As you probably know, I sometimes get emails from the readers of my blog asking for advice or giving me suggestions. I find some of the emails to be interesting and intriguing and would like to publish my conversation with them as an article in the hopes that it might help others who are in similar situations. In the past I have posted one such article about a reader’s dilemma. A few days ago, another reader reached out to me asking for some advice. Now I don’t know how useful my advice is, but I give them anyway :). I just hope it helps them. I thought our conversation was interesting and wanted to post it so if others have any advice they too could suggest something in the comments. So with the person’s permission I am reproducing most of our email conversation redacting some information to respect their privacy.
Email conversation #1
Reader: Great blog Chandan. I have been a regular reader of this amazing blog for a few months now and have gone through almost all of your posts and have learnt a lot from it.
reynd: Thank you!
Reader: To introduce myself, I am aged 39 and am born and brought up in Bangalore. Married and my son is in the 7th grade now. I jumped onto the FIRE bandwagon with mostly US blogs (at the time) talking about it especially MMM and ERE. While I do not believe 4% is the way to go I do like the concept of FI and have pursued it diligently for the last decade. I am happy to say that I have achieved FI as of 2021 (still valid in 2022 now) as per my many calculators and the excel I am tracking for close to a decade now! Happy to share more details on this to discuss as well.
reynd: Great! I would like to know your perspective on the 4% rule and would love to know more details about your calculators and excel sheets too! Congratulations on achieving FI BTW. Very few reach that point before the age of 40 and you are one of them.
Reader: The main point I struggle with is the decision to RE or not. It would be great if I could get your inputs on a couple of points which I keep having. I don’t want to RE just because I’m FI. On the other hand I don’t want to keep working just because its what the society expects of people like us! Ideally, I want to have a plan when I retire just because I’m unsure what I’ll end up doing when I retire. I am afraid if I don’t have a plan to retire to then I might become lazy :-)!
reynd: I can assure you that any person who puts so much effort into planning and retiring early like you will certainly not end up lazy. If you don’t have a plan you might get bored or restless though, but you won’t be a couch potato. So yes, you are right that you need a plan. But before deciding to RE, consider why you want to RE. If you are happy with your work and it is not too demanding, then why even RE? The excess income may not bring any more happiness, but you could use that as a buffer for future retirement, or to do philanthropic works.
Reader: I have always been a straight A student but mostly going through the expectations of school, college, engineering and job. Without any structure or deadlines not sure what I will do in my free time!
Reader: In your blog I see you do not keep any goals but still find a way to enjoy your time with family. I would like to understand how you do that or its just a mentality you have adapted? For me, the main point is if I will feel a guilt that I retired early and some part of me also feels how the society will look upon me. I know I should not be worried on that but it’s on the back of my mind.
reynd: While I don’t have goals anymore, I do have a list of projects that I like to work on. You can read about my list of more than 100 pending To-Dos. So I am eternally busy working on one project or the other. I have always been interested in doing hobby projects. While I was working I used to write code to build my own media center software, used to contribute to open source projects like mplayer. Later I started working on hobby electronics and built a home automation system (still while working), automated drip irrigation, solar panel projects, investment analysis apps etc. I detailed some of these projects in my blog.
reynd: These hobby projects are the things that keep me busy. I still routinely write several 1000 lines of code every month and build, learn and read about electronic components. If I had more time, I want to join coaching centers where they teach how to repair electronics like TV, laptops etc. I know that that learning will be way below my electrical and electronic engineering background, but I never got to do anything practical with what I learned, so this is one way to have fun. I also love UI/UX and would enroll and tackle that as well. I also want to learn to use CNC, lathe and 3D printing software so I can build my own robot colony. Only problem is that I don’t have time even after retirement :).
reynd: The reason I don’t have time is because in addition to the projects I also spend a lot of time with my family. It may not be applicable to everyone, but I enjoy just sitting and watching my kid do things. And since she does not go to school, I spend a lot of time with her. Then I also write blogs which is not what I like to do, but some friends asked me to keep them updated about my life post retirement, so doing it more as an obligatory task.
reynd: Don’t be too concerned about how society will look at you. Even now, they don’t have a great opinion about you. Trust me :). May be this link may or may not help in this regard
Reader: To spend time, I do have ideas on what I can do when I retire (studying literature - Sanskrit especially and then other languages like French, write blogs to share how to start investing - have done some earlier, learn yoga) but none of these may be for long term and are all very varied so thinking more. What would be your advice? I do know its a pretty personal choice to make but would be great to hear your thoughts.
reynd: Everyone is different and I cannot give specific advice, but this is what I suggest to most people in your situation and trust me there are few like you :). See if you can take a sabbatical for a few months at your work and figure out if you are having trouble living a retired life. If that is not possible or too short of a period to decide then quit your job and live a retired life for a year. Most companies will be glad to take their employees back within a year of quitting so you can go back to your old job if you don’t like retired life. Even if you take a few years off, I am sure you can find some job given your credentials. It may not pay as much, but at this point we are not talking about money right?
reynd: Now to fill the time in retirement, you have to figure out your passion. Maybe do a startup if you always had an idea you wanted to execute. You can do some kind of social work that benefits everyone, like cleaning or fixing roads. You can start a movement with a small group and get fixing anything that needs fixing, whether it is diminishing green cover (by planting trees), fixing roads, helping orphans or underprivileged kids by teaching etc. The options are endless, but it depends on what you like to do. The best part is that you can do any “work” that keeps you busy without expecting any money in return.
Reader: In case you have the time and if we can speak over phone/zoom that’ll be great. Else communicating over mail is very helpful as well. Thanks in advance for your time on this and really appreciate you putting your thoughts in this blog helping a lot of folks like me.
reynd: Sorry, but I prefer email over phone (an introvert thing), so let’s continue like this unless we need to be on a call :). Hope I was of some help and all the best in your search for answers.
To be continued…
Since this post is already too long, I will continue the next few email conversations in another post.