Not a day goes by where I don’t drift off into the depths of my imagination and think about what early retirement will feel like. Sometimes its for just a few seconds, a short elevator ride between meetings, or the entire work commute so that I don’t go crazy in the endless stop and go that is Atlanta traffic. Sometimes, its all of the above in the same day.
For many people, an early retirement is viewed in of two ways. The first is basically a stock photo of a family enjoying a sunset on a beach, holding hands without a care in the world.
The second is the most intense level of silence, loneliness and boredom you can imagine because people don’t know what the hell they would do with all their time.
Our early-retirement will look like neither of these because we fully intend on staying busy, continuing to earn money and making a difference in our communities. Oh and having a $hit ton of fun…and travel…and wine. You get the point. While that may not sound like much of an early retirement the biggest difference is
we will own our time instead of renting it out to an employer.
For context, let’s explore what our day-to-day looks like now, so you can more clearly envision how different early-retirement life may look like. As you know, we’re pretty REGULAR in the sense that we work corporate gigs, the standard Monday thru Friday daytime hours, with nights and weekends left to enjoy ourselves. Nights and weekends are largely for exploring our interests, maintaining relationships with loved ones, cooking, laundry, work out etc. You know, REGULAR $hit.
However, we all know that all hours and days away from work are rarely “away” in the purest sense. It’s not uncommon for emails to be read and responded to on nights and weekends. Furthermore, it’s not uncommon [or easy] to totally shut off and not think about that upcoming meeting, a major deadline or noodle through how to manage a delicate work conversation. Worst of all, it’s not uncommon for work conversations to bleed into our personal lives and invade the dinner table. This is a daily battle for both of us— one we’re trying to kick.
For visual purposes, here’s a simple breakdown of how our time is spent today.
A couple of key points to add here:
- 43% of our total available time is spent at work or in work-mode
- 64% of our time awake is spent at work or in work-mode
- 24% of our total time is “free”, though this really means…just not at work
- We each earn 128 hours[about 3 weeks] each of vacation/personal time annually. In contrast, we each spend about 490 hours in traffic annually.
Is this good? Bad? Whose to say. What I do know is that it’s common…and unsustainable. We also know that if you work a corporate gig like us, your calendar looks similar, probably includes even less sleep and more time spent at work or in “work-mode”. Having another [or active] child, a longer commute and/or a sick parent turns your calendar into a $hit show.
I also know that there is little reason to believe that spending a disproportionate amount of time [almost two-thirds] away from the people and things you love are a recipe for a fulfilled life. Yes, achievement and prosperity are important but not at the cost of a failed marriage, broken relationships, heart failure, diabetes, addiction and a litany of other social and medical ailments that could be prevented if we only had the time to attend to ourselves and our loved one’s more regularly. With that said, here’s what I anticipate life may look like in our early retirement years.
A couple of key points to add here:
- More colors means a wider range of activities. #diversity
- We will still work [for ourselves], but likely only 28 hours a week and no more than 6 hours a day, including lunch. As my own future boss, I approve this work schedule
- We’ll be more dedicated to exercise and community service than we are today since there will be little pressure from the old ugly a$$ red monster in the middle of our week today
- Our free time will increase by 70% compared to our working years. I get giggly just thinking about it.
Looking at this on a week-by-week basis doesn’t quite allow you to visualize the bigger picture though. Early retirement will unlock the tension that our life has today. For example, the preference for a quick, solitary, cold, on-the-go and portable meal in the morning will likely transition to more slower, homemade, hot and social meals. The relentless mental calculation of lost time due to traffic, slow elevators, long lines at lunch and meetings that run over will fade away because time will literally be on our side.
From a financial perspective, there is another key difference between our life now and early-retirement life. With respect to earnings, if we earn what we need for the year [say by mid-year], we could easily decide to take the rest of the year off instead of continuing to commit to a structured time-blocked schedule. Similarly, if we earn more than what we need in a given year we could easily take a year or two off or give the surplus away. Even if we earn $0, we’ll be fine because we know that we can safely withdraw 4% from an account in addition to rental income to cover our expenses.
Ultimately, we are building a lifestyle that balances our cost-of-living with the cash-flow from passive income streams thus opening up our time to do things that matter more to us. Striking this balance gives us fuller control and ownership over our time and is the essence of financial independence. Now that I think about it, in a few years, our time spent chart will look more like a giant multi-flavored lollipop and as you can imagine…it’ll be pretty sweet.
Mr. r & R