Finding Fulfilment in Early Retirement

Confession time: I LOVE Grey’s Anatomy. I lose a week of my life every time a new series is available, binge-watching the entire thing start to finish. More than the characters (yes they are my friends!) and the drama of the show, for me it’s about people doing good in the world.

My family roll their eyes and sigh when Grey’s season comes around, knowing exactly what I’m going to say when the credits roll.

“I don’t save any lives. I don’t help anybody. I don’t make anybody’s life better”.

I am incapable of watching an episode without feeling inadequate. I know it’s just a TV show, but I can’t shake the feeling that I was supposed to do something else with my life, something more meaningful than my current occupation.

A Day in the Life

I make profit out of people. I work in a consulting organisation whose people are the product. I measure their productivity. I control a budget in order to reach a profit target set by an ivory tower so high in the clouds they can’t see the worker ants on the ground.

I measure year-on-year performance and gap to plan. I mean – who cares? If I get the numbers wrong, nobody dies. It’s negligible whether anyone would even notice.

My day to day feels meaningless. I still have some reserves of professional pride and try to do my best but some days I really struggle to care when asked to explain why our performance this quarter is less linear than last.

And then these long periods of apathy are punctuated by short walks of shame.

I have managed large scale redundancy “projects” where we were instructed to lose a percentage of the organisation – not because we were overstaffed (we can barely keep up with demand) but because globally costs were running “a little hot”.

I lost a small part of myself every time. I knew what I was doing was morally wrong. Yet my own performance was measured on my ability to be ruthless, care not about the lives being affected and focus on the bottom line.

I know I am not alone in feeling that there is something hollow in the work that I do. One of the biggest drivers for me to reach financial independence and early retirement has been this lack of fulfilment. It’s a big wide world – there must be something more meaningful out there for me. And so I have been thinking about some of the things I can do when I no longer need to work for money.

Help People with their Money

Imposter syndrome rules in most areas of my life but one thing I am happy to say out loud –  I’m good with money. I know I can use this ability to help people. I’m not thinking about any form of paid service but rather to explore options with charities that help with debt and money problems. There are lots of these charities around which signifies there are many people struggling with their finances. I know I can be an asset here.

Become a Magistrate

This is not limited to those with a legal background – people from all walks of life can apply to become a magistrate. It is a volunteer position in the UK.

It is not a pleasant job, often dealing with difficult people in difficult circumstances and needs mentally strong individuals. Maybe something to revisit a few years into retirement.

Volunteer in a library

Until last week I wasn’t even sure that such positions exist but I’ve since found a few volunteer roles advertised on my local council website. Not too onerous – they range from a couple of hours to half a day a week, from shelf stacking to delivering books to the housebound. I’ve always wanted the experience of working in a library and I’d be willing to do it for free. Unusually for me this one is as much about connecting with people as anything else. Books and money are the two things I can talk about until the cows come home.

Be Useful to Friends and Neighbours

No woman is an island and surviving and thriving as a working single parent over the years has meant leaning at times on supportive people around me. Having someone nearby who can watch the children for an hour on short notice while I ran an errand or who could offer a coffee and an ear when things seemed hard, made all the difference to me. We lead increasingly isolated lives – community needs to be fostered, but it needs people with time to foster it. I haven’t given back anywhere near as much as I have taken on this score – time to make amends.

Be a Full Time Parent

I was fortunate to have been at home for several years when the children were young but since I went back to full-time work I have rarely been around when they come home from school. That first half an hour when they fling their bags down and unwind is priceless and I always found that’s when the best conversations happen. Yes it may take the smell of home cooked cake to keep them talking in the kitchen but I’m not opposed to that level of bribery 🙂

I was there full-time for the first few years of their childhood and I want to be there for the last. I’ll never get this time back – it’s a one time opportunity. Miss it and it’s gone.

Write Books

Writing is creatively fulfilling and high on my priority list whether anybody were to read my books or not. With the exception of a few blockbusters, there’s little financial gain to be made. As to whether it would add anything to society – I read this on Twitter this week which I think says it all.



Finding Fulfilment in Life

One of the things we hear thrown around is that people who retire early are no longer useful to society. As if being in a paid occupation is the only thing that counts. For some of us, the opposite is true. Being freed of the day job is what will allow us to become more useful and at the same time find a sense of fulfilment with life.

