6 Lessons from Mini Retirement
Hey, I’m back! As you may recall, I left my job at the end of last year. Between the sense of restlessness and instability I had at my previous role, along with a death in the family, I took a prolonged break and much-needed time off. During this time off, I extracted several lessons from Mini Retirement.
Related: A Taste of Early Retirement
1. What Are You Retiring To?
In my post announcing my mini-retirement, I mentioned that I thought it was essential to retire TO something instead of just retiring.
My nearly one year off (by the time I start my new job) taught me that my suspicions were right: without a clear goal, I go stir-crazy.
Luckily, I did set several goals for myself. I meditated more often. And read many books that I planned to read but never had time for before. I had a backlog of around two-years-worth of books, and I got through most of it during this break!
Another goal of mine was to finally get deep into computer programming. I’ve dabbled in it before, but I finally put forth a sustained effort at understanding this new skillset. Boy, am I happy I did this. Programming feels like a super power. I would not have the patience to sit down at the computer for hours each day after doing exactly that at work. I made programming (and running this blog) my jobs.
Not to be smug, but I’m impressed by the results. I now can use R, Python, and SQL and it’s going to change the way I work going forward.
“But Moose, that sounds a lot like work!”
Yeah, you might be right about that. It’s a self-selected work. You don’t need to have some massive project waiting on the wings when you retire. However, you do need to visualize what your days are going to look like and execute on this vision.
Without a plan, the day wastes by and you go to bed with the sick feeling that there was no point to your day and your existence was wasted.
Without these intermediate-term goals to strive for, I would have been miserable! Going from a highly regimented routine to doing nothing is the worst. Retire to something!
2. Find Friends with a Similar Schedule
Human companionship and interaction is something we can often take for granted while we grind away at a full-time job.
For the first few weeks, it was a sick little thrill of mine to walk around during the middle of the day and watch all the busyness and worker ants stuck in their rolling metal cages. “Ha, I don’t have to go to work!”, I’d think.
Yeaaah…this gets old fast. The novelty quickly wears off.
I knew something was off, but it wasn’t until about Month 2 that I realized that I was missing seeing people as often as I did before. I longed for companionship and camaraderie.
One of my best friends took an entire year off and went back to work shortly before I left my job. I wish we had overlapped so we could have worked on projects, tinkered, and hung out. You see, I had NOBODY to hang out with during my time off except my two-year-old daughter and my wife when she wasn’t working. I assumed I was less of a social animal than I am, and now I know that I need to be around people during the day. Make sure you have company when you retire!
3. Find a Rhythm…ASAP
This lesson may seem similar to Lesson #1. They’re related. However, Lesson #1 is more philosophical, and this lesson is more about execution. The first lesson is strategic; this is tactical.
Even if you know you have something to retire to, that’s not enough. You have to immediately orient yourself to your goals, whether existing or new when you suddenly find yourself with oodles of time.
A rhythm lets you accomplish a lot without exerting a lot of willpower in the process. You do XYZ on this day and zyx on that day. As much as I like excitement, a routine is a nice contrast to that excitement. The rhythm is the lime to my tequila.
4. Structure Your Day but Not Too Much
What’s the point of being retired if you’re constantly running around like a decapitated chicken? We all need a reprieve from the hustle and bustle. Take points #1 and #3 but make sure you don’t become over-enthused.
There were several days when I forced myself to work for hours on several projects. A perfect example is the Python post I did a few weeks ago. I focused all of my attention on getting that done, and I did that project in the space of a few hours, but that intensity temporarily killed my motivation to keep programming. It took several days afterward to fire up my laptop again and move forward on my coding progress.
Leave time in your day to be open to serendipity. Go out with a friend. Try a restaurant you’ve never been to before. Take a nap. Whatever it is, for your sanity, don’t adhere to an overly restrictive schedule.
5. I’m Not Ready to Retire Yet
One of my biggest strengths, and flaws, is that I’m not the least bit nostalgic. It doesn’t matter what I’ve done in the past; I don’t impress myself. I’m always focused on the present and building toward to future.
Even if I was 100% financially ready to retire forever, I’m not there yet mentally. I still feel like I haven’t made much of a mark in my world, as odd as that sounds. It’s not about ego (I seriously dislike attention), but more so about peace with myself. I must keep working right now until I feel like the time is right to check-out. This wasn’t that time.
I’m looking forward to working again, which is not something I anticipated. My next mission is to figure out what WILL make me feel like it’s time to bounce out of the work hustle.
6. FIRE Works!
Want to hear something crazy? Despite not having a steady paycheck, my net worth is up $28,000 since the day I mini-retired.
Some of that is from continuing to pay down some debt. Some of that is luck in investment returns. A lot of it has to do with the fact that my family was already living a simple lifestyle. We didn’t need to spend much money. My wife worked a bit more to compensate for my lack of a paycheck, but the majority of the bills were paid by me.
Without the FIRE lifestyle to guide me, I’d have never taken this much time off. I’d be completely paranoid about work and jump on the first offer I got (I didn’t, I waited for several). Without FIRE, I wouldn’t have the liquidity I needed to get through this dry money patch unscathed.
This mini-retirement was invaluable to me. I tested some ideas I long-held as the gospel truth. Most held up, some were challenged. Some things made themselves evident even though I hadn’t thought of them before.
Overall, I’m very happy I took this time off. I grew as an individual, spent considerable time with Mini Moose and Mrs. Moose, and got to focus on myself in a way I haven’t had to luxury to do since I was 18.
I highly recommend you have your own “mini-retirement” or “retirement dry run,” if at all possible. This is an enriching experience if you’re financially ready to leap!