You’ve heard it all before
I left FT employment in January 2016 and have been in-between several things and various projects. One of the main things I’ve struggled with is figuring out “what’s next?”.
I don’t think that’s such a big surprise for most people, because people warn about this pitfall in any type of retirement…but I’m living it.
My wife has continued to maintain a full time job, working from home, but has been on furlough for the last 6 months because of the pandemic.
Is that all there is?
Here are the biggest struggles with any kind of partial retirement or when only one person is “taking a break”
- It’s no fun doing stuff alone (or much less fun)
- The person working still only gets 2 wks vacation per year
- You can only purge so much stuff
- It’s not easy breezy
Let’s drill down on each of these things
No fun alone and 2 wks vacay
While my wife was chained to her desk, I would go out and try to do things during the day. Ferry ride, some light shopping, have a nice lunch solo, etc. None of that was fully satisfying and left me feeling a little guilty. No matter what your own personal contribution to your household income or net worth has been over the years, you will always get some kind of backlash from this. Eye rolls from others about carrying your weight or even a bit of indignation from your partner. It’s inevitible…be prepared for that.
If one spouse is not working, but taking care of a child…that’s a bit different. That is becoming more “quantifiable” in terms of value. This is a much bigger challenge that you might realize…because at the end of the workers day…they’re not jazzed to go out and eat dinner at 8pm in the city, like you used to do when you were young and both working until 6pm.
We’ll lump #2 in here also. When your partner is still in a corporate structure…they can’t just drop everything on short notice and jet off on a package deal that you just found on Kayak. In fact, most professionals, hedge against scheduling it at all.
They simply push it off into the future, after analyzing the work landscape. NONE of that stuff changes, even if you tell yourself you’re in “wind down” mode.
I love purging stuff, and I’d describe our household as a “well oiled machine”. I’m always purging books with my little scanner. My wife embraces “low clutter”, and if I had to say it out loud…I’m closer to a hoarder than she is.
With that being said, we’re pretty lean and mean. I figure I could move anywhere on the planet within 2 weeks total. Maybe less.
When you get to a certain point with purging things that you’ve collected over a lifetime, you start having these larger (MUCH LARGER) existential questions about “Why was I saving this to being with?” and “What do I want my legacy to be?”.
or maybe another favorite of mine… “What did I achieve during my career?” If work was just a means to an end…well then the end is HERE! What are we doing now? No…seriously….WHAT are we doing now?
It’s not easy breezy
This one is my FAVORITE. Hands down. The truth is…if you “wait” to have enough money to retire, you’ll never have enough.
It’s similar to what people say about having kids. If you wait to save up a lot before having a kid…you might never get there.
Our net worth is just north of $1M and about 40% of that is tied up in our primary residence. I’m ok with that, for now, but at some point…I’m going to want to get at that equity…In a BIG way.
There is a dizzying number of options for doing that, and all of that requires a LOT of discussion with your partner. Cash out? Partial refinance? Cash out and rent? Buy a less expensive place?
That’s not even the hard part, because “everyone has their price” that they’re willing to get out.
The hard part is the fact that nothing really changed! In this “no man’s land” of pre-retirement or one spouse working, there really are no changes to day to day life. Other than you don’t have to hit goals for an employer.
Even with my wife being “off” for 6 months, we still can’t get our “stuff” together, because our diabetic cat, Merry, requires an insulin shot daily.
In broad terms, all of these challenges can be handled, but my point is this: I really envisioned “skating” most days in retirement. Like planning some travel once per month, and working on personal projects.
Maybe attending some sporting events or concerts or Broadway matinees. Eating out nice dinners, at least once per week. Learning some new skills like cooking better.
Some of that has happened on a very small scale…but honestly, our social schedule was more “full” and fulfilling when we were BOTH employed full time.
Right now, we’re still going to the store for groceries and trying to be budget conscious, or clipping coupons. Not buying a lot of gifts for family and friends. Not traveling any more than before. It’s just kind of “blah”.
I hate to sound ungrateful, but people really need to understand what this is like. Maybe if we hadn’t stopped collecting money (and I don’t think we are yet) but where does it end? Another $100K? $150K?
In a way…it’s like starting all over again. Maybe that’s the key to being successful in retirement. You need to think of it as a “clean slate”.
Personally, I’m just getting around to setting new goals for myself, and potential paid work in the future. One good suggestion is to get some inspirational books that might help you plan a little bit.
Something like “The Encore Career Handbook” or “The upside of aging”. Don’t just let them sit there…dig into the exercises and write some things down. Slowly, a picture will start to come into focus. Hopefully.
4 years is a long time to figure something out. I suggest you don’t wait that long.