Join Early Retirement Today
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Long-time lurker
Old 05-20-2008, 09:27 PM   #1
Dryer sheet aficionado
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 48
Long-time lurker

(this turned out to be very long—sorry!)

I’ve been around the boards for a long time (long enough to remember John Galt and Cutthroat) and have occasionally posted, but not often.

Even though I’m not likely to RE in the same sense of most of you, I thought I’d introduce myself anyway. I’ve learned a lot from the boards and thank so many of you for good advice and interesting threads. And who knows, there might be others in similar situations as ours.

I’ll turn 58 in August, my wife 48 next December.

I’m a choral conductor and was a university teacher for 21 years (from 1983-2001 at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA), but left university teaching to pursue some other professional activities (I’ve always been involved in these anyway). I was already conducting two choirs in addition to my university job and was quickly burning out. I could look at another 15 years or so at the university (I still loved teaching and my students), but felt I’d simply end up repeating the same things I’d been doing and not grow. In that way, it was time to move on into the insecure world of the freelance musician.

My wife is a visual artist and is just now leaving the same university, where she’s taught for 17 years, 15 of those full-time. She, the opposite of me, was adjunct faculty (i.e., poorly paid/bottom of the totem pole) and more importantly, never felt that teaching was her calling. She filled out the final forms and turned in her keys today and is VERY happy to be moving on!

We’ll do a COBRA (signed the papers yesterday and wrote the first check today), and we’re lucky in WA state that at the end of it we can sign up for individual health insurance with no screening for pre-existing conditions and will get the rate appropriate for our age/sex. This was a big plus. It’s still not inexpensive, of course ($824/mo currently), but is workable and we’ll explore other options in 18 months (most likely an HAS).

I’ll be beginning my 10th year as Artistic Director of a professional chamber choir in Edmonton, Alberta this fall and I continue to enjoy it very much. A YouTube video was bootlegged of the choir at our Good Friday concert -- -- if you’re interested.

We’ve corresponded off and on with Billy and Akaisha and have long admired their PT lifestyle. While that doesn’t work exactly for us (given my time commitments in Edmonton, where I arrive about 10-12 days before a concert for rehearsals), we’ve been able to do some interesting things. My doctoral dissertation, which was later published, is on Swedish choral music and that meant lots of contacts and friends in Sweden. Last year we spent about 7 weeks in Stockholm as a kind of self-made “mini-sabbatical.” I did some conducting prep work with the Swedish Radio Choir, certainly one of the best choirs in the world, and that led to an invitation to do more this year. Consequently, I was in Sweden from January 1 to February 9, then again from March 27 to May 15 (in between I had two different programs with Pro Coro in Edmonton and another filling in for an ill friend during my two weeks at home). I did lots of prep rehearsals for the Radio Choir, but also conducted their spring concert, which was in combination with a great jazz duo. The concert’s still on-line (for another week or two, I think) at: Sveriges Radio - P2.

I also have been writing a blog about what we’ve been doing at Richard Sparks - Music, Conducting, Choirs

We were able to afford this in part because we have a great friend (publisher of my book, she’s Swedish, but lives in S. Carolina) with an apartment in Stockholm, where we stayed. We seriously considered moving to Sweden last year, but for a non-EU citizen, it’s not easy to get a residence/work permit, so we’ll continue to visit as we can.

We also made changes to cut down our expenses. Following Billy and Akaisha’s “low cost living,” we bought a manufactured home in a small park last August for cash (including what we spent to fix up/upgrade) and our space rent is only $250/mo, which includes water, sewer, and garbage. Property tax is very low, about $550/year (we’re paying only on the home, since we don’t own the land). This keeps our “must pay” items low, should we need to really cut back, or allows us to leave for longer periods of time (as Billy and Akaisha do) without worrying to much about what we leave behind or how much it’s costing us.

My wife is exploring options for how to market what she does as an artist, but I have enough stuff lined up for next year that we can get by even if she earns nothing. I’ll conduct an opera in Edmonton in November and next May will be a guest professor at the University of Cincinnati (I did that for the fall quarter of 2006 as well—it’s where I got my doctorate).

My wife didn’t have any retirement fund when we met (about 12 years ago: she was on 3 different part-time contracts and getting NO benefits), so her rollover will be small, maybe $70,000. I rolled over my TIAA-CREF money into my IRA, so have about $770,000 there and we have a modest emergency fund. Don’t have any debts.

As long as I keep enjoying what I do (and more importantly, get ASKED to do interesting things, which is no guarantee!), I’ll keep at it. If it dries up, we know we can get by and, of course, I’m just a little more than a year and a half from 59 1/2 and being able to draw from the IRA without having to do a 72T, if we need it.

