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Is Early Retirement Easier than Traditional Retirement?


Early Retirement easier than traditional retirementOne of my tips for new bloggers is to set a schedule for your blog posts and always stick to it. Sometimes you have to publish shorter or less than perfect posts, but sticking to a schedule is paramount to getting through the early years. Well, today is one of those short post days for me… I’ll keep it short and leverage the FIRE community’s knowledge for this one. After all, we are uniquely qualified to answer this question – is early retirement easier than traditional retirement?

Winter weather advisory

This one is a bit rushed because school was canceled a bunch of times due to our recent bad weather. I’ve been in Portland for 20 years and this winter was the worst yet. We’ve had 3 snow storms and protracted freezing temperatures. Portland just isn’t equipped to deal with this kind of deep freeze. Normally, we only get a few inches of snow each winter which is already enough to shut down the city for a few days.

Last week, the school was canceled for 4 days and all the kids loved it. They could stay home, play with the snow, and goof off all day. We’ve watched Minions probably 10 times over the last 2 weeks and I’m just Minioned out. We had it easy compare to other families, though. The only major obligation I have is to blog twice per week and I can do that from home. Other parents aren’t retired. They have to either take days off or arrange for childcare. Everyone was ecstatic that the kids went back to school on Wednesday. (Yes, there were 2 more days off this week.) Early retirement has been really awesome for me because my schedule is very flexible. It’s been almost 5 years and I still love it.

Is early retirement easier than normal retirement? It seems many people have a hard time transitioning into traditional retirement. They feel restless and depressed. Retirement may sound easy, but it is tough after 40+ years of structured schedules. People have too much free time on their hands and they just don’t feel useful anymore. Anecdotally, early retirees seem to adjust a lot better. I wonder why that is. While the financial aspect is more difficult, of course, it seems like everything else is more balanced.

Early Retirement is easier because…

In this short post, we will need to leverage the FIRE community’s expertise. I’ll ask early retirement bloggers to respond so you should check back and read the comments, too.

Why is it so tough to adjust to retirement? A 2012 study by Elizabeth Mokyr Horner, PHD, found that regular retirees experience a “sugar rush” of well being and life satisfaction directly after retirement. Unfortunately, this feeling of utopia doesn’t last long and a sharp decline in happiness soon follows. Apparently, this rush-crash pattern is quite common in the US and Western Europe. The study found that most retirees have this experience regardless of the age they retire. I bet she didn’t talk to people who retired by 40, though. I’ve met some of these extremely early retirees and they are all happy and well adjusted. What makes us different than regular retirees? Is early retirement really easier than traditional retirement?

Early Retirement is a choice

Here is my theory. I think early retirement is an easier transition because it is a choice – specifically, your choice. On the other hand, traditional retirement is forced on you by external circumstances. Look at these common reasons why people retire from work.

  • Health
  • Age
  • Stress at work
  • Corporate policy
  • Benefits eligibility
  • Family care

For early retirees, these aren’t our main considerations. Well, sure, I hated my old job and I wanted to spend more time with our kid, but I could have made a different choice. Instead of retiring, I could have looked for a job at a different company or arranged to work from home more. However, I chose to retire early from my engineering career and I don’t have any regrets whatsoever. The freedom to choose is a big deal. I always disliked being told what to do. By the way, I don’t miss the technical work at all. 😀

Okay, that’s all I’m going to add today. I think there are plenty of other reasons why early retirement is an easier adjustment, but I want to hear from you, too.

Do you think early retirement is an easier transition than traditional retirement? Why?

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, the job became too stressful and Joe retired from his engineering career to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. Today, he blogs about financial independence, early retirement, investing, and living a frugal lifestyle.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is increasing his investment in real estate with CrowdStreet. He can invest in projects across the U.S. and diversify his real estate portfolio. There are many interesting projects available so sign up and check them out.

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help DIY investors analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.

