I'm now just 10 days away from celebrating one year of early retirement, and this is my second post looking back on how it's gone.
A couple of weeks ago I posted about some of the things I've enjoyed about this first year of early retirement.
In total, I'm planning four posts in this mini series:
Early retirement money matters - I'll do this in January once I have the costs for the full year
Things I've enjoyed - done, you can read it here
Downsides of early retirement - this post
Thoughts for early retirement year 2 - another one for January
Today it's the turn of what's gone wrong. What are the things that I've found to be the downsides of early retirement?
Wow, I'm really struggling to know what to write. The best I can come up with is there have been some days where I've sat and wondered what I'm going to do, or that the four walls of the apartment have felt a bit lonely.
But those occasions really have been the exception. And I've also found that I snap out of those moments quite quickly.
If at 9 a.m. I'm thinking I have nothing to do and the day ahead looks to be long and boring, I start doing something (it doesn't matter what, I just start something) and that one thing leads to another and it's suddenly past midday, and the boredom didn't materialise.
The same thing applies when the apartment feels lonely. If I get myself busy, the isolation feeling is forgotten. Or I may just go out to a café or a busy public place to get some social contact.
Oh, another downside just came to mind. Money. Because I'm not working, our budget is less than it used to be, although it's still a good amount to live on. But my wife, Sally, is still working, so she sometimes figures why should her budget have changed? It's a reasonable point, and I don't necessarily have a good answer for her (or at least not one that I'm brave enough to say!).
So if I'm struggling to think of many things under the what's gone wrong heading, why is that?
Is it because early retirement is so fantastic that there really are no downsides? or
Is it that I have somehow, accidentally or by design, figured out how to deal with downsides to early retirement? or
Is it too early to tell i.e. am I still in the honeymoon period of my early retirement, and the downsides are going to hit me next year?
Even good things generally have a few drawbacks, so my sense is early retirement is the same. Therefore the answer probably isn't that there are no downsides to early retirement.
I'm most likely benefitting from a combination of the other two items. Yes, I'm in the early retirement honeymoon period where I skip over the wrinkles because everything is new and I'm feeling positive. But I also believe that I'm taking some deliberate steps to minimise or avoid the downsides of early retirement.
So what might the downsides of early retirement be and what is it that I'm doing to minimise or avoid them?
Downsides of early retirement - from my head, I've come up with:
- Lack of social contact/loneliness/isolation
- Money concerns
- Reduced feeling of purpose/usefulness/fulfilment/self esteem
- Expectation gap - the gap between your early retirement idea and the actual experience
No doubt there are others, but I just Googled disadvantages of early retirement and there weren't too many different items that came up. Perhaps some things are called by different names, and points like cost of healthcare appear, but I count that as part of my "money concerns" item.
And this is what I think I do to minimise or avoid the downsides:
Before my early retirement date I had my early retirement planning whiteboard.
It's easy to see that boredom could be an issue, so my plan attempted to counter this. The same applies to the risk of loneliness. My plans were not super detailed, but they set me on the right track.
Since retiring, I still plan. I have my to do lists which include not only mundane tasks and chores but also exciting and aspirational items that I work towards.
I'm convinced that planning before and during early retirement goes a long way to avoiding some of the early retirement downsides.
I keep coming back to this topic, it appeared in Early Retirement Review Part 1 - Things I've Enjoyed and I also wrote a whole post on the subject of routine a while back.
The structure of a routine helps keep me occupied and busy, and ensures I do the things I want. It would be easy to stay in bed longer, watch TV more or spend hours aimlessly surfing the net, but that's not the early retirement I want.
Routines work for me, and have been important in ensuring I've enjoyed my first year of early retirement.
Remember whose early retirement it is. That might sound strange, but I do have to remind myself that it's my early retirement and so long as I'm happy with it then that's what counts.
Most people are supportive, but there are others who may snipe from the sidelines. By all means listen, but don't change what you like doing because of what others may say or think.
Having the right attitude or mindset works wonders. I'm determined to enjoy my early retirement, and I'm sure that mindset flows through into what I plan and what I do. It lets me focus on the positives and navigate the bumps in the road without letting them throw me off course.
What do I mean by this? Perhaps it is dream big, or don't just accept the status quo.
For me, our travel plans come into this category. It's something I'm quite scared of, but excited about at the same time. The dream won't happen without effort and planning, so it's keeping me busy and entertained even though we won't go for 6 months from now.
Perhaps dream is the wrong word, but the idea is right. Have things to be excited about, to strive for. They may not be easy to achieve, but think of the fulfilment when you make them come true.
I'm a believer that you get out of something only as much as you put in, and I'm sure early retirement is no different. Sit around doing nothing will most likely result in a boring, lonely early retirement.
But put some effort in, get out there, find friends who have some spare time, an existing or new interest, a plan, a routine, and I'm sure early retirement will be the better for it.
Oh well, that turned from the planned post about what's gone wrong into a post about some of the things that I've done to help things to go right. I guess that's positive thinking!
The things I've described are what work for me. They may suit others too, but quite possibly there will be different things that work for different people.
I haven't tried to address everything here. For example, I've not gone into detail about concerns about money.
I may pick this up when I do my first year of retirement money review post in January. But in general I believe that much of the money angst can be dealt with by research and planning pre retirement. Maybe blogs like mine can help answer questions about how much retirement will cost, and there are plenty of other similar blogs to take information from.
Elsewhere, my blog is one item that contributes to my feeling of purpose/usefulness/fulfilment - please don't burst my bubble🤣. My regular exercising in a group/with friends guarantees me social contact. My pre retirement planning (and perhaps my positive attitude) has helped me manage the potential expectation gap of early retirement.
And for the future, I'm mindful that I may be benefitting from being in the early retirement honeymoon period. I know to ensure I don't become complacent, and plan to manage that risk accordingly. My post of my thoughts for early retirement year 2 which I'll issue in January will be a major part of that.
I'm finding it interesting to reflect on this past year, and to think through what has worked and why that is. And that's the purpose of my blog, to share these things so that others can see how a normal (or at least relatively normal) person has gone about early retirement, and see how it's going in case it is helpful to others. Hopefully now and again it will be.
And finally, this is my last post before Christmas - I wish you a wonderful holiday season, full of fun, joy and peace. Merry Christmas.