Do you ever contemplate leaving it all behind and calling it quits? If you’re like me, you don’t like office politics, traffic jams, endless meetings, and all the BS from management. However, I didn’t consider quitting my job until 2010 when I discovered personal finance and found that I probably could swing it and retire early. Our finance was doing pretty well and I imagined life would be much better without a full time job. Before that, I thought it would be better to find a different job within the same field. I would get a change of scenery and still get paid. I already tried it once. I changed jobs completely in 2003 and work was pretty good for a few years. I probably could tolerate another job change and work for a few more years, but it would get old pretty quickly. I didn’t enjoy engineering anymore and it was better to make a clean break.
I finally quit my engineering career in 2012 and the last three years have flown by. Our finance is doing great and my quality of life has improved immensely. At this time, I’m very happy with my decision to retire early to become a stay at home dad/blogger. Mrs. RB40 has seen how much happier I am and she is now contemplating early retirement as well. She wants more time to do the things she likes. Her goal is to retire in 5 years. We are not quite financially ready for her to retire yet, but I’m pretty sure we will be there by 2020.
However, is she really ready to retire early? When she was younger, she didn’t know how to relax and take time off. She came back from Peace Corps and she started working right away as a substitute teacher. I told her to take it easy for a few months and just hang out, but she couldn’t do it. She was a workaholic for many years, but she is mellowing as she gets older. I don’t think she’s quite ready to retire early, though. Even if our finance is ready today, she isn’t emotionally ready to retire yet.
Many people who are financially ready for retirement aren’t ready emotionally. Are you one of them? I know some of our readers are in a great position financially, but they don’t want to retire yet. That’s not a bad thing. If you want to keep working a little bit longer, then keep working. Don’t be pressured into retirement if you’re not quite ready. Here are 5 signs you’re not ready to retire early.
In America, we identify ourselves by our jobs. When you meet someone new, they usually ask, “What do you do?” It’s a quick way to establish the social pecking order here in the US. I used to be an engineer and that means being a reasonably paid white collar professional. I probably drove a reasonably nice car, lived in a decent neighborhood, and was firmly entrenched in the middle class. A wealthy person probably dismissed me outright and a burger flipper probably felt we couldn’t be friends.
I think the more prestigious your job is, the more difficult it is to leave it. One day, you’re a doctor and the next you are just a retiree. A lot of people have a hard time dealing with the loss of professional identity. Most people have a lot of pride in their profession. It took them a long time to build up their career and it’s hard to leave all that behind. If your identity is all tied up to your job, then you’re probably not quite ready to retire early. By the time I left my old work, I was ready to move on. I didn’t want to be an engineer anymore and it was liberating.
One way to lessen your identification with your job is to work less. If phased retirement is an option, then that’s a great way to go. Working part time will help you disconnect from work and give you time to build your identity outside of your career.
Advancement still thrills you
Recently, Mrs. RB40 had the opportunity to advance in her career. This opportunity for a pay grade promotion comes with more responsibilities and requires moving to another city. One reason why she was thinking about early retirement is because she was a bit bored with work. While the work was varied, the problems felt like the same thing day in and day out. A new job is pretty exciting because she will have the opportunity to learn new skills, meet new people, explore a new city, and get a nifty pay increase. She was pretty excited to hear about this opportunity and she is giving it her full consideration.
In contrast, I avoided advancement in the last few years of my career. I didn’t want more responsibilities, more work, more meetings, or more pay. I’d rather have less responsibility and have stay with the same pay. That wasn’t acceptable to my old employer because they always want employees to improve. If you don’t improve, then eventually you will get a bad review and be on your way out. Yet another reason, I was ready to move on. If you enjoy advancement and want to see how far you can progress, then you’re probably not ready for early retirement.
Your social life is mostly at work
Most people spend more time at the office than sleeping. It’s only natural to have a social life at work. That’s what most retirees miss about work – their friends. Sure, you can see your work friends on the weekends, but they have very busy weekends, too. It’s tough to get together with friends from work. After 3 years, I met up with old work friends only twice. It’s really tough to get together in person especially because I’m a bit busy, too.
The solution is to have a social life outside of work, but that’s pretty difficult, too. It’s easier when you’re young, but when you’re 40 or 50, it’s hard to make new friends. As a parent of a small child, I have it a bit easier. I can make friends through RB40jr. When he meets someone he likes, then I’ll try to set up playdates and such. Another good way to meet new people is to find others that have similar interests or hobbies. I’m met new friends through blogging and playing ukulele, for example. Anyway, you need to build up your social life outside of work or else early retirement will be kind of lonely.
You don’t like being alone
As an early retiree, you will probably spend a lot of time alone even if you have a social life outside of work. Most of your friends from school or work will be busy working. As an introvert, I don’t mind being alone at all. I love reading books, catching up on the Walking Dead and other series, browsing the internet, listening to music, and blogging. I’m very comfortable being alone and I think it makes early retirement much easier.
Of course, I have RB40jr to help me pass the time. We have so many things to do that we don’t have time to be bored. I just taught him to ride a bike without the training wheels and I’m helping him with his swimming. A 4 year old boy has so many things to learn and it’s a lot of work to teach him these things. Of course, it’s a lot of fun too! Sometimes I wish I had a little more time to myself. I’m sure every stay at home parent has the same thought from time to time.
You don’t have big plans post retirement
This is probably the trickiest part of early retirement. What will you do with all the time you freed up from not working? I firmly believe you need some long term projects to work on so you don’t get bored with life. I have RB40jr and this blog to keep me busy. My father in law has been working on his 2 acre backyard for the last few years and it’s looking great. Some people say they want to travel, but I don’t know if this is a long term project. I would love to travel for a few years, but I don’t think I can travel forever.
Most early retirees don’t stop working completely. They have side projects and businesses that they pursue. Volunteering in an organization you care about is another great option. Your community could always use a hand, too. There are a lot of options and you just need to figure out what interests you. Early retirement is great for self driven people who like to explore their boundaries. If you like the structured lifestyle of working, then you might not like early retirement.
Early retirement is great, but it’s not for everyone. Even if you’re ready financially, you might not be ready emotionally. Work plays such a big role in our lives and it can be difficult to transition to an unstructured lifestyle. I don’t think Mrs. RB40 is ready to retire today, but she might be ready in 5 years. She still likes challenges and being relevant. The problem with work is that it just takes up too much time. Perhaps she can transition to part time or some kind of consulting position.
As for me, I love early retirement. I can make my own schedule and follow my own agenda. I’m able to spend a lot of time with our kid. I can work at my own pace and I don’t have to put up with management. Early retirement has been great and I’m looking forward to 40+ more years of this relaxed lifestyle.
Do you think you’re ready for early retirement? If you already left work, what were some challenges that you faced?
Image credit: flickr by bobbyfiend