Many people say they would love to retire but have trouble occupying themselves when faced with excessive free time. Diane used to work shifts in her nursing career. When faced with a stretch of more than a few days off she’d go stir crazy.
I am not one of those people.
Having faced an enormous amount of involuntary down time between jobs during my first expat experience in Canada, I was very familiar with this situation. But searching for work due to limited opportunities in your field is very different from ending your career.
The first few weeks of unemployment were tough. First you feel angry and want to exact revenge on the assholes responsible for your circumstances. I spent some time recalling the past year. The writing on the wall was there but you never think you’ll be a victim.
The anger phase usually passes after a few weeks as you start to enjoy the extra two hours of sleep. Working in the financial services industry on the west coast of America dooms you to a lifetime of 4 AM alarm settings. Sleep patterns suffer because nobody can go to bed at 8 PM except maybe the early morning newscaster.
The holiday season came and went with little fanfare other than my uncertainty about giving up the job search. Next came the guilt phase. Although there’s nothing I want more than to finish work forever I felt like I should at least pretend to look for another job. Times had changed so much since our return to California from Canada in 2007. I have no LinkedIn.com profile, lack networking contacts and my previous employment search strategies were now obsolete.
I did update my résumé but only because the MM2H application requires one.(MM2H is a social visit pass for those seeking residency in Malaysia, our intended destination in 2015.) Submitting several online applications resulted in absolutely nothing. Reading various internet articles, I learned that even professionals with credible credentials often stayed unemployed for long periods. Quickly giving up false hope I decided to focus on the future as an expatriate in Southeast Asia.
Financially speaking, things were OK. Although I’d been laid off, the old shitty company provided continuous full pay for 14 weeks, the 2013 annual bonus, profit-sharing and an opportunity to collect unemployment insurance compensation despite the ongoing benefits. Not a bad gig if you can get it. We also have a long-term CD that I snagged at 3.0% just before The Federal Reserve ruined the next decade for savers, senior citizens and those too conservative to invest in the stock market. Having an emergency fund is very beneficial.
Fortunately, it’s been 10 months and we have yet to use any of those income sources. Prudent and tight budgeting along with no debt, diligent investing and continuous prepayments to the mortgage can do wonders for your net worth.
Everyone carries stress related to their job. This begins to melt away after a few months, providing the first reason layoffs are good for your health. However, a sound financial condition sure helps. This blog is not about how to retire early due to a layoff. There are dozens of great blogs on that topic. My favorite is MrMoneyMoustache.com. Check it out if you’re serious about where to start.
It’s also not about raising your kids while travelling the globe during your working years. If that topic interests you, however, I recommend Soultravellers3.com , an award-winning collection of amazing stories and adventures.
This is an ongoing story of two people with no kids that simply don’t want to work anymore.
As the blog title indicates, it’s an experiment. There’s no guarantee of success but I’m happy and eager to share what I’ve learned so far.
For me, being laid off allowed me to unlock my body’s potential, physically speaking. Realizing we’ll be entering a strange new place filled with deliciously unhealthy fats, carbohydrates and sugars once we leave for Malaysia, I decided to make maximum use of my free time and finally get my money’s worth from our monthly fitness club membership. The gym workouts also about cover about 30% of my plan that encompasses how to spend eight hours a day when you’re used to being at work.
Normally I hate working out in a gym. I can’t deal with competitive studs who grunt when they bench press two million pounds or the super perfect athletic hotties that love Pilates classes, eat salad every day and have 1.2% body fat.
Fortunately, many of these people don’t patronize my gym during normal school and work hours. There is one exception. If you arrive between 4:30 And 7:00 AM there are no parking spots. All the insane people who take Body Pump Superman High Endurance Cardio classes or engage in two-hour workouts before work dominate the landscape. After 9:00 AM, the slim housewives with too much money and upper middle class senior citizens show up, making it difficult to find any free weights, cardio machines or available classes. That leaves two hours for me.
Figuring a personal trainer wouldn’t cut it in a one salary budget household, I sought out a routine that fit my needs and wasn’t impossible to learn. Although not obese, I’d packed on way too many pounds without realizing it during the cubicle days. Diane and I don’t even eat out a lot or snack on too much crap. Bottom line: No matter how much you exercise, diet controls about 80% of weight. I’d have to alter our diet to get results.
Like you, I hate “ab-crunches”, Pilates exercises , core training classes and almost anything else that hurts the lower back. My goal was an improved fitness level combined with weight loss. Sadly, gaining muscle while simultaneously losing weight is the holy grail of fitness. It’s a delicate balancing act that involves educating yourself on what to eat after a heavy workout.
