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Retiring at 50
Old 12-10-2009, 10:27 PM   #1
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Retiring at 50

Greetings. I've been reading the forum off and on for years, and have been very impressed by the quality of the investment advice. Although I am probably guilty of confirmation bias, since I use an asset allocation with Vanguard index funds approach. The reason I decided to delurk(?) is that I recently turned 50 and have given notice that I'll retire next year.

I feel reasonably confident in my financial situation. My main fear is the non-financial stuff. I've worked hard all my life, and mostly enjoyed it. But because of how focused I was on work, I'm worried about transitioning to early retirement. Not so much about whether I'll have enough to do. I've got 3 kids at home, and a wife with many ideas for me. Rather I'm worried about being depressed at losing the prestige and structure that's defined me for so long. I know a lot has been written about these things, and I THINK the cave parable that I read here a while back is probably true. I believe (obviously since I'm retiring) that there is more to life than plugging along for another 15 years in a job I don't enjoy that much anymore and rarely seeing my family. But still...it's a mighty big change.
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Old 12-10-2009, 11:30 PM   #2
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It is a big change, and so it makes sense to take time to prepare yourself for such a transition. If you don't have much going on outside of work (well, you do have your family) then it is indeed more difficult than if you can't wait to quit working because of all those things you want to do instead.

And if the structure and prestige at work is very important to you - well, that may be a big loss, so you would have to manage that somehow. The question is whether that loss outweighs the "plugging along in a job you don't really enjoy anymore" and "rarely seeing your family". That's your call.

Sometimes when you develop interests outside of work, the work itself doesn't seem quite such a burden either. It's called balance. It's not always easy to achieve - it may take some focused effort, and experimentation is important - there is no perfect way to do this, it's more of a journey of discovery. So try stuff and don't get discouraged if the first things you try don't really click. Sometimes you just have to get out there and do other things in order to discover what clicks.

Whatever - just trying to give some perspective from someone how has been retired for a while. A lot of people on this forum seem to think Zelinski's book on retiring is really useful for folks struggling with the emotional and life planning aspects of retirement (as opposed to the financial - which is much easier to figure out).

Amazon.com: How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free: Retirement Wisdom That You Won't Get from Your Financial Advisor: Ernie J. Zelinski: Books

His other one is also popular: Amazon.com: The Joy of Not Working: A Book for the Retired, Unemployed and Overworked- 21st Century Edition: Ernie J. Zelinski: Books

Audrey
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Old 12-11-2009, 10:21 AM   #3
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Welcome Xman! At 51 and figuring out what ER means to me, I can identify with you.

One thing I've mulled over is how prestige is often defined by whatever circle we happen to be circulating within (one can be a great attorney, or whatever, but if you hang out with a bunch of young guys on the softball field and can't hit a ball, you don't measure up so well). Good luck on finding some new circles.

I second Audreyh1's book recommendations.
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Old 12-11-2009, 10:56 AM   #4
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Welcome , The thing that surprised me about retirement is no one asks you what you did . Maybe it's different with guys but all the women rarely talk about it . It's like that phase is over so let's move on .
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Old 12-11-2009, 02:40 PM   #5
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Xman,

Every few years I look forward to reinventing myself. I call them various parts of my life. It can be lots of fun to start thinking of yourself as a different person...and it keeps your friends and neighbors wondering what you're up to!

I think you should try the opposite to the structure and take some art classes when the rest of your family is busy. Anything that's completely different could be fun...and you may discover things about yourself you wouldn't have when you were too busy working.

But the family is #1...spending time with them should be good now that you'll have more time to listen and if needed, help.

It'll be great!

E86S54
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Old 12-11-2009, 03:05 PM   #6
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Rather I'm worried about being depressed at losing the prestige and structure that's defined me for so long.
Itís productive to reflect on what your work has provided for you besides a paycheck. If prestige and structure is something you enjoy and you want to retire, find a place in your new life where you will find recognition in a structured format.

If you were a problem solver and enjoyed that, find a location in activities or a social network where you can mentor or resolve problems.

To make the change to retirement easier, you might even consider part time work, a second, less stressful career, or volunteering. In this way, you can utilize your abilities and talents while not being on a treadmill, and without the pressure of climbing up the corporate ladder.

On our Preferred Links Pages you will find links to Retirement Jobs as well as mentoring sites, foundations, and places where you can teach, learn or volunteer.

Enjoy the transition, allow yourself some time to adjust!

Akaisha
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Old 12-12-2009, 07:04 AM   #7
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To make the change to retirement easier, you might even consider part time work, a second, less stressful career, or volunteering. In this way, you can utilize your abilities and talents while not being on a treadmill, and without the pressure of climbing up the corporate ladder.
That's what worked for me but it took a few years to figure it out. Now I'm working full time doing armed security most weeks, sometimes three or four days, with days off during the week so I don't contend with weekend crowds, the hours are such that I can sleep late and still get home at a reasonable hour, and there is virtually no stress.

