It has now officially been over two years since I’ve received a paycheck.
I did a one year early-retirement retrospective around this time last year, so I figured I’d continue the tradition in order to document things for myself and for anyone else interested in what life after pulling the FI/RE trigger looks like.
Where my first year of not working was dominated by lots of little projects, a lot of time devoted to hobbies, and generally just flitting about and not really accomplishing anything, this year has felt more focused, and dominated by fewer, but bigger things. Because of that it’s also felt generally more productive and healthier than my first year without a 9-5.
While, as mentioned in my one year retrospective, I still don’t have a “typical” day (or even week) to be able to say, “Here’s what I do all day in early retirement,” some things have settled down a bit and I do have some better habits and routines.
I’ve done much better with my to-do system, having settled on using the Rule of 3 combined with the free Todoist app on my phone and computer, and I’ve stuck with it almost all year (something I can’t say for previous productivity methods).
I also get some form of exercise most every single day now, whether a strength workout with dumbbells, or an hour walk with a good podcast (my latest favorite is The History of Byzantium. 220+ episodes on obscure emperors and generals; what’s not to like?).
That said I still get enough variety in my day to keep things interesting, so, to keep to the format I used for last year’s retrospective, here’s just about everything I’ve done this year, broken down into categories for hobbies, passion projects, travel, health, social, and leisure.
I like the format of listing my hobbies first, since early retirement means you get to decide what to prioritize, even though this year, as you’ll see, hobby-time was relatively less of my focus than more substantial passion projects. I still managed to get some stuff done.
- Wrote a 1,730 word draft of quickplay wargames rules for small-scale medieval or fantasy armies.
- Planned out and built two 1:72 scale fantasy armies for playing wargames in Middle Earth.
- Designed and (mostly) built a 1:32 scale wooden stockade fort based on ones from the French and Indian War.
- Wrote one (long) blog post on my wargaming blog detailing the (really nerdy) history of my “imagi-world” where most of my wargame battles take place.
- Wrote 3,148 words expanding on the history of several key nations of this imaginary wargames world.
- Designed 11 flags for my wargames world and for my army men wargame rules.
Here’s where the bulk of my energy was focused this year, and it proved to be much more fulfilling than 2019. These are the projects that may not always be “fun,” but that give me a deeper sense of purpose in early retirement and that I am driven and compelled to do no matter how much hard work they entail.
- Finally started and successfully launched, with a former work colleague, Longevity Advice, a website devoted to taking current anti-aging and life-extension research (long a passion of mine) and translating it so that non-scientists can benefit from all the advances already happening in the space. On my end this involved:
- Researching keywords and article topics.
- Buying a domain and setting up a WordPress installation and email accounts.
- Designing the website with theme, plugins, initial content, and an automated email tool.
- Getting a logo and other brand identity graphics designed on Fiverr.
- Writing a 2,600 word guide to research-backed, at-home biological age tests to use as an email signup incentive.
- Planning a content publishing calendar (we have articles scheduled out through June, 2021…).
- Reading two long books on anti-aging science to learn about the space.
- Planning and executing a big launch promotion push on social, over emails to influencers, and to friends and family.
- Writing, editing, publishing, and promoting (to over 50 different social media groups and sites) 18 long (1,500+ words) articles (eight my own, eight my co-founder’s, and two jointly written) for a total of 36,469 words written by me.
- Collecting 731 (and counting) email subscribers and 333 Twitter followers.
- Helping edit and promote an awesome infographic Rachel designed on the key studies driving life extension research.
- Incorporating the company and signing up for a bank account.
- Signing up for over 20 different affiliate programs.
- Making our first revenue ($98 in affiliate income, woo!).
- Growing traffic to over 3,000 uniques and 5,600 page views by the second month after launch.
(Not to mention the tons of additional design work, writing, research, and outreach done by my co-founder.)
- Continued my libertarian art website and grew it as well, including:
- Writing and publishing four unique articles (6,574 total words), plus updating two others, and promoting all six.
- Finishing a massive update of the ultimate list of libertarian songs that involved roughly quintupling the size of the original list to 350+ songs from 72.
- Grew my email subscribers by 480.
- Tabled at a local Northern Virginia libertarian event and got another 25 email subscribers.
- Got a guest post (949 words) published on the Atlas Society website.
- Did a 4,417 word paid competitive research/content marketing plan for a company a family member works with.
- Did 3-4 other random consulting calls for people who reached out on LinkedIn.
- Wrote and published two articles for this blog (The Big Today) including this one plus most of the rough draft of a third.
Travel was understandably more restrained this year than last year, though we did get some in. Notably:
- Travelled to New Orleans for a week for a wedding.
