Retirement: The First 90 Days (A True Story)

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A friend of mine retired 90 days ago.  You may remember him – he wrote this article last November about the steps he had taken to position himself for early retirement.  Well, now he’s done it.  At my invitation, he’s written today’s article about his first 3 months of retirement.  I often wonder what the first few months of retirement will be like.

Today, we’ll find out.

From one who is going through the journey.

Our First 90 Days Of Retirement …

start finish

When thinking about writing this blog post I wondered if it would be interesting to read.  Then I realized that even if people don’t read it, it’s a good exercise for me to go through.  By spending some time reflecting on this major life event, I will gain courage and perhaps have some realizations that will benefit me as I move on in my retirement.  Many of you will recall the book, by Michael D. Watkins “The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter”.  This is my spin on actual events:

2016

The week between Christmas and New Year’s was my last week to work.  The work was slow, so we decided to work from a home my Mother-In-Law let us stay in at Orange Beach, AL. We walked on the beach every day, biked some trails in the area and spent time with family. The DJIA ended 2015 at 17,425,  not as great as I was looking for things to turn out, but not bad.

What a great life, everything appeared to be in balance.

Kirk and Mona

We had a plan: we had condo time reserved for the 3rd week of Jan in Orlando FL, and the following week in Miami with time spent in Key West and the Everglades.  After the Florida trip, we planned some time working around the house and getting ready for my long hike on The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in late April.  The PCT has long been one of my lifetime bucket list items, and I’m looking forward to facing the challenge of hiking the 2,665 miles from Mexico to Canada!  Before my big hike, however, we have the excitement of the birth of another grandchild, and in early April a trip to Williamsburg VA and Washington DC to check off a few other items on my bucket list.  

Curve Ball:  By Jan 20th the DJIA had taken a dive to 15,766 (loss of 1,659 pts).  By Feb 11 it would drop an additional 100 pts, the lowest point since Feb 3, 2014 and our financial portfolio had likewise taken a massive shift for the downside.  To be honest, fear set in for a few moments.  

Stock market correction

However, I kept things in perspective, and reminded myself that this was exactly why I have set aside cash for the next couple of years.  We had been through the market downturn of 2007 – 8 and survived (yes, even thrived), and didn’t need to make any moves in the market.  So my wife and I took the opportunity to relook at all of our investments in light of the new market data and the analysis performed through our investment house.  Moving our funds away from my employer and into a consolidated account gave us the freedom to look more holistically at our situation.  In the end, conducting a comprehensive review with our advisor, we held many of our investments, sold some and bought others. This is one area where the use of a professional reduced the anxiety during our transition into retirement.   

Lessons learned from the first 90 Days

Southernmost Point

We’ve read about many of these lessons on The Retirement Manifesto over the past year.  However, now that we’re actually living through the transition, it helps to reiterate lessons which we have found particularly useful:

  • There are 6 Saturdays and 1 Sunday in every week
    • Every day belongs to you, you’ll have time for everything that’s important to you, so make sure what you choose to spend your time on what is worthy of your time.
  • Have a short term and long term bucket list
    • We had what I thought was an extensive “To Do List” for around the house, but it was wiped out in 3 weeks.  The house and workshop never looked better, and I was able to do some projects for the kids that I never had time to do before.  An added bonus was I had time to do things the way I wanted to, even experiment where I desired.   We also have an extensive list for travel and hiking that will take us the next 4 years to complete.
  • We are spending approx. 20% less than we did while I was working
    • Even though we lived for roughly 2 1/2 years on what we thought we would need to spend in retirement, we are actually spending less than we did before we retired.  
    • We continue to move the “set amount” into checking every month to see how things will balance out, it is an interesting dilemma.  
  • As in most moves, connections  with many of the people you worked with will be lost during the transition
    • I really enjoyed the vast majority of people I worked with, they were great, however we have lost connection and commonality.
    • Those who our relationship transcended work are connected with me through Facebook and will be following me on my hike later this month.
  • Both my wife and I were surprised at how quickly my stress level disintegrated
    • I was not able to see how intense the stress of my work life had impacted the other areas of my life until I was on the outside looking back.  
  • We are thrilled at how much more time we have to invest with our kids and grandchildren
  • Loved that we had planned to spend 75% of the 1st month traveling as it sets you up for the transition very well.  
    • Having a busy first month work well for us, it broke us out of the “old norm” and into the NEW!!
  • Feels a lot like you are dating your spouse and sharing in-depth conversations with no distractions.
    • One of the most pleasant surprises was they we enjoyed our time together even more than we thought we would.  Spending 24 hours a day 7 days a week together was much more than we had spent together the past 36 years and was a significant change.  However surprisingly enough we both enjoyed the extra time and things we did together.  It felt like we were dating again and learning together as we visited new places and experienced new adventures.

