Have a Plan

Work hard, save your money, retire early. That was my plan. I wanted to be done with working while I was still in my 50s. I was done with the rat race at 57.

It wasn’t easy. There were times when I’d watch my savings vanish. Those events that sucked away nest eggs, “Easy come, easy go.” Each time my nest egg cracked I started over. Life happens, so you need a plan.

Some folks plan is to work until they drop. They’ll probably succeed. It’s not a difficult plan to follow. In fact, I’d guess many of them will reach their goal early.

Many people I know are always chasing a dollar. It’s better to let the dollars come, as in find an occupation you love and be the best at that occupation. You’ll earn money. Then put as much as possible away while living below your means.

There was a time, like nearly everyone, I had debt. A car, house, and credit cards can take a toll. Once, while living in Augusta, Georgia and working for the State, my salary got messed up. It was by $10,000 per year and something they promised to correct. Some rule, unique to State Law prevented the fix from taking place. That led to another round to adminstrative solutions.

The State solutions were too slow and I was sucking wind financially. It was a great job at a great academic institution, but time was running out to fix then problem.

I left academia and when into industry. I never looked back, even though the university’s administration told me I’d be back in a year and they’d keep my office for me. (I still have a deep loyalty to that University and considered my few years there some of the best ever)

There were struggles, but never again was I in a position where I needed to juggle bills. I also continued to live to a large extent as I did while in Augusta. I left Augusta in 1990. I retired twenty three years later satisfying a goal to be done with typical work before turning 60.

Like most retired men I spend a lot of time playing sports. It is the number one past time of retired men. I am no exception.

Following my last day of official work I considered the sports I was already involved in: Running, cycling and triathlon. Throughout my work career I’d continued to train as much as time allowed. Retired, I could devote all my time to training and competing.   The most obvious choice was triathlon.

Triathlon was best for me because there is a low risk of crashing on a bike. Old guys crashing, well from experience, at any age crashing sucks. So, bicycle racing was out. I’m a fair runner and a poor swimmer. But, with additional time to train, I’d improve on my run and do what I could about swimming. Then, I got a new idea.

While reading, I stumbled across an article that pointed out two sposts where age is not such a factor: shooting and archery. I knew I could shoot well. I’d been shooting since I was a kid. I looked into the sport. It’s big bucks. Not for me.

Archery is less expense. Arrows last a whole lot longer than bullets. So, I made a plan. That is to earn a living wage through sports primary archery. That was four years and ten months ago (as I write this post)

I bought a decent bow, some cheap arrows, a release and went to work. I’ve made very little money though archery. I’d say, I am in the hole when it comes to earnings versus cost. On the other hand, it hasn’t yet been five years. Less than five years doesn’t always make someone an expert in a new field.

This year (as of today) I’ve shot in 13 tournaments. I’ve won 8 of them, 5 in my age group, 3 against men 21 to 49 years old. I shoot a lot against younger archers since often in the 60+ age group there aren’t many people to shoot against. In the really big toournamnets, like the ASA Pro/Am events I’m still getting hammered by guys my age. But, I am improving.

Yes, I could have stuck with triathlon as my primary retirement sport. Certainly, I’d have improved with more time to train. I wasn’t bad before I retired. One thing for sure, I wouldn’t have earned any money. To make matters more deplorable, one major triathlon event as an amateur costs more than I’ve spent over the past four years competing in archery.

I’m still learning the ropes in archery. I know my equipment is not exactly right. There are better arrows and a better release. The bows are fine. I have two but of them Elite’s.

Of course, it is unlikely any of this retirement fun would have been possible without a clear plan nearly four decades earlier.  So, my point is have a plan.