Four Things that Surprised Me the Most About Retiring at 35

I'm one of those early retirees, though I'm not exactly sitting in a rocking chair all day yelling at the neighbor kids to get off my lawn. 

In many ways, the concept of “early retirement” is misunderstood.

A lot of society believes that once someone “retires”, they are done working. Done being productive. Done getting out and doing things, getting involved in their communities and pouring their heart and soul into activities, causes, and hobbies.

The truth, however, is something radically different.

Four things that surprised me the most about early retirement

I'm a gym-goer. I love the environment and I spend a lot of time staying fit.

Before I quit, I remember walking out of the gym most days thinking to myself how much more time I’ll have to work out after I quit. I could spend two hours at the gym if I wanted. Burn some serious calories. But alas, I couldn’t at the time…

I would stay longer if I didn’t have that damn telecon to join.

Or, take blogging. How many more blog posts could I churn out in a given week without the full-time job time sink?

I could write a post every day if I wanted to, or maybe get several months ahead!”

In my head, these dots were simple enough to connect. The job steals eight to 10 hours a day from me. Without the job, I get those hours back to use as I see fit. And, that part is true. I do have those hours back. I am in control.

But, I'm not exactly spending all day in the gym. Early retirement surprise, indeed!

I still go to the gym. I enjoy it enough to still do it, but things are different. I’m not hell-bent on spending two hours at the gym as I had anticipated. In fact, that thought is horrifying to me now. My focus is getting my workout done so I can get out and do other things. Like my own projects.

Hell, how about just lounging in the campground’s hot tub or pool without a care in the world?

I keep myself so busy that I cannot rationalize spending two hours a day at the gym. I am also not reading blogs nearly as much as I thought I would. Or writing blog posts.

To summarize:

  1. I don’t go to the gym as much as I once had
  2. I am not blogging more than usual; in fact, I’m blogging less
  3. I don’t read (or comment on) blogs like I thought I would
  4. I have no real need to take naps during the day

I am too focused on other things. Like getting out with my camera or editing video. Working on projects that I believe in.

Do you know what I did yesterday after lunch? I washed the entire Airstream and truck. Why? Because I wanted to. I wanted it done and I had the time to do it. Before I quit, you could bet that I would have used the “JOB” excuse to avoid the task. But now, it’s fun…meditative.

And I take my time doing these things. Even grocery shopping. I relax and enjoy the moment as much as I can. And trust me, with the sheer volume of hate I have for grocery shopping, relaxing during that ungodly experience isn’t easy.

A full-time job is like this sticky, pervasive sauce that touches everything. It gets everywhere, and it’s tough to avoid. We can add or remove elements to and from our lives to help improve the texture, but the sauce is still there. Everything we do – whether we realize it or not, is influenced by this sticky, unwanted element.

I knew my full-time job was a drain on my freedom, but I hadn’t realized just how big of a role it played in…everything.

I love early retirement

It is remarkable, and somewhat sad, how influential our full-time jobs are in our lives. The things that we do – things we think we enjoy – are nothing more than an excuse to focus on something else – something other than full-time work. Of course, I gained very little satisfaction out of the work I did for a living so that certainly doesn’t help.

If you enjoy your job, it might be different. But even if you do, life is more than time spent working for someone else.

At least…it should be.

I don’t do those things that I had anticipated doing nearly as much…but, the things that I do do (hehe, “do do”), I do with a hell of a lot more satisfaction. Purpose. I keep reminding myself that there is no real need to hurry. I’m retired now. I can take as much time as I need. There isn’t a telecon to get back to. No status reports. No performance reviews. No client meeting.

It’s just us and our two rescued dogs. And Charlie, our Airstream. And, the whole rest of our lives…

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Steve Adcock is an early retiree who writes about mental toughness, financial independence and how to get the most out of your life and career. As a regular contributor to The Ladders, CBS MarketWatch and CNBC, Adcock maintains a rare and exclusive voice as a career expert, consistently offering actionable counseling to thousands of readers who want to level-up their lives, careers, and freedom. Adcock's main areas of coverage include money, personal finance, lifestyle, and digital nomad advice. Steve lives in a 100% off-grid solar home in the middle of the Arizona desert and writes on his own website at