Early Retirement with Kids Is Wonderful… but Frustrating

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Early Retirement with Kids Is Wonderful... but FrustratingReaching early retirement in 2018 at 43 isn’t something that a lot of the population is interested in or trying to pull off.  But change that to being in early retirement with kids to raise and that puts us in even more of a niche.

We have one child, our daughter Faith, who’s a great kid.  She’s 9 but acts like a really short adult most of the time.  That probably makes life a little easier for us and we love spending as much time as we get with her.

Early retirement with kids is probably one of the best gifts you can give a child.  Being able to have so much time to raise, mentor, and play with them is amazing for all involved.  I wouldn’t trade this for the world!

But, I’ve been frustrated on and off shortly after I left my job at the end of 2018.  I actually had a hard time sleeping for about a month in the beginning, too.

At the time, it took me a while to realize what I thought was going on.  I was so excited to knock everything off my to-do list and try out new things that I became disappointed when I couldn’t quickly knock it all out.

I realized that I had to start pacing myself and strike a good balance with raising my daughter and working on “my stuff.”

So that’s what I did and that’s been somewhat helpful.  But here we are well over a year into early retirement and I still get frustrated regularly and lately haven’t been able to sleep again.

I think I finally figure out why.


Early retirement with kids

We’re certainly not the only ones out there who are in that area of raising kids while in retirement.  Some bloggers in this group include:

There are plenty of others as well (sorry if I missed you!).

But even with a list like this, folks actually in early retirement with kids aren’t commonplace.  We’re kind of in a world of our own in a manner of speaking.  It’s not like I can just reach out to a close friend or neighbor to see how they’re doing in early retirement.

In a way, we’re on our own on this.  And that’s ok, but sometimes we’ve just gotta figure things out as we go.

I think I’m doing a great job in the facet of spending time with my family.  Remember, the whole reason I went down this path was to do exactly that.  We go through our days playing cards or video games together, learning together, or just watching movies or documentaries together.  And before this whole lockdown here in Panama, we were spending a lot of time outdoors walking around town, hiking, playing, and swimming.

Life is good… really good.  No complaints on that front in the least!


The dream I was sold

As I led our family on the path to FIRE (financial independence / retire early), I was sold on the dream of more time.

And that’s a gimme.  Suddenly, I gained around 50 hours a week that I would have spent between work and commuting.  That’s still incredible to think about.

Along the way to FIRE, I watched hustlers like Steve and Courtney Adcock retire early and work on so many different things.  Steve was crushing it with Think Save Retire before he sold it and now blogs at Steve Adcock.us along with a couple of other sites.  Both of them work on the popular YouTube channel, AStreaminLife.  They just got done touring the country in their RV and now they’re spending countless hours building up and renovating a small property they bought in the middle of nowhere.

They might be the busiest retirees I know… and I like it!

It’s fun to watch all the different things they’ve been doing with their newfound freedom.

This seems to be the common theme in the FIRE community – work your way to early retirement and then spend your days trying to figure out new and exciting ways to fill your time.  And that doesn’t even include all the time book-reading, movie-watching, and other lazy ways to occupy the days.  It almost seems daunting – will you eventually get bored with all this extra time or will you keep finding new projects to keep you going?

It didn’t matter.  I was sold on the dream!  This is the life I was after – all this extra time wouldn’t be wasted on me!


What the hell happened?!

Here I am retired and I still don’t have enough time in each day.  And yes, I know that’s what a lot of retirees say, but I’m not referring to socialization and goofing off.  I’m talking about not having enough time for productivity.

I go to bed a lot of nights thinking about everything that I didn’t get done.

It drives me bananas!

Early Retirement with Kids Is Wonderful... but Frustrating - Faith Choking Her Dad

Granted, I’ve added a couple of things into my routine.  I haven’t missed a day of studying Spanish for about 20-25 minutes every morning in 397 days.  As the weeks go by, I feel more and more comfortable having small conversations with Panamanians who don’t speak English.

I’ve also been proud of how steadily my workouts have been going.  I’ve been routinely busting them out 5 days a week.  I’m actually starting to gain some muscle – how cool is that?!

And then, I spend a fair amount of time writing for Route to Retire.  That takes up roughly 8 hours for a post (spread out over a few days).  Then you have all the emails, comments, social media conversations and sharing related to it, and you can probably throw in another few hours.

Even so with those activities though, you’d think there would be plenty of time for new endeavors.  But I’m not finding that.  Heck, by now I thought I’d be doing at least 2-3 posts every week, but I just can’t find the time.

