the process

Creating a Tangible Separation from Work When We Retire

On some level, saving for retirement has never totally felt real. As I shared in our post about big numbers seeming kind of, well, fake — like they’re just Monopoly money (RIP thimble and boot) — there’s some aspect of all of this that feels like a game we’re playing long-term, but which we never actually expected to win. Like, sure, we might hit lots of milestones that feel fun in the game, but they are meaningless in reality. The possibility that we might actually beat the game in real life felt more like a daydream than an actual likely event.

But recently it has all started to feel real in a way that’s a little scary. We’re really going to walk away from dream careers, with ample compensation, working for companies we like and respect. We’re really going to walk into the offices of those people we like and respect and tell them we’d be happier without them. And we’re going to do all of this even if the market takes a significant dip, and even if health care is still a gaping abyss. (I will not be surprised if plenty of the people we tell will question our sanity. And they might not be wrong — do delusional people know they are delusional?)

And not only are we going to be retired in nine months or so (yay!), but we actually have to do these uncomfortable things like have tough conversations and kiss our paychecks and employer-provided health care goodbye (boo!).

Our way of dealing with fear and discomfort is to avoid sticking our heads in the sand and to try our best to envision what doing those things will feel like:

How will it feel to tell people we admire, respect and enjoy spending time and working with that we’ve been saving for years to avoid working with them? (I’m exaggerating, but I could understand someone hearing what we say that way.) How will it feel to sign the HR paperwork that tells us when our last paycheck (maybe ever) will be coming? When should we give notice, knowing that more notice will give us relief from the stress of living double lives, but also mean more time to feel awkward at work? 

Despite thinking about most of those questions for years now, coming up with real answers to them suddenly feels a lot more urgent, and harder to do, because it’s no longer just conjecture.

But on the flip-side are the more fun questions, those that are easier to answer:

Where will we travel first? Will we even use an alarm clock at all? What creative project will be most fun to tackle first? 

Then there are those that are fun to answer, but which warrant a little more thought. And the one we have on our minds right now is:

How will we create a tangible separation between our old, career-dominated lives and our next lives? 

This question is especially important to us because we both work from home.

If we wanted to let it happen, we could transition from our working lives into a second act that feels eerily similar. If we get up early every day, check our email and the day’s news in bed first thing, then get up and get straight to work in our offices on blog work or other projects, that could feel exactly like our lives now, minus some conference calls and air travel. Of course, we’re determined not to let that happen.

We want our retired lives to feel markedly and tangibly different.

We don’t just want to subtract our careers from our lives, but to fill that space with activities and projects that excite us, and to establish different routines and habits that make the days feel like a true next life, not just the next chapter of our story.

Creating a Tangible Separation from Work When We Retire // Life hacks to make life feel different after retirement / When you work from home and retire

Lots the Same, Lots Different

Short of picking up and moving somewhere entirely new, or throwing out all of our technology, or joining the witness protection program, there are going to be plenty of things about our lives that stay the same after we make the big leap. Many of our relationships with friends and family will stay the same or (we hope) get stronger, because we’ll be around more of the time. We’ll still frequent the same places, and go to our local farmer’s market every summer (we hope more often). We’ll still hike and bike our neighborhood trails when we want to cram in some quick mileage.

We know that subtracting our work stress will alone make a humongous difference in our state of mind, and we don’t want to underplay that. (Here’s a pretty hilarious illustration of that, for folks who subscribe to Netflix and don’t mind reading subtitles. Watch episode 1.)

So this is not to say that we have to uproot everything in addition to walking away from our careers, but rather that we want to look for opportunities to reinforce good habits, instead of risking falling into the bad old (er, current) ones of working too late, staring at our screens too long, and focusing on work ahead of our own health and well-being, all of which we are guilty of right now.

Reinforcing Better Habits Through Life Tweaks

We have long said that we think retiring will improve our health big time, because we know that work stresses us out, keeps us from exercising enough and forces us to have fewer healthy food options because we’re traveling so much of the time. But there are so many other ways that our current work lives impact our health directly or indirectly, and we’re eager to adopt some new habits that will improve our health while also making our lives feel different in meaningful ways beyond the simple absence of paid employment.

