I have a confession to make. I haven't written a post in weeks. I don't know how many. Three, four, maybe six. Not really sure. It's been a while. I know you probably haven't noticed because I schedule posts to run like clockwork, but I do most of my writing in bunches. I may feel particularly inspired and knock out a month's worth of posts in a given week. Over the years I've gradually gotten a few months ahead (which explains why you're reading a post written in June today), and every now and then I take advantage of that.
The reason I haven't written a post in weeks is that my wife and I have been pretending we are retired. Financial independence and early retirement are pretty squishy subjects, but we're essentially financially independent now. It's a little odd because in order to really be at our “number” (which itself is pretty squishy) we'd have to sell WCI for its market value, and we're really not ready to do that. We could also just do minimal work on WCI and ride the residual income stream from it, but we're not really ready to do that either. But either of those options would mean financial independence for us at our current ridiculous level of spending.
Speaking of ridiculous spending, as we were sitting in our monthly budget meeting recently, Katie asked why I was giving her a hard time about a bunch of purchases and restaurant visits. Our monthly total number of transactions had once again reached an all-time high and we had blown through our allocated adjustable spending. I replied something to the effect that if our spending keeps inflating like that, then maybe we're not so financially independent. Her extremely valid reply was basically “Well duh. I wouldn't do that if we didn't have the money.” And since we DID have the money, it's pretty hard to complain.
Lots of good savers and financial advisors of good savers have said that it can be really hard to adjust from a lifetime of saving to a pattern of spending. I don't think we're going to have that problem, even if spending is the most painful for me of the four financial activities (Earn, Save/Invest, Spend, Give) I want to do well.
Lots of people look forward to retirement. When you ask them why it's often so they have more time to do their hobbies and to travel the world. We don't think you have to stop working to do either of those. Over the last couple of years, we've been gradually aligning our actual life with our ideal life. No surprise, this involves a fair amount of travel.
What Prevents Travel?
We have discovered that it is neither work nor money that keeps us from traveling as much as we'd like. I'm only working 12 ER shifts a month (leaving 18-19 days open since I've dropped the night shifts and no longer lose a couple of DOMA days a month) and WCI work can be done from anywhere on the globe with a cell phone connection. And we have plenty of income to pay for travel, at least if we fly coach and don't stay in penthouse suites.
What keeps us from traveling more is our children. So we donated them to Goodwill for the tax deduction.
Just kidding, at least about the donation part. And the tax deduction part. But those kids are a major drag on a hard-core travel schedule. Not only are they too young to do a lot of the adventure trips we'd like to do (and which we may be too old to do by the time the two-year-old is out of the house), but they have a really pesky work schedule–9-10 months a year, 5 days a week, 7 hours a day. If you try working a major travel schedule around that schedule, it means you'll only get trips during the summer, at Christmas, on Spring Break, and over a couple of long weekends. That's not exactly how we envision financial independence/early retirement. We're thinking more like 1-2 trips a month. Plus, those times when kids are out of school are highly competitive requested days off for a group of emergency docs. At best you're only going to get half of them if you want to keep your job.
Don't feel badly for them. We had a family backpacking trip and a road trip to Phoenix during Spring Break, will take a trip to Alaska and a trip to Japan this summer, anticipate a trip to Lake Powell this Fall, and haven't even thought about the holidays yet. They're not living a life of deprivation by any means. Their life is dramatically different from mine, given that I only left my state 3 times prior to going to college.
How We're Traveling
No big deal, right? We'll just leave the kids at home and go travel without them. As my little surprise getaway to Belize showed last year, that's harder to do than it looks. There's a lot of stuff that needs to get done around the house and our kids are involved in a lot of stuff. Who knew a toddler could be so time-consuming? Plus, our closest set of grandparents lives 3000 miles away. You can only ask busy siblings with multiple kids and neighbors to do so much. No way are we getting away once or twice a month together. Could we hire a nanny? Sure, but then comes up the philosophical question of why did we have all these kids if we didn't want to raise them? And just like nobody cares as much about how your money is managed as you, nobody cares how your children are raised as much as you do.
Our solution? We go on separate vacations. While we'd both rather go on trips with each other, that means going on a lot fewer trips. But think about the benefits of doing separate trips:
- We can do adventure trips that kids can't do.
- We can build important friendships, something that is particularly lacking among adult men in our society.
- Our kids are still raised by their parents, even if it is sometimes just one at a time.
- We can still do all the family and couple trips we would have been able to do anyway.
- Sending one person on vacation is dramatically cheaper than taking the whole family.
We've been doing this for years, but now are doing it with a lot more frequency. As I write this back in June, my wife is on day two of a 10 day trip to Sweden, Finland, Estonia, and St. Petersburg with a friend. Last week I was climbing Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier. The week before that I was canyoneering with friends in Glen Canyon. 10 days before that, my wife did a ladies beach trip to California as a bit of a reunion with the friends she made while I was a resident. I was canyoneering in Southern Utah in the beginning half of that week, and the previous weekend she had led a ladies backpacking trip in Southern Utah. 6 trips in six weeks for a grand total of 31 days of “vacation.”
Has it been a little chaotic? Absolutely. Was it probably too much in too short of a time span? Yes, it was. But you live and learn and adjust as you go. We're still new to this retirement stuff; I'm sure we'll figure it out eventually.
What do you think? Why do you want to retire? Have you ever taken separate vacations? Why or why not? Comment below!