Thursday, September 02, 2010

After 4 years of retirement

How time flies – four years have gone by since my early retirement and I’m now 58 years old. Time for another reality check on my retired life.

I wrote a year ago that after 3 years I was finally getting comfortable with retirement. Well, that same trend continues, i.e., after one more year I’m even more at peace with my retired status. Retired life seems ‘normal’ to me now and I have stopped constantly comparing my life with that of my non-retired friends. As a matter of fact, I think I'm leading quite a charmed life. If I could get into a time-machine and go back to the past, I’d probably take early retirement even earlier!

I’m writing this sitting on a ship off Bombay where I’m employed as Chief Engineer by the Shipping Corporation of India and I’m earning not insignificant wages. So am I not being hypocritical calling myself a retired guy?

Consider these facts : I obtained the necessary certification to work in the merchant navy 10 months ago. Since then, I have actually worked on board ships for just 7 weeks. Though it is not unlikely that I might do my ship stints a wee bit more frequently in the future, my basic approach to these stints remains as originally envisaged – one more ‘fun’ activity or hobby to add zing to my retired life.

An important fundamental reality about avoiding boredom in retired life (which I have realized after four long years of experience) is that one needs to have multiple hobbies because pursuit of just one or two hobbies (like golf or travelling or socializing or trekking or long-distance driving or painting) month after month can get monotonous. Hence the need to diversify one’s leisure activities. I thoroughly enjoy working on ships as an engineer and getting paid well for something one enjoys doing is a lucky break but the ‘enjoyment’ part will hold good only if I indulge in this activity once in a while. The moment I start counting the money and spend month after month on ships, ‘fun’ will change to ‘routine grind’ and I will cease to be retired. I don’t foresee that happening anytime soon.


Monday, September 07, 2009

Getting comfortable with retired life

At home, I'm usually found in my 125 sq. ft 'cabin' (den)

More than 3 years have passed since my early retirement in 2006. If you have read previous posts on this blog, you'd have observed that coming to terms with early retirement hasn't been all that easy for me and there have been periods where I felt quite downbeat. For the record, I must add that the 'downbeat' periods have been cumulatively much less than 'upbeat' periods.

It seems to me that after three long years I am finally getting fully comfortable with my retired life. At home in Jamshedpur, some semblance of a 'daily routine' has evolved which mainly comprises household chores, socialising, reading, watching TV, listening to music, exercising, taking care of my investments and last, but not the least, planning the next holiday / outing. The frequency of going out of station for long drives, treks, etc., has increased lately. On an average day, I feel I have enough 'work' to keep me occupied and the feelings of emptiness or vacuum I often felt earlier in my retirement have now become rare.

Sometime back I spent a month in Bombay doing some short courses in the Naval Maritime Academy at Navynagar. After passing these courses, I applied for a licence from the Dir. Gen. of Shipping which will enable me to work in the merchant navy. If and when I get the mandatory licence, I shall like to do some stints on ships.

So does that mean that I am trying to get out of retirement? I don't think so. I have always loved ships and I'm looking forward to going back to ships more as a 'fun thing' than a profession. Of course, if my actual experience falls short of my expectations of 'fun', I'll quickly say goodbye to the merchant navy.

Anyway, I haven't yet got the necessary licence and it is a bit premature to speculate what turn my life would take if I go back to the sea at this age and like the experience. Even if I like it, I am not likely to work at sea more than a few months every year, having discovered the joys of retired life. Meanwhile, let me continue enjoying fully retired life!

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Early retirement ecstasy wearing off

Almost 2 years have gone by since I decided to take early retirement. The concept of a 'perpetual holiday' worked quite well initially but does not hold the same thrill and charm any more. Increasingly, I find myself craving for some meaningful and constructive routine activity. Two months ago I was so bored that I was feeling emotionally pretty downbeat for a few weeks. Then I started planning a holiday in the USA and that brought back some excitement in my life. I'll be leaving for a 5-week holiday in the USA this week. I'm sure it'll be great fun. But after my return I have to seriously think about how best to lead my day-to-day life. Leading a totally 'retired life', as I have been doing since June 2006 does not seem a very good idea any longer.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

After 12 months of retirement

I shall complete one whole year of 'retired life' tomorrow. Many friends (especially contemporaries who are in their mid-50's) keep asking me how I'm enjoying my retired life and whether I'm happy with my decision.

Remember the fox in Aesop's Fables?

The Fox Who Had Lost His Tail
A fox caught in a trap escaped, but in so doing lost his tail. Thereafter, feeling his life a burden from the shame and ridicule to which he was exposed, he schemed to convince all the other Foxes that being tailless was much more attractive, thus making up for his own deprivation. He assembled a good many Foxes and publicly advised them to cut off their tails, saying that they would not only look much better without them, but that they would get rid of the weight of the brush, which was a very great inconvenience. One of them interrupting him said, "If you had not yourself lost your tail, my friend, you would not thus counsel us."

An early retiree like me holding forth on the virtues of early retirement could be compared with that fox by a cynic!

My usual advice to all my friends is that early retirement is very much a personal decision and what is applicable / desirable to me may not be so for others.

After talking to many people on this issue I'm convinced about one thing -- a significant percentage (maybe 30% ?) of employed people in their 50's do fantasize about early retirement now and then. They imagine how nice it would be to be on a perpetual holiday -- free from the pressures of one's job. Many of them link it with their family responsibilities ("if only my daughters were married" or "if only my children were settled in their careers") or the size of their nest-egg ("I'll chuck my job the day my net worth reaches 1 crore"). But very few, at least in India, actually take that decision even if their targets are achieved.

