Last night there was an argument in the Twitter personal finance community. I don’t suppose that is particularly unusual, but it’s the first time I’ve watched one play out. I wasn’t involved in this discussion, but I read from the side lines feeling increasingly uncomfortable as the tweets rolled in.
The Limitations of Being an Introvert
My on-line persona mirrors my real life – I prefer to think I am conversing one-on-one or in a small group of friends rather than shouting to make myself heard amongst the crowd. But recently I have been tentatively dipping my toe in the water of Twitter. I’m not even sure why except that I take a lot from the FIRE community by reading about other people’s experiences and opinions and sometimes I might have something valid to add. But this type of communication doesn’t come naturally to me and the idea that I could inadvertently say something that triggered a backlash is really off-putting.
Anyway, it started me thinking about my personality and its limitations and whether it’s something I need to be worried about moving forward.
What’s going to happen when I reach financial independence and early retirement?
When I’m not forced to interact in a work environment, will I become even more removed from people? Am I ever going to see anybody other than my closest family and friends? Will I ever want to? And if I don’t – is that a bad thing?
I have mentioned before, I am at the extreme end of the introvert scale or that’s what it feels like to me. I can turn on the work persona when needed, but it exhausts me. The quarterly management meetings where the senior team gather in a conference room for three days are hard enough. But the evenings out socially that go with them? They are the killer. I will do anything to get out of the social side of things and I always have an excuse for why I can’t stay.
The end of quarter celebrations after work? That’s a definite NO thank you and I haven’t been to an office Christmas party for years. In fact, that night is one of my favourites of the year – when everyone else is obsessing about what they are going to wear or what they are doing with their hair I am smiling to myself, knowing I’m going home to snuggle up in a blanket on my sofa with a glass of wine and a Christmas film.
I read this week that there is to be a meet-up for the FIRE community in London soon. I don’t live far from London so there is no logistical barrier to me attending and there will be people there whose blogs I read or who I may have interacted with online. Slowly, I’m getting more involved in the online community. I read more FIRE blogs than I ever have before and having been lurking in the comments for the last few years, I finally plucked up courage recently and started joining a discussion or two. I’m enjoying the interaction. But there is no way on earth I could attend that meet-up. Turn up at a bar and join real conversations? Introduce myself and integrate into the evening? I’m coming out in hives just thinking about it 😂
I recognise that once we leave the work force it is more important and valuable than ever to have social connections and friends with common interests and I want that too. But for us introverts, it’s just not that easy.
Thinking About Our Emotional Well-Being in Early Retirement
I’m working hard to achieve Financial Independence. I’m counting down the days until I can hand in my notice and walk away from all that forced interaction. I’ve always been hard working – this is not about being lazy, but I am just done with so many things about working life.
But having worked so hard to achieve the freedom that financial independence brings, I want a long and happy life to enjoy it and thinking about our emotional well-being is an important part of our overall retirement planning which is often over-looked.
In a recent Harvard Health Letter Dr. Robert Waldinger suggests that social connections appear to be good for health and longevity:
“People who are more socially connected to family, friends, and community are happier, healthier, and live longer than people who are less well connected.”
Well, I have a tick in that box – a close family and some key friendships that have endured many life stages and will survive this one.
He also comments:
“People who are more isolated than they want to be are less happy, their health declines earlier in midlife, their brain function declines sooner, and they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely.”
You could read that sentence and worry about our early retirement. But the introverts will have picked up on the key words…… “more isolated than they want to be…..”. In other words, if we want social interaction and we don’t have it, there is a negative effect. But if we are comfortable with our level of sociability, we’ll be just fine in our caves.
Do Extroverts Have An Easier Life?
I think most introverts go through life thinking the extroverts have it easy. Social situations, speaking up in work meetings, public speaking, client entertaining – there are so many times I have wished these things came more easily to me. And I know for sure that my introversion has held me back in my career – I’ve reached my level in spite of my personality, not because of it.
But in early retirement, the tables may actually be turned. Now I wonder if it’s harder for extroverts. When faced with so much more free time and inevitably (at least at first) so many less people to interact with, those people who are energised by social interaction and drained by solitude are going to struggle to adapt far more than those of us whose favourite companions are ourselves.
Tanja (Our Next Life) recently posted about the hustle to find friends in early retirement. She speaks honestly about how it feels to want those connections and to struggle to find them and as always on her blog, there are some interesting perspectives in the comments which are well worth reading.
