On the wall by my refrigerator hangs this chalkboard. It shows the number of months remaining before Mrs. Groovy and I assert complete control over our time. Come the end of 2016, we will ditch our jobs and join the ranks of the retired class.
Having an extra forty to fifty hours a week to do whatever I want presents an interesting conundrum. What will I do with this opportunity? Will I squander it? Will I become a teat-sucking layabout? Or will I do something worthwhile with this bounty of time? Will I help others? Will I seek adventure?
After some careful consideration, and after surviving Mrs. Groovy’s veto powers, here are four things I plan to do in retirement.
Pick up litter
When I was the foreman of a road maintenance crew on Long Island, my crew and I would police the commons once a week. My crew hated it. Picking up litter for them was embarrassing. And, truth be told, I understood their misgivings. It’s hard to feel good about yourself when your peers are driving by in BMWs and you’re picking up discarded beer cans and used condoms.
But picking up litter never bothered me. I wanted to be proud of the neighborhood I worked in. I didn’t want anyone to think it was inhabited by a bunch of slobs. Litter, however, broadcasts a disturbing message—it says in effect, “The people who live here don’t care. If you want to sh*t on them. Feel free.” So for me, picking up litter was a no-brainer. It was one of the few times during my government career I actually felt like a true public servant. It was also great exercise. And it gave me time to think great thoughts.
So one of the things I would like to do in retirement is pick up litter. Not exactly a lofty goal. But I don’t aim to do it full time. Just once or twice a week for a handful of hours. And, as I pointed out above, it will provide three distinct benefits: It will show motorists and passersby that at least one person in the neighborhood cares; it will provide terrific exercise; and it will give me an opportunity to think up great blog posts.
Bake bread for the needy
I’m fascinated with wood-burning, outdoor pizza ovens. I think this is partly so because I’ve always toiled in the service economy. I never went to work and created a physical object with my own two hands. Right now, my job is to make and manage databases. And I love doing it. But what exactly are databases? Glorified spreadsheets? Zeroes and ones resting snugly on my company’s servers? Well, whatever they are, I can’t pick them up and show them to my buddies. And this gnaws at my spirit. Something inside me yearns to build or make something that people can touch and appreciate.
A wood-burning, outdoor pizza oven is something physical, something real. And I won’t have to battle the zoning board or the EPA if I decide to build one in my backyard. So when I retire, I’m going to build one and learn how to bake bread and make pizza. And then when I entertain family and friends at my home, I’ll serve them bread or pizza that I made in an oven I built.
I also want to do something kind for the less fortunate. And I’m tired of writing checks, of giving money to others and hoping some good comes of it. No, I’m done with outsourcing my charity. I want to get off my arse and help the unfortunate myself. So my goal is to supply at least one homeless shelter or soup kitchen with bread at least once a week.
Blog about financial independence and freedom
I, of course, also want to continuing blogging in retirement. But here’s an important question I have asked myself on a number of occasions: what exactly am I contributing to the conversation?
The unflattering reality is that when it comes to financial independence (FI), the answer is not much. The giants of the FI blogosphere, from Michael Kitces to Mr. Money Mustache, provide all the information and encouragement you need to get your financial act together. Even less renowned bloggers (sorry guys) such as Jim Wang at Wallet Hacks, Steve at Think $ave Retire, J. Money at Budgets Are $exy, and Penny at She Picks Up Pennies are much better sources of FI wisdom than I. But I will share my thoughts and experiences nonetheless. Not to break any new ground, mind you, but to affirm the teachings of the FI blogosphere—to do my share for the cause, so to speak. After all, if the FI blogosphere wants to attract more people to its cult, it probably needs as many bloggers as possible extolling the virtues of thrift, compound interest, and FU money.
I do think, however, I have something to contribute when it comes to freedom. Financial independence is an important and worthwhile goal for every American. But its ultimate value hinges on the state of our civil liberties. Consider, for example, a financially independent black man in Montgomery, Alabama, during the 1950s. Sure, it’s great he’s not dependent on work. But he can’t sit in the front of a bus or vote. Now, granted, this is a particularly grievous example of government run amok, and thankfully this type of tyranny no longer exists in America. But I think it drives home my point: financial independence without freedom is a hollow blessing at best.
Look, I get why the FI blogosphere ignores government spending and regulation. Fixing someone’s net worth is a hell of a lot easier than fixing the government. But it just kills me that the government can tax us up the ying-yang and protect crony businesses from competition and our only rational response to this infamy is to shrug. Well, screw that. Achieving FI is hard enough without the government mucking things up. So as long as the government engages in plunder, and as long as Mrs. Groovy allows me, I’m going to tilt at windmills. That will be my contribution. I will post about the ways the government frustrates our ability to achieve financial independence, and I will post about the ways we can mitigate or circumvent those efforts. (To get an idea of how I plan to approach the politics of financial independence, check out this post.)
Visit all 50 states
As of today, Mrs. Groovy and I have visited 27 states. We would like to visit the remaining 23. I don’t know how our quest to visit all 50 states began, but I’m glad it did. I’ve always thought America was a kick-ass country, and no destination in my travels, whether it was in the Deep South, the Yankee Northeast, or the breathtaking expanses of the Mountain States, has given me reason to think otherwise. I was blessed to be born in America, and I want to see as much of it as I can before I die.
So this is how I plan to use a big chunk of my free time in retirement. What do you think? Are these pursuits lame? Groovy? What do you want to do once you have obtained financial independence? I would love to hear your plans. And, hey, my plans aren’t written in stone. If I find one of your pursuits intriguing, and it passes the Mrs. Groovy veto, I might join you.