There are certain characteristics common among people who achieve early retirement. Saving and investing are a serious part of the lifestyle of an early retired individual. Another common strait is a nervous energy to get things done. People who retire early, or at least can, tend to work hard and save.
I am an unusual type of retired person. Travel does not interest me, nor does sitting around. Like many people headed for an early retirement, or already there, I am full of pent up energy and filled with ideas and full of curiosity. So the question begs asking: What do you do once you are retired?
Unless you are playing a Chump’s Game, you were working for more than just money. You probably enjoyed the work you were doing and that is why you did enough of it to reach financial independence at a young age. I propose doing what you have always done. Many wealthy people continue working well past the time they need to. Warren Buffett is long past needing to run a Fortune 500 company or digging for quality investments. He could easily drop the whole thing into an index fund and do something else with the rest of his life. Bill Gates took a different track. He changed his profession, but still keeps busy making a difference around the world.
Recent events turned my office chaotic. Too many new clients (new clients always take more time the first year to learn their situation and add all the detailed information into their file) and a series of poorly timed illnesses put me on the defense. I thrive in a challenging environment. Pushing myself to a higher level thrills me and fires my dreams.
Learning a new language, expanding a business, even planning a vacation, all comes with its own unique set of challenges. Unless you plan on doing nothing from the moment you retire until the day you die, projects will fill your days. Some will complain this is not a true retirement. But when pressed, these very same people have no answer to what retirement is unless you consider sitting around all day the only “real” retirement.
I was asked if I was succumbing to being a Chump when I took on the extra clients. I hope not. I did not do it for the money. If it was only money I did a piss-poor job of it. If it was only money I would have outsourced most of the work and accepted all prospective clients, about 12,000 in all. If it was “money-only” I could have pulled a seven figure increase in income this year.
New clients pushed my firm from 700 returns to near 900. I avoided ex-pat returns (I had 700 requests) because it was something I did not want to do. Maybe someday I will change my mind, but for now I have to cut the line somewhere. Most of the returns I accepted included either a small business or rental properties; something I enjoy working on. The workload easily increased 50%.
As hard as it has been, it was all worth it. Slowly, I am digging out and getting caught up. Valuable information was learned, meaning I am better now than I was six months ago, a good thing to feel when you already have 30 years under your belt. Sure, I spent more time in the office than I planned. I also made a difference which gives me a reason to drag my ass out of bed each morning.
Given the chance to do it again, I would. I would make some changes, but that is to be expected after learning something new. If happiness is the true count of retirement then I took the right path. Staying at home all tax season would have provided less pleasure to me than the chaotic tax season office.
An Example of Doing It Right
Of course, not everyone is wound as tight as I am. I’ve been threatening to sell the business and retire for over a decade now. When I really start to think of it I quickly change my mind. Now my good friend, Pete, is a different story. Pete is a neighbor who graces our card table Friday night. My youngest daughter sits behind Pete and watches him play cards. (Dad is not good enough, I guess.)
Pete worked for Kimberly Clark in the IT department for years, saved like a wildman, bought a rental property, and retired early. His thought process was he would spend his days working projects on his few acres of land and the rental. He planted trees everywhere. He worked on his rental. Before long the projects were done. He needed something to do.
Soon he was working for a neighbor milking cows part-time. He also picked up odd jobs here and there to fill in the time. Nothing too hard now; he was retired. In the summer he operated the bridge in town so boats could get through. He might have to hit the button ten, maybe twenty times in a day. And read a book. The library was on the way to work.
Time keeps counting and after decades of retirement Pete has re-retired from milking cows. I haven’t heard yet on the other odd jobs, but it sounds like this is a retirement commitment. He kept the rental. The time was right for Pete as he reached age 65. However, he likes sitting at the town hall on Election Day as a poll worker so he will be happy to hear we have an election coming up on August 9th. Our local district attorney irritated every law enforcement agency in the county so they endorsed a new guy. So we get to vote August 9th. Good for Pete.
Now that Pete has more time with his “real” retirement he informed our card table he is interested in learning a new card game: bridge. If you know of any bridge games in NE Wisconsin, send them my way. Pete has time to learn new trades now.
Do not let someone else determine how you will spend your retirement. It is your life. You can go crazy like your favorite accountant or you can chose the route Pete did. If you want to travel, fish, or golf all day, go for it. You earned it! One thing I am certain of. Many people earn more money in retirement doing the stuff they love doing. It does not happen all at once, but it happens. The younger you retire the large the income tends to grow. Don’t worry. You will get used to it.