OurNextLife.com // How Well Do We Know Our Post-Retirement Selves? // Retirement changes people, Will we recognize ourselves?the process

How Well Do We Really Know Our Post-Retirement Selves?

We could only daydream about our future, retired life and how different it will be from our current one for so long before we had to accept: Life won’t just be different. We will be different, too.

The fundamentals of us as individuals will still be true, of course, but when we step off that work precipice into the great unknown, we’ll be confronting all of these versions of ourselves whom we’ve never met before:

The us who are completely well rested.

The us whose shoulders have receded from our ears in the absence of work stress.

The us who have time to be attentive partners to each other.

The us who have figured out what the heck we want to do when we grow up.

It’s both a disconcerting and intriguing thought: that there’s so much about ourselves as individuals and as a couple that we still have yet to learn.

And our big question is: How well do we even know those people?

OurNextLife.com // How Well Do We Know Our Post-Retirement Selves? // Retirement changes people, Will we recognize ourselves?

We Know Ourselves… Under Certain Conditions

As you already know if you’ve read this blog before, I am pretty into introspection, and I have a decent handle on most of my tendencies and habits at this point, 37 years in. (I know my crazy.) But, 33 of those years have been spent in work mode, either in school or in my career. There were some summer vacations back there in the most distant memories, but those magical interludes were inhabited by kid me, not adult me. And they came with an expiration date that felt like an early and extended form of the Sunday blues. I remember thinking in June one year in elementary school, “I’m sad, because summer break will be over in two months.”

It’s safe to say that I have spent the overwhelming majority of my life working, dreading work or being sad that it’s almost time to work again. I’m thankful to have a career that has brought me enormous satisfaction, working for a company that I respect and admire, but it still strikes me that these thoughts aren’t healthy.

It’s well known to animal advocates that dogs kept in a shelter awaiting adoption behave differently than they do in a normal home environment. They experience more stress. They are more likely to behave aggressively and fearfully, and to bark more than they usually would. This phenomenon probably prevents many awesome dogs from being adopted, because they aren’t showing off their best selves in the shelter environment. We’ve experienced this ourselves with our two dogs, both of whom changed for the better after settling in at home — one to the point of acting like a completely different dog.

I think I know myself pretty well, but what if I only know myself in shelter conditions — stressed, tired, too much stimulation from work demands — and there’s a completely different me in there, just waiting to settle in at home?

Lots of Guesses

Our entire early retirement vision is based on the premise that we want to spend as much of our lives — especially the younger, most able-bodied years — pursuing our outdoor passions. But the truth is: we’ve never spent most of or all of our time outdoors before, except for in short bursts, and even then those bursts felt like a massive contrast to our “real life” of work work work. So this idea that it’s what we want to do for the long term? It’s a guess. An educated guess, sure, but still a guess.

Also guesses: That we want to spend long periods traveling the world. And long periods traveling around North and South America in an RV. That we want to ski 100 days a season a few times, and chase an endless winter.

We’ve never actually done any of those things. And we’ve certainly never done those things or any things when there was no yin and yang, no contrast to work, no thing we were rebelling against. We could find that we only need to ski 40 days in a season, or leave the country for a month or less at a time. The thought has occurred to us: What if this is like picking a major in college, when we don’t actually know what it’s like to work in that field?

Because it’s impossible to know until we’re there. Until we’re actually those people — future us, not today us.

Mr ONL and Ms ONL on top of a mountain... with emoji faces (for now).

How much will these two resemble future us? Minus the emoji faces, of course.

This question is a big part of why we haven’t made any concrete plans for our early retirement. It’s why we haven’t booked a round-the-world trip or bought an RV. We could, but we want to keep things a bit looser, to allow space for our not-under-work-duress selves to emerge.

And it’s probably why we stumble a little when people ask us what we’re going to do once we’re retired. “Travel,” we say, “and outdoorsy stuff. And writing.” But we stop there, because we don’t know what these other versions of ourselves whom we have yet to meet will actually feel inclined to do. It’s as though we’re parents preparing to welcome children into the world — children who are us, who will emerge as fully formed adults — and we don’t want to taint their new experience with our preconceived notions of what they should want for themselves. (<– officially one of the weirdest things I have ever admitted or written)

The Question That Matters Most

If, in the end, we decide to do different things in retirement, it’s not ultimately that big a deal. Maybe we’ll have to take “adventure” out of the blog header. The world will keep spinning. (Not that I’m anticipating any of that happening, but it’s not ridiculous to think the thought.) It’s another question, though, that truly matters.

Divorce rates shoot up at the time of retirement, and while it’s easy to dismiss that trend as generational or not applicable to early retirees, the truth is that there are too few of us doing this to know for sure. With baby boomers, it’s possible that after retirement they realize that they don’t have anything in common, having spent 40 years doing different things most days. We hope for early retirees everywhere that this is less of an issue when you’ve only been in your career for 15-25 years. But there’s still a fundamental shift in dynamics that could feel rather seismic, regardless of how long a career was involved.

Related post: Why Married Early Retirees Should See Our Marriages As Our Most Important Investments

While I’m hoping that well-rested-and-less-stressed me will be a better human in general, the thing I think about most is that I can’t wait to have more time and space to be a better partner to Mr. ONL. I know he thinks about the same thing. Though he feels as grateful for his career and employer as I do, we both know that the nature of our work has forced us to live far too much of our 11 years together inside our own heads, not engaging with each other. It feels like a hugely positive sign that we both can’t wait to get fully present together more of the time, not just in short bursts.

But it’s not crazy to question whether some relationship fine tuning might end up being in order. We’ve only ever known the working versions of each other — and mostly only known the working versions of ourselves — so we should expect to get to know each other in new ways.

There could be whole layers of awesomeness in there, just waiting to be discovered. There could be weird quirks that have been buried under the work stress and panic monster intrusions. There could be new ways we’re able to relate to each other, and new ways we’ll butt heads (like if money becomes a source of tension in the future).

