Three Months Of Early Retirement


If you were to boil down the multitude of reasons why I quit my job, eventually you’d be left with a single underlying hope:  I thought life would be better without one.

Conventional early-retirement wisdom says:  You must have some special thing — a second vocation of sorts — before you do something as drastic as quitting — i.e. leaving your first. You can’t just retire FROM something!

But I did:  I went ahead and retired FROM work anyway, despite having zero serious ambitions for my future.  Sure, I have a long list of Things to Do, but that’s very different from having one specific goal to retire TO.  For a long time, it’s been my opinion that it’s simply not necessary to a) go into an office, b) make money — at least, once you’ve already accumulated a certain amount, or c) have a large number of obligations to contend with every single day in order to live a satisfying existence on planet Earth.  

So how’s that going for me, anyway? In this post I’ll start getting into it.

A Typical Day

Typical days are for people who have mandatory scheduled events every day.  I do not. Still, it’s worth reviewing some amount of detail regarding where the actual hours are going.

The first four weeks or so I moved.  These days I was all over the place — lawyers’ offices, bank lobbies, packing, painting, cleaning, craigs-listing, fixing random stuff, sleeping, talking on the phone with service providers, cooking, planning, and then finally, on the other end, unpacking.

Since then, virtually every day starts out wide open.

Oh sure, I’ve made some solid plans with people here and there, locking myself into one get-together or another — a friend’s 40th birthday, a visit with my mother, a barbecue in someone’s backyard.

But most days have been pretty lazy so far.  The first week after the move, I was, to my surprise, completely lethargic — my wife and I had been going pretty hard during that whole moving process I’d mentioned, and apparently it’d taken its toll. So I’d wake up late by my standards — eight thirty instead of six thirty. Then I’d read news, go for a short walk, crack a book open, listen to music.  Or I stroll into a coffee shop, park myself at a table with a laptop or a book for literally half a day, at turns reading and watching.  All of these people getting caffeinated, getting ready to go somewhere.  Stay at home parents and working professionals and dog walkers with canines tied to street signs outside.  Then me, just hanging out. 

After that initial week of sloth, I started to get up a little earlier, seven A.M. or so, taking off for a run down the main drag in town, watching commuting vehicles zip around, aware that most of these folks are traveling to wherever it is they work, incredulous that I never have to do that again.  It didn’t seem real.

I’ve lifted weights and begun training for a half marathon.  I’ve gone for a few 25 mile bike rides.  (As a general note, you might be surprised at how much time exercise can fill on any given day.)  I’ve made some killer meals and done a fair amount of housework.  I’ve napped, I’ve watched a dozen movies, and I’ve spent more than a couple of days with my nephews, who are out on summer vacation.  I now have something new in common with them:  We both have absolutely nothing to do but mess around.

Despite the differing consistencies of the days, they all have one very, very awesome thing in common:

I am doing whatever the hell I feel like doing.

And so far, I feel absolutely no drive to do anything all that special other than 1) hanging out with people I care about, 2) engaging in leisure activities, and 3) resting and enjoying the world.

Actually, now that I think about it, that stuff is pretty special.  

Friend Reactions

Spock would address this topic with a single efficient word.  Unluckily for you, I am not Spock.

Although universally happy for me, a few are confused regarding the details of how I actually managed to pull it off.   And most were actually surprised when I broke the news that I’d finally pulled the plug on employment, despite the fact I’ve been broadcasting my intent to leave the workforce for years.

Lesson learned:  No matter how many times you tell your friends exactly what you’re doing (read:  your genius mad plot to retire early), many of them will not take you all that seriously until they bear witness to your own Quit Event.  People tend to adopt an I’ll-believe-it when-I see-it-type attitude when someone announces a crackpot scheme like this one.  Well, now they’ve seen it.

Specific responses:

  • One treats me as though I must be the loneliest person on earth now that I’m no longer socializing with co-workers all day.  I find this to be pretty funny, actually — I feel less lonely now – I’m generally peaceful instead of experiencing the standard work cycles of boredom, irritation and stress. (Full disclosure: I frequently felt out of place in the office.)
  • Another has suddenly been asking me to play online games with him because — his words — I must have a lot of free time on my hands now.  (I’ve accepted, with the restriction that it doesn’t take up more than an hour or two a day, and isn’t every day. Turns out, it’s kind of fun.  We’re playing League of Legends, which is free, a sort of real-time-strategy game with superheroes.)
  • “Dude this means you can finally come out to visit for like three weeks straight, right, like we talked about before?”  Yes, it certainly does, d00d.  I have a flight to California scheduled for September now.
  • My sister-in-law suggested several new employment opportunities for me.  Although I’m flattered that she’s, uh, “looking out for me,” I had to gently (and repeatedly) tell her that I really, really, really am not looking for work and would you please stop. Appreciate that.
  • Another one, this one a Googler, thinks I quit way too early.  “You’ll regret it,” he says.  “You could have earned a lot more money.”  Yep, I definitely could have, but I would have simultaneously earned more boredom as well. No thanks.  I’m done trading my time for money.
  • A friend that’s been out of work on maternity leave for about two months revealed that she’s jealous.  “It’s weird,” she said.  “Despite being super-busy with the baby, the first couple of weeks off I thought about returning constantly — about all of the work I was missing, all of the things that other people had to do since I’m out.  I felt guilty, I felt responsible, I felt conflicted.  So I thought I wanted to go back as soon as possible to fix all of these things.  But now that I’ve been gone for ten weeks, I’ve pulled a 180, like:  Maybe I don’t want to go back at all.  I’m enjoying being around for <kid’s name, unfortunately not Thorin> constantly, just being a parent.  I can barely remember why work used to feel important.  But I sure can remember how much of my time and energy I used to put into it.” I said:  Exactly.  Couldn’t have put better myself.  And this came from a very intelligent and driven woman, a mechanical engineer — someone with a so-called dream job, someone who has generally enjoyed her work, certainly more than I did anyway.  I’ll be curious to see how it goes with her when the time comes to return.

An End to Mindless Internetting

I have found I don’t like spending a whole lot of time on my computer anymore.  I now go days at a time without checking in, and sometimes even when I do, it’s just to play that League of Legends game I’d mentioned for an hour or two or scratch some notes in a blog entry before logging off and going to do something in the physical world.

I like this.  Being stuck to a screen for too long starts to make me feel gross, like my brain is covered in Wesson oil or something.  My guess is that it reminds me of work on some primitive level, days when I was compelled to stare at monitors for ten hours or more straight before going to sleep and dreaming in pixels before getting up to do it all over again.

So I’m finding that I just don’t miss it.  What’s great in 10 minute bursts during a workday feels like a low-grade form of torture when you could be living real life instead.

Example: Someone mentioned Amazon Prime Day to me yesterday and I was like What The Fuck Is That? (Apparently it’s Amazon’s version of Black Friday, designed to boost sales in the middle of summer, and a lot of people bought a lot of stuff.)  I asked how he learned about this, and he said:  Oh, there were ads on the internet.

How about when?  When did you learn about this?

Oh I don’t know.  Middle of the day yesterday.  (I realized this was a Tuesday)

Weren’t you working?

Yeah.  But you know how it is.  You have 10 minutes between meetings, you’ll do some web browsing to kill time.

Yep, I used to do a lot of that actually.  Did you buy anything?

Uhh, yeah actually I did.  There was a good deal on a vacuum and we needed a new one.

My immediate thought was that our newish knowledge based jobs — you know, the ones where white collar workers bang on interconnected computers all day (at least when they’re not in meetings) — must be really good for companies selling product, because people are now buying stuff even when they’re in the office, ostensibly working.  And it’s a perfect environment for sales: People are trapped (i.e. they find it difficult to pursue any genuine personal interests), bored (fantasizing about doing something else that might be more fun), and earning money (which immediately justifies practically any purchase they might want to make).

But my second set of thoughts was much simpler.   I don’t miss the internet.  The new-age, 2010-ish web part of it, anyway — the one with a billion advertisements that seems to know more about me and my desires than I do.  The one that pops up tempting pictures of the xbox one and announces that Gamestop is now selling retro games and follows that up with an invitation to watch Fuller House.  Of course I want to watch Fuller House, goddammit! Bob Saget is AMAZING.  Screw you for knowing so much about me, internet!  

Ugh.  Look, in all seriousness, I’ve found that the distraction of the internet just isn’t all that compelling anymore.  So nowadays when I go online, I do it with a lot more focus.  (Also with a clean browser, which eliminates targeted advertising because: no cookies.) I know what I’m going to do before I hop on — and then I get on, do what I need to do, and get out before it hooks me.  Don’t want to have another angry incident, now, do we?


