A little over a year ago, I quit my job.
In some ways it feels like yesterday. But other times, it seems like a distant memory. Funny how the human mind works.
Anyway, I thought it’d be a good idea to share what it’s been like so far – this thing they call early retirement.
So I’ll tell you what I’ve learned, or more accurately, am starting to learn since leaving work.
It’s a big life adjustment to make, that’s for sure. I’ve read good experiences and bad (yes bad). Like most things, there’s pros and cons. As it turns out, we’ve found there to be much more pros!
Initially, I think we were in shock. You know when something doesn’t quite seem real?
I finished my work after a stint of night-shift, where I’d normally get a 5-day break. But after those 5 days, obviously, I didn’t go back!
After a week or two, it started feeling a little weird, like we were being naughty. It almost felt as though we were ‘wagging’ from work. As if we were supposed to be there, but were chilling at home instead.
Then it began to sink in…
- Every day will start whenever we decide it will…no alarm clock ever again!
- No driving to (or from) work in the pitch black of night (for me), or in peak traffic.
- Errands and various shopping can be done during the quietest periods.
- We’re more available to spend time with family/friends.
- We have unlimited time to work on our hobbies or learn new things.
- Exercise and health can be a priority, instead of squeezing it in around work and other commitments.
- Time dedicated to preparing healthy food, even growing our own food, and learning more about nutrition.
- No leaving our dog at home for 10-11 hours a day anymore, bored and lonely (which isn’t fair). They’re like a child after all, so he gets his Mummy and Daddy back.
- Complete choice of any work taken, hours involved or even working for yourself.
- Plus many more things…
This stuff was pretty exciting, fresh in our minds. As the days rolled on, each day felt a little less strange, and we began to carve out new routines, as we thought about the options available.
Stuff That’s Sinking In Now…
Since we humans tend to adapt to change over time, we learn along the way.
Now, these might not be true for everyone, but here’s some less-instant realisations which I’m finding to be true.
Some of them I should have known already, but failed to appreciate. And some actually surprised me…
- Working on things is much more fun when it’s something you’re actually interested in. And doing it, without the draining nature of a robotic, productivity-driven workplace also boosts it up a notch! This leads to the next one…
- Without direction, your mental state and happiness can suffer. Maybe this differs from person to person? But personally, I’m much happier when I have things to work on and learn about that are important to me. This one actually surprised me for some reason. Honestly, I thought I’d be totally happy just bumming around and not doing much at all. But that’s just not the case. While I’m still a laid-back guy who likes life to be simple and enjoys a small to-do-list, I still like to be productive.
- Sadly, time still goes by quickly, unless you literally do nothing. But remember, that’s hardly a good idea! That only leads to boredom and depression – see point above. So it seems a happy life is inevitably going to feel like it goes fast, because you’ll be busy doing stuff you enjoy! Apparently, that’s the trade-off. But I think we agree that it’s worth it. Don’t you?
- Money is less meaningful after reaching Financial Independence. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still important. And I still find the game of investing to be endlessly interesting. But after all, most of the time, money is simply a bunch of numbers on a screen, or a spreadsheet.
Ideally, the new mission, after reaching early retirement, is about finding engaging hobbies or work that you’d do for free. Because if you’re just doing it for the money, then it can’t be that good.
- You’ll feel way more productive and energetic than you think. After a soothing few months off and clearing your to-do-list, you’ll be refreshed and happy. And a person who’s refreshed and happy is going to have plenty of energy to devote to some new endeavour. This is provided you don’t have a bunch of hobbies to keep you busy, which many of us don’t, since work and sleep swallows up the majority of our time. I was sceptical of this point too, after I’d seen it mentioned elsewhere. But again, it’s proven to be true. You’ll feel excited, and maybe even a little overwhelmed at the paths you can take at this point.
Overall, we feel healthier, happier and generally more settled and satisfied with life. Strangely, it actually takes a bit of getting used to. And you can even get a little down or overwhelmed by the thought of ‘what now’?
So it definitely pays to start thinking about what you’ll do afterwards, now, or you’ll end up free, but a little lost as well!
In some ways, it’s easier being at work, where you don’t have to think so hard about what it all (life) means, and which path to take. But at the end of the day, it’s still glorious, and truly like a weekend that never ends.
And this extended weekend can be filled with all of your favourite activities.
Some folks who love lots of social interaction will find themselves looking for community work, or a people-focused part-time job. Others, like myself – the quiet ones – are free to work on their own little projects and hobbies in peace and quiet at their own pace.
To me, Financial Independence is about being able to align your time with your true values and priorities, while building a healthier and more enjoyable life.
Anyway, I hope this little peek through the window of freedom has got you thinking!
So tell me, what will you do when you reach early retirement? Do you have new projects or activities lined up that you want to pursue? Or will your life stay roughly the same, but with more free time?
Please share in the comments…