Tuesday, June 30, 2009

‘Retirement Day’ – June 30th, 2009

Late Monday afternoon our oldest son, Kyle, called to say that the closing was complete and he was no officially a homeowner for the first time. His 15 year loan will be a tight squeeze for him considering his law school loans but he seems to have everything well planned and we really respect his desire to build equity in the property as quickly as possible rather than go with a 30 year loan.

When I woke up Tuesday morning the first clue to this not being just any other work day was that Ken had two new T-Shirts waiting for me on the kitchen table. One had the image of a motorhome with the work, ‘RETIRED!!’ in bold letters across it. The second said, ‘Retired, RVing and Loving Life”.

Ken took me to work so that if he was ready in time he could simply pick me up from work in the motorhome. I had him drop me by Panera’s so I could take in a couple dozen bagels for the team.

I had almost everything out of my office already so I thought it might be a long morning. However, one of my key team members, Betsy, was immediately checking in from Europe where she was scoping out the next locations where our team would be rolling out the SAP software. As I worked through the issues with her, it really started to hit, how little it really mattered what I told her—I wouldn’t be there tomorrow!!

At 10am I went down to fill out the final paperwork in HR and to ‘strip down’ of all my company property: laptop, blackberry, air card, credit card, access badge, etc., I then spent the next hour and a half saying good-byes. I surprised myself at how comfortable I was with it.
Ken picked me up at 11:30am but said he wasn’t ready yet so we were in the Audi. I asked what the plan was for lunch and he said well he’d made lunch reservations to celeb rate my last day. He then dawdled around driving through the parks and by the city pool. He kept getting text messages on his phone and told me it was Kyle.

We finally ended up at one of my favorite restaurants, Tiramisu. It suddenly became apparent when I saw the parking lot that Ken had more up his sleeve than just he and I going to lunch. I recognized lots of my team members’ cars in the parking lot.

Apparently one of the ladies on my team, Frankie, had been texting Ken to tell him when they were ready for us to arrive.


Some of the high-impact people in my life--Ken (of course!), my current boss, Bob Elkins, the CIO, my boss up until 5 years ago, Ken Jones--I was so thrilled to see that they included Ken who was such a mentor to me during my career, and the lady who kept all of us in line, Diana Klauser, IT and Training Coordinator--if you ever called me it is likely it was Diana you talked to--she took very good care of me for all these years!!

The guys from left are Mark Cawthon, one of my Sr. SAP Analysts who covers all the inventory, quality and purchasing functionalityin our ERP system. Russ Cook, our 'miracle working' SAP technical guru who can be found on the system most any hour of the day or night, Lou Anderson, the guy at the controls of who gets what security into our sytems, Bob Smith - he was actually the IT Director when I started back in 1976, retired about 6 years ago and have been working for us part time every since. Jim Russell--Jim was actually one of the interns I got to train about 20 years ago and is no IT Director, Americas. Dave Antoniuk, Finance VP... a real joy to work with, and Barry Pennybacker our new CEO since a year ago April -- also happens to be a diehard Penn State fan -- Trev plays there in October!!

Past Frankie are three more guys in my department , Randy Miller, one of my SAP team managers who leads about half of the rollout projects, Mike Holm, the man in charge of all the Financial related systems and Dan Musholt whose at the very end...didn't get a very good picture of Dan since my Ken put him in charge of pictures.

Besides the lovely surprise lunch, they gave me a really thoughtful gift, an Amazon Kindle, along with a gift certificate to Amazon to fill it with lots of reading material and the charger for the car/RV. It will be great not to have to lug all my summer reading around now between home and RV.

It seemed strange when everyone else had to leave to get back to work and Ken and I were able to just set there and continue to enjoy a conversation with my retired boss.

Because of the festivities it turned out to be more like 3pm than noon when we were able to head out with the motorhome. However, Ken had everything hooked up and ready to go, knowing we’d get a late start.

We arrived at Beaver Dam State Park at about 5pm and found a level 50 amp site. The man in the TT across from us watched the entire time I directed Ken’s backing in to the site. I think he was expecting that there’d be fireworks to watch before it was over, but Ken and I have gotten pretty good at shared coordination ‘take off’ and ‘landing’ procedures.

Kyle came out to have dinner with us…pork chops on the grill, red beans and rice, and fresh green beans. Russ, one of my good friends at work, had given me a couple of bottles of Spirit Knob wine as a retirement gift so we uncorked one of those to celebrate our major milestones of the last 24 hours.

After dinner we made a run in to Kyle’s new house to get an idea of where we wanted to start Wednesday morning. Kyle was filling in his hardware store shopping list as we walked from room to room with Ken rattling off all the items we’d need.

We were back to the RV by 10pm.

No, I don’t feel retired yet but I think it will start sinking in!!



Wednesday, June 24, 2009

So Where to from Here??

Ok, so yesterday was my announcement post but I'm already getting lots of questions about what we are planning now.

