WE just relax. However, I do work a couple summer programs at my school for debt payoff. My teacher friends think I’m crazy for working in the summer, but as you say, most people only get 10 days (if that). It’s all in perspective I guess. I figure I can work 5 weeks and bring my kids along with me while still having 5+ weeks to spare!

  19. Sounds like a great summer, thanks for keeping the blog updated!
    Like your former working self, I also use all my vacation time every year. It’s still a lot different than “summers off” though. Work piles up while you’re away, and you come back to the same environment. Thinking back to school age halcyon summers makes you realize how beneficial it is to have a true opportunity to reset. Not only that, you went back to things that were familiar, but new enough to be intriguing. Seems like summers off could be an important part of FIRE. Resetting from routine and maybe planning some projects with a start date post-summer, so you have the newness to come back to. It also seems to align well when you have a kiddo.
    Well anyway. Have the fun times.

  20. I remember always going to camp in the summer. I think it was more of a freedom to run around an play vs. sitting at a desk. I don’t remember having a lot of unstructured time to just do whatever I wanted.

    I love the idea of ramping down to once a week. I usually aim for 2-3 times a week and some weeks it becomes 1 due to a special event or something.

    It’s good to see the Charles Schulz survived the fires in Santa Rosa. I had assumed the worst.

  21. Plus one for Iceland! Two weeks! That will be phenomenal, I visited there with my wife 2 weeks ago and absolutely fell in love, going back in October for 3 nights and I’m so ridiculously excited. Sounds like a cracking summer plan you’ve got!

    • Iceland is fantastic so far. A lot of driving, but the scenery is great for the most part. It’s so different than what we’re used to. 3 nights in October sounds good. Enjoy!

  22. I’m cheap so I don’t want to pay for summer camps and also have to be stressed out by the competitive signing up for activities to cover the summer period so I’ve been contemplating how I should approach summers starting in .. what, 2021? Something like that.

    For the past few weeks, my inclination has been to figure out how to go either part time or take summer sabbaticals to be home with JB during the summers. I’m not sure if my work as it is would be amenable to that but I’d like to put that in the hopper and kick it around for a while. See what comes out the other end.

    • You’re right. The “good” camps get filled up very quickly. If there is a program you like, you need to sign up quick. It’s pretty ridiculous. That’s why they can charge so much.
      Part time in the summer would be great. Good luck!

  23. Sounds like a plan! Looking forward to seeing how it goes. I’ve always taken the “work more during the summer months because people are away” or because traffic is down. But I’m gradually pulling back and working less when folks are away. It feels good!

    Enjoy 24 hour days in Iceland!


  24. Joe, it sounds like a great plan. Enjoy the time in Iceland, and have a wonderful summer break.

    Yeah, I loved those summer breaks when I was a kid. During the primary school years in China, the summer break meant free and goofing off time. Nothing fancy, but my friends were playing together everyday, most of the time on the streets.

    But once I started the middle school, those worry-free breaks were gone, as I had to study very hard to prepare for the coming high school and later college entrance exams.

    • We moved to the US when I was in 7th grade so I didn’t have to go through those entrance exams. They’re pretty crazy. I like the US system better. Kids need to be kids in the summer. 🙂

  25. Joe, you definitely are outlining my goals too. It would be amazing to get to enjoy summers like I did in childhood. Hopefully can get to the point I can share summer breaks with my daughter while she’s in school too. Thanks for outlining a great plan to aim for.

  26. Your ramping down list doesn’t have a major transition at age 40! Come on, 40 is it right, ha ha.

    Seriously, as fast as the internet world is changing, I wonder if blogging will be a thing in all those years from now? If not, then you are definitely practicing for a true full-time retirement right now. Your photos of Iceland with your son are beautiful. Wish we were there!

    • Everyone has to make their own personalized list. 🙂
      You’re right about blogging. It might be something else in 10 years. Who knows. I really enjoy writing much more than other medians, though. I’d miss blogging.

  27. We take 12 month summer breaks every year and they are GLORIOUS! 🙂

    But it’s more like 2.5 months of actual summer break since my kids are in school the other 9-9.5 months. We are about 24 hours away from arriving in the Bahamas for a month of pool and beach (and not a whole lot else beyond netflix and reading books).

    Let the summer breaking begin!

  28. This is something I really struggle with because our son will be starting school in two more years and we will both still be working. I’m wondering how exactly we’re going to do the “lazy summer” thing with him when we won’t be home with him until early afternoon. Our moms watch him part time now, so maybe that will work for summers after school starts. I just don’t want him at camp the whole summer.

    • Going to camp for the whole summer would be super expensive too. It’s harder for kids to have lazy summers these days. Maybe once they’re 12 and don’t need as much supervision.

