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Staying Happy during the Long Slog to ER
Old 05-13-2013, 08:34 PM   #1
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Staying Happy during the Long Slog to ER

Hi All,


I enjoy learning from the already retired folks here, but I'm also curious to hear from those like me who are 10+ years our from ER. (In my case, it might be as much as 15 years....)

So here is a question: for those of us who are a long way off from retirement, how do you keep yourself happy/balanced/sane during the long slog? When you really value your freedom but it's not funded yet, how do you hang in there?

Here are a few things that work for me and DH:

1) this year we've been taking one 4 day weekend per month, instead of regular vacations. It took some adjustment but has turned out to be a good stress reliever to always have something "on the books" to look forward to.

2) I'm self employed, and so I've been getting more efficient with my time so I can take the occasional afternoon to work on side projects/hobbies. On these days I can pretend I am semi-retired.

3) We've started using "fitbit" pedometers to track our activity levels, and myfitnesspal to track food, to make sure we are still healthy when we ER.

4) I've started dropping all the stuff I used to do because I felt I "should." Committee meetings, etc. I say "no" more often and with less guilt.

Plus we plan and invest and talk about our future.

How about the rest of you?

SIS
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Old 05-14-2013, 02:32 AM   #2
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I like to study happiness science and literature, like Gretchen Rubin. Lots of useful ideas there.
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Old 05-14-2013, 04:58 AM   #3
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My wife and I are 8 to 16 years from retirement (AKA sometime between when I turn 55 and 63). My wife and I met 4 years ago and have been married for the past 1 Ĺ years. During that time we have done a lot of negotiating what our lifestyle should be, with her gradually coming to appreciate the need to transition from a spend-everything lifestyle to a simpler, do-a-lot-of-saving lifestyle. It hasnít been easy for her. I do a lot of reading, web-surfing, and enjoy taking low or no-cost college classes. My favorite subjects have to do with history, science, finance/economics, and various aspects of psychology. For ten years, I did a lot of volunteering, but after a while it began to feel too much like work, so I let that lapse a couple years before meeting my wife. She enjoys playing video games, web-surfing, and reading, typically fantasy.

One year ago, we both began going to the gym in an effort to stay healthy as we get older. After getting home and having dinner together, we watch a movie on Netflix 4 to 5 nights a week. Living in the middle of downtown, during the weekends we go for long walks to the edge of the different suburbs and back. We have a quiet social life, going to visit with friends or family 1 to 2 times a week, typically on weekends. We have both recently built our own computers, component by component. We have been accumulating credit card points toward hotels stays, and after our budget settles down from replacing our 12-year-old car last month, we hope to begin taking small vacations, possibly next year. I do a lot of planning for retirement, and my wife has caught some of my enthusiasm. Itís something we both are eagerly anticipating, and we enjoy talking out the different possibilities that we could create for ourselves.
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Old 05-14-2013, 07:40 AM   #4
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I'm lucky if I'm 21 years out from retirement and can make the jump at 40, so waiting is unbelievably difficult.

I'm not eating incredibly healthy yet, I've decided to take full advantage of my teenage metabolism while I can and fill myself up on the stuff I won't be able to shovel down so guiltlessly in a couple years.

Boyfriend and I take a trip out of the city at least once a month. We're also self-employed, so we make sure to have time for our side projects too. He's finished his first novel and I've taken to art and woodcraft.

We've made saving into something really fun, and we also watch a LOT of shows and movies. As long as Doctor Who isn't cancelled by the time I retire, the journey will be that much easier

We joined up on Saveup.com, which is a fun little savings website that gives away small cash prizes regularly to encourage saving. They also give little savings challenges, $100 this week or $200 that week. It encourages us to try and spend a couple hundred less each month, which can be hard when we already only spend a couple hundred outside of rent and utilities.
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Old 05-14-2013, 07:44 AM   #5
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I'm not eating incredibly healthy yet, I've decided to take full advantage of my teenage metabolism while I can and fill myself up on the stuff I won't be able to shovel down so guiltlessly in a couple years.
It's not as simple as that. Firstly, damage accumulates, and secondly, reversing habits is harder the longer you've had them. So if you intend to make healthy eating a central part of your lifestyle, do it now. (It's also cheaper than unhealthy eating, if done right.)
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Old 05-14-2013, 07:47 AM   #6
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When you have another 10+ years (we are right around there too), you do have to remember to enjoy life now as well as save enough for later. It helps us that we know we value our vices and our savings plan so both get some of our money in accordance with our priorities.

Since both our vices and our savings make us happy, we live a pretty good life. We do try to keep the balance between the two and recognize that plans are useless but planning is indispensable, aka we tend not to take it to badly when things change, good or bad.
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Old 05-14-2013, 07:48 AM   #7
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It's not as simple as that. Firstly, damage accumulates, and secondly, reversing habits is harder the longer you've had them. So if you intend to make healthy eating a central part of your lifestyle, do it now. (It's also cheaper than unhealthy eating, if done right.)
Agreed, but you can have the once-a-week "cheat" meal without harboring any guilt. Like the once a month 4-day weekend mentioned by the OP, a "cheat" meal once a week gives you something to look forward to after being so good.
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Old 05-14-2013, 07:59 AM   #8
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Agreed, but you can have the once-a-week "cheat" meal without harboring any guilt. Like the once a month 4-day weekend mentioned by the OP, a "cheat" meal once a week gives you something to look forward to after being so good.
I was working at the PGA Tour this weekend with a personal trainer whose diet involves being very strict with her meals and meal times, 5 times a day, all week, with one hour a week where she can eat as much as she wants of whatever she wants. I thought that sounded good, but her diet was so regimented, she couldn't even have any of the fruit smoothies we were making for people who came by.

