192: How to Live a Big Life in Retirement with Fritz Gilbert
Fritz Gilbert blogs at The Retirement Manifesto, where he provides practical financial independent and retirement planning guidance for people within ten years of retirement. His articles are regularly part of our weekend reading for retirees, and I think he’s one of the best retirement writers working today.
After 33 years in corporate America, Fritz and his wife retired at the age of 55 in June of 2018, sold their primary home, and moved to a cabin in the North Georgia mountains when he’s not traveling the country in his RV.
Today, Fritz and I are talking about the big things he’s learned from his early retirement and second act as a retirement writer, the big regrets that so many retirees have and how to avoid them, and how to tackle the many challenges of retirement that don’t concern money.
GET A FREE COPY OF FRITZ’S BOOK, KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL RETIREMENT
Here's all you have to do...
- Step 1.) Subscribe to the podcast and leave an honest rating & review over on iTunes.
- Step 2.) Send an email to [email protected] with your iTunes username and mailing address, and we will ship you the book for free. It’s that simple!
In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
- Why extensive preparations make all the difference between struggling and thriving post-retirement.
- How to budget for spending you can’t accurately predict and figure out when you’re overspending.
- What “work” is and can be in retirement - and why passion projects, part-time jobs, consulting, and contracting are all okay if you’re doing them because you want to do them.
- Why divorce continues to rise among retirees - and how to keep open dialogue now that you and your spouse are likely spending a lot more time together.
- The unique joy of RVing - and how to be fiscally responsible as an RVer if it suits your lifestyle.
- ""The only person that can find a purpose that really works for them is them."" - Fritz Gilbert
- ""Live like no one else, so later you can live like no one else."" - Dave Ramsey
DisclosureOffer valid in the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, to first-time requestors. During the offer period, receive one (1) in-stock book per request. Limit (1) book per week per household. Limit three (3) books total each calendar year, between January 1 and December 31. Offer valid while supplies last. Howard Bailey Financial, Inc. reserves the right to cancel, terminate or modify this offer at any time. Void where restricted or otherwise prohibited.
Casey Weade: Welcome, Facebook Live. This is your host, Casey Weade, of the Retire with Purpose podcast. And today, we have a very exciting guest. We have Fritz Gilbert here with us today. And if you are thinking about retirement at all, then you've probably met Fritz, you've probably come across some of his articles, especially in our weekend reading for retirees, that collection of four articles we send out every single Friday with commentary from myself. He's got one of the best blogs on retirement, if not, arguably the best blog on retirement out there in the world today. He's won award after award for his work on theretirementmanifesto.com.
We've got a real live retiree here with us who's living a big life in retirement. We're going to talk about his RV escapades. We're going to be discussing marriage and what that's looked like in retirement, contrasting that to his working life. We also are going to be discussing Fritz's book, Keys to a Successful Retirement. So, if you are thinking about retirement, maybe have some friends that are thinking about retirement, they can benefit from this type of content, please share this, start a watch party, throw their name right down in the comments section, so that they catch this content.
And if you have any questions, this is a unique opportunity for you. So, only for the people that follow our Facebook page, if you liked our page, you get to come into these visits and you get to present your questions to our world class experts. So, if you have any questions about retirement, about the experience of retirement, maybe even just RVing or marriage and retirement, this is an opportunity to get those answered, so just write your questions right in the comments section, I will have those questions fed to me. And even if we don't get to your question here right now with Fritz, Fritz will answer those questions on the back end and make sure you get what you need. And with that, I'm going to go ahead and count us down and we will start the podcast in 3, 2, 1. Fritz, welcome to the podcast.
Fritz Gilbert: Casey, thanks. I'm honored to be on your awesome show and I really appreciate you having me on. Thank you very much.
Casey Weade: Well, I'm excited to have you here. I was first introduced to you separately a couple months ago or so. And it was because of an article that you wrote that I just fell in love with. It was about the retirement motto and something ended up in seven letters. We actually ended up doing a little mini podcast on that very article. I did a little write-up about it myself. I just really enjoyed that whole thought. You've got a lot of really good philosophical content that you put out there, not just on the blog, but in MarketWatch and other places. And I've enjoyed that. I think you bring a very unbiased nature to the content that you put out there. And it's not very often that we get to meet a real live retiree that's living it and still studying it on a daily basis.
Fritz Gilbert: Yeah, I think that's what I hear from a lot of my readers, Casey, is there aren't a lot of old guys like me that are bloggers. I mean, you got a lot of the young fire guys, that's great, and women, I mean, there's a lot of fire bloggers, and that's good. But I think for the baby boomer audience, there aren't a lot of bloggers. And I hear that all the time that, hey, you're one of the few that are actually living it. I didn't retire at 35. I retired at 55. I still got a little bit early, that's great. But I've just always had a passion for personal finance.
And I just discovered a couple years before I retired, I just kind of took a flyer, started the blog, and I found out that I love writing. And it's really added a lot of value to my personal retirement to enjoy the challenge of writing. And then, the interaction with readers, the podcast, the interviews that we're doing now, these types of things, it's created this whole element of my retirement that I never saw it coming and I love all aspects of it. So, I appreciate your kind words about my work.
Casey Weade: Yeah. So, you retired in 2018?
Fritz Gilbert: I did.
Casey Weade: And how long have you been doing the blog? How many posts you have now?
Fritz Gilbert: 250-ish. I started three years before I retired and I've been writing every week. So, it's been a little over five years. So, do the math. I'm probably closer to 280, I guess. I don't even keep track to be honest. But yeah, I started three years before I retired. And the first year was really looking at the financials, how do you determine when you're ready to retire?
And then, it wasn't just my journey. It was really, here's what I'm doing, but more importantly, here are the things you need to think about as you're preparing for your retirement, make sure you don't have any blind spots, think about not just the financial stuff, but also what are you going to do in retirement, what's going to be your purpose, which is obviously a hotspot for you, the lifestyle questions. I went through all that myself. And what's nice about documenting it now is on my blog, I've got every article I've ever written and I've timed it so that anybody that's six months away from retirement can go right to my timeline and see where I was when I was six months away from retirement and what I was thinking about. So, it's kind of neat that I've captured it. And so, yeah, I've been writing five years every week.
Casey Weade: That's so neat that someone at a certain period of time from retirement could go back to maybe right where you are, right where you were and learn what you were going through experiencing at that time. What would you say is your biggest learning moment as you've done all this work, all this research, all this writing? And then, maybe it's hard to pinpoint that one big thing, but what would be one of the big takeaways for you and all your writing and setting?
Fritz Gilbert: Yeah, I mean, the one thing that popped in my mind right away and I really do believe it's probably the most important thing and I write about it quite a bit in my book as you know is… okay, let me start with a holistic comment and then, I'll funnel down to what the point is. A lot of people struggle with retirement and your chance of depression goes up by 40% during retirement, probably much more in the COVID environment because people are locked down, mental health issues, etc.
