From the interwebz comes this question:
Dear Early Retirement Dude,
When it comes to early retirement I’m sitting in almost the same spot you were when you were thirty-five. I recently saw a forum post that recommended finding someone about ten years further down their journey and asking them, “Is there any advice you’d have for yourself back then?” So do you have some?
[Seeker of Knowledge]
My first bit of advice is this: if it’s knowledge you’ve come for you should flee immediately. The only bit of knowledge I can share with you is that there’s no knowledge to be found here.
However, I can certainly share with you my ignorance. There are many things I wish I’d begun doing differently and/or better when I made my escape, so at age forty-eight I do in fact have a number of “if I’d only known then” items in my bag o’ advice.
The first item is decidedly positive; a tidbit that outweighs all tidbits that follow.
Express your gratitude to those who got you here.
Retiring early was and remains the most life-changing experience I’ve had—yes, even including becoming a father. 1
So I refuse to take it for granted. Although I’ve done so in the past, given this many years to contemplate my lifestyle I’ve become more and more grateful for having had the opportunity to conceptualize, work towards, and achieve it.
Note that I said “grateful” rather than “self-congratulatory.”
Sure, there was hard work involved, but anybody can work hard. I therefore never would’ve gotten here without strong support from others—parents, my wife, a couple of mentors, people who gave me excellent career advice, hiring managers who took a chance on me, faceless college recruiting panelists who offered me scholarships, and so on and so on.
In other words, these are the people who made my opportunities happen. And I OWE them.
So here’s my strongest advice to you. When—not if, but when—you make your escape, approach these people and express your gratitude. “I was able to achieve a lifetime dream because you gave me a boost, and I’m deeply thankful to you for it.”
Geographic arbitrage can gnaw your ass.
Moving from a higher cost-of-living area to a lower cost-of-living area in order to stretch your dollars to the max sounds great on the surface of it, but be careful about moving from an extremely urban area to an extremely rural one.
After a while you may find yourself feeling unbearably isolated, especially if you’ve got kids. Locals might be unwelcoming to strangers, schools in poor rural areas are often awful, cultural opportunities can be nonexistent, and the real estate market is likely illiquid. All this can add up to boredom and discontentedness and make early retirement feel like a jail term.
Early retirement will inevitably test and strain the relationship between you and your SO (assuming you have one, of course.)
I’ll be straight up with you. You’ll be around each other a lot more than when you were working, which means—yes—you can expect to get sick of each other’s company. To avoid mutual abrasion to the greatest degree possible you MUST wisely manage your needs for privacy and personal space.
Also bear in mind that any hard feelings you develop are certain to spill over into your sex life. Since frugality demands cheap entertainment and since there are plenty of lazy afternoons to be had, well…as you know, a dysfunctional sex life begets long-term resentment. Which is bad, bad, BAD when you have a lot of time on your hands to sit around glaring at each another.
Your social life will be forever changed.
If you retire at thirty-five you’ll be by far a statistical anomaly, which means you’ll only be hanging out with your friends on the weekends and during their vacations. Yes, you might also see them at night, but they’ll have to duck out early because their workday starts at, like, oh-shazbot-thirty AM.
So expect some loneliness.
Another danger here—and I’m telling you this from twelve years of personal experience—is that if your friends drink and they stay with you on vacation, there’s a good chance you’ll all be getting bombed together. Every day for however long they’re visiting. This, I’ve found, is detrimental to one’s health and well-being.
Friendship part two: if you depend on your workplace for your social life, workplace friendships will soon wither away; perhaps within just a matter of months.
You know how it’s said that on average you turn over your entire set of friends once every eight or so years?
If you mostly socialize with workmates, on the day you retire your and your friends’ mutual context will vanish, and this is especially true if your relationship was based on being dissatisfied with where you worked. Bar-bitchery, etc. And never mind if you move to exercise the aforementioned geographical arbitrage.
And so: do NOT depend on your coworkers for your social life. Hang out with them, sure, but cultivate outside relationships based on mutual personal affinity and interests of a positive nature. These friendships will fade too, but they’ll at least prove to be longer-lasting.
Surfing the internet all day from boredom is a lousy way to waste your life.
It’s the Bud Light Lime of pastimes. So get off your ass and do something.
At the very least keep a checklist of minor chores that runs, say, a week out…and get these chores done. You’ll be surprised how even making a couple of household business-type phone calls a day will give you a sense of having accomplished something productive.
Also: buy a hammock and spend as much time as you can in it, swinging in the warm sun and reading analog books while wearing as little clothing as possible; preferably none. Leave your laptop in the house.
We found homeschooling to be a TERRIBLE use of our newly-found free time.
Man…this one’s gonna get me burnt at the stake, but I wish wish wish we hadn’t attempted to homeschool our daughter.
For the sake of aforementioned geographic arbitrage we lived in aforementioned rural area where aforementioned schools were…well, my brother/sister, I could go on and on about their wretchedness. For the most part the administrators and teachers did their best to work where they were and with what they had, but they were nowhere and had nothing. Hence our decision to homeschool.
Now: our daughter is a free and creative spirit. We love her deeply. Homeschooling was fun at first, but it soon degenerated into a power struggle. Imagine forcing your kid to sit still for seven hours each day and memorize and regurgitate third-grade multiplication tables and such, when it’s sunny out and the dogs are eager to play and due to your isolation she hasn’t seen another kid since last Thursday.
Naturally the conflict that built up during school time spilled into personal time. It was horrible; damn nearly ripped our family apart.
And here’s another bit of straight-up advice about homeschooling. If you attempt it in the rural southeast without being a devout Christian, you’ll have precisely zero support network. No matter what you’re able to add to their collective efforts, in all likelihood the grassroots homeschool associations will shun you because they don’t want unbelievers polluting the minds of their children. Can’t even tell you how frustrating that was.
(Note: despite what I’ve just said on this subject, the purpose of this post isn’t to stir up debate on the merits of homeschooling and/or theology. I therefore won’t be approving any comments on those subjects. Don’t waste your time.)
And so, beloved readers: behold diverse pearls of my ignorance.
Having now consumed an entire pot of heavily-caffeinated coffee, sitting still is a failing effort. I’ve maneuvered myself into one of those death-spirals where I need coffee to stay awake, strong drink to stay calm, more coffee to keep sober…and so on and so forth until the inevitable detonation of my liver and kidneys.
So I leave you to consider what I’ve said. Don’t be me unless you want to retire early…in which case, don’t be me.
I remain yr faithful srvnt,