What Brings Us Happiness In Retirement? Money or Time?

I’ve been retired for 17 years now. In other words, thanks to my sound financial planning, I’ve been able to quit the 9 to 5 rat race very early in my life. I now have all the time in the world because I’m not burdened down with debt. So, you’d think I’d be happy since that’s what most financial experts in FIRE proclaim (Financial Independence Retire Early). Money doesn’t bring us happiness. Time does.

Really?

As usual, I have to disagree with most other people’s life views. I’ve got all the time in the world, yet when I sit down and ask myself what would make me happy, money pops in to my mind. Not time. Or more time. What’s the point of having all the time in the world available to you if you don’t have the money to give you what you’d like to do/get?

Over at The Retirement Manifesto, author Fritz, made this proclamation today:

True happiness in life doesn’t come from Money. More importantly, happiness comes from gaining freedom over your time and using the resulting Time Affluence to do things that really matter.

Um, Fritz? You need money to fully enjoy all that newfound free time you’re dealing with. And the proclamations don’t stop with Fritz. He’s linked some other goody-two-shoes who think just like he does. There’s ESI Money who proclaims true happiness comes from helping others. And dogs.

Really? Here’s a quote:

I think that is one of the biggest pitfalls we get into on our pursuit of FI, we fail to really define the end goal. Let’s skip the travelling the world for a moment and the spending time with loved ones (not like these aren’t important). I think we need to first define what truly makes us happy.

Not just what we think, not what everyone else is saying, but what would truly make us happy? And is it possible to be happy now?

Whenever I read other personal finance blogs with people who have already retired, I try to look very closely in their writing for happiness.

Weird, I know, but it makes me very curious. What makes them happy now? Have they finally found what we’ve all been searching for?

Most times, at least from what I can tell, they are still in the pursuit of happiness even after accumulating all this money and retiring early.

At least ESI Money is right about this one thing he found out: FIRE isn’t making anyone happy. His conclusion to finding happiness is to help other less-fortunate people (and dogs). Good luck with that one. Ever hear of the quote: ‘no good deed goes unpunished‘? DH and I rescue dogs. Know what it takes to help dogs (and people)? MONEY. Not time!

Fritz also links to a fellow blogger named ‘Mr. Thrifty‘. I’m always hesitant to believe anyone who doesn’t use his real name or at least a pretend real name. Mr. Thrifty calls his wife ‘Mrs. Thrifty‘. I rest my case. The two of them have a blog entitled ‘Thrifty Enough‘ (what else?) and the two of them go on to proclaim that they have found the path to true financial freedom at $35,000 per year (sound familiar?) A bigger home or a granite countertop is not going to give them any more happiness. Why? Because they value time over money. Here’s Mr. Thrifty’s mantra: You can always make more money, but you can never make more time.

I’m always fascinated with recently retired people. They start off so happy and hopeful. They’re traveling and seeing family members they haven’t seen in years. They’re connecting and reconnecting and they are just so full of joy, it’s mind-boggling. Then the reality of real life retirement sets in. And guess what? That time that they think is so wonderful suddenly fizzles when they realize their monthly bills have increased substantially and that income they thought they had in the bag suddenly isn’t enough. Oh, it takes a few years. And none of their preparations or financial savviness has prepared them for anything. Now, and only now do they finally understand what true retirement life is really like.

Know what I got in the mail today? My 2019 Medicare Supplemental Insurance bill. Know what the increase percentage for 2019 is going to be? Seventy-five percent (75%). That’s right! My insurance premium (Part D) for next year has almost doubled. The first thing I thought about was that $10 tip I gave my hairdresser last week because I wanted to reward a hard-working, less-fortunate-than-me woman. I’m not going to be able to be so generous next year, thanks to my medical increases. She and her two kids are going to have to struggle a little bit harder next year. I know I will. Time isn’t going to cure my medical woes. Money is. Ditto for my hairdresser.

Every single retirement person I know has a side-hustling job. They can be as financially free as anyone can be (mortgage free, debt free, car loan free etc) and they can be as well invested as Warren Buffet (passive income, dividend income, interest income etc) but what they have found out as they progress through their retirement life is YES! they need more money than they have ever planned. Not time.  M.O.N.E.Y.

