Retirement Redefined

A few years ago, Angie and I were watching a football game on TV when a commercial for TD Ameritrade came on. I wasn’t really paying attention but for some reason when I heard the word retirement, I spontaneously muttered, “I think I will retire tomorrow.” It sounded good in my head and of course, impractical at the same time, as it tumbled off my tongue. Though I expected no response, I still remember to this day what Angie said – just one little word, okay. This wasn’t the same okay that I usually get when she’s reading and only half listening to me. It was more like the one I get when I suggest we go get ice cream.

“And then what will we do?” I asked with a hint of sarcasm that was mainly directed at myself for suggesting such a thing in the first place.

Without missing a beat, she said, “Well, if it rains like they say it’s going to, then we’ll watch movies.”

It was just that simple. And yet that profound.

For several days after that, I pondered the question: Just what is retirement anyway?

In my grandparents’ day, retirement meant you were old enough to receive your company’s pension and could spend your days doing all the things you had dreamed of while working for 40+ years. Today, I turn on the news and retirement means that our older generation is no longer employable in their career field but can’t support themselves because they’ve overspent and under-planned, so now they must work at Walmart. Don’t believe it? Just Google “Americans Unable to Retire” and you’ll be bombarded with sad statistics like 85% of Americans are worried about retirement, only 54% have a retirement savings account, and 24% fear they will never be able to retire.

Or maybe it’s time we call bull-crap on those statistics and the pessimists who publish them and come up with our own definition of retirement.

Jacob Fisker did. He’s the author of Early Retirement Extreme.

Pete did. You may know him as Mr. Money Mustache.

Long, long ago, the definition of retirement was simply to withdraw to some place, especially for the sake of privacy. I like that. I like it a lot!

If I were going to craft my own definition of retirement, I might start out pretty similar, with one that has nothing to do with money. But you can’t do that, I hear you saying. Money has to be the starting point. You have to have enough of it to survive once you aren’t working anymore.

Nope. Not in my definition.

Retirement is not a financial achievement, though as Americans, we’ve come to see it that way. We work for years to reach a point where we can buy back our most valuable resource – time – and use it as we see fit. We think retirement is when we can travel, spend time with loved ones, take on new hobbies, or simply greet the day with no intentions. No wonder so many of us find the concept of early retirement so appealing! We want to do those things now. If we wait until TD Ameritrade says that we have enough money, most of us will be long past dead!

Retirement shouldn’t be about how you spend your money, but rather, how you spend your day. If you want to work, that’s okay. If you want to fish all day, that’s fine too. It’s your life, live it however you want. And don’t wait until you reach some arbitrary age or ask permission from some greedy brokerage firm to do it. Retirement starts the day that you choose to spend your time pursuing life instead of money.

Retirement is a state of mind, a place of peaceful living and time spent with loved ones, a nap on the couch, or an afternoon enjoying a good book. Retirement is getting up each day, knowing your time is your own, regardless of what you choose to do with it. And by that definition, retirement is a place we can arrive at any age.

July Progress to Goals

Our money saving focus for July was on canning and preserving foods. Our CSA basket has been great this summer. Between it and the little bit we got from our garden and our Farmer’s Market finds, we were able to put away:

  • 12 quarts of squash & zucchini (mixed bags)
  • 5 quarts & 2 pints of tomatoes
  • 2 quarts of okra
  • 5 quarts of blueberries
  • 3 quarts of blackberries
  • 4 quarts of strawberries
  • 2 quarts of apples
  • 18 ears of corn
  • 4 whole (cored) bell peppers & 1 pint of pepper pieces
  • 12 jalapeno peppers

We still have about 2 months to go in the growing season here in Tennessee, which should add more corn, tomatoes, apples, and pears to our inventory. Not only will we get to enjoy homegrown goodies during the off-season but we should continue to save on our grocery bill as well.

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Aside from stocking away food, we did a few other things in July. We took a trip to Jekyll Island, GA where we began brainstorming ways to add more fun into our everyday life. We started a new blog, Going Sightseeing, as a result of that brainstorming. Going Sightseeing is more of an experience journal than a true travel blog; kind of a place to showcase the fun stuff we do outside the topic of minimalism. We’re hoping it will re-inspire us (and others) to get out and do things again.

On the financial front, we continue to work toward our main goal to live on 50% of our income. We came in at 61% this month. Our electric bill went up nearly 40% (it was either that or live in a sauna). Transportation costs were up $25. That’s one of the consequences of venturing out more in a sprawling suburban town that lacks public transportation. I’m okay with that trade. We saved 16% again and reduced our Flex Expenses by 14%. Yay!!

JulyExpenses

We have also started thinking about how our budget will be impacted next month when we move to an apartment with a higher rent. I plan to talk more about this in a different post later this week but for now, we’re looking into ways to cut some of our remaining expenses, increase our side-hustle income, or get a better grip on tracking where our money goes. My Excel spreadsheet serves us well but it’s a manual process and sometimes I accidentally leave things out, so we’re considering an app like YNAB or Mint.

I haven’t shelved the idea of semi-retirement. Owning more of my own time is on my mind almost all the time. To get to a place where I feel comfortable leaving my full-time job though, we need to first accomplish two things: 1) pay off my student loan and 2) fully fund our “escape” account. The escape account is something we set up a few years ago. The original purpose was to fund a gap year. Now we’re thinking that we would use the funds to facilitate a move to semi-retirement. Knowing that all of our bills would be paid for a year gives us plenty of time to secure a new revenue stream, whether that’s a part-time job, starting our own business, or something else altogether. We have lots of ideas! Stay tuned for updates 🙂