The Boring Early Retirement Truth: It’s What You Make It
I’m going to retire early and travel, sleep in, and make my life an endless vacation. I thought it, said it, and have heard it many times from others. Well, maybe it’s true for some. But for me and most people who have or had this dream, it isn’t our reality. Which sadly can lead to retirement disappointment. As someone who ditched my long career over 12 years ago at the age of 51, here’s the boring early retirement truth: It is all on you to make retirement what you want it to be.
We have to be prepared and willing to make our retirement the adventure it can be. The euphoria that comes on our first day of retirement fades and drags away any of those freewheeling dreams we might have had. We have to be ready to start a new phase of life. There are a slew of different challenges we must mentally commit to accept and work though.
The Basic Boring Early Retirement Truth Is We’re On Our Own To Make It Great
There’s nothing earth shattering to be revealed here. The boring early retirement truth is our retirement depends on much more than the portfolio numbers that we need to support it. Our numbers are obtained, invested, allocated, rebalanced, and for the most part do what they are supposed to do based on historical analysis.
It’s the other stuff that causes retirement grief or success. There’s no nifty non-financial retirement calculator or program to rely on. We are on our own to develop our retirement vision and how to get there. Believe me, it can be a fluid and indirect trip over the years. For as long as we are on this journey, our required effort to adapt never ends. Here are some of my observations collected over my decade-plus of early retirement.
Big Dreams, Little Sustainable Support For Them
I have to smile when thinking about my preconceived notions of what I was going to enjoy doing in early retirement. Some of it was just dreams. When we are busy working, we can believe that it’s only our lack of free time that is keeping us from doing some things we dream about doing. When I finally had the time, I found out a few things:
- For some retirement dreams it wasn’t a lack of time that kept me away from them. I just didn’t realistically have the finances to support them. Imagine that. We are always trying to dream big. Sometimes too big.
- Other retirement dreams I found that I had the finances but would in no way be worth the cost in finances and time for me to do them.
- Some retirement dreams I got a taste of and found out it wasn’t my thing.
- Then perfection, when it’s right it’s exactly where and what I should be doing. But I had to ditch doubt and notions of previous failures to be willing to make the leap and try it first.
Did any shattered early retirement dreams cause a sense of retirement failure?
Not hardly. We have to be willing to explore, test, and learn as we go. What looks fun and exciting while reading about other’s adventures or things we thought would make life wonderful may not be for us. I still enjoy reading about and investigating things of my retirement dreams or curiosity because who knows? There’s always an avenue I have no inkling about.
We spent a lifetime doing what others laid out for us or demanded from us and then measured every which-way to Christmas for success or failure.
Who would have thought that after decades of identifying with our work related title or occupation we could possibly encounter mental turmoil when we decide to give it up. Retirement freedom means it’s on us to test the waters and push ourselves to find out what our thing or sense of purpose really is. If what we are drawn to or dream of stalls or starts out perfect and then fades, just move on. There is no longer the required need to measure up. It isn’t failure, it’s just change.
Being Bored In Retirement
I never thought I would be bored in retirement. Not before or after walking away from the grind. I can’t say I’ve been bored either. Whenever I hear someone say they would be bored in retirement, I agree with them. Yes, you will be bored. Best to stay in the rat race feeding the system. Just as it was designed for.
If we say we will be bored in retirement we are making a statement of belief. We’re not ready to ask whether we could possibly enjoy being retired or not. Nor willing to accept another’s experience or suggestions.
Having periods of inactivity, projects, travel, etc. doesn’t have to equate to boredom. We have to get used to learning how to enjoy doing nothing while celebrating the little things in life that the freedom of retirement brings us.
The Mental Bumming Burden Of Financial Volatility
News flash! The portfolio and market numbers go up and down just like before retirement and as it always has through history. We will just care more about it in the early years of retirement since we’re for the most part not adding earned income into it. At least for myself, I skipped away with a less than a fat million dollar portfolio and was alarmed whenever the market took big drops. I now believe a lot of it was more connected to losing my work identity and having to rely on a system I have no control over.
We do have some control and learning to accept that takes time. I find looking at my financial plan the way I was forced to do for long-term career success worked to ease my mind. Refresh, reevaluate, and rebalance becomes much easier to do and market induced panic no longer lands. From portfolio allocations to spending or budgetary tweaks, it’s all on us to find the right balance for retirement success.
Accepting A Limiting Definition of Retirement
I don’t get it, and do try to understand it, but why would anyone want to be free from a life of unrewarding work obligation and then throttle yourself with a limiting definition of what retirement is? I’m talking about paid adventures in retirement.
Want to make early retirement easier to accept? Another boring truth about early retirement, just keep the definition loose: Retirement is the absence of NEEDING to work, not the absence of working. Not that finding fulfilling work in retirement is necessary. It’s just adding the prospect of an open mind of happily riding that horse when the opportunity looks perfect. Get off when it isn’t.
I’ve had some awesome paid retirement adventures and have this same attitude to take with all my retirement endeavors.
Address Social Life Challenges
I found the sting of realizing that my social life was 95% tied to my work. It took time and effort to rebuild a social network within my community where I was going to be living the dream. There’s no magic resource or tool that will tell you that you have this covered.
We leave behind a lot of BS when we retire. But there was also stuff we liked and enjoyed. I found that the people I associated with were only there in my life because we shared the same rat race burdens. It was just like I experienced when changing jobs. Most ex coworker pals drift away. It’s natural and retiring is no different.
I found a new and rewarding community based social life by volunteering to support things important to me, frequenting a local small independent coffee shop where locals can be met, and attending free classes offered at the local library. Then it was accepting the coming social invitations even when it challenged my comfort zone. My social life grew from there.
You Gotta Make Moves, Nothing Will Likely Just Fall Into Your Lap
When it comes to retirement, we can’t sit back expecting adventure. Another boring truth about early retirement is the old saying, out of sight, out of mind. Get out of your comfort zone and constantly test the waters.
Many times I enjoy being surprised at just how wrong I was about something or some people. It makes taking the effort to find out totally worth it. It is much better than sitting back wondering about something and regretting not being involved or participating in it. Invitations to adventure are rare to those who aren’t seen. By always sitting back, it becomes easy to fall into a boring routine just to avoid stressful risks.
Stay Curious and Open Minded, But Always Question
Sometimes we are drawn to real opportunities for a great retirement adventure. Other times it becomes obvious that we are falling for a hyped-up false version of something or someone. When that happens it’s OK to walk away and don’t look back.
Live and learn is my basic boring truth about early retirement. There have been a few surprises both good and bad. But without curiosity and an open mind, I wouldn’t have had the great experiences I’ve had over the past 12 years of early retirement.