I semi-retired in my early 40s, meaning I can be more selective about the work I perform or not work at all. I can spend weeks working only 10 hours per week just keeping tabs on my investments, or I could work 40 to 50 hours per week as a consultant.
I have a net worth of $5M+, and it’s a lot of work just to maintain and grow it. I sometimes dream about cashing in my chips and living off of an annuity, dividends or rental income.
On average, I’m a bit happier than before when I was working for the “man” but not significantly happier. I think I would be happier with retirement if my kids were grown up and my wife (who works by choice) and my friends were also retired. Therein lies the rub with “early” retirement; one has the wealth of an older person but the responsibilities and social circle of a younger person—it feels unnatural in many ways.
Early retirement for me is not “champagne wishes and caviar dreams”. At the dinner table I have two tasks tonight. I need to check my daughter’s multiplication homework and check the estimated closing statement for an apartment I’m buying. Neither task is glamorous, but I treat both with the same care.
The work that I do/investments I manage require fewer hours than my full time job. I’m the decision maker but I still need to work with difficult people and situations. It can be just as stressful and the consequences are far more significant. For example, the worst that could happen before is that one gets fired or laid off. Assuming one’s skills are marketable and one has a decent financial cushion, just take some time and look for another job. Now if I screw up, I can be subject of a lawsuit and/or lose hundreds of thousands of dollars. There are fewer rules and no boss to escalate the problem to.
It’s no secret that one needs financial discipline to amass great wealth, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that one possesses discipline in other areas.
Exercise: With all the extra free time, I thought I would exercise more. I don’t. Instead I fill my time with other more important and trivial tasks. I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t like exercise and lack of time was an excuse. I feel the same way about exercise that many other people feel about saving for retirement: I know it’s important but it’s not terribly fun so I’ll get it to later.
Sleep: I thought I would get more sleep, but like exercise, I fill my time with other meaningful and meaningless activities. I average 6 hours per night…the same as when I worked full time.
Schedule: If it were not for my young children who keep a normal schedule, I would probably stay up until dawn every night and sleep in until noon. I am responsible for making them breakfast and taking them to school. My limited work also requires me to accommodate other people’s normal business hours. Without those constraints, I would probably tend toward my natural state of being a night owl.
Relationships: I have more time than my friends who continue to work full time. That in theory means that I could make an effort to drive somewhere to meet them and hang out. It should also mean that on average I should spend more time with friends. None of that has panned out.
Goals: Financial security has allowed me to take some increased risks in investments which have yielded corresponding rewards (e.g., started investing in apartments). Other than, I haven’t set any truly lofty goals and lack the discipline to figure it out. For example, I have a vague notion that I want to help people, but I’m not exactly volunteering my time at charities.
Most of my new found freedom and time goes toward my family. I spend more time with my kids both at home and their activities. I volunteer at their school. I spend more time with my elderly family members. I don’t spend more time with my wife (probably not a bad thing since many retired couples drive each other crazy).
I spend more time managing our investments and thinking about esoteric issues like the meaning of wealth and the meaning of life.