Login

Retirees' Remorse?

Understanding the drawbacks of retirement.

Abnormal Returns shared a bunch of links that looked at some of the drawbacks of retiring early as well as at a more traditional age. I write a lot about retirement issues in terms of financial aspects and lifestyle issues. It is fun and interesting to write about and very important for everyone even if the reasons for its importance differs from person to person.

The first link is a blog post by someone who retired young, still is young and appears to be second guessing her decision. She retired to travel. It appears she shed many of her possessions and gave up (sold?) her home all as part of implementing her retirement. After just a couple of years she has become road-weary, misses some of her possessions and feels disconnected. She took a break from traveling to spend time with her parents and it didn't seem like she was happy about that.

Another link talked about various traps that await retirees. These traps include depression, higher suicide rates, higher divorce rates and a little less dramatically, a loss of purpose.

The final link had 21 life lessons from someone who retired at 50. Some of the lessons are positive like staying fit, you get to choose what is important and the benefits of being positive. Many of the others were negative relating to mortality and that you should stop looking for happiness.

One focus of my writing as been taking long term views on big life changes. The easiest example to point to is efforts to monetize a hobby. If you enjoy doing something enough that you do it for free then with enough foresight, you might be able to figure a way to monetize it, even if it takes you years to actually monetize it. The successful monetization of a hobby could help with purpose, finding a new purpose. I see this playing out in my involvement with the fire department. Many of our board members are older than me and devote a lot of time to the department and while there isn't a direct opportunity to monetize it, there is purpose derived from helping the department which in turn helps the community.

As I read through the life lessons posts, it seems to me that a lot of them are about getting comfortable in your own skin; living in the moment, not trying to please everyone (realizing you can't) and so on. All of this takes self-awareness which is not easy to get to and arguably maintaining self-awareness takes ongoing work. We've talked about this sort of thing in terms of not chasing your neighbors' lifestyle but figuring out the things that make you happy and working toward that objective or working to maintain that status.

As opposed to flat out retiring at a young age like in the first link, a less dramatic idea could be some sort of sabbatical with a finite date on it. The gal in the first link would have a lot more options if she had kept her home and rented it out. There is an element of risk perhaps to getting your job back or getting a new job but I think a more finite time frame could have helped her avoid some of the issues that arose. A few years later she could have taken another sabbatical if she wanted.

A part of this story is the FIRE movement, Financially Independent, Retire Early. There is a huge mental/emotional component to this. If you love what you do, you're probably less eager to walk away from it. If you live below your means and save a lot of money relative to your lifestyle (so this doesn't require being wealthy) you will feel financially independent. Loving your work and having a financial cushion is very empowering and removes two sources of stress that are common for a lot people; aggravation at work and stress from not having enough money.

The recurring theme to this is addressing these issues from the bottom up (meaning it is up to you). A couple of quotes; Joe Moglia who retired as CEO at TD Ameritrade to find purpose as a very successful college football coach at Coastal Carolina said no one will care more about your retirement than you do, that applies to all aspects of your life and how you find happiness. And from our friend Bill, here in Walker, you can figure it now or you can figure it out later but you'll be much happier if you can figure it now.