Should You Expect the Unexpected?

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Someone posted an interesting question on recently that caught my attention.  Just a few months from reaching FIRE (financial independence & retiring early), a person asked the collective wisdom of the ‘Life After FIRE’ forum if their early retirement was what they had planned on, or something different.

The post generated a lot of response with over eight pages of people sharing their experience.  It was really interesting to see what people had said and I decided to tally the comments that people said: early retirements that were BETTER than they expected, about the SAME as expected, or WORSE than expected.  There were about 50 responses, so I think you can think of the results as directional, but not a precisely scientific study.

Here’s how I tallied them:

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As you can see, the good news is that many people are enjoying a BETTER early retirement than they planned, most people are enjoying the early retirement they expected, and very few people are feeling that their retirement isn’t what they hoped for.

In addition to tallying the numbers, it was interesting to read WHY people felt the way that they did.  Most people loved the flexibility, independence, and relaxing come-and-go-as-you-wish attitude that comes with a life of FIRE.  They love feeling they don’t need to go out and prove anything to anyone anymore with one person saying “I like my new boss – ME – much better than my old boss!”

Folks that are enjoying their retirement more than they expected are physically active, traveling the world, and finding a lot of activities to be engaged in.  A side discussion emerged around whether one should try to “retire to” something, or just sit back and let something “come to you”.  My experience is that both approaches have their own merits,

The couple respondents that were having a WORSE early retirement experience than they hoped for were special cases.  One person wanted to be retired, but her husband wasn’t ready himself.  He bought a sizable farm – more than a hobby farm – and she felt a bit stuck by his choice.  Another person unexpectedly lost his spouse early in their retirement and that obviously had a big impact on what they had hoped for.

Importantly, what was glaringly missing from the responses on the forum was comments about how people were faring from a money perspective.  Few people, if any, commented on money being much of a factor in their retirement happiness.

I would put our experience with early retirement in the BETTER category, although I expected a lot from early retirement.  As I’ve written before, I am pleasantly surprised at the new relationship of time that comes with the autonomy of a FIRE lifestyle compared with my life at MegaCorp.  Like me, many of the people that post on are FIRE ‘enthusiasts’ and perhaps its not so much of a surprise that they were well-planned for the experience.

Image Credit: Pixabay

15 thoughts on “Should You Expect the Unexpected?

  1. “Life is a creative, intimate and unpredictable conversation if it is nothing else, spoken or unspoken, and our life and our work are both the result of the particular way we hold that passionate conversation.“ — David Whyte, “Crossing The Unknown Sea”

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  2. While my retirement was not early, it was just when I wanted it to be. And it is what I want it to be. I think you may agree with me, Chief: While planning is vital, attitude is everything! Attitude determines whether the unexpected becomes annoyance or joy, disappointment or opportunity.

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  3. Awesome read and very insightful. Thanks for sharing! I definitely fall into the better camp because of my very conservative estimations regarding what I thought I would need to spend to be happy and don’t feel limited. Turned out I need only half or even less of what I thought to be very happy l, travel, develop, and feel free. Love being my own boss.

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    1. Wow – spending half or less of what you planned puts you in a great place financially. We’re spending just a little bit less than planned.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have never calculated mine yet but rough order of magnitude would be around $10k plus all the insane premiums for hotel/ flights when everybody who works is flying: Friday evening and western world holidays.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I think no one commented on money because it’s not a concern since we are in the longest bull run in history. Comments would have been different or completely absent around 10 years ago. I retired during that time, and it was crickets. Most FIRE bloggers who were writing quit writing around that time…

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  5. After all of just fifteen short months under my belt, I’d definitely fall into the “Better than Expected” category. Like you, the time autonomy is the greatest value for me. I’m so much more physically active, and as a result, healthier now. The mental state that accompanies that healthier life style, in conjunction with the new found freedom is extremely satisfying. I think I’ve used this example before, but it’s still like the first day of summer vacation for me a kid. All the youthful excitement of what lies ahead and unbound freedom to spend time any way you want. What’s not to love?!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes – I often think about being a kid on summer vacation. Or, maybe skipping school while my colleagues are still stuck inside!


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