On one of our two daily walks my wife and I were chatting about how long it’s been since I retired.
I asked her if it seemed like it had been two years since I retired (almost 2 1/2 now).
Or maybe she thought it felt like it had been longer or shorter.
She said she it feels like it’s been longer than that. I agreed.
But not in a bad way. In an “I can’t remember what it was like to work and I’m glad” sort of way. 🙂
As I reflected back on that conversation I was intrigued by retirement years seeming longer than regular years.
I let the concept stew a bit in my mind and stumbled upon the fact that there are actually many types of “years”, all with different senses of time (some seem longer while others seem shorter.)
Then I decided I’d share this thinking with you and get your take on it.
I know. It all sounds a bit “out there”. And I admit it is.
I generally write about much more concrete ideas. But this is an important one for those who are considering retirement plus it sheds additional light on what it feels like to be retired, so I want to proceed.
Hopefully I can make some sense out of it.
And if not, at least you’ll have a good laugh at me trying to go all philosophical on you (and area that is far outside my comfort zone!) 🙂
Let’s begin with the baseline: a year.
We all know what a year is, right?
365 days. 52 weeks. 12 months. One year.
It’s a standard measure of time.
But those 365 days are really just a blank slate we all start with every January 1.
And those days are not completely ours to do with as we wish.
It turns out that many of those days have time claims on them — and what those claims are determines how quickly it feels like a year is passing.
We’ll get to specifics in a minute, but first let’s take a small detour and look at the life of man’s best friend.
Most people are familiar with the concept of dog years. It generally means that for every regular (human) year that a dog lives, he ages seven years.
In reality it’s not a linear 1 year to 7 years ratio, but it is true that dogs age faster than humans.
And for the sake of simplicity we’ll use the 1:7 ratio throughout this post.
This relationship means time moves much faster for a dog — what he experiences in one regular year “costs” him seven years of his life.
Looked at in reverse, for the cost of seven years of his life, he only gets to experience one year of human life.
As such, life must be a blur for a dog, rapidly advancing every single day.
Just consider if humans aged this way:
- Within three years a baby would go from newborn to almost a college graduate.
- After three more years he’d be solidly middle age.
- And after three more years, he’d be facing retirement.
A blur indeed.
Now let’s get back to humans.
Working adults have a different sort of year which I’ll call a “career year.”
This is the regular, 365-day year adjusted to see how much time is really ours to enjoy and how much is consumed by work.
To no one’s surprise, we spend a lot of time at work.
Consider the following…
Those with careers work Monday through Friday most weeks (I know people work weekends too, but I’m going with the most-common scenario). They get Saturday and Sunday off.
They also get additional breaks from work including vacation days, sick days, and holidays.
At my last job I had four weeks of vacation (20 days — which is way better than what most have), a couple sick days, and seven holidays (New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day).
So in the course of a year I would work 232 days as follows:
- 365 total days
- Less 104 weekend days
- Less 20 vacation days
- Less 2 sick days
- Less 7 holidays
Of course this doesn’t count the days off when I actually worked (which were many) as well as the extended workday hours (which were common). Since those just muddy the waters I’ll ignore them for now.
Using the numbers above, a career year includes 232 days of work and the rest off for one reason or another.
How Much Life is There in a Career Year?
Now you can cue the music from the Twilight Zone. I’m going to get a bit “out there” for a moment.
Stick with me. You may or may not agree with my thinking, but at least hear me out.
As a life-long, hard-charging career worker, I have some experience living this life, and I think my experiences are relatively common.
Now to the question in the heading: How much life is there in a career year?
Well, that depends on how you define “life”.
It’s likely that we all have a different definition of life (at least to some degree), so I’m going to define it in the broadest possible terms as “the freedom to do whatever pleases you.”
This could be traveling, reading, or even working — whatever you enjoy doing, that’s what I’ll call “life”.
I’m going to make another assumption as well: that for the vast majority of people reading this, your career does not qualify as life.
The numbers would back me up on this. Just look at the surveys asking how many people like their jobs. Talk to your family, friends, and neighbors. How many would say their job “pleases” them?
Sure, a job might be a good trade-off of time for money. Sure, it might be something people have to do to care for their families. Sure, they may even enjoy it to some degree.
But would they say it “pleases” them?
One way to determine this is thinking about whether or not they would keep their job if they had all the money in the world. Most people would not. They would quit most jobs in a heartbeat if they won the lottery or came into wealth some other way. This says to me that their job does not please them/is not something they enjoy.
