The “Holy shit, what am I doing?” side to early retirement

50 thoughts on “The “Holy shit, what am I doing?” side to early retirement”

  1. I’m still a long, long ways away, but I know myself well, and I think it’ll be an absolute joy. For me, though, financial independent is more about freedom to do other things than to retire. So it’s simply beginning a new chapter.

    1. Through the anxiety, it was a joy. I just wanted it to be over. To finally be done with giving notice. Everything after that is so much easier because, well, everybody knows what to expect out of you. πŸ˜‰

  2. Sometimes all the worrying you do building up to the big event is worse than it really is once you go through it. I’ve found that many times it turns out not to be as bad as you think it is. Its surprising how adaptive you can be when you have to. Things will tend to work out just fine.

  3. I’m FIREd and I remember going through a few different stages. I was really anxious once I realized I was FI, but still trying decide whether to retire or not. Do I stay full-time, part-time or just go? What if I don’t like retirement?

    Once I decided to go and I gave notice then things just felt surreal. I started counting all the last times I was doing something at work – last monthly meeting, last trip to the onsite gym, and finally last day. Was this really happening?

    Once I left and experienced true freedom to manage my own time, I felt ecstatic. The possibilities seemed infinite! Overall, I’m very thankful that I FIREd ASAP.

  4. I felt the same way the n I switched jobs, leaving New Orleans for California. It was a strange feeling. A very strange feeling but once the decision was made and the action was completed, I felt better. I think we need that anxiety to second check ourselves…without it we would just be making decisions left and right.

  5. I’m relieved to know I’m not alone in the anxiety I feel approaching early retirement. It’s a scary feeling of not knowing what will happen after the big “event” actually happens. I love all of your examples, they are hilarious. Fear, anxiety, and excitement makes us human. Just need to get over that anxiety hump!

    1. You’re totally not alone, Jen! It happens to all of us, even me who was super excited to finally call it quits. And yup, it’ll pass once the cat’s out of the bag. In fact, it’ll just feel damn good, at times, going to work knowing that your days of full-time work are numbered. πŸ™‚

  6. I am about 2 weeks away from giving notice. You have so hit the nail on the head with all the emotions one goes through at this point of FIRE. The trepidation is so intense. I just want it to be over with even though I’ve planned and looked forward to this moment for years πŸ™‚

  7. Ahhh, I can’t wait for that special day. πŸ™‚ I have a long road to FIRE, but I definitely daydream about putting in notice. I’m not sure if I would be honest about retiring early or not. It definitely would invite a lot of unwelcome questions and judgment that I don’t have the energy for.

    1. Really? Your coworkers would be more judgmental than supportive? That’s unfortunate! But, maybe it would open their eyes to another possible route through life?

      Or…maybe not. πŸ™‚

  8. Ah, my good friends the butterflies who live in my stomach. They’ve been around for as long as I can remember, my faithful companions through large life changes like immigration, and small events like a weekly presentation at work. I would be shocked if they did not escort me into early retirement.

    1. Ha! Thanks Mrs. BITA – those damn butterflies, like the friend who completely overstays their welcome. But in the end, they always leave…at least temporarily, don’t they? πŸ™‚

  9. That’s interesting. I didn’t have a big build up like that because I took a couple of months off before giving my notice. I came back and told my manager that I’m done and just hung out for 2 weeks. That’s a pretty good way to go if you want to avoid the nerves.

  10. This article was like a mirror into what I felt earlier this year when I retired early at 47 in June. Once the cat was out of the bag, it was a whole new set of emotions. But now with it behind me, it is a complete focus on happiness and our full time rv journey!

  11. I had the (mis)fortune of getting fired (all lowercase) so my entry into early retirement was relatively stress free other than the minute or two when my boss walked into my office to tell me the news and give me the dismissal paperwork. I kind of suspected it was coming since another team member got dismissed a day before I did so I was waiting for the axe to drop when I walked into work that morning (and it did).

    But the next 6 months to a year was an adjustment period – the holy crap is this real? Am I ready? Am I really doing this? It all struck me during that time and it took me a while to adjust to post-FIRE life. My wife planned her escape more intentionally and I know it was stressful to officially hand in notice and walk away for good.

    1. Oh, I can imagine how strange that must have been. Were you pretty close to retiring early anyway, or did the firing actually plant the idea in your mind that early retirement is possible?

  12. It’s definitely a hurdle to overcome. We’ve all read about “One More Year” syndrome. I’ve been FI for some time, but continue to work at a job I enjoy. For me it is as much about what I’d do with my time as it is anything else. When I first realized what the issue was I began the search for hobbies that could extend the feeling of purpose into retirement. Still working on that. But I’m in no hurry. I can’t RE anyway. I am, after all, an Oldster πŸ™‚

    1. You’re in a great position, Oldster! You’re FI but still working a job that you enjoy and bringing in some income. But, you can quit the moment that you no longer enjoy the job and you’ll be fine for the rest of your life. Perfect position!

  13. The days before I met with my boss to talk about ending my employment were definitely high on the anxiety scale. Once I committed and had the discussion though, the anxiety definitely dropped. I knew I was headed for a mini-retirement and I knew it was going to be epic. The “am I really doing this” nerves were still there to a degree, but it was WAY less than the days leading up to the discussion.

    Great post Steve – definitely a good preview for people on their way to these kinds of discussions!

