The emotional side of early retirement

The emotional side of early retirement

Some say there is a ‘darkside’ to early retirement.

Best think twice before retirement.

Be careful what you wish for – they say!

On and on and on…

But maybe some of these warnings are not wrong. In fact, maybe early retirement is not everything that it is cracked up to be. I have no doubt there is a very emotional side to early retirement. I feel it myself. 

Certainly, I see TONS of appeal to my FIWOOT plans (Financial Independence, Work On Own Terms). Financial independence can afford you the opportunity to work on your own terms (or not) but maybe I’m the one that has it all wrong. Should I really be working at all?

The downsides to early retirement

For today’s post, I thought I would explore some of the emotional sides of early retirement including some of the phases I expect to work though in time.

Emotional uncertainty #1 – How much can I reasonably spend?

The simple fact is, retiring earlier means your savings/investments must last longer than anyone retiring at a more traditional age of 65 or later. Factor in longevity risk, inflation, and you’ve got some serious headwinds to navigate. 

To help you figure out how much you can reasonably spend, there are tools and services you can take advantage of. I’m running some of those financial projections myself, so you can consider hiring me if you have uncertainty!

Check out my Helpful Sites page to learn more. 

When it comes to my own uncertainty, I would be lying to say I didn’t have some now and then. I have my own (minor) concerns if I have saved enough, if I have too much risk in equity investments, and whether my cash wedge is ample enough.

How much cash should you keep?

How much cash should you keep?

That said, this uncertainly comes and goes. As I continue to run my own projections, I have become far more confident in my early retirement math and have little doubt the following key income sources will be sufficient – if I stick to my plan:

  • Max out Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) until at least age 50.
  • Max out Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) until at least age 50.
  • Maintaining my existing taxable account and letting those assets compound and grow, for juicy, passive dividend income. 
  • Retaining my defined benefit pension plan from work.
  • My wife’s retains her defined contribution pension plan from work.
  • I keep my small Locked-In Retirement Account (LIRA), thanks to work at my former employer, in growth assets like these low-cost ETFs. 

You’ll notice I have yet to include Canada Pension Plan (CPP) nor Old Age Security (OAS) government benefits above in my early retirement plans. While I do include them in my financial projections, since it will be income for me in my senior years, I remain many years away from tapping any government benefits as an early retiree. I’m simply not age-eligible yet. Sure, those government benefits factor into my long-term retirement needs but I have decided to ignore income from those government benefits in the first 10-15 years of my early retirement. I want other income sources to cover my needs instead.

How much can any retiree reasonably spend?

Of course, the answer to this question is always: “it depends”.

I can say from my Retirement page and performing dozens of case studies over the years, that any income stream from your investments that is near or exceeding your expenses, is likely “enough”.

That’s The Crossover Point for those that don’t know. Meeting that Crossover Point seems to be sufficient for many successful retirees.

When it comes to the often-touted 4% safe withdrawal rate, I won’t go into details. 

I’ve written plenty about that before…

Overall, I think the 4% rule is a decent retirement withdrawal rule of thumb to start with. Read on for more articles on this rule:

The 4% rule remains a decent rule of thumb.

Here is a proven path to retirement ignoring the 4% rule.

One might argue does the 4% rule still make any sense???

Conservatively, although I would need to run any retirement projections to show you my detailed math, I would say that any target withdrawal rate of about 3.5% in the early retirement years (3-5) is rather solid.

This is because 50% of the time using the 4% rule you will “double your wealth”.

In fact, 50% of the time (market returns willing) you will finish with almost X3 wealth on top of a lifetime of spending using the 4% rule.

4% rule Kitces

Emotional uncertainty #2 – How will I structure my time?

I enjoy my role at work, although there was a time a few years ago it was challenging. No doubt we all go through those periods and question some things. I’m not writing that here for the benefit of those fellow coworkers that know of this blog – there are a few! Rather, it’s an honest reflection of what I was going through at the time. I write this because regardless of what good days or not-so-good days I might have at work, there are things about my “day job” and my career that I will miss, and other things I’ll be happy to leave behind.

Work provides me with daily structure. It provides some purpose. Work provides some professional and social interaction, and technical stimulation. Countless studies have shown that structure and purpose, in our lives in general, are contributing factors to overall wellness.

