Well as I enter the last year of my full time working career (I hope), I’m starting to notice a new emotion in other well meaning people around me: fear.
After all I have already told some of my family members a bit of what I’m planning on doing. It’s not like I blog under another name so they could always find out the details anyway, so I’ve open to my family with my plans at least in general terms. I usually don’t bother getting into too much detail in the more extended family.
Yet now when I’m mentioning I could be done before the end of this year, it suddenly becomes real for those around me and I get the usual well meaning concerns like:
- Are you sure you have enough saved?
- What happens if you don’t get a part time job?
- What will you do with unexpected expenses?
- Maybe you should work just one more year?
Of course I short of do an internal giggle at these questions as I have already asked myself those exact questions. After all this whole leaving you job thing to live off your investments is a bit like jumping off a cliff. You can’t stop it once it’s started so you need to be very sure on what you are doing before leaping off.
Depending on the person I will try to answer those questions, but of course I realize that with some people I can give all the answers they want, but I can’t stop another person’s fear. By the way the answers are:
- Are you sure you have enough saved? I’m mostly sure. I can’t be completely positive because of the number of variables involved, but that is okay since I already have a number of backup plans in case things don’t turn out.
- What happens if you don’t get a part time job? Short term this isn’t a problem as I’m saving our expenses for the first six months. Longer term I have lots of options for bringing in some extra money and keep in mind I don’t need this money for anything immediate like groceries. It’s for vacations. Worst case, if things go very badly I can go back to full time job for a few more years to build up more money.
- What will you do with unexpected expenses? The same thing I do now. Pay them from the emergency fund or put them on a line of credit to spread out the impact. Also depending on what happens, like something breaking in the house I will have a lot of time to fix some things myself.
- Maybe you should work just one more year? I’ve considered that and I may do it if for example the stock market does another 2008 crash or other horrible event occurs. I’m willing to be flexible if things happen and adjust my plans accordingly. After all I’m not locked into this plan until I provide official notice of my retirement at my job.
I like to hope the fact I’m very calm when discussing these things helps put people at ease, but ultimately they have to find the source of their own fear and face it. I can’t do that for another person. I can merely help them discuss the issues in their heads and put them a bit more at ease.
Perhaps the one thing that gets people is I’m aware of the flaws in my plan. I fully admit I may not have enough saved to head into semi-retirement. But I don’t want to live a life based on fear of the unknown. I’m willing to try out something new and see what happens. Yes things can go wrong, but they can also go right as well. In the end, I live in a world of hope rather than fear. Time will tell if that is a smart point of view or not.
Perhaps this is odd, but I’ve always had a sense of pride on my ability to use my willpower to finish difficult tasks. For example, I’ve completed writing 50,000 words in a month twice (National Novel Writing Month) and signed up for third time, I will read 100 books in a year (2016), and we have improved our net worth from $66,000 to ~$900,000 in ten years. None of those are easy, but I got them done. I feel good when I get a hard goal completed and do feel a bit of pride at my ability to endure.
But perhaps more interesting is asking myself: why did you endure it at all? Because when I ask that question I am forced to admit I likely have a lot more alternatives than I’m prepared to really examine. My current one is why am I enduring work at all? I could just leave tomorrow and be fine for like years and sort things out after the fact.
I think the honest answer is the fact that I’ve turn enduring almost a habit. Just a bit more to the next goal, just a bit further to the one after that. I’ve trained myself to a master level of making progress on some things in my life. I’ve tricked myself into an endless cycle of improvement that I’m not ever sure what the end of it lies sometimes or take the time to appreciate what I’ve accomplished.
This becomes apparent to me when I look at my ability to get things done. I’m very good at writing out a to do list for home or work and getting most of it done in a set period of time (week or weekend are the most common). Yet what I’m not good at is relaxing enough some days. I get so busy in the cycle of life I fail to step back and enjoy the view periodically. I’m too absorbed in getting the next item done on the to do list that I forgot the point of the list was just to remember things. Just because it is written down does not mean I need to do it right now.
So a deep concern I have going into retirement is: how will I adjust to all that free time? As I previous mentioned I could keep very busy if I wanted to, but the broader question is then why did I bother doing all of this if I’m just working as hard as having a full time job. Where is the payoff for enduring all these years towards a goal to merely replace it with some other goal?
Maybe I need to learn to do nothing. Sit alone with my thoughts and bask in the moment. Enjoy now and not look towards tomorrow to be happy. To exist in the sunny afternoon with not much to achieve but enjoying the sun. It isn’t that hard to just take a second and realize that you can have a happy moment just about any time of the day. To do lists don’t have to be complete, it’s okay to disappoint others at times or even yourself after you sign on to a overly hard goals. There is tomorrow and your to do list will never be done.
“You are crazy!”
“You can’t do that!”
“But you are too young!”
Those are just a small sample of some of the reactions I’ve seen to my early retirement plans, as you may have noticed they are not particularly encouraging. Actually I would save the majority of comments I see on websites that have a story on early retirement are negative. You can argue the why of that until you run out of air, but in my case I’ve actually cease to care about the negative comments directed at myself.
What I don’t like about those negative comments is I wonder how many early retirement dreams were cut short before they ever began because that sort of feedback. You have to keep in mind that those of us who are discussing our plans publicly are a tiny faction of the overall who just did it and didn’t tell anyone. After all if you are willing to insert a little lie like “I work in private wealth management,” no one will ever know.
The major problem in the beginning for most people is the isolation. With the typical person being negative towards the idea of early retirement, it is rather hard to meet someone who will talk to you as if it could happen. Or even provide some useful feedback on the crazy ideas running around your head. Oddly, I think that is why I got interested in blogging myself: I wanted to share and discuss my ideas. What I didn’t consider was how helpful it was to have someone read a post, leave a comment (good or bad) and indirectly tell me: you are not alone.
The journey to early retirement is a long one. In fact, decades is the normal time frame. So having doubts and being a bit lonely in the journey is entirely a normal feeling at some point. It can be hard at the start to be so excited by the concept, but have no one around you to talk to. So thank the heavens for the internet and personal finance bloggers! Here at last is a group of people who you can talk to in forums, on blogs and now with conferences in person. We can learn from each other and finally have someone tell you: you aren’t crazy, but have you considered this? Again it will be rarely spoken or written, but it is still there: you are not alone.
So the next time you run into someone who is new to the idea of early retirement, try to be patient with them. Not all blogs are the same, they will find one geared to their particular level eventually, just be nice to start with and remember to imply if not tell them: you are not alone. We understand and welcome to the club.