I decided from an early age that becoming rich would be my purpose in life. My family struggled with money through much of my early childhood, so it seemed like the only real choice. I spent all of my energy in school, as an employee, then as an investor working toward this goal. When I finally reached it in my mid 30s, I realized I’d never considered what my life would look like afterwards. I was left with no clear purpose and didn’t know what to do next. I tried to cope for two years before falling into depression, then I found a way to recover and move forward.
My understanding of being rich changed from childhood to becoming an adult. I went from dreaming about buying an expensive sports car to being financially independent, free from needing to work for money. This was my single purpose in life, driven to succeed by my family’s poverty and my mother’s hard work. I applied myself fully as a student and employee, using each success and pay rise as justification to work even harder. I turned to investing when I realized climbing the corporate ladder would never lead to the lifestyle I wanted. The years were grueling, but having a purpose helped me push on. Eventually, an opportunity came along which helped me become financially free, but that’s another story.
When I was facing early retirement I was excited, and a little terrified at the same time. I was about to achieve my purpose in life, financial independence, with no clear idea what to do next. Retirement seemed like the right choice, because I desperately wanted to have more time with my young family. I didn’t know anyone that had retired, let alone so early in their working life. My image of retirement was based on TV commercials and movies. I wasn’t ready to spend the rest of my life gardening, playing golf, and endlessly cruising around the world. My mother was in her 60s and could have retired, but she had chosen to keep working.
Losing a purpose that had been my driving force in life made me feel empty. I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, because I was compensating by staying busy. My situation didn’t fit my image of retirement, and I felt pressured when people asked what I would do next. I clung to the idea of needing to make more money, a goal that had consumed much of my life.
Coasting on our savings and passive income streams made me feel guilty about retiring. Some of my former colleagues could have retired early, but they chose to maximize their savings in their remaining working years. I sometimes felt I should be doing the same, except I loved the extra time with my family.
I’d hoped to find someone that understood or could mentor me, but I felt isolated when this didn’t happen. Saying I was retired didn’t sit well with people around me, which wasn’t really surprising. I began hiding my retirement by saying I worked from home in IT, or as an Investor. This seemed to satisfy everyone that I was working rather than lounging around wasting my time. My family and close friends knew I had retired, and they were mostly supportive. My son was still young, and didn’t really ask why I spent so much time at home. I explained to him I was investing and trying to build businesses, which was true, but nothing about our true financial status.
Mirroring my working life routine kept things moving along for almost two years. I studied investment material during the day on weekdays, and spent nights and weekends with my family. We enjoyed many holidays and generally life was fun, even a little boring. I knew something was wrong when I started dreading being at home. I’d given myself a deadline for starting a business and generating more passive income, that time was running out. Having no clear purpose started to weigh on me, the boredom and guilt was growing. I eventually fell apart and sunk into depression.
My retirement seemed like it was about to end with me returning to a job. I faced spending my life working for money again, I felt like a failure. The only thing that pulled me out of this depression was my investment training. I had spent years educating myself on investing, including how to cope with the ups and downs of handling money. Several trading accounts had been wiped out in the process, so I’d experienced the sickening feeling of failure before. It was a necessary part of my training, teaching me how to analyze the loss and become functional again.
These events happened just over a month ago, and now I feel energetic and excited about the future. Writing about my experiences, and connecting with others, helped me understand my loss of purpose. I started to let go of my guilt, and appreciate my accomplishment. I haven’t found another life purpose, but I don’t feel like I need to anymore. The next stage of my life has started, and I feel content with smaller goals that are important to me.
Joe retired in his mid-thirties to spend more time with his young family. He started this blog to share his story, help others plan their path to retirement, and enjoy retired life.
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