So long as we anticipate the need to adjust, we feel good about handling our evolution together, as a team. The mistake would be assuming that everything will stay the same, or worse, that any change represents growing apart. We have changed a lot in our 11 years together, so we know we’re going to keep changing, perhaps with a big growth spurt coming up sometime next year.

Future You

What do you wonder about for future you? Or for those who’ve already retired, what have you found to be most different now that you’ve exited your career? Any big surprises? For married folks, how are you thinking about evolving together in your relationship after you make a big change? Let’s discuss it all in the comments!



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97 replies »

  1. Great post but two things really stuck out.
    1.)The dog in a caged environment. We just returned from a week off which was incredible and by 9:30 am on my first day back I felt stressed and anxious and realized I am a totally different person at my job. I don’t know for certain what person I’ll be w/o work, but I’m pretty excited to find out!
    2.) Comparing FIRE to picking a major for college. I think it is a great analogy, as I don’t know anymore now (and if being honest I’m probably less certain now than I was then) what I want to do with the rest of my life. We have dealt with this by just setting our FI date so we don’t forever over analyze things, and then just figure things out from there as we go. There is a boxing quote from one of Mike Tyson’s trainers that “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”. Our best plan is to know that we can’t possibly know everything and so we’re going into FIRE as an adventure and having flexibility to adapt in many ways.

    • Thanks! I didn’t want to totally call myself a dog in a cage, but I do think parts of that analogy are apt — as you found for yourself! Like you, we expect to find that we’re pretty different without work! And the college majors — same here. We don’t know what we want to do with our lives, but we’re crazy excited to find out. I love that you’re just going to go for it without overanalyzing that — and I hope you decide where you want to live and are able to answer these big questions while living somewhere awesome. :-) High five for staying adaptable and flexible!

  2. Let me know when you figure you who you want to be when you grow up. Maybe then you could tell me who I want to be. ;-)

    I think the important thing with financial independence is that you are free to explore all the things you might want to be. Maybe outdoor adventures only work in short bursts (blasphemy!) and you discover that something else like art/music, cooking, volunteering fill the void.

    I think it’s important to still have a purpose and at least feel like you are contributing to society. Parents of toddlers call this “being a really useful engine.” I think once you find the right balance of all this… the one that works for you… you’ll be fine.

    My other thought was about divorce rates at retirement. I think money is the #1 cause of divorce. Financial independence should theoretically reduce that stress and those divorce rates.

    • You know we’ll keep you posted! Haha. And couldn’t agree more on purpose! We think and write about that a lot, and expect to stay focused on ours — but as you said, the WAY we act out our purpose could certainly evolve a lot! Divorce is obviously a big complicated thing, and I’m actually a believer that money rarely causes divorces, but is instead a symptom of deeper issues around trust and teamwork (or lack thereof). To your point about FI reducing financial stress, it’s actually possible for FI to increase money stress if you freak out at no longer having money coming in and get thrown off by having a much smaller money buffer. All important stuff to think about to avoid getting thrown in panic!

  3. I will say this, from my experience changing jobs to one with less hours and less stress… I often feel a bit restless, and perhaps disconnected is the right word. It is a tough transition to go from the fully-engaged working mode, to a more relaxed way of life. I mean, life is so much better now for Mr. SSC and I with my new job hours… but its been about 4 months and the Type A version of myself is still trying to cope with it.

    • That’s good to know! I have long suspected that we would feel disconnected and irrelevant after leaving our jobs — part of the motivation to write this blog is to stay connected to a community, even if we’ll be losing our career communities. Thank you for sharing your Type A experience with a fellow Type A over here! :-)

  4. The main thing I regret about going to work is being away from the person of my life (my wife) for 11 hours of the day. That isn’t what I want. We enjoy life much more when we’re together than apart. As soon as we’re able to be together the entire time, that will make our lives much more enjoyable.

    I really look forward to our future selves, it’s going to be a great future. But it shouldn’t come too quickly, we have a lot of living to do between now and then :)


  5. Cool. I think you should also consider that you will probably change quite a bit over the course of 40 or 50 years! It may turn out that you really want to nest for a while, then travel for a while, then go through a phase where you get deeply involved in local politics or whatever. The other thing that comes to mind is that you may find yourselves becoming more present, not only to each other, but to your communities. I find that one of the things about work is that it takes up so much time that it makes it difficult to get deeply into volunteering or politics, etc. Who knows what you might get deeply invested in with so many more hours in the day!

    • Hi C! I’ve missed you. :-) Great point about always changing — if I’m exactly the same as I am now at age 80, I’ll be pretty disappointed! And the point about different seasons is a big one, too — we got some good advice early on in our planning to think of life in five-year chunks, so right now we’re only thinking about the first five years, and even that feels like something we should keep pretty open. As you said, we might be into something completely different after we get those initial early retirement yayas out! (And volunteering and politics will probably occupy more of our time than we want them to!) ;-)

  6. This is an important and under-discussed part of early retirement! I’m still a good 10 years from FIRE, but I can see how my self changes when I change jobs or careers. Enough that I’m guessing the post-retirement me will be radically different. Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

    • Thanks, Kate! And you’re welcome. :-) We haven’t changed careers in ages, so haven’t seen those changes in ourselves, but it makes sense! And yeah, I’m sure plenty about us will stay the same, but plenty could be radically different too!

  7. I experienced this after I had a liquidity event a few years ago. The reality for me was that it’ll take time to discover your post-retirement person and you won’t be able to imagine what your mind (and body) goes through when it happens. :)

  8. I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up! This whole adulthood thing was thrust upon me. I hate it when that happens.

    Who knows what you and the Mr will turn out to be. The best thing is that you know change is coming and you are preparing for it. The worst thing would be to assume that everything will be the same and gosh darn it, you’ve got a plan and you’re sticking too it.

    • Haha — yeah, you and everyone else! :-) Sticking to the plan at all costs would definitely be the worst outcome! We need to stay flexible and be willing to listen to our new desires and interests once work is way back in the rearview mirror!

