Last week, I took the bus to Denver for a retirement party. A close friend was hanging up his spikes at the ripe old age of 58. There were cocktails, tapas and testimonials.
I’ve been retired myself for eight years now. Many at the party knew this. Before I had finished my first glass of FREE red wine, three different people, all of whom still haunt the workplace, asked some version of this question:
“now that you’re retired, how do you make use of all your free time?”
Their implicit point, of course, is that retirees aren’t particularly productive. My questioners wanted the fun of seeing me struggle to present some proof of my continued relevance. It’s their mild revenge for having stayed in the workforce. Each day they gain a few dollars, which is an obvious measure of productivity. I can’t produce anything that tangible.
With no quick cocktail banter at the ready, my defense of early retirement must have sounded lame. In my own defense, when one sips FREE wine it’s hard for the noggin to be nimble. So, yes, they caught me at a disadvantage. Score one for the current labor force.
Having thought it over the last few days, I’ve now prepared a concrete answer to those who question my productivity. It’s loaded with meaningful metrics. Basically, what I’ve done is taken a single day from the past year that encapsulates what I like best about early retirement. Not all days go this way. But more often than not, something similar happens.
August 16, 2016
This is a day that Mrs. Moose and I spend on the Maine coast. I choose this day for my report because ample records exist to show my complete lack of productivity. I have several photographs. I also have my Trails iPhone app, which reports statistics about my outdoor pursuits. I even have a few notes. Amidst all this evidence, one fact is clear: on this day in my life I earn no income from employment—not a dollar, not a dime, not even a penny.
On the morning of Tuesday, August 16th, I wake up and weigh myself. I record the first metric of the day on my wall calendar: a hefty 176.2 pounds.
Here’s another morning metric. My Body Mass Index (BMI) totals 25.7, which at my height means that I’m overweight by 4.7 pounds. Yikes!
After making Mrs. Moose her morning tea, I step out the door to assess the weather. The day is clear, the winds are calm. With Mrs. Moose’s approval, I decide to kayak to a nearby island and forage for our lunch.
My kayak, a Wilderness Systems Tsunami 165, holds a single person. It measures 16.5 feet in length and weighs 66 pounds (242.2 pounds with me in it).
This map shows my route. The distance from the mainland to the island is 1.9 miles. I fire up the app at 9:31 am and leave shore five minutes later.
I reach the island after 40 minutes of paddling, so my speed in transit is 2.85 miles per hour. Admittedly, that’s not fast. But you’d be moving slow too if your kayak carried that much flab.
I’m planning to hike the island’s back side, so I need to secure the kayak from drifting out to sea. I could tie it to a rock, but this approach works too:
I explore the island for sustenance, taking photos as I roam. In total, I spot five (5) types of delicious edibles. Swallow those metrics of non-productivity!
After picking my fair share of raspberries and blueberries, I squeeze back into the Tsunami and reenter the Atlantic. The time is 11:25 am, which is precisely 1 hour, 24 minutes after the morning’s high tide.
I know a couple rock outcroppings that are fun to float around, so I head northwest in that direction instead of northeast from whence I came. According to the app’s statistical readout, my circumnavigation of the desired rocks begins at 11:56 am and finishes at 12:01 pm. (This maneuver shows up as a circle on the map of my journey.)
I reach the home shore at 12:37 pm. The total distance I’ve traveled, including my island hike, is 5.6 miles. My average speed while kayaking and hiking has been 3.2 miles per hour. My top speed registers as 7.2 mph. The total elapsed time for the trip is 03:05:41 (hours, minutes, and seconds). Here’s a chart from the Trails app:
Now home, I strip off the kayaking gear and change into dry clothes. I’m ready to feast. I retrieve my forage from the Tsunami’s bulkhead. The blueberries have traveled well. I photograph them from the deck:
Unfortunately, the fragile raspberries have managed to disassemble themselves. My Ziploc bag now encases a red slurry. No matter. It’s smoothies for lunch. Here’s the recipe:
Mangled Raspberry Smoothies
1½ cups mangled island raspberries
½ cup low-fat milk
½ cup low-fat yogurt
Several slices fresh ginger
Toss ingredients into Nutribullet. Blend.
That afternoon Mrs. Moose and I linger on the deck. I count more than a few waves. I follow the flight paths of several seagulls. After that, my store of recorded data runs out. I think I probably take a nap.
Come evening, I know I tune into NESN to watch my beloved Red Sox. The Bosox, who are then surging, defeat the Orioles of Baltimore for their fifth win in a row. Here’s the line score:
With the game over, it’s upstairs to bed. I’m drifting off. Ortiz is raking hits left and right. Red socked runners circle the bases like greyhounds at a dog track. Fans devour red slurry milkshakes. An overturned kayak rests beneath an outfield fence.
* * *
When you’re on the path to early retirement, like I once was, there’s plenty of metrics to follow: net worth, saving rates, tax brackets, monthly expenditures, returns on investment, allocations of assets, and on and on. Once you retire, however, it’s harder to find numbers that accurately describe the returns from your waking hours.
With respect to August 16, 2016, let’s just say this.
On that fine day I kayaked to an island. There I cataloged five different types of edibles. I ate some beach peas. I picked wild blueberries and some regretfully fragile raspberries. As quantified by the dollars that measure workaday life, this was an unproductive harvest. But maybe it’s just the right yardstick to measure the value of one glorious day spent in early retirement.