A few posts back, I wrote a counter-argument to any and all reasons to retire early. Admittedly, after watching the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, I came away with a revived interest in my cubicle work.
The trouble is, that new found 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 why you should retire 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 countless masses, let’s answer the question…
Why Retire Early? A Top 5:
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. You can easily find yourself in “regret mode.” Maybe you missed important events in your kid’s 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, Mother Teresa, Pablo Picasso, Jane Goodall, and countless others did some of their best work very late in life.
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 chart our own courses with as much freedom at the cubicle farms. In early retirement, you can stand-up an easel and paint, write a novel or blog, or lend your talents to worthy volunteer causes. All this of course, after quitting your job.
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. I struggle a bit with this one, since it takes fossil fuel to go anywhere far off. Look to plan a few trips and be mindful every time you book a flight of how much it taxes the planet.
If you’re diligent about savings and minimizing expenses, you can easily plan to take those trips after you’ve retired. Just make an effort to travel with an open mind and don’t limit yourself to tourist zones. 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.
No more fancy work clothes and dry cleaning services. And you might just find the time to plant a garden and locally source more of your family’s food. Every little bit counts, right?
Even if you can’t quit your job for the foreseeable future, look for ways to shrink your commute. Consider riding your bike to work, or even moving closer to the office. Public transportation is a great option, if you have access to bus lines, subways, and light rail in your city.
The Reasons to Retire Early are Many
As for my own personal early-retirement journey, I have three years to go until I can hang it up. Time can fly by in a flash, so I need to be mindful to make the most of it. I can’t assume that “the good life” begins February 2020.
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.
(Footnote: We paid off our mortgage fully and finally in June of 2019. It feels great, but honestly, it’s just one rung of the ladder. The most important thing is enjoying each and every day with the people around you. Appreciate them fully, and the rest will fall into place!)
I’d love to hear from you fine readers about how your own journeys are coming along. If you have more great reasons to retire early that I should add to my list, please share!