A Team Grumpus Victory Lap
This past week was a big one in the short history of the Grumpus Maximus blog. My first guest post on a much bigger website drove a record amount of traffic to mine. The guest post was a result of collaboration between myself and Darrow Kirkpatrick of www.caniretireyet.com. I am happy to consider Darrow one of my two main mentors in this blogging adventure. My introduction to Darrow was facilitated by my other mentor, Doug “Nords” Nordman, who founded the Military Guide blog. Darrow and Nords are both great guys, not only generous with their time but knowledge as well. Together they make up my team in the blogging sphere. Whether or not they know it, their willingness to help me succeed translates into a special kind of teamwork for which I am immeasurably grateful.
I blogged recently that when I retire from the military, what I will miss most is working with the great men and women I’ve had the honor of serving with and leading. For some reason, I’m the type of person who draws great satisfaction from working successfully together as a team to accomplish goals. The military life, despite its many drawbacks, definitely offers plenty of opportunities for teamwork. While not the only career that offers this opportunity, if teamwork is one of your main motivations in life, I could think of no better occupation to enter.
The Post-Retirement Teamwork Challenge
It remains to be seen if I can successfully translate the satisfaction I derive from teamwork opportunities in my full-time career to retired life. For someone like me who needs the sense of accomplishment which comes with teamwork, it begs the question as to what outlet I will turn to when retired. Certainly, blogging might provide more and bigger opportunities to collaborate, and I look forward to the possibility. Yet, as I stated elsewhere on this blog, I started blogging as a means of therapy and to help a friend plot a path through a Golden Albatross moment towards Financial Independence (FI). I’m not ready to give those reasons up and place all my hope for fulfillment in retirement on blogging.
Alternatively, I might choose to join a sports team or participate in some other goal-oriented group activity. However, with the number of injuries nagging me from both my collegiate sports and military careers, there’s currently no telling if sports will even be an option. I could always volunteer my time with an organization that could put me to good use in a team environment. It’s worth exploring as I get closer to retirement, and I intend to do so.
However, having given this a lot of thought, I realize there is one team I should be working with right now in order to prepare for my retirement. That team is my family. That may sound strange to many, if not most, married military personnel since they would point out that teamwork is a daily occurrence for any military family. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have reached this level of success in the military. I won’t argue with that point as I know it to be true. Mrs. Grumpus and the Grumpus Minimi (pronounced min-EE-my) are some of the best camp followers a military man could want. Mrs. Grumpus, in particular, runs a tight ship and keeps the camp in good order both when I’m home and deployed. Without her and them, I would not be where I am today.
Yet, I believe retirement is a far different calculus than active duty military life or any full-time career. Not only do family roles stand to change but so do lifestyles. If Mrs. Grumpus and I don’t get on the same page prior to retirement, it could end up a train wreck, or worse. An honest assessment of our expectations for post-retired life would probably put us in the same book, but far from on the same page.
Once Again, A Better Way Than Mine
Some of the above mentioned familial misunderstandings are due to the ham-fisted way in which I first introduced the concept of FIRE (FI Retired Early) to my wife. Although it didn’t go as badly as my attempts to put her on a budget earlier in our marriage, it still didn’t go well. In her mind what I described was a mix of two things: 1) me following her around the house like a lost puppy all day 2) all of us living off of food stamps. The only way I could talk her off the cliff was to promise that our standard of living would not change. Which is true, or at least true enough in this post-fact world. Based on my pension and our projected savings at the time of my retirement, our standard of living should not change.
However, even a scenario that rosy will still take a lot of work in order to create a happy life. From saving the money we need during my last few years of work to watching our spending in retirement, it all takes teamwork. That assumes no major role reversals either. Should Mrs. Grumpus choose to return to work then I will need to take on the role of homemaker, chauffeur, and camp coordinator. One which I would gladly do, but in my own way, which may not jive with her expectations.
Then there are the Grumpus Minimi. By the time I retire one of them will be 9 or 10 years old, which is certainly old enough to see, understand, and react to the major life change that would be my full-time retirement. If not made part of the retirement team early, the older one could most certainly complicate, if not scuttle any plans my wife and I make. Conversely, I need to ensure I’ve managed my own expectations properly. In my head, I envision coaching soccer, going to music recitals, and spending as much time with my kids as possible. That may not be practical or even possible by the time I retire. The older one is already acting like a teenager in many ways. Who knows, in a couple of years daddy may not be cool anymore.
