February 01, 2006

On Early Retirement

I have only had one short taste of what early retirement might be like: a short three-month stint of self-imposed unemployment from Crossgain while under threat of a non-competition lawsuit by Microsoft. Some of my colleagues in the same situation had no savings and had to find work. But I had a financial cushion and decided to hang out and enjoy myself for three months.

The problem was, with all of my family and local friends and neighbors gone to work or school all day, a "life of leisure" was dreadfully lonely and boring.

So I had to find various ways to fill my time by myself. I made up projects for myself, found events to go to, things to make, things to learn. Basically I tried to invent a purpose in life. But it wasn't particularly fulfilling. Being pseudo-retired felt like being at work, except that nobody paid me and nobody cared what I did or thought; and nobody noticed if I gave up on something.

My conclusion: being retired is no fun. It is much more fun to be employed in a good place, surrounded by ambitious peers. It is fun to be needed; it is fun to try to make the world a better place; it is fun to try to accomplish something hard; and it is fun to help others try too. It is employed people, not retirees, who get to have most of this fun.

Though while I am enjoying being employed, it is still fun to read Philip Greenspun write about early retirement:

Retirement forces you to stop thinking that it is your job that holds you back. For most people the depressing truth is that they aren't that organized, disciplined, or motivated.

Read Philip's observations here.

Posted by David at February 1, 2006 04:10 PM

You sum up the experience very well indeed.

I'll note that white, late middle-aged men who retire are at huge risk of death during the first 5 years after their retirement, regardless of wether they take early retirement at 55 or do so "on time" at 65.* Loneliness, boredom, (and often anxiety and depression) are very bad for the heart.


*in other words, the variable is the time elapsed since retirement, not the age of the person at retirement, so long as the age is > 50. For example, a 57 year old who isn't going to retire for 8 years has better odds than a 57 year old who's been retired for two years.

Posted by: rhandir at February 1, 2006 05:40 PM


Wasssup? Check in on the DQSD dev list for old time's sake. I dusted off the cobwebs and checked in a few changes to DQSD recently after a fairly long hiatus.


Posted by: Glenn at February 8, 2006 04:23 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?