Boredom at the Beach

Well it happened. Today was a boring day. Of course there is a good reason though. Today is the first day since we have been in Panama where it has stormed most of the day. We were shopping and looked out the window about noon time and it was coming down in buckets. It stopped for a short while so we could finish our stops and soon after getting in a taxi it came down again and then again. So we are hold up in the condo watching the storm as well as Netflix. Good thing the Internet is still up – fingers crossed.

Ominous start of the day on our morning walk.
Ominous start of the day on our morning walk. Clouds were pretty dark.

You may have been wondering – or maybe you haven’t – what have we been doing lately. Well it took a while to get settled in the new condo. We needed to take numerous trips to the stores for some items that were not ‘furnished’. We have been pretty busy. We are normally up in the morning to see the sunrise from our place. There are great views with both the mountains/land and ocean.

Part of the view from our new Condo.
Part of the view from our new Condo. The beach is very long and smooth with some very black sand.
Morning sunrise from our balcony.
Morning sunrise from our balcony.

We normally take a brisk hour walk on the beach each day then come in for coffee and breakfast. Sometimes after that we will head to the pool. We enjoy the roof top pool and usually have it to our selves prior to lunch. After lunch, depending on the tides, we sometimes go back to the beach and take a casual walk ‘beach combing’ for shells, sea glass, colored tile that has washed up, sand dollars, etc… I did have a slight accident the other day and broke my toe. For such a little thing it hurt like hell. I slammed it into a rock on the beach.

The rooftop pool.
The rooftop pool.
Anybody kiss my boo-boo?
Anybody kiss my boo-boo? It is the middle and now crooked one.

We at times hit the stores for groceries and some household items. Denise just picked up an air popcorn popper. She has been having withdrawals in the evenings. Other than a small local 7-eleven type of shop the stores are 2 miles away at the Pan-American Highway. Since we don’t have a car we either get a small local van (.35 each), a taxi ($3), or often someone stops and asks if we want a ride up to the shopping area. These shopping trips have been a real source of frustration for us as we struggle to find things, can’t read the labels, have had to carry a lot as we were getting our initial ‘stock’ of things we needed. But today we seemed to quickly and easily get on the bus (van), get to the store, get our stuff at a couple places, have lunch,  and grab a taxi back and we were done in just a couple hours vs an all day event. WooHoo, we are starting to get the hang of this, I hope. No we didn’t find everything we wanted but it did seem way less stressful.

Today's lunch - I had fried chicken with rice and beans. Denise had a slice of pork (kind of like a real big and thick piece of bacon) and salad. We each had a coke and it only came to $6.36.
Today’s lunch – I had fried chicken with rice and beans. Denise had a slice of pork (kind of like a real big and thick piece of bacon) and salad. We each had a coke and it only came to $6.36.

Other things that occupy our time are church on Sunday. A short walk away is a Catholic church that has a bilingual service at 11:30. There is a small group in attendance but they say in the busy season it quadruples. Many Wednesday evenings we walk to a nearby bar/restaurant called Picasos. Wednesday is basically a happy hour for expats but all are welcome. Sometimes we find ourselves back their Friday evening for 2 for 1 pizza and even some Saturday nights for live music.

This last week we started ‘noodling’ in the ocean. We go out at high tide with our noodles and 2-3 other couples and float and bob for 1.5 hours. It is really relaxing as well as good exercise. We get pretty far out at times but no one has yet floated over to Asia.

We attended a birthday party at a Tiki Bar on the beach at the next community over. This was lots of fun and again allowed us to meet more folks. We were in the local hardware store and I saw some guy wearing a Seahawks hat. Long story short, we now have new friends that have just moved down from Seattle as caretakers for a property with some villas that are rented out. We had them over to our place the other day and had a nice party on the roof with other friends.

Denise does the Cuban Shuffle!
Denise does the Cuban Shuffle!
Ron does the...well we are still trying to decide what Ron does!
Ron does the…well we are still trying to decide what Ron does!

Our fall back activity which happens 4-5 times a week is meeting with others from our building ‘up on the roof’ in the evening for a BYOB happy hour. We have had a few pot lucks where up to 30 some people have appeared. I like it the best though when there are just 4-6 of us sitting into the evening under the stars with a wonderful breeze.

Well that is what has been keeping us busy for now. We are planning a few excursions later this week and next and I am still trying to find a source to borrow/rent a stand-up paddle board so I can try it out before investing. So don’t feel sorry for today’s boredom as I assure you the sun will shine and we will soon see you again ‘up on the roof’!

As always feel free to reply with comments. You can also follow me on Twitter @rbillock

Time slows way down on a warm sunny beach! – RB

How much do I need to save so I can retire?

I have been asked a couple of times now, ‘what does it take to ‘retire’? Well I am not a retirement guru but I do have a few thoughts about this topic now that I am living through it. BTW – I prefer the term of being ‘on recess’ vs retired.

Most folks seem to be looking for some magical minimum $ number they need to have to step away from work life. Hello, there is none! Retiring is largely not about money. I suggest that before you get any ‘older’ you should be asking yourself some questions. What do you want from life? What do you want from retirement? What, Where, How, with whom…. These are big picture questions that you can then drill down to more specifics. If you don’t know what you want or where you are going, before you know it you end up at the wrong place and at the wrong time.

