Good morning! Over at Make Money Your Way I will share with you on how I make money with languages. I speak a few languages, among them English, French and Spanish to a level of fluency that allows me to make money with it. Click here to read more..
A question many readers ask me about is how does one manage relationships while in early retirement. The truth is, it is a bit unsettling.
First, there are your old friends, or your family, to whom you are a weird, eccentric individual, who chose to stop being productive in his most productive years. My mum always asks me if I am going to look for a job soon, or if I need money (I make more than she does and live in rural Guatemala). My friends give me the blank stare and ask “so, what is it you do exactly?” then wave it off and conclude I am on a perpetual holiday, probably funded by my mum.
Then, there are new friends. The ones who think I was probably a drug dealer or an escort to be able to retire so early. The ones who have me for a broke freelance writer, like a Carrie of Sex and The City who couldn’t afford a Manhattan rental and moved to the Guatemalan jungle. The ones who quickly figure out that I have a lot of free time and want to go get drunk every night, or ask me for too many favors to call it a balanced friendship.
Only a handful of my closest friends really understand my journey and how and why I got to where I am today, and a few new friends were naturally drawn to me because they want the same for themselves and are reaching for support and someone who knows what it is like. When you are so different from the average person, meeting someone of your tribe is a relief, and so many try to get together via specific forums, reaching out to people who publicize their marginal lifestyle, or experimenting great joy when meeting someone similar by pure coincidence in real life.
When I was still at my day job working toward early retirement, a couple of people around me started asking questions about why I was saving aggressively and what my future plans were. And unlike the majority who would just categorize me as crazy, I saw that it made perfect sense for them. They wanted the same. They started asking more questions and opening up the way old friends do, when we had only had polite interactions thus far. It was disconcerting to see acquaintances open up while close ones were closing down.
Relationships can be tricky within your household as well. There was a great post on ERE recently (not sure whether it was a reprint or new content as they have been republishing old posts) from a woman who got married young, had three kids between 25 and 29, and stayed at home while her husband was working with early retirement in mind. You can read the full post here. Thanks to hard work and dedication, her spouse was able to retire at 38. Looks like they had a cushion for a comfortable early retirement, not the rice and beans kind, as all three kids have $20,000 a year earmarked for college and they have a $350,000 house with no mortgage. So money was not a stressor, but she says that they got divorced soon after early retirement, because once her husband was at home all day, they had no common goal and got bored of each other quickly. All those years, they had worked diligently towards early retirement, and were both really motivated, but suddenly, they had nothing to do together.
At home, it is a bit weird too. Both BF and I are there all day. When we travel, we are also together 24/7. What do you say to someone you’ve seen all day, you can’t ask how was his day at work, you can’t inquire about his friends or his family, as it is just the two of you in the middle of the jungle. Some days, we chat for hours, other days, we say almost nothing. It can be unsettling at first, thankfully, I enjoy my introvert time too.
I spent my first year of early retirement in Morocco. I was living in Casablanca, the biggest city, spending my days writing for travel blogs, cycling, swimming and surfing, exploring Morocco and learning Arabic. At night, when my friends would get out of work, we would meet and share dinner and a few drinks. Then I was on my own until the next evening, as I don’t consider buying a pound of olives a great social interaction, and that was about all I was able to do in Arabic. It can get lonely sometimes, but it was more than enough for me, and something I had anticipated.
If you are an extrovert, you can join a sports club, volunteer at the food shelter, start a book club, join the PTA if you have kids, it is like being a stay at home mum after all, and they seem to be always busy. The thing is, you need to stay busy, for your sake and for others’. The same goes for people who retire at 65, after 40 years of a work-eat-sleep routine, and sink into depression because they don’t know what to do with so much time in their hands.
For me, it was never a problem. I generally alternate between periods of intense activity, like full time travel for a few months, and periods of low activity, like animals hibernate in winter, I stay at home, read, rest, resource. I don’t need to blab about my day to 12 BFFs and a smartphone ringing non stop with orthographically butchered texts about the smallest details of their lives. I prefer to have deep, meaningful interactions a few times a year with my dear friends than a hundred texts a day about how liquid or hard Junior pooped today.
Another strange thing is, you won’t see your friends more. If you had drinks every Tuesday with your girls, that is about all you’ll see of them. Because outside of Tuesday nights, they have their own agenda, and it didn’t change because you left your day job. And after a few times of you making an effort of going to their office so they can squeeze half an hour at lunch time to see you, you’ll get annoyed and stop going.
Your best bet if you want to stay social is to make new friends who also have time during the day.