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Retirement at 43: The first six months
Old 08-07-2016, 10:13 AM   #1
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Retirement at 43: The first six months

Hi there everybody , just completed my first six months of retirement after leaving my job as a software engineer Jan. 31 at the age of 43.

In my last year at my employer, a large tech firm, I joined an experimental work initiative that allowed employees to stay salaried but work on a freelance basis, choosing their projects, number of hours, and schedule as desired. I went to half-time with this new group working a three-month-on, three-month-off schedule. I was able to get away from the dysfunctional projects I was on previously and pursue open-source Web development, something I had always enjoyed but never had the chance to pursue at work.

I used the two three-month stints off in my last year to travel to Europe and Asia. My half-time position was a thousand times better than any job I had ever had, but I found it extremely difficult to return to work after each three-month stretch of freedom knowing I was FI and did not have to be there.

When I gave my notice after one year, only a few close friends and family knew of my retirement plans. The official story for everyone else was that I was taking a year off to travel and explore a career change. Most people were very supportive, but there was definitely also some awkwardness and envy. I got a few comments like "Six months a year off isn't enough for you?" A natural reaction I suppose given that they didn't know I was retiring.

I've always been a goal-driven person and I used my first six months after retirement to achieve some travel and Spanish learning goals. In March and April I went to Mexico, first studying Spanish intensively at a school in Guanajuato for four weeks and then exploring Mexico's beautiful central colonial cities for three weeks.

In June and July I visited Colombia and Ecuador, both amazing countries. After five weeks, though, I found the pace of constant travel tiring. Also, I felt surprisingly lonely, despite staying in mostly hostels and Airbnbs with families and taking frequent day tours to meet fellow travelers. As an introvert, I also found it exhausting to converse with so many new people every day.

Based on that experience, I've decided to combine longer trips with some kind of family homestay and language study element. It allows me to have a more meaningful connection to the culture and also helps meet my social needs as a solo traveler.

While at home, I keep busy pursuing Spanish studies with grammar books and online tutoring over Skype with iTalki. I watch lots of Spanish language content on Netflix and am active in a number of language-related, international, and atheist and skeptic Meetups.

It's been interesting to see how I've changed in the last six months. I feel happier and less stressed, which has helped me be more patient and kind in my relationships and daily interactions. I find myself going out of the way to do small thoughtful things for people I never had time or energy for when I was working.

Another change I've noted is that it's become much harder to make myself do things I don't really feel like doing. When I was working, the discipline of getting things done at work regardless of personal feeling carried over into my personal life, and my calendar was frequently filled with social and volunteer events I attended out of a sense of obligation. Now, I tend to turn down anything that doesn't sound appealing.

I also started a personal blog to document my travels, but it is rapidly falling into the ever-growing pile of Things I Don't Feel Like Doing (see above).

I have lots more travel planned for 2016 and 2017, including Alaska this month, Spain in October and November to do language study in Madrid and then travel around Andalucia, a return trip to Guanajuato and central Mexico in the spring for more language study, and shorter trips to visit family in Florida and Texas.

I've calculated that in 2016 I'll have been away from home 142 days, and in 2017 at least 120. It will take a few years to work my way through my lengthy travel bucket list, but once that happens I plan to explore other activities like longer-term volunteer commitments, taking an art class, joining a choir, etc.

Thanks for listening and for all your support.
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Old 08-07-2016, 02:40 PM   #2
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Being able to go approximately 20 years without SS is pretty awesome.

It is interesting to hear of your adventures, do you worry you will lose your IT skills ?
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Old 08-07-2016, 03:09 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunset View Post
do you worry you will lose your IT skills ?
Hi Sunset, great point. This was one of my big concerns and why I didn't quit until Firecalc was giving me a 100% chance of success.

If I needed to I guess I could bone up on open-source Web development again as it was the aspect of my work I enjoyed most.
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Old 09-01-2016, 10:40 AM   #4
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Great to hear your story. I am 42 and thinking about pulling the plug soon....
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Old 09-01-2016, 02:07 PM   #5
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Would be interested to hear how you budget for your many travels...
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Old 09-01-2016, 02:28 PM   #6
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I am currently 51 but retired ~5 years ago at age 47.

One of the best decisions I ever made.

-gauss
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Old 09-01-2016, 02:35 PM   #7
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Glad to hear things are going well for you. That's a very early retirement, well below average (or above average, I guess), even for this group.

I liked this part:

Quote:
Originally Posted by inky View Post
It's been interesting to see how I've changed in the last six months. I feel happier and less stressed, which has helped me be more patient and kind in my relationships and daily interactions. I find myself going out of the way to do small thoughtful things for people I never had time or energy for when I was working.
One of the best benefits of retirement, I think. It makes you a happier, nicer person.

I liked this, too:

Quote:
Another change I've noted is that it's become much harder to make myself do things I don't really feel like doing. When I was working, the discipline of getting things done at work regardless of personal feeling carried over into my personal life, and my calendar was frequently filled with social and volunteer events I attended out of a sense of obligation. Now, I tend to turn down anything that doesn't sound appealing.
That's part of the transition to retirement, I imagine/hope. Getting out of the obligation mindset and into the mindset of "I don't have to do anything I don't want to" (although I'm sure there are still some exceptions, like going to the doctor). I look forward to that freedom.
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Old 09-01-2016, 04:03 PM   #8
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inky, I just saw your initial post where you mentioned your language studies. I also studied Spanish in Mexico, plus a previous time in Costa Rica, both with homestays. Do as much as you can now, because I've found that it definitely has gotten harder to retain new vocabulary as my brain has aged.