My personal experience is a testimony to the lack of life in a career. I had a long and prosperous career and I would say that I enjoyed most of it. It was challenging, exciting at times (sometimes in a bad way), provided for my family’s needs, and much more. All the wealth I have today is a result of my career directly (savings) or how I took earnings from my career and applied it (investing). So overall, it was a good ride.
But does that mean I would keep working if I had the choice? Uh, no. I have a TON of other things I would prefer to do.
Even when I eventually landed a job where I had a decent balance between work and life, I still would have preferred to spend my time elsewhere.
If this is the case for me, as someone who liked his career, imagine the feelings of the vast majority who hates their jobs. I think it’s safe to say they would not list their jobs as something that “pleases” them, which by definition means that working does not create “life”.
The Career Lifestyle
Why is this? Why does work not always (or even usually) create life?
Well, I can tell you why from my experience…
During my working career I was almost always in a constant state of rushing. I got up, hit the ground running, and didn’t stop until shortly before bed each night.
I had to deal with crazy co-workers and employees, crazier bosses, unimaginable situations, loads of stress, and on and on. It was a constant onslaught of demands, many of which were useless and/or painful.
Even weekends were rushed because I had to do all the tasks I couldn’t accomplish during the week (mow the yard, manage the finances, etc.). And of course I wanted to spend time with my family. And all this doesn’t include time to simply relax (which was rare).
Then on Monday morning, the whole cycle would begin again.
That, of course, assumes that weekends were free from work, which they rarely were.
Life was very, very rushed. Not as rushed as a dog’s life, mind you, but I did feel in some sense that life was passing me by. (BTW, this was very noticeable in my last position. I would sit in meetings, bored and yawning, and literally feel the life draining from my body. Then I somehow came to my senses, realized I didn’t need this crap as I was financially independent, and I made the moves to get out of there.)
I believe this sentiment is relatively normal for many U.S. workers. There’s a lot of time spent at work and not much life from it.
Retirement years are exactly the opposite. They are slooooowwwwww…
That is, slow in a very good way.
As I approach the 2.5 year mark as a retiree, I really appreciate this.
Retirement years relaxed. So relaxed that it often seems like time is in slow motion.
There’s very little rushing, few schedules, and no deadlines. If I have just one meeting a week (which I probably initiated) I feel rushed. That’s why I avoid them.
I’m as busy as ever but my busyness is enjoyable and flexible. Tasks can be completed on my schedule — which makes a world of difference. And if I don’t feel like doing something, no one is going to force me to. There’s a peace in that.
Because of this dynamic it seems like you can fit in several regular years of living into one retirement year.
This is why it seems like I’ve been retired for much longer than I have. It’s the time warp created by retirement.
As I was sorting through all this after the conversation with my wife, I came up with the gut feeling that every retirement year was like living two or three regular years — which made retirement years the opposite of dog years.
Putting Numbers to It
I then wondered if there was a way to quantify this feeling so it was less touchy-feely.
The answer is “probably not accurately”.
But being accurate has never stopped me before! LOL!
Seriously, here’s my attempt to put numbers on this situation. See what I’ve come up with and then decide if you agree or not.
When I worked, I had 133 days (365 – 232) of “life” allocated to me every year. (Yes, there was life on work days and work on non-work days, but those are almost impossible to factor in, so I’m calling them a wash.)
Now that I’m retired (or financially independent, or whatever you want to call it), I have 365 days of life every year. Almost three times as many!
If you factored in some sort of baseline for how much “administration time” is required to survive (non-life things like going to the dentist, balancing your checkbook, fixing the house, etc.) the ratio would be even larger as those fixed time costs would hit the free career days much harder (as a percentage) than they would the retirement days.
For example, let’s say it takes 60 days a year just for administration. That means in a career year you get 73 days of life (133 – 60) versus 305 (365 – 60) in retirement — which makes the gap over four times the difference.
But just like some of the other numbers, putting a specific amount on administration is little more than a guess, so let’s stick with the 133 days for career years and 365 days for retirement years.
Extending My Life
Now for the fun part. Let’s look at a couple scenarios and make some conclusions.
The first is the straight comparison of 133 days of life in a career year versus 365 days of life in a retirement year.
The difference is almost three times here. Or in other words, I can fit in three career years of living in a single retirement year. In this way, retirement years are the reverse of dog years — you actually get MORE life in a calendar year than less of it.
