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Thoughts On Early Retirement and Post-FIRE Life From the Non-Blogging Partner // Q&A With Mark, Part 1

I’m pretty excited about today’s post, and not just because it’s one I didn’t have to write myself while my eyes are all glazed over in the home stretch of book-writing.

Today, for the first time ever, Mark — Mr. ONL — is here to share his perspective on a bunch of different aspects of early retirement, both planning for it for years, and living in it now. Enjoy Mark’s thoughts, and leave any other questions you have for him in the comments — he’ll be the one responding! (Oh hey Mark, by the way, you’re on the hook for comment responses today. Maybe I forgot to mention that.)

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hiya, internet.

after 3+ years and 347 (!!!) thoughtful, thought-provoking posts from tanja, mr. onl (aka mark) is finally pitching in with a post that i promise will be neither thoughtful nor thought-provoking. [Tanja note: This is Mark writing about himself in the third person. Like Bob Dole.] a big THANK YOU to everyone who sent in questions and potential topics. as the non-creative one in the family, it’s a heckuva lot easier for me to answer questions than to come up with my own idea for a post. honestly, i don’t know how tanja does it every week, never mind twice a week. so without further adieu, here are the answers to all your burning questions, along with a few I made up…

q: why are you writing today’s post?

a: tanja is currently sequestered in an undisclosed location so she can finish up the first draft of her upcoming book, work optional, without being distracted by her yappy dogs or yappy husband.

Mark as Mii

Mark in Wii avatar form, which is surprisingly accurate

q: what took you so long?

a: tanja has always had a natural creative drive, both in writing and visual arts, which is a gene i was born without. i’m also descended from upper midwestern lutherans, a group that believes opinions are meant to be kept to oneself, not shared (on the internet or irl), so i tend to doubt that anyone would care to read what i have to say. i also suspect this post will prove me right.

q: what’s up with the lowercase?

a: it’s a throwback to the early days of ournextlife, when tanja thought it would be fun and quirky to write the blog in all lowercase. in fact, some eagle-eyed, long-time readers might recognize the “hiya, internet” greeting at the top of this post as an homage to tanja’s very first post, waaaaay back in January 2015. but tbh, typing in all lowercase is confusing and exhausting, what with having to constantly overrule the grammar check, so like tanja, i’m switching to normal sentence case starting now.

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Mark and a skeptical owl in Tokyo

Q: I miss Tanja already!

A: That’s really more of a statement than a question, but me too! #metoo (Ed note: Mark has been on a news blackout since retiring and doesn’t realize how inappropriate that hashtag is in this context, but the sentiment is sweet so I’m leaving it in.) [Tanja note: That ed note was not written by me.]

Q: Does the extra time together with your spouse help or hurt the relationship? I’ve heard of traditional retirees that hate their spouse once they spend time with them. (@BackNColo)

A: Excellent, albeit potentially dangerous, question. The jury is still out on this one, simply because I don’t think either of us really feel or are truly retired yet. We’re only 5 ½ months in, Tanja has been working hard on her book, podcast, and blog, and I’ve been consulting on a few projects for former clients as well as serving as president of a local nonprofit, which was fairly time-consuming through the winter. So the truth is we haven’t actually had that much more time together since the start of the year. I’m pretty sure having more time together will help, and the stars should be aligning to allow that to start very soon, so we’ll have to get back to you when we actually know the answer. But this reminds me of something that Tanja has written before – “retired you is still you” – because simply jettisoning our old careers didn’t automatically create more time together as you (or we) might expect. Spending more time truly together might be something we have to make a conscious choice to do, otherwise we’ll each revert to our ingrained habits and fill our time with individual pursuits and projects.

Q: How [awesome] does it feel to be retired? (Literally everyone we talk to)

A: See previous answer. I’m still waiting and reeeeeaaaaaly looking forward to the first day where I wake up and truly feel retired. Maybe I won’t know what that feels like until it happens, but what I envision is waking up with nothing planned and nothing on my to-do list. The latter part has been the catch thus far, because even on days where I haven’t actually accomplished anything, and there have been several, I’ve still had consulting or nonprofit work that I felt like I should have been doing. In this hypothetical “retired” day, I envision waking up fairly early, without an alarm but well-rested, going on an impromptu adventure around Tahoe, enjoying some afternoon delight followed by a nap, trying out a new recipe that is healthy and delicious, then reading or watching Netflix until we fall asleep on the couch, all without the nagging feeling that there was something on our to-do list that we should have been doing instead. [Tanja note: Way to make that awkward, babe.]

