Is early retirement good or bad?

Does early retirement work for everyone?  Is early retirement good or bad?  Should people retire early?  Or work to the age of 70, as Suze Orman suggested?

From my experience, I feel early retirement is great.  I can do whatever I want, and live a life without work-related stress.  Here are some of the early retirees in the personal finance blogging community, who are enjoying their early retirement life:

On the other hand, you might also have heard about the dire warnings: don’t retire early, or simply don’t retire.  Here are a few:

Who is right?  I think every article has its valid points.  The answer is: it depends.  One size can’t fit all.  Here are some questions we have to ask ourselves:

  • What am I looking for from the early retirement? What matters to me the most?
  • What am I going to do after retirement, as I got 9-10 extra hours every day?
  • How important is my job to me? Can I live a fulfilled life without working on a regular job?

Before digging into the details, let’s assume money is not a big issue anymore.  You have achieved finance independence.  Financially you are ready to retire.

Let’s look at the three questions one by one:

What am I looking for from the early retirement?  What matters to me the most?

What are the goals you want to achieve by retiring early?  How important is each goal to you?  If you choose to retire early today, can each goal be attained?

In my case, before retiring early, I went through this process thoroughly with myself.  I had 6 goals in my mind:

  • Sleep as much as I like to, and get up whenever I feel like to.  – Importance:  High
  • I don’t want to be bossed around and judged, and don’t like to deal with office politics. I hate the performance review, period.  – Importance:  High
  • Run the time in my terms, do whatever I like to. Don’t like the deadlines, tedious tasks, and on the call 24 by 7.  – Importance: High
  • I don’t want to drive in the rush hours. It’s so crowded.  In the winter with snow and ice, I would rather stay at my comfortable home.  – Importance: Medium
  • Have enough time to cook the healthy lunch and dinner, and don’t feel tired.  – Importance: Medium
  • Travel in US, China and around the world.  – Importance: Low

When retiring early in the spring 2015, I was able to achieve the first five goals.  Only the last goal (travel) was not realistic.  To me, seeing the world is nice, but is not a necessity.

I’m sure as time goes on, my finance will get better.  I’ll have the chance to travel once a while.  After all, I’m a homebody, and don’t need travel to make myself happy.

What am I going to do after retirement, as I got 9-10 extra hours every day?

For many retirees, this is probably the hard part.  What are you going to do with the extra 9-10 hours at hand?

This may need some planning, and a dry run or rehearsal.  It would help if you could take a couple of months off before pulling the trigger of retirement.  That gives you enough time to figure out the daily routine that fits you the best.

I heard a story about one couple.  The wife was a homemaker, and had a network of friends she socialized with every day.  She was content and happy about her life.  When the husband finally retired, he was getting kind of lost.  The wife said:  “Don’t follow me around the house, please.  Just do whatever you want to.”  Unfortunately he didn’t know what he wanted to do.  That’s not a great situation for retirees.

Fortunately this is not an issue for me. I always have something interesting going on.  I’m not bored.  Reading, writing, listening to music, playing musical instrument, learning Spanish, visiting parks, walking in the neighborhood, cooking, catching up with friends, watching football, etc.

How important is my job to me?  Can I live a fulfilled life without working on a regular job?

If you love your job, that is great.  I feel you are super lucky.  The job is part of your identity, and you feel the joy and fulfillment from the job every day.  It may work the best if you keep doing what you are doing.

Some examples are like Warren Buffett, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Larry King retired from CNN for a while, and started doing his internet show.  David Letterman retired, and came back to the stage again.  Letterman said. “Here’s what I have learned, if you retire to spend more time with your family, check with your family first.”

In my case, job was never part of my identity.  It was just a way of making a living.  Leaving the job was very easy, and I don’t miss the job a bit.

To summarize, early retirement could be good, as long as you plan well, and figure out what you want.  If you love your job, just keep it and enjoy it.

Do you know anyone who retired early?  Do they enjoy the retirement?  If not, why?  Any regret?

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17 Responses

  1. Steveark says:

    Plan your retired life in detail before you start it. Some of us need some hard mental work and even some deadlines after we early retire or we would be worthless. Others, like you, better souls, need little structure. So it helps to know yourself and plan accordingly. I’m glad I did!

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Doing the planning definitely helps a lot. Find out what we like to do, and what we could afford to do, and see if the compromise is acceptable to ourselves. To many people who are close to retirement, money is still a limited number. We could not afford the lifestyle of a billionaire. Being realistic avoids some disappointment in the future. Thanks for sharing your thought.
      – Helen

  2. Caroline says:

    “What are the goals you want to achieve by retiring early?”, such a critical question you need to ask yourself before actually doing it!
    I do wonder if being a blogger full time does qualify as being “retired”?
    Great post Helen!

