There’s one common thing when you read blogs from people who quit salaried work before the traditional retirement age.
Pretty much all of them have received comments like ‘I couldn’t do that, I need the daily routine’, ‘I’d be bored – What are you going to do with all the free time?’ or ‘I’d miss socializing with my colleagues’ when they shared their plan.
And it’s true: work gives a structure to your life. You have to get up at a certain time, work for so many hours, go home – you can pretty much run your life on autopilot this way. And work can provide social connections as well, after all, we are all social animals.
Maybe you are a bit worried about these questions yourself? There’s nothing to be worried about if you follow some guiding principles, and I’m going to share how my early retirement days have evolved to illustrate this.
Retire to something, not from something
An advice I’ve read many times is that you should retire to something not from something. The idea is that you shouldn’t quit work just because you hate your current job, your boss or the company you work for. You should know what you want to do with your freedom, e.g. what interests you want to follow. Overall, I do think that’s sound advice.
Sometimes the idea of ‘purpose’ creeps in here. If you don’t work anymore, you have to find a ‘new’ purpose, right? But this implies that work is your purpose, or that you have to be clear about your purpose to start with. That’s a very subjective issue.
Maybe you’re still struggling with the idea of purpose. I sometimes am, and I think that’s quite common and alright. If you have a purpose to guide how you will be spending your days, all the better. Don’t worry too much about it. You should be doing fine as long as you have some interests that you want to follow-up on in retirement as a start. My experience is that things will evolve from there.
Follow your interests
I enjoyed – and still enjoy – doing business-related things. But an interest in the arts and humanities is also an integral part of my personality. Before I quit my last job as an employee I really felt that part of me was being starved completely.
At the end of a working day I had so little energy left that I would pick up a book, read some pages, and fall asleep. Or, maybe even worse, I would read some pages and notice I hadn’t even taken in what I was reading as I wasn’t able to concentrate and kept being distracted by job-related thoughts.
So one of the first things I did when I was ‘free’ was to get two books by Thomas Mann, one of the German classics, that I had always wanted to read but never found the time for: ‘Der Zauberberg’ (‘The Magic Mountain’) and ‘Die Buddenbrooks (‘Buddenbrooks’)’. They’re both quite long, and ‘Der Zauberberg’ contains some intellectually challenging concepts. It felt great while I read them, and it even gave me a feeling of accomplishment.
Learn something new
This might not be the same for everyone, but I’ve noticed that the sense of having accomplished something remains important for me. But it does not have to be job-related anymore. Which came as quite a surprise to me and my social circle. I remember quite well when a friend of long years told me: ’I would have never thought that you’d be so happy without a high-power career job’.
It will be different for everyone, but I now get a sense of accomplishment from learning new things and doing projects. I’ve started to learn Italian, and I’m pretty disciplined about practicing every day. If you’re into language learning, I’m a big fan of duolingo, that’s what I use (no affiliate link).
As I said above, I also have a strong interest in the arts and humanities, and I’ve dug further into history, art history and philosophy since I retired. There are lots of online facilities that can be used cost-free. At the moment I’m watching philosophy and history classes from the Yale Website .
It makes me feel good to extend my knowledge, maybe that’s something for you as well if you’re the same personality type.
Start a project
Starting, and following through, with different projects can also provide you with a sense of accomplishment. And that’s probably where the idea of purpose becomes valid as well.
One of the things I’ve started in early retirement is writing this blog. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and even did some journalistic work. But I decided against fully going into journalism in the end. That was partially because I had the feeling that something I loved doing – writing – might become a dreaded routine in a fast-paced newspaper environment that is not necessarily as independent as it should be.
Now I can write exactly the way I want about a topic that I find really important. It’s my passion project. And it’s a great way to engage with other people as well.
I’ve also become more engaged in my community in real life. Together with a friend of mine, we’ve started a network lobbying for more citizens’ involvement in architectural heritage protection and future city planning. And I was positively surprised by the fact that you CAN make an impact, you just have to take the first step.
A typical day in the life of an ‘early retiree’
So what does a typical weekday look like for me? Most days I get up between 7:30 and 8:00 am. No alarm clock, that’s so cool! Then I take our dog for a walk. When I come home, I fix myself a cappuccino and a little something for breakfast.
I’ve noticed that time will very easily just slip away if I don’t set myself a schedule at all. That’s why I now have a fixed time-slot from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm for working on the blog. This means coming up with ideas for posts, researching, writing drafts, going over the drafts, optimizing, translating and finally posting. It also involves the technical side where I’m still a novice. It’s fun learning those new things as well.
In the afternoon I do some chores around the house and garden, go grocery shopping, and take the dog for another walk. This is also the time when I read new books, practice Italian and take care of anything related to our investments.
Another thing that I really enjoy is having time to cook pretty much all of our meals from scratch now. I usually start preparing dinner 6:00/6:30ish pm. My husband’s usually home between 7:00 and 7:30 pm. Evenings at home don’t look very different from what they looked like when I was still working.
Some days, my husband will take our dog to his office, and I go into town for a lunch date, to see an exhibition, or do something related to our lobbying.
So all unicorns and rainbows, right?
My early retirement life is not all unicorns and rainbows, of course. There are those days when nothing goes as planned. And sometimes I’m not in a good mood, just like everybody else.
There is one thing where how I spend my days has fallen short of my expectations: When I was planning for early retirement, I was expecting to spend quite a lot of time with two of my friends who were both only working very few hours at the time. But for different reasons, both of them had gone back to pretty much full-time work when I did actually retire.
Now it’s them who don’t have time. It would be nice if it was different, but as I’m someone who’s quite happy to be on her own during the day it’s no big deal either. The fact that more or less everyone else is still working, is something you have to take into account when you retire early.
Socializing with others during the day is important to you? Then it probably makes sense to find out whether there are groups in your community where you can meet new people who share your interests. I’m pretty sure there will be sports, church or other social activities that run in the mornings or afternoons, at least if you live in an urban setting.
Design the life-style you love
I love my day-to-day early retirement lifestyle. It’s very laid-back, and some might find it lacking glamour. But to me it is the best lifestyle I can imagine at this point.
Financial Independence Rocks!