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{ 57 comments… add one }
  • Fiscally Free January 31, 2017, 1:53 pm

    I suspect most early retirees have thought much more about what they want to do when they retire and are generally more motivated than average, so they are able to maintain a sense of purpose that many traditional retirees may lack.

  • saveinvestbecomefree January 24, 2017, 10:15 am

    Great comments from your readers! I’m not yet retired yet but it’s exciting to hear how happy most people are after early retirement. I’m still trying to get my wife excited about the possibility since financially we are already FI but it still seems unbelievable to her. The comments here give me some additional (albeit highly biased) data points.

    I’m not sure if early retirement is “easier” than a traditional one but I have a hard time believing I will be happier by delaying a freer life (i.e. retirement) a long time, especially as I’ve already experienced that money beyond the lifestyle I like doesn’t make me happier. It’s sad if you can’t think of something better to do with an extra 40-60 hours a week, at least if you have one of the 85% of jobs that people generally find unfulfilling.

  • Stevie January 23, 2017, 9:36 am

    Being planned, ER would be easier. Because stats show half of conventional retirees exited years earlier than expected due to health or career problems. I’m betting career issues increase that ratio as age discrimination and other turbulence hit harder and sooner.

  • Nicoleandmaggie January 22, 2017, 7:31 am

    It is easier to in early retire than it is to unretire if you’ve made a mistake.

  • Rich January 22, 2017, 7:06 am

    Hey — long time reader, new blogger, first time commenting. Interesting article. I’d say Early Retirement might be easier … if you have the means and desire to retire early, that is. But several factors need to fall into place:
    1- Make good financial choices and be focused on ER before midlife. Let’s face it, when we are young, many of us still have our heads up our … uh … not in our spreadsheets.
    2- Spouse (if you have one) needs to be on board. Some of us cannot question the price of new yoga pants. It’s off limits. But seriously, the family needs to accept the limitations of a fixed or decreased income earlier on.
    3- Have a clear vision for life outside of traditional work. As many have said, you still need a reason to get up in the morning.

    Personally, I’d like to retire around 55, which is late in the FIRE community but early in other circles. Thankfully, I enjoy my career, so it does still feel like a “choice” and not forced labor. My advice for those who will be working until a more traditional retirement age would be to take those vacation days and do not wait to do the things you want to do until retirement. Live the life you want along the way because you never know what life will throw at you.

    Thanks again — great post! –R

    • retirebyforty January 23, 2017, 9:18 am

      Thank you for following Retire by 40 and contributing!
      55 is pretty good. I think that’s the perfect timing for most people. ER is nice, but most people just can’t get there in their 40s. Having the right partner is a requirement. If your partner is not on board, then it’s almost impossible to achieve financial independence.

  • Machinator January 21, 2017, 12:02 pm

    I think another factor to consider is that vacations that are predicated on physical activity like national parks are usually cheaper. Early retirees likely have better health and can front load these trips which can help decrease sequence of return risk!

    • retirebyforty January 23, 2017, 9:16 am

      I agree 100%. It’s a lot of fun to go camping now, but I don’t know about when I’m 65. At that point, we’d probably prefer an RV. 🙂

  • RG January 21, 2017, 9:06 am

    Wow! I love your blog and what a fantastic chain of responses. Lots of great comments and insights. I am somewhat new to following FIRE blogs but I find them to be a great inspiration to get my own life on track.

    I am early 50s and not retired but took a 3-year sabbatical during the Great Recession to retrain and reevaluate. It wouldn’t have been quite so long had it not been for the rotten economy. However, while I was out of the workforce, I didn’t miss going to work at all! It gave time to read, take care of our kids, and allowed my wife to go back to work part-time since we didn’t have to worry about child care.

    I might have just stayed early retired but needed to go back to work for financial reasons, and to support the family. I was not prepared financially for ER. Getting back to the 9 to 5 was stressful at first, getting updated to the company’s procedures, technology, and expectations. However, I don’t regret my time off at all.