I have so many things I want to get rolling on:

  • Write a couple of books
  • Learn to play the harmonica
  • Get better at playing the piano (or keyboard)
  • Start a garden
  • Learn martial arts
  • Learn Kotlin and create an Android app
  • Figure out a cause to get behind and grow

This is just a small part of the list – it goes on and one.  But the question is when??!!

Spending time with Lisa and Faith tends to take up a big part of my days.  And I do enjoy it (we really do have a lot of fun together!), but I’m still surprised that I don’t have more time for working on other things as well.


Expectations were wrong

Fritz from The Retirement Manifesto is someone I’m happy to have as a friend.  I’m currently reading an advance copy of his new book, “Keys to a Successful Retirement: Staying Happy, Active, and Productive in Your Retired Years.”  Yeah, I’m special like that with my advance copy … and even more special because he mentions me in the book!  What a guy!!

Fritz and his wife Jackie are having the time of their lives filling their days with whatever makes them happy.  Fritz talks about enjoying the simple things in life like waking up and not rushing to get out of bed – just laying there and dozing in and out.

Then he heads to the gym to give his life a little structure.  Beyond that, he likes to leave most afternoons unstructured so they can just play it by ear and see where it takes them.  Boy, that sounds wonderful!

He talks about you can draw your retirement to be whatever you want.  Whatever you want to do is completely in your court – endless possibilities.  They’re living proof of how all this extra time works wonders.  And the same goes for a lot of retirees.

But that’s when it hit me – the vision I had in my head was created by the dreams and realities of early retirees who don’t have kids or their kids are grown.

Early retirement without raising kids is so much different than an early retirement with kids in the picture.

This isn’t a bad thing at all, it’s just something I didn’t fully think about until I was reading Fritz’s book.  My expectations for early retirement have been wrong for years.  I’ve been attempting to live life raising a daughter while still trying to have the productivity level of someone without kids.

It’s not possible to do both successfully.  And that’s totally ok.  I just needed that a-ha moment to realize that.

I’m not going to be able to get done everything I want to right now and I just need to accept that.  Right now, the primary mission for me is to raise a daughter.  I’m free to fill in any cracks of time after that with whatever I can on the productivity side of things.

Eventually, that will change, but for right now, trying to do it all will just end miserably.  That’s actually a huge relief.  Once I had this epiphany, I slept like a baby the next night.

As a side note, “Keys to a Successful Retirement” comes out on 5/5/20.  I’m only a few chapters in, but so far, it looks like a book you’ll want to add to your collection!


Early retirement with kids

Early retirement with kids is not like a “normal” early retirement where you can easily follow dreams and chase new passions.  You’re raising a kid and that responsibility is still there until they leave the nest (and sometimes after).

It’s wonderful that it allows so much time to spend with your kids – you get an opportunity most parents don’t.  You can be there to play with them more, help and teach them, and actually pay attention to what’s on their mind instead of worrying about the other obligations so much.  That’s truly a blessing that I recognize and appreciate every day.

Early Retirement with Kids Is Wonderful... but Frustrating - Jim, Faith, and Lisa
Look at this happy family!! And more importantly, I’m becoming a rockstar at taking selfies of us!!

But, that comes with a price.  Early retirement isn’t just for you and your spouse – it’s for your child, too.  I have so many things that I want to work on, but after more than a year of early retirement, I’m finally starting to get it.  It’s not my time… at least not yet.  Sure, I can try some things on the side – a little bit here and there, but I can’t go all in. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Before this post, I was starting to consider jumping ship on this blog.  I love writing for it and it’s awesome to entertain and hopefully help you as readers.  But it’s definitely a time suck and I’m worried about Lisa and Faith resenting me (or the blog) because of all the time I spend on it.

Since then though, I’ve talked a little with them and we decided that I’m going to keep going (it’ll be 5 years in May!).  We tossed around ideas like having some type of set hours for me to work on it so it just becomes routine out of the way.

But trying to grow it by doing a lot of additional posts and other ideas I have aren’t likely to happen anytime soon.  It’s a good thing I’m not relying on income from this!

This is not some “woe is me” post and I’m not complaining.  We’re extremely blessed to be in the position we’re in and I wouldn’t change it for the world.  Every day (even most of the days stuck in lockdown here) is a joy.

I just want to acknowledge that early retirement with kids is a whole different ballgame than one without kids in the picture.  Realizing this should help me to sleep a lot better now.


An early retirement raising kids would be a lot different than one without – would you agree?


Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

You know you wanna share this!!

24 thoughts on “Early Retirement with Kids Is Wonderful… but Frustrating”

  1. Hey Jim, completely agree with you here. I have so many plans I’m making but I doubt half of them could be achieved with a child. I mean seriously, going to a Muay Thai camp, training for 6 hours a day and living in a bamboo hut? With a child??!!! No way.