And when I was about a year or two from retirement, I was really intrigued, what causes some people to struggle with retirement, whereas other people seem to have a great retirement? What's the research say? And what I found was, they found the highest correlation to those people that have had a great retirement has been how much time have you put into preparing for retirement before you got there. And obviously, I was borderline obsessive. I was writing about it for three years. So, I was thinking about…
Casey Weade: Arguably still so.
Fritz Gilbert: What’s that?
Casey Weade: Arguably still so. A little obsessed maybe.
Fritz Gilbert: Oh, maybe a little bit, but it's a healthy obsession. But what I've found was those people that spend the most amount of time thinking about retirement. What they want their life to be, not just the financial stuff? What do you want to do with your time after you retire? What interests you? What do you want to pursue?
Those types of things and the amount of time that you spend thinking about them, to me, is the biggest thing I've learned because having been through it myself and spending that much time, my transition to retirement, Casey, was absolutely flawless, it was smooth, it was absolutely enjoyable. And I'm two and a half years in now and I still absolutely love every day of retirement. I've not gone through any boredom, I've not gone through any depression, I've not gone through any loss of identity. A lot of those things that people hit, I've not experienced a single one of them.
And I do attribute a lot of that, some of it's just probably my natural optimism, whatever your personality, but I think the biggest factor that people can control is the fact that I spent a lot of time thinking about it, and anybody can spend time thinking about it. It's just, realize that your job is coming to an end and start ramping down the amount of mental energy you put into your work, still do your job.
I was doing 110% right until the end, but when you're not working or when you're commuting, instead of thinking about that conference call that you messed up with, with a boss or whatever, put it out of your mind, it's going to be gone in a year or two years. Put that discretionary time. Don't commit that to work anymore. Find a way to put more and more of that energy into thinking about what you want your life to be post retirement. That's the biggest takeaway that I would say, I've learned.
Casey Weade: Well, I see that with the families we work with. You've got those couples that will come in and say here's everything, just tell me what to do. And then, you've got the others that want to sit down, they want to know, they want to understand where they're at, they want to understand where they're going, and they want to have deeper conversations. They don't want to just talk about the finance stuff. They want to get into those really meaningful conversations about purpose and retirement.
And those people that are willing to not just, they come in and meet with an advisor and in two hours, they've got a plan and they're on their way to retirement, I find they're not nearly as happy, not nearly as satisfied as those individuals that are willing to put in the time to be there for four or five meetings and really get a little bloody-eyed honestly with us. Let's really get into this stuff and get educated and know what we're doing. And then, if you put that time out on the front end, I find those individuals aren't coming back and continually asking questions and continually bringing up concerns, it's the ones that didn't put in that time to really understand that have that issue.
Now, you said that you started with the financial stuff. In your bio, it says one of the leading bloggers on the subject of retirement with a focus on both the harder and softer issues that are critical to success after crossing the starting line and say harder would be financial, softer would be lifestyle. You started with the harder stuff, but then, don't think you quickly transition to the softer stuff? Is there one that's more important than the other? Should we start with the harder stuff or the softer stuff first?
Fritz Gilbert: I think it's natural to start with the harder stuff. When you talk about purpose and that kind of thing to somebody that's, let's say, three or maybe five years or more from retirement, life changes. You don't necessarily know what you're going to be interested in. And the only thing that really matters when you're thinking about retirement and you're more than three years out, it really is the financials. Are you saving enough? Are you on a path? If you run some calculators, if you talk to an advisor, do you kind of have an idea of when you're thinking about retiring? And are you saving aggressively enough to get there?
I would say the financials are necessary but not sufficient. You have to have them, but if you stop with just the numbers, you're missing out on making it the best possible retirement you can make. But clearly, you've got to have the financial. So, if you are going to have only one of the two, clearly, you've got to have the financials. I just wrote an article last week, The 6 Most Common Mistakes that people make for retirement and 43% of retirees have regrets. And the vast majority of those are around how much income they've got in retirement.
They were overly optimistic on how much social security they were going to get. They were overly optimistic on their returns, whatever. They didn't get the financials and they're now having regrets in retirement. So, you've got to have the financials. And for the first, up until maybe you're two years away from retirement, I'd say, maybe even a year, year and a half, I would say make the focus the financials. But if you're within 12 months of retirement and you haven't started thinking about the softer stuff, as I call it, man, red light. Think about it because it really, really matters.
Casey Weade: It's a good timeline and I see it as, let's grab a calculator at first. The first step is, should I even be thinking about retirement? Is this even worthy of my time and effort right now to try to think about that purpose and meaning and vision for the future? Let's just grab a calculator, maybe sit down with a financial advisor, grab a retirement calculator, figure out if it's even possible from a high level. If it's possible from a high level, now we know, yes, it could happen, should it happen. That's when we are looking at those softer things. And as we get closer, if we go, yes, I could retire and yes, I want to retire. Now, we need to put together a specific plan of action. Now, we get into the nitty gritty details.
Fritz Gilbert: Yeah. And I would argue that you can do high-level numbers, obviously, you can estimate your living expenses and everybody needs to do that. We tracked every dime we spent. We typically haven't been budgeters. I saved 20%, 25% of my earnings. Sorry, I got a cough today. Hope, I don't have corona. But we saved 20%, 25% and we just spent the rest. We knew we were saving enough. So, we never really tracked our spending.
And we went through a full year when I was about two years out, we tracked every spending we spent and we built a very grounded forecast of kind of, okay, this is what our current spending is, how do we see that changing in retirement? And then calculating, do we have enough to retire based on that? Well, obviously, you can't do that exercise without thinking about what do you want to spend your money on in retirement?
The RVing is an example. We were already thinking about, we want to travel, we want to do RVing, we want to do things like that, so let's factor that in. When we adjust our current spending to our post work spending, let's factor in some spending for RV travel. So, you kind of have to think about your retirement lifestyle and what that's going to cost as you go through the financial exercise. It makes it a lot more accurate.
Casey Weade: It's amazing to me how many individuals that we'll sit down with for the first time. They're just going to retire this year and they've never put together a budget. They have no idea how much they’re spending. And it's just really concerning for me if that's the case. And I wonder what that experience was like for you when you first decided to start putting together that budget, whether tools that you use, I mean, maybe you didn't do a budget for a decade or more, now you have to go back and do a budget. Was it a spreadsheet? How did you track the spending? Did you have a method?
Fritz Gilbert: Yeah, I basically just took a spreadsheet, I've kind of always been a spreadsheet guy, I've always tracked my net worth and things like that on a spreadsheet. And Casey, I mean, I would literally just stick receipts in my pocket or if I used a credit card or something, I would just send myself a quick email or text on my phone, whatever. And then, when I got to my computer, I'd open up the spreadsheet and I'd put in whatever we'd spent money on since the last time I sat down with a spreadsheet. So, a couple times a week, I'd sit down, I'd say okay, gas, $32 or whatever. And I kind of broke it into major spending categories.
So, transportation, housing, insurance obviously a big one. And I did kind of capture it by budget. Actually, I have a spending spreadsheet on my websites free to print anybody that wants to go out there. So, I've got the spreadsheets that I used. And I don't think you have to overcomplicate it, the key is, like you said, I never tracked it, you can't estimate how much you're spending, because you're going to miss some things.
