Early Retirement Dreams . . . (But Will You Miss Work?)

DH = Dear Husband

When you hear the same message 3 times . . . 

Do you ever get the impression that the universe is trying to give you a message? I’m not superstitious, but I’ve had this sort of unspoken policy that when I hear the same message three times from three unrelated sources, I’m supposed to pay attention.

My goal re. financial freedom

One of the accomplishments of the uber-money-smart superstars that really impresses me is their FIRE (Financial Independence / Retire Early). People in their 40s – even people in their 30s – in a position to stop working and to live off of the interest of their nest eggs in complete financial freedom – as a result of their years of focused savings and wealth building while living a frugal lifestyle. So far removed from the paycheck-to-paycheck-with-nothing-in-the-savings-account-for-emergency norm! So far removed from the headlines about a looming retirement crisis. The FIRE types are counter-cultural in terms of the freedom they give themselves. I admire them, and I’m inspired by them.

It’s too late for me to achieve FIRE, but if I reach my overarching financial goal, I’ll still be counter-cultural. In Canada, 59% of people who retire do so in debt. By the time I’m able to retire, our plan is to be mortgage-free – completely debt-free. Four years ago, that was a pretty impossible looking goal. It’s not so impossible looking now. June of 2019, we’ve got our eyes on you! I don’t HAVE to retire then. My pension plan will ALLOW me to retire then. So there you go. Our goal is to be debt-free, and possibly financially-free, so that both DH and I have complete freedom of choice regarding work by June of 2019.

Message #1: Retirement seminar

There are seminars offered through my work that people are advised to start attending within a few years of retirement. I went to my first one a couple of weeks ago. “Don’t just consider the financial impact of retirement,” advised the speaker. “Consider the emotional impact too.”

“Hmmmm….” I thought as I listened. “I’ll get to sleep in, feel rested, unhurried, free, and relaxed. I can handle that emotional impact!”

Message #2: DH

One evening this past week, when I was telling DH about something that had happened at work that day, he stopped me. “See,” he said. “That’s what you might miss when you retire. You have all of these people you see every day. All of these good relationships. And for the most part, you’re working on things that bring you together – that you like doing. Then all of a sudden, you won’t have any of it anymore. You’ll miss that.”

“Yes, I will miss the students and staff of my school,” I thought. “But there are ways to volunteer – even in my school if I choose to. And I will still be able to get involved in initiatives and causes that mean something to me. In fact, I’ll be more free to get involved in them.”

Message #3: Nancy

I was pleasantly surprised to get an e-mail from someone who allowed me to feature her story in a Fruclassity post back in December of 2015. Nancy and her husband had become debt-free in their 60s after a six-year debt-dumping effort. In her e-mail message, Nancy let me know of the travel plans that she and her husband now have (Québec in the summer and possibly Arizona in the fall). After over six years of debt repayment and no travel for the last 3 of those years, it’s a real “We’ve made it!” celebration. “I have been following a retirement blog for a couple of years now, about the emotional side of retirement,” Nancy also told me, “and I thought you might enjoy it as you are coming up to that time in the next few years. The blog is ‘Kathy’s retirement blog’.

“Wow. That’s 3 times in the last couple of weeks that someone’s given me a message about paying attention to the emotional side of retirement!” I thought. “I’d better pay attention.”

Paying attention . . . 

OK, so I’m paying attention. I knew 13 years ago, when I first set foot in the school where I work, that I would want to stay there for the rest of my career.

  • It’s very multicultural and alive with different ethnicities, languages, faiths, types of clothing . . . And there’s an open acceptance I have never seen at any other school – or place for that matter. The world could learn a lot from us!
  • My job in the library involves a lot of interaction with staff and students. Sometimes this is challenging, as my work is constantly interrupted, but the quality of these interactions is overwhelmingly good.
  • My job involves a balance – teaching individuals, teaching classes, managing books and databases, supervising, working with volunteers and co-op students, collaborating with other staff. I’m not the best multi-tasker, so I often feel scattered, but I absolutely never have to wonder, “What am I going to do today?”
  • I’m involved in different clubs and initiatives that are utterly wonderful. This month, for instance, I’m part of spearheading an effort to collect books for a First Nations reserve that is in crisis. The youth of Attawapiskat have identified “A library” as something that would make their lives better. I’m receiving new boxes of books 3 times a day now. (A BIG THANK YOU to some of you!)
  • I have the satisfaction of knowing that I work in a school that makes a difference in the lives of its students.

