Retirement-Trading Money for Time

I’ll be 62 in November and I want to retire soon after that.  I don’t know if that’s prudent, because waiting until I’m 66 would get me a lot more money, but it’s what I want.  My friends Mike and Connell have always been industrious ants to my carefree grasshopper self.  Both have been tight with their money, never spending much, always saving and investing.  I didn’t start saving until late in life, but luckily I’ve been working for the state of Tennessee for over 35 years and have a pension coming.  Enough to live on if I spend wisely, something I’ve never done. 

Living like a grasshopper is possible before retirement, but after retirement its an ant’s life for sure.  I’ve got to learn to pinch pennies and that’s going to be a new lifestyle for me.  CouponBug here I come.  I expect those old adages like a penny saved is a penny earned, or waste not, want not, will become way more meaningful after my retirement.  


If I can’t change my spending habits this year, it’s probably a sign I shouldn’t retire.  Soon a fixed income will become a reality.  What they really should call it is a fractional income.  The fraction I must embrace is 6/10th.   Every month this year I need to prove my retirement worthiness by only spending 60% of what I normally spend.  Luckily, since Susan started working in Birmingham, I’ve been learning to cut expenses.  I think I’m close already, I just need to fine tune my penny pinching ways.

The trouble the 40% has to mainly come from causal fun expenditures, like eating out, cable TV,  buying tons of books and music, going to movies and plays, buying gadgets and computers, etc.  I could save hundreds a month if we sold the house and I got an apartment.  Susan works out of town and has her own apartment, but I live in house she grew up in that we bought after her parents died.  The cheapest way for me to live would be to sell the house and move to Birmingham, but I don’t want to do that because I have so many friends here.

When I look at my credit card statement it has lots of unnecessary charges.  Charges for stuff I can’t be buying after I retire.  If I was like Mike and Connell, I would have never developed such bad spending habits.  They’ve been telling me this for decades, I’ve just haven’t listened.  It’s amazing how much stuff we buy that we don’t need.  Or how much stuff we pay too much for, or how much stuff we just plain waste.  I buy $6 worth of grapes, but I let $3 worth go bad.

A word to the young, from a guy who didn’t listen.  Every dollar you spend now is a dollar you won’t have in the future.  Well, I never listened to that kind of talk either, but I guess every essay needs a message.

Essentially what I’m doing is trading money for time.  I’ve always wanted more time, here’s my chance.  Luckily I’ve never been one of those people who wanted to retire and travel the world and lead the good life.  I won’t have the money for that.  What I want is time to read and write,  I want to listen to music and write fun computer programs.  I want to systematically study the history of science and literature.  Maybe I’ll learn to play the guitar, but I always say that, and never do.

I’ve got 500 hardback books waiting to read, and 200 audio books queued up to be listened to.  I’ve got several novels, and hundreds of essays and short stories I want to write.

I want to spend a lot of time just snoozing and napping.  I actually want to read all those cool websites and blogs I’ve been bookmarking, and watch all those movies and documentaries in my Netflix queue.  Awhile back I bought the complete run of The Rolling Stone magazine on DVD.  I’d like to read all the record reviews and listen to those albums on Rdio.  Awhile back I bought a DVD of all the “Amateur Scientist” columns from Scientific American.  I’d love to go through them and do some of the experiments.  I want to program a time-line database.  I want to learnt to program in Python and write programs that teach me math.  I’d like to build my own super computer (by year 2000 standards) for modeling visual data.

I’m Henry Bemis and I finally have time enough at last.  I just hope my glasses don’t break.

Now this paradise of time is going to cost me.   Eating out for convenience won’t be practical.  Spending money to go out to a play or movie just to spend two hours with a friend will be wasteful.  Buying a new tablet or computer because it’s new and different will be an insane act.  I have four computers, an iPad, two Kindles and an iPod touch.  That’s a kind of CPU luxury will be silly in the future. 

I now buy 10 books for every one I read.  After I retire, I need to read 9 books for every one I buy.  I need to become a library patron again.

I’ve been living without cable for a couple years now.  For the price of Netflix and Hulu I have more great TV to watch than I can cram into a lifetime of 24×7 couch potato living. 

Many people I know have dropped their land lines and switched to a smart phone.  I’ve kept my land line and use a dumb cell phone that costs me about $8 a month.  My 12 year old truck just passed 71,000 miles, so I figure I can drive it another 20 years.  Susan began working out of town five years ago and I started cost cutting then, but now I’ve got to get deadly serious about not spending money if I want to live without working.

And in a way that’s such a weird concept, to live without working.  I’ve been working for four decades.  Will retirement be like my growing up years?  Or will I be growing down?

There’s more to preparing for retirement than just living cheap.  Work has always been a major social outlet, so I’ll need to psyche myself up for spending a lot more time alone.  Less money and fewer friends maybe, but hopefully do more with those fewer people, a lot more.  Most of my socializing costs money.  I need to invite people over.  I need to learn to cook for people and plan inexpensive activities at home.  Oh yeah, that means I need to learn how to cook and host parties.

My friend Peggy who recently retired says her problem is time management.  She says she never gets anything done because she always feels she has all the time in the world.  I hope that doesn’t happen to me.  Of course, I might be fooling myself.

That’s the thing about planning for retirement, you really don’t know what it will be like until after you retire.  Wouldn’t it be funny that I’ll finally get to give up the old 9-to-5 and then discover I was one of those guys who was happiest working until they died?  I don’t think I will be.  All the people I know that have retired have said retiring has been the best thing in their life and they are busier now than ever before.

JWH – 1/21/13

2 thoughts on “Retirement-Trading Money for Time”

  1. “I’m Henry Bemis and I finally have time enough at last.”

    Heh, heh. Don’t count on it, Jim. It’s been my experience that there’s never enough time for everything.

    And I’m pretty sure I spend more money now than I did when I was working, too. A lot of that is inflation. I’ve been retired almost seven years, and I really notice price increases now (especially on things like food and health insurance, which tend to affect retirees the most).

    Of course, I never was particularly spendthrift. No matter what I made, I was always able to save some of it. So I never expected to spend less in retirement (luckily).

    But trading money for time? You bet! I’ve never regretted retiring early, even when the stock market collapsed and my net worth dropped in half. (Admittedly, I feel a lot more comfortable after the past four years.)

    It’s really been great for me, and I certainly hope it will be great for you. But people are different, so it’s hard to say. I’ve known people who retired early and got bored within a year or two, so they went back to work. I can’t even imagine that, myself. Bored? I’m never bored.

    I also know at least one person who retired when I did, ran through all of her retirement money in 2-3 years, and is back working again now (making a lot less money than she had been). Of course, if you’ve got an actual pension, so that you’ll have money coming in, lucky you! That would make a big difference, indeed!

    I can’t give you advice, Jim. I can only wish you well. So far, retiring early has been the best move I’ve ever made. I hope your experience is the same.

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