Breaking the tech twitch // Phones and tablets out of the bedroom — I recently installed the Moment app to monitor how much I use my phone every day, and I’m too embarrassed to share my average time. Let’s just say it’s waaaaay beyond what’s good or healthy. Sure, plenty of that time is doing actual work that I would be doing on my computer if I wasn’t on a plane or at an airport, but I still know that I reach for my phone many more times a day than I should. One of my first orders of business in retirement will be to break that bad habit, and to have less screen time generally. And that will start first thing in the morning: if there are no phones or tablets on our bedside tables, we won’t be able to start our days engaging with screens instead of each other. And that combined with a concerted effort to leave our phones behind sometimes, and to reach for them less in general, will undoubtedly make life feel quite different.

Fostering better sleep // Black-out drapes and no alarm clocks — Mr. ONL is a pretty good sleeper, but I’m terrible at it. Always have been. I wake up from even a tiny amount of light, and any sound, which means sleeping with ear plugs and an eye mask in any hotel room. But because those are such big reminders for me of work travel, I have a strong aversion to using them at home. Add to that the fear of sleeping through the alarm and missing something important (for me, that’s usually a flight or an early conference call), and now I’m sleeping even worse. We see two easy solutions to these issues: put blackout drapes on our bedroom windows, and banish alarm clocks. There’s no good reason why we don’t already have blackout drapes, we’ve just never gotten around to hanging some. But we’ll have that time in retirement. Alarm clock-free living is a dream we’ve long had that we can’t wait to live out. (If we do have an early morning flight, we can make a one-time exception and allow a phone back into the room to serve the purpose.)

Creating different office associations // New wall colors and reconfigured desks — When we moved from our city condo with its shared office to our house with separate offices, we deliberately painted the walls in our offices with colors that don’t appear anywhere else in the house, to create a subconscious signal that we’re in a different mode. And to signal when we leave that space that we’re leaving work behind, because when you work at home, you never leave the office. And we think it was a good call to create those color signals. Of course, now our brains so closely associate those colors with work that we will have to change them when we retire. While we currently have bold colors in our offices, we’ll be going with more serene colors after we quit, to signal a different vibe in the space. And we’ll reconfigure our desks to be the bit players in our offices instead of the stars of the show, alloting more space instead to crafts, creative projects and guest space.

Eliminating work cues // Using new systems and apps — Right now we associate work with a set of systems and apps. Outlook for email and calendar, Asana for to do lists and timelines, Evernote for ideas, United and Marriott apps for travel. All of these will get the boot when we pull the plug, switching full-time to Gmail for email and calendar, swapping Asana and Evernote to other equally good to do list apps, deleting travel apps altogether.

Creating healthier habits // Adopting a different schedule — Right now we have schedules that are pretty much the antithesis of health and fulfillment. We spend our best hours every day on the tasks we’d least like to be doing (work!), squeeze exercise into the hours after work when our decision fatigue is high and willpower is in the dumps, and force our passion projects like blogging into the late night hours when we’re at our most tired and creativity is least likely to flow. We can’t wait to flip this script. Instead, we’ll do our outdoorsy exercise early in the day when we feel energized and have willpower to spare, and follow it up with our creative work, when we’ll have the benefit of the exercise energy spike and — how novel! — sunlight. Then our evenings will be ours to do as we please instead of risking writing until the wee hours and stealing away sleep. We might actually even get through a full movie sometimes without passing out!

What Will You Change About Your Routines?

We’d love to hear from you guys — what habits can you not wait to change in FI? How else will you create the feeling of separation from your old working life? Anybody think that just leaving work will itself provide all the tangible separation you need? We’d love to hear from folks at both ends of the spectrum!

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75 replies »

  1. Love the photo. Island in the Sky?

    Really great ideas here. I’ve made some of these changes, like reducing phone time and cutting out alarm clocks whenever possible. I made perhaps the biggest change to my daily routine last month: cutting out my morning cup (LOL, ok, more like 3 cups) of coffee. My caffeine addiction was proving inconvenient and impractical when traveling full-time, especially in places where we didn’t have access to a kitchen and didn’t want to spend time hunting down my “fix” every morning. It was a painful few weeks of cold turkey, but I’ve gotten to a place now where I can still enjoy the occasional mug but don’t *have* to have it every morning. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m hoping to maintain this reduced coffee intake permanently.

