Thoughts on (early) retirement

Tiring of my career, my plan was to take a year off and see what happens.

After a few months of travel and activity, I got bored and decided to go back to work. Sort of. An easy, low-stress job while I thought about what to do longer-term, if anything.

Then events conspired and I ended unemployed for almost three years.

That was a fair sample of retirement.

The following is what I drew from my experiences. If you have drawn contrary things from your own experiences, so be it.

Intentionality

Ever wondered what is the difference between being unemployed and being retired?

The chosen one is better.

I was fine pottering around doing nothing when it was my choice to do so.

Once it was forced, I desperately wanted to escape.

The same is probably true of work. You’ll accept a tough job if it’s the path you chose but you’ll resent it if it was forced upon you by circumstances.

If I ever retire again, it will be on my terms. My time, my place. Bumming around on a beach indefinitely is no fun if there are other things you want to do.

Same with work. From now on, I’ll choose jobs carefully and only take on that which I find tolerable. I’m at the point where I’ll leave any job at the first sign of nonsense, so it’s better to choose a job where the nonsense is likely to be kept to a minimum.

Nice house

I’ve never been fussy about my accommodation.

I once lived in a tiny house between a mountain and a rice paddy. In my thirties I lived in for years with ten people in a share house with a communal kitchen and bathroom. Another time I lived in a stately Colonial mansion but without WiFi or even running water most of the time.

I sleep soundly in a tent with a three-quarter blow-up mattress and stuff sack for a pillow.

However, if you’re not working it’s very different.

It doesn’t matter much if your lodging is too hot, cold, noisy, small, uncomfortable or anything else if you spend most of your time at work. If it’s just a place where you sleep and keep your stuff, no worries.

Once you’re retired, even if pretty active you’ll spend a lot more time at home. Small issues will grate.

Might as well set it up nice.

If I ever tried that again, I’d get a bigger, quieter place and splash out on the best Wi-Fi from day one.

I wouldn’t choose a home with six dogs, three cats, ongoing construction and a lunatic.

Security

After living in the same neighbourhood for some time, I began to realize how common shootings were.

Learn about your locale and figure out what to avoid.

In my village, I discovered it was best not to get involved in any business that competes directly with another, buy property where there is a disputed title, or get into an argument with anyone over anything. And don’t drink with locals.

Sometimes assassination is used as a way of regaining lost face.

It is also necessary to live in a secure place because burlaries are common.

A giant fence may not be necessary depending on where you are but it’s good to live around other people that you know and have a bunch of dogs.

Six is a bit much; two is probably the sweet spot.

In spicier places or if you are visibly rich, you might need more than that.

Weather

My strongest memory of my involuntary retirement is being hot all the time.

I don’t like to have aircon running for a long time. The water came out warm from the tap. I could never really cool down except by a drive up into the mountains and a soak under a waterfall, not something I could do every day.

You might have had a holiday to a tropical destination and enjoyed the warm weather, especially if you were coming from a freezing winter somewhere else.

However, after a year or two of permanently sweaty balls you may get sick of it. Going to bed with sweaty balls. Waking up with sweaty balls. Stepping out the shower and balls going back to being sweaty in seven seconds. And if you’re old, those dank little bastards will be getting tangled around your ankles.

Probably the smaller number of people retiring in cold locations have the same problem in reverse.

If I did it again, I’d go somewhere else.

Even within the tropics, the climate varies a lot. You can go to a higher altitude or find a more temperate location with a sea breeze. Living somewhere for a full year is the best way to figure it out.

Have a project

My situation would have been better if I’d known from the start how long it would be. I’d have bought a scooter, made plans, set out to achieve three years’ worth of projects.

As it happened, I didn’t commit to anything because I was always tricked into thinking I was only there for a few more months and Lucy kept pulling away the football.

Your project could be writing, golf, a small business, whatever.

I suppose some people are happy doing nothing at all but I am not one of them.

Drinking

Personally, I’m not much of a drinker so this wasn’t an issue for me.

I mention it because I’ve seen plenty of other retirees spend a decade or so determinedly drinking themselves to death.

I think for some of them that’s the plan. They deliberately retire somewhere with cheap beer so as to destroy their liver at maximum efficiency.

Seems to be an Anglo-Celtic thing. We’ve got that devil in us.

Visa

It’s becoming gradually more difficult to simply rock up in a Third World country and live there on rolling tourist visas.

Countries that were once lax are getting stricter as they develop.

Even it it seems possible at the moment, it might be a big hassle ten years from now.

In many countries, you can’t get a local drivers’ license or bank account unless you have some sort of residency visa (not tourist). Yes you can sometimes get around it with connections and sweeteners, but not always.

A lot of countries are now offering some sort of retirement visa with widely varying costs and conditions. There are also business visas, citizenship through owning property, missionary visas (much abused by certain denominations for cash), and so on.

If I tried to settle down again, I’d definitely sort out a permanent visa.

A good move might be to cruise for a year or two on tourist visas if you can, then make a decision about whether you’re willing to invest in a proper visa for the long term.

Marriage

I suppose getting married is another way to get a visa.

I came away from my time with no strong opinion on getting married abroad. Works for some, not for others. Make your own call.

Medical care

After a while, I realized that local medical care was very poor. Fine if you have something everyday like a broken leg (so long as you have money), not so good if you have a mystery ailment that needs high level diagnosis.

Often people die from unknown causes, both locals and foreigners.

A lot of blokes who retire in the Third World don’t live very long. They either drink themselves to death or they eat poorly and don’t exercise. In the West they can patch up obese drunks and keep them on their feet into old age but the Third World is much tougher.

Live near good medical care, travel occasionally to get it, take care of yourself, and/or accept the risk.

