I know a lot of people think of early retirement planning being just about saving enough money to pull the plug on your career. Not so, my friends. I’d argue there are 10 questions you need to be able to answer before considering saying goodbye to work, from knowing exactly how you’ll get health care to thinking through how you’ll keep your mind active and young without work.
And a big piece of that is making new friends.
Unless all of your friends just happen to retire early at the same time you do, you’ll find yourself with free time when most everyone you know is stuck at work, and those limited weekend time slots won’t be enough to fit in everyone you’d like to see.
So rather than sitting around lamenting this fact, it’s far better to make a game plan to expand your social circles before you quit your job, and then to get right on it when you’ve got the new time on your hands. Especially when you lose the built-in social interaction of work, it’s important not to go into a cave of solitude, and then find yourself talking the ear off the cashier at the grocery store (or spending all your time on Twitter) because you’re starved for conversation.
(Why all this fuss about friends, other than to avoid scaring the grocery store employees? Because study after study shows that people who live the longest and have the most fully able-bodied years are those with strong social circles, including people they feel they can truly confide in, not just casual pals and acquaintances. So if you want to have a long, happy, healthy retirement, friends are your, erm, friend. Plus life is just more fun when you can share it with people.)
We’ve known all this for a while now and had plans in place to make it happen. January 1 hit, and we said:
Commence Operation Friend Zone.
Here’s how it’s been going.
One of our favorite things about living in a mountain town is that many more folks here, proportionally speaking, work nontraditional schedules. So on any given weekday, we have at least a fighting chance of finding someone who wants to go for a hike or ski. But we also spent the last six years while living in Tahoe with our heads down working, and I feel like I barely even lived here, spending so many nights away while traveling for work. So while we have some good friends here whom we adore, we have long been excited to branch out and meet more people.
Because I’m a checklist nerd, I made a mental list of three main starting points to expand our friend circle:
- Get to know casual acquaintances better
- Join groups and meetups to meet people with similar interests
- Ask people we meet out and about on friend dates
And yes, I know this all makes me sound like a robot trying to make human friends, or like an alien attempting to emulate human behavior, but given the number of comments and notes I’ve gotten over time that say some version of, “Okay, I know I need to make more friends in retirement, but how do I actually DO that?!” I don’t think it’s such a crazy idea to make a plan like this.
Getting to Know Casual Acquaintances Better
We’ve met tons of people over our time living here who we maybe had one long conversation with and then have only had quick interactions since then. Or people we know in a volunteer capacity but haven’t had social time with. Given that we already know these folks, it seems like the obvious starting point to try to spend more time with some of them, and see if it’s a friend connection.
This has been going decently well. We’ve found a few folks we jive well with. The downside is that a lot of these folks have traditional work schedules, so while it’s great to expand our circle generally, this approach doesn’t necessarily help us find friends who can, say, go for a mountain bike ride on a Tuesday morning.
Joining Things to Meet People With Similar Interests
Something I’ve been especially focused on is finding local friends who share some of my more specific interests. It’s easy in a ski town to meet people who want to talk about skiing, but not so easy to find people who are into blogging or podcasting, or who want to geek out about airplanes, for example.
So I’ve been availing myself of the long list of groups on Meetup, and frequently making the trek down to Reno where most of these groups gather. The Northern Nevada Podcasters meetup has been the most fruitful thus far, in that I’ve been able to meet some people in real life who are down to share tips and war stories about podcasting.
But then there are the other meetups. Here’s an experience that I’ve unfortunately repeated a few times now:
Go to a meetup that’s labeled as some sort of writing meetup. Format is usually listed as some sort of intro chatting and quick socializing, followed by writing time and ending with more time to chat. A location is given, and a sign is promised with something like “writing meetup” written on it, to help newbies find the group. Arrive, look around at length, and see no one with said sign. Realize that the organizer only has some graphic for a picture in their profile, and not a recognizable face. Decide not to bother every person in the café who looks like they might be writing, asking if they know about the meetup. Get down to writing anyway, while continuing to look around for any signs of a group. Send a message through the meetup page inquiring if anyone else is there, and either get no response, or a response only after leaving. Eventually give up and go home.
Sooooo… yeah. That’s mostly been my writing meetup experience so far. All I have to say about that is: Blurg.
Make the Move With People We Meet
The last thing we’ve been trying is a bit of boldness when we randomly meet people out and about. Like if we’re out backcountry skiing and we bump into people out doing the same thing? Well we already know they’re into something we’re into, and if we chat a bit and they seem cool? Then it’s such a no brainer to see if they want to hang out more.
We both definitely used to be in the “See you around!” camp with interactions like that. It felt too forward to ask people to hang out right off the bat. But we’re making ourselves get over that. And now I, a person who possibly never asked another human out on a date myself, find myself asking people out. Except as friends, not as dates.
TBD on how well this plan will work out, but I suspect it’ll be promising, if we can keep at it.
The Downside of Branching Out
So here’s an unexpected side effect of focusing on making new friends: we’ve neglected our existing friends. We thought we’d have loads of time to hang out, but between travel, hobby stuff, going to meetups and hustling hard for new friends, we haven’t made enough time for friends we had been looking forward to seeing more. Which provides a good reminder:
Even in early retirement, you do not have endless time.
Everything is still about prioritizing, and though it’s been a good thing to get ourselves into a mindset of branching out socially rather than withdrawing into the cave, we think we’re going to focus for a while on the friends we’ve already got.
Let’s Talk Friends
Time to spill your best ideas, folks! How do you go about making new friends in real life? Anything that’s worked especially well for you? Or share your philosophy on friends and socializing, and what you’re aiming for in retirement. It’s all super interesting, so let’s chat about it!
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Categories: post-retirement process