After a lifetime of saving and preparing, you’re finally ready to retire early. But how will early retirement affect your family? Retiring early is a very positive phase of life for those that manage to achieve it. After assembling the financial pieces of the puzzle, the next big concern for the early retiree should be impacts on their family.
Is retiring early really possible and what are the steps to take to achieve that goal?
Benefits of Retiring Early
If you are one of the lucky or well-prepared folks (like myself) that manage to retire early, you can look forward to a lot more free time to spend with your family. With a hectic work schedule, it’s hard to be mentally present to enjoy the company of your family all of the time.
After you retire, you won’t have the exhaustion and stress of punching a clock five days per week (or six or seven). You can turn your cell phone to silent mode anytime you want, and never fret over missing an important call from the office. You’ll be able to reconnect with your spouse and enjoy long leisurely lunches or a weekday morning hike on your favorite trail.
Having virtually unlimited free time means all the projects on the to-do list can be completed (eventually). Chores that usually get shoved into the weekend can now be completed any time you want. You may find yourself picking up some home improvement projects to fill your time.
You can explore your interests in carpentry or woodworking that you never had time to nurture before. Painting a room or refinishing cabinets is an easy task that can be tackled by a husband and wife team that will allow you to spend time together and be productive.
Once you have reached true financial independence sufficient to allow you to retire early, you have won the financial game of life. Your money worries should be minimal if you are truly prepared to retire early.
That doesn’t mean you can spend money on anything and everything you’d like. You still have to keep your spending in line with your budget and get comfortable living on the income from your investment portfolio, real estate investments, pension (if any), and other passive businesses.
Getting Your Spouse On Board
A common hurdle for many who aspire to retire early is support from their spouse. In many relationships, one spouse is better at managing their finances and keeping spending under control, whereas the other spouse may spend more freely and not have any concrete long-term money goals.
It will be a lot easier to retire early and enjoy your family life if both spouses are on board with early retirement plans. That doesn’t mean both spouses have to retire at the exact same time, or that one spouse can’t keep working as long as they want. The easiest path is to jointly work toward a common goal like early retirement where both spouses can retire when the financial numbers make sense.
In real life, people in a relationship don’t always share 100% of their partner’s goals. It’s best to be honest about your goals and discuss with your partner what you hope to do and the path you’d like to take later in life as you pursue early retirement.
Maybe your partner loves working and would prefer to work forever if it means being able to spend whatever they want indefinitely. Certainly the last thing you want to do is quit working, declare yourself unilaterally “early retired” and then have a resentful spouse that feels like you aren’t pulling your financial weight.
The feeling of financial security is important in any relationship, and when one spouse voluntarily walks away from a steady paycheck to live off of their life savings, it can be a scary moment if both spouses don’t understand the early retirement plan. That’s why communication and explanation is key to having happy family relationships in early retirement.
For those that do find themselves early retired while a partner continues working (because they want to or because they have to), it pays to take care of the bulk of the chores around the house.
Picking up a few extra chores won’t eat into your free time too much, but it will give your partner a lot more free time when they aren’t busy working. This means more free time for the two of you together and less conflicts over who’s going to wash the dishes or fold the laundry.
Retiring Early with Kids
If your kids are still at home when you retire, you no longer get to use the “I’m busy, can we do this later?” excuse. Enjoy your time with the kids before they grow up. Spending real quality time with your kids as they mature is probably the biggest investment you can make in their future (even rivaling paying for a full ride through college). They can learn from you and grow as young people into the responsible adults you hope for.
Early retirement can also be a big change for parents who are accustomed to working full-time. As a recent early retiree with a two year old, I didn’t realize how much work it is to take care of a toddler all day, every day. Although more rewarding than putting in eight hours at the office, it’s still a lot of work. It’s also a lot of fun!
Kids of any age can be an amazing social lubricant, since they force you to get out of the house. Between school events and play dates, it’s impossible not to mingle with new people and pick up a few new friends (for your kids and you!).
Kids also pick up on money issues. They may start to wonder why mom or dad is around the house all day. I would suggest being honest about your financial independence and early retirement (at least in general terms) and make sure they know they will always have a roof over their head, a car in the driveway, and food on the table.
You don’t want to indulge kids’ imaginations too much. They may think you lost your job and soon you’ll lose the house and the cars like someone they know at school.
The Bottom Line
Whatever your family situation at the time you enter early retirement, make sure your family understands what it means (and doesn’t mean) from a financial standpoint and how early retirement will change the dynamics around the house.
Readers: Are you aiming for an early retirement? Is your family on board?