I have a “never say never” policy about teaching or other opportunites. I loved teaching, had a great time at the University of Cincinnati working with talented grad students and would consider going back in if the right opportunity came up. Of course, at almost 58 those opportunities get fewer and fewer! On the other hand, if I teach as a guest, I serve on no committees, go to no meetings, and don’t have to administer a program!

At the moment I don’t have anything in Sweden for the coming year, but we’ll see what happens the next season (they plan quite far in advance). We hope to go back next summer (2009) and spend time in Stockholm, Norway (my wife’s youngest sister lives there), and visit friends elsewhere in Europe. My wife has a possible exhibition in Sweden and I have a probable judging gig in Hungary. We’ll see.

Overall, we’ve tried to find ways to keep our freedom; still have time for other interests, family and friends; do things we enjoy doing; and have time for and with each other (one of the great advantages of my wife’s leaving the university is that she can travel with me whenever I travel).

Who knows when a full “retirement” might happen?
sparkee is offline   Reply With Quote
Join the #1 Early Retirement and Financial Independence Forum Today - It's Totally Free!

Are you planning to be financially independent as early as possible so you can live life on your own terms? Discuss successful investing strategies, asset allocation models, tax strategies and other related topics in our online forum community. Our members range from young folks just starting their journey to financial independence, military retirees and even multimillionaires. No matter where you fit in you'll find that is a great community to join. Best of all it's totally FREE!

You are currently viewing our boards as a guest so you have limited access to our community. Please take the time to register and you will gain a lot of great new features including; the ability to participate in discussions, network with our members, see fewer ads, upload photographs, create a retirement blog, send private messages and so much, much more!

Old 05-20-2008, 09:39 PM   #2
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
Rambler's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 2,457
Sounds like you'll be doing what you like, which is the second most important part of FIRE...first is having the funds to do it.

Good luck,

Rambler is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-20-2008, 10:48 PM   #3
Recycles dryer sheets
Medit8's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 119
Välkommen. Trevligt att ha en annan Svensk (eller Sverige-phile) här på forumet.
Ty Webb to Carl Spackler: "Got a a pool and a pond. Pond would be good for you."
Medit8 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-21-2008, 07:20 AM   #4
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
dex's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 5,105
Welcome, congrats and thanks for bringing some beauty into the world.
Take a look a Blue Cross/Blue Shield for health ins. I found it to be less expensive than Cobra. Look at the high deductable plans.
I'm single and pay 210/mo with a 5K deductable.
Sometimes death is not as tragic as not knowing how to live. This man knew how to live--and how to make others glad they were living. - Jack Benny at Nat King Cole's funeral
dex is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-21-2008, 07:58 AM   #5
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
Sarah in SC's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Charleston, SC
Posts: 13,564
What a wonderful life you and your wife have made!
Thank you so much for sharing your story and the engaged, active lives you enjoy!
Very inspirational.
“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it's worth watching.”
Gerard Arthur Way

Sarah in SC is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-21-2008, 08:04 AM   #6
Moderator Emeritus
Martha's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: minnesota
Posts: 13,227
Thanks for the update! Is your manufactured home in Washington or somewhere else? I ask because your lot rent is relatively low.

No more lawyer stuff, no more political stuff, so no more CYA

Martha is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-21-2008, 02:27 PM   #7
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
haha's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Hooverville
Posts: 22,983
Nice intro. You and your wife are very accomplished people.

When or if your gigs stop, you wil have what will likely be a good SS check, so with the savings I suppose you two will be fine.

Cater to your wife- a walk-off would not help you very much!

BTW, I spent my middle and late teen years within walking distance of UC Conservatory of Music, and a brother became a horn player there. IMO, a nice place.

"As a general rule, the more dangerous or inappropriate a conversation, the more interesting it is."-Scott Adams
haha is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-21-2008, 03:05 PM   #8
Gone but not forgotten
Khan's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 6,924
Send a message via AIM to Khan
Sounds like you've found the sweet spot.

What's Sweden like in January?
"Knowin' no one nowhere's gonna miss us when we're gone..."
Khan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-21-2008, 09:25 PM   #9
Dryer sheet aficionado
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 48
Thanks to tall for nice responses.