Chatting with another guy there about my "previous life" he said "Why don't you apply for a cybersecurity position? They just hired a GS 13 there." I didn't know they had any openings and he just looked at me and said "I'll see what I can do."

So this may open a door to a 2nd career. Then the issue becomes "Do I want it?"
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Old 12-13-2009, 07:41 AM   #8
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So this may open a door to a 2nd career. Then the issue becomes "Do I want it?"
Exactly.

One never knows what opportunities early retirement will bring. Getting out of the scheduled (perhaps over-stressed) lifestyle a person could be living now and opening up to the vast possibilities of a new manner of living can feel unpredictable and confusing at first.

You can relax into it or grab it with both hands. Either way will prove rewarding. Since you don't need the money, you can pick and choose what will bring you the most satisfaction.

All the best,
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Old 12-13-2009, 08:01 AM   #9
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Every few years I look forward to reinventing myself. I call them various parts of my life. It can be lots of fun to start thinking of yourself as a different person...and it keeps your friends and neighbors wondering what you're up to!
This is brilliant.

And it's a great description of retirement - because that is when you really do get to reinvent yourself since you are no longer required to mold yourself into someone else's constraints/goals.

In fact, it seems like that even during retirement we are reinventing our life about every 5 years! Just starting on phase 3 now. Didn't expect retirement to have these lifestyle changes every 5 years, but now that we are actually living it, it does kinda make sense.

Audrey
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Old 12-13-2009, 11:13 AM   #10
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Wow. Thanks for all the great feedback. This is helpful.

I believe that I'm taking the right path, even if it isn't the easy path. To keep working is easier in the sense that I have all the momentum going in that direction, and I'm comfortable in my role. I generally believe that it is easier for me to spend my day at work than for my wife to spend her day at home - for example wrestling through homework with a sullen and uncooperative pre-teen at the kitchen table. I'm looking forward (nervously) to helping more with this stuff.

It fed my ego to have all the perks of corporate power, and I make pretty good money. But I believe that deeper satisfaction, for me, will come from being a more involved father. The way my job works, I haven't been able to do both. I've been trying for the past several years, and it just isn't working. In addition, as I mentioned in my prior post, I'm not getting the kick from working that I used to. And I can't use as an excuse that I still need to work for money. Sure I could find things to spend more money on. But it honestly wouldn't make much difference in how we live. So I believe the time is right for me to do this.

I've bought several books including Clyatt's and Zelinski's, but haven't read them carefully or lately. I'll reread them. Regarding outside interests, I do have a wide range of things that I think I'm interested in. It'll be interesting to see how interested I really am once I have time to pursue them (I think it's hilarious how Philip Greenspun in his discussion about early retirement describes how it is easy to imagine all the things we'd be doing if we only didn't have to work so hard, but given the time, how will we really use it). My worry relates more to feeling that I should be doing "important" things.

I do want to be careful about committing to too many things early on. I could see myself agreeing to do a lot of stuff, small business, volunteer, community, etc. and suddenly realizing that my time is still limited and I am not spending the time with my family that I want to.

I am taking actions now to prepare the way for when I retire next year. But to a large extent this is a leap of faith that other doors will open that I can't really see right now.
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Old 12-13-2009, 11:43 AM   #11
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My worry relates more to feeling that I should be doing "important" things.
Yeah - that's one that you need to examine very carefully.....

Don't let preconceived notions of "important" and "should" undermine the happiness and deep satisfaction that is possible in retirement living.

Audrey
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Old 12-13-2009, 10:02 PM   #12
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When we lived in a suburb of Seattle, there were several early-retired Microsofties who helped out at our grade and middle schools in many ways. I think they were getting a kick out of being a co-parent instead of just a breadwinner. Consider the possibilities.

I envy your opportunity. I wish I could have seen more of my kids and less of the inside of an airplane in those years.
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Old 12-13-2009, 10:52 PM   #13
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I do want to be careful about committing to too many things early on. I could see myself agreeing to do a lot of stuff, small business, volunteer, community, etc. and suddenly realizing that my time is still limited and I am not spending the time with my family that I want to.
Good idea! It is easy to feel like you should be doing a lot of things in retirement, and your time could fill up with commitments very quickly at the beginning of retirement unless you are careful. There will always be time for these activities later on in retirement if you feel too much time weighing on you.
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Old 12-14-2009, 01:14 AM   #14
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This is an important issue and one of several that I have been grappling with as I count down towards retirement in 2012. While I have managed to convince myself that I will have plenty to do once I retire, I still worry that I may start drifting once I start having to structure my own day. While I am sure that my wife would be very willing to add some structure to my life, I am equally sure that I would prefer that she didn't.

