Don’t blow the early retirement

I always remind myself: don’t blow the early retirement, as it didn’t come easy.

Last month, Tom of Dividends Diversify wrote a great article “The One Early Retirement Book to Read Now!”.  Tom talked about the book “Work Less, Live More: The way to semi-retirement” by Bob Clyatt.

I read the book this month, and really like it.  One of the chapters is called “Don’t blow it”.  Tom and I had some brief discussions about it.  My thoughts started from there.  Thank you, Tom, for mentioning about the book.

I’m still restless:

I have retired for 3.5 years, and left the engineering career 5.5 years ago.  The “Over the Moon” feeling was long gone, and finally I settled down back to earth.  Life is still very good for sure.

But, as an early retiree, once a while, I feel restless.


I’m still happily exploring the early retirement life: what do I want to do the rest of my life?  Do I want to do more?  Or should I do more?

I’m totally happy if my life stays this way for the next 30 years.  The question is:  do I want to?  If the answer is yes, would I miss something big and more exciting things?  Is there really a dream job for me?  I’m not that sure.

I’m a day dreamer.  After retirement, I got more time to dream about my future.  Come on, I’m only 52 years young.  Life starts at 50.  I still have a bright future, and tons of possibilities to adventure, right?

Let me share with you what I have been exploring lately.

An inspiring teacher:

Yeah, I was thinking about becoming a teacher like Mr. Ric Klass, as I talked about in the post “Inner city education in US”.

In the last couple of years, off and on, I have been doing research about the pros and cons of being a teacher.  It includes: how to get a teaching license, or even a substitute license in Ohio; how to be a volunteer tutor.  The steps are tedious, but are doable.

What subjects would I like to teach?  When I was in the middle and high schools in China, my favorite subjects were math and physics.

It would be cool to pull the fun stuff again, and play those numbers, formulas, and Newton’s Laws of motion.  Or I can teach Chinese, my native language.

Why teaching?  I wanted to make a difference in some young kids’ lives.  What a noble cause, just like my teachers in China who changed my life for better forever.

Last month, I even attended one orientation training for substitute teachers.  Substitute?  It always reminds me of that sarcastic and hilarious Dorothy in The Golden Girls.

The training instructor said: don’t be alone with one student, and don’t ever touch or push a kid.  Always protect yourself (from the baseless accusations).

Suddenly I was asking myself:  “What am I doing here?”  “Why am I even considering this profession, considering the potential risks?”

I also applied for some volunteer position to tutor math in an elementary school (not a great neighborhood).

At the end, I’m still not sure if I want to teach.


I don’t have the patience to lead a group of young kids.  If I need the money desperately, probably I could do it, if no other option is available.  But at this moment, that’s not the case.

I also talked to a friend.  She has been teaching the language Chinese for many years in a good high school in the New England area.  She came from China as well.  I was asking how she feels about being a teacher.

Her experience is not that rosy: it’s very tough to be a teacher in US.  The nonsense paperwork is so overwhelming; the administrators are more obstacles than helpers to teachers; the demanding parents; low pay; long hours; and some of the unruly kids.

The ridiculous thing is that, the people who have no clue about teaching dictate the rules for teachers to follow.

Her advice:  just don’t do it, if you don’t have to.  Advice well received.

Mr. Ric Klass’ book “Man Overboard” echoed my friend’s view.

PhD on Behavioral Economics:

Would it be cool to get a PhD on Behavioral Economics?  I really want to have the title Dr. on my future tombstone (just kidding).

It should be very interesting to do some research regarding why some people are living paycheck by paycheck all their life, no matter of their incomes.  I would like to study human behaviors on money, and help people to get better with money.

I even browsed the Ohio State University web site, and found out which professors are in the fields of Behavioral Economics, and the admission requirements for the PhD candidates.

Whoops, I have to take the GRE test.  The last time I took it was 24 years ago.  GRE is a pain, and I don’t want to do it again.  Plus, they require 3 recommendation letters from the academic fields.  Wait a moment.  I got my 2nd master degree in US 20 years ago.  Do my professors still remember me, that slopping student?  I doubt about that.

I also read some Behavioral Economics books written by some Nobel Prize winners.  You know what?  The books are so boring, and hard to follow.  I wonder if the subject is really that interesting.

