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.
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.
If you’d told me at the beginning of our early retirement journey that we’d be on the verge of retiring only six years later, and that we wouldn’t be miserable or feel like we’d lived a life of sacrifice to make it possible, I wouldn’t have believed you. But it’s true. And not because we haven’t dramatically cut our spending. We have. But because sacrifice is a perception, not an absolute, and we’ve managed to balance out cuts to our spending with additions to other parts of our lives. Here’s how.
Today we’re talking options, and keeping them open. Early retirement isn’t an ending, after all — it’s a beginning. And if we go into that beginning with a limited set of options, and no ability to change our course, we could be setting ourselves up for a less-than-ideal future. Here’s why it’s so important to have an exit plan from your exit plan, which really just means you’re giving yourself the financial and logistical resources to change your mind.
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.