Are You Mentally Ready for Retirement?

Retirement is more than just not working, money and investments. A real retirement, retirement at any age, should have a foundation of love, happiness and joy. #earlyretirement #stoic #happiness #love #relationshipsThe early retirement community is alive and well in one of the greatest economic booms of our age. The government is working hard to create more jobs while the people want meaningful work and more time with family, friends and for pursuing other personal interests. Except for the most hardened, retirement is a goal that will be reached eventually whether you are ready or not.

The early retirement community has a lot to teach to those racing toward the finish line. There are serious risks involved, however. Without serious planning and thought, retirement can be hell on earth. Sitting around all day without meaning or purpose saps all joy and pleasure. Retirement is meant as a tool to explore wonderful new worlds filled with beauty and awe. Dream travel and the business you always wanted to start are now possible. You’ll have time to write that book; start that podcast; climb that mountain. Or, it could be anxiety, loneliness and fear.

There is an advantage to working in the accounting profession for three and a half decades. I learned a lot and noticed even more. Without fail, paying off the mortgage takes off 5 years (you look younger). I’ve witnessed it countless times. Retirement adds the 5 years back and more all too often.

It breaks my heart when a client works a lifetime and can finally retire. He is all smiles in my office the first year as he talks about no longer going to work. (I choose those words carefully because they make a difference as you will soon see.) When the focus is on “not working” problems soon follow. A year later when the client shows up to have his tax return prepared he is noticeably older. Seriously older, like 5 or 10 year’s worth of age in a single year.

Preparing Mentally for Retirement

Retirement is more than saving and investing. You hear a lot about those two things, including around this blog. So much time and effort is expended on frugality, saving every possible penny and investing in broad-based index funds. Laser focused attention drowns out all other matters. And therein lays the problem.

Preparing for retirement is a lot more than just money. With all the extra time on your hands, what will you do? If you love fishing and plan on doing more of it when you retire; good for you. But fishing (golfing or any other activity is the same) becomes the new “job”. Worse, you end up doing the thing you once enjoyed until it no longer brings pleasure. And you keep on doing it out of habit and no other options to fill your day.

Another downside of retirement is time with family. Yes, you read that right. When you are at work you have time away from family and friends. This makes time together sweeter. But once you have no obligations you will spend more time with family and that can lead to problems.

Retirement isn’t a bad thing! It might start to seem that way, but I’m a big fan of free time. Virtually all my adult life was in business and the profession I choose allowed me serious time at home with family with the exception of the two and a half months of tax season.

A Story about Pete

Friday night is cards night in the backwoods of Wisconsin. A certain accountant and his daughter trek a whole mile to visit with family and neighbors. The reason: a mean game of Sheepshead is in the works. Except for my daughter, we are all a bunch of old guys. The usual game starts at 7 and ends shortly after 9. (Old guys need their sleep.)

A neighbor, Pete, plays every week. He retired early and found a variety of things to occupy his new reserve of time. When he first retired he had plans for loads of projects around the house. He wanted to plant several hundred trees on his property. So, when work came to an end he set to planting all those trees. It took a lot less time than planned since he didn’t have to do it in the evening or on the weekend. He got out there and before you knew it the trees were done.

Planning is required to live the retirement of your dreams. #retirementplanning #earlyretirement #FIRE #friends #dreamsOther projects around the house and yard fell fast. In a few months my buddy Pete was done with his to-do list. And life is like that. If you think you have all these projects to keep you busy when you retire, think again. Unless you have a farm or serious acres, those projects will drop like dominoes.

Pete loves retirement. It suits him well. He had a rental property when he retired and kept it. Repairs and maintenance sop up some time.

Pete gets involved in community activities, helping friends, family and neighbors. It gives him something to do. He milked cows for a local farmer for quite a while. He hitches a ride with my dad (my dad always talks about retirement, but like his son, isn’t very good at actually retiring) just to keep him company when he has a long load to deliver.

Pete keeps busy and had a plan. But it didn’t work, or rather, he had to modify it quickly. The trees were planted and even odd jobs were not enough to fill the day. Of course more time was available to drive around the countryside and check out the neighborhood. It still gets old after a while.

Pete found a litany of things to fill his life with social interaction. Friday night cards is one of those things. His rental property is another. Tagging along with my dad or helping me get a tractor tire to Ditter’s for repair (we might be doing the tire run as you are reading this) is part of his normal routine now.

