The other day for no apparent reason I sudden had a shock of fear go down my spine that I didn’t have enough money for my retirement. I worried that I had made a horrible mistake and that I should have worked longer and saved more money before quitting. There was no particularly logical trigger for the feeling of mild panic that passed through me and the feeling left me shortly afterwards. Yet it did make me double check a few numbers to prove to myself (again) that we had enough money for years.
So as I looked at my account balances and faced the fact that I am in fact fine for the next few years then I relaxed back to my usual state of calm. In reality nothing had changed about our situation during this episode, it was merely a bit of doubt stuck in my brain and likely the result of me adjusting to our changing sources of income.
Previously with my old job, I knew there was risks with a job as your major source of income. I knew you could get laid off, shifted to another job, or have a rollback in wages or cut in benefits (I honestly had experienced all of those during my career at some point). Yet I understood those risks because I had been living with them for a long time. So oddly comfortable with those risks.
Now that we are mostly living off our investments I have a different set of risks. We could see a stock market correction, cuts in dividends from companies we own or drops in our bond portion of our investment portfolio. These aren’t new risks but I honestly didn’t pay as much attention to them in the past because with my old job we had other sources of income to cover expense when those events occurred. Now I’m feeling those risks more acutely than in the past.
The reality is you don’t have less risk once you retire. You just changed which risks you are managing. Yet oddly some of the same principles you learned getting to retirement still apply such as it is better to have multiple sources of income (not just investments or just a job). Which is why partly my wife continues to run her daycare from our home and I continue to run my little publishing business. Neither produces much income but it does help balance out the risks of sudden investment swings. Also both businesses give us something to do and provide options for socialization with others. We do them because we like to and less because of the income they produce.
One other things that hit me during my little panic feeling was I asked myself the following question: what is the worst thing that could happen? This is a great question to force yourself to face what you are fearing. And in my case the answer was simple: get a job. Notice the word ‘job’. I don’t have to go back to my old career or employer begging for a job. I can find something, somewhere that I might enjoy a bit and brings in some money. Honestly with our relatively low expenses making even $10 to $15K a year makes a huge difference to balancing out our spending. And if that truly became required it isn’t really the horrible of a fate…hell it’s sort of normal for most people my age (including myself until recently).
In the end, I’ve come to realize these little flares of panic or worry are just me adjusting to my new normal. Nothing on a fundamental level has changed in my situation other than my thoughts and luckily those can be changed rather easily.
So do you think you would have problems living just off your investments? What would you do to help balance your risks?
Okay, I work up this morning and I’m officially unemployed (or retired) and loving it. You see I’ve been living in a lovely little dream world for the last six weeks. I was done work on Sept 15 but I was officially still on vacation during the last six weeks. So I still had a pay cheque coming in, benefits to use, but no workplace to go to or alarm clock to wake up to.
Honestly I think that is the perfect way to break yourself into early retirement. A nice long vacation at the end of it to give yourself time to mentally adjust to things without having to worry about the money side of the equation. In our case, it also allowed us to get in one last set of eye exams and new glasses for my wife under my benefits before they ran out. Also it gave us some time to absorb a few last minute expenses before the cash flow from my job dried up.
Now I move from this being a concept to being my reality. The safety net is gone and I’m on my own in the world. Am I frightened? To be honest, just a pitch of it. But if I had to pick an emotion I would say I’m more excited now. After having the last six weeks off (and by the way I give my workplace credit they didn’t call me once!), I’m feeling good about this entire thing. I’ve got more than enough to do and if anything time seems to be moving along even faster than when I was at work.
I know its a bit of cliche but honestly I am already starting to forget how I fit work between everything else I’m doing each day. I’m almost caught off guard when someone asks what I’ve been up to as I have trouble summarizing it all since it can be all over the map in a given week. For example this week I:
- Baked some muffins and scones for future breakfasts
- Volunteered at the school library for 2 hours (which they are ridiculously thankful for since their librarian’s hours got cut from a 0.8FTE to 0.2 FTE this year).
