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December 04, 2012


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Ah, but there's a sizable difference between forced or voluntary downtime, and being bored. I found this definition of boredom, which pretty much describes a state I try hard to avoid: The state of being weary and restless through lack of interest.

I consider pleasantly daydreaming, napping or watching something on TV I've been looking forward too, all enjoyable activities up to a point. When they stop being enjoyable is when I have to do a quick self check. Have I become bored? Time to move on and do something else if so.


Hi Syd,
I am 54 and today is the first day of my retirement!

I can't ever remember being significantly bored in my life. I'm a voracious reader, so any "down" time is happily filled by reading. I also volunteer at the library, so uncommitted time is gladly spent there. I socialize with friends, get as many $1.00 books as I want and help out in my community.

I will bookmark this post for future reference, in case I need it. Thanks for going ahead and shining a light for me to follow.

new at this

So here's the irony for me about this whole topic of boredom in retirement. I have been on a multi-year quest to retire early and am only weeks away from pulling the trigger (yee haw!, but I digress)....Anyway, one of the reasons that I desperately want to retire is that my job is painfully BORING. It's other things too, like tedius, degrading at times, uncomfortable, etc, but at the core, its the forced boredom that is driving me to retire early.....Now, just like right at this moment, one of the things I do to escape the boredom from this job is to sneak away and play on the internet....And one of the things I like to do best is live vicariously through others on blogs discussing all the benefits/joys of not having to be at a boring job....Hmmmm, here lies the irony.

Retired Syd

Diane: Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life!!!!!! My guess is you're not going to need this post in the future.

Tamara: It's pouring down rain right now. On days like these, both my husband and I find ourselves less enthusiastic about doing anything. Even if we didn't really have any outdoor plans for the day, just the idea that we don't have that choice makes us kind of cranky. Of course there are plenty of other things to do, but it definitely dampens our enthusiasm for any of them. I guess that's not really boredom, but it's close. Off to foster creativity now . . .

New: Don't worry, just because some people get bored doesn't mean YOU will get bored (see Tamara above!) Like you, I found my old job of 18 years had become mind-numbingly boring. I'm sure you will find retirement quite the contrary. But if you do find yourself getting bored, I won't judge you for it, I'll try and help you snap out of it.

Joe @ Retire By 40

I have been so busy since I left my career, it's kind of crazy. I'm a stay at home dad now and that take up most of my time. The rest of time is spent on blogging and my online business. I don't even have much time to read a book anymore.

Retired Syd

Joe: Yep, your retirement looks a lot different than most others, with a toddler to keep up with and everything. I imagine you would jump at the chance to experience a little boredom!

new at this

Syd - don't you see, that's what I'm doing! That whole snap thing...

fred doe

Yes I'll admit I struggle with boredom from time to time. When I feel ambition sneaking up behind me I pause and sit or lay about in the hammock until it passes. I am apathetic. I cultivate it to a art form, without anger, without bitterness, without judgement. You must make boredom your friend for if not then it is a enemy to be feared. For you neophytes in retirement strife on:)


I agree that boredom allows the brain to go on creative tangents, but it must pass through Solitude to get there.


Syd - I need your advice. I am working a job as a corporate executive that I hate but it pays really, really, really well. Have been thinking about retiring early (I'm 46, wife 48). We have ~$6.5M Investible + $700K house. Our expenses = ~$100K/year. I am very confident that we can figure out how to make the money last for our lifetimes and then have a chunk to leave to charity.

My question however, is do you think we should do it? I'm fascinated by the boredom in retirement conversation.

Thanks for any been-there-done-that insights, Chris

Retired Syd

Chris: To quote Alan Spector and Keith Lawrence, authors of "Your Retirement Quest," ask yourself these three questions:

1) Do you have enough?
2) Have you had enough?
3) Will you have enough to do?