    • Yep! Island in the Sky is amazing… but really can’t wait to have time to get down into those canyons down low! And re: the coffee, who are you and what have you done with Matt??? ;-) In truth, I hope to wean off caffeine as well, because I hate having to be reliant on it, but I probably will do the taper approach instead of cold turkey. Those headaches! You’re a tough one for getting through them.

  2. Great thoughts, and I can see a huge benefit in early “retirement” is you’re looking at it as a new stage and not just an escape. I’m nowhere near retirement but I think the biggest challenge would be making sure you don’t feel isolated. Work creates a lot of accidental friendships and I can imagine that leaving that environment (and perhaps traveling more) could decrease social interaction, depending on your situation.

    I’ll never forget a boss of mine who retired and 2 months later he was calling the office in the evening, clearly, uh, lubricated, just because he wanted to talk to people. I’m not sure he had a plan for his spare time! –R

  3. This week I am in a FIRE slump- thinking it will never happen, we will never reach our goals.

    So it was really nice to “dream” along with you here. As you laid out the thing you’ll change in retirement, I was able to daydream a little about ours (if it ever happens… it will right?). It perked me up! Thanks :)

    • What is the focus of your slump? I can share some motivation accordingly. But it’s normal to go through those doldrums, so don’t despair. We’ve all been there! ;-)

  4. i love the idea of you changing your ‘work’ tools so you don’t associate them with your former life. I for one could see never using power point again and finding some new replacement for doing graphics on the blog. Changing up the office space also sounds like a lot of fun.
    I wonder if 6 months after your exit date you will look back and wonder, ‘what was i so worried about?’

    • Oh, amen to never using Powerpoint again! ;-) And I HOPE that we look back six months into ER and say “That was no big deal.” But I really do think it will be in part because we’ve done so much to prepare ourselves!

  5. A lot of good ideas hat will help your transition.

    In my effort to be more present and living now, i aim to hide my phone when around the kids. Mixed success so far. It takes time to create the habit.

    The alarm clock free living sounds appealing… Right now, i am programmed to wake up around 7 am. I wonder if that will stay.

    One habit i would love to create in FI is after noon tea and cupcakes with friends, family and interesting people.

    • Good for you for trying to keep the phone out of sight around your girls! That’s really admirable, and hard to do! And I’m the same in terms of waking up at the same time every day (assuming I don’t have an early flight), which often means that I’m done sleeping even if I got to bed late, and that makes it hard to get caught up on sleep! And I would LOVE to have midday tea, too! But maybe not a cupcake every day. ;-)

  6. I can’t wait to see what your blog will become when you have more energy and creativity to devote to it–because it’s already full of great topics!

    When I went from working overtime to a part-time schedule, I started exercising sooo much more and eating better. And of course I felt way healthier and better about myself. I’ve never slept with my phone in the room (since I wasn’t in a job where work would contact me at odd hours), which is helpful because I am also not the best sleeper.

    The idea about changing up your office is brilliant, and I think it will go a long way toward making that separation. I know for me a little change in environment can make a big difference in my outlook.

    • Awww, you always have the nicest comments, Kalie! Thanks for all your support and encouragement. :-) And I’m sure you already know how jealous I am of your ability to keep your phone out of the room (and also that I can relate to the bad sleeping!). And yeah, I definitely notice small changes in my environment, so I’m excited to make the office feel really different, like a fresh start. :-)

  7. You’ve done a lot of good thinking here. From what I’ve read on retirement, it’s critical to make conscious transitions like you’re planning. It’s part of the retiring “to” something instead of running away. Hopefully this helps you skip or minimize the usual mini-depression that forms after the initial honeymoon phase.

    I love your focus on new habits and routines. I need to do this as well or I’ll unconsciously keep the bad/unhealthy habits gained because of the time demands at work and become disappointed with myself. We shouldn’t waste such a golden opportunity to make positive changes. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Yeah, we’ve heard that a bunch too, as well as the stat that depression becomes much more prevalent after retirement. So we’re trying to have lots of pieces in place to give us as smooth a transition as possible. And I don’t think everyone needs quite as many drastic changes as we feel like we do, but it’s definitely worth considering!