Just because that perfect day hasn’t happened yet, that doesn’t mean we haven’t had a lot of really wonderful days. Our trip to Taiwan was awesome, and it was the first vacation in 15 years where I wasn’t working or checking email morning and night, or stressing about not checking email when I was unplugged. I’ve scheduled work calls around outdoor activities, and gone skiing on powder days even when it meant putting off work – something I almost never did the past few years of work, even though Tanja and I were telecommuting and probably could have gotten away with it.

And to be clear, my baseline stress level has definitely been trending downward since we quit (consistently if not steadily), while my baseline stoke level has been rising on a similar trajectory. Some people who ask what it feels like to be retired either imply (or say directly) that waking up the first day must have been utterly transformative – all of the stress and obligations magically evaporating, the sun shining, air sparkling, birds chirping, and unicorns dancing on rainbows.

I secretly hoped but never really expected that would happen, because the reality is that 20 years of work in a fast-paced, high-stress environment doesn’t magically evaporate overnight. Tanja and I both made psychological (and probably physiological) adaptations to thrive in those environments, and some of those habits will simply take time to unlearn. Even though my consulting work has been VERY part-time, and my nonprofit volunteer work is something I enjoy and care about, the two combined still mean there’s always something I should (or at least could) be doing. But in 5.5 months I have already gotten a lot better at saying “no,” or at least “not today,” and that’s very liberating.

[Tanja note: I think I feel a lot more retired than Mark does. And I’ve always suspected he would need longer to unlearn the work mindset. Look at me. I’m so smart.]

Squaw-reflection

Q: Tanja always makes helpful charts and graphs in her posts. Can you please illustrate your previous answer in snazzy chart form?

A: Sure.

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Q: How are you coping with not being the “provider?” (@Michivegan)

A: Another great question. I’m guessing you’ve listened to The Fairer Cents podcast? So far this hasn’t really been an issue because I’ve been able to earn about as much from my consulting work as Tanja has from her book and other projects. That has kept me from feeling like a total loafer, leeching off of my rockstar wife, and allowed us to avoid drawing down any of our savings and investments this year, which helps us both sleep a little better, even if we’re mostly fairly kinda sure about our math and contingency plans. [Tanja note: I’m sleeping GREAT and not at all worried anymore about whether we saved enough. My vote is for Mark to stop consulting altogether. YOU RETIRED, REMEMBER?!]

Q: What is your favorite part of your day-to-day routine? (ex. getting up late, having time to play with dogs, etc. (@JayPeaceOut)

A: A simple pleasure that I’m still grateful for almost every day is not setting an alarm, and being able to stay up late without worrying about waking up bleary-eyed to said non-existent alarm. I’m naturally a night person (which is too bad because I’m pretty convinced that morning people rule the world; maybe that would explain why I decided to retire early instead of ruling the world), so being based in California and telecommuting to an east coast company always meant fighting my natural rhythm. If I wasn’t online by 7:30 am it would take me until noon just to catch up on email, but I still struggled to go to bed early, so I was tired a lot. Catching up on sleep is nice. That’s the biggest little thing.

The biggest big thing is having more time to finally do all the outdoor things we moved to Tahoe to do. Sadly I didn’t ski 100 days this season, but I did ski more than I ever have, especially in the backcountry, and though we’re just transitioning from winter to spring, I’m off to a pretty good start on the mountain biking / beach volleyball / climbing season.

[Tanja note: See, he is feeling at least a LITTLE BIT retired. Even if he lied to your face about it earlier.]

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 Q: What do you miss most from work? (@JayPeaceOut)

A: Feeling relevant and involved with major issues and events of the day. A lot of my research focused on political campaigns, but I also had a chance to work on a wide variety of policy issues. Some topics were more interesting than others, but it was fun to learn about and play a role, however slight, on things like electoral politics, labor policy, education, healthcare, energy, environmental protection, urban planning, and even esoteric topics like forced arbitration, which I had worked on for years and is finally starting to get some attention in the context of the Me Too movement. Being involved in so many issues was personally interesting and satisfying, and gave the feeling of having a front-row seat to the news. It also made it easier to meet and talk to new people, because I often knew just enough about other people’s jobs or interests to start a conversation, or at least enough to confidently mansplain something I knew virtually nothing about.

