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January 2, 2017

My Concerns in Retirement

Editor's Note:  This post was written a couple months ago and I was too chicken to post it at the time, but I'm trying to be more vulnerable, so here goes nothing.
Choosing when to quit your job and retire is one of the biggest decisions a person makes in life. It is a defining moment that will have a huge impact on the rest of your life. Most people make this decision fairly late in life, which means they are able to draw upon many years of wisdom and experience. I don’t have that luxury. I consider myself very intelligent, but I don’t pretend to possess a great deal of wisdom. That means making the decision to “retire” before my 30th birthday a daunting proposition, especially if I think about everything that could go wrong with my extremely early “retirement.” In this post I will discuss those things and try to reassure myself I’m making the right decision.

Running out of Money
I think the main concern for any would-be retiree is running out of money. Oddly, this is the smallest of my concerns. I have enough faith in my frugality that I’m confident we will be able to survive. I also plan to earn a little money, so that should help too.

My dad has told me about people he knows who underestimated their financial needs in retirement and their quality of life is suffering now. While we will be cutting it a little close, I have a very good understanding of our expenses, so I’m pretty confident we will be OK. It also helps that we are happy living very modestly, at least in terms of spending. The one wildcard is how much it will cost to raise children, but I suspect it won’t be a big issue.

There is also an easy fix for this potential problem. If it becomes clear we are going to run out of money, I can go back to work. I just need to make sure this doesn't become a problem when I’m too old to work.

Oddly enough, getting bored in retirement worries me more than running out of money. The reason this is particularly worrisome is because if I’m bored and unhappy in retirement, I’m not sure what will make me happy, because I’m definitely not happy working.

Amazingly, John Maynard Keynes, the famous economist, discussed this at some length in his famous essay “Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren,” written in 1930.
Thus for the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem-how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well. 
The strenuous purposeful money-makers may carry all of us along with them into the lap of economic abundance. But it will be those peoples, who can keep alive, and cultivate into a fuller perfection, the art of life itself and do not sell themselves for the means of life, who will be able to enjoy the abundance when it comes. 
Yet there is no country and no people, I think, who can look forward to the age of leisure and of abundance without a dread. For we have been trained too long to strive and not to enjoy. It is a fearful problem for the ordinary person, with no special talents, to occupy himself

This makes me feel both better and worse. I feel justified in my nervousness, but concerned that he’s right and I will struggle to occupy myself.

Luckily, I have quite a few things I want to do once I have “freedom from pressing economic cares." If everything goes according to plan, I will prove I am not an “ordinary person, with no special talents” and I will be able to “keep alive, and cultivate into a fuller perfection, the art of life itself” and ultimately “live wisely and agreeably and well.”

I’m a little nervous retirement might reveal I’m a lazy bum. I will be extremely disappointed in myself if instead of doing all the things I said I want to do I just sit around and binge-watch Netflix all day. It’s not the end of the world if this happenings, but it would be a damn shame.

I am obviously in complete control of this, but I need to make sure it doesn’t happen. I think setting goals in various areas and making sure I accomplish them will be important.

I have been very lucky in my career to always work with great people. At every job I have become good friends with my coworkers, which makes going to work a lot more bearable. I am still ready to give it up, because doing meaningless work day in and day out, even with your friends, isn’t my idea of a good life. That being said, I think I will miss the camaraderie that comes from being in the workplace with other people.

I think we will have to make sure to go out and interact with other people to avoid going stir crazy. Getting involved in the community will be a good start. It shouldn’t be too hard, but it will require some effort.

Health Insurance
As I’ve discussed before, we plan to take advantage of the subsidies provided by the Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare) to purchase very inexpensive health insurance. That doesn’t really sound like something to be concerned about, except for all the talk about “repealing” Obamacare. If that happens, I have no idea where that will leave us.

Luckily, I believe the likelihood of Obamacare getting repealed is pretty low. Even if it does get changed, I suspect we will still be able to get affordable insurance due to the low income I expect to have.

Editor's Note:  When I originally wrote this post this wasn't too big a concern for me, but after the election, I'm not sure what's going to happen. The Affordable Care Act will probably be around for a while, but eventually there might be changes that could prove problematic. Luckily, I believe there will always be affordable health insurance available for low income families (which we will technically be), at least here in California. If I was in any other state, I think I would be more concerned.

Bad Dad
This is pretty hard to write, but I’m worried after I stop working I will discover I’m not a great father. I freely admit I am not currently a great dad, but I have what I believe is a good excuse—my job and commute make it virtually impossible to spend enough time with my child. I leave the house before she wakes up in the morning and I get home as she’s getting ready for bed. Even when we are both at home and awake at the same time, I’m often pulled away from her by projects and chores that need to be done while there’s daylight. It’s not ideal, but it’s the way things are…for now.

Spending more time with my daughter is the number one reason I want to quit working, but what if after quitting I realize I’m still a bad dad? I plan to do everything I can to prevent that from happening, but it still feels like a possibility.

For example, on the weekends when I’m not slaving away on vehicle maintenance or home improvement projects or any number of things, I do get some quality time with my baby (usually while mom showers). I sit on the floor with her and play. Then my back and legs start to hurt. So I move to a chair, hold her in my lap and read to her (the same books I’ve read countless times before). Then I get bored, and I start looking for mommy to relieve me. It’s nap time, right? No, it’s only been 20 minutes.

Can I not bear to be alone with my child for more than 20 minutes? That doesn’t feel right. How does mommy do this all-day-every-day? I don’t know (but I’m pretty sure milk ducts help). She is a saint.
This begs the question, when I do stop working and finally have time for my daughter, will I actually spend that time with her, or will I find some other excuse not to? I really hope the answer is no, but I am definitely nervous about it.

I’m going to make a big effort to be the best dad ever. I certainly had a good example growing up, but I hope mommy will smack me upside the head if I ever stray from that goal. I do think it will get easier as time goes by and the little one is able to do more activities and enjoy more interesting books, but it will still take commitment. Luckily this is a commitment I am ready to make.

For all of those out there who are retired, what were your concerns before you retired? Were they warranted?
For those not retired, what are you worried about in retirement?

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  1. I have to admit that I am somewhat concerned about some of these very same things. I'm not sure exactly how I would fill all my time and I worry about being bored. Plus I'm worried about getting in my wife's hair as I'm not sure she wants me around ALL THE TIME. So while I'm a couple of years away. I know I gotta get a better plan in place before I actually retire.

    1. I think there are a lot of people who have no idea what they would do with themselves if they retired. I consider myself lucky to have a lot of interests that will occupy my time, and potentially generate some income.

      So far, my wife is really enjoying having me home, but that may fade as our baby needs less and less attention.