BTW, it’s not lost on me that some might say a dog has 365 days of life to live every year since he’s basically “retired”. In this way a dog may lose seven years to one because of biology but gain back three years of life because he doesn’t have to go to a job he hates. So his net loss is four years. Hopefully that makes dog lovers feel better. 😉
The second interesting comparison is to look at how many years I would have had to work to get the days off I’ve had in my almost 2.5 years of retirement.
We’ve already established that in every career year there are 133 days off.
Since I’ve been retired, I’ve had 913 (365 * 2.5) days off.
Comparing these shows it would have taken me 6.9 career years to have the days off that I’ve had in 2.5 years of retirement. Said another way, I’ve had almost seven years of life in the 2.5 years I’ve been retired. It’s almost like I’ve added years to my life!
If you take this calculation out many, many years, you can see how 20 years of (early) retirement counts for almost 55 years of life. In this way, those who retire at 50 and live to 70 end up with 105 years of life (50 + 55) instead of 70. Imagine what the impact is for those retiring in their 30’s or 40’s and living into their 80’s or 90’s!
It’s Not Just Time Either
As noted, the above doesn’t count the quality of life factors. Those are very hard to quantify but certainly influence the value of any free day.
What might these factors be? Let me list a few for you. Have any of these ever happened to you while working:
- Your boss/supervisor/co-worker makes life miserable for one reason or another?
- Your employer goes through some sort of change that adds severe stress to your life?
- Your work day, which is supposed to be 8 am to 5 pm, is more like 6:30 am to 7 pm?
- Your hour off at lunch is rarely taken?
- You need to work/travel during non-work times?
- Even when you’re not working, work is on your mind, impacting your life?
- Your “work time” includes a lot of other time-related costs like getting ready, commute time, time spent on learning, shopping for work clothes, etc.?
And on and on.
The point is that work has a way of seeping into non-work days, making that 133 days off less valuable than they seem. So if anything the career year to retirement year relationship would tilt even farther in favor of retirement.
So, What Does This Mean?
I’ve spent a couple thousand words talking about how retirement years are so great, but what’s the point? What can we learn/do from all this? A few thoughts:
- My recommendation is for people to retire as soon as they can. My only regret in my decision to retire is that I didn’t do it 10 years earlier when I hit financial independence. I could have lived 30 years of life during those 10 years!
- That said, be sure you’re ready to retire when you do — financially and emotionally. Financially you want to be sure you have more than enough to retire with several margins of safety. You don’t want to replace the stress of work with the stress of money issues. Emotionally you need to be sure you know what retirement will look like for you (what will you do every day?) and that you’ll be happy with it.
- Once you have the above covered, jump in. The water’s fine. Get up the nerve to retire and begin to add years to your life.
You’ve probably heard the saying that you can always get more money but you can never get more time.
While this is true in the literal sense, you can get more time figuratively by making the time you do have much more full of life.
And retiring early is the key to this.
Anyway, those are my thoughts on the issue. What’s your take on all this?
Razorback 14 says
Outstanding insight and very, very interesting——-
The first time I retired I was age 57 —- took a year off the consult/travel (went to China 6 times in a year) and I helped welcome our first granddaughter in to the world (she’ll be 6 this summer) ——
—-after a year of being off from the daily grind , I decided to accept another “career job” that has been much like a Pre-Retirement” job. —
Financially, it was a great decision, but now that I read this information, I’m not sure ——-
Quick question: I wonder how many of your followers have done the same as me —— worked a long career (public school employee) and then went back and started a second career? How many people have built a Pre-Retirement job as part of their plan.
By the way, pre-retirement for me means, less hours, less stress and less grind , etc.
Thanks again for helping me think through this process called life —-
Good stuff. I’m passing this one on to both sons, who are in their 30’s. Just over 4 dog ? lives old, right ? Ha
Not sure if you read Get Rich Slowly or not, but JD is considering going back to work — and I find the transition/thinking/story fascinating.
Razorback 14 says
Have not read this one, but I will now —-
More of your thoughts about this concept of people retiring and going back to work. What are you thinking about this?
Here’s the post I was referring to at GRS:
As for retiring then going back to work, I’m still sorting through that. I need to think it over a bit more before I can write about it.
Razorback 14 says
Since I’m five years in this deal, I would be interested in working with you to share key metrics of how much I. Started with how I’m going to end up —- my be of interest to other followers .
If interested, let me know and I’ll work with you on putting something together.
Ha. Like you need another project.
If not interested or no time, no worries ——. Just thinking out loud.