Q: Doesn’t Tanja have very strong feelings about (not) using Oxford commas?

A: She does, but this is my post, so I have free reign to overuse and misuse Oxford commas (parenthetical asides), hyperlinks, and just generally crap all over the rules of grammar, punctuation, and style.

[Tanja note: The book will be filled with serial commas, and I have no say in the matter. This fact may kill me.]

Q: What’s it like being married to such a beautiful, brilliant woman? (anonymous, but pretty sure that one came from @our_nextlife)

A: Amazing. I’m truly blessed and grateful every day that I get to spend my life with an incredible partner like Tanja, who not only is an amazing human being, but who happens to share the same crazy vision of an abnormal life lived on our own terms. And while Tanja may bring looks, intelligence, creativity, passion, humor, and drive to the relationship, I more than make up for all of that in…well…the jury is still out on that too. :-)

[Tanja note: He does the dishes. Like, always. Even when we go to other people’s houses and they tell him not to. Actually, it’s kind of embarrassing. Stop doing other people’s dishes, Mark. But keep being hilarious and awesome. I love that big sexy nerd brain of yours.]

-mr. onl

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Obviously from before we retired, owing to my not-yet-purple hair and a few missing piercings.

Ask Away!

What else do you want to hear from Mark? Jot it down in the comments below. He may answer you directly here, or we’ll include the question in Mark’s Q&A Part 2. Will Part 2 be months from now or as soon as next week? Stay tuned to find out!

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72 replies »

  1. LOL! Don’t sell yourself short Mark, this was a well written post, and the snazzy graphs do paint a telling picture, which in my opinion was the point in the first place.

    Sounds like you guys are having a blast, granted still busy in post retirement life but with passion projects. That exactly what most of us would hope for in retirement. You guys are very inspiring! Congrats!

    • Thanks for the nice note, HLT, glad you enjoyed the post! We ARE having a blast. And even though I’ve had more consulting work than I expected, it’s still been waaaay less work and waaaay more flexible than when we were employed for real. Definitely more time playing than working, and the consulting is probably a good way to ease into retirement – better than going from 100 to 0 in an instant.

  2. Spending more time truly together might be something we have to make a conscious choice to do, otherwise we’ll each revert to our ingrained habits and fill our time with individual pursuits and projects.

    I could have predicted this for you two! Great observations Mark. I think you guys are so driven that you will indeed have to try hard to not “work” or “be productive”. I get that, I’m kinda the same way. But I think turning that dial down from 10 to a more reasonable level will just naturally occur over time. Because it can – you don’t need the money :)

    • Was it that obvious? ;-) The truth is I’m inherently much more of a slacker than Tanja is. It took some time and effort to learn the work ethic necessary for my career, and I suspect after 20 years it will take some time to unlearn it, too. But have no fear, turn that dial down I shall!

  3. Are you really on a news blackout that you mentioned (as part of the Me Too hashtag) or was that part of the joke? I realize it isn’t a total blackout, but have you really cut down on the news since you retired? If so, I’m curious how it is working, especially since your old job seems to deal with just about every topic that is dominating the news cycle over the last 18 months or so. It seems like a hard thing to shut off.

    • Definitely NOT on a news blackout, that was part of the joke (a key feature of my “humor” is people asking whether my jokes were jokes). On balance I’m probably reading about the same amount of news, but what & how I read is different. We still subscribe to NYT and WaPo, and I still get 4 e-newsletters a day (Politico Playbook, California Playbook, Illinois Playbook, and Mike Allen’s newsletter for Axios), but I have no qualms about deleting things unread if I don’t get around to it. I also spend less time with political insider and palace intrigue type stories, and am trying to read a little deeper on topics I might not have made time for in the past. But honestly I think I wouldn’t have any trouble shutting it all off if I went on a multi-week backpacking trip or something like that.

  4. This is great. Nice debut!

    First and foremost, serial commas are one of my my favorite things in life. Good to have you on the winning team. :)

    Second, what about hobbies? How are you going to be spending your days once the to-do list goes to zero?