Finally, Mrs. Grumpus and I are still contemplating lifestyle business ideas. Certainly, if we decide to do that, we must be in the same paragraph and sentence, not just the same page of the same book. Besides my blogging, which I’ve yet to monetize in any meaningful way, I judge we have three solid business opportunities potentially worth pursuing; any of which we could take a crack at prior to my military career ending. Just like my blogging, starting one of these businesses during my work years when we still have the higher income to cover us, would be ideal. That way failure is more manageable, and success provides a clear post-retirement opportunity.
In my mind, these business ideas should translate into fun and meaningful work since we won’t particularly need the money. Sure, any earned income after my retirement eases the pressure off of the reliance on the “4% rule of thumb” for our investments, but ideally, we wouldn’t need the money, or the stress that feeling generates. To that end, I need to ensure that my teammate feels the same way and understands the underlying money facts. Currently, I couldn’t tell you if she does or not.
Not an Original Thought
I’m not the first FI blogger to hit upon the idea that a person needs to figure out their post-retirement plans prior to retirement. Both of my aforementioned mentors have written about this topic extensively. Darrow wrote two excellent articles that address this topic on his blog:
Nords’ entire first chapter in his book, The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement, is dedicated to the idea of what comes next. In fact, the chapter is entitled “Plan Your Post -Military Life” (**Grumpus Maximus is an Amazon Affiliate. See Disclosures for more details**). If you’re not a book or blog kind of a person, check out The ChooseFI podcast. Brad and Jonathan constantly discuss the idea of creating something to “retire to” as opposed to retiring from something. I’m not sure if the idea is theirs originally or not, but the sentiment remains.
I brought up post-retirement life, and the teamwork it will require to succeed in that phase of life, because I’ve yet to seriously plan for it. Read my retirement planning posts about the GRO2W method, and you’ll see I’ve created an extensive plan to reach FIRE. I’ve calculated my “Gap Number“, and tested everything using high powered retirement calculators. The numbers work if we can hit our savings goals over the next three years, and we are not in a bear market. Four years would definitely put us over the top for almost any market scenario. I am not using the royal “we” either. I’ve discussed all of the pre-retirement requirements with Mrs. Grumpus, and she is (begrudgingly) onboard. Yet, as pointed out above, the work doesn’t stop there and without a plan I feel naked and unprepared.
The Way Ahead
So, where to start? I think the first and most obvious step is to set-up a discussion with my main teammate, Mrs. Grumpus. The intent would be to synchronize our expectations for our post-FIRE life. Who knows, some of the underlying assumptions for our plan to reach FIRE may have changed. I don’t think so, but if they have, then I’ll re-attack the main retirement plan. Since the main plan was always intended to be iterative, updating is not a big deal. Yet, if nothing’s changed with the main plan, and Mrs. Grumpus and I can agree on a shared post-retired vision, then the next step would be to build a post-retirement plan to meet that vision.
The post-retirement plan may not prove as extensive as the main retirement plan. That’s not surprising given how far into the future it would require me to forecast. However, as I’ve stated elsewhere on this blog, the utility of planning lies in the methodical way it forces a person to think about a problem or issue; rather than the actual plan produced.
Since planning requires a person, or people, to familiarize themselves with the various aspects of a problem; they should (in theory) adapt quicker and easier as the situation changes. That assumes they do not fall in love with their original plan (so don’t do that!). And “No”, I didn’t come up with this on my own. I stole my thoughts on planning from General Dwight D. Eisenhower, whom I’ve quoted previously on the blog. He was far more eloquent than I am, but the point remains: planning is good even if the plan itself goes out the window.
With all that said, I plan (get it?) to discuss all of this with my main teammate over the next few weeks. Once done, I will craft a post-retirement plan and publish it as Part 2 of this post for everyone’s use. Of course, for anyone reading this article time-late by a number of months or years (… big assumption), that won’t mean a thing. Part 2 of this article will logically follow Part 1 and you can simply click the link. On the other hand, for the few readers who actually read my stuff real time (other than my parents), you’ll just have to hang in there. I’m sure you’ll be waiting with baited breath, but seriously just breathe. It won’t be that good, but hopefully, it will prove useful. Until then …