Mr. Groovy and I retired back in October of 2016. After six months we’re still finding our way but so far, the trip is awesome. I’m happy to report my need for daily naps has abated and I finally began my piano lessons again. Mr. G just recently acquired his safety vest, camera harness, and picker-upper tool to begin his war on trash in our neighborhood. Watch for his riveting vlogs on the topic. We started our property search to build our home, and we also settled into a daily routine of studying Spanish, walking and working on the blog.
I refer to this current period as “slow retirement”. We’re easing our way into our new lifestyles, taking life as it comes, and enjoying the process. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway), the decision to retire early and the significance of retiring early are very personal. Age, values, goals, finances, family, and health status all play out differently for the individual. But I think everyone who seeks to retire early asks himself a similar set of questions:
What will I do with my time?
What am I retiring to?
Will I have enough money?
Will my health last?
Will I feel like a meaningful contributor to society without a full time job?
Will I be bored?
I didn’t go into early retirement believing it would be a panacea. I’m a deep person. I’m moody. I get cranky. I didn’t expect to suddenly start skipping down the street overjoyed every moment of the day. I’m happier now than I’ve been in a long, long time. Yet I still wonder if what I’m feeling and experiencing is normal. I still have concerns about the future and I question my purpose. Do other early retirees have similar questions and concerns? What do they worry about? How do they fill their time? What do they love or hate about retirement?
So, I decided to reach out to eight top bloggers who pulled the plug on early retirement, to extract their pearls of wisdom. Among this group are individuals of different ages with varying pursuits. I asked them to share their feelings on two topics—early retirement highs and early retirement lows. Let’s get started.
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli from Retire Early Lifestyle
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on the topics of finance, medical tourism, and world travel. They retired at the age of 38 and have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991.
For Billy and Akaisha, one of the highs of early retirement is having the freedom to travel anywhere they want and staying as long as they like. As self-confessed foodies, they enjoy experiencing authentic cuisine from exotic cultures like Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico—or terrific dairy, lamb, and wine from New Zealand. They love owning their days and nights and they don’t miss having an alarm clock.
An early retirement low for Billy and Akaisha has been not speaking the language when they’re in a foreign country—which means they can’t read menus to place their food orders in restaurants! They’ve come up with creative ways to solve this problem; for instance, Akaisha says “Sometimes in China we have gone back into the kitchen, pointed to some food items and either made motions and noises for ‘stir fry’ or made slurping noises for ‘soup.’ It worked!”
Another low is having to be very guarded when it comes to impulse spending. Since they’re no longer working, their money has to last “forever”. They now count to ten before they make a purchase.
Maarten van Lier from Millionin10
Maarten van Lier retired at age 43 with a portfolio of over $1M. He spends much of his free time perfecting the process of building a 3D printer. He writes about saving, budgeting, investing, and how to build wealth.
As a father, a retirement high for Maarten is spending time with his kids. He says he can “pick up our kids at school (they don’t bus) every day. Even though all other present parents probably think I’m unemployed, I know better.”
A low for Maarten is having to say “I can’t afford that” more often than he likes. Even though he retired a millionaire, he must remain mindful of his spending. This is especially true since he’s experienced an unexpected low—or more like an unexpected blow—his son’s recent diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. Not only is he grappling with his boy’s serious health issue, he’s also coming to terms with the hefty price tag for supplies and treatment. In addition, the same son recently required surgery for a broken elbow and Maarten was forced to pay $12,700 toward a $20K+ hospital bill to meet his insurance deductible.
Although Maarten is more than two years into retirement, he did not budget for recurring medical bills. He remains flexible and realizes he may need to go back to work one day. In the meantime he has no regrets about retiring.
Justin “Root of Good” McCurry
Justin McCurry blogs about the financial, investing, and tax strategies that allowed him to retire at age 33 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Now 36, Justin spends a month or two every summer traveling with his wife and three kids around the globe. Through clever money management and careful planning, Justin and his family get by on less than $40,000 per year.
