Katie and I just wrapped up 19 nights in Hanoi. We visited for the first time almost exactly a year ago, but only for three nights. That previous visit was part of our first trip to Asia and our last vacation ever. At the time, I thought the city was totally crazy but also a lot of fun. It’s a cacophony of sights, sounds, activity, and traffic that’s both entertaining and intimidating. I assumed that a longer stay would allow us to explore at a slower pace, help mitigate some of the sensory overload issues, and be more enjoyable. I was wrong.
By any measure, 2019 was one remarkable year. We experienced such drastic changes that the beginning of the year almost feels like a whole different lifetime. The top among these changes was retiring from our jobs at the ripe old ages of 41 and 42. Even though we have only been retired for 8 months, it might as well have been a decade ago. It feels like forever since I stepped foot into a fluorescent lit office partitioned into cubicles. Part of the reason for this distance is that we completely uprooted our lives upon retirement. If we had stayed in the same place but just stopped going to work, it may not have felt as drastic. Instead, we not only quit work, we also sold everything we owned and got on a plane bound for Thailand. Lots of other things happened too.
In the financial world, front-loading means to invest a large sum early instead of spacing it out over time. (Not to be confused with a front-end load, which is a fee charged by some mutual funds that I would never invest in.) For example, I could front-load my IRA contributions by investing the $6000 maximum in January each year as opposed to contributing $500 per month. Or I could front-load my 401k by contributing more than $1583 per month, reaching the $19,000 yearly maximum before the end of December.
Since our travels have no defined end date, it’s not always easy to decide how long to stay in one spot. Being able to take our time and thoroughly explore our destination is one of the best parts of slow travel. It’s a luxury that we rarely experienced during our working years and we don’t want to take it for granted. Conversely, staying too long in any one area means that we could end up bored. After all, not every place has a lot to see or do. One of the easiest solutions to keep things fresh and interesting is to simply change locations. The first few days in a new spot are always exciting. But even for us globetrotters, the actual act of travel is still no fun. So how do we strike the proper balance?
After leaving Colorado behind, we drove north through the very eastern half of Wyoming to reach South Dakota. The weather was still uncooperative, and constant cold rain meant that we were definitely staying in a motel instead of camping. But we needed to go through South Dakota as opposed to taking a more southern route for two reasons. The first was that I had never been to South Dakota before, and Katie wanted to show me some of the highlights of her childhood vacations. The second was that South Dakota has very liberal residency requirements combined with zero income taxes, so we were there to become official residents.
A few weeks ago, The Karate Kid marked its 35 year anniversary. To celebrate, the studio decided to have a special re-release in select movie theaters nationwide. Considering that it’s quite possibly Katie’s favorite movie of all time, we decided to break our multi-year theater fast and head to the cinema two towns over. Knowing that this would be a popular event, we purchased advanced tickets for a Sunday matinee.
It will probably not shock you to learn that growing up, I didn’t care
much about supermodels. Of course they were attractive, but eyeing a
magazine cover in the grocery store checkout line is about as close as I
got to knowing anything about them. I could put a name with a face, but
that’s about it. I was not into fashion then and not much has changed
with age. As such, I only know two things about Kate Moss. The first is
that she was extremely skinny. So skinny that even the President of the
United States decided to comment on it. (This was back when it meant
something for a President to address an issue, unlike the verbal
diarrhea we’re subjected to on a near-daily basis now.)
When preparing for a marathon, most runners follow a strict training program. Starting a few months ahead of time, they begin with runs of a few miles and eventually build up to a peak of around 18 miles before ramping back down before race day. Unlike people running a shorter race like a 10k, it’s not recommended to actually run the full distance while in training. That 26.2 miles is too hard on the body and requires too much recovery time. The idea is that when race day comes your legs will ache, your lungs will burn, and your feet will scream, but you’ll rise to the occasion using adrenaline and willpower to get through the final stretch to the finish line.
There’s a recurring theme in the media that Social Security will not be around for much longer. Anytime SS makes the news cycle for any reason, multiple discussions pop up about why it’s doomed. According to a 2015 Gallup Poll, over half of the working public expects to receive zero dollars from Social Security. Especially within early retirement circles, there seems to be a misguided badge of honor to plan a retirement without any SS payments. For a bunch of people who analyze numbers and build spreadsheets for fun, I find it dumbfounding that any of them would voluntarily decide to ignore all pertinent data and plan for zero. Especially because the result of ignoring Social Security is several extra years of unnecessary work. I’m not sure whether this is rooted in general anti-government sentiment or simply good old fashioned pessimism, but the idea of collecting nothing is completely unfounded.
Deciding to embark upon retirement in our early 40s can be a scary prospect. As many, many people like to point out, there are numerous risks associated with that decision. The stock market is due for a crash. Our money may have to last 60 years. Economic signs point to a recession. The uncertainty of self-inflicted trade wars, foreign policy, government dysfunction, and [insert current event here] means that the future is bleak. We could be forced to go back to work with a huge resume gap or work a crappy job when we’re old. Quitting in our peak earning years means we’re giving up money and safety when it’s the easiest to amass both. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.