I'm planning on addressing the issue by:

1. the last two years in the work force will be transitory in that I will either do the same job on a part time basis or step down to a less intensive position

2. I have a bucket list - actually a very long list - of things to do once I retire. I seriously doubt if I will ever do everything on the list

The loss of the prestige of sitting in a corner office, having a team of people report to me, a fancy title and clients who actually pay me for what I do does not bother me at all. I prefer to think of successfully putting myself in a position of financial independence as being more presitigous than having to continue working.

I like the idea of periodically reinventing myself.
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Old 12-14-2009, 09:57 AM   #15
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This is a very interesting thread of discussion as I am also thinking of early retirement next year (will be 50 next year) and the big question is am I prepared for what I am retiring to? But first of all, we do have influence on what we are retiring to and we have the time now to plan and define that (of course, the plans may change but we can set some direction to them). Traineeinvestor raised a good point in having a bucket list of things to do before retiring. I never thought of that and that list is indeed a good list to think about and it will be fun acting on it. Makes the transitioning very interesting too. Thank you Xman for raising this tread of discussion and thanks to all who contributed.
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Old 12-14-2009, 11:21 AM   #16
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..............My worry relates more to feeling that I should be doing "important" things............................
I retired at 54, though with no kids at home. For me, the biggest hurdle (and accomplishment) was giving myself permission to do anything that I wanted and to quit thinking about what other people thought I "should" be doing. Sometimes I do more volunteer work, sometimes none at all. I take up all the slack in running the household, but all at a pace that I enjoy.

You may well find that something entirely different makes you happy, but I encourage you to give yourself permission to make that choice.
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Old 12-14-2009, 12:03 PM   #17
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I think that for a lot of people the line gets blurred between "what they DO and who they ARE."

Before I retired (from a job that had me traveling all over the world), I remember talking with a friend who had recently retired from the same job at another MegaCorp. He admitted that he was stunned at how quickly he lost "power" after he announced his planned retirement, and how many phone calls he got asking for details about his newly appointed successor..it was as if he no longer existed. We talked about confusing our identities with the jobs we did, and he admitted that he really didn't have much of a life outside of the job -- and that he was afraid that he would lose his identity, his sense of purpose after he retired. I actually worried about the guy.

Fast forward about four years. I ran into my friend at a local hospital where he volunteers several days a week. I asked him how that identity crisis thing worked out and he said that he now viewed his former corporate career as just one facet of his past, like his college years and his military service, and that, while he enjoyed spending a bit of time to reminisce about it, there were far more important things for him to do now and in the future.

I agree.
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Old 12-14-2009, 12:41 PM   #18
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In fact, it seems like that even during retirement we are reinventing our life about every 5 years!
My whole workiing life has been a series of 5-7 year chapters. Too consistent to be coincidence, but pretty subconscious since it "seems" that things just fall into my lap at about that interval.

I have changed jobs, places, and circles of friends (due to the other changes) at that pace for decades. Nice thing is that my close friendships have been preserved (with effort) in large part. DW seems to have the same defect, and happily re-entrenches herself.

Nice to hear that some continue those cycles well into retirement (which is 107 days away, in case you wondered).
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Old 12-14-2009, 01:07 PM   #19
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My whole workiing life has been a series of 5-7 year chapters. Too consistent to be coincidence, but pretty subconscious since it "seems" that things just fall into my lap at about that interval.

I have changed jobs, places, and circles of friends (due to the other changes) at that pace for decades. Nice thing is that my close friendships have been preserved (with effort) in large part. DW seems to have the same defect, and happily re-entrenches herself.

Nice to hear that some continue those cycles well into retirement (which is 107 days away, in case you wondered).
Yeah - at the first 5 years retired mark, I felt pretty dumb. I thought - "Gosh, I can't believe it took us 4.5 to 5 years to figure out what we really wanted to do in retirement!".

Now this time, at the 10 year mark, I think I spot a pattern! And you're right Rich, it seems so subconscious that it does just fall into one's lap. But the 5 year fulltiming stint out of 10 years retired kind of hit us over the head with the timing of it all, and so now I realize (maybe) what's going on! So the first 5 years was just Phase 1!

Makes sense!

Audrey
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Old 12-14-2009, 02:07 PM   #20
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Sooo - after 16 years of ER, age 50 to 66, maybe I should do something silly and frivolous - like go back to to to ---WORK!!

Er hmmm - perhaps not, maybe, perish the thought.

It wouldn't be the same if I really liked it. Right?

I think this cold and snow is affecting my brain. I'd better grab my passport and credit card - do a quick Club Med or something.



heh heh heh - or get back in shape and take up snow sking where I left off in 1974. .
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