Let’s Keep it on the Radar
Introverts are not social pariahs. On a one-to-one basis we can be lively and confident and fun people to have around. We’re also happy with our own company and don’t need to be around others to feel energised. When we are no longer working, we probably won’t seek out large gatherings, but we’ll maintain our close friendships and bonds. There is always the danger that we become a bit too isolated, liking our own company the way we do. But being aware of this and making an effort with our social connections can keep it at bay and allow us to maintain a healthy balance.
We should also spare a thought for our extrovert friends. Throughout our working years we relied on them to lead the conversations, organise the events, be the life and soul and allow us introverts to exist at the edges. Their exuberance masked our inabilities and allowed us to hide. Early retirement is a time where they may be less sure of themselves. For once, we may seem to be the more capable ones; the ones that have to make less effort to settle into our new lives. The least we can do at that point is to be there for them, open to new friendships and connections (in small doses of course) 😊
Join the Discussion
What do you think? Are there more introverts seeking FIRE than extroverts? Do you think we focus too much on the numbers and not enough on the other aspects of early retirement? How social do you think you will be when you are no longer working?
21 thoughts on “Introvert on FIRE”
An excellent and thoughtful post and I agree, I think extroverts might find things tougher with FI or RE.
According to the Myers-Briggs test, I’m classed as an extrovert but on the lower end of the scale and could be seen as something in between, ie an ‘ambivert’. So while I enjoy socialising with friends and colleagues (I think I have only ever missed two company Christmas parties over my entire career, one because I was on holiday and the other because I had the flu!) and will happily turn up at parties on my own when everyone is in a couple, I hate public speaking, being the centre of attention and am happy with just my own company. A couple of my friends are what I would call real extroverts and I am nothing like them and I can’t see any of them retiring early and being happy just ‘pottering around’ which is something I’m looking forward to doing!
That said, I know that I will miss the social aspect of work when I retire, so I will be seeking out something to replace that, be that joining some sort of club or society or meeting new people through volunteering.
Interesting what you say about the London FIRE meet-up – if I was in the area, I would attend as it would give me an opportunity to meet some fellow bloggers. I have to say that I was a little anxious when I attended my first FIRE meet-up as I was on my own, about to meet a bunch of complete strangers. But I found it liberating to be able to talk about FIRE and all things about money, investing etc because this type of talk is usually taboo in our usual society. Perhaps the way to go is for you to engage with a few others and have a smaller and more informal gathering?
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It sounds like you have the best of both worlds. I haven’t heard the term ambivert before! It’s difficult to be the extreme of anything but everything gets easier with age. I find it far easier to cope now than I did in earlier years – part of that just being able to say no.
I heard about the meet-up from the Financial Independence London Facebook group – again, I’m guilty of lurking rather than actively participating. There’s some interesting conversation on there sometimes.
Maybe at some point I could do a smaller meet-up (screams, throws computer on floor, runs and hides….!!!!) 🙂
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It’s not always having ‘the best of both worlds’ however – the extrovert lot think I’m like them so don’t understand when I feel like I want to be alone and think there’s something wrong, when there isn’t!
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I am a financially independent and early retired introvert and I “make” myself work about two days a week on consulting side gigs that have me face to face with a large number of extroverted people (lobbyists and political figures). At two days on average it isn’t that tiring and it has given me some good relationships with others and keeps me mentally challenged as the work is fairly technical. I think you should consider some side gigs that force you slightly out of your comfort zone after you pull the plug on a full time career and limit the amount of time you spend on them to the amount that makes you flourish and not feel drained. At least it works for me. I’m not on the extreme end of the scale and actually like the spotlight and performance opportunities but I’m still otherwise a classic introvert.
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I find it interesting that people push themselves out of their comfort zone when they don’t need to any more. I can see the benefits in terms of mental stimulation but I’m not sure I could do that to myself. Instinct says to keep away from those stressful things. I wonder if the urge to put yourself back out there comes maybe not straight away, but after being early retired for a while…..? Did you take time out before you started your consulting?
No, I made an immediate transition. I have a brother in law who was a high level executive at a major corporation, worth many millions and retired, who kept saying how bored he was so that made the issue seem pretty real to me. Plus the opportunity for my main side gigs just sort of fell into my lap but would have had a short shelf life if I didn’t act immediately. I thought I could back out of the work easier later if it wasn’t adding to my life but starting something up later from scratch might not be easy.
