Retirement Update: Two Years and Six Months

It’s been two and a half years since I retired! Where has the time gone?

I’ll tell you where it’s gone — into fun, relaxation, and enjoyment! LOL!!!

For those of you who are sticklers, yes, it’s actually been two years, six months, and five days. But who’s counting? 😉

Since my retirement day I’ve given an update every six months just to let everyone know how it’s going.

Today we’ll do the 2.5-year anniversary version with details of what’s happened since my last update in August and the mini-update over Thanksgiving.

To make this summary easier to read, I’ve put my thoughts into categories.

Here we go…

Life

  • Things have remained very busy in retirement, though I have a wide open time of little activity for the foreseeable future (I do have a trip to FinCon set for September). If past history serves, that opening will soon be filled up with some to-dos, travel, a guest visit or two, and something totally unexpected. It remains a fun busy though (for the most part) and I still wish I had jumped into this lifestyle a decade earlier (which I could have since I was FI then.)
  • It took a couple years, but the retirement life seems normal now. I no longer have that “Christmas morning” feeling every time I wake up, so I guess that’s the most visible sign. I’ve even been sleeping in more normally until 6 am or even 6:30 am on some days rather than getting up at 5:30 am or before like I did the first two years. Gasp! I’m losing my edge and becoming a bum! 😉
  • Anyway, I do love the mornings as they are nice and quiet.
  • I still have my Christmas tree set up year around. It’s on a timer so it’s lit when I come down each morning. So cheery! I did take down the Christmas lights on the stairs since leaving them up would be more than my wife could take.
  • Like last year, we went back to Grand Cayman last month and had a blast (again). It was a bittersweet trip as it might be the last we do for a while (or ever) with both my kids and parents. My parents are going to start their RV life in the spring and at least one of the kids (if not both) will be working full-time. It’s the circle of life, I guess.
  • The Colorado winter has been brutal so far — much colder and snowier than our other three winters here. But living in Michigan was good training and we can handle both cold and snow.
  • Christmas was spent with just my immediate family. In the past my parents would have joined us, but since we were going to spend 10 days in Grand Cayman with them a couple weeks later, a trip for Christmas wasn’t in the cards. It was a nice, quiet Christmas. I’d love to take a Christmas cruise BTW, but not sure I can convince everyone else to do so. Anyone ever done that? If so, how was it?
  • I wanted to start giving in different ways this year so in addition to my larger gifts through our donor advised fund, I started some small giving as well. This manifested itself in a few ways. First, I started leaving 30% tips when we ate out in November/December with a “Merry Christmas!” on the receipt. Second, I bought a pack of $10 Amazon gift cards and gave them out to people at the gym (friends and workers there). Everyone was quite surprised and acted as if I had given them $100,000. It was heartwarming to see their reaction. Third, we sent larger e-gift cards from Amazon to a neighbor, our pastors, my real estate management team, our CPA, and a few others (though we’ve done this for many years — it wasn’t new.)
  • We did give some surprise larger gifts too. The backstory is that we’ve been working on our estate plans and talking about where our money goes when we pass. As we chatted about it, we decided to give some of our money away now at Christmas. So we sent $1,000 to each of my wife’s four siblings, to my dad (not my mom as we were taking her and my step dad to Grand Cayman), and a small church in Iowa that my parents attend. As you might imagine, the responses were “interesting”. Most wondered why we would do it and when we explained we just wanted to bless them, they seemed to accept that. I’m not sure how they each spent the money or if we’ll do it again, but it seemed right for this year.

Retirement Explanation

I keep playing with how to tell someone I’m “retired.” The main problem is that I look much younger than I am, so saying “I’m retired” makes people’s heads spin and then leads into details, a longer chat than I want, and so forth.

So I’ve dabbled with a few options like:

  • “I’m financially independent.” — It’s true, but sounds pompous IMO, especially when I do it in a Thurston Howell III voice. 😉
  • “I live off my investments/real estate.” — Also true (at least in part) and a bit less pompous. But still doesn’t get to the heart of the matter.
  • “I run a few websites.” — Also true but gives the impression that I’m still at work 40+ hours a week, only run the sites for profit, and am not retired in any sense — all of which are far from the truth.

So I mostly go with “I’m retired.”

This leads to “How could that be?” (like it’s some sort of impossibility). I do have a decent answer for this. I usually say, “I earned a good amount, saved a ton of it, and invested wisely.” (Wow, someone should start a website based on that!) 😉

They generally nod at this point and the conversation then spins into, “What do you do with your time?” My mood at the moment mostly determines how I answer this but my favorite response is from a friend’s friend who is retired, “Whatever I want.” Ha!

BTW, I often get the reply, “Were you military?” when saying I’m retired since we have an Army base and the Air Force Academy in town. Plus I have short hair, so I look like I fit the mold.

