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Hi - I'm Early semi-retired... and feeling guilty.
Old 09-19-2012, 04:40 PM   #1
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Hi - I'm Early semi-retired... and feeling guilty.

Hi - I "retired" in March of 2012 at the age of 36 after years of planning, and some motivation given by reading threads from early-retirement.org. I left my job because while I was at work, I would be wishing I could be living my life (as opposed to spending 8 hours a day doing what someone else wanted). I am grateful to have had the opportunity to do this, and I feel like I should be happier each day - but I am not. I have my own online business that I live off of, but in case that fails somehow, I have enough savings to live off of a 3.5% safe withdrawal rate. I'm not usually worried about money.

Much of the time, I end up feeling guilty, however. During the days of work, I would long for break time: time to just catch up on life, or do things that I wanted to do. Now that I'm in charge of my own time, I find it difficult to get things going. It is almost as if I did better under pressure. I feel guilty that I'm not accomplishing anything, but if I reflect on my previous employment, I can't say that I was significantly changing the world either.

It has been great to participate in activities that would have been difficult while working: a friend's mid-week wedding, visiting remote family members, etc., but when those activities are through, and there is time between activities, I get sad and wonder if I should return to work to occupy the down time!

I assume others may have felt this; I now live in a community of relatively early retirees (though most of them are about 20 years older than me). Everyone seems happy, and they claim that they couldn't imagine returning to work. I wonder if anyone has any opinions on how to make retirement a more positive experience (or if perhaps I should return to work).
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Old 09-19-2012, 05:25 PM   #2
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Hi. Please don't feel guilty. I'm sure you worked hard and saved hard for your retirement.

I think you may just be a bit bored. Have you looked into volunteer activities ? I think that might give you an outlet to accomplish truly good things. You'd have less downtime, less time for negative thoughts and more time spent on positive thoughts.
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Old 09-19-2012, 08:02 PM   #3
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Some people find that they don't manage as well as they would like with completely open ended tasks. You might experiment to see if you do well with deadlines, no matter how artificial. For example, instead of saying someday I'd like to try golfing, make a little todo list. This week: find a course that allows public access. Next week: find a buddy interested in a game. By the end of the month: Play a round.

This approach is anathema to many retired folks who cherish their time without requirements, but for some who's brains just seem to work this way it can get them going and avoid endless drifting. Since you sent the goals and the timelines, it usually even works if you change them around whenever you feel like it. But that definite target seems to help some.
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Old 09-19-2012, 09:04 PM   #4
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I think part of your guilt has to do with what a lot of retired people do. I had a friend that I worked with retire early due to a disability. He got really depressed after he retired because while he had all this free time, his wife worked, his kids were in school and all his friends and coworkers had to work and fulfill other family obligations. You've got all this free time and nobody to share it with. You work for so many years and you're conditioned to have someone harping on deadlines, pushing you to get stuff done and now that you live on your own timeline you don't have that anymore. You shouldn't feel guilty, you should be proud that you can finally do what you want! I like the idea of volunteering or doing some kind of community service. Part of why I want to retire early is because there are so many charitable organizations that I would love to be more involved in, but I'm generally working on the days they have their service projects and special events. I would especially like to get involved in an animal rescue organization.

I hope you find a way to work your way through this dilemma...as they say, "this too shall pass..."
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Old 09-19-2012, 09:22 PM   #5
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You are not alone. I have also had a similar "problem" focusing on goals. When you are retired, whatever doesn't get done today can always get done tomorrow, so the sense of urgency isn't there. I'm now trying to have a brief to-do list for things in my mind to avoid totally frittering time away. Getting better at it but still a ways to go.
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Old 09-19-2012, 09:50 PM   #6
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This could have been a problem for me if I lived alone, however, I have DW with me. She is still working, and helps me to come up with lists of tasks that need to be done. In some sense I am then accountable to her (but she is pretty easy going). Some times I will call her midday and let her know what I have knocked off already. She is usually very encouraging and supportive. As things break etc, we are always adding things to the list.

On another note, You might want to read the book "The Experience of Retirement". The author interviews in a detailed manner about 100 people during their new retirements. He then draws conclusions about which things seem to support a happy satisfying retirement, and those that do not. Very enlightening...

