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We rarely regret the things we did do, only the things we didn't do

A post on Facebook got me thinking. An anonymous poster was asking for help - should he retire?

In broad terms, his post said that:

  1. He has a good job, one that pays a nice salary, along with a car and even a house.

  2. His savings and investment portfolio are comfortably sufficient to provide an income to live the life that he'd want.

  3. He doesn't want to spend his whole life working, there are other things that he also wants to do.

  4. But when it comes to the does he or doesn't he retire decision, he's unable to make the choice.

I don't know this guy, so I'm going to have to make some assumptions but, my first thought is that it's a big decision, and it's not unusual to be finding it difficult to choose. My second thought is what a great position he's in. He's confident that his finances work for retirement and he seems to have some ideas as to what he wants to do if he were to retire (I wish I'd had such confidence back when I was making my own early retirement decision!)

Against these plus points, I can imagine there are a couple of things that might be troubling him:

  • Fear, of making the wrong decision i.e. if he chooses to retire and then finds that he wishes he hadn't. I get this, but it's only half the thought process. Exactly the same logic and fear question should be asked of the stay working option i.e. it might feel like the safer option, but it could equally mean missing out on a new part of life that might be awesome.

  • Identity and status, or rather the loss of it? Our social system attaches significant importance to what we do for work, with much of our identity and status being linked to our job. In his Facebook post, he wrote about his successful career and it quite reasonably seemed to be a point of pride. Deciding to take steps away from that identity and status can be difficult.

I suspect that the Facebook poster knows in his heart what he wants to do, and is looking for some confirmation, for people to tell him he's right and that he should go for it. I guess I'll never know what he decides.

A quote that I thought came from Mark Twain is worth keeping in mind for such situations:

" will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do." Apparently, not Mark Twain

My Google searching tells me that it wasn't Mark Twain who said this, but that doesn't diminish it's value. I've found it to be good advice, and feel it suggests that we try to be a little brave or bold in deciding what to do. Looking back at the more significant decisions where I've made the braver or bolder choice, I can't think of a single one that I've regretted. Even those few that didn't go as perfectly as they might still gave me a great experience and the knowledge that at least I tried. I'm sure my life would have been poorer if I hadn't made those difficult (and perhaps risky feeling) choices.

Making your early retirement decision
Good advice, even if not from Mark Twain

I can't say what the anonymous Facebook poster should do, whether he should embark on an early retirement life or continue working, but I hope that he might be thinking about the twenty years time quote while he makes his decision.


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