Category Archives: Retirement

Life After FIRE – Six Months In

Recently it occurred to me that I was closing in on six months since I left work and started my early retirement which honestly hit me with a bit of shock. Six months?!?! Really?!?! Already!

Perhaps why it snuck up on me is rather simple: I haven’t been remotely bored and I have to be honest that I haven’t been that busy either.  At least in my head I don’t think of myself as ‘busy’.

What I define as ‘busy’ was that frantic pace that used to be my life versus now where I move a much slower pace  and where I am calm and relaxed (most of the time). Previously at work there was this low level stress that didn’t seem like much at the time, but now I really notice the lack of it.

I think I under estimated this entire concept of detoxing from work after you retire. I thought because I wasn’t highly stressed from my job or I wasn’t ill from my work that I won’t need much time for detoxing but I was wrong. Instead of stress or sickness, I was very infected from work on having a certain level of productivity in my life.  During my career it went like this: I had to do this project at work, then do this home repair project on the weekend, and then see these friends because it has been like six months since we saw them.  And then repeat that almost every day. I had a standard in my head of what being productive meant and I didn’t realize how high it was until after I left my old job. So during the first few months of my early retirement I was concerned about my lack of accomplishments. What was I getting done with all my new found time? To be honest it wasn’t much in least in the terms I would have previously measured it.

I would have previously ticked off what I did in the last six months along the lines of:

  • Finished a first draft of a novel
  • Started editing a second novel
  • Got this website back up and running (with help from friends)
  • Read 45 books
  • Watched over 15 seasons of TV shows
  • Completed a online course on working at libraries
  • Volunteered once a week at my sons’ school library
  • Took a beer appreciation class and joined a beer club to learn more about brewing beer
  • Brewed 24 L of beer and 86 bottles of wine
  • Dusted off a very old hobby and started playing D&D again with a group for the first time in twenty years

The issue I think was I was so used to thinking in numeric terms that I failed to realize my biggest accomplishment during this six months of early retirement was adjusting to an entirely new lifestyle and changing my definition of ‘busy’.

There really is no road map for what to do once you leave work. Your time is now effectively entirely under your control and that level of choice is nearly overwhelming at the start. So I rather glad I had previously developed a ‘want to do’ list with things for me to do with my time after leaving work. Some were very easy items like take a walk around the park one day while others took a week or more such as taking a online course. The point was to get out of my usual life and specifically do things that I had dreamed of with my time.

Yet now I don’t recall the last time I looked at that list. It has literally been months. It is less important to me now as I have a bit of a rough routine to my week that I’m enjoying. But that list was useful as I continue to enjoy some of those little things that I can do now with my time. For example, a particular favourite item is going out for fast food breakfast. I can usually pick up a breakfast for less than $10 for me (and with a coupon my wife as well) and I like to do it perhaps once a month or so. The novelty of the experience is simple: I NEVER got to that during my working career and I really do enjoy the occasional breakfast out.

Now with this new lifestyle I am comfortable with who I am and I have this nice calm state and I finally feel ready to take on some more projects. I had previously avoided taking on too much for a while to let myself adjust to my new definition of being productive. But now I feel ready to outline a schedule on when to publish my first novel. I also want to do planning for some other big items around the house like the kitchen renovation and getting a plan together for adding a front patio to the house.

I’ve learned the world won’t end if I decide to be lazy once in a while and even for months at a time if I want. And in the end I learned that a good life isn’t measured in items done off of your to do list but rather in the content feeling of completing things that matter to you. Regardless of how minor or silly those items appear to others. This is your life so remember to live it for you and not what others think. I am an early retiree and now I’m okay with being that.

The Consuming Dark

It felt like a scene in a movie.  Dark clouds appear on the horizon and then rush across the sky to cover the actor in darkness then rain begins to fall to ensure nature has made its point that you are nothing compared to it.  Perhaps you should just lie down and never get up.

Except in real life it didn’t happen in under twenty seconds on screen but rather over the course of a few weeks.  For me it started with the simple frustration of this blog being offline and me being able to do nothing about it.  I was stuck waiting for someone else to do something so I could start to fix it.  Then something else was wrong after that and again I was stuck waiting for a reply for a month.

