For several decades, Kevin and I planned and saved for our financial future. We knew early in life we wanted to retire early and made sacrifices to achieve our goals. Read our about page to see how we retired in our 30s. But as the time to leave my job and retire early approached, I was experiencing serious emotional struggle and pains.
Tips to Retire Early
Our financial planning required compromising and some pains along the way. The path was simple but it wasn’t easy. Save as much as possible.
For instance, we packed our lunches when our coworkers went out to lunch every day. We had side hustles and worked part-time jobs to save even more. We regularly turned down activities that didn’t fit in our budget.
These are just small examples but overall we lived far below our means because we had a goal of living a different kind of life that provided freedom by retiring early.
But after years of preparing, the time was here to quit working and I was experiencing serious retiring pains. I was no stranger to doing difficult things but this was different. It was emotional.
Dreams Coming True
I dreamed of the day I wouldn’t wake up to an alarm calling me to my job. I dreamed of the day I wouldn’t sit through another meeting with the same person I met with last week about the same issue. In short, I dreamed of the day I could retire early from my corporate life and do whatever I wanted.
How to know it’s time to retire?
However, when my employer offered voluntary layoffs, I had a bit of an emotional crisis. I had been planning to retire early, they were offering me a shorter path to my ultimate goal but I wasn’t ready to make the leap. Now that it was happening, I was extremely worried I was making the wrong decision.
After hours of reviewing the financial impacts of the layoff and our savings, we decided we could afford to accept the voluntary layoff. After the relief of knowing retiring made financial sense, I realized my worries weren’t all about the money.
I spent several days on the verge of tears. A few times I just could not hold the tears in and surprisingly these were not tears of joy.
I was in pain mourning my job and my identity as I planned to retire early. This is completely normal but I didn’t think it would bother me. For perspective, a friend asked me a month earlier if I would take a voluntary layoff if it were offered. I smiled ear to ear and said “absolutely” without a moment’s hesitation. Emotions aren’t logical.
Emotionally afraid to retire
But now the time had arrived and I was terrified. I was going to miss my coworkers. And I was going to miss the validation of my self-worth (I am smart and efficient at business management and corporate finance), but most of all I was going to miss having a clear identity.
I was a Finance Director at AT&T. What would I be now?
Wikipedia identifies retirement syndrome as a term coined by the clinical professor, Manfred F.R Kets de Vries, to describe the difficulties faced by individuals in positions of authority, as they attempt to “let go” at the end of a full career.
If you know us personally, you know Kevin started living a non-standard life in 2015. He gave up full-time work when my job moved us to London.
He works as a part-time remote Finance Director/Controller. He doesn’t wake up to an alarm and does whatever he feels like.
His “life of leisure” (his term, not mine) has been interesting to observe as I continued working full time. He struggled to verbalize the change at first but explains it now as everything moves slower. He takes his time with things rather than multitasking and running around like most people. Sounds nice to me.
Blessing or Curse
Writing about this emotional crisis seems lame since I was living the dream and retiring early. Who gets to retire while still in their 30s?
I knew I was beyond blessed. It is very difficult to describe but I was emotionally overwhelmed and terrified of the drastic life changes ahead.
I decided to share my story with others experiencing similar retirement pain so they know they are not alone. It is completely normal for those whose jobs were a massive part of their lives for decades to mourn the loss. This too shall pass.
How to Handle Emotional Pains of Retirement
Emotional pains are real. You are not alone. But you are still in control.
I recommend making a plan and setting some personal goals to care for your mental health after the transition. A few common goals for those leaving full-time work:
- Create a routine (don’t stay in your PJs all day or isolate yourself from society)
- Be Healthy (food and drinks have direct impact on mental health so eat real food and limit alcohol intake)
- Move Yourself (exercise is a key to mental health so make it a priority)
- Find a new hobby (woodworking, reading, painting, cooking)
- Join a local group of like minded people (bowling league, gardening club, book club)
- Set personal goals to work towards
- Volunteer for causes that give you life (hunger, environmental, homelessness, religious, political)
- Learn something new (languages, skills or intellectual)
- Build on existing relationships or make new ones
- Plan for the future (trips, events, and gatherings give you a reason to look forward positively)
- Start or build a side hassle (give yourself permission to work a little if it makes you happy)
Perspective is Critical
If you are in a time of transition it is usually difficult to keep things in perspective. Three years later, as I edit this post, I am happy to report retirement is amazing.
I spend time doing what I like on my own schedule. We enjoy hiking, biking, kayaking, reading, and learning new skills in amazing new locations. Check out our Q&A about Full Time RV life if our life and travel style sounds interesting. Or destinations for a few of the amazing spots we’ve visited.
Who would have known I’d start a blog? I’m an accountant, not a writer. In short, retirement is everything I hoped for, plus more.
Hell, I was weeks away from retirement and was overwhelmed by it all. I was experiencing retiring pains. Looking back, I realize not all change is bad.
Take a deep breath and remember to take life one day at a time.
If you can afford it, don’t look back. I didn’t.
Conclusion: Retirement Pains Are Real
Whether you are lucky enough to retire early, quit full-time work, or are preparing for a traditional retirement emotional struggles and pains are real. These are completely normal. I recommended using the opportunity to find activities you love to keep you busy and fulfilled without job satisfaction filling that spot in your life.