Conclusion

I don’t really want to retire.

I’d rather keep working on two cylinders, take it easy and let the company sort out visas and so on.

If I did attempt to do less work than now on a retirement visa, I reckon I’d buy/build a modest house in a cool location, set up the best WiFi possible plus back-up generator and do some online work. Have enough money for frequent travel. For me, any place becomes monotonous after too long.

But that’s distant. I’d rather take a few months off here and there for travel, then get back to work. If possible.

For now I’m staying exactly where I am because I’ve had nothing but trouble since 2018. I want to enjoy the boring serenity for at least a year before I dare try something else, even a quick trip.

I’ll probably go against all of this pretty soon. Never been very consistent.

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10 comments

  1. lemmiwinks · September 16

    Having entered the job market straight into the teeth of “the recession we had to have”, I understand quite well. I had endless time but almost equal parts money and opportunity, i.e. none. It wasn’t great.

    Perhaps the worst was dragging myself out of bed in time to be at the “abbies”* by 6am where you waited in the cafeteria as they picked casuals for the day. Word was that if you showed up every morning for a fortnight they would put you on due to your persistence. In truth the only bloke I knew who got on played cricket with the guy doing the choosing.

    One of the full time employees would sit with my mate and I and regale us with tales from his time at Her Majesty’s pleasure. It was quite the education and a serious deterrent from going to gaol. Home just after 7am with a clear schedule. I watched a VHS recording of Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man more times than I care to admit.

    It all ended up panning out ridiculously well though, so no complaints. If I was to go with what would still be classed as early retirement, I would definitely take a poorly paying but hopefully enjoyable part time or casual job. Most likely some type of labouring work if they’d have me.

    I’d probably also dabble in some hipster nonsense like blacksmithing, though that seems to be high profit, very low turnover. I’d be tempted to hire out my mechanical skills but that could be fraught.

    Heck, I expect actual retirement would look the same. I do ponder pulling the pin at 55 (early, but not super early) but where I am the biggest issue for me personally is boredom and the pay is absurd so only a fool would quit.

    *Local abattoir

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nikolai Vladivostok · September 17

      For foreigners, lemmiwinks is referring to the deep recession that hit Australia in 1990 and persisted for years after the Reserve Bank lifted interest rates into double digits to control inflation, asset prices and the current account deficit. Then Treasurer Paul Keating called it “the recession we had to have,” words that will haunt him until the day he dies. Unemployment rose above 11%. I was a kid then but clearly remember it as dark days.
      I’m glad you got through it. Even if you have the dole, unemployment is soul-destroying.

      Liked by 2 people

      • lemmiwinks · September 17

        “Even if you have the dole, unemployment is soul-destroying.”

        Can confirm. I used to wonder how the dole bludgers did it. Drugs I assume, lots of drugs.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lemmiwinks · September 17

        Although Keating will never live that statement down, I can’t disagree. Kicking the can down the road like we’ve been doing since, well forever, and then doubling down post 2008 is driving us off the cliff Thelma and Louise style.

        Also no small irony that Hawke/Keating look ultra conservative in comparison to our most recent “conservative” government.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Nikolai Vladivostok · September 17

          Your comment got me interested in that so I did some reading. As I said, was a kid in the 90s so don’t remember the economic arguments.
          Found two relevant articles, one pro and one anti:

          https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-27/justin-wolfers-the-reserve-bank-caused-recession-we-had-to-have/100097354

          http://www.marketeconomics.com.au/2435-keating-and-the-recession-we-had-to-have

          Liked by 1 person

          • lemmiwinks · September 18

            I am by no means well informed about any of this, but two strikes against the first article – #1 from the gaybc and #2:

            “Professor Wolfers’s argument is similar to the argument made by economics professor Ross Garnaut.”

            Garnaut is an idiot.

            From the second article by the Kouk who is slightly better than Garnaut*:

            “The destructive power of high inflation meant that real wages fell in every year from 1985 to the start of the 1990 recession.”

            Hmm. Destructive power you say? High inflation you say? Short of a miracle or some breathtakingly fraudulent central bank moves the rubber should be hitting the road any time now.

            *Caveat: these opinions have been formed by reading macrobuisness who may or may not also be idiots**.

            **When it comes to anything more than spending much less than I earn I am financially very much an idiot.

            Like

  2. jewamongyou · September 16

    Great advice, and I say that as one who is semi-retired himself, in a hot area.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kentucky Gent · September 17

    I was out in the Western part of the US for the final 2 years (so far) of my working life, and then spent the first year and a half of my retirement there. Loved it.

    But I moved back East to my home state to be close to my brother, and to get a cheaper housing situation. I had forgotten how much I hate the Summers here. So dang humid. I don’t need a really nice place, even in retirement. I am actually glad that I have a more humble abode, but I wish it were in a better climate.

    As much as I love my brother, I will probably move again.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Vizzini · September 17

    Retired from my “career” job at 54. I still have the ranch and rental properties that keep me busy, but it’s just the right amount of busy for me and it’s my choice. Lots of free time. I love my house and my surroundings. I’m in Appalachian US so the area is White, beautiful and peaceful with a low cost of living for the US, but I’m just close enough to a big city with a massive university research hospital that top-notch medical care is within reach. I drink only very moderately, and the ranch and work on the rentals keeps me from sitting around and destroying my health through inactivity. The wife handles most of the daily tenant and financial stuff with the rentals. It takes a special type of personality to be able to deal with moronic deadbeat tenants day in and day out. I’m glad I get to stick to the handyman work. Cattle are more civilized than some of our tenants.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. overgrownhobbit · September 17

    Good to read you are doing well. You remain regularly in my prayers.

    Liked by 3 people

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