Category Archives: How We Did It

How Much is Enough? 8 Things We’ve Learned

When we first found ourselves both unemployed seven years ago, my younger sister posed a very simple yet important question:

How much do you really need?

At first, it calmed our fears.  We had saved up plenty to survive while we decided our next steps.  But more importantly, it started us on a journey to sort of pseudo-minimalism.  We lightened our load, examined our stuff, started conversations about our values, and took a hard look at what is really important to us.  We started designing our lives on this Encore Voyage with much more intention.

Examining ‘Enough’

In the early days, hubs would spend sleepless nights trying to answer the question, “Am I doing the right things?”  “Am I taking the right jobs?”  Am I taking all the steps I need for us to be successful.”  At first, those were questions born of fear and uncertainty.

The same questions are true for anyone entering retirement.  Have we saved enough?  Are we prepared both financially and emotionally?  Do we need to do more? Are we ready to take the leap?

Well, it’s taken us a few years, but we have finally learned to stop and take some very deep breaths.  And we’ve learned some things about “Enough.”

  1. We do not need to fill every hour of every day.  Down time is now cherished! We are mindful about doing “enough.”
  2. We do not need to exist on the 8 to 5 schedule of the working world.  It’s OK for us to skip out in the middle of the afternoon or to work on a weekend. We get to decide what to make of the day, and no longer feel guilty for not doing “enough.”
  3. We don’t need to buy much more “stuff.”  We want the items we own to be useful, meaningful or beautiful.  Generally speaking, we own “enough.”
  4. Taking time in the middle of the afternoon to read a book or pursue a hobby is quite OK.  You can never have “enough” curiosity or interests.
  5. We travel lightly.  I’ve studied up on many travel blogs, and it really is quite possible to go anywhere in a 22 inch carry-on and a backpack. Just “enough” is waaayyyy better when traveling than too much!
  6. Keeping up with the Joneses is stupid.  They are broke!  Our “enough” is not for anyone else to judge.
  7. You can never have “enough” meaningful relationships.  They are far more important than the things you own!
  8. There will NEVER be “enough” time for us to love each other and be together.  We need to take advantage of every moment we’re given in this life.

So how about it…What’s “enough” for you?  Any important things I’ve left off the list?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

~ Lynn

 

 

Photo credit: Patrick Fore ~ Unsplash

An Encore or a Second Act?

As I mentioned in my last post, my absence from the blog has been in part related to the fact that we’ve been CRAZY BUSY with our “Encore Careers.”  He’s an architect, and I do virtual administrative tasks, and we have created our own second act that allows us to work mostly from home.  In the last year we’ve learned some great things in this Encore, along with some not so good…

The Great Things

  1. The world is flat – We can work from anywhere, provided we have a strong cell signal.  I purchased a wi-fi hot spot which lets us connect to people and projects, even if we are in another city or on the top of a mountain.  I have found that I can check email and send a quick response from anywhere.  Often, a client needs to hear, “I’ll have it to you by close of business tomorrow.”  They don’t need to know that I am on the 7th tee box at my favorite golf course!
  2. Starbucks is our conference room – We joke that we have many coffee house conference rooms in and around our city, perfect for meeting with clients.  Or we offer to meet at their offices.  Works perfectly, and I benefit from frequent pumpkin spiced chai teas!
  3. We don’t use an alarm clock – The voyage allows us to set our own schedules.  This is the best!  I never feel exhausted as I did when I was teaching.  We are able to schedule so that our days meet our needs, and we schedule our “down time” with intention.  Oh yeah, and I am always rested now….No seriously, I am!
  4. Togetherness with QUALITY – Back in the days of full time employment for others, we would both drag in at the end of the work day, and it was all either of us could manage to get some type of sustenance prepared for us.  The evenings progressed with me doing school paperwork and him manning the TV flipper, then collapsing into bed.  Now, we plan to do things together, often during the day!  A lunch out, an art museum, a park – whenever WE decide!
  5. Saying “NO” is an option – Because we get to decide what to make of our business, we get to select which projects we will take.  Which leads us to