That’s a pretty rich list of positives, isn’t it? When DH and I were going through our years of financial distress, work was a means to a dissatisfying end – staying afloat. Now that the pressure caused by debt and uncertain income has been lifted, I’m free to appreciate all that my work offers.

There are negatives too, of course. I am often tired. I have an annoying commute through traffic two times every day. My work day leaves me with limited time for other things I’d like to do – like writing. It limits the time I can spend with friends and family. There are rare but significant times of frustration with colleagues or students. These negatives do not even come close to outweighing the positives though.

Vision for financial freedom?

My vision for retirement is vague. I want all of the positives of my work life with none of the negatives. Sounds reasonable, right?

In the pf bloggosphere, FIRE is the ultimate prize. Financial independence doesn’t necessarily mean you quit work. It means that you give yourself the freedom to choose whether or not to keep your job, to work sporadically, to find other work you prefer that might pay less, to work part-time, or to strike out on your own in some kind of a business. Even if you end up changing nothing, just having this freedom of choice changes everything.

Have your ever considered “the emotional side” of retirement? Is it possible that there are things about your work life that you’ll miss more than you realize? Is it possible you won’t make any changes in your work life even when you’ve reached financial independence? Your comments are welcome.

*Image courtesy of Pixabay.

28 comments on “Early Retirement Dreams . . . (But Will You Miss Work?)

  1. All of the studies show that it’s so important to be sure that you keep busy after retirement. Both my mom and Rick’s mom are doing a great job at that. They’d both likely say they’re more busy now than when they worked. The difference is that now they’re doing the things they really love: volunteering, socializing more, spending more time with family. Good stuff! Ruth, I have a feeling that you’ll find plenty of ways to make a great impact on the world – even after you officially retire. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Laurie! My parents also led very full lives in retirement. At 91, my mom still volunteers. Not everyone knows what they love to do – or they’re blocked from doing it by fear or a lack of confidence. So know what you love, and go for it! That’s going to be my recipe for financial independence : )

  2. We got on the band wagon a bit too late to hit the early FIRE goal, but now like you, we have a clear plan to reach retirement debt free. I agree, your full time job occupies so much of your time and has so many relationships tied to it, once you walk away from it you need to be prepared to replace it. We are ready. There are plenty of things we want to do. Volunteering, travel, spending time with friends and family. I look at my mom in in her late 70’s and she is always busy. 🙂

    1. It’s great to have a role model like your mom, Brian. I’ve heard that it’s a good idea to start doing the things you plan to do in retirement to some small extent before you retire. I think that you’re doing that with the side-hustle you’re developing with your public speaking engagements. Is that something you’d like to do more often in retirement?

  3. > My vision for retirement is vague. I want all of the positives of my work life with none of the negatives. Sounds reasonable, right?

    Actually, yes — perhaps even necessary. The joy of it is that you get to construct your situation to make that real. Crystallizing that vision, and writing it down, goes a long way to being able to make it real.

    And thanks for the pointer to Kathy’s blog. I think it will be a good complement to Root Of Good and Our Next Life and various other FI/RE blogs I’m following.

    1. “Crystallizing that vision” is something I’ll have to do over the next three years. I’ve got some competing priorities, and my husband’s ideas and mine are not the same. Perhaps we’ll have to write it all down together. Thanks for your comment, Sabbaticalia, and I’m glad to have helped you discover Kathy’s blog – thanks to Nancy.

  4. It’s very easy for me to get defined by my work, and for most of my non-familial relationships to revolve around coworkers. The thing is, when one or more parties change where they work, most of those relationships have become superficial at best. So I think I’ve learned the hard way to put effort into developing a good network outside of the workplace and developing an identity outside of work. I think now I could happily enjoy retirement or semi-retirement if we could get the cash flows in order, but 5 years ago it would have been devastating.

    1. That is true about most job-based relationships. They end quickly once someone moves to a different place of work. Very smart to build a life outside of your career as you are doing. If things have changed significantly for you over the last 5 years, imagine how significantly they might change over the next 5 years. Here’s wishing you, in the not-too-distant future, the freedom to choose!