Early retirees will need to consider something VERY important: how on earth they are going to spend their time.

Staying active (and a bit busy) has always been important to me. So, remaining active (socially, physically, cognitively) will be important for my health in early retirement and beyond.

I have some ideas on this now, but of course, those ideas are sure to change. Any plans I have today might not pan out at all. What I think early retirement might be and feel like, could be totally different. Plans are good but plans can and will – change. I think it will be very important to me to do some deep thinking on this subject in particular in the coming years.  Mainly, to be open to possibilities…

All transitions in life come with a range of emotions – early retirement or even semi-retirement would be a very big one for me personally. These are the emotional stages I expect to go through in the coming years, one is starting right now….

Emotional Stage 1 – Anticipation (<5 years out)

This is my stage right now for semi-retirement.

I have begun the process of evaluation where I am and where I might be. I’ve started to put some ideas on paper. Those include this Financial Independence Plan.

My Financial Independence Plan

Admittedly, my anticipation has been building in recent years. In some ways, I’m starting to question and redefine who I am.

Am I an entrepreneur? A consultant? A cyclist? A golfer? A traveller? A craft beer enthusiast?

Maybe I do all these things and more.

Emotional Stage 2 – The Honeymoon (Day 1 to Day 365)

While I am not in this stage, I suspect it exists in the years ahead. I don’t anticipate to be “lost” on Day 1 of semi-retirement but I can appreciate this is a hurdle for others who haven’t thought about the emotional side of retirement yet. After Day 1, any hopes or wishes about retirement become a blunt reality. Because no honeymoon lasts forever, this is another transitory phase. 

Emotional Stage 3 – Reality (Year 1+)

At this point in retirement, the honeymoon is over and potentially it isn’t as enjoyable for some as they may thought.

Maybe some folks go back to work – as part of FIWOOT. There are only so many rounds of golf you can play…

I’ve read feelings of disenchantment can set in for some. Even severe depression. That’s certainly something I wish to avoid. By maintaining some form of work into my routine (may or may not be daily), it is my hope that I can stay active (socially, physically, cognitively) to support my health in early retirement and far beyond.

Maybe the bucket list starts setting in. Who knows. I do know I need to consider these things and be open to a new type of stability.

Uncertainty #3 – How big is my margin for error?

Traditional constructs of retirement are fading. No longer do most folks retire and cease to work again. That’s just fine by me. Maybe an early but prolonged semi-retirement lifestyle will add many quality years to my life. I hope so.

Many things will change during an extended retirement. No doubt some things will turn out better than expected. Other idealistic plans could fair far worse. There is simply no way of knowing.

One question I have yet to tackle for myself is to define how big my margin for error is. I need to stress-test my plan at some point – and that goes beyond financial plans. My life plan should have some significant flexibility designed-in – and I hope to do just that.

The emotional side of early retirement summary

As I move from anticipation onto other emotional stages of my semi-retirement, I’ll be sure to chronicle them here. Just like my career and life outside my career, I believe retirements must evolve because everything will evolve with or without you anyhow. Taking on or retaining part-time work, volunteering, participating in philanthropic or community events are just some of the things on my bucket-list even if they continue to be checked off frequently. 

It has been said by some it can be hard to be depressed if you’re always helping someone else. I hope this blog continues to help you.

Readers, what say you? Have you considered the emotional side of retirement? Are you there now? What experiences and wisdom can you offer me? Share in a comment – I read every one. 

My name is Mark Seed - the founder, editor and owner of My Own Advisor. As my own DIY financial advisor, I'm looking to start semi-retirement soon, sooner than most. Find out how, what I did, and what you can learn to tailor your own financial independence path. Join the newsletter read by thousands each day, always FREE.

