One year into “Retirement”: How’s it going?

I can’t believe it’s been over a year since I left my full-time job. As for most people in the world, 2021 was another strange year. And despite ongoing challenges, especially in the world at large, there was a lot to celebrate. We got vaccinated and had a pretty “normal” summer. We managed to have what felt like normal holidays too. My wife is due with our second child in June. Our daughter started Pre-K this week. I’ve been spending most of time trying to be the best Dad I can be. I’ve been prepping for the new baby, doing work in the backyard / garden and working on some side projects. And we’re currently working on buying our first investment property, a vacation rental at the Jersey shore, “oontz, oontz, oontz” (just kidding, that’s not what the Jersey shore is actually like).

As of writing this, it’s been a year and about 3 months since I left my sales job back in January of 2021. When people ask, I tell them my job is a “stay-at-home” dad. My wife works to pay the bills. That’s kind of true, but obviously not the full story. Although my family and friends are smart enough to put two and two together, I don’t discuss specifics. And that is one surprising challenge that I didn’t expect, this lifestyle can be a bit isolating. Not to mention that combined with the lingering effects of the pandemic, plus being a stay-at-home parent. Each of those things on their own (early retirement with no employment, the pandemic, plus being a stay-at-home parent) all can be pretty isolating on their own. I’ve found the three together to be quite lonely at times. This is of course a great problem to have, and getting to spend so much time with my daughter is a dream come true. But, not always easy.

Although not every day is a good one (as everybody with a toddler knows), I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. One of my greatest fears in life, even before having children, was that working so much (60hrs / week + commute) would lead me to miss out. And I experienced that HARD for the first two years of my daughter’s life. It’s cliché sure, but I wasn’t there for her first steps. I remember receiving the video from my wife in the middle of the work day, and I teared up at the mixture of excitement for my daughter, sadness I wasn’t there, and jealousy that my wife was home and I wasn’t.

In the midst of this massive lifestyle change, I’ve continued to learn even more about myself. I found myself struggling with my patience. While running back and forth during a busy work day, I never had time to stop and be with my own thoughts. Then I’d get home from work, spend time with my family and go to bed. And we’d be so busy on weekends catching up with extended family and friends, it was pretty rare that I just had time to sit and be.

Now, with a bit more space in my day, I’ve noticed a tendency of mine to just want to try and fill every spare moment. The phone would come out, I’d take out the Nintendo Switch, flip on the tv, want to do a puzzle, anything to chase away having to just sit with any thoughts or feelings for more than a few minutes.

And as any parent of young children can attest, your patience is constantly being tested. There were days I felt a lot of frustration. Although I’m not paid for it, my most important job right now is being a Dad. And I felt I could be doing better.

With the extra time that financial independence has afforded me, I’ve invested more time into my meditation practice and made it a higher priority in my daily life. Not working combined with being a stay at home parent has put my “flaws” into stark relief, and I have the time to actually work on them. By having more time to take care of myself, I’m better able to take care of those around me.

I have spent more time on hobbies that I’ve been interested in, but not capable of diving into fully. I have a small YouTube Channel that is quite fulfilling (unrelated to early retirement). I’ve learned how to be a better presenter, some basic video editing skills, videography, and am learning more every day.

Financially? Things are good, it honestly would be tight without my wife working, but it’s nice to just let the nest egg sit there and not really have to tap into it much.

As I’ve thought more about it, I have also accepted that I will likely want go back to work AT SOME POINT. It’s definitely fun to say “retirement”, but in hindsight that was really just a power trip. It was fun to quit my job and say I was never going to work again. However, when my children are both in school about 3-5 years from now, I will likely want to work again.

Having the mindset that I actually will very likely earn money again has also helped me soothe some of my fears in regards to managing my money. Although I know the math behind the 4% rule, it still gives me some anxiety to withdraw money from my investment accounts. After telling myself for a very long time that I can’t touch money in my investments, its a big shift to then have to rely on it to pay for everyday expenses. It almost feels taboo. I’m getting used to it (the money for the down payment on the vacation rental is coming out of my accounts), but knowing that I will likely earn money again at some point in the future keeps me from being a micro-manager and allows me to enjoy my time and money a bit more.

Another surprising fact is that time is actually flying, and I feel like I have so much to do despite the fact that I’m not spending 40-60+ hours per week at a desk or commuting. I’ve had so much time with my daughter, more time with family and friends, time to spend caring for myself, working on side-projects, gardening, projects around the house, exercising, and more. It’s very rare that I will just sit around doing nothing, I’ve found that’s not healthy for me. I like staying busy, and it’s surprisingly easy to stay busy with things that are good for me and others.

I have a lot to look forward to in the coming year. My family is growing, I’m growing as a person, and in the meantime, the nest egg keeps growing.

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