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?
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!