The Not So Good

  1. We don’t say “No” enough – We have found from the early days of the voyage, we were a bit afraid to turn anyone down.  While we have adequate retirement funds in place, we like not having to draw upon them – and you never know if and when the next job will come along.  We’re more comfortable now, and we are seeking the perfect balance between encore and voyage.
  2. We’re always “at work”  – Even when we’re on that golf course, it’s important for us to care for our clients.  So even if I skip a hole to take care of business, it is that availability that ALLOWS us to make these chosen careers work well.  Being an entrepreneur isn’t a part-time job or a full-time job.  It’s a lifestyle!
  3. It’s easy to over-schedule – Number 1 above has occasionally caused us to pick up too many projects at once, making short-term scheduling difficult.  While we’re pretty good at scheduling our long-term goals, sometimes we let our alligators overload our hummingbirds…
  4. There’s no escape from the office – Our offices are at one end of our home.  We don’t have the luxury of leaving the office to go home.  Sometimes, for good or bad, the settings run into each other.  We are learning to consciously “leave the office” and shut down.

Don’t get me wrong.  We have had more fun since we started this voyage than we ever had in our “pre-retirement” years.  We love that we get to remain mentally engaged, with important work to do, on our own terms and in our own way.  Nearly every day one of us says to the other,

“This is a good gig, scooter!”

And so we we will continue to make adjustments as we journey down this road. Are any of you working any side gigs during your retirement years?  We’d love to hear the things you’ve learned!

Lynn

Seven Ways to Make Retirement Seem Easy

Lately, it seems that many retirement blogs and websites have been issuing warnings about how difficult it can be to retire.  They warn of the dangers that lurk right behind the euphoria of new found freedom. Tales of depression setting in, boredom developing, and my personal favorite, “disenchantment” – that realization that freedom from employment ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.  There seem to be endless lists about the things that make retirement hard…

How about, for a change, we examine those elements that, with just a little planning,

Make Retirement Easy

Understanding “enough” – When we first started the Encore Voyage, we were in a state of mild panic. Oh my God, we have no steady income stream…Until my little sister wisely asked, “How much do you really need, anyway?” And it started our examination of exactly “How Much is Enough?”  Not in a financial planning sort of way, but in a philosophical, examine your life and decide what is really important, and think about what you really need to be happy. Hopefully, you can make the cash and the needs match up.

Minding your people – I would agree that retirement could get lonely if you don’t pay attention to your tribe.  It could be family, current friends, or new friends to be made.  The point is that relationships matter, and because the work environment no longer automatically forces us into talking with other humans, we must be diligent in nurturing our relationships with intentionality.

Embracing funny – There are lots of things about retirement, heck – in the world in general – that if we didn’t laugh about them, we would cry!  If you can laugh about your colonoscopy, you can laugh about most things.  And as we age, you simply must try to see the humor in the journey, or you’ll find yourself yelling, “Get off my lawn!”

Pursuing your passion – Retirement is nothing if not a Huge Opportunity to take the time to enjoy all of the interests, hobbies, and activities that always got pushed out of the picture during our working careers!  It is worrisome if you don’t have any, or if you don’t know what they are – the world is your oyster. If you are bored, you just haven’t examined all of the possibilities.

Having a purpose – It could be a working for a charity. It might be involvement in your church. Perhaps it is volunteering in some way in the community (Eh-hem…former teacher here ~ have you checked out your local school for volunteering opportunities?)  For that matter, like us, it could be an “Encore Career” – doing something important (maybe even your dream job.)  Retirement is made more sweet by having a good reason to get out of bed in the morning.

Cuddling the globe – OK, I will admit, I have blatantly stolen that phrase from a lovely travel blog that you can find here.  Exploration and travel, even if you never leave your own community, open your mind and your senses to all that exists in this big, wide, wonderful world.

Fighting the flabby – Not that I would ever think that you can stop the aging process, but there are lots of things you can do to stay as fit and mobile as possible.  I know it’s not always easy, but we need to get off the couch and move in order to make the most of our retirement years.

