One of the big and probably most important questions one should spend some time on, is to think about your plans, goals and ideas for the day after your last day at work. This is not only true for people who plan to retire early, but also for everyone else.
If you work until your 65, or 67 or… well, depending on the retirement age in your home country, waking up in the morning and having nothing on schedule might become a depressing experience. While many of us tend to complain about our jobs, the countless office hours and “wasted” time that we would rather spend doing something else, the truth is that for most people, going to work every day has also some more or less obvious benefits.
- It gives us a purpose, a reason to wake up in the morning and something to look forward to – every day
- Social interactions with colleagues, clients, business partners keep us challenged, entertained and in general feeling of being a part of this world
- Routines that make our daily actions predictable and accountable also give us a sense of security and confidence
When these things disappear, we might not miss them immediately, but over time they may contribute to a degradation of our happiness. Without a reason to wake up, to take care of ourselves, without those tiny daily routines in our lives and without social interactions, sooner or later we might start questioning life itself.
Things get more tricky when you retire early
If you are planning to retire early, let’s say in your 40s or 50s, these questions become even more urgent. Chances are, that you still have another 40 or 50 years to go, and without some proper plans and things to work on, you might actually not appreciate the decision to have left the work-force early.
Sure, I know, there are plenty of easy things that come up to our minds about things that can be done: Waking up late (for those solid 9 hours sleep every night), enjoying long breakfasts and slow coffees, hitting the gym or going for a run to the park, calling up a friend for lunch, playing some video games or watching a movie, helping your kid with homework and going out for a beer at your local pub when the sun goes down. Days are actually way too short.
But when you retire early, you might quickly find out that you are kind of on your own with everything. Your friends might not have the time for lunch or a beer to spend with you, hell, they might actually even resent you for having retired early. The park gets boring after a while, the gym won’t feel like a real purpose to follow and those long breakfasts and slow coffees will start feeling increasingly like a waste of time, rather than truly enjoyable moments.
We need a purpose in our lives
So what to do? I hate to tell you, but you most probably will need to find another job. I am not talking about the employee situation that as a FIRE follower you are currently planning to escape from, but as humans, we just need something to keep us entertained, challenged and something to strive for.
You might start a blog, a small online business, or a consultancy to help others reach what you have accomplished. You might open a small coffee shop, learn a completely new skill like cooking or gardening. You might pursue the things that you wanted to do when you were significantly younger, like back-packing through the mountains of a foreign country, learning a new language or just get that motorbike and plan a 1-year-road-trip.
No matter what you decide for, it should have some consistency and last for a while. Escaping the rat race doesn’t mean becoming a couch potato. It is rather the greatest opportunity of all: To pursue new challenges without the need to worry about financials.
So, if things go well, I believe that I might be able to hit the escape button in 7 years from now. What are my plans then?
- I plan to learn barista skills and do some part-time work at a Starbucks or Costa Coffee
- I will train for the marathon and possibly for an iron man competition
- I might go back to Europe for a while and subscribe to university for a Spanish and Russian language course
- I plan to cross the mountains in Korea in the Jeolla-Nam province with a backpack
- I plan to spend some time in Kyushu and specifically in the hot spring region of Beppu in Japan
- I will do a road trip through the US that might take half a year to finish
- I will master those 2000 Chinese characters that are also required for Japanese writing skills
- I will keep blogging and might eventually try to develop this into a small online business
- I am planning to do a certification as a financial advisor in Germany and might start an online consultancy business (so I can do it from wherever I am in the world at any time)
- I will continue writing as a freelancer for The Motley Fool Germany
- I will take a photography course and start working on my Instagram for some better quality pics
- I seriously need to get better at calisthenics and plan to increase my work-out time from currently 45 min a day to about 2 hours
I probably won’t be able to follow up on all these things. Certainly not at the same time, and some of these points might prove to be not the right choice OR my priorities might shift due to unforeseeable events.
But the point is that you should seriously think about this, brainstorm, gather ideas and just make sure that you really have something to look forward to every day. Something to keep yourself active, entertained, challenged and social.
Escaping the rat race is not about money, it’s about time. We have only one life and the time we have should be spent wisely. This becomes even more true when we stop worrying about money and receive the opportunity to actually really spend the time we have on ourselves only.