The short answer is eat lots of lean protein in small quantities throughout the day, make sure your carbohydrates are in the lower range of the glycemic Index and change your side dishes from pasta, rice and noodles to green vegetables. Snack on UNPROCESSED items (Triscuits are one of the best). Change the evening snack from chips to fresh fruit, and start looking at sugar content instead of total calories. Flavored Greek yogurt dominates the shelves with their “healthy snack” labels. 18 grams of sugar is NOT healthy despite the protein. Your body will store the sugar as fat, negating the protein benefits. Instead, try plain Greek yogurt with some berries.
After some research I decided to go with a fitness routine known as The New Rules of Lifting, developed by Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove. The former is a fitness journalist and author or coauthor of several books on men’s health and exercise. The latter is one of the country’s top trainers and fitness experts, and a regular contributor to Men’s Health Magazine.
Together they developed an alternative to most training programs. Knowing my core needs the most work, I chose their abdominal plan. They believe crunches only benefit one specific area and can actually do more damage to your spine than good. Instead, they teach a system of exercises that adds an extra dimension for your core as well as strength. As an example, using weights to do a rowing motion while squatting adds a part that forces your core to work harder while still accomplishing the weight training aspect.
I rarely get through an entire fitness book because they usually lack substance and fill the pages with pictures of poses that average people can’t do. The New Rules of Lifting for Abs an exception. It teaches you the physiology behind the science as well as explaining how diet comes into play. I highly recommend it.
Taking most cues from the book, I started with 60 minutes circuits that always include 15 minutes of cardio. Sometimes I ride the Stair Master at level 10 which equates to an 86 floor climb. Other days I start with 16 minutes of HIIT, short for high intensity interval training. Involving a concept of basic exercises done at quick continuous periods, I do eight sets of four exercises: jumping jacks, squats, reverse lunges and push-ups or burpee. For each set, you exercise 20 seconds, rest 10 seconds and then repeat.
High Intensity Interval Training is a separate discipline which many gyms blend into a one hour class. Although I’d never done this before I tried a class for five months every Tuesday. It worked wonders and provides an awesome healthy high to start the day. Unfortunately the guy that pays the bills cancelled the class but it provided enough insight to create a personalized circuit. With some self-discipline you can get an awesome workout even when you’re on the road.
Yoga is also great but requires flexibility that disappears without regular practice. I started attending weekly classes taught by the best instructors in my gym. Yoga makes an excellent supplement to a weekly circuit and I highly recommend it. Attending a beginners class in a yoga studio is helpful before attending a session . Lacking an understanding of basic poses leads to injury. Sadly, most gyms don’t really care especially when it comes to weekend participants.
There are many disciplines of yoga with various levels of difficulty. If you’re interested in learning yoga, I recommend Iyengar yoga, a style developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, considered one if the foremost yoga teachers in the world. Sadly he just passed away this past summer at age 96. This book is a great starting point. Yoga is also very beneficial for work related stress.
I’m always sore and I never feel like going to the gym. But I force myself anyway. Some days I feel great and get stronger; others I feel worthless and weak. I keep at it, however. I have no clue how this routine will continue in a tropical country with torrid humidity where all yoga classes feel like Bikram, a ridiculous yoga discipline known as “hot yoga”. It’s done in a room kept at 102 degrees Fahrenheit).
My weight dropped from 178 to 165 in a few months and then continued to drop as I gained more muscle. Currently it’s about 157, considered the top of the normal weight range for my height. Needless to say my clothes are all too big. Given the financial circumstances, replacements will have to wait awhile. I guess that’s the main disadvantage to weight loss.
I watched this past season of American Ninja Warrior with a new sense of respect and I now understanding how difficult many of the obstacles are. The Warped Wall is something I’ll never be able to scale. To this day I can still barely do a chin up, even after eight months of intense training. But at age 49 I feel and look healthier than ever before. My sleep patterns improved and I’ve concluded that restlessness and insomnia are often due to work related stress.
Emotionally speaking, my first return to the shit hole company that laid me was not what I expected. Except for the comatose atmosphere created by slashing a staff of 180 down to 65, the atmosphere hadn’t changed much and I felt little sense of loss. My remaining ex co-workers all said I looked tan, skinny and healthy. I sensed a good degree of jealousy in some, even the ones that claim to like their jobs.
In my mind, the percentage of Americans that like their jobs probably ranks the same as the Elite embers of our society: One percent. Or less. Nobody really believed I was going to just retire. Most people talk a good story but don’t practice what’s needed to execute that strategy.
Hopefully Diane and I will be one of the exceptions.