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Opinion | Financially independent can retire early without feeling irrelevant

If you do retire early, be proud of the fact that you were able to do it earlier than others

About a month ago, I wrote about how to figure out your retirement readiness . These days, many people want to retire early but I have also come across financially independent people who don’t want to retire early. There are those who can’t stand the thought of not working. But there are those who want to retire but are scared to do so. Why?

First, one is never sure if one has enough. Even if one has a good cushion above the retirement corpus required, one is not sure if this corpus will be enough in case of any shocks. Also, the thought of not getting a monthly inflow credit in the account is difficult for some to digest.

Second, people do not know how to keep themselves mentally engaged. After having led a life working 10-12 hours a day, one doesn’t know what to do with the extra time. While working one was so consumed by work that there was no time to build other interests.

Third, the loss of identity scares people. While working one is known to be an expert in a particular field and a person’s identity is linked with the job one does. Loss of this identity is not easy for people to deal with. Suddenly, you become useless to everybody. Consultancy or mentoring assignments, speaking opportunities get difficult to come by when you are not in a powerful position.

Fourth, the way you are viewed socially, changes. Forget friends, even family members start treating the retired differently. Relatives cannot comprehend as to why someone would leave a well-paying job when they have some years to go for retirement. Even friends may find it difficult to connect with you.

Fifth, loneliness can be killing. You may have retired but most of your working friends would not have time to catch up. Your spouse has his/her own life and it may be difficult for the spouse to change his/her life for you. Further, if you live away from your home town, you may not have relatives to interact with or family functions to attend.

Essentially, one is scared of becoming irrelevant. So what can one do to overcome this feeling?

First, stop caring about what others think about you. It is your life and your decision to live it the way you want to. Others might be happy working 12 hours a day at the cost of their health and family life, but you may want more out of life. Or you may just want to enjoy your money and do the stuff that you have always longed to do. So don’t let the views of others colour your decisions.

Second, take all possible scenarios into account and see if you have enough money. Do you have at least 30% more apart from amounts required for monthly expenses and other goals that you have commitments towards? If so, you can still lead the same lifestyle and do not need to worry about the monthly credit to your account. Remember your investments are generating returns and you may not get the returns as monthly credits, but they are there. Focus on passive income and think of this as your monthly credit.

Third, a couple of years before you plan to retire, start planning how you can continue to work in your area of expertise. It is always easier to set up work-related assignments while working. This could be consulting or mentoring work, teaching at a university, training, etc. Make a bucket list of things you have always wanted to do. Consider stuff that you can do locally. Most people want to travel but beyond three-four trips, travel too can get tedious and tiring. Or things you wanted to learn. Maybe a new language or a musical instrument? Check out volunteering options and see if this is of interest. The essence is to plan at least four to five years in advance and put things in motion to figure out if you can actually manage early retirement.

Finally, if and when you do retire early, be proud of the fact that you were able to be financially independent earlier than others and that you can live life on your terms. As Abraham Lincoln said, “At the end it is not the years in your life that count, it’ s the life in your years."

Mrin Agarwal is a financial educator, founder director of Finsafe India Pvt. Ltd and co-founder of Womantra

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