The Sleepless Nights of Early Retirement

The Sleepless Nights of Early Retirement

It’s been several months since my husband and I accidentally began early retirement early. I’d love to report that it’s been all sunshine and rainbows, but that’s not the case.

The truth is that there have been a lot of sleepless nights.

The cause of all this lost sleep?

You guessed it! Money.

It’s hard to go from decades of saving, of seeing your bank account grow every month, to watching your bank account shrink every month.

Our biggest concern

Were we crazy to retire early when we still have kids in high school and university?

That’s been the source of a lot of stress. While it used to be no problem to give the kids a few dollars here and there to go see a movie or grab a pizza, we now think about these things much more cautiously.

Underestimating our costs

One area where we underestimated our cost was in getting Kid # 1 set up for his first job, an internship in a large city a thousand miles away.

We didn’t realize how much money he would need in order to get started in an apartment, utilities, and furniture rental. After all, it’s hard to live without credit if your last name isn’t Ramsey.

Our kids all understand that money doesn’t flow as freely when your parents are retired. Our son, who will be returning to Canada in January for his final two semesters of school, has already secured a part-time job when he returns. While he has worked part time in the past, he seems much more eager to contribute – after living on his own and understanding that money really doesn’t grow on trees (or in your parent’s wallet).

We also underestimated the expenses for Kid # 2, who attends university several hours away. We thought that since he is not living in the dorm (and on an expensive meal plan at school) that his expenses would decrease. He’s living in a house shack with four other students.

When we dropped him off at the house, it was the first time my husband and I had seen the rental house. Walking in the door brought back memories of living off ramen noodles and near-condemned buildings that many of us lived in while going to school. The grimy walls, the broken furniture left by the former tenants, the dirty floors. Ah, the memories!

The landlord, who lives several hours away from the house, isn’t very good. He knows that students have little choice when it comes to accommodations. This is a small college town which doesn’t allow student apartments to be constructed. And the university has only enough housing for freshmen. With no other choice but to rent one of the small houses that line the streets outside of the university, we are at the mercy of the landlord.

Every month we shell out almost $700 for the privilege of living in the house (which in my opinion should be condemned). That doesn’t include food or spending money.

But this kid too has gotten the memo. He’s just secured a part-time job on campus which will give him money to spend, as well as save for a car he’s hoping to purchase in a year. Our other son paid $3500 for a 2006 Nissan Altima that is still humming right along.

Then there’s kid # 3 – a senior in high school. I don’t think I ever noticed before, but that’s expensive too. Fees for the yearbook, student ID, DECA, student leadership, and other clubs seem way more expensive than they have in years past. She’s also involved in dance and although we’ve cut down in the number of classes that she takes, the studio raised its prices. Perfect timing! We shell out $400 per month for dance.

We’re also thick in the throes of college applications with kid #3. Although she has decided on a major, she hasn’t decided where she wants to matriculate. She hasn’t even decided which COUNTRY she wants to go to school in. Fortunately, Canada and the U.S. both offer great schools. We’re hedging our bets and applying to a couple of U.S. schools, as well as a couple of schools in Canada.

Back to the cash situation

After a few months of sweating the cash situation and running through our numbers (in what seemed like hundreds of times), we came to the realization that making a few extra bucks on the side would, at the very least, make us feel better.

My husband had often talked about teaching at the college level. A second act, if you will. As it turns out, the local college was hiring just as he was looking. He started teaching a class in June. He absolutely loves it! It has given him an outlet for his inner professor (he was a teaching assistant in college) and keeps him involved in the community.

Currently, he is teaching only one class per week, but beginning in January, he will be teaching two classes per week. He has found the work to be challenging, rewarding, and infinitely less stressful than his corporate job!

For the past several months, I have been working under contract writing for The Motley Fool, an international provider of financial advice for DIY investors. I had long been a fan of The Motley Fool and was thrilled when given the opportunity to write for them.

So far, it’s been great! My husband and I have worked out a schedule which allows us time to exercise together in the morning, then work on our side gigs in the afternoon. The flexibility of both our schedules allows us to spend some quality time with our daughter before she heads off to school in the fall.

The side gigs are also helping to ward off the money fears. Although we’re not making anywhere near as much as we were when my husband had the corporate job, we are bringing in some extra money each month.

Life doesn’t always go as planned

We dreamed of early retirement for many years prior to pulling the plug.

In practice, however, early retirement hasn’t been quite as easy as I’d imagined. While I know in my gut that we can make it without these side hustles, the truth is that they add more than just a little bit to the bank account every month.

These side gigs have given both of us the opportunity to contribute in areas we really care about, at our own pace, and without the pressure of working just for the paycheck.

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6 thoughts on “The Sleepless Nights of Early Retirement”

  • We also have 3 kids. One in university,, paying similar rent, a high school senior and the other in middle school. All 3 have been involved in competitive sports and one a competitive dancer too.
    I think these are the most expensive years of our lives but we are investing in our kids.
    Before you know it, they’ll be working full time and you May have so much money you won’t believe it but maybe keep your side hustles, for extra income, purpose and other benefits!
    You are doing great!!👍👍

    • Thanks Karie. I appreciate the encouragement! Despite the costs, this really is a fun time. It’s cool to see how these kids are transitioning into adulthood. I’m sure you’re feeling the same – it’s great to see how all the hard work of parenting is paying off!

  • Unlike you my kids are no longer on my payroll and we early retired with excess funding. We had our spending pegged accurately too.. However I still enjoy consulting part time, it pays extremely well so that we never touch our portfolio’s growth or principle and that feels good too.

    • Congratulations on the successful implementation of your early retirement plan! We’re also trying to avoid touching the principal and growth of our investments. The retirement accounts are off-limits now anyway due to age restrictions and early withdrawal penalties. My husband has done a little bit of consulting on the side, but he would prefer to increase his hours at the college. Unfortunately, the college is reluctant to give adjunct professors more than a certain number of hours to teach, because they then become eligible to join the union and receive other benefits.

  • Hey this sounds amazing! I love hearing such an honest story, it really makes FI seems more relatable – especially since you were able to do it with 3 kids! In truth, this is my FI dream – to be able to work at a job that I truly would enjoy, working less than full time. Thank you for sharing!

    • That has been the best part of our FIRE. Just knowing that we are working at something we want to do (rather than have to do), relieves an incredible amount of stress (at least it has for us)!

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