Changing Perspectives on Family Responsibilities

So I hinted at this in my last post, but it’s worth mentioning again:  It’s easier for me to spend time with my parents.  My folks are just like everyone else’s, after all .  They ask: When are you coming to visit?  While I’m there, they’ll follow that up with Why can’t you stay longer?  And then they’ll be asking, before I’ve even hinted that it’s time for me to leave:  When are you going to come see us again? 

Anyway, I’ve managed to increase the frequency at which I both see and talk to my (divorced) parents.  Example: In just two months I’ve driven down to my Dad’s place three times, with another visit scheduled for next weekend.  He enjoys showing me his garden, complete with accompanying stories (ya gotta hear about this woodchuck I trapped), then moves on to complaining about the Boston Red Sox (terrible!  they outta fire the manager!), and then tells me I need to come back in three weeks — absolute max! — so I can taste his world-class cherry tomatoes.

These are terrific developments.  I’m grateful that I finally have the sort of lifestyle that allows me to dump hours into their lives (our lives!) without constantly worrying about where that time is coming from.  Is it coming from time with my own wife?  Am I taking it out of personal care — did I forgo exercise in order to squeeze in a trip to see my in-laws?  Or is there something around the house that I’m punting? Maybe it’s even something selfish:  I wanted to see a friend that weekend but instead I’m puttering around with one of the ‘rents.

Welcome to the new era of your life, where time is no longer a scarce resource.

Other Awesome Things In Bulleted List Form

In the interest of preventing this post from becoming too long, let’s move to a list-format to quickly run down other life improvements that are a direct result of being retired. 

  • I am no longer jolted out of bed at a predetermined time by an alarm clock that sounds as though it is announcing intent to kill me.  In other words, I get exactly the amount of sleep that I seem to need on any given night instead of just kind of hoping it’ll be enough.  And it feels fantastic to be completely rested every day.
  • I don’t worry about “fitting everything in” the way I used to.   There just aren’t as many things to juggle any more, which means there’s plenty of time to do the stuff that does need to be done at a relaxed pace.
  • All I have to do to get an instant mood boost is to close my eyes and picture myself back in the office. Do I want to go back to a cube?  Hell fucking no I don’t.  This works regardless of the level of task mundanity:  washing dishes, chopping onions, you-name-it.  
  • I no longer feel as though I’m living life around the edges of my job.
  • I mentioned this in my last post but I’ve been able to spend significantly more time with my nephews.  They’re off school now and it’s awesome to show up at their place mid-morning, go for a swim, have lunch, play video games, whatever.   (They currently enjoy destroying me in Super Smash Bros while shouting things like “Get WRECKED,” and “I went beast mode on Dr. Mario, did you see that?”  Yeah of course I saw it — I was Dr. Mario — no need to rub defeat in my face, holmes).  It’s cool — they’re still in that age group that enjoys spending time with adults (11 and 9) and I want to take advantage of it before they become assimilated into the ranks of authority-hating teens.
  • Speaking of authority-hating, it’s occurred to me that one interpretation of retiring early is that it’s the ultimate act of defiance — to break out of the so-called system once and for all.  As someone who has played it pretty safe throughout his life, I like this thought quite a bit:  I’m finally a total rebel.
  • I’ve recently noticed that I am slowly losing interest in talking about work with other people.  I mean, I haven’t lost my sensitivity to the situation — I can feel the anxiety shimmering on their bodies like superheated air coming off the hood of a car on a scorching summer day — believe me, I understand employment-related challenges. But at the same time, these sorts of conversations no longer grab me — Now that I’m no longer immersed in the grind, they’re all starting to sound the same:  blah blah bad manager and dumb politics blah blah stupid coworkers blah blah ridiculous expectations.  Question:  Am I the only early retiree who feels this way?  Followup: Did everyone else feel the same way about me when I went on and on about my own job-related experiences?  
  • Co-workers:  Hmm, let me check.  Nope — I still don’t miss them.
  • Loss of Identity?  Not that I’m aware of.  I’ve read that some people — particularly those who are heavily invested in their jobs, e.g. business owners and CEOs, anyone who works 60+ hours a week, and so on — are more likely to struggle post-retirement because of a potential loss of self; the more of yourself you pour into your job, the more likely it is that this could be a pitfall for you. Thankfully, this hasn’t been an issue for me personally.  If anything things have improved in this area.   And I’m very happy about this:  I no longer feel compelled to adopt behaviors in order to adapt to office culture and standards; I’m not being phony any more, i.e. I’ve reverted to something closer to my true identity.
  • Related:  I’ve reclaimed my brain.  I really cannot overemphasize how incredible this is. It might be the single best thing to happen as a result of quitting.  The Have-To Train of Thought has pretty much disappeared — you know, that constant chatter that tells you what you have to do in order to be prepared to competently function every day, in order to hold things together as a Responsible Adult.  Instead it’s been replaced by a) nothing, at times.  Blissful, blissful nothing.  And b) stuff I want to do.  Like:  It’s nice out, let’s go to the beach and throw a ball around.  Sold!
  • Also related:  I no longer worry about all other miscellaneous aspects of Jobdom that took up space in my brain, like learning <new thing> (read: “Sharpening the Saws” in the professional toolkit) or figuring out how to skip the departmental IT meeting or whatever.  I don’t worry about my “hireability” anymore. I don’t care what my resume looks like.  Instead of feeling threatened by outsourcing and H1-B programs — instead of worrying about my job security — I can honestly just say: IDGAF.  I don’t care if computers eventually learn to do what I used to do and start programming themselves, troubleshooting themselves, whatever.  In short:  I no longer care if I become professionally defunct. I’ve been planning self-obsolescence since 2003 and now it’s arrived.  Sweet.
  • Improved Personal Care.  Not that I was a total slob or grossly mistreated myself prior to retiring — I generally exercised, ate well, avoided drinking, saw doctors at regular intervals, those sorts of things.  But since, I’ve already been able to fortify a few habits. Examples:  I can exercise any day I want, for as long as I feel like it. I’m not as rushed or exhausted flossing and brushing my teeth.  I no longer feel even the slightest bit tempted to have gross food for lunch because I’m unhappy at the office — my diet has improved. And, as I mentioned before, I’m consistently getting enough sleep.  You get the idea.  
  • I’ve been pretty lazy, overall.  People hit retirement with a variety of differing approaches — some launch immediately into travel.  Others embark on large home improvement projects, jump into a non-profit venture, or go full-bore into a time consuming hobby or sport (or both!)  Not me, though.  So far, I’ve been firmly in the ‘take it easy’ category.  I do some exercise, some reading, maybe practice some guitar, do some socializing, and that’s that.  (Aside:  So far, reading has topped the charts at least in terms of the raw number of hours dumped into the activity.)  I spend a day or two at home, and then a day or two outside visiting people — I’m enjoying being able to mix things up and have a little bit of fun.  Although travel exists on my life agenda, the out-of-country stuff is going to be punted at least until next year.

The TL;DR version:   I am continuing to detox.  Work crap is slowly leaking out of my brain, and I’m learning how to slow down and enjoy unscheduled leisure.

Highly recommended.

The Negatives

Over the course of running this blog, I’ve come to believe that part of my role as a slightly-neurotic and completely anonymous early-retirement writer is to talk about things that either didn’t affect other bloggers, or they simply don’t want to touch — like potentially nasty parts of early retirement.

But before I share my thoughts on the subject, let me just say that experiences vary wildly: there is a spectrum of response.

Some people encounter zero downside. For others — it does seem to be a rare thing, but it happens — early retirement is completely distasteful and they find that they need to return to full or part time employment.  Fine.  To each his or her own.  I don’t pretend that everyone is exactly the same as me.  If someone needs to work for personal reasons — i.e. if they feel healthier, happier, more secure, and freer working — they should probably continue to work in some capacity.

Thankfully, though, I fell close to the ‘minimal downside’ extreme of the spectrum. Additionally, most of the negatives were temporary, leaving the gold nuggets after the silt had shaken out.  But let’s get into it.


After my wife and I had completed our move (we sold our house and downsized) I went through a good two weeks of “Holy shit, did I make a big mistake by quitting?” These thoughts were by no means present at all times — they’d come and go.  But I will confess that when they came, they were pretty uncomfortable.  They’re fear-fireworks, little blasts of animal illogic flooding my cranium.  I made a big change in my life — completely destroyed certain routines and rhythms (unhealthy and monotonous as they were) and primitive parts of my brain periodically became upset that I was mixing things up.  Why did you have to go and change anything?  We were surviving just fine with things the way that they were!

Sitting down and reminding myself how nice it was to not be in the office and concentrating on my breathing for a few minutes allowed me to become relaxed again every time.  (I just knew those books on mindfulness I read would come in handy!)  