  9. Food for thought this lovely Wednesday. December first will mark two years since I walked away from a six figure income that was destroying my life, and four years since Mr. AR went out on what was initially temporary disability and ended up being a series of health issues that effectively ended his working life. Who are we now versus who we were then? Fundamentally we’re the same people, at least as far as core values go. We’re still liberals (even in a conservative little mountain town). We still like our old school rock and roll (they haven’t made country music fans of us yet), we still avoid daytime television, although I notice Mr. AR slipping into streaming golf after his recent surgery. In short, we haven’t changed who we are as people, but most of what we thought we’d do in retirement has changed. We were wrong about a lot of things. Traveling with six pets at home isn’t as convenient or practical as we romanticized it to be, and aging pets bring responsibilities that we are loathe to pass onto others. After all, these dogs and cats made the change with us; don’t they deserve some quality time with us in their waning years? We already lost our beloved little dog after nearly ten years, and the void has been so cavernous (an enormous change when you’re no longer away from home and your pets twelve hours a day), we made the decision to adopt a puppy. My former working self would have been on the countdown, waiting for six pets to become five, five to become four, etc., but my retired self discovered one of the truisms I never took into account while working: you live your life in a day to day routine, retired or not. You can drop everything and fly to Hawaii today if you like (even with pets and a house under renovation and a spouse fresh from surgery), but would you? There’s nothing stopping us from doing whatever we’d like to do, we just typically are happiest sharing the morning on the deck with a cup of coffee and a few pets milling around. We dreamt of far off places and exotic locales, we even considered a condo on Maui, but at the end of the day we realized that the need to escape our current situation for something entirely different evaporated when the jobs did. There’s nothing to run away from anymore. When my father had been retired for several years I asked him why he didn’t take a world cruise or an extended European trip or just go somewhere and do something, and he told me he loved living here (he and mom moved here to retire as well), and he had no desire to go anywhere else. At the time I couldn’t wrap my head around his comments, but as time goes by I completely understand what he meant. While I don’t want to spend my retirement grocery shopping and doing laundry and paying bills, the reality is that stuff needs to get done and most days, that’s what does get done. Maybe while staring at the lovely lake, or sitting in the dining room watching the boats in the marina, or on the deck with a cup of coffee, but regardless, it gets done here, at home, because that’s where we are most of the time. We changed our mind about purchasing a cheap mobile home in a park or a condo with no yard because we (fortunately) realized we’ll spend most of our time right here, and even with the repairs and maintenance expenses, right here is a pretty great place to be. You might travel the world and live out of backpacks and suitcases for years and years, or circumstances might change and you might not. I’ve had to accept the retired version of myself is much more of a homebody than the working me ever thought I was, and some of my retirement dreams may remain just that: dreams. The secret to a successful retirement is simply to wake up every day thankful that you’re not going to work for anyone else today. The weather might be crap, the house might need repairs, maybe you have a headache or your spouse is snoring or the house guests have made your formerly pristine downstairs look like a bomb went off, but for today you’re here, you’re alive and you have your health and your family and each other, and even though you’re not on the beach at Kihei, you’re home. Home with the people and the pets you love, who love you. There’s nothing better.

    • This line: “There’s nothing to run away from anymore.” THAT is exactly what we are thinking about. So far, virtually everything we have done in our free time has been a contrast or counterpoint to work (very demanding work!), and once that counterpoint is gone, will we still want to do all the same things? That’s something we will learn!

      I already know that I’m at least a partial homebody because the idea of going fully nomadic fills me with dread — I want my home base! And so we’re building our plan around having a home of some sort, even if it ends up being a smaller one than we have now. As always, hearing your experience with it is super helpful in helping us think through what the transition might be like for us. We know every day won’t be some big, amazing adventure, and we’re okay with that — it feels like staying open to the process of discovering our non-work selves is the most important part.

  10. I love the thoughtfulness here. Even though I’m years away from financial independence, this is something I’ve thought about on a smaller scale as far as travel goes. I work from home, so technically, I can “slow travel” and go to all the countries I’d like to visit…but will I actually enjoy it? I have no idea because I have very limited travel experience, but RVing and seeing the world appeals to me on some level. My short-term goal is to travel more domestically so I get a better feel for it, even though that might be different from traveling to more exotic locations.

    I also love the analogies you used as far as being in a shelter and picking a college major. I know I tie a lot of my self-worth to my ability to work and earn a living, and even the work I produce. I can’t see myself *not* working in some capacity, even if it’s just on hobbies I enjoy (like writing) for that reason. Finding a purpose in lieu of a job will be interesting to say the least. I’m excited to see how you’ll grow, though!

    • Thanks, Erin! :-) I think your approach is super smart — ramping up your travel little by little to figure out what you really enjoy and what you don’t. And couldn’t agree with you more on having a purpose and still doing what aligns to that! I probably talk about that a little too much here, but we *believe* our purpose is adventure, creativity and service, and plan to shape a lot of our post-retirement activities around that, preferably focusing on things that check more than one of the boxes at a time… but then again, we might find that our interests completely shift once they are no longer in contrast to work and work stress. ;-)

  11. Great post! I, too, have been thinking about how my post-retirement self will be different. As a matter of course, I have also been trying to adjust to some new behaviors and habits and work towards living the way I want to live when I am retired. I’m currently messing around with some travel hacking, a little bit of volunteering, riding bikes to run errands (sometimes), walking my kiddo home from school (sometimes), intentionally having better boundaries with my work life and working less, bartering for services I want to use (I’m doing a bit of consulting for a yoga studio I like to go to in exchange for not paying $100/month to attend classes), and so on… I think it will be a huge change mentally and physically for me and I’m hoping by trying to make changes now, it will not be such a shock to the system. More than anything, I think early retirement gives you space to slow down the pace of your life, which I think will be difficult if you are like me and have been on high intensity level for as long as I have.