    One thought which has always been on my mind is how young children view parents who are “retired” early. It’s not everyday children grow up with parents who do not have a conventional job. Although I know you are busy all day with a ton of activities, do you think it has any effect on children’s work ethic for example? My childhood memories include my father working his ass off and providing for us which influenced my work ethic.

    Would be great to hear your insights here.


    1. Haha, you don’t think a kid would be good for training 6 hours a day and living in a hut?! 😉

      I can’t speak for other early-retiree parents, but I think Faith “gets it: for a number of reasons.

      1) She was old enough to see me busting my ass every day while I was working.
      2) We talk about it – both the importance of working and a good work ethic along with what it really takes to retire early. She’s also getting a financial education as part of the homeschooling we’re doing.
      3) She’s starting to understand the value of going after what you want to do in life and the work that needs to go into it to succeed. She used to see me working on the blog and just think it was a cake-walk. But since she started her YouTube channel and is editing her own material, she realizes that you only get out of it what you put into it.
      4) Even though I’m early-retired, I spend a lot of time working on this blog as I mentioned. She sees that and seems to recognize the value of a solid work ethic.
      5) I’m conscious to make sure she’s not spoiled. She saves up her money to buy things she wants and continues to save. We’re also only giving her a small amount toward college (maybe a year) – affording the rest will need to come out of her own hard work.

      Besides that, my grandfather retired back when he was probably 47 (back when that was really unheard of). That was actually more of an inspiration for me to kick ass than anything. It didn’t affect my work ethic and I don’t think (or at least I’m hoping) it won’t affect hers.

      Guess time will tell, right? 🙂

  2. “Yeah, I’m special like that…”

    You are, indeed, my friend. Pleased to hear my book led to an epiphany for you (and, thanks for your kind words re: my book). Also interesting to hear you’re struggling to find time to maintain the blog. It seems almost all early retirees go through that dilemma, and many (most?) reduce their writing after they retire. Counter-intuitive, but very real. Glad to hear you’re sticking with it. After all, you have a lot more free time now, right? Wink.

    1. Similar to working out, I’d actually be afraid to reduce my schedule. I know me and if I don’t have a strict schedule or go all-in, I start to go downhill… quickly. Otherwise, I’d love to cut back on both! 😉

  3. Not surprising. My experience is no matter your life activities rise to fill more then the allotted time. Kind of like items in your home. Remember to take time to smell the roses. To throw out one more cliche.

    1. Absolutely. Too bad we’re not allowed outside to smell the roses right now! 😉

      I definitely have no complaints about where we’re at in life. We’re enjoying every minute of our time together and enjoying Panama. But you’re right that it’s filled up our bucket of time. Now that I get that, I’m going to try to table a lot of the other things I wanted to do until Faith grows up and gets sick of us. 🙂

  4. This is a take on ER I hadn’t considered! It makes sense to look to others to envision that future you want – which is a double edged sword.

    I suspect the same thing happens comparing our futures to people who go the “relax and enjoy life” route in ER vs the “maximize productivity” route. The later can burn someone out just as fast as having a job (or faster, since it can go 24/7). Still trying to strike that right balance there myself. ?

    1. Balance is probably the keyword for any of us. Kids or no kids, figuring out the harmony between work and play that brings us the most happiness is so different for each of us. Good luck striking that right balance in your life, Adam! 🙂

  5. Stop trying to “do” and just “be”

    When you get to this point your thinking will become more clear and you will be more creative. Read Auto-Pilot by Andrew Smart- The Art and Science of Doing Nothing.

    I’m currently reading “essentialism” by Greg McKeown which is good so far.

    The hardest part is getting off the hamster wheel. You might not be working but feel the need to be doing to fill all the space. Once you learn to just “be” I would bet you will be more focused and productive while at peace.

    I’m a work in progress on this and so far so good. It is a journey not a destination.

    1. Wow, your comment actually struck me quite a bit, Scott. Stop trying to “do” and just “be” makes a lot of sense to me right now, even though it’s been hard for me to do. I’ve added the Andrew Smart book to my list to read in the near future – thanks for that and for the comment. Very much appreciated!

  6. “Early retirement with kids is not like a “normal” early retirement where you can easily follow dreams and chase new passions.” Pls remember that any life stage can be interrupted by care giving, as many middle-aged folks encounter with aging/ill parents, siblings, friends. My friends & I joke about which era we’re immersed in: wedding phase, having babies, divorces, todder & teenage angst, caretaking, deaths of parents, peers, friends, siblings. I hope this global plot twist is inspiring much re-assessment of how people use their time & other resources so they can deploy them more wisely or in better alignment with their larger goals once our constraints are lifted. In the mean time, I’m enjoying the sparsely motorized roads – have not needed a crosswalk all month, and I’m biking on roads that I would never consider bike-friendly.