50 Responses to "The emotional side of early retirement"

  1. Intriguing article Mark.
    By your definition and at 3 months into retirement I am in the honeymoon stage. I never really went through Stage 1 of a five year out plan. After my first real work hiatus a few years ago I just woke up and realized I didn’t want to do the daily grind anymore. I had the burning question do I have enough to retire early and I finally just concluded, like my whole life I could just adjust my cost of living to reflect funds on hand. Having you complete a financial overview of my financial picture on Cashflows and Portfolio’s was the total and welcome re-enforcement of our situation and just further encouragement to take the plunge. Big thanks following your sites for some time to know I’m not alone out there.
    Like another poster I quickly came to the realization I’m not as invested in watching my portfolio each day with the wealth of flexibility to do what I want on a daily basis. The power of freedom to do as you please each day is incredible. I don’t plan any time soon to establish a routine. I lived my life that way with work and home schedules for 33 yrs. Why not make a change and get out of that mindset.?
    Covid kyboshed our retirement travel plans so we moved house and region in the meantime, The new house, new area and neighborhood connections have filled our days and will do so for some time. A real blessing in disguise. This process will likely extend our honeymoon phase as we have quickly realized even the travel plans need not be rushed being in great health still. We’ve moved onto a street with six new neighbors all at different stages in life including working, self employed, semi retired and retired. The wealth of knowledge and sharing of experience is invaluable and I can express that in retirement a change of scenery and friends would be good for many. Push your comfort level as complacency is the downfall of many.
    We don’t have any of the nagging uncertainty of our financial picture. Our monthly expenses are lower than we budgeted for, the frugal practices we employed before we continue to practice even with adequate funds. They are just so much more fun as we have more time to employee them, Ie we totally plan our driving kilometers to maximize visiting a native reserve to fuel up on cheap gas coinciding with a trip to a neighboring city for cheaper and more ethnically diverse groceries.
    I am definitely of the mindset now we spend our lives overthinking things and subscribing to norms of society especially the one that says we should put 45-50 yrs into the workforce.
    Switching more investments into dividend and income has seen our portfolio cover all our monthly expenses and provide extra for fun or investing such that I don’t foresee us touching principle or drawing it down any time soon.
    Our biggest takeaway from your article and the actual retirement process is to continue to adapt or diversify your life and lifestyle as you would your portfolio. What you might look on as anxiety or emotionally challenging is just another opportunity to adapt or change what isn’t working and pivot. The choice to go back to work, structure a routine, change spending habits are all just freedom of choice in retirement. There is no one script that fits all and you must constantly re-evaluate.
    Biggest problem I’m encountering in retirement is the “what do you do for a living question”. In being the youngest in my crowds I feel somewhat guilty in revealing that I’m retired and even more so when they ask me how I was able to so young. It is not an easy conversation to be had in five minutes when you’ve worked a lifetime achieving it. I also don’t want to be seen in any different light than my other neighbors and it’s hard for them to understand I’m already quite content in retirement such that they will stop with the multiple offers of employment for either the wife or I. Lol.
    I advocate on retiring more for mental and physical health however finances are a big part so if you can delay retirement to have a slightly larger cash reserve you will ultimately have less anxiety in retirement and be free to focus more on life than money. That stressor alone being removed will add years of pleasure …… and no reason that reserve can’t always be fully invested.
    Keep the retirement transition blogs coming. They will help many potential retirees gain the confidence to take the plunge. Sure some will fail, we all do at some point in time however fear shouldn’t be the predominant factor keeping us tied to our work and out of retiring.
    Cheers and continued good work and yet another thx for the work done for me on Cashflows and Portfolios.

    1. Jeff, you are in great shape and we were only happy to help you out at the brother-site if you will! (Cashflows & Portfolios). We’re running our own projections on that site often 🙂

      “The power of freedom to do as you please each day is incredible.”

      That’s amazing. I know I will want/need some level of structure but at the same time, I am anticipating I will enjoy a hard break from any work-based routine.

      Sounds like you’ve moved into a good neighbourhood – likely the change of scenery feels new and exciting.

      I too Jeff, probably overthink things. I am slowly learning to let go and be more flexible. I think the creative side of the blog is helping with that personally. So, to your point, I hope to continue to learn how to adapt since retirement will be a process and transition for me. It’s exciting with some anxiety at the same time.

      I personally think you should take a lot of pride in your success. Seems you have an excellent balance of your health. I hope retirement continues to treat you well and we can check-in on your now and then. 🙂

      Thanks for your detailed and great comment. Have a great summer.

