It's been a while since I've checked how my other half, Sally, is finding retirement. Is she still a reluctant retiree, or does she now look back and wonder why she was reticent about it in the first place?
First I'll backtrack to explain why I call Sally a reluctant retiree. It was me who decided to pull the plug on work back in 2016 and I expected Sally would join me to enjoy this new phase of our lives. I'm sure we must have talked about it, but clearly not as much as we should as it came as a surprise to find that Sally didn't have a plan to retire early. She still enjoyed her teaching job and wanted to continue with it.
You may say, what's the problem? Why couldn't I start my early retirement while Sally kept working? Surely everyone would be happy. While that seemed an easy solution, it didn't fit our circumstance. Perhaps more accurately, it didn't fit my circumstance. There were two reasons for this. One was that I wanted to travel, ideally for a year, and another was that I wanted to relocate. We'd been expatriate workers in Dubai for a number of years and I was ready to move on - as the saying goes, I'd been there, done that, got the T-shirt. I felt it time to find a new T-shirt.
After much discussion, Sally and I reached a compromise. She would work for another year before taking a year out while we travelled. After that, she would return to work, although not the same job she left.
So that's how Sally became a reluctant retiree. What then happened was:
As planned, we left Dubai in July 2018 to start our travelling (although in the end we didn't travel for the whole year).
Not as planned, a year later when it came time for Sally to look for another job, she decided to wait another year.
Almost four years later, she still hasn't returned to work. Does that mean her retirement is less reluctant now?
Reluctant or otherwise, Sally looks at her days/weeks/months/year quite differently from me. I like my retirement, and I'm a believer that I will get out of it as much as I put in. I love that I don't have stress and that I own my time. I'm protective of the flexibility that I now have, I value the opportunities, the chance to do things that I had neither the time nor the mindset for previously. It's why I set my alarm each morning, set targets and make to do lists. In summary, I feel fortunate to be in this position and don't want to waste it.
Sally looks at me doing these things, and shakes her head. Instead of setting an alarm, she likes that she can sleep in. She doesn't set targets or make to do lists and, as far as I can tell, she isn't trying to imagine new adventures or things to do. While I might get to the end of my day hoping that I can tick some things off my list, Sally might say it's a good day if she's ticked off "relaxed and watched Murder She Wrote"!🤣
Anyway, that's my assessment, one that I may get into trouble for, so before I dig myself into a deeper hole, I'll stop and instead ask Sally how she sees retirement now.
First of all, do you call yourself retired?
She says no, says she's too young to be retired (she's five years younger than me). While she doesn't call herself retired, she doesn't have an alternative description.
Do you plan to work again?
Not full time and not something that ties her to set hours. What she'd like is something she enjoys doing but can pick her times to do it. She doesn't see that teaching fits this criteria, so it would have to be something else, but doesn't know what this could be.
She says it may not be working for money, so long as it's something she enjoys, whether it's work or a hobby. She wondered about writing a book, but doesn't know what it would be about or whether she'd be any good at it? And who would buy it - if nobody, then she doesn't see the point.
What are the best things/what do you like about your early retired life?
She likes the time/calendar flexibility. If she wants to do something or go somewhere, she can. There isn't a work commitment to stop that.
What do you not like about your early retired life?
She doesn't like not having an income, even though we have enough money to live on. She thinks it's perhaps connected to how she was raised, the need to earn/save before spending.
She also misses not doing something that she was good at i.e. her teaching. Her job gave her a sense of accomplishment which she misses.
Are there any things that you particularly want to do with your early retired life?
She believes there should be, but doesn't know what they are, and is frustrated not knowing the answer to this question because it's the "what you get up for" in the morning. She also thinks you should be quite good at what you choose to do, otherwise what's the point.
If you could change some things, what would they be?
She'd like to live in a hot country with a bigger house. Perhaps build somewhere on a beach, to combine hot country and hobby (I guess the hobby would be the build) which could subsequently form the basis of some kind of business. Perhaps a how to build or interior design advisory/consultancy business.
Would you take steps to try to make some of these things come true?
Sally seems hesitant here, because without a clear idea of what she actually wants to do, she feels that trying to make a plan is jumping the gun.
So that's an update on Sally. Is she still a reluctant early retiree? Maybe a little less than she was, but at the same time it doesn't quite seem that she has landed on what she wants to do either. She's floating somewhere in the middle, perhaps a little lost as to what she could do or wants to do. I don't think she likes it when I ask her these questions, but I hope they might help with her thought process, or even to kick start them. Alternatively, she may well forget about it the moment I walk off to do something else and the next episode of Murder She Wrote starts! For me, I like to have the conversation, it helps me understand what she's thinking, and to see if I can help, or wonder if/how I can incorporate her ideas into my early retirement plans.
I note that Sally asks what's the point if you're not that good at something or you don't earn money from it. I believe the point is because you enjoy it. We've proved that we can afford early retirement, that we don't need the money. To me, that opens up an array of opportunities and I wonder if Sally is missing out on some of these because she still connects doing things/time spent with money/getting paid.
When I asked Sally whether she would take steps to try to make some of her ideas come true, she felt that was jumping the gun. In contrary, this is a part of my retirement that I do quite well. I try to think of ideas, things that I might like to do, and then set about figuring out how I might do them. If I do jump the gun, and it turns out to be a bad idea, then I can scrap it and head in a different direction.
And because I asked Sally "if you could change some things, what would they be?", I thought I should ask myself the same thing. I like the question, because we often go along doing things just because we don't take a moment to question if it's what we really want or if there are better alternatives. So, what would I like to change? I don't have a long list because, on the whole, I believe that my to-do lists and targets have helped me make some choices and then try and make them happen. But two things come to mind. First is my hopeless French, because I'm sure improving my language skills would make life in France feel more like home. This is something that I can choose to improve, and I should put in more effort to do so. The second thing that I wish I could change is for Sally and I to have more early retirement pursuits in common. When I look at my targets or to do lists, very few of them are activities that Sally will do with me, which is a shame - I enjoy my early retirement, but some things are much better when shared.