Fritz recently posted his retirement reality vs his retirement vision and Kevin Lyles suggested some of us share our retirement reality vs retirement vision. I sat back, reached my arms up in a nice stretch and thought “hmmm, how does this all line up?)
Initially, I was thinking this would be an exciting exercise comparing my “today” state with my “career life” state but I don’t know how much is truly different from my plan if I remove the pandemic from the calculation.
My overall status has shifted from a work-from-home corporate career role to work-from-home managing the family “business.” Previously my time and energy during the day was defined and delivered to MegaCorp. Now my “work” time and energy are fully directed towards family activities and responsibilities.
For the past two decades-ish, I have worked on the family business (finances, properties, vehicles, cohorts, contracts, insurances, etc.), but now more of my time and detail is spent focused on those tasks as the stakes are higher.
Ironically, I don’t actually have much more control of the “plan” by spending more time working on the details. There was far more control when I had a career income coming into the household—now business. Not having full control has not been a problem, but thinking about it now, in detail, it sure feels real, but not scary-real, not exactly.
Speaking of working, in my FIRE plan I thought I would continue teaching at a community college near me. In other words, I planned to continue my once (or twice) a week classes in Fall/Spring semesters. I spent 15-years before FIREing teaching at night to “give back to where I started my career” as a “second/night job” before I knew “side hustle” was a thing. I had planned to continue teaching at the community college until I was 50.
It turns out that being in Phoenix every Wednesday night for class hindered my travel schedule too much in FIRE. In preparation for FIRE, I did perform some remote/web teaching sessions/skills over those 15-years, but I was told in 2014 that “not being in the classroom was against the contract.” Not surprisingly that was my last semester teaching at the community college. It turns out, just as I told my students all those years, “remote/internet learning is (part of) the future.”
Even with my departure from the community college night classes, I didn’t want to stop teaching. I was able to change my focus from teaching (mainly) youngsters to seniors in Osher Lifelong Learning at Arizona State University. These classes are one or two 90-minute sessions a few times a semester (on my exact schetchle). It took me almost three years to get a chance to teach at ASI OLLI. It’s mostly staffed by Ph.D professors and a few select professionals. I was super honored to get a chance to share.
After teaching for a couple of years ASU recommended me to Fresno State University where during the pandemic remote/online learning became the norm. So, I now have two Universities that I lecture at each semester. OLLI is an amazing organization and the students are so into gaining knowledge that I’m motivated before and after every session.
Side thought: My original 25-year old Kevin plan was to become a corporate Director around 40, then at 50 switch my career to becoming full-time faculty at a community college as a pretirement career slowdown. I don’t think I was too far off my overall strategy.
Fully FIREd Household
Speaking of “work” and being a “fully FIREd” household” (with no working income). Yes, I did fall into some additional (minor) working income streams. I do spend time each day/week working on the RockRetirementClub.com team. I didn’t mean to change the FIRE plan, it just happened. My enthusiasm in the club early on, and pure enjoyment of the group caused me to create/spend more time in club meetings bringing members together. It is a wonderful place where we all share some of our perspectives on topics, and get ideas to Rock our retirements together.
Teaching, consulting and helping provide me little playchecks throughout the year. They also give me a lot of satisfaction. These unplanned “playchecks” made me realize many things, one of those being that this was not planned money and therefore I’m forcing myself to spend it (not saving any of it) specifically on Health/Fitness, FIRE lifestyle, and Technology. I track my playcheck purchases. I now own things I would not have bought or would have delayed (examples: replacement hockey shin pads/equipment, oura ring, car stereo, guitars, Rumblex vibration stability plate, a PC 4-monitor stand, etc).
Medical has happened
I knew medical expenses (issues) would be part of our retirement plan. I had planned way back at 41-years old that I would maintain my high deductible ($10k) health plan until about 50 to enjoy the premium savings over my wife’s plan. Well, I turned 50 in summer 2020 and the pandemic was raging all over the news. I decided to stick to my plan and I switched to my wife’s “retiree” medical plan in January 2021. My premiums increased by $607/mo, an increase of $7284/yr).
The good news (bad news) is that I had to use my new Cadillac health insurance in July with my little intestine surgery (paid $800+ out of $100+k) and then again (a little) with my breakthrough covid infection. I was shocked that I was the one—out of the whole extended family— who had health issues, TWICE. I’m so careful; I exercise, I eat almost perfectly, but none of that mattered in these two cases.