  5. We were just discussing this the other night, mainly that even though we’ll like the freedom from work, after a year or so, I’ll probably miss my job. Like you, I really like my work, culture, and people that I work with. However, as I’ve seen with mrs. SSC’s parents, they’re busier now than ever. Her mom is currently in Nova Scotia for a rug hooking “retreat” and she goes to a few of those a year. Trying to get her on our schedule to watch the kids for a few days is all but impossible, even with 6 onths notice, lol.
    I plan on being more involved with the kids’ schools and find other clubs I can participate in that I may not have had the time to do otherwise – hiking, home-brewing, fly fishing, to name a few.
    It is something that is real, because Mrs. SSC’s dad had a hard time transitioning and it took a good 2 years before he got into his retirement groove. It is something to think about, but it sounds like you’ll be positioned well, especially having your school to still volunteer and interact with.

    1. A rug hooking retreat in Nova Scotia . . . Who knew? I wonder if the difference between your mother-in-law and your father-in-law has to do with personality type. I can’t help but think that Type-A personalities have a more difficult time leaving work behind – unless they have a very clear path ahead. I’m glad that your father-in-law has found his groove : ) It’s wonderful that you two will be in FIRE mode while your children are growing up. That is a privilege that has pretty well been restricted to aristocrats through history.

  6. From what I have heard and read, it is suggested that people make sure they stay active in some sort of activity after they retire. Even if it is just volunteering for a charity or joining some sort of club. A sort of depression can kick in if a retiree doesn’t have something to focus on, from what I’ve read.

    Sounds like you have an amazing job Ruth 🙂

    1. Thank you, Mackenzie. I agree that it’s a good idea to stay engaged and active post-career. Even if people don’t know what exactly they’d love to do, by stepping out, they will probably discover it – so they’re not busy for busy’s sake.

  7. Take it from a retiree – you have to find the right fit for the activities you get involved in – just volunteering, etc., if it is not your passion then that activity, etc. is just as depressing as not doing anything. Finding the perfect balance is the trick.

    1. Ha! That fits with my response to Mackenzie (one above). There’s a lot of talk about “finding your passion” these days, but not everyone knows what that is. A little soul searching and a little stepping out is the way to find it, I think. I hope that you are finding that “perfect balance”, Nancy. Thanks again for your e-mail : )

  8. I, too, am very motivated and inspired by the FI people! Even though we won’t be able to achieve financial independence in our 30s (too late!), or 40s (not without a miracle!), the concept of being in control of one’s work and lifestyle time and choices, really appeals to me.

    I work (very) part-time now, while our daughter is young (6), but I anticipate working full-time when she hits middle school. I don’t know if I’ll want to continue that work schedule forever, but I know that I will need to structure my time in some way. It’s too easy for me to sleep in, read the paper, and lay around until 4:00, without motivating (need more discipline!!) to be productive in any way. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this, but at the end of those days, I tend to feel like an unproductive sloth, and wish I’d gotten my act together a bit more.

    1. I am also amazed by how the time can go by on a lazy day – with seemingly nothing to show for it. I work full-time, so I don’t get many of those. And when I do, I LOVE it! Would every day be like that if I could stop working? I don’t think so. I guess the thing is to be proactive about it to make sure. Anyway, I don’t think that it’s really possible for a mother of a 6-year-old to be “an unproductive sloth” : ) I hope that you do reach the goal of having that freedom of choice, Amy, even if it isn’t in your 30s or 40s.

  9. I always loved the social aspects of working, but never liked the actual working part. I think maybe I just never did anything I liked. I volunteered at an open house on our base once, and we were cooking and selling sausage and pepper sandwiches. I absolutely loved it! That felt so much more worthwhile than all of the paper pushing jobs I’d ever had. So in essence, if I could do anything in those “retirement” years, it would be selling hotdogs, soda, chips, and candy bars (the 4 basic food groups, right?) out of a weiner truck. That would be grand! 🙂

    1. I can relate to the weiner truck thing. I have served pancakes at a few school breakfast functions over the years, and it’s ridiculous how much I have loved it! Anyway, let me know when you start your weiner truck franchise, Kay, and I’ll drive down to NY to be one of your customers : )

  10. My personal goal is that no matter what stage of life I am in, that I not waste it. This is a hard goal for me because I’m tempted to waste life by being too self-absorbed.

    I think that many people (including me) use work or at the very least commitments to keep them from myopia. However, I have many examples of generous, vigorous women who didn’t do much paid work throughout their life, but I don’t think they wasted their lives at all.

    So, whenever you cease from paid work, I think it’s important to focus on who will benefit from the increased time.