And what I found interesting, as I went through it for the year, you don't realize how much money you're spending on some things and it gave me an opportunity to challenge some of our spending, insurance comes to the mind, I shopped our car insurance, I hadn't done that for years and saved quite a bit of money. So, one of the extra benefits of doing it is you can kind of see those areas that you might want to think about, Hey, is there an opportunity to potentially reduce some spending in some areas as well?
Casey Weade: If you can't accurately predict future spending, did you build in some kind of buffer?
Fritz Gilbert: Yeah, basically, like, let's talk about insurance, that's the big one, obviously, for people. I retired at 55 and my employer used to have retiree health insurance, they've discontinued it. So, what do you use for health insurance estimate? And you can't just guess, I mean, it's a huge unknown. So, what I would do in a case like that is I would do some research, I would kind of find the typical non subsidized because I do have a pension, so I wouldn't qualify for the ACA subsidies or anything like that.
So, what is the full-burdened cost of private health insurance? And I found ranges, but say 2500 is kind of on the high end of the range, okay, I'm going to use the high end of the range, I'm going to assume 2500 a month. And we did that for basically everything. We kind of estimated a little bit on the high side, the logic being, I'd rather have surprises to the good than surprises to the bad.
So, our entire retirement budget, now you could argue, well, maybe I had to work longer than I really would have needed to. Yeah, to me, what would it be? A couple months, six months maybe, I mean, even a year, I ended up working a year longer than the numbers that I had to and I'm very glad I did, we could talk about that. But I think having some buffer is really important because once you get into retirement, having that peace of mind that you were conservative in your planning. And now, we're not paying 2500 a month for health insurance, so it's like, Okay, good. We're falling below those projections. And our withdrawal rate is slightly lower than we projected and everything's good. So, there's a lot less stress and a lot more enjoyment when you get into retirement if you're more conservative on the planning side, in our case.
Casey Weade: Now, I guess, question one, are you continuing to track your spending? And are you spending more today than you did when you retired back in June of ‘18?
Fritz Gilbert: Yeah, good question. I actually got a question from Facebook about the bucket strategy. So, I think I can probably talk about these in the same case. Here's how I did the spending tracking, I don't want to sit here and track spending in a spreadsheet, that was insane. I did it for 11 months, I didn't actually make it a full-year full disclosure. We made it 11 months, but I'm not going to spend my retirement plugging every dime that I spend into a spreadsheet, that's crazy.
So, what I did and I just kind of came up with this, I've got articles about it, if you search for the bucket strategy on my blog, basically, I created a retirement paycheck and I move money every month from a Capital One 360 money market account into our checking account. And every month, I've got, so I know in January, how much was in that money market fund, I transfer money every month, I can track my pension coming in easily enough. At the end of the year, all I have to do is look at the beginning balance minus the ending balance and I can see how much we spent out of our Capital One 360, add my pension to it, boom, I know how much we spent in the year.
Now, I can't track it down to the category level, but I don't need to, as long as I know that we're within our safe withdrawal rate and we're not overspending. That's the biggest concern is you've got to have some kind of mechanism to make sure you're not overspending your safe withdrawal rate. And if you are, you recognize it and you make adjustments. So, I set up the simplest process that I could think of, that would kind of provide those guardrails without taking any work. I mean, it literally takes me 30 minutes a year to do that. It's really, really simple. And it works. So, that's how I track my spending now.
Casey Weade: And are you spending more? When we make more and more money while we're working, we have lifestyle creep, we tend to spend more on retirement. You find that maybe your portfolio is doing better than you had projected or you have a little bit more income than you had projected. Do you see some creep as well in retirement?
Fritz Gilbert: Yeah, interesting question, Casey. I think, if you look at the research, the vast majority of retirees understand what they could be spending. And I wrote an article called, It's Time to Live Like No One Else, the Dave Ramsey quote. Live like no one else, so later you can live like no one else. Well, now, it's later. What does live like no one else after retirement look like? So, I wrote an article about it.
And basically, what I said in that article is I'm going to spend what we can spend. I'm not going to underspend because so many retirees fall into that natural, especially if you've always been lifelong diligent, you underspend your paycheck, you do a good job saving, your natural tendency is to be a bit frugal. And when you know you can spend X, your natural tendency is to spend less than X, but you don't need to. If you look at all these Trinity studies, etc., you can spend your X.
So, what I developed was this monthly transfer from the Capital One which came out of bucket one cash, I can spend that entire monthly transfer. It's all calculated, I don't have to worry about it. Market may go up and down, but I've got three years of cash. I can write out the storm. So basically, what we're doing is we're spending up to that amount. And we got into a situation, I wrote my book, obviously, I assumed no income in retirement. Again, conservative assumptions across the board.
And I'm making some income in retirement. I wrote my book, I make a little bit of money on the blog, not a lot, but it helps. So, what we're doing when we found that we were underspending, we're like, “Well, we've got a little bit here. What should we do?” And we're contributing, we're very into charity, we're supporting our church, we're tithing, things like that. So, we decided, “Well, you know what? Let's look at the numbers.” And we decided to build what I call the Purposeful Workshop.
I love to write. My wife is running a nonprofit. So, we were starting to get into a situation where her nonprofit was growing so much, and she was working in a spare bedroom, in the little corner of the bedroom with the bed there. She didn't have room. So, we're like, “Look, why don't we give you my office upstairs?” We had a loft in our cabin. I'm looking out the window, people see my eyes going up. Our cabin is literally right there.
So, we decided, well, let's give her my old office. It's a nice big loft. It's great. And we'll build a new building, which is where I'm at now. If you look behind me, this is now my writing studio. And we built adjacent to it a woodworking shop because I've always wanted to get into woodworking. My wife's charity, we build free fences for low-income families that have dogs on chains. Well, we also provide dog houses and we're struggling to keep up with dog houses. So, I'm like, “Hey, I like woodworking. Why don't I build a woodworking shop? I can start making dog houses. That sounds fun.” I had an interest in woodworking. And we had the financial means to do it. So, I would say we're not underspending, we're not overspending, we're spending what we know we can spend. And we have a mechanism to control it.
Casey Weade: That's great. We had a question from Becky on Facebook right now. And I think it's a valid question. She asked, “How can you tell mid-year if you're overspending?” So, go ahead.
Fritz Gilbert: Hey, Becky. I know Becky. She's got a great blog, actually. She just started one out. I wish it was something about 50. Sorry, Becky, put your blog name out there, we'll give you some promotion. But yeah, Becky's a friend of mine. Yeah, basically, Becky, what I can do by that when I'm doing the automatic monthly transfers from Capital One, if there's money in our checking account, we're okay. If we get to the end of the month and we're starting to scrape low, we have a minimum kind of, we leave some money in there, obviously, but we know if we get below X, hey, we kind of overspent this month.
So, mid-year, we kind of just do it based on what's in the checking account. And all the transfers from Capital One are all automated, they just flow every month. Pension obviously is automated, flows every month. So, we know that we can spend what's in the checking account. And that kind of becomes our month-to-month budget is just spend what’s in checking.
