Essential Retirement Building Blocks


Part of how I have blogged is to create ongoing conversations on different topics. This goes back many years. I try to give enough background for anyone new while hopefully keeping it interesting for folks who have been following a thread all along. Writing with this in mind is a way to capture how my thoughts evolve on various topics. We all evolve as people and so the way we view things may change over time. Some of my views have changed and some have not…yet.

This post will be a building block for the retirement room here at the Maven. Hopefully, knowing where I am coming from will help you to follow the conversation in the coming months (hopefully years).

First off, I don’t actually plan on retiring. This has been my belief for quite a while and at 51 it still stands up but of course that could change in the future. My father never truly retired. He ran a golfing school for blind people called Sight Impaired Golfers Association (SIGA) until he died in early 2015 when he was 88.

His path has been very influential for me. He did all the things you’re supposed to do he exercised regularly, walking everywhere as well as walking the golf course with instructors and students. Running the organization kept him mentally engaged. He smoked cigars for about 50 years, was diagnosed with cancer in August 2014 and passed away six month later, sharp as a tack until just about the very end.

I’ve written about other similarly successful aging stories, most prominently my former neighbor with a backhoe. The short version of his story is he retired fairly young from being a law enforcement officer, bought a backhoe because his property up here needed some work done and this led to other people asking him to do work and paying him for it. He loved doing this work, like it was a hobby and it paid very well. I would often ask rhetorically, how many hours at $60/hour would you need to work (having fun mind you) to relieve some of the burden off your portfolio? His story is a big driver to the monetizing a hobby theme that I think is crucial for many people’s retirement.

One idea that has gained traction is the idea of retirement equating to financial independence not giving up work altogether. This resonates with me. I believe I walk the walk here, cultivating my interest in firefighting and photography into potentially paid hobbies when I am older if I need/want to do this. In terms of firefighting I have been working on qualifications to work as part of the Incident Management Teams than run large wildfires (I don’t plan on working on a fireline for 16 hours a day in my 60’s) and I have been lucky enough to sell a few photographs but who knows where that might go.

One way I have defined wealthy is to say that if you make enough to pay your bills, save some money and have a little leftover to have some fun then you’re better off than most folks. Furthering the thought, if you can absorb a one-off expense like a car repair or surprise veterinary bill without going into debt then you probably have some level of financial independence.

The above definition for financial independence has nothing to do with making a lot of money. Although a higher income usually makes things easier, just as important as the income side is expenses. Something I have long said; who is richer, the man who makes $20,000 but lives like he makes $10,000 or the man who makes $100,000 but lives like he makes $200,000? We have personally had good luck being under mortgaged and driving our cars for a long time. It can be that simple.

Although I don’t plan on retiring in the traditional sense, my wife and I save like we are desperate to retire right away and like we are way behind where we should be. There’s a quote attributed to Woody Allen, “there’s no situation where having more money made it worse.” Having no idea what the future holds in the way of positive or negative outcomes, my hope to be financially prepared for whatever comes along.

Another topic we will explore here is alternative ways to get by during retirement with the idea being that if people are under saved and in case Social Security’s woes are not adequately addressed, people will need to come up with innovative solutions that can work for them. Things like downsizing to a tiny house, relocating to a foreign (cheaper) country temporarily or permanently, even being a caretaker at an estate are some examples of what this looks like but there will be others.