Hobby Money

Of course a placeholder remains in the budget for ham radio

Editors note: I wrote this a few weeks ago intended to be a resolution for the New Year. The irony that I would publish it today, mere hours after ordering a GPSDO for my IC-9700, hasn’t escaped me. My only defense being that one-off equipment purchases will continue, it’s only the recurring charges getting the stink eye in this treatise…

Retirement appears larger in the viewfinder in 2020 and that’s got me paying closer attention to the budget as we adjust spending in preparation for the eventual retired life. There’s certainly a lot of low-hanging fruit in our discretionary spending that can be cut. 

Brenda and I chuckle when discussing the fees for mobile phone service, cable TV, and Internet access. That’s because none of these even existed when we got married! My expectation is that the three-hundred dollar a month Verizon and Comcast bills will be slashed as we either opt for lower tiers of service, or eliminate them altogether when we retire.

Multiple, individual streaming services, magazine and book subscriptions; all these little “ankle biters” seem like pocket change on their own, but when tallied together they begin to look more like the national debt.  

And it’s not just household items on the chopping block. When confronted with it on paper, I’m forced to admit that I spend too much on ham radio subscriptions and memberships.

I’m going to drop several of those as they expire this year, and the rest next year. I’m a Life Member of ARRL so that will persist along with QST, but everything else is subject to cancellation. I’m not particularly happy to end my decades long membership with AMSAT but the shenanigans of the current leadership team have made this a little easier.

And while it never amounted to much, I closed my Patreon account. No more tipping or donating to blogs, podcasts or YouTube creators. If you want to make interesting ham radio content that’s great, but you’ll have to bankroll it yourself, or at least without me. 

Of course a placeholder remains in the budget for ham radio. Equipment will need to be added and replaced on occasion and we look forward to retirement to allow us more time to travel to visit more hamfests and conventions every year.

But the non-essential fees and recurring subscriptions are going to be eliminated. Then perhaps at some later date I’ll discover something that adds so much value to my radio experience that I can’t live without it and will be happy to resume whatever that might be. 

2 replies on “Hobby Money”

Retirement sharpens he need for a positive ROI on any limited-resource undertaking.

For most of us that is economics (is the dollar I spend in retirement getting me something that is really worth it?) and long-duration time (should I plant this orchard given it won’t really start producing before I am REALLY old?).

Short-duration time – the unused hours in each day – suddenly becomes available in a surplus, with more than a few retirees saying they are bored. My observation is that percentage is higher among those who do not cultivate avocations that are mature-year ready.

Personally I spent too much time and money pursuing a variety of pilot’s certifications that became all but useless to me when first economics challenged owning planes and though healthy I found myself unable to get a pilot’s medical without a huge effort that tilted the ROI the wrong way.

Of the retirement-ready hobbies I have cultivated Ham Radio is a stand out, as I can spend my time as health & wealth allows. Everything from having a big station to having a small bit of gear in a backpack works. If my situation really becomes challenged there are options where you really don’t need much equipment, no antenna space of your own, and still can find a way to get on the air remotely or with a club station.

Among my other personal preparations for retirement engagement I’ve kept up my musicianship and have expanded it with some lower key (pun unavoidable – sorry) musical pursuits.

I’m well into building a very capable workshop and have started learning about what I can do with the equipment.

I’ve dipped my feet into volunteerism, though I seem to lack the knack of finding an effective way to help others without swamping myself.

A dedicated daily fitness regime has become integral over the last three years, as I am not going to head to an eventual retirement unfit.

Coming back to Ham Radio in my pre-retirement honing of my ham activities I have had to learn to say “no” to time-sinks – the low ROI activities like leadership in local clubs (I seldom even go to meetings…as I have been to way too many meetings in my life to willingly waste time attending any more than I have to), and I have tried to reduce my “interest of the day” fluttering to the next new thing that caught my fancy.

On the flip side I have made sure that I have put in enough types of gear so I won’t bore quickly when I do retire. As I have written about I have a very FlexRadio heavy setup, but I also have a conventional setup in reserve, and a classic boat anchor setup beyond that. There is field portable gear and kits and all sorts that would keep me busy for some time.

Where I am not ready for ham radio at retirement is on the people side of the equation. I really should put some dedication back into being a good Elmer into my ham experience.

Can DXing or running FT8 or maybe participating in routine regular nets provide enough substance to keep me going in Ham Radio after retirement?

I’m thinking not so much, especially as the older hams I have become good friends with one by one become silent keys, it will mean more to be a Ham if I’m actively Elmering.

There are many days when my thoughts of ever retiring get pushed away by a fear of what will I do if I retire?

What would I do?

That is the real question!




Thanks for the thoughtful reply Steve. After just two weeks off work at the end of last year I was a little nervous wondering if I can survive retirement without boredom! But as you’ve suggested, having a strategy is a requirement. You can’t simply wander into carefree days without a plan…I’m working on that as we all should.

73, Jeff

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