  2. The emotional side of retirement looks to me now is more deciding than the financial side. I am pretty sure financially we are ready, but I am still working here. Back and forth with when I should retire. I feel I need some trigger for me to retire. Before that, need to try harder to spend more as we don’t need to save for retirement anymore, we already have enough and it’s growing while we keep adding to it.

    My husband has been always in the question of what he should do once he retired. I feel I need to force him to retire with me together once I decided to retire.

    1. Quite possible your husband needs a nudge! Kidding aside, I’ve seen this and witnessed this with many couples. I know my wife and I have the same plans for the next 3-4 years to continue working full-time. Then, we are both ready to be working part-time. We will of course be tallying up the math often before then but our goal is to be financially ready. The emotional side will likely take more work!

  3. Great post Mark. This is a very important topic.

    And yes the emotional component is just as important as the money part.

    For most I believe that retirement will need to be busy and have purpose.

    I had a unique early semi retirement in that my wife still works. I experienced some of that loneliness.

    We need to fill our time and days.

    Sorry to blogger bomb, but the best way to share that is by way of a post I wrote on Cut The Crap Investing. Waiting for your spouse is the hardest part of retirement.

    Another consideration.

    Thanks, Dale

    1. Good stuff Dale and no concerns about your blogger bomb – will read. Wellness in all forms is very important and it seems retirement is no exception even though I’m “not there yet”. All the best. Thanks for the sharing.

    2. Hey Dale

      Great article. I can certainly see how it would be tough if your spouse is still working. My wife was stay at home so she effectively “retired” when I did. We really upped our time together and have established a very nice routine and mix of time together and apart.

      I really like how you describe needing “purpose” and the examples you use. I’m not too sure on the having to stay busy. There’s lots of us out there that really enjoy just relaxing – eg: sitting in the lazy boy with the Bose cranked up.

      I didn’t mention this is my previous post but I did taper/glide into retirement. At the start of 2011 while still working for the company I’d been with for 20 years, I cut back my hours to 7 hrs/day, 4 days/week. In mid-2012, I left that company and when on my own consulting for another year. I started with about 50 hrs/mo and slowly tapered to 10 hrs/mo before deciding that it wasn’t worth the effort anymore. I fully retired in June of 2103 and haven’t done a single second of work since and have definitely not missed it.

      Take care

  4. Great post Mark
    One does have to be prepared emotionally/psychologically/mentally. And your “WOOT” concept is a great way to do that. It worked well for me. When I reached FI at 40, and left full time employment, I did consulting work off and on. That’s a great way to “ease” into retirement. I worked on special projects, a few months on, then a few months off. When I was off, I felt like its a long vacation and you could really enjoy a long trip without worrying about your todo list when you got back. Then when I started another project, it was fun. I felt like “Hey, I’m good at this!”, but by the time it was over, I was ready for another long break. This went on for almost a decade until the GFC put an end to the consulting work for a while. I had worked maybe 35-40% of the time I would have, had I had a full time job. So at that point I decided I was ready to “retire” or stop working for money, full time. By then I had been off enough that I knew I could spend my time in interesting ways. Travel, charity work, renovating my house, spending winters down south and many other things. And I don’t really understand the concept of “being bored”. The world is an endlessly fascinating place to me, so if you are free to do whatever you wish, you are choosing to be “bored” by not doing something else. Boredom is a lack of imagination. As others have said here, you don’t have to have it all figured out and have a detailed bucket list to tick items off of like its a job. You are free to explore. To engage in adventures. Or to aimlessly waste time. Its about freedom and options and living the way you want, not according to anyone else’s rules or expectations.
    And even though I left full time employment 20 years ago, my net worth is more than 3X what it was back then, and not from subsisting on ramen noodles and taking the bus, but by understanding your means and living within them and spending your money on things that are important to you, not to please others. I just read Die with Zero by Bill Perkins–an interesting book about how to optimize your life, not just your portfolio. Worthwhile reading as I try to ramp up my spending!

    1. Thanks Ed. Nice to hear from you again….

      I fully embrace that “WOOT” concept, I know I will benefit from it.

      Jeepers, FI at 40 is impressive…

      I suspect travel, volunteer work, cycling, hiking, etc. will be the bulk of my semi-retirement beyond some work. I will likely have this blog or something like it too.