In the end, most of these thoughts were simply a rehash of topics that I’d already covered in my leaving-the-cushy-job post.  There’s not much new here — although I will say that having to work through this yet again was very unexpected.  I thought I’d completely resolved the whole “Am I going to quit my goddamned job” debate with a resounding “Fuck yes!”, and yet there I was, post-quit, my brain was doing whatever it could to try to get me to re-examine the issue. (Stupid brain!  We’ve addressed all that stuff already!)   Anyway, from what I understand, this is normal for many people — the feelings typically go away after a period of time.

I Do Not Suddenly Have A Perfect Life

A while back, I wrote a post called The Litany of Office Hate.  This outpouring of office-related grievances prompted a concerned reader to urge me to not quit because I am, according to their assessment, a miserable human being at my core and without my job, I will just be left with my own miserable self — the job was, apparently, keeping me from hanging myself. (Holy shit — judge much?)  

Anyway, the point was:  Retirement doesn’t change your core personality and makeup.  Either you’re happy with yourself or you are not. And on this point, I completely agree with the reader.  I still feel exactly like myself, other than having a little more energy and optimism. If the weather is hot and muggy outside, retirement doesn’t suddenly make me register that as a cool and breezy 65 degrees.  I still have trouble listening to Bette Midler without running screaming from the room, and I still like eating half a box of Fruit Loops once in a while, even though I’m aware this act temporarily turns my insides into a synthetic rainbow puree.

At any rate, I’m listing this in the ‘negatives’ section because I do sometimes have concerns about some folks developing unrealistic expectations of how amazing life will be after they retire.  

Life doesn’t instantly and spontaneously become amazing.  You make it amazing through your own construction and vision — through your decisions about how to use the additional time available.  Without work, you are simply allowed to live much more of your life on your own terms, instead of spending the majority of it on someone else’s.  You can truly choose to be happy by putting yourself in situations that generally bring you satisfaction, pride, and pleasure.  

Look, if you generally like yourself and enjoy your life and identity outside of work — and expect early retirement to basically be more of that, with increased hours and flexibility at your disposal — then you are in for a terrific ride.  Or, related, if you are ready to put time and energy into living your dreams and developing yourself into the person you really want to be, things will also surely work out.  

On the other hand, if your dream of a perfect life is to travel the world or become a fantastic oil painter but your ass is regularly glued to a couch watching the Game Show Network all day instead of drawing up plans to accomplish these goals, well then!  Your retirement may not feel as special as you thought it would. (But then, that would be your fault, now wouldn’t it?)

At any rate, yeah — although my life isn’t perfect, (I’m still me!) it is a massively upgraded version, like v.3.0 to v.7.5.1 or something.  I’m now living the low-hassle life of exploration and community that I wanted.

Adjusting to Existing Without Work

Nothing can really prepare you for the realization and knowledge that you will never go back to work.   Nothing — really.  I’m convinced of this.  Not reading this blog, not sucking down retirement books at the library, not scouring forums — nothing.  It will hit home only after at least a couple of months have passed and you’ve not yet returned to your office building.

You will wake up every day and think:  Jesus, I’m off from work again???

But even that thought isn’t really accurate.  Because you’re off forever. 

Last year I took three weeks of vacation in an attempt to understand how I’d do with extended time off.  And I had a terrific time away from the regular day-to-day grind. But underlying my thoughts was an innate understanding that, soon enough, I’d be back at it.

I must confess that was initially a very strange feeling to really confront the fact that I no longer have to serve another person or entity.  I imagine that I’m a little like an animal that’s just been let out of the zoo, suddenly released into the wild after being confined for many years.  Some of them don’t adapt to living in nature — they are missing critical skills they need in order to survive and be happy.  They don’t know what to do with themselves.  There are elements of confusion in play.

Even now, three months out, I still feel sometimes as though I could go back any day now. I could just waltz in there, turn on my old laptop, log into terminal systems, and start up the ‘ol engines again.

Luckily, I’ve been quickly adjusting to the new reality — the one in which I do not have to wake up every day, check my work calendar, get on conference bridges, and generally scramble around to complete tasks and Keep Projects on Track.  And unlike so many of life’s necessary adaptations, I’m not simply learning to live with something that sucks, like, say, getting used to a new manager, who is just as shitty as the previous one, just in hellishly different ways.

This is exactly the opposite:  I’m removed the suck, and I’m learning to just exist instead.  But it was weird for a while.

Might sound corny, but at age 38, I feel as though I’m finally learning to simply live life.

Financial Worries

Some people have difficulty adapting to the loss-of-steady-income, particularly in economic downturns when asset levels are dropping. 

FI’ers typically take a great deal of pride in continually piling cash onto their pool of assets during their accumulation years.  For most, it becomes a source of ego and fulfillment to build personal wealth.  When the rapid forward progress suddenly comes to a halt, it can be jarring.  Some even view a dropoff as a blow to themselves — it feels deeply personal.  Or, related, others  see the lack of continual and dramatic growth to the stash as somehow feeling like a lack of progress is being made in their lives.  As though they’re no longer going anywhere.

And I understand this completely:  There’s this challenge right at the tail end of the ER journey to shift your thinking from constantly thinking about the future to living in the present instead.  (A bit more on this later.)

If this seems to describe you, try repeating to yourself that you are not your job, that you are not the sum of assets you’ve collected, and that you are much, much more than your bank account statement.  (Consider watching the movie Fight Club for additional inspiration.)  Although they are indeed bound together, your money isn’t the same thing as your life.

Bottom line: If you end up spending most of your retirement worrying about money instead of living, you’re doing this whole thing wrong IMO.  Find alternate things to think about — develop additional interests, sign up for something.  In the worst case scenario, it’s better to find enjoyable part-time work to take the edge off your financial concerns than it is to continually ruminate over the health of your stash.

Peeling Back Layers of Problems

If you’ve got a job and it’s the worst part of your life, when you remove it, the second-worst part will immediately take the place of the first. This may be good or bad — I like to take the optimistic view that without your job you will have the time and energy to focus on any remaining issues, if you so choose.

But on the other hand, if what you really wanted was to continue ignoring these other issues, then not having to work may not be such good thing.

Look, I used to see the following situation fairly frequently in the office:  Some guy (yes, it was always a man) would constantly work late, throwing himself into the job in order to avoid going home to a wife that he complained about, loudly and regularly. Sure, he’d moan about the job, too, but it was also clear that he was using it as an avoidance mechanism, so he didn’t have to address other areas that desperately needed attention.  (This is the type of person that will also immediately run off to play golf on Saturday with a group of male friends in order to continue patterns of home-avoidance, even though he doesn’t really like golf all that much.)

If this particular kind of person retires, then immediately those issues at home will grow larger.

The point is that we all have problems.  If work is one of yours and you remove it, your natural inclination will be to more closely examine whatever remains.  Maybe you’re unhappy with your weight, or your neighbor is driving you crazy.  Maybe you’re suddenly confronted with the fact that you need more friends outside of work.  Hell, maybe you’re even that guy that I just described above.

It’s best if you’re up for the challenge.

The Future is Now

Early retirement-type people are, generally speaking, forward-looking people.

The sort of person who wants to retire early is the same kind of person who frequently looks ahead ten or twenty or even thirty years and asks themselves tough questions.

What will my life be like?  If I stay on my current trajectory, will I be satisfied with how things are going?  My job, my choice of partner (if any), my general state of happiness and satisfaction — will all of those things be okay?

If the answers are unsatisfactory, they will actually make changes to their current behaviors which they believe will address the perceived longer-term issues.

Although this is generally a great thing, this Future Vision, there’s always a danger when pursuing early retirement that you become too focused on the future and forget how to live in the moment.

But this can be a real problem, because the skill you will need the most after retiring is choosing to make yourself happy — and a large component of this is living in the moment.  (Actually, living in the moment is sort of code for understanding how to build happiness into your days. )

Once you fulfill your fantasy of early retirement and finally leave your job, it’s up to you to be satisfied.  If you’re the sort of person who is unable to relax and be present — if you always need a new big goal to look forward to, some massive ambition to drive toward or grand problem to solve — then you may need to create something along these lines for yourself in retirement.  

Otherwise the hours may begin to look oppressive rather than fun.  Daunting instead of relaxing or exciting.   

I know it’s cliche, but all we really have in the end are these strings of moments. Post-retirement, you need to learn how to enjoy them as best as you personally can.  If you’ve lost that ability somewhere along the way, it may be rough going.  (Consider taking a class in meditation or reading books and blogs about mindfulness if you would like to work on this area.)

