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I talked about relationships in early retirement, and how it can be a struggle at first to define your role and function among your friends and family when you are not working a 9 to 5 job any more. Another question I get asked often is how do you fill your days?
When you have a job that takes 40 hours a week, it is hard to imagine that the day you don’t, your days will fill quickly too. Look at my normal day and you’ll see I never get bored.
First, you will spend more time doing the regular things of the day. For example, when I was working, I used to buy something quick to prepare for dinner, sometimes even a frozen meal or a pizza, and if I cooked from scratch, it would rarely take more than 20 minutes to put dinner together, and the leftovers would go in a tupperware to bring lunch to work.
Now, I take my sweet time to cook a proper breakfast, with homemade bread, eggs and beans, the typical Guatemalan side, fresh tomato and garlic sauce, and a natural smoothie. I make pizza, crepes, quiches, tortilla, everything from scratch.
Once a week, I go grocery shopping, and will choose my products carefully, check out prices, plan my meals to avoid food waste, when before I would just order the same thing online again and again and get bored with repetitive meals.
It is a pleasure to do things slowly, and there is simply no point in rushing to do daily chores, as the day has plenty of hours.
Then, you will do all those little things you didn’t have time to do when you were working. Fixing a leak in the bathroom, greasing the door that made noise, or going to your kids’ recital and the HOA meetings. And people will ask for your time too.
When I am in Paris visiting my family, I try to be helpful because there are a lot of things that come easy for me and are a struggle for my mum and sister. Like painting my mum’s living room, ordering a new battery for her laptop on Ebay, fixing her bicycle, … I also happily baby sit my niece that I get to see so rarely. But I refuse to be the errand girl for basic things, I will do their grocery shopping only if I need to go to the store myself. I will post a letter if I have one to send. Otherwise my day would be filled with errands. And the whole point of an early exit was freedom to do what I please with my time.
You have to learn to say no, for example if you carpool kids to school with your neighbors, keep the old schedule, it is not because you don’t have a job anymore that you have to take all the kids to school every single day. I also set my rules if my sister needs a baby sitter, I can do it every day but need to be warned a couple of days ahead. I am also in Paris to meet with my friends and can’t cancel at the last minute because my sister wants to go out with her friends.
Finally, if you fought so hard for years to reach financial independence and enjoy early retirement, you probably had a plan in mind. Some want to travel the world, others spend more time with their kids, or start a pet project, whatever floats your boat. If you are as passionate with your post-retirement project as you were while working and saving hard, then your days will fly by.
Still, people will wonder what you do all day. It is not their problem, really, but I have found that if you are not the norm, people will have a hard time talking to you. For example, when I had a job, people would go on and on about my tasks, responsibilities, my boss, and if I went on holiday they would ask about it for hours too. Now, if I take a 6 months trip to 20 different countries and come back home, they ask “how was your trip?”, I say “great, thanks!” and that is about it, then we move on to talking about their jobs. Hey, a job is what you do to pay the bills, it does not define you. Just because you don’t have a job anymore doesn’t mean you are useless or not worthy of attention. And I don’t think people do it on purpose, they are just at a loss trying to relate to your lifestyle. You can’t understand what you don’t know. So be patient with them, and talk about their job instead.
Oh, and if you get bored in early retirement, you can always get back to work. For your old firm or for your passion, since you don’t need the money anyway, you can work your dream job for free! At the moment my pet projects include three blogs, catering for my hosts now that my house operates as a guest house, overseeing a 90 acre land development, semi active Forex investing (I don’t trade every day, at most once a week). I can assure you that my days are filled. But none of it is an obligation, which is the best part about it.
Have you thought about how you would fill your days in retirement or early retirement? What would you do? Are you afraid of what your relationships would become if you stopped working?
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