I retired from the paycheck world in 2011 for a variety of reasons — unfortunately, every single one of them was wrong for me. I had thought that all the bases were covered and that I knew what I was doing and why … but none of them were truly honest with my core self. This situation was a recipe for disaster, and disaster is exactly what happened.
From my own experience, now when I think of retiring early a number of questions leap to mind because I REALLY do not want to repeat that mistake.
(1) WHY? This is a simple sounding question, but if the answer isn’t fully investigated and really understood, there could be all kinds of hidden subconscious reasons which are waiting in the wings to spring out and blind side you. In my case, insecurity and the need to end the burn-out were the subconscious motivators I never even saw coming. Combined, these threw me into a depressive spiral that took me a few years to dig out of. So really, consider all the myriad and sundry whys because there’s never just one. Specifically look for the clues as to where the subconscious pitfalls may be hiding.
(2) PURPOSE/VALUE. Looking into where your sense of purpose and value comes from is related to the why but a bit deeper. I had no idea just how much of my sense of value as a person was derived from my paycheck. What a nasty eye opener that one was! Combine a sense of giving no value to the household with a sense of having no purpose to get me up in the mornings and this absolutely gave me the knock-out punch to the depression I mentioned above and why it lasted so long. Once I formally re-entered the work-world and got my first real paycheck, I was shocked at how quickly I was able to not only recover but suddenly my interest in pursuing my own business went from drudgery to an exciting challenge. The irony! I even had energy left-over to tackle some of the many hobby projects which sat idle while I was “retired”. Again, this is a very serious set of questions to consider. Retiring to discover that self-esteem and sense of purpose vanish is another potentially devastating surprise I wouldn’t want anyone to face.
(3) SUPPORT. There is nothing worse than leaving the work-force only to face a partner who has changed their mind about the situation. The questions of Why and Purpose/Value need to be explored through the partner’s perspective as well. In my case, my partner was all for it before hand. Totally supportive. Until the paychecks actually stopped and his value of “financial security” felt threatened for the first time. Not the case, but he felt it was true and so it may as well have been. Combine that with my depression and he really was unsupportive. Again, not a fun situation. If you have a partner who won’t be retiring at the same time you do, discuss the plans until every facet has been covered as best as possible – and keep talking even after. Consider also the possibility there may be a discrepancy between “theory” and “actuality”!
(4) EXIT STRATEGY. What if it doesn’t work out for whatever reason? I listen to the early retirees and there are a number who go back to work. I am one of them. Fortunately, my stint being “retired” gave me a whole new perspective on the meaning of work. Now I work where I want to and because I find the work exciting or challenging. If that changes or doesn’t allow me to keep growing, I’m going somewhere else. No qualms about that! What did come as a surprise is that most employers aren’t really interested in hiring entrepreneurs. It’s been challenging digging my way back into an environment that I want to be in. I’m still not there, but I’m much closer.
And that’s a bit about what I learned from retiring early. I also learned that I can never do that again. I’ll be working until I die – though being freed from the feeling of being trapped by any job has been amazing. I could retire if I wanted to, but I choose not to. A very different place to be!