      “The world is an endlessly fascinating place to me, so if you are free to do whatever you wish, you are choosing to be “bored” by not doing something else.” – that’s an excellent attitude.

      Interesting – might have to get a copy! re: Die with Zero by Bill Perkins.

      Have a great weekend,

  5. Hey Mark

    Excellent post.

    Just like a financial plan is very personal and different for different people in different situations, retirement is also very personal and there is no one way that is best for all. Thus, I totally disagree with Len & especially Hampton that a retiree needs to give back to society and shouldn’t spend time on their investments. I worked very hard for 37 years with lots of extra unpaid hours and lots of work travelling so I think I’ve earned being able to just kick back and do whatever I want.

    I’ve been retired for just over 8 years and love my daily routine which does NOT include any volunteering. I run twice a week, walk 5 times a week with my wife, spend part of at least a day a week with each set of grandkids, have dinner once every two weeks with each of our kids & families, and spend a lot of time on our investments, including lots of short term trading with some of our extra cash. We also camp & hike a fair amount and socialize a little.

    I wouldn’t want to have it any other way and don’t ever have a single guilty feeling that I should be doing more.

    Take care

    1. “I worked very hard for 37 years with lots of extra unpaid hours and lots of work travelling so I think I’ve earned being able to just kick back and do whatever I want.”

      I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all Don. Everyone deserves a retirement on their terms, with or without volunteering.

      I’m walking MUCH more than I used to for my health/wellness. Trying to golf x1 per week and I could see myself going to x3 per week in semi-retirement. Camping is fun too.

      To not have it any other way sounds like you’ve designed your life perfectly. That’s all that matters.

  6. Excellent article that understandably focuses on the financial aspects of early retirement. Second thing to focus on is your mental and physical health as you want to be able to “max out” your time on this planet! After that, IMHO, the most important aspect is how to stay socially engaged. If you are fortunate enough to retire early, and we were, then I believe you have a social responsibility to engage in your community to help in whatever way you see fit. By all means travel, exercise, eat and drink while you can but be sure to give back to the community as you will be richer from that experience than any high paying dividend stock can make you.

    Keep up the great blogging and Twitter feed.

    1. “I believe you have a social responsibility to engage in your community to help in whatever way you see fit. By all means travel, exercise, eat and drink while you can but be sure to give back to the community as you will be richer from that experience than any high paying dividend stock can make you.”

      So well said. I hope to do just that Len and part of this blog is somewhat of a way to give back too.

      Certainly I see some community volunteering in my future. Thinking about what that might be in the coming years… 🙂

      Great comment.

  7. Mark, In your retirement, how much of your time is spent on relatively unnecessary financial supervision of your holdings, trading, rebalancing, gear grinding etc. I know a lot of the early retirees love this “hobby,” but I have considered that when I decide to pull to the plug whenever that is, that perhaps I should really simplify my finances and holdings and remove myself from the dopamine hit of constantly checking in on investment mumbo jumbo that is 90% frivilous ultimately. Like once you have enough, the additional time researching, dawdling in financial investment tips etc isn’t really significant to the bottom line, it’s just a dopamine hit to find “A new holding with more dividends.” It’s such a psychological time waster that we like to do but doesn’t really move the needle. Like why so many out there invest in individual dividend stocks and rave about it when they can just buy XDV and simplify. The performance would be very similar, but the time saved is tremendous. I personally know the addiction of picking and adding and changing holdings is very hard to overcome, but it’s probably one of the last things to overcome to actually retire from and then true freedom and retirement which should ultimately be pursuing robust physical and mental health for as long as possible, can begin.

    1. Your point about simplification is very interesting to me in that I’m actually striving to simplify my portfolio over time. I’m actually owning more low-cost ETF units as I get older.

      When it comes to the CDN dividends vs. XDV, well, I guess I do get a “high” from the psychological boost from seeing those dividends flow into my account. The thing is also, I’m beating the returns of XDV, so that helps too. Will I change to all-ETFs eventually? Maybe I might to your points. For now, sticking with my hybrid approach since it has gotten me this far successfully.


