As we continue to accumulate our nest egg, the grind of our career jobs intensifies at times. Although we know that the next few years will pass by quickly in retrospect, the hours, days and weeks can feel long right now. We have all sorts of milestones planned along the way. And, life is great at present. We both have good jobs in our chosen professions that are satisfying and well-paid. We can afford to travel and buy some luxuries while maintaining a high savings rate. This privilege isn’t lost on us. Despite all of this, sometimes we can’t resist that “are we there yet?” feeling.
When that feeling takes over, we often indulge in musing about what our post-retirement life might look like. I call this the Perfect Day Project. As part of this project, we describe our “Perfect Day.” It can be hypothetical, based on real life experiences, or some combination. It can be realistic to the point of mundane on the more dreamy and whimsical end of the spectrum. But it has to be something that could conceivably be within our anticipated financial reach and that we might want to do. For example, buying a boat and cruising America’s Great Loop might be something we could afford to do, but owning a SuperYacht will probably never be within our financial means. So, even the most fantastical Perfect Days won’t involve boarding our personal private jet to a villa on Lake Como.
For this Perfect Day, I considered a possible daily schedule. I don’t love a strict schedule. I get bored easily with a routine. I resisted a budget, too, and ultimately found it helpful. Perhaps I could be the same with scheduling. Maybe it’s just a matter of coming around to it and trying one until it fits. We have thought about answers to questions like “Won’t you be bored?” It remains so funny to me that this is the most common question we get from our peers when we bring up early retirement, not “How will afford not to work?” Nonetheless, I was curious how we might spend our days when going to an office is no longer required. Here is a model schedule I outlined for myself. Mr. Vine’s would look a little different.
This is how I imagine my typical weekday, when we’re not traveling.
7 a.m. — wake up naturally without the aid of an alarm clock
Until 9 a.m. — coffee, social media or journal, waking up slowly
9-10 a.m. — Workout (weights, running, or yoga)
10 a.m. – 1 p.m.– Refuel (water and maybe a real breakfast or lunch, shower, miscellaneous tidying around the apartment, read for fun.
2 p.m. – 4 p.m. — Write for the blog, or engage in some sort of semi-productive pursuit. Maybe travel planning. Errands or grocery shopping as necessary.
4 p.m. – 7 p.m. – Cook and eat dinner, clean up.
7 p.m. – 11 p.m. – Television / time with spouse / reading / social time with friends
The 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. time will likely flex the most. That’s when I want to get out and enjoy the outdoors, no matter what the season. Even taking my morning coffee and a book out on the patio would be nice. In the spring and fall, we might head out to the woods for a hike. In the summer, you’ll probably find us at the beach or at our building’s pool. During the winter when we aren’t trying to escape the cold in a warm weather locale, I expect we’ll try to cross country ski if there’s snow or maybe take. These days will also be punctuated by any volunteer activities I continue to be involved in — like mentoring or board meetings. The 4-11 pm time will also fluctuate as we plan to maintain friendships with our friends who are still working traditional jobs. I think this time slot will look pretty similar to how it does now (except that I rarely leave the office at 4).
Looking at this schedule, which is loosely modeled on how I spend an unscheduled weekend day, it’s a wonder to me that we’re able to squeeze in 10+ hours at the office on most weekdays. Where is the opportunity to feel boredom? And add in an hour plus of getting ready in the morning, along with 30-45 minutes of total commute time, it’s no surprise I constantly struggle to find time to do all the things I enjoy. Activities like reading, working out, cooking and watching shows or movies must be prioritized, with several likely neglected on a daily basis. This schedule also allows for 8 hours of sleep and I’m currently getting 6, maybe 7 if I’m lucky. Not only is allowing enough time for sleep difficult, our job stress also snatches away our sleep quality. Catching up on sleep is definitely among what I’m looking forward to about retirement.
Our current lifestyle clearly looks like we live to work. We make a concerted effort to fit in enjoyable, life-affirming activities on evenings and weekends. We appreciate our high salaries, challenging work, and career accomplishments. But when people wonder why we’re budgeting and living on much less than we make, it’s for this. It is to reclaim our days. It is so we can decide how we want to live. We’re living to work temporarily, with the expectation and plan that soon we will just live, no paycheck required.
We have considered slowing down, but given our current ages, we aren’t talking about extreme early retirement. Slowing down by taking lower paying jobs comes with other costs, including higher health insurance premiums. And in our professions, taking a pay cut does not always equal a less stressful job (even if it does mean less work hours). Considering that we are so close to the finish line with about four years to go, and that slowing down or cutting back, aren’t great options for us, we’re continuing full speed ahead. By the time we’re ready to pull the plug on our careers, Mr. Vine will be nearly 50. He’ll have had a full career with most of the accomplishments he hoped to achieve. My career will have been shorter, but I’ve already achieved most of the career accolades I envisioned.
In some ways, the saving we were doing all along and at earlier points in our journey was taking it slow. Since the beginning of our careers, we’ve contributed to retirement accounts. Our credit card debt lessons were learned early, with relatively small amounts. It is only recently that we started saving aggressively, with focus, and with an eye towards early retirement. Our high savings rate was initially fueled by our incomes. We lucked into the realization that early retirement was a realistic possibility for us right around the time our income doubled when I finished grad school. Even today, we aren’t practicing frugality in any sort of extreme way (or at least, it doesn’t feel extreme to us). But we are charging full steam ahead on those career incomes to help us sail across the finish line ahead of schedule.
What is your perfect schedule? Tell me about it in the comments.