In a previous article, I highlighted the negatives of early retirement nobody likes talking about. It might have seemed like the negatives of early retirement outweighed the positives. Further, some readers commented I sounded depressed. In actuality, I just wanted to provide some balanced perspective before you make one of the biggest decisions of your life. Jump with eyes wide open I say!
There are some surprising benefits of early retirement I never anticipated as well. Retiring early has ironically, been my “best career move.” Originally, I thought I would just live a frugal lifestyle off of roughly $80,000 a year in investment income in 2012.
My wife joined me three years later when she also turned 34 so we could both live free and frugal together. We thought we’d rent or buy a small two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment near or on the beach in Hawaii and live out our remaining days.
Instead, our lives turned out a little differently. We started a family and unexpectedly grew our net worth and our passive income more than expected, luckily due to a bull market. Now we’re trying to figure out how to best spend our remaining years.
To balance things out, let me share some of the positives of early retirement I did not foresee.
The Surprising Benefits Of Early Retirement
Surprising Benefit #1: You might slow your aging.
When I was 33, I started sprouting my first grey hair. Ah hah, the dam has finally broke! I remember thinking to myself. My hairline started to recede as well. All of this was kind of depressing as I had to come to terms that I was finally losing my youth after years of getting beaten down by the finance industry.
Then one morning a year after I retired, I was looking at myself in the mirror. I noticed I could no longer find any grey hairs. I thought it was the bad lighting so I called over my wife to inspect me like how animals do in the wild. Nope. Still nothing.
10 years after fake retiring, I’m 45 now and I still have no grey hair. My hairline has also stopped receding. If you believe your outward appearance is a reflection of your true age, then retiring early might be one of the best ways to extend your life and allow you to look happier and younger.
But of course, I won’t really know whether having a less stressful life has helped increase my lifespan until after I’m dead. After all, Steve Jobs was a billionaire vegan with access to the best health care and he still died at 56.
Surprising Benefit #2: Your chronic physical pain might go away.
While I was working, I experienced several chronic physical ailments: TMJ pain, sciatica, and lower back pain.
I constantly ground my teeth in my sleep and would wake up with a very sore jaw. Sometimes I would grind so loudly that I’d wake my wife up. Every time I would talk for longer than five minutes, my TMJ would flare-up. The pain got so bad that I went to a dental specialist and paid him $760 out-of-pocket to drill some divots in my back molars so I could close my jaw more comfortably.
Sciatica and lower back pain came hand in hand. While at work, because it was too uncomfortable to sit, I found myself standing for many hours. For many years, my lower back pain periodically forced me to stop playing sports such as tennis, softball, and golf because I simply couldn’t bear the pain caused by twisting my back.
I eventually got some relief after reading Dr. Sarno’s book, Healing Back Pain. The book talks about how our minds can manifest chronic pain to deal with stress and anger. I believed him and got better.
Then amazingly, about 10 months into retirement, I noticed my pain had completely gone away. After 13 years of living and working through chronic pain, I was miraculously pain-free.
Looking back, it is shocking how long I put up with chronic pain in the pursuit of career progression and money. The health benefits of early retirement are priceless.
We’re not supposed to feel this much chronic pain for so long. And you won’t really realize how much pain your body is enduring until you finally walk away from a difficult job.
Surprising Benefit #3: Your infertility issues may clear up.
Both my wife and I worked in finance, a highly stressful industry that required 60-hour work weeks. Although the money was good, we were constantly tired and stressed.
The idea of children was not top of mind because we didn’t feel like we had any energy left to spare. The average college-educated parent spends about two hours a day with their children. Further, we were very focused on trying to make as much money as possible in order to leave work for good.
It wasn’t until after my wife turned 32 in 2012 that we began to contemplate seriously having children. We had always been told that it’s best to have children before age 35 to minimize health risks and maximize the chances of success.
We tried sporadically for one year while she was still working with no luck. Then we tried more purposefully the next year still with no luck. She had been pretty stressed at work because she had just gotten passed over for a promotion she thoroughly deserved.
I had never seen her so mad about her job before. This was when I finally convinced her to finally plan her exit strategy. But only after she got her promotion, which she ultimately did six months later.
My wife’s severance was one of the best arrangements she could have imagined. She left her job feeling like she had won. A year and a half into her early retirement we successfully conceived and gave birth to a baby boy!
It was as if our son was waiting for all our affairs to get sorted before coming into this world. Then we had a daughter two and a half years later. So in a big way, early retirement gave us the greatest gifts of all. Hooray!
Surprising Benefit #4: You might become wealthier.
Depending on what part of the cycle you retire in, there’s a decent chance you could become wealthier in retirement. It sounds counterintuitive that we got wealthier after we severed both our salaries, but it’s true largely thanks to a raging bull market.
Growing our wealth in retirement wasn’t skill, it was mostly luck. We just kept our existing investment positions and added new investments over time. ~90% of our net worth were invested in risk assets such as stocks and real estate over the 10-year bull run.
After I retired, I decided to cross off a bucket list and write a book about how to negotiate a severance package. The book is now in its fifth edition. It has helped thousands of people quit work early with money in their pocket. The book currently generates about $40,000 a year in passive income. None of which would have been possible if I didn’t go through my own severance negotiation.
With 12-14 hours more of my day free, I spend 2-3 hours a day writing on Financial Samurai. As a result, Financial Samurai now generates enough online income where I can treat my family guilt-free to Filet O’ Fishes at McDonald’s. In the past, I couldn’t get past the dollar menu because spending 4.5X more on a sandwich felt ridiculous!
