Here’s our latest interview with a retiree as we seek to learn from those who have actually taken the retirement plunge.
If you’d like to be considered for an interview, drop me a note and we can chat about specifics.
This interview was conducted in September.
This is part two of the interview. If you missed the first part, check out Retirement Interview 50 to catch up before you read this post.
My questions are in bold italics and their responses follow in black.
Let’s get started…
How was the adjustment, especially the first few months after retirement?
The only adjustment was within the first week.
I woke up on Monday after retiring and the world seemed to be in a fog. It was completely surreal.
For almost 30 years (longer if you count schooling as part of my career) I’d gotten up and gone to work every weekday (and many weekends). I had responsibilities. I had stress. I was go-go-go. Now, none of that existed and it was really, really strange.
I remember walking that morning and feeling like I wasn’t in the real world. Was everything going to implode somehow? What was going to happen? How could things go on if I wasn’t at work? It was like being in the Twilight Zone.
On day two I started looking for the police when I was walking because I felt like I was getting away with murder. How could I be out walking in the middle of the day? It just didn’t seem “right.” The weirdness continued.
But over the next few days, that strangeness started to dissipate. By the end of the first week it was almost gone, and by the Monday the week after I retired, I had transitioned from wondering what the heck was going on to realizing I was free. Completely free! The apprehension was replaced with pure joy and from that time on retirement has been amazing for me.
That enthusiasm lasted quite a long time. For the first year or so I was so excited about every day that I would wake up and get out of bed before 5 am.
Then as things cooled down a bit I allied myself to sleep as late as 6 am (hahahaha) for several years until we moved down to Florida. I’m not sure if it’s the heat, humidity, Eastern time, or me getting older but I now “sleep in” until 6:45 am or so each day.
And while the initial “Christmas morning” enthusiasm has waned, I am stull thrilled and very happy with retirement and the promise each day holds.
How is retirement life now? What do you like about it and what do you dislike?
Did I mention that retirement is amazing? Hahaha.
I’ve read some books and articles that talk about phases of retirement. They usually start with something like an excitement phase which then transitions to a few other stages and ends with the disillusionment phase.
I have no idea what these people are talking about. I am still in the excitement phase, I am still in love with retirement, and there’s nothing I would rather be doing than being retired.
What do I like about retirement? Everything. What do I dislike about retirement? Nothing.
What do you do with your time? What does an average day look like?
My average day has changed a bit over the years (especially with our recent move) but here’s what it looks like now:
- I get up between 6:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m., carry the cat around for a bit (he insists on being “loved” first thing in the morning), stretch, get dressed, and either 1) go play pickleball for two hours (my wife and I go to the courts that we can see from our lanai and the walk to them takes about a minute) or 2) walk to the gym. I used to play pickleball five times a week but it was too much for my knee, so I’m down to three times a week.
- I come home at 10 a.m., feed the cat, eat breakfast, and sit on the lanai (when it’s 80 or lower – if it’s the summer I do this inside) while I read the paper, do a Sudoku puzzle, and drink coffee.
- Next I open my Chromebook and check the Millionaire Money Mentors forums as well as several other sites (for news, sports, etc.)
- At this point, I have free time for a couple hours, so I generally do things around the house, read a book, do some things online, manage our finances, write a post, or various other miscellaneous tasks.
- Around 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. depending on the day and what activity I’m doing, I go to the gym (this is if I played pickleball in the morning. If I went to the gym earlier I don’t go again. LOL.) Three days a week I do cardio training on a stair stepper and three days a week I do weight training with dumbbells.
- I get home from the gym around 3:00 p.m., do a few things around the house, and we generally eat about 4 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. We watch TV or YouTube during this time, then go for a walk for about 30 to 60 minutes.
- We get home between 7 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. and do a few tasks before preparing to get ready for bed.
In addition to these daily activities, we throw in special things like going to the pool, going to the movies (my dad and I see a couple movies a month on average), and attending various activities/events that are going on in and around The Villages, Florida.
What are the major activities that fill up your time in retirement? Are there any new ones you’re planning to try?
The major activities are listed above:
- Running websites
- Miscellaneous activities like pools, movies, and various other events (train show, farmers market, etc.).
