KISS

When I decided to write a blog, I searched online for other retirement blogs. One of the blogs I encountered is earlyretirementextreme.com. This guy retired in his thirties and lives on $7,000 a year. That’s his half of living expenses. His wife kicks in her half adding another $7,000. So, the two of them live on $14,000 total. Although he insists he has a great life, living below the poverty level isn’t my idea of a fun time. He lives in an RV (I like my 2,300 square feet). He has a garden (me, too). Fixes a lot of his own broken stuff (Martin handles a lot of broken stuff for us). Reading about his life, however, does bring to mind a very important principle about life and retirement, in general. Using a sort of negative sounding cliche we’ve all heard from time to time describes it best for me…Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS). The KISS principle was originally used by a Navy engineer who believed most systems operated most efficiently if kept simple in design. So goes our everyday life. At least that’s what works for me and that’s what I believe will continue to work best.

So when people continue to be incredulous about our early retirement and how we did it and are doing it, I now think KISS. Living a simple life isn’t living a life of denial. It isn’t living a life of poverty. It isn’t living a life in austerity. It’s living a THOUGHTFUL life. For example, today I had the pleasure of having my fifth grandchild with me all day. He’s four. Rather than plopping him on the couch to spend the day staring at the boob tube and feeding him junk, I thought what can we do that won’t cost a bundle and will be lots of fun.

What I don’t grow in my own garden, I buy in season from local farmers and freeze myself. Today in South Carolina strawberries are in season. My favorite place to buy strawberries is, where else, but Strawberry Hill, USA. A family owned fruit farm of several hundred acres of strawberry fields, peach orchards and blackberry patches, Strawberry Hill also offers up giant antique John Deere tractors for kids to sit on, farm tours and a family run cafe with a 1950’s feel and homemade ice cream to boot. Go another six miles down the road and you’ll find Cowpens National Battlefield where one of the decisive battles of the Revolutionary War was fought and a Junior Ranger Program promises badges, medals and education for kids of all ages. And, best of all, it’s free, though we usually push a donation through the slot of the box in the lobby. So, with a little thought I was able to pick up field fresh fruit at a bargain price, which will taste as great tonight with vanilla ice cream as it will next winter from the freezer and I entertained a four year old who went home with badge, Junior Ranger certificate and coloring book not to mention the big smile as he proudly handed strawberries to Mom. All for little money.

As I write this, I’m looking out the window at my beloved garden with flowers opening by the second, sipping a glass of white wine (yes, I write under the influence) and looking forward to Martin making fajiitas with beef smoked on the Green Egg, onions from the veggie garden and all the other fixings. Later, we’ll eat the fresh strawberries on ice cream and listen to the whippoorwill make his mournful call, bringing memories of Hank Williams singing on the record player at my parents’ home in New Jersey. The simple things in life.

So, whether you want to retire early or you want to retire at all, the best advice I can offer is to Keep It Simple Sisters and brothers. Keep it simple.

Advertisements

SCARCITY

We live in an abundantly rich nation. We often ask God to bless America. The fact is God has already blessed America. Yet most of us live our lives as if there is never enough. Witness the mayhem on Black Friday as thousands of people across the country wrap themselves in lines around retail stores for hours, or even days, prior to the store opening. All of this just for the chance of getting one of a handful of TV’s, computers or other wants at “doorbuster pricing”. At the opening bell these same people, who on any other day may be a very civil bunch, will indeed bust down the door, even trampling an employee to death out of fear they won’t get one of those TV’s at the reduced price. The retailers understand the concept of the scarcity mentality. The associated fear there won’t be enough to go around. In reality there are plenty of TV’s. But by pricing only a few at a greatly reduced price, the retailers create a lack of, a manufactured shortage that sends normally sane people into a frenzy.

In a society where the entire economic model is built on the scarcity mentality, maintaining a mindset of abundance in your life is a tall order. Prior to retiring, a relative gave me this piece of advice. “If you live on less than you take in, you’ll feel rich.” As I let this statement sink in, I realized I had spent the last 20 plus years doing exactly that. And, yes, I felt rich, never deprived.

I first read about the abundance mentality as opposed to the scarcity mentality in Stephen Covey’s Book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey was talking about the business world, your work life, more than he was your private life. So, I first applied his idea to my work life. The mindset that there was plenty of business to go around took effort to achieve. I worked in a very competitive business world. It wasn’t until after reading Covey that I realized losing a client to a competitor wasn’t the end of the world. So, in order to internalize an abundance mentality, I adopted an active thought process, which included a lot of very positive self-talk. Eventually, the abundance mentality took hold. Once I embraced the idea of abundance, it seemed I never wanted for a job, income, raises, bonuses or promotions. Wow!

The next step was applying the abundance mentality to my entire life. You see, the scarcity mentality is the belief there is never enough of anything to go around, whether it’s income, love or things. It’s based upon envy of what your neighbor, friends or family have. It’s based on coveting the belongings, success and lifestyle of others and the deeply ingrained, often unconscious belief that since they have it, there’s not enough for you. It’s envy of relationships, friendships, marriages and family. Again, it takes active thinking to achieve an abundance mentality. Positive self talk is essential. Additionally, I armed myself with a list of things I had in abundance. A loving spouse. Wonderful children. A beautiful home. A good income. All of us healthy. Food on the table. Numbering the items made me realize how abundant my life already was, how much I had to be grateful for and, yes, how much God had blessed me and mine.

So, when Martin retired, after 20 years of living with an abundance mentality, the panic I felt was a shocker. How could it be I was panicked? How could it be I was afraid we would run out of money? How could it be that something as simple as going to the grocery store was now a source of stress? How could it be I was now in a scarcity mentality? I have an abundantly rich life! After years of living with the secure knowledge there would always be enough of everything in my life, this was a rude awakening. However, as we enter our third month of retirement, after two months of actively revisiting the self-talk of my earlier years and, yes, making lists all over again, I find myself able to breath easier. As with any other major life change we encounter, retirement is a game changer. It means moving out of comfort zones and well worn ruts. It means reassessing who we are, what we believe and how we’ll proceed, giving way to yet another opportunity for personal growth.