Looks to me like you've go #1 covered. At 65x expenses, you could basically put the money in a mattress and be ok, so not too much risk there. You've got to weigh in on the other two questions, though. I wonder what's holding you back?


Thanks Syd. I guess what's holding me back is that I "don't know what I don't know". That's what led me to your site, but frankly, a bit surprised to see the topic be about boredom.

I get that we are all different, can't generalize, etc, but assuming that we all passed through a similar "screen" to have the option to retire young (sort of), it might not be that big of a leap to assume that if those who went before me just wound up bored, then I may be susceptible to it also. It sure doesn't feel like it from my current perspective of being inside the work-world-bubble, but suspect it didnt for you either at the time?


When my father retired, somewhat early at 57, he mentioned a few years later that he kept so busy that he didn't know how he ever had time to work (before retiring). When I retired, very early at 45, the same thing happened to me. In my case, in addition to hobbies and the like, I keep busy with volunteer work. It is satisfying but doesn't have the pressure of a "real" job because I can do it or not, as I please, when I please.

That said, there are some activities, like my workouts to stay fit, that get old. After doing it hundreds of times, I found that the six mile walk to the mailbox was getting boring. What to do? I decided to try out audio books on an MP3 player. I also varied my walking routes—we have a large variety of trails in my scenic mountain neighborhood.

Problem solved. Now, years later, I look forward to my long walks, long bike rides, and my workouts with weights. In some cases I've come home after a long walk in the midst of an exciting part of an audio book and made another two mile loop around the "block" just so I can keep listening!

Bored in retirement? Not hardly!

Retired Syd

Chris: Well you won't really know what you don't know until you get there. I don't really view boredom as some life-shattering experience. If it happens to you, it's pretty easy to cure. Different retirees have different struggles--some have trouble with the loss of identity, some with the lack of structure, some with the loss of their built-in social lives, and others with the insecurity of not earning more money. Are those reasons not to retire--doesn't seem like it to me. But there are plenty of people that happily work until the day they die--so maybe retirement wouldn't suit them.

And of course some people don't experience those troubles at all. I try to discuss them all here, along with the benefits like reduced stress, improved health, freedom to do as you please, time to do what you want and especially to think about whatever you want. Personally, I'd accept a little boredom in exchange for no more annual performance evaluations alone, but that's just me.

Retired Syd

dpg: Excellent example of every problem having a solution! Pretty good "problems" to have in the first place, I might add.


I was working only 2 days a week when I fully retired 4 years ago, so boredom was never on the radar. Even if I did worry about it, I'd take it over the long, often sickening commute I gave up!


Chris, I was a situation similar to yours in 2000. But I was abruptly kicked out, so from the beginning my "retirement" was far from voluntary.

However, two reasons have kept me from seeking another job. First, more money wouldn't improve my lifestyle. Second, talent previously lavished on my employer is now applied to my own benefit in trying to make my retirement the best ever.

But, truth be told, there is only so much bike riding, mountain climbing, scuba diving, yada yada, that can be done.

Should I have willingly turned my back on the gravy train even if I had recognized back in the day these two rationalizations for my continuing retirement? Absolutely not.

Chris, if I were you, I'd keep collecting the big paycheck either until they give you the old "heave-ho" or until the choice to retire has become OBVIOUS to both you and wifey.


Maybe it's better not to spend the time at a boring workplace daydreaming about how great things will be in retirement? According to this article anyway:



Thanks for providing a place to discuss this stuff. Have been thinking some more about this thread, and have an evolving thought on the decision of whether or not to retire early.

Remember Maslow’s hierarchy?. Once you have “Enough” money to cover your expenses for life, at some level you’ve won. You no longer need to work in order to eat or even play at whatever level you define as sufficient. But the problem is this doesn’t get you all the way to the top of the pyramid. Can’t remember the term, but basically the top is defined as “fulfillment”.

To achieve fulfillment, some keep working. And for the Warren Buffets of the world, it works out. But for a great many others, not so much.

