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I recently went out with some good friends of mine – one I’ve been friends with since high school and two since college. They’re great guys and it’s always fun when the stars align and the four of us can get together.
As always, we reminisced and laughed about all the hijinx and fun from the old days, talked about what’s currently been going on in each other’s lives, and delved into plans for the future. And of course, we busted each other’s chops constantly. The drinks started flowing and the laughter followed suit as well… ah, the power of alcohol!
Oh, but wait – I quit drinking last September. So I was the only sober one there – though still enjoying non-alcoholic Samuel Adams Just the Haze beers. But the conversation is slightly different when you don’t have a buzz on.
One of my buddies (and a loyal reader of this blog!) was harassing me about how he thought I have too much time on my hands… the boredom in retirement that’s there.
He brought it up several times throughout the evening and for whatever reason, it bugged me a little. Too much time? Boredom in retirement? Seriously?!
Getting dogged on about early retirement as if I’m an old man is something I hear from my friends routinely. But, if people choose to rib me about something, I’ll take that any day since that’s an achievement anyone should be proud of pulling off.
But the idea of having too much free time or any kind of boredom in retirement is unfathomable to me. In my mind, it’s exactly the opposite of how I view early retirement.
Yet, I think that’s legitimately how many folks who are working tend to imagine retirement… too much time on your hands with nothing to do. So many people seem to be surprised when they hear any retiree say that they’re busier now than when they working.
It’s true though. At least it should be. If you’re finding a lot of boredom in retirement, I hate to say it, but you’re doing it wrong.
Why there’s a thought that boredom in retirement is inevitable
I believe that many folks sadly don’t give the idea of life in retirement enough thought. The perspective might be that when you’re working, you put in something like 40 hours a week plus drive time. Life is good or bad but it is what it is and that’s what you know.
Then you retire though and you now have maybe 50 hours of extra time that you’re “stuck with” for the rest of your days. I mean, that’s a lot of extra time. And if you didn’t have that before but you do have it now, not much should be changing otherwise, right?
Maybe you decide to read a little more, do the daily crossword puzzle, or go fishing a little more. But that’s certainly not going to fill up 50 hours of free time every week.
So if that’s the case, boredom in retirement is inescapable… that seems to be the thought anyway.
That’s a bunch of hooey!
That’s right – I said it’s “a bunch of hooey”! I don’t care if I sound like an 85-year-old grandma – I’m keeping this clean! If I was feeling even crazier, I might have even gone with “hogwash” instead!
Whatever you want to call it, I don’t buy it. I’ve got many early retiree friends and I don’t know of a single one who’s complaining about having too much time on their hands. They’re all too busy wondering why the days fly by so fast!
I’m not saying that many people don’t go into retirement and find out that it’s not what they wanted. Some folks miss the working life – the structure of the day and the socialization.
But when you’re in that situation, you inevitably make a change and go back to work – whether in the same field or something different. Sometimes it’s back to full-time and other times it’s just part-time, but if you need that in your life, you need it. No harm, no foul – you go back to work and life is good.
The point is though that you make the change if it needs to be changed. Those that are happiest in retirement though are easily filling their available time like it’s going out of style.
What’s wonderful about retirement is that you now get to choose what to do with your time. I have friends in early retirement that probably work harder than they did in their careers… but it’s now work they enjoy doing as their own business. Steve Adcock, Leif (aka Physician on FIRE), and Jordan Grumet (aka Doc G) are just a few examples of friends of mine who seem to take the grind and love it.
I also have early retiree friends who keep their days extremely light because they want to slow down and savor every moment of the day. That’s especially true for those who have kids and want their time to be focused on being around their kids as they grow up.
Most early retirees, however, find themselves somewhere in the middle. They might have a part-time side hustle they’re enjoying working on, but the rest of the time they’re filling their days without a problem.
The important thing to understand though is that boredom in retirement, especially early retirement, doesn’t make a lot of sense if you’ve prepared well for it. As a side note, my friend Fritz from The Retirement Manifesto wrote a book that focuses on that exact subject, among other things. Check out Keys to a Successful Retirement for more on that and don’t forget that I have an entire page of worthwhile Resources and Recommendations as well.
If you’ve planned for retirement well, you’re not going to just be filling 50 hours of time watching The Price is Right or Let’s Make a Deal all day. Instead, those hours will be filled with ramping up hobbies (new and old), traveling, bucket list items, allocating more time to friends and family, spending more time with your kids, and possibly working on some side hustles.
The gift of controlling your time now makes you want to fill the hours. That freedom to be able to focus on doing what you want to do makes the days go by even faster while still yearning for more time.
Yes, it’s true – you 100% feel like you have less free time in retirement than you did while you were working.
My typical days in early retirement
My last day in the corporate world was December 31, 2018. That, of course, made for a great New Year’s celebration. It was like a giant party around the world to celebrate my early retirement!
That means I’ve been retired for over four years now… and without a doubt, it’s been a huge blessing in life.
I’m not going to say that it’s all been a bowl of cherries. Getting adjusted after moving back to the U.S. last summer has been a major struggle for me for a lot of reasons. But I think a lot of that has been more reverse culture shock than anything related to retirement.
Regardless, I love my days of freedom and wouldn’t trade them for the world. Every day is like waking up to another gift that I can’t even express how much I value.
Now, like everyone goes through, nothing in life is a constant. There are always going to be things that come up to keep life from getting mundane.