As you might imagine, most of the hours in my day right now are spent reorganizing activities and ‘pulling back’ at work, followed by a lot of time at home studying budgets, healthcare, unemployment, 401K rollovers, and travel plans. It’s all falling in to place very nicely and I’m honestly enjoying the transition.

Here’s some of what’s in store in the months to come….

As soon as I head out the door at work next week, Ken wants to take the motorhome on a short run to Carlinville. His purpose is two-fold. At the Escapade RV rally he purchased an electrical management system to basically protect the motorhome against damage from 'dirty electricity' you often encounter when hooking in to power supplies across the continent. He has since hardwired this in to the motorhome electrical system and wants to test it out on a short trip before we head out for a week or more at a time.

Also, our oldest son, Kyle will actually be closing on the purchase of his first home on June 29th. While he doesn't plan to move until the weekend of July 11th, Ken and Kyle want to spend a day or two scoping out the house and deciding what kind of projects they think they should tackle before the July 11th move. (hmmm...still in project management mode, aren't I?!?) We figure we can spend a day or two at Beaver Dam State Park, make sure all the motorhome electrical is performing as expected and also lay out a plan-of-attack for what's to be done July 6-11.

We'll then book it back to Quincy on July 3rd so that we can prepare for our annual July 4th Croquet Tournament and Picnic. We invite both of our brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews. We just serve brats and nachos, tea and lemonade and let everyone bring lawn chairs and anything else they'd like to eat and drink. Very laid back. This year Ken's niece, Monica will be visiting Quincy so we're hoping lots of her cousins have the opportunity to drop in and say 'hi'.

After the 4th of July, Ken and I will take the motorhome down there and help Kyle get settled in his new home. It’s a small house in town about 8 blocks from the square. He’ll need to purchase all the appliances, refrigerator, range, dishwasher, washer, dryer and then all of the household items that he hasn’t had to worry about before like a lawnmower. The owners are also taking all of the window treatments so that will be another project. While this 90 year-old house is in very good shape (even the inspector was surprised), Ken and Kyle still have a growing project list of things they’d like to get done, including moving the shower nozzle to a more reasonable height for a 6’2” guy, installing a separate dishwasher/cabinet area in the kitchen and maybe even doing some floor upgrades in the kitchen. For some strange reason, the prior owners made the entire exterior maintenance free EXCEPT for the soffets. If the weather cools down a bit we may tackle getting a new coat of paint on those this year, although longterm he needs to get those sided as well. The great part about it is Ken and I have no pressing schedules and so can take our time. If Ken needs an ‘eat-and-sleep’ day to accommodate his health issues, no problem, I don’t have to be anywhere!!

While Kyle’s backyard is huge and the alley entrance easily accommodates our motorhome, at least for now we plan to continue to stay at Beaver Dam State Park when we visit since it is only 7 miles away from his house. They have 50 amp service to accommodate our 2 air conditioners and with Ken’s disability discount it’s only $15 a night during the week. Makes it a little less like Mom and Dad are 'in his face' all the time if we are not parked in his backyard.

Jenni will be moving down to Carlinville the same weekend that Kyle moves to his new house. She will be taking over the lease on Kyle’s apartment. This fall she starts a new teaching job at the parochial school in Staunton, IL which is about 15 miles south of Carlinville.

We found out yesterday that our dear friend, Donna Ellsworth and her sons, Kenny (yes, Ken's his godfather!) and Brian, will make the trip from Atlanta to visit Quincy between July 16th and the 22nd, so we will probably try to get back to Quincy from Carlinville by the weekend of July 18th so we can spend some time with them.

Because so much of my work team is on the road right now, they’ve decided to wait until we will be back from Carlinville, July 21st, to give me a ‘retirement luncheon’, so our calendar is really beginning to fill quickly.

There’s also the annual EIU Panther Golf outing in late July. We’ll spend a few days up by Champaign, IL to attend that event. In the past I’ve never been able to attend but usually some of the players join Ken in spending the nights in the RV.

Besides all of those activities, when Ken and I are back in Quincy, we will continue to work on remodeling the second floor of our house. We are stripping all the popcorn off the ceilings, eliminating all the 20 year old wallcoverings, putting up new woodwork, along with wood flooring and ceramic tile. The master bath will get an even bigger face lift with a new ceramic tiled shower with a skylight above and new vanity with granite countertop. I’ll be learning a whole new set of ‘skills’ over the next few months! Even if we should decide to fulltime RV in a year, we think these are 'saleable' upgrades.

Our availalbe time for the remodeling projects will be sparse however, since by the end of August it's time for our final EIU football season. This will be a blast this year considering we are not going to be rushing back to Quincy every Sunday for me to go back to work. We really won’t plan to be home much during that time and are lucky to have family and neighbors happy to keep an eye on our ‘stick n bricks’ so we can really get a feel for how we are adjusting to being on the road for longer periods. We’ve never gone more than 17 days on the road together and that was with Kyle and Trev along, so we’ll start experimenting with how it feels to be truly living on the road. That said, we are still thinking we’ll fly to Penn State on the team plane since that would be an awesome experience to spend that whole weekend with the team and since it would not be a leisurely trip to go from a Charleston home game to middle of Pennsylvania and then back to Charleston home game the next weekend. Even with that plain trip thrown in, it looks like we will be spending the majority of our nights September thru November sleeping in the motorhome.