Family and Friends

  • My wife is still working 15 hours a week at our church as it gives her something enjoyable to do and she’s awesome at it. She’s also taking some classes online about teaching kids so she’s quite busy.
  • My son now has two jobs. He’s selling phones at Costco (and did quite well over Christmas) but since they don’t seem interested in giving him full-time hours, he also found a job at the indoor electric go-cart place near our house. They may open up a full-time slot for him, but if not we’ll be looking at options this month. He needs (and wants) to work full-time as it’s his first step on the move-out plan.
  • My daughter graduated college in December and plans to move in with a friend this month. I’ll be posting on the college process and how my daughter did it all, but for now let’s just say between the college incentive and the car incentive, she ended up with over $40k cash, no debt, and title to the $10 car we got from my uncle. Not bad at all.
  • She’s looking for a full-time job but is also helping me at Rockstar Finance which covers a good amount of her expenses, so she’s not in too much of a hurry.
  • BTW, if you recall, we drove her car out to Virginia in August so she could have it for her final semester. Since we didn’t want her to drive all the way back alone, I flew to Louisville on December 5. She picked me up at the airport around 5 pm (she had already driven several hours by that time) and we drove a few more hours into Illinois. We stayed overnight in a hotel, then drove 12 hours the next day to get home. It was a long trip but glad we did it in two days.
  • We found out a good friend of ours has brain cancer. It’s not clear what will happen, but it’s another reminder that life is short. It makes me glad I retired when I did. Nothing in life is guaranteed.

Health

  • I am still working out and even upped it a bit the past few months. I do weights and cardio each three days a week, but I also added some extra cardio-focused calisthenics to my weight days to get my heart moving every day.
  • I also walked a ton this past year, averaging just under 17,000 steps a day for those who like specifics, here are the numbers from my phone’s app (note: these are the numbers from when I had my phone with me — there were times, of course, when I did not have it): 6.1 million steps, 4,226 flights, and 2,250 miles. When I look at this it seems that I might have walked more miles than I drove in my car if you take out the really long trips and just count “around town” driving. Most weeks I only drive my car to church and back and maybe a meeting (if it’s a rare week I have one). Otherwise, I walk to the gym, walk to the grocery store, etc. We do take my car to the airport and on trips where there are several people as it’s larger (Toyota Highlander.)
  • I had a physical late last year and received a set of to-dos from my doctor. I completed most of them and will be going back next month for a follow up. My cholesterol remains borderline (it’s been around 200 for years) and we’re discussing options for how to handle it. The good news is that I have managed my diet better and am down five pounds from my doctor’s visit. He wants me down five more, so we’ll see.
  • I also have a six-month dermatologist appointment in March to check me again after having basal cell carcinoma a year or so ago.
  • One area of fitness I think about is keeping my mind strong. I think writing and running a couple sites helps, but as a supplement I do three chess puzzles every day. Anyone else think about this? Any tips for how to keep your mind at peak performance?

Entertainment

  • We’ve cut back a bit on movies in theaters (more of a reflection of busy lives and not great movies than anything else) and spent most of our screen time watching Hallmark movies. We recorded all of the Christmas ones this year (of the 475 new ones they had out — or at least it seemed like that many!) and we’re still watching them. We also watch Gotham (last season!), America’s Got Talent (new to the winter), When Calls the Heart, Shark Tank, and a host of island-focused house-hunting shows. We record everything and skip the commercials and we always have a lot to choose from.
  • I played a TON of video games this past fall — something I certainly would not have done if I had not been retired. In my Thanksgiving update I noted I had played Spider-Man for 56 hours the first time, then about 20 hours the second time before I moved on to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. I played that one 115 hours before I maxed out my character the first time and am now 53 hours into the second game with about 25% left to max out. I enjoyed both games a lot (as you might guess) and may even play one or both of them again one day.
  • I have been “reading” a lot — and by reading I mean listening to Audible. In particular I listened to a 24-hour series on the Civil War (American Civil War — this is the course on DVD — I listened to the audio version). I have been a student of the Civil War on and off for a few decades and this was BY FAR the best thing I’ve heard/read on the subject. It had so many details and insights that added a whole new level to my understanding.
  • In addition to listening I’ve read some really great money books lately including The Next Millionaire Next Door, Everyday Millionaires, and Financial Freedom: A Proven Path to All the Money You Will Ever Need. It’s been some time since there were this many new, great, money books.
  • One area I’ve cut back on is podcasts. The ones I liked went off the rails in some way — didn’t tell me anything new, spent too much time on blah blah blah instead of getting to the content, got too political, etc. — and that’s when I moved to Audible. So far I haven’t gone back.