    My personal experience with adults I knew who retired is as follows:

    Mother – retired at age 57, and mostly enjoyed it until she passed 23 years later, traveling and participating in her hobbies and interests. Also, it gave her time to take care of my Dad for 6 to 8 months before he passed. Her last years she was somewhat lonely after my Dad passed away.

    Father – retired at age 69, and was in fair to poor health mental and physical for the next 14 years. He worked hard at his job and was ready to retire financially but not emotionally. He initially tried traveling, and volunteering, but both were too much for him. He spent most of his time going to doctors and over-focused on his ailments. He spent his last 8 months in a nursing home. For him, leaving his job meant leaving his purpose in life.

    Uncle – retired at age 73 and 1/2, and was enjoying his retirement, assisting his children with their children, traveling, and finally relaxing after a long career. He saved plenty of money, was debt free, and my aunt still worked. He could have retired much earlier. His retirement was cut short at age 75 when his car was hit by a semi.

    My conclusion is there isn’t one formula for everyone, but if I had to pick, I’d say that semi-retirement at an earlier age is probably the best option. Luck is just such a huge factor, based on the cases in my immediate family. I personally am working towards that goal, but it’s still at least 10 years away, since I still need to support my family. Kudos to those who got an early start and made smart choices that enabled them to reach FI while they were still young and healthy!

  • Full Time Finance January 20, 2017, 8:37 am

    I think it has to to do with the type of people and the traits that lead to early retirement. To get there you have to have a passion and a plan to achieve that passion. Those things together lead to a better experience in anything imho. Wondering aimlessly meanwhile leads to more mixed results. Simply put those that traditionally retire have a higher makup of those who just walk or get forced into it. I.e. It’s correlation not causation.

  • Sam @ Financial Samurai January 20, 2017, 7:33 am

    No idea. Isn’t it the same? Retirement is retirement from something. You’re now free to do whatever you please.

    I guess ER is easier b/c you’re younger and more mobile.


  • Benjamin Davis January 20, 2017, 3:08 am

    Probably not, in my opinion. ER is like a full-time job, but extremely flexible.

    Great articles keep up!

  • Smart Money MD January 19, 2017, 8:31 pm

    One of the luxuries of FIRE that I would really enjoy is being able to go grocery shopping during normal weekday business hours. No lines. Insane amounts of discounted produce and items that I never see on the weekends.

    That is enough motivation for me to strive towards financial freedom.

  • Max Your Freedom January 19, 2017, 2:39 pm

    I also can’t speak to this from personal experience (yet), however I tend to agree with you that choice has a great deal to do with it. Choice is an expression of freedom, and people generally tend to be happier when in control of they’re destiny. When someone retires early, it’s generally because they’ve planned long and hard for it, they’re in control, and even if they’re not sure what to do when they retire, at least it was their decision.

  • Pennypincher January 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

    We were both forced into early retirement via layoffs. With 80 years of work/combined careers, we looked at each other and said-“the heck with it, we’re retiring!” Never regretted it, never looked back. Enjoy everyday, always have something to do, never realized how tired and stressed we always were from work/commute, etc.
    Yes, you have to start saving early. But for us, we don’t know how much time we have left, nobody does. We’ve never been happier.
    Plan, plan, plan because it’s not simple. The withdrawal of your life savings is trickier than the earlier investing years. Unexpected emergency co$t$ come up. And what if you outlive your savings? A lot to think about.
    No regrets. Don’t miss the old job one bit. Never really liked it anyway-ha, ha.

    • retirebyforty January 20, 2017, 8:51 am

      Enjoy your retirement! It sounds like you’re doing really well.