Casey Weade: So, you're really keeping an eye on it from a month-to-month basis, not just looking at it at the end of the year, we're looking at it every single month to see if there's little excess or maybe not enough. And then, if you're saving for a vacation or you're saving for a new car, is there a portion of that that's always set aside into a savings for those one-off expenses?
Fritz Gilbert: Great point, Casey. I built into this thing and again, I get into quite a bit more detail than we will on this. But what I do, every January, obviously, I refill bucket one, I set up the Capital One to run the monthly paycheck. Well, what's nice about Capital One is you can actually set up sub-accounts. So, we set up a sub-account under Capital One that's not part of my monthly paycheck. And I saw an article, there's a really good book by the Wall Street Journal about retirement planning and I'll get the name, it's over on my calendar.
Basically, if you look at things, like you got to replace a car, you've got to replace an air conditioner, I live in Georgia, it's hot, you got to replace a roof, you got to do siding repair on your house, those I call unexpected but expected, you're going to have those unexpected-expected costs. And so, what we do is if you look at a car, for example, let's say you're going to buy a car every pick a number three years to make the math easy, let's say it's going to cost $30,000. So, that's $10,000 a year, high level, forget that there's residual value, I'm just using this as a demonstration. That would be $10,000 a year that you need to be planning on for your car expenses. That's what? $800 a month.
So, $10,000 every year, you need to have for your car. Well, I'm not going to buy that in year one. So that 10,000 is sitting in my subcategory over there in Capital One. In January of the next year. I've got a reef, I've got to add to that unexpected-expected budget, that amount. And what it comes down to is $12,000 a year. If you look at all those things that you need, the car, the siding, look at an air conditioner, how long does it last? 15 years. What's the cost? 5000. You do all that math and you break down those major expenses, which is all outlined in that blog post, in our case, that came out to about $12,000 a year.
So, every year in January, I pushed $12,000 into that sub-account and if I don't spend anything, great. The next year, I'll put another 12,000 in. The next year, I'll put another 12,000 in. At some point, we got to buy a car. Well, we'll have the money sitting there in cash in that sub-account because we're basically, budgeting for it every year, even though it's a lumpy spend. That's how we manage the unexpected-expected.
And then, during the course of the year, if anything comes up that I kind of determine falls into that type of category, we just pull out, out of that account. And again, look at January versus December, you can see how much unexpected-expected spending you had just by subtracting the ending balance from the beginning balance. So, it's a real simple way to manage those one-off expenses.
Casey Weade: I love that, unexpected-expected expenses. This is something that we run into with families we work with all the time. They'll come into, well, what if I need a car? What if I need new air conditioning unit or new roof? And will you budget for those things? I just thought this is really, I mean, what you just talked about, it's Budgeting 101. And this is people ask, well, how does Dave Ramsey's program, Financial Peace University, how does that fit into retirement planning, that's more for people in the accumulation stage?
Well, a lot of it goes back to budgeting. And sometimes, we need to revisit those things if we haven't taken a good look in a while. I don't want to go too far down the budgeting rabbit hole because there's some other things I want to make sure that we get to, but I do want to ask about that piece in your bio that says critical to success after crossing the starting line. And so, that got me thinking, what is the starting line? Is the starting line your retirement date? Does the starting line happen six months before? What is the retirement starting line? I also think it's becoming a little blurrier, too.
Fritz Gilbert: Yeah, no doubt. You talk about, can you work in retirement? Well, I would argue I'm working right now, but I love this stuff. This isn't work. So, to answer your question and then, we'll get into the philosophy of it. To me, the starting line is the day you retire. And the reason I call that is so many people think of retirement is the end. I've been working my whole career, I'm finally done. It's not the end, it's the beginning of a whole new life.
Retirement is a phase in life that is unlike any since you were probably 4 years old. Nobody's telling you what to do. You can entirely decide what you want to do with your free time. You don't have to go to work. Now, with that comes the challenge of finding what you're going to do self-driven. That brings you the joy in life. But to me, the reason it's the retirement date is because that's the date that you stop working for somebody else and you start doing whatever it is that you choose to do.
And even if you decide to do a part-time job, that's fine to me. You're still retired because your decision to do that part-time job is if you've done your numbers, it's no longer driven by financial considerations, it's driven by the fact that you enjoy doing that and you're only doing it because of the non-financial benefits that that brings to your life. Hey, the financials might be a nice little side benefit, but I look at my writing, for example, in my book, I didn't write it for the income I got from it, I could care less, I would have done it for free. The reason I wrote the book is because, hey, I wanted to write a book.
Retirement is that time in life when you can do something just because you want to do it, you don't have to consider whether you're going to make money or not. You can think more about those softer elements. People think about, oh, when I leave work, I'm losing my paycheck. Man, there's so much more that you lose when you leave the workplace that people don't think about. You got the social interactions. You've got the challenges, the deliverables. You got your objectives with your boss. You've got the presentations. You've got to do whatever.
Those types of things provide some meaning in your life, a sense of accomplishment, etc. And I think finding those things in retirement that can replace those non-financial elements of work is a real sweet spot. And if you choose to do that through part-time work, that's fine. That's what you’ve chosen to do in your retirement. You're still retired. So, yeah, the lines have blurred because so many people are doing part time work. I would argue that my writing could be perceived as part-time work. I view it entirely different. I view it as totally voluntary.
We're leaving next week. We're heading out to Seattle to help our daughter move back to Alabama. I'm taking a month off from writing. I don't have a boss. Sure, my readers, yeah, I write every week, I've been very consistent, but if I want to take a month off, I can take a month off. That's a different type of work than when you're before the starting line. That's post-starting line work, it's totally different than pre-starting line work.
Casey Weade: It's voluntary work. And I make a parallel here with marriage, you don't have to continue to work on your marriage, but if you want it to work out, you have to continue to work on your marriage. And you're not working for money, you're working for fulfillment and a bigger life, which is much like retirement. You never stop working, you're just working for yourself now and you're working on yourself and that never ends. Now, you post you’re starting by line back a little bit and the original plan was to retire in 2017, so why the delay?
Fritz Gilbert: Yeah, the main reason on that, Casey, there were two main factors. One, I had an uncle who retired probably a little bit before he should have. And I was at a wedding and we were talking about, I say, I'm thinking about retiring maybe five years or so. It was before I started the blog, it was quite ways out. And he gave me some advice that just penetrated and it stuck with me. And he basically said, “Look, Fritz,” he said, “when you're at that point and you're close to thinking about retirement,” he said, “just really make sure.” He said, “because you will never replace the income that you're making in your peak earning years. No matter what you do in retirement, you'll never come close to making that amount of money.” He said, “so just make sure because once you walk away, you're walking away.” So, that stuck with me.
The second thing was I shared that advice with a friend of mine who was retiring a year before me and he decided to wait an extra year. And then, actually, he was going to retire two years before me. He waited a year and then, he retired and he told me, “So, Fritz, that was the best advice I ever got.” He said, “We have more money than we need. There's zero financial anxiety in our life. I'm so glad I worked that extra year.”