I live on about $35,000 a year, and you know what? It sucks. I bought myself new granite countertops a few years ago (actually they’re quartz) and you know what? They make me extremely happy each and every day I look at them, I work on top of them, I cut my veggies on top of them! I have 17 cousins from my mother’s side, that I grew up with because we spent every Sunday at grandma’s house together. Know what? My mother died in 1978 and I haven’t seen any of those 17 cousins since. They all despised my father because he was an immigrant and their hatred cascaded down to both my sister and myself. The odds of me reconnecting with those bastards, now that I am retired, is zero!

I took a real vacation this past August. By a ‘real’ vacation, I mean I did the whole nine yards, I went the distance, I became an actual tourist. I went out to eat in well-known restaurants, I went on a tour, I went to most of the tourists traps, I bought souvenirs for the first time ever. I bought brand new clothes for the first time in years.

Know what I got in return for finally enjoying myself without worrying about our budget or the bottom line? This:

the bill.png

Thankfully, I have the money to pay this bill. In full. No revolving credit for me. All the time in the world wasn’t going to give me this real vacation high. Money did! I’ve discovered what almost all of the retirees before me have discovered. Oh, it’s nice to have the time to dilly dally and pursue hobbies or dreams, but baby doll, you’re going to need a whole lot of money, more than you have saved or squirreled away, to find true happiness in your retirement.

You don’t have to keep your day job. That’s true. You really can achieve FIRE. But you better learn to master the ‘side-hustle’. You’re gonna need it more than you will ever know.

Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper.

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25 comments

  1. I’m always glad that I don’t have the hurry, hurry time pressure that I did when I was working but if I didn’t have the money I need, I would be back at work, no question about it. I’ve never had a problem where having money made it worse!! So I won’t make a choice between time and money. They are both necessary. And another thing that is necessary for a happy retirement: Good Health. IMHO.
    (Is it my imagination that the people who say money isn’t all that important for a happy retirement are mostly men???)

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    • Florence, that is an outstanding observation. I am going to look in to that! As a woman I am always stating ‘we have enough money’ but hubby disagrees and sometimes goes out to work against his better health issues. Even Mr. Money Mustache. King of early retirees, has opened up a work-related cafe’ type of environment AND he is making a little bit of money on the side. Go figure.
      I’m with you also on the fact that I think we need both time and money in retirement. The more I get into retirement I find myself want to do more, see more, be more AND that takes money.
      Thanks for your comment.

      Like

  2. Sometimes it almost makes me afraid to retire but my job is being eliminated in March 2019 and I will be 65 so ready or not here comes some sort of retirement…guess I need to figure out a side hustle. Been reading a lot of retirement blogs and I am not sure it is adding more clarity. As you point out one never knows what is enough to make it in retirement with the ebb’s and flows of life.

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    • Hi Steven. Everyone I have met so far who are retired, as I am, confessed to me that they have a side hustle to earn that extra spending money. Me included. I do advertisement work on Facebook pages for clients. I do not earn much BUT it helps.
      I have female friends who either sell jewelry or book cruises for their friends (@$50 per booking commission). I have male friends, who are retired doctors or CPA’s and despite their ‘millions saved’ and pensions, they all are doing something on the side, such as lectures, consulting or writing books for sale on the internet. They all tell me the same thing. They are covering their expenses BUT they want/need that extra scratch to go out and have fun, play golf, etc. etc. My own brother bought a rental a few years ago, that his son manages for him, just so he can collect an extra $1400 per month, which he uses for travel. He’s in Rome now. After coming back from an annual African safari.
      Go figure.
      Don’t worry about yourself. You will do fine. Why? Because you are aware, reading blogs and staying informed. Experience is the best teacher and you get an up-to-the-minute status report. LOL.
      Thank you for your comment.

