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(Early) Retirement is not just about the money
Old 12-19-2013, 10:18 AM   #1
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(Early) Retirement is not just about the money

Though most everyone knows better, there are a lot of threads here that seemingly reduce 'can I retire?' to a purely financial decision, for various reasons. Fortunately the recurring 'what will I do all day?' threads, though less frequent, serve as counterpoint. While reading about managing retirement income, I came across this brief passage that struck me as a more complete yet concise summary:
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Retirement income planning is also not just about the money. Until a client defines retirement holistically, it is difficult to determine their total spending needs. Success or happiness in retirement for today’s retirees requires integration of three major life areas: wealth, engagement, and health.
  • Wealth (the geo-financial sphere) means not only the sufficiency of the savings accumulated but also the cost of living, access to healthcare, activities, etc. in the area of the country where the retiree lives.
  • Engagement (the psycho-social sphere) includes participation in activities that increase a personal sense of engagement and fulfillment. Such activities could include spending time with family and friends, providing volunteer labor for a favorite charity or nonprofit organization, or working part-time for the social benefits of work.
  • Health (the bio-medical sphere) includes an awareness of inherited biological characteristics and managing health and long-term care risks during retirement.
Sometimes the non-financials fall into place with ease, sometimes not. Maybe all three are worthy of serious consideration for everyone before pulling the retirement trigger, and worth a brief mention - 'what are you retiring to, are you ready for a month/decades of Saturdays?' FWIW
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Old 12-19-2013, 10:41 AM   #2
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The second bullet is what I have yet to figure out and worries me a bit. I have done nothing but work, reach for the brass ring, and chase kids for the last 20 years and had everything else squashed into the limited time left. I don't really know who I will ebcome when freed from the cube, let alone how to get engaged. I am feeling some anxiety about the final departure and a lot of it is centered around this.
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Old 12-19-2013, 11:27 AM   #3
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Sometimes the non-financials fall into place with ease, sometimes not. Maybe all three are worthy of serious consideration for everyone before pulling the retirement trigger, and worth a brief mention - 'what are you retiring to, are you ready for a month/decades of Saturdays?' FWIW


Interesting combination and it stands to reason that the financial, social, and medical spheres are important aspects that deserve thought and planning. Of course that being said, the financial has received the bulk of my planning efforts, and we are on track for a 95-100% success rate in 2014, and will likely FIRE mid 2014 or early 2015.

Medical can clearly have a strong impact, but it can be difficult to plan for - we are all a diagnosis away from an entirely reactionary response, and the intertwined financial implications, not to mention the possibility of a nearer than anticipated end-of-plan horizon.

Socially, we have purposefully developed relationships with people outside of our work lives over the last few years, so that we will have a network of friends by choice that continues, so as to avoid the likely collapse of relationships based on work connections. I have also planned financially for spending based equal to the last three years, which with elimination of work related expenses should easily allow us to continue activities with our friends and family.

As for the "what to do all day" I've been experimenting while recuperating from a minor surgery that has kept me off work for a few weeks - and although that is barely sufficient time to begin the decompression stage, I find it very, very much to my liking. Starting to get around well enough to do some minor tasks around the house, and accomplishing the stuff that time just didn't allow for with "work" and the associated prep routine and travel time taking 12+ hours out of each day. I really do love the reduction in stress, and find myself wanting to FIRE sooner, rather than later. Should we decide to wait until 2015, I may opt to reward DW and myself with a rather lavish (for us) extended vacation once we have severed the ties with work.
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Old 12-19-2013, 11:44 AM   #4
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During the months leading up to retirement, I was a little concerned about the non-financial adjustments to retirement too. I didn't actually feel I was "retiring TO" anything at all. I didn't have any grand plans. And then my co-workers kept saying that I would be tremendously bored in retirement, and that didn't help.

Luckily I somehow sailed through it with no problem. My thoughts on this, though, are as follows.

(1) If you are the type of potential retiree who enjoys having unstructured leisure time during your weekends, you will probably have no problem adjusting to retirement (IMO).

(2) If you are the type of potential retiree who is constantly thinking about work on the weekends, voluntarily checking your work email, voluntarily doing various little work tasks during your time off, and relieved on Sunday afternoons because you will be getting back to work in the morning, maybe you are not ready to retire. I think many of us want to do something significant with our lives, so are you done with that effort yet and ready to leave it to the next generation? That's worth some thought as well.

Also, it really helps if you have a lot of initiative and are completely capable of entertaining yourself. Don't plan to follow behind your spouse all day, expecting him/her to keep you entertained and happy.