  • TJ January 19, 2017, 2:17 pm

    I’ll let you know what I think when I retire early. 🙂

  • FIscovery January 19, 2017, 12:47 pm

    Of course early retirement is easier, both physically and mentally — if you can retire early (by choice) then your master plan has come together – – you’ve figured out how much it costs you to live, you’ve got plenty of that tucked away, and you know it’s never going to run dry (because we all know about the 4% rule ;)), so the money worry is not there – – with that, you still got legs, still looking through the right lenses, possibly a bit of traveling using travel hacking, come on, traditional retirement, this stuff don’t happen – – kids are long out, slower in step, looking for early bird specials, scared to spend, facing your own mortality – – early retirement is for sure easier (IMO :))

    • retirebyforty January 20, 2017, 8:50 am

      ER is serendipity. Everything has to come together just right. 🙂

  • ESI Money January 19, 2017, 11:43 am

    It’s hard for me to say which is easier because 1) I’m only six months into early retirement and 2) I’ve never retired on time.

    My guess is that they both have their challenges and which is “easier” depending on your specific personality and circumstances.

    • retirebyforty January 20, 2017, 8:49 am

      What are some of the challenges that you’ve seen with ER? They have been pretty minor for me. Social life is probably the biggest hit because no more coworkers.

  • Financial Panther January 19, 2017, 11:40 am

    I’ve always personally seen early retirement as easier because it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. Retiring in your 60s or 70s carries some risk because its not easy to get yourself back to work if something happens and you find that you can’t make it on retirement income. There’s age discrimination, you’re just not healthy enough to work anymore, or any other myriad factors. You basically have to hope you were right with how you calculated your retirement income.

    In contrast, if you retire in your 30s or 40s, you still have plenty options if you find out that retirement isn’t working for you. It’s very easy to go back to work when you’re young, compared to when you’re older. Not to mention that it’s not so hard for a young person to make a few thousand bucks a year to cover themselves if they find themselves running short on money.

    • retirebyforty January 20, 2017, 8:48 am

      There are other ways to make money too. You don’t have to work full time or even work for other people anymore. I’ve really enjoyed working for myself and I would never work for someone else again if I can help it.

  • Alberto January 19, 2017, 10:51 am

    Early retirement is much easier as time, health, and experiences are abundant. So the focus, purpose, and discipline still at full speed. More discovery and intrigue.

    Older retirees experience a longer decompression than early. They are limited by health, age, and thought process. Their priorities at 60 are not the same,as at 40. Experiences are more measured but I can happily report the enjoyment and appreciation is just as intense as they appreciate things more. Older retirees are looking at closing their last third of life while early are looking at two thirds of their future.

    Both have no regrets but older retirees are in a different place in time. You can always make more money but can’t buy time.

    In our specific case, we plan our travels, go to TV shows like Dancing with the Stars, wakeup later in the AM or have breakfast by the beach. All of it awesome.

    We feel greatful and fortunate in comparison to others that are force to work until age 70 and depend on social security only.

    Ahhh….forgot, sex is also better…no rush or rqce,to the finish line…LOL!

    • retirebyforty January 20, 2017, 8:47 am

      Enjoy your retirement! I haven’t been able to wake up later, though. Got to get the kid ready for school. Nice to know your last post too. 😀

  • Smart Provisions January 19, 2017, 10:44 am

    I’m not retired yet, but I think early retirees have an easier time adjusting because they have spent quite a long time planning their retirement and how it’s going to work out, which is why it works so well in some cases.

    Another factor would be because early retirees don’t have to be in the workforce as long as traditional retirees do, so they can break out of the 9-5 habit faster than traditional retirees can.

  • Mr. Tako @ Mr. Tako Escapes January 19, 2017, 10:13 am

    Funny, I’m just a few hours north of you and we’ve had no snow. You guys have really gotten it this year in Portland.

    As far as early retirees vs traditional retirees — Part of it might be the financial aspect. Early retirees are kindof a special class of people that have the financial aspects really dialed in. The financially astute. We’re a special breed of people.

    Traditional retirees are everybody else, with retirement force on them. They might not have the finances or the knowledge to make a good go at it. Just the stress of fluctuating financial markets could put a retiree in a bad mood.

    • retirebyforty January 20, 2017, 8:45 am

      This year has been crazy. So many snow days.
      Right, you have to be on top of your finance to even consider ER. That’s a big part of it. We’re more creative and flexible too. You have to be to take the less beaten paths.

