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?