- Officiated said wedding (yes, I am now legally recognized by the state of Louisiana as someone who can lawfully perform weddings, fer real).
- Travelled to CO for a week for a ski trip.
- Travelled to North Carolina for 17 days for a two-lakehouse vacation (ten days at one, a week at another) and finally learned how to do backflips off a dock.
- Travelled to Natchez, MS for a week for Thanksgiving with a brief stopover in New Orleans for lunch before our flight straight to CO.
- Moved cross-country from DC to CO (oh, right, we live in Colorado now!).
This year felt very easy to get into a workout routine, and I was able to pretty consistently do:
- 40 minute-1 hour walks every day.
- Strength workouts 3 times per week with my father-in-law’s dumbbells.
- Also, as part of my longevity research I started doing 18:6 intermittent fasting.
- I also started doing cold showers based on what I’ve read on life extension (Actually not as bad as they sound, provided you start cold and stay cold. Just like jumping into a cold pool: your body adjusts).
With the obvious caveats, I feel like my social life didn’t suffer all that much this year. Beyond the few trips with friends and family listed above, I also managed to do:
- ~10 big (5+ people) video calls with friends to play board games (like the online version of Secret Hitler) or just catch up.
- ~6, 2-3 hour-long multiplayer computer game sessions with friends (yes, Rome: Total War is just as fun as when it first came out).
- Attended an online high school reunion.
- Hosted (quite a few, actually) dinners at our house (several of them being going away dinners…) and fed as many as 12 different people (at different times) smoked meat from the new smoker my father-in-law gifted us.
I still had plenty of leisure time this year, and the below list likely undercounts a bunch of stuff I forgot. But I was able to:
- Read 17 books, of which favorites included Lifespan: Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To (great intro to longevity research for non-scientists), The Silmarillion (incredible worldbuilding from the master), Disarming (a fun novella exploring the political problems of a libertarian society), and, surprisingly, the dark fantasy Chronicles of the Black Company (I’m not usually into dark edgy stuff, but this was written in the 80s so it’s not dark like the stuff today is), plus ~7 comics and graphic novels including re-reads of several Foxtrot and Calvin and Hobbes collections.
- Watched lots of movies and TV shows, including the 3rd season of Occupied, the 4th season of The Expanse, a re-watch of How I Met Your Mother, and a rewatch of Community.
- Played 12 different computer games (mostly Napoleon: Total War, but also Total Annihilation, and Minecraft) for a combined total of ~90 hours.
Total words written (including this post): 59,579 (that’s longer than my first novel).
So, overall, how does two years of early retirement feel?
Honestly, at this point it just feels normal.
It’s normal for me to wake up at any time without an alarm and no pressing need to get somewhere.
It’s normal to plan out my day, week, and month around what I want to do, and it’s normal to not have many things that I need to do.
It’s normal to be able to take as long as I want on trips or vacations. We spent over three weeks at my parents’ house for the holidays, and were able to decide to stay a few extra days to see my sister off back to school before driving back to our (new) place.
I still struggle with a good sleep schedule and sleep hygiene, I still procrastinate some things, or get distracted by internet browsing and fail to work on other things (especially hobby or leisure things) that I know I want to work on.
But I’ve been able to accomplish a ton this year, especially with regards to the important big projects I’ve identified for myself (seriously, my writing output for Longevity Advice in 2020 alone, not even counting the writing for my libertarian website, hobby writing, and this blog, matched all of my writing output in 2019), and I’m happy I’ve found something I believe in that I can try to contribute to in a meaningful way.
And I’m very glad I took the time to really think through what I consider to be my life purpose and that I am able to devote time and energy and passion to it. It’s really cliché, but I find myself energized when working on Longevity Advice because of my interest in the subject matter and my belief in the global and historical importance of ending the disease of aging.
I think it’s easy when working a corporate job to think that you can’t work in a field or industry that truly excites you because you’d need to switch careers or learn new skills, but these last two years have given me the opportunity to realize that’s not true at all.
You can be doing interesting, important work to improve the world and, when you’re actually passionate about something, you’ll stay up until 3am learning how genetic sequencing machines work to make that article you’re writing about DNA testing as perfect as you can.
So many people psych themselves out and trap themselves in jobs they don’t believe in, because the money’s good or the promotion’s coming or change is just too scary.
But if you’re not working on something that excites you—as someone who has now had that opportunity—I have to say:
It’s worth it.
It is totally fucking worth it.
Find that crypto startup, or gaming giant, or clean water nonprofit that you truly believe in, and do whatever you need to in order to get over there. ASAP.
No early retirement required.
J.P. Medved is a former content marketing director and current novelist, wargamer, and bacon-recipe-tinkerer.