I have another idea I’m working on that you’ll be perfect for. Stay tuned.
Raz 14 says
CHGO FIRE says
Seems to me that the slowest career years have been since I made the decision to retire early! Just have to get to FI and then they’ll truly slow down.
Biff Hooper says
Excellent post and discussion. One issue I have is the requirement to have a “plan” before retiring. I retired five months ago at 58, after several years of thinking about it. Everyone asked me: “What’s your plan?”. I thought about a plan but I didn’t have one really, apart from relaxing and traveling a bit to escape the winter. No one I spoke with saw this as a “plan”, and I understand that. But I came to the conclusion that the stress and strain of work was preventing me from really planning anything – it was all-consuming and as you rightly note, also occupied my so-called free time.
My advice is: if you’re in a stressful job that you hate, and you have reached financial independence, go ahead and retire. Don’t waste any more time waiting for a plan to develop, just pull the plug. I have no regrets so far.
Carol Brye says
Thanks for the great, thought provoking article. I’ve been retired for 3 years now from an extremely stressful career in health care and l wake up every morning thankful I’m able to enjoy my new life. Owning several health care facilities for 25 years was a 24/7 kind of life that went by in a blur. Now when I’m standing in my kitchen in the morning realizing I get to pick whatever I want to do all day long I have such a peaceful, thankful feeling. My days do feel infinitely longer in a good way. Now I know why!
Ron Miller says
I identified with your comment that you wake up every morning thankful for being able to enjoy retirement. Mt own experience, 4.5 years into retirement after 43 years in medicine, has been the same. I usually emphasize to folks contemplating retirement that I have NOT found it to be anticlimactic. It’s been even better than I anticipated. That’s been partly because everything I do is either pleasurable or, at worst, tolerable, but mostly it’s been because of the near-total relief from stress which makes the days seem so much longer. What really surprises me is that, so far, even after 4 years, I’ve never taken this improvement for granted. Rather, the thought seems to cross my mind every day that I’m profoundly grateful for retirement. Most of us overtly or secretly fantasize about recapturing our youth. In early retirement, though, perhaps for the first time in my life, I’m pretty content right where I am.
MM Interview 55 says
You’re better at this than you give yourself credit ESI. I love this type of post and would encourage more thinking/writing in this direction. We all read far too much analysis and math in regard to having enough money to be FI but the emotional side of retirement is ripe for much more thought and exploration… and sharing!
As to what you posited above… we couldn’t agree more. We’ve been retired for almost two years now and it seems like much longer. As you went through what a workday looks like, my stomach turned over just remembering living that.
I look at it a bit differently and in terms of hours per day to oneself. I had 2.5 hours of commute each day, an hour of getting ready, and a solid 9-10 hours at work. Once sleeping was accounted for (usually about 7 hours) that left me with ~3.5 hours of time to myself. That time would hardly be considered quality either. I remember being constantly drained and trying to catch up. And because of that schedule, weekends were spent running around doing all the things that we couldn’t do during the week.
So my math would look like ~3.5 hours a day (+weekends) vs. a conservatively solid 16 hours a day (+weekends) in retirement to do WHATEVER I DARN WELL PLEASE…. 🙂
Add to that significantly less stress, more time to exercise, eat well, and stay fit and you have a recipe for physical and mental wellness… a recipe I would argue = happiness.
I’ll be sharing this post with all my friends still slaving away back at work!
I’ll write as much of this stuff as I can — but I have to be inspired. 😉
I do have a few good ones like this that I’ve been rolling around in my thoughts for some time.
This post is absolutely brilliant and the first time I have read anything like it which is quite amazing given that the FIRE talk has been going on for years now and almost everything said is some variation of something previous mentioned.
I love the concept of reverse dog years in retirement and it makes perfect sense the way you eloquently described it.
Us folks that are still working only get a teaser of it when we take vacations and even that is not a true indicator as typically the time you take off gets shortened by hectic traveling etc to get to the relaxation part which flies by all to quickly.
Your experienced really makes me look forward to my early retirement. I am one of those people that puts several margins of safety in my plans and likely will retire working a few years longer than I needed to.
The margins of safety add so much peace of mind that they are totally worth it.
