Today’s is the last post in a three-part series about the most notable points of our first full year of early retirement. The first part was a bit of reflection about the biggest lessons we learned, and the second was a rundown of the adventures we got ourselves into it. And now, in part three, a bit more reflection, this time on what we’re consciously changing in year two.
A few quick announcements before we jump in:
1. I’ll be in Portland, Oregon, in late March for the AWP Conference and will host a meetup the evening of Wednesday, March 27. Stay tuned to the blog sidebar and e-newsletter for final details, but expect 7 PMish and downtownish. As with all meetups, there’s no formal agenda, and it’s just a chance for financial independence-interested folks to hang out and meet one another.
2. There’s still time to be entered to win one of four Skype sessions with me (or me and Mark — winner’s choice) for everyone who pre-orders Work Optional no later than February 11 and emails proof of purchase to worktoptionalpreorder at gmail dot com. While not everyone can win, everyone who pre-orders will receive the values-based budget planner as a thank you. I recorded the audiobook version a few weeks ago and will let you know as soon as the download version is available for pre-order. Soon!
3. If you are considering attending the 2019 Ecuador FI Chautauqua, taking place November 2-9 this year, note that it’s slightly more than half full. It’s a small retreat — only about 30 of us — so be aware that the remaining spots could go quickly. You can find all the info here.
We learned some big lessons in year one of early retirement, quite a few of which we’re considering to be just important retired life lessons. But for a few of them, we’re actively making changes to how we’re living life.
Going Back to Paper
For years, I had no choice but to have a fully electronic calendar thanks to work. Too many people needed access to my availability at all time to make a paper calendar practical, and while I tried for a year or two a decade ago to maintain both a paper calendar and electronic one, that quickly became impossible, as meetings changed too frequently. While I didn’t realize it until after we quit, I’ve since observed that — at least for me — having my whole life on devices only made me feel far less organized and on top of things.
For most of 2018, I maintained the (far more limited) electronic calendar and to do list, but eventually realized that not having everything written down where I could see it was a source of stress. And in my mission to minimize sources of stress, for 2019 I’ve gone fully back to paper. I now have a daily and weekly paper planner, I’ve cancelled my Asana and Todoist accounts and maintain a paper to do list, and I’m writing more notes to myself by hand, instead of dumping things into Evernote or email. And I truly do feel more calm as a result. I can flip to any spread in my planner and see everything I need to do that week (which, as a side effect, also makes it easier to enforce my “one thing per day” early retirement rule).
This going back to paper shift also includes attempting to write more letters and actually send birthday cards to loved ones on time, something we failed miserably at while working.
A fun fact about me is that I’ve long been a fountain pen nerd, and I have a major soft spot for Japanese paper and discbound notebooks. (See my EDC setup for proof.) So another benefit of going back to paper is that I can actually use my pen and notebook collection, and not just look at it. Because actually using what we have, and striving to use everything up rather than donate or Konmari things that have functional life left, is important to us.
Related post: The Use It Up Challenge, and Our Nothing New Year
As we shift back to an older way of tracking our time and to do lists, we’re also just trying to schedule less generally. We’ve been pretty good in the last year at not booking ourselves for more than one thing a day, but we sure scheduled a looooot of trips.
Though we love travel and still hope to do plenty of it this year, we have very little booked so far, and want to keep our calendar as open as possible, so we can say yes to more spontaneous things.
When we travel, we keep our time mostly open, and our approach to visiting any new city is just to wander around and see what happens. So often, we encounter magic this way, and we’ve concluded that magic happens only when you have no agenda. We want to make the rest of life more open to magic like our travel is, and that means scheduling as little as possible.
Related post: Relearning How to Live Slowly
In addition to scheduling less, we also want to do less overall. I wrote about our “high school rule” last year (TL;DR: only doing activities in retirement that you would have happily done for free in high school), and we’ve been really good at adhering to that. In high school, I wrote for and edited the high school paper, did high school radio and radio at the local NPR station, and ran the environmental club… and that looks crazy similar to my life now. I write a blog, wrote a book, do a podcast and am president of a local conservation nonprofit. None of which feels like work, because I was thrilled to do all those things before the thought of work or compensation ever entered my mind.
And I’m happy with that mix of activities, but want to scale everything back just a bit, because it can feel like a lot. Not a lot compared to my old work to do list, but enough that I sometimes feel like I should stay in and write rather than go skiing, and that’s not what early retirement is all about.
So this year, we’re being even more protective of our time, saying yes to even less, saying no to essentially all client work (this one is mainly Mark — my only real client work has been writing a few paid articles for MarketWatch), and committing to smaller doses for things we do say yes to.
Ultimately we aspire to say yes a lot, but we’re still finding that balance of how to allow ourselves to say yes to things without that taking up so much time that we can’t say yes to other things.
Related post: A Life of Yes // Our Early Retirement Aspiration
Finally Creating the Account Structure We Planned
This one is far more practical, but we’d always planned to create a new account structure in retirement, one in which we replicate regular paychecks with a separate checking account that serves as a holding fund, with monthly or twice-monthly transfers to our primary checking account.
We didn’t actually put that system into place in year 1, in part because we wanted to see if we could function without it. (This was an instance in which we did not agree. I thought we needed the extra structure help, and Mark did not.) Because our approach to saving was a fully “unbudgeting” approach, in which hiding money from ourselves was the key feature, we’ve decided that we will do best in managing our cash flow if we use the multiple account structure to continue hiding most of our money.
So we’re in the process now of setting up multiple checking accounts, and will continue using our primary as our main payment account, with a second serving as a holding account for dividends, share sale proceeds, etc., from which we’ll pay ourselves a “paycheck,” and a third serving as a holding account for large known expenses like property tax and quarterly income tax. As to whether we’ll go all the way and go back to giving ourselves individual allowances, the jury is still out.
Serving More in Our Community
The one area in which we want to do more, not less, is around community service. Mark is president of the Sierra Avalanche Center and does a ton of volunteer work to promote backcountry safety and education. And I’m president of a small conservation group. We also do a lot to support fundraising at our local Humane Society, and donate regularly out of our donor advised fund.
(Side note: It feels amazing to be able to write big checks out of the donor advised fund without worrying about whether we have the money. Our year-end giving this year felt like handing out free money. Another big positive of opening and funding a DAF.)
But service has always been a hugely important thing for us, and so we’re figuring out ways to carve out more time for that. The big remaining issue that’s close to our hearts that we’re not currently involved in, beyond donating money, is hunger and poverty. So that’s on our minds big time, of how we can get more involved without it feeling like we’re too busy all the time.
…and one big thing we’re going to continue:
Continue Noticing Our Personal and Collective Evolution
In a way, it’s funny to write this series of annual wrap-up posts, because the last year feels so much longer than a year. And within it, we had several major seasons that each felt distinct from one another. We learned so much last year, we grew so much together, we did so much and we had time we never had while working to reflect on those changes.
So the big thing we absolutely will continue doing is just keep our eyes open. Being intentional about noticing what we’re craving, how that’s changing, what we want as a couple, what we want individually, what feels meaningful to us, whether we feel like we need more or less structure, and all the rest.
Early retirement is a time of huge personal growth potential, especially as we grow into these non-work-stressed versions of ourselves, and we don’t want to miss that opportunity.
Tell us! What are you changing in 2019? Is that in anticipation of leaving work or becoming work-optional, or as a part of your next life? What lessons did you learn last year that are impacting how you’re approaching this year? Anything you want us to know based on what I shared here? Let’s chat about all of it in the comments!
Categories: we retired early