  29. Woo yes I remember this summer breaks with no official classes and lots of ice cream and fun stuff hehe. I work full time now, so sometimes I feel like I look forward to the holiday season in the winter where I can take a break and still get paid.

    Summer can be brutally hot, especially in Asia. But it’s also a season of fun. Hope you are having a great summer break!

  30. Oh the options FI and passive income give you!

    I think it’s a Great plan Joe enjoy the extra time every week. I’m about 5 weeks out from the newborn so I doubt there will be any breaks coming my way

  31. Good for you Joe! As for me, I call it quits on the 30th of this month. My official last day is on my 52nd Birthday a week later, but I decided to take the week off and leave early. My early retirement adventure is about to begin.

    My summer will be quite leisurely, I will be going back to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for part of summer almost immediately after I’m done at work and then will be back to Seattle with my parents for their first visit here for a month. Ill spend most of the month taking them round Seattle and WA state to view the sights , and I’ll escort them on a 7 night cruise to Alaska and back a couple of days before I escort them home to KL. I get home to Seattle after Halloween. I’m undecided what I will do after that, but I’ll probably keep myself busy at the gym and figure out how to create a stream of passive income.

  32. Man, summer breaks were THE BEST. I remember that feeling like it was yesterday, and three months seemed so long – like an eternity back then! The only way to come remotely close to that feeling now is to have a nice big adventure planned. I’m going to Colorado this summer to continue my quest of climbing all the 14ers. It’s something to look forward to but the feeling can’t compare to summer break when I was a kid.

    • Every kid loves summer breaks. It always passes by so quickly, though. Where did the 3 months go? 😀
      Have a great time in Colorado. I think having summer breaks back means taking it really easy too. It’s hard for adults to slow down like that.

  33. Taking back the summer sounds like a great idea. It’s amazing how life changes once we’re all grown up. I remember when I was younger, I didn’t understand why adults didn’t enjoy cartoons. I made myself a promise that I would always like cartoons even when I got older. Well, I don’t watch/like the same cartoons I used to, but I do enjoy animated movies every now and again (Like justice league animated series, etc).

    Having passive income that enables you to enjoy your summers again is awesome. I can’t wait to get to the point where I can retire and just enjoy life.

    Happy Father’s Day!

  34. Sounds like a great trip w/Jr. I want to see the Schultz museum! Luv Tahoe too.
    They say that the most successful retirements are the one’s where people have a “second act” well planned. I’d say you did this beautifully. Have fun, Joe!

  35. Congratulations Joe! Enjoy your time with you family these next couple weeks, I’ve seen tons of cool pictures you’ve posted on Twitter. Looks like your son is having a blast!

    I never got to do much travelling as a kid, so i definitely can’t wait to share some of these type of experiences with my daughter! Cheers!

  36. That sounds heavenly! I almost resigned my job to get a break like that this year. And then chickened out. Enjoy your break!

    I feel really guilty about the time I spend on my blog every week – maybe around 5 hours a week? Reading other blogs not included. I need to ramp that up.

      • The “S” word! Oh that sounds so appealing right now…

        Love this post, Joe. Summer breaks for me were all about doing whatever we wanted. Exploring in our backyards, getting on bikes to tool around and buy a pack of baseball cards or a slurpee with pocket change. You got sunburned once, and then no issues the rest of the season, so no sunscreen required. Course back then, the ozone was little thicker?

  37. Ahh Iceland. I’m looking at car rentals and it’s HELLA expensive (especially during the summer high season). Will you guys be renting a car in iceland?

    Good idea to step back the writing when you get older. I’m not sure if it’ll be doing that since I absolutely can’t function if I don’t write for too long, but as time goes on, that seems like what all the big bloggers are going.

    Excited to hear all about your fun summer adventures!

    • We got a van and it’s twice as much a car. It’s very expensive here. You guys should look at renting a camping van. It’s a van, but you can sleep in it. Should be comfortable for 2 people.
      I still enjoy writing, but I want to spend summer breaks with my son before he’s a teenager. Time flies.

  38. No breaks in our household. I got the nickname slave-driver from my in-laws recently hahaha. The only summer break I was aware of were mandatory from school. Kids of immigrants just sit around watching public broadcasting. But it was still better than going to school!! 🙂

  39. That sounds like a great summer break plan Joe!

    I know exactly what you mean about being a SAHD/blogger. It takes a lot of time, but it sure beats working a 40hr/week job. I get to see my kids a lot more this way.

    We’re going camping in the Pacific Northwest this summer, and putting the kids in swimming lessons. It should be a great summer, and the weather is *finally* starting to dry out.

    • Thanks! This summer is great so far. Our son is older now and he loves summer breaks. We’ll have so much fun.
      Enjoy camping. We probably won’t have time for it this summer because of all the road trips. Mrs. RB40 just told me that it’s stormy in Portland. 🙂 Iceland summer weather is like spring in Pacific Northwest.


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