    • Sounds like we’re in similar situations currently, with the high intensity over a long period! Good for you for being intentional about your habits and behaviors NOW instead of expecting your post-work life to fix everything for you. (Just a note on your yoga classes — most studios pay teachers by the head, so your “free” yoga may actually mean that the teacher just isn’t getting paid to teach you, which means the teachers are actually paying for your consulting — worth asking!).

  12. I’m so excited for you two :)
    You will figure it out. It will be an adjustment. Have you considered working part-time for a few months to give yourselves a way to ease into it?
    My husband and I used to try to spend every single day off together when we worked full time, but now that we’re part time we appreciate our alone time and time with our individual friends too. We still spend some time together every day and some days we’re together all day, but we also have other things to talk about because we’ve spent time on our own.

    • Thanks! We’re excited too. :-) We *have* considered working part-time, but more as a hedge against the markets in our first few years (sequence of returns risk) — we don’t think we’ll need that kind of help adjusting to our new life, but who knows! And your point about spending time separately is a really important one — we’re the same now in that we try to spend a lot of our free time together (though not all of it), but once we have more of that, it will free us up to do some things separately!

  13. First off I would say you don’t really settle in retirement until you have been at it for a while. I know many people who just spent the first six months sleeping 12-16 hours a day. They were not depressed or anything. They were just catching up on years of sleep deprivation. I’ve known others who couldn’t sleep properly for six months. I tell people expect the first two years to be an adjustment period. It takes two years to get used to being retired. These tips from others have helped me.
    1) Set a schedule for yourself, an easy one that is flexible but a schedule nonetheless. For example if I don’t do physical activity I don’t sleep. So I schedule 2 hours a day of physical activity. Since I hate formal exercising that mostly comes in gardening and fixing up the house and housework but I do some “you tube” arm exercises recommended to me after a shoulder injury to strengthen and recover.
    2) Get a solid sleep. This may require adjustments like putting light blocking curtains and setting an alarm to wake you at an appropriate hour and doing deliberate relaxation before bed. Whatever it takes guard your sleep.
    3) Do volunteer work at something you believe in to stay active and involved.
    4) Guard your play time. I have found it is all too easy to let the pleasurable work we enjoy doing, our volunteer work, eat into our play time so we soon find ourselves working harder than we ever did before retirement. Because we only volunteer at what we like doing and we are both workaholic types, and we have valuable skills, we have to actively guard our play time.
    5) Join formal organizations that have regular activities. I hate group stuff and I am shy. Nonetheless, we belong to the local senior’s dinner club that has a formal group dinner one Sunday a month. We have almost nothing in common with most of the people there but we have found we really enjoy their company nonetheless and it is great fun. It is also good for us because many of the people are much older than us and they are struggling and coping now with the things we will face, such as having one partner die or becoming disabled. We have found friends there.
    6) Rest more. take daytime naps. Spend some time just lying in a hammock or sitting in a rocking chair or whatever. As we age we just don’t have the kind of energy and drive we once did. It begins about age 45 and it goes downhill from there, so rest. Do less. Besides, there is no greater pleasure than lying in a hammock looking up into the trees and watching birds.
    7) Exercise your mind. There are many studies that show that as long as you are constantly learning new things you can dramatically reduce your chances of getting a degenerative brain disorder. So make sure you are always struggling with learning something new with your brain. This is actually easy if you tie it into volunteer work or play time.
    8) Indulge in comforting things. I like high quality Egyptian cotton 400+ count threads. I pay the extra to get them. I bought a high quality kitchen aide appliance because I know I will use to doing something I love. hey were expensive but I wanted them. I can go cheap on lots of things (my rocker is from a thrift store) but a few things are not worth going cheap.
    9) Eat properly and watch your weight. Everything works better if you are eating properly and sit down together proper meals at least once a day are good for marriages.
    That is my advice on the topic.

    • Thank you for these excellent pro tips! I know you guys have been at it a while, so I appreciate you sharing all of this with us. It’s clear you’re exercising your mind with your book coming out — congrats!

      It’s good to know that two years is a better estimate for the adjustment period — we’ve been assuming one year would be sufficient. And sleep is absolutely our top priority for after we quit, because it is the thing that we have most neglected for the longest. All the rest of the list is stuff we already do and plan to continue doing, but sleep… yeah, we’ve been bad about that! And thank you for reinforcing the point about social interaction and community involvement — we’ve written about that stuff, but it always bears repeating how important it is to avoid becoming a hermit!

  14. I love this post. The future is always going to be in flux to some extent until it actually gets here. It sounds like you guys have a pretty healthy outlook on it. It certainly helps to have some idea of a goal though.

    I worry that I might be that much more sad about being single if I don’t at least have a 40 hour per week job to distract me from thinking about it. This isn’t really a concern on the road trip because there is so much to do, places to see and people to meet, but I wouldn’t at all be surprised if I continue to work some “normal job” after financial independence just because I don’t want to be a reclusive frugal hermit for the next 50 years and if that’s what it takes for me to have a social connection, no matter how forced and inauthentic it may feel, we all gotta do what we gotta do to find our happy moments in life.

    • Thanks, TJ! There are tons of things you can do in FI to keep your mind engaged and keep yourself socially involved that don’t involve the usual definition of work. You’ll have the freedom to volunteer, take classes in subjects that interest you, spend whole days at museums or cultural sites… I bet that stuff would be a lot more fulfilling than just working! :-)

      • I feel like a lot of those are more temporary fixes for staying engaged though. If you’re volunteering every day at the same place for the same hours, I would equate that to having a work routine, maybe a less stressful one but just because something doesn’t pay doesn’t mean its any less stressful. I plan to incorporate a lot of those ideas (museums, cultural sites, volunteering) during the road trip because to me those activities make perfect sense during a nomadic phase of life, but if I’m living in one place I might as well work, whether that’s for money or a cause I’m super passionate about. Of course my opinion is allowed to change the more my nest egg grows or if I find myself in particualrly toxic work environments. :D

      • I trust that you’ll figure out the right balance for yourself. :-) But “volunteering” can mean a lot of different things, and it’s definitely possible to have higher level engagement over the long term with organizations that need your real skills, not just your ability to show up and do some basic thing. And that can often fit into whatever time you want to give it, not necessarily regular hours like a regular job. I’ll be curious to know what you learn about yourself on your road trip!