  8. Great post as usual, Mark. I’m sure the novelty of retirement can wear off quickly. I’m in the same lucky boat as AR in that I have a lot of hobbies and interests outside of work. I took a 5 week vacation once, and by the end of it I didn’t want my time off to end. I had so much fun playing video games, reading novels, and watching Netflix, and the time went by too quickly. I like my job, but I simply like sleeping in more. 😀 That experience motivated me to strive for FI even sooner, lol. I plan to quit my job in a couple more years after my DPSP vests. I will certainly be thinking more about the emotional side of early retirement.

  9. Great read. One of my coworkers just told me today that she wishes she didn’t work so much before when her kids were young. Now they are in university she is trying to work more since she has more time.

    I think working part time is the way to go. You will get some socialization some structure and some purpose. There are only so many beach vacations or trips one can go on before it gets kind of boring I guess! It’s good you have the blog to keep you busy too 🙂

    1. Thanks GYM, and totally looking at part-time work in a few years. The countdown is on a bit on that 🙂 I hope my workplace will be supportive since it might be nice to stay with them for sure given the work I do!

  10. My advice for retirement is to be like Tarzan swinging through the jungle. Don’t let go of the vine you have until you have a grip on the next.

  11. Some great things to think about Mark. I work with a lot of older colleagues who work well beyond their defined benefit pension “magic number”. For them they can’t imagine what they would do in retirement.

    I think it’s important to always consider what are you retiring to not just what you’re retiring from.

    1. Ya, I mentioned that on a podcast once. I think semi-retirement and retirement is really just a transition – one to plan for and work towards. Some folks that want to FIRE seem to be running away from something. I think it’s far better to be working towards something, a better balance, a transition that fits your needs vs. eating beans and soup because you hate your job.

  12. My take away from this article and all the interesting comments is: you should be very aware of who you are when you think about retirement. Is your identity, as one of your readers suggested, tied to your job at one extreme, or is your job a millstone keeping you from doing what you really enjoy at the other? Are you a person who always needs to be doing something active or are you content to read the books you couldn’t get to when you were working and listen to music and go to concerts etc.? Are you an introvert who’ll enjoy less constant interaction with others or an extrovert who might feel disconnected with reduced interaction? Being true to who you are is a gift of retirement, provided you take care of who you are in your planning.

  13. Hi Mark
    Very good article, thanks for raising that emotional aspect. FI is not just about money, how to structure my life is something I ask myself as well, once we hit FI. My wife and I target end of 2024, so pretty soon. We are looking forward to, but I can imagine that at the beginning it is kind of weird not going to work etc.

  14. The Weather

    3 Years in now, “fired my boss” at age 52 middle of 2018. I was anxious as the “plan” was for a few more years and my saving seemed a bit lite, the question was am I retired or is this just a break.

    With a small market dump soon after I retired in late 2018 I was a tad nervous, (sequence of return risk) it came back and then dumped bigly in 2020, and then came back. So far two downturns, my portfolio and my reaction was sound, this created some confidence. While I was working “I set it and forget it” and was not caring or paying attention to any up and down. I came to the realization that 4% rule is likely sound and likely more like a 4%+Inflation rule. I also realized that If I now found myself at financial risk then the rest of Canadians would be in a financial apocalypse.

    I worked a Seasonal job full time for a bit, worked a couple of Elections and eventually found my way to a PT Position with a non-profit involved in Community Health; . Adds little bit of structure to the week, engagement with others and the regular work “drama”. Fills the gap in the resume if the need or desire to return to work ever occurs.

    Well the shutdowns shut down my PT Gig , it shut down my gym and my Fitness goals (long cold, dark winter here) and shut down the travel in winter plan. So the last winters were disappointing, I would have liked to have a shot of that Work From Home vibe, based on the crowds at parks here it must have been very flexible.

    So far the most important factor in enjoyment of my retirement is the Weather. In sunny summer and spring\fall there are endless things to do. Hiking, Biking, Camping, life is easy . But the winter here amplified by Covid lockdowns can be the “heart of Darkness”. I am hoping with Covid in the rear view mirror my next winter will have more gym time, mixed in with hobby time, friends time , a bit of PT work a Travel break to a place with more than 7 hours of daylight.

