Last week, I got an interesting comment from Jim after he read – Don’t Wait Until Retirement to be Happy. Here it is.
I’m 40 and I’ve retired. It sounds silly, but I’m bored. I don’t know what to do with myself. My wife and I have a small child, but I have absolutely no interest spending 24-7 with a child. I have hobbies, but they don’t take up 16 hours a day. Any suggestions on how to spend time meaningfully?
The problem Jim has is a common one. Most people look forward to the day they will retire, but don’t have any plans after that. Everyone focuses on their finances and neglects the personal freedom aspect of retirement. This is a critical mistake for early retiree because they will be restless and bored after the initial euphoric period.
All the things that you thought you’d do after you retire will keep you busy for only a year or two. We all want to travel, work on the house, read some books, and recuperate from a stressful career. These are all good things, but they won’t keep you fulfilled for 30+ years of retirement.
For someone who retired at 40, this problem is huge. They may have 20 more years in retirement than typical folks. Another problem is the retired by 40 folks worked very hard to get there. Going from working full tilt to doing nothing is much more challenging than you’d imagine.
That’s why I am a big advocate of a phased retirement. Here is my personal exit strategy if you haven’t seen it before.
- Age up to 40: Work hard, save, and invest to attain financial independence (or just get close).
- Age 40 to 60s: Quit corporate job and become a stay at home dad/blogger.
- Age 60s to 100: Kick back, spend down, and make the world a better place.
When you retire from your day job, you free up about 10 hours per day. If you’re a workaholic, you’d probably free up 14 hours/day. That’s a lot of time to fill. The key is to stay busy and find a mission or two. Relaxing and enjoying yourself is fun, but it’s not fulfilling in the long term. Luckily, I have a couple of missions that will keep me busy for many years to come.
- Raising my kid – This is a huge undertaking and I love it. Studies have shown that kids with involved fathers do better in life. Raising the kid really takes up a majority of my time and I wouldn’t have it any other way. You don’t have to spend every minutes of the day with your kid to stay involved.
- Encourage people to retire early – Retire by 40 started out as a hobby to chronicle my journey to retirement, but now it’s a mission. I really believe most middle class Americans can retire early if they just prioritize their freedom over their trappings. It’s a lot of fun to engage the public and show that early retirement is a possibility.
Jim wrote that he doesn’t want to spend 24-7 with a child and that’s understandable. It’s a lot of fun, but it can be extremely frustrating as well. Being a stay at home dad is hard and it’s not for everyone. Even a stay at home dad like me needs a little time to ourselves. Luckily, Jr. is going to preschool twice a week now so I have a few hours to myself once in a while.
Find a mission
Jim also mentioned that he has hobbies, but they don’t take up all his time. Having some hobbies is a good start. What Jim really needs is a challenge. He didn’t elaborate on his hobbies, but let’s make some suggestions here. We’ll start with hobbies and go from there.
Master a musical instrument. I haven’t picked up my guitar for ages. These days, I play the ukulele and I’m mediocre even with that. I’d like to get better with both of these instruments and perhaps learn to play bass, too.
Learn a new language. Learning Mandarin is on my bucket list. I’ll sign up my kid to learn it and try to pick it up at the same time. We visited China in 2008 and it was really difficult. I would love to be able to travel better on our own the next time we visit.
Make some art. The great thing about art is that anyone can try their hand at it. There are so many forms of art that you can try a lot of things and see what sticks. Try painting, pottery, sculpture, photography, calligraphy, dance, or even drawing comic strips. Mastering an art form can take years. Everyone starts out sloppy and if they keep at it, they will improve.
Get a PhD. Wouldn’t it be great to go back to school just to learn about the things you’re interested in? When I was in college, I just concentrated on getting my engineering degree and it was stressful. I’d love to go back and learn more about marine biology and all the other subjects that sound interesting.
Get in touch with your spiritual side. Another thing on my bucket list is becoming a Buddhist monk for 4 weeks. I’m a negligent Buddhist. I only know the basic philosophy and visit a temple about once a year. I really need to study it a bit more and become more enlightened.
Volunteer. Here is an easy one. Volunteer in your community and for other causes you care about. Do you care about child hunger, human rights, pet well being, literacy, elders rights, whales, sustainability, environment, immigrant rights, public safety, racial inequity, disaster relief, mentorship, education, or improving developing countries? There are endless opportunities to help improve someone’s life. You might not think you can make a difference, but everyone can make the world a better place.
Become a master chef. Making good food and seeing people enjoying your creations is an awesome experience. Everyone loves to eat and I think most people prefer home cooked meals, too. Learning how to cook a particular cuisine is not so expensive these days since you can just Google a recipe or try looking it up on YouTube. Taking some cooking classes would be a lot of fun, too, but I’m too cheap for that at this time.
Write a book. This will keep Jim busy for a long time. Everyone has a story to tell so why not write it down and find a publisher. Actually, you don’t even need a publisher these days. You can publish your book electronically and sell it on Amazon.
Start a business. Building a business from the ground up is very gratifying. This would definitely take care of Jim’s 16 hours/day problem. I’m not sure if this would be a wise financial move, though.
Make a bucket list. If you die tomorrow, can you really say you have no regrets? Are there things that you have been putting off until you have more time? Well, now you have a lot of time on your hands. You can make a list and begin to address what is on it.
Okay, that was 10 things and I could go on and on, but let’s give you a chance to make some suggestions. What do you think Jim should do with all the his newfound free time? If all else fails, Jim can always go back to work. That’s the beauty of early retirement. It doesn’t have to be permanent.
Photo credit: flickr *Kicki*