We just wrapped up three months of early retirement on the 12th! I’m a few days late sitting down to write this update because I was so busy getting other content created on that day: A blog post about how Learning About Financial Freedom Can Save Your Life –it sounds click-baity, but it’s true; and sitting down to interview my husband Jeremy for episode 10 of the “Journey to Freedom” podcast.
Jeremy’s audio update on FIRE
Interviewing Jeremy was strangely a highlight of the month for me. Not even on a date have I ever sat down and just grilled my husband with a list of questions…so that was fun! I was very surprised he agreed to do it, even if he agreed a little begrudgingly. You can see his odd sense of humor come through in it and I turn into a giggly mess. It’s not my usual interview at all.
Travel… at last!
The biggest highlight of month 3 of early retirement was heading out to Fort Worth, TX, to visit with my best friend, Hannah. We were college roommates at Vanderbilt and our friendship only continues to grow stronger. She’s a soul-mate kind of friend. Ever since I’ve had kids, she’s been flying out to see me once or twice a year, so now that I was finally in a place–both financially and with a surplus of time on my hands–it was high-time I made the effort to come and visit her instead. I talked about this in the intro to Episode 9 on the podcast, but booking this flight truly felt like exercising the “freedom” we were working for. The ability to book a flight without fretting over the price and the ability to just head out for a week without having to worry about schedules (not having to plan far in advance or ask a boss for permission or worry about my husband’s boss or ask a grandma to come or hire a babysitter, etc. etc.). It was so fantastic to turn to my husband and say, “You got this?” And he did.
Apparently having four days alone with the kids was fantastic for both him and the girls as well. They hopped on bikes and went to the pool each day and had their own adventures. I think it was a really important bonding time for them. He was also able to establish some better rules about bed time and picking up and Faera was able to completely wean off of nursing (wooo!!).
Gardening and gift-making
While I was gone, Jeremy and the girls harvested an insane amount of datil peppers from our backyard food forest garden. He ordered hot sauce bottles (that came with adorable little blank labels) and filled them up with his insanely spicy sauce. Then he mailed a few out to his oldest friends to give it a try. It feels great not only to make something entirely on your own, from scratch and from your own garden, but also to just send out gifts for no particular reason at all. They also ate the watermelon that has been growing all summer in our backyard. …I’m a little bummed I missed out on trying that plump watermelon.
I’m working backwards in this post, as I reflect on the month. We had a blast on the 4th of July, of course. It came complete with a BBQ at a friend’s house with a pool, shooting off fireworks and sparklers in the driveway, a visit from an ice cream truck, and a city fireworks show at the end.
Both short-term rental properties have had longer stays, so we haven’t had many cleanings to do. The cleanings have landed on the same day each time, so we are literally working for only a handful of hours one day out of the week–leaving the rest of the week to just chill or go on adventures. We can’t complain about that!
Our rental properties are in need of new beach chairs for our guests, so Jeremy has been making wooden replacements instead. These old-school nesting chairs with canvas backs looks like something from vintage France or Italy. I love them! We’ll keep a few for ourselves, too. I love his resourcefulness. Much of the wood is smaller scraps and the first few chairs are using canvas repurposed from some retired shower curtains of ours. It’s a combination of being extra frugal and also despising adding waste to a landfill. We don’t like parting with our precious dollars and we don’t like adding to the plastic problem or landfill problem. It feels fantastic to fill a need without compromising our values.
Speaking of the properties, we are still busy “bullet-proofing” them, which is the goal for 2021. We are trying to get them to a state where we feel comfortable leaving for the jungle and beginning our geoarbitrage chapter, and having the peace of mind that the properties are easy to clean and manage for a property management company and will continue to receive 5-star reviews. We don’t want things that will break or require replacing or lots of extra maintenance (and cost).
[You can read my blog here about the “return-on-cash” of vacation rental properties and why they’re worth all this work.]
So this month Jeremy replaced the flooring in the cottage. There was old 1930s tile on the floor, which we’d painted white with epoxy paint but that wasn’t holding up well. It looked dirty. Also, it was a huuuuuge pain in the butt to clean! So Jeremy got some click-together vinyl floorboards in a coastal whitewash color and it is sooooo much easier to clean and also looks very sharp. The next big project he is planning to attack is to take out the tub (he’s noticed an issue that may compromise our floor joists over time) and put in a shower in its place. Of course we refuse to pay a contractor for anything, so in his down time, he’s been watching hours and hours of YouTube videos that walk him through just how to accomplish this project. We’re waiting on a break with no guests so he has enough time to complete it.