Pete’s original plan short-circuited fast, but he sat down and figured it out. Retirement has been good for Pete. I can’t say the same thing for many of my clients.

Negative Visualization

The ancient Stoics had a method for dealing with issues that disturbed the mind. They called it negative visualization. It works like this. Sit back and close your eyes. Think about the thing you fear and play it all the way through with the worst possible consequences. Illness might have you visualize permanent impairment or death. Money problems might have you visualizing the loss of a job, bankruptcy or foreclosure. Whatever the issue, you have to face it head on in all its fury.

According to the Stoics (and a certain accountant), negative visualization allows you to face down your fear and then realize it’s not real. And, if it becomes real you realize it really isn’t as bad as you thought. The Stoics would fast so they could experience extreme poverty. Once they realized it is a minor inconvenience they realized they had nothing to fear.

Retirement is different than a serious illness. But we can learn something from the Stoics and negative visualization.

See It to Believe It

Visualization also allows you to strategize your future. Sitting quietly with your eyes closed planning out your day is a powerful way to organize your thoughts and focus on what is most important. The thoughts don’t have to be negative. The negative part of visualization is used to destroy fear. For most people retirement isn’t something they fear; they actually look forward to it with excitement. Until reality sets in, that is.

Like my buddy, Pete, you can have a plan. You also need a contingency when things don’t work as planned. (Things rarely work as planned.) Golf gets old fast when you do it all day long every day, week after week. Even travel becomes a drag. Sure you can see exciting places, do exciting things. But the edge of excitement loses its edge after a while. I see plenty of early retirees. This blog gives me even more opportunities to see people up close and personal who really pull the trigger early. It becomes apparent quickly they are running from one thing to the next due to an underlying anxiety.

Action Plan

Achieving your dream of retirement doesn’t have to end in tears and depression. Retirement doesn’t have to create feelings of, “Is this all there is?” Planning ahead is more than just saving and investing. Accumulating money is the easy part. By the way, it’s not money or retirement that you want. You want something else. Only you can answer what you really want. Visualization will help you discover your true desire. It will take time. Do it before you retire and after. Your desires will change. The happiness and joy you experience depends on your commitment to planning and visualization.

Here are useful tools to prepare for retirement at any age:

The most meaningful life involves friends and giving. Turn your retirement into a gift. #earlyretirement #retirement #meaningful living #giving #caring #love Meaningful Activity: Pete planted trees and helps neighbors. There is a secret hidden in there somewhere. What Pete discovered was meaningful activities.

Golf and fishing are fun activities, but not meaningful. I love my life because I know I’m desperately needed every day by Mrs. Accountant, my daughters, clients, employees and the community. When I fall over dead people will know I’m gone because they were counting on me. Clients and kind reader alike will feel an empty spot. It’s the mark of a well lived life. My work is meaningful because it makes a difference in the life of someone other than me.

TV and other mindless entertainment does not provide fulfillment. You need a reason to get out of bed each morning. I never used an alarm clock in my life! I jump out of bed early ready to take on the day. I have an exciting life filled with exciting people and exciting stuff to do. Meaningful work fills my time and I have more of it to do than time is available. Busy is a good thing and a mark of a life well lived.

If you find yourself struggling to get out of bed in the morning after you retire you probably lack meaningful activities driving you to get at it. Use visualization again. Play through all the scenarios of things you enjoy doing and people you find a pleasure to create with. A part-time job might fit the bill or charity work. I can’t tell you what you must do. You need to figure that out and the only way to do it is close your eyes and think it through.

Mix it Up: The reason work became a grind is because you did it day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. It got old because you did it too much.

My love of reading is legendary. But I would make a poor editor. If I was forced to read stuff (especially stuff I wasn’t interested in) every day, all day, without break, I would soon start to loath reading and want a break from it. That’s what probably happened at your occupation. The boss needed you 50 hours a week and after a decade you said {bleep} it! I don’t blame you. As the boss of my own business I like to take a break from the numbers periodically. I also pay close attention to employees to assure they are mentally healthy. I want happy, productive employees, even when stress is high. They should feel good about coming to work.

