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I’m Bringing Back Summer Breaks


I'm Bringing Back Summer BreaksDo 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.

Early retirement

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.

summer breaks!

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?

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. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, he hated the corporate BS. He left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. At Retire by 40, Joe focuses on financial independence, early retirement, investing, saving, and passive income.

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.

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{ 63 comments… add one }
  • Mr. Tako June 18, 2018, 12:29 am

    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.

    • retirebyforty June 18, 2018, 5:12 am

      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.

  • Lily | The Frugal Gene June 18, 2018, 1:57 am

    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!! 🙂

    • retirebyforty June 18, 2018, 5:13 am

      I remember going swimming a lot at our apartment’s pool and going to the library. Summer breaks were awesome even with no money. 🙂

  • FIRECracker June 18, 2018, 2:22 am

    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!

    • retirebyforty June 18, 2018, 5:15 am

      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.

  • BusyMom June 18, 2018, 2:22 am

    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.

    • retirebyforty June 18, 2018, 5:16 am

      Can’t you take a sabbatical or something like that?
      Our summer break is really good so far. 🙂

      • Cubert June 22, 2018, 4:31 am

        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?

        • retirebyforty June 25, 2018, 8:56 am

          This summer has been great so far. I love it. Life is so much better when you’re on summer break. 🙂

    • David @ VapeHabitat July 23, 2018, 7:24 am

      Oh. That photo of the guy in the pool made want to fly to Spain or Greece..
      If you like Egypt, you can do winter breaks lol.

  • Half Life Theory June 18, 2018, 2:29 am

    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!

    • retirebyforty June 18, 2018, 5:17 am

      Thanks! Iceland is great, but it’s really expensive too. YOLO, right?
      I didn’t travel much as a kid either. Our son is very privileged. 🙂

  • Chris Urbaniak @ deliberatechange.ca June 18, 2018, 2:40 am

    Good for you, Joe!

    What good is financial freedom if you don’t use it to “buy” some of our most precious resource: Time. Slowing down a bit for the summer to enjoy more of the non-work parts of life is a great idea.

    PS – Happy belated Father’s Day 🙂

    • retirebyforty June 18, 2018, 5:18 am

      Thanks! I hope you had a good Father’s Day too. Taking this much break can be habit inducing. It’s so nice. 🙂

  • Pennypincher June 18, 2018, 2:48 am

    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!

    • retirebyforty June 18, 2018, 5:19 am

      I don’t know about having a planned second act. I think you have to just be flexible and try different things. Blogging worked out really well, though. Thanks!

  • Dividend Portfolio June 18, 2018, 3:09 am

    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!

    • retirebyforty June 18, 2018, 5:20 am

      Growing up is no fun. Adults are preoccupied all the time. I’m glad you still enjoy animations. We like it a lot too. Happy Father’s Day to you as well.

  • Caroline June 18, 2018, 3:13 am

    You almost make blogging sound like work!!!:)
    Enjoy your summer break Joe. What is the weather like in Iceland?

    • retirebyforty June 18, 2018, 5:21 am

      The weather is like early spring in Iceland. Cool and rainy most of the time. It’s still good enough.

  • Accidental FIRE June 18, 2018, 3:14 am

    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.

    • retirebyforty June 18, 2018, 5:23 am

      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.

  • Andrew June 18, 2018, 3:15 am

    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.

    • retirebyforty June 18, 2018, 5:24 am

      Congratulations! Enjoy your trip to Kuala Lumpur. It should be a ton of fun to spend some time with your parents.

  • [email protected] June 18, 2018, 4:34 am

    Bravo Joe. Moves like this are the beauty of FI. Reducing your summer workload to spend more family time is quite admirable. Enjoy it.

    • retirebyforty June 18, 2018, 5:24 am

      Thanks! Many FIRE bloggers went straight to this point, but I tend to take things slowly. 🙂

  • MR. AE June 18, 2018, 4:58 am

    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

    • retirebyforty June 18, 2018, 5:25 am

      You’ll super busy. Get some sleep now. 🙂
      A baby adds so much to a family, though. Have fun!

  • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance June 18, 2018, 5:17 am

    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!

    • retirebyforty June 18, 2018, 10:50 am

      Winter breaks aren’t the same for me. They’re way too short!

  • Angela @ Tread Lightly Retire Early June 18, 2018, 5:29 am

    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.

    • retirebyforty June 18, 2018, 10:52 am

      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.

  • Tom @ Dividends Diversify June 18, 2018, 5:31 am

    Joe, It’s great you have a vision for the future. I think it’s the first step in being happy with whatever you ultimately choose to do. Tom

    • retirebyforty June 18, 2018, 10:52 am

      Thanks! I hope it works out, but the key is to be flexible. 🙂

  • Justin June 18, 2018, 7:09 am

    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!

    • retirebyforty June 18, 2018, 10:53 am

      That’s great! It’s really cool that you can take summer breaks with the kids. Most people can’t do that anymore. Enjoy the Bahamas!

  • Susan @ FI Ideas June 18, 2018, 7:11 am

    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!

    • retirebyforty June 18, 2018, 10:54 am

      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.

  • Xrayvsn June 18, 2018, 7:25 am

    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.

    • retirebyforty June 18, 2018, 11:01 am

      Good luck! Kids grow up so fast so lots of time with her while you can.

  • Helen June 18, 2018, 7:44 am

    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.

    • retirebyforty June 18, 2018, 11:02 am

      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. 🙂

  • Financial Samurai June 18, 2018, 8:20 am

    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!


    • retirebyforty June 18, 2018, 11:04 am

      It’s great so far. Traffic and income will drop, but they were going to drop regardless of what I do. It’s okay. I’ll work harder again once summer is over.

  • FullTimeFinance June 18, 2018, 8:52 am

    You know my kids were shocked today when they found out I don’t get summers off (6and 3). I’m all for bringing it back if only I could convince my employer.

  • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life June 18, 2018, 11:26 am

    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.

    • retirebyforty June 18, 2018, 2:26 pm

      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!

  • Flint June 18, 2018, 12:07 pm

    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!

    • retirebyforty June 18, 2018, 2:28 pm

      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!

  • Mr Crazy Kicks June 18, 2018, 4:13 pm

    Once a week is still a solid amount of blogging. I think you deserve the break anyway 😉 It’s summertime!

    Looking forward to your trip report on Iceland!

  • Mr. Groovy June 18, 2018, 5:00 pm

    Iceland, Lake Tahoe, and Boise–I’m freakin’ jealous, my friend. Enjoy the summer break. You deserve it.

  • Lazy Man and Money June 19, 2018, 2:15 am

    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.

  • waiting2Bzapped June 19, 2018, 1:24 pm

    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.

  • Amber June 19, 2018, 4:17 pm

    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!

  • Imdad Azman June 19, 2018, 11:50 pm

    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.

  • GYM June 22, 2018, 11:37 pm

    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!

    • retirebyforty June 25, 2018, 8:55 am

      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. 😀

  • Simon | Vistafolio.com June 25, 2018, 5:37 pm

    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.

  • Curious July 2, 2018, 10:36 pm

    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.)

    • Curious July 3, 2018, 2:59 pm

      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.

    • retirebyforty July 4, 2018, 7:48 am

      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.

  • Curious July 2, 2018, 10:41 pm

    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.

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