So, hearing that from both of those people, our numbers said we could do it, but I'm conservative, I cushioned everything in our budget and I just decided, you know what? I don't hate my job. I mean, I'm still only 54. I can work another year, sure, it feels like a long time when you're in the middle of it, but once you get out of 55, if that extra year truly does lead to less anxiety for the rest of my life, man, that's a pretty good trade-off. So, I did work one more year and now, looking back at it, two and a half years in, I feel the same way as my friend did. I'm so glad I worked the extra year.
We can build the workshop that I'm sitting in, we can do those things. And yeah, I gave up a year of my life, that's not a decision to make lightly, but the benefit of that is every year that I'm alive after that is more relaxing and less stressful. So, that's kind of the trade-off you need to think about.
Casey Weade: Well, Jonah Moffitt, if I pronounced that correctly, who just posted a question to our Facebook as we're live here said…
Fritz Gilbert: Yeah, I know her as well. Hey, Jonah.
Casey Weade: Is there anything you would have done differently now that you've been retired for two and a half years? I would add to that, was there anything that you overlooked or unique issues being retired so relatively early?
Fritz Gilbert: Yeah. I want to be humble, but I'll just be honest. I am absolutely 100% content with the way we went through this process and I find it almost hard to say that, but I struggle to think of something that I would say, “You know what? I wish we would have done this. I wish we would have done that.” There's nothing that comes to mind and even when I'm just lying in bed, whatever, thinking, writing, whatever, there's nothing that I think about that I have regrets over the process we went through. I mean, it's been that good of a transition for us.
Casey Weade: Were there any surprises?
Fritz Gilbert: I don't know that I would say surprises. I have actually been documenting, I called it the Retirement Reality series. And I've written like five or six posts in this Retirement Reality series, where I talk about what I'm thinking as I go through the various phases. Like I talked about earlier, if you're six months before retirement, you can go right back in my timeline and see where I was. Well, I've done the same thing post retirement after I've crossed the starting line and I just finished one about the two-year mark and I think probably the biggest thing that I would say is, I always kind of knew this thinking about what you wanted to do and finding something that gives you purpose. I knew that was important, but I don't think I really appreciated how important it was until I actually lived it myself. And the fact that I've got so much contentment right now, I think, demonstrates, I guess, the value of that.
I think the other thing I think about when I hear that is probably the lack of appreciation for how big of a change it is for both people in the relationship. You mentioned relationships earlier. It's really, really important to think about how this is going to affect both people in the relationship. And my transition was great. I've been thinking about it. Obviously, my wife and I talked about it all the time. We were really thinking we were ready. I made the transition. I was great. I was motivated. I was writing. I was having a great time.
Well, what happened in my wife's case was she was a pretty much full-time caregiver for her mom, her mom had Alzheimer's. She lived with us for four years. And a couple years before I retired, she ended up having go on a nursing home, but she was nearby and my wife went in almost every day. So, it really was kind of my wife's job, was taking care of her mom, being there for her. And her mom died three months after I retired in September of ‘18. And my wife kind of went through a thing because she hadn't been thinking about that as a job and suddenly, her mom was gone and she hadn't really gone through that mental exercise that I had about what do we want to do post retirement that brings you purpose.
Her purpose was kind of caring for others. From the time our daughter was born 25 years ago, my wife had been a caregiver and suddenly, that job was gone. And I think, in hindsight, it's worked out great. She started this charity, she's doing great, we're loving life. But there was, I would say, a more difficult transition for her because we didn't recognize that caregiving was kind of the same as a job and we hadn't fully anticipated the impact of losing a parent and how that changes what you do with your day. So, that's probably the biggest surprise, I would say.
Casey Weade: Well, I wasn't going to go there quite yet, but let's talk romance. So, I came across an article you were quoted in MarketWatch titled, How to Make Retirement Romantic, love the article. And I mean, the reality is, I mean, just look at the divorce rate. The divorce rate of US adults aged 50 and older has about doubled since the 90s. It's the fastest growing segment of divorce today. Why do you think that is? There's a lot of speculation and a lot of people want to point to this or that what. What is your reasoning?
Fritz Gilbert: Yeah, I think what it is, Casey, and I'm no expert by any means, I'm just one guy and one wife. We've gone through retirement recently, but I think if you look at COVID, as an example, how many people have struggled in their relationships when suddenly the spouse who's been going to the office every day or maybe both spouses are going to an office every day and suddenly they're home working from home, bumping into each other all day long? How many of them have kind of had a tough adjustment? Probably a lot.
It's no different with retirement. I’ll share a story, I put this in my book. I had a buddy of mine who his wife had been a stay-at-home mom, this guy retired and he was a guy who his job was kind of making things better, he was a process-improvement guy. So, he’d do any to analyze the way they're doing things and he’d make them better. That was his mind, that's what he'd done for years.
So, he's watching his wife load the dishwasher or something and he starts telling her how she could do it better. I mean, it's classic story, but that's what happens. She's like, “Hey, I know I load a dishwasher, I've been doing for 30 years.” He goes, “Yep. Sorry.” I think you have to recognize that going from one or both spouses being in the workplace all day long to suddenly both spouses being home all the time is a big, big change.
And I think, fortunately, one of the things we did and I really encourage listeners, watchers to do this is, as you're thinking about the soft side in that last year or so that you're working, kind of reach an agreement with each other. How much time is going to be kind of we time, stuff that we do together? What do you want to do on your own? My wife really got into pottery shortly after we retired, okay, great. You've each got to have those individual things that you like to do and you have to have the freedom to go do those without feeling guilty, without the other one getting mad at you.
You've got to kind of have an agreement, hey, okay. You don't have to structure 10 hours a week, whatever. I love to go to the gym, I take spin classes, I work out every morning, that's kind of my time. My wife, she does her charity stuff which takes a lot of time. She likes to paint, she's getting into some arts and craft-type style, that's great. She has some time for her stuff. I have some time for my stuff. And we do a lot of stuff together. But kind of talking through that and recognizing how big a change it's going to be and having a little bit of understanding going in, of how that's going to work, and talk frequently once you retire and you're going through those adjustments, “Hey, don't tell me how to load dishes, I know how to load dishes.”
Having an open relationship, where you can kind of be honest about what's irritating you about the other person, man, that matters more in retirement than any other time because you're always together, and it's great. But you've got to be prepared for how big of a change that is to a relationship.
Casey Weade: Well, I've been setting the 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership for a while now. And one of the things that I took away from that book had to do with communication with your spouse. Many people won't have these types of discussions of things that bother him, the things that irritate him, that kind of bury those things. And then, that actually leads to boredom in a relationship. You're never going to be bored if you're always talking about stuff that irritates you.
Fritz Gilbert: That's true. And again, you may never be happy. If you focus always on the stuff that irritates you, you may never be happy. There's a balance there.
Casey Weade: There's a delicate balance. So, I feel like we should stay here a little bit longer because we had about a half-dozen questions. There's probably more questions that we ever had on marriage. We have questions that come from Facebook, but we also have some questions that come from our weekend readers. So, for those of you that subscribed to Weekend Reading, you have an email opportunity every single time before a guest comes on to present us with the questions.
