A few posts back, I made somewhat of a counter-argument to the notion of early retirement (see Why You Should Never Retire.) I admit, after watching the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, I came away with a revived interest in my cubicle work. The trouble is, that newfound inspiration only lasted maybe a month at best. Just this past week I’ve been dogged all over again with being bored, uninterested, and at times, a little stressed out.
Now squarely back into an early retirement mind-set, I’m going to lay out the five reasons you should hang it up early. Keep in mind, this list is only for folks like me, who never quite found a singular passion in their work life. There are plenty of career-minded workers out there who have found a passion. They enjoy their work and whether or not they have found balance, early retirement simply does not resonate as a goal worthy of consideration. Good for them!
For the rest of us, here’s the Top 5 reasons to reinforce your early retirement goals:
1.) Improve Your Health. Escaping the daily grind gives you an opportunity to focus on your well-being. Imagine how you feel when you’re on vacation and right around day 2 or 3, your worries start to melt away. That’s when you know you’ve left behind the stress of all the demands compounded on yourself. The source of the stress doesn’t just come from your boss, your peers, or your clients, it also comes from YOU. Early retirement doesn’t erase stress, but it does unwind the 9-to-5 source of the pressure of politically-charged corporate gigs.
Beyond reduced stress, the gift of time from early retirement allows you the chance to get outside more and exercise. Today I’m lucky to get in 3 workouts a week, whether it’s a 2.5 mile run, a gym class, or weights at home. Without the demands of a full-time job, I have no excuse to not take care of myself and carve out time to exercise daily. If I want to reach my late 90s with health, like those crusty old shepherds who live in Blue Zones, I need to prepare for a life-long engagement with daily physical activity. Waiting until I’m 65 to start that habit just feels way too risky.
2.) Improve Your Relationships. Hanging it up early also gives you time to focus on what’s truly important: family and friends. Time has a way of accelerating as you age and you can easily find yourself in “regret mode.” Maybe you missed important events in your kids’ lives, or you let your marriage slip into a survival pattern? If there’s ever a good reason to focus on a goal, and give yourself time back, it should be to avoid having any regrets later on. Free yourself to spend more time with loved ones. Free yourself to improve yourself, so you can offer even more to those you care about.
3.) Improve Yourself. With time on your hands, you can do one of two things: waste-away your days in permanent vacation-mode, or, pick-up and master new skills. When you think about some of the seemingly happy phenom-types in history, it seems to me they had the luxury of boundless time to experiment, create, and master. Ben Franklin, Leonardo da Vinci, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela (though he had time for the wrong reasons, he made the best use of it!), Mother Teresa, Pablo Picasso, Jane Goodall, etc. etc. Each of these icons lived (or are living) well into their 80s and 90s without slowing down (I give da Vince credit for nearly reaching 70 during the less sanitary 1500s.) Gandhi would’ve made it into his 80s or 90s easily, if not assassinated at 78.
I’m not trying to say you’ll become a renaissance master if you simply retire early. But you could certainly benefit from the time you’ve freed up to explore passions or causes that add more meaning to your life. We don’t get to set our goals at the office. In early retirement, you can stand-up an easel, write a novel, or lend your talents to causes, on YOUR OWN TERMS.
4.) Travel More. This one is an extension of “Improve Yourself.” Travel is fun. We all wish we could take two or even three weeks off of work on overseas vacations. If you’re diligent about savings and minimizing expenses, you can easily plan to take those trips after you’ve retired. Channeling my inner Rick Steves, I’d argue that if you travel with an open mind, and engage with the culture and people where you visit, you’ll return home a better citizen. You might find that the world is a much more nuanced place, requiring much more nuanced thinking than you previously considered.
5.) Reduce Your Footprint. One great thing about being retired has to be the farewell to rush hour traffic and saying “good riddance!” to crummy commutes. Eliminating over 250 days of round trip fuel burning per year is like sending a little “Thank You” to your grandchildren and future generations. Further, you’ll be pretty much done with fancy work clothes and dry cleaning services.
Additionally, you might find the time to plant a garden and locally source more of your family’s food. Every little bit counts, right?
As for my own personal early-retirement journey, I have three years to go until I can hang it up. That time can fly by in a flash, so I need to be mindful to make the most of it and not presume that “the good life” begins in February 2020. For that reason, finding time to post to this blog will be more and more of a challenge as I look to focus on family, while putting in a strong effort at the good ‘ol cubicle.
This month also marks the start of our goal to pay off the mortgage. We’ve got just three years left in our 5-year 2.6% ARM before rates can ratchet up. The big number, $176,000, is now written on the fridge whiteboard. It’ll be fun to keep score, and I will provide oh-so-scintillating updates along the way.
It’d be great to hear from you fine readers and fellow bloggers how your own journeys are coming along, and if you have more great reasons to retire early that I should add to my list. Cheers!
(Featured Image Courtesy of Paul Dixon)