I also have a list of things I would like to try. The Villages has over 3,500 clubs and about a bazillion activities that can be enjoyed.
I keep a running list activities I might be interested in trying/adding to my routine and as of now this list includes the following:
- Beach tennis (I have played this a few times and my wife plays 1-2 times a week)
- Water volleyball
- Exercise classes (maybe pilates)
- Target shooting
- Tai Chi
- Drone flying
- Remote control car racing
- Video games
- Reading (more)
- Ping pong (a group of guys I know play every Wednesday and I’ve joined them once – but this is also my movie night with my dad.)
- Taking classes
- Becoming a mentor
- Getting together with family
- Strategy games / books
- Starting a YouTube channel (I WILL do this!!!!!)
- Learn a new language
- Platform tennis
I also have a note to “look at all the clubs in The Villages and add to this list.” LOL!
As you can see the possibilities are already long and could grow from here. I have no lack of ideas for what I could be doing in retirement. My issue is how to fit even one more of these in given my current commitments.
What is your social life like?
As good as it’s ever been. In fact, I wish it wasn’t as “good” as it is.
In Colorado, most of my social activity was with family – get togethers with our daughter and son-in-law. I was completely happy with this. And to be honest, I really miss this. We’ve had a plan for some time for the kids to live near us (it was in the works when we moved) but plans are in flux as of now and we’re trying to work out a solution for us to be together more.
FYI, there was also a lot of social interaction with people I played pickleball with, saw at the gym, and attended church with. Also, from time to time, I would have coffee or lunch with a friend here or there.
All of this was more than enough social interaction for me.
In Florida, our social activity has been greatly expanded.
We are invited to parties, lunches, activities, and on and on. Many of these we decline since we already have busy schedules, but we’ve attended a fair number (waaaaaay more than we did in Colorado) and there’s always plenty to do and a lot of people to do it with. We have met a ton of great people here.
Of course, we see my dad quite often, about 2 to 3 times a week. This includes going to church together, seeing movies at the Lake Sumter Landing theater, and him coming over for a weekly grill meal at our house.
We also see a lot of people at pickleball, at the gym, and at various activities like the pool, activities at the square, and a wide variety of other things. When people are on vacation basically their entire lives (which is much of the life in The Villages) and have all the free time in the world, it’s pretty easy to connect with them.
We also see family who come to visit Florida every year. My wife’s two sisters visit each year, her brother lives in Vero Beach, Florida, and her aunt lives near Orlando. And our kids have been down a couple times already this year, usually for 2-3 weeks at a time) and will be down again in the fall.
With all that, I would say our social life has actually increased in our move to Florida, and if anything may be a little more then I want it to be. 🙂
Looking back, what would you have done differently?
By far the biggest thing I would have done differently is I would have retired much sooner.
In case you don’t know, I went back to see when I became financially independent (i.e. when I could have retired). The answer was depressing.
I could have retired 10 years earlier than I did. For specifics see My Financial Independence Numbers.
BTW, even if those are off a bit, I could have added another five years to early retirement fairly easily.
And because retirement years are like reverse dog years losing ten years in actual retirement is basically like missing out on 30 years of retirement joy.
So that’s a big mistake, and something I certainly would have done differently.
You can’t go back and there’s no reason regretting it now. But I can share it with the world so that others who are in the same situation can learn from my mistake and make different choices.
The other thing I would have done differently was to plan for the time side of retirement better. Thankfully that worked out well on it’s own.
Was there any emotional impact from leaving the workforce?
No. There was absolutely zero emotional impact from leaving the workforce.
Well, now that I think about it, if you consider pure joy an emotion, then there was that.
Seriously, I liked what I did for a living but I liked doing whatever I wanted to way more. And since my job was never who I was it was just what I did, I didn’t have the emotional attachment to my career, people at the office, or anything else associated with my career that many do.
What surprises (financial or non-financial, good or bad) have you had since retiring and how have you handled them?
I don’t know if I would call them surprises but there have been some interesting twists and turns in retirement.
They aren’t specifically caused by retirement and could have happened even if I was working in some cases, but they were different than what I expected to happen in retirement.
Going into retirement, I assumed that we would live most of our lives in Colorado and that I would do very little work other than overseeing our rental properties.