I would suggest that one shouldn't feel it is necessary to substitute another job (such as "volunteer" work, or part time work) for your present job - - IMO that is a way of evading the challenge of creating a successful retirement for yourself. But then I could be wrong, often am. This isn't to say that volunteering or part time work is bad; it's not. I simply mean that it shouldn't be used as a crutch to avoid having to learn how to entertain yourself.

As for health, well, getting old happens whether you are working or not. However, if you are not working you have more time to devote to exercise and improving your nutrition. If you do that, your health is bound to improve IMO.
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A fourth bullet point
Old 12-19-2013, 11:47 AM   #5
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A fourth bullet point

May I add a fourth bullet point? There needs to be a mental/spiritual/philosophical preparation as well. Unless I am at peace in my relatinships, unless I have a purpose for getting out of bed in the morning, unless I know what contentment means, unless I have settled my lefe and death issues... I may be financially secure, yet psychologically a mess. Retirement cannot be all about money. Unless you'v egot your head and heart where they should be, you will be miserable.
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Old 12-19-2013, 11:48 AM   #6
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Second bullet is my issue. After a year and a half of full I've done pretty much all the house improvements. Enjoy the time to do outdoor exercise but do find days when I miss the engagement with others. It's an issue I had to face sometime, ER or wait until 70 so I don't see it as an ER issue. Looking very forward to a good bit of travel once some elder care issues resolve. Am reprising my woodworking in large part thanks to an opportunity to up fit the shop with some good deals on some tools through a friends employee discount at a woodworking store. Have tried some volunteer stuff but it just doesn't seem to fit me well although I need to try some different things.

All that said, there is absolutely no way I have any desire to return to the workplace, full time or otherwise. When I think back on what I put up with at times it makes me shake my head. Having no demands on my time or stress on my personality is priceless.
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Old 12-19-2013, 12:20 PM   #7
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Haven't ER'd yet but I don't believe I will have any issue with 2nd bullet. For now, I have a full list of steady and one time activities I have been waiting to do at ER. They included domestic & international travels (hope to one at least every other month). My problem will be how to organize them in our daily routine. I don't want to go at them in helter skelter manner.
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Old 12-19-2013, 12:48 PM   #8
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I thought about getting a job again for awhile to be around other programmer types. Then I actually had a dream where I was working for my old boss again, and getting dinged on a performance review for not checking my email over the weekend and acting on an email sent to me on a Saturday to go to the airport on Monday morning and catch an early flight for an assignment out of the country.

Nothing that extreme actually ever happened in real life, but I think my subconscious was providing a gentle reminder of why I quit the corporate world - unreasonable expectations, unwanted travel, and time, even weekends, not really my own.

Oh, yeah, and in my dream I realized at the end I was FI and quit.

Unfortunately, my subconscious did not provide an alternate solution for the mental stimulation and socialization provided by having a regular job. However, it appears that going back to what I used to do has been ruled out.
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Old 12-19-2013, 12:56 PM   #9
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Good subject, and excellent replies... Food for thought!.
I can see myself going through each one of concerns, like "been there- done that".
I suppose the only thing I can add is that I'm beginning to learn that it's best to be myself, and not to compare with others, or to fit into what is generally accepted as being important in the later years. While I admit to a bit of envy when I see others my age touring China or Hiking in the Alps, or maybe heading a large institution or active in government... these retirement activities are not mine. I cannot afford monetarily, mentally, or healthwise to dedicate the remaining 5 or 10 years to any of these lifestyles.
So... it's a matter of having the freedom to do whatever is interesting at the moment, and if that happens to be a nap, or bicycle ride... there is no commitment to get in the way.
Social yes of course... this morning went to a pot luck in the mall, with all of the members of our TaiChi Class. In Florida, pretty much all day in some kind of social interaction, but constantly moving, switching, new hobbies to explore... half way into my coin collection, or birding, biking, car repair, off the wall electronics, reading, politics, target shooting, canoeing, sailing, limnology, WWII History, astronomy, biology for fun and profit, senior law, librivox books, casette tape and LP collection, music... Uke, Guitar, Keyboard... and a few dozen other half-way hobbies... a jack of all trades, master of none, but much fun along the way.

But now>>> "as the days dwindle down to a precious few" ... I don't dwell on any of this. If it's a day of being a loner, so be it. For the monetary well being, have pushed all assets into the safest harbors, and deal with money as just another hobby... to spend a few minutes every few weeks, to see if anything has changed.

Health?... Physically pretty good. Mental health (memory) is sliding...short term memory becoming a problem, so having to adapt as best able. Afraid of taking an IQ test, as the new/old numbers will be depressing.