And so, I've got a couple here, and it's kind of long, but I think it's important and I think it's really valid and relevant here. So, Shawn Peterson says, I am currently 52. I plan on retiring in eight years at 60. As a couple, my wife and I were happily married, recently became empty nesters, enjoying some more time together. When I retire, I truly believe that we are both looking forward to spending even more time traveling and working on projects together. However, while I am still working away from home about 45 hours a week, my wife also enjoys a considerable amount of time to herself.
As we are looking forward to retirement and obvious concern of hers, I believe is that I will be hanging around a lot more and intruding on her “me time,” my questions are two. So, one, how big of a concern is this towards maintaining a happy marriage? Number two, how can I help alleviate her worries in advance of retirement and assure her that I will still respect her need for personal space? Then, Mark Linna threw in there as well on the same lines. He said, how do you carve out space when you and your spouse are now together all the time retirement? So, you got three different questions but all along the same lines.
Fritz Gilbert: Yeah. And I'll add to it, I actually went to a retirement dinner for somebody I used to work with and his wife actually came up to me and said, “Fritz, what am I going to do when he's home all the time? He's going to drive me crazy.” So, I mean, everybody has that concern. And I've always been interested in the retirement topic. So, years ago, I started talking to people in the workplace when they were getting ready to retire and almost every single one of them raises this question. I don't know how it's going to work when I'm home all the time. Well, everybody has that concern. And I think I applaud the reader for saying that his wife is concerned about his invading her “me time.” That's exactly what I was talking about.
You have to recognize that you have your routine, let's just assume the guy is working and the woman's at home because that's what the reader situation is. You've got your routine as the guy, you're driving to the office, you do your thing at the office, you drive home. Well, don't fail to recognize your wife has her routine. She's been doing something for years, that's kind of her routine. My wife kind of has a flow to her day. She does certain things at certain times. She likes to read at certain times, whatever. And I think understanding that and recognizing it and talking about it before you get to retirement is exactly what I was mentioning in our last little chat, that you've got to realize that that's going to change, but you can still carve out time for both of you to do the things that you want to do, while also accommodating the reality that you're going to have a lot more time together.
So, I think it's a balancing act. It's not kind of a one-and-done discussion. It's an ongoing thing, but I think the first important thing is to recognize that the change is going to be equally big. If you've got a stay-at-home spouse, the change is just as big for the stay-at-home spouse as it is for the one leaving the workplace and don't ever underestimate how big of a change that is. And you just have to talk through it.
Casey Weade: And with this communication, usually, there's some negotiation or compromise in a marriage and especially around retirement, were you always on the same page with Jackie? Or were there some areas of compromise?
Fritz Gilbert: Well, I'll tell you something we did. Well, first of all, I would say, we thought we were always on the same page and we got a great relationship. I can't remember the last time we had a fight, we're very compatible, we see things very similar, but I think when her mom passed away and I was invigorated, I was still in my honeymoon period of the retirement so I was on cloud nine, and she kind of obviously went through a mourning process, not only for losing her mom, but for kind of losing that purpose that had been driving her. We had some pretty good discussions through that because she said, I'm looking at what you're doing and you're having a great time, and she was, I don't know what I'm supposed to do.
So, I think having that transparency in your relationship where you can have those discussions. And we talked through it, I mean, obviously, I've written a lot of articles. My whole focus is of finding purpose and self-driving, self-motivating yourself to do those things that matter. So, fortunately, I kind of had that knowledge and we talked about it. And the biggest thing I would encourage people might be a little bit of a sidebar, but let me mention this first, if something interests you a little bit, pursue it because what you're probably going to find is one of you in the relationship is going to be more engaged with something and you're going to love it, you're going to be getting all that fulfillment. And the other one may not have found their thing yet.
That was the case with my wife and I, I’d kind of found my thing and she had not yet started her nonprofit. In time, she found it, but the way she found it, I think is relevant. And she saw a Facebook thing, Mike Rowe, the Dirty Jobs guy. He does a Facebook show, where he profiles different nonprofits and he profiled a nonprofit out in Oregon. I think it was called Freedom for Fido that did exactly what we now do here in Georgia, where they build fences for low-income dogs, get them off the chains. And my wife saw that and she was, “You know what? We could do that here. I could do that here.” And that was the spark.
And I think the takeaway is, she saw that and rather than just watch it and then go on to the next thing, she took the first step. And within a couple months, she had a 501(c)(3) set up, she had a board of directors, she had banking, she had a post office box, she was raising money. We were building the fence within three months of that first time she saw the video and it's exploded since then. And she is absolutely loving it. She's found her thing.
So, if something interests you, pursue it. And if you see that your spouse is struggling, you're fired up, or I think a lot of times, the woman that talked to me at that retirement thing was worried because this guy was pretty much a workaholic and he didn't have any outside interests and she kind of had her life. She was doing her thing, she was going to whatever she was going to during the day, she played tennis with other ladies, whatever. And she knew that this guy didn't kind of have his thing yet. So, it all leads me to that same thought process of how do you find your purpose in retirement. And if one of you in the relationship has found it and one of you hasn't, it's probably going to cause some conflict.
Casey Weade: Now, I just have a question. Whose responsibility is them? So, you found yours, your spouse doesn't, is it your responsibility to help? And if it is, to what degree?
Fritz Gilbert: Well, you could go deep on marriage counseling here, I guess. To me, I look at it almost like an addict. You can enable somebody, but you can't make them stop. They've got to want to stop. To me, it's not unlike that. You can encourage somebody to, “Hey, I think you should try to find a purpose” but such a broad statement. What does that even mean? The only person that can find a purpose that really works for them is them, I don't think it's a problem if you want to.
And in my book, I do a whole section on resources in the back because a lot of people do struggle with this. And there are people that you can reach out to that are professionally trained to help you find these types of things in your life, but ultimately, you can't make your spouse do that. It's got to be something that that individual wants to do. And if they just don't want to do it, I don't know what to tell you. You can't force somebody and you're probably going to have some bumps in the road.
Casey Weade: That's great. Yeah, one more question on the relationship stuff came out of something you had brought up in that MarketWatch article, you said that you and your wife created an activity jar to focus on making the most of the next phase of life. Can you tell us a little bit about that? I thought that was an interesting exercise.
Fritz Gilbert: Yeah. And again, this was in that pre-retirement stage where I was, how do you find things that bring fulfillment in retirement? I don't know where I got the idea, but about a year before I retired, I kind of presented the idea and we talked about it. We came up with the concept. We put a cookie jar in our bedroom with a little poster thing next to it and we kind of encouraged each other, “Hey, once a week, come up with an activity that you'd like to do. It can be something we've done before, but ideally, maybe something we haven't done before.”
So, it was neat because I didn't know what she was putting in the jar, she didn't know what I was putting in the jar, but each week, we would each put an activity in the jar, the thinking being on the day we retired, if we did one activity a week, we would have two years’ worth of activities to do once a week, half of which were driven by me, half of which were driven by her. So, it's a neat concept for either one in the relationship to have equal influence on what you're going to be doing in retirement.