Given that set of expectations, here are some things that happened that I didn’t plan on happening…
I Worked More, Bought One Business, and Started Another
To begin, ESI Money quickly became a solid small business by itself. I had started the blog simply to record my thoughts around money and it turned out to be something I loved doing. So I kept doing it and kept enjoying it. Then it “suddenly” grew into a nice side business earning $20-$30k a year. That was completely unexpected but was a nice side benefit. 🙂
This is one reason I like blogging as a retirement activity. If you do it right it’s something you enjoy, an activity that challenges you, and one that can add to your finances. If done correctly, I think a lot of people can create a $25k blog.
Then I bought Rockstar Finance. I had seen the site’s previous owner at a conference and had told him that there were several things he could do to grow the site. Little did I know that at that point in time he was in the process of selling the site. However that sale did not go through and when it didn’t he contacted me. I made a good offer and purchased the site.
BTW, and this is funny, when I told my CPA that I was buying a website she asked me to speak to one of the partners in the firm. He basically tried to talk me out of it citing how many retirees waste their limited resources on businesses that fail. Hahaha…he don’t know me very well, do he? No, he didn’t convince me to stop and I didn’t lose money…as you’ll see.
I spent a year and a half or so growing Rockstar and doing the things that I basically told the previous owner to do. It grew dramatically, became very profitable, and I enjoyed it for the most part. But it also had an element of commitment that I didn’t want to have in my life. In addition, I had grown it to the point where it would only make substantially more if I invested significant time in it (which I didn’t want to do).
So I found a broker, put it up for sale, and sold it for about three times what I paid for it. Unfortunately the buyer (for some unexplained reason) basically let the site go dormant almost immediately after purchasing it. There were other people who wanted to buy it from the person who bought it from me but she wouldn’t even get back to them or entertain any sort of offers. It’s a strange situation when someone buys something for a large amount of money and then basically lets it die, but that’s what happened. In retrospect I wish I had kept it and/or sold it to someone who really loved and nurtured it (which is what the buyer told me she would do when we were in the negotiation phase).
A couple years later, I was feeling like I wanted to do something with millionaires. Several people have told me that I should write a book about the millionaire interviews I was doing, but it seemed like there were a million books about millionaires, so it wasn’t something I wanted to do.
After thinking it over, I came up with the idea of creating a membership forum where millionaires would mentor others looking to grow their wealth. That’s when I came up with the Millionaire Money Mentors (MMM). I invited all the millionaire interviewees to join as mentors and then offered memberships from my website to those who wanted to join.
The MMM forums have been a blessing to me. I greatly enjoy the interaction and have learned a lot that I’ve applied to make my finances better. And I’ve made some really good friends (a group of us in Florida get together on a regular basis and others have visited The Villages and we’ve toured it together. Plus we had a conference get-together last April and are working on one for this upcoming April as well.)
We Got a Cat
After a couple decades without a pet, a series of circumstances occurred that led us to getting a cat.
I won’t go into details but you can read them if you like in The Financial Implications of Owning a Cat.
Let me just say: it’s been an amazing decision and I would do it again in a heartbeat! In fact, it was one of the best post-retirement decisions we’ve made.
Moved to Florida
Another unexpected event was our recent move to Florida. The quick story is that pickleball friends of ours sent out an email to everyone they knew saying they had a place in The Villages, Florida and were willing to rent it in the winter months of 2022. We had no idea where The Villages was, but we did a bit of research, talked to our friends, and decided why not go and miss some of the Colorado winter months?
We rented their place from January through March 2022. My dad came along with us. We spent three months living in and learning about The Villages and at the end of our time, my dad announced that he wanted to buy a place here. My wife helped him pick out a home and after several tries he finally got a house on the second to the last day before we left.
He closed on his home in early May 2022 and moved down from our hometown in Iowa shortly thereafter. He’s lived down here for over a year now and still loves it. He’s much more active here than he was back in Iowa primarily because there’s a lot going on here and there’s almost nothing going on in Iowa.
Since my dad lived in The Villages and we wanted to keep missing some Colorado winter months, we decided we would rent a place in The Villages in the winter of 2023. We reserved a rental from January through April 2023 and were planning on coming down during that time, renting, and visiting with my dad.