Once again we will rely upon Pete’s example. Pete planted trees and milked cows and serves as an elector when needed. He has a (as in one) rental property. Enough to provide a mild diversion without turning into drudgery. He slums with my dad from time to time and offered to help me with my tractor tire this week. He’s always doing something, something different. It keeps life exciting and that is a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

Build More Meaningful Relationships: Relationships define life and provide virtually all its joy. People make life worth living. Work provided a steady contact with people. With all the extra time of retirement you might be one of those people who cocoon. This is unhealthy. I would be one of “those” people and it’s the reason I don’t do traditional retirement. When I take extended days off I tend to get less done and mope around. I’m better at formalized work. Working for someone else I don’t care for—I want to be the boss. But I like control over my time which means I fill it with stuff that interests me so I’m always up to here with stuff to do. I like stuff, I guess, as long as it doesn’t take up space.

More time with a significant other is a double edged sword. Too many people work a lifetime to achieve their retirement goal only to find themselves so unhappy with the person they love they break up or end up in divorce court. Watching this unfold is the most depressing part of my job.

You family isn’t enough! Keep repeating that last sentence until it sinks in. Family is the ultimate of importance. But if you are connected at the hip or under foot all the time it will get old fast. Work provided people to communicate with. You need to re-build your network. I can’t tell you where to go. Only you know what trips your trigger. Maybe the church is for you. Others might like a card game or helping out a charity periodically.

Find people you like to talk with (not talk to or listen to). You have plenty of time so you will need more than a few acquaintances. Some relationships need to be deep and meaningful. Some relationships will be convenient acquaintances. Both are necessary.

Start building meaningful relationships before you retire. The transition is more painful if you don’t.

Give: What is the meaning of life? Plenty of answers have been given throughout the ages, but there is only one honest answer: to give. All the advice above is predicated on giving. Meaningful relationships allow you to give to people you care about. Mixing it up allows you to help as many people as possible. Meaningful activity usually involves giving.

Giving a piece of yourself each day make you stronger and more alive. When you provide value to others you will find a burning desire to jump out of bed each morning to greet the day. Every day is awesome when you make a difference for someone who can’t pay you back. Giving is what makes communities livable.

 

Finally, enjoy your retirement, regardless the age yours started. Retirement isn’t the end of work; it’s the beginning of meaningful activity. Retirement is nirvana or hell on earth. And only you can choose which one it is.

 

More Wealth Building Resources

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Side Hustle Selling tradelines yields a high return compared to time invested, as much as $1,000 per hour. The tradeline company I use is Tradeline Supply Company. Let Darren know you are from The Wealthy Accountant. Call 888-844-8910, email Darren@TradelineSupply.com or read my review.

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

A cost segregation study can save $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregation studies work and how to get one yourself.

Worthy Financial offers a flat 5% on their investment. You can read my review here. 

Avoid the Pitfalls of Early Retirement

Financial planning for retirement.

Is retirement, especially early retirement, a kettle of fish?

Over the years I have retired many times. So have you.

The demographic of this blog leans heavily toward early retirement. This has always bothered me. I always feel like I have to be an apologist for all the folks enjoying their work. Life would be less bright for me and my brethren if we were forced to do what we enjoy most, less. Why is this? What is the hang-up with this retirement thing?

 Zig Ziglar, God rest his soul, pointed out to me 30 years ago what retirement really means. I only met Zig once and it was enough. We talked and shook hands. In that short meeting I confessed to Zig I was going to cash it in and sit around reading all day. Now Zig is a good guy. He didn’t say nasty things to me, but for the smallest fraction of a second his face had a tell. I knew Zig was going to tell me something profound.

He told me to go home and verify what he was about to say. He said, “Look up the definition of retirement in the dictionary. It means used up, worthless, ready for replacement.” Worthless! I am not used up or worthless!

I did go home and check the dictionary and Zig was right. This whole retirement thing was a BS story. Years later, when it was cool to retire early, I came across the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) crowd. I love the concept of simple living and frugality. It was frugality that led me to the community, not the early retirement thing. Now CNBC and the Yahoo newsfeed have a story of somebody who retired at 12 while working through middle school on a regular basis. I’m still not buying it.

Retirement is a stupid goal. Sorry. But it really is. Who works hard, saves and invests, only to reach a goal of worthlessness? An idiot, that’s who. I’m NOT used up! And neither are you. You retire (or is that expire) when you take your last breath. We need a different meaning for retirement.

