November 12, 2007

Green Day

So one of the first things I want to do in retirement is to find a volunteer organization. I've done a number of non-profit ventures throughout my life and they always turn out very well. This last weekend, I participated in a large charity fundraiser where teams of four would do a scavenger hunt all over the city. It was immensely fun and definitely follows Rule #1 as well as Rule #3. I met a bunch of wonderful people and even talked about my retirement plan. I got a mixed reaction of fascination, confusion, disbelief, skepticism, and sometimes even a small hint of admiration. I was fed throughout the day and after the big scavenger hunt, there was a big party that had an open bar. One of my all-time favorite musicians performed and I even got to meet him and take a picture with him. I also met some other volunteers who welcomed me in future events they were planning. After exchanging contact information, me and my fellow volunteers danced the night away in drunken merriment.
Needless to say, it was a day well spent because my expense was 0 dollars (you could even say I made money by getting free food and booze), I enjoyed myself, and I helped a charity foundation.

So the reason I am telling my readers about this day was that it represents everything that this blog is about. I was able to participate in an event that I would have done before retirement if I was not working all the time. On top of that, the event did not cost me anything and I was even able to avoid drawing from my food budget for a day. This aspect of cutting costs each day is extremely important because of my ambitious retirement plan. Finally, with time and effort, I gave back to the community that allows me to live such a rich and bountiful life. Anyone who has volunteered for a cause knows giving with your blood, sweat, and tears is much more satisfying than just donating money. And finally, I was able to network. This is one of the most undervalued assets in most people's finances because it is so difficult to calculate how much your connection with an acquaintance is worth.
For example, my friend works at a company that provides free food and is always happy to have me for lunch. I also have a friend who knows how to cut hair and always is glad to help me crop my noodle. When I'm in need of someone to help me move to a new apartment, or if I need a ride from the airport, or if I need advice on stocks, I have a number of friends willing to help out.
Imagine how much each of these things are worth - a free lunch is always worth a good 5 dollars. A haircut nowadays costs me 15 dollars. Movers cost 50 dollars, an airport shuttle costs 30 dollars, stock tips or classes can be in the thousands of dollars! The power of networking and community is amazing and will be a huge part of my retirement.
Of course, I do not want to be the friend that takes and gives nothing in return. Though my retirement plan restricts me from giving back financially, I will be always good for the things I can provide - a free guitar lesson, a friend to talk to or hang out with, manual labor and whatnot. And of course, all of these things I would have done free of charge even if I wasn't retired. I honestly feel that working hard to develop a network of people instead working hard for a paycheck has a much higher return on investment and is much more satisfying in its own regards. Who calls helping a friend "work"?

I decided to help categorize my adventures by labeling things either a green day or a red day. A green day means I successfully went through a day without eating into the 25% return buffer I require to retire while following the 3 rules. A red day means I had to break one of the rules (I hope for good reason) or I had to eat into my 25% return. And this last weekend was most definitely a Green Day.

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