What I Learned by Retiring for 2 Years

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Realizing I didn’t need a day job anymore was pretty freaking cool. I figured this out in 2014.

2014 was a year of both awesomeness and shittiness. I lost my dad that year. I also inherited the money I needed to get out of my substantial debt – $25,000 at the time. Since I’m the Dumb Ben though, I wasted no time at racking up more debt. I owe $19,000 now. More on that later. I was also able to get my place sorted out. I’m now the owner of a 99-year leasehold property in Richmond, BC. For those of you unfamiliar with leaseholds, I basically own the property, just not the land underneath it. I have 72 years left before I get booted out. I’ll be homeless at 99. More on that later too.

The remaining 72 years are all paid off. It was $170,000. The strata fees and property taxes are 100% covered by the rent I charge my roommate. I’m super lucky, and as I type this, I can already hear the lynch mob forming. At 27, I don’t have rent.

That’s not to say I do nothing. I have a successful wedding photography business, and charge up to $4,400 for my packages. I hardly count it as Work though. I love every part of what I do, and outsource the stuff I don’t like, like editing. On my last $4,400 wedding, I outsourced virtually everything except the actual photography. Time investment: 1½ days. The lynch mob is banging on my door now.

So with my photo “work”, food was covered too, and then some. Now what? For me, the answer was Retire. Sure, I’m cheating a little bit, but I was “working” around 30 days a year, and was frugal enough that I could live off that. I don’t care what you say. I was fucking Retired.

No lies, it was great at first. I could get up at 4 PM, slam two beers, play Minecraft until 9, then hit the pub. I got to see my friends and family whenever I wanted. I’d go on adventures, disappearing into the US for weeks at a time. I even made it to the UK for my friend’s wedding, and made some great memories there. And then… I just sat on my ass a lot.

Like, A LOT. What I didn’t know was the first 40 hours of Minecraft are pretty fun. The next 200 hours are significantly less so. I started gaining weight. I developed a drinking problem. My mental health started to suffer. Getting together with my friends got more challenging, since they had work and families, and I just kind of had… nothing. My life, without Work, suddenly had zero Meaning. I was suddenly a depressed slob who couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a shower. Since I only ever worked at weddings, and was always too focused on taking pictures instead of interacting with people, I’d often go weeks without an actual conversation. I mean, it’s no wonder so many people die right after retiring. Read this. Without a purpose in life, even if that purpose is as silly as earning money, why go on?

I realize this sounds like the privileged whining of a 1%-er, and in many ways, you’re right. I have what a lot of people want. I thought I wanted this too. I want you to reconsider Retirement though. What would you REALLY do if money were simply not an issue? What would you do with your life if you had an extra 8 hours every day? If you’re the type of person who’s so hard-working that you can Retire early, what makes you think suddenly having NOTHING to do will make you feel good?

After two years of mild existential terror, I figured it out. Retirement wasn’t about doing nothing. It was about finding out what had Meaning to me. Meaningful employment is important, even if it doesn’t earn a bunch of money. I currently sell wine to people for $13/hour when I’m not shooting weddings. I don’t need the money, but it gets me out of the house. I don’t drink as much now. I shower more often. I have real conversations with people. I get to talk about fine beer, wine and spirits, which is a passion of mine. And to top it all off, the money I make goes into getting me out of debt, and profitable investments for the future. I had Meaning again. I was choosing to Work. Even though I’d “made it”, I needed Work to feel whole.

Rethink Retirement. You can Retire and work on something you love, and if it happens to make enough money for you to live on, guess what? You’re Retired! Get a job that doesn’t feel like Work. Get a job that gives you more Time. Get a job that has Meaning. I know it’s not as simple as all that, but make it a goal. All of this is better than the fantasy of never having to work again. Trust me, you’d probably hate it.

Oh, hey. That lynch mob is ringing the doorbell. I should probably let them in.

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One thought on “What I Learned by Retiring for 2 Years

  1. Damn Ben, those two years can really put life and the dream of “Retirement” into perspective. As someone who wants that dream so bad, but also has ADHD, after reading this I can see how truly devastating if can be on your health and affect so many aspects without even noticing it right away. This is pretty inspiring to still chase your dream, but to not let the negatives physically and mentally eat away at you. Thanks for sharing man.

    Like

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