What is it like to retire early (e.g., in your mid-40’s)?

By | July 2, 2020

In my good friend’s words, “Well, it’s not sucking”

Mostly, they’re pros. That’s why for so long, it was a target for me— I knew it would be a very pleasant upgrade for my life.

(1) I don’t have to wake up and go to a job I don’t like very much anymore. I designed microchips at IBM and the company was steadily declining as a pleasant place to be over the time frame of 1992-2013.

Some of the co-workers were colleagues, but others were not the kind of people I wanted to be around— I only get around 30,000 days on this planet and I don’t want to waste more than I need on negative people.

(2) Instead, I get to wake up and go to a job I* DO* like. I now work at a nearby school, teaching math to children 10-12 years old, mostly using technology. I’d have done that all along if only half of what microchip design did pay.

(3) I wake up when I want, and when I want to go into work. I’m not a morning person and when the students arrive, I haven’t been to the school yet. Then I’m on my second cup of coffee. That’s the point, a lot.

(4) I have set my own agenda at the school. Which means I’m not doing any paperwork or going to meetings or anything that makes people hate their jobs. I’m just going to do the fun stuff— interacting with the kids and really helping them learn.

The teachers and administrators know that I am a free additional resource available to them and are genuinely appreciative of the work that I do— that is also a big upgrade from IBM.

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(5) Holidays are limitless and malleable. If it’s a particularly good day, I’m just going to play golf instead of going into the school. Whenever her job permits, my wife and I can take a vacation together; I am not constrained by deadlines or business travel.

(6) I’m basically under zero stress. I’d be developing an eye twitch toward the end of my IBM career when my work intensified around a deadline, etc. That never happened again after I retired. Stress is a stone-cold killer and although as an employee I was quite laid-back, it is nice to be even further away.

(7) I’m not super-wealthy and I don’t have an extravagant lifestyle (my expenses are less than $4000/month), and I don’t need something I don’t have. That was kind of a precondition for retirement; when I quit my job, I couldn’t be saving up for something really expensive.

But if I want it, I can purchase it without taking the price into consideration (within reason— i.e. a Tesla Model III, not a Ludicrous Mode Model S). Yet my natural inclination is to be very frugal, so in truth, this isn’t any different than when I was employed.

(8) Bottom tax bracket! My wife still works, but we are now in the 15 percent tax bracket and as a result, I can claim a good bit of capital gains on my old investments and not by federal tax on them (although I still have 5.75 percent NC state tax).

And my tertiary savings plan (after my 401k and my Roth) is almost Roth-like and I use that before I turn 60.

(9) You’ve probably heard that “every day is Saturday” and I used that line myself, but I’ve only done that for a couple of months.

More direct is “Every night is Friday night” tonight (Monday) I go out to drink beer and play a trivia game with friends. I can do that any evening I want because the next morning I don’t have to wake up early for work.

Odds?

(1) I get a little grief from my friends and retirement acquaintances— this is usually a snide comment meant in-jest-but-not-really, you know?

Nonetheless, I know that this mentality is really about them, not about me.

(2) Financial planning can be a real challenge because there’s just not a lot of literature on the subject. I’ve had a hard time thinking about a lot else.