Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) usually has a focus on the financial aspect. After all, it’s unlikely you can retire early if you don’t have your finances under control. However, there is a subset of the movement that highlights the emotional aspect of retirement; ensuring you have a plan for your days when those days are no longer controlled by someone else. I recently came cross two examples of retirement that crystallised what I do, and don’t, want. I’m formulating my perfect retirement.
The Retirement I Want To Avoid
This came from a totally unexpected source. Mr. ETT and I were both browsing the web in front of the TV (yes, we do spend some time like that). We thought we’d put something on in the background that wouldn’t take a lot of brainpower. We noticed a new series on Netflix called “Samurai Gourmet”. We like Japan, and we like food, so we thought we’d give it a go.
The first episode begins with a man waking to realise his alarm hasn’t gone off. He frantically dresses, then rushes out to the loungeroom to ask his wife why she didn’t bother waking him on time. It’s there that he sees the farewell gift from his work – he has turned 60, and has retired. It’s clear that the retirement has been thrust upon him. He has no understanding of what life is like, no longer being a “SalaryMan”. His wife heads out, so he decides to go for a walk.
Once he leaves the house, though, he realises that he doesn’t know where to go, what to do, or who to do it with. From habit, he walks the way he always did, and ends up at the train station – but doesn’t have a job to get to. He discontentedly turns, then notices a small lunch place that he’s never seen before in his rush to work. He enters, and immediately feels out-of-place. All the other patrons are clearly employees, enjoying their lunch break.*
It is this type of aimless, lost feeling that I know I do not want for my retirement, whether early or not. By the time we get to retirement, we will be well into the second half of our lives. While I’ve got nothing against lying around bludging occasionally, I don’t want to waste the wonderful new opportunity that retirement presents. Much like recidivism rates of prisoners who are thrust back into society with no support, there is a genuine risk that by failing to plan, we are planning to fail. We may end up back at work for the simple reason that we don’t have anything else worth doing with our time.
Don’t get me wrong – there is absolutely nothing wrong with continuing to work if you gain fulfilment. But learn from real life examples such as Sex Health Money Death, who trialled early retirement. He then came to realise that further planning will need to be in place before retiring for the second time. That’s the beauty of Early Retirement – you don’t actually have to stay retired if you don’t want to!
*The rest of it gets a little (enjoyably) strange, but he does begin to realise that he is no longer bound by the “rules” of employment – he is able to have a beer in the middle of the day. He can live how he wants, not having to worry about what anyone else thinks, or follow anyone (just like the titular wandering samurai). He realises the freedom he now has, and vows to explore more. I’ll grant you, the realisation is wonderful! Mr. ETT and I ended up really enjoying this, and decided to watch the rest of the season.
An Annual General Meeting
Last month, I received an email invitation to attend the AGM of our local community college. This is not something I am generally interested in. Yet, I read between the lines, and it felt as though they weren’t sure they would have enough attendees to form a quorum. Mr. ETT and I decided to go. We have both benefited from the community college over the years, and want to ensure its continued operation. The community college taught me to touch-type when I finished school. It was The. Most. Boring. class I have ever attended, but it has been valuable, particularly early on. 25 years ago we were just coming off typewriters, so typing wasn’t the ubiquitous skill it is these days.
I’ve done so many short courses since then, I can’t remember them all. However, to give you an idea, I’ve tried (in no order whatsoever):
- Tai Chi
- Small Business
- Belly Dancing
- Introduction to Accounting
- Estate Planning
- Art – Drawing
- African Drumming
- Introduction to AUSLAN
- Creative Writing
- Reiki (hmmmm, they advertised the course as a type of massage for relaxation class. Turns out it was not what we expected.)
The Retirement I Want
So what has this to do with my perfect retirement? After the AGM, there were some presentations from students completing courses with the college. A small group played guitar, and the college had displayed oil paintings from one of the art classes. The stand-out, though, was a retired gentleman named Peter who came to do a short recital in Russian. Peter started by telling us why he’d chosen to learn the language.
He was born in Austria, and came to Australia when he was 18 months old. Until a few years ago, he had no record of his family history. Out of the blue, he received an email from a lady in St. Petersburg, through one of the family tree sites. She thought that they might be related, but all he had was a single photograph of his grandfather, which he supplied.
It turns out that his family had lived in Russia since at least the 1600s. As World War 1 came to a close, Peter’s grandfather was working for a British mining company in the Ural Mountains. One day during the Bolshevik Revolution, the Communist soldiers came to the company and said to all the managers “if you are still here in the morning, you will be shot.” Peter’s grandfather took his pregnant wife down to Crimea, and then out to Europe. The family scattered, and all contact was lost. Peter’s father and mother emigrated to Australia.
Once Peter established he had found a cousin, he and his wife decided to visit Russia and his newfound family. This was the first time they had ever been out of Australia. Luckily, his cousin spoke some English. Peter didn’t speak any Russian, so he couldn’t communicate with his cousin’s mother and the rest of the family. Despite this, they had the best two weeks together. He was sure that if they could have communicated, they wouldn’t have stopped talking the entire time they were there. Peter and his auntie committed to each other that they would work on learning each other’s language. Now after 3 years, they are returning to Europe to visit once again.
My Perfect Retirement
Why is this my perfect retirement? Peter said that in the 5 years since retirement, he has been busier than ever.
- He is involved in his community
- He looked fit and healthy
- He was enthusiastic about life
- He was continuing to learn
- He was embracing new opportunities when they arose
- He was open to new experiences
- He was still doing things for the first time
- He was travelling
- He had a focus on family
I know – I can’t have someone else’s retirement. I have to craft one for myself. Seeing good examples helps me identify the features I value in retirement. Also, we’re 20 years away and a lot of things can change in that time, so this is the “List of what I need for my perfect retirement (2017 edition)”.
I’m pretty sure we don’t have any lost relatives in Russia that can spark a new direction for our lives, but by identifying our values, I can put them into action in any way that suits me. I don’t have to live someone else’s retirement after all!
What do you value for your retirement?