Something we’re noticing, as we pass through 15 months left until early retirement, is that some days that feels like it’s right around the corner, and other days we have a case of Are we there yet?!?! Why aren’t we there yet?!?!?!? in a big way. And sometimes we’re simultaneously super chill and massively impatient. (Okay, “super chill” probably never describes me, but maybe at least “super chill for me“?)
On some level, we probably could have expected that emotional swing on the timeline. But something we hadn’t expected is this:
As we get closer to our ripcord date, we’re having some weird urges. Like pickles and ice cream weird, except without being pregnant.
And the urges seems to be spurred by this line of thinking: “This could be the last time I/we ever ________. Therefore I want _________.” Just what are these urges, and are they actually as weird as we think? Read on and let us know!
A few things to know about us: We may have been ballers once upon a time, but we are deeply casual people. We have never liked things that are stuffy or formal, and most of the time we can’t be bothered to dress up beyond the basics when we have to go to a work meeting or function.
When we travel, we mostly want to get out and just be in a place rather than spending a lot on attractions or shows that pull us away from the real experience. If we do any fine dining, we have always preferred the unpretentious places where you don’t feel like a neophyte if you put an elbow on the table or let your back touch the back of your chair. You get the idea.
And that’s why these urges are so weird. They all run counter to who we are as people, though they make sense on a basic level.
How They Began
Though early retirement is starting to feel close some days, our default setting seems to be that it still feels a somewhat large distance off. Its imminence is not affecting our work yet or changing our day-to-day financial habits. But even though it still feels far off, the “It could be the last time” thought is popping up more and more. I’ve started going into work travel thinking, “This could be the last time I visit this place,” or “This could be the last time I meet with this type of people.” Mr. ONL’s thoughts have been more like, “We only have a little bit longer with a lot of discretionary income.”
And so those thoughts come and go, and with them they bring urges to do things that are out of character for us, or at least out of character for now us.
We’d love to know if anyone else has experienced anything like this on your road to FIRE. Let us know in the comments — or just make fun of us. ;-)
Urge 1: Fashion
That whole deeply casual thing is relevant for one reason especially: I have been having this powerful, out of character urge to be the Fashionable Businesswoman until we quit. Remember when I wrote about how I travel like a minimalist? That’s made possible by carrying a practical travel bag instead of a fashionable handbag, not schlepping a bunch of pairs (or any pairs) of heels, and keeping a very streamlined wardrobe for work travel.
Except now it’s like a switch flipped, and I’m having thoughts like, “This is my very last chance ever to be a boss in meetings with powerful people. I want to stomp in there and impress them.” Um, “stomp?” Who am I, Tyra Banks?
Despite going the last several years — happily! — without wearing heels, I am now craving them. I find myself flipping to the way back of my closet where my sharpest suits live, and glancing online for a few new pieces. And purses — oh my gosh, I haven’t bought a new purse in a few years! Yet suddenly I want all of them. Who is this person??
Our town, like most outdoorsy mountain towns, is not a place where heels, a sharp outfit and a cool handbag would be appreciated, like at all. Most likely, I would be treated as a clueless out-of-towner in need of a pat on the head and a ticket back home, because those impractical fashion pieces have no place in the outdoors. I think it’s this fact that’s behind this urge. If we were living in Manhattan and planning to stay there, I wouldn’t need to have this crisis, because those things would still have a place in our post-retirement life.
But instead, because of where we live, I feel the clock ticking down on my ability to be this person I never even wanted to be before. And suddenly having the chance to be that person feels important.
I indulged a little bit and bought a pair of heels a few weeks ago. I’ve rocked them in a few meetings — sans new handbag — and learned that 1.) Yeah, it does feel fun and different to walk into a room that way, and 2.) Holy crap, heels still hurt. My feet will be glad when early retirement arrives.
Urge 2: Extravagant Travel
Our single biggest budget line item in retirement is travel. That’s even knowing that we’re going to go into retirement with close to 2 million air miles in the bank between the two of us, and a bunch of hotel points too. It’s clearly something we want to do a lot of, and yet we’re feeling the clock tick down on a certain type of travel: the we have lots of discretionary income and are going to travel like it kind.
Which is weird, because we don’t need to stay in upscale hotels, and I’ve even been actively trying on Twitter to talk people out of opening credit card accounts that give you airport lounge access for a higher fee. (Me: “The lounge is just a different place to sit, with crappy snacks.”) I’ll for sure miss my fancy pants airline status once I’m not traveling enough to maintain it (farewell, free snack boxes and occasional upgrades), but not because I need to travel that way. Mostly I’ll just miss the legroom of those seats up front.
So it’s weird that we’re currently planning a trip to Las Vegas where we are not going to stay at the most budget-friendly hotel, but instead are going to stay somewhere hip, with a spa that we fully intend to patronize. Even though paying more for a hotel adds very little extra to the experience of a trip, and we can get value-priced massages at home.
And we’re talking about planning one or two more international trips before we quit that will involve travel to pricey countries. We’d probably go for the more budget accommodations for those trips, but it’s all relative, and we’re still talking about spending a small fortune. We can “afford it,” sure, but it’s crazy how strongly driven we feel to make this stuff happen while we still have a lot of spending flexibility.
Do this urge and the last one sound a little like a midlife crisis to anyone else??
Urge 3: Gear Hoarding
Though rationally we know this thought is ridiculous, we keep finding ourselves thinking, “We won’t be able to buy anything new after we quit, so we need to make sure we’re fully equipped with X, Y and Z.” Which, lest you ever held any false notions that we are frugal despite our protestations, means that we now own eight pairs of skis and duplicates of several other types of outdoor sports gear. Yes, I said it: We own eight pairs of skis. (And if Mr. ONL had his say, it would be nine pairs. Maybe 10. Or 14. That guy likes skis.)
The best way I can describe it is that we feel like we’re little chipmunks preparing to hibernate, and we want to be sure we have everything we need stored away for the long winter ahead. Because somehow in this equation, future us won’t have access to stores, gear swaps or Craigslist, and we have to go into our extended winter with everything we’ll ever need. We know it’s not true rationally, but the emotional urge is no joke.
I’m convinced this is how true hoarding begins, and I’m super thankful that 1.) We hate clutter, which motivates us not to acquire too much, and 2.) We have been there with buying many things in the past and so are aware of these thoughts. Both tendencies are keeping the gear hoarding urges in check, but the urges themselves are still there.
Anyone feeling compelled to confess weird urges you’ve had when thinking about early retirement or other big life changes? Like is what we’re going through akin to what it feels like for people expecting their first child, who are facing down the end of their irresponsible years? (Using “irresponsible” facetiously there.) We don’t have kids so haven’t been through that, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Or that midlife crisis question — I’m only half joking. Is early retirement bringing on a premature midlife crisis for us? We’re all ears!