10 Small Joys of Early Retirement

Editor’s note: This article is by ESI from ESI Money, a blog about achieving financial independence through earning, saving, and investing (ESI).

Itโ€™s written by an early 50โ€™s retiree who achieved financial independence, shares whatโ€™s worked for him, and details how others can implement those successes in their lives.

ESI offers a free book titled Three Steps to Financial Independence.

We all are aware of the big benefits of early retirement: the freedom of time, the ability to travel, and, of course, not having to work. But what about the little things? What about the small joys that pop up in early retirement? You know, the simple things that just seem to happen here and there and make you smile.

Maybe you’ve never considered them. But after almost a year of retirement, I’m starting to appreciate them as much as the bigger benefits.

What follows are ten small joys (i.e. the little benefits) I’ve found in early retirement. I hope they will encourage you that retirement is even better than you might imagine.

1. Quiet weekdays.

When you work, days are often full of hustle and bustle. Activity is high and it’s go-go-go. This certainly characterized my 28-year career as a business executive.

Then when I got the weekend off, everyone else had it off too. So the places I’d go hoping for some peace and quiet were as crowded as ever.

But once I retired, I was able to go against the stream. As such, places are quiet during the week. The gym is less crowded, the stores and restaurants have fewer people, and even the sidewalks and neighborhoods have fewer people out and about — because they are at work.

After 28 years of going full steam ahead, I relish the quiet. I like working out with hardly anyone else around (and I certainly don’t like waiting/competing for equipment). I like walking and hearing the birds instead of the traffic and chatter of others. I like getting a cup of coffee in a lazy and quiet cafe.

Retirement is quiet during the week and I love it.

2. Movie day.

We didn’t see many movies in theaters when I was working. First of all, there wasn’t a lot of time. Second, do you know how expensive movies are these days? And finally, most theaters are very crowded. Ugh.

Enter movie day.

Movie days are on Tuesdays. Prices drop to about half the normal rate and the theaters are WIDE open. It’s quiet, inexpensive, and a great time to see a movie on the big screen.

It’s also a wonderful opportunity to connect with our kids, who are older and out with friends a lot. Thankfully, they are still ok going to the movies with mom and dad.

We go every other week or so depending on the movie release schedule and my kids’ work schedules. I’ve seen more movies since I retired than in the several years prior.

Love, love, love movie day.

3. Developing random friendships.

When I was working, there was little time to be chatty with those I’d run into here and there. It’s not that I didn’t care about meeting new people, it’s just that my time was precious and I was often off to something else with my family.

Now that I have an abundance of time, I’m willing to invest a bit into meeting new people.

As such I’ve developed a nice friendship with my next door neighbor (who has the best yard on the street and is full of great tips). I’ve also developed friendships with a few gym buddies (we talk in the hot tub, sauna, and locker room), one of whom I’m helping with some business ideas.

It’s nice to connect with others and an unexpected, small joy for me.

4. Staying in during bad weather.

We live in Colorado where it can be 70 degrees in January and snow several inches in May. Don’t laugh, both happened this year.

One of the pains of work was having to brave the tundra on those cold, nasty days where it snowed many inches, roads were bad, and I just wanted to stay in bed. But work called so I had to risk life and property to get there or else.

Know what I do nowadays on days like that? I stay in bed. ๐Ÿ™‚

Ok, on the really bad days when schools are closed and some businesses as well, I do get to the gym (I can walk there and I lived 14 years in Michigan, so I can handle cold — plus there is NO ONE there on those days so it’s blissful). But after I get home I simply hunker down, watch a movie, drink some coffee, do some blogging, play games with the family, etc.

It feels like I’m getting away with a crime. ๐Ÿ˜‰

5. Not dreading Monday.

I remember getting a tight knot in my stomach every Sunday about 4 pm, knowing I had to go to work the next day.

Now I don’t get those and can enjoy Sundays like any other days. I do think of others as Sunday begins to wind down. I often comment to my wife as we’re on a walk that many people are now starting to get the “Monday dreads”.

I don’t relish that others have that doom and I’m thankful I don’t have it. In fact, Mondays are my best days because they signal the start of five days of quiet.

Related: The Best Retirement Calculators [How Much Will You Need to Retire]

6. Reading books.

I’ve been a life-long learner. I like reading about a whole host of topics and have since I was a kid.

But given my busy work schedule, I had little time to read.

I did keep educating myself, especially in both personal finance (an interest) as well as business (a key part of making sure I was still learning and growing in my career). But I had to do it through listening — audio books in the car and podcasts while working out. There was little time to actually hold a book and read.

But since I’ve retired I’ve probably read more books that the previous three years. I still like to multi-task, so my favorite reading place now is in the gym sauna after a workout.

I just need to be careful I don’t sweat onto the book and ruin it, but other than that, all’s well.

