This is the second April post in a three-part series focused on our third anniversary since reaching FIRE (financial independence & retiring early). Last week’s post focused on the FINANCIAL aspects of early retirement from this Life Wheel, this week I’ll focus on the three SOCIAL dimensions: Family/Friends, Love/Romance, and Giving/Teaching.
My goal in this series is to answer the most common question I get now that we’ve been retired for three years: “Is early retirement what you expected it would be?”
On the social front, the answer is a definite YES. Unlike when I was working, or our son was still living at home, our social life requires a little more planning than it did then. We have more time – morning, noon, and night – to be doing social things, and there aren’t any work happy hours, school activities, or other pre-planned events to go to.
Additionally, many of our friends are still quite busy with their own jobs (and kids) and are not as free as we are to make plans. I often say to my wife that one ‘gift’ we can give to our friends is to be the ‘designated planners’ and take the lead on getting things scheduled.
In fact, I try to reach out to someone almost every day and organize something to do in the future. That keeps our schedule busy and relationships strong. There aren’t to many days when we find ourselves at home doing nothing.
- FAMILY / FRIENDS – I definitely get together with friends much MORE than I used to and probably more often than I expected I would. One of the most interesting things that has happened is that I have renewed relationships from throughout my life. I keep connected with friends from high school, college, graduate school, and all three of the MegaCorps I worked at.
We’ve always been close to our families and that has continued. Our parents live close by and we do a lot of different things with them. With our siblings, we organize holiday get-togethers, and go to events. We on a trip with my brother and his wife to Israel & Jordan this past summer.
I also like using social media to keep up with people and see what they are doing. It’s a great tool for staying connected and making plans. I am active in several online groups where our shared online interests – especially car groups, for me – have led to offline activities.
- LOVE / ROMANCE – My wife and I have been married for almost 29 years. We met as college sweethearts and married after we graduated. Our goal in early retirement was not to drive each other crazy at home and we’ve thus far succeeded.
It probably helps us that early in the day we keep different schedules. She generally gets up a little earlier and goes to the gym, where her friends also work out. I get out and about in the morning, go play tennis/take a walk, run errands, or do something else. We generally meet up after lunch or later in the afternoon.
Later in the day or in the evenings, we’ve can do ‘weekend activities’ on weekdays. Our schedule lets us go to a movie, see a concert/play, or head out of town for a night any day of the week. We don’t have to worry about being out ‘late on a school night’ and get up for work the next morning. As a result, we have way more ‘date nights’ than we did when we were working.
- GIVING / TEACHING – Volunteer activity has always been important to us and I’ve been able to get more involved in these roles than I expected when we retired. It seems that once it gets out that you are not working, people come up with a lot of extra work for you to do.
One thing that my wife and I have been doing together is serving as Event Chairs for our Metro Zoo’s summer fundraising gala. I’ve been a board member there for about 15 years, but this is the first thing that my wife has done with me. We are expecting 750+ guests and to raise over $700K at this year’s ‘Beastly Bash’. It’s a fun team project to work with Zoo staff and other board members on.
On the teaching side, I continue to be surprised with how many opportunities there are to ‘teach’ things that I learned during my career. I’ve long been involved with the graduate school/MBA program at one of the Big Ten universities. This year, I was also invited to spend a day on campus of my own undergraduate university and work with classes and make an on-campus presentation.
While we don’t have the built-in social structure of work any longer, I think you can see we aren’t sitting at home watching TV. My son was home from college for Spring Break recently and commented that we are “way too busy!” for him!
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