Peering Ahead

All of that being said — I do occasionally project outward into the future.  It’s in my nature. Although I’m capable of living day-by-day and enjoying what life has to offer (and indeed, this has been my focus since quitting), at times I can’t seem to resist anticipating what’s to come.

The best way I can describe how I feel about this is to rehash a scene from Office Space.

The main character, Peter Gibbons, is a software engineer for a faceless MegaCorp and he’s unhappy and depressed about work.  But everyone around him is utterly confused by his attitudes; they believe work is simply a necessary component of life, no big deal. His girlfriend goes so far as to think that Peter needs ‘corrective’ action in the form of therapy and hypnotism to adjust him to his job — to make him feel the same as everyone else.

So it is that Peter finds himself in a tastefully decorated office, describing his relationship with work to a licensed professional.


Therapist:  What about today?  Is today the worst day of your life?

Peter, nodding:  Yeah.

Therapist:  Wow.  That’s messed up.

I’m not going to claim to have disliked work as much as Peter did — If I did, I would have left it much earlier — but the underlying sentiment felt roughly the same.

But nowadays I feel exactly the opposite.  The new life — the no-job, completely free existence where I can pick what I want to do every single day — well, other than a couple of wobbly days at the outset, it’s already incredible.  I don’t suddenly walk around with a perpetual smile on my face but there is a deep personal sense of satisfaction. I am empowered to make my own decisions for the remainder; I’m completely free. 

And the really amazing part of this is that things are still improving.  Every morning, I wake up stronger and healthier than the one before it.  I’m actually surprised at how nice it is — Although I had a feeling that a life without a 9-5 job would be a better way to exist, I did not anticipate the magnitude of improvement.  And I’m just getting started.  

It occurs to me that in the end, I didn’t quit just to escape FROM work.  I quit so I could transition TO living my own life.  I decided TO make things up as I go along.  I quit TO be happy.

Each time somebody sees me now, when they ask how I’m doing, I tell them the truth with a level of sincerity that’d sound like sarcasm to my ears coming from practically anyone else.

It’s the best day of my life.


**I’d love to hear experiences from retired readers about how the first few months played out.  How’d you feel?  Did you jump right into travel and activities or lay low for a while? Any specific challenges, or was it smooth sailing the whole way?

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73 Responses to Three Months Of Early Retirement

  1. Mr. SSC says:

    I am SO ready, I can’t wait… But I’ll have to at least 3 more years. I love Office Space, but have to say, I really love my job. It’s fun coming into work, doing what I do (try to find oil and/or gas that some other schmoe left in the ground – usually because there was easier stuff to get at that time) and for now I like most of my co-workers and company.
    A year plus ago, before I switched companies, I hated most of it. I WAS like Peter, so I knew I had to make a change and I knew I didn’t have anything to lost by doing it. It worked out great so far, but I will walk away the minute we hit our number. Not 3 weeks later, or 6 months later (unless I’m really close to a bonus – those things are worth the wait) but when we get there.
    I will make a huge change when that time comes and look forward to it with excitement, some fear, and more excitement. I love reading these post retirement, umm posts, and reassuring myself, “see you can do it, he’s doing it…” Thanks!

    • livafi says:

      >>I WAS like Peter, so I knew I had to make a change and I knew I didn’t have anything to lose by doing it.

      Yep, this is the key decision right here — understanding that you need “a” job but not that particular job. I’m really glad you were able to find something that suited you better.

      And yeah, you can totally do it. If I was able to save, invest, and eventually make the leap — former big time spender and occasional basketcase — anyone can. Believe it!

  2. AlwaysBeenASaver says:

    Great hearing how things are going for you! I just finished my 7th week since FIRE. The thing I’m enjoying the most is not having to rush through everything I do and also having time to do the little things there was never time for while working. Funny you mentioned brushing and flossing – increased time for flossing is something I noticed too; I’m like “Yay! I have time to floss!” LOL.

    As for what I’ve been doing with my time, one big home repair project that’s taking MUCH longer than I expected, lots of small things I’ve been wanting to do forever, a small-time-commitment volunteer position, seeing local friends more, lots of cooking, and getting enough sleep most nights. I’ll also have some longer-than-typical family visits later this summer, which I’m looking forward to.

    One thing that’s come to light is I’m not on the computer all day long, nor do I have my car radio on during commutes, so I lost track of news for a while. A couple weeks ago my SO mentioned the China financial crisis and I hadn’t hear about it at all. I’m making it a point now to at least check the news sites a couple times a week to keep up.

    • livafi says:

      I love reading that you’re able to finally do some of the backlog of activities that you’ve always wanted to pursue, that’s terrific.. Completely relate to the news thing, btw – I’m utterly lost when it comes to recent goings-on. Seems reasonable to have check points so you don’t completely lose touch. I know MMM suggests a low-information diet, but mine is currently borderline no-information, and that’s probably irresponsible long-term.

  3. Wow, you “work” fast! It took me a lot longer than 3 months to get to the sweet little zen spot you appear to be in. And your “what the hell did I just do?” period was much shorter than mine too. 2 years in, I’ve pretty much realized that financially we’ll be okay, and we spend so little that minimum wage jobs could cover our spending if absolutely necessary.

    Otherwise, your experience parallels my own a lot. I love your paragraph on retraining your brain away from the “Have-To’s” in favor of the “do whatever I want because it’s awesome”. I really enjoy being able to say “yes” every time someone proposes something fun or I think up a crazy scheme of self-entertainment. The biggest example of that was seeing pretty pictures in a travel magazine then deciding within minutes to undertake a seven week trip to visit those places we saw in the magazine. Because we can, and why not?

    Carry on having fun!

    • livafi says:

      >>And your “what the hell did I just do?” period was much shorter than mine too.
      It really helped to have content from bloggers like yourself, MMM, and BNL to help prepare for the leap, which probably explains the rapid adjustment. I enjoyed reading all of your own “RE is great” updates — they provided a great deal of inspiration.

      Keep on enjoying the good life, RoG.

  4. Retire29 says:

    Wow, where to start?! What a fabulous post covering nearly every angle of early retirement. I can understand the “I’ll believe it when I see it” mentality amongst those you tell about your vision and dreams of early retirement. Even when simple math and numbers back up the plan pretty strongly, it can be hard to get others to buy into the idea without proof.

    I’m a bit concerned as to whether retirement will just be a huge letdown. Given that it will be something of a unified goal for several years beforehand, if it doesn’t live up to expectations, I could see myself getting a bit depressed about it.

    However, this post has helped in that regard. Specifically, changing the mindset from “leaving work” to “entering life” can be a powerful distinction.

    Thanks so much for posting. I can’t believe I haven’t been to your blog before…


  5. bilgepump100 says:

    The first few months off work were completely blissful. Perhaps a bit overly euphoric. I really wanted people to ask me about what I was doing. I must have experienced a bit of what evangelicals feel, sort of. I’m more even-keeled about it all now. The biggest challenge is shaking an old work routine–checking the computer to see what’s happening. I keep unsubscribing from emails but the online world has an addictive quality that’s hard for me to shake. It doesn’t dominate my life but it can be an excuse to avoid the real world. The biggest advantage of being retired is I don’t feel like I’m rushing to the end of life by filling it with fake important tasks. There is time to be in the moment (unless I’m rushing off for a three hour bike ride and forget to turn the oven burner off–slow down, buddy!) To echo what you said at the end of your post, I’m feeling like I’m in control now. If I screw up the day, it’s completely my fault. With that being said I’m heading off for a run in Golden Gate Park, then gathering gum plant seeds for a native habitat restoration project, shopping for bolillos in the Mission and making an elaborate Tortas ahogadas recipe while listening to the Detroit Tigers lose again (fire the manager!). Fantastic, thoughtful post. Thanks for sharing.

    • livafi says:

      Bilgepump: Thanks for a great comment. I found the computer-attachment comments particularly interesting, probably because my own experience (avoidance) is, so far, the complete opposite.
      Enjoy the time in the park. (Didn’t realize you were located in my old hood, SF. Very cool. I miss that area sometimes, lots of fond memories.)

  6. Congratulations! My wife and I reached our FI goal and quit our jobs back in March, and although we were busy traveling for the first couple months – now that we’ve settled down for a bit I can relate to much of your experience so far. Specifically, now that I’m not working, I have tons of time to exercise whenever I want and eat quality healthy home-made meals. As a result I’ve never been this healthy before in my entire life!

    Also, there is no doubt that sitting in an office chair all day staring at a computer screen for 5 days a week is a total bummer. It sounds like you disliked it almost as much as I did! Good riddance to bad rubbish I say!!