While much of the FIRE blogging world seemed to be in meltdown mode as the market declined, I barely noticed. I wouldn’t have noticed at all if I hadn’t kept reading panicked article after panicked article.
michael williams says
I’ve been retired 3 weeks now at the age of 62, and every day the impact of retirement becomes clearer. When I was working, my “off” time wasn’t my own. My life revolved around my job. I had a stressful job that required strong mental focus. I fiercely guarded my weekly schedule to make sure I got enough rest so I’d be ready to work the next day. I postponed many activities until the weekend, because doing them on a week night might make me too tired the next day. Saturdays were ok for heavy activities, but of course I worked many Saturdays, so I didn’t always have that time either. Sundays were a “rest” day so I’d be ready for another week. Even when I took a week or two of vacation, I didn’t want emails and work piling up, so I’d log in at least once a day just to keep on top of things. Couldn’t let the team down, had to reply to their emails, and take care of the urgent things I was responsible for.
My sense of time during the week was agonizing. Monday and Tuesday, I woke up telling myself I just had to get through this day. Wednesday was the halfway point, so I knew I could make it through the week. Thursday and Friday were tough, but the thought of an approaching weekend made them bearable. What a horrible way to spend 5 out of 7 days! And this was actually my favorite job of many that I had over my 45 years of working.
Now that I’m free of the job, I feel like a horse that’s been unhitched from the wagon, and now I can run full speed. I don’t worry about the next day, because tomorrow will take care of itself. I can sleep tomorrow if I need to, so I’m free to do anything I want to today. So I do it all, and the thing is, every morning I wake up before the 5 am alarm, excited to have another day to spend with my wife, doing all the things that we want to. I work harder than I ever did, and the progress and successes around the house feed my energy.
However, as far as the sense of time speeding up or slowing down, I’d say it’s going faster than ever. I’ve been keeping a diary of sorts since day one of my retirement, because I want every day of the rest of my life to count. I have entire decades of work that I hardly remember, but that’s not going to be the case with my retirement! But today is Saturday again, and I can’t believe another week has flown by. Maybe a few years down the road my perception will change, but for now I’m still in high gear, accomplishing as much as I want to, and enjoying the heck out of my new life.
You just described much of my work life better than I did. It’s sad to think we spent so many years that way…
michael williams says
It is sad! But thankfully we didn’t fall into the trap of working ’til we dropped dead. And I think experiencing some pain in the work life gives you an appreciation of retirement life, since it’s like collecting the reward that you earned. I wouldn’t have the same feelings about it if I’d won the lottery at age 20. But I don’t know how many years of suffering are “desirable” to get the appreciation affect. Maybe some philosopher can answer that question. I’m just happy to be where I’m at now!
Michael L Melamed MD says
So, you have promised yourself a reward in the “after-work” life.
since you will never know how winning a lottery at the age of 20+ might feel, why bother mentioning it (your secret regret).
All you have is your life in the present. You are not a martyr.
You make your choices how to work and how to play. Pleasure is not deserved but the balance to something that is not perceived as pleasurable. Find meaningful pleasure in the moment, that way you will enjoy your work and your retirement (not the after-work life).
The more you think about your imaginary after-work life as rewarding (pleasurable), the more trying your life at present moment might feel.
Just some thoughts:)
michael williams says
I think you’re overthinking my comments. My point was simply that reaching a goal has a higher payoff when you have to work and sacrifice for it.
Using your math, I think I just lost a month off of my life reading this post. Will be thinking about it for the rest of the day so will probably lose another 6 months. Ack!
Intriguing perspective. I was laid off in January 2018. Sorta, kinda looked for a job but really only applied to 2 jobs. Want to work on one of those moonshot projects before I’m forever retired. Anyway, took another job that fell in my lap in September. It’s nice having healthcare covered.
Having those 9 months off changed my view of work drastically, especially after a lay off and knowing that I’m a little more than lean financially independent. The December downturn hurt but only psychologically, as I didn’t sell. Now I don’t work crazy hours anymore. I don’t even have a work cell phone so no temptation to check work email after I shut down the laptop at 5pm.
I’m just not as mentally invested in work as I was when I had debts to pay off. I’d like to keep this job as long as possible, because I’m adding to the stash and healthcare is covered, but it has unlimited vacation days and I work remotely. So, I’m already planning the next vacay, walk for 3 miles every day, sleep late or go to bed whenever on weekends, play games or binge netflix with my kids (TV viewing isn’t my fave thing to do but it gives me something to discuss with teenagers), started a new hobby, and volunteering more.
What I’m saying is that your view of work all depends on the type of work you and work/life balance. I prefer to be a “producer” and contribute to society, as opposed to being a consumer, and that keeps me motivated.
BTW, totally agree that you should write more along these lines.