  • Steve @ Think Save Retire January 19, 2017, 9:54 am

    You’ve hit the nail on the head, Joe, by pointing out that early retirement is a choice, not something forced upon you. But even if it’s not a choice, I personally believe that life is entirely what we make of it. We can’t always control our circumstances (although I do believe we have MUCH more control over our lives than most people would care to admit), but we can almost always control *how we react* to them.

    The great majority of us, living in the freest and most technologically advanced country in the world, can live completely happy and productive lives if we want to. Unfortunately, our JOBS have become so ingrained in us that we view them to be “what we do” – or closely related, what keeps us productive. To me, that’s the wrong way to think about a job.

    A job is something that you do *to support your family*. Even if you like your job, it is not – and should not be – your life. When your job becomes your life, the instant that job goes away, your life drastically changes – and usually not for the better. When we define ourselves from the jobs we do, we’re treading in dangerous waters. It’s great to like your job. But, I believe that defining ourselves by those jobs leads to exactly what we’re talking about here.

    Early retirees don’t define themselves by the jobs they do. That’s the difference.

    • retirebyforty January 20, 2017, 8:43 am

      It’s too bad work has become so negative. It’s all about money and productivity now. There is no room for fun. I guess it really depends on where you work too.
      Great point about a job being your life. It’s that way for so many people and retirement would be a very difficult transition. Thanks for the thoughtful comment!

  • ASAPRetire January 19, 2017, 9:13 am

    Right on with the mindset! The sugar rush only lasts a little while, the possibilities of doing what you please last forever. I agree with Justin, though, economically it´s not easier, you just have to cover all those years. But we´re not on this for the money, right? at least for me, money it´s only the vehicle to get to freedom. A few years ago I got 1.5 years “sabbatical” and got a taste of this freedom. I love my career, but I love my freedom even more, so I just want an eternal sabbatical. Mentally it is easier to retire early, if you miss so much the gig you can always do some part time in your industry or collaborate in some project. If I figure out how to cover those years, I´m out early, that´s my dream.
    Keep on dreaming! and thanks for the post!

    • retirebyforty January 20, 2017, 8:41 am

      Wow, 1.5 years sabbatical. That’s awesome. I’m optimistic about my eternal sabbatical. 🙂 Good luck on your journey.

  • Jim @ Route To Retire January 19, 2017, 9:10 am

    I would think that early retirement would be easier for the mere fact that most early retirees are doing so because they want to. They have the dream and the desires they want to do and usually are working harder to make it a reality (as opposed to it just creeping up on you in your 60’s).

    The other important thing that early retirees have is their youth (or semi-youth!). There are a lot of things that retirees may want to do, but waiting for traditional retirement puts them in a spot where they might not have the physical aptitude to do what they want (e.g. travel). They might also not have the money to do things (did I mention travel?).

    Great post, Joe!!

    — Jim

    • retirebyforty January 20, 2017, 8:39 am

      Travel is a lot more fun when you’re young. I was a lot more adventurous when I was younger. I still enjoy travel, but I can see liking it less as I get older. My mom is getting close to 70 and she doesn’t like to travel anymore.

  • Mr Crazy Kicks January 19, 2017, 8:38 am

    The older we get, the harder it is to learn new things. Whether it’s learning a new language or how to ride a bike, it’s just harder to change as we age. For many of the traditional retirees I’ve seen, the transition to a whole new lifestyle is too tough. For many of these guys work is all they know, and at work they have tons of respect which they can’t find outside of the job.

    I left work at 34 and the transition has been a big change. I went from hanging out with work friends everyday to seeing them maybe once a month. But I’ve quickly adapted and my time has been filled with old and new hobbies. I’ve also made new friends through my new hobbies.

    It’s been awesome and I love this way of life. But I can see how the transition could be tough on people who aren’t as adaptable and don’t have any hobbies to move on to.