    Finally, I’ve been trying to talk my wife into doing a “guest post”. How did Tanja trick you into doing this? I am not opposed to using similar tactics!

    Seriously though, this was awesome.

    • Tanja knows she’s in a small minority when it comes to serial commas, but it’s a (losing) battle she just keeps fighting. ;-)

      Definitely no shortage of hobbies, mostly based around outdoor adventures and travel. We often talk about using retirement to finally do all the things we moved to Tahoe to do, but never found time for. I/we really do aspire to ski 100 days a season, including resort days and backcountry tours, which adds up to a pretty full winter. In the spring/summer/fall I like to mountain bike, rock climb, play beach volleyball, hike, camp, and paddle. The good thing about living in a mountain town is that most of our friends like doing all those same things, so it’s not usually too hard to find an adventure buddy. We’re also aiming for two international trips a year, so I feel like filling the days won’t be too much of a problem.

      Unfortunately Tanja didn’t employ any special tricks or magic to get me to write. But she did have a looming book deadline, so it felt like the right time to pitch in and help. So my advice – get a book deal, get down to the wire on your first draft, then ask your wife if she’ll pitch in with a guest blog post! Easy peasy!

  5. This was a fun post. :) I’m really glad the capitalization came back though hahaha!

    Mark – Glad to see you make your debut, it’s a solid post and does the things I think most people have come to expect from an ONL post – insight into what you’re going through in a really transparent way. It’s interesting that you’re almost 6 months in and still don’t feel like you’re “in” it yet, I wonder when that’ll be (or if there will even be an a-ha type of moment).

    • Hey Jim. Nice to hear from you, and thanks for the kind words! Good question about the “a-ha” moment. I would say there have been a-ha moments (biking in Taroko Gorge in Taiwan, skiing powder on an empty Wednesday in March without checking my phone), but that they have tended to be discreet, and not permanent. As you saw in handy dandy chart #3, things are definitely heading in the right direction, but I’ve still got some standing conference calls and consulting obligations that make it feel like play time is not 100% the new normal. Hope you’re doing well!

  6. You guys are couple goals! Seriously. I love how aligned your goals are and how you support each other’s growth! #adorable
    On a side note, this post was hilarious. I love Tanja’s notes. I also really liked seeing Mark’s perspective today – hopefully more of that in the future!

    • Haha, thanks! Tanja would make any couple look good, just glad I’m the other half of the couple she ended up in!

      We both feel incredibly lucky to have found someone who was immediately on board with this life vision, especially since we met through work, which, as Tanja has written about, was in an industry where virtually everyone else is trying to win, not quit, the rat race.

      I promise you’ll hear more from me in the future…just not sure how soon or how often. Tanja has worked so hard to build a thoughtful blog with engaged, interesting readers; I’d really hate to ruin all her hard work ;-)

  7. kudos to a great post, mark! This might be enough for a full post in itself (lookout Tanja, you just might have some friendly competition), but can you speak to the local nonprofit you are involved with? I.e. which organization (or general industry), how did you get involved, was this always a passion or something developed, etc. Thank you for taking time out of your busy FIRE life for the post!

    • Hi Jason. Glad you enjoyed the post. I’m president of the Sierra Avalanche Center (sierraavalanchecenter.org), which provides avalanche forecasts and education for backcountry skiers, snowboarders, hikers, and snowmobilers in the Lake Tahoe region. I enjoyed backcountry skiing before moving to Tahoe, but just happened to move in next door to the former board president. He thought my skill set would be a good fit for the organization, so I served on the board for several years, and just became president this season. It’s a fairly time-intensive volunteer position, and the only reason I was willing/able to make that commitment is because we retired. I’d also like to get involved with some sort of mentoring or tutoring with middle/high school students at some point. I’ve always enjoyed teaching, but never played as much of a mentor role at work as I could/should have, and we don’t have kids of our own, so all this knowledge and wisdom is just going to waste! ;-)

  8. Nice post. I think the to do list goes to zero is a dream that most have but isn’t likely to ever happen. When you own a house, there is always something that can, or has to, be done. Not only that but some items on the to do list, now this is a confession of mine, keep getting rescheduled as I’m not at a place that I want to do them yet.