Our longer term plan was that we might buy a place in The Villages but we wanted a home close to a town square. The Villages is currently building a new town square in the southern part of The Villages and it will be finished in the next year or two. So we thought we would wait until that was completed and then perhaps buy a place that we would use as a vacation home.
However, somewhere between the time we started renting in 2022 and the time we left, The Villages began developing a village called Richmond that was directly south of the Brownwood Town Square. Our real estate agent told us about Richmond and we started watching videos about it. We also got a map from her of what lots were available and what house designs were on each lot.
After looking things over and seeing that there were places available that were close to a town square that we wouldn’t have to wait for, we decided to try and buy a place, use it during the winter months, and then spend the summer months in Colorado. Besides, the chances of us getting a place were slim because there were so many people trying to get spots in Richmond due to the great location. And one other bonus: we thought if we bought now we could save ourselves 2 to 4 years of renting costs which run roughly $20,000 every year for three or four months.
So we took the map the real estate agent had provided and selected lots that we liked that had homes on it that we liked. This gave us a list of about 15 to 20 potential places. Shortly after that, two of them came up for sale.
Knowing that we probably wouldn’t get them because demand would be so high, we selected one that we liked and told our agent we were willing to buy it. Well wouldn’t you know, we got the first home we bid on on the first try. I guess it was meant to be.
We made the purchase and started preparing to spend the winter there. During this time we began to think what a pain it would be to have two houses in two different parts of the country so far away from each other. So fairly quickly we decided that we would move to Florida and sell our place in Colorado. And that’s what we did. We closed on the Florida house at the end of November 2022, moved to Florida in December of 2023, and have lived here since then.
BTW, there were a couple other factors that went into the home sale that I don’t think I’ve mentioned previously.
First, our Colorado home was ridiculously large. It was 3,800 square feet for two adults and a cat. My wife hated cleaning it and really wanted to downsize to something more manageable (and reasonable).
Second, our daughter had told us that she would be moving from Colorado within a couple of years. She had a five year plan that started a few years ago and that plan included living in Colorado and then moving. Where would she move to? No idea…just a plan to move. We talked to her and our son-in-law about maybe moving to Florida and it was decided that this was the general plan going forward.
In April 2023, my wife went to Colorado and cleaned the house. We then put it up for sale, found a buyer fairly quickly (especially given the tough market conditions for sellers with higher interest rates), and sold it within a month of my wife going back. You can read more details about it in my 7-year retirement update.
Now we’re Florida residents and are enjoying life in The Villages. This was a completely unexpected part of our retirement. Now we just need to get the kids here…
Our Net Worth Doubled
Well, it almost doubled (and may double at some point).
At retirement we were at $3.3 million. At the highest to date, our net worth was $6.5 million.
No one could have foreseen the big run-up in the stock market, but I’m glad we kept everything in index funds. It was fun to watch the market keep climbing!
We also did unlock some equity by selling both our rental properties (another surprise!) and our Colorado home.
What are your future plans?
At this point our plans are to remain in Florida and to keep doing the activities that were currently doing.
We would love for our kids to move down to this area and we’re having discussions with them about that, but nothing has been decided yet.
At some point we might tire of living in a resort or in this climate, and potentially move again, but who knows? One thing we knew when we bought here was that if we sold we would at least get our money back. More likely, it looks like our place has appreciated $50-$100k in the first year of ownership, so if that holds we’ll do fine when we sell.
And, of course, I’ll eventually get tired of writing about finances as I’ll feel like I’ve said everything, so my work activities will go away or at least transition to something else. I do think I will keep the millionaire money mentors forums for quite some time so that will probably be a business activity that I have for many years to come.
One thing I don’t think we’ll do much of is travel.
There are a couple reasons for this.
First of all, travel is a big hassle (in time, frustration, etc.). So getting there has to be less painful than the joy that you get from actually being in the location. But the way air travel is such a nightmare these days – that makes the thought of traveling somewhere really difficult.
Second, we live in a resort. Most people when they travel go to a nicer place than where they live. But when we go somewhere, we generally go to a place that’s not as nice as where we live, so why would we do that?
