Of all the questions that I get asked by others who know our plan to retire early, there is one question that keeps standing out as far and away my favorite.
Almost like clockwork, when the subject of early retirement comes up, the talk eventually leads to: “I could never retire early; I’d be so bored. What are you going to do with your time?”
The truth is the “I’d be bored” excuse is just that…an excuse. Following a pattern of more traditional American spending certainly will not prepare someone to retire early even if they wanted to. Of course, I keep this to myself because the last thing that I want to do, especially when talking about finances, is to put the other person on the defensive.
Don’t be a jackass, Steve. Don’t be a jackass.
But let’s consider the implication of the question. If early retirement makes us bored, that means our job is the only thing that keeps us doing stuff. That’s just sad.
It implies that our life is so barren and uneventful that, without a traditional job, we would otherwise find ourselves sitting on our couch in a semi-vegetative state aimlessly flipping through the channels until something halfway interesting pops up on the boob tube. And no, Jerry Springer doesn’t count. I said “interesting”. 🙂
But come on, surely we all have motivations and desires outside the square confines of our office space. Our jobs might bring home the bacon, but that need not mean that if we were to quit those jobs, our lives would be reduced to a smoldering pile of rubbish.
My response? “Whatever I want to do!“. I have a couple blogs that I love to maintain. I love to hike, travel and make pictures of our amazingly-beautiful world. Furthermore, I enjoy taking some time away from my responsibilities as a [semi-] functioning adult and just sit, relax and enjoy some bloody peaceful solitude.
I don’t need a full time job to keep me active and motivated.
In truth, full time jobs tend to drain energy, not provide it. Imagine having 40 or more hours of the most productive period of time each and every day taken up by a job…by work that makes somebody else rich and keeps us from “getting bored”.
This is me right now too. I’m still working full time, though the plan is to end that by the end of next year.
After retirement, work does not end
Though the “retirement police” may clumsily believe otherwise, retirement does not mean that you are effectively done with being productive and doing those things that actually make you happy.
Instead, it means that you don’t have a “job”. Retirement gives you the freedom to pick and choose the work that you do because you are financially independent. Work if you want. If not, don’t. Before financial independence, we don’t really have a choice – we may be able to choose where we work, but we cannot choose whether or not we work.
For example, I would love to start a photography business after retirement. Of course, this will be work, but not a job. I will have the freedom to pick the jobs that sound interesting to me and politely decline the jobs that I would prefer not to do. This is about having fun, not having a job.
For most who retire early, work does not simply end (in fact, the earlier that you retire in life, the more true this tends to be). Instead, the work that fills our days is work that is far more productive than ever before. It is work that directly benefits us (or others in the form of volunteering). Being financially independent means trying something new, whenever we want, is always an option.
For example, early retirement gives us the option of pursuing new hobbies, like fishing, running or basket weaving. If you’re able to make some money on the side, great. If not, no big deal. If you wind up hating it, try something else. The world is your oyster, damnit!
By retiring early, we give ourselves more time while young and active to enjoy the things that our jobs had previously taken from us. How about the freedom to decide on the spur of the moment to start reading a new book, or hiking to the top of a stunning mountain, or taking a road trip to a new city? These are wonderful freedoms unlike anything imaginable in life.
These freedoms mean that we are in complete control of our time. We decide what we do during the day, not some gratuitous corporation. We decide how much time we spend doing the things that we love, not our inane corporate schedules. We decide what time we get up in the morning, not our jackass boss who schedules a 7:30am meeting every morning. That jerk.
We become masters of our own beautiful damn destinies. All those bucket list items that never seem to get checked off of your list? Retire early and spend some time getting those accomplished. The wooden deck you always wanted to build along the front of your house? You know, the one that is going to totally make your neighbors jealous of your expert craftsmanship and keen architectural prowess? Spend the next couple of months figuring that shit out. The blog you wanted to start? The car you wanted to refurbish? You get the idea.
Or sometimes, it is simply about having more of an opportunity to chill. Wish you had more time to think? Retire early and take slow morning walks instead of sitting in traffic with frustrated, stressed out drivers on the way to work. Sleep in a little more. Make the morning time your time to take control of your mind, not to prepare for the next meeting, presentation or phone call.
Bored after retirement? Hell no! For my wife and I, that’s when life truly begins.
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.