I'm extremely excited!
This Monday, February 17, begins a two-week sabbatical from work. I decided to take my entire paid vacation allotment all in one shot this year, instead of splitting it up a few days at a time as I usually do to get paid while I visit my family in Michigan during holiday breaks or the odd weekend. It's been years since I took some time to just relax and take it easy.
Since early 2010 I've been fully engaged in my journey to financial independence. It's been hundreds of weeks filled with long hours at work, building my portfolio from nothing to well into the six-figures, building wonderful relationships with you readers, writing hundreds of articles here on Dividend Mantra and keeping my body in shape as much as possible. It's involved tracking every single penny I've earned and spent while maintaining a healthy balance between frugality and happiness.
However, I've been feeling burned out at work lately, and the addition of a new co-worker strengthened my resolve to take a break from things right now. The new guy has bruised my paycheck more than my ego, and while it's been great to have a reduced workload I can see that my journey to financial independence might be just a tad longer now with less income coming my way. I'm still processing exactly how I feel about all of this as I go, partially because it's still a relatively new change for me. I've been a bit bothered by it, but it's not something I can really control.
So I felt now was a great time to take a couple weeks off from work to step back and concentrate on a few others things to get my mind off this disappointment. And best of all, this is going to be my little "sneak peek" at financial independence, because for the next 14 days I won't have any work responsibilities at all.
Instead, I'll be focusing on a few other things:
The first thing I'm going to do is just relax a bit. For the last few years it's been hard to find any time at all to just chill out. Living down here in Florida is wonderful, but every single time I take vacation pay it's because I'm flying home to Michigan to spend time with my family.
So my idea of a "vacation" over the last few years has involved the hurried rush to the airport and all the stress that comes with flying only to get in as much time with as many family members as I possibly can once I land in Michigan. After a few days of catching up it's back to the airport and doing the security dance so I can fly back to Florida. While I love seeing my family, the whole experience is never really relaxing. Instead it can be quite stressful.
So this year I'm taking a couple weeks to actually relax in a city that so many other people come to vacation in. I won't be going anywhere at all these two weeks. I'll be instead enjoying the opportunity to sleep past 6:30 am and spending some time at our world famous beaches. I really wish I could tell you guys I'm doing something exciting like flying off to Thailand to explore a potential early retirement spot, but I'll be taking a frugal staycation instead.
I'm actually a night owl by nature, so staying up past 10 pm is another thing I'm really looking forward to. In fact, I've always anticipated my ideal day once I'm financially independent to run from 10 am to 2 am. I would then get in eight hours of sleep from 2-10. These two weeks gives me a great opportunity to indulge in my natural circadian rhythm.
Unstructured Free Time
I'm also looking forward to seeing how I do with unstructured free time. One aspect of retirement that seems to catch some people off guard is the lack of a real schedule. I think this is something that some people just naturally do well with, while others need a schedule to keep them in some kind of rhythm. I haven't had a lengthy break from a regular work schedule in many years now, so I'm anxious to see how I do with a lack of a schedule. This little break will be a great little test on exactly how much I enjoy not having a full-time job to report to for 50+ hours per week.
Will I love it as much as I think I will? Or will this little sneak peek at financial independence be a disappointment? Will I actually - gasp! - miss work? I'm excited to get answers!
One major area of concentration for me over the next couple weeks will be writing. I've got about 70 articles in draft mode right now. Some are no more than a title, while some are a paragraph or two long. Blogging has become a real passion for me over the last couple years, and I have you readers to thank for that. I started this blog off as an innocent way to chronicle my journey to early retirement/financial independence, but it's grown into much more than that for me. It's become an outlet for me in a way I never imagined, and I'm really grateful for it.
I tell ya, it's incredibly difficult to work more than 50 hours at a dealership, hit the gym a few times, and then sit down and write a few great articles every week. On top of that there is managing the investment portfolio that has grown into a wonderful monster. Now these are what we call "first world problems", but it's still difficult to manage. These two weeks gives me an opportunity to concentrate on putting my best work together, and writing is something that I think will be what I spend most of my time on once I am actually financially independent years down the road.
Switch To WordPress
As I recently discussed, I'm also in the process of switching over to WordPress. I've been trying to get some help with the move, but I may actually end up doing it all myself as nothing so far has seemed to work out. These two weeks will give me plenty of time to learn how to make the tech side of it work, as I know very little about servers, databases, permalinks and all that other jazz. I'm just a guy who loves to read and communicate with you guys! However, I'm also a guy with a lot of determination. Give me a whole day to figure this out and I bet you I will. Besides, I knew nothing about investing before I started. We all have to start somewhere, right?
I'll have some time to not only get the move right, but also make sure the new platform looks good and works well. It'll give me a chance to work out any potential bugs or issues before you readers see them. I'll also be more available for emails and other communication methods over the next two weeks, as the relationships I have with you readers are something I like to put a priority on.
I have a confession to make. I'm a bit behind in my investment research lately. The aforementioned switch to the new blogging platform has consumed most of my available free time lately as I continue to research how all of this works, transfer my domain name, open a hosting account, etc. So due to that, I've struggled to keep up with not only the stocks within my own portfolio, but also new potential investments.
For instance, I haven't had a lot of time to really read about the announced partnership between The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO) and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. (NASDAQ:GMCR). This is something I usually would have immediately investigated and read every press release I could get my hands on. I just haven't had the time lately, and it's not like I believe Coca-Cola is going to do anything other than what's best for me anyhow. That's one major reason I've entrusted my investment with the company. But that doesn't mean my responsibility as an investor goes out the window. Besides, I enjoy this aspect of investing. If I didn't I'd probably just buy index funds and forget about it.
So I'm looking forward to not only refreshing my memory on what's going on with the 44 companies in my portfolio, but also taking a fresh look at any potential dividend growth stocks out there that could warrant an investment right now. It's a very exciting time for me!
I haven't slacked off at all when it comes to my fitness lately. I lost a lot of weight over the last year and I continue to shed the pounds. In fact, as I write this I'm 171 pounds - which is about as light as I've been since middle school! I'm in some of the best shape of my life right now, but these two weeks will give me an opportunity to run just a little further, work out just a little longer and tweak my body just that little bit more.
The past four years has been crazy, so these next two weeks will give me a nice reprieve from all that and allow me to take it down just a notch. Ultimately, the journey to financial independence isn't about sitting at home all day in pajamas while I eat pizza and watch television. It's really about focusing productivity on things I enjoy, instead of working for an employer and creating value for them.
Look, we all have limited time here on this planet. We're all dying one day at a time. Financial independence is about directing your most limited and valuable resource to the things you really enjoy in life. And the things I enjoy most in life are spending time with the loved ones in my life, writing, managing investments, keeping fit, and occasionally taking it easy. The next two weeks will give me an opportunity to direct my time toward these activities while not worrying about the work that tends to get in the way of the things I love.
Unfortunately, this little experiment comes at the expense of not having any paid vacation left for the rest of the year. So any time spent back in Michigan will either have to be short weekend jaunts, or I'll just have to forgo pay while I see family. However, I think this trade-off is well worth it. Not only do I get a break at an opportune time, but for the first time since I started this journey I get to see what freedom looks like on a day-to-day basis as I continue to go about my normal life. Let's see how it goes!
Full Disclosure: Long KO
How about you? Do you enjoy unstructured free time? What do you think of this little sneak peek?
Thanks for reading.
Photo Credit: Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I'm extremely excited!