And finally, there really aren’t any places that my wife and I want to visit. We’ve been to some really great spots around the world, and if we did travel, we’d probably head back to at least one of them (Grand Cayman). But other than that and perhaps a trip to Italy, I can’t really think of a place we’d like to go.
How has your financial plan performed compared to what you had estimated before retirement?
It’s gone way better than I could have imagined.
Because I have been earning an income that is higher than our expenses, we let our investments ride for many years during a bull market. In addition, the real estate units I thought I would keep forever I actually sold because I was tired of dealing with my property manager. I sold them before interest rates moved higher and while there was still very strong demand for housing and rental units.
As a result of these two efforts my net worth has almost doubled since retiring. At the high point I was at $6.5 million dollars and currently sits just a bit below that.
We are still not withdrawing any assets. The only assets we get rid of are ones that we put into our donor advised fund and then give away to charitable causes. And given our income and our expenses, we probably won’t have to withdraw any assets for quite some time or maybe even ever.
By the way, I put a lot of the real estate money into real estate syndications, so I actually have more income from that than I had before with less hassle of having to manage property manager. I have had a couple syndications pause distributions, but the income is still good and I’m primarily in the deals for long-term capital appreciation over 5-10 years.
Can you give us some insights into your post-retirement spending and income? How much do you spend annually and on what? And where does the income to pay for your spending come from?
I’ll share with these with you in reverse order starting with income and then getting into expenses.
As of now, here is our rough annual income and the sources:
- Websites income: $130,000
- Real estate syndication income: $70,000
- Dividend income: $20,000 (this is dividend income that is from stocks as well as mutual funds that are in non retirement accounts. Our actual dividend income from all sources including retirement funds is significantly larger than this. But for ones within retirement accounts we simply reinvest that income.)
- Interest income: $8,000
Total income: $228,000
As of now, our rough annual expenses are $100k.
We have spent just above or just below this every year I’ve been retired.
This year is may be a little less as we don’t have a $25k vacation planned, though we did buy new furniture for our Florida home, so those two almost offset each other.
How are you handling Social Security, required minimum distributions, tax issues and the like?
Given that I am not yet 60, we haven’t decided 100% on what we’re going to do with Social Security and RMDs.
But our current thinking is that my wife will take Social Security at her full retirement age, I will wait to take Social Security until I’m 70, and at that point my wife will move to half of my Social Security.
As for RMDs, we have a couple plans.
First, we are moving IRA monies to our Roth IRA each year.
Second, we will likely give qualified charitable distributions from our retirement accounts once we get to be the age where we can do that.
Did you return to paid work? Why or why not?
I did not return to paid work for “ the man” (i.e. anyone else.) I have no interest in working for a boss ever again, so I would only do it if circumstances forced me to.
I’ve continued to work during retirement on my own passion projects like my website and the forums and will probably do this so for quite some time as I enjoy them, they give me a mental challenge, I learn a lot along the way, and I enjoy the friendships I’ve made there.
Did you find it hard going from being a saver to a spender?
I haven’t found it hard because I haven’t had to make that transition yet.
One thing about earning more than you spend is that you’re still a saver. So I haven’t had to deal with the situation where I’m spending down my assets and face how I feel about that.
Looking back, what do you wish you knew in advance?
I wish I had known about FIRE and early retirement a decade or two before I did.
That way I would have retired in my 40s and have had many, many more years of retirement while my kids were home and I was younger.
But all things come together for a purpose, so I’m happy that I retired when I did and I’m enjoying it immensely.
What advice do you have for those wanting to retire?
How much time do you have? Hahaha.
Obviously much of my advice on retirement is found on ESI Money so I would point people to the retirement category. Read the posts there as there are many thoughts on how to retire well.
Especially read the retirement interviews as they show real-life people successfully navigating what can be a very tough financial and life process.
Having said that, here are my thoughts for those who want to retire:
- Be sure you plan for both the financial side and the life side of retirement.
- Know that you have enough money to retire and will not have to worry about it, and know that you have enough activities that you enjoy to keep you busy and excited in your free time.
If you do those two things, you will have a wonderful, amazing retirement.
If you miss either of those, you are likely to have an average retirement at best but more likely a terrible retirement (or at least the risk of it).