A high for Justin is spending time outdoors in the middle of the work week. When the weather is beautiful and it’s 70 degrees in February, the last place anyone wants to be is stuck in an office. He loves taking hikes at a city nature preserve near his home, especially when it’s completely deserted. He says, “I make sure to take candids of my bare feet dipped in the water or me sprawled out in a hammock and post those on my social media to make everyone else hate me”. Hah! Bring on the haters!
When asked about retirement lows, Justin says “Life is honestly pretty sweet in early retirement”. (He says being asked about retirement lows is like being asked the job interview question “What’s your biggest weakness?” where his stock answer is, “I’m a perfectionist”.) But he admits that those annoying petty problems in life don’t go away. “You still have to call the insurance company about a misfiled medical claim or take your car in for an inspection. And you still have to file your taxes. However, retirement frees up 50-60 hours per week and allows you to take care of your chores and still have plenty of leisure time.”
Leisure Freak Tommy
In his first career as a telecom engineer, Tommy decided at age 40 that he wanted to retire early and made it happen by age 51. Ever since then he has lived a passion-driven, retire-early-and-often lifestyle, in which he stays open to opportunities by redefining retirement as the absence of NEEDING to work.
One of the highs in retirement for Tommy is that he still enjoys working. Because when you don’t NEED to work it’s a whole different ballgame. You’re powerful and you’re free to find pleasure in your work. You can refuse to take on overtime or duties outside of your contract. And you can negotiate up front to avoid doing things you hate. Tommy tried his hand at different gigs after he first retired, and when those stopped being fun, he retired again.
Tommy also takes pride in being a “fairness crusader”. He’s overly nice to workers like cashiers and counter people who put up with a lot of unhappy folks—but that has unleashed another side of him. Now, he openly questions “bullies, fools, buffoons and assclowns” who feel they have the authority to force their will on him or others. Before financial independence he needed to be diplomatic even to the “most undeserving” because he was always told that he represented the corporation, even when he was off the job. Now, he freely speaks his mind (possibly with a specific hand gesture). Tommy says, “making a scene to publicly shame the jerk is now fully on the table.”
An early retirement bummer for Tommy is that he can’t reverse aging. He eats healthy and exercises but he embraces the realization that he can’t get back to his youthful, halfback physique and health again. However, he’s far healthier today as a man in his upper 50s than he was when he was sitting behind a desk or in meetings 8 to 10 hours a day.
Mr. and Mrs. Crazy Kicks are a financially independent couple who quit their corporate jobs to enjoy a simple life. Mr. Crazy Kicks went from working 14 years as an engineer, to spreading his deranged ideas about financial independence on the internet. On their early retirement lifestyle blog, Mr. and Mrs. Crazy Kicks share their adventures in personal finance, travel and travel hacking, cheap hobbies and suburban homesteading.
Mr. Crazy Kicks is happy he has a lot more free time to see friends or family—rather than missing out on events, or cramming activities into weekends as he did when he worked. He gets to do what he wants, whenever he wants. He says “working in a cubicle required 8+ hours of being awake and on the job no matter how you are feeling. Now if I’m tired after the gym or just feeling drowsy after a big lunch I can catch a few zzz’s before carrying on with my day.” His simple pleasures include reading, writing, gardening and taking vacations. Even grocery shopping is more pleasant now because the “other retirees wandering the store are much more chill than the drones that compete with grocery carts in a rush to get home after work”.
An early retirement low for Mr. Crazy Kicks is that he misses the social aspect of being in a working environment. However, this isn’t a major drawback for him because he is rekindling old friendships and building a community of new friends through his blog.
Martin from Get Fire’d ASAP
Martin is a regular working-type guy who just turned 50 and retired. He grew up in New Zealand and moved to Australia in 2012. He shares his best tips and ideas for making the necessary lifestyle changes for leading a more positive and tranquil life—and for reaching early retirement.
One of the things Martin loves most about early retirement is owning his own time. Doing his own thing, whether he makes money or not, is one of his greatest pleasures—especially since he disliked the working environment he was in. He spends a couple of hours a week at a few side hustles that he can do on his own schedule. Like Tommy, he enjoys working in retirement because it takes on a whole new meaning when you don’t HAVE to do it for the money.
