Retiring before your 50th birthday might sounds like a dream, but those who have done it know it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
On a recent episode of his “Financial Independence Podcast,” the Mad Fientist, a software developer who recently retired at 34, spoke with three other financial independence success stories: Peter Adeney, a.k.a. Mr. Money Mustache, who retired at 30; Paula Pant of Afford Anything, who built up an investment portfolio that completely supports her; and Doug Nordman of The Military Guide, a Navy veteran who retired at 41.
While all of the panelists wholeheartedly champion financial independence, they admit it’s not always a walk in the park. Here are the most challenging things they have encountered since retiring in their 30s and 40s:
1. You have to plan for the long-term
When you retire, you no longer have the burden of heading into work every week. Yay! But with nothing specific occupying your days, it can be easy to let them slip away. “There are definitely some days at the end of the day where I’m like, ‘Oh, I just wasted this whole day of retirement in a beautiful location,'” Adeney admits.
Even though he no longer needs to plan out his career, he aims to make a long-term plan for his life so that small distractions and short-term projects don’t end up dominating his time.
“[My wife and I] don’t think about money or investments or anything,” he says. “It’s more about trying to make sure you’re getting the most happiness out of each day.”
2. You have to step into a new identity
Whether you realise it or not, much of your identity can be tied up in what you do. And when you retire, suddenly that’s stripped away. Instead of striving to maintain your past identity, Doug Nordman advises to “forget about who you were and discover who you are.”
He suggests figuring out the root of what you miss about your old life and finding ways to pursue that within your financial independence.
3. You feel guilty
As Brandon, a.k.a. the Mad Fientist, neared retirement, he started to feel guilty for entering into financial independence while so many of his peers continued working.
“Why am I so lucky that this has happened? How did I get to be so fortunate to get this sort of situation when a lot of my colleagues and friends and family aren’t?” he questioned. “They’re just as talented and hardworking as I am.”
4. You have to create boundaries
If you’re self-employed or have multiple streams of income, it can be especially difficult to know when to stop completely.
“Instead of having one very defined moment where I’m like, ‘Boss, I quit,’ it’s more like, ‘OK, I’ve got a dozen different clients. Maybe I’ll let go of this one and let go of this one and let go of this one,'” Paula Pant explains. “But then it’s like playing whack-a-mole, right? You let go of a couple of clients, and then these new ones pop up, and you’re like, ‘Oh, that sounds interesting. Sure! I’ll take it.'”
Knowing when to take the leap into true financial independence is a big — and scary — step.
5. You’re forced out of your comfort zone
Routines are comforting: You know exactly what you’re doing and when. But with retirement comes a complete change of scenery, making it tempting to resort to old habits. However, it’s better to resist, Nordman advises.
“Don’t recreate your old environment,” he says. “You’re financially independent now, you don’t have to go back there.”
You set and reached this goal for a reason — don’t fall back into a life that wasn’t your best.