And I'll be honest, we've gotten so busy at our own retirement, we haven't gotten anywhere near through two years’ worth of activities, I mean, not even close. But I think the mental exercise of trying to find something every week is really good because I was on Google looking around things in our area and things we hadn't done before and, “Hey, Chattanooga is not too far.” “Well, I don’t know Chattanooga yet.” “Okay, we're going to spend a weekend at Chattanooga, put that in the jar.”
So, it makes both of you think about what do you want to do in your spare time once you get into retirement, whether or not you actually do it or not, surprisingly, probably isn't the point. I think the point is that you both have equal say and there's an equal chance that you'll be doing something that either party picked, so it worked out really well for us, but we've come nowhere near tapping into 100 items now, probably 125 weeks in, we're nowhere near tapping into the hundred items, yet. We can't, everybody says you're too busy in retirement. We really have found ourselves very busy in retirement with things that bring fulfillment. And if we have an open day, we'll grab something, we'll do it, but it's not driving our retirement like we thought it might.
Casey Weade: I just see this as a wonderful exercise for anyone really, at any stage of life. Even a single going into retirement, I could see how this could help uncover certain passions that maybe you don’t know you had.
Fritz Gilbert: Yeah, I agree. I think the thing is, find a way to stimulate yourself to think about what do you want to do that you haven't done. It fosters curiosity. I've got to put something in there every week, I'm curious, what can I find to do around here? Anything you can do to foster your curiosity, make a bucket list, whatever, anything like that that gets your mind thinking about that post-retirement life, this goes back to our earlier statement. The more time you spend thinking about your post-retirement life, that's what this is. It's kind of a clever way of doing it, but what are you doing? You're thinking about, “Oh, what do I want to do when I retire?” “Well, let's go to Chattanooga for a week.” It's a creative way to think curiously about things that you can do in your area.
Casey Weade: I think this is a good time to insert a question we had from one of our Weekend Reading readers. John Mueller asked, “What does a regular week look like in retirement?” I think more importantly, here, along these lines, he said, “Are there any remaining things left to do on your bucket list you would like to share?”
Fritz Gilbert: Yeah, I tell you what, I did a podcast a while ago and I was like, well, let me just tell you what I did yesterday. So, let me just try that now. And honestly, this was not prepped, I don't… so let me just tell you what I did yesterday, I'll see if I can remember. Okay. We went out in the morning, nine o'clock. Well, first of all, I walk the dogs every morning. So, I took the dogs out for a walk about a mile and a half. After that, my wife and I went and build a fence, Freedom for Fido fence, for a couple hours, came back after that, and I winterized my RV, which took a surprising amount of time and then, after that, I worked a little bit on my blog and then we had dinner together and we relaxed last night, just watching TV, watching a movie on Netflix.
So, I think what's interesting is each day is unchoreographed, what I found is adding a little bit of structure in the morning through my classes at the gym, typically, right now, my instructor is out, but otherwise, I would have been at the gym instead of doing the fence build, probably. But all that to say, a little bit of structure is good because you can't just randomly wander through every day, I found that that to me, it works better to have a little bit of structure because that's one of the things you lose when you leave work is that structure.
So, I like having a class most mornings at the gym, so I kind of get out, it's a priority for me, I work on the fitness. But then, I have an unstructured afternoon, it’s kind of how I normally do it. So, that that answers that one. What was the other part of the question? I just lost my train of thought there with it.
Casey Weade: Are there any remaining things left to do on your bucket list?
Fritz Gilbert: Absolutely. Oh, yeah, there's tons. I mean, by design, my bucket list is kind of things I want to do for the rest of my life. So, my hope is, there's still stuff on my bucket list that I don't get to by the time I die. So, there's many, many things. One, I guess, for me is, right now, we're in a phase where the RV travel works really well, we have four dogs. It's easy to take the dogs when we do the RV, but I would like to get to a point where maybe we do a month. I've always had an intrigue with New Zealand.
We've been to Europe a ton. We traveled a lot when I was working, I'd frequent flyer miles, but I would like to go to like New Zealand, Australia, and maybe just get like an Airbnb, stay in one place for like a month and really get a flavor of living in some foreign land, so extended international travel, multiple countries, but New Zealand kind of comes to mind first. It’s probably the one I would think about from your instinct is to go to travel first. What I tried to do on my bucket list, instead of just focus on travel, I write in my book that life is like a wheel and your wheel has spokes. So, you've got your spiritual aspects to your life, your relationship aspects, your financial aspects, your whatever.
There's multiple areas in your life and try to create bucket list items for each one of those. And I would say on every one of those different spokes, the goal being obviously, you develop all your spokes equally because a wheel rolls best when it's round and it's only round if all your spokes are the same length. So, try to come up with bucket list items on all those different aspects in your life. And I would say every one of those aspects of my life have bucket list items that I still have in mind that I would like to do.
Casey Weade: That's great. Now, you've given me a little bit of homework is to go through and I see those aspects of life being maybe values to like, these are the things you value, these are your values, maybe it's spiritual, maybe it's personal growth, maybe it's family, but I love the exercise of going back and building a bucket list out on each one of those different items. That's really neat. Now, Fritz, we're running up against our typical closeout time. Do you have a hard stop because I'd like to go a little bit further if you have the time?
Fritz Gilbert: I'm wide open, Casey.
Casey Weade: Awesome.
Fritz Gilbert: I'm retired.
Casey Weade: Well, I feel like we'd be remiss if we didn't talk a little bit more about RV travel. We shared an article of yours not long ago how to RV in retirement. So, why an RV? It seems like there's these two camps. There's RVing is horrible, it's a horrible investment, don't ever do that. And then, there's the opposite camp, this is a great thing, everybody should be in an RV.
Fritz Gilbert: Yeah, I think RVing is like anything in retirement. It sounds great, but don't go spend a boatload of money on it until you really know it's something you want to do. I mean, that's, I think, where the negative comes in, somebody goes out and spends 100 grand, gets a big rig, they're all set, and then they go out on their first trip, and they realize they hate it, where it sits in a parking lot 51 weeks out of the year. That's where the negative comes from.
In our case, we've always camped. When our daughter was young, actually both my wife and I, when we were kids, ironically, our families camped, so we've always camped. And when our daughter was growing up, camping was very important to us. But guess what? You're working, so you can only do a weekend trip here and there, maybe take a week off, maybe if you're really lucky, you get two weeks off, but we knew in retirement, that's all going to change.
So, we already knew we had the love of camping. So, we built it into our budget. We talked about that post-retirement spending and we made sure that we had the money set aside. That's red light number one is don't think you're going to get into RVing if you haven't built in the acquisition costs into your retirement plan. Don't go out on the day you retire and spend 100 grand, getting a big unit and not have it factored into your numbers because you just… big mistake. So, that's where it gets a lot of the negative connotations.
We planned it all in and we've loved it. The first year because my mother-in-law was still alive so we didn't want to be too far away. So, we just did quick weekend trips within an hour to home, enjoyed it, got to know the camper, great. Last year, we took a three-month trip and we drove out to Seattle, our daughter was out there. So, we spent the summer in the Pacific Northwest. It was great, took a month getting out there. We stayed out there a month, took a month coming back. Fantastic trip.
