My Simple Life Retirement

Guest Post by Geoff Sundstrom

Most of us either hope to retire at some point, or are retired. Although younger people probably imagine retirement as a time of ease and relaxation, it can often be an incredibly challenging time of life.

That’s because not everyone who retires does so voluntarily. Many are forced from jobs and careers by callous or inept employers. Others burn themselves out mentally chasing “success”, and can’t do the nine to five anymore. Others are sidelined by physical health issues. Ready or not, they must adjust to being older with less income and more “free time.”

Since discovering Gary’s books and podcasts, I have become convinced embracing The Simple Life can be a huge financial, medical, and spiritual help to retired people in distress, but doing so before being forced from the workplace is obviously much better. So if you still have a career, get after the Simple Life principles while you have the time.

Another group of retired people, including myself, don’t have it so rough. These folks plan carefully for retirement and are fortunate enough to only exit their career when they believe they have their financial and personal lives in order. I did that five years ago at age 57.

I’m one of the lucky ones, except it wasn’t luck. After a terrible divorce at age 40 that almost wiped me out financially, I worked hard to solve the financial freedom thing. I married a fabulous woman, and together we deliberately lived below our income in a smaller home with one car, so we could invest and stay out of debt despite earning professional salaries below six figures.

When I was ready to retire, I had several streams of reliable income, a decent investment portfolio of conservative mutual funds, and a nice house with no mortgage. I also had a serious case of delayed gratification I wanted to indulge.

I had a great deal of optimism about what I would do and accomplish in my “golden years.” I was not resigned to, or terrified of retirement. Quite the contrary. I looked forward to it with enthusiasm. I was ready to “go for it.”

I didn’t think I was unhealthy, and my general plan was to do a lot of fun things with the toys and stuff I had started to accumulate. To that end, in the years just before retirement, I bought two classic sports cars and a sailboat, and started several collections of things I thought I had always wanted but could not afford earlier in life. I was going to learn to sail, restore one of my cars, and I got involved with a couple of hobby clubs.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Well it wasn’t. I very quickly found myself overwhelmed by the realization of how little free time I actually had once I retired. I was shocked to find out all the normal stuff you do when you are working, like shopping, home maintenance, yard work, paying bills, etc., still needs to get done, and it all takes time! On top of that, I now had to find time for all of my new activities and commitments. Getting healthy? I didn’t have time.

The bottom line, instead of the freedom and health I imagined I would enjoy, I had a retirement of unfinished projects, never-ending to-do lists, unplanned expenditures, and constant demands on my time. On top of this, I soon got sicker than I had ever been, and nearly lost my life to a serious medical problem.

For me, my “American dream” retirement became a stressful and depressing series of endless tasks and responsibilities, for which I was not being paid! Where was my leisure? Where was my relaxation? Where were the positive health routines I imagined for myself? I had enough money to live on, but I found myself being worn out by retirement before age 60.

“That’s terrible”, you are probably saying to yourself. “Why would I want to learn anything from a guy like that?”

My only answer is because I’m not like that anymore. Things are much better, they continue to improve, and I think they will be that way for years to come. I am trying to live a Simple Life.

First of all, I decided to get serious about diet and exercise. After two years of walking, lifting, and eating right, I’m not joking when I say I am probably in the best shape of my life.

Secondly, I started selling shit. I started with the big stuff. No more collector cars, no more sailboat, I sold a big collection of stuff that was taking up way too much space in my house. I started looking around at unused toys, tools, and furniture and sold that. I cut my wardrobe by a third. Facebook marketplace is awesome. I don’t have to clean, maintain repair, insure, license, and store all of that stuff. The amount of found time and money from doing this is amazing.

As for my life purpose? Right now I’m looking after my mom. My Dad passed last year, so I moved her nearby. Since she doesn’t drive anymore, I help her out a lot. Guess what, I actually have time for this, and it’s not a big deal. I enjoy it more than stressing over hauling out my sailboat before a north-easter hits the east coast. Also, when she’s gone, I will have seriously accomplished something good. At that point, my life purpose can change again, and that’s great. Lastly, now that the Covid panic is receding, my wife and I are traveling more. Best use of time and money ever!

If you are retired and comfortable but miserable, or retired and financially and/or health stressed, you can fix it if you actively put the principles Gary Collins teaches – or very similar ones – to use in your personal life. Don’t just listen to the podcast or read the books. Act. Execute.

Is it a struggle to achieve a Simpler Life? Yes, it is. Does the struggle pay off in terms of better health, financial freedom, and a clearer pursuit of your life purpose? It has for me.

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