The PhD would take me 5 years in full time to complete.  Plus, do I really want to sit down in the classrooms with the kids who are even younger than my kid?  I’m not sure.  That pretty much killed my PhD fantasy.

Work as a banker/teller or in a library:

Helen, are you crazy?  You retired from the banker/teller position 3.5 years ago.  Why do you want to go back again?  Life is about moving forward, not going in circles, right?

I don’t know what I’m thinking.  Last month I applied for some positions of banker/teller, and some in a library.  Right after clicking the Send button, I was questioning my job-hunting sincerity, though I signed my name after “Yours Sincerely”.

Do I really want to go back to work?  The answer is no.  I don’t want to be woken up by the alarm clock, and be bossed around anymore.  Luckily, none of the applications worked out so far.

Then, why am I keeping applying for jobs?  This is a psychological question.  Deep down in my mind, it is probably my financial worries.

A full-time job would eliminate my health insurance concern.  And a little bit money flowing in is still enticing.  Oh, how much money is really enough?  That’s a good thesis for a PhD candidate.

Don’t blow it:

Here comes to the point.  It had been a long journey before I was able to retire early.  I have to tell myself: don’t blow it.  No matter it is financial worries, some guilt, bruised ego, or boredom, the challenges are there.

After all, retirement is a new beginning of a different life.

I have to be the captain of my own retirement ship.  While it’s all right exploring the possibilities, I got to make sure I’m heading to the right direction before making any commitment.

Dear readers, do you think a dream job exists for everyone? What is your dream job?

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17 Responses

  1. Dragon Gal says:

    Hi Helen, Thanks SO much for this post! I retired in the summer of 2017 from teaching full-time at the age of 40. I feel restless sometimes too, and I really appreciate your writing about it in your post. It makes me realize that my feelings are normal. When I get restless, I think it’s my subconscious telling me to explore some new things! So I’ve been trying to do new things, but it takes time to establish new communities and activities and sometimes it’s hard for me to be patient!
    I agree with your friend that teaching full-time is not really as amazing as those Hollywood movies make it out to be.
    My husband and I are currently wondering what to do about health insurance, since he wants to quit too (we have health insurance through his employer). But he has a chronic illness and needs more specialized health care. What do you do for insurance?

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Dragon Gal, thank you for sharing your experience. It’s easier to figure out what I don’t like to do. But it takes longer time to find out what I really want to do. Luckily, we can take the time to figure it out. No rush, as I don’t want to commit on doing something, later finding out it’s not my passion, and just becomes another job.

      Congratulations on your early retirement! Teacher is a great profession. My dad was a primary school teacher for over 30 years.

      Regarding health insurance, yeah, it’s an issue. I have been on Obamacare since retiring. I’m sure you heard that, it’s not perfect. Premium is high, so is the deductible/out-of-pocket amount. But, it’s better than nothing. At least, it covers pre-existing conditions, and has the 10 basic benefits, and no expense cap. In my case, I’m not eligible for federal subsidy, and feel the pain to pay everything from my pocket. For people eligible for subsidy, Obamacare may be an okay solution.

  2. Steveark says:

    I think after years of setting your own schedule you probably can’t go back to a five day a week job unless forced by finances. I’ve had some huge job offers in the three years I have been retired and had no interest. I don’t need the money and have no interest in being that regimented ever again.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      That’s really true. Getting off the work treadmill was easy, but going back is very hard. It requires quite a discipline to get up in the early morning, and go through the rush hour traffic. One day, if I really have to go back to work for money (hopefully not), I will need quite an adjustment.

  3. Caroline says:

    Hi Helen, I agree with Steve, I don’t think you can go back to a full time job unless you have too.
    As you know, I am still working but have been thinking about my next move:) I even registered for a salesperson in real estate course last month to see if it could be something for me? I thought of going back to University too. My problem with all of the options? Commitment!
    Since I don’t HAVE TO work , I find it more difficult to commit to anything in particular. I just want to try lots of different things whenever I feel like it.
    I am sure something will come up for you. Maybe a part-time side hustle?

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Caroline, yeah, when I was working full time, it was exhausting. But it didn’t seem that hard to get out of the house in the morning. I guess I was used to it all those years. Now even thinking about working full time makes me nervous.

      I think you’ll be an excellent realtor, as you know the details of the houses. You are right, the commitment is a biggie. I just don’t want to get into something in a rush. Plan to take the time and see what I want to do.

