50 Ways I'd Like to Enjoy Early Retirement


Time flies when you're having fun. Or, as Kermit tells us, time’s fun when you’re having flies. Physician on Fire has a few ideas about how he wants to spend his time after retiring from his anesthesiology career. If you, too, are thinking of retiring early, continue below for some inspiration.

Time passes quickly when you have a full schedule. In the next few years, my schedule is certainly full.

In addition to working full time and blogging part time, my boys will be in more after school activities. We’re learning Spanish together as a family, so the next few years will fly by.

And then I will be retired.

As I’ve stated before, I won’t be retiring from clinical medicine to escape a job I dislike. I will retire to free up over 2,000 hours per year to spend in any way that I please. How will I spend my time? Doing the things I wish were doing now. Those things are as follows:


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1. Read. I’ve got a stack of unread magazines and probably read a book a month. I’d like to be like Zuckerberg and read a book a week. I might even find time to read fiction, although I generally prefer non-fiction.

2. Take Pictures. I enjoy photography, and most of the photos on this site were taken by me.

3. Tent Camp. We probably average two or three nights a year. I’d like to up that to two or three weeks.

My Kelty @ Jim Collins’ Shamba

4. Eat well. With more time to prepare meals, and fewer meetings and surgeries at mealtimes, I anticipate fewer convenience foods in early retirement.

5. Hike often. There are hundreds of books full of great day hikes. Have boots, will travel.

6. Bike. We have a great network of paved bike paths, and world class mountain biking nearby. Most of my biking is to the hospital and back.

7. Volunteer. I donate a fair amount of money, but I’ve been pretty stingy with my time. I look forward to feeling like I have time to give, and following through by doing so.

8. Play. I do my best to say Yes when the boys ask me to play. In retirement, it will be much easier to give them all the time they desire. Hopefully, they’ll still want to play with Dad in a few years.

big kids like to play, too

9. Walk. Our poor dog is a good walker, but she rarely gets walked. A daily walk could be part of our morning routine.

10. Run. I’ve actually walked a marathon, but have never run one. I’d like to change that.

free beer in sight

11. Sleep. I alternate between rising at 0515 for work and 0715 or 0915 to make up for lost sleep. I look forward to a healthier, more consistent sleep schedule.

12. Visit. I’ve got friends and family around the country, and I don’t do a great job keeping in touch or seeing them. When I’m retired, I should have the time if they do.

13. Take a motorhome around the country. We’ve been fantasizing about a full school year of road schooling the boys. History and science will be all around us. This fantasy can easily become a reality.

14. Minimize. We have too much stuff. Living in a motorhome will help us realize what we really need, and what we can live without.

15. Live in a Spanish speaking nation. There’s no better way to become proficient in a language than to live where it’s native. The boys would benefit from the exposure to a different culture. It wouldn’t be a permanent move, but a few months to a year would be fantastic.

16. Go to the Games. Last year, I attended four of my alma mater’s home football games, and one away game. One year, I’d like to make it to every home and away game. Might have to hang onto that motorhome that we don’t have yet.

17. Watch TV. I know, I know, how lame and unhealthy, and blah blah blah. I keep hearing about these great series that I’m missing out on. I won’t spend hours in front of the curved screen every day, but I could start Lost, Breaking Bad, or Game of Thrones from Series 1, Episode 1 without any knowledge of what’s about to unfold.

18. A really long walk. I read about people who have walked great distances for charity, like Steve who is walking with a goat across America. I think I would enjoy walking a great distance to raise some money and awareness for a worthwhile charitable cause.

19. Organize. Minimizing is step one. Organizing what’s left is an important step two.

20. Write. Less time working means more time to write. Or maybe not, with these other 49 ideas. But I imagine I will be better able to focus on writing, and perhaps writing something bigger than a 2100-word blog post.

21. Represent a brewery at the Great American Beer Festival. I’m invested in two microbreweries. Plus, Mr. 1500 knows a guy who knows a guy who is involved with the granddaddy of all brewfests. I should be able to make this happen.

22. Backpacking. I’ve got all the equipment, but we pretty much gave up the hobby when we had kids. In a few years, the boys should have the stride and stamina required to get properly lost with us in the wilderness. I actually proposed to my wife after an 18-mile hike in a remote area. A “No” would have made for a long, awkward walk back.

I could get lost here

23. Donate. I will continue to donate half off this site’s revenue to charitable causes, including our donor advised fund. As the fund grows, so does our ability to give meaningful chunks of money away.

24. Make Music. I’ve got a five-year old who can read sheet music and play “What a Wonderful World” on the piano. I’m still working on the Jaws bass line.

25. Backpack Europe. I wish that I could be like the cool kids. I forgot to do this in my twenties, but it’s never too late. Do they still sell Eurail passes? Is there a senior discount for this frugal physician?

26. Cook. I think I know a little bit about how to cook food, and then I see 9-year olds on Chopped Junior throw together some duck breast, molasses, and Twinkies into delectable entrees. I have a lot to learn. From 9 year olds.

27. Work? When I talk about retiring, I’m referring to a retirement from clinical medicine. I doubt I’ll ever have a traditional 40-plus hour a week job, but I wouldn’t rule out some sort of rewarding work that aligns with my interest and talents, whatever those may be.

28. Teach. I’ll have lots more time to teach my children about things they won’t learn in school. Personal finance, for example. There’s a good chance my wife and I will take the place of their teachers for at least a year if we follow through with the motorhome dream.