  8. I love the fact that you’re thinking about this well in advance of your transition. One question: why would an anonymous blogger have to enter Witness Protection, none of us know who you are anyway! Tee hee.

    Great thinking, love the “color scheme” of your home offices, and the psychology behind it. Also, love the “less screen time” goal, suspect that will be the hardest, but also on my list of “transition goals” when I FIRE in June 2018!

    • Maybe we’ll need witness protection because we’re secretly spies and will need protection when we quit. ;-) Hahahahahaha

      And yeah, we want our ER to feel like a hard break, and so we’ll probably come up with a few more ways to make things feel super different! Good luck cutting back on your screen time — I think that will be the toughest!

  9. Mr. ThreeYear and I were just discussing banishing our phones from our bedrooms last night. It’s such a small change, with some potentially major results. I really like your idea of blackout drapes too. Our problem is the amount of lights from random devices around our room (including the TV). can be more distracting as outside light. Why do telephone lights blink, for example? Can anyone figure that out?

    • Do it do it do it! And those little lights… we have already covered the few that are in our bedroom, but you should see me in hotel rooms. I use the Gideon bible to hide the TV light, and use various furniture and pillows to block other things. It’s probably pretty funny to see! ;-)

      • I’d definitely do the same thing if I couldn’t remove the light source entirely. In our case, we’ve rather obsessively tried to remove all sources of light in the room, except for this one dimmer light switch that has a dim light on it so you can find it in the dark… that thing is a wonderful switch, but it is also my nemesis! Hahaha.

  10. Genius. Seriously, especially the part about reconfiguring your offices so it just *feels* different. We sorta did the same thing with our desk installation last month. You’re right, it makes a big difference. Your other changes, like no cell phones, no alarm clocks and healthier habits like switching up your schedule so you’re most active during those points in the day where you have the most energy…all spot on.

    For me, I am most productive in the mornings. I gym around 7am on most mornings, then do whatever “work” I need to – whether that be blogging on TSR or work for Rockstar Finance. The afternoons are hit or miss and really depends on my mood. Sometimes I’ll watch some YouTube or Netflix if I need to “get away”. Other times I’ll just sit outside and people-watch. Then again, I might do some more work if I’m feeling properly motivated.

    One thing that you’ll notice the most…is the freedom that you have over your time. I found that my assumptions for what I’d do post-retirement were way off (more on this in an upcoming article). The things that I *THOUGHT* I enjoyed doing…I didn’t so much. They were just an escape from full-time work. I’m doing other things instead, now.

    But when you’re retired, that’s okay. Nobody is telling you what to do. You have the freedom to decide for yourself what to do. And, I never feel guilty about taking in an episode of House of Cards on Netflix in the middle of the day because, well, I’m retired. I do what I want.

    Stay warm out there!

    • Thanks, Steve! And I’m so curious to know what those activities are for us that we think we really want to do but probably won’t care much about once they’re no longer counterbalancing our work stress. I’m sure there will be some of those for us, too! And random Q for you — I assume you’re getting compensated for joining the Rockstar team? I’m asking this Q of a bunch of bloggers and their post-ER activities. :-)

  11. Oh, man…being able to set your own exercise schedule would be a world of difference in and of itself. Subtracting out at least 8 hours a day gives you plenty of time to actually exercise every day. Not having scheduled time commitments means that you get to exercise in the morning when you have energy, or in the afternoon when it is warmer in the cold months, or just during a gap in rain on a dreary day. That alone would be amazing.

    “…do delusional people know they are delusional?” In The Psychopath Test, Jon Ronson says that the rule of thumb is if you are asking whether or not you are psychotic, then you are not psychotic. I’d imagine something similar would apply to being delusional, so I think you’re fine :-)

    • Haha, good to know we pass the psychopath/delusional test! Because if we are, it would probably mean a lot of us aspiring FIers are, too. ;-) But yeah, totally with you on controlling when we exercise! Feels like that will make a world of difference!

