Seven Plus Years In Retirement: So Far, So Good.
I’m just back from a short four-day Colorado mountain vacation. It was nice to just let go, relax, and count my blessings. The best part was all the laughs. It has me happily reflecting on the past 7 years of my early retirement and taking note of some early retirement observations.
As good as things are now, I can remember before retiring all the fears and questions that I had. Studying and planning can only do so much. At some point we have to jump in and either sink or swim. With anything we do there can be surprises.
Here Are a Few of My Early Retirement Observations
I will start with money because that is what most people are concerned about when retiring early. Will it last? Will it be enough? I think that captures most basic initial concerns. All those warnings that the first 10 years are critical for long-term success are enough to cause anyone pause.
When I first retired EOY 2009 the market was down. Then it slowly climbed up to record highs. In late 2015 it took another dump. Now it is even higher. That’s just in the last 7+ years. Maybe it’s the next 3 years that makeup the critical first 10 that will make or break my retirement funding chances. I doubt it but if it tanks I will deal with it.
My Early Retirement Observations – I am beyond sweating about money now. It isn’t that I have a massive portfolio, it’s just enough. But the experience of living off of my portfolio and seeing the value of diversification has me a believer. Sure, it can still hit the fan. But that is why I keep a bucket of cash to live off of when another financial downturn occurs. I still argue with my CFP about how much should be in there but that is another conversation. We do balance each other out.
We use a kind of hybrid 4% withdrawal rate. When the market dove recently we just effortlessly reduced some spending. Down-market conditions can bring bargains. We took advantage of some Hawaiian travel discounts offered then (we had budgeted and saved for years for a return trip to HI). That said, having a realistic budget and sticking to a financial plan has been the ticket for my early retirement success. So far, so good.
Working In Retirement
I had always intended to retire early and often. Not everyone intends to retire and then go back to doing something they always wanted to do for pay. But many folks do and it was kind of my main thing for many years. Before retirement number one I was constantly warned about the challenges of being age 50+ and landing an opportunity. I now look back at my encore career and other retirement gigs and have to smile.
My Early Retirement Observations – When it came to working in retirement there were some challenges but nothing insurmountable. Working in retirement was better and more rewarding than expected. I was picky and stuck to my guns which flipped the whole working dynamic. Working in these conditions can be fun. The big surprise is that as rewarding as it was I have no desire to jump into another paying gig. I think it’s because I have checked off all the boxes of things I wanted to learn, try, and do.
I have had many chances to get back in the game and have simply said no thanks. I have no idea what will happen next in this aspect. I believe the key is to just stay open to opportunities so I will be able to recognize them. When something comes along that’s aligned with my interests and passions then I’ll just give it review and consideration. I will know it when I see it. I’ll just keep doing my thing and If none come my way then no worries. So far, so good.
When you don’t have constant proximity to people then relationships come and go depending on the effort made to stay close. It’s easy when you are all shackled together in the rat race. I look back at the past 7 years and am amazed at how my social circle has grown and shrunk. Some faces and names fall off while others are added.
My Early Retirement Observations – I have found that it’s easier to put effort into keeping good relationships where both parties are willing to stay connected. Especially when there are still common interests and our place in life are closer together. I used to worry about it but now I get it. I am the one who jumped the rat race ship that was our main common tie. I have no doubt that we will reconnect as time goes on. Many of my old friends and rat race comrade’s lives will become closer in sync . As far as my social circle and the people in my life are concerned- So far, so good.
Appearance – Clothes, Shoes, and my Curly Hair
I always saw articles where you can adjust your clothes budget down once you retire. Amen to that. In my case it is way down. I look in my closet and actually have T-Shirts, a couple Polo Shirts, Aloha Shirts and a few of Flannel Shirts for winter hanging there. As for footwear, I haven’t bought anything but athletic shoes and flip-flops since retiring. My work/dress shoes get so little use that they will out last me. I also seem to go a long time between haircuts. I think it is part my non-conformance attitude about society and life. I just go in for a cut when it bothers me. That can take 6 months.
My Early Retirement Observations – We held onto clothes we don’t wear anymore or need for way too long. I just took 100 pounds of our good clothes to Good Will. I think once we retired that we weren’t sure what we would need. I laugh at all the time we wasted looking at them in the closet and just not paying attention. I did wear some when in my encore career so it hasn’t been 7 years of clothes hoarding but still way too long. Better late than never, the closet has a lot of room now. So far, so good.
Retirement Hobbies, Interests, and Passions
I am amazed how some things have cooled while new things have appeared out of nowhere. Mostly what was once a big hot deal in my life is now only warm. I have to believe that it is only natural. As new things come into play, aging, and getting better at this retirement thing I see my priorities shifting. My interest now focuses even more on family and health, both physical and mental.
My Early Retirement Observations – Some of my budgeted spending for things has dropped substantially as my interests and passions have cooled. I didn’t expect that, or at least not to this extent. I still do most of the things I had planned to do in retirement but after the first sprint years I now have a marathon pace. Just part of the early retirement experience and I’m continually getting better at it. So far, so good.
Health insurance – The Talk of the Town
Everyone is talking about health insurance. Will they or won’t they. When I retired I did it with a retirement medical insurance benefit. It cost $470 in 2009 when I first retired. Now I pay $970 for a much higher co-pay plan. The company I retired from was bought a few years back and the new company hasn’t said yet whether they will still allow us retirees to continue buying into their group employee plan. Health insurance has been my biggest budgetary item in retirement.
My Early Retirement Observations – Just like everything else there are no absolutes and I have to roll with the waves. I always thought the ACA was an awesome early retirement alternative. If I lost my first career retirement health benefit it would be a financially painless move to the ACA. However we don’t know what is in the cards right now because of F’n politics.
But if there is one thing I have learned from my 7 year early retirement experience is that I would rather do anything than be forced back into employment servitude. I feel comfortable knowing that I will do just as I have been doing. Figure it out and stay living my life on my terms while using the personal finance smarts that got me here. So far, so good.
One of the things that made me laugh while on my short vacation was a T-Shirt sold in all the gift shops.
You’re Just High
(Mountain Town Name, Colorado, Elevation XX,XXX)
I guess that “Calm Down” could apply to anyone who is thinking about retiring soon and is worrying. Or anyone who has retired and still getting some experience living the early retirement life. Especially with all the health insurance issues being up in the air. Don’t get me started on some’s Social Security and Medicare gutting ideas.
Those issues aren’t the last that will show up in our retirement. We deal with things when they become more clear.
My biggest early retirement observation is that being high on the financial achievement of early retirement means never wanting to come down. But hey, we got here and the same smarts used to get here will be used to stay here. Just stay calm, stick to our plan, and work things out.
That is exactly what I remind myself about. I’ve got 7 years of early retirement to look back on and I’ve learned plenty from them. So far, so good.