      • I’m curious too! The craziest part is that I’ve already reached out to some potential “road trip sponsors”, and like, I’m in complete amazement that some of these companies are actually responding to me. I took Kara’s “Borrow, Improvise, Buy” philosophy straight to heart, I’m just trying to avoid the “buy” part. :)

      • Check my blog in roughly 4-5 months from now. If I’m successful, I’m guessing I will make it rather obvious. :)

  15. I have a little bit of an advantage when it comes to imaging a future me not bound to the responsibilities of working full-time, my three maternity leaves. To be fair, I did have an infant (and other children) to take care of, but the kids will still be around when we reach our goal date for semi-retirement. Also, I did some work for my tutoring gig during the time off. We worked really hard on the garden that last time and Mr. Smith did a bunch of work on the house, like putting on a new roof. It was probably a good preview of what’s to come . . . and it was awesome. I was so relaxed and happy, taking time to dwell in the joy of ordinary experiences. I cannot wait to get back to that place.

    It’s not all relaxation, but the freedom and flexibility are so empowering. And that’s how I felt with three little ones. I think you’ll be just fine and really enjoy getting to know a whole different side of yourself.

    • You’re not the first person I’ve heard wax poetic about the wonderfulness of maternity leave! :-) (That’s in addition to all the work that comes with a newborn, of course!) I love that you were able to relax and feel present during your three leaves — we can’t WAIT to experience that feeling!

  16. I sometimes think a lot of my preferences will change when I retire. For instance, I HATE gardening right now, but I could see really enjoying it in retirement when I have plenty of time to work on it bit by bit. I try to think of retirement as a buffet of options and I can choose once I get there.

    As far as marriage goes, I do think it’ll be important to have separate pursuits sometimes and to make sure we each get the alone time we need, but I’m also excited to spend more time together, sitting down to home-cooked meals together, watching sunsets and meteor showers together. And so far the FIRE journey has been the best thing to happen to our marriage. It’s given us a shared sense of purpose and optimism that we really lacked before, makes us feel more like a team, and gives us fun dreams to talk about. So I would really hope that the payoff of reaching FIRE will also mean a payoff of giving us time to really enjoy our marriage.

    I can’t wait for your post-FI posts. It’ll be really cool to see what you both decide to do next! :)

    • I love that buffet analogy! Just knowing that life will have more options very soon is pretty darn motivating! I LOVE how you’re thinking about post-FIRE married life, too (and pre-FIRE married life, operating as more of a team!) — giving yourselves more quality time together to enjoy the marriage. (Yay for meteor showers, too.) ;-)

  17. Oh, I haven’t even thought about such things. Right now it still seems like a future dream. I like that you are keeping the plans “loose.” That sure sounds like a wise thing to do when such a major life change will be taking place. I also like that you are trying to protect your marriage before anything bad can happen. Being aware and preventative medicine are huge in a world where divorce is so commonplace. Great thoughts.

    • Thanks! Yeah, “preventive medicine” is a good way to put it! I think if we acted like this wasn’t a big freaking deal, we’d set ourselves up for a rude awakening. So even though we don’t know what it will all feel like, we know it will feel BIG, and just being open to that feels like the right way to go. But who knows! Either way, we’ll report back. :-)

  18. This will echo my past thoughts of future retired me, but I expect that i will be like AR and find that I’m probably more of a homebody than I suspect. Ol’ Prof SSC may get stir crazy, and she was complainging I “threw off” her schedule being laid up at home with a stomach bug this week, but I realized I’m fine with puttering around, weeding the garden, flowerbeds, keeping up with the landscaping, gutters, cleaning, etc… Throw in playing music and/or video games, and before I know it, it will be time to get the kids and I probably haven’t even left the house since I dropped them off, lol.

    I’ll also love having time to exercise mid day, and swim at non-peak gym hours, go for a bike ride after dropping the kids off (Sprint Triathlons are way more fun than half marathons…) and even be able to run when it’s not 7pm or later.

    Plus, there is volunteering for kids activities and or possibly local charitable organizations that I think could also be fulfilling.

    In the end, who knows what will occupy us or give us our ikigai, it’s just good that we know we will need one and be open to what comes along to fulfill that.

    • Justin at Root of Good has a pretty similar schedule to what you’ve described — same for Joe at Retire by 40 — and they both seem plenty happy about it! I don’t think you have to be out there schralping the gnarl every day — hahaha. (Have you said it in a presentation yet??) And YES, we likewise can’t WAIT to do things midday and midweek — I probably look forward to that more than anything! Just avoiding the weekend lift lines will make my life approximately 7000 percent better.

      • I haven’t said it in a presentation yet – but I have figured out HOW to work it into a presentation. Plus, I ahve a report out presentation soon from an upcoming field trip that I may be able to work it into a lot easier. This would have my supervisor and my whole team in it, basically to justify our fieldtrip cost. Yeah fieldtrip!!

        Justin’s schedule is really similar to what I envision post work Mr. SSC will look like, video games, exercise and all. :) He’s quite the inspiration!

      • Ooohh… not just audio? Ok – I can most likely get my “mentee” to record it if need be as she mostly sits in the back on her phone during most meetings, lol. I keep telling her “get a spot at the table, always sit at the table, be engaged, or at least pretend…” but to no avail, sigh… alright, challenge accepted! again…

  19. I think it’s exciting that you soon get to find out what kind of person or people you both will become! For me, I don’t think my overall personality would change, but what I do visualize is my surroundings. The problem is I have no idea if I would actually like it. For instance, I fantasize about living in a quieter, smaller area that does have some amenities like good culture and perhaps maybe one Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s. lol! But I picture myself with a wrap around porch and enough land to grow my own food and perhaps raise some cute farm animals like goats and chickens. Never mind the fact that I’ve only barely been successful in growing tomatoes as far as pets go, have only had to keep one cat alive (but I’ve done this successfully). :) I have no idea if I would get bored with a small town or what?! So for me it’s stuff like that that remains the big mystery!