I have had so many people tell me that “Not everyone could do what you and Jeremy do.”  They imply that this voyage is, for some reason, very difficult.  I guess I’m just a “glass half-full” sort of gal, because I think this retirement gig is really pretty simple!

Lynn

Photo credit: Austin Schmid ~ Unsplash

Yet Another List – Needs vs. Wants

Recently, Kathy Merlino over at Kathy’s Retirement Blog, wrote a post called What Is Your Relationship with Money?  It seems that some folks really took exception to Kathy’s use of the term ‘Blow Money’ for that money which has been earmarked for “discretionary spending.”  She and her hubs allot a certain amount each month to spend as they see fit – without questions!  I think it’s great – It’s not “Money Blown” as her next post suggests, but rather money which is spent making their lives wonderful!  Yep, actual money for LIVING!

Hubs and I use a similar but slightly different “strategy.”  We keep what we call the Needs and Wants List:

Our Needs-Wants List

On the Needs side, we list things that are going to REQUIRE upcoming expenditures:  A new roof.  Tires for the car.  On the Wants side, we list things that come up that we would like to purchase, but are not actual necessities:  New tile in the guest bath, refacing the kitchen cabinets, those diamond encrusted wine glasses (OK…. Not really…. surely you know me better than that by now!)

The point is that the list accomplishes two things for us:

  • First, by putting an item on the list, we are forced to analyze our motives.  Is this something we really need, or is it something we’d just like to have?
  • Second, putting items on one list or the other allows us to prioritize our spending, while slowing down impulse buying (at least on larger items.)  Have you ever stopped to think something through like this – “Which would be more important to us…a new toilet or new carpet in the family room?”

The list is generally for bigger ticket items.  We have always had a shared bank account, and because we both have similar financial values, we don’t get crazy on the day to day splurges.  (Yep, occasional quilt fabric counts as day to day spending.)  Neither of us is a compulsive shopper – I repeatedly remind him that he is a lucky man, because clothes shopping is just not in my wheelhouse!  Our Needs and Wants list helps us to think about the question, “What do we need to save for, and what should we “blow money” on?”  In either case,  we believe that as long as it’s thoughtful, deliberate, and within the retirement budget, none of that money is actually “blown.”

Not Completely Retired? 8 Tips for Working From Home

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about what actually “counts” as being retired. Obviously, times have changed, and “retirement” is looking a great deal different than it did during my parents’ time. In reinventing ourselves on the Voyage, hubs and I decided to start our own business, partly because we wanted the additional income stream, but also because we enjoy the creativity and opportunities we’ve discovered. Hubs will remind you that Frank Lloyd Wright did not actually hit his stride until he was 70 years old!

But we don’t pay for the overhead of an outside office space and instead, we work out of our home. In living and working together 24/7, let’s just say we’ve learned a few things as they relate to working from home. You might find these tips helpful:

1. Keep a workday schedule – If you want to operate a business, you need to treat it as you would a business outside of the home. Hubs gets up every morning, showers and is in his office generally before 7:00 AM. He recognizes that business is taking place out there, even across time zones, and he wants to be at his computer and participating in it!

2. Dress for the job – It’s a mindset. No, really it is. Hubs may start the day in khaki pants and a polo, change into jeans and a t-shirt to mow the lawn later in the day, then change back into “work clothes” when he returns to his office. Now I will admit that I’ve done some paperwork in my jammies, and occasionally I’m barefoot – but as a rule, we respect our business enough to dress the part.

3. Have a “space” dedicated to doing business – Perhaps it’s an office, maybe it’s a desk or even a table in a corner. The point is, it’s a space that is way different than sitting on the couch or recliner. It’s pretty darned easy to get distracted away from the task at hand if that TV flipper is too close! Wherever that space is, it needs to be functional for the demands of the job, with easy access to whatever materials and resources are necessary.

4. Professionalism on the phone is important – This was sort of weird for us at first, as we both use our personal cell phones. Decide, in advance, how you will answer your phone to take business calls or to answer numbers which are unknown. Your business persona is most likely quite different than the way you answer calls from your mom! In some cases, you may want a phone and dedicated line specifically for business. Either way, the current state of cellular technology has convinced us that “the world is flat” and that we can conduct business from nearly anywhere that we have a cell signal!