    • livafi says:

      >>It sounds like you disliked it almost as much as I did!
      It really came and went, you know. Some days it was: OMG F this. And other days it was: This isn’t so bad other than the fact that it takes up so much freakin’ time. In the end I simply wanted to reclaim my life.

      Really glad to hear you are loving finally being free.

  7. weenie says:

    Thanks for posting this – I look forward to leading the sort of life you have now, although I still have over 10 more years to go! Need to keep my focus!

    • livafi says:

      You’ll make it — continue saving and investing on a consistent basis and it’s just a matter of time. Good luck!

  8. Boondoggler says:

    Not really the same, but I once took 6 months off work after a layoff. I had the option to take a different job with the same company, but decided to just take some time off. I got in my car, threw in a sleeping bag and a tent, and just drove with no particular destination in mind. I met tons of people, saw some cool stuff. I woke up every morning with a euphoric sense of endless possibility. I could go backpacking. Or white-water rafting. Drive to a new state. I could spend the day reading a book by a stream while the rest of the world went to work. It was amazing. Amazing, that is, until I went home and broke up with my girlfriend. (It was a long-distance thing, and once I visited her for a while and didn’t take the chance to permanently move to where she was, it was basically time to end things.) Since I didn’t have a job to keep me engaged with the world, I just spent my days after that playing computer games, unsuccessfully trying to meet women on the internet, downloading mp3s, and generally feeling sorry for myself. But even then, I exercised every day and plotted my snap-out-of-it plan for when I was ready. And there were some bright spots, like a truly epic Oktoberfest. This period lasted a few months until I forced myself to actually execute on my snap-out-of-it plan, which included embarking in a new career direction. So I had to go back to work, but the seed of FIRE had been planted. This was 12 years ago. Now I’m 6-12 months away reaching my FIRE number. I expect ER to be like my previous experiment with downtime. Except now I’m happily married to a like-minded woman, so I fully expect our relationship to get even better and for the experience to definitely be more good than bad.

    The little spreadsheet that tells me how many months I have until I am FIRE shows that I am currently at 7.05 months away from FIRE (so precise!). With the markets down, that number may have slipped since I last calculated net worth. But in any event, I have decided to FIRE sometime between January and June of next year, even if the markets take a temporary nose-dive. I can practically *taste* the freedom, and it’s so hard to come into work every day. And the somewhat arbitrary nature of the “number” that we’re shooting for has me second-guessing if I couldn’t just quit now. I’ve been relatively conservative with my estimates of future spending, so surely I could just go ahead and quit, right? What’s a few tens of thousands of dollars going to do for me? But for now I’m sticking with the plan. But it’s so hard! And work sucks so much! I kind of wish someone would invent a computer to replace me already.

    • livafi says:

      Wow, thanks for sharing these stories. Sounds like you had some amazing experiences with your extended time off.
      >>Except now I’m happily married to a like-minded woman,
      This made me happy. It’s really difficult for folks who are with someone who doesn’t share the drive — or at the very least, isn’t on the frugal side of the spending spectrum.
      >> But for now I’m sticking with the plan. But it’s so hard!
      Yeah, I went through a similar period toward the end of my own journey. Doubt, greed, fear. Trying to figure out when to actually pull the trigger and leave is its own challenge.

  9. Wow — thanks for this epic rundown of what you’ve been experiencing, and how your thoughts and feelings have evolved since you pulled the ripcord. We are still in the “brains coated with Wesson oil” phase for two more years or so, and can’t wait to quit. But, like you suggest, we have a lot we want to retire TO, not just FROM, and we’re the kind of people who will make things happen, not just sit on the couch eating Pringles and watching the Price is Right. So curious to see how things continue to evolve for you over the coming months and years!

    • livafi says:

      It’s great to hear you are so excited about the future. 2 years is really nothing, you’ll be there before you know it.

  10. This is one of the best FI/PF posts I’ve seen in a long time. Thanks for the deep dive and congratulations again on getting out early and enjoying life. Hope to see you there in the future.

    • livafi says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Adam. I keep telling myself I’ll write shorter posts and then I sit down to do one and 6000 words spill out. I need an editor, badly.😉

      • Robert says:

        No editor! One of my favorite things about your posts is how detailed and thorough you are explaining all the thoughts and emotions that have gone into your FIRE decision. Keep it up!

  11. What a great post and what great comments.

    “Speaking of authority-hating, it’s occurred to me that one interpretation of retiring early is that it’s the ultimate act of defiance — to break out of the so-called system once and for all. As someone who has played it pretty safe throughout his life, I like this thought quite a bit: I’m finally a total rebel.”

    Rebel Scum: turn to the Dark Side! You just made me realize that I love “Rage Against The Machine” even though I hated them when I was still working. Authority sucks.

    So anyway, my detox was right about the standard six months. Detox was largely composed of learning to stop worrying about money. Logically, I knew I was good. Emotionally, it was terrifying. I took one trip to Hawaii with my Father and decided I hate travelling. Especially now that it means taking a break from a life that is awesome. Cow-orkers? I get together with them (the ones who didn’t suck) for lunch once a quarter after they are all done with q-end reporting (accounting monkeys), which has lately been two months after the Q because it just never ends for them these days (management is certifiably *stupid*.) Lots of time with Dad (had lunch with him again today) and then we did some minor house repair on some bad fascia boards I had. Gave up before painting because it was wicked hot and neither of us are in a hurry. Wednesday.

    Let’s see FIRE date was 5OCT2012 so I’m closing in on 3 years. I am finally taking my weight seriously and have gone down from 250 to 230. I’ll target 175# because 180 was the weight where I started to need blood pressure meds. At 225, I’ll take up Jiu Jitsu again. My knees won’t tolerate all the clamboring back off the mat until then. At my current 2# week loss rate, I’m looking at about March for skinny jeans.

    I’ve actually become more spendy in the last 12 months. After a couple years of FIRE, I finally came to understand it was the people in my life that mattered most. Lizards have small brains and are thus a little slow on the uptake… So now I take day trips to places 5 or so hours away to visit old friends. Sometimes I’ll stay over night, for a weekend, or longer. Eat out. Go to movies with people. And I started paying someone to mow the grass because I hated it. It looks fantastic now. I started a garden. Three times. This year, I actually have fruit. Smallish tomatoes that should prolly be larger but are suffering in the Houston heat. They are delicious served with Olive Oil and generous shakings of garlic powder and lemon pepper.

    I went to the firing range today to ask about taking my niece and nephew with (grand)Dad helping. Turns out under 16 has to be actual parents (litigation issues). I’ll take them a little further down the road to ride horses before school starts again instead. Uncle Lizard is a fun uncle.

    You made me laugh out loud (IRL) with the part about people taking “I’ll believe it when I see it” attitude and then proving themselves hippocrites when they do see it. Just wait until work calls you back and offers contract work at twice your former pay rate plus 1.5x OT and you tell people you turned it down. Responses range from shocked to the point you think they are orgasming to furious hatred.

    I’ma go watch a movie b/c its 430 PM on a Monday and I can…

    • livafi says:

      >>Rebel Scum: turn to the Dark Side!
      Thanks for the laugh. I’ve been trying to make it clear that I’ve morphed into a supervillain rather than a hero, right? No need to convince me to turn; I’m already there.

      Awesome stories, btw — It’s wonderful to hear how much you’re enjoying life without work — and also that your values have adjusted somewhat to shed light on the importance of people and relationships. Life isn’t meant to be one big video game bender. (Although, that wouldn’t be the WORST life ever, either, would it? Excuse me now, I have to go play some League.)

      >>Just wait until work calls you back and offers contract work at twice your former pay rate plus 1.5x OT and you tell people you turned it down.

      Funny you mentioned this. I literally got an email from my manager yesterday afternoon asking how I’m doing. I’m certain he’s angling for a call, poking to see if there’s any opportunity to lure me back. I will make sure my behavior provokes the “furious hatred” response if they manage to get me on the phone.

      >>I’m a go watch a movie b/c its 430 PM on a Monday and I can…

  12. rick says:

    Thanks for taking the time to detail your experience! You put into words so many of the feelings I’ve had on my way to FIRE. Today, I decided to not move into a new legal practice area because in my gut I knew it wouldn’t make me happier overall, the same dissatisfactions I have with current job would exist there, and it seemed like a needless (and stressful) diversion from my goal to leave in the not-too-distant future. I was worried about making some people mad but then thought: I don’t care. It was empowering. I oftentimes feel like a misfit at work but your posts make me realize I’m not alone. Thank you! And congrats!!

    • livafi says:

      Rick: Congrats on thinking the offer through and making the right call for you.
      >>It was empowering. I oftentimes feel like a misfit at work but your posts make me realize I’m not alone.
      Thousands and thousands of people read FI blogs with the dream of leaving work to exclusively pursue their own lives and dreams. Point? There are a hell of a lot of us so-called misfits in the world.

