Category Archives: Retirement

Rebuilding Your Identity After Retirement

Who are you?  It is a simple question but the answers can be complex .  Yet often when you are working you just use your job title as a proxy of an answer.  So for me the answer was: I’m an engineer.

Of course it is more complicated than that and when you look at all the roles you have in your life you start to get an idea of what your identity is.  For example, yes I’m an engineer but I’m also a father, a husband, an uncle, a son, a brother, a bibliophile, a brewer of wine and beer, a gamer (video, board and role playing games), an author, a blogger,  a friend, a life long learner, a cook, a volunteer and so on.  All of these things combined are your identity and each of them contribute to it.

Yet for a person entering retirement there is a big shift that occurs with your identity.  You have likely made your work-related identity one of your key roles that defines you and after you retire that role becomes less relevant.  And here is the trick of having a successful retirement: you need to build a new role of retiree and let your previous work role diminish.

In short this is why many retirees, men specifically, have issues with retirement.  We are more often heavily identified by our work role and when we lose that role we feel adrift without another role to help support us as we slowly build up the retiree role.  And when you are feeling a lose of identity you can feel worthless, be irritable, wonder about what you values and question who you are.  If you stay in this state for a period of time it is entirely possible to slide into feeling depressed.

I didn’t personally suffer too much with my identity when I retired as I have been slowly letting my role related to work diminish leading up to retirement for close to a year.   I even started introducing my self differently by saying I work as an engineer but I’m passionate about writing. That way when I left work for the last time I was already started on the process of letting go of my old work role and could then focus more on building up my other roles.

Related to that is why I often point out the need for a focus or passion hobby or interest in retirement.  You need to know what matters to you and do something that will make you feel needed.  That will help you build up that role into a more dominate part of your identify and contribute to you building out your retiree identity.  You should also consider leaning more on your other roles in your life as you make this transition for work role to retiree role.  So yes, spend more time with friends and your family (if you like them), help out in your community, and get more into your existing hobbies.  For example, find a club about one of your hobbies and join it (or at the very least try it out).

A note of caution.  This process can take a LONG time to complete and if you don’t know what you want to focus on in your retirement you might have a prolonged period of trying out various interests.  It can be easy to say to yourself: what’s the point?  After trying idea number five but don’t give in and keep trying as you will find something in the long run.  The answer might not be just one big thing but rather several smaller things together that works for you.  So perhaps your build your retiree identity with parts of being a brewer, writer and friend rather than just one dominate item.

So have you ever had issues with your identity for example during a career change or after a move?  If so, how did you get pass it?  Please share any other tips you have found that worked for you.

The New Groove

It’s been almost a year and a half since I left my job and just now I feel like I’m finally hitting my new groove to my life.

That might come as a bit of surprise to some people, but I would say honestly it really does take some time for you to adjust to your new retired life.  The reason is you tend to go through a series of phases when you retire.

The first is the most obviously: the initial high of being retired.  Let’s face it when you finally leave work after all that planning it feels fantastic.  Your walking on air and the world seems to be brighter and happier.  That phase can last anywhere from days to months or if your really lucky up to a year or so.  Then it wears off and while nothing has really changed you start to  think:is this all retirement is?

Ah welcome to being disillusioned.  The next phase of your retirement.  Here is where things start to go wrong and you often don’t know why.  I personally hit this phase in six months (as you can see here). It was a crappy place to be. You can feel unhappy,  anxious, lonely, and even in more severe cases outright depressed.  I personally never got that bad but yes I did hit a low spot there where I was seriously doubting my decision to retire early.  And yet oddly enough this phase of doubt doesn’t really get talked about all that much.  What causes it?  Basically you are missing things from your work life and you didn’t really understand how important they were for you life such as:  a structure to your days, work friends, a sense of contributing to something bigger than you, and even goals with feedback on how well you did on your goals.

Yet after that low point you have a choice.  You can give up and get a job again and return to something like your old life.  Or you can push forward to building your new retired life.  Here is where you start to make adjustments to your new life.  You can add new activities, more social interactions, and even more structure to your life.  You can search to do something you find meaningful and gives you a sense of progress on a goal.  And know this search might take some time but don’t give up on it.  Then finally after a time you will hit your new groove.

Which brings me back to where I started this post.  I finally have a bit of routine to my life that makes me happy.  I’m not bored or lonely.  I feel productive working on writing material for my book which matters to me.  I’ve finally built a new identity of the retiree not the worker without a job that I started at after I left work behind.

There is a long process to get to this point.  It doesn’t come easy and while it can take years to get to a new groove it is possible.  Just stay the course and give yourself some time.  After all, you are retired right?

So retirees, how long did it take you to find your new groove?

Facing Your Fear

This might sound odd but I am grateful for 2018 being a crappy investment year.  Yes, you may now say: WTF?!?!

I think perhaps my greatest fear about my early retirement was the markets would go the hell after I retired and then I would be forced to go crawling back to my old workplace and beg for a job.  Yet after that partly coming true in 2018: the bad stock markets part.  I realized that I don’t have to go back to my old work at all.  I still have a lot of money saved up, I can still live my life and find other means of making money that don’t involve my old job.

In short, I faced down perhaps my biggest fear about my early retirement and realized the greatest gift about early retirement isn’t really about having all this time off.  The greatest gift is the choices that come from having financial stability.  I have time to consider my options and try other things to make money.  I don’t have to reach for my old career for a solution if I don’t want to.  Simply put: I’m not limited by my previous choices in life.

Most of our adult lives we end up bound by our previous choices.  If you buy a car you end up bound by your payments for it.  Or if you buy a big house, you also end up bound by your payments for decades.  And so very slowly you bind yourself to all these chains of monthly obligations that keep you at your job.  You can’t quit without having another job lined up because your payments consume so much of your money each month and you don’t have much for savings.

Yet going for financial independence you in fact create the inverse of that situation.  You pay off your consumer debt and you get more choices.  You can invest a hobby like beer making  to help save more in the future and still enjoy life. Then you pay off your mortgage and get more choices.  Do you want to go part time instead of full time now your mortgage is gone?  You save and invest your money and you get more choices. Do I really want to apply for a job in another industry?  Until one day your investments earn enough you don’t have to go to work each day and your choices explode into a millions of pathways for you to choose.

Now this sense of freedom can be terrifying at first but over time you choose the life you want to live.  I choose to write on this blog because I enjoy helping others get closer to early retirement and help those to adjust to life after retirement.  I choose to help out at my kids school library because I get to spend an afternoon each week in a room just full of books.  I choose my life one thing at a time because I enjoy them not because I need to pay my bills and I’m not afraid anymore.

So what is your greatest fear about early retirement?