5. It helps to have a “hotspot.” – We’ve found that having a Wi-Fi hotspot, separate from our phones, has allowed us to have secure internet connection no matter where we travel. When we have traveled out of the country, we have put the hotspot on the international plan with our provider, allowing us to hook up as many as 5 different devices on the road.

6. Be aware of background noise – There is nothing that will make a business seem more questionable than a barking dog or a crying baby in the background! Do you want to do business with someone when you can hear the sounds of “Days of Our Lives” in the background? Didn’t think so…

7. Have a place to meet “clients” – Do you want to have clients come to your home? Early on, we laughed at having “Conference Room East” and “Conference Room West” – coffee shops on both sides of town where we would offer to meet and buy coffee for potential business associates. We also have several professional partners who have offered to let us use their business conference rooms when needed. Some cities have “incubator spaces” where a conference room could be rented on an as-needed basis. Once, when needing to meet with a members of a visiting out of town architectural firm, we had to scramble to find a professional place to meet! It would have been helpful to have a plan up front!

8. Know how to communicate, “I’m Working!” – This has been one of the trickier aspects of the Voyage, and while every instance will be personal, it is fairly universal for those working from home. It is easy for well-intentioned friends and family to believe that you should be able to set business pursuits aside in favor of other activities. “What do you mean you can’t go shopping this afternoon??? Can’t you just do that later?” It can be difficult to explain that while being your own boss does allow for some flexibility, business often must come first!

On the Encore Voyage, we claim to be one-third Frank Lloyd Wright, one-third Warren Buffet, and one-third Jimmy Buffet. We spend quite a bit of time on the Frank Lloyd portion of this gig…it’s not all Jimmy having cheeseburgers in paradise. And while we absolutely love being in charge of every day, stretching our entrepreneurial wings, working from home has been an interesting part of the journey. So how about it…any other tips you’d like to add? I’d love it if you’d share in the comments!

Lynn

Photo credit: Bench Accounting – Unsplash

Retirement Remodel – Preparing to Retire in Place

A while back, I shared that hubs and I had decided during our Minimalist Epiphany to sell a plot of land we had purchased.  We realized that having more – a bigger house, more land, more stuff – was just not going to work for us.  Plans change, we adapt.

Which prompted for us the following conversation:

What were we running to?
What were we wanting to achieve by moving?
What do we need to do to this place to make it work for us?

We decided that our current home of almost 30 years has a great deal going for it.  We have wonderful neighbors and a great sense of community.  We are within 5 minutes of almost anything we need.  We can be downtown and to most cultural events in 15 minutes.  We can be to the airport in 7 minutes.

In the past 10 years, we’ve done some minor remodeling that makes our home even more comfortable.  New appliances and filtered water in the kitchen, a master bath remodel (complete with grab handles in the shower) – all items that we love and don’t really want to leave.

And so it begins…

We decided that we need just a tiny bit more space – just enough to seat our guests more comfortably around the table.  A few more square feet to be able to invite in some friends.

And remember when I said that if you marry an architect, you should use him at least once in your life?

3 sided patio

Well, a week ago, we started converting our three sided patio into a type of three-season room.  It will have new tile, and a giant 24 foot bi-fold glass door which will allow us to have an elegant patio in the summer, while continuing to utilize the space during the winter. New sliding and French doors, and updated insulation will make the house more energy efficient.

Heart on the beam
(New steel beam to hold up the big-assed door!)

Eventually, we hope to put up a garage/shop for hubs, where he can play with his cars and hobbies while reducing the amount of lawn to be cared for.

We are making these decisions with the intent of staying in this house for the foreseeable future – until the day that health or physical demands make it necessary for us to move.  We’re not looking at our remodel as an investment strategy, or as a preparation for a flip.  The changes we are making will not pay off at resale – we don’t care! Our decisions are based on our desire to have our home function the way we like and to serve us for as long as is possible.  I’ll try to keep you posted on our progress!