    I have only been retired for 2 months, but like Mark, I don’t feel retired yet. I still have a number of work-type things (boards, church committees, etc.) that fill many days a week. And then there is golf. I play 2-3 times a week and this is a 5 hour frustrating time suck…I mean enjoyable activity so this is certainly a perk of retirement. I do know that mowing the lawn on a Wednesday morning is so so so much better than mowing it on a Saturday afternoon.

    Sleep in? I wish. I have trained our dog that our 2 mile morning walk starts at 6:00 a.m.. That combined with my horrible patterns from 30 years of 5 hours of sleep have made it tough to sleep past 6.

    The question I get asked the most is “are you bored yet?”. I can honestly say – Heck no! I have about 1 day a week that doesn’t have anything planned or scheduled (do have a few to do items to do almost every day – except those that keep getting rescheduled). Watching golf without worrying about what I should be doing is also a real treat.

    I miss the 2x a week posts but I understand that getting the book out is something that requires more time and attention.

    Hey, one more thing (in my best Colombo voice). I guess I didn’t win any of the contests or did I win them all and you are just behind in getting my home address :)

    • Thanks Keith. And congratulations on your recent retirement! Yeah, I didn’t even touch on home projects. We certainly have enough to be a full-time job for a year if we decided to make that a priority. Instead we just go hard-core triage for a few days before guests arrive, then let things go until our next visitors. So for us the key to keeping the house in order seems to be inviting lots and lots of guests.

      I’ll double-check with Tanja about those contest prizes, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Was there something you had your heart set on?

      • No. Just teasing. If I can’t eat it, drink it or use it on a golf course or another sport/hobby then I don’t need or want it. I’m a man of simple wants and needs.

        Well afternoon delight sounds lovely as well but there are other web sites ( I hear) that cater to that sort of stuff.

  9. Excellent post! Glad to hear your perspective. And I have questions! Here’s one:

    Tanja has written (courageously) about the paradox inherent in running a successful early retirement blog — i.e. how can you write about relying on the “4% rule” while simultaneously earning income from said writings? I appreciate her candor on this.

    There’s another paradox that, to me, may be more important. I think a lot about how to find meaning or purpose in life without full-time, paid work. For successful bloggers the answer is given: just run your successful blog and take the opportunities it provides! But not sure the world needs or wants another FIRE blog … though, maybe it does! Anyway, assuming most of us don’t do that, how do these non-internet-famous ER folks manage purpose in their lives?

    Mark, it sounds like you still have quite a bit going on. As you ratchet down, I’d be interested to hear if you feel any loss of meaning or purpose, and how you deal with that. Or, if you manage to avoid it, how?

    Thanks again for the great post!

    • Ooh, I second this comment! Also more generally, and maybe for both Mark and Tanja, as you move further into early retirement I’d be curious to hear how your sense of purpose comes from / time commitment goes to either activities that grew out of things you were already doing (e.g. consulting/volunteering for Mark, blogging/podcasting/writing the book for Tanja) versus totally new activities that you always thought “one day I’d love to do X!”

      (I know Tanja has said that she always wanted to write a book, but I’d still consider it as growing out of the blog, since I think the content will be thematically similar… I’ll be on the lookout for her first great novel someday though! ;) )

    • Thanks for commenting! That’s an incredibly important point. And it will be interesting to see how “real” FIRE folks (not just bloggers) feel and address the issue of purpose, not just 1 year into retirement, but after many, many years of freedom. I honestly don’t know what my/our life will look like 5 years from now, nevermind 30. Of course that’s the great opportunity of FIRE – shaping the life YOU want live, not one dictated by financial pressures or social norms. But it’s also the central challenge, because it’s then incumbent on YOU to find meaning and purpose in life, which virtually all research shows is the #1 factor in long-term happiness. Until now I’ve generally been someone who goes with the flow and follows whatever path is in front of me, not someone who has clear goals and forges their own path, so after my current consulting and volunteer work dies down, and after a period of hardcore mountain bumming, it will definitely take some conscious thought and effort to figure out a fulfilling answer to your question.

  10. y’all seem to be working pretty hard for retirees! i hope it’s fun work. i have found that i can unwind at the drop of a hat and taking the dog out to run around might be the only thing on the agenda. i get home from that and mrs. me is always up to something like pruning or making art or baking crackers or je ne sais quoi! we’re opposite that way but it works.