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As I wrote on my blog today, I went to a meet up over the weekend and everyone was introverts. They seemed more comfortable then they thought they would be.
It’s often the case we imagine things to be far worse than they actually are. It just takes such a monumental effort to put yourself out therein the first place.
I was considering going to the fire meet up in June. Itd be nice as weenie said to have an open conversation about this type of thing
You should go! (Says she who will be hiding behind her sofa……!)
Let me know what it was like if you do – I’d be really interested.
Great article. Uncannily familiar. I too like the idea of attending the London FIRE meet-up, but don’t see it ever happening!
Thank you. There’s more of us than it seems
Great read, and just wanted to say thanks. Having come across the blog I have been reading through and thoroughly enjoying the articles. It’s really nice reading about others on a similar path, particularly in part my situation is not so different – quite introvert character, operate in large corporate where it helps to shrug on a cloak of extrovert every day. Do-able, but I empathise with your getting out of what obligations you can, I for sure really feel the need to ‘recharge myself’ after such things.
Tolerating those is one thing, and there are of course positives . But it brings to mind Gandhi’s comment of happiness being when what we think, what we say and how we act being in harmony – impossible to achieve in the average corporate these days!? 🙂 It seems also more and more understand about the role of stress on health – as you touch on – and that we are more designed to tolerate acute stress than chronic stress. With that in mind FI could be a health program – turn 50 odd years of chronic stress into much fewer years of acute stress.
(I noted you no longer put the number of days at the end of a post – a recalculation ongoing?! I thought that was nice to read – a combined announcement and countdown)
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Thanks for your comment and for making my day 🙂 I’m glad you are enjoying reading.
I am getting more and more concerned about the effect of stress on my health. Some of that is under my control – I am guilty of getting home from work and pouring a drink before I even take my shoes off! I blame it on stress but I should take more responsibility for a bad habit. It comes back to doing what we have to do to tolerate the situation we are in. I am going to read up on acute vs chronic stress – thanks for that point; I haven’t read anything about how we can tolerate one more than the other.
As to the number of days – well I stopped because it seemed so definite and perhaps naive because of course, anything could happen in the next couple of years. If the market is substantially down, I won’t be able to RE at my original date. Having said that, you’ve made me think that I might start putting them in again. It will make a good record of what my original plan was and what it really turns out to be, And I liked signing off like that too.
Writing on the internet must feel like a voice in the middle of nowhere – and surprising when people are reading and answering. For all the negatives (spam, Facebook, ads…), the internet is an incredible tool – as individuals we have more power of connection than nations had not all that long ago, and incredible for finding ideas like FI/RE, and like minded people.
People who drink moderately have better longevity than tee-totallers, so a thumbs up on that score. To my knowledge there’s nothing biologically good about alcohol at all, so the positive effect on longevity (relative to non-drinkers) must be down to some effect such as stress reduction. So maybe better to keep going! 🙂
I agree on the calculation difficulty – a definitive date is tough with markets – but it’s nice to have a goal to keep focussed on. Dropping below 1,000 days would feel good! I work out mine as the investment amount I need to have (and considering tax, thank you!), then showing where I am as a percentage of that. It really helps with focus, seeing how much the percentage moves month by month.
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Well I know that I’ve learned a huge amount from other bloggers so hopefully I am paying it forward in some way. I am genuinely humbled when people take the time to comment.
And you make a very good point about the alcohol – I’ll keep it up 🙂
What about you – what percentage are you at now?
I’m still getting my head around where I am percentage-wise. The actual number is 79% – but what assumptions go into that? Am I where I want to live finally (no!), and so how to manage that? Purely from total assets I perhaps have enough to be 100% if I moved everything into funds, but a part of that I am thinking to use for moving home in future. Added to that my WT…Fi moment, that it wasn’t a 65yo life sentence, was not that long ago, so I’m still feeling out what level of spending to target, how it affects 4% rule, taxation etc. I’ve been really lucky I guess in that I’ve been following FI without knowing what FI was – never really went at all for lifestyle inflation, saved heavily – only difference now is that FI gives it a focus and a purpose.
Your paying it forward is really helpful – the internet is amazing for this kind of thing, no wonder newspapers and TV are suffering, they have nothing like this kind of content. Their job is to keep us spending – not get us saving and escaping 🙂
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