    • Retire Early Helen says:


      Right, we have to get ourselves mentally ready before retiring. Even the best financial advisers can only help on the finance part, not the life in general. Retirement is a big change of life. Doing some homework for ourselves helps to set the right course. The goal is to enjoy our earned retirement as much as possible.

      Regarding being a blogger full time, I feel if you really enjoy it 100%, that is a hobby. You are still considered “being retired”. If you only like it sometimes, probably it’s more a job.

  3. Ms ZiYou says:

    I hope I’m not the only one that will have no problem filling the time and finding meaning in early retirement… list of things to do keeps growing and growing…..and travel features very prominently.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      You have a lot you plan to explore, that sounds cool, and makes your life much richer. Travel is a lot of fun, and expands our horizons. I also plan to travel more while I’m not that old yet. Staying at home? I got plenty of time to do so down the road.

      • Ms ZiYou says:

        Yeah, I agree – while I’m still having to work, have plenty of time to stay at home. I also need to make sure I make the most of being in London each day, and not just do the home-work-home grind, or the home-work-pub-home combo.

  4. Steve says:

    Hi Helen,
    I think early retirement is good. If you love your job, great keep working. But being FI lets you have options so you can do what you want. Knowing yourself and have a well thought out plan will make the transition easier.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Yes, FI is the key. It’s great some people love their jobs. With FI in place, they have backup options, in case they can’t work anymore due to health reason or job loss, etc. Spending some time on planning helps a lot on the life transition.

  5. Joe says:

    Thanks for the mention!
    Your priority list is great. I didn’t make a list, but all those 6 things are important to me. Driving during rush hour was a necessity when I was working and I put up with it. Now, it really drives me nuts. Such a waste of time to be stuck in traffic.
    Early retirement might not work out for everyone. It really depends on your personality. You have to find ways to fill your time.
    I love every minute of it.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Sure, Joe.

      When deciding to retire, I was just making sure, that’s what I really wanted to do. The purpose was to avoid any regret like “The grass is always greener over there”. It worked out beautifully. I’m so glad to hear you love every minute of your early retirement.

  6. GYM says:

    I don’t feel defined by my job either. I am looking forward to spending time how I went to spend my time. It’s still a few years away for me though. I do like to feel productive and hence this blog has come about and I am trying to read 30 minutes a day. Exercise, meditation, there’s so much to do! I hope to learn the guitar when I retire. That’s great that you are learning Spanish!

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      That’s great you are only a few years away from there. It’s exciting you have a lot you plan to do. Playing guitar is cool. For some activities, I know I like to do for sure. For some, it’s more kind of try and see, like fishing. I tried fishing two years ago, and stopped last year, and may try it again this year. To me, fishing is not about catching the fish. It’s more about enjoying the nature.

  7. J C says:

    Hello Helen,

    Just dropped by from the link in Rockstar Finance website. As a second generation of Chinese immigrants, I just wanted to thank you for providing some insights on early retirement & financial independence from the first generation immigrant viewpoint. The lives of many first generation immigrants (especially of Asian & East European descent) were defined by their perseverance & hard work to the point where their work & business was literally their lives. A few of your past stories in China help readers become more enlightened on the reasons why.

    Although I was raised and began my career in the West, I had ironically chosen to spent the final decade of my career in Asia and subsequently retiring in China.

    Best wishes to your blog & posts!

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      J C,
      Thank you. It is really cool working in different continents. The various cultures are fascinating. Retiring in China sounds great. Having left China for two decades, I do miss the delicious Chinese food, the farmers’ market with fresh vegetables and fruits, the lovely streets to wander and explore, and the Chinese holidays. Hey, Happy Chinese New Year!
      – Helen

  8. Thanks for the mention!

    I think you nailed it, everyone is different and needs to decide for themselves. If your job is what you love to do, and all you do at home is sit around and watch TV and get bored, then maybe you should keep working. However, I think most people can find a slew of fulfilling hobbies to fill their time. Even though I have more than 40 extra hours a week, I feel like I’ve been busier than ever 🙂

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hey, sure. Yeah, early retirement may not work for every one. Watching too much TV probably is not a good way for retirement life. It’s great you do a lot after retiring, and really enjoy it. Saw your post about the Costa Rica trip. That’s cool.

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