I’m now finally towards the end of my long goal to save enough money to retire early at some point in the next year or two. So on the one hand, I do fully admit to being a bit excited by that idea. On the other hand I notice little bursts of fear and doubt surfacing periodically that for a moment crush that excitement in a burst of negative emotions.
Of course I think to myself: Dude, what’s your problem? You should be thrilled to be this close to done.
Yet those dark fears that I don’t spend much time thinking or talking about still bubble up. Some of those thoughts include: Do I have enough money saved? What if I forgot something in my calculations? Can I actually pull the trigger at the end or will I fall to saving for one more year? Or even worse, if things go really well could I change my plan and pull it earlier than I’m planning? Should I save a bit longer and just don’t worry about some part time work?
Then after those thoughts burst through my head I remind myself that doubt is normal. Hell even fear is completely normal in the case. I’m planning to alter the single biggest part of my week days and leave full time work and the career I have always know for a completely uncharted area of my life. So yes, fear is perfectly normal.
Yet acknowledging the fear as normal doesn’t make it go away. So instead of avoiding these thoughts I have decided to spend some time in them looking at those questions in detail and trying to determine some idea of what that uncharted part of my life will look like.
In effect, I’m down into the weeds for a while looking at:
- How exactly will I take the money out of the investment accounts to live on? Monthly, every quarter or yearly? Which accounts do I use first? How do I keep our income tax to a minimum?
- I’m also looking at fears. So I retire and the stock market tanks immediately – what do I do? How much of a reduction in the markets do I tolerate prior to using that plan B?
- What if I fail at retirement? At what point do I go back to work full time?
- What if I fail at writing fiction? Do I keep at it or switch to non-fiction? Or do both?
- What else do I want to do with my life? I’ve gained over 25 additional years without work, so what exactly do I want to accomplish with it?
Some of those are easier to answer by just writing up an investment plan that includes what do do when the stock market drops 5%, or 10% in a year. I’ve also created a fairly detailed model of the first five years of retirement and stress tested various scenarios so I can see what happens if I don’t do any work at all during that time.
But even as I look at some of those questions I’ve come to realize something important. You can’t always know everything in advance. Some questions can’t really be answered in advance of that uncharted area of life. I don’t really know what I will accomplish in the next 25 years of my life and well that isn’t that much different that most people. I can’t know everything that could go wrong in the next 25 years with the stock or bonds markets. I can’t know government policy that will make things better or worse for me.
But I do know that I’ve learned to be more flexible about things. I have managed to handle of lot of stressful situations in my life such as a 10 week premature baby, or working several jobs at once. Yet I found a way to make it all work and I’m not about to really lose that skill set all of a sudden.
So in the end, I do think things will work out. After all, why I’m considering all these dark thoughts I seem to forget something equally important: what if things turn out better than I expect? After all I’ve been saving for over 10 years now towards this goal and I’ve consistently beaten my targets (hello, the title of the blog of free at 45, but I’m now looking at leaving before 40). If I earn some extra money I will likely save it, since that is a really hard habit to get out of. I’ve never spent everything I have earned and I really don’t think that will change in my retirement.
What are some of your dark fears about your retirement plans and how do you deal with them?