    1. I’m curious whether anything will change with folks once we get past this whole pandemic as well, Mary. Personally, we’re truly blessed to be in the phase of life we’re in and I’ll never forget that.

      But we haven’t been able to leave our property in weeks now – I could only imagine how dead the streets are in most places of the world right now. Glad you’re taking advantage of it while you can… enjoy! 🙂

  7. Before retiring I had lots of expectations, including both ‘Sleep more’ and ‘have more time to do things I like’.

    I do realise they are somewhat conflicting, but I thought AT LEAST one of the two will come true.

    No. With kids I didn’t manage to achieve any of them!! 🙂 (…I say this with a big smile, I’m loving it anyway!)

  8. Jim,

    I feel you. Although, I would say that being able to work out five times a week consistently in the study Spanish every single day is a big triumph. That takes a lot of discipline.

    The situation is simply exacerbated because of the lockdown. But then again, I just realize that you homeschool so that is a lot of work every day as well.

    Retiring early or retiring with our kids is a walk in the park in comparison. It’s the time and energy that is taken away, which is great as you put on, but also draining for other things.

    With two kids now, I don’t have much time Other than to the write. But now that I can’t even play tennis with my friends, there is a silver lining of having one less thing to do even though I enjoy doing it.

    We went to the beach yesterday and it was a glorious day. We wouldn’t have been able to do it if he was in preschool. So I’m just trying to count my blessings every day.

    Oh yeah, I decided to give up on going back to work this year at the very least. No point anymore!

    1. Being in a position like we’re in means we have a rare opportunity to have the time to spend with our kids. That also means it’s not our time (yet), but hopefully, once your kids are grown more, you’ll have time to get back into tennis. I imagine it’ll be an awesome time to teach them to play! Then one day, they’ll get too good at it and kick your ass until you don’t want to play anymore! 😉

      I didn’t realize that you’re not going back to work this year, but that makes sense based on current events. Consider my post updated!

  9. Homeschooling makes a huge difference.
    When my son was going to school, I have time to do stuff. Now, I’m his teacher for 6 hours/day. I don’t have any time for myself and I don’t like it. My wife is working from home, but she’s busy with work. She can’t help that much during regular hours.
    I think it should be easier if 2 parents are homeschooling. We can split the subjects more evenly and I’ll have more time to do stuff.
    I stop working out for now. It’s too disruptive. We just go for bike rides and play outside instead. That will have to do.

    1. I feel the pain for everyone who’s had homeschooling thrust upon them… it’s definitely not easy for parents or the kids. I can’t really give homeschooling too much blame in my case though because Lisa does most of the work in that area.

      It’s a tough adjustment for everyone but I’m glad you’re still getting some good outside time together. I see the pictures you post and it looks like you guys are having a lot of fun!

  10. I do not have such an opportunity to retire at such an early age and therefore I read your story with a certain “envy”))). Good luck to you and your daughter!

  11. I suppose I’m in the group of raising two kids in retirement. I went to blogging only like many of the others. I call it self-employed, even though some years I don’t bring in much money.

    I have been retired/self-employed since 2007 and a father since 2012. I never have time to get projects done. The school days, when school existed, are short and everyday household chores, walking the dog, and the miscellaneous to-do list, can easily take up the whole day. I admit that I do things more leisurely than before too, because that was the whole point.

    1. I love to hear from folks like you who have been doing this early retirement thing a lot longer than I have to gain more perspective. I’m also glad to hear that the days don’t just seem to fly by without the time to get a lot of new things done.

      That’s a great way you put it – that you do things more leisurely than before. I see the same thing here. I probably could also wake up a little earlier or go to bed later, but where’s the fun in that?

  12. Great post Jim! I totally get where you’re coming from. Having kids isn’t easy, and being “retired” with a kid has its own unique challenges. But I’ve always said that kids are the best reason for financial independence.

    We have so little time with them, and then they’re off to college and building a life of their own. Enjoy the time with Faith while you’ve got it, I say. Our time together is short.

    I try not to get hung up on not accomplishing too much in a day. Right now my life is all about my kids, and that’s OK. One day I’ll have the free time to pursue different passions, but for now I’m happy enough just to be there for my boys. That’s a good enough life for me.

    1. Thanks, Mr. Tako – kids truly are the best reason for financial independence!

      You’ve been retired longer than I have so I’m still getting it all figured out. I think now that I finally “get it”, I can relax my expectations a little more and quit trying to do everything right now. That should make actually make life even better for all of us!

      Keep up the good work with your kids, too – love seeing the pictures of the fun you guys have together!

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