My LifeStyle Now that I’m Retired

Uncommonadvice asked two really good questions, and I decided to answer them with a post rather than throw together a quick response in the comments.

The first question was: Do you live by a routine to keep yourself busy?

I have to admit something here. I spent 15 years planning my retirement, but the planning was focused entirely on the financial side of things. I knew that retiring at a young age was going to require a well-laid-out plan, a solid understanding of expenses, investments, and even taxes. So I spent years educating myself on these things. But it was not until about 6 months before my retirement date that it dawned on me: I’d better spend a little time planning what I’m going to do with my newly found time. I started putting together a list of all the things I’d like to do (or spend more time doing) if I had the time. This was really just a starting point, something of a safety net I would return to if I found myself idle.

The lack of structure was probably the biggest adjustment for me in the beginning. Don’t get me wrong – I never, not for a minute, regretted leaving the job. But I did miss the structure of routine, knowing where I needed to be and when. I had just a little structure left as I still teach a few classes a week. But the rest of my time was initially a free-for-all. At first, I kept cleaning the house everyday until I realized that had to stop! In the almost one year I’ve been retired, I am starting to strike a nice balance of structure and flexibility. Blogging is actually helping me with a little more routine – when I get up in the mornings on weekdays, I check comments, write posts, tweak the blog a bit. What I do in the afternoon depends on what needs doing – I may clean the house, work in the garden, answer emails, do some cooking, or meet a friend for lunch. Evenings are when I teach classes, read, or catch up with hobbies. But the very best thing for me is the flexibility. The other day I was working at the computer and looked out the window at my garden. I decided that the tomatoes needed harvesting, and some shrubs needed pruning. It was a lovely day and I just got up and worked outside for 2 hours. Something I never could have done when I was chained to a desk at a full-time job.

And then the second question: What income do you live from?

This question is actually a little easier to answer! I live from a combination of investment income and part-time (self-employment) income. One of the things I do (and which I did for years while working full-time) is teach a few classes a week. The part-time income is enough to cover my normal, expected monthly expenses. I only tap investment income for major expenses – a home repair, for instance. I am prepared to tap my investments more as I get older (and probably drop some of the part-time work). I have no pension so handling my investment income is critical. I recommend this book for excellent advice on managing investments to optimize income and minimize taxes in retirement: Buckets of Money: How to Retire in Comfort and Safety.

One thing I should mention is that I am able to cover most of my expenses with a small income because my expenses are so low. Obviously I could never have done this when I had substantial expenses. But since I have paid off my mortgage, have no other debt (no car payment, no credit card debt, etc.), and live a frugal lifestyle, I really don’t need very much. But I have enough for everything I need and want, within reason.

Thank you for the thought-provoking question, Uncommonadvice!