Slightly more than a week ago, I shared how much I was enjoying the first 3 months of my semi-retirement.
It’s a no-brainer, isn’t it? Without (a big) worry regarding finances, how can a person not enjoy taking 3 months off a 40 hour work week at the age of 28?
I agree. Having more control in my schedule, better sleep and having more time for new experiences are just some of the numerous positive changes I have experienced in these past 14 weeks. And I have documented them rather well in that earlier post.
But such a lifestyle can’t be perfect for everyone. Otherwise, all the billionaires would be retired or even semi-retired by now, right? And it seems it isn’t for me too as there are some obvious downsides to this 3 hour work week.
But don’t panic If you’re thinking of semi-retirement or pursuing a similar temporary experiment as me. I really doubt things would get ugly although I shall share some of the less appealing stuff below to pre-empt anyone who is expecting some version of paradise in retirement or semi-retirement.
1. Insane amount of “unproductive” distractions
I don’t have to answer to a supervisor or an employer from 9am to 6pm on weekdays and I begin most days on a fresh slate. But that doesn’t guarantee that I spend the day doing stuff that I had set out to do.
Don’t understand what I mean? Read on.
I didn’t set out to sleep more than 10 hours and wake up past 3pm. It’s the hangover after the World Cup match last night and now unfortunately, more than half the day is gone.
I didn’t set out to be on Facebook and YouTube for 3 whopping hours. I just wanted to check out some updates on my friends’ lives and chanced upon this interesting link shared. One link led to another and I was soon @YouTube checking out some hilarious videos.There goes the blog post that I was supposed to write on.
I didn’t set out to play FIFA 14 on PS3 for the entire afternoon. It was supposed to be a few games but I just had to make up for that most recent loss (or the opposite: I just had to continue playing since I was on form) and this continued till Mrs 15HWW was back to put a stop on everything. That book just has to wait for another day.
Luckily, the above examples weren’t that common but it’s still often enough to make myself embarrassed.
When you have the whole day to yourself, it can be exhilarating at the start of the day. But if one is not careful, the day could end in confusion (what? it’s over?) and remorse.
Counter-measure: The day is planned the night before and I try to detail what I would (and should) roughly be doing at every hour. More productive activities like writing this post, housework, exercising and reading are penciled in so that the day is not “wasted.” I might not follow it entirely but it serves as a good rough guide and help to instil some much needed self-discipline not to indulge too much in those “mindless pleasures”.
2. Lack of challenges by default
When you go through a challenge (vs. to getting around it), you inevitably grow as a person. And in the workplace, challenges are sort of aplenty.
Your boss or his superior will somehow assign you projects to work on that’s going to cause you some anguish or worse, sleepless nights. You feel like screaming at the top of your voice in office while you toil at it. But amazingly, once the whole episode is over, you look back and grin at yourself.
“Such problems” will no longer bother you as much as you learnt how to manage them.
Admittedly, such challenges do cause stress but is having no stress (at the expense of growth) really such a good thing?
Counter-measure: I impose challenges/targets on myself. My attention has been more towards health & fitness and reading & writing for the past 3 months.
3. Unrealistic expectations; unmet goals
This is somewhat related to both of the earlier factors.
Before quitting work, I thought that I would be leading a fulfilling life exercising, cooking, reading and writing everyday and that most of my bad and poor habits would just be eradicated in a matter of weeks.
How naive I was. I haven’t been exercising everyday over the past 3 months and I have also only read 4 good books during this period (The Next 100 Years, 1984, The Power Of Less, The Prince) which represents little improvement over what I was doing previously when I was working.
I have also over-estimated my ability in reaching some of my targets and challenges. I still haven’t cooked a proper meal for the Mrs and I have failed to reach most of my targets in my fitness (running, burpees, swimming).
The lifestyle in retirement isn’t as perfect as what we imagine it to be and definitely isn’t the antidote to what we are lacking currently in life.
Counter-measure: Celebrate every little progress. Instead of feeling upset over those unmet targets and challenges, I have learnt to be happier that I am exercising 4-5 times a week, steaming/boiling simple stuff for my lunches and running 5% faster than 3 months ago. 🙂
Bad habits have to be slowly chipped away too. (Stay tuned as I will be creating a challenge on this front for myself in the new month.)
4. More concerned about finances
Unfortunately, we are not a millionaire household. Not yet anyway. 😉
Even though both of us can easily subsist on a person’s salary, I can still feel some sort of strain recently. Previously, we could easily save $5,000 every month and our assets also grew from $176K in Dec 2013 to $261K in June 2014. Even after discounting the cash position in the OCBC 360 Account, there’s still a $50K increase.
Some adapting is on the cards since it’s literally impossible to increase the assets at the same rate in the near future. The perils of being a) too used to having two incomes b) saving a substantial amount every month and 3) seeing your assets grow every month.
It does make me wonder if financial freedom could ever lead a person to be free from the worries of money. Would a million bucks do it for us to happily put down paid-work? I hope so. Otherwise we could really be more trapped by money than initially feared. 😕
Counter-measure: Spend less, eh? And maybe a bit more gratitude and perspective regarding what we have achieved. Both of us are lucky to have found each other, learn so much about money at our age and accumulate a significant stash to allow me to stop working comfortably for at least 3 months. By almost any metric, we are in a wonderful fiscal position.