You’re Not My Type

With time on my hands in “early retirement” I find myself wondering if I’m the type of person suited to the lifestyle? Would it be different for someone who not only relishes their own company, but is the type who likes to write lists for the day and then tick the boxes as they achieve the goals? The type who tidy the kitchen and shiver with satisfaction when forks, knives and spoons are all neatly laid in their proper places in the cutlery rack? In other words, is retirement better for the introverts as it gives more control over living your life, allowing you to structure it the way you want to?

The problem is, I feel, retirement offers not much in the way of structure, unless “get up, read the paper and have a biscuit” can be classed as a daily framework. Not that this bothers me, as I think I’m a bit more of an extrovert. By that I mean that I tend to construct my world through interactions with other people, which necessarily means that you’re a bit less bothered about being in control of your environment.  (I’m using the more technical definitions of introvert and extrovert here. Not “introvert” which people tend to picture as “shy loner with possible psychopath tendencies and a gun” or “extrovert”, as in “bigmouth life and soul of any party who goes home to cry alone”.)

The challenge for the extrovert in retirement is keeping the social network going. Sometimes, when my wife leaves for work and I’m left in the empty house, I do sense that feeling of almost fading away from the real world. This can be resolved by doing something like going to the gym and saying hello to a couple of the regulars (the extrovert ones; the introverts are thrashing themselves to their predefined goal on the treadmill or exercise bike with their iPods on. You don’t even get a glance from them.)

For those of us in longer term relationships, retirement can throw your introvert and extrovert tendencies into relief, because an extrovert tends to pair up with someone a bit more introverted and vice versa. Thus I heard a female friend (introvert) telling of the sheer horror of coming home from work to find her newly retired husband (extrovert) standing at the front door, desperate to see her and have a chat. He’d then follow her from room to room, asking about her day, while all she wanted to do was sit in her favourite chair in peace and quiet to enjoy her cup of tea and read of the paper. As she once could do when he was at work.

Fortunately we all have a bit of both tendencies inside ourselves, so retirement presents the opportunity to work on your “deficiencies”. I think I am getting better at constructing “to do” lists and ticking them off, enjoying my own company and writing more, which is an introspective, singular activity. I’m sure my other half will join more clubs and encourage more friends round when she decides to retire, because she’s a bit more of an introvert.

Years ago I was really interested in this subject, about how your personality type filters how you see the world and how you interact with it. I read a lot by the author  and clinical psychologist Dorothy Rowe, who is mostly concerned with the treatment of anxiety and depression – a must for anyone following Scottish football – but has a fascinating view on how humans “construct life and death“. It’s a long time since I read her books, but I remember they were really well written and definitely altered my way of seeing the world. (Scanning Amazon I see she’s written a book on growing old too, which might be relevant to retirement, but I haven’t read that one.)

So next time you’re visiting the local library look Dorothy up. I’m sure one or two of her books will be on the shelves.

39 thoughts on “You’re Not My Type

  1. Hi Jim
    I’ve been following your progress with interest. I knew a lady where I work who had retired and then come back to work again because she got bored. She said once the house was clean and tidy she couldn’t think of anything else to do. She was nearly 70 when she finally packed it in the second time.
    What I’ve noticed about your daily activities is that they’re the same ones that unimaginative office workers cram into their free time – trips to coffee shops, going to the gym and so on. I don’t mean to be rude, but you have all the time in the world and you seem to be slightly wasting it?
    When people ask me what I’d do if I retired I struggle to tell them. Before I plunged into my career I had no problem filing the long summer holidays, and at the age of 18 I had lots of dreams… I just can’t even remember what they were anymore. I worry I’ll end up in the same boat as you when I finally get there.
    I remember reading on the ermine’s website that he felt he’d come out of a very long tunnel and it took him a year or so to stop blinking and see the daylight for what it was. Maybe you just need time to adjust.
    When you still had a job, did you feel you were constantly struggling for time to fit in your interests, or did you fill in your holidays and weekends with pre-packed entertainment like package holidays, tickets to see organised sport and so on?
    I’m an INTJ and do enjoy a bit of ‘downtime’, but I go crazy if I don’t see anybody all day, so I’m not convinced it’s just about whether you have a preference for introversion or extraversion.


