the process

in early retirement, what’s to stop us from getting old too fast?

bloggers working toward early retirement love to ponder the big questions: how will we spend our time once we’re no longer shackled to jobs we don’t love? what else will we do for fulfillment? where all will we travel? how long do we need our money to last?

but we wonder: do others ever ponder the hard questions? the scary questions?

we do.

maybe it’s that we’ve reached an age when our parents are starting to show their age in a big way, but we definitely think about what life will be like when we reach our 60s or 70s, or beyond. and sometimes we worry, both about the natural things that happen as we all get older, but also if early retirement could in some ways be worse for us. we’ve all seen the stats: people are most likely to die within the couple of years after they retire. some blame the lack of purpose people feel once they no longer have a job to go to, and while we early retirement planners would most likely disagree heartily with that premise, or even argue that that thinking doesn’t apply to us because we’re actively redefining our lives and ourselves while we’re young enough to do so, the question remains.

in early retirement, what’s to stop us from getting old too fast?

think about it — part of being young is feeling connected to others, and in tune with what’s going on in the world. what’s a big way that most of us currently do that? through work. work gives us built in social interaction. work provides us with the means to learn and access new technology. work gives us the motivation to stay current, at least in our field of work, but maybe beyond, so that we don’t feel like an idiot when someone around the water cooler says something like, “how bout that syrian regime!” what happens when those go away? will we feel any incentive to learn the next thing, or the next thing after that, or the next thing after that, or will we reach a point of technology fatigue, when we just want to stick with what’s comfortable?

remember the old yarn that you needed to find a kid to program your vcr for you? (for you millennials reading, a vcr was a thing that played videotapes, which were an archaic recording medium, before everything went digital. you got fined if you did not rewind your videotapes before returning them to blockbuster, an archaic business where you could rent a videotape of a movie for an evening. you had to go there in person to choose your movie and bring it home in a case the size of a small cereal box.) :-) well that joke resonated for a reason — because as people get older, we tend to get comfortable in our ways, and we become more resistant to new ideas, which includes technology and all the many ways that people connect now. in the 80s, it was people over 40 not wanting to learn to program the vcr. now it’s people not wanting to learn the newest social networks. (how many people over 30 do you know who use snapchat?)

for sure we all know some little old ladies who have embraced email. and good for them! but how many do you know who are also using a smartphone, tweeting regularly, maintaining a presence across multiple social platforms, and know their klout score? (are klout scores even still a thing?) probably not many. in our experience, elderly people feel just as isolated and lonely now as ever, even in our hyperconnected, socially networked age.

well those folks weren’t digital natives, you might argue. true. though as gen xers, neither are we. we’re definitely tech literate… now. but will we still be in 10 or 20 or 30 years, when everything is different from how it is now, and we’ve had no employer ensuring that we can keep up?

and what idea in the world is more about getting and staying comfortable than early retirement? we can’t think of one. so if we’re pursuing a life of comfort, and being able to choose what we do every day, what’s our incentive for continuing to push ourselves to stay current and connected? and if we don’t — if we just say “screw it. we’re happy how we are.” — what’s to stop us from eventually feeling disconnected, behind the times, isolated and… old?

we actually like to ponder these scary questions, because we think that by being aware of the potential pitfalls, we can better prepare ourselves to fight back. and here’s what we’ve come up with as our plan of attack against becoming disconnect and feeling old before our time:

stay current on pop culture — this doesn’t mean reading us weekly every week, but just staying open to cultural news, listening to at least some current music, staying generally aware of tv and movies, etc. we love music, so think that aspect of this imperative will be easiest for us.

stay current on technology — we don’t have to own every new gadget, but we’re committed to making a habit of perusing tech news from time to time, and staying current on social networks, online trends and the like. that means actually using the technology, not just knowing about it. whatever is the equivalent of blogging in 2050, we plan to be doing that. if that means that we sometimes pay to take a class on whatever future thing comes along, like one of us once did on html, we’re fine with that.

stay aware of world events — we both have to stay current on news for our jobs, so this one, which seems like such a no-brainer, could occasionally be a challenge for us. we’d love to unplug entirely from current events and just find some bliss in ignorance. and maybe we’ll let ourselves do that for a year after we quit our jobs. but long term, it’s essential that we stay in tune with the news, not just so we are globally aware, but so that we are current on scientific discoveries and matters of health and nutrition that affect us directly.