    • retirebyforty January 20, 2017, 8:37 am

      Adaptability is huge. I can still adapt, but I’m getting less flexible as I get older. It would be a lot more difficult to change when I’m 65. Keeping busy is good, it keeps us from being bored.

  • Justin January 19, 2017, 8:09 am

    I can say I’m definitely glad I retired now instead of when I’m 65 or 70 like is more common these days. I’m hoping to enjoy several decades of good health and use those to have fun, travel the world, and watch my kids grow up.

    I guess it depends on your viewpoint, but I have a good comparison with traditional retirement in my parents (one retired 2 years ago, other is still working). My dad who is still working is really starting to slow down in his mid-60’s but still doesn’t feel comfortable retiring yet. I think their days of adventurous travel are over so there won’t be any big epic round the world trips for them (though they took several trips of 2-4 weeks during their working years).

    I also think the transition is easier when you’re still young and active and have an easier time meeting new people and making new friends. With kids it’s like an infinite source of casual acquaintances among our kids’ friends’ parents (if we wanted to develop tons of social contact).

    Financially early retirement is much harder than traditional retirement because you need the $ to last 5-6 decades instead of 2-3 and you can’t rely on medicare or social security for the first 2-3 decades of retirement. As a result you’ve got to be a lot more creative in how you piece together your ER financial plan. On the upside, you can ER in your 30’s, totally screw things up, and probably still go back to work in your 40’s or 50’s and at least make enough $ to patch up your plan and stretch it to your 60’s when you can tap social security. No such luck if you blow up your plan in your 70’s and can no longer work.

    • retirebyforty January 20, 2017, 8:35 am

      You’re right. It’s different for everyone. My mom hasn’t worked for a while and she enjoys being retired full time. My dad on the other hand is still hustling. He can’t sit still, just like my kid…
      I think retirement is so much better if you’re young and healthy. Extended travel is an option and it can be cheaper than staying at home. Enjoy your ER!

  • Mike Drak January 19, 2017, 7:17 am

    Traditional retirement is harder because people end up losing their “why”. For the longest time they got out of bed every morning and went to work in order to pay the bills and take care of their family. Their ‘why” was loud and clear but this all changes when financial security is not an issue anymore. You lose the ‘why” that you have carried for the past thirty plus years and start to feel like you have lost your primary purpose in life For many traditional retirees, life for awhile feels meaningless. It’s hard to get out of bed in the morning when you don’t have a good why to live for. When you lose your why you lose your way.
    People in retirement need to discover a new why for themselves. They need to find purpose in something else, something that that will put new meaning back into their lives.
    Joe and Ernie are perfect examples of individuals that have a good reason to get out of bed in the morning. They have found their “why”.

    • retirebyforty January 19, 2017, 2:25 pm

      Thank you for your comment! I was hoping you’d respond.
      The “why” is definitely easier for early retirees. We have to be very proactive to achieve our goal. The traditional work environment just isn’t a good fit for everyone. Those of us that don’t derive our “why” from working the traditional jobs will have to find our own way. Very wise comment.

  • Ms. Montana January 19, 2017, 7:11 am

    I think this is a very interesting question! We hit FI when I was 32, and Mr. Mt turned in his notice. Lifestyle wise, it’s been amazing! We have so many exciting projects going, and our lives are fuller and better than ever. I really feel like we are “living the dream.” But the downside it that’s it’s really weird to people. They just aren’t sure what to make of it. I think if we were 50, that part would be much easier. But now we are basically “self-employed” with all the stuff we have going on. So just to make everyone feel more comfortable, that is how I will refer to ourselves in social situations. =)

    • retirebyforty January 19, 2017, 2:22 pm

      32! That’s just too awesome. You guys are living the dream. 🙂
      ER is really amazing. It’s great that people are more aware about FIRE now. The internet has been a boon for us.

