There are a lot of blogs out there telling you how to retire early. It seems 35 is the new 65 or whatever age we were supposed to retire. I think it is all crazy talk. Why would anyone ever want to start working in the first place? According to my own father I never worked a day in my life and I turned out just fine. Okay, bad example.
There was a momentary lapse of sanity in my grand design back when I met Mrs. Accountant. As we prepared for marriage the minister of the church knew I was not working and offered me a job as janitor. What was I going to say? I accepted the job. A year later I quit because I did not want to swill toilets for a living. Don’t get me wrong. The people were awesome! I loved the people over at Trinity Lutheran Church, but I did not want to be janitor.
Previous posts outlined how I live my life without a job. I grew up on a farm. Sure, farming is hard work, but a lot of fun too. Working with animals is something many people do for free all you cat and dog lovers. Well, I grew up in wide open spaces with animals galore. Later I worked for my dad’s agricultural repair business and you can call my dad and ask him how hard I worked. The great news was I found my calling when my dad hated paperwork and taxes and left the job to me. My on-the-side money from preparing taxes for employees hooked me on accounting. I loved the idea of working less and making good money while sitting in a chair or talking to people. Sure beat milking cows or fixing a silo unloader.
Now I work a part-time seasonal job and enjoy a wonderful lifestyle with friends and family. (Ya gotta do something to fill the time.) I am back to living on a farm. People think it is a lot of work when I say I have twenty steers or fifty chickens. Geesh! Do you know how hard it really is? Calf prices are out of line with beef and feed prices so I don’t have steers for the first time in fifteen years. I still have fifty chickens and 19 gardens. I try hard not to roll my eyes when people are amazed at the work I do with all those chickens. Let me explain how hard it really is. Okay, brace yourself. I go out to the barn each morning and pick up 20 eggs and pour a bucket of mash into the feeder (how do I do it?). Then I go back to the house. It gets worse. At night Mrs. Accountant, the girls or I walk back to that very same barn and pick up another 20 eggs. Every couple days I need to reload the water feeders. Once a week I clean the chickens. Cleaning the chickens takes less than a half hour. Let me be clear, I spend more time eating the eggs than I do working to get the eggs. Am I still considered retired yet?
Now Let Me Tell You about Real Work
I read all those other blogs about checking out early. It seems you can’t really be retired unless you live frugally (I am), save half your income (I do) and travel. I hate travelling! Preparing a tax return is fun; so is small-scale farming. But travelling! I like travelling like I enjoy a root canal. (For some reason I have experienced both more than I care to mention.) My teeth to the side, I have visited Costa Rica, Jamaica, Canada several times and three-quarters of the states. Reluctantly I admit I enjoyed the experience of having been on vacation; I still hated going and could not wait to get back home when I left.
Last year I travelled to Seattle to attend a workshop with Mr. Money Mustache as the focus of the event. I only went because I had ulterior motives; I had a business idea for Pete, the real Mr. Money Mustache. I ended up speaking at the event for free (they later gave me a small stipend). Pete became a client and he loved my business idea. To top it off, Pete is the nicest guy you will ever meet. Let me share how nice Pete is. A month ago he emailed to tell me he thought I was “insane” for working as hard as I do. So far, so good. Then he finished the sentence with, “at your age.” I’m headed back to Seattle this year to the same event with Pete as the guest of honor. I think I will ask Pete to explain what he meant by, “at my age.”
At the Seattle workshop I gave a one-hour presentation on a tax issues (early retirement, of course; this year is on knowing when to do your own taxes and when to call in the pros). I did not know I would get a stipend; I did it for free because I wanted to do it. It was not work; it was fun! I was still retired or at least continued in my unemployed status that began when I was born. I enjoy speaking if front of groups so much I accept 5-10 speaking engagements per year, most unpaid. Sharing ideas excites me.
My message is for you to discover what “fun” is for you and what “work” is. Some people golf for a living (a job), others take every opportunity to hit the greens; they even pay for the privilege. I am not insane, as Pete indicated, for running a business and preparing a boatload of tax returns. Truth is I am happier than a pig in shit.
We all do things we do not like doing at times; doing so does not make it a job. The root canal I spoke of above is not a job description; neither is travelling, though it feels that way to me. What makes travelling palatable is the people. I love working with people. I went to Costa Rice with my parents for two weeks because I knew I would have a great memory. Loved coming home, too. Jamaica was my honeymoon. Most of the states I’ve seen and Canada are the result of conferences I attended. I travel to learn and meet new people, giving my travels a purpose.
The best part about never having started a life of work or entering the rat race is long-term commitments. There are only two things I have done consistently for any period of time: husband duties and daddy duties. The only reason why I have stayed committed for so long to these two commitments is because I have a deep seated fear of Mrs. Accountant. If I absconded either of these duties I would be a eunuch within moments. (Note: I read these posts aloud to Mrs. Accountant before publishing them so if you are reading this it passed the Mrs. Accountant test. She does have a good sense humor. She has to; she is married to me.)
My tax practice has been around for decades. Sometimes clients accuse me of thinking about retirement because I am gone so much, especially during the summer. (If you plan on faking an illness, be sure to do so on a nice, sunny day.)I come in late, leave early, take long walks from the office and hit the gym during the work day. How do I tell clients I can’t retire because I never started? Oh, well. Such is the life of a vagabond (minus the travelling part).
Years ago I went through a phase where I attended a large number of science fiction conventions. Then the itch went away. Met a lot of nice people and authors though. Then I dragged Mrs. Accountant to film festivals for several years. Been a while since I did that too. As you can see I go through phases of things I like to do. The best part about never entering the rat race is you can engage so many different lusts. Most tend to be short-term. The ones that count, the wife and kids, are the only things I make a full and lifetime commitment to. In my life family is not everything; it is the only thing (a special thank you to Vince Lombardi).
Back to Travelling
Back to our story in Seattle where we left Pete as he tries to explain what he meant by “at my age.” For the second year in a row I am attending Camp Mustache and will speak to the wonderful people in attendance. Pete, great guy that he is, gave my tax business a heck of a plug with a blog post on his site. A significant number of people have asked me if I have met Pete in person. Yes, I have. Even sat in his house. They ask about Camp Mustache and if I will attend this year. Yes, I will. Already signed up, but have not purchased the airline tickets yet. It feels so final like I gotta go once the tickets are paid for. Until then there is always a glimmer of hope I can find a way to weasel out.
Several people have asked if I went to Ecuador with Pete, an annual event he seems to enjoy. No, I have not. The same several people ask if I plan on going. No, I am not. Why not? they ask. Every reason I give only brings more questions of, Why? Eventually I say, “Because I refuse to leave the northern hemisphere.” It stops the questions. People have a hard time believing how much I hate travelling.
This all ends badly, you know. At some point in the near future I will be sitting grumpily in a plane looking out the window and watching the earth turn slowly below, pointing, “Hey, wha’da’ya know? The fucking equator.”