We fully expected our net worth to stay flat or maybe even decline after we both left our jobs. But instead, one of the biggest surprising benefits of early retirement is ironically more wealth.
Surprising Benefit #5: You may appreciate full-time work again.
During the last weekend of my employment, I ran into a huge roadblock. I had accidentally e-mailed to my personal e-mail address an old client list. HR talked to me on Friday and said they’d get back to me the following week with any potential disciplinary actions. I thought my severance package was doomed.
Over the weekend, I went to a Hastings School of Law community fair where their law students and law professors helped address any legal questions residents had for free. After waiting in line for two hours, a professor basically told me I should be OK.
That weekend, I swore to myself that if I ended up receiving 100% of my severance package, I would never return to Corporate America. Yet, once my son arrive in 2017, I started itching to get back to work. It’s almost like evolution forces parents to build more wealth once kids come in order to ensure the survival of our species.
You would think that once you’ve tasted the sweet nectar of financial freedom, you’d never want to return to work again. But things change because financial targets are always moving. I’ve got a family to take care of now.
Starting at the end of 2018, I decided to focus more time making more money online. When my daughter arrived in late 2019, my fire continued to grow. I needed to do whatever possible to provide.
Then, when the lockdowns hit in March 2020, I decided to concentrate even more on generating more income. Therefore, my hope is to re-retire by 2023 and live the good life again!
Surprising Benefit Of Early Retirement #6: You’ll have unexpected opportunities
During the pandemic, I was approached by an editor at Portfolio / Penguin Random House to write a book. After negotiating and discussing for a month, I agreed to take on the project.
After all, I had already written a severance negotiate ebook in 2012. I figured why not try and write a hard cover book with the largest publisher in the world? Writing a book during lockdowns was also my way of making lemonade during a suboptimal time.
After two-and-a-half years of writing and editing, Buy This, Not That: How To Spend Your Way To Wealth And Freedom, became a national bestseller. The book helps you make optimal decisions on some life’s biggest dilemmas using my 70/30 decision-making framework. Buy This, Not That is your unfair competitive advantage to building more wealth sooner.
Because a lot of people want to build more wealth and live life with fewer regrets, my book has a good chance of generating royalties. And from the book, perhaps new unexpected opportunities may arise.
Surprising Benefit Of Early Retirement #7: You can live a second life
When you have more free time, you end up naturally doing more of the things you love and less of the things you don’t. For some of us, we like to daydream about what life would have been like if we had pursued a different occupation. For me, that is tennis.
Since 2009, I’ve played in competitive USTA league tennis as a fun outlet. Each time I’d go to battle, I would pretend I was on the pro-circuit. This required staying in shape, practicing, and getting the right equipment. No matter how low the stakes, the adrenaline rush was always there!
Over the retirement years, I was able to spend more time improving my strokes. As a result, I went from a 4.0 to a 4.5 to ultimately a 5.0-rated tennis player. Getting to 5.0 in my late 30s was my version of “going pro” because it was filled with ex-division I college players.
Then I got the opportunity to be a high school tennis coach for three years. The pay was $1,000 – $1,200 a month for three or four months a year. Although the money wasn’t much, it was extremely rewarding to mentor kids and help them reach their potential.
Think about all the fun hobbies you would pursue and get really good at if you had more free time. Early retirement grants you the opportunity to follow different dreams and sometimes win.
Early Retirement Is An Adventure! Enjoy It
The surprising benefits of early retirement come when you least expect it. Retiring early is great if you have the appropriate funds. I’ve seen too many people retire early only to feel extremely stressed because they underestimated how much they needed in retirement. Or they overestimated how much joy they’d experience with all their free time.
It’s important to have enough assets to generate enough investment income to cover your desired life’s living expenses plus an extra buffer. If you don’t, you will likely feel stressed. You’ll end up just spending a tremendous amount of energy trying to make money in a different way.
It’s also important to retire to something so that you can fill your new spare time with purposeful activities. Have a plan before you retire early, otherwise, you might go through this strange trough of sorrow for an unknown period of time. But I trust you will eventually figure out what you want to do.
Times are getting difficult again. If you want to be more conservative with your safe withdrawal rate, you may have to accumulate enough capital based on a 2% – 3% rate of return, instead of a traditional 4% rate of return. My favorite net worth target to feel secure enough to retire early is 20X your annual gross income.
The last thing you want to do is sacrifice your working life to retire early and then sacrifice your retirement life by living in or near abject poverty. Instead, a better route may be to find a more enjoyable job and delay retirement.
At the end of the day, you won’t really know what your retirement lifestyle will feel like or be like until you take the leap of faith. I hope both my positive and negative perspectives will help guide you towards a more rewarding future.
Good luck and enjoy the journey!
Action Items For Retirement
Sign up for Personal Capital to track your net worth, analyze your portfolio for excessive fees, and make sure your retirement is on track with their Retirement Planner. I’ve used the free tool to track my finances since I retired in 2012.
As an alternative, I also really like NewRetirement’s planning tools. Its software focuses on nothing else but retirement planning, so it has even more customizable features. There is no rewind button in life. Make sure your finances are in order.
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Financial Samurai began in 2009 and is one of the largest independently-owned personal finance sites today. Everything is written based off first-hand experience because money is too important to be left up to pontification.