  4. Helen, I thought you were taking a break and here I check your site and you are back. And I get a mention. Thank you so much. I can relate to your post. It’s been 5 and half years now for me since I hung it up. And I have been getting a little restless lately. Not that I would ever consider going back to my old career. I just think it’s part of life. Whatever I was doing over the years (school, work, teaching part time, etc) restlessness would take hold at times. I just think its part of the human spirit. It’s what makes us strive to achieve something better. It’s a blessing and a curse. Welcome back, but I think you hardly left……Tom

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Tom, yeah, I took a short break. It’s good to know being restless is part of the human spirit. At least now I have more time to plan the future, and I’m healthy enough to pursue it if I want to. I agree with you, I don’t want to go back to my old (engineering) career. That part was done.

      In the book you recommended “Work Less, Live More”, it mentioned about another book “Man Overboard” by Ric Klass. I read it, enjoyed it, too. I was so anxious to share about the two books in my blog, that’s why I came back shortly. The two books are still sitting on my desk now for further reading.

      Plus, probably I watched too much football, and started mixing up the teams, haha.

  5. GYM says:

    Hi Helen, sounds like you have been busy! Have you thought of the “Barista FIRE”? Work at a coffee shop part time, stress free, and add a few thousand dollars to annual income. Or Rover (walking dogs or taking care of dogs for other owners). I think you would be a very good teacher, you seem very patient. How about tutoring? That is part time and not as stressful and full of bureaucracy as substitute teaching I think.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi GYM, thanks a lot for the suggestions. I’ll think about it. Yeah, I have been exploring, and it’s good to have the options. Tutoring might be something to try out. You are right, it should be less stressful. It’s one to one, instead of managing the whole classroom.

  6. Joe says:

    I think going for a PHD is a great idea. Have you talked to the admission office? Do they really need recommendation letters? My wife wants to get a PHD at some point and I support that 100%. It’s good to keep learning. Maybe you can just take a few classes that you’re interested in and get to know the professors.

    As for me, I don’t know what I’ll do once our kid goes off to college (10 years.) I’d like to volunteer to help the immigrant community or something like that. We’ll have to see when I get there. I’m too busy right now.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Joe, I haven’t talked to the admission office yet. I just checked their web site, and realized the GRE and the recommendation letters are hard stuff. In my case, as Behavioral Economics is a totally different field from engineering, I had to start from the master program. That’s why it will take 5 years full time at least. At this moment, I’m not that serious about the PhD thing yet.

  7. Katrin says:

    Hi Helen, thanks for sharing.

    I can totally relate: I’m your age and quit the corporate world shortly before my 49th birthday. And I’ve been entertaining the idea of taking another degree sort of on and off. My original degree is in business administration, and on top of that I did a BA in Humanities with Media Studies with the Open University in the UK (long-distance learning). I’ve been interested in post-grad studies with them, a Master in either Philosophy or Art History, but then I shy away from spending the money on a degree I definitely don’t need. So for the time being I’ve decided on joining my local university library and reading from those two disciplines independently instead. But still…well we’ll see how it goes…

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Katrin, congratulations on your leaving the corporate world. It’s a place I loved to join at the beginning, and couldn’t wait to get out to explore the world at the end.

      It’s good to know I’m not alone. Getting another degree is so tempting. The process may be long, but the results would be cool. It’s a great idea you started using the library and getting to know more about the two disciplines. In this way, you can make a good decision if you want to invest the time and money in the long run for the degrees.

  8. WTK says:

    Hi Helen,

    Frankly speaking, there is no need to bother so much about the commitment. The most important thing is to be happy in the decision which you made and opine to be appropriate for your well-beings.


    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi WTK, that’s true. In some way, I always have a little financial worries. Living in US, health insurance is a big uncertainty. Two months ago, I decided to go back to work part time. I don’t necessarily like working, just try to make some money and get health insurance. Will see how it goes. If there is a choice, I still prefer the early retirement life.

      • WTK says:

        Hi Helen,

        I hear you. I am of view that you adopted the prudent approach by working part-time. I think that this is also a good decision. You have the option to quit part-time if the circumstance is not to your liking. You have the best of the two worlds. By working part-time, you have some remuneration as well as some medical coverage by your existing employer. I believe that this will have given you the liberty of tapping into the retirement portfolio for your expense. Nice!


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