  13. Thanks for keeping me motivated Doom!

  14. karen says:

    Really inspiring post. I am interested in how your wife fits into all of this. How does she feel about your current life and is she planning to join you in FIRE? If she does how do you think that will change things?

    • livafi says:

      >>How does she feel about your current life
      She’s really happy for me. She’s frugal and understands that what we are doing (not working) is completely safe given our needs and levels of spending. Uh… also: Jealous, because she is still working.
      Her target is currently September to quit her own job. She’s finishing up one last major project and, being the responsible person that she is, she won’t pull the trigger prior to completion.
      Once she’s done we plan to spend parts of each day with one another and parts apart. We enjoy a lot of the same activities — exercise, reading, science fiction, family stuff — so I don’t anticipate the increased time spent together being a problem, but rather pretty awesome.

      On that note, we’re agreed that solo trips — one of us leaving for a couple of weeks here and there to go on individual vacations that the other may not be interested in — are fine. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?

      • Lisa says:

        “Absence makes the heart grow fonder…” or fungus LOL! Just kidding. I was going to ask about your wife also because my husband continues to work and wants to continue to work while I am retired. However, after witnessing my now almost 3 years of retirement I have got him contemplating retiring earlier than 60-65 (yep, he used to say that range whereas I never have). I’ve whittled him down to 55 and pushing for 50 (5 more years). Truly, he is happy for me and he loves his job, but I think he also sees the value of not being tied to an employer for 40+ hours a week now too. So, this to say, I have pushed, but not too much as long as he is happy with work and not working because he thinks he needs to support me – that should not be the reasoning ever or I should still be working.

        I want to write a longer comment about my 1st year as it differs slightly from your experience so far and I am wondering if some of it is a male/female thing or maybe just my different personality.

  15. Doug Nordman says:

    Excellent after-action report!

    I spent my first three months recovering from chronic fatigue (two-hour naps). But the next 13 years have gone pretty much as your first three months. And, gosh, I haven’t been bored OR unfulfilled.

    I still have work-related flashbacks, but they’re mostly when I’m really tired or sick. Usually it’s a crisis, or being late for a meeting that I can’t find (or I don’t have a hall pass).

    Future topics for your consideration:
    Facial hair– mustache, Van Dyke, full beard, or some other compromise?
    Ponytail? Shaved head?
    Considering your former occupation this might be a silly question, but– new piercings? New tattoos in areas that the corporate execs might have objected to?
    Wardrobe– upgrade for wedding and formal events? Downgrade for daily living? Returning all your work-related polo shirts or neckties? Special hiking or biking gear?
    New interests, hobbies, or sports? Or just lots more of the ones you’ve never had enough time for during your “working years”?

    • livafi says:

      Love all of the ideas, Nords. Actually I don’t have a single piercing or tattoo — never a better time than the present, that’s for sure. Maybe a broken shackle on each wrist and FIRE’D on my chest. That’d be hot.

      >>I still have work-related flashbacks,
      Ugh, sorry to hear that. I had one single work related dream and it was a faceless manager asking (telling) me to do 4AM work on a Sunday morning and I couldn’t say no.

      >>Returning all your work-related polo shirts or neckties?
      Funny you mentioned this. I have half a closet full of stuff I will never wear again and I do need to purge. 6 suits, 20 ties, tons of pairs of khakis and collared shirts. I probably only need 10% of what I have. Sounds like a blog entry.

  16. Steve Adcock says:

    Excellent blog post, love it. My wife and I are two years out from early retirement. I’ll be 36. She will be 33. We fully expect to go through some of the same challenges (and excitement, of course) that you experienced. And we’ll be adding an additional element to our plan – we are preparing to sell everything and travel the country in an RV for the next decade.

    I have a feeling that I’ll be writing a very similar blog post to this one a few months in. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to put my thoughts down on digital paper, and even more so the opportunity to spend as much time as I want writing it. 🙂

    Oh, and visiting a new brewery in every place that we stop. Mmm, beer.

    • Steve Adcock says:

      BTW – I’ve been going through your Job Experience post series. Man, you sure as heck know how to write in such a way to keep your reader interested. Well done, sir.

  17. StockBeard says:

    You need to get in front of computers much more often than what you do right now! It’s a freaking pain to have to wait so long for your next article🙂
    Once again an awesome read, and yeah, I’m reading that from the office, during one of those “10 minute breaks”.

    Still 2 to 5 years to go before FI. I’m hanging in there!

    • livafi says:

      >>You need to get in front of computers much more often than what you do right now!
      Do arcades count? I took my summer trip to FunSpot (a classic game arcade) in New Hampshire yesterday. 6 hours of Donkey Kong and the best I could muster was 156K. The world record is over a million! I would blog about that but probably only 3 readers would care.

  18. pjayadeep says:

    For someone considering retiring in few months, this is an awesome piece of information – thank you! it covers all aspects especially the negative aspects which I keep thinking about and consider looking for another job. I do have a small piece of farm land that I plan to invest more time – we need to decide whether to move there or not, there are lot of other interesting things I will be able to do if we move, but the family isn’t so excited about. My thinking has been that I should be able to produce some food for us after I retire not really for saving money, but to produce some organic food and off course it should take care of the food inflation which is a big deal in this place..

    I am also a bipolar depressant(currently in a low) which makes things a bit difficult when you go high and drop down with respect to decision making. The highs are way too risky and lows are way too dud where you worry about everything in life. BTW, your articles were helpful me especially when I got into the feeling “what have I done” thinking during the lows to make me think of the real reasons behind wanting to retire. One of the other major reasons for ER was to check if my bipolar episodes would come down if I take myself out of the misery of a corporate job.

    Now I have taken some time off(to get over my depression) from work before I quit(otherwise they’ll fire me – the bipolar episode took care of that🙂 )in few months time. But it looks like I am addicted to internet though I am able to wean off all work related things without any problem. But I joined some online courses that I am enjoying.

    Once again thank you for the detailed write up on your experience – I hope some day to write up my experience as well.

    • livafi says:

      >> inflation which is a big deal in this place..
      India? I’ve heard they’re close to 10% inflation a year. Very different environment from the States, which has run >The highs are way too risky and lows are way too dud where you worry about everything in life.
      This runs in my family; I’m aware of the challenges first hand. I’m hoping you have some professional guidance to help you navigate it?

      >> One of the other major reasons for ER was to check if my bipolar episodes would come down

      It’s a good experiment — I’m glad you’re taking some time off to ‘test’ the theory, makes sense. One of my realizations this week was that I really should have taken at least half a year off work way before I completely retired. There’s really no substitute for extended time away, as it helps to gain perspective on things like this — to separate the “YOU” from “YOU and WORK.”

      >> But it looks like I am addicted to internet though I am able to wean off all work related things without any problem.
      This made me laugh.
      Enjoy those courses, and if you ever do that write up, please drop me a line and share, I’d love to hear about it.

      • pjayadeep says:

        I am from India, Bangalore. Yes, I do have professional help in handling the bipolar issues, but having gone through many of these episodes, I am my own therapist🙂 And my case is a mild one, and I am able to handle it without too much problem these days. Yes, I need to write down these things, I have been lazy🙂 Thank you for your response!

  19. smiller257 says:

    This was fun to read, you experiences are similar to mine. I retired 3 years ago (at age 50). I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago that listed things I’ve learned from early retirement, see it here.

    Someone recently asked me what it was like to retire early and I simply said “it does NOT suck”.🙂

    All the best,

    • livafi says:

      Based on your blog, it looks like you’re having a great time out there in the world, Steve.

      >>Someone recently asked me what it was like to retire early and I simply said “it does NOT suck”
      No it does not, sir!

  20. Carlos says:

    Glad to hear how it’s going for you. I’m following on a parallel path having just left the workforce at the end of April at the age of 43.

    What has surprised me is that since I’ve stopped working I’ve not followed the stock market or read much in FI blogs or forums. Before quitting I spent most of my free time outside of work (and a good deal of time while at work) obsessing over these things.

    I spend a lot more time working in the yard and exercising than I ever have. Each day I walk at least 4 miles while listening to NPR or podcasts. I’ve read a few books and joined the library.

    As a treat to myself I’m taking some trips I’ve always dreamed of but never had the time. I’ll be in China next week and will spend a nearly a month in India this October.

    To be honest it doesn’t seem quite real to me yet. I think I’m still processing and adjusting to the change. It kind of still feels like an extended vacation so far and I still have ocassional dreams about work.

    I’m curious to see how you are doing come this fall after a few more months have passed.

