Retiring early and waiting for your spouse. The waiting is the hardest part.

Just over 6 months ago I left a job that I truly enjoyed and moved to what I like to call a new life-work stage. I’m not retired, let’s call it a stage of semi-retirement. My RSP and TFSA portfolio was not retirement ready; it’s only halfway there. The acronym FIRE has become very popular over the last few years – Financial Independence Retire Early. I guess I would fit that definition to some degree, but I don’t have that financial part down yet.

I still need to make half a living, and that’s by design. 

Many will attempt to sprint to the finish line of retirement. That is, they will work hard and as much as they can so that when they reach that magic age and that magic number (considerable retirement portfolio or pension) they can stop and rest and enjoy that financial freedom. That sounds wonderful, but perhaps troublesome for many. We hear of too many stories of retirees falling ill or passing away within the first few months or years of retirement. There are many physical and biological and psychological reasons for that unfortunate reality. I’ll cover that in a separate article.

Many will take the halfway-to-retirement route and instead of a sprint to the finish line, they’ll stroll to the finish line. That’s me, strolling. The thing is I am walking this walk alone; my wife still works and she wants to work for another 4 or 5 years. She’s ‘not ready to retire’. And that’s good, we do need her income for now, until I can start to earn half a living. For us to fully retire we would need to downsize from our accidental investment – our Toronto home. Next year we’ll have our 2 kids in University and we want to keep our home as a base and a familiar comfort zone. This is not the time to take off to the beach.

First 6 months of semi-retirement. 

Out of the gate the new work-life stage was nothing short of incredible. Last June I packed up the laptop and set up shop in Prince Edward Island. My first home office was a little beach cottage in Stanhope. It was my ‘workcation’. I launched my site from the wonky Wifi of Lyon’s Cottages. The property manager Ken did everything he could to keep that Wifi signal chugging along for 3 weeks.

It was an incredible period, being able to hang out with my daughter who is just finishing up her undergrad work ‘on the island’. My wife and son joined us for a week of family vacation. That’s a whirlwind of new activities and emotions. Leaving your career and co-worker friends, starting a new business and taking off to Canada’s most lovely beaches. There was a lot of ‘new and exciting’ all rolled into a few weeks.

That said, I got a good taste of that ‘waiting’. And as Tom Petty (RIP) sang ‘The Waiting Is The Hardest Part’. While I have a very generous amount of loner in me I was surprised at how uncomfortable a feeling that was – that working alone and being alone for many hours on end. I couldn’t wait for my daughter to finish work and head up to the cottage for dinner and a walk along the beach.


I couldn’t wait for the rest of the family to join us for that week of family vacation.

I was offered a very quick introduction to the ‘feeling of retirement’. And I can tell you that is feels a lot different when you are doing that retirement thing – alone. It’s well-known that we have to have a solid plan when we retire. To run to that retirement finish line and then wonder what the heck you are going to do is at the very least misguided. Your time will not magically fill itself with wonderful and fulfilling activities.

When we are working our week is filled with tasks that need to get done on time. We usually know how to fill that time and we often wish there were more hours in the day or more days in the week. Retirement is not much different. We have to fill our days and weeks with tasks and chores and accomplishments. We need some structure. You likely will not be on vacation most weeks or months. Vacation is the easy part, and that may not feel all that different to the vacations that you took in your working life. That said, I would guess that we can start to take our vacations for granted when those vacations are a regular event. We humans can get used to (and bored with) just about anything. I love to travel with family, that might be my most cherished time. But I think I could get somewhat bored of endless travel, or at least the trips could lose some of the magic. Vacations feel great in our working years because there is anticipation and there is an end date.

Retirement has to have meaning and purpose

The concept of purpose might be the most important consideration. That word gets used a lot by those who study retirement and retirees. When we lose our purpose that can send a lot of negative signals to our brain and our body. And certainly that purpose can take many shapes and forms. A retiree might look after the grandkids on regular basis, take care of older parents, volunteer, work on a side job that includes a useful mission.

