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Personal Finance FAQ

Retirees Do Not Have All the Time in the World

Pikasso Swig Sloth
Don’t turn into one of these! (Sloth designed at Charlottesville, Virginia art and craft bar Pikasso Swig)

The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.
–Bertrand Russell

My father-in-law often says “I’m retired. I’m not in a rush. I have all the time in the world.”

I love the sentiment. He usually utters it when he’s in traffic or trying to find a parking spot. It keeps him calm and keeps his blood pressure lower than the average road raged driver.

While I appreciate the curative powers of the sentiment to cure, or at least reduce, my irritation at people who are inferior drivers to me (which, as we all know, we’re all above average drivers), too much of the mentality can lead to a very negative, deleterious effect: sloth.

As we saw in “The Case Against Early Retirement is Wrong,” people who continue to work later in life tend to live – ever so slightly – longer than those who don’t work later.

Part of this, I posit, without a scholarly article to back my assertion, is that people retire, sit in the recliner (after all, extended sitting is very unhealthy), and lose their motivation and connection with the world because they take my father-in-law’s maxim to an unhealthy extreme.

The average person retires at age 63 – age 62 for women and age 64 for men. The current life expectancy for a 63 year old is 20.75 years. My wife and I FIREd (financially independent retired early) at ages 46 and 45 respectively, meaning that we have a life expectancy of 33.2 years and 37.8 years. So, while it might seem, when you retire, that you have all the time in the world, the reality is that your time is limited.

Generally speaking, there are two reasons that you retire:

  • You have to retire. In most cases, this is due to some sort of physical condition that prevents you from working, and, as such, your time is, unfortunately, probably more limited than someone else’s timeline.
  • You are retiring to do something else, as you do not wish to work any longer. Yes, you may choose for a little while to sit on the couch and watch your Netflix and Amazon Prime (#aff). That’s what we told people who asked us, before retirement, what we were planning on doing in retirement; however, we also knew that was a limited time activity. We were not planning on spending the rest of our lives planted in front of the boob tube.

There are times when we are still williing to trade time for money. I’m writing this article sitting at a bar in an airport because we volunteered to get bumped from a flight. We are going to New Zealand with a friend for her 40th birthday, and, in exchange for a 2 hour later return home from a trip, we were offered enough in vouchers to pay for half of a trip to Auckland. Even though we are retired, we still value our time.

That valuation of our time is the reason that I do not say that I have all the time in the world (unless it keeps me from getting terribly upset at all of those inferior drivers out there). While saying that you have all the time in the world is great for mental relaxation, it devalues your time to zero. You may no longer want to trade time for money (that’s, generally speaking, called “work”); however, you are always making trades. The trade is opportunity cost, namely, what could you be doing with your time rather than whatever it is that you want to be doing.

Choosing what to do with your time is a balancing act. You, unless your name is Bezos, Buffett, or Gates, have limited financial resources. So, you can’t do everything that you want to do. If that were the case, I’d be taking tourist trips to the moon or spending all my time on St. Tropez and Chamonix.

But, you should ask yourself on a regular basis: “Is whatever I’m choosing to do, the activity that brings me the most joy?” If it is not, and you have the ability to change your decision, change it.

Do not let the attitude of being retired and having all the time in the world lead you into complacency, and, subsequently, dissatisfaction with your retirement choices.

By

Jason Hull, CFP®, was the co-founder of Broadtree Partners, a firm that acquires $1-5MM EBITDA companies. He also was the co-founder of open source search consultancy OpenSource Connections, a premier Solr and ElasticSearch firm. He and his wife FIREd (financial independence retire early) at 46 and 45, respectively. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a MBA from the University of Virginia Darden Graduate School of Business.

You can read more about him in the About Page.

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