Next session, I shared the list of problems I was able to compile.
Problem #1: Logistics. I have the asset sheet, but don’t know how to quit my job and convert my net worth into income I can live on.
Problem #2: What comes next? I have absolutely no idea what to do with the next phase of my life. I just know I don’t want to be in my industry anymore. It isn’t that I hate it. I don’t. It’s just that it no longer provides significant challenges or pleasure. I’m suddenly unsure if it ever did. My role is mostly mechanical: I go through the motions. I’m an expert. I receive work and I do it and I don’t think twice about whether or not I’m enjoying it. It just happens – it’s part of me. How do I get rid of this?
Problem #3: What happens to my previous life? What will I tell people? Will I lose friends? What will I do with the loss of structure?
Problem #4: What will I do to make me feel like I’m giving back? I don’t think that what I currently do is all that important, but at the very least, I perform my function well and folks are happy with my contributions. This gives me some small sense of value and esteem. What will replace this?
Problem #5: Purposelessness at work. Although I produce some amount of valuable work for my employer every week, most of the hours are spent idling. I’m stuck there, cannot leave, cannot work-from-home, and cannot stand this aspect of the job now that I’m FI. It was tolerable in the past, when I had a slow stint at a previous employer, but that’s because I still really needed the salary, which filled me with a sense of purpose and made the idleness seem like a useful activity by the fact that it was driving me toward completion of a long-standing goal.
Problem #6: The Bucket of Fear. I have all sorts of concerns about moving from FI to RE status, most of which I articulated in this post. At the time of these issues, back in 2013, the biggest one was the idea that I’d do nothing — absolutely nothing — after retiring. Maybe I’d become like Peggy Bundy on Married… With Children, watching soap operas during the day and eating bon-bons. Or, worse, I’d return to my old drinking problem.
Problem #7: I Feel Older. With age, most people feel a decreased sense of possibility in life. Fewer paths are available to follow. Many of your choices have already been made. You have launched. There is no returning to Earth for another unique blastoff in a totally different direction; your primary trajectory has been defined, for better or worse. This isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of paths still open to you, but the fact remains that some are closed. For example, you will not, at age 35, become an Olympic-calibre swimmer. (You could, however, still become a good one.)
Problem #8: My Significant Other is Not Totally Cool With All Of This. Enough said.
I added that some of these problems I think about frequently — like the finances, and feeling purposeless — while others I do my best to ignore. After I dumped all of this stuff on him, Dr. Katz told me to start working on logistics first.
My suggestion? Tackle the finances immediately. It’ll be the easiest to resolve because it’s strictly a numbers game and it’ll be good to cross something quickly off your list. You think you have enough to retire? Well, you don’t have to prove it to me. You have to prove it to yourself. Break things down and get comfortable with your own plans. Only you can assert that you’re fully covered on this.
Do the research that needs to be done. Crunch numbers. Create spreadsheets. Find Jesus. Whatever it takes.
He also immediately commented on #4, Giving back, telling me that this is all in my head. I don’t have to give back to anyone, ever. I know, it’s just one man’s opinion, but he was very clear and passionate on this point. I wondered briefly if he was a Libertarian.
And to be honest, this completely shocked me. The last thing I expected was for a goddamned therapist to tell me something is quote all in my head. I thought these people (read: analysts) were, as a rule, paid to indulge their clients — to say precisely the opposite. Something along the lines of: Oh, well you think that way because of your upbringing. But let’s examine the substrate of these mental patterns: Tell me about your mother.
Still, his point was clear: I needed to stop worrying about the expectations of others, the expectations of society, and start worrying about my own life again.
He also immediately commented on #7) Feeling Older. And he again surprised me by agreeing: I wasn’t getting any younger. I’d sacrificed my 20s and most of my 30s to reach the point I’d gotten to. The whole idea was that I was supposed to now reward myself for giving away my youth to Corporate America.
Yet, instead of giving myself this reward, I was trying to pad my numbers for no apparent reason. Obvious: The goal of ‘padding’ was not strong enough to make me feel as though my job held any purpose.
Working to save money in order to reach FI? Yes. Filled me with drive. Made my days feel meaningful.
Working to throw more cash on an already large-enough pile? Not so much.
He went on to say that he suspected that at its core, my one of my major issues was that I’d delayed gratification essentially indefinitely.
The reward I’d promised myself for years and years of drudgery had never come.
So I set to work on figuring out how to resolve the financial picture, i.e. to turn my assets into income.