29. Learn. A funny thing happens when you teach. You learn. Touching on a topic will pique my curiosity, and I’ll have the time to dive deeper into a subject.

30. See More National Parks and Monuments Some of our nation’s greatest scenery has been preserved to be enjoyed by generation after generation. Did you know that all National Parks are free to visit this weekend 8/25 to 8/28? Or that 4th Graders can get a free family annual pass? And seniors over 62 can buy a $10 lifetime pass? If you are none of these, you can purchase an $80 annual pass when you are ready to tour the nation in a motorhome.

31. Snowboard. This isn’t high on my list, but I tried once and found it quite frustrating. I do OK on a skateboard, and can maneuver reasonably well on a wakeboard or wakesurfer, but those skills did not seem to translate well to the snowboard. I need to give it another go sometime. When I’m early retired, my boys will be at a good age to learn (and my wife already knows how).

32. Spend more time with my parents. They will soon be 70, and are quite active and healthy, but starting to slow down. I recognize that they won’t be around forever, and I wish I didn’t have to schedule time with them days or weeks in advance.

33. Brew some really great beer. I am an amateur homebrewer. I brew what I like and like what I brew. But I’m not as meticulous or exacting as I could be, and that’s often the difference between good and great homebrew. I’ve never brewed a lager, and I almost never enter competitions. As an early retiree, I envision entering and attending more competitions, and maybe capturing a lovely red or blue ribbon.

34. Cheer them on. I’m not much of an athlete, but I can be a stellar athletic supporter. One of the bigger regrets of many physician parents I know is that they had to miss so many of their kids’ matches, meets, and games. The same goes for recitals, etc… I will be there, lending my full support!

35. Spend the night in some Frank Lloyd Wright homes. I love his homes, leaky roofs and all. A distant relative (Grandpa’s uncle maybe?) worked with him on some of his homes. I’ve toured Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, the Meyer May house in Michigan, and fueled up at a gas station he designed in Minnesota. There are actually a number of homes in the midwest that are available to rent by the night or weekend. A FLW week would be incredible.

36. Hike far. There are some really great long distance hikes for the adventurous, including one that goes through Lakenenland. I like to think I’m adventurous. If Reese Witherspoon can do it, so can I!

37. Become wealthier. I don’t know if I’ve come right out and said it, but one reason I’m aiming for a very low withdrawal rate of 2.5% or less is that I’d rather see my net worth grow than shrink as an early retiree.

38. Restore more furniture. Most of the furniture in our home(s) is well-built mid century modern furniture from the 1950’s and 1960’s. Finding and rehabbing pieces from my parents’ youth was a hobby until I had all that I needed (and a little bit more). Taking a beat up coffee table or chair, refinishing it, and finding it a new home could keep me busy later on in retirement.

39. Vacation with friends. Our vacations are scheduled around and within the confines of both work and school schedules, leaving very little flexibility. I look forward to having the availability to take off whenever it works for someone else.

40. Build a home. More accurately, pay someone else to build a home to our specifications. We did this once, and it we ended up with an amazing home, but unfortunately, things didn’t work out. We overbuilt for the area, the hospital went bankrupt, and we lost about a quarter million dollars. I would like a second try as empty nesters someday. Smaller, smarter, and stylish with everything we want and nothing we don’t.

41. Landscape. Weeds have taken over certain areas of our property. The riverfront is a mosquito-infested disaster. It would take a lot of sweat equity, but I’ve been saying I’d like to exercise more. The best kind of exercise is also productive in other ways. I’d love to spend more time keeping up with the property.

42. Slow Travel. Living “like a local” with a tourist bent for one to three months at a time is so much better than cramming in as many highlights from Fodor’s or Frommer’s as you can in five days.

43. Strength training. Sarcopenia, be damned! I’m at the age where I will lose muscle mass if I don’t fight for it. I’d like to look as good or better in my forties and fifties than I did in my twenties or thirties. I’m more or less my same skinny self, so at least I’m not starting with a substantial deficit.

44. Gardening. Two years ago, I built six nice cedar raised garden beds. Last year, we grew some vegetables, much to the rabbits’ delight. This year, weeds grew in their place, much to the rabbits’ dismay.

my garden. my handiwork

45. More time on the water. We’re surrounded by water and we own a boat. Boats were meant to float. We need to float that boat more often, and get our boys up on waterskis sooner than later.

46. Get to know our Godchildren better. We have a handful of Godchildren living in neighboring states. We don’t see them nearly as often as we should. The same can be said of their parents, whom we know well, but don’t spend enough time with now that we’re all busy with careers and whatnot.

47. Enjoy the morning. I have the expectation that in early retirement that every morning will be Easy Like Sunday Morning. That may not be the case, but there should be time for a proper breakfast, workout, dog walk, and of course, catching up on my favorite blogs.

48. Be more involved with schools. The stay-at-home moms and dads frequently volunteer in the classroom, and get to know their kids’ classmates and teachers a lot better. We’re a few years away from a dual-non-income household of two stay-at-home parents. How cool is that?

49. Get involved with civic organizations. The toughest part might be deciding which one. Am I more of a Moose, Elk, or Lion? What about the Rotary? Sertoma Club? Curling Association???

50. Do the dishes a little more often. Just a little, though. Gotta keep it a treat.

A big thank you to my lovely wife, who helped me come with eleven more ideas, when I had typer’s block after 39. And yes, #50 was her idea.

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