-gauss
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Old 09-19-2012, 11:08 PM   #7
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Quote:
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Hi - I "retired" in March of 2012 at the age of 36 after years of planning, and some motivation given by reading threads from early-retirement.org.
Congratulations on your FIRE.

Maybe your guilt is because you feel like you should be productively 'giving back' to society. Like another posted, maybe you should be volunteering. There are many non-profits that could use your time and expertise.

You were only 36 when retiring. How long did you actually work?
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Old 09-20-2012, 12:12 AM   #8
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(or if perhaps I should return to work).
Please refrain from using profanity on this site. Use of such four letter words shall not be tolerated.
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Old 09-20-2012, 12:36 AM   #9
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if anyone has any opinions on how to make retirement a more positive experience
Like you, I am an early, early retiree, though not quite as young as you.

At times I have felt the idleness you describe. In all cases I found, on analyzing my thinking, that I was romanticizing w*rk. Time is passing, and it's easy to discount the storm, stress, and stench of the corporate experience.

Never forget. Never forgive.

Oh, and don't be bitter.
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Old 09-20-2012, 12:45 AM   #10
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Sounds like you might need to do the hard work of determining the purpose of your life now that your hours are no longer filled with the demands of a job.

What things did you daydream about doing when you were working? Have you experimented with writing a life mission statement or with some goal brainstorming?

For your life to be satisfying you probably need to find a purpose larger than yourself, be it volunteering, art, or lifelong learning.
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Old 09-20-2012, 01:14 AM   #11
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Thank you everyone for your thoughtful replies. I suspected that volunteering would be the answer - and that does sound good. Here is what I got out of your replies:

1) Try making deadlines (I think this will be helpful; I already occasionally do it - but need to be more strict!)
2) Find a volunteer opportunity / opportunities. I have not done much of this, but I think it is a good idea.
3) Gauss' book suggestion sounds like an interesting read at least.

I know (think) packrat was joking, but after a few months of reflecting on it, I think w*rk is actually a good thing. Personally, I think it would be great to have "just enough" good w*rk... and the problem for some people is that they have too much of it (or maybe too little). Hopefully, I'm not romanticizing as onward suggested.

And finally, to answer inky's tough questions: I daydreamed about travelling. DW says she would like to as well, but she's also content to just do things locally. I have not done a life mission statement, or goal brainstorming. For some reason, it seems very difficult to come up with a "mission statement," and frankly, I don't know where to start.

It is consoling to hear that others have felt this before - and that it has passed! The retired people that I know seem to have no problems! Finally, Beryl: I worked 21 years.
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Old 09-20-2012, 06:08 AM   #12
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Congrats, fulm!

In your case, I think you need something. I worked for an internet bubble company. I was late to the game so I missed almost all the windfall, but saw many ERs occur amongst 30-somethings who were there a few years before me and got the windfall. Most folks did well, and that volunteer thing was a common thread amongst those. And others started w*rking on their own terms and totally loving it. (A microbrew comes to mind.)

But for goodness sake, don't completely rejoin the w*rk train and go down this hellish path again. If you find yourself there accidentally for some crazy reason, walk away. You have the ability. Like you said, w*rk can be OK. The part time microbrew guy is having a ball. There's a schedule and deadlines, but it has more to do with beer's schedule than The Man's.

Which also gives me an idea. If you haven't looked into things like cooking, or gardening from seed or things like that, do it. These hobbies tend to enforce some structure on you, but it is fun stuff. There's satisfaction in growing stuff from seed too. And it's frugal.

P.S. I missed most of the internet bubble money. So I'm not FIREd yet, but getting close.