- Brainstormed ideas for my novel that I’m writing in November and started organizing the major plot points
- Wrote two blog posts
- Played Torchlight for a
few several hours
- Finished Arrow season 5 and started watching Flash season 3 (both borrowed from the library)
- Cleaned up the yard (raked leaves, trimmed plants, put away patio furniture)
- Got my flu shot (and took the rest of the family to get their shots)
- Read about 3/4 of my current book
And that list if literally of the top of my head I’m certain I’m forgetting more than a few items.
Oddly the only thing I’m struggling a little bit with is: what level of being productive do I want to aim for? Because on one hand I am getting lots of things done but on the other hand I feel like I’m being too lazy some days. So does that really matter when you no longer have a job? Does it matter if I have a lazy day now and again? What level of productivity would I like to see myself achieve or am I’m being an idiot for even caring about that?
As you can see I have more questions than answers I think this is mainly because my ‘to do’ and ‘want to do’ lists don’t seem to be getting much shorter. I add items to both just about as fast as I finish items and for some reason in my head I thought I would be taking them off faster than I would be adding them. Of course that ignores the application of Parkinson’s Law, which would mean I’m never finishing my ‘to do’ list so I shouldn’t bother trying too hard.
Now you see what early retirement does to your poor brain: you have time to worry about questions no sane working person would even consider asking. Oh well, such is the life of the retiree. I guess I will sort it all out in time.
It now occurs to me that I’ve already now been done work for over a week and I have to admit it doesn’t feel like it has been that long. So while I obviously can’t know much this early into my journey on the other side of FIRE (financial independence retire early) I thought I would share a few of the items that I’ve noticed.
- Poor Sleep – I’ve been sleeping a lot worse than I normally have (my normal is fall into bed and be out cold for 8 hours). Initially I thought perhaps it was me feeling a bit lost in this new life of mine, but then when I paid a bit more attention to when it was occurring I figured it out. I am sleeping poorly for the last hour of my sleep right before my wife’s alarm goes off during the week (remember she still runs a daycare in the house). Ah, then I understood. My body is used to being awake for that hour as I used to get up a full hour before my wife so my internal clock is off a little bit. I suspect this will sort it self out over time.
- Event Based Time – I also have realized that even in my first week I’m looking at clocks a LOT less than I used to. So much that one day I realized I wasn’t sure what day of the week it was. Instead I have shifted back to event based time. As kids before we can read a clock we understand the flow of time as a series of events. First we get up, get dressed and then have breakfast. We know lunch comes after breakfast. So for me now I know because the kids have swimming lessons, it is Wednesday. Otherwise I won’t really pay attention as much.
- Gotta be Productive – I felt odd for most of this first week and I had a hard time figuring out why. Then it hit me: I had no metric of being productive anymore. After a several decades in the corporate work world I have a habit to feel productive in a given day and while I have a to do list and want to do list they weren’t really cutting it as I sometimes did something off them and other times I didn’t. So I’m trying to decide if this is just a temporary adjustment or do I need a bit more structure to my days going forward. For the moment I’ve parked the idea and I’ll wait and see.
- Going by Feel – Something else I’ve noticed that I’m enjoying is I ride my energy levels a lot more now. So when I feel energetic I go do something off my to do list, when I feel lazy or tired I read a book or watch a movie. The point is now I’m not chained by a work day so I basically I do things when I feel like it and I’m enjoying that freedom. So one rainy day my wife and I did a series of errands in the morning and then got back and sat down with a book and a warm drink for most of the afternoon.
- Off Peak Life – Perhaps one of oddest discoveries of my new life is how utter great life is doing errands when everyone else is at work. I mean my wife and I took our time on our errands by browsing in a few stores this week during the day and we still got everything done in like half the time. Why? I don’t think I waited in a line anywhere for more than a few seconds.
- What is stress again? – Another item I’ve noticed is this: I didn’t realize how much stress in my life was a result of my job until I stopped going there and have significantly reduced my time even thinking about my old job. I mean I wake up relaxed and have this wonderful low level calm most of the time.
Well that’s my initial items I’ve noticed so far, beyond the obvious it’s nice to have the time to read a book, play a video game, do some research for a novel I want to write and fix a few minor items around the house. I have utterly no problem filling my days. The freedom is wonderful but the degree of choice can be almost overwhelming at times so I’m rather glad I wrote out a few items I wanted to do to narrow the field a bit to start.