Six Observations from Early Retirement
Walking Away Feels Better Than Expected
I always knew it would be nice to retire. But I did not realize, until it was gone, how refreshing it is to jettison a large inefficient bureaucracy. My work was fascinating but a significant amount of energy was spent on lobbying for future positions, navigating department politics, and complying with outdated processes. Poof! All that disappeared along with the associated stress. I retired a few months ago and the thought of leaving continues to bring a smile to my face several times a day.
Celebrate a Clean Break with a Road Trip
Retirement is a major milestone and I recommend marking the transition with a memorable event. I chose a 5,000 mile road trip across America to catch up with family and friends. Living and working overseas for the last 18 years was an amazing adventure but the price was losing touch with so many people. It was great to spend a few months reconnecting with family, friends and all things Americana. The drive included stops at the Lincoln Memorial, Charlottesville, North Carolina's beaches, Hilton Head, Chattanooga, a Cubs game, Soldier Field tailgating, Devil's Lake, Wall Drug, the Black Hills, and Jackson Hole. The trip was also a great way to decompress and create a positive segue to the next phase of life. It was so rewarding, I already scheduled another cross-country trip next year.
Develop New Interests Before Retiring
For me, an ideal retirement was never about laying on a couch all day. I find joy in the kinetic energy of staying active and looking for new opportunities. In addition to the personal finance aspect, retirement planning is also about managing a future with far more free time. Studies show that retirees are happier when they engage in regular activities. This may include volunteering, teaching, supporting a cause, writing or starting a business. I started a number of these activities while working and it has been great to expand them in retirement. I encourage developing these interests during your career before retiring.
Find an Interesting Job to Fund Your Passions
Similarly, I never thought that retiring equates to no longer working. One of the key benefits of reaching financial freedom is the ability to take on interesting projects while being less concerned about what they pay. A few job offers presented themselves as I was approaching retirement. I chose a short-term contract working with a great team on a subject of personal interest. In addition, my wife and I treat this income as “found money” to fund our passion for motorcycles. It can be tremendously rewarding to work full or part-time in retirement, if it is work you enjoy. I also highly recommend using the majority of this income for hobbies or personal passions.
Say Yes to More Offers
During my career a notable portion of free time was focused on implementing a plan to achieve financial freedom (explained in my book and workbook). Since time was more limited then, I was careful when considering offers before accepting them. This was to avoid activities that were unproductive and to minimize taking valuable time away from family and close friends.
In retirement, time is more plentiful and I am able to accept more offers. Whether the invitation is to fly across the country to join a friend at a concert or to embark on a multi-day hike, it is now easier to say yes. Accepting more invitations is also a great way to expand networks and life experiences. As we get older we have fewer summers left to enjoy, so make them count.
Keep an Eye on Spending
My last observation is to keep an eye on spending in these early months of retirement. My spending stayed on track but I found the increase in free time could easily lead to more splurges. Buying big ticket items like new vehicles along with traveling and eating out at restaurants are common culprits of higher spending in retirement. Tracking your spending in these early months will help you stay within your budget. The real risk is overspending for several months and not realizing it. Early detection of any spending issues will allow you to get your finances back on track.
If you are just starting your journey towards financial independence, consider these three big steps towards financial freedom, and if you are just starting out in your career learn how to avoid the five biggest money mistakes made by new hires.