    • It IS exciting to think about! And yeah, I completely know what you mean about surroundings! I want to live on a farm near a ski resort, a Whole Foods and an art museum. Where is that place? LOL (Pretty sure it doesn’t exist.) ;-)

  20. I’m still early in this journey, but if my experience is any guide, I suspect you’ll find that the change is almost entirely positive. I’m the same person I was when I was getting crushed with work, but these days I feel like the best version of myself: well rested, positive, flexible, easygoing, low-stress, and able to take however much time I want to enjoy things.

    Sure, maybe you’ll find that endlessly wandering the globe or RVing isn’t what you thought it would be. But there will still be a whole world of possibility left. Personally, we’ve enjoyed it at least as much as we thought we would! You can always start low-commitment (like with a junky van or a shorter trip) to feel it out. I’m already eyeing small RVs for 2018 now that we know we like being on the road.

    • I suspect we’ll find the same thing, but I want to allow for some mystery and surprises in what we end up learning about ourselves. :-) I assume it was similar for you given the career trajectory you were on that you didn’t even have real breaks from school back in the K-12 and college days. It was all camps and internships and work and various other enriching but overly structured activities. I’m super grateful for all that stuff, of course, but also realizing that I haven’t had real downtime in more than two decades. Crazy!

      What kind of RVs are you guys looking at? I’ve done TONS of research and have one in mind, but I think your point is a good one that maybe we should start out with the cheapest thing we can find to make sure we really love it.

      • I haven’t done any research at all (or even decided that an RV would be preferable to a trailer), but we would surely be looking at the small end. Bed, toilet, shower, 2 burner stove, and 2 places to sit that are not the bed… that’s about all I think would be on the list. Which RVs are you eyeing? We’d love to check them out!

      • That’s pretty much our list exactly. Especially the indoor toilet and seats separate from the bed (preferably a bed that doesn’t get folded in any way, so we can have a real mattress for our old backs). For a while we were strongly considering the smallest R-Pod, but realized we don’t want hauling a trailer to shorten the life of our Subaru (we have the smallest engine Outback, so even with the light trailer, towing anything is still not ideal). But that R-Pod (the 171) has a lot to like, and here it is: http://www.forestriverinc.com/product-details.aspx?LineID=228&ShowParent=1&ModelID=1392#Main. Then we realized that we actually value big tanks because we want to be able to go off-grid for more than a day or two, and that disqualifies a lot of models, including most class B vans (or DIY conversions of a Sprinter or even a more basic van — not to mention that Sprinters are a fortune). So our favorite contender is the Coachmen Freelander 20CB, which is a full class C, but is significantly shorter and narrower than every other class C out there, and is built on a Ford Transit chassis, so is much lighter and more fuel efficient than other RVs: http://www.coachmenrv.com/product-details.aspx?LineID=52&ModelID=2048#Main. I’ve been in one and found it plenty spacious (though didn’t test drive it, so can’t speak to that). The problem, of course, is that it’s a new model in very limited distribution, so we can’t get a used one yet, and even when they are available used, there won’t be that many. So we’ll see. This Thor model is another possibility, but we don’t love that the only bed is over the cab: http://www.cruiseamerica.com/buy/modelDetails.aspx?modelID=123&Make=Thor%20Majestic%20&ModelNo=19G. (Plus we’ve heard bad things about buying a used rental RV, but that’s a different issue.) Or, who knows, maybe we’ll just buy some old piece of crap class C off Craigslist. But I really want airbags! ;-)

      • Awesome! Thanks for sharing. It’s quite possible that the only reason I’ve been around for these past 11 years is because of one successfully deployed airbag, so I hear you on that point!

        I’m with you on having big tanks; we like to be off-grid for days at a time, and we’d do it even longer if we could get a regular shower. We carry 8 to 11 gallons of water just in the van, with no toilet, sink, or shower. I also want a real, non-folding bed. We have that in the van, and I’m definitely not interested in downgrading!

        The R-Pod looks particularly appealing to me. After a few months of camping and observing others’ rigs, I’m attracted to a setup where we could leave our dwelling somewhere (like a dispersed campsite) for days while exploring park land and nearby towns in a smaller vehicle — something more drivable and more fuel-efficient. Like you, we don’t have a vehicle capable of towing… but then I could buy the Jeep Wrangler I drool over for tearing up Utah’s many 4WD-only roads. But now things are getting really pricey!

        Hmm… lots to think about!

      • We really were on the trailer train for a while for the reasons you list! The thought of having to drive around an RV as our only vehicle is not my favorite thought. But it came down to not wanting to have a towing-capable vehicle or wanting to tow anything in the winter on icy roads. And yeah, that slippery slope on trailer + tow vehicle gets expensive fast! ;-)

  21. I guess I have at least a faint outline of an idea – we spent 6 months traveling around the world! I think we learnt we definitely don’t want to retire to somewhere hot and cheap. We like not having to penny pinch. Constant travel is exhausting. It’s important to keep having things to work towards. But there’s something awesome about having fewer obligations and lots more flexibility!

    • I bet you learned a ton about yourself on that six-month trip! How fantastic. Sadly, that is not an American custom, and very few of us here have that that experience. And yeah, nowhere hot and cheap for us either, though doing that plan would mean we’d be retired already. ;-)

  22. Great post. It’s interesting to think about the new chapter of retirement like the unknowns of raising children. Having been less than 5 years into my working career after college it is hard to tell how things will evolve with time. Even for my husband. I do know that I would like to be active when I retire and do outdoorsy things but I also get bored easily so I would need to change things up to keep it interesting. I think its cool that you don’t have definitely plans for after you retire. You have the rest of your lives to figure it out.