    • > Before I plunged into my career I had no problem filing the long summer holidays, and at the age of 18 I had lots of dreams…

      Become that child-like and wonder-filled person again 😉 Be curious about the world, for the hell of it. Daydream. Think what if. If the robots really do come for all the jobs and we have a workless world, I wonder what will become of the humans. Will they fall into debauchery and decadence, or will there be a new flowering of the human mind freed from drudgery? I fear the former is more likely, but hope for that latter isn’t totally extinguished. FI/RE folk are testing some of this out.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi David I don’t think you could be as rude to me as I have been to myself! Have I been subconsciously refusing to fully enjoy retirement because I strongly feel I should still be working and earning? Was I rebelling against the luxury of an easy life? Why can’t I be content? Am I such a boring guy that I can’t constructively fill a day? Or did I miss the job I enjoyed, as it was only really the last year I found myself at the end of my tether with it? All this, and more, to follow, no doubt.

        Liked by 1 person

      • @ermine – You don’t think we’d enter some higher society like in the Culture novels by Mr Iain Banks? Now that would be something 🙂


  2. It sounds like you have 50’s housewife problem, a role that was forced on them by society, not personality. The response of the extroverts was the WI, evening classes and becoming ladies who lunch. Not so many weekday activities nowadays. If you need to-do lists to make you happy, local charities would be delighted to hear from you, of course.


  3. The social network is a problem for all early retirees, though particularly for extroverts. The problem is many of your peer group and also age peer group are still at work, and not only does it rob them of time, but their goals are different. Although the reason I retired early is because I became sick of the management structure of work, I wonder if that is not a blessing now. I never get up and wish I were in that structure again. Not one single time, and it’s been three and a half years now!

    Indeed, the very sweetness of owning my own time is the unsung and unexpected win of retirement. I save rather than spend the money that I was unable to avoid earning since retiring. Why? Because I never want to predicate a change in my lifestyle on earning more, because otherwise one day some other punk will look into my eyes and say you will do what I say otherwise your lifestyle will take a hit. That is slavery, even if the chains are golden – remaining FI needs eternal vigilance if one is earning money to avoid becoming dependent due to lifestyle inflation.

    It does take time to adapt to retirement, after all you are changing something you have done for 20-30 years. From observation I’d say a minimum of six months I expand my social circle by pursuing common interests and finding like minds, and I did attend to making contacts with some of that social circle while in the final years of working, to have something to build upon. Although I am introverted and don’t need it so much, when people crave attention like your friend’s retired husband does it sort of invisibly pushes people away.

    Lists, tickboxes, lining up all the forks? This introvert saw too much of that crap at work. Not all introverts are obsessive-compulsive, leastways not all in the same way.


    • You really seem to have hated your job Ermine, but that wasn’t the case with me. And I now know a few retirees who loved their work much more than I did and they really suffer in retirement. They don’t really discuss it though, they seem to feel guilty that they miss the working life. My dad once said to me “Don’t wish for retirement son, it will be on you far too soon”, and I didn’t know how right he was.


      • Au contraire, I loved the job, indeed even the last project on the Olympics was a blast. What i deeply came to hate was the quarterly performance management targets and the bullshit. We all get more cantankerous as we get older, maybe I got exceptionally so 😉


  4. yeh some tough love floating around here – its true you can’t go to the gym and drink coffee as a means to fill your days – thats not going to cut it.

    Ermine is nailing it with his selection of passions, be it building heath-robinson electronics, stalking wildlife or (if memory serves) constructing a wood-store – all of which seem to require effort, expertise and creativity. Thats a winning formula.

    If you start getting talented at stuff, be it distilling, spear-fishing, bog-snorkelling you will also as a symbiotic side effect start meeting some very interesting people.

    Now if you throw into that mix a few big ticket items every now and then, i.e. the sort of thing that will make an outrageous chapter in the memoirs – then I think you are on to a winner. (they don’t have to be expensive, but they do have to be outrageous)

    Thats what I do to a large extent, and I still do paid work as well because I really like it. But its not a dominant activity for me. I am trying to converge on the role of flaneur or renaissance man as best I can..


    • I can see what you mean, maybe I’m just finding it difficult to let go of my previous working life. And I would admit I’m probably not highlighting the non-work things I’ve achieved in the last year. Perhaps I discount them in order to make the point that it’s not all days of wine (making) and (growing) roses.