    My wife and I have always avoiding making big life decision in the Winter as it impacts your emotional outlook, we also decided not to do the same during the Covid hysteria, but leaving Canada sure seemed like the best idea last winter.

    1. “So far the most important factor in enjoyment of my retirement is the Weather.”

      I too, enjoy walking, hiking, camping, and more. I think we could all benefit from having COVID-19 in the rearview mirror. This has been a trying time…life can be hard enough!

      Take good care and thanks for your comment.

  15. One of the most important things in retirement is health both yours and your partner’s. My husband retired early at 56. We have had 11 wonderful years of travelling and enjoying ourselves. His health is not great now. He often says it was a blessing he retired early because if he had retired at 65 we would never have all the wonderful memories we have. In my experience life has a way of surprising you no matter how much planning you do. But better to have a plan than no plan!

  16. Lot’s of good questions Mark! “Comfortable” people problems. The future is unpredictable, but for folks that make it to the savings point of using the 4% rule (plus or minus), have a far greater chance of success in retirement. Those that do not plan ahead and save (or cannot), and don’t read financial blogs, will sadly struggle financially and emotionally. Nice to see you open up and share your journey…a good learning platform.

    1. Thanks Paul. Always a bit hesitant to post such content since you never know who is reading and following but I enjoy hearing from passionate readers for sure!

  17. I have seen this point from a number of life experiences. My father retired early at age 55. His reason was everyone he worked with who retired at 65 were dieing in a few years. His father had passed away at 50. So he did all sorts of things in retirement and was very active. In his 70s he was getting bored. He went to buy a car when he was 75 and saw they needed a driver. He started back to work…parttime and was full time after a bit. He finally stopped working at 85 when covid came.

    One of my friends retired at 48. He travelled the world for the last 14 years, 140 countries. The challenge he faced was who to travel with as most of us were either raising kids/working or just with only short periods of time to travel. His life was constant travel. Covid resulted in him being stuck in one place the longest he has every been since he retired. He is definitely bored and looking for something to do.

    Another friend just retired last year. Age 61. No hobbies, wife still working. Again more of a mental struggle on what to do. Covid definitely didnt help him.

    I think the real challenge for some isnt the finances…it is the mental aspect. I am very active in the business I own….it can be hectic but at the same point I can have short days or take extended weekends. Most of my working life has been about working 4 days with an extended weekend. It just makes life enjoyable. To retire and not deal with the constant questions and decisions that are to be made would be a big change. I am in no rush to retire. I am consciously aiming to slow down with work but I still intend to work another 9 years….Retirement at 70. Still not sure mentally how that will work out as I enjoy what I do and dont consider it as a job.

    1. Totally: “I think the real challenge for some isn’t the finances…it is the mental aspect.”

      I’m learning this more, myself, in real time and it’s unquestionably the challenge I see in many other aspiring retirees.

      I have little doubt I will work for income in “retirement” so I’m really striving for semi-retirement in the coming years with that purpose in mind 🙂 Great comment – thanks for sharing.

  18. I have yet to find a big downside since leaving my full time 2 decade career Mark. If I was to give a negative it is this weird loss of importance or status. Society has made it such that a job title and for those of us who had large roles in their organizations a heavy self image weighted in this. We are what we do…so what are we after we leave work. If we are to employ your term FIWOOT then I have filed that void calling myself a photographer/writer as my passion for getting outdoors turned into something that can provide a little side income through the tourism field. I still think I’m retired as working 10 days a year is nothing like the demands of working in the oil&gas industry where I was expected to answer phone calls, emails and work pretty much 24/7/365. As for the money side, I have been puling dividends out of my RRSP yet it continues to grow, I never expected it to do so well these last 4 years without making those regular investments. I am not worried about how it will do and like you have that nice CPP/OAS coming in the future as an awesome safety net and if things stay as they are it will feel like a windfall of extra cash. (side note I keep pulling a bit extra each year from RRSP to move and fund my TFSA annual limit)

    1. You seem to have a great balance Chris. The outdoors, photography, writer and more. Well done. That balance is something I’m working towards as well….

