The 45-year-old ‘bogus retiree’ shares the most surprising lessons he learned while trying to take early retirement

In June 2012, at the age of 34 and after 13 years in investment banking, I wanted out. So I decided to negotiate a settlement, retire early, and live on passive income through my rental properties, stock dividends, and e-book sales.

But just a year later, I realized that the life of travel and free time I thought I wanted wasn’t for me. I was bored and felt a loss of identity. I needed an outlet and wanted to do work that I was personally invested in.

Although it’s been more than 10 years since I stopped working full-time, I wouldn’t say I’m retired. Instead, I refer to myself as a “fake retiree” because I ended up taking on some side jobs to fill my time.

Here are six surprising lessons I’ve learned after 10 years of “bogus retirement”:

1. There’s no shame in being “faking retired.”

I’ve shared a lot about my journey into early retirement, and one of the biggest hits I get from readers goes something like, “You’re still doing some kind of job and getting paid for it, so don’t actually retired.”

That’s a valid point, which is why I think more people should embrace the term bogus retirement. Many of us early retirees write blog posts, record videos, create e-courses, write books or sell art. I still run my blog, Financial Samurai, and have just spent two years working on my personal finance book, Buy This, Not That.

Many early retirees are working harder than ever to build their online business, even if it’s just a short-term passion project. The extra money they make may not be a necessity, but it’s a nice bonus.

By labeling myself a “fake retiree,” I’ve mastered the criticism. Yes, I could sit on the beach drinking piña coladas all day if I wanted to. But not me. I want to work and be productive during the week, which is about two to three hours a day for me.

2. Your financial needs will evolve—and likely grow—over time.

3. You may still feel the pull of traditional work.

Since 2012, I’ve fought the urge to go back to full-time work several times. The first time was less than six months after I left my job. I lacked the camaraderie of working as a team toward a common mission.

The second time was after the birth of our son. I worried that we would not have enough money to provide for our family. I also struggled with how hard it was being a stay-at-home parent. I figured having an office to go to could serve as a “time-out” from the stress of being a new dad.

The third time happened a year after the pandemic began. So many friends working from home seemed to have a work-life balance that made them happy.

But eventually I realized that even if I got a remote job that allowed me to go to the beach in the middle of the day, I still had someone to account to.

4. You can express your opinion more freely.

Think of all the times you’ve had to shut up at work because you didn’t want to jeopardize your raise, promotion, or reputation with your employer.

One of the greatest benefits of being financially independent and not having to conform to company rules is the opportunity to express yourself fully.

In addition, you can confidently reach out to people who could use your support. For example, when I was approached by a producer about doing an audiobook version of my book, he was adamant about choosing three white males to narrate.

But as an Asian, I wanted someone who looked and sounded like me. We ended up with a Chinese-American narrator. Had I not felt safe enough to speak out, this narrator would not have had the opportunity.

5. Your legacy becomes more important to you.

Early retirement gives me more time to be alone with my thoughts. When I was no longer limited to a 40-hour week, I was able to reflect on what was truly important to me – and the legacy I want to leave behind.

For some people, that could be a scholarship to their alma mater or making a difference with a charity. For me, it’s sharing financial advice that can help other people achieve their life goals.

The only thing that kept me going after the pandemic lockdowns began was the certainty that one day my kids would bring my book to show and tell.

I have found that as you support the causes that matter most to you, share your blessings, and mentor others, your legacy will flourish.

6. You’re better off thinking in probabilities, not absolute numbers.

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