The bottom line …

Early Retirement is even better than we imagined.  The sacrifices were well worth it, and we are now able to enjoy what we dreamed of while we are still physical able to do so.

 

PS – A Personal note from Fritz to Kirk, the author of today’s post:  “Kirk, thanks for your contribution to my blog today, and congratulations on your major achievement of early retirement.  I’ll be thinking about you when you start your hike on the PCT next Friday!  Godspeed, my friend.  You and your wonderful bride will be in our prayers.  Enjoy your walk from Mexico to Canada!”

 

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16 comments

  1. Congrats, yesterday marked exactly 90 days of retirement for me as well. I’m 60 and I must identified with how quickly stress evaporated. I ran a large industrial facility until 91 days ago and although extremely safe, the potential for toxic releases, fires or injury to one of my hundreds of coworkers was always present. I was on call 24x7x365 because I was “the boss”. I thought I was immune to the stress, I wasn’t. The day I walked away I suddenly felt like a great weight was lifted from my shoulders. Even though the pay ranged from great to ridiculously great, once you’ve saved more than you need then money loses its appeal.

    So I retired to working about 2 days a week doing fun lower stress work that keeps me feeling relevant but still allows four and five day weekends most weeks. More travel, more tennis and more fishing and more time with my spousese of 37 years. Life is good and we are enjoying all the things you highlighted about your new life.

  2. Kirk and Fritz,

    Thank you both for writing about retirement planning and what to expect after you retire. I’ll be 56 this year and have already gone through the retirement planning steps you write about. I started planning several years ago after reading the book “Your Money or Your Life” and going through the Dave Ramsey baby steps. My plan is to retire at 62, so I can collect SS and supplement with dividend income.

    Kirk, I’m curious if you are backpacking alone on the PCT or with a group. I just bought my backpacking gear this year and was planning a much smaller trip, but I will probably go solo.

    Keep writing about retirement for us that are about to retire. You give us all inspiration.

    1. Hi Brandon, congratulations on being so planful in your steps to retirement, that is really the best (and only way that I know of) to be able to retire when you want and be in control. Thank you for the question about my PCT hike, the bottom line is I hike alone, and have always met remarkable people to share the journey with along the way. It is really difficult to find someone you enjoy hiking with, and has the same pace. Feel free to follow me on FaceBook my name is Kirk OB Eaton. If all goes well this year, I will be hiking the CDT next year to compete the Triple Crown. Best wishes on your hikes and your retirement!!

  3. Congratulations to Kirk and his Wife. Job well done. Two questions that you may know. At which age did Kirk says to himself ’56’ is the age I’m going to retire at? Kirk mentions using a professional adviser. Just wondering if this is a flat-fee based adviser, or more of an active manager charging a % on assets under management. Hope to be able to join Kirk in the Retirement World in the next 5 or 6 years.

    1. Paul, thanks for your questions. I’m hoping Kirk keeps an eye on the comments, and weighs in before he heads to his big PCT hike next week! Glad his article was of interest to you and others (Brandon, Steven, thanks for your comments!).

    2. Paul, thank you for the questions, I really appreciate them. When I was 52 work stress had gotten to a ridiculous level and I was ready to just walk away, thankfully I worked for a fantastic company and great leaders that gave me 6 months off (without pay of course) however they committed to a similar position when I returned. It was then that I hiked the Appalachian Trail (2,185 miles from GA – ME) and realized exactly what we needed to have financially to make an early retirement possible. Researching my companies retirement plan I learned that 55 years old with 5 years of service was all I needed so at 53 years old I started to focus on what could be the finish line. Fritz actually encouraged me to stay an extra year and we are thankful for his advice.

      As for my advisor, his firm works on a % of assets base. We have used him for +/- 15 years and we feel his fee is well worth the council he provides. I should add, I am not a typical investor as many of our investments are still in actual companies and not mutual funds so a lot more research is done by him and myself, we act as partners and it has proven to be a good balance. I do hope this helps and would be happy to provide his name if you wish. BTW we live in GA and while he was still our agent when we lived in other states I am not sure that would work for everyone if they didn’t already have the relationship.