    • livafi says:

      >>read much in FI blogs or forums.
      This resonated with me completely. It was common for pre-ER me to log 2 hours a day, a few days a week, reading forum threads. And now that feels like, well — work. I haven’t lost interest in the people of course, or in FI as a concept, but at the same time I think I’ve needed a break from it. It’s like studying for a massive exam set, the GRE or something — once that test is over, you want to stop studying and move on to something else. Brain tired of same old thing.
      Thanks for sharing your experiences, and have fun traveling, that sounds amazing.
      >>I’m curious to see how you are doing come this fall after a few more months have passed.
      Me too.:)

  21. Old guy here. I’ve been retired 10 years and I worked for 20 more than you did. I was in harness 35+ wire to wire in a series of technical jobs (food science.)
    The first six months I was at home while my wife finished her career. There was lots of painting and home repair to do. Then we sold, moved 250 miles away to be closer to my daughter and son-in-law. Getting settled in a new town took time.
    For a couple of years I volunteered in a small coffee company in town that couldn’t afford a technical officer. Helped in production as well. Finally retired completely in 2007.
    We have done some travel but we didn’t start till nearly 18 months after I retired. I had a transAtlantic and transPacific cruise on my bucket list and we did that.
    I still do IT stuff but I never did that professionally. Just help out the seniors around town.
    I think that introverts do a lot better at early retirement. I never have missed any of the office gossip or politics.
    I’ve enjoyed reading your posts.

    • livafi says:

      >>I think that introverts do a lot better at early retirement.
      I agree. It’s clear from personality polls on early retirement forums that introverts comprise the majority of people who *want* to retire sooner, anyhow.
      Thanks for the comment.

  22. Frankies Girl says:

    I’m almost 5 months retired, and still in detox mode. It’s gotten a whole lot better the last month or so however. I am getting my energy back, exercising more, took up a yoga class both for enjoyment and for social interaction, and starting to think about tackling my workroom (where I do my arts/crafts stuff and where all my work related junk ended up).

    I haven’t done a single artistic/designer thing since I quit. I am starting to think about things I want to make or draw, so that’s a good sign that I didn’t kill off all of my creativity during my horrible job the last 15 years (was a graphic designer). I haven’t purchased the computer programs I’d need to work on anything yet, as I don’t think I’m quite there enough to justify the costs. I can of course always go old school and use paints, pencils and pastels since I already own all of those. (but still kind of afraid to try at this point, as the last time I sat down with a blank canvas, I had nothing there to work with).

    Lost 66 pounds as of today. Still have a way to go to be considered fit and healthy, but I’m better now than even 15 years ago. I have a list of things I want to learn/do (kayaking, horseback riding, camping, hiking) and the better shape I get in, the more likely I’ll be hitting those soon.

    Haven’t contacted any former coworkers, and they haven’t contacted me in all this time. I thought a few were friends, but they were just friendly coworkers I guess. I don’t make friends easily, so I guess it’s to be expected. I’m a definite introvert and don’t miss them, but I think lack of ANY social interaction isn’t very healthy so I’ve got to make an effort to make some friends or get together with friends I currently have so I don’t get so socially isolated.

    Still having trouble adjusting to a sleep/awake schedule. I stay up way too late (early?), but I figure it’s kind of a rebellion; even when I’m tired, I’ll stay up an additional hour or two just to prove to myself I don’t have to get up early to go to work. So some really stupid psychology going on there.

    Still having lots of anxiety-based dreams about work. But it has gotten better. I’m not feeling as depressed (still somewhat depressed, just not as bad as it used to be).

    I also am finding I am spending way too much time wasting time. I read, watch television and play on the internet all day some days, and there are plenty of things I should be doing instead (housework, yardwork, errands) but I am still trying to detox and a few days a week of lazing around isn’t hurting anyone that I know of. Just feel guilty sometimes for not being productive.

    • livafi says:

      Wow, thanks for the detailed writeup! I’m so glad that you’re continuing to detox — everybody reacts to the transition a little differently and 6 months seems to be completely normal. I’m also still detoxing — I think that’s why I’ve felt so lazy, no particular desire to do anything other than standard life maint, no real strong drives or longer-term goals yet.

      It’s particularly encouraging that you’re starting to feel creative again. I think all people enjoy the act of creation and grow depressed if we’re not making something. (I view hobbies like gardening, home improvement, and even volunteering as creative in a way as you are growing things, shaping the world around you, and changing lives — all acts which alter your environment and require creativity to make happen.)

      Big congrats on the weight loss, that’s fantastic. You must be feeling terrific about it.

      >>don’t miss them, but I think lack of ANY social interaction isn’t very healthy so I’ve got to make an effort to make some friends or get together with friends I currently have so I don’t get so socially isolated.

      Yeah, I’ve gone through a few days here and there where, outside of my wife, I haven’t seen anyone. And while it’s okay for a day or two, long term I agree — ya gotta see people. It reminds me of something I’ve read from other early retirement writers: One thing that does suck about ER is that most of your peers are still working!

      >> I am still trying to detox and a few days a week of lazing around isn’t hurting anyone that I know of.
      Exactly. It sounds like you are making great progress and leading a better life now than even a few months ago — and it will continue to improve.

      Re: housework, my wife and I do the majority of stuff that needs to be done on Saturday. Having one day a week that’s sort of “scheduled cleanup” day helps to compartmentalize; that way on, say, Tuesday, if the house is looking a little messy I can say: Well, no need to clean it today. Saturday is the day for that. Then I can more easily move on to doing something fun instead of worrying about the chores and obligations.

      >>Just feel guilty sometimes for not being productive.
      Yeah, I occasionally feel this too. We’re so conditioned to need to be productive that it’s hard to shed this mental habit, this feeling like we must constantly be pushing *ahead* to something, to be accomplishing more, always striving. I don’t know if there’s any solution to this other than making an effort to be mindful that you’ve been incredibly productive during your working years and it’s OK to rest and pursue other things that interest you.

      I’ve been super productive and fairly ambitious most of my life (the ambition being: make a lot of money and RE) so it’s really strange to just shut most of that down. I’m more than a little concerned that ambition is going to rear its head again and demand an outlet, but so far it’s been pretty quiet. We’ll see how it goes.

  23. Fabulous post. Thanks for a brilliant contribution.

    I am nervous of how I would fare if I really turned off work; I am naturally a lazy person who loves relaxing in front of a web browser. Ultimately I have a shark-like gene: I have a sense that if I wasn’t swimming (which work is great for) then I think I’d drown. Certainly I’m not sure I’d motivate myself to see my folks as often as I know I ought to. But your post really gets me thinking – more please.

    • livafi says:

      The only thing I can suggest is taking a full season off of work prior to ER if you can swing it with your employer. Spending months away from the grind seems to be a good way to collect some information on how you’ll actually handle it when the time comes.
      Thanks for the comment, FvL.

  24. Davis says:

    Thank you. This is the post I’ve been waiting for since you finished work, and it was far more thorough and thoughtful that I could have hoped for. I’ll be done in nine months at 50, and have all of the financial stuff sorted out. I’ve gone over my spreadsheet so many times I’m bored of it, even though it is my passport to freedom. This post gave me perspectives on so many of the lingering doubts I’ve had. Long may you run.

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  26. Great story Livafi, I’m 35 and I just wish I were exposed to stories like yours earlier. But it’s never too late🙂 I have a plan to reach FI in 5 years from now. So thanks for all the inspiration and practical suggestions!

  27. vagon4Vagon says:

    I’m afraid you’re wasting your time. You should be playing DOTA 2.

  28. Not much to add I’m afraid as I’m not FI yet, but just wanted to say I really enjoyed reading your story and thoughts on the changes you went through once reaching FI!

    I’ve scored a deal at work where I’ll be off for 33% of the year so I guess you could say I’ll be one third FI but like you say I cannot ever experience the full freedom from knowing I won’t ever have to work again if I don’t want to until I’m fully FI, which may be a lot longer due to the reduced hours. Either way I’m pretty happy with the deal and will report on my thoughts after a few months of the new routine no doubt.

    Cheers again!

  29. Marianne says:

    I’m so relieved to read your story! I’m super excited to get FIREd. I just finished my second maternity leave (1 year each time, due to being in Canada). My husband is a stay at home dad so we sort of played FIRE (played with fire? too easy?) all together and we loved it. We already live frugally, close to work etc so we need to relocate to a cheaper part of the country to bridge a gap and make 13 years much, much less. We are 34, our kids are 3 and 1 and all we want is to be together. I have found it impossible to explain going to work to my 3 year old, because we both understand that it’s not as important as NOT going to work. In the meantime we accept the reality of it but my husband and I are united in the goal of getting me home ASAP. My main concern is that I’m not an entrepreneurial go-getter who constantly wants to do-do-do. I like reading books in a hammock and making food and sitting around thinking about life and stuff and playing with my kids. I was beginning to harbour some doubts that maybe FI only works if you want to experiment with risky real estate investment strategies…my natural temperament is much more about not spending and money hoarding, and less so with mastering new fields for fun and profit. I know I’ll have plenty to do, and I have ideas for extra gigs to reduce my horizon, but it is a HUGE relief to read that it’s not a requirement to want to become a world expert at something as a precursor to being suited to achieving the milestone.

