early-retirement-golfAs my regular readers know, I pulled the plug on full-time employment back in March this year. Why? Because I didn’t enjoy the type of work I was doing or the people I was doing it with. I won’t go into any detail on this but needless to say, once I calculated I was actually financially independent and no longer had to earn an income, I made up my mind that the time had come to stop going through the five or six day a week torture we have come to know as ‘the job’.

So since March, how have I spent my new-found leisure time? Well in some ways, productively, and in other ways, not. Firstly, no more 5am wake-ups although I’m generally awake by 7am so my life hasn’t regressed into what I’d term ‘holiday mode’. We do eat very well since I have time to start preparing dinner at around the same time I had previously been fighting the traffic home, so our dinners are not only more varied but have a lot more care and attention devoted to them. And since I love to cook, this will never become a chore.

What I have found is that the psychological shackles of over 30 years of being a mostly productive unit of the workforce a little harder to shrug off than I would have thought. For many years, my career was growing in sales and marketing in the telecommunications industry. From starting off way back in the mists of time ‘on the tools’ I moved onward and upwards into positions of Sales Specialist, Business Development Manager, and various business-2-business corporate sales roles. In most of these positions, my role was to to develop innovative ways to outsmart our competitors and ultimately make plenty of money for my company. Makes sense doesn’t it.

Until a few years ago, when I reached a point where I felt an overwhelming need to ditch the corporate bullshit and do something completely different which led me to moving to Australia and work in a coal mine followed by other earthmoving operator jobs. However, I don’t think that the sales, marketing, and entrepreneurial spirit has ever completely left my body.

Which has led me to setting up my new, post-retirement, online side-hustle selling products that test for the presence of illegal drugs. The drug problem here is increasing and there’s a growing need for testing people for drug impairment, and houses, vehicles, schools, motor homes etc. for drug residue contamination. It’s still early days and although there are some orders coming through, it doesn’t really occupy a great deal of my day.

So, you say, I must be loving this new-found freedom to do whatever I want, when I want, no stress, no pressure, no job. Well, yes, and no.

I’m now starting to understand why some people never retire. It’s always struck me as being a little bit obsessive that one would want to keep working long after they could have, and possibly should have, knocked that job on the head and taken to spending their golden days doing whatever the hell they want. But perhaps many of these people don’t have anything else they’d rather do. Perhaps the idea of spending their days playing golf, bowls, or whatever other pastimes that seem to be associated with retirees offers no interest to them whatsoever. Maybe, after half a century or more of the same routine, hanging out with the same people, going to the same place every working day, the idea of stopping just seems impossible.

Suddenly ditching regular employment for what is supposed be a life of endless freedom to do whatever also leaves plenty of time for boredom. Days that need to be filled with meaningful content and maybe I’m not there yet. Maybe I’m just not really ready for ‘retirement’.

According to an article on Investopedia, there are six phases to retirement.

1. Pre-retirement aka the Planning Phase – This is where you are counting down to the big day. You have a date set. It could be several years away, but you know that it’s coming and you tick off each work day as another step closer to being able to do all of those things you’ve been planning for; the travel, spending time at the holiday home, golf every day…bliss!

2. The Big Day. Handshakes, smiles, farewells – Often marked with formal and informal get-togethers, farewell speeches, and gift giving ceremonies (I never got any of this by the way).

3. The Honeymoon – This is where the sense of freedom kicks in and you get to do all of the things you’ve been planning during those pre-retirement years. Apparently, there’s no set time frame for this. It continues until you run out of pre-planned activities. Ideally, this is where you want to spend the rest of your days isn’t it.

4. Disenchantment. Is this it? – Like a marriage, the early honeymoon phase usually only lasts so long and then the reality of day-to-day life kicks in. For most retirees, the bucket list of post-retirement must-dos will get ticked off and there is often the realisation that many of those items cost a lot of money that isn’t being topped up every week with a regular pay cheque.

This is when the reality that retirement isn’t a permanent vacation after all; it also can bring loneliness, boredom, feelings of uselessness and disillusionment.

5. Reorientation. Building your new life – This is the stage where you leave who you were or what you were when you left your working life behind. “I was a successful business manager, but now I’m becoming a great golfer”, or “I use to be a senior financial controller making multi-million dollar decisions for my company, but now I’m volunteering my time and experience to help a local charity”. Many people base who they are around what they do in their careers. “I am a chef”, “I am a teacher”, but retirement is about shaking off what you were, and thinking about what you want to become. “Who am I now?” and “what is my purpose at this point?”

6. Routine. Moving on – Oddly, this phase almost takes us back to where we began pre-retirement. When we retire, we have images and ideas of having so much free time that we can do everything we’ve always wanted to do, and are able to to do something different every day if the mood takes us. The reality is that most humans are creatures of habit and routine. Most of us are unable to cope with long periods of constant change, and disruption in our lives. We like familiar landscapes, so eventually we will form a different but comfortable life routine. The biggest difference between pre and post retirement is that now we can break that routine any time we want because our time is our own.


According to the psychologists, retirees who have spent plenty of time and thought pre-retirement, transition into this new phase in their lives a lot better than those who take the leap more spontaneously. I fall into the ‘spontaneous’ category which could be the cause of some underlying anxiety I have about what I want to do now.

I reckon I’m between Phases 3 and 4 with a little bit of phase 5 thrown in right now. So does that mean I’m on my honeymoon, disillusioned with my new bride, and already checking out the other single ladies? (he gulps uncomfortably).

Apparently, most retirees, whether making the transition early, or those that follow the traditional route, experience these phases to some degree, and it’s how well you plan before making the leap that will determine how long you take to become comfortable with this significant life change. I think my retirement plans need a bit more work.


