Is early retirement the solution or the wrong decision?

Is early retirement the solution or the wrong decision?

Is early retirement the solution or the wrong decision?

Early retirement somewhere exotic is a dream for a good number of would-be expats, but few take into account the possibility of a few negatives.

Retiring early from a profession you’ve given your life to can easily result in an identity crisis as you’re no longer recognised as the person you were in your work environment. Whatever your speciality, it’s no longer relevant once you’ve retired, leaving you realising just how committed you were to your career. The crisis can continue for months or even years, especially if you were replacing other less successful elements in your life with your career goals. In addition, the uncertainty of how to answer when asked the question ‘what do you do for a living?’ can increase your feelings of loss, as you can’t define yourself in the normal manner.

Having a well thought out early retirement plan can help you adjust to your new expat life and find yourself within it. Whilst you’re working all hours, the thought of having an entire day, week or month of free time can become a craving, but the experience itself is very different. Many expats in early retirement lose their motivation and succumb to depression as they feel they’re now doing nothing with their lives. Even if your financial decisions are working well, running out of money can become an obsession, and making new friends may be tricky as you’ve no idea how to present yourself without a job title.

Another issue is doubt, that you’ve chosen the right destination, that you’re no longer sure retiring early was the right decision, or doubt that your friends and family have accepted your decision to take early retirement and become an expat. Let’s face it, for most people early retirement is an unconventional step, with those who’ve done it secretly concerned they’ll not be taken seriously, not respected or regarded as slightly odd. You’re no longer able to be pigeon-holed into a comfortable archetype by those who don’t understand your decision or are jealous of your freedom.

One very real problem, especially for extrovert singles who retire early, is loneliness and the realisation that you’re missing the social aspects of your job. Building a new social network in a strange land can be hard work or it can be impossible, dependent on your choice of a retirement haven. Another issue is that those who’ve retired after a lifetime of work expect to become automatically happy from the moment they get off the plane. Elevated happiness does go on for a while, but you’ll end up reverting to your former natural state of worry, even if you’ve made sure your pension and capital will see you through.

Finally, you’ll come to the realisation that having the freedom to do anything you want when you want to is a priceless gift to be treasured and enjoyed. You’ll eventually be able to take this freedom for granted, realising your decision to retire early was yours alone and the right thing to do. You’ll realise you’re far less angry than before you retired, although you’ll allow yourself to be occasionally annoyed and, several years on, you’ll note your former volatility has lessened and is manageable. Essentially, you’ll become the person you didn’t have time to cultivate when you had a demanding job.

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