interact with young people — this one is super important. in our 20s, we were mostly friends with people older than us. we need to focus in the future on making friends who are younger than us, too. and we want to volunteer in ways that help us interact with young people, whether it’s through something like big brothers big sisters, doing mentoring or tutoring in schools, or sitting on committees with people in their 20s and 30s. we won’t try to act younger or cooler than we are, but just stay open to learning from them (and maybe inspiring them to save for early retirement — who knows).

travel slowly — we believe strongly that travel is so essential to making us well-rounded human beings, and getting us out of our comfort zones. we don’t want to save travel for just when we’re young. and we don’t want to switch to old people-style travel when we’re older, like taking cruises where you get very little interaction with local people. we are committed to traveling slowly for as long as we possibly can, meeting the people, understanding their joys and hardships, getting out of our americentric view of the world, and expanding our minds.

what did we miss on our list? what are some other great ways to stay connected and young-feeling as you get older in early retirement? what aspects of early retirement do you worry could be worse than if we all just kept working until 65? please share!

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30 replies »

  1. Interesting question to think about. I think one of the reasons why people tend to wither away so quickly after retirement is because, 1: they retire too late in life, and 2: by that time, their ability to stay current with the times becomes much, much more difficult.

    As early retirees, our ability to stay active and committed to our goals and dreams is still very real. It is true that people may not actually follow through on that ability, but it is there, waiting for people to make the choice to pursue it.

    For us, the biggest challenge is going to be making and keeping face to face friends. I work from home now so I have entered this challenge a little bit earlier than my wife, but once we move up to Sedona, AZ, both my wife and I will both be retired at that point – or at least very close to it. New city. New surroundings. New potential. But, no face to face friends around the corner any more. This will be the toughest challenge for us.

    We have ideas on how to meet those challenges, like getting involved as much as we can in clubs and activities in the area, going to Meetups, joining hiking groups…things like that.

    Like you, we plan to travel quite a bit after retirement. The plan is to retire by the end of 2018, move up to Sedona and basically take the next year “off”, enjoying our time in one of the most beautifully scenic cities in the world. Then, we travel around the country, perhaps hitting all the national parks (or some such goal). We’ll definitely make a trip up the Pacific Coast Highway. My camera will be getting a LOT of work.

    Then, it’s international travel. Costa Rica might be our first real international travel experience. We’ll probably stick to south America first, then as we’re sure that we can handle the financial aspect of early retirement, we might venture out into Europe.

    All the while trying our very, very best to only stay in our hotel room/airBnB/whatever to sleep and maybe eat. The rest of the time we’re out and about and experiencing the environment. You never know what you might see, or who you might meet, when you’re out…doing things.

    Also like you, staying current on technology will probably be a natural part of our retirement due to what we’ll be involved in (travel and experience blogging, photography, etc). Regarding world news, yeah, I guess you can say that my wife and I are on a low information diet…and have been for probably the past 2 or 3 years. Staying current on world news probably won’t be in our list of goals, but you never know, that might change.

    Nice post. Thought-provoking for sure.

    • We *hope* that retiring early gives us an advantage, as you said, and makes it easier to stay current! At the very least, we’ll only be burned out by 18-20 years of work, not 40+ years!

      It’s great you guys have thought about how to ensure that you make friends once you move to Sedona, and have a vision that includes staying current all around (maybe excepting news — but hey, you don’t have to follow our plan!). :-)

      Our experience has been that making friends in a smaller place is a little tougher than in the big city, but once you have those friends, you see them a lot more. And there’s more natural interaction with neighbors, for sure. So it seems like that will help in Sedona.

  2. I agree with Steve, the biggest thing is going to be consistent person-to-person contact. We are very social now (neighborhood, church, etc.), but I often forget just how much human interaction I get through my traditional office job. I’m planning a change very soon from my office job and the personal time with other friends who are entrepreneurs or those that work from home will be something I have to make time for.

    Regarding technology, I hope I can model after the way my Dad retired early, He never worked in the computer or tech field but always enjoyed learning about it years ago. He’s 75 now and can run circles around me with regard to operating systems, hardware, software, etc. But when we mentioned Facebook, Twitter, or the like, he’s out; so your points are very valid about keeping up with whatever the next technology or social media thing is in 10, 20, or 30 years from now. Mark my words though, if the DeLorean time machine becomes a thing, I’m totally on board with that!!