      “As for the money side, I have been puling dividends out of my RRSP yet it continues to grow, I never expected it to do so well these last 4 years without making those regular investments.”

      That is excellent. I recall you’re a big fan of low-cost ETFs like XAW. I have no doubt XAW will allow you to get some long-term growth over time.


  19. Similar to Murray I would say my early retirement has been somewhat marred by COVID.

    The good news for me is I have a long list of hobbies and interests. I am good at finding my balance and I generally find that I like to mix productivity, fun, socializing, new experiences, and family time. If I can do a something from that list once a day, and with good balance, I find myself happy and content.

    Financially, since I Accidentally Retired, it’s been a learning process and a core focus, but now that I have a good plan to execute on, I am thinking about it less and working to simply execute that plan. I may end up spending over 4% this year, but we’ll make up for that next year and are just being as flexible as possible.

    1. Balance is a key word for me AR. I find I need a blend of family, personal and friend time. Too much of any one thing gets to me a bit sometimes, just how I am wired.

      Your point about being as flexible as possible is an important one that extends beyond the $$ side of things I believe. Hence my post.
      Thanks for your comment.

  20. I am a retiree already. I am lucky to have a defined benefit pension plan to top up with the CPP and OAS. Together they provide me with enough to spend. I have maxed out my TFSA, RRSP and have a non-registered investment a/c and all that ( I hope) is adequate to last me to the end. The most important element is to have as much of a stress free life as possible and to take life easy. Too much financial planning might cause headache and sleepless nights.
    Personally I prefer high growth stocks instead of dividend paying ones. I always consider the total return of the higher risks stocks to be more important than the low dividend paying stocks. Of course, it is risky investment but the return is higher!!!! No matter what you choose as investments, whatever makes you happy and sleep better at night is the route to take.

    Best of luck to you all in your investment journey.

    1. That’s great advice Ken: “The most important element is to have as much of a stress free life as possible and to take life easy. Too much financial planning might cause headache and sleepless nights.”

      Stress can be killer on many fronts I think. I appreciate your comments on the site. Continued success to you.

  21. Excellent post. I am in year 3 of early retirement using a dividend strategy similar to yours. Retirement planning tends to focus largely on the financial side, but I found the emotional side far more important: how do you structure your days, and what gives your life purpose, meaning, and a sense of accomplishment. My advice would be to develop some hobbies, cultivate a circle of friends outside of work, and think deeply about what you want to accomplish with your life when you no longer need to work.

    1. Thanks for the kind feedback. Yes, I have learned and currently going through that process (emotional side) now. I have a number of hobbies, including this blog, to keep me busy but I often wonder ‘what else’?? is there I can do? I’m sure I will figure it out or it will be figured out for me in due course! Life tends to work that way a bit.

  22. We had heard many times about the 4% rule and based my retirement date around being able to live on 4%. We are actually taking out less than two percent of our savings, retirement living is much less expensive than work life.

    Filling my time after retirement has not been an issue, there are many volunteer opportunities that will be sent your way. Learning to say no is an important retirement skill.

    Questioning if we have enough money has always been on our mind since we talked about early retirement. We have definitely gone from one extreme to the other on that. The last eighteen months has certainly had an impact, money accrued nicely and we have now started questioning why we need so much. Estate planning is no longer a matter of seeing how much we can spend!

    1. Very interesting take Richard! re: I’ve heard that from some: “Learning to say no is an important retirement skill.”

      Probably a good life skill too 🙂

      I could see the pendulum swing for many during COVID-19/pandemic. Myself included.

      Any general plans for estate? Pass on? Gifting? Spend more now so you have less to deal with later via Executor? Curious.
      We’re not there yet, still in asset accumulation stage. In the “anticipation” stage now for sure.

  23. Totally agree. I am at Emotional Stage 2 at 3 month mark. With Covid/lockdown/restrictions it may not be fair to say that things are normal but the thoughts on all your questions are still in my head. Do I have enough, did I quit too early, what am I going to do now, etc All running through my head often.
    Good article, thanks

    1. Great to hear from folks going through this Murray. Appreciate the comment.

      Certainly impossible to predict what COVID-19 has impacted and how. I assume your plan (life one, not just financial) is resilient for this? Not what anyone expected for sure….



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