In thinking about fitness, I’d say I’m close to my best possible fitness level for my age. I don’t have aches or pains, not really. I do more hockey, running, biking, swimming, and weights than I ever thought I could or would be doing in my 50s (never mind 20s or 30s). I find having a base level of fitness/move-ability is extremely important.
It’s important to be healthy and fit, but I’ve learned in the past and saw it first hand, that anything can happen to anyone at any time.
My plan has always been to buy three-year-old cars and drive them for 10 years to be very money wise(Clark recommends buy new+drive for 10 yrs, or buy 3yrs old+drive for 5 yrs). That has worked with us for many vehicles, but this year after a little logical thinking, we bought a brand new car—my first in 50 years of life.
It turns out that the Venza has been fantastic. It is far and above my satisfaction level for a vehicle. To be honest, I wanted a Rav4 like the one I rented for two weeks in Florida in 2020. Well, it turns out, after my “opportunity” to re-rent a Rav4 for two days and drive 1000+ miles across Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, that I prefer the Venza limited over the Rav4 XLE (not apples to apple exactly, but close comparison). Surprise.
I believe the external warning/safety features along with the cabin comforts are just amazing. The lane-keeping assistance is quite nice driving from Phoenix to San Diego. Toyota “elegance elevated.”
Going into FIRE we had already owned our three homes and I was able to use them for my work-from-home activities. Nothing has changed except they are easier to schedule our use with the elimination of the community collect teaching service. What’s different? Maybe the towns are a little more enjoyable since I have the time to do things. My home(s) routine is still pretty much the same routine as before. I truly had a great work/life balance, especially with FU money for so long.
Travel – not so much
I only had slight plans for travel going into FIRE. I was lucky that I was able to see so many places while working and I didn’t carry a huge travel list into FIRE. If I recall correctly, I was only at the airport two times in the first five years of FIRE.
I do have a list of places to visit, as well as a list of places that I want to live for a month at a time. So far, in seven years I haven’t felt the need or desire to do many of the trips. I have a feeling that these trips will start happening in the next few years if possible.
Before leaving work I mapped out a schetchle for my weekly activities. The first item each day revolves around being active/exercising. That has not changed one bit in FIRE. Exercising still is priority one.
We have been working on WE-Day WEDnesdays where we just go and do something different or explore. Turns out WE-days are hard to implement consistently with all the other general routine activities.
I continue to read, listen, learn, absorb and think about life stuff. That’s my educated writing skills saying “I still seek information.”
It’s funny; I came back and added this section last, after typing everything else. I didn’t realize that overall finances weren’t included in my thoughts on planned vs reality.
I guess that’s a wonderful position that our finances were the last thought instead of the first. Yes, this is a large part of the family business, but that’ more strategy, taxes, planning, and spending. At this point, it’s not about budgeting and making the money last—though that is very much the goal. Luckily, our initial Sequence of Returns has been unbelievably favorable. It helps when our deferred spending was in the accounts to take advantage of the past years’ growth.
Kevin Lyles and Fritz say that 90% of retirement should be “living” and 10% might be financial planning, as compared to the opposite when planning for retirement. I’ve noticed that they are spot on. Life, and days, should be about living, and enjoying, and giving.
In closing, I will say my satisfaction level of my days/weeks is extremely high. I truly enjoy every day from the moment I wake up and prepare to rise (it’s a process) to the few minutes before falling asleep when I think about my overwhelming gratitude for my life.
I will say that my productivity is not exceptional. I get things done. I keep a LONG list of ToDo items of tasks, learning, exploring, purchasing, etc, but there is often no timeline. I like that. I like freedom. I love no deadlines or demands. I do not like having any appointments, not at all. Even the dentist gets in the way of my 100% personal time. Sometimes I wonder if I was always selfish of my time…
I wouldn’t change anything.
I say “my” a lot in my writing because they’re my thoughts and sometimes I drive the FIRE plan, but without my wife supporting and often improving the plan (and dealing with me), none of this would have ever been possible. She’s the very best part of my plan, my life, and everything that was and is unplanned.
*** Nothing in this article is to be construed as financial advice. I am not a financial planner, nor do I pretend to be. You should always consult your own professional when seeking advice. This post is not a piece of literary mastery, just a random thought I had.
Thanks for adding your perspective to the discussion. We have a lot in common, from avoiding airports to having a fitness focus to having financial issues being (almost) an after-thought. Interesting read.