Many people dream of leaving the rat race early, escaping the cubicle prison, or screaming F.U.! to everyone and quitting their jobs. What I hear from most people when it comes to retirement and especially early retirement or FIRE (financially independent, retire early) is what will I do? I have known some people who want to travel more, so they travel for a few years then what? They saw all the things on their bucket list. Or they have a hobby and begin to garden, fix cars, or do some wood working. Then what?
It is important to have a retirement plan for you retirement years. I knew a teacher who retired at 56 and was back working at 58 because he didn’t know what to do in retirement. He didn’t have a plan for what he wanted to accomplish or any goals with his new-found freedom. Most of the time when it comes to people who achieve FIREd status they were super motivate and driven to save and achieve freedom from work that they forgot to figure out what their new life would look like. So here are a few items to think about as you continue on your path to financial freedom and retirement.
Mindset– You will need to prepare for a mindset shift. Most FIRE accomplishers are highly motivated and got use to working hard and sacrificing to reach their goal. Now it has all stopped suddenly and they are just being in the moment. This can be a tough shift in mindset. As a teacher who goes from working hard for 9 months, to sitting with nothing to do in the summer, I know it requires a mindset shift. If I’m not careful after 2 weeks I’m ready to go back to work because I’m so bored, most student claim they are ready for school after a month off in the summer. I have to shift my mindset into relax mode during my final exams, so it’s not so sudden of a stop and I mentally prepare myself by just reminding myself that its relax time. I still have a small list of things to achieve each day, and I get joy out of those small accomplishments, but it’s still a sudden stop. For example, today I will go to the library to return my book and get a new book. Then I plan on picking some weeds, and finish the day catching some fish on the pond. Those are my three goals for today. I might take a nap if I feel tired, play with the kids if they ask, or I might write a blog entry because I got a good idea as I lived my day. Your work mindset has to change and you have to learn to relax and set simple things to do each day. These small goals and mental preparation will save you in the first month. So, start thinking what your new life will look like and mentally prepare.
Hobbies– Hopefully, you already have a few hobbies, but in retirement you have way more time to explore those hobbies you never had time for also. You can learn to sail finally, or do some free-lance writing, or you could build a shed that you always thought about putting in the yard. Learning new skills from your hobbies is crucial for being productive, keeping a healthy frame of mind, and its fun to do new things that you always thought you should try but never got around to. This sense of accomplishment is a healthy part of aging well also. I know I want to learn to sail and maybe paint landscapes. I also feel photography would be something fun to pursue one day. I already have my land that is a hobby for me. I garden, trim trees, have bee hives, plan on putting in a small orchard, and planting a Tree IRA. Who knows what else I might have in place by retirement time for me to tinker with. But, I will have things to do and learn, and some things I’m starting now so I will have them as hobbies later. So, think ahead and get some hobbies you might want to pursue ready and put a plan in place to achieve your hobby goals.
Lifestyle– This is a big one to understand. You have to realize that if you retire early that your friends are still working. You will go to the movies on $2 Tuesdays at 11am and try to invite a few friends, but they are all working still. They can go to the 7pm show, but that’s when you’ll be fishing, so you politely decline. I find as a teacher that in the summers I can only hang out with other coaches or teachers that are part of my lifestyle. My friends who are attorneys, business types, and have cubicles are my weekend friends still. We can do a BBQ on Saturday, but they will arrive want to talk about work, decompress with some beers, and over time my FIRE lifestyle will just annoy them. You need to get a few buddies in on the FIRE scene, so that in retirement you will have a circle of friends with your same lifestyle. I know I have two coaches I enjoy that will retire with a full teacher pension around the same age as me. We will all be retired in our 50’s and we have the same interests in living the same lifestyle. So, creating a circle of FIRE friends is necessary for your sanity during your retirement years. So preach the good word and see if you can get a few FIRE followers!
I know there is a lot more to think about before your FIRE party, but hopefully if you are close to FIRE, you are trying to transition into your new stress free with grace. Don’t find yourself looking for work in a few years because you didn’t know what to do. Start your plan now, get some hobbies, find some friends, and realize that it will be different on that first Monday that you wake up and watch all your neighbors drive to work as you stay home to do whatever you please. Also, talk to recently retired people and you can find a mentor to help you transition better. I know many bloggers who have FIREd themselves and are doing great. Use them as inspiration and ideas on how your early retirement should look.