Haha! That’s funny!
As for being a producer, I agree. That’s one reason I like blogging — it gives me a positive, mentally challenging activity that keeps those “producer” juices flowing.
I’ve been retired for 6 weeks and every night I go to bed grateful I don’t have to go to work the next day! I tell my friends the word I would use to describe retirement is peaceful. I take my time when running errands because I’m no longer in a hurry. I don’t care if there is a line for gas at Costco cuz I’m not in a hurry. Same with line at grocery store. At first I felt I needed to be doing something interesting or exciting every day, but now I’m happy and content being home and reading. I’m finding a balance of “doing and not doing”. I enrolled in OSHER, an educational program for people over 50 at a top university and can attend their lectures anytime I want. I would say my biggest challenge with no longer working is no longer having automatic deposit of paychecks and money going into retirement! I still haven’t used any of my retirement money and that will be the biggest adjustment for me.
I thought of the exact same thing on our recent flight back from Grand Cayman.
Here we all were leaving paradise and you could see the “work mode” faces returning to people. They go on the plane and started working (I guess) on their computers because they knew they had to hit the ground running the next day.
I was sooooooooo thankful that I did not have to worry about a long list of work-related tasks for the next day or even the next week. It’s was a very nice feeling… 😉
Dr. Cory S. Fawcett says
Love this concept. It too have been retired for 2 years. I have been traveling 50% of the time. I can’t even remember what it was like to be working anymore. I guess that is because in my mind, I have been retired 5 years, not the 2 years the calendar thinks I’ve been off work.
Dr. Cory S. Fawcett
Prescription for Financial Success
For almost my entire career I would have worked for free. I had so much fun! I grew and accomplished so much I would have never dreamed I could and it flew by because it was such a thrill. I’ve been retired for three years and it is even better! But only by a little, because it was already really good. My experience is much different than yours. I find the years pass just as fast in retirement as they did working. I am a little less busy at times now but I still do some paid side gigs, some volunteer ones, some blogging and a whole bunch more outdoor sports with my wife. I wish the days were longer because I’d like to keep doing this for a hundred more years but they are slipping by so fast now.
michael williams says
I’m jealous! If you don’t mind my asking, what career did you have that was so enjoyable?
Time sure flies by and I’ve often pondered will it slow down when I retire. Most of my retired friends are busier than I am and say they don’t know how they had time to work, so I fear that it won’t.
I worked at the same place for over 30 years, as a chemical engineer in a large chemical complex. I started as a summer intern and eventually ran the company. Most of my career was a great adventure, only the last couple of years weren’t much fun so I walked away. For most of my career we were family owned by a incredibly kind billionaire and it was a fun place to be that felt very much like a family. The last few years we were sold to a big Fortune 500 corporation and while they paid me a lot more money they were very demanding and manipulative and it did not take me long to decide it was time to retire.
Your are correct about being retired and having days and years added back to our lives. Just being able to complete chores at our pace, during the week when others are at work is such a joy. Sometimes I wonder how I was able to work at a stressful career (8-5, plus extra night and weekend hours) and complete the “administrative” work that you mentioned. When I accidentally drive in rush hour, I worry about the other people driving around me and their mental state. I try quickly to drive to my end location so I am not caught up with the stressed out drivers.
This was an excellent article since retirement has so many more aspects than just financial well being.
Bernie Johnson says
Interesting article. I enjoyed the analogy of dog years. Once you have your financial plan in order, there really isn’t a lot of variation. I find that the articles about enjoying life has become more interesting than the financial centric articles.
Time sure flies by and I’ve often pondered will it slow down when I retire. Most of my retired friends are busier than I am and say they don’t know how they had time to work, so I fear that it won’t.
Great article. I like how you ‘put numbers to it’. I’m a public school teacher and my numbers look very different than most employees.
Work = 190 days per year
Money = still 5 figures after 25 years with a masters degree +
Time for life = 175 days per year
This means in my 20 years of marriage I’ve had three months vacation each year while my wife has averaged about three weeks of vacation per year (checking her email throughout). Thus, I’ve had the equivalent of five years time truly off work to her slightly more than one year of time physically away from work but always checking in. Teaching has rewards that far exceed the money deposited in my bank each year.
