Like many of the other nearly 9 million people in California who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, artist Eric Rewitzer reacted to Donald Trump’s victory as if a tornado had swept his house away. “I just didn’t believe he was serious,” says the longtime San Francisco resident. “And I didn’t see it coming.” As disbelief gave way to sadness and then anger, the bespectacled printmaker found himself sitting at the table in the middle of his studio just blocks from the Pacific Ocean. He and his wife are known for their prints of a sweet “California bear,” a version of the grizzly on the state’s flag that likes to give hugs and sells very well at airport souvenir shops. But after he spent 40 hours carving and pressing a giant sheet of linoleum, a vastly changed animal appeared—roaring, teeth glaring, claws out. “You’ve stirred a beast,” says the usually sweet and soft-spoken Rewitzer. “Watch out.” —California Prepares to Resist the President in Uncertain Times, Time Magazine
Stephanie’s mom Chris has a childlike fascination with carrot cake. It’s a taste she associates with the United States, something she tried for the first time over 35 years ago while recovering at a hospital. Now, whenever she visits, carrot cake is on the itinerary. She’s not picky—a humble square from the grocery store will do. But this year, since she arrived from France on her birthday, I made her carrot cake cupcakes from scratch.
Last year I started tracking all of our monthly expenses against our income to put a number on how much we had leftover to save. Considering that we’ve tried to curb unnecessary and excessive spending since Stephanie quit her job in 2014 and went back to school in 2015, I was still shocked to discover our total cost of living at the end of 2016. After taxes, 29% goes to the mortgage and related expenses while another 38% supports our lifestyle, which leaves 33% to save. We are fortunate to be able to save a third of our net income for retirement—a rate I’ve deliberately worked to increase over the last 3 years—but when measured against the “financial independence” yardstick, not-so-early retirement sits over 20 years away.
That said, early retirement is not my goal. I’m not sure what my goal is. Periodic retirement? Work hard for a handful of years, step away, and then return—unconstrained by prior comforts, habits, and expectations. When viewed from that perspective, those unfathomable 20 years start to look more attractive: a series of several jobs (seeking that ever-elusive purpose), punctuated by sabbaticals of adventure and self-discovery.