Lifestyle

12 Years of Early Retirement

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Wow, I can’t believe it’s been 12 years since I left my engineering career! Time flies when you don’t have a boss. I’m happy to report I’m still going strong, and life is better than ever. No doubt, retiring early was the right decision for me.

However, my early retirement didn’t quite unfold exactly as I pictured. For many people, retirement is an abrupt transition. One day you’re at your desk in the office, the next you’re chilling at home. It’s a big adjustment, and it’s no surprise many struggle to adapt. After all, work is a huge part of our adult lives, shaping our identity and sense of self-worth. For most of us, retirement can be a surprisingly traumatic experience.

Fortunately, my retirement has been more of a gradual journey. Perhaps “gradual retirement” would have been a more accurate depiction than “early retirement” in my case.

Gradual retirement

Alright, I made a chart. That’s my motto. When in doubt, turn to Excel. Heh heh… This chart shows how I spent my time over the last 14 years. Of course, it’s just an estimate. But I think the trajectory is about right. Let me hit the highlights.

2010 – I started blogging at Retire by 40.

2011 – Our son was born, and sleepless nights ensued.

2012 – I quit my job. Oh Yeah! It was one of the best days of my life. I was walking on cloud nine when I left that hellhole. Thinking of that day still brings a smile to my face. After that, I became 90% SAHD and 10% blogger.

2015 – RB40Jr started kindergarten and a new chapter began! I had time to work a bit more, but I also gained some personal time. Over the next few years, our son grew more independent and the demands of being a stay-at-home dad naturally lessened. Life got easier until…

2020 – Ugh! The BIG Covid shutdown. RB40Jr studied from home and I spent more time being a SAHD. Things gradually evolved into a new normal over the next few years.

2024 – Recently, RB40Jr turned 13. Wow, he is a teenager! These days, he needs a lot less supervision. I still drive him to his activities and occasionally help with homework, but the SAHD load is lighter. Also, I am cutting back on work. This year, I feel more relaxed than ever. I feel no shame telling people I’m mostly retired (60%). 

The next few years – I expect life will be pretty stable over the next few years. RB40Jr still needs to be driven to his appointments and various sports games. Being a SAHD will take a similar amount of time and effort for a while. As for work, I’ll try my best to keep going at this level. It’s getting harder to stay motivated, though. After RB40Jr finishes high school, I’ll probably stop working completely.

So that’s how I eased into early retirement over the last 12 years. Next, I’ll share my thoughts on a few related topics.

Lack of motivation

Recently, I ran into an unexpected issue. I am losing motivation for self-employment. After 14 incredible years of blogging, I’m starting to run out of steam. FIRE is still great, but it’s getting harder to write a new blog post. I’ll try my best to keep going as long as I can.

Last year, I started driving for Doordash and Uber Eats. It provided a welcome distraction during a difficult time. Losing my mom last year was incredibly tough. It led me to grapple with some big questions about life and mortality. Working on an easy side gig was a way to escape for a bit. It kept me busy and I made a little income.

This year, I’m a lot less motivated. I think this is due to the bull market. Why should I drive around for ~$20/hour when our net worth increased thousands of dollars from the stock market last month? It doesn’t make sense. Maybe I would be more motivated if the stock market wasn’t doing so well. These days, I only drive a few hours per week. I don’t need the distraction anymore because I’m done processing my grief. I still miss my mom, but I understand life goes on.

Loneliness

I heard on the news there is a loneliness epidemic in the United States. Most of us don’t socialize as much as we did 20 years ago. Sadly, Americans are more isolated than ever. Fortunately, I’m an introvert and I feel okay for now. These days, I spend the bulk of my time with my wife and son. That’s plenty of social interaction.

Also, I check in with my college buddies occasionally. We’re going to California for spring break and hope to get together with some of them. It would be nice if we lived closer, but such is life. I also have surface friendships with the neighbors and a few parents from school. I guess that’s normal. It seems almost impossible to make a new deep friendship at my age. Do you have this problem too?

Another missing part is work friendship. I used to have lots of surface friends at my old job. But that’s just part of the retirement transition. Most people don’t keep up with old coworkers as they move on. I don’t think this part is a big deal.

Unfortunately, I suspect loneliness will become a major problem as I get older. Once RB40Jr goes off to college, I’ll lose a lot of my day-to-day social interaction. I need to find some new hobbies so I can widen my social circle.  

12 years into early retirement

Do I have any regrets about quitting my career? Not at all. Everything is working out very well so far. Our finances are strong. Family life is perfect. Health is pretty good. I don’t see how working longer could have improved my life in any way. I am very fortunate and I am very grateful.

In conclusion, easing into retirement is the way to go. I kept busy after I quit my old career and I didn’t have time to mourn my old identity. Being a SAHD took up a ton of time for a few years. I highly recommend easing into retirement if you can.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. These days, I’m investing in commercial properties with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the United States. Go check them out!

Disclosure: We may receive a referral fee if you sign up for a service through the links on this page.

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.

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