Reminding Yourself that it’s Okay to Want to Retire Early

Moab Retire EarlyIt’s been a bit of a slug-fest at work. These last few weeks have brought on a heavy dose of 11th hour drama that’s quite typical in the world of software delivery at large corporations. When you get close to the finish line and the customer discovers “this isn’t what I wanted”, all of a sudden, collegiality flies out the window, and emotions take over.

In my case, being among the leaders on the delivery side of the equation, I find myself defending my team way too much. If everyone took a step back, they’d realize it’s a process problem, not a people problem. Have you ever heard that one before?

Part of my job is to play mediator and sometimes I feel like a WWF referee. That’s okay by me. But sometimes, I can literally feel my blood pressure rising on those conference calls. And that’s when I remember that it’s okay to want to retire early.

Reminding myself why early retirement is a good thing

Over the years my job has fluctuated between periods of slowness and boredom, and periods of mass hysteria and weekend-marathon testing calls. Part of what makes the field of software delivery so appealing is the decent pay. But that comes with the trade-off of high stress.

Unlike jobs where you have a steady flow of work and the outputs are within a high level of control, software delivery ebbs and flows. Some projects can wrap up within six months or less with no issues. Other projects can last three years or even longer and burn you out with ease.

It was while I was working on a three plus year monster that I planted my flag on a five-year early retirement goal. That was three years ago. Ticktock! With 27 months to go, I’m reminding myself of the following, all over again…

I can reduce my stress when I retire early, right?

Stress reduction is a huge expectation with early retirement. When you retire, you are in control of your schedule. You are your own boss and the agenda is yours to create. Certainly you can’t expect 100% of your stress to melt away. Stress is a key part of life. The game is to find ways to control it, so it doesn’t overcome you.

Remember the Danes and their way of life summed up by the term Hygge (pronounced, “hoo-guh”)? The ability to enjoy the simple things in life is made much easier by eliminating as many of the worries, stressors, and “clouds” that hang over your head day after day: a bad job, high debt, poor health, stressed relationships, and poor-performing sports teams

Easier said than done. I don’t for a minute believe the Danes are impervious to the same trials and issues we face in the U.S. However, they have come up with a superior way of managing their lives, at a societal level that we could all learn from. Early retirement will bias one to Hygge, foregoing excess consumption and all the bullshit that comes with a “normal” American life.

I can work on fun projects when I retire early?

With early retirement, the work I do is for the most part, the work I enjoy. Even the tasks and projects I don’t necessarily choose are things I can do with a little joy in my heart. Whether it’s mowing the lawn, folding laundry, repairing a broken toy, or cooking dinner.

Some chores are simply chores, and that’s also just a part of life. I don’t mind that. And I think when you consider for a moment that early retirees in the U.S. are probably the most envied demographic on the planet, there’s really nothing to whine about.

Taking a random day off recently to focus on blog-writing at a coffee shop has been way more fun than dreaded conference calls at the office. No contest.

Just yesterday, I found myself the last one in the office and didn’t get home until 8:15. The comical part about that is the lights get turned off at 7 on the dot. Had to stay on that war room bridge though. Jeeeesus.

I can still pay my bills and make money when I retire early? How do I swing that again?

Contrary to what most believe, early retirement actually frees-up a good many of us to pursue things we’re passionate about. This newfound freedom often contributes much more meaningfully to society, and perhaps even to the economy, than our cube jobs ever did.

Do you have a charitable cause you’d like to pursue with more vigor (and time?) Is there an invention waiting to be refined in your workshop? And yet, our uninformed society assumes that early retirees are just off spewing jet fuel pollution on exorbitant travel, sipping pina coladas on random beaches somewhere.

I fully intend to keep making money after retiring early. There’s a property management company idea dangling out there. I may get a real estate agent’s license and dabble in flipping houses. Regardless, I’ll be doing something of value. Just don’t expect me to be hanging out in any cubical, especially when the lights go out.

Compare and contrast

We have a tendency as a species to gravitate to what’s comfortable and easy. Some have observed an (unproven) phenomenon where convicts wind up back in jail because it’s a community and an existence they’ve grown accustomed to. I wouldn’t go so far as to compare that situation with a cubical one, but part of me wants to.

Stop and compare:

  • I could be taking a walk around the lake in autumn, appreciating the fall colors. Or, I could be sitting on a conference call in my cube.
  • I could be at a coffee shop I biked to, writing up blog posts or maybe even the beginnings of a book. Or, I could be sitting on a conference call in my cube.
  • Maybe I’m picking up my kids from school and hearing about their day while I get dinner ready? Or, I could be sitting on a conference call in my cube, and some nights missing dinner and bed-time “goodnights” like last night.
  • Maybe I’m planning a three or four-week hiatus to go hiking and exploring? Or, I could be scrounging for a week off here or there, trying not to feel guilty about leaving work behind.

Convinced? I sure as heck am.