For the things we've missed?... The internet allows us to live vicariously in all of the worlds we never experienced in person.

Retirement is wonderful!
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Old 12-19-2013, 07:44 PM   #10
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Medical can clearly have a strong impact, but it can be difficult to plan for - we are all a diagnosis away from an entirely reactionary response, and the intertwined financial implications, not to mention the possibility of a nearer than anticipated end-of-plan horizon.
True, but I think you've narrowed the meaning of the "management of health" bullet, as it was described in the quote from the OPs post. In my view, it is possible to manage your health to a large degree, but only if you have the time and motivation to do it. Before I retired, I was slowly getting out of shape and overweight, not eating quite as well as I should - partly because I was focused on my career mainly, and not on my health. Upon retirement, that all changed. Now I view maintaining my health and fitness as my #1 job, and I work hard at it. Without good health over the next couple decades, there is no way I will be able to do half of the things I want to do. Sure, any of us could l get hit by a serious ailment at any time that changes everything, but I really think that we can all do a lot to reduce the risk for certain serious problems (heart disease, for example) if we take charge of our health. Yes, it takes time and effort, but there is no point in retiring early if poor health keeps you from doing the things you want to do in life.
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Old 12-19-2013, 09:09 PM   #11
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My biggest concern was always no 2. I used to work 60 hrs a week with few outside interests. After cutting back work to 1-2 days a week, I've increased hobbies to the point where I have no problem finding something fun to do. If no 1 becomes a problem after I retire, I'll get a part time job. There's not much I can do if no 3 becomes a problem.
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Daily SHow disses ER
Old 12-20-2013, 07:53 AM   #12
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Daily SHow disses ER

John Stewart had a very funny piece on Wednesday about John Beale, the corrupt EPA official who spent 7 years sitting at home on full pay while pretending to do secret undercover work for the CIA. Stewart gives him a witty shot for being a huge bore -- creative enough to pull the scheme off but then he sits at home reading and riding his bicycle! Wait a darn secong -- that is precisely why I ER'd.
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Old 12-20-2013, 08:04 AM   #13
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Only been ER'ed for 7 months and I'm just starting to feel like I have decompressed from the MegaCorp life. Like other ER people I did plenty of (over) planning for the financial side of things. I still run all my retirement tools (MS LTP, FireCalc and Fidelity RIP) almost weekly trying to find potential holes in my ER plan. I blame my engineering background for this obsession to try to poke holes into my ER plan. I hope this will end at some point ......

On the health side of ER I did go to the doctor for the first time in 18 years for a full physical before I left the MegaCorp. I do have heart issue in the family so I thought that the daily fatigue I was going thru was related to my heart. They put me thru all of the tests found nothing to explain the fatigue I was feeling. So it came down to the physiological effects of the stress I was feeling on the job. After I made the difficult decision to leave a high paying job I felt better right away. I have to admit (as a man) I felt kind of "wimpy" leaving a good job just based on stress with no physical issues, but I keep telling myself that the stress would have eventually results in a physical issue and shorter life.

As far as planning for "what I would do" in retirement I spend little to no time planning this out. I guess I assumed it would just fall into place and this is not the case, at lest for me. Hindsight now tells me I should have spent some time thinking and preparing for post retirement activities to avoid some frustration of feeling bored. I knew going into ER that I could only afford the same life style I had during my work life. I have allocated more funds when the DW retires, but this not for 8 years. I do not regret leaving the stressful MegaCorp world and love the freedom each day brings. I just need to continue to focus on what I want my retirement years to be like. A work in progress....
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Old 12-20-2013, 08:11 AM   #14
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When I first ERd at 54, had the wealth piece figured out, but had not really focused on health and engagement aspects. I ended up missing work, so went back and also started on my health component years after that. Definitely a case of sequencing my priorities the wrong way, as it took me 9 years later to finally retire for good
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Old 12-20-2013, 09:51 AM   #15
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The second bullet is what I have yet to figure out and worries me a bit. I have done nothing but work, reach for the brass ring, and chase kids for the last 20 years and had everything else squashed into the limited time left. I don't really know who I will ebcome when freed from the cube, let alone how to get engaged. I am feeling some anxiety about the final departure and a lot of it is centered around this.
I had the same concerns. 18 months in and I'm slowly developing what my retirement is about. A little landscaping, reading, gym work, bicycling, boating, going to see the kids, a few trips to see friends in Chicago, Nashville, a week in the mountains with kids and wife, etc. I didn't plan any of these things, really. My advice is to let retirement come to you and your passions will surface.
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Old 12-20-2013, 02:09 PM   #16
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This is a very useful thread and cuts to the heart of what I am most afraid of and it isn't running out of money! I attempted to ER this past May and was back at a full time job by July. I "retired" at 59 rather impulsively and then panicked when I felt rudderless. Now I have a firm plan to retire in 2014 (the year I turn 60) and I know more about the psychological challenges I will face.