So I think this might be where the confusion lies for your average “institutionalized” mid-career person contemplating retiring early (e.g. me). Is it sufficient to simply do the math to determine if you can cover your expenses for the next 50 years? Or do you need to add this additional complication to the decision, the need for fulfillment.

In other words, the real question to the answer of “should” you retire young, is “Are you better able to find fulfillment at work, or on your own”?

I think this is ultimately where I’m looking for insight….Because as the above poster points out, once you jump off the gravy train, you’re out.

If you tell me I just need to grow a pair, I’ll have my answer, but all insights appreciated…


Retired Syd

Chris: No, I'm not going to tell you to grow a pair. What I've been trying to say is that you are perfectly normal! This sounds more like an identity problem than a boredom problem to me. And yes, in the third question, "Will you have enough to do?" that doesn't just mean quantity, it means quantity and quality (i.e. enough fulfilling activities.)

For a lot of people it's easier to feel fulfilled if your employer is telling you what to accomplish every day. Basically you get a feeling of accomplishment every day just by showing up. In retirement, you have to figure out for yourself what will make you feel fulfilled. A little tougher when it's basically a blank canvas . . .

I do agree with cyclesafe that you will really know when it's the right time to retire. But I also think it's silly to put too much weight on it--you can always change your mind! It's not the end of the world to take a little sabbatical and return to something later on. Especially if you hate your job right now--no point in going to a job you hate every day if you don't really need the money. I'm just not sure it has to be made into such a life-or-death decision. It's not like it's cancer.

Retired Syd

Jacq: Yep--that reminds me of the findings of the Daniel Gilbert/Matthew Killingsworth study about the relationship between happiness and mind-wandering: http://retiredsyd.typepad.com/retirement_a_fulltime_job/2010/11/why-is-sex-better-than-retirement.html


Good perspective. Did you ever see a movie called Shawshenk Redemption? There's a scene where Morgan Freeman describes how after being in prison for a long enough time, one becomes institutionalized - actually afraid to leave the prison (after serving their full sentence) as it has just become so "comfortable" or normal for them to stay where its "safe". (Gravy train comments anyone?)

This scene just keeps going through my head for some reason as I plan my escape....Funny how 25 years of doing what you're "supposed" to makes it really difficult to break the pattern....


Speaking just for myself, it's still just getting better and better out here in retirement (I'm currently 50 and 18 months in to early retirement). I had to work pretty diligently in the beginning to pull things to me, but once I started putting myself out there, opportunities to continue to expand my world in retirement continued to arrive.

It's a rare day when I don't stumble across yet another interesting opportunity to enhance my life. There truly is as little, or as much, out there as you have interest in doing.

I love my life "out here" in the early retirement trenches. I'm sincerely having the time of my life!


Self-actualization can be approached through a job, but more often it's approached by doing something else. Hey, being paid to be self-actualized has got to be pretty rare - it is work, right?

But self actualization is a moving target, so what turns one's crank today, won't necessarily do so tommorrow.

Only you know how likely it would be that you can land a new job that values your skill set similarly as your current employer. I considered my skills fungible, a view unfortunately not shared by numerous otherwise-would-be employers.


A point of clarification. If/when I retire, it will be with the full intent of being DONE -forever. Not even entertaining the idea that "could land a new job" or "change my mind". That is actually terrifying to even contemplate.

As jobs go, I am confident I couldn't come close to replacing the income am currently receiving from the one I already have (but desperately want to quit). Its one of of those deals where you stay with the same company for long enough, and they pay you more than your worth in order to act as a carrot for the the up and comers....

And this is why this really is a big decision, not on par with cancer certainly, but this IS about deciding to say I don't want your stinking $1M per year any more because I hate every second of my life that is controlled by this corporation.

I seem to be firming in my resolve to get out...The gravy is really nice, but the grissle is nasty and life is just too short to live this way....

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