  12. This post made me chuckle…. all things I’ve been thinking about though my date is only 3.25 months away. I don’t think either of you will have an issue with the discipline with the physical fitness – think how much easier it will be to wake up without an alarm clock and THEN do whatever workout you have planned. I tend to think it will be more effective because I might actually be fresh. But we will see. I actually get all these questions – Are you really not going to do
    anything? What are you going to do with all that time? The #1 response I have is that I won’t be connected to my device 24/7/365 and my most urgent and important goal is to break the bad and somewhat addictive phone habits. I decided I was going to try and give myself 2 months of “nothing” to give myself the space to figure out what’s next. I have so many ideas, including one for a non-profit that is starting to take shape a little quicker than I had hoped. I know I need to give myself the space to think so I can get some clarity. I want to become less productive… and less task oriented and less focused on what’s next. The goal for me is to stay focused on the present and work on really enjoying that without being stressed out about all the things I have to get done.

    • I think you underestimate our laziness. Haha! It’s nice to know we’re not alone in our device addiction. And I do really like your idea of the two “do nothing” months. We’ve thought about that, too, or at least a “take lots of naps and catch up on sleep” adjustment period. ;-)

      • How you do one thing is how you do everything…. isn’t that how the saying goes? I think it will be harder than you think to unplug – of course, timing it with peak ski season, WILL make the transition better. I’m timing mine for my favorite time to catch some slow rolling, fun longboard waves. But maybe I’m totally wrong about you two, you will be lounging on the couch eating gluten free treats.

      • I sure hope that saying isn’t actually true, because work time constraints sure force me to shortcut a lot of things right now! :-( (Something tells us most of us can relate!) And I KNOW it will be HARD to unplug, and doubt if ski season will change that much, but I do think going right into ski season will help smooth the overall transition. I love your plan to align your timing to the waves! And I think it’s fair to say that whatever we do, we will ALSO be lounging on the couch eating those treats. :-)

  13. Such great thoughts here. I don’t know if I could ever associate Outlook with anything other than work, so I think your ideas about transitioning things right down to your apps and the colour of your office are super important!

    Also being able to exercise and focus on creative tasks early in the day – that is going to be so wonderful. My absolute favourite thing about grad school, even though I was ridiculously busy, was being able to structure my days how I wanted. Working out always came first, then writing…mundane and routine tasks were always saved for later in the day!

    • That was what got me thinking about the apps — the Outlook problem! And work recently moved me over to Office 365, which won’t use the iPhone’s on-board calendar (frustrating!), meaning that I now have dueling separate calendars. That gave me the nudge to think about how I can start building some of these new systems in now. And yeah, having control over your own time is such a gift! Can’t wait to have that! :-)

  14. Since you’re nine months away…it’s kinda like you’re bringing your financial independence to term. You’re preparing your selves and your home for a healthy FI, going to checkups, and even deciding what you’re going to name it!

    Love the idea of changing the color in your office – very smart.

      • Oh gosh, let’s see…

        There are the classics like “Early Retirement,” “Extended Sabbatical,” etc.

        You could make your own acronym — I mean, surely you’ll miss the all the acronyms (I assume) you use at work?

        Off the top of my head, “Long-term, Undirected Creative Years (LUCY)” could be fun. “LUCY is so much fun.” “LUCY is driving me mad.” “We’d love to do that thing, but LUCY says no.”

      • I was thinking you’d just throw out random names like “Malvolio” or “Ophelia” (okay, I guess those aren’t random, they’re Shakespeare). ;-) But I love the idea of an acronym like LUCY. I will give them some more thought. And having this Q to think about might be a nice distraction when I have those “What the #@$% are we doing?!” moments. Haha.

  15. Good luck! I didn’t make any huge changes to my routines after I retired. Just not going to work and taking care of our kid was enough changes for me. I tried to go to the gym more, but that was a bust because it’s tough to get away from the kid. Now that he’s in public school, I’ve been a lot more successful at exercising more. Heading out in a few minutes.

    • I love that you didn’t give up on fitness when it got tough, and you brought it back when you were able! Have a great workout, and here’s to many more! :-D

  16. So many good ideas here! A life free of alarm clocks sounds like a small slice of heaven. I like how deliberately you are preparing for the big change.

    The little blinking lights in my bedroom drove me nuts (lights on the router, for example) and I bought these stickers called Light Dims from Amazon. They made a big difference to me and I would recommend them.