  5. Re: Dorothy Rowe – this one has got to be a belter? surely?

    Never Let the Bastards Win – 2013

    This book is about bastards. Bastards from recent and distant history. Bastards from every stage and every walk of life. The bastards we know, the bastards we know of, the bastards we know nothing about. It holds those bastards to account. In sustained and eloquent fury, Dorothy Rowe calls upon her years of experience as a psychologist, a citizen and a human being to explain how, from politicians to schoolmasters, the bastards have been winning, and why the struggle against the bastards must go on.

    Its on my to read list – of that there is no doubt..


  6. I heard the same thing from a guy who worked from home for a few years. As soon as his kid came home from school, he would just bother the heck out of her, looking for someone to talk to. Luckily, I am incredibly reliably introverted so I don’t see being home all the time as a problem. I just had a four day weekend and it was bliss. But I agree, in the long term I would have to learn to act more extroverted to stop from going crazy.


  7. One reason I can retire soon is because I moved back in with mum to look after her. She pays the bills, I work from home (and skive off) and bank the cash, so feel 3/4 retired already. Chatting to her gives my introvert nature enough daily stimulation, but when she dies I’ll have to reconsider. I’d be able to commute again, or move to find (a very specialised) job, but expect I won’t need too financially, I will need to find things to do near to home, but I want to combine interaction with exercise, so fancy something outdoors. Slash and burn gardening perhaps.


  8. People have given lots of good advice in the comments, so as someone who’s not retired yet I won’t pretend that I know what you’re going through and give additional advice.

    However I’ll state (I’ve done it before) that I appreciate your honesty in this experience. Many ER bloggers only try to show the “bright” aspect without the struggles. Your blog’s content is refreshing.


    • Thanks for the positive feedback. I was concerned I’d be the Victor Meldrew of the FIRE community and sometimes wonder myself if I’m seeing every silver lining as having a cloud. Retirement is a mixed bag, early retirement even more mixed in my experience and writing the blog helps me deal with it.


  9. This is certainly my biggest concern heading into early retirement in just a few weeks. I wrote a post about it several months ago, because I fall somewhere in between extrovert and introvert. The first social structure of work at MegaCorp is probably good for me, will see how we do without it.


  10. Well, I’m an introvert, but I’d like to shatter the illusion that I have a highly ordered cutlery drawer….
    My twin fears about leaving work are lack of challenge, leading to boredom, and lack of company, leading to loneliness. I have also discovered that my inner Calvinist really thinks I should be earning money as long as I am able to (I realised I’ve doing so almost continuously since I was 14).
    Still, I’ve made the decision to move on from my job, as it’s no longer providing enough challenge or company, and I feel I have a decent shot at generating more of both on my own terms. Like ermine, I am desperate not to be dancing to management’s agenda. I don’t hate my work, but I can do without the ‘job’.
    I’m also female, and I think there are lots of gendered aspects to how we feel about work and identity, and cope with the transition from work (older women, particularly with children, notable by their absence in the PF/FIRE blogosphere). On the positive side, it’s easy for me to seek and find company for its own sake (men seem to have to structure social contacts around doing stuff). I have a feeling though that gig opportunities for 50 something women may be harder to find….


    • Totally agree. As a fifty two year old male I like to think I still have the ’emergency exit” of returning to paid employment of some sort but, from what I’ve read, older women find it much more difficult getting back into paid work (especially well paid work, eg 50k + jobs) once they find themselves out of it.


      • Hmm, that’s not helping my ‘what the hell am I doing giving up a well paid secure job’ thoughts… I’m leaving a lot of money on the table, I know…


  11. Hello there Jim. Have you read much of LivingaFI? He goes into quite a bit of detail about figuring out what to do with so much free time…could be a worth a read 🙂


  12. It seems to me that how we respond to this significant event is governed by a whole set of factors, including personality, experiences, how much freedom of manoeuvre you feel your finances give you, what a well lived life means to you, whether you are moving towards something or away from something, and many many more.

    Therefore, some will launch themselves into a new world with gusto and be happy, some will potter and be happy, some will flounder for a while before settling on a new trajectory etc. I doubt there is any reliable prescription that will allow any of us to be sure what will happen.