    • Now 9.5 months into ER, and I can say I’m pretty content with my current balance of obligations (consulting/volunteering) and free time. The biggest evolution has been mental – NOT feeling guilty when I’m not being productive, or even saying “no” to consulting requests (a word that was not in my vocabulary during my full-time working years). I would say this has been a noticeable change even in the past couple of months.

  11. Terrific post, Mark! Even though I’ve been “retired” for more than a year now, I’m only just feeling like I am getting caught up with neglected projects and other back burner tasks. I can finally look forward to the more indulgent items on my retirement to-do list.

    By the way, my 12-year old daughter and I are big fans of Oxford commas. So punctuate away!

    • I hope the past few months have been full of plenty of those indulgent items for you! My balance has probably been more on the side of indulgence and less on the side of neglected projects. Speaking of which…probably time to collect, split, and stack firewood before winter. Thanks sooooo much for the reminder! ;-)

  12. Love the graphics. I think it makes total sense that it’ll take you a while to decompress from the stress of your old job and adjust to not taking on any work at all. I think you better listen to your wife on that front. She *is* pretty awesome, as you pointed out, so best to keep her happy!

    • Thanks! I think the charts conveyed what I was trying to say much more efficiently and effectively. Maybe my next post will be 100% charts and infographics :-)

  13. Enjoyed the post. Very humorous. I liked the blog before but this just makes it better. I’d recommend mixing it up between the two of you going forward (if that is what you want to do).

    • Thanks. Nice to hear since Tanja has been mocking me recently for all my stupid dad jokes. Which doesn’t even make sense since we got no kids! Sorry to disappoint, but don’t your hopes up re: more frequent posts from me. I can promise I will contribute more than I did during the first 3 years of ONL, but can’t promise it will be more than one post every few months. That’s about how often I get an idea worth sharing :-)

  14. Congrats on the long awaited debut! You hit those questions out of the park! Loved the stress/stoke graphs as I imagine that’s exactly how it’s going to work for me as well. It takes time to untrain your body from all those working years!

    • Thanks YFK! FWIW the stoke and stress lines have continued trending in the same directions over the past few months. So that’s pretty good for being 9.5 months into retirement. Though if we have a good snow year this winter I suspect the stoke line will jump up sharply!

  15. Nice post. I like your rambling style. I’m with Jim on the capitalization, though. For some reason, it’s much harder to read with all lower cases. I like the stress chart. It looks very natural. Real life isn’t as smooth as imaginary retirement.

  16. I live in Oxford and I detest my city’s commas (-;

    Anyways, my question for Mark is, given your statement re not wanting to share your opinions, how do you feel about Tanja sharing hers and, by extension, details about your life and your plans?

    My husband is the sharer and it causes tension — I like to control information about me that goes out into the wider world so I hate it when he shares too much about what I’m up to and how I’m feeling. For example, I have a job interview next week and I only want certain people to know, and then only some of them how much I want this job. I’d hate to have that information all over the interwebs….
    (perhaps I’m just not cut out for the social media era)

    • I love Oxford (the city and the comma)! Even without the university, it feels like the kind of place where great scholarship would happen. So it’s strange that a resident such as yourself would be so sadly mistaken about your city’s comma! ;-)

      Good question. I was probably more uncomfortable with Tanja’s sharing at first. Partially because the blogging/sharing was new, but also because we were both still working and I really didn’t want our plans to leak to our employers prematurely. I was nervous enough that I used to do Google image searches on all the pictures Tanja posted on ONL and flag any that were associated with our real life social media accounts. But Tanja was always careful and respectful about what she shared, and usually asked me before posting especially personal information. Now that we’re out and she’s been blogging for 3 years, I don’t worry about it any more, or even think about it, really.

  17. As a fellow small town dweller, I’m curious about how your experience has been now that you have more freedom over your time. I know you guys enjoy the snow in Tahoe, but apart from that, do you ever wish you were closer to a big city with more options? (I hope you’ll say no, because I would also love to roll up my sleeves and get involved with our town’s non-profits and community activities when I have more time.)

