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.
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.
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.
- 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!
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