What’s it like to be retired? – (what they don’t tell you about retiring early).

I retired at age 55. That was 11 years ago. Here are some of the things I noticed and learned.

  1. Retirement is not like vacation. In retirement you have a different relationship with time. Vacations are usually time limited and you are aware of this while on vacation. The realization that you are not going back to work is something you can’t prepare for until you are retired.
  2. You not only retired from something (work). You should retire to something. You have to know what you want to do with yourself and your life. No one can tell you. You would be surprised at how many people don’t know who they are or what they want to do.
  3. Everyone has a bucket list of things they think they will do in retirement. In reality some of those things you will decide are unimportant. The rest you will complete in 6 months. After you’ve finished your bucket list you have to figure what to do next
  4. Someone else mentioned loneliness because everyone else is working. That is true. You have to be comfortable with being alone if you retire before everyone else. You should actively plan things to do with other people.
  5. Within a year you will lose touch with many of the people you worked with and saw and talked to every day.
  6. Retirement doesn’t cost as much as you thought. Before you retire you should finally track your expenses and estimate future expenses. Learn how to use a spreadsheet. Track EVERYTHING for 3–4 months. Note there are 3 types of expenses. a) daily expenses b) regular yearly expenses c) unexpected expenses. Plan for an emergency fund.
  7. Learn to live within your means and enjoy it
  8. Your pace of life will slow down. Learn to accept it and relax a little.
  9. Accept your new life. Don’t regret your past life. Don’t be embarrassed to tell others you are retired and that you are enjoying it (if you are). Others may not understand you.
  10. Understand that there is both financial independence and retirement. If you are financially independent then you are totally in control of what you want to do each day. If you want to continue “working” and collect a paycheck then that is up to you. Enjoy.
  11. (late addition) If you are really looking for something to do then consider volunteering. Volunteering can take many forms. There are huge number of opportunities out there. Research says that doing something for others is a powerful way to increase your own happiness.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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4 Responses to What’s it like to be retired? – (what they don’t tell you about retiring early).

  1. Ian Davidson says:

    I retired at 55 after many years in HR (Pensions, benefits, executive pay, share options etc) in financial services with a satisfactory pension. I immediately transitioned to national press photography. https://www.alamy.com/portfolio/iandavidsonphotography Never looked back. The two big changes I noted are the loss of work friends (although I have many new photographer friends) and a different relationship with time. There is little I “have” to do and far more I choose to do. Despite this I still never seem to have enough hours in the day, although I really enjoy my afternoon naps on occasion!

    • Michael Gardner says:

      But Ian, you didn’t retire. You started a new career. And very successfully too I might add.

  2. Con Keating says:

    There is much in this which chimes with my own experience. I retired early and spent four years completing my bucket list, which included 18 months sailing around the pacific and rebuilding an overlarge domain in the south of France, and that was before Peter Mayle had published “A Year in Provence”.
    I certainly lost touch with many friends in that time – it was only too easy in the days before mobile phones. With the rebuilding done and my Catalan builder’s slang close to perfect, I found myself wondering what I would do with the rest of my life even though our children were very young.

    Dinner with Jean and Nathalie Tirole resolved that.
    understanding liquidity, and I am still working on it.

    Only too often, I now find myself short of time – during the gilt market turmoil I even pulled an all-nighter – something I had not done in 40 years.

    Finally I would whole-heartedly endorse the suggestion of volunteering – it can be most satisfying.

  3. Steve Mills says:

    A great list and 100% bang on.

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