Are you nearing retirement and planning what you’re going to do once you pull the plug on full time work? And if you are, how do you want to spend this new found freedom? Or have you already retired? Did you have plans in place and did you follow them or have they changed over time? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

10 thoughts on “The Psychology of Early Retirement. Part one”

  1. Hi there Get FIRE’d ASAP,

    Sounds like you need a bit of number 6 (routine). Given that we creatures of habit and routine it sounds like you’ve gone from everything to nothing, with no transition in between. I don’t think anyone could go from full time work to full time leisure without feeling a bit of angst. Certainly an adjustment period would be needed.

    I’m considering early retirement and I know that I will need a “schedule” initially. It sounds mental but I think I’d rather be busy and then scale things back from there. A kind of transition period I guess. Even if it’s a mixture of things like, part time work, volunteer work, helping family, regular excercise, painting the house, etc… anything to occupy idle hands..

    It would be a huge mindset shift to decide to retire early and I’m sure it would come with time, a precious commodity we are all running out of.

    1. Hi Pete, yeah, going from full-time work to full-time leisure may not have been the best option in hindsight but the good thing is that it’s not an irreversible mistake. I’m guessing that, for most really active people, simply just stopping full-time employment is going to work without some forward planning and maybe an adjustment period as you say. And good on you for considering early retirement.

  2. Nice thought provoking article, Martin. And I like how you come around to knowing that retirement requires planning so that you feel you are retiring to something rather than retiring from something. That’s what I’ve heard in the past is most important.

    But I don’t think you and I are too different, we’re both busy bodies looking for something else to get started on. I’m sure you’ll find it and get your retirement mojo going in no time. Thanks for the update!

    1. Thanks for the feedback JW. As you may have seen, that was part one as I feel that there is more to be said on this subject. I think that the honeymoon phase is nearly over for me and I’m surprised as it didn’t take that long so now I need to determine how I’m going to achieve something meaningful with my days going forward.

  3. Bravo for being able to cook better meals! If you can make the time, it really makes a difference to have more homemade meals. It’s healthier and cheaper, to boot!

    Man, I had no idea you actually worked in a coal mine. That’s pretty cool. 🙂 It’s interesting to go from a white collar job to something more blue collar, but some people just prefer to be outside. My little cubicle can get awfully depressing lol.

    I think it’s really easy to get disenchanted with anything if you don’t have a plan, goals, or structure. Although retirees are retired, it doesn’t mean they have to forgo the sense of structure and motivation in their lives. It just means they can work when/where/as much as they want without giving a damn about money. I definitely will still keep working in some fashion when I achieve early retirement, but I’m not quite sure what it will look like; probably a part-time gig doing something I actually enjoy.

    1. Yeah, being able to cook well is definitely a huge money saver and to enjoy doing it is even better. In fact, we rarely dine out, partly because it’s so expensive but also because the choices here in Brisbane are so dull. There are good places but you pay a fortune for them. We buy quality ingredients and produce the same or better at home for a fraction of the cost. And once you add a few drinks to the dine out bill it starts to skyrocket.

      Working in the coalmine was a great experience. I reckon it’s every boys dream to operate one of those huge earthmoving machines and the ones at the mine I was at weren’t even the big ones, just medium sized. That was all good until the coal price fell and they laid us all off 🙁

      I definitely need to reconsider how to spend my days as it now feels like the holiday (honeymoon) is over and I need something constructive and regular to fill my days. Thanks for the comments Mrs Picky.

  4. Hey Martin, don’t forget that FI is about giving you the freedom to do what ever you want to do. You are doing just that! Even if it involves a bit of making money. I can completely understand where you’re coming from, I’d probably be in the same boat as you – unsatisfied with completely hanging up the working-gloves.

    The big question is, what do you WANT to do – it can be work, the online business, anything. You have the freedom to choose 🙂

    Nice job with the cooking by the way, I’m sure your body is thanking you for it!


    1. Hiya Tristan, thanks for stopping by. Yes, you’re right. One of the key reasons for FI is that you’re no longer tied to the job for income and can do what ever you want with your time. I guess where I’m struggling is now finding constructive stuff to fill in that new found time. I’ve set up the online business but it really doesn’t take much of my time now except for adding some content and some tweaking. Now it’s a case of finding other things to do which is what I’m now mulling over. Updates will no doubt be forthcoming.

      As for the cooking, we eat pretty healthy meals and by cooking them yourself, you know exactly what’s going into them as well. Maybe I need to develop a website providing cooking lessons for the culinary-challenged.

  5. Great post. I think the problem is not having a partner in crime to join you with the fun stuff. I understand your Mrs is still working and that would be somewhat restrictive. I am in the same boat as Mrs WTPF is still working part time and the boys are still at school. So we’re not totally free to just travel where fancy takes us. Also have to keep the spending in check as my early retirement was from taking a redundancy so my stash although substantial, is a bit shy of what I had in mind, but still enough to hopefully pull it off. Thankfully though I have a lot of work to do on the house and garden as well as cooking to keep me busy when not doing the fun stuff like fishing, surfing, kayaking etc which I can do alone or with friends. I can also pop down and stay with my parents down at the Gold Coast for a few days which serves as a mini holiday. I am always of the view that the retirement location should be walking or biking distance to heaps of cool places that is aligned with your hobbies. Unfortunately, Brisbane is more suited to working life rather than retired lifestyle.

    1. Yeah, similar boat WTPF with our other halves still working. At last we don’t have school age kids so when we want to take a longer trip than just the weekend, Ms MM takes annual leave and away we go. The other benefit is that our holidays are not school term dependent either. I totally agree with you on your point about Brisbane isn’t a great leisure-style city. Yes, great for work with excellent roads, public transport etc but pretty lousy for easily accessible leisure besides walks in the local state parks.

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