Every once in a while, I think it’s a good idea for those of us walking along the path of financial independence to take a minute to envision what retirement would look like. Part of the reason for this is that it’s a visualization technique — something to help us refocus when we lose track. Something that gives us a light at the end of the tunnel. But additionally, it’s also to sort of recalibrate what makes sense given where we are. For some, retirement could mean what it does in the traditional sense — stopping work altogether to just live. For some, it could be stopping work to start a business. For others, it could be a mix of the two and that’s where I fall in line.
Personally, I never want to stop programming, but I also don’t want to have to program. I’d rather work on fun projects. When I as young and poor, a few of my many side projects actually took off and could have been immensely popular. Well, if I’d had the good sense to do something with them, but that’s for another post. So that’s the kind of programming I’d want to do. Creating things that just pop into my head.
Writing is another thing I love to do. I find excuses to write all the time. Mostly, I write for myself and occasionally I’ll publish something online. Oh, and I also write in this blog to help quench the need, but it’s always there. So for me, I’d have the freedom to take 4-5 hours out of my day to do those things (or not), as well as anything else I felt needed doing. Or there are days where you just feel like doing nothing.
What it comes down to is freedom. The way I envision my retirement basically involves writing (almost) every day in this blog, giving back to the community and then working on personal projects. There’s not much I’d change about the things that happen outside work hours. Except, maybe, I would put my phone down more and be 1,000 times less stressed.
Times Flies When You’re Having Fun
I’d love to get some feedback from someone who is already technically retired on this one. One of my main fears about having nothing to do is that my days, normally slowed at least by the seconds ticking achingly by as I wait for my “shift” to be over, would start to become a blur much like the time travel scene in The Time Machine:
I don’t know if the speed of time is enough reason to warrant ongoing intermittent misery though. I, for one, am willing to take a chance on that.
Time Freed Up Is But A Vacuum
The next fear I have is that my time, no longer monopolized by work, would become filled in by other things without leaving room for the things I want to do. Of course, this is less a problem with the nature of retirement and more a problem with the nature of managing relationships with those around you. When people want your time, it’s rarely a bad thing, but it can get in the way of overall happiness and enjoyment. Two things I want to maximize once I stop clocking in every day.
A great way to battle the vacuum filling up with undesirable activities is to set regularly scheduled time for yourself. With my wife, for instance, I would argue that while my time wasn’t directly being converted to money, the tighter budget we would inevitably end up living on would be much eased with some solid irons in the fire. In other words, I would inevitably work on projects that would result in even more passive income for the family. Scheduling time for myself would also help to combat my sitting on the couch and watching movies all day. (Yes, sadly I would have to fight myself on that one. Remember my weakness: entertainment).
Either We Redefine Retirement Or We Switch Words
So instead of stopping work, I would replace work. Now that sounds like a “retirement” I can get behind. At least for the day to day. One thing I rarely get to do is travel (now there’s a novel idea)! But I don’t want to just travel, I want to go on long, slow vacations. The kind that let you immerse yourself in a place, its people, its food and its general culture. I honestly don’t know what we’d do about school for the kids, but that’s a problem I’d love to tackle, because it would mean I’d have retired within the next 10-15 years. For those following closely, that would mean retirement by about 45. Man, that sounds great.
And while I’m at it, one thing I rarely get to do is dedicate time to just helping other people. My friends, family or just people in need. Not necessarily with direct financial contributions, but with my time. That’s time I could spend with my parents as they age, or my still-living grandparents. Honestly, a life spent toiling away is one of the worst things we’ve come up with as a species.
What If Everyone Were Retired?
Sometimes I find myself wondering what life would be like if everyone had a basic income that allowed them to live a moderate lifestyle. This is usually queued by one of those out-of-nowhere news stories about universal basic income, but nonetheless it makes me think. Obviously there are less-desirable parts of society that just need getting done and people might not feel inclined to get their hands dirty if basic needs were met. This is something to be considered. Society still needs plumbers, functioning sewers and street sweeping, that sort of thing. And then there’s the argument that having jobs fills up the days of those that would otherwise find themselves with idle hands. Insert something here about idle hands being the tools of the devil.
But then there’s the positive. Maybe instead of working all the time, the prerequisite for that universal basic income is an ongoing education. Never mind where all the money is going to come from to fund this (we’re dreaming here). It’s funny, my wife and I tell our kids that it’s our job to work and it’s their job to go to school. Why not make it everyone’s job? Less stress, more education, more time for travel. Seems like a win-win to me. But I digress.
Although I plan to make another post of this nature in the far future, I’ll conclude this one with a witty quote. It’s important, after all, to semi-frequently revisit this topic and ask the question, “What will I do when I don’t have to do anything?” Right now, because I am in charge of making sure my family is taken care of, I am forced to trade in hours upon hours of my life. That’s work. I don’t want to do work. I want to use my talents to make this microcosm around me a better place.
Oh, and here’s that witty quote:
“Nothing is work unless you’d rather be doing something else.” – George Halas