    • Oooh, good suggestion of those stickers! Our answer has been to get ruthless about what we allow in the room. Other than our phones and chargers, there are no electronics, which means no little red lights. But I know it can be hard to avoid ALL light sources, so I think if you’re a bad sleeper, it’s important to find SOME solution, whatever that is!

  17. I’ve just found this blog on Ovid’s list of best retirement blogs. Glad I stopped by.

    This is a great group of ideas that show how much thought should be put into achieving a fulfilling retirement. I think so many people, especially those of the “me” generation (that would be late baby boomers) have wandered through life assuming that the retirement options they would have would be similar to their parent’s. It’s a bit of a shock to wake up one day and realize that it’s not only your classmates that have aged.

    Seven years from retirement is not a long time to put a plan together, but good planning and a bit of attitude adjustment should get it done. It’s nice to have someone do all the deep thinking since that is not one of my strengths.

    I’m always looking for new insights into how I can style my mental landscape . Your style is quite engaging, so it should be a joy to follow you as you walk the path ahead of me.

    • Hi Dan — Glad you found us! And I think you’re right that people make a lot of assumptions about what retirement will be like without thinking enough in detail about the big life questions, even if they’ve spent many hours thinking about the money questions. So we’re big fans of thinking through some of this stuff. And I firmly believe that, even if our post-career lives look entirely different than what we’re currently planning for, we’ll still be better off for having thought through these questions. :-) I love how you put it: your “mental landscape.” I really do think that’s the most important piece of the retirement puzzle!

  18. After 31 years with our company, we gave our letters of resignation on Friday. Wow!! What a scary and exilerating feeling all at the same time. We will be done by the end of May and free to do whatever we feel whenever we want. No phone, no fax, no emails……shall I go on? :) To transition into retirement we’re going on a road trip with no destination. Who knows how long we’ll be gone, but the best part will be (I know this sounds crazy) is coming home. We all know after being on vacation for a couple weeks what our desks look like? Ugh…..We have so many other things planned too but nothing extravagant. Not checking my phone will be awesome and I will definitely get rid of the alarm clock by our bed. Can you say FREEDOM!!!!

    • CONGRATS, DARLENE!!!! Wohoooooo! Thanks so much for sharing your news with us. I’m so excited for you! I love your destination-less travel plan, and totally feel you on how great it will feel to come home. So often I think of coming home from vacation as being just a quick interlude before leaving on the next biz trip a few days or hours later. Can’t wait until I can hang out at home for as long as we decide we want to, instead of right away packing for the next trip! But as for you guys, WOW. And so many congrats!!!

  19. I am definitely a morning person and preferred to work-out early in the day. But the more I think about it, I think those are my best “thinking” hours too. It will be fun to experiment with different things in ER. Love the changes you are planning in your home offices too. We’ll be changing houses (at least that’s our plan), so that may take the place of making other changes. Unplugging is definitely something I’m looking forward to throughout the day!

    • I agree with you! Especially if we’re not getting up at the crack of dawn (um, hell no!) ;-) I think we’ll have to be smart about how to use morning hours — better for exercise or creativity? Or just trade off? Like you, I can’t wait to experiment!

  20. As someone else mentioned, I never want to see Microsoft Outlook or PowerPoint again!

    I actually don’t mind getting up early since I like to exercise early in the morning, particularly during the hot summer months. And our dog is pretty much my alarm clock.

    Like Vicki mentioned above, we will likely be selling our home around the time we retire, so that will be our biggest change/transition.

    • Amen to that! No more Outlook or PPT! (Though I’ll still use the Google docs versions of Word and Excel, because writing and finance tracking.) ;-) And if you do end up moving around when you retire, I bet that will go along way toward making life feel different!

  21. I love the idea of different colors of paint. It’s like Mr. Rogers and his shoes/sweater!

  22. Our biggest change is — well we don’t really know. Literally, not a clue. Maybe I’ll just quit in a few years and we stay in Houston for another year or two. Maybe Mrs. SSC gets a job before then and we move then. Maybe she quits too and we just up and move to somewhere else.

    We were just discussing this last night though and it went like this — Mrs. SSC: “Do I really want to teach for another 30 yrs?”
    Me: “30 years?! You’d be pushing 70 and have turned into one of those old folks that never retires that you complain about…”
    Mrs. SSC: “yeah, but what will I do with my time if I’m not teaching. I can’t jsut sit around on the porch, drinking coffee, playing video games, gardening training for triathlons, or playing music. I’ll get bored in a week.”
    Me: “Not me, I’m looking forward to that exact lifestyle!”