    • Definitely no! Though we are only ~30 min from Reno, 90 min from Sacramento, and 3.5 hours from San Francisco, so it’s really not hard for us to get some city time whenever we need a food, art, or culture fix. My guess (just a guess) is that in 20 years or so we’ll feel like we’ve had our fill of the mountains and end up back in or near a big city. But in the meantime I think small town living is perfect for early retirement. The outdoor activities are free/cheap and virtually limitless, and unlike in LA or DC (my 2 previous homes), lots of our friends here share our passions and work jobs that allow them to play during the day, since that’s the whole reason you move to a mountain town. Hard to imagine that would be the case in most big cities…with the possible exception of Portland :-)

  18. I laughed so many times! Especially at this part: “…or at least enough to confidently mansplain something I knew virtually nothing about.”

  19. This is great! I love this post and all the humor. Nice graphs, LOL.

    Not setting an alarm clock, I really think that is one of the things I love most about retirement. I get enough sleep every night.

    • Thanks 43BD! Though I think you forgot the quotation marks around “humor.” ;-)

      re: no alarm clocks…I was up till 3am last night but slept till 11:30!

  20. I’m so with you and looking forward to the ability to sleep without an alarm. My natural pattern is to stay up late – regardless of my morning plans. It would be nice if that would not bite me in the butt.

    No questions, alas.

    • Hi ZJ! Just replied to the previous comment that I was up till 3am ast night and slept till 11:30…right on my natural rhythm.

      Back when you originally commented I would have said GO CAPS! but now that’s a little out of date.

      Hope life is good.

  21. So glad to see you’re on the right side of the Great, Ongoing Comma Debate, Mark! ;)

    I’m not so much a night owl as much as bad at protecting my bedtime so sometimes I end up going to bed late for absolutely no reason. Mornings sans alarm(s) sound fantastic. And seconded (or thirded?) on the questions about how you’re doing with the change of your sense of purpose now that you’re starting to feel at least a bit retired. And Tanja’s right (as she always is!), you should totally stop your consulting work!

    Y’all are super cute, that is all.

    • Dude, you’re not helping the Oxford comma cause with the Excessive Caps Usage. We need credible advocates on Team Oxford! ;-)

      Purpose hasn’t been an issue so far since I’m still consulting on several House races, which feels like a pretty important purpose this year. But it will be important to make that a conscious pursuit over the next 3-5 years when my consulting work dries up and I step down from the leadership position I currently hold with a local nonprofit. At that point I could see purpose/direction becoming a muscle that needs exercising to avoid atrophying.

  22. I love the Anchor Man link. Haha!

    You should take the pen more often as this was funny and insightful. I can appreciate it taking time to unlearn the work mindset.

  23. Brilliant! I also have a non-blogging Mark. I put him to work for the very first time a few days ago scribbling a short contribution (on the subject of motorbike racers, something he professes to know all about). Maybe it’s time he did a whole post by himself? 😂 He’s outside in the sunshine at the moment waiting for the final practice session of this year’s Isle of Man TT to start. I’ll go drag him out of his early retirement bubble and give him the bad news! 😂

  24. Neighbor Stacy here just dropping by to say #oxfordcommaforever. Great post! Now I know not to ask how retired life is treating you, but it will be an effort so obvious that you’ll probably just wish I’d get it over with and ask. ;-)

  25. Lots of insights here, and my favorite Q&A might be about what you miss most from work. I particularly enjoyed that response, from the initial acknowledgement that you miss feeling “relevant and involved” about major current events all the way to your final self-deprecating humor about “mansplaining”! : )

    • Thanks Julie! So far I’ve managed to stay marginally relevant and involved by consulting on a few campaigns this year. We’ll see how that goes after November :-)

  26. So you probably don’t know this, but I’ve been reading ONL from the beginning for several months and finally got to this post to see that you in fact chose my question from Twitter! I probably could’ve read ahead to find out earlier but it’s an OCD thang I guess to read all posts serially. First, you should write more here, love the humor (I mean that Fibbona-cheese bit was gold). Second, glad to hear you’re coping with the whole ‘provider’ role which hopefully holds true if you ever stop actually working. I personally have no issue with my wife making more than me, I just wish she’d let me quit now. But I think we have to quit at nearly the same time to avoid jealousy.
    And as a fellow MTBer with much lamer trails around here, get out and enjoy those sweet mountain trails while you can. I’ve never been biking out west but I’d love to try it some time.
    Hopefully I also didn’t miss the end of comment replies from you – it’s just one more 😬

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