    • Thanks, Pamela! It sounds like we’re pretty similar in this way — it’s not that I get bored easily, but I have 5 million things I want to do, and so the thought of spending too much time on one thing makes me get a little itchy. ;-) So yeah, I think doing *some* planning about the types of things you want to do is good, so you don’t get to FIRE and then say, “Now what?” But keeping it flexible is good too, to allow yourself some space to get to know the new you. :-)

  23. FUTURE YOU IS STILL YOU! (Couldn’t help myself!) :) I think it’s so interesting how our generation feels this way about our partners way more than our parents’ generation (the whole: “I can’t handle my husband being home all day every day. He’ll get in my way!”). I like the progression to being married to people we ACTUALLY look forward to spending ALL DAY with. And making adjustments when our crazy surfaces or we need space. :)

    • Haha — I know! But maybe work-stressed us are super different, like shelter dogs. ;-) Also, thank you for looping us into your generation — LOL. (I was born in 1979 — Mr. ONL says I’m a millennial, but clearly I’m gen x, or at least on the cusp.) ;-) But yeah, the thought of NOT wanting my husband home is crazy to me… why did those boomers get married in the first place?! (Okay, I know the answer, but still.)

      • I know – my sister is your age (’81) and we are always commenting how the break in generation happens to be between her and me. (She’s Sweetheart jeans at ON and I’m Diva.) :) My mom was super worried about my dad retiring, but every time I talk to them, they really seem to be enjoying their days, so that’s good. (sis and I were worried how they really would be all day together!)

      • It took me a sec to figure out what you were talking about with the Sweetheart and Diva, but now I get it. I tend to be hopelessly devoted to bootcut jeans, no matter what the kids are into. Which probably makes me old at this point. ;-)

        How great that your parents are handling retirement well! My parents have been divorced for 20+ years, but they still sometimes dis each other — SO GLAD I don’t have to deal with them as a retired couple living together. Hahahaha (Hi dad! Love you!)

      • It’s not the cut at the bottom… it’s if your pants sit on your waist or your hips that defines your “generation.” :)

      • Oh, I take issue with that! I hate high rise jeans. But then again, I also don’t like the ones that ride so low that you’re constantly tugging them up. Where does “somewhere in the middle” fall on the generational scale? ;-)

  24. Jon and I spend a lot more time together due to our flex work schedule, and for the most part that works out fine. Today, for instance, we both attended a parent/teacher conference for our daughter, grabbed a couple of lattes, shopped a bit at Walmart (Little Bit needs a new Life Vest) and had a bit of a blog strategy session. It was our version of date night, just in the morning.

    At times I feel a little claustrophobic, but that’s why I have joined some other things…part time work in winter, knitting group and church stuff. I worry a bit about Jon because his main “outside” relationship is with his dad, who is 80. I think for us, though, having a few outside things is key to not driving each other too nuts.

    • Hi Emily! I LOVE the idea of morning dates… we will definitely do those when we are able to! It’s good to hear that you find it so positive to have things you do separately — that’s definitely true for us now, and something we hope to expand in ER. We volunteer on different stuff, have a few different activities (art stuff for me, sports stuff for Mr. ONL), and that seems like a good mix. :-)

  25. Wow. This is some deep thinking. From corporate consultant to introspective philosopher in retirement? Quite a transition :) At least it will give you good content for future articles! It’s an interesting thought exercise and it’s good to be aware of likely changes, both good and bad. But as you say, you’ll only know when it happens so don’t drive yourself crazy to too many what-ifs. From a relationship standpoint, it’s the too busy for each other and growing apart over many years while working and raising kids that seems to be the most common challenge. You wake up one day without the kids and a job and realize you’re strangers with no common interests (and no more distractions). You two are lucky to have many things you want to do together and more time in early retirement will only strengthen your marriage. Don’t think too much…..enjoy the moment. Advice from one type A to another.

    • Does philosopher pay well?! Hahahaha. I think you’re right that being too busy to invest in the relationship is really what drives people apart, especially when that’s sustained over many years. We’re SUPER thankful to know that this is a short-term problem at this point, and we talk often about how much we want more time together. So at least we know we’re on the same page!

  26. I am presently on a ten-month leave from my very demanding (but interesting) job, so it’s kind of like a practice retirement. Like one of your readers mentioned, it has given me the chance to sleep as much as I want. I am sleeping nine hours a night, catching up on years of sleep deficit. I turned the alarm clock off on June 30 and have not used it at all, until a few days ago, when I set it because I had a morning appointment with my financial advisor. It rang at 7:30 am (not even very early), and it was so unpleasant. I felt grumpy and tired all day. It was a moment of recognition: oh yeah, this is how I used to feel all day, every day. My work self was always exhausted as well as stressed. I don’t want to ever go back to that — maybe semi-retirement for me?

    • Thank you for sharing your experience! How fantastic that you get this break. The thought of no alarm (with one exception) for MONTHS sounds like a dream… can’t wait until that’s us. Because right now we’re in that stressed and exhausted boat, though, like you, we find our jobs interesting and are grateful for them! Good luck deciding whether and on what terms you might go back. And enjoy the rest of your leave! :-)

  27. One thing I am sure of in early retirement….you are still the same person. You might no longer be as stressed or sleep deprived, but your core values and key fears/weaknesses are still there. (Sigh) And transitioning away from being a workaholic with all the associated gold stars and perks is tough. Two years in and I still have moments of withdrawal.

    But the freedom and flexibility is awesome. I am happier that I ever was working….and I loved my job. I also have my best friend as my husband; we are transitioning together. And that has taken some deep conversations to make sure our path forward is satisfying for both of us. Especially as we try out some things and find they don’t work/feel right.