I wanted to mention a free website which is great for finding partners to do language exchanges on Skype. It's sponsored by a university in Pennsylvania:

The Mixxer - a free educational website for language exchanges via Skype | The Mixxer

If you create a profile for yourself, you'll quickly get quite a few responses from Spanish speakers who would like to do an exchange on Skype with a native English speaker. You can also search yourself for prospective partners. I've Skyped with people from at least half a dozen different Spanish-speaking countries. Eventually I found a great partner from Costa Rica. Once a week, we speak for 2 hours on Skype, doing an hour in Spanish and an hour in English. We correct each other, ask language questions to each other, and talk about whatever interests us. I think it has surprised both of us how well we've connected despite a big age difference. We've been Skyping for more than a year and always find things to talk about.

I could really feel the difference my weekly language sessions have made while I was in Mexico this past winter. I was much more comfortable conversing with folks than on a trip the previous year. A non-Spanish-speaking friend I traveled with on both trips noticed the difference, too. BTW, we were in Guanajuato this winter (my 2nd visit there). It's a great town. I highly recommend a visit to Oaxaca, if you haven't been there yet. Based on some of the things you wrote, I suspect you would love it.
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Old 09-01-2016, 04:44 PM   #9
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Inky, I have only respect and admiration for anyone who could retire at a younger age than I did (45). Congrats!
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Old 09-01-2016, 05:01 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hawkssss View Post
Great to hear your story. I am 42 and thinking about pulling the plug soon....
So glad it was helpful to you. Keep us posted on your progress.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SecondCor521 View Post
Would be interested to hear how you budget for your many travels...
Hi SecondCor521, I have $10K budgeted annually for travel, but for the first year I increased it to $20K so I could do more trips. So far it looks like I will only spend about $15K, though, so I will roll the remainder into next year's budget.

I keep a spreadsheet for each trip to tally my expenses so I can calculate the total and the cost per day at the end of each trip. I use Uber and Airbnb whenever possible to put the charges on my credit card to garner more rewards and miles.

I had a lot of airline miles accumulated from business travel and from rewards credit cards that I've been using for my flights. It was very difficult to find a decent flight using miles for my trip to Spain, but I found a cheap fare using a fare alert on Skyscanner. With the strength of the dollar right now, I found travel in Mexico and Colombia to be a real bargain. I generally budget about $25 a night for a private room in an Airbnb or a budget hotel.

Spain will definitely be more expensive but even there I was able to find private rooms or even whole apartments on Airbnb for $25-40 a night. My Spanish school in Madrid is in the most expensive neighborhood of the city, but I was able to find an Airbnb nearby for only $24 a night after the discount for a multi-week stay.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ER Eddie View Post
That's part of the transition to retirement, I imagine/hope. Getting out of the obligation mindset and into the mindset of "I don't have to do anything I don't want to" (although I'm sure there are still some exceptions, like going to the doctor). I look forward to that freedom.
Hey Eddie, it is pretty awesome. It's funny how quick the change happens too. Soon after retiring I served as a volunteer for a coding camp, a position that I had signed up for many months prior. When the time came, I really didn't feel like going through with it but felt obligated. During the camp, I became so annoyed with the way the volunteer coordinator wasted the volunteers' time that I vowed to be more careful in future about what I signed up for.

Since retiring it feels in some ways like I'm living a very self-gratifying lifestyle, and I'd like to give back to the world in some way. I just need to find that volunteer role that is the perfect fit and that doesn't leave me feeling exhausted and resentful.

Quote:
Originally Posted by anethum View Post
I also studied Spanish in Mexico, plus a previous time in Costa Rica, both with homestays. Do as much as you can now, because I've found that it definitely has gotten harder to retain new vocabulary as my brain has aged.
Hi anethum, you are so right. I can tell it's even much harder now in my 40s than in my teens and 20s.

Quote:
Originally Posted by anethum View Post
I wanted to mention a free website which is great for finding partners to do language exchanges on Skype. It's sponsored by a university in Pennsylvania:

The Mixxer - a free educational website for language exchanges via Skype | The Mixxer
Thank you so much; I will check it out! I'm currently doing conversation with paid tutors on iTalki but would like to try exchanges. In a way, this would give me the opportunity I'm looking for to volunteer and give back since so many people want to practice their English.

Quote:
Originally Posted by anethum View Post
I highly recommend a visit to Oaxaca, if you haven't been there yet. Based on some of the things you wrote, I suspect you would love it.
I have been to Oaxaca and loved it. So many great places in Mexico. I enjoyed Guanajuato so much I have considered moving there for part of the year. While there, I met three other early retirees in their 40s living in the area. It was so interesting to see how they filled their time. One spent his days drinking beer and day trading, while the other two (both females) were very active with language learning and social and volunteer events.

Quote:
Originally Posted by scrabbler1 View Post
Inky, I have only respect and admiration for anyone who could retire at a younger age than I did (45). Congrats!
Thank you, scrabbler! I've always enjoyed reading your posts.
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