    So, yeah…. Who knows what will happen in a few years. I know I’ll love having the freedom to play music when I’m inspired too, which is usually when i’m at work. Freedom to go swim/bike/run when I want to not when my schedule dictates. Freedom to take vacations longer than 2-3 weeks in the summer because the kids will be off school.

    I don’t know what will come of it, but I know it will be exciting.

    • Oh good, something I can help with! I have started to believe that getting bored is a GOOD thing, because that’s when your imagination REALLY starts to kick in. So I think Prof SSC would get bored fast, and then while bored, she’d figure out the next big project or goal. And I’d add to your running schedule — you can go when it’s not so bloody hot that you risk death! ;-)

  23. Hi
    First time commenting here- but love your blog and have been reading for close to a year now as I prepared to retire. I have been following a few blogs ( The SSCs too) to get ideas and inspiration for this big change. We are a few years older than you- (feels like we are in a no-mans land sometimes)– pertaining to early retirement- as we are in our mid fifties and older than most of the early retirement bloggers – but younger than regular retirees who are blogging about Social Security and Medicare. ‘

    Anyway, I just pulled the plug as of the first of March and I have surprised myself and not really done much of anything – I feel guilty at times- but my husband tells me not to and just enjoy it. I think I will get more of a routine eventually and maybe pick a project I want to focus on for say a month at at time or something. But currently- I just get up without the alarm, hit the treadmill for 20 minutes to wake up, fix breakfast and read the news or whatever catches my attention while I leisurely eat my breakfast and drink my coffee. I have been going for long walks in the afternoon while I listen to podcasts and then I fix dinner for us.

    My husband is working again part -time ( he officially retired from an accounting career 5 years ago when we hit out FI number) as a carpenter which is something he enjoys and he has worked out a deal for this year to get our healthcare thru his employer for us. We thought we would use the ACA when I left my position this year as I had been providing our health insurance for the last 5 years- but oh well–we were afraid to sign up with all the uncertainty- and so have a high deductible plan thru his job to protect our assets primarily. I hope you will continue to write about health care concerns in the future. I enjoyed your post from earlier this month about health insurance. It is our biggest concern. I am seriously starting to explore becoming an expat just so we don’t have to spend 15K a year in premiums and / or high deductibles and/ or stay employed just for the health insurance to protect ourselves. I did have some major panic attacks the first week after I left my job- ( and my good insurance) when it dawned on me that now if I need to go to the doctor it will cost me over a $100 for a visit rather than $20 copay until we hit our $5,000 deductible for a single and $10,000 for family. However, now at week three –I am having a little less angst and not ready to return to full- time employment and give up this freedom. Of course, I also wake up every day and wish that the recent election outcome was a bad dream. I still have flashbacks of the horror I experienced when I hit my newsfeed on my phone at 5AM on November 9th.

    • Hi Sally! Thanks so much for reading, and for saying hi! (I had dinner with the SSCs last night, so funny you’d mention them!) And have you found Mr. Fire Station? He retired at 50, a year ago, and so offers a different perspective than us 30- and 40-somethings. ;-) But…

      CONGRATS!! I’m so, so excited for you that you left your career and have embarked on your early retirement. I agree with your husband — don’t feel guilty about taking some recharge time to decompress and figure out what you want the new rhythm of your life to be.

      As for health care, I think you’re start to get that plan through your husband’s employer. Though I’m hoping we all will have some clarity soon about what the exchange plans will look like — it’s seeming more apparent that the exchanges are here to stay, but it appears that other provisions in the current proposal make it DOA (like the crazy high costs for not-quite-seniors, who also happen to be the most reliable voters for the GOP). But that’s a long way of saying that YES, I will definitely keep writing about health care, because it has me just as worried as you, and I think it’s by far the biggest factor affecting all early retirees (and not-so-early retirees who can’t yet get Medicare but may be on the verge of seeing rates skyrocket). I hope you won’t go the expat route until we know more for sure, but I definitely don’t blame you for considering it! :-)

  24. Thanks for your reply! I don’t do anything quickly- super cautious :) so I won’t leave the country this year anyway. I appreciate the suggestion for the Mr. Fire Station blog and will check it out – although I did see his comment on your last healthcare post and I could tell we have different philosophies regarding the role of our government when it comes to healthcare. Anyway- I love your blog and will continue to follow!