  • ExFlyBoy5 January 19, 2017, 6:03 am

    As an early retiree myself (retired in 2014 at 40 years old) I can say that it has been nothing but pleasurable. I have yet to have a day when I am “bored” and have plenty to occupy my time. As a matter of fact, I am sure how I was able to get anything done when I was still w*rking! Now that I enter my 3rd year of ER, I am not sure I *could* go back to a traditional w*rk if I wanted to…nor can I even envision going back and going the “traditional” route of retirement. I am still pretty young and am happy that I *should* have many years of being retired, and with any luck, this will be the longest period of time in my life…I can’t fathom retiring at 65 and then only having 20 (maybe a few more?) years of retirement. Not only to mention, I am still physically do most stuff I was able to do when I was 25 years old…I am pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to say the same at 65.

    • retirebyforty January 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

      Yes, I feel like people are duped by the whole traditional retirement path. It is so much better to retire early. You can have the freedom to follow your own agenda. I haven’t had a boring day either. That’s not in the cards when you have an active kid. I can’t imagine going back to traditional work either. It is so stifling. If I had to go back to work, I’d rather be self employed.

  • Physician on FIRE January 19, 2017, 5:07 am

    Boy, I wish we would have been that ill equipped to deal with snow and cold when I was a kid. Snow days were the best days! So far this year, we’ve woken up to -29 F and had school as scheduled. When it was -32 F, the start of school was delayed 2 hours. Something magical happens around – 30, apparently.

    Is early retirement easier? Well, you are likely to be in better health, less likely to be suffering from arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and all of that. You’ll probably have fewer conflicts like doctor’s appointments and friend’s funerals (sad but true for traditional retirees). Early retirees probably have some time before eventual grandkids.

    I’m sure there are ways it’s more difficult, too. Loss of purpose, no one to play with during the day, all your peers are busy, etc…


    • retirebyforty January 19, 2017, 2:17 pm

      Any dusting of snow is enough to bring Portland to its knees. Last week we had 8 inches and that was a lot more than usual. Luckily, I just stayed home and didn’t have to go anywhere. A ton of accidents and abandoned cars.

      You’re right about health. I want to travel and see the world while I’m able to enjoy it. Waiting until 65 is okay, but it’ll be tougher to travel for sure.

  • Bethany @ Dose of Discovery January 19, 2017, 4:53 am

    I’m not retired yet and therefore may not qualified to provide an answer… 🙂 But I think early retirees spend a significant amount of time planning for retirement – both from a financial perspective and a fulfillment perspective. We spend a lot of time thinking about what we’ll do in retirement, how we’ll ensure we remain fulfilled, etc. I imagine that traditional retirement creeps up on many, and they don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what they’d like to do with that time beyond “spend more time with my family.”

    • retirebyforty January 19, 2017, 2:14 pm

      I agree that planning is a big factor. Personally, I spent most of the planning around the financial aspect of it. I didn’t find the ER transition difficult at all. I had plenty of things to keep me busy. You’re right about retirement creeping up. I think most people think they can work longer and are surprised when they couldn’t. Health issue and forced retirement come to mind here.

  • The Green Swan January 19, 2017, 2:51 am

    I know what you mean with the city being ill-equipped for snow, Charlotte shuts down very easily as well!

    Interesting point about early retirees adjusting better. I’ve never thought or heard of that before but it makes sense since it may be more elective than traditional retirees. And I can see after being committed to the working world for so long it can be harder to find new meaning.

    • retirebyforty January 19, 2017, 9:21 am

      I thought indoctrination could be a factor. If you’ve worked for 40+ years, it’s bound to be more difficult to adjust to retirement. Early retirees work less than that and we’re more flexible.
      Hopefully, we’re done with snow this year. Everyone is ready for warmer weather.

  • Ernie Zelinski January 19, 2017, 2:36 am

    Joe, you ask, “Do you think early retirement is an easier transition than traditional retirement? Why?”.