7. Walking.

You’ve probably heard the “rule” that we all need “10,000 steps per day.” Do you know how hard it is to get in 10,000 steps when you sit at a desk most of the day? Very hard indeed.

When I was working, my goal was to try and get 7,000 steps on at least five days of the week. I hit that more times than not, but still had many weeks with only two or three days of meeting goal.

Now I walk to most places. I walk to the gym, the grocery store, restaurants, and just around the neighborhood for fun.

My big walk is right after my workout and I arrive home with about 7,000 steps under my belt by 9:30 am. My wife and I add to that with a couple extra walks every day, and I now get at least 15,000 steps in a day but many days are over 20k.

I enjoy being outside, it’s quiet, and the Colorado scenery is gorgeous. I either listen to podcasts or talk to my mom while walking — I can’t help but multitask. ๐Ÿ™‚

8. Eating at off times.

The traditional times for meals never seemed to work for me. I was never hungry when I woke up and very hungry at other times. But my schedule was dictated by a “normal” work schedule.

Not anymore.

Now I usually eat breakfast after I get back from the gym around 9:30 am. Then at least half the time we eat our biggest meal of the day around 2 pm or 3 pm, often something I have cooked on the grill. Then dinner could be something light or simply “get whatever leftovers you can from the refrigerator” to get by.

I like this arrangement much better as it suits my body’s clock. Plus with our kids in and out and often not around for meals, it gives us the flexibility to eat what and when we want.

9. Doing home maintenance.

This one may seem a bit strange but I actually get a lot of satisfaction from fixing things around my house.

My problem is that I never had the time to assess the problem, learn how to fix it, get the materials, then fix something. Besides, who wants to spend their very limited time on a household chore? So I outsourced most of my house maintenance when I was working.

Not any longer. Unless it’s really complicated or dangerous (I don’t mess with gas or electricity), I’m working on it. So far I’ve done repairs to our fence, fixed a toilet, and drained my sprinkler system for the winter. And my yard and landscaping are looking awesome this year as well.

I still have a lot on my list (I don’t want to push myself after all) but a lot has been done and I’m looking forward to tackling more.

10. Sleeping the way I want.

My sleep has improved dramatically since I retired. Once the work stress started melting away, a deep sleep came back and it’s been awesome.

Most days I’m actually up pretty early (before 6 am) because I’m excited about every day. There’s so much to do and everything is something I want to do. So I wake up ready to go.

But some days we get to bed late or I’ve had a tough workout and I would like to sleep in. Know what I do? I sleep in. Usually not past 7 am, but if I wanted to I could sleep all day.

More Small Joys

So those are ten of the small joys I’ve found in early retirement. I could actually add several more, but I’ll leave those for the future. I’m sure I’ll discover new ones too.

For those of you already retired, are there any of these benefits you recognize or perhaps others you’ve found?

For those of you still working on retirement, do any of these benefits particularly strike your fancy?

Let me know in the comments below.

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  1. Avatar Phil Stone says:

    Number 1, and number 5 are what really hit close to home with me. I don’t live in a large city, but dread doing the things I enjoy on what I consider a busy weekend. Most activities I enjoy are outdoor related, and are best experienced without the crowds. Chalk one up for number 1 and weekdays.
    Ah Monday, and the Sunday blues. I can actually trace this knot in the stomach back to school days and when Sunday rolled around, the associated stress that accompanied it. Summer cured this pain instantly. I really hope this same logic applies to retirement. I’m coming for you number 5!

  2. Avatar Paul Sharp says:

    These are joys, but the real challenge is how to manage your finances after the retirement. The most important thing is having enough money in your bank, and that is the main reason why people prefer to invest in buying of properties, so that they save enough before they will actually retire.

  3. What a great article! This gets me excited and is a reminder of all the hard work I am doing now so I can enjoy myself in the future.

  4. Ok, I know my wife and I are different but rather than stay inside during bad weather we love being able to go outside during bad weather. Bass are way easier to catch during low barometric pressure right in front of a big storm and the waterfalls we bush whack to are most impressive when it is raining! But the concept is the same, if you are doing something that is impacted by weather then picking from seven days a week sure improves your odds compared to being stuck to weekends only! And avoiding weekend crowds makes it just that much more fun. Great post, and great summary of the reasons ER is a sweet thing.

  5. Thanks for the great read! I definitely have a lot to look forward to.

  6. Avatar Time Hedge says:

    #1 is so simple but so wonderful. I normally hate going grocery shopping fighting for parking and trying to get through every blocked aisle full of people on the weekend, but during the week midday its a ghostown. Love it.

  7. Those were good! Here in rural Arkansas I’d add weekday fishing. All the area lakes and rivers are pretty crowded on weekends but not during the work week. My bass fishing wife and I have caught more fish than we can believe now that we can fish on the peak weather days and with less competition. That’s true for anything that gets too crowded on weekends, but for us it is fishing.

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