The past month has been a bit of a whirlwind for this early retiree. We managed to host family twice for nearly a week (something about having a beach nearby is attractive) and made one trip to our hometown for a funeral. In between all that I’ve managed to fit in is attempting to surf (poorly), a lot of time at the beach, some outdoor running, and getting back to the gym. It’s no wonder by the end of this month my wife and I were asking each other “how in the world did we ever have time to work!?”.
Instacart: $2,179. I was surprised to see Instacart come in as high as it did since we were not available to do orders for 11 days between family in town and a trip back home. Concentrating on shopping and delivering orders from our local Costco and getting better at picking orders continues to increase our hourly rate. It has been a great way to fill in some time between leisure and get paid to go visit our favorite store. We basically get paid to go play supermarket sweep! I’m especially proud of Mrs. Shirts’ efficiency and effort between batch selection and accurate shopping that helps deliver these results.
As a side note, it’s also interesting when I read these stories about how gig economy workers are “abused” or “exploited”. My local facebook page for Instacart Shoppers had a thread asking “what’s your why?”. There were so many people with inspirational stories about people taking responsibility for their finances and improving their life, from debt payoff stories, to people supplementing a business startup, or the single mom leaving an abusive relationship. Most of these people aren’t looking for a full time job and want something where they can open up their phone and pick up a half hour to one and a half hour job. I hope politicians can remember this when pro-union money tries to pass legislation restricting the availability of this work.
Dividends: $972. June’s dividends included two bank stock payouts (Bank of America and Bank of Hawaii) along with one of our real estate investment trusts, STAG Industrial. We felt the full impact of the dividend cut from Carnival Cruise Lines and the suspension of dividends from Entertainment Properties Trust compared to March’s payouts. We love travel and recreation, but our investments in this space have only provided pain in a pandemic. Hopefully we will be at the end of this by November and 2021 will be a much better year for investment income.
Bank Bonuses / Credit Card Signup Bonuses: $600. We landed both a PNC and a Chase signup bonus for the month of June. The PNC bonus was a bit difficult to get based on their balance requirements but the Chase bonus was one of the easiest in the market. There is one more bonus pending that should payout in July then there will probably be a pause in the bank account signup game while I get some of these accounts closed out. The good news is we can start on the credit card bonuses in the second half of the year and keep moving.
What I’ve been reading: Essentialism by Greg McKeown
I finally finished Essentialism after getting distracted a number of times in the beginning of the book. This came under multiple recommendations from Jess at the Fioneers and Chris Mamula at Can I Retire Yet. At first it seemed to only be a book that would apply to someone working, but once I got into it, I really enjoyed it. (I also had the benefit of the library setting a hard return date and I performed better under a deadline!)
Some of the key takeaways for me:
- If it isn’t a strong Yes, then it’s a No. This falls in line with Tim Ferris’s rule of ranking interest in stuff from 1-10 and eliminating sevens. Just don’t say yes to things that aren’t an eight or higher.
- I realize the end of my career was defined by moving from working for an essentialist to working for someone who got distracted by everything. The good boss was relentless in gathering/tracking/talking about a small number of data points, the essential data points that drove our business and helped clients. The poor boss was always distracted by tracking/measuring/pushing data points that he thought made him look good to his bosses. Unsurprisingly the first boss was promoted and the second was relieved of his job in a merger.
- Sleeping / Protecting the Asset: One line in the book describes me perfectly, eight is ideal, seven is functional…then it declines significantly from there. It also gave me a nice appreciation of only using an alarm clock once or twice a year! Sleep doesn’t just become perfect in early retirement, but it’s much easier to watch the variables that affect it.
- The Endowment Effect: What would you sell something for vs. what would you pay for it? Why does everyone (including me) struggle so much to part with stuff? Exactly one year ago as I write this I was driving across the country with a 24ft Penske Truck and that was after a bunch of downsizing. Why did I struggle so hard to sell stuff or throw away things I haven’t touched for a year? The endowment effect. There are things in my house I wouldn’t pay a dollar for, but I won’t sell them or throw them away because I already have them just *in case*. If we pull the trigger and move to Hawaii, this is going to require some effort or a bunch of money for a shipping container.
- Setting Boundaries: One of the most meaningful chapters/sections in the book was about discussing professional boundaries and openly discussing the consequences of setting those boundaries. It is the employer’s responsibility to push for as much productivity as possible out of an employee. The employer wants/needs a return out of you for the owners. If an employee doesn’t eventually set boundaries and say what they will/won’t do, the employer will continue to ask and push for more. There are consequences at work when you eventually say no, especially around career advancement, but it can also bring the work setup you’ve always wanted. Your employer is presented with the choice of “accept their wishes or they will go elsewhere”.
- My favorite line in business to use towards the end of my career was “choices have consequences”. Whether it was a declined deal, an employee issue, or choosing between competing projects, in business choices have consequences. So many people in life refuse to acknowledge what the consequences are for actions. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: “We can ignore reality, but we cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.” Unfortunately I was in an organization that ignored reality.
Final Thoughts / Geographic Locations:
It’s interesting to think about what we want our life to look like for the next twenty, thirty, or even forty years now that we are in full control. More than a year away from work has brought both clarity and a little confusion to that decision. The most difficult of which is probably thinking about where we live. I’d say we like our current location, but aren’t necessarily in love with it and ready to call it the final place. Not having a job to distract ourselves has made it “feel” like home quicker than any other place has.
There are still questions remaining though: Will we always be nomads, trying a place for a few years then moving on to the next? Will we find a place to permanently settle down? Just like choices have consequences in business, geographic choices have consequences as well. The climate is different in places. Proximity to people is different depending on where we go. The ease or challenges to travel to visit family change. The demands on our early retirement budget can change due to the “paradise tax” – the type of housing I can get in the southeast is very different from housing in Hawaii. What are those tradeoffs? If the tradeoffs require a bit more funding, do I rustle up a little money with freelance work? Will the market just return and solve that for us? How popular is work from home going to be in ten or twenty years and will it price me out of some destinations? These are all things I’m currently debating more than a year into early retirement.
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