Do you remember summer breaks when you were young? I barely remember them anymore. (I’m 44.) They 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 don’t want to be away from work*. That sounds insane to me. I’ve always taken all my vacation days when I worked full time. It was part of the benefit 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 breaks. But it isn’t that easy.
*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 a little like the beginning of summer break. However, that euphoric feeling was a bit premature. After quitting work, I became a stay-at-home dad/blogger. I had a lot more autonomy, but I was still super busy. Being a stay-at-home dad to a toddler took up most of my time. Also, I worked on Retire by 40 after our son went to bed. That first summer was great. I spent it exploring the city with RB40Jr and unwinding from 16 years of being an engineer. We didn’t go too far because traveling with a toddler is a lot of trouble. You have to bring all kinds of kid stuff. It was tough to blog and be a SAHD at the same time back then.
As our son got older, things became easier for me 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 first grade and he is ecstatic to be out of school for the summer. Being a SAHD is very manageable during the school year because our son is in school most of the day. I am able to work on my blog while he’s busy at school. Summer is a bit different, though. I have to spend more time being a SAHD and then try to blog. It doesn’t feel like summer break anymore because I don’t have much time for myself.
In previous years, I sent RB40Jr to camp every other week and it worked okay. I was able to continue blogging in the summer. However, this year I’m going to try something different because we’re traveling more. Our son is 7 years old now and it is a lot easier to travel with him. That’s why I’m cutting back to 1 post per week this summer. It will give me a chance to try working less and reclaim the summer break.
Ramping down work
This summer, I plan to work about 10 to 15 hours per week. This is part of my long-term master plan to ramp down my work hours. Check it out.
- Engineer (age 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. There were 2 years where I worked a full time job during the day and blogged at night. I rarely got to bed before 1 am back then. I cut back a bit at my engineering job to about 40-50 hours/week for the most part. During the busy times, I still had to work extra. Blogging took 20-30 hours per week. It was a pretty crazy time.
- SAHD to young child/blogger (38 to 42) – Being a SAHD was easier than working full time. However, it took a ton of time. A young child needs constant attention and you don’t get any time off. I spent 20-30 hours per week blogging after RB40Jr went to bed.
- SAHD to school-age child/blogger (42 to 55?) – 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 blogging.
- Future (55 to 65) – Eventually, I’d like to cut back to 10-15 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 more relaxing retirement.
- Full retirement (65+) – No more blogging. I’ll have to figure out a different way to stay busy. An idle retirement isn’t my idea of a good life. This is a long way from now, though. I might change my mind when I’m older.
So this summer is a dry run for my future plan. I think working 10-15 hours per week sounds perfect. It’s just enough to keep me busy. If it goes well, I’ll probably do this every summer. That’s the advantage of having some passive income. I can take it easy when I need to.
Bringing back summer breaks
Okay, now for the summer plan. This summer we’re going to travel quite a bit. It’ll be a blast.
- June – We are visiting Iceland for 2 weeks. It’s beautiful here. I’ll post about the trip next week.
- July – I’m taking RB40Jr on a 2 week leisurely road trip to California. We’ll visit my former college roommate in Lake Tahoe for a day, and then go visit friends and families in the Bay Area. Mrs. RB40 will fly down a week later and drive up with us. We’ll drop by the Charles Schultz museum in Santa Rosa, go see the redwood forest, then drive back on the Pacific Coast Highway. This drive will probably take a few days because we plan to take it very easy and stop to see the sights along the coast.
- August – Mrs. RB40 is going to work in Boise for a week and we’ll tag along. We’ll visit her high school friends and check out Boise area. On the way back, we’ll spend a couple of days in Eastern Oregon. We haven’t spent much time in that part of the state so this will be a great opportunity to see the sights.
That’s almost half the summer already. We also have a bunch of activities we want to do locally. Basically, the whole summer is already packed full. School starts again right after the Boise trip and my schedule will be back to normal. Whew, it’s going to be a busy summer. I like the idea of reducing work as I get older. Going from full time work to full retirement is a tough transition for a lot of people. Working a bit less every year is more my style.
What about you? Do you look back fondly for those old summer breaks? Are you enjoying summer as much now?
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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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For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.
Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.