We travel quite a bit and that changes everything several times a year. Those trips are also sometimes much longer than what a non-retiree might be able to pull off. We’ve taken two month-long road trips and this summer we’re headed to Panama again for a month. Preparing for trips like these, enjoying our time while on the trips, and re-adjusting afterward considerably throws things off of that consistency you get used to having.
But when we do have our normal days, here’s a little bit of how mine’s been flowing lately…
|What Might Be Going On
|I don’t set an alarm but this is about when I wake up most mornings.
|Do a quick email and calendar check
|…from my phone while in bed just to see if anything urgent’s crept up.
|Spanish lesson time
|I usually work on about 2-4 lessons on the Duolingo app.
|Yeah, I’m still addicted.
|Time to get out of bed and start the day!
|Early retirement’s great, right?!
|Let’s get to working out!
|Top off the workout with a walk while listening to the Clark Howard Podcast
|I currently have a routine of walking the long halls up and down the building. It comes out to about 1.3 miles. Once spring rolls around, I’ll move the walk outside.
|Shower and get dressed
|Odds and ends
|Working on emails, answering blog comments, scheduling appointments, etc.
|Usually this is at home with Lisa and Faith.
|Work on a blog post or try something new
|I’m planning to start learning the programming language Kotlin soon
|Play a video game with Faith
|We’re not big gamers but lately Faith wanted to play and you can’t beat quality time together so we’re currently playing New Super Mario Bros. Wii since we can play concurrently.
|We usually have dinner at home and watch a show together (currently we have Faith hooked on “How I Met Your Mother”… so funny!).
|Watch a movie together
|If you haven’t seen Plane yet with Gerard Butler, we thought that was a pretty good movie (though the reviews seem to disagree).
|Spanish lesson time
|Yeah, again. I try to do another couple of lessons on Duolingo.
|Wrapping up and getting ready for bed
|Read for a little bit in bed
|I just started A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle.
|Yeah, this is usually when I want to fall asleep but lay there for a little bit, think about things, and get up too many times to go pee.
|I’m an 8-hours-a-night kind of guy so there you go.
Obviously, that’s not every day and things change more than they don’t. Doctor or dentist appointments, Costco or Walmart visits, oil changes, other errands, or whatever. Life goes on even in early retirement – you still need to get things done. I teach Faith personal finance on Fridays as part of her homeschooling and occasionally I give her a hand with math class if she needs it. And we do periodically get together with friends, too.
It might surprise you to see that, although it’s not a stress-packed day by any means, I’m usually pretty busy just with life in general. Early retirement definitely gives me more time to spend with my family, work out, and more, but there’s not a lot of downtime in my days either. Boredom in retirement simply isn’t something I’ve experienced in the 4+ years I’ve been living it.
Choosing what NOT to do is the hard part
Not only is there no boredom in retirement but I don’t have enough time to expand my horizons much either. I still have so many things I’m looking forward to learning and trying. I’ve also been working on a project of merging a bucket list, a passions list, and a list of things I want to learn/try into one cool spreadsheet. I’ll be talking more about this in a post in the near future.
But, as you can see, sliding more things into the day isn’t the easiest.
One of the hardest facets of life for me tends to be finding balance. I’ve gotten better at it but it’s still tough. I want to do everything and I want to do it now… and it can frustrate me that I can’t. Here are just some of the posts I’ve written about this since I retired:
- Giving Myself Permission To Breathe
- 4 Lessons Learned After Two Years of Early Retirement
- Early Retirement with Kids Is Wonderful… but Frustrating
- One of the Absolute Best Facets of Early Retirement
- 5 Life Lessons from Our First Year of Early Retirement
- Finding Balance in Early Retirement with Kids
What I’ve learned over these past 4 years is that you just can’t do it all at once – especially if you have kids and want them to be a priority in your life. I think our quality time with Faith is going to start diminishing soon now that she’s pushing 13 but I also don’t think I’ll be finding that boredom in retirement anytime soon either. That should just open up a little more time to ease in some more fun I want to try.
In the meantime, one option I’ve been considering is reducing my time on Route to Retire. Currently, I spend about 20 hours a week working on it. Keep in mind that writing’s only part of the process – there’s the marketing side of things, social media, replying to comments, answering emails, and the inevitable tech support issues that always seem to surface.
So instead of writing once a week, maybe I write once every few weeks or once a month. I hate that idea because I truly enjoy it (the side income doesn’t hurt either!), but it’s also the obvious choice without taking away from time with my family or working out.
We’ll see what happens… I’m not in a huge hurry to make a change like that but it’s something I’ve been considering.
It’s funny though – we all get just 24 hours in a day so sometimes the hardest part is deciding that I’m not going to invest time in something so I can put better focus on the things I’m currently doing.
Life is about prioritization. We all can make time to do the things we want to do but, like it or not, the choices you make to fill that time are generally what interests you the most.
If you’re in your working years now and you’re already thinking about boredom in retirement, that’s a problem. Either your thinking’s a little off on this or you need to be finding some more interests. One way to fix this is to bridge the gap and drop yourself down to part-time before pulling the trigger completely. That should help ease you into what to expect.
And if you’re retired right now and feel you have too much free time, I’d love to hear about that in the comments. It would be fascinating to me to hear from retirees who are bored and not able to fill their time.
Retirement is about gaining choice and freedom of time but you still need to determine what to do with that time. And with so many amazing things this world has to offer, boredom in retirement quite simply shouldn’t be an option.
Plan well, take action, and live your best life!
Thanks for reading!!