Early Retirement – mmm… I bet early retirement sounds great to many of you who are reading this from a cubicle on Monday morning. I have been happily unemployed for 10 months now, but I do miss the regular paychecks. We are doing alright financially and I assume most early retirees are prepared for the reduction in income as well. So let’s skip the finance discussion today and focus on what to do with your time after retirement.
The biggest problem with early retirement is the lack of long term goals. Typically, we have many long term structured goals from a young age. We are expected to go to school, attend college, and progress on a career ladder until retirement. Here is the typical progression of an average middle class white collar worker.
- Grade School
- Junior High School
- High School
- College degree
- Graduate degree
- Entry level office job
- Get raises and promotions
- Get more education and training
- Become a manager or senior level worker
Most of us live quite a structured lifestyle before retirement. At work, I was always trying to complete a project and earn raises and promotions. All that abruptly came to an end when I quit my corporate job. The transition to an unstructured lifestyle can be difficult if you are not prepared for it.
I read many articles and comments on the internet and found that many retirees are unsatisfied with the leisurely lifestyle and actually become depressed. The lack of direction coupled with long empty hours wore many people down after a few years.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
One career developmental question that is frequently asked is where do you see yourself 5 years from now? As much as I dislike this question (because who really knows where someone will be in 5 years?), it gets you to consider your long term goals and what you would like to accomplish. This question applies to early retirees just as much as any employee. You need to have some long term goals to keep you going. If your answer is sitting around watching TV or sipping umbrella drinks on the beach, then I think you are going to be bored out of your mind after a year or two.
Luckily, I have a couple of projects that I am working on which are keeping me busy and engaged.
- Raising a kid – Being a happy stay at home dad is a full time job. My long term goal is to help Baby RB40 succeed in school and get into a good college. He is already a free thinker, so I want to channel his energy into being a good citizen and possibly being more entrepreneurial than I was. This is up to him, of course. This will keep me busy for the next 15 years. For the short term, I’m just trying to encourage him to read more. Once he starts grade school, I should have more time for more projects.
- Blog – Blogging has basically grown into a half time job. Blogging is taking up a lot of time, but it is a lot of fun as well. The long term goal for Retire By 40 is to build an audience while also being helpful and relevant for early retirees. Many bloggers get burned out and I want to avoid that at all costs. Of course, a little more income wouldn’t hurt.
I was working on these things for a few years before I retired from my career and I urge everyone to do something similar. These current projects will eventually require less time and I will find other long term projects to take on. Being financial independent is awesome, but you also need to figure out what to do with your time as well.
Have a happy retirement
If you find yourself bored or depressed in retirement, then you probably need to find a few long term projects to immerse yourself in. The good thing about retirement is that you will have plenty of time to figure it out.
- You can pursue artistic interests like painting, pottery, or photography.
- You can help others by finding a cause that you care about and volunteer.
- You can get involved in your community or join a movement.
- You can get in touch with your spiritual side.
- You can try working for yourself to build the business that you always dreamed about.
- You can even go back to work part time if the unstructured lifestyle really doesn’t suit you.
The important thing is to have some long term goals where you can make forward progress. Human are most happy when we are making progress toward some goals, so don’t take that away when you retire. What about you? Do you have any long term goals for after retirement?
Photo credit – flickr Walt Stoneburner