    I think what I’m getting form my reading across the web is, FI appeals mostly to certain personality types, but if you want it it’s not a requirement. My timeline will be less dramatic, but I’ll get there and when I do I suppose I’ll work through the same thing everyone who reaches FI seems to need to do, which is getting to know myself again! So, salutations form the Yukon, thanks for this🙂

  30. George M. says:

    I just want to tell you that your post motivate me in a brilliant way. I am like 6-7 years away, so i needed this. Thanks

  31. Lemuel says:

    Brilliant, thorough, inspiring post! Congratulations!

    Your blog is a great inspiration for me. I’m still struggling with the accumulation phase, with a really modest (South European) salary. I’m a good saver but a mediocre investor. I’m doubtful and hesitant by nature. However, I’m 100% sure that I hate (really hate!) my job and that I want to quit as soon as possible. I have tons of projects for retirement (I’m a contemporary – classical music composer and a writer) and I’m pretty sure I will not miss my (boring yet stressful) job. I also intend to have extendend periods of doing absolutely nothing. Or, at least, nothing useful. (As the wonderful Julio Cortazar put it, we have to fight this horrible tendency to do useful things).

    Anyway, I’ve been reading a bunch of FIRE blogs for years, but yours is a special one. Your posts are really interesting, detailed and with a deep philosophical side. So, again, congratulations and thank you very much!

    P.S. Now that you have time, come and visit!😀

    P.S. No, seriously, if you ever take a trip to the Iberian Peninsula it would be great to meet you.

  32. bos cyclist says:

    Your blog is straight-up the best FIRE blog out there, LAF, and your perspective on what is important in life (friends and family, health, intellectually rewarding hobbies) really matches what I’ve come to value over the past couple of years.

    I’m not FIRE yet, although I’m aggressively pursuing it. My current job is actually a really good gig though, and my day-to-day life is almost ER-like. However, nothing is guaranteed and I still resent the way it occasionally occupies space in my brain at times when I prefer it not, and more than anything, I hate the dependency I have on it.

    Not sure to what extent you are in the Boston-area still, but if you’d like to go for a bike ride sometime I’d love to have someone to ride with. As I said, my job is almost ER-like and most days of the week I can go for a long ride if I choose to. Would be happy to bike out to someone near where you normally ride and get in some miles together.

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  34. LeagueOfLegender says:

    Sadly I can to only play games only for a few hours a week now because of my job.

  35. Awesome post – you sure know how to write and convey the reality in a convincing and matter of fact way. I don’t feel like I have unrealistic expectations of what retirement will be like (like you, I’m not going to retire to some sort of dedicated activity), and hearing about your experience reassures me that retiring to nothing in particular can actually work out well. I look forward to more posts!

  36. LivingAFI! I cannot believe how many posts I’ve missed. They should be showing up in my in-box, but alas, they are not. No matter. This means a binge-read, which is a wonderful way to spend a Saturday night. I adore this post. I found myself cheering and laughing and yelling, “Yay!” a ridiculous number of times. The line about anxiety and heat coming off the hood of the car was a beautiful piece of writing.

    I thank you for this post. I’ve been looping for months trying to figure out what I want my life to look like when I’m done. I feel like I need to have some grand plan. I have to have something spectacular to retire to, or all will be wasted. And yet I feel frozen. I can’t begin to imagine what I need. What I want. After reading this, I feel a bit calmer. I don’t need a plan. I need to get to my quit date. And I need to detox. Which surely will take at least six months. First things, first.

    Off to finish my binge-read. I’m so happy!

  37. Tryan says:

    I retired early this year at age 50. I probably thought about my job for about a week after I quit, but then I naturally stopped because I just don’t care about my job! I was tired of it. And it wasn’t that particular job–I kept thinking how it would be if I were working at some other job, and I realized–I just don’t like working. I never have. I enjoy just be lazy and not doing anything in particular. When I say that out loud, it sounds horrible, but…that’s what I like to do! It makes me happy! Isn’t that the whole point–the pursuit of happiness?

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  39. NolaLee says:

    I am so glad to have found this post. I retired 5 months ago, at 56, after 40 years of working and/or going to school. I had some concerns about being bored, not having purpose, etc. However, the biggest obstacle I face is just getting myself organized so that essential things get done. I am amazed at how quickly the days go by. Up by 6:00, extra cup of coffee, reading, … before you know it, it’s 4:00 and time to think about getting dinner ready for dear husband, still working and stressed. I felt like I needed a plan, a part time job, something to validate my time when people asked “what do you do all day?” I volunteered at my former job (I was a teacher) for a while but found that I could eventually let go of that. Rather quickly actually.

    Five months in I love retirement. I love having time to take care of things that my husband use to have to handle. I love taking care of him, cooking for him, taking care of our home. I also love socializing with friends, going to a movie, talking a walk. Enjoying all the small moments I used to be too stressed out and exhausted to enjoy or even notice. My only wish is that he is able to retire soon too. I have that to look forward also .

    Many people have commented on the money factor: don’t you want more for retirement? that mentality of never having enough. But that’s just it; for some, you never have enough. We are living more simply, need less, love time more than money, people more than stuff. Most of our discretionary money is now spent on others in need, people, not being more comfortable or having more toys.

    Life is joyful. I know I am blessed and I thank my husband regularly for the gift of early retirement. He hasn’t said, even once, anything snarky or guilt inducing. Perhaps he enjoys having a wife who is relaxed and happy. I also get to spend a lot of time thinking up ways to be a better friend, sister, etc. I have a new found love for cooking and baking I NEVER had when I worked. I have a few friends I make gourmet lunch baskets for each month. Planning, shopping, cooking with joy! My friends love it and it’s a break in their stressful work days. I’m so fortunate to have the time to do this. I’m considering culinary school, but don’t want anything to take the fun out of discovering the culinary arts. We’ll see. No rush. No agenda. No need.

    If you need validation from work or an ever increasing bank account, maybe it’s not your path. If you value time over money and can step away from the expectations of our culture, it can be an incredible time of discovery. I can’t wait to see what unfolds next!

    Thanks for a wonderful article! Continued happiness to you and your wife in this new phase of life!

  40. jerruhjones says:

    I am glad I found this post. I’m 8 months into my early retirement and still have moments of “did I make a huge mistake?” So I’m not quite where you are but I am getting closer everyday. There really isn’t nothing “not” to like about retirement. I’m finding that a lot of it is preparing myself mentally and discarding some of my own fears. Prior to early retirement, I was climbing the corporate ladder and logging many hours away from home yet trying to maintain my passion for my hobbies. My husband and I had a goal of retiring early since the beginning of our marriage. And when we reached the magic number for us, I jumped first. He is still working as he appears to be more afraid of not getting a paycheck. Which is fine because it allows us to adjust to the new changes with less anxiety.

    I will say I could relate to your post. It is amazing that I now have time to shop for groceries and I enjoy it. I used to hate grocery felt like such a chore. Never had enough time to compare prices or think about what I wanted to cook. Now I love cooking and going to the store when most folks are at work! And that is just one of the many things that have made me love the life of a retiree.

    I am still working part-time but it’s a job that is my passion so it doesn’t feel like work. It’s enough to keep me busy and allows me to be around what I love every week. I think part of it does help me squash the “fear voice” in my head. But for now, that is ok as I learn to grow into my new found freedom and this wonderful life of early retirement. Like NolaLee above, I feel blessed every day!

  41. Terri Martin says:

    Thanks for this post! I went into early retirement in June 2015 when i was laid off from my job of 20 years! For the five years previous to this, my husband and I worked different shifts(he was night shift, often 7 days a week, and I worked a day job). I have to say, we have really enjoyed being able to spend more time together! The loss of my income has not really been an issue as i am a penny pincher. I have enjoyed being able to do what I want to do when I want to do it and being around to help him on our farm. I just keep thinking that 52 is too early to not be working. Opportunities to go back to work keep popping up! Reading your thoughts on early retirement and the things you enjoy vs working and putting up with all the stuff that goes along with working gave me some new insight. Maybe retirement is where I’m supposed to stay! Thanks again!

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