This month we reached our 10-year anniversary of early “retirement”
It’s been a fun ride.
To get things started, here are 10 observations I’ve made along the way.
10 Observations from 10 Years of Early Retirement
Here are 10 things I’ve noticed in my decade of whatever it is I’m doing. Some of this may be applicable to others and some may just be my personal experience.
In no particular order…
1 – Having to think about money sucks
Money is a hobby of mine – I enjoy thinking through and optimizing complex systems such as investments and taxes.
But having to think about money, that sucks – adhering to a strict budget, questioning purchase decisions (is this really a need?), and having money-related anxiety are terrible things to experience long term.
It took maybe 2-3 years post retirement before I really stopped thinking about money in a real way. That transition from accumulating to withdrawing from a portfolio is a real mind-f*#k. Give yourself time.
Now everything is pretty much on auto-pilot. We’ve stopped tracking expenses and finances are just something that kinda happens in the background, like weather.
2 – It takes years to decompress from a high intensity career
You know that cliché dream where you are standing in front of the class completely naked? I did that with work for several years.
6 months after leaving the office I would still think about office politics and unsolved problems, probably daily. It took at least a year before I stopped dreaming about work. By year 3, I didn’t think about it at all.
The typical 2-3 weeks of vacation per year is not nearly enough. Whoever thought we should stop having summers off after graduation was clearly not interested in mental health.
Again – give yourself time.
3 – Retirement doesn’t guarantee happiness
Retiring does one thing and one thing only – remove time and location obligations. Will that make you happy? Maybe.
The expectation that quitting will solve all problems will probably result in some disappointment.
I mean, retirement is fantastic, but don’t expect it to be a magic cure-all.
You now have some extra freedoms, but also some consequences.
4 – Work friends are friends at work
The odds are extremely high that work friends will forget about you. Work friends are just that – friends at work.
I had a fairly time consuming job and worked with many of the same people for 10+ years. An intense work environment, long hours, and lots of international travel meant strong bonds were created.
I have no doubt that if I were in dire need and asking for help, they would be there. Or if dropped into Seattle and asked people to cancel plans to meet up with me, they would.
But… in 10 years I’ve met up with more people from work that I knew only tangentially than with the people who often referred to me as family. I created a lot of this, of course, simply by not being in the same city. Still… it is interesting how fast the wall went up.
If a large part of your social network is work friends… be prepared to expand your social network in retirement. [ I love you guys though :) ]
5 – It is impossible to be bored
“Don’t you ever get bored?” and “I could never quit my job, I would be so bored!” are two very common statements by people heavily invested in their careers. Maybe it isn’t boredom you are afraid of, you are just traumatized (see #2.)
I honestly can’t think of a single moment I have felt bored in the last 10 years. There is just so much to do! For example, naps. And bike rides.
And learning things you never would have considered when your brain was lost in work thought. If somebody told me I would write a lot one day, I would have laughed in their face… but here I am, writing and enjoying it.
My observation – give yourself time to decompress. Then let that time fill naturally. It will. (there is clearly a theme here)
6 – Having an extra 40-60 hours per week is wonderful in every way.
Perhaps an extension of #3… but wow, where does the time go?!
I tried to think through this in reverse -> I really have no idea how I could cram 40-60 hours of extra obligations into my existing life… I guess I would have to cut out time with the wife and kids, reduce sleep time, increase caffeine consumption, and sacrifice long-term health? I dunno.
Think of all the things that you would like to do if you only had the time, and then realize the time is there it is just occupied by work.
7 – The Retirement schedule is the best schedule
When I walk into Costco at 10:30 on a Tuesday, the average age of the customer base drops. It’s just me and a bunch of other retirees with no lines.
The bike trail is way less crowded on Monday than Saturday.
Jr’s school lets out at 2:45… it is often me and a bunch of other stay-at-home parents hanging out in the parking lot on a sunny afternoon (more and more with bikes!)
Perhaps a similar life experience is possible with new work-from-home arrangements, but I’m pretty sure the retirement schedule is the best schedule.
8 – Plans Change
We retired to travel. Jr was in 48 countries in his first 48 months if I remember correctly. We travel less now… kid #2 has been to 2 countries in 2 years. Plans change.
It’s good to have a plan. It’s even better to allow plans to evolve how they need to.
Committing to never change a plan is a recipe for toil and trouble.
Maybe I’ll get a job someday, who knows. Decisions result in change. And then other decisions –> more change.
9 – There is no right choice and there are no special prizes
In the era of social media, people like to argue and critique others. This is right, that is wrong. That’s cool, if you are into that sort of thing.
In the context of retirement, you see people trying to get clicks and likes by saying things like, “I would never retire, because <some reason.>”
(Often that reason is boredom, see #5.)
If you prefer to never retire for some reason, then don’t. Easy. You will get no argument from me. Congratulations on knowing what you want and thank you for paying taxes.
Similarly, a lot of people view retirement date as some sort of competition. There is no special prize because you retire at a younger or older age. There are no trophies for spending more or less than another person.
10 – Let it go
We have been retired for 10 years and according to all of those Top 10 lists I’m supposed to have 10 things to say. But I don’t, and I have no boss to complain that I haven’t met my externally imposed obligations.
Incidentally – I have met 100s of GCC readers for coffee in various places around the globe. One experience comes to mind – we had been chatting about 30 minutes, and this guy stops mid-sentence and looks at me a little sideways, and says, “You are the most chill dude I have ever met.”
So there you go, #10 – be chill, let it go.
And also – give yourself time :)
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