  4. Thx for sharing this story! Even if FI is still far away for me, It is nice to read what it does to a person. I looks great. The story will help me to imagine my first FI months. At the age of FI, I will be arund 53-55, same age as the author. It relates to me.

    I take away from this that I need to set up some travel the first months.

    1. Amber – I really suggest the heavy travel right up front, it was an unexpected bonus of how quickly it enables you to move to the new reality. If you are like most of us, you have seldom taken a vacation of more than 2 weeks and 1/2 that time you are answering e-mails and text from work. This will really show you what your new future will look like. Congratulations!!

  5. Today marks 15 days since I retired, 59 years old. In the last two weeks I’ve slept like a rock (or a dead person). This morning I had a dream where I was talking with a generic chief pilot at my former employer (based in ATL). He informed me that I would be starting a new aircraft checkout, and I needed to get to Atlanta today! I started protesting, all PG-13 language mind you. But it dawned on me to tell this person, “I don’t want to, I don’t have to…I’m retired!” And with that I woke up…smiling!

    1. What a great story!! Congratulations on your retirement. I seem to recall stress dreams lasting many years after I graduated from college, hope they don’t last as long after retirement! Thanks for your comment!

  6. Kirk – Thanks for the great article. I’m two weeks away from starting my retirement at 57. My wife retired a year and a half ago. We’ve got plans for travel in the 1st month and relatives visiting the 2nd month. We have lots of items on our bucket list and we’re looking forward to crossing them off. I’m sure we’ll add to the list faster than we complete items, especially in the first couple of years.

    Have a great time on the PCT.

    1. Awesome Bert, looks like a great plan and I agree, items go on the bucket list quick my friend. Enjoy the fruits of your labor!! Congratulations!

  7. SPECIAL ADDITION! Kirk Offers More Details On The PCT!!

    A “thank you” for the request from many of the readers regarding my Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) http://www.pcta.org/ hike with some additional information as requested. For those of you not familiar with the PCT, it is one of the three (3) “long trails” in the US and runs from Campo CA (a town at the boarder of Mexico) and Manning Park, Canada. The trail is 2,665 miles long and as of the end of 2015 there were 4,132 people that had completed the trail. Initially the success rate was in the 20% range however in the last few years the success rate has jumped to the high 30%. Of the people that are not able to complete the vast majority of them drop out for emotional and other reasons many times the “other reasons” are financial for those in the younger category. As this is not actually a financial topic I believe it’ll be easier to write and therefore I may go in a little too long and too detailed in some areas, feel free to edit as appropriate. Also, I’ll add in some details about the financial aspect that may be relevant. Here it goes:

