I've enjoyed having my father visiting this week - living in different countries means we don't see so much of each other, but we enjoy it when we do get together.
As we chatted during the week, he said to me "you know, I don't really get your early retirement". It wasn't a criticism, simply a statement of fact. I mentioned some of the aspects that are important to me, the choices I have, the freedom, and parts of my old corporate life that I certainly don't miss. Then I asked whether he "got" my old working life? The reply was that he hadn't given it any thought, it's normal for people to work, so there isn't anything to think about or to "get".
Although I've come across a number of people who have retired early, it's certainly far from being the norm. This feeling of being different, as highlighted by my Dad's comment, made me wonder whether "normal" working life might be better than FIRE?
"Normal" life means less need to think of what to do
In "normal" life, "what are you doing today?" is an easy question. The answer is probably "going to work". Tomorrow? The same, "going to work". And at work you'll do what the company/boss says.
At the weekend? Relaxing. Having been at work all week, surely some relaxation time is well deserved.
Being early retired is more complex. We have to make our own schedules, think of interesting things to fill our days with. There's no job description or instruction manual for it, we have to figure it out by ourselves.
"Normal" life makes others more comfortable
FIRE'd? Then you may be considered a little odd. How will people pigeon hole you without a job? "What do you do?" is a typical conversation starter and people seemed more comfortable when I told them I was an accountant. Now I tell them I'm retired, but the young(ish) age jars with the retired status and often seems to result in confusion.
I still haven't figured out what to say when asked what I do. Maybe it's easier to stick to the script and be "normal". Carry on working, it's much easier for the introductions and small talk at parties.
"Normal" life means no "what about this time next year?"
I recently asked Sally about her plans for going back to work after her career break. She responded saying why do I need to know now, it's not for a year and when have I ever known what I'll be doing in a year's time?
In reality, during my old "normal" life, I always knew (or at least thought I knew) what I'd be doing in 12 months time. It would be no change, I'd be doing much the same thing, probably for the same company, and in the same place. Life was very consistent.
Now, not tied to a job, a company or a place, there's much more choice and, perhaps that means, uncertainty. It makes our "what will we be doing this time next year" a complicated question.
"Normal" life means you have an excuse
The decorating might be overdue, the garden not so neat, your six pack not quite...well, nowhere near a six pack, but you have an excuse. You're busy working. It's understandable if you don't have time for that stuff.
But if you're retired early, what's your excuse? What's to get in the way of keeping fit, seeing the Seven Wonders of the World, keeping up with the housework, the garden, the decorating? Sometimes we might not feel like doing the chores but, when people look down their noses at our unkempt lawn, what's our excuse?
"Normal" might just be simpler
This is the wrap up, catch all item. Surprisingly, I think my old "normal" life was simpler, even though it might not have felt like it at the time. I had less personal decisions to make, after all, five days a week I went to work, no option or choice about that.
And as I said earlier, "normal" life makes it simpler when people ask what we do. "I'm an accountant" fell within the acceptable answer category. Now I say I'm retired, but don't meet the "normal" age expectations, it creates confusion for them. I don't fit the mould. It would be simpler if I was "normal".
I've set myself a task for next week, to write down what I want to do in the next few years. It will be useful if Sally can come up with her thoughts too. I'm not sure she wants to do so and I understand why, it's going to be a difficult task. It will be interesting to see if we will have the same ideas, and it's quite possible that we won't which could be a challenge. You know, when we just worked and were "normal", these things were much simpler.
This post is a little tongue in cheek, but there is some truth in the examples. Early retirement is not "normal", isn't always easy and perhaps takes more thought and imagination to make it work. So far though, it's something that I think is worth it.
So I'm going to continue to be a fan of FI and of the Retiring Early part, even if not following the normal life script occasionally makes life more complicated. I guess I like being not "normal".