Thoughts From 3 Months of “Early Retirement”

Thoughts From 3 Months of “Early Retirement”

A few months ago, at age 31, I quit my job.

I left because of a combination of a new boss I didn’t see eye-to-eye with, a stressful period of wedding planning and house-moving, and a desire to spend more time on all the hobbies and projects I’d neglected for work.

Plus, since I’ve saved and invested 15x-25x my annual expenses, I figured I could take some time off (whether it will be a mini-retirement or permanent remains to be seen) to do my own thing.

I know a lot of folks in the FI/RE (financial independence/retire early) community are interested in reading about what life is like post-FIRE.

Retirement is...not like this. I still drink fruity cocktails though.
Retirement is…not like this. I still drink fruity cocktails though.

As I was saving money and reading personal finance blogs I was always hungry for glimpses of life on the “other side.”

Now that I’ve been jobless for a little over three months, I feel I can share my own experiences to help other people who are in the shoes I used to wear.

Below are my thoughts on 3+ months of “retirement,” grouped by good, bad, and indifferent.

The Good:

  • I have tons of time for hobbies and “frivolous” stuff every day. I’ve been spending hours designing and playtesting a nerdy set of wargame rules, something I considered “not productive” enough during my working days because there’s no money in it—even if I publish—but which now I can totally immerse myself in.  
  • In fact, I’m finding it’s REALLY fun to chase every new “flavor of the month” idea/creative interest that pops into my head rather than having to put it off because it’s “a waste of time” or not realistic. It feels like being a kid again in a lot of ways: there’s a real sense of “play” and of being able to get fully immersed in creativity.
  • I feel more creative in general and find myself writing lots of ideas down in the notes app on my phone and in my dedicated Google sheets for both business and book ideas.
  • I don’t wake up with a feeling of dread, ever, compared to days when I hated the thought of going into work. Even when I have chores or other errands planned (like unpacking after my move) it’s still a delight to get out of bed and focus on my own things.
  • As an introvert, it’s actually exciting to meet up with people now instead of feeling like a chore. I actually do it more (and initiate it more) than when I was working and felt I was “too fucking busy” all the time. I also now spend time with people who are acquaintances vs. just close friends, and in so doing am converting more of those to actual friends (including some nice folks from my former job).
  • I was able to help out a friend who hurt themselves and needed to be taken to the hospital in the middle of the day, when all their roommates and other friends were at work. I was able to stay with them the entire time at the hospital and help wheel them around in a wheelchair for three hours without worrying about missing an important meeting or having to use a vacation day.
  • Cooking and planning meals is fun instead of a chore. We’re doing Keto right now and it’s much easier than when I was working. I can actually plan meals and cook in large batches instead of buying food every single night and only cooking one meal’s worth because my brain’s too fried from working to plan that far ahead (SMOG pie with an almond flour pie crust is fantastisch).
  • Exercise is much easier when you can take the time to walk the 30 minutes to the gym, workout for 30 minutes, and walk the 30 minutes back. I’m already building muscle and the wife is commenting on my pecs.
  • I don’t feel hurried doing errands. I’ll often walk 20 minutes one way to drop off something small rather than drive because I don’t have to preserve my precious, limited leisure time anymore. Plus, exercise. Sometimes I’ll just go out exploring for an hour or two.
  • I’m listening to a lot more podcasts as I walk/cook/unpack after the move/do chores around the house. Highly recommend Mike Duncan’s History of Rome podcast.
  • I’ve had no negative reactions from friends, family, and coworkers. All seem happy for me and make joking references to “your retirement.” I even changed my LinkedIn profile to mention I’m taking a “mini-retirement” to learn how to cook more things in bacon grease, and I got a consulting gig offer out of it for my old profession (content marketing).
  • In fact, I’ve had several job offers so far (five at least), mainly from LinkedIn.
  • News about my old job no longer causes me stress.
  • I no longer feel a “need” for caffeine. I used to drink a big mug of coffee every morning before leaving for work, a diet coke at lunch, and usually another coffee or red bull in the afternoon. Now I drink some green tea in the morning and that’s more than enough to get me through the day without feeling worn out.
  • I have not ground my teeth in my sleep once since leaving.