Martin recognizes that when the “honeymoon” phase of early retirement is over, people often have feelings of disenchantment and boredom. That “Is this it?” phase kicked in for Martin after four months, when he said to himself “how am I going to spend my next 30-plus years without going mad?”
And that’s when he decided to find some side-hustles and part-time gigs to keep his mind stimulated and give purpose to his days. But since he no longer has to work, he developed these Rules of Work: 1) No more than 30 minutes travel each way; 2) No overtime without adequate compensation, and 3) No working for rude, bully-boy bosses.
Joe Udo from Retire by 40
Joe Udo started his website at the age of 36 in order to figure out how to retire early at the age of 40. His plan worked quite well and he retired from his engineering career at age 38 to become a stay-at-home dad to his young son, and a blogger. He writes about financial independence, early retirement, frugality, side hustles, and more.
The best thing about retirement for Joe is no longer having to work at a corporation. He says, “I don’t have to go to useless meetings, collaborate with clueless coworkers, or waste away in a depressing cubicle”. He’s also left behind the depression, panic attacks, shoulder pain, backache and other symptoms he had due to stress during his last few years at “Megacorp”. He feels much happier and healthier now. Joe still works part time on his blog but at his own pace.
For a retirement low, Joe says, “I’m going to get real here. Being a stay-at-home dad is awesome but I had my low points too”. At times he couldn’t handle his young, rambunctious son. He felt worn down and a few times he resorted to telling his son “I have a huge headache and I’m going to take a nap in my room. Don’t bother me unless it’s an emergency”. Although Joe still feels badly about that, things are different now. His son is in school and they rarely spend a whole day together—Joe can handle half a day, no problem.
Another negative for Joe is his social life, which is pretty much dead since retirement. On the job he found it easy to socialize with coworkers. Now, most of his friends and family members still work and he doesn’t see them often. Luckily, he’s an introvert and finds plenty of satisfaction in the interaction he has with his wife and son.
Mr. 1500 from 1500 Days
Mr. 1500 is the sole “rookie” in the group. Although he’s experienced some freedom during the past several months as a part-time worker, he retired just yesterday from the workforce at the age of 43. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two small children.
The best part of Mr. 1500’s non-working days is that he gets to structure his activities for optimization and efficiency and design his schedule around his body’s natural rhythm. He says, “on my work days, I must fit everything in after 4pm when work ends”. This is often difficult for three reasons: His kids are back from school and he “must break up their fights”. After 4pm is not an optimal time for many activities. And there isn’t enough time before bed to fit everything in.
Mr. 1500 likes to write drafts of his blog posts in the morning when he has mental energy—he can get a lot done in a short amount of time. He exercises before lunch and then lets his brain take a rest afterwards. He might go for a walk or visit the library for recreational reading. Later in the afternoon when he pulls out of his “post-lunch funk” he’ll revise his blog posts.
A low for Mr. 1500 is how his days off have felt more compressed and rushed than his work days. This may seem strange, but as he explains it—on work days, he suppressed the desire to do anything other than work for 8 hours. However on days off, he’s more ambitious. He often wakes up much earlier and starts hammering away at his “To-Do” list. He ends up disappointing himself since he never gets through half the things on his list. He hopes he’ll get better at setting more realistic expectations as time goes on.
If you choose early retirement there’s no doubt you will experience some type of metamorphosis. There are no words to adequately describe the joys of freedom, owning your own time, following your passion, and experiencing improved health. On the other hand, you may need to watch for feelings of isolation, wondering about your purpose, and running out of money. The good news is that the proof is here in these interviews—the positives far outweigh the negatives.
I hope you enjoyed this post. I’d like to thank the bloggers who contributed their time and wisdom. For additional resources check out the following:
Joe Udo, Retire By 40
How We’re Generating Passive Income in 2017
Career Change From Left-Brain To Right-Brain: Engineer Turned Blogger Joe Udo (Forbes)