An Unproductive Day in the Life of an Early Retiree

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.

FAT Tuesday???

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!

a massive metric

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.

red arrows show paddling direction to and from island

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:

a no-drift kayak strategy

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!

Wild Blueberries

a study in blue

Early Cranberries

bogless cranberries near the ocean’s spray

Early Blackberries

2016 was a banner year for blackberries

Wild Raspberries

raspberry fields for-ever

my Ziplocked harvest

Beach Peas

waxy leaves with pods of legumes

these went from hand to mouth shortly after the photo was taken

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:

the app’s speed report

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:

life is like a bowl of blueberries, mama used to say

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
1 banana
½ cup low-fat milk
½ cup low-fat yogurt
Several slices fresh ginger

Toss ingredients into Nutribullet. Blend.
Serves 2

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:

sox down birds

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.

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8 Responses to An Unproductive Day in the Life of an Early Retiree

  1. Jim January 16, 2017 at 3:38 AM #


    • A Noonan Moose January 16, 2017 at 8:13 AM #

      Thanks Jim!

  2. Mrs. Picky Pincher January 16, 2017 at 7:58 AM #

    Hahaha, I guess us worker bees have no idea how we’d fill our time without a soul-sucking 9-to-5 gig. 🙂 If anything I think early retirees are more productive. I had two paid weeks off of work and I got sooo much accomplished during that time. It was amazing.

    I think people aren’t sure what “retired” looks like, especially for early retirees, so I’m sure that was their intention behind the question. But I have no doubt that it must get pretty annoying being asked so much. 😉
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…What A Frugal Weekend!My Profile

    • A Noonan Moose January 16, 2017 at 8:28 AM #

      You may be right about the underlying intent of the questioners, but I still think there’s something going on more than idle curiosity (or curiosity about my idleness). Anyway, next time I get asked I’ll be more prepared. 🙂

  3. Kraken Fireball January 16, 2017 at 10:05 AM #

    I don’t know if this was a good idea. I can already hear the opposition saying it “this guy retired early and now he has to forage for food and ride in a non-motorized boat. If he had stayed working he could have sat down inside for 8 hours and bought lunch at the cafeteria.” To me, this sounds awesome. The bittersweet part is, it’s like you weren’t even trying to have a great day.
    If you are looking for some metrics you could do a five-minute journal, it’s a type gratitude journal. I use one, and it has made me feel like I at least have something to measure in my day to day life. However, If missing metrics is not a problem then don’t fix it.
    Kraken Fireball recently posted…I Made Another MistakeMy Profile

    • A Noonan Moose January 16, 2017 at 10:36 AM #

      Solid points Kraken. I think we’re trained to measure ourselves with simple metrics from an early age: in school we get grades as feedback and in the workforce we get salaries and raises. Once we hit retirement, however, the easy metrics stop happening. I very much like your idea about keeping some kind of thankfulness journal.

  4. Ann LeGere January 18, 2017 at 5:45 PM #

    Amen, Mr. Moose! I’m just about there . . . .

    • A Noonan Moose January 18, 2017 at 7:27 PM #

      And well deserved too . . . i know firsthand how hard you’ve worked!

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