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December 28, 2009


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Hi Syd,

I'm retiring in 2 weeks (at 44 y.o.), and the one thing that I'm already feeling guilty about is that I *should* be doing something "important" with my life now. Like writing that novel, building a home with Habitat for Humanity, etc. etc. But I've promised myself that I will not do anything (except the exercise and cleaning type stuff) unless the process itself is enjoyable. Yet I see the people on the early-retirement.org forum live perfectly happy, meaningful lives without being our century's Benjamin Franklin.

I came from a finance background as well, and the meaningless of the job had been getting to me for the last few years. Previously, I could tell myself that I was too busy making a living and being a single parent to put in the time necessary. But what will be my excuse now? :-)

Have you encountered that kind of guilt? Of a life not well-lived enough?

Retired Syd


Thanks for your comment, I definitely can relate to what you are saying! I'll tell you, the best advice I received when I retired was not to commit to anything (volunteer, part-time job, huge new time-consuming hobby) for at least one year. You (we) are young! You've got a LOT of time in front of you.

The first year of retirement is really quite an adjustment--you go through a lot of different emotions that year as you shed that work persona and figure who you are underneath. My advice is you just relish in the journey that year and see how you feel the following year. Things will start to percolate and you will figure out what's really right for you. Do that GUILT FREE for that first year. (That's the hard part as you guessed).

Congratulations on such an early retirement--I hope you'll share more of your observations and experiences as you make that transition!


OK Syd...Now I disagree....

I hope that I exercise, clean the house, and cook because I want the nice result.

Not because of guilt. Am I more evolved?? HEE EHHE EHEHEHEHHH?

PS..I don't do such a good job as you do??? Could it be that guilt motivates better...naaaa


I honed in on "not being productive while working" part of your post. As someone who has done what you have done, and does a different form of paper pushing now, it seems obvious we have a ton of useless jobs in our economy.

Because of the massive efficiency gains we have experienced over the last 30 years are we just creating useless jobs because people "have to work?" Or, a better description is because "certain people" think everyone has to work.

It's a valid question, as everything from manufacturing to accounting has been heavily automated. Yet, people still have jobs?

What happens when 100% of every item produced is manufactured by robots? What happens when computers can almost think like humans?

The respected futurist Ray Kurzweil has predicted the singularity will happen in our lifetime. Is the current chaos just the beginning of all this?

Sorry, I got a little off topic. Big ideas always distract me. By the way, no need to feel guilty.

Andy @ Retire at 40

If I retired tomorrow, I wouldn't feel guilty at all :)

The way I see it is, you have two choices, either you can keep working or you can do something _while_ you're working so you don't have to in the future. If you're one of the few to plan something, then retirement is your reward!

Have fun and don't feel so bad. Happy New Year.

Savvy Working Gal

Interesting post. I’ve spent a good share of my vacation time over the years feeling guilty that I wasn’t in the office; mostly because I left a desk full of unfinished work. Only recently have I stopped doing this, I’ve come to the conclusion this just isn’t healthy and there will always be one more email that should have been answered, one more G/L entry that should have been made, and one more paper that should have been pushed, but hey business doesn’t come to a halt just because I take a day off and I always manage to get the work done when I get back.

I have often wondered if I would feel guilty for not working once I was retired. I would like to think I would not.


Guilt has definitely been an occasional visitor in my retired life. When I sat down and really thought about it I realized that if contributing to my community and making a difference in the lives of others was important to me then I was in the perfect place to pursue those goals. So I do volunteer work, but reserve the right to try something out and if I think it isn't using my time wisely then I move on to something else. Helping out family and friends, lending a hand to a neighbour, offering to babysit once in a while ... all great ways to be making a contribution. All in all, I'm still feeling pretty productive but now it's focused on what I want and when I want. What a treat!


My guilt stems from my spouse choosing to continue working while I have chosen not to. I have my military retirement, savings and retirement investments for the future, and I do pay my half of all the bills. My last job was very stressful, unrewarding, but paid well. Now I focus on doing what I want, which includes not getting up five days a week at 5:45 AM to fight 4 lanes of traffic coming and going to work. I just wish my wife would join me. We can afford it.

Retired Syd

@Steve: Like you, my husband retired several years before I did. Don't feel guilty, I loved having him home while I was still working--I could just focus on my work and he pretty much ran our life. It was so nice!

Enjoy your time retired on you own--once I did retire, I think it was a bit of a shock to his life. Took a little getting used to having me around all the time.

Sounds like your wife likes her job. Eventually, she'll probably get like me, jealous of you getting to enjoy yourself, and join you for a little enjoyment with you.

Hetty Grace

I retired at 70 from a stressful and yet rewarding. job, and guess what! I have had a devil of a job with guilt this first year. I still get 4 or 5 people a week begging for appointments and have decided to change my phone number. My health is a balancing act, and I still would not have retired at 70 had it not been because of collapsing after the tragic deaths of my husband and brother in that year. Now all the physical transition is dealt with I didn’t expect the guilt factor. I worked so hard and won a national award at 65 I felt that I owed the public for their support. The guilt was attached to letting people down as well as conditioning from youth that idleness was unacceptable and also fear of poverty led me feel like retirement was a gamble. Top that off with survivors guilt and in a nutshell the first year has been an anxious one. Now I realise it’s ok to rest, it is wonderful to be retired. Thankyou for the forum.

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