We need a word—don’t wait for me to provide one because I don’t have one that will sell as good as “retire”—which will convey what we mean better. I’d sue CNBC if they ran an article saying I was retired, used up, worthless, ready for the landfill. (Okay, I wouldn’t sue. The additional traffic to this blog would allow me to swallow my pride.) Those smiling faces in pictures in the articles saying these people retired at 32 are really grimaces. To imagine the world looking at me with a headline over my face saying I’m retired, useless, past my prime, would irritate me to no end.

 

New World Order

If we can’t find a better word, we need a better definition for the word we are using. I recommend we lobby the dictionary industry until they add one more definition to the word retire. Here is my recommendation: Definition #38: A change in career path.

It is simple, easy to understand and captures what is really meant.

I see so many people now in this community doing the retirement thing and with rare exception they are only doing something different. It was only a career change! I met husband and wife teachers a few years back at Camp Mustache as they were in the last throes of gainful employment. Their goal was to travel the world and travel the world they have.

But they still earn money while traveling! She writes romance novels and is making money doing it. Last I checked writing took work. It might be easy pushing nouns up against verbs; the real problem is knowing which nouns and which verbs. Another retirement foiled and I am happy to share it with the world these, ahem, retired teaches are not used up or worthless.

Pete over at Mr. Money Mustache catches hell on a regular basis for being a hypocrite. You call somebody a hypocrite and you’re asking to get your beak busted. The argument against Pete is simple. Hey, buddy, you’re not retired. You write a blog. Pete is a gentleman. Me, I’d send a return message with the international sign language of my middle finger. Christ, people! If anybody embodies the FIRE community it is Pete! He gives us Definition #39 to the word retire: Doing whatever the heck you want with your day.

Pete is not used up, people! He walks a different path, a path where he spends inordinate amounts of time with his wife and son. That is not retirement by the dictionary definition. It’s the exact opposite. A dad raising his own kid? What has the world come to? This is what we call worthless now?

 

The Real Early Retirement

There is only one real retirement and it is six feet under. Nobody I know of has a goal to reach the finish line in life. (Okay, there was a nut job over in Tupelo back in 38, but I digress.) Life is a journey and we need to stop getting hung up (nice choice of word, huh) on quitting our jobs. Seth Godin wrote a short book on the subject: The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick). It’s a good book. You should read it.

Life is grainy. We do things for a while until we get sick of it and then go do something else for a couple years. There are been so many phases to our lives.

Early retirement?

Early retirement has nothing to do with going out to pasture.

I grew up on a farm and after a short stint in town returned to where I felt most at home, the countryside. Before long my 10 acres of the world had chickens and steers. The work was hard, yet satisfying. I did it for more than 15 years. Then one day it ended. I had a blog to write and other things I wanted to try in life. I fought back tears as the last of my boys were loaded on the cattle truck. I promised myself I could have steers again someday. We both know the odds of that are long. I retired from farming for good. (Unless you count the 25 chickens running around the place.)

My tax practice evolved over the years. In a way you could say I retired several times from the tax/accounting business. I retired from doing taxes by hand back around 1988. Didn’t fight tears when that one hit the trash can. Go figure. All my verbiage about loving my work and nary a tear for a tried and true method of tax preparation used successfully for millennia. (It worked for the Sumerians it should be good enough for me.)

I played janitor for a year and retired from that one mighty quick. Okay, I guess a guy can get used up in certain cases.

The whole point of this discussion is to convince you, no, impress upon you it is okay to change course in life. Experiencing new things is NOT retirement. Ms. Olson enjoys traveling with her husband and writing novels. Not used up! Pete loves telling his story and spreading the gospel of frugality and responsible resource utilization. Not used up! I found my calling early in life and kept doing it. Not used up!

And you, my good friend, are not used up. You are not retired; just tired. You need a nap. Go take one. You need a change of venue. So change it. You want to experience something else, something new. By all means, experience it.

Stop worrying about retiring young or at any age, for that matter. It’s not about getting used up, or whatever definition you want to apply to the word retire. It’s about living life right, with meaning, with purpose. The truly retired disappear, never to be seen again. You are not retired and never will be until your dying breath. And that is a good thing.

It’s about living the life you choose. And if that is what you meant by retire, then you keep smiling from the news feed. I’ll smile with you.