I started this blog in January and have been counting down the time to my expected early retirement on April 1, 2016. With February now complete, I have just 13 months more to go. I am capturing my thoughts and creating a countdown checklist each month, so that others can follow along and perhaps learn from my approach.
I am sure like a lot of people that consider themselves “short timers”, I spend a good amount of energy watching the financial markets. February was a pretty good month with the S&P 500 up for the month and +4% year to date. In addition to the US stock market, I also have a sizable investment in an international stock fund, but I haven’t been watching that as closely. Overall, our nest egg seems to be starting the year well and I am well above what I need for early retirement.
My focus continues to be on building up cash reserves, but I didn’t make any stock sales this month. The stock of the MegaCorp I used to work at is a key holding of mine, but it fell back a little bit this month (now flat for the year), so I didn’t sell anything.
The biggest thing we decided to do this month is develop our “One More Year Fund” idea. As a family, we decided that we would put all of my paychecks for our last year of work (starting in April) into a savings account that would be donated to charity in early retirement. That is, my last year of work will be a purely a philanthropic gesture. I wrote about the idea in this blog post and it quickly became the most read topic that I’ve posted so far.
We went to Florida over President’s Day weekend for a quick getaway from the cold where we live. One of our early retirement dreams is to have a place in the sun – or at least a warm getaway location. We stayed in the Fort Myers area and went to Naples, Sanibel Island and Estero. We didn’t tour any properties, but we looked at the kinds of places people rent and own and looked at the costs of each. I don’t think we would buy anything immediately after retirement, but might rent for a few months in the winter and get acclimated to the possibilities.
As I’ve written before, February is performance review and career planning month at the MegaCorp where I work. I haven’t given a hint that I have a plan to retire next year to anyone at this point, so that makes these discussions quite awkward. As I wrote in a recent blog post, I had a particularly difficult meeting with my boss who foresees great things for me at MegaCorp. My plan is to “play along” right now and keep my options open in case I chicken out and work one more year. I hope that’s not the case.
My job, surprisingly, has been quite enjoyable lately. I have a new team and a lot of new people to meet and am excited about the progress we are making against some key initiatives. There have been some enjoyable planning meetings and good recognition from my boss for some of the work the team has done. I’ve also enjoyed working with some of the younger employees in the group and helping them think about their careers. Not all has been rosy, but all in all I am seeing a lot of things that I will miss and need to replace in my early retirement life.
So here is my checklist for February of my last full year of working:
- Continue to build cash reserves to cushion 3 years of retirement spending against market swings
- Keep your options open at work – no sense to start talking about early retirement with the boss yet
- Meet with folks that retired early in the recent past and tap into their wisdom to help you plan
- Watch the financial markets for signs of trouble that could cause you to change your plans
- Start researching your life in retirement, where do you want to live?
- Enjoy your work. You still have quite a few months left – focus on the good
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