It will be December before things settle down from football and then after the holidays we’ll probably look to take a long trip down South or Southwest, but that’s just getting too far out to get too detailed at this point.

So that’s the plan and we feel blessed that we can change it on a whim!!

Hugs, C

Btw….I promise that I’ll start adding pictures again in the coming weeks!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


You might say this is the blog I’ve dreams of writing for years!

On June 30th, next Tuesday, I will leave my workplace of 30+ years and officially be FIRE’d (Financially Independent Retired Early!!). That term comes from a website that has been very important to us in making this decision --- firecalc.com This site has a very detailed calculator to help you determine what the probability is for you to live off of your investments for ‘nn’ number of years based on a wide variety of personal inputs and comparisons to economic cycles and investment rates of return over past 100+ years.

While I am 52 now and Ken and I had a goal of my retiring at 55, events at work have led to my volunteering to be part of a major ‘reduction in force’ required in my IT staff. As a result, I’ve worked with the CIO to ‘eliminate’ my job. I’ve agreed to stay through June 30th to assist in transition and reorganization.

I've judged its best not to talk about anything regarding my former employer here so you will not see any discussions in that regard in this blog…just suffice it to say that I could not be 'FIRE'd' were it not for the success of Gardner Denver, and that this departure was my choice. I consider it a 'win-win' and synchronistic timing in both my work environment and current family situation.
With that one exception, as most of you know, I try to be pretty transparent in this blog on what is going on in our lives. I've learned a great deal and found a 'virtual' kinship with fellow 'transparent' bloggers, especially fulltime RVers and early retirees who have been very willing to share their lifestyle and I hope I can extend that as well.

I’ve known about this decision since mid-May and every day I’m more confident that this was meant to be and is a start to an exciting new chapter in our lives.

That’s not to say that Ken and I aren’t going to be facing some significant challenges as we face our new life together. Leaving now versus 3 years from now, especially after the plummet in the stock markets this past year means this site name should probably be changed to ‘Frugal Frerx Adventures’!

There is no question that Ken and I have been blessed these past 3 decades when it comes to finances. It’s almost embarrassing to say but we have never once lived by a budget in our 28 years of marriage. Keeping track of every dime we are spending has been enlightening to say the least. We ate out constantly. I don’t think anyone but the cleaning ladies had cleaned our bathrooms for the last decade. I thought nothing of going for massages, pedicures, manicures and costly hair styles. The dogs even had a well-appointed groomer they saw every 6 weeks. I had no idea how much I spent at the grocery store.

Needless to say, all of that is changing. We have been tracking every dime since June 1. We’ve dropped the cleaning lady, massages (hey they were for work stress anyway!!) dog groomer and pedicures. Ok, I have to work in to this a bit and can’t give it all up at once but I’m working deals to cut the cost of having my hair and nails down to half. I’ve started weekly meal planning and watching the store ads – although, our current grocery bills are still pretty high since Trevor is home all of this month doing an internship!! And, while we are eating out less we are also noticing many ways to save when we do go out as well – like Wednesday is half-price Mexican night at Gem City and we are stuffed after sharing just one entree of tamales! -- that’s about a third of our normal bill when we eat out.

The biggest/ugly issue is healthcare. Ken can get Medicare. We are in process of wading our way through all the confusing details of the options there. The nasty part will be his $800+ of prescriptions monthly since even with Part D it looks like we will be picking up about $4800 of that cost. Trev and I are covered under COBRA for the next 18 months with the economic stimulus package covering 65% of that cost for the first 9 months. That will get Trev through his last college football season and give me some time to do some shopping for a plan for myself. I’m on both a low-dose blood pressure medicine and anti-anxiety medication which could cause some pre-existing issues for me. However, most who know me closely are sure that those prescription requirements will go away after a few months away from work!!

While on unemployment I will be looking for a job. However, since we do not want to leave Quincy right now as our permanent residence, the likelihood that I can find anything close in terms of salary is slight. I’ve promised Ken that I will make no ‘commitments’ of my or our time for one full year. No joining clubs, committing to volunteer activities, etc., while we adjust to how this all falls in to place and take time to determine what feels right.

While on paper (firecalc) it appears we should be able to keep the house and do extended RVing indefinitely, we’ll be testing that reality over the next year. The other issue is whether we really want to handle the homeplace upkeep and ‘housesitting’ issues as we do more extended RVing. Part of that will also depend on what happens with Trevor and where he finds a job after he finishes his MBA.

But, the awesome part of all of this is that Ken and I will have our mornings to sit outside with our coffee and decide what we want to tackle for the day without the constant stress of never having enough hours in the day!

There's few places we enjoy more than our own patio enjoying this kind of view (unless of course, it's a similar view from under the awning of our motorhome)!

I’ll sign off for now and fill you in tomorrow on some of our upcoming ‘adventures’.

Hugs, C