    • Your dad sounds pretty awesome. :-) And for sure the DeLorean time machine is going to make a comeback!

      It’s funny, re: social interaction through work. We both telecommute to jobs across the country now, so on some level we miss the social interaction. But we’re also on the phone and email with colleagues all day and we frequently travel to interact with colleagues and clients. We suspect that we’ll have an easier transition than lots of other early retirees when the time comes to quit working, because we aren’t giving up getting dressed for work, commuting and spending time in an office. But we suspect we’ll still have a big void to fill in terms of that social time.

      But it’s good we’re all thinking about this now and planning ahead!

  3. Not getting old… how to avoid this: For me, it would be to keep having an intellectual challenge (would that be work related), to keep in contact with people and the community in general, keep on trying new things, look for experiences, do something new each year, travel and explore the world.
    In your specific case, you could maybe consider volunteer work. My mother who is retired does it, and she loves it. It gives great satisfaction to help others, it gives some structure to the agenda, you meet new people and new situations.

    • We definitely plan to volunteer a lot! We already do, but can’t wait to do more. Your plan sounds great as well — intellectual challenges are so important!

      • We have loads of ideas, and we’d love to hear yours too!

        For us, continuing to be intellectually challenged will include, among other things:
        – Volunteering for a diverse range of organizations, and staying involved in more complex tasks like planning and strategizing, not just menial tasks
        – Occasionally consulting for pay
        – All of the stuff we mentioned in our post (engaging with young people, trying to stay current on tech, etc.)
        – Traveling the hard way, not the posh way, so that we’re faced with challenges and have to figure them out and stay adaptable
        – Reading more than we have time to do now, which is always mentally stimulating
        – Taking more time for creative pursuits than we have now

        But, we’ll also say — we don’t quite know what we want to do when we grow up, and hope that early retirement gives us the breathing room to figure that out. So we fully expect this list to expand and change.

      • I second staying intellectually challenged. My road block isn’t finding intellectual challenges, it’s finding NEW ones. I feel like the way you keep the mind sharp is by always throwing it curve-balls and trying new things — not just sticking to your regular activities like reading, exercising, etc.

  4. I think my friends and family will keep me young. So will my passions, hobbies, and anything entrepreneurial that I take on. I’ll even have MORE time for exercise which will be great! Ambitious people who don’t have trouble keeping themselves busy and involved, like yourselves, will not have issues. :)

  5. I’ve got to be honest – this whole thing never even crossed my mind! I’m glad you brought it up, though. Something to think about for sure. I think Mr. FI and I will find ways to keep our minds engaged. We may not be as “current” as we are now with certain aspects of our life, but I think that might be part of the appeal of retirement for us. Some days I feel like we are constantly being pulled in different directions to keep up with all the mediums out there pumping out information left and right. It will be nice to pick and choose which info we want to consume and continue learning about things that we are actually interested in, instead of what we are required to learn with our current jobs. For instance, one of the big things that I love learning is a different language. It not only connects you to more people and culture, but it is also scientifically proven to improve brain function ( Unfortunately, with all the demands of work on top of my life outside of work, I don’t have much time to pursue that learning-passion. I’m hoping that’s one of the things that changes once we get to our goal :)

    • Such a great point — that becoming a bit less current is a good thing. Certainly we are all in information overload right now, and that could be even worse than losing touch when older. We also want to learn more languages, and even have the software — but no time to learn. Like you guys, that’s one of our big to do items in a few years, post-ER.

  6. I’ve noticed the people who remain active when they retire and continue to learn seem to thrive. A lot of people don’t know what to do with themselves after retirement. They haven’t thought through what they are going to do with all that time they used to spend at work. I just want to retire young enough that we can still travel and enjoy life.

  7. I feel the opposite. That working is making me get old too fast (!), and I’m less connected to the world because of my work life. While I’m very connected to my field, everything else is a blur. My Mother is always tsking me for never keep up with current events!

  8. I have definitely pondered this question in one form or another. I worry about becoming a smith and an inactive person, which in turn, will change me to being old. But my idea keeps coming back to opening a small art business in a small town that keeps us interacting with people and also keeps us active making the art. Plus it’s a fishing village, so there will be plenty of healthy activities and eating.