    Am I where I expected to be when I retired 2 years ago? Not really. Some things are taking longer to come to fruition, some things I tried on didn’t gel, some new things have been added, some things have been dropped. Sometimes there are too many good options (yeah, that can be a problem!). Sometimes I still feel restless and disconnected. But, I can say with absolute certainty….I am no longer sleep deprived! And happy., definitely happy.

    • I have no doubt that we’ll be the same people, but I do think we’ve been living in such a heightened state of stress for so long that non-work-stressed us will be different in some ways that are hard to anticipate. It is super interesting to hear you say that you still have moments of withdrawal — I wonder about that for me, especially. I think Mr. ONL’s struggle will be more around relevance than gold stars. But something we’ll have to wait and see! I’m so glad that you are happier… and no longer sleep-deprived! And that you and your husband are figuring things out together — we’re expecting a lot of that, too. Thanks for sharing your experience, Pat! :-)

  28. Good luck in meeting the new you! I am sure you will like what you see…!

    In the back of my mind, I am really really scared to retire early. What will I be doing, what will be my driving force, what will we say to each other all day long (we do test weekends this pet year… no issues yet :-) )

    I hope to learn a lot from the different blogs I read. Keep us posted!

    • I’m sure you’re right! There’s no way that the more relaxed versions of ourselves could be worse, right? ;-) And if you’re scared to retire early, there’s nothing saying you have to do it… maybe you keep aiming more for semi-retirement instead. If you’re not sure of what to say to each other every day, then perhaps in the meantime you can focus on strengthening your relationship so you don’t arrive at ER and find you have nothing in common. But either way, we will keep you posted! :-)

  29. My wife has made it abundantly clear that I will not be piddling around the house in retirement. I have to have a vision and goals for what we will be doing and more importantly how I will be filling the time. Hopefully I can figure this out in the next couple of years before I’m ready for retirement. Otherwise I will probably continue to work for the foreseeable future.

    • Haha — it’s good your wife is looking out for you! Piddling around the house is not a recipe for health or happiness. :-) But it’s super great that you’re thinking about all of this now, and not raring to retire with no vision.

  30. I think paying attention to needs (your own and each other’s) will be important in retirement. When I’m home for summer, my significant other used to be at work, but then he changed jobs and he was home A LOT. I really wanted time to myself in the house so he agreed to skedaddle at times to let me have the house to myself. Over time I got more used to him being home and less skedaddling is needed.
    If the two of you are willing to make these odd changes–like leaving the house just to let your spouse have it alone– when needed, I”m guessing it’ll be helpful.

    • This is a super interesting point you raise, and it’s one I wonder about for us! Right now Mr. ONL gets a fair bit of alone time while I’m away traveling (which means I get alone time too, just not at home), and I wonder if we’ll still crave that post-ER and will need to make each other skedaddle sometimes. :-)

  31. I’m very intrigued about future me. I have no idea what she’ll be. As I type this, it is National Coming Out Day, and I have only been out for 6 years. I had fully intended to never come out at all. Then I met someone who forced me to change that idea of myself. In these years I have grown more fully into my true self, but my future self has even more experiences and data to impact her.

    • Thanks for sharing this, ZJ. I know it’s a positive thing in the world for you to be out, and I think it’s awesome that you were willing to change your idea of yourself for someone else — that’s really beautiful. Not the same thing at all, but I never in a million years thought I wanted to get married. But you sorta know who changed my mind on that. ;-)

      • She was not a person for me, but she played a pivotal role in my life. She just represented so much possibility and I had to want more for my life.

        Marriage is a big change in the want category. My girlfriend (at our last convo on the topic) is not sure she believes in marriage. I’m not pressing, but she knows I want it. I also know that she is more in love with me all the time. I may, yet again, have to change my idea for what I want, because women are wonderful.

      • It’s so interesting to watch ourselves evolve on this stuff. I still relate to that earlier version of me who couldn’t imagine being married, but eight years in, I completely love it. People are capable of big changes. :-)

  32. Very interesting twist on what I thought this post was going to be about. I expected what you touched on at first, I as well don’t really know what I will actual do but it will be whatever feels right at the time.

    What I didn’t expect was the topic of how will husbands and wives cope with the free time and outside stresses gone that made them “busy” . Will they still be happy in each other’s company and will they enjoy their activities or will they need to escape and do their own individual thing.

    • Thanks, Chris! Glad we could bring something unexpected. :-) We aren’t seriously worried about how we’ll handle more time together (we honestly can’t wait for it!), but it IS a good question for people to consider, because more time together has caused many a divorce!

  33. One of the reasons I love your blog is that it evokes such thoughtful comments and dialogue. As usual, there is much wisdom in the comments. As someone who left the formal workplace 10 years ago, I would echo the following: have a purpose, stay flexible, consciously evaluate how you are spending your time and be mindful of your routines.

    Immediately following my retirement, I found that I NEEDED to be completely free of all undesired obligation and/or duty. 100%, full-time, no apologies. I wanted to do nothing except meet my family’s and my own immediate needs and, of course, sleep. After about six months I started to invite other activities/opportunities into my life but have always reserved the right to stop doing them if I so chose. As a result, my day to day life has changed several times in my now semi-retirement. But, what has stayed constant is my ability to define my day and my life on my (and my family’s) terms and best interests. This is a very powerful and wonderful place to be and what I really, truly wanted — my personal sense of power back.

    So, I would say to you guess away, try out all your guesses, do them until they no longer satisfy and then guess again. Just remember to check in with yourself and Mr. ONL to make sure what you are doing feeds your souls and brings you happiness. For me, my core hasn’t changed but the expression of that core is very different today then it was before when it was significantly shaped by my job.

    As far as being a strong couple in FIRE, I think the fact that you realize you can’t “know” your future selves & that you and Mr. ONL have talked about wanting to be better partners to each other are signs that your relationship will flourish during FIRE and not flame out. You also seem to both respect each other’s need for space & have shared hobbies/interests that include being physically active which are all critical to staying connected with each other and keeping you healthy in both body and mind.