I retired from full-time work six months ago. Imagine that, a whole half year. It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long, but I’m damn near half way toward the anniversary of another year gone by since birth without a job. Amazing to think about if you ask me.
Let me plainly state that I find blog posts that only talk about the rosy side of virtually any lifestyle – early retirement or otherwise – to be wholly unhelpful at best and flat deceptive at worst. Early retirement is still life. There’s still shit that you gotta do. Shit that you hate. Early retirement isn’t some magic pill that transports us straight into the land of fairies and sunshine. Life still happens, work or no work. The main diff is happiness.
This post is about that. About everything I’ve found to be true after six months of early retirement. Is early retirement all that it’s cracked up to be?
Oh my gosh – yes.
I do not miss work
…like, not even a little. I don’t miss the presumed socialization of working a full-time job. I don’t miss the structure or the tasks. I certainly don’t miss the performance reviews, all-staff meetings or listening to mission statements or project managers stress the importance of tight schedules that are “out of their hands”, but still need to be adhered to for the good of the project.
I do not miss the intellectual curiosity that apparently surrounds many people’s full-time jobs. I suppose it was there for me at some level, but I never appreciated it because I absorbed very little satisfaction out of my work. My job was something that I had to do to fund my chosen lifestyle. That was it. Nothing more.
Not once did I find myself wandering aimlessly through the forest pondering the uselessness of life because there was no J.O.B. structure to keep me pointed toward some end goal or meaning – giving me “direction”. No job has ever defined me. I don’t extract meaning out of life from the corporate structure, client meetings or unrealistic schedules that jobs drill into us.
The fact is I love the freedom ingrained in controlling what I do with my time. I get up in the morning whenever I damn well please. I blog. I record video. I work on projects that interest me, and I certainly don’t worry about money. Money worries have no place in ER.
I enjoy saying “I’m retired”
I admit it – I enjoy the look on people’s faces when I say that I’m retired, which is invariably followed up with “You’re too young to retire”.
Umm, no I’m not.
Sure, I could say that I work in information technology or some other more common please-don’t-ask-me-questions job function, but quite frankly, I am proud of what my wife and I have done. I am proud of the fact that we are retired, and I am definitely not afraid to tell people about it. In truth, some of the most intellectually-stimulating conversations that I’ve had since retiring early has been with folks who appreciated the financial discipline it took to retire early.
Virtually everyone appreciates the tradeoff we made. We live in a 200 square foot Airstream and travel for a living instead of hunkering down in a 2,000 square foot palace. Our homes in first world nations ARE palaces compared to other parts of the world. We have it damn good in the United States and countries like ours. Damn good. Many of us don’t realize how good we have it.
“I’m retired” opens up a whole other dimension of conversation that we would never otherwise get. We talk finances, but more than that, we talk about dedication and meaning. Happiness. “What made you choose to retire early?”
Ah, flood gates open. I can literally talk for hours about my desire to retire early. I can’t stand the burden of a full-time job, and I never truly appreciated how much of our productive life spans that full-time jobs ruthlessly steal from us.
We don’t miss being stationary
While there are some people who love the thought of owning a piece of property, we definitely aren’t one of those people. We don’t need a “house to come back to”. We have a house and it happens to have wheels. It’s always with us. Nearly 100% of our possessions are with us all the time, which makes things simple. And cheap.
We can’t buy things on the spur of the moment. Everything we buy we consider to be a replacement for some other item in the Airstream. Something IN means something OUT. It helps keep our lifestyle fundamentally easy and light-weight.
We miss nothing about our stationary home. The property taxes. The yard work and other maintenance. The square footage to clean. Nothing about our sticks and bricks home do we wish we still had. Most of the time, we are out in the middle of nature.
Nature, though, has its downsides. It’s bloody dirty. Within a day or two of everywhere we go, a nice coating of dust and dirt gets on everything. Not just the interior of the Airstream, but literally everything. The outside. All the stuff we keep in our truck’s bed – basically, our “garage”. It all gets so damn dirty, so damn fast.
That’s the price we pay for living scott free out in the middle of the wilderness. And solar, but that’s also pretty bad-ass.
Our rise and shine is much more normal, too
We generally get out of bed at a normal hour now, too. Back when we maintained full-time jobs, we were up by 5:30 am and in bed around 8:30 pm. Now, we generally crawl out of bed between 7:30 and 8:00 am after a complete night of sleep.
We still rise with the sun, but not the minute that the sun cracks the horizon.
Breakfast is at 9 instead of 7. Bedtime is between 10 and 11 pm instead of 8:30. We lead lives with a schedule closer to the schedules of the rest of us, which means the timing is much more conducive to socialization. Happy hours no longer send us home tired and exhausted as they once had. We can keep up with you people, now.
In fact, I’m writing this post at 11:00 pm on a Tuesday night, well after the sun has gone down and our part of the world settled in for the night. No job to wake up to tomorrow morning. Amazing.
Is there a downside to early retirement?
I gotta be honest with you people – I thought about this question long and hard. We just don’t miss a lot from our previous life. Yes, I love going out to eat…especially at breweries. We can’t do that as much now because we’re on a budget. Yet, we’re making money hand-over-fist in the stock market, but we all know that’ll change one day because the market ebbs and flows.
We don’t miss the commutes. We don’t miss the stress. Hell, we don’t even really miss the money. My job never did define who I was, and thus, it served as very little loss for me after I called it quits.
Of course, we also completely changed our lifestyle too. We sold both of our homes and the vast majority of our possessions and live full-time in an Airstream. A hell of a lot changed in our lives over the past six months. I miss daily hot showers. I don’t especially enjoy all the dirt.
But hey, it is what it is.
There isn’t much of a downside, thus far, to our lives post-retirement. We love the freedom. It’s an incredible feeling to not have that constant draw of full-time work over your mind and body. Living off peak is pretty bad ass.
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.