    • Though I also disagree with Mr. Fire Station’s view on health care, his blog is generally not remotely political, and he has a lot of wisdom to share about what his first year of early retirement has been like. Thanks again for reading, and congrats!!

  25. I eagerly anticipate no alarm clock living. I also hope to one day be at a place where I am consistently reading a book before bed and not looking at my phone. I know it makes my brain feel better, but the darn thing is so distracting.

    • Oh my gosh, if all we accomplish in retirement is escaping the alarm clock, it will still have been worth it. ;-) And I’m with you — reading a book before bed instead of phoning until my eyes can’t stay open is such a dream!

    • Do it now! Bring home interesting books from the library and keep them right by the bed. Banish the phone, at least across the room if you still need it for an alarm. I’ve been working on this as well and it makes a huge difference in the quality of my sleep and in my level of happiness.

      • Wish it was possible for us at this moment, but it’s just not. But we’re super committed to making this happen next year! I have no doubt that you’re right about your quality of sleep and level of happiness. :-)

  26. Thanks for the post on this subject as I am going through these thoughts right now. One thing you touched on that I realized I need to work on is creating a new environment and a new situation. Not just a life where I have only removed the career portion of the daily routine. What will I do differently to create a better life. All good points to ponder.

    • My sense is that you already have plenty in your life that gives you a very different feel from work, but you would know that better than I would. I definitely think it will be super beneficial for me especially to change the look and feel of my surroundings after we quit!

  27. I do find retirement a bit scary but one endeavor I plan undertaking anyway. I can see why. We start out in school at a young age preparing for life to work. Everything is geared towards finding the right job so we can survive. We get there and we strive for advancement but still job-centric. You do the same thing your entire life and then all of a sudden, with retirement, it is gone. It is not surprising that it seems scary but I try to put some perspective on it. It is scary for everyone but people still do it every day. I think this is why retirees often work part time to fill the time. Despite all the challenges, I am still game to accept the challenge. I have good people such as yourself who are getting me to think about it now before I reach this point. Thanks for sharing ! Good Luck !


    • The thing that really helped me was to realize that *everything* is a risk. For sure retirement seems scary and risky, but the alternative is that you spend your whole life or all your good years working instead of doing the things you dream of doing. There’s no risk-free way to live! Once I started seeing it that way, I got a lot less fearful of the whole endeavor. :-)

  28. I retired at the end of 2014 (at age 46). I had so many plans written up for how I would schedule my time that are now all completely different. I did find that I needed to work on the mental twist that I didn’t have to feel guilty or be upset if I didn’t get something done on my planned schedule. I found that it helps to not have specific goals, but themes. The first year I worked to do all the stuff that we didn’t have time to do when we were still working (stuff like updating the will/estate plan, reviewing insurance, and home maintenance). This is my year for gratitude and finishing projects.

    My day has flipped around from what I originally anticipated. For example, the morning is for mental work, and I exercise after lunch. I found it gave me more energy to be physical during the slower time in the afternoon. I never noticed my natural rhythms when I was dancing to an employer’s tune. It helped me to think about being flexible in how I spend my time, in addition to how I spend my money. It did help that I spent significant hours planning my retirement “day.” Even though my plans didn’t turn out the way I expected, it kept me from panic that I would screw it up somehow. The fact that you are expending so much effort to anticipate your retirement tells me that you will find your perfect balance. I love the office color indicators! Visual cues like that make a big difference.

    • We joke about that all the time, how we’ve done all this thinking about what we want to do, how we’ll use our days, etc., but when the time comes we’ll probably just wing it. ;-) Hahaha. But I think you’re right — whether or not we do this stuff, it’s a super helpful exercise to go through to know we can handle it. Your being able to find your natural rhythms sounds like a dream — can’t wait until we can figure that stuff out for us. And paint all of our work rooms! And kick the cell phones out of the bedroom! Sooooooon. ;-)