Our lives lately have looked slightly less than, er, adult. Some days we wonder why there are no grownups here to tell us what to do, instead just leaving us alone to do as we please with no structure whatsoever. It’s marvelous, of course, or at least marvelous for now, but we’re certainly wondering: At some point are we actually going to adapt to this new unstructured life?
After we realized that we would work in early retirement, we also realized that we needed an easy way to decide if an opportunity that came along was actually work we wanted to do. And we created what we call the “high school rule.” Here’s what that is.
Sooo you know the goal we’ve been working toward and blogging about for years, of retiring at 38 and 41? Well, we did it! We retired early! And as we slowly adjust to our next life, here’s all the stuff we’re planning.
The financial aspects of the early retirement journey are well trod at this point: reduce your expenses, save at a high rate, invest in assets that create passive income, blah blah blah. What’s less talked about is the emotional journey, which means that a lot of us are stepping off the map, and heading into uncharted territory. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s our take on navigating those emotions, and why the unexpected ones are so valuable in guiding your financial plans.
There is plenty of financial advice out there, including some very prescriptive advice about how to achieve financial independence or virtually any big goal you can think of. The only problem is: that advice, while great for some, is guaranteed to be bad advice for others. Rather than trying to follow advice to the letter — or give it out in a prescriptive way — let’s focus on the formula instead, a formula with three key ingredients that can get anyone in nearly any life circumstances to achieve big goals.
I definitely fell into magical thinking for years of our retirement planning, thinking I’d have time to do everything I’d ever dreamed of after we quit: travel the world, write novels, learn a gazillion languages, solve world hunger — you get the idea. But after talking to many early retirees, I’ve had to accept: Time will always be limited. And if I care about accomplishing goals or living a life of meaning, it’s crucial to go into retirement with an eye toward making time for what’s important, and ruthlessly cutting out what’s not.
We’ve talked a lot about health care lately, given the political climate, but not health itself. And health is super important to us. Why bother planning for a long retirement if we aren’t going to stay healthy enough to enjoy it? Here’s everything we’re doing and thinking about to increase our chances of reaching a ripe old age in good health.
The fact that we are retiring at the end of this year is getting more and more real for us, and some of that feels scary. But it also feels crazy exciting for obvious reasons, and for less obvious ones like the forthcoming opportunity to re-engineer our lives to reinforce better habits and avoid triggering the bad ones associated with our current work lives.
I never took a break between high school and college, or between college and starting my career. And so for years, I thought I’d missed my chance to do something awesome, as though that’s something only young 20-somethings can do. But seeing people in our mountain town piecing together lives of adventure in all different ways made us realize: we haven’t missed out on anything. In fact, we’re probably doing this the better way, because our life of adventure will be built on solid financial footing.
Creating a vision for early retirement isn’t just important so you have cool stories to share — it’s crucially important to make sure you have a smooth transition into retirement, avoiding the declines in physical and mental health that many people experience, even in early retirement! Bonus: An update on our progress, and lots of graphics on creating a next life vision based on presence of awesomeness, not absence of work.