If you are retiring alone for a few years, waiting for your partner, you’d best have a very good plan built around that purpose. And you might want to fill your 9-5 Mondays to Fridays with enough contact with others – engaging human contact. Free time to do ‘nothing’ loses its appeal real quick. It’s not all that special when free time is followed by more free time.

Make the most of your time when you are waiting for your spouse to retire. I’d suggest that the real retirement starts when you are both retired. But you can make the waiting years very enjoyable and fruitful and meaningful.

Retirees who are doing it right. 

Fritz Gilbert at Retirement Manifesto retired the same month, June of 2018. He offers a wonderful blog that details his and his wife’s FIRE journey. Here’s 6 Lessons From The First 6 Months of Retirement.

You’ll find their retirement consists of a lot of structure and a lot of purpose. There’s regular exercise. There are Grandkids and dogs to take care of. It’s busy enough. There’s lots of room for vacations. As much as one can try to prepare, Fritz is also surprised by the new venture known as retirement.

Fritz Retirement

I’m Lucky

I semi-retired with a purpose, my blog and other writings that help Canadians with their own search for FIRE and other financial goals. That’s all very exciting and interesting  and rewarding. But I know I need more. I need to get ‘out there’ more to promote the blog and mission and to reach Canadians face to face. I will also add some volunteer work for more tasks and greater purpose.

My first 6 months of semi retirement reinforced what is well-known, that being financially prepared is only half of the prep work that is required for a successful and happy retirement. Retirees need a plan. A new life plan for your new life.

Money + Plan =  FIRE-AH.

Financial Independence Retire Early – And Happy.

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6 thoughts

  1. Thanks for this post Dale. Very good points. I definitely agree that having a good plan is the way to go, but I find myself in a bit of a contrary situation.

    I plan to retire in 8 months at the age of 58. I have no partner or children, no hobbies and frankly no real plan. But the FI part is in place, and I know that staying in my current job is not good for my physical or mental health. So I will make the leap anyway next summer, and hope to figure it out when the time comes. I have been thinking about this for some years, and I have become convinced that sometimes our thoughts and energy can be consumed by work while we are in it, leaving no brain power (at least for me) to make a sound retirement plan.

    For what it’s worth, I encourage any of your readers who are in similar FI circumstances to also make the leap, instead of spending more precious years in a destructive job situation, waiting for a plan to fall into place.

    Having a plan is best, but in the absence of one, we need not be immobilized by the fear of jumping off that diving board when we feel the time is right and we know that there is water in the pool whether we do a belly flop or not.
    Best of luck to everyone regarding retirement!


    1. Hi Biff, and sorry for the late reply, I missed your post somehow. Best of luck in retirement. And yes as discussed it might be very important to map out some kind of retirement plan. We do need to fill the days with meaning and joy. Please touch base to let me know how things are going.


  2. Thank you for this article. My husband was in this boat, waiting for me to retire for several years after he took the plunge.

    In my last months of work, I decided to ease myself into the upcoming life by introducing new routines that could be carried on in retirement. These (I reasoned) would provide a sense of continuing structure as well as purpose. So, I joined the board of a non-profit group, and started volunteering at a local animal shelter. Both activities provided some welcome routines in my new life of leisure. Even more importantly, they provided new “colleagues” and new, non-employment-related sources of social engagement. The one thing I keenly missed about departing my last job was the fantastic group of coworkers I was leaving behind, so for me this was really key.


    1. Thanks chamekke so much for the sharing. Yes leaving the coworker friends is not easy as well. Leaving work that we enjoy greatly might be difficult as well. Glad to read that you have found ways to fill that purpose. I will add some volunteer work. I think I’d like to work with youth at risk, inspiring them to ‘go for it’ finding or creating that career that they love against all odds. We can do anything if we believe in ourselves and have others that believe in us as well. Many need some ‘outside’ confidence and guidance.


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