    1. There are definitely women (especially) who have not had much paid work, but who have done the work of raising families and keeping communities thriving through their non-paid work. No waste there! As an introvert, I plan on getting more involved in some solitary pursuits as well as more community oriented pursuits. I won’t shy away from being one of the people benefiting from the increased time – but not to the myopic extent you refer to. And that is a state I’ve seen people fall into. Thanks for your comment, Hannah!

  11. My whole goal of becoming financially independent is to have the option of not doing a particular job solely for the money or benefits. My wife & I are young enough, but do not make the high salaries required to become a FIRE success in our late 30’s or early 40’s. So our goal is to be debt-free as soon as possible & remain debt free.

    As far as retirement, I won’t miss work at all. Sure I will miss some co-workers but I can find enough things to do around the house or community to stay plenty busy.

    1. I hope that you’ll find something that will not just keep you busy, but offer the kind of satisfaction you don’t find in your work now. My guess is that about 50% of people don’t get much out of their work – apart from the camaraderie (which can be great) and pay. It is fantastic that you are your wife got on this trajectory early on, Josh.

  12. Great post! Your 2019 date is not far off! That’s awesome! We are working toward FI here as well, but will not make it in our 40s, hopefully our 50s.

    My in-laws have taught me exactly what retirement should NOT be (here’s hoping my in-laws are not reading personal finance blog comments) ! Both retired in their late 50s and I have seen a constant decline in not only their physical, but particularly mental health over the years. They have no hobbies and haven’t started any. They sit and eat and watch television all. the. time.

    My husband and I both agree we want to be active, probably working (on our own terms) throughout retirement. We currently have many, many hobbies, together and separately, and get great satisfaction out of volunteering our time within the community. For us, retirement simply means being able to choose what work we want to do.

    1. Thanks, Amanda. Sometimes those examples of people we don’t want to be like can really be helpful in a backwards kind of way. I’m sorry that your in-laws are having such a miserable time of retirement, but I’m glad you and your husband are setting yourselves up for something very different.

  13. Some people really thrive on working. My sister worked part time at a gym when she was studying, and I visited her there once. There was a lot of confusion about some new payment policy or something like that, and the line of customers was getting longer and longer. I could feel my own stress levels rising, I would not be a happy camper in that same situation! But I watched my sister happily deal with each problem, she had to call someone else to ask about something over and over (because of the chaos of the new system that no one really knew how to deal with, not her fault really), and she did it seemingly without embarassment or stress.

    At a more quite moment I asked her “do you like…working?” :p She didn’t really want to admit it, I don’t think she likes it when I try to analyze her, lol, but I’m calling it, she loves to work (I’m sure there are exceptions for her too though)! To put it this way, I think I would do better than her as a retiree with nothing to do. 8)

    Our dad told me once that at a previous job of his (he’s a mechanic and worked at a factory), there was a bring your family to work day or something like that. And my sister, she might have been 5 or something, was set to do some kind of “job”. And apparently she went at it with gusto even then! 8)

    A little time after that my dad’s boss had wanted to see him, and my dad told me he thought “oh, no, what is it now, what have I done wrong, what extra work do I need to take on”, but it turned out that his boss had been so impressed by my sister’s enthusiasm and …I guess job performance, lol, that he had bought a teddy bear for her that he wanted my father to give to her! So cute! 🙂

    Some people really thrive on busyness, while others do not. But like you say, I think it also really matters whether or not you like what you’re doing, the environment, the commute, other stresses going on in your life and all of that. I can definitely believe that it’s easier to appreciate your job when you don’t feel the stress of big debt (or any other kind of stress that weighs you down).

    1. Thank you, Maja. What a thoughtful comment! I agree that some people (perhaps simply the Type-A people) thrive on busyness, whereas others thrive on a lifestyle that includes significant down time – like me : ) When I think of retirement though, I don’t think of being “a retiree with nothing to do”. I think of retirement as a state of financial freedom allowing the retiree a whole lot of choice – in terms of both what to do and not to do. I think that when it comes to career, some people are also more attached to the identity they have through their work than others are. There’s nothing wrong with loving work, but I think there is a problem with this kind of work-based identity. It’s interesting to see what a difference there is between you and your sister. We’ve all got our different characteristics and quirks to work into our individual game plans : )

    1. I’ve been thinking of that, Kalie. As I start to clarify my image of what I’d like to do in retirement, I realize a lot of it is similar to what I have now with my job. Significant differences too – but lots in common.

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