    1. Thanks Chris. I suppose this is pretty common…we get anxious right before we do something, then we return to normal there after. But especially with a move this big, those feels are gonna be amplified a bit. It’s exciting, though, because you know that you’re going to a better place!

  14. I was definitely on the roller coaster of emotions as early retirement approached. It wasn’t that I doubted I could leave, I just wasn’t sure I wanted to. Being early retired allows me to choose a few projects still related to my career – when I want to do it. That’s what has helped the transition. I’ve also jumped in to two new projects for fun because of what I learned at the Popup Business School a few weeks ago. They taught us to really focus on what we were excited about – and there are some areas I hadn’t realized I was excited about. I feel busier than ever now! No time to miss full-time work!

    1. I completely agree, Vicki, and well said. There is no time to miss full-time work! There’s a lot out there to explore and experience. No time like the present, right? πŸ˜‰

  15. Hah! Great graph!

    If you ain’t anxious before early retirement, you ain’t doing it right b/c you aren’t thinking about all the potential land mines!

    It took me about a year of planning to finally leave. The severance negotiation process took about 3 months of it.

    Only after about two years of not having a job did I finally feel good. I felt good enough to buy a new fixer upper house, so I know that the 2 year mark rings true for me.


    1. Thanks Sam! You’re totally killing it over there. I can tell you definitely aren’t bothered by the “purpose” problem that so many FI’ers seem to be concerned with. πŸ™‚

  16. I felt like this past year for me has been an introduction to my eventual ER. There were ups and downs throughout the process, but you know what DIDN’T keep me awake at night? The money situation. Early retirement a few years from now will hopefully be 100% better given that I will be prepared for it, both personally and financially. It looks like you’re taking it in stride though, good for you!

    1. Thanks HP – yup, gotta take this stuff in stride. I believe that if you’re motivated and flexible enough, things will work out just fine. And if the shit really does hit the fan, the it’s probably hitting the fan for everybody, and there’s nothing that you could have done to prevent it anyway. πŸ™‚

  17. I’ve been at it two years and we have about double the number of assets we need… yet I still get nervous sometimes. Maybe I’m just paranoid, but the mind can create all kinds of terrible doomsday scenarios. Most of these are completely unlikely of course, but my mind still creates them.

    Most of the time, FIRE just seems like a “normal” life these days, even though it’s anything but normal. This highlights the fact that humans can get used to anything… including situations where we should be afraid.

    It makes me wonder… are we already too used to excellent market returns? Have we “normalized” the bull market behavior as typical when it’s not?

    Worth thinking about…

    1. Life is one big mind game. Maybe you are paranoid, but maybe you’re just cautious, too. Maybe I need to be MORE cautious.

      I am definitely beginning to feel the normalcy of FIRE as well – not sure if that’s a good thing or not. I suppose this lifestyle is dirt easy when the markets are good. πŸ™‚

  18. I wanted to give my employer a lot of time to find someone – had always promised my boss that would be the case.

    Two months ago, I gave notice. And TODAY my job finally got posted. Now I’m just annoyed. And super-ready to go.

    So – one month to go (I promised I would see a year-end project out the door the first week of November).

    Yep, I was a sucker. But I’d rather be annoyed than anxious. So…THIS is better.

    1. I totally understand, Melissa. Both my wife and I gave our companies ample notice as well. I think I gave my boss a full six months, in fact. But I can totally see your frustration. What took them so long?!?

      1. Employer is circling the drain…
        nonprofits are bad places to be these days. We’re on our 3rd full roster of HR people in a year, and they’re overwhelmed by the number of open positions.

        But the problem starts at the top. We’re on our 6th CEO in 12 years, and the last guy gutted the place before he left. Donors are drying up, and the board has no business experience, so can’t effectively hire leadership to pull out of the slump.

  19. I already have nerves about making the switch and I still have a little over a year left. πŸ™‚ I think part of it is switching to full time parent role and moving to a rural area, and having a total lifestyle change, all at the same time. I mean, that’s the plan, but it still seems scary to write about, much less actually do it.

    I’m confident I’ll be fine once the transition actually occurs, but I’d be shocked if there weren’t nerves associated with it.

    1. Yup, I totally understand. You’re not just leaving your job. You’re also completely changing up your lifestyle in many ways. For us, it was largely the same. We quit and left on a six-month adventure around the western states. Talk about a change in lifestyle!

  20. I’m a bit late for the RE but am a fan of the Retire Often. So far we’ve had two years off for the world travel (is that Lake Inle, Myanmar in the age header? I have that photo). If I had the FU money I’d be on the next RO now – so it’s savings time for me. The boss at work resigned suddenly yesterday – he’s FIRE was my first thought – the secret is out there.

  21. I like that you said being nervous is a good thing. Makes us more aware of our surroundings and more cautious. Being nervous and handing in your notice of resignation is better than not doing it all because you know once you get through it, you will feel all sorts of emotions: relief, excitement, and joy. That process is us being human.

  22. Just found your blog. My wife and I are on parallel journeys with you! We both FIRED June 3rd, and now live in a fifth wheel while we travel and see the country with our 3 dogs. Leaving tomorrow for Denver after spending a month in the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. I look forward to following your story!

    1. Woot! Looks like we just missed each other, too. We were in the Yellowstone and Teton area for several weeks in September! Appreciate the comment, and thanks for following!

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