    I am getting close to my own transition, and I have an imagined set of outcomes, but no real idea how I will react to the reality.

    Like Ermine I love the work, but get frustrated by the bullshit that surrounds the actual product. Watching people make the same mistakes every few years gets old. So I imagine my future will involve me following up some of the projects I was unable to persuade people to indulge me in with like minded people and organisations. To the casual viewer I will be doing things that look very much like my current work, but for free or low pay. This will probably not make sense to them, but I will be running the business of me with my vision, rather than being trapped in someone else’s vision. Since I will need to work with other people, argue with them and persuade,that freedom may not be easily visible, but it will be real to me.

    If that doesn’t work out because I am deluding myself about my capabilities and value, I have a whole set of interests that have received less love over the years because of the intensity of what I have been doing. There is much I want to achieve there as well. It’s a long list, so I expect to fill time with some combination of them.

    But I also expect the transition to be a shock, and I expect to loaf for a while until boredom kicks me into action. I like the ’emerging blinking into the light metaphor’. Disorientation after a lifetime of ‘work’ is to be expected

    I also expect that all my plans will turn out to be rubbish, and I will end up doing something totally unexpected. Throughout my life none of my plans has survived contact with reality, so why should my ideas of FIRE be any different?


    • There are so many types and shades of paid work that it’s hard to generalise about the overall situation of work versus retirement. I liked my job and I miss the work. Retirement just doesn’t give me the buzz and I’ve tried lots of strategies to change that….but most seem to lead back toward paid employment!


      • haven’t posted here for a while….. clearly you are not brewing enough beer yet :-).

        Brewing, Cycling, improving my cooking, getting stuck into local community projects & of course spending time with friends & family…. i’m doing all these now of course, but retirement, when I get there, will allow me to get better at all of them!


      • The way I look at it retirement gives choice, it does not require any specific course of action. If work gives you the buzz, then do ‘work’. You are under no obligation to do something different. The point is it is now your choice.

        I have a friend who was CEO of a major (ish) corporation. He now chairs one charity, is a non-exec on at least two companies, teaches at a university, and is active in his professional association. He probably works as many hours as he did before (indeed his energy is exhausting), but everything he does is his choice, not because it is his job. And the financial arrangements seem to range from purely pro bono, to what he and the people he works with agree on.

        Is he retired? Is he working? Does it matter?


      • The more I have experienced it, the more I have realised that my whole current concept of retirement really isn’t helpful at all. I’d put a sharp dividing line between “working” and “not working” and not really considered the myriad of other options available, such as “working a little bit”.


  13. 53 and retired introvert here, but definitely NOT the sort who imposes order on his belongings! I only wanted my time to do as I wish instead of fulfilling someone else’s wishes (for which the reward for doing well is not freedom, but fulfilling more of their wishes… absolutely something wrong with that system!).

    Can’t imagine people being a loose ends when they retire. There’s so much life to live. Even an extrovert can find clusters of people to engage with, but you’d have to step out from the house and go find them as they won’t be confined to workplaces. More like classes and activities, either teach or learn or tour.

    Current activities: sharing life with wife, fishing (trout, steelhead, salmon), gardening (recently planted 10 espalier apple trees), cooking, simracing, nature observing, internet, reading, woodcutting, and now learning to dig/cook razor clams.


  14. I can understand. I felt so bad at work I had to leave it. I enjoyed my 7 months out of work but started to get bored as my peers and friends were still working and my boyfriend works and it became a lonely existence once I had done my to-do list. It was all weather related and if it was a good day, i managed to get things done but was so worried that I really didn’t have enough.
    I didn’t feel I had enough to go out and spend on a few weekends away – I ended up back in work. I became so frugal, it felt like a prison to be at home all day.
    I don’t enjoy being back at work – the stress and the work role – but I do like the social interaction. The place is full of friendly people rather than competitive aggressive types.
    I will work for a while then review leaving again, I will look to plan my time better for my next freedom session, get some activities in place that don’t cost a fortune!


      • yes – thats what my gran used to do – she would decamp to southern europe for jan and feb – worked out cheaper than firing her oil boiler up.

        All the windsurfers head to cape town or WA for the winter, and all the cyclists to the Canaries. An endless summer is the way forward for sure.


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