Dex: we will look into Blue/cross/shield once our Cobra is over--most likely an HSA plan with high-deductible

Martha: yes, we're in Tacoma. Our space rent is VERY low (and we know it). It's a small park (around 20 homes) owned by a lady who build it on with her husband 22 years ago. She lives in a house at the front of the property. She has three sons, one of whom lives in one of the houses. She's happy to keep rent low to keep long-term residents. She's around 70, but her mother died a year or two ago at 95, so we hope she'll be around for a long time! We'd looked around quite a bit before buying this place and more typical rents are $500-600. One risk for us is that she dies and someone either sells the property for development (unlikely, there's lots of available land nearby without homes on it), or her sons/new owners quickly raise the rents to market rates (more likely).

haha: yes, CCM (College-Conservatory of Music) is quite a nice place--it was fun for me to go back and teach after being a student there, especially since they completely remodeled the building

Khan: Sweden in January is cold and dark, although they had a very mild winter this year and last with little snow. Most of the time we walked everywhere and hardly used the subway or bus. Even to the Radio (our longest usual walk) it was just about 40-45 minutes. The weather wasn't bad enough to keep us from doing this! For us, of course, being there in the main concert season was great--lots going on.
sparkee is offline   Reply With Quote
Update--almost 2012
Old 12-22-2011, 10:05 AM   #10
Dryer sheet aficionado
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 48
Update--almost 2012

An update to a thread a few years old as I "unlurk" again:

Even though I'm far from retired (and turned 61 in August, so very unlikely to be an "ER"), I still visit here regularly and enjoy the discussions.

I did take a job at the University of North Texas in 2009, coming in as a Professor in the College of Music. The job was attractive for a variety of reasons, partly because of a strong overall choral program and a colleague I wanted to work with, but also a strong early music program where I conduct the choir associated with it. For example, that group (the Collegium Singers) was invited along with the Baroque Orchestra to perform at the Boston Early Music Festival (one of the biggest in the world) last June. Here's that group doing the Vivaldi Gloria from December:

The second year at UNT (I'm now in my third) I was appointed as chair of my division, which means some administrative work in place of teaching (boo!), more money, but also a chance to do some good things for my area, which I've enjoyed. I teach with a lot of great musicians/people, which makes my job fun most of the time. And I work with a lot of talented students.

We rented for the first year and then found a very nice house in a great neighborhood--for these north-westerners, nice to have a somewhat hilly (for north Texas) terrain and lots of trees in the neighborhood: we have three big oaks and two flowering pears on our lot, and back up to a small, heavily wooded ravine/greenbelt which can't be developed.

House prices are incredibly cheap in Denton, so even with some remodeling we did, we were able to get this house for what would be a great price in most areas of the country. We kept our manufactured home in Tacoma, WA for a year, put it on and off the (bad) real estate market several times, and finally entered into a contract recently with our next-door neighbor's mother, so it's in process and we'll cash out when she sells her place. For us, it's incredibly nice, although it's not a lot of money, to get it off our financial radar (space rent, minimal yard upkeep and utilities, insurance, etc.) and minds.

Here in Denton, in less than 15 minutes I can be to school, parked and in my office. Denton itself has the ambiance of a relatively small town--it's the county seat and has a typical Texas courthouse square. Even since we've arrived, the area around the square has seen lots of nice development with new restaurants, apartments and condos--and we can be there in about 6-8 minutes. Dallas or Fort Worth are about 40-45 minutes away if we want the bigger city.

After this summer's record number of days above 100 degrees, we certainly miss the ability to do things out of doors during the summer! But there's the (partial!) compensation of lots of sunny days through the winter. We still miss our hikes in the area around Mt. Rainier!

This year has gotten crazier for me--and even further from retirement--since I was called in August about being Interim Choirmaster for a year at the Church of the Incarnation in Dallas (Church of the Incarnation | An Episcopal Church in Dallas, TX), a large and very active Episcopal church with a particularly strong Anglican musical tradition and choral program, including an Evensong service each Sunday evening during the academic year. While this keeps me incredibly busy--Tuesday morning staff meetings, Wednesday night rehearsals, and essentially all day Sundays--it's proved to be incredibly enjoyable. The tradition is a great one and the repertoire that's performed (primarily, but not all, British repertoire from the renaissance through today, with composers such as Tallis, Byrd, Purcell, Stanford, Vaughan Williams, etc.) is a new repertoire to learn and enjoy. It makes for a busy schedule, but my wife is able to come along (except for Tuesday mornings) and she also loves music, so she sits in my office and listens to rehearsals while she does her own work and we can visit during the commute. The job is enjoyable enough that I've applied for the permanent position . . . and we'll see what happens. In a way, this takes the place of my conducting the professional chamber choir in Canada (Pro Coro Canada), which I reluctantly left last Spring after 12 years--but which was far too difficult to combine with a full-time university job and further distance.

DW is a visual artist and writer (both prose and poetry). She's recently discovered blogging as a way of expressing all the various sides of what she does. She started in July and has kept to a discipline of a blog post every day (and plans to keep to that schedule for at least a year), plus will begin to draw more regularly after the first of the year. She's particularly enjoying the community of fellow bloggers she's met online from all over the world. If you're interested in what she's up to, her blog is here: kiwsparks | Seeing the world through art-colored glasses

She's a talented lady!

