There are non-financial aspects of early retirement that should be considered. I thought I had it all figured out. I had long considered myself the greatest future Leisure Freak and had planned my early retirement for many years.
My assumptions were based on thinking I never really associated my identity to my job. So I figured there were no emotional aspects to plan for. However I was wrong. There were a whole slew of things that I felt and you may have to deal with them just as I did.
My top 6 non-financial aspects of early retirement
#1: Spouse or Significant Other
Make sure they are included in the decision.
You must communicate your decision to retire early and have total agreement. I had long talked of retiring early with my wife. When the time came she was all on-board. It was a very exciting time for us and I thought there would be no issues around this.
Long, long ago, we had split our household budget to keep the marital bliss. I made more money than my wife so we decided to split costs recognizing that. She would pay for groceries, her gasoline, and any clothes and gifts she wanted to buy. I then paid for everything else. From the mortgage, insurance, utilities, and nuts to bolts. Including family Christmas gifts and vacations.
When I retired there was no change in this arrangement and my retirement budget still covers all the same things. At that time my wife was still a few years from when she will retire early. All of this was in the open going into my first retirement.
One of the greatest pleasures of retirement is not having to set an alarm clock. After about a month of my snoozing-through her having to get up to go work, let me just say she lost her sense of humor.
Here is a tip.
If your spouse or significant other is still setting the alarm clock get up then too. I started to get up and get out of her way. I just went and made the coffee, grabbed the newspaper, and did whatever I could to make her morning go easier. Her not seeing me laying there snoozing away the early morning hours as she was in the throes of work preparation made a huge difference in her sense of humor.
If you are the only one of two in your relationship that can retire early and even though there was total communication and agreement, you still need to take their feelings into consideration. Make sure that you take care of them any way you can until they can join you in early retirement.
#2: Work Identity
I never thought I would have a problem with this. I’m sure I didn’t have as much an issue as some folks go through but I admit I had a hint of feeling like I went from hero to zero. I was the go-to guy and had all the answers. Now I wasn’t that guy anymore. I was just some young retiree with lots of free time on his hands to do whatever he wanted to do.
I was just following my schedule, pursuing my passions and enjoying myself but a part of me felt like there was something missing. Especially on occasion when asked, what do you do? That was until I started answering questions about early retirement and my belief in the “retire early and often” concept.
If you feel the “hero to zero” creep in, just be the expert in whatever it is that makes you tick. The best Mountain Bike trails in the area, NASCAR, etc. You certainly have the time to now dig into whatever your inner early retiree desires to identify with. Identity loss in early retirement is common. I found that retirement is the perfect time for self reinvention and moving past one’s work identity can certainly a big part of that.
#3: Work Associated Friends
You just may find out that all of those work associated friends you spent the last 10, 15, or 20 years with may not have time for you anymore. At first we would meet occasionally for lunch or for after work happy hour. But those invites became less frequent. It seems that what made us friends was our common bond of corporate slavery.
It wasn’t all just them either, I also drifted away. Now that a few years have passed since retirement #1, I have been able to stay in close touch with some of my friends from my long career. You do need to be ready to make the effort. Which leads to my next subject.
#4: Making New Friends in Retirement
When you retire early you lose a lot of your social interaction. Even if you were kind of sick of the social interaction at your past work, it was still part of your day. I found out rather quickly that all of my friends were work related. I had spent so much time on the job over the years that it was the only place I met and got to know people.
What I did to make new friends.
I decided to make this a priority in my daily schedule. For years I had gone to an independent coffee shop every weekend with my son to catch up. Even after he left I still went there for old time’s sake. So I decided to make it a daily stop for an hour somewhere between 3 PM and 4 PM for a regular coffee just to force myself to socialize even if it was just with the on-shift barista.
When you show up every day around the same time and hang out for a bit you start to meet people who stop by at that same time. They may be on their way to or from work, etc. I call it the “Cheers Effect”. It was easy to build casual relationships with people who had been total strangers. People see you there daily, notice you don’t have 2 heads and then after about 3 months some went from being casual acquaintances to being friends.
I now know lots of people in my town to visit, hang-out, and go places with. It is very nice to get invitations to local events and get-togethers. This is a much fuller life than I had when all I had were work related friends.
Pick a spot in your community and become a regular. It doesn’t have to be someplace where you have to buy something. For me the small cost was and is totally worth it.
#5: Envy and Hostility
I have run into both envy and hostility to my early retirement. Some were on the same path to financial independence and early retirement and were envious because they still had some distance to travel towards their goals.
Then there were some who would make negative comments like, “it must be nice to live off of others because there is no way you could do that”. You only have to read some of the negative comments posted after on-line retirement articles to know what I mean. I mark that down to people who may be buried in debt and will never be able to retire, they ran into an unexpected life changing event, or they are somehow benefiting from people who continue to believe in corporate slavery or the ever-growing consumerism mentality.
Maybe they are angry at themselves because they made some sketchy decisions in their spending and/or savings and now can’t even think about retiring. My way to handle this is by being humble to those who envy me and offer suggestions to help them continue on their path. For the angry I just hold my ground and do not relent to their negativity and if I can, be humble toward them too.
#6: From Saver to Spender
You have spent a working lifetime as a saver, lived below your means and stuck to your budget. You know what your retirement budget is and what your retirement lifestyle looks like. However after you win the prize and retire early you find out it drives you crazy to spend any of your savings. If you are receiving a monthly pension you may be dipping into savings to subsidize your lifestyle and even that little bit is gnawing at you.
This was one of the harder parts of my transition from working to retirement. I felt this was much harder than I thought it would be. Maybe you aren’t even taking principle but just the interest and dividends that before were reinvested to increase your portfolio. These feelings happened to me and can happen to you. If you feel this then say to yourself “this is what you planned and saved for”.
My retirement funding is deposited once a month into my savings account. I make bi-monthly transfers to my checking and have the same pay-day dates I was used to having. This also allows me to have the money come in when the bills are due and help me stay on budget.
Whatever tricks you decide to use to help you to deal with this, just remember this is what you were planning and saving for. You earned it so you have the right to enjoy your retirement.
I would rather have to deal with any of the non-financial aspects of early retirement than have to stay a corporate slave staying in a job that no longer floats my boat.