Food is one of my favorite things in life. I'm going to have a hard time seeing it worth living for 50 years without being able to eat what I want! I never eat a lot, but I always love having a little of whatever I want.
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Old 05-14-2013, 09:10 AM   #9
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I just lived my life. But I find that the closer I get to FIRE (my version, anyway), the harder it is to endure the encroachment of w*rk on my time...
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Old 05-14-2013, 10:01 AM   #10
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Great question...wish I had an answer. I am 11-13 years, and spend way too much time thinking about where I want to be, financially, than I really should. Checking the 401K and Roth balances daily is a bit of an obsession...maybe not a healthy one. Maybe if I worked harder, I would an additional promotion or 2 and get to the end of the race faster...there is a thought!

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Old 05-14-2013, 10:36 AM   #11
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Maybe if I worked harder, I would an additional promotion or 2 and get to the end of the race faster...there is a thought!

Setting tons of goals along the way definitely helps too. I like my beginning of the year checklist of how much I want to have in my ROTH and various savings accounts. Lots and lots of milestones makes me feel like I'm getting there quicker, and gives me something to hang onto in the meantime. It turns retirement from something abstract and far off into something I'm preparing right now.
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Old 05-14-2013, 11:15 AM   #12
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Lots of good ideas here. I worked at an all consuming career which involved working most weekends, often away from home. One strategy that worked for me was to take regular breaks 4-5 times a year. I forced myself to do that by purchasing a fractional ownership in a resort property. Every twelve weeks, I owned a week there, and I made sure to use it unless there was a really good reason, like a family wedding. I would return rejuvenated and refreshed, and the next break was only 3 months away. Of course this will only work if you have a lot of control over your schedule.
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Old 05-14-2013, 01:53 PM   #13
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When you have another 10+ years (we are right around there too), you do have to remember to enjoy life now as well as save enough for later. It helps us that we know we value our vices and our savings plan so both get some of our money in accordance with our priorities.
I think the having vices "now" part is so important. Sometimes I am tempted to push our savings rate up even higher, but then we'd be delaying all gratification for a future that isn't guaranteed.

Besides, if we don't allow ourselves some fun/play today, by the time we ER we may have forgotten how.

SIS
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Old 05-14-2013, 02:03 PM   #14
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Agreed, but you can have the once-a-week "cheat" meal without harboring any guilt. Like the once a month 4-day weekend mentioned by the OP, a "cheat" meal once a week gives you something to look forward to after being so good.
I didn't say that health eating was part of my plan.

Although in fact we do OK. We eat out twice a week max, and our BMIs are 25 (me) and 29 (DW, but she gets way more exercise than me).
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Old 05-14-2013, 02:26 PM   #15
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I didn't say that health eating was part of my plan.

Although in fact we do OK. We eat out twice a week max, and our BMIs are 25 (me) and 29 (DW, but she gets way more exercise than me).
I'm the same way. Healthy eating isn't necessarily something I want to do, beyond the point of just feeling happy and comfortable with myself.

Luckily I come from some pretty great genes. My mother is in her 30s with a good metabolism, with diet and exercise, and my dad is around 40 and his metabolism hasn't slowed yet.

We're a family of great bodies even though we all chose jobs sitting behind a desk, with video games as our leisure My older brother is following their pattern, so hopefully I'm not a freak accident and I get pretty lucky too.
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Old 05-14-2013, 02:41 PM   #16
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I FIREd last year, but throughout my life, I've pursued various interests. Two of them are travel and bicycle touring. I often asked for some leave without pay to supplement my accrued leave. Most of the time, my request was granted. The upshot is that by the time I FIREd last year, I had already traveled extensively throughout the world. Since my travel wasn't luxurious, the enjoyment I got from it more than offset the cost and the decrease in earnings from the leave without pay. Planning and looking forward to these trips helped keep me going the rest of the time when I was in the real world.
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Old 05-14-2013, 10:35 PM   #17
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It is going to be 10 years before my little one goes to college. And that is the date I will be free. In the mean time, I am enjoying helping them set a good foothold for life.
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Old 05-15-2013, 12:29 PM   #18
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We are 10-15 years away but I can say I don't think about fulfilling my waiting time. I have a very active healthy life as is. yes work gets in the way at times, but I don't view it as a burden right now.

I volunteer for several non-profit organizations. We go on vacation every month (either a weekend away or longer). I have lots of weekend hobbies that I enjoy (mountain biking, backcountry skiing, hiking). I do agility with my dog. I take Spanish lessons (to brush up on that minor in college).

I think I'm too busy to worry about how to spend my time!
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Old 05-15-2013, 02:23 PM   #19
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I'm the same way. Healthy eating isn't necessarily something I want to do, beyond the point of just feeling happy and comfortable with myself.

Luckily I come from some pretty great genes. My mother is in her 30s with a good metabolism, with diet and exercise, and my dad is around 40 and his metabolism hasn't slowed yet.

We're a family of great bodies even though we all chose jobs sitting behind a desk, with video games as our leisure My older brother is following their pattern, so hopefully I'm not a freak accident and I get pretty lucky too.
Careful, you don't want to be a skinny fat person. Just because your metabolism is high dosen't mean that you are not at risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and other diseases, if all you eat is Big Macs. Eating healthy and exercising is so much more important to your overall health than just staying skinny.
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Old 05-15-2013, 02:25 PM   #20
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I just watched this video which made me think of this post.

"This is water."
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