Nice article! When my parents passed away in their early 60’s, I was barely in my 30’s, with a wife and two young kids. My kids never really knew their grandparents. I vowed at that time to retire at 55, old enough to be an example to my kids regarding work ethic, living below your means, balanced investments regularly in money and life experiences but young enough to retire in good health and enjoy whatever time I have left and hopefully be around for future grandkids for a long time. Fast forward ~3.5 dog years and poof… I’m 55. I can’t believe how fast those years have flown-by … kids are making their own way and my wife and I are ready to execute our next step. My plans are to retire at the end of the year (11 months to go) which will actually put me at 56 and a few months. Although, our financial advisor has confirmed financially that we are solid as he said over the last 3+ years that I am only working because I want to, however, I still feel this apprehension of going from accumulation to consumption of our funds. Based on what I am reading in the comments, I’m sure that I could get use to it :-)!
michael williams says
Congratulations on making it to the finish line! I felt the apprehension too — giving up the income removes the safety net, and you’re really on your own after you retire. Have confidence in your decision that you finally have “enough”, and get ready to enjoy the rest of your years!
Totally agree. Love the numbers.!
David V. Forrest. M.D. says
Time goes slowly for manic people, rapidly for the depressed (vs common belief)
Time goes slowly for kids, and their life seems forever in retrospect.
Time goes quickly for us oldsters if we keep to routines, not if we innovate.
Time goes slowly for people falling off a height or Tom Brady in a crunch.
Time probably goes slowly for dogs, because they suffer waiting for us to return.
Time probably goes slowly for mayflies and quarks.
Seems stressful work lifestyle translates into successful vibes in retirement as long as adequate funding has been obtained first! The fortunate few, I suspect. I guess I don’t fit the mold! Loved my career, love retirement and would do it all repeatedly, if possible. No regrets. No changes. Self employed Ob/Gyn physician.
Mary Eberle says
Brilliant.! I am a mid-sixties worker who still likes to work but doesn’t want the headaches anymore. I made a deal where I work 2 weeks on and then 2 weeks off. I get no benefits, but then I am old enough for Medicare. In my time off, I love to count the mayflies and chart the deer making a path through my property. I love for time to pass slowly. Love dogs, and will will look out for mayflies and quarks.
David Kumpe says
Sounds to me like you did not love your job. I disagree with your sentiments.
I’m an academic doc who had the opportunity to pioneer development of two different but related specialties in my region and to some extent, nationally. I’m 77 and will be required to retire in 5 months. I have loved most minutes (sometimes less at 3 am) of the entire time. If you train for a long time and get good at what you do, why waste what you can offer to your profession, younger trainees, to society by dropping out early?
Read Steve Jobs’ commencement address to Stanford. You will spend most of your life working, so pick something you love to do.
michael williams says
There’s a saying “A bad day fishing beats a good day working”. In my case, I loved my work, but I didn’t love all the hassles that went with it. I worked for a big company, and there were many administrative requirements that went along with every project, making me and my coworkers about 50% productive. If you can honestly say that you love everything about your job, you’re a lucky person. Now that I’ve retired, I spend as much time as I can gardening with my wife. I have zero stress and we’re both happier than we’ve been in years. I wouldn’t trade a minute of that time for the best “job” in the world. Time is the one resource that we can’t buy more of, so as soon as I got “enough” money, I figured out what was most important to me, and I spend my time doing that.
Ron Burke says
David, It’s possible great physicians have other interests in there life and would like to pursue them after a Happy and successful career. You may not have that but you should be understanding of those that do.
PAUL SILVERSTEIN, MD, FACS says
As we are all individuals with different goals, abilities, love for our choice of career, we are also different in our goals for retirement. This paper fits perfectly into thoughts of New Age doctors- told by the government what procedures they may do for reimbursement, what drugs they can prescribe-always with Big Brother watching over you (PRQ); hospital economic profiling judging your worth to the hospital’s bottom line, With these restrictions on our intelligence and 8-15 years of expensive medical training, no wonder we want to retire early. If i wanted to work for the government, I would have remained in the Army after the Viet Nam war, retired a colonel at age 45, and still had a life ahead of me. Stress on wife and family, must always be considered in career choice, and early retirement certainly can alleviate the guilt we all felt from absenteeism during the years we were in practice. Re-establish Live-Love-Pray-Enjoy-a life style forgotten during our professional careers.
I believe there is a plan in the government’s hypocritical policy complaining about the impending shortage of doctors due to early retirement and”burn out” . Ever since the cost of medical care surpassed 10% of the GNP, George Bush’s Admin and all subsequent administrations, have been on a steady course to deflate doctors in every way they could: psychologically (we are no longe highly trained physicians or doctors but impersonalized to “Healthcare providers” like nurses, technicians, etc.); financially through progressive decrease in reimbursement; forcing longer hours of work to maintain financially stability; and fear of malpractice litigation for failure to practice medicine as we were trained to do.
