There is a really interesting conversation going on over at Financial Samurai on his recent post, The Dark Side of Early Retirement. He suggests that people that retire early are not necessarily doing it to enjoy the good life, but instead to escape a failed career. He also posits that retirement may not be all wine and roses, and warns where some of the thorns might be.
He cautions against listening to those that say how happy they are in retirement because those folks are giving short shrift to the hardships they face. Are they really happy or are they just faking it?
Well, the answer is somewhere in the middle.
I've tackled some of these same questions here: Is retiring early a sign of success or an admission of failure? Am I running away from unhappiness rather than toward it? Will retirement cure the fear of failure? And how will retirement affect my self-esteem?
As I recognized in my most recent post, people have a taste for different cocktails. Each retiree's motivation for retirement, and also their experience once they retire, is a mix of sweet and sour in varying measures.
So is it really possible to have a satisfying life without a job? Is success in the workplace the only way to feel a sense of achievement? Must you engage in meaningful activities to be content in retirement?
My suspicion is that having a meaningful life has less to do with what you do than with who you are. And that's the trick in retirement. You've spent years being defined by what it is you do for a living. Once that work identity is stripped away, it's up to you to figure out who you are and how you want to live the rest of your life. That can be a daunting task. And it is that task, I believe, that has the potential to send some into the dark side of retirement.