What is the reason? One obvious one is that one's material needs keep increasing and most people are unable to draw a line firmly. The other important one is peer pressure and the fear of going against the grain ("everyone retires at 60"). Please remember that I'm only talking about those who fantasize about early retirement -- my views here are not applicable to those who thoroughly enjoy their jobs and look forward to going to work with eagerness and excitement on most days. Why should such people think of early retirement?

Now let me come back to my personal experience over the last one year. On the whole, it has been good. I have much less stress in my daily life and I'm doing some fun things now which I did not have enough time for earlier. But I do feel bored sometimes, I sleep more than what is necessary and there is feeling of emptiness at times. But these negative feelings are much less than the positive ones. The bottomline is that I'm not doing anything to get myself a job or start any commercial venture of my own.

I must place on record the fact that my wife has been very supportive all along. This is a very key factor for early retirement to succeed.

I don't believe in 'final' decisions -- one must have an open mind for everything. If tomorrow I get a good offer for an intersting part-time or flexi-time job, I might just take it!

Am I contradicting myself?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Thoughts on Independence Day

It’s been exactly two and a half months since I took early retirement. One of the major intended goals of this action was ‘freedom’. I guess it’s appropriate to reflect on the score on India’s Independence Day.

Yes, I have loads of freedom to do whatever I want throughout the day. But after two and a half months of this freedom I’m not too sure whether it’s really worth it. More often than not, there’s a feeling of emptiness or boredom – half the time I’m trying to figure what the hell to do next! Let me do a comparative study to put this whole thing in perspective :


What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
-- William Henry Davies


1) Yes, I’m standing and staring, watching the cows come home – it isn’t bad yet, but getting a trifle boring if truth be told. And it’s been only two and a half months.
2) I get a feeling sometimes as if I’m a ship which is adrift after losing propulsion. Theoretically, there should be nothing life –threatening about such a situation as long as the ship uses its anchor. But where is my anchor?

So the bottomline is this -- I’m still searching for my ‘anchor’. But I’m not giving up on my dream yet.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Resignation letter

I submitted a two line resignation letter to my Company today after speaking to my immediate boss and the HR Head. Considering that I have been planning this for over a year now, the actual act of signing and submitting 'the letter' evoked almost no emotion inside me. I have requested to be relieved w.e.f. 01 May 06, i.e., 30 Apr 06 should be my last day on the Company's payroll.

The only emotion right now, 30 minutes after submitting 'the letter', is a sense of relief and freedom. I look forward to a 'new life', but right now it is almost 4 months away.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Pros & cons of Early Retirement

Originally written on 05 Sep 05

Over the last couple of years I have been periodically gathering information on the internet about early retirement. One common advice is that one should ‘actually write down’ the pros and cons from one’s point of view. Let me make an attempt to do so today :

  1. Freedom from the shackles of employment and office routine.
  2. Freedom to indulge much more (and when I feel like) in my hobbies / interests like traveling, photography, reading, socializing, physical fitness, etc.
  3. Likelihood of doing better on my investments owing to better monitoring.
  4. Likelihood of starting my own financially rewarding activity or business.
  5. In the event of premature death a year or more after early retirement, I’d have the satisfaction of having enjoyed ‘total freedom’ for sometime.


  1. Loss of pay and perks over next 7.5 years – a substantial amount at the fag end of my service career.
  2. After indulging in everything that I ‘wanted to do all along but couldn’t because of office routine’ I might start getting bored after a year or two. Time may hang heavy.
  3. Comparison with contemporaries, in terms of status enjoyed by them in their respective jobs and their pay / perks may give rise to an inferiority complex.
  4. The quality of medical treatment (for self & family) is likely to be better as long as I’m employed.

Dreaming about Early Retirement

Originally written on 03 Sep 05

I have been dreaming about ‘early retirement’ for quite sometime. But over the last one year this dream is becoming more and more like a resolve. Mainly, the following factors are influencing my thinking along these lines :

Ø My investment decisions after leaving the Navy have resulted in my ‘nest egg’ growing to a decent (from my middle class / military officer standards) level. The stock market boom in India over the last few years has been a boon for me. With my small (but adequate) ancestral house in Jamshedpur, military pension and lifelong comprehensive medical cover thrown in, the financial comfort level appears even better.

Ø Both our daughters are more or less on their own. Jaya and I know how to keep our material needs in sync with what we can afford.

Ø I don’t find my present job sufficiently exciting / challenging. Switching to a new job and proving myself from scratch appears both daunting and unnecessary at this stage in my life.

Ø I feel I can ‘enjoy life’ much more once I have full control over how I spend my time.

So what is holding me back? Firstly, the opportunity cost of my pay and perks over the next seven and a half years (I’m almost 53 and the retirement age in my company is 60. Also, there is no ‘golden handshake’ scheme in force). Secondly, the fear of deviating from the beaten track (‘everybody’ retires at 60). Thirdly, and most importantly, the fear of regretting (for whatever reason) early retirement a year or two down the line.

Probably it all boils down to greed and fear. I’m readying myself to overcome these mental blocks sufficiently till I reach ‘escape velocity’. And I have set a deadline – mid 2006.

Whenever I discuss these thoughts with anyone, I’m invariably asked how I plan to spend my time after retirement or what precisely I mean by ‘enjoying life’. This maiden entry in my retirement blog won’t be complete without answering these questions. First of all, I must place on record that I’m pretty much enjoying life right now – one does not have to be ‘retired’ to enjoy life. But I believe that after freeing myself from the shackles of my job I’ll be able to enjoy life even more by devoting greater time to my hobbies like traveling, reading, photography, keeping in touch with friends and relatives, etc. And proactive control over my investments (mostly in the stock markets) will definitely be one of the mainstays of my retired life.