So much of retirement planning is wishful thinking — what I’ve learned after 3 years of actually being retired

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This article was first published in December 2020

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About this same time, about two years ago, I shared the struggles of the first year of my early retirement. That blog post got out of me in about an hour.

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It’s one of the most read things I’ve ever written, which has been viewed by millions of people. After seeing that effect, I assumed I would share my thoughts and lessons in a recurring annual blog post.

Year 2: Almost 2 years into early retirement, here’s all I’ve done wrong:

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Well, 2020 has been quite a year. So here’s what I learned…

Plans are useless but planning is inevitable

If 2020 hasn’t demonstrated that the future is unpredictable, I’m not sure what will.

While we can’t predict what will happen, we can be acquainted with chance and luck. We can develop a robust planning process that enables us to adapt to better or worse than expected outcomes, even if we do not know in advance what will lead to those outcomes.

this march i shared The thought process I used to analyze how I managed my and my parents’ investments amid extreme volatility. I came to a different conclusion for each of us, then acted decisively despite the incomplete information.

Both the decisions were right in sight. It has nothing to do with short-term results that I obviously would not have predicted. Instead, they were right because they were created by following a process evolved from planning ahead of time.

you might never feel safe

Can I retire yet? When people ask this question, they are really asking: Do I have enough money to sustain my desired lifestyle forever? Unfortunately, there are too many unintentional variables to definitively answer that question.

Think on that for a minute. it’s scary.

When I left my career in December 2017, we knew that Kim’s ongoing income would not cover all of our expenses. It was still scary to give up the security of the high savings rate we had as a two-income family. When the market dropped a year later, it was confirmed that we were right to be afraid.

The market boomed in 2019. We were made perfect and much more. It was a rare year when in fact every asset class went up, All investors made money, it was just a matter of how much. But not everything should go up together. it is rare. It couldn’t last. It scared us.

This March, the stock fell below the market as the effects of the pandemic became apparent. There used to be debate whether we were in recession or depression. Of course, we were scared.

As the year progressed, several segments of the economy remained restricted. Yet our portfolio started going back up. In the last one month, the epidemic has taken a formidable form. The stock market has set new heights so far. Sometimes things don’t make sense. It doesn’t seem real. It seems… scary.

Have you seen any topics here? As a community of savers, many of us find security in building wealth. That’s why we find it scary to spend from a volatile portfolio.

It is normal to be afraid regardless of what is happening around us. That doesn’t make it healthy or productive. Making big changes requires accepting your fears and taking action in spite of them.

Preferences won’t magically change

Sharing my thoughts a year after early retirement, I wrote that priorities won’t magically change when you retire. Three years later, I believe in this even more strongly.

Too many of us cling to stories that just aren’t true. We use work as an excuse for everything that we choose not to prioritize in our lives or that we are afraid to do.

I’m going to be brutally honest. If there’s something you think you’ll do in retirement that you’re not doing now, you probably won’t.

There’s a good reason you’re not already doing that. It is not a priority in your life. If you want to change things, you need to be yourself.

If you’re planning to start exercising, meditating or eating better when you retire, start now!

If you’re planning to become a better spouse, parent, child or friend when you retire, start now!

If you’re going to try that hobby, develop that new skill, or learn that foreign language you’ve always wanted when you retire, start now!

If you want to travel in retirement, start traveling now! (Okay, you might want to wait a bit on that until it’s safe, but I think you get the point.)

A lot of retirement planning is wishful thinking. I was guilty of this, and I commit to being brutally honest about it in my writing, so I don’t contribute to spreading that mindset to others. I encourage you to start living your best life today, even if you haven’t retired yet.

If you put in the work you can change

Change is difficult. That’s why it’s important that you be completely honest about the stories you create to explain Why aren’t you already doing what you say you want to do and know you should,

When I wrote about my first year of early retirement, I wrote about not volunteering or rock climbing, as I said I would when I had more time. But honestly, they are frivolous compared to what I was thinking but was afraid to write.

Throughout our careers, Kim and I had a good marriage. I wanted a wonderful wedding. I used the busyness of work as an excuse why we didn’t already have it. Things will get better when… that was my story.

In fact, financial independence and early retirement didn’t heal us. It almost broke us. A unified mission took away from achieving our financial goals. It ended our excuses too.

After 2 1/2 years of ups and downs, we finally decided to be honest. get more help, We all stopped trying to change the faults of others that were so blatantly obvious. Instead, each of us learned to look within ourselves, to see our faults, and to change ourselves.

To be clear, at this stage in life it was rewarding to have the financial resources and time to do this brute force. To be equally clear, it would have been a lot easier to do this without the 20 years of stuff we were carrying.

There is an old Chinese proverb. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. If there are changes you’ve been waiting for, stop waiting. get to work.

be grateful for the challenges

I have always practiced gratitude. Kim and I make it a priority to teach this to our daughter. We regularly give thanks for the family, our health, the beauty of nature and our good financial condition.

If there’s one important lesson I’ve learned this year, it’s to be grateful for everything. all this.

We are a community of planners. Translation: We are controlling Satan. We try to optimize things. We create backup plans for our backup plans.

This year I’ve wasted a lot of my time and energy getting angry at things I can’t control.

And all my anger left me in that place… and got tired.

in your book”what is love,” writes Brian Katie, there are only three kinds of business in the world; my business, your business and God’s business. This past year has taught me to stay in my business and avoid spending time in the other two. They only hurt. lead away.

Retirement planning involves many uncertainties. Life is uncertain. We control the devils who must learn not only to accept, but to be grateful for the things we cannot control.

You may disagree with me on this last lesson. Many of you will. good luck with that!

Chris Mamula retired from a career as a physical therapist at the age of 41. This is an abridged version of his post.5 Lessons from 3 Years of Early Retirement“First published on the blog”Can I still retire?,

Now I Walked Up Tax Numbers for Semi-Retired Life, and They Looked Amazing


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