P.P.S. I'm new here and I apologize for swearing up a storm yesterday. I inadvertently uttered that w-word a few times.
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Old 09-20-2012, 07:46 AM   #13
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Congrats on your FI! Now you just have to figure out if RE is right for you. I had almost two years off (I'm back to w*rk now) but in my case, w*rk really got in the way of my hobbies. What did you do with your downtime when you were w*rking? Did you play golf? Want to learn? Work on cars? Motorcycles? Sail? Want to learn? Hike? Camp? Cook? I think the problem with just listing things like this is they still don't have a "goal". When I had my time off I was in the middle of rebuilding two vehicles, so had plenty of stuff to do, and the goal was to complete them. Another example would be golf, you could learn, and if you like it, try to achieve under a certain score. Sailing: learn and then decide you want to sail to the carribean. I dunno, just throwing stuff out that interests me here. I'm single, but if I had a DW or kids, I would bounce ideas off of her/them so that I could concentrate on at least a few activities that they find interesting. If all of your time was spent working, and your down time in front of the tube, you have some work to do.
My time off was incredible, and some amazing opportunities came to me during that time off too, that would have been impossible to do when w*rking. Good luck to you, and if you can't figure it out now, go back to w*rk, no shame in that, you are already FI, then quit again when you want.
Just my $.02 and maybe not worth that, lol...
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Old 09-20-2012, 08:01 AM   #14
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Congrats and Welcome. Best advice I can give is to find some activity to redirect your ambitions. In your shoes, I would take up training for an Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26 mile run, without stopping)... that would certainly take up 4-6 hours a day of training with an end goal being to improve my fitness and accomplish something very few people ever do.

Doesn't have to be fitness related... plenty of volunteer work you could get involved in to get you out and interacting with people. Looking back at your life 30 years from now it would be awesome to see that all the work you did in life contributed towards something and that you made a difference.

Every couple years I like to evaluate where I am in life and I see that the activities I do outside of work (coaching at the local HS, helping out the local community, mentoring others) are the things I'm proud of. If I were able to FIRE at 36, I'd do a lot more of those.
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Old 09-20-2012, 08:07 AM   #15
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Welcome and Congratulations!
I felt the same way too when I switched over to completely working for myself (12-15 hrs a week) and not knowing what to do with my time. It will pass and pretty soon you will be so busy!
I did a lot of research on the internet, learned how to cook from scratch, started refinishing furniture, am able to run all the errands, and take care of the house so hubby to be does not have to do home chores. I also got into gardening, baking, doing yard work, and taking lots of coffee breaks!
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Old 09-20-2012, 02:07 PM   #16
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Fulm, I think many struggle with what your dealing with. Remember financial independence and ER are kind of intertwined. If that means going back to work do it, because that is what FI is all about. You are very young still. Most of us retired younger, but not that young, so your perspective may be different. If you long to work do it. If it brings happiness continue. If it makes you realize you made a mistake working again, you can quit and be more comfortable in your decision. BTW - I can't ever make my mind up either. Retired at 45, took an easy low paying parttime job. Quit it,then took another higher paying parttime job a few months ago. Told my boss, after a week, I made a big mistake, find someone to replace me in January. Then a couple weeks ago after settling in, I told him never mind, I can make it for a year. Now I'm thinking I may stay longer. The job is starting to grow on me, the hours are easy, and even though I really don't need the money, I love cashing that check!
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Old 09-20-2012, 02:16 PM   #17
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2) Find a volunteer opportunity / opportunities. I have not done much of this, but I think it is a good idea.

...
The retired people that I know seem to have no problems! Finally, Beryl: I worked 21 years.
Another plug to volunteer. There is even a volunteer app if you need some help.

I figure many retirees here volunteer. Non-profits depend on us since there is so little funding (despite what people claim to give to charities).

You'll quickly learn how blessed you are to be able to FIRE. Some smart financial choices come from higher cognitive abilities and good health. Many people are not as fortunate.
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Old 09-20-2012, 02:18 PM   #18
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Financial independence doesn't have to mean not working. It merely means that you have a choice. Continue to seek and find something that is fun. Maybe it is volunteer work, maybe it is working in a low stress job.
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Old 09-20-2012, 02:55 PM   #19
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i think part of retirement planning is to have a hobby or passion of some kind. i've been riding motorcycles since i was a teenager, and still love it. you meet alot of nice people on a motorcycle too. not suggesting you buy a motorcycle or anything, i was just giving an example.
i wish i could have semi-retired at your age. enjoy your time !
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Old 09-20-2012, 11:39 PM   #20
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Hello, fulm, and welcome.
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