I now believe that anyone/everyone can ‘retire’. Yes that is an overly general statement but if you really want to you CAN retire on just Social Security (SS), maybe not just where and how you want. I know of people who retired and are living on SS with a decent standard of living and as good or even better healthcare than they had before. These folks may not be living in Miami but are living in places like Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, etc… Wonderful places but maybe not just what you may have had in mind. Maybe you need to broaden your view of life?

Being in a position to retire really comes down to deciding what you realistically want and working towards it. There are many options for living well and affordably all over the USA as well as many other places in the world. How much money you need to retire comes into play only after you decide what you want and then you put in a plan to reach those desires. Yes you need to be realistic but it doesn’t hurt to push your dreams. Do you know what it cost to fund that lifestyle you decided on? Are you willing to do what you need to do or go where you need to go to attain and afford your desired lifestyle? Sure $5M in IRAs/Pension will set you up in a nice condo in Miami but this is not realistic for many and also may not be what you want. If the beach is what you want, a condo on the beach in Mexico can be had for much less. Some folks want to golf 365 days/yr. Yes that will take a much larger nest egg and generally a lot more work to attain. Some want a small cabin in Arkansas or Pennsylvania or villa in Ecuador. These can be had for a much smaller pot of gold. What is important to you? You need to know what retirement means to you and adjust your plans accordingly.

How soon do you want to retire? I will tell anyone that they should save all and any they can. Save until it hurts and then save more. The sooner you can finance your dreams and desires the sooner you will reach your goal but first you need to know what those dream and desires are. Also remember, more $$ isn’t always better if in the process of getting more money you trade your health, family, etc…you lost, not gained

Maybe if I walk through my own personal thought process you can see better what I mean. Over the years I have found that I really love a warm sunny beach. We had our best vacation times at beaches. I have always wanted to live at/on a very warm sunny beach. Walking on the beach has always refreshed my spirit, renewed my drive, strengthened my faith, and made me feel healthier and happier. So living at or near a warm sunny beach was high on the list.

We had many friends migrating to Arizona, Palm Desert, Eastern Washington but none of those places fit the three keys of Beach (a real one-not a lake or pond), tons of sun, and never cold. Those other places were just not on our radar. We both also want to do some traveling.

Another thing I looked at over the years was work-life. Though I have had a number of great experiences, leadership/management in the Information Technology world, like some other fields, beats the hell out of ya. Lots of hours and some tremendous stress, believe me it takes its toll. As time went on this influenced one of my other goals. I wanted to stop working as early as possible as long as I was able to meet my other objectives. I wanted to still have time to enjoy life while still having my health and sanity to enjoy it. I know way to many people who worked, worked, worked only to die a year or three after retiring or retiring because they now needed hip and knee replacements or the stress possibly impacted an even more severe illness. I myself never understood those that said they ‘love’ their work and want to do it as long as they can. I am not saying they are not genuine but I myself never knew or felt that. In general, I wasn’t having fun working and I wanted to have time to have years of adventures while still able to enjoy them.

Summary of dreams/desires:

Live on/near a sunny and warm beach.

Reach the point of not having to work as early as possible.

Travel and have some fun

Do all this while still healthy and sane.

So where did that bring me? Through a lot of planning, sacrifice, and time we believed we were on track to meet these goals by the retirement age of 60-62-ish. This was our magic age. Most of our finances were locked up in IRA’s, Social Security, and even later some pension that we couldn’t begin tapping until then. Well at age 56 I found myself in a transition from one job and looking to find another. I had some great prospects and possibly the easiest thing would have been to continue with the ‘devil that I knew’ – a job. As we looked at the doors that just closed and those possibly opening we considered our goals and desires that we had been discussing and said we can and will do what we need to do to make retirement happen now vs 4-5 years later. What allowed us to make a change sooner was a number of years of extra savings over and above the regular ’stuff’. We built up a cash savings of first emergency funds and then grew that to a larger safety net. I know some cannot do that and you may need to rely on just a normal retirement age and your 401K/IRA/SS but that is OK. Just maximize your contributions all you can. Have a plan and work it.

With the buffer of our extra savings we were able to leave the job market sooner than planned. These were our goals/dreams. You need to know your goals/dreams. So far our ‘recess’ has brought us to living on a tropical beach where it is sunny and hot 365 days/yr. It truly is an adventure, some exciting and some frustrating. Long term we plan on living in Southern Florida but we also have more travels on our horizon.

Timing of events in your life is important. If I had to I would have stayed with our original plan and worked 3-5 more years but things came together nicely for us the last couple of years. Not only did we find ourselves faced with an opportunity for change but also both our children became established and independent. We decided on a travel adventure starting with Panama. How long will we be here? Well we think probably from a year to 3 but as one of our friends here says “every week I sit on my balcony overlooking the ocean and ask myself where do I want to be. For the life of me, at this time, there is nowhere else I can think I would rather be. When there is, then I will go”.

Long story short – just about anyone can ‘retire’ it just depends on what you want. You need to know and own what you want in your life, at least the big picture, and then do all you can to get there while you navigate the bumps, bruises, and adventures of life. Once you know that picture you will figure out what you need and when you can retire including the finances.

We make no bones about it, we have been truly blessed as well as having some good luck but luck is 99% preparation and it took some sacrifice and hard work. But you can make your dreams come true also if you just know what they are.

As always, comments are welcome

RB