All-in-all, we're both happy with what we're doing and where we are, so are grateful for that this Christmas season. I've always said that for any of the major changes (career-wise, place-wise, and personal) that I've made, I couldn't possibly have anticipated them even a year in advance. Who could have known that we'd move to Texas, I'd be back teaching again, that I'd be a church musician, that my wife would be a happy and contented blogger, etc., before it all happened? Not me!

My best to all of you. May you be happy and fulfilled wherever you may be, whoever you're with, and whatever you're doing.

sparkee is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-23-2011, 01:31 PM   #11
Full time employment: Posting here.
arebelspy's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 625
Sounds like you have a very full - and fun - life. Thanks for sharing the story/update!
arebelspy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-23-2011, 02:01 PM   #12
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
Huston55's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: The Bay Area
Posts: 2,645
Welcome back Sparkee!

Denton may be north Texas to you and those around the DFW Metroplex but, where I come from Hemphill County, Texas - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia it's East Texas.

I do know what you mean about the value of a few trees and a little vertical relief (hills) in that area of the country though...very nice to have.

Glad you're both enjoying Texas.
You may be whatever you resolve to be.
100% x 10% > 10% x 100%
Small pensions & SS cover essentials
Huston55 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-23-2011, 05:21 PM   #13
braumeister's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Flyover country
Posts: 19,457
Originally Posted by Huston55 View Post
Glad you're both enjoying Texas.
Please, I beg of you, don't ever use those two words together in a sentence.
REWahoo will never let us hear the end of it.
I thought growing old would take longer.
braumeister is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-23-2011, 05:54 PM   #14
Moderator Emeritus
Nords's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Oahu
Posts: 26,801
Originally Posted by braumeister View Post
Please, I beg of you, don't ever use those two words together in a sentence.
REWahoo will never let us hear the end of it.
He thinks Texas is pretty nice... but it's everything else going on inside the borders that keeps others away.

I hear they're outta water anyway.

Co-author (with my daughter) of “Raising Your Money-Savvy Family For Next Generation Financial Independence.”
Author of the book written on "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement."

I don't spend much time here— please send a PM.
Nords is offline   Reply With Quote
outta water
Old 12-23-2011, 06:07 PM   #15
Dryer sheet aficionado
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 48
outta water

Originally Posted by Nords View Post
He thinks Texas is pretty nice... but it's everything else going on inside the borders that keeps others away.

I hear they're outta water anyway.
Most of Texas is in pretty poor shape. We're lucky around here that it hasn't been as severe. However, it's likely to continue to be dry with another year of (can't remember which!) El Niño or La Niña. And, of course, there's always the historical possibility that we're entering into a 5-15 year drought cycle. Or that climate change is helping the push into a hotter, dryer environment.

I know one of our plans is to get rid of our lawn and do xeriscaping + figure out how to use gray water for irrigation of plants and trees.

I'm not encouraging anyone to move here! Just sayin' my wife and I are enjoying it where we are.
sparkee is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-23-2011, 06:14 PM   #16
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso) Give me a forum ...
REWahoo's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Texas: No Country for Old Men
Posts: 48,244
Originally Posted by sparkee View Post
I'm not encouraging anyone to move here!
Welcome to the club...
Numbers is hard

Retired in 2005 at age 58, no pension
REWahoo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-23-2011, 08:33 PM   #17
braumeister's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Flyover country
Posts: 19,457
Originally Posted by sparkee View Post
I'm not encouraging anyone to move here!
I know that feeling well. When I lived in Colorado back in the 1970s, there was a serious movement to set up some sort of internal passport system to keep the immigrants out.

Of course, the most undesirable immigrants were the Texans, but that was another issue.

Obviously, it didn't work, and Colorado's population today is about twice what it was when I lived there. Same for Texas. Meanwhile, Ohio (where I live now) is about flat for that time period, and New York (where I grew up) is up only slightly.

There's a nice resource here to look at population grown by state:
Population in the U.S. - Google Public Data Explorer
I thought growing old would take longer.
braumeister is offline   Reply With Quote

Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
A long, long time ago... LeatherneckPA Other topics 2 09-29-2007 09:03 PM
Long time, No See laurence Other topics 24 01-23-2007 10:07 PM
Long Time Lurker smcculloch Young Dreamers 1 11-28-2006 11:27 PM
long time lurker, first time poster grateful Hi, I am... 1 09-19-2006 06:28 PM
Long Time Lurker gatorguy Hi, I am... 7 08-10-2006 07:23 PM

» Quick Links

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 10:40 PM.
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.