What are you fantasising about these days? No, coming to think about it, I’d rather not know, but I find daydreaming is just as nice a pastime in retirement as it was in work.
When I was working, one of my regular fantasies used to be about Early Retirement. What would it be like? What would I do with my time? Would it be like one big holiday? What would I need to fund it? How would it affect my social life, my family relationships? Just how Awesome would it be?
Now I’m living the Early Retirement dream. Guess what? I now find myself fantasising about returning to work.
Not to my old career, of course. I’m done with that. Okay, that’s settled, but what would I like to do or be in a new working life? Unlike the accountant in the Monty Python sketch, I don’t want to be a lion tamer. I also really, really, really want to avoid anything that involves being stuck back in Big Corporate Life. The longer I’m out of that, the surer I am that I have done my time on the slippery pole of office politics. It was fun while it lasted, I tell myself, but goodbye to all that.
If not Big Corporate, what would I consider? One of the fantasy jobs I think quite a lot about is running my own business. No, strike that. What I fantasise about is running my own successful business. There’s a big difference. Of course, I have no idea what this might be, but that doesn’t stop me thinking about how it will make me a billionaire for a three day a week commitment.
Government(s) often boast about the small business culture that they have fostered in the UK. Since being made redundant aged in my fifties, I’m wondering how many people are forced down this route because they can’t seem to regain a foothold in corporate life? It’s a sad reality – and I speak from my own previous experience as an employer – that older candidates for certain jobs have a harder sell in an interview situation. I now also know this as a potential candiadate because, over the last year, I have gone along to the occasional interview, either directly with an employer or with the inevitable “Recruitment Consultant” who seems to need to meet with you face to face. Now I’m on the other side of the desk, being interviewed in my fifties, it’s really not a comfortable position. Would I employ an old, “seen it, done it” grouch like me? Fortunately, I’m Financially Independent and therefore generally couldn’t give a toss what way the interview goes. (Which is possibly why I’m not landing any corporate roles!)
Working for myself, however, seems a different proposition to working for someone else. If I can find something I really want to do, and I can do it at my choosing, that would seem the dream ticket. “Find a job you love and you’ll never work another day in your life”, as they say.
I feel that this notion is a tributary of the same flow that brought me to FIRE. I still want to get things done, contribute to the community, construct tangible targets and achieve them. The world of “work” offers loads of options and alternatives in this sphere and you might even get well paid for it. My current experience of voluntary work in the community hasn’t much floated my boat. It just doesn’t seem to have the edge and urgency that working for money once did. Perhaps that makes me a capitalist pig dog, but I suspect not. There is a dignity in labour, after all, and even more in well paid labour!
I’ve had a year to think about this and look into some ideas, but I’ve yet to strike the “Aha!” moment about the business I’d like to set up. Part of the trouble is that one or two of my ideas would have me potentially risking some of my investment funds, and I worked too hard to risk them on something I’m not fully committed to.
A decent halfway house then might be to work for a smaller, local business on a part time basis? Increasingly, I find this idea appealing and I’ve started to make an effort to see what might be out there and how I might be able to engage in it.
It does strike me that many people attracted to the idea of Early Retirement could very well find themselves with the same “problem” when they reach their non-working nirvanah. They may well be the type of people least suited to a “retirement” lifestyle. For many, achieving FIRE will mean working like a dog and saving like a bigger dog for years to get to their objective. You don’t have to read many FIRE blogs to realise this. These people have dreams and they work to make things happen. They have to be doing things, planning, scheming, plotting and mapping out their future. Money? Of course, but this will merely be a measuring stick to chart their progress, the majority of it banked until it reaches the point that it can facilitate their ambition. It seems to me that many FIRE aspirants need to be occupied and want to be master of their own destiny. They do not want or need a boss telling them which way is up or where to go next. This drive and restlessness means there will be no putting their feet up in retirement, or not for long anyway. They’ll quickly be seeking the next thing to do.
The more I read the blogs and experience Early Retirement myself, the more I come to the conclusion that “retirement” isn’t actually what many of us want. Sure, it’s a lovely fantasy when you’re stuck in a nine to five that you hate (or can barely tolerate) but we’re not the kind of people who are drifting through our lives, are we? No, we’re used to setting goals, and having dreams and ambitions that we actually and actively want to realise. What we are really fantasising about is being able to do what WE want when WE choose to do it. And, if we can generate an income from it, what’s not to like about that?