But here is what I realized; many of us live our entire lives from school age to retirement with some level of external control over our behavior and time. For the most part we willing accept these restrictions. I worked for two college degrees and in return for the diplomas that proclaimed me to be "educated", I exchanged hours of reading, writing and researching in topics that were determined to be essential to my career path. Since then I have willingly exchanged my time and skills to various employers for money but worked within the framework of their needs, schedules and sometimes draconian office politics. Now...for the first time in my adult life, I get to decide how to organize my schedule and how to spend my time. Is it any wonder that this state of freedom doesn't feel natural?

I am approaching this new stage of my life with more compassion (toward me) and know that the transition will take time.
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Old 12-20-2013, 02:40 PM   #17
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This is a very useful thread and cuts to the heart of what I am most afraid of and it isn't running out of money! I attempted to ER this past May and was back at a full time job by July. I "retired" at 59 rather impulsively and then panicked when I felt rudderless. Now I have a firm plan to retire in 2014 (the year I turn 60) and I know more about the psychological challenges I will face.

But here is what I realized; many of us live our entire lives from school age to retirement with some level of external control over our behavior and time. For the most part we willing accept these restrictions. I worked for two college degrees and in return for the diplomas that proclaimed me to be "educated", I exchanged hours of reading, writing and researching in topics that were determined to be essential to my career path. Since then I have willingly exchanged my time and skills to various employers for money but worked within the framework of their needs, schedules and sometimes draconian office politics. Now...for the first time in my adult life, I get to decide how to organize my schedule and how to spend my time. Is it any wonder that this state of freedom doesn't feel natural?

I am approaching this new stage of my life with more compassion (toward me) and know that the transition will take time.
Since my experience when I retired was so dramatically different from what you describe (unbridled euphoria ), I have difficulty in comprehending your situation. I can only compare it to stories I've heard about individuals who spend decades in a penitentiary who are finally paroled then immediately commit another crime so they can return to the only life they've ever known. Sad.

I wish you all the best in learning to adjust to life outside the big house workplace.
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Old 12-20-2013, 02:50 PM   #18
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I was also ambivalent when I stopped my part-time consulting work. The last place I worked needed me, but I was the one who pulled the plug. They did not meet my demand for higher pay, but let me have all other conditions. I used that as an excuse as I was getting tired of politics at that place, and also felt like my time was running out.

Then, eight months later, I got diagnosed with a serious illness and went through two major surgeries. So, it all worked out. Perhaps I did have a sixth sense, and foresaw my future.
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Old 12-20-2013, 03:41 PM   #19
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I see item #1 (finances) and item #2 (engagement psycho-social) as being all you need to address for "are you ready to retire?" type questions. I don't understand the medical issue being listed. If #1 (finances) is satisfied, then that covers the tail risks of long term nursing home or other medical catastrophes later in life.

As for a #4 someone else proposed - philosophical readiness - I would place that in #2 as well. You get your purpose to roll out of bed in the morning from exciting or interesting pursuits you have planned for the day. Maybe it's make a cup of coffee and sit with a good book all morning then have lunch with some friends and/or your spouse/SO. Then go out for a walk or hike and run some errands before cooking dinner. I think if you have #2 figured out, it would address the existential questions posed by the potential #4 - philosophical readiness.

Since I retired early, I have had some of those existential questions "what's my purpose?" and "is this how "the rest of my life" will be?". Still working on the answers to those questions! I don't think work ever answered those questions other than keeping me too busy to contemplate either question.
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Old 12-20-2013, 03:42 PM   #20
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Though most everyone knows better, there are a lot of threads here that seemingly reduce 'can I retire?' to a purely financial decision, for various reasons. Fortunately the recurring 'what will I do all day?' threads, though less frequent, serve as counterpoint. While reading about managing retirement income, I came across this brief passage that struck me as a more complete yet concise summary:

Sometimes the non-financials fall into place with ease, sometimes not. Maybe all three are worthy of serious consideration for everyone before pulling the retirement trigger, and worth a brief mention - 'what are you retiring to, are you ready for a month/decades of Saturdays?' FWIW
Recommend reading "What Color is Your Parachute for Retirement" by Richard Knowles and John Nelson. Covers all of these issues and more.
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