Comments 21

  1. All it takes is a few nights at work and a little reflecting to stay focused on the end goal! I am definitely still doing some side gigs in early retirement because there are SO many hours in a day now! I read, I work-out, I write – and I still have time to do a little consulting AND cook and get in another work-out some days! Yes – it’s definitely okay to want to get out of the cube! If others enjoy that year after year, they can wave their arms to try to keep the lights on at night! (We had to do that in our school – the lights automatically went off when it sensed there was no one there!)

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Vicki! I’m glad to hear from you – someone living the dream. It gives me a little inspirational boost to keep at this goal. Funny – I realized when I stood up to leave that I could’ve reactivated the low-lights. 🙂

  2. Ahh, the comparison. I have a way to go until FIRE myself, but I read a post over at Adventure Rich that I really liked. They were talking about the importance of living like you’re retired, even when you aren’t retired. So that means we don’t have to wait until a magical moment to feel happier or less stressed. We can be happy right now. Who wants to go along with a “welp I’ll be happy in ten years” model?

    So I’m trying to buck up and do more of the things that make me happy. I’m trying not to take work too seriously or take things personally.

    1. That actually makes me laugh a bit: “living like you’re retired, even when you aren’t retired.” It doesn’t work that way. You can’t just up and take three, four, or five weeks off. You can’t avoid a computer even if you can swing a work from home job. And you certainly can’t escape the politics of a job that comes with high pay.
      Love the idea and intent of that sentiment, but I can’t really get behind it. That said, you can easily be happy now while working, but the idea is to be happier without all the static of the office.
      So yes, buck up, sweet pincher – and don’t take any of it too seriously or personally. But don’t take your eyes off the prize either.

  3. Speaking as a former real estate agent, make sure you know exactly what life in that field truly entails, not the least of which is studying to get your license and keeping up to date on the rules and laws. You make NO money until your client actually buys a house and the deal closes, all while spending your time and gas money on trying to find them the “perfect” house. Note also that most people want to look at houses nights and weekends when they aren’t working, some calling you last minute to show them a house “right away”! I was called away from my family quite a bit during my short stint in real estate. If no house sales close during the week, there is no paycheck….your income is always an uncertainty. All that being said, it is a noble profession if you are in it for the right reasons and have the ability to actually care about your clients needs.

  4. It’s clearly settled. You need to Abandon That Cubicle! Great post on reminding us why we’re chasing FI. Each day is another day closer (I’ve only got 233 Days To Go, and you can rest assured that I look at the countdown app almost every day)! We’ll see you on the other side, by a lake, or in a coffee shop (anywhere but in a cubicle)!

    1. You got that right, Fritz! And wow, 233 days…. That’s soooo close! Have you thought about hosting a party of us bloggers to help you celebrate at your place in the mountains??? If not, I’m game for that coffee!

      1. Nope. Just other people’s lack of planning and failure to meet their deadlines, unfortunately made emergencies for me. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen so much in my current role – Program and Operations Analyst for an automotive engineering firm.

        1. Wow. Still eerily familiar! A common theme between our jobs – someone else’s lack of planning and engagement becomes OUR emergencies. Sigh… Time for an earlier early retirement ramp up plan?

  5. PREACH. This brings up the classic response of “won’t you get bored if you retire early?” Nope. Thanks though.

    Sometimes I feel bad about wanting to retire early in the sense that I could instead focus completely on my career and work on something that would really affect future change, like space exploration or infrastructure innovation. But then I remember that I can still help out as an early retiree through volunteer efforts like Engineers Without Borders.

    1. Haha! Thanks, Dylan. Spot on with that “Nope.”
      Never feel bad about wanting to hang it up early. Especially if what you’re going into aligns more closely with your passions. I love the idea of Engineers Without Borders. Great example!

  6. Great stuff as usual Cube! I like the idea of stress from freedom and the idea of time to do other projects. Sort of off topic but relevant – have you heard about the book Utopian Society for Realists – A case for a basic income?

  7. Hi Cubert! I’m excited to see that you have resurrected the blog. I was a reader for a while and then stopping checking when the posts died down.

    I’m a fellow Twin Cities resident. It’s been a beautiful week – we are on borrowed time with these sunny, 60 degree days! I hope you can get out of the office early today to enjoy.

    I also really enjoyed your post on 1500 days (that’s where I re-discovered you). I am back to work this week from maternity leave, and had been really hoping to get into an early morning routine. Your post was just the encouragement I needed! I was up at 5:30 four out of five days this week, which is definitely a first for me. Even this morning when I wasn’t super productive with the time, it was wonderful to have the calm hour to myself before my toddler is up and demanding yogurt! 😉

    1. Hey there, Britt! I’m really glad you’ve rediscovered the blog! During that 3 month hiatus I was simply unmotivated with the blog and focusing my energies elsewhere. I’m glad I’ve stumbled upon the early morning routine to help rejuvenate things.
      Congrats on your newest addition, by the way! I’ll do my best to keep posting consistently so you have some light reading during those cold early mornings ahead. Cheers!

  8. I feel your pain brother. Even though I’m not in a cubicle anymore, working from home for the man is kind of the same. While there are way more positives in a home office, you still are confined to your desk staring out a window during a beautiful fall day when it’s 80 degrees outside. I swear I was the only idiot working in my neighborhood this Friday. Our time will come, let’s stay focused.

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