Is early retirement on your to do list?

They had a thought-provoking lead story on CBS Sunday Morning this week: “I quit! The joys of leaving your job for good” There they said more than half of Americans dream of saying, “Take this job and shove it!” One statement that was made was the realization by so many workers that we are all expendable, so why offer up our loyalty to the place where we work? I learned the hard way how that works in my last position as an academic librarian! But before you quit your job, here are some things to think about. The fantasy of quitting before normal retirement age should include:

  • Don’t have kids
  • Buy a small house or condo
  • No big, expensive vacations or fancy lifestyles
  • The ability to ignore all commercials!

I especially enjoyed a statement by a surgeon who quit her job in her 50s to pursue her love of art. I related to her best. The interviewer ask her how she felt when she left her job for the last time. She said, “They don’t control me anymore!” She had been saving half of her income for years to accomplish her goals. Her mother’s response was even more interesting, reflecting major generational differences. Instead of congratulating her, her mother was embarrassed and told her friends she had to quit because she was sick. The previous generation generally believes that winners don’t quit. I found this true of my parents too. They couldn’t believe we would be able to pull this off.

Mike and I were relieved of the tough decision to quit our last jobs in our 50s. Mike’s job in solar engineering got sent to China and I was fired by Regis University in Denver. I was devastated for less than a year, until I met Mike through my own dating service. We joined forced, determined to prove that those assholes weren’t going to get the best of us! Luckily we had checked all of the boxes above and saved like crazy starting in our early 20s, so we have been able to convert the lack of jobs into our own version of success. Moving to a beautiful, but less expensive area and building a direct gain solar home also helped a lot!

Our view in retirement

We completely agree with the guy in the CBS story who followed his gut and his dreams and said, “I would never go back.” In retrospect, we wouldn’t change a thing either…

Retirement: Fear or Adventure of a Lifetime?

keep calm and enjoy retirementI had an interesting conversation with a neighbor, who hopes to move to his house here in southern Colorado in the next year or so. The kids are all finishing college this year and he and his wife have built a nice “cabin” near us, and far away from his many responsibilities as a business owner back in Kansas.

Besides the usual, “Have I saved enough money?” fears, my new friend is quite worried about how he will fare in his new life here. He is born and raised German Lutheran with an amazing case of Type A personality. In other words, he likes to be doing something most of the time, preferably something productive, and often pushes himself with deadlines, hating delays and uncertainty.

Now you might say, who does like delays and uncertainty? Don’t we all like to feel in control of our fate? The only problem is, we aren’t. When it comes right down to it we could all fall ill or die today. Anything can happen to anyone at any time. Starting from that premise, what do I need to do today to further my own specific life goals?

I was also raised with that good old German authoritarian, “What have you produced today?” work ethic. Luckily I have also been given the wonderful opportunity to adjust to the idea of retirement very slowly, not all at once.

“What do we live for if it is not to make life less difficult for each other.”                                                                                                      – George Eliot

My husband Mike is my best teacher in this area. He had the misfortune to go from highly-skilled and productive engineering technician to Chronic Fatigue Sufferer in his mid-thirties. After many job losses and years of doctors and others not believing him, he somehow adjusted to the anger and frustration of having an illness that nobody seemed interested in defining or diagnosing properly. (New research!) 

The long-term effects of CFS forced Mike to retire early. It also taught him to have more patience with himself and everyone around him. First it made him very angry, then CFS made him a better person. In fact I’m fairly sure we wouldn’t get along so well if he had not been changed so much through his experience with this terrible illness.

retirement change new adventureHis patience and understanding provided me with the unique opportunity to change careers. At age 50 I started over as a freelance writer. After 25 years in the library profession, I finally gained enough confidence to believe that I could be a writer. With Mike’s great emotional and financial support I did what I had always wanted to do, but also feared. I could not have done this without Mike’s help.

That is why I now see ‘retirement’ as the next great adventure.

Happy RetirementWith love and support we can spend time finding out what it is we really want to try. What did you LOVE as a kid? What did you really want to be doing when you first went to work? You can do those things now. Sure it may not make money, but it could be lots of FUN!

Too many of us focus solely on the money issues surrounding retirement, and not enough on “What’s next for me?” Can I change? Would I like to be a more relaxed or patient person? Can I adjust to not producing something everyday? Can I change my focus to making life less difficult for others? Now that’s a good retirement goal!

I’m a newcomer to rural southern Colorado.  After two years I decided to compile a short journal about the ups and downs of moving from a good-sized city to rural America to build a passive solar retirement home in the foothills:

A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado

Please share this information with your friends if they are considering similar life changes. Feel free to contact me directly to discuss any of these challenges, and to order your own signed copies of any of my books!  Cheers, Laura Lee  (email me: