Heigh ho, Heigh Ho

I’ve been back from my holiday a few weeks now and am struggling a bit to get back to a routine, and that includes posting on my blog. You know how it is after holidays though, especially ones you’ve really enjoyed. You ask yourself why life can’t be like that all the time and immediately start planning the next trip.

Of course, if you’re in the fortunate position of being able to retire from the workplace with a decent income then maybe life could be like that all the time. I know the first three months of my bout of “Early Retirement” felt just like that, every day had that “holiday feeling”. I’d watch others heading to work with a glow of inner satisfaction that I was no longer on that hamster wheel and that I was on a different path.

The holiday feeling didn’t last. Soon I went from humming Madonna’s “Holiday” to Morrisey’s “Every Day is Like Sunday” as I found each day the same as the last. I began to think that what made holidays special was that they were a break from work. If you weren’t working, they lost their sheen. It was the same with weekends. Whereas once I craved reaching a Friday evening with a whole weekend of relaxation ahead of me, Saturday and Sunday became just another couple of days – although there were more people available to share them with you.

That was one of the things about my weekday retirement – finding people in a similar age and situation to myself to share the days with. Most of my friends and peers continued to work and seemed to be quite enjoying themselves doing so. Even my wife wanted to maintain her part time job (probably to ensure she got a break from me!) and, while I’m quite comfortable in my own company, I’m a long way from being a loner. I enjoy social stimulation, interacting with other people and, for almost thirty years, the workplace had provided me with that.

In the end I returned to work, partly to provide that “social stimulation” I was missing. When I came back from holiday a fortnight ago, I really wasn’t looking forward to returning to the actual work that I do – but I was looking forward to catching up with the people there, both my co-workers and my customers. In fact, it’s the people that keep me going, because the work itself is fairly routine and not too demanding on a day to day basis.

It would, however, be remiss of me not to mention the financial side of working too, something that just can’t and shouldn’t be ignored. When I stopped earning an income and began to rely on my savings and investments to cover the bills, I struggled to get comfortable with the situation. Although all my spreadsheets and projections told me I’d probably not much to worry about, I couldn’t shake the notion that I’d feel a wee bit better if I started cleaning windows on the side – just to put some cream on the cake. Even if I only earned a hundred quid a week, well, that would pay for a damn nice holiday or two, wouldn’t it? Plus, if I was to blow five thousand pounds on holidays purely from my savings and investments, would the resultant hole fill itself in?

When you’ve spent most of your life saving money for retirement, the switch to spending money to fund that retirement takes a massive shift of the mental gears. Maybe, over time, I’d have coped better with the no income side of not working, but I admit that in the year I had out I did struggle with this.

This year, as I approach pensionable age and ask myself the question if I want to give retirement another go (imagine, a permanent holiday!) I remind myself of the above realities as they were for me. What has changed since then? Not a lot. In that case, I tell myself, start planning the next big road trip to the States, or wherever, and let the work pay for it. That still feels like the best bet for me.

4 thoughts on “Heigh ho, Heigh Ho

  1. I appreciate you’ve not long returned to work, but as you are now approaching ‘retirement’ age, you will presumably (or maybe not?) stop working at some point. Do you feel you’ll be in a better place to enjoy retirement next time?

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  2. It’s tricky, isn’t it? I worked for another 4 years (yes, 4 years!) after reaching FI, mainly because I was offered a sweet deal where I could work entirely from home, for as many or as few days as I liked each month and on a generous day rate.

    I only stopped because I realised that, although I was only working a couple of days a week, the job was still in my head 7 days a week and I really wanted to free myself of that.

    During that time, I unexpectedly had to find around a grand a month to fund a top-up for my mother’s residential care (a common situation). That commitment continued for a couple of years, but it was impossible to know at the outset how long I would have to maintain it. I would have felt deeply anxious if the money had had to come from my retirement pot!

    I’ve now been retired for well over a year, and I must admit that the lack of a salary coming in each month is greatly alleviated by the fact that I have rental income that lands monthly into my bank account. My institutionalised mind finds it a comfort to still have a ‘pay day’, even if it’s a much reduced one!

    Like you, I went through an initial honeymoon period and then found myself dissatisfied by the lack of differentiation between weekdays and weekends. But after about a year, I found that the weekends began to feel different again. Odd, that – not quite sure why it happened. I guess I must have mentally adjusted…

    Jane

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  3. Fascinating. I suspect (hope) I will not have the same problem as decided to taper off work and build up hobbies etc to slowly replace it.

    I wonder if you will feel differently once you pass retirement age and it becomes socially acceptable to retire. Apparently, studies have shown that unemployed feel happier – even when on the same income – once they pass retirement age. I guess that might be down to it being socially acceptable.

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  4. Thanks SHMD – It’s a sobering message from someone who has actually been through a temporary retirement and is at least questioning how they will manage “the real thing” when the day comes.
    With commentary like this (and other bloggers with similar thoughts) I am probably think more about what I would do with my time than I do thinking about how to reach FI itself.
    I mean will I really go to the gym 4 times a week, bike everywhere like MMM, sail the coast of Norway and read thought provoking literature ..or will Netflix and Oddbins win the day(s)?

    And what’s stopping me doing all these noble pursuits now anyway……

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