Lynn

Our Encore Career – 10 Steps to Success

If I had a dollar for every time someone has said to us, “I want to do what you guys did!”, we could retire all over again!  If you have read our history, then you know that we sort of got thrown into the voyage head first.  Even so, there are some things we learned along the way that we can share.  So if you are feeling crushed by your current job, and want to start your own Encore Career, here are some things that you might find helpful.

 1.  Have some sort of savings in place.  That’s right – If you are going to strike out on your own, you need a bit of a safety cushion to cover the cost of day to day expenses for a few months while you get things off the ground.  I’m not talking about your retirement account! Do Not Ever steal from an IRA, even if you think you’ll pay it back!  It’s highly unlikely you ever will!  I’m not talking about a business loan.  It may be the case that you will secure a business loan to get your ideas off the ground – but you need some funds to sustain you outside of business expenses, at least for a little while.

2.  Find your passion.  I asked hubs what his dream job would be if he could choose.  Figure out what the thing is that you would like to do every day, even if it didn’t make you a dime…then figure out a way to make money doing that!  The whole point of the Encore Voyage is not just to be self-employed, but to be on a soul fulfilling journey!  Decide what you want your dream life to look like.

The voice inside

3.  Create an SOQ – A Statement of Qualifications.  It’s where you sit down and write out all of the marketable skills you have that you wish to promote. What are those things you do particularly well?  What goods do you have to sell?  Here is where you showcase your talents and abilities, and describe them in a nice format.

4.  Determine some short-term, mid-term and long-term goals.  Where do you want to be in 6 months, a year, or even five years? How will you know if this voyage is working for you?  Yes, not starving is a good indicator, but it shouldn’t be the only one!  It should be observable and measurable.

5.  Establish your business identity. What will you call yourself?  How will you explain what it is that you do? Will you have a logo? A business name and website?  Do you need/want to register your business with your state? Do you need to establish a separate business banking account? These were all the nagging little details that made the voyage seem scary and intimidating at first.

6.  Establish a fee structure. Do some research to determine the going rates for services or products similar to yours, and to determine what the market will bear.  Get an idea firmly written down of what you will charge for your services or goods.

7.  Take as many steps as possible to minimize business debt at first. Just because you start “a business” does not mean you can take a trip and call it a business expense!  You still need to consider profit and loss.  Hubs and I have very little overhead, because we work from our home, and have no other employees.  We are careful to keep control of our costs.

8.  Keep excellent records. It has taken us a couple of years to wrap our arms around the record keeping.  From costs related to each job, to keeping receipts and filing, you need to be able to see the bottom line quickly and clearly.

9.  Network and advertise yourself.  I think this was the thing that sets Jeremy apart from many others. He has a huge network of people he has met during the years, and I don’t believe he ever burned a bridge!  He started smilin’ and dialin’ – letting people know what he was up to, what he was wanting to do, and what he could possibly do for them.  Sometimes he met colleagues for coffee.  He took others to lunch.  He attended meetings of professional organizations and actively sought out places where he could make an impact.  From helping others to volunteering, the idea is to stay in front of potential clients.  This is not the time to adopt the notion that, “I’m good at what I do, so people will come to me.”  We’ve known several fellow voyagers who followed this course, and have sunk!

10.  Don’t. Stop. Moving.  To be successful on the Encore, you need to have some hustle!  Those who fail are the ones with an “I’ll do it later” attitude.  If you believe that you can do this with a TV flipper in your hand, you are sadly mistaken. Success is not easy…and it is certainly not for the lazy!

Being an entrepreneur

I know what you are thinking…You’re saying, “Wait…I thought you guys were retired!!”  Well, we are…sort of.  We are designing a life doing exactly what we want to do, when we want to do it, where we want to do it, and with whom we want to do it!   All of the steps above sound like crazy hard work, and initially, they were frightening, and nerve wracking. That said, the end result is that

We get to decide what to make of each day!

And as we’ve become more comfortable on the voyage, we often look at each other and say,

“Dang…This is a really sweet gig we’ve got going here!”

Here’s to hoping that you, too, can end up with a “sweet gig!”

Lynn

Photo credit: Sergey Zolkin – Unsplash