    There were actually three areas that readers requested additional information surrounding; Gear Selection, Training and am I going back after my foot is healed. I thought I would add one additional topic, as this is a financial blog I will include my actual cost for the first 400+ miles and my overall budget for the hike.
    Gear Selection: When deciding what to take on a hike of significant mileage some of the main considerations is weight, pack size (volume when packed), quality (to include warranty of the manufacturer). With this in mind there are three (3) components that make up the majority of most people’s “Base weight” (everything inside and outside of your pack excluding consumables i.e. water, food, fuel).
    Backpack – there are various types and styles of backpacks from no frame, to external frame and internal frame. It really is a personal choice what you carry. I used an Osprey Atmos 65 for my Appalachian thru-hike in 2013 and loved the pack and the company really stood behind their product completely rebuilding my pack at the end of my pack (they have a lifetime warranty). The issue I had with this pack was it weighed 4Lbs 6 oz and was a little bigger than I needed. That’s why I selected an Osprey Exos 58 Liter which weighed 2 Lbs 10 oz reducing my weight. The major difference between the two is the weight each of them carry comfortably. I won’t get into that here but know if you are packing heavy (above 35 – 40 Lbs) you should consider the Atmos.
    Sleeping system – again, there are various types of sleeping systems such as hammocks, bivy sack, one person tent, two person tent etc. I used several different sleeping systems on many hikes to include: one person, 1.5 person, hammock, and two person tents. Each of them have their positive and negative areas and this is a very individual decision. I chose to use a Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2 (a two person tent) and it weighs 2 Lbs 12 oz. I could have went with a Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 1 however its weight was 2 Lbs 3 oz. The reason I didn’t was that I plan to take some zero days along the trail, specifically in the Sierra Nevada’s and do some fishing. Zero days are those days where I don’t hike at all, and just relax in camp. Also, if there are days of severe storms and rain I will be able to hold all my camping gear inside the tent with me and still have room.
    The next part of the sleeping system is the pad or inflatable mattress. In the past I have used the REI – Flash inflatable mattress which weighs just 1 Lb and has an R-Value of 3.2. However on this trip I decided to take the Therma-Rest Z-Pad which weighs just 14 oz and has an R-Value of 2.6. The reason for this decision is that I am unfamiliar with the desert and had some concern with all the “things that could puncture an inflatable mattress” so I opted for something that would eliminate that possibility. A bonus is the mattress that I selected is actually carried on the outside of my pack, therefore freeing up some internal space.
    The final element of the sleeping system is the sleeping bag. Due to the cost of shipping various elements of gear back and forth between the east and west coast I decided to use one sleeping bag the entire trip, a 20 degree bag was suggested and thus far has been an exceptional choice. My sleeping bag is down filled and weighs 2 Lbs and using a compression sack packs down to roughly 6” x 4”. I would add I also carry a 20 degree Thermo-lite bag liner. This liner serves two purposes, if I get into some extreme cold weather in the mountains (there is still significant snow there as I draft this post) it will increase the thermo properties of my sleeping bag to 0 degree. Additionally, if the weather turns very warm, I can use it by itself.
    Other gear I carry include a self-created medical kit, head lamp, battery backup for my cell phone, harmonica, Jet Boil cook stove (no other pots, just this stove), base layer shirt and pants, one extra hiking shirt, 3 pairs of socks and 2 pairs of undershorts, a rain jacket and rain pants and a 650 down jacket. The extra clothes are carried in a waterproof compression sack and serve also as a pillow. A fuel canister for my stove and a 3 Liter Osprey water bladder. All this gear together weighs in at roughly 14 Lbs.
    As for “consumables” adding 5 days of food is roughly 11 Lbs – food is approximately 2.2 Lbs per day. Finally water, and its heavy, a liter of water weighs 2.2 Lbs so carrying a full bladder of 3 liters is roughly 6.5 Lbs. and one liter in the side pocket when in the desert as it is difficult to know when the bladder is out until it gurgles at the end (2.2 Lbs) bringing the “consumables” to roughly 20 Lbs, and a total pack weight of roughly 34 Lbs. Obviously there is a lot of changes that can go with the consumables, for example I had to carry 7 Liters of water for a couple of stretches on the PCT which the added weight of ~ 6.5 Lbs it really maxes out the capacity of the lighter pack. Through practice I now know that I drink 1 liter of water for every 4 miles of hiking, if there are no steep climbs and the temperature is not too hot and if night hiking I consume less.

    Training – this is a love hate relationship with me as I suspect with most people. I really enjoy the benefits of being in shape, however absolutely detest going to a gym and exercising. Therefore I am probably the worst person to ask about training for a long hike. In 2013, at 53 years old I hiked the Appalachian Trail (2,185 miles from Georgia to Mane) without getting in shape before I headed out. I did visit the Dr. and ensure everything was physically going to be OK – i.e. my heart was ok etc. The down side was all I could manage for the first several weeks was 10 miles per day. At the end of each day I was fully exhausted and could just drag myself into my tent and sleep until the next morning. Eventually I did manage to get into shape, hiking everyday will do that to you, and I lost 60 Lbs over the course of the hike. Taking this into account, I decided to run some “practice hikes” before heading out this time. Starting with 25 lbs in my pack on some 6 – 10 mile loops and increasing it to 35 lbs on some 13 – 15 mile hikes served me well to start to get into shape. I did this for roughly 2 months before heading out and was able to hit the trail doing 15 miles per day. It’s important to note that I limited my distance to 15 miles per day for the first 2 weeks so my knees could also strengthen and get into shape as well as my feet. After 2 weeks I moved up to 20 – 25 mile days without an issue, that is until I broke my foot.