Health & Aging
We had an issue at the condo earlier this month where the drain pipe for the AC was clogged…and I won’t pretend to understand any of it… but in short, we had a small flood of water and Jeremy got it all fixed, though it took an entire afternoon. While fixing that, being on his knees for an afternoon seemed to do some serious damage to one knee. He’s never had great knees, but it seems like the moment he turned 39 (in late June) he started having these physical health problems. So his knee went out and he was walking funny because of that. Then, when he lifted the toilet to do the flooring at the cottage, his back went out! So at one point, he had both knee pads and a back brace on.
I bring this up not to poke fun, but because it’s the first time either of us suddenly “felt our age.” He’s being more careful on himself now (like purchasing the knee pads for future projects that require him to be down like that and being more conscious of how he picks things up or *ahem!* asking for my help) and taking a lot of supplements to help counteract the aging. He’s now taking 6 big pills a day to try to get his body to regrow the stuff he needs in his kneecap, for example. Health is now suddenly something to pay a little closer attention to.
When he was working as a mechanic, he was really feeling the affects of the strenuous physical labor and marveling at how so many old men continue to do that to themselves into old age (traditional retirement). Now, he’s even more grateful he’s not pushing through that any more. He’s doing far less of the back-breaking work, but his body is signaling he needs to slow it down. We both feel so fortunate that he can retire now, just before turning 40, while he still has some time left as a healthy, fit young person to enjoy life, instead of when he’s an elderly man whose body and health has been completely spent on a job.
Another change I’ve noticed this month is that we both started taking afternoon naps. I would love to blame this on “old age” simply because it feels funny, but I think we have settled into a healthy circadian rhythm without the stress that comes with career-life and the need to constantly be busy and producing. Jeremy has always been down for a nap, but I have never identified as a napper. Even when pregnant and hormonally exhausted, I resented naps. But here we are in month three of early retirement and I’m delighted to take an hour of rest when the family reaches this natural apex of the day. It’s fantastic!
Jeremy had a fantastic run with his Adirondack chair side hustle. The orders have slowed in the past week, so I’m unsure if that’s the demand or if I just need to run a new listing on Marketplace. But it sure was fun to see them flying for a month like that! They made more than his previous income, so I’d be curious to see if that is sustainable or not.
Water at the core of our “lifestyle design”
My husband has spent the majority of this month surfing. He surfs at least once, if not twice, a day. We don’t usually have such a good swell in the water in July, but he’s stoked that he is able to go chase after the waves while they’re here, instead of glumly watching them on a YouTube video livestream while slaving away at work. For him, this is what it’s about–the ability to just peace out at sunrise and again in the late afternoon to go catch all the waves he can. It makes my heart happy to see him so gleefully happy.
We’ve visited the pool (and hot tub) at our condo rental almost every single day this month. It’s definitely a perk of having a short term rental that is located in a condominium resort (that is less than a half-mile away from us). It makes paying that monthly HOA a little less painful. At the resort, there’s two big pools, five hot tubs and private beach boardwalk access. Our 4-year old, Etta, has gotten really, really great at swimming under water and diving down to the bottom. Jeremy got her a nice snorkel yesterday, with the goal of taking the family snorkeling somewhere later this summer. We are excited! Etta also just received her first surfboard (hot pink, of course!) and will hopefully get to start lessons on that soon once the waves are a little smaller.
We are still “hard at work” designing our lifestyle. We want our kids to be strong swimmers and hopefully happy little surfers when we get to our jungle geoarbitrage chapter. So we are cultivating that reality now. (See my blog or podcast on “Living from Your Future”). We want to be better at gardening and able to build our own houses/treehouses/cabinas and the furniture inside. So we’re working on those skillsets now so we will rock whatever this next chapter is.
We’re starting month 4 of early retirement now. I can’t wait to see what’s in store!
Podcast interview with Jeremy, where he discusses what his FIRE life is like in month 3 of early retirement.
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