Ah, early retirement! Pitch your hammock right now, because you’re not going back to the cubicle like everyone else! That sounds amazing, doesn’t it?
Many aspiring FIRE (Financial Independence–Retire Early) walkers latch on to the idea of retiring early with glowing fervor because it would be so absolutely nice to kick our feet up and relax a bit before we’re in our 70’s. For us, we’d like to have our retirement while we’re still young enough to enjoy it!
Luckily, for the FI community–retirement doesn’t have to evoke the same “going out to pasture” imagery as it does for most of the mainstream. But, it also can leave those of us on the path to early retirement wondering how to make retirement a meaningful life stage.
Redefining Retirement For FI
The concept of retirement can be a sensitive subject. For some, it is easily celebrated and embraced. For others, the idea of packing it in can be more than just a little depressing.
It's important to take a good look in the mirror and see what attitudes and expectations you might have. When you decide on your own meaning and definition of success, retirement, and “enough,” then many of the external factors and pressures become unimportant.
Sometimes, paid work is how we measure our worth and the idea of losing that can leave many of us with questions. Will living without your previous salary make you question your own success and contribution to society? Is being retired all it’s cracked up to be?
In some work situations, our co-workers are like family, and the thought of giving that up can be distressing. Will you still have the opportunity to maintain friendships and connections? How long can you go without working in some form, before it starts to become mundane?
Take some time and search out the answers to whatever questions might pop-up. Keep in mind that your experience will be personal to you, and while others may have useful tips and suggestions, it really is up to you to decide the importance and priority of all the layers of life. Once you've defined what retirement means to you, you are on your way to enjoying your life of FI.
FI And The Choice To Work
The great thing about approaching retirement from the perspective of FI is that you have the freedom to choose your own adventure. If you want to work, you can. If you want to volunteer, you can. And if you don't, you don't. Because you have solid financial footing and strong fundamentals to go along with it–you have the freedom to write your own script and define what it means for you.
Luckily, for FI retirees, there’s room to work and play; and the lines are often blurred. The main difference is that it becomes a choice in how to spend your time–working or not. Your time is not dictated by the necessity to survive and pay bills.
Work Becomes A Choice In FIRE
Your retirement and the retirement of your grandfather cannot be compared–you may still be raising your own young children instead of grandchildren when you hit your personal retirement. Being younger also means you’ll ride out the ebbs and flows of the market in a stretched out timeline that your parents or grandparents likely didn’t (or don’t) have the luxury to ride.
Retiring traditionally means a market downturn around the time of your retirement date can be devastating. Not only are you entering your golden years without sufficient time to potentially ride out any financial rough water until the market rebounds, if you do need to return to work–you may struggle to find employment.
For those that retire early and live a financially independent lifestyle, choosing to periodically go back to work is another option to help ride out the inevitable ups and downs of the market. If the market does take a dive when you are in early retirement you have an extended timeline to ride it out.
Removing yourself from the mandates of the “rat race” allows you time and freedom to explore other interests in your life. Work becomes a choice and something you can determine in how it applies to your life in a meaningful way.
You can return to work part-time, full-time or for a season. Again, we see the lines are a bit more blurry between work life and non-work life.
Freedom To Learn
With an FI approach to retirement, you aren’t limited by a traditional narrative. Retirement isn’t waiting to die, it’s beginning to live–and you have time on your side.
As an FI devotee and a desire to learn, you are uninhibited by the constraints of needing to work for a paycheck. This becomes the perfect stage of life to learn and study anything that captures your interest.
Early retirement allows you to light a spark of curiosity! And the time to learn new skills, try new businesses, and diversify your investments with a bit of elbow grease. You can work, build, create, travel, explore; to become a student of life instead of a workhorse. Even actually hanging that symbolic hammock, wherever you choose.
Time And FI
Those who have achieved FI, have the opportunity to determine and share their value however they see fit. Time and talents become a gift to give instead of something used to leverage a paycheck. It takes a change of thinking to realize that time is a non-renewable resource as much as anything. But once that is understood, it can help put things in perspective for the priorities of your life.
If you’re in the FI community, you value your time and the true gift of giving your time to others. And when you have the financial flexibility to pursue things that may not pay well or pay at all, but you feel called to do the work, you have the freedom to do so.
You also have the choice of spending more time with loved ones, which is priceless. Instead of being the classic tale of missed time and opportunities with loved ones, it can be the reality of moments shared and memories created together.
Learning the violin, volunteering with foster children, building a shelter for rescue dogs, or starting your own 501c3 are pursuits that may not pay the bills, but can bring meaning to your life and give purpose that money can’t buy.
Early retirement with Financial Independence eases the path and burdens to follow those pursuits of heart and soul.
Early Retirement Is Just The Beginning
For those on the FI path, the division between “working” and “retirement” can be blurry, customizable, and flexible, developing and changing over time. With FI, you have the ability to make your retirement look exactly how you want it–with or without work.
Retirement isn’t the end of a journey, it’s the continuation of a story and an adventure of your own making.
What does retirement mean to you?
- Podcast Episode: Embracing Retirement
- The ‘Make Life Better Journal' To Track Your Improvements (Free Spreadsheet Included)