Facing Fears

Tomorrow is a big day for my wife.  At 6:00 p.m. she is going to have her first ever in-class driving lesson and she is freaked out.  At 27 years old, she has decided that she wants to drive, something that she’s been able to avoid up until this point.  What changed her mind was a very interesting job opportunity that happens to be 20 km out of the city that I am unwilling to drive her to daily.  This opportunity, along with her dislike of her current job has gotten her to face her fears and attempt something new.  So far, she has had her license for over a month and has yet to get behind the wheel of a car (she thinks she will somehow roll it in a parking lot).

I was never afraid to drive, but a few years ago I faced one of the things that just really got me into a cold sweat – public speaking.  I think many people have a similar fear, but I didn’t realize I had a problem with public speaking until I attempted to give a best-man’s speech at a friend’s wedding.  Needless to say, it did not go over well (I was told I stood there, said “umm” a lot and rubbed my head).  This event was both embarrassing, as well as eye-opening.  For the next couple of years, I avoided speaking in public.

Avoidance of my problem bothered me, I prefer to meet weaknesses head on.  Eventually, I joined Toastmaster’s.  With Toastmasters, I was “forced” to give short 30-45 second speeches at first on chosen topics and eventually I went on to give a few longer speeches.

Eventually, what I learned (and also what I hope my wife learns) is confidence.  I learned that public speaking was not scary, I learned how to prepare my thoughts into something others could understand, I watched other people successfully and unsuccessfully give speeches, which was a great chance to learn.  Two years ago I gave another best-man speech at my brother’s wedding which went over much better, and at my own wedding I surprised people (most of whom had seen me speak at that first awkward wedding) by giving a humourous and well-done 10 minute speech in front of around 150 people.

The same philosophy can be applied to early retirement.  Taking a leap by retiring decades before everyone else is scary.  There are probably a lot of people who doubt it can be done, who assume you will end up broke in old age and have to go back to the workforce.  In order to combat this fear, you have to meet it head on:

Are you afraid of running out of money? Then have your calculations checked by someone – provide them with your assumptions and estimates and see if your math works out.

Do you worry you’ll have nothing to do without work? Take a leave of absence for a year and see if you run out of things to do – leave the door open to go back to work if you’re bored at the end of it.

I’ve found that worrying about things that you can control is counterproductive – educating myself, asking questions and meeting challenges allows me to sleep better at night.

Have you had fears in the past that you have overcome?  Do you have concerns about your retirement that is forcing you to sit on the fence instead of leaving the workforce?

5 thoughts on “Facing Fears”

  1. hi Tim,
    I don’t think you’re alone when it comes to public speaking. I’ve seen many people make embarrassing speeches like yourself. At that first wedding. I myself started public speaking. In grade 3 and then went on to win a public speaking contest in grade 5 and six and it now is a big part of the work that I do in giving workshops and seminars. I think the biggest difference for most people is that if they are speaking on a topic that they are competent then know very well. They tend to speak a lot better. I’ve always said that fear is the unknown. And as you mention educating yourself on the subject or the topic, can help to eliminate the fear graduations on overcoming your fear of public speaking.
    As a certified financial planner. I meet many people who have the fear of running out of money. Through helping them to pair a comprehensive financial plan that outlines and shows them what income and what money they will have going for it every single year for the rest of their life. All various sources such as, CPP old-age security pension savings RFPs tax-free savings accounts, etc. really helps to educate them and therefore eliminate their fears. We run into this so often with clients that we decided that it was important to build a simple to use calculator called the retirement 100 calculator to help people understand and see whether or not they’re likely to run out of money. This calculator will also show them how much their lifetime tax will be.
    If you go to my website at http://www.FrankWiginton.com you can find a copy of that retirement 100 calculator on my homepage.
    Interestingly enough, we find that a lot of people have more money than they think they do and will end up with a substantial estate upon death. So the question becomes, what do you do with the money?
    I wrote a guest post on the balance junkie blog entitled how to get your inheritance early, and other ways your parents can save taxes in retirement.
    here’s the link: http://balancejunkie.com/2010/08/16/get-your-inheritance-early-and-other-ways-your-parents-can-save-thousands-in-taxes-in-retirement/
    you can also watch a short video of me discussing this on business news network by clicking here: http://frankwiginton.com/bnn-13-may-2008
    Tim congratulations on the Toronto Star business section front page looks like you and your wife have a beautiful family. I have a physical copy of the newspaper and I would be happy to send it to you.

  2. I am afraid of leaving my current job because it pays very well and I am comfortable and happy there. However, I also have a lifelong dream of moving to another city, and I wouldn’t like to wait 20 years to do it. So I am ambivalent – take a risk with my happiness and financial future, or not? I am kind of hoping something precipitates a decision one way or another as at this point I can’t decide. Sadly my company does not allow leaves of absence so I can’t do a trial run…

  3. Hi:

    You are not really retired if you put your wife out to work. Nope. You are either a househusband doing housework and running after kids all day or a mooch. Which are you?
    If your wife has to spend hours cleaning up after you and the kids, after she has been working all day that would make you a leech.

  4. Marg,

    Where on earth did you get the idea I’m going to make my wife work while I retire? She will work if she wants to, not because I told her to. The plan assumes she doesn’t have to.

    As for cleaning up, my wife won’t put up with that bullshit of picking up after me. She is far too independent for that. We help each other out and are grateful for what we both do for each other.

  5. Your plan is interesting with some great points – wish I had had it when I retired at 51 from Military – THEN i worked at lots of other jobs for the experiences.. having your house paid off before retiring – is a must – was bit difficult for the 3 yrs after retirement – a savings plan and a portfolio is good too – taking your CCP at 60 is something to consider as well – we did and realized about 15k from that – well worth considering.. because the income for the 5 years can be put into investments or what-ever one chooses..

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