Dealing with the psychological effects of FIRE

Many of the folks in the financial independence community get all “fired up” about being able to retire early and/or chart their own path through life. It can be thrilling to look forward to, and as you get closer, the excitement builds. Eventually you reach that date, and suddenly your whole life changes!

What many folks don’t talk about is some of the potential psychological pitfalls that might pop up when you reach that glorious date.

For many of the baby boom generation (I’m the last year of that group, born in 1964), we have identified ourselves by our work. We start conversations with folks and ask “so what do you do?” Our social circle and lives revolve around the people we work with, and even our conversations at home with our loved ones often times involve work related issues and “do you know what Sheila did today?” kind of conversations. Then suddenly, when you retire early, that is gone.

My sister-in-law is like that; she has more than enough to retire and wants to move out of her current home (too much for her to keep up). Yet she continues to work at her job and commute an hour to work each way because that is what she knows, that is where her social circle lies, and she doesn’t have much to do at home (she is working on developing hobbies and a support group, but it’s difficult). Most of her family lives away from her (we are 2+ hours away) so she doesn’t have that option either.

I think the following generations (millennials, Gen X, etc.) have a better work/life attitude, and often don’t suffer from this as much. I think they also are more open to retiring early, as their lives don’t revolve around work, and they seek other activities to fulfill them, rather than climbing the corporate ladder (much to the chagrin of managers of my generation).

So what do you do when you retire early, and find that people your age are still working, that there is nobody to “hang out with” during the day, and where the thing you have held out as your “value” all your life is suddenly not there? It can be the cause of some serious psychological distress.

I’m starting to deal with some of this now. While I am still 35 months away (getting there!) from financial independence, it is starting to hit me. What am I going to do with my free time? While I have some travel goals that will probably take up a lot of my time for the first couple of years that will eventually fade. My circle of friends (like most folks as they get older) has shrunk. When my wife and I recently helped a friend clear out her dad’s basement after his death, my wife and I noted that we were really the only ones left in our circle of friends that could be considered “mobile” and capable of helping folks move (Many of our friends have health related issues).

Recently there was an article on folks who don’t have a spouse, children or caregiver, and what they should do as they age  While my wife and I have each other, I can see the wisdom of some of the advice even for us.

  • Speak up: Talk to friends and colleagues about family concerns
  • Act early: Start planning for your future health and long-term care before an emergency happens
  • Make new friends and keep the old
  • Appoint a proxy: your most trusted friend or relative, in case you start losing any cognitive capacities
  • Consider moving: Move to a more walkable city or maybe a college town, where you can stay engaged with activities (mentoring on financial independence?)
  • Live well: Eat healthy foods, walk, keep your brain sharp

I hope everyone considers how their financial independence will affect their lives, and builds a life they can look forward to!


Mr. 39 months.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.