    First, in your case and mine, we didn’t actually take early retirement. We opted for semi-retirement. You still work a bit and so do I. Early retirement implies a traditional-type retirement of absolutely no work but an early age of 30 or 40 or 50 or 60 and not the traditional age of 65. I do think that taking semi-retirement first and transitioning to full retirement is easier than taking full retirement abruptly at the traditional retirement age of 65

    Somewhat related to this, we should be wary of all those articles about the majority of older workers delaying retirement (instead of taking traditional or early retirement) and dreaming longingly of “retirement” careers, pursuing the businesses they always wanted to run, and working for satisfaction other than a paycheck. According to their 16th annual Retirement Survey released in 2015 by Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, the great majority of workers have other major dreams for retirement than work, regardless of how rewarding work may be.

    “Relatively few workers cite activities involving some form of work as their top dream,”
    concluded the researchers. Most workers are, in fact, simply longing for the freedom just to indulge in lifelong passions that have nothing to do with work.

    1. Traveling (42 percent)
    2. Spending more time with family and friends (21 percent)
    3. Pursuing hobbies (15 percent)
    4. Continue working in my current field (5 percent)
    5. Doing volunteer work (4 percent)
    6. Starting a business (4 percent)
    7. Pursuing an encore career (5 percent)
    8. None of the above (6 percent)

    Several research studies cite a large number or people wanting to work well past the retirement age of 65. And how many “retirees” [people over 65] surveyed actually have some sort of job? That would be 17 percent.

    One more important point: Overall, roughly one-third of Americans over 65 report
    having at least one medical condition that limits their ability to care for themselves, socialize, or work. That’s a big contrast to the picture often painted of retirees spending their time in leisure activities such as traveling the world, hiking mountains, and taking hot-air balloon rides or work-related activities such as working at fun jobs or running their own dream businesses.

    • retirebyforty January 19, 2017, 9:19 am

      Transitioning into semi-retirement first is really the best way to go. A lot of people plan to work after retirement and I think full retirement is going to be rare in the future. Working a little bit is very fulfilling especially when you do it on your own term.
      The discrepancy between people wanting to work vs people who have job is very telling. It looks like most people want to work, but they can’t find a job. That could be a source of unhappiness.

    • David Michael January 19, 2017, 11:53 am


      I think that’s a great point…”semiretirement.” It’s obvious to me with longer and healthier lifespans that many of us will be engaged in and out of working regardless of income and age. Now at age 80, I just sent a resignation letter to my current part-time employer, so I could travel without end for the next few years. While RVing full time the past seven years, I held about five seasonal jobs. Really enjoyed each one for the period of three months. And then, when the work was over, I was so, so happy. While most of the readers are looking to age 40-70 as great retirement years, I might point out that many others are equally looking forward to 70-90 as great years as well.

    • Michael @ Financially Alert January 22, 2017, 9:50 am

      I think you’ve stated it well here, Ernie.

      I do believe health plays a huge part in our happiness during retirement.

  • Kin January 19, 2017, 2:28 am

    Great topic. Like you said the main difference between early retirement and traditional retirement is the choice, not simply a choice but a very conscious choice. To speak generally, people to who make that choice have traits that may include – long term planning, VERY thorough thinking and vision (for future), and persistence. People have those traits tend to have thought about and thus have a good idea about what they really want in life, and/or have a few ideas/hobbies that are worth pursuing in length. That will allow them to continue to have satisfaction and enjoyment in life.

    On the contrary, people who follow traditional retirement and therefore, usually not a conscious choice. They tend to conform to societal standards and have their egos/personas validated by those things — jobs, family roles. They get the rush when the retirement dream arrives but when the dust settles, they are not sure what to do with themselves (losing themselves?). And I’m guessing that’s why there are studies about retirement causing people to their early grave, haha.

    My two cents being an early retiree myself. Thanks for writing about a great topic.

    • retirebyforty January 19, 2017, 9:16 am

      Thank you for your great comment! You’re right about planning. If you want to retire early, you really have to plan for it. Most people prefer to put it on auto-pilot and it could be difficult to adjust to retirement when you do that.

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