WHY?? to decrease the cost of medical care to the GNP, by encouraging early retirement, and replacing us with unsupervised Nurse practitioners, Physician’s assistants, nurse anesthetists optometrists, midwives- all basically untrained by medical school-residency-fellowships..There is a reason why nurses have now added a new PhD degree to their training. They can now call themselves “Doctor” instead of RN-nurse. Is all this dangerous to an uninformed lay public? You bet it is. How many lay people or even physicians know the difference between an MD Ophthalmologist and an OD Optometrist (now renamed “Doctors” of Optometric Medicine by legislation, not education). Each of these specialty groups has it’s own Board of Licensure, and sets its standards. Therefore these Care Givers are judged a lower standard than M.D. or D.O physicians, and expect that malpractice claims and jury judgments, and cost to the federal government will decrease dramatically. The State Boards of Medical & Surgical Licensure have no jurisdiction over these other specialty Boards.
ADVICE: Believe the author of this article. Set you financial goals and retire as early a possible. Your family, the Fed, and your psyche will all be thrilled. Try to regain your personal health, and enjoy the “dog years lost’. Always plan ahead to know what you want to enjoy to fill your newly found freedom from the system. Above all-Do NOT become a Couch Potato. This inevitably leads to obesity, frustration and early death. I retired from surgery at age 78, and now am fighting pancreatic cancer (4 1/2years) on chemotherapy every other week, and fighting to stay active while minimizing the miserable side-effects of platinum, irinotecam leucovorin, and 5 F-U. Visiting my grown family of 4 children an 9 grandchildren is now my priority, and living with and enjoying, and loving my wonderful wife is more important than any thing else. I WISH I READ THIS ARTICLE 10 YEARS AGO.
I love my dog
Awesome article. Agree with most of the comments. Retired almost 3 years.
Robert Nicewander says
I am happy retired for now. I would still be more happy being able to continue part time at 77 semi-retired, but the FM Boards and Board Eligibility rules caught up with me, and they’re still requiring of me a testing road to the big test at 87. After 6 re-certifications and now 49 years and a teaching practice, all we need is WHAT IS NEW AND OPEN BOOK TESTS. We PIONEERS started all this, but sure didn’t think far enough ahead!
transitioning into retirement by working 2 weeks on and two weeks off – if a job doesn’t appear for several months, that is fine too. I am a medical professional and agree with the comments on physician burnout. We will all be less well cared for in our retirement by the midlevel health care providers. For now, I am still a “producer” and have found a plan I can deal with happily. When it no longer works, we retire completely. Initially had a plan to retire at 55 – that that 1 1/2 dog years ago.
Raman Shanker says
I worked for about 39 years as a medical specialist in a stressful specialty (Anesthesiology) and finally retired at age 73. I have mixed feelings about working years and retirement years. I got so used to the stresses and challenges of my practice that I started enjoying my work and at first I missed the working years after my retirement. Added to that was the fact that I was almost forced to retire due to my progressive hearing loss. At age 82 I have been retired for about 9 years now. Would I want to go back to work if an opportunity arose? Heck, no! Retirement is sweet and lovely and the freedom it bestows in my routine is something that cannot be substituted by any of the ‘working days’ routines.
Lawrence Lippert says
I suppose, in the face of so many happy retirees, most of whom seem to be grateful at not having to work, that I am an outlier. I am semi-retired and see gyn patients two half-days a week. When I was at my peak ( I am 77 years old ), I practiced full time solo Ob-gyn for 38 years. I looked forward to every day (and night) and enjoyed the hell out of it. Of course I had the advantage of practicing medicine when it was still a cottage industry, when physicians were held in awe, and when corporate business had not yet destroyed whatever humanity and autonomy was left in the profession. I retired because I could not adapt to these changes. But I do get to spend much more time with my wife, children and grandchildren than ever I used to. And I have more time to observe the world ( could force one to consider mood elevators ). And ageing has the distinct advantage of itself slowing most of us down and infusing one with a certain contentment doing nothing at all or whatever one prefers. That’s about it.
Young Limey says
Really enjoyed this post! Read it a few times now.
So interesting to hear your perspective after a good amount of time retired and time to reflect. The way you quantified this makes it a lot more easier to grasp!