      Like

  3. Hi Cindi, Even though we haven’t met in person I have been commenting on your blogs starting with Thrifty at Sixty and I don’t do a side hustle now. I have been retired since age 45 because my aging parents needed help 500 miles away. I quit my full time job. Then for two years just concentrated on helping, I then did a four year side hustle that worked while still helping them so I could help with my kids college years. Stopped that in 2004 eight months after my husband retired and the kids were finish with schooling. For fourteen years now, I have not done a side hustle and don’t plan on ever doing one again. I too believe We are definitely in an inflationary uptrend and we are going to pay more For most things but three percentage points is what most financial advisors have suggested for years to plan for as your budget increase yearly. I had been at a 1% increase for six years from 2004 till 2010 on my basic expenses, then 2% from 2010 to 2013. 2013 due to lifestyle changes and added income I jumped to 5% increase in spending basically upgrading cable, keeping my home warmer, adding bedroom air conditioning, adding more organic food, and the increase in insurances. 2017 my retirees health insurance doubled, and then going on Medicare in 2018 this tripled that cost again. This was an eye opener and I solved the problem by making more on my savings with interest rates up. But- I wondered, if the cost of what I need will increase more then what I get in my widow pension. I can no longer be complacent. So I am pursuing passive income increases because I don’t want to forego the new lifestyle changes. And most importantly I don’t want to have to stop having money available for whatever new activities or travel I would like to pursue. Sincerely, Lara

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lara. From what you told me, you’ve been dabbling in buying stocks and selling at a profit. That’s sort of like working a side job, right? You’re making extra money. And you’re putting time and energy into it.
      I’m like you in the respect of not changing my lifestyle. I’m enjoying where I am right now and don’t want anything to change. Or be eliminated.
      We have to do what ever we have to do.
      It’s time to buy propane again for the upcoming winter. Last year the price was in the $2s a gallon. This year it’s nearing $4s. How to solve the dilemma??
      Thanks for your comment.
      Still hopeful one day we meet.

      Like

  4. Cindi, I too read Retirement Manifesto and Fritz hinted his retirement budget is around $120,000 in a comment and before officially retiring he bought a new kitchen, truck and RV very big ticket items, so lotsa money is definitely contributing to his time affluence. Lara

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    • Let’s not forget that he moved to a bigger, better home. From my experience Fritz is going to be faced with a rude awakening. He’s in the honeymoon phase right now. Stay tuned.
      $120,000 is for an annual budget? That’s ridiculous. Did he buy all those things on loans? He criticizes people who get granite countertops yet had a whole new kitchen remodel? Ditto for living in large houses yet he upgraded to a bigger home with a better lake view.
      Give him time. It’s just a matter of time before retirement reality sinks in.

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  5. Yes, I am buying stocks but mainly to set up a flow of dividends to supplement the interest From CDs. I also set up sell orders to lock in gains when I buy them too. Right now I almost have the yearly dividends matching my pension so It has definitely been worth the time invested. Is it a job or side hustle not sure if I would classify it as such? Do we consider pursuing education one of these? Because this is where most of the time I spent was used. Has it become one of my passion? Yes since May. I do really enjoy spending time researching financial topics. And this has been since I was in my twenties. But I do spend more time in other pursuits. Sincerely,Lara

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    • Lara, you are doing what I can not (though I’ve tried). You’re doing great! Personally, I consider you to be an investment day trader and yes, I would consider that a personal side hustle. Good for you! I’d give anything to have your talent.
      🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Day trader, hmmm not quite there I look at the high yielding REIT s, bonds, Preferred stocks, and stock. I purchase and hold for the dividends long term but also sometimes their price goes higher then the dividend and it sells from my sell order. I check my stocks and the market three times a day usually which is about fifteen minutes to a half hour total. So usually maximum two to two and half hours total in a week. I use to make three trades in a week but since I have gotten my new portfolio established I make that in a month because of the sells to keep the money working. Lara

        Liked by 1 person

  6. No, he bought them from savings. His philosophy is after you retired your hesitant to use savings for big ticket items and so he did while he was still working. He did change his mind to start his pension in 2019, which I suggested in a comment that waiting and depleting a traditional IRA that was taxable was crazy. Sincerely, Lara

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    • Lara, that’s a total opposite of what should be done prior to anyone retiring, despite still working. You’re suppose to downsize, get smaller, live on a lesser blueprint, leave a smaller carbon print etc. etc. Once you quit working, then you are stuck with a larger lifestyle, not the smaller one which is more recommended. Things will work out fine in the beginning, for a while but then the larger lifestyle catches