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Update from the Reluctant Retiree


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.


Sally loves it when I use this picture🤣🤣

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.

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jenhwoods
jenhwoods
01 mar 2022

I stumbled into early retirement after selling my husband’s company after he died unexpectedly. The financial side is well managed. Figuring out who I am is trickier. I’ve been a lawyer. I enjoy continuing to learn different facets of the law, but actually practicing limits my freedom. So does a pandemic since I’m immunocompromised. For now I’m continuing my study of Italian with my teacher in Lombardy via Zoom. I hope to spend time with her later this year at her home, but don’t know yet. Then the animals get it the way. I have three of my own and am trying to organize my house to foster. I can’t easily foster and travel at the same time so…


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I'm sorry to read about your husband, it must have been a shock, which has been followed by another big change i.e. your early retirement. Add the pandemic, the fact that you're immunocompromised...Wow, you haven't taken the easy route!


It's interesting to hear that you're finding it tricky to figure out who you are, as it's caused me to pause to think about my own experience. I've found it awkward at times to answer the question "what do you do", because my age and answer doesn't fit for them. But I don't think that I've tried to figure out who I am too much - instead, I've focussed on figuring out what I do/want to do (maybe that's much the…


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michelle
michelle
12 feb 2022

Great post, really enjoyed this one. It's been a mix for us. We do have a lot of joint dreams and plans for our early retirement which are fun to make happen together for sure. I get that point entirely, it's much better to get excited about planning them out together. Though as we've relaxed into knowing this early retirement thing is working I'm enjoying finding more a balance of my own things and 'our' things, if that makes sense. I think it's great you talk to Sally about it. I understand the need to want to feel good at something, that you matter or made a difference to someone. I get the same way if I spend too long 'just…

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Hi Michelle,

It's interesting to hear your experience, and that there have been similarities. Also interesting that you are now finding the balance between joint and own things starting to change.

By the way, Sally is not so keen of the chats that I have with her, she thinks that I'm somehow trying to trick her!? I think watching too much Murder She Wrote is making her too suspicious!

Looking forward to hearing how things might change once S moves into a full time life of leisure.

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Ryan Gibson
Ryan Gibson
12 feb 2022

Really enjoyed this alternative perspective of the other side of early retirement :) Curious to know is this not something you could achieve in France? In the South you can essentially guarantee moderate climate all year round in the pockets of the south. Not all of it is ridiculously expensive. Interesting that you're on the opposite scale in a Skiing region/ UK. Or is this just balancing your desires with that of family life :) Really interesting dynamic which I think you should explore further with your brilliant posts.

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Hy Ryan,

The "could we do this in France" is something that I also wonder about. I certainly like that the country has a range of climates and geographical features to suit everyone. If one lived further south, it's almost possible to hit the beach in the morning and the slopes in the afternoon. The things I need to sort out is my hopeless language skills - will I ever actually do this instead of simply saying I will??

As with a number of things in my life, living in a ski region is France has happened more by accident than judgement. We bought the apartment (and it was a decision that made very little sense at the time -…

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Thinking about your comment "doing things/time spent with money/getting paid". What I personally really enjoy about retirement is the ability to decouple the time I spend doing things from getting paid, the financial side of life is sorted so now I can try new things, if they work out great, if not, who cares, I can try something else, I find that liberating, and unless you try new things, you may miss out on things you can become good at, but never knew, because you never tried them, if that makes sense! Great post David, thought provoking as usual.

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Hi Peter, it's like you have taken the thoughts right out of my mind and summarised it much better than I would. 100% agree with everything you've said.

I'm not sure if Sally disagrees (I suspect she doesn't), or just doesn't think about it in a similar proactive type way. I read your comment to her, but haven't yet asked her view...she's busy watching the Winter Olympics (Murder She Wrote has been bumped for the moment, but she tells me only for another seven minutes!).

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Wow I'd jump on this idea! Love the idea of a house and garden opening on to a beach 😀. The Caribbean, South East Asia, South America, or perhaps Sri Lanka spring to mind, and some of those places would speak English 😍


"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."

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...and I thought I had a good life! We'll try to make a plan for May, would be great to catch up.

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