This year with COVID, everything else going on, we took kind of an intermediate trip. We went up around Michigan's Upper Peninsula, we took a month. The joy of RVing is that it is so flexible. You can do a three-month cross-country trip, you can live full time if you want to. Or you can just do a weekend trip close to home. I mean, it's absolutely flexible. And just make sure you factored it in as you're doing your retirement plan. And I would encourage you if you've never done it and you think it's interesting, just go and rent one. There are places you can rent an RV, go rent them for a week, make sure it's something you really think you're going to enjoy before you sink the money into it, but it's a great aspect of our retirement, we love it.
Casey Weade: You said build it into your budget, that's the most important aspect. And this is why I received so much negative press, if you will, is that people have lost a lot of money doing it because they made poor decisions and build it into their budget appropriately. So, how do you go about building it into your budget? What are some things to look out for? What do people often overlook?
Fritz Gilbert: Yeah, I guess, the way that we did it, you speak to a lot more people that are planning for retirement than I do, but I can share how we did it. And basically, I knew that on day one of retirement, I wanted to have three years’ minimum of cash. Bucket one, we're using a bucket strategy. So, we've got three years of cash at all times and knowing what that number was going to be. And now, let's say I'm two years ahead of retirement, okay, I've got to do this per year to get to that starting number of cash.
Well, rather than stop there, we also said in addition to that, if we're going to buy a truck and buy a fifth wheel, we need to make sure we have the cash set aside for that, so that we're not detracting from that three years’ cash cushion at the beginning. So, basically, I just did a time series. Basically, I saved my bonuses, we took some of our 401k savings and redirected it into after-tax so be liquid, things like that. We sold the house, we had a big house in the city, we sold that, took the home equity, and used some of that. So, basically, I just did the math and said, “Okay, here's how much we need on day one. Here's the income I expect to be able to fill that bucket with, how much do we have leftover?” And that kind of determined the budget for how much we could spend on the RV. So, that's the way we did it.
Casey Weade: What about on an ongoing basis, I mean, maintenance fuel, is it pretty normal? Are the things to look out for there?
Fritz Gilbert: I mean, what I did when we did this 11 months of tracking our spending and then we went to a post-retirement guest, I basically factored in a travel line and I said, okay, let's say we spent 100 days a year camping, I had no idea what we were going to do, but I figured it would be probably less than that. But let's plan for, again, conservative budgeting. So, we did 100 nights a year at like $35 a night and we said, okay, how many miles do we think we’ll drive? Let's say 10,000 miles. Okay, 10,000 miles, let's say 10 miles a gallon because you're pulling a big camper. So how much fuel is that?
So, I literally went through that level of detail in my thinking when we went from our existing spending to our projected spending and whatever that calculation came out to be, we threw that in there and when we were trying to determine, do we have enough money to retire that spending, not only to include the $2500 a month to health insurance we talked about, but it included whatever that calculation was for RV travel. So, yeah, we did factor it in. And it's in that number that we set up through these monthly transfers into our checking account.
Casey Weade: And you're able to do a lot of these things, I think, because you relocated and correct me if I'm wrong, you mentioned this term geoarbitrage and I'd like you to share with us just what it was like in a downsizing, why you chose Georgia and what's geoarbitrage?
Fritz Gilbert: Yeah, basically, in summary, geoarbitrage is moving from a higher cost location to a lower cost location, which allows you to spend less money and still enjoy life. And what we found, Casey, we had a big house, suburbs of Atlanta. Yeah, it’s fine, we're raising our daughter, we had my mother-in-law living with us. It was nice to have the space but by the time you're empty nesters, you got half your house sitting empty. I mean, it's got furniture in it, but when's the last time you went into your formal sitting room or whatever people have these days? You probably, if you have a big house, you have a lot of rooms that you don't use, but you're paying for them, you got to heat them, you got to cool them, you got to pay taxes on the square footage.
What we found by moving, we had a weekend cabin up in the mountains that we rented for maybe seven or eight years before I retired and we came up here on weekends, we enjoyed it, we just fell in love with the area. But what we found now, we probably have 2000 square feet, it's perfect, it's comfortable. We got a little bit tight on the office space so we added this thing out here. So, I'd have my office writing studio. But what we found is every square inch of our house is being utilized. We don't feel crowded, but we don't feel like we're wasting a bunch of space. We have exactly the right footprint for what we need.
So, what does that allowed us to do? It's allowed us to reduce our property taxes. We moved out of a more expensive area. It lowers utility bills. The knock-on effects of downsizing, it's significant. The property tax alone is a big issue. Why Georgia? Main reason we chose Georgia is we already lived in Georgia. Georgia recently recognized the importance of getting the tax structure right to attract retirees.
So, they're not rated if you look at a lot of the Kiplinger's or whoever does the state's attractiveness for retirees. Georgia typically rates pretty highly in terms of what income they tax and don't tax retirees. So, their tax, I'd say, maybe not the best, but they're pretty good. So, it's a tax favorable location. And we just like it. We're in the mountains. We got trout fishing out the back of our property. We got a beautiful lake a mile away. We got hiking trails everywhere. I think the most important thing is it just fit our lifestyle and what we wanted to do in retirement.
Casey Weade: Well, you're definitely living that seven-letter motto in to life.
Fritz Gilbert: That’s it.
Casey Weade: I know you enjoy that. And I hope if you didn't catch that podcast, where we dove into that article, please go back and listen to that, I think you'll really benefit from it. I'm hoping that I get to have the opportunity to have you on again, Fritz, and talk about ants versus grasshoppers.
Fritz Gilbert: That was a good one. Yeah.
Casey Weade: Grasshoppers have to do with retirement. We'll just tease that one. And maybe, we'll come back on for a short episode around ants and grasshoppers, it has to do with boundaries. I'll leave that hint out there for you. As we come to a close here, I want to talk about your book a little bit. We have picked up a whole box of your book, if you could hold it up for us.
Fritz Gilbert: Sure.
Casey Weade: We've got a whole box of Keys to a Successful Retirement, a summary of the 24 keys that Fritz's identified and experienced in his own successful transition into retirement. It is a must read for anyone within five years. Every time we've got a whole box of these things here, we're going to give them away until they're all gone. If you want to claim your copy, all you have to do is leave an honest review for the podcast over on iTunes.
You can go to retirewithpurpose.com, click on the podcast tab, it says leave a review right there at the top of the page. Or you can just scroll to the bottom of your podcast app and leave a review there. That's how we get discovered. And that's also how you get a complimentary copy of Fritz's book, Keys to a Successful Retirement. Fritz, thank you so much for joining us here and again, I hope we get to come back and talk about ants and grasshoppers in the future.
Fritz Gilbert: Oh, Casey, thank you very much. I really appreciate being on your show and I'm sure you’re an ant just like I am and we'll have to talk about it. And I would love to come back on it. I really enjoyed talking with you and I think we could talk for hours. Obviously, we see things very similar and I'd love to come back on your show anytime.
Casey Weade: Awesome. Thanks, Fritz, until next time.
Fritz Gilbert: Okay, thank you, Casey.