    What’s my plan for after my foot heals – WOW in reading this to finish the story, this is where I left off … CRAZY –
    Before I left for the hike initially my wife and I had made plans for her to come pick me off the trail and spend a week in Las Vegas, only a 4.5 hour drive from Kennedy Meadows, CA. There we would visit friends, eat lots of food and sleep resting my body and soul for a week and then she world return me to the trail – the only time she would see me over the 5 – 6 month trip. When my foot broke this was still the plan (I am a little pig headed and stubborn) – so I booked my 1 way ticket to Las Vegas and was excited to be going back to the trail. As you may know that never happened – the Dr said there was no way I could return to hike the PCT in 2016 so we went to Las Vegas anyway and saw our friends. I was fortunate to be able to connect with one of my hiking partners and take her back to the trail at Kennedy Meadows and see it at least. It is beautiful there, in the early part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Then I needed to create a plan B – which will be the results of my Blog Post for Fritz – When Plan A breaks … what next??
    The short story is, I don’t do plan B’s well … I have a laundry list of things I wanted to do however was really focused on Hiking the PCT this year so everything else was put into another “some other time bucket”. I liked my wounds, had a self-pity party, then started to plan what 2016 would look like from this point forward. Here’s where things stand now:
    July – I joined a few “Meet Up” groups in my area to meet people with similar interests. This was something I should have done while working however, being a workaholic I never took the time. I have 2 scheduled hikes (just short overnights) on the AT for this month. Am purchasing a Kayak and getting some experience, maybe fish a little too. It would be interesting to see if I could not join a group of Kayakers who would like to go from the US to Cuba … could be fun and interesting …
    Aug – Finishing the Benton MacKaye Trail http://www.bmta.org/ – I did the first 150 miles in 2015 however developed some stress fractures in my leg and needed to stop. Just another 150 to go and ½ of these miles will be back through the Smokey Mountains. Maybe a little trout fishing is in order.
    Sept – My wife and I will be traveling to several National Parks, hiking and camping (Bryce Canyon; Arches; Zion; Grand Canyon.
    May – 2017 .. Back to the PCT … its going to be AWESOME!!

    So what does it cost to hike for months? My wife and I allot $1,000 per month for me just to hike which is about right and covers all the expenses associated with the trips. As an example we spent $6K on mt AT thro-hike to include hotels, travel etc. I was on the PCT for roughly a month, and spent a little less than $1,000 to include air return home and back, hotels food etc.

    I do hope this helps – thanks so very much for asking the questions.
    All The Very Best
    Kirk

  8. Kirk,
    I am very curious as to what you are doing about healthcare coverage since you are still years away from Medicare eligibility? Do you and your wife use the VA exclusively?
    You see, I’m 51 and ideally I’d retire in 3-4 years but potential healthcare costs could preclude me from early retirement. I certainly don’t want to be a slave to my employers health plan and be forced to keep working for the sake of health insurance. I’m not a veteran so the VA is not an option for me.
    Kirk Taylor, TX

    1. Hi Kirk;
      The short answer is yes, we use VA exclusively. As I am a retired USAF person we actually have an insurance program known as Tricare and have placed a link in the event you would like to know more at the bottom of this reply. It is not free, we pay an annual premium and co-pay’s etc. the same as most insurance companies and while there are some down sides, most specifically the shrinking provider base, its quite good for what needs we have and is much less cost than every other program we examined.

      I would add however that we switched to Tricare while I was still working for P&G and eligible for Blue Cross and Blue Shield, just to see how it was going to work. We learned it works well as an “only” insurance but horrible as a primary or secondary. Therefore when we made the retirement jump we had roughly 6 years of experience with Tricare and saved a significant amount in premiums along the way. Finally, both my wife and I try to do everything we can to stay healthy and by the looks of your profile picture, you do as well!

      Last evening I learned that one of our friends uses the Affordable Health Care (AHC) as a bridge in his early retirement, and actually entered into an agreement with his physicians where they simply discount their bills by 70% and he just writes a check as the AHC he has doesn’t cover most of his expenses. Finally, my adult children use Christian Healthcare vs AHC and it works for them. I do understand the healthcare issues are the largest hindrances facing people who want to retire early however I am also learning that many people already have figured out ways to acquire the healthcare they need. Hope this is helpful

  9. Thanks for the reply and explanation of healthcare Kirk. I’m going to inform you of something that’ll blow you away, I’m in tip-top shape, as a type-1 Diabetic!
    The reason I train as hard as I do is not to resemble Hercules, it’s because I’m fanatical about keeping my health at optImal levels despite my lifelong Illness.
    I do manage my blood glucose levels far better than most BUT my prescriptions are expensive. This is my only concern with retiring early. My future healthcare costs. Unfortunately I wouldn’t remain on my present Cadillac plan if I retired in 3-4 years (today I turned 51), instead I’d being forking out $20k/year on medical expenses, insurance and prescriptions.
    Something to think about…. Come on Congress, get your s#_t together and fix this mess!

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