Market Meltdown

The biggest money news in the past six months has been the huge stock market drop in December (and the on-going drop before that). I have a few thoughts on this.

First of all, we took it on the chin financially. From the peak in August to the lowest day last year, our net worth was down $500k. Yep, half a mil.

Second, this did not phase me a bit. Why? A couple main reasons:

  • We earn more than we spend. Our assets (like index funds) are just there growing (or in this case declining) and are ancillary to our finances. Sure, I’d rather be up $500k than down $500k, but no matter what the market does it does not impact me in the slightest.
  • I have built in several margins of safety. The biggest one is we could probably cut our spending in half if we needed to and the rental income from our properties would cover that by themselves.

Third, you should have seen the chatter amongst FIRE bloggers during the drop. You would have thought the world was coming to an end! I suppose if you planned poorly and had your budget stretched to the max, then the world was coming to an end. But that’s the case whether you have a job or not. If everything has to go right for you to be “ok” financially, your house is built on sand.

I think many bloggers whined about the drop because IN THEORY they had all their ducks in a row, knew they would not panic, had it all covered, etc. but when the drop actually happened they crumbled like a house of cards. This, my friends, is the difference between theory and reality, between education and experience. If you plan for reality and base it on experience (or at least a solid theory you’re willing to stand behind), you shouldn’t have catastrophic problems.

The situation made me think of a couple quotes. First, here’s a classic from Mike Tyson:

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.

Haha! So right.

And here’s one I found on the 1500 Days site:

Tyrion Lannister: l’m the captain of the ship, and if the ship goes down, l go with her.

Lord Varys: That is good to hear. Though l’m sure many captains say the same while their ship is afloat.

In other words, it’s easy to say one thing when all is well, but what do you say (and do) in times of trouble? Often that is quite different.

One of those who was the most “panicked” (I put that in quotes because you never know if he’s serious or joking as the combination of writing and his style makes it hard to tell true meaning — I think he does that on purpose, BTW) is Sam from Financial Samurai (which is to this day one of my favorite sites). I’m sure that he isn’t panicked personally because he’s loaded (he makes me look like a pauper), but he was sure stirring the pot (another one of his specialties — on purpose again) during the drop. Here’s one of our conversations during this time:

My points in this all (which are hard to get to on Twitter) were:

  • It did not seem like 2008. I didn’t see big companies failing, politicians from both parties coming together (heaven forbid!) to figure out what to do, and real estate prices falling like crazy and foreclosures going up. None of that happened this time and all did in 2008-2009.
  • Why should I care? See above. Income over expenses. Tons of assets to boot. Margins of safety. So why should I care?
  • Robert T is a troll. Classic example — always critical with zero solutions.

IF (and this is a big if) it ever was like 2008 or ever gets like that, I’m actually ready to pounce. I have a ton of cash saved and would buy properties like crazy if they dropped off the face of the earth. So bring 2008 on and I’m ready to buy.

Again, if your finances are built on a house of sand, then you might have been worried. But if you do it right, you build them on solid rock — which would require a massive hit to make a dent. This is what I do, it’s what I recommend, and thus I sleep well at night.

All this to say watch out for those who play at finances, hold themselves out as experts, and then panic at the sight of some trouble.

Ok, that’s enough ranting. This is supposed to be an update!

Finances

  • On the income front, things are going quite well with both ESI Money and Rockstar Finance (revenue has been higher than expected and costs have been lower). I’m in the midst of year-end numbers and taxes, so once I get things to a place where I can share specifics, I will. BTW, if you want to get an email every day with the best personal finance posts, you can subscribe to the Rockstar Finance newsletter. We’re running the Rockstar Rumble currently (you can read all the posts here) so there are lots of great articles from 2018 as well. And we’re also offering 30 Days to Great Finances in case you or someone you know is interested.
  • We started an estate plan update in the fall and are now in the final stages of it. So many decisions to think through requiring lots of conversations to get everything right.
  • I still update our retirement budget every month and I’m still pulling money out of Lending Club and Prosper. I’m down to about $20k with Lending Club and $10k with Prosper. I will keep withdrawing until nothing’s left.
  • One interesting money-related medical event happened recently. My doctor recommended a colonoscopy (I know, the joy…) so I called to set up an appointment. I told them I was a cash-pay customer and wanted the price before I committed. She gave me the details and they added up to around $1,000. I asked her if I got a discount for paying in cash and she said, “Oh, yes. If you were using insurance the cost would be over $3,000.” How CRAZY is that?
  • I’m still on Facebook and Twitter and have ramped up my Pinterest game as well. You can follow me on any of these if you like. If you want to follow Rockstar Finance you can find it on Twitter and Facebook.

So, that’s my retirement life lately.

Any thoughts or questions?

 


Originally posted at https://esimoney.com/retirement-update-two-years-and-six-months/

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