For many years my contributions have been purely financial in the form of high taxes. I’m looking forward to paying my dues in a completely different way. Less soul destroying, more character repairing. There’s a lot of work to be done.




22 thoughts on “Finding Fulfilment in Early Retirement”

  1. If your consulting job strengthens companies and that allows them to provide jobs then you are literally saving lives, maybe more than Meredith. Job loss kills people, job insecurity correlates with almost a 40% increase in heart disease in a UK study. Businesses are a huge factor in people’s health so you should not consider what you are doing to be irrelevant, you are doing a great service to others. I always felt proud that the company I ran was feeding 712 families. I did also get to save a life at work during an accident but I think I saved many more I never knew about by helping provide good jobs in our community. I do volunteer many hours in my retirement but I think I was a bigger force for the good of others when I was working my 9 to 5.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Like you say, job loss kills people and I oversee lots of job losses – that’s the part that is difficult to handle. I know what you are saying and on a good day I try to see it that way.


  2. “Volunteer in a library”

    This! There’s always been a part of me which has always wanted to work in a library in some capacity and I would be willing to do it on a voluntary basis. I hope not too many libraries have been shut down by the time I’m available to help out!

    As for feelings of inadequacy, I feel it when I talk to people like nurses or doctors (like you say, the people who save lives!). I can kid myself that I’m ‘helping people’ in my job, but ultimately, what I’m doing is helping to prevent the company from losing money needlessly so that it can maximise its profits. While I’m being paid by said company, it’s obviously in my best interests, but once I don’t need to be paid, then yes, I’d seek something more meaningful to do with my time – as long as it doesn’t feel too much like work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad it’s not only me that feels that way in front of doctors and nurses! I’m just in awe of the job they do.
      You are helping to keep people in jobs by the sounds of it – that’s a good thing.


  3. I’ve thought about a side hustle as a financial coach but I’m not sure about insurance or what to charge and unsure where to go to look into it. Not quite as altruistic but it’d be a rewarding second income stream

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I should caveat I didn’t necessarily mean someone in strife more like what I’ve done with friends of mine who are high earners but financially illiterate (like the friend worried about investing in the stock market cos she might lose money and yet quite happily paying into a pension)

        Liked by 1 person

          1. I have actually asked one well known fire blogger but they didn’t respond so assume they didn’t want to help which I guess is fair enough


  4. Dues are most definitely being paid with blogging.

    I hope that early retirement will give me the chance to truly focus on myself and how to become better. I understand more about life, society and overcoming difficulties; then share my new found knowledge with the world, hopefully helping other people. I feel that blogging is the opposite of greed – unless of course you’re filling your site with click bate and false affiliate advertisements – your dedicating time and money to share what you’ve learnt, bad or good, with the world!

    Saying that – I do hope to fill some of my RE with charitable events, and I’ll always strive to be friendly, but I’d like to focus more on discovering and sharing.

    Excellent post. I’ve yet to catch up through your backlog, so I’m kind of cheating by skipping to the front 😉


  5. I really enjoyed this post! Your line about losing a small piece of yourself resonated with me a lot. I’ve worked in the financial industry for around 6 years now. I’ve worked in mutual fund roles, digital communications, and for a stock brokerage. I’ve had to recommend products that I would not necessarily use myself. That did a number on me and I really had to let a piece of myself go to do it.

    I love all your reasons. For the most part, I want to reach financial independence for more fulfilling work too. I just want to be able to explore the thoughts in my head without interruption. I want to create and I want to become the most authentic version of myself. And I want to give back and help. Volunteering at a library is definitely something I’d be interested in as well.

    Also, that tweet you included is so true! Artists are very important to society. Keep it up.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Although, I am not fully retired yet, I fill the extra time with painting and doing crafts, two things that I have put on hold when I worked full time and spent so much time commuting. I find it so less stressful nowadays. Now, if I can sell my paintings, then it would be wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post, I don’t think you should be too hard on yourself. The “what do you want to be when you grow up?” starts so young then you can get sweep along choosing a university course and getting locking in a career path in your early 20s. I think even those who working health care and education even feel that burn out despite helping others as a core part of their job. Pursuing FIRE is an outlet to become your authentic self. Best of luck and I really enjoy your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks Reene and welcome! I know I look at medical professionals with rose tinted glasses. There are lots of them in the FIRE community talking about burnout too, it’s just at least they can look at themselves and be proud of what they’ve done.


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