The Bad:

  • I’m still not in a routine and this can make me feel guilty about “wasting time.”  It’s also hard to nail down the “best” routine. For example, my ideal would be to wake up early and workout, then eat breakfast, shower, and do some writing, but my gym is the least crowded at 2pm and is actually more crowded early in the morning (I know, rough life).
  • I’m finding it distressingly difficult to tear myself away from mindlessly browsing the internet, and am going to have to set limits, or close some browser tabs or something.
  • Related to the above, I sometimes need to force myself outside for walks so I get out of the house.
  • I can wake up/go to bed late now. Like, really late. It’s not uncommon for me to be up until 3am and waking up around 10/10:30am. As a result I feel guilty for wasting daylight, and for opening the door at 1pm on a Tuesday in slippers and my bathrobe to get the paper. I also really hate missing my middle-of-the-day window for doing errands: it’s much better to go out when everyone else is at work than to realize at 5pm I need to put on pants and go to the gym or buy groceries.
  • The first month I gained some weight because I was no longer walking 15 minutes to-and-from the metro every workday. I’ve since fixed that with a better gym routine (strength training workouts every other day, walks on off days), but it’s worth mentioning if you have a similar commute.
  • Chores like figuring out health insurance still suck: I spent a full month dealing with adding my spouse to COBRA and it took several multi-hour phone conversations with customer “service” to get it resolved.
  • I do miss the people at the office and the daily little interactions with them. I still haven’t found a good replacement for this lack of daily human social interaction aside from scheduled after-work meet ups with people.
  • I have nothing else to be annoyed about so poor customer service annoys me more than when I was working. Suddenly I understand old retired people making an embarrassing scene in a restaurant just a little bit more…

The Not Sure:

  • I don’t feel any urgency to be doing more productive work yet (I had intended to start a blog, start a company, write another novel, edit my finished novella etc. but have done none of these things yet, though I *have* finished a draft of my wargames rules for playtesting). That said, I am starting to get inklings of wanting to do “more” as the craziness of holidays+a move+my recent wedding fade away finally and the house starts to get in order (hence this post).
  • I don’t really feel like I’ve gotten the oft-talked-about six month “retiree flu” yet (that feeling of existential dread during the first six months of retirement when you realize the world is wide open and your purpose in life is no longer dictated by what your company tells you to do), other than a vague guilt for sleeping in and not being productive. But maybe more existential dread will come after the honeymoon phase?
  • I need to be better at saying no to people’s work offers/requests for at least a few more weeks/months. While I feel like I have all the time in the world to do things for people, I still have the same level of “resistance” to doing them when it actually comes time to sit down and work as I did when I had a job.

Hope this was useful to anyone curious about the experience of the first couple months of an “early retiree.”  I am excited to be more productive now, as I think 3ish months is probably enough time for detoxing and relaxing…

That means now it’s time for me to get down to the serious work, like writing games for toys, imagining outlandish stories and, of course, cooking more things in bacon fat.

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3 thoughts on “Thoughts From 3 Months of “Early Retirement”

  1. Heh, I didn’t even know you had done this JP.

    I am currently in the final stages of my “retire semi-early”: I hope to be retiring soon at the age of 56. Lol. I know, I know, but “FIRE” wasn’t a thing when I was younger.

    But everything you have said here is more or less what I have anticipated and, frankly, can’t wait for. The big thing for me is that once I do stop working, it will be much harder to go back if I need to… You, you’re young, if you get to 50 and find you need more money, bam, you go get a job. If I get to 70 and I realize my spreadsheets had an incorrect assumption… it’s ramen noodles (which i hate btw).

    1. True dat, which is why building up some income producing assets like, say, top-selling novels, is such a worthwhile post-retirement activity 😉

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