Then it got worse as my wife was having a problem getting a previous client to pay up on an outstanding invoice.  And this wasn’t  a minor amount of money either it was close to 10% of her income for a year.

Finally to top it off someone hit our car in the parking lot and ran off without leaving a note.  So now we had to get the car fixed and pay our insurance deductible of $700.  It felt like everything was going wrong in our lives over the course of a few weeks.

It became hard to hope for a while.  I felt powerless and worthless.  And at times I doubted my decision to leave my job last fall.  I felt like it was doomed to end in tears and I would eventually fail at this whole early retirement thing.  It wasn’t like I was depressed but rather like I lost faith in that fact things would get better.   I felt frustrated at the lack of progress  what I thought were my big problems in life.

Then slowly things did get better.  My wife finally got some progress on her outstanding invoice and eventually an agreement to pay it back in installments.

Then I had a friend look at my blog and offer a suggestion on what could be wrong.  And I got an offer out of the blue from Tom Drake to also have a look at the blog and came to a similar conclusion on what the problem could be.  So with that in hand I finally got my tech support to fix the issue and after even more issues being sorted out now I’m finally back online.

The car isn’t fixed yet but at least I feel I can face dealing with it now and the world isn’t so dark anymore.  Perhaps most of all I can hope that things will get better.

You see early retirement doesn’t solve all your problems.  You still have your bad days and things will go wrong (sometimes all together).  Yet life goes on.  Today isn’t forever but rather a moment in time.  It’s hard to realize that when things are going wrong but in the end I’m back in the sun and feeling better about life.

The Money Panic

The other day for no apparent reason I sudden had a shock of fear go down my spine that I didn’t have enough money for my retirement.  I worried that I had made a horrible mistake and that I should have worked longer  and saved more money before quitting. There was no particularly logical trigger for the feeling of mild panic that passed through me and the feeling left me shortly afterwards.  Yet it did make me double check a few numbers to prove to myself (again) that we had enough money for years.

So as I looked at my account balances and faced the fact that I am in fact fine for the next few years then I relaxed back to my usual state of calm.  In reality nothing had changed about our situation during this episode, it was merely a bit of doubt stuck in my brain and likely the result of me adjusting to our changing sources of income.

Previously with my old job, I knew there was risks with a job as your major source of income.  I knew you could get laid off, shifted to another job, or have a rollback in wages or cut in benefits (I honestly had experienced all of those during my career at some point).  Yet I understood those risks because I had been living with them for a long time.  So oddly comfortable with those risks.

Now that we are mostly living off our investments I have a different set of risks.  We could see a stock market correction, cuts in dividends from companies we own or drops in our bond portion of our investment portfolio.  These aren’t new risks but I honestly didn’t pay as much attention to them in the past because with my old job we had other sources of income to cover expense when those events occurred.  Now I’m feeling those risks more acutely than in the past.

The reality is you don’t have less risk once you retire.  You just changed which risks you are managing.  Yet oddly some of the same principles  you learned getting to retirement still apply such as it is better to have multiple sources of income (not just investments or  just a job).  Which is why partly my wife continues to run her daycare from our home and I continue to run my little publishing business.  Neither produces much income but it does help balance out the risks of sudden investment swings.  Also both businesses give us something to do and provide options for socialization with others.  We do them because we like to and less because of the income they produce.

One other things that hit me during my little panic feeling was I asked myself the following question: what is the worst thing that could happen?  This is a great question to force yourself to face what you are fearing.  And in my case the answer was simple: get a job.  Notice the word ‘job’.  I don’t have to go back to my old career or employer begging for a job.  I can find something, somewhere that I might enjoy a bit and brings in some money.  Honestly with our relatively low expenses making even $10 to $15K a year makes a huge difference to balancing out our spending.  And if that truly became required it isn’t really the horrible of a fate…hell it’s sort of normal for most people my age (including myself until recently).

In the end, I’ve come to realize these little flares of panic or worry are just me adjusting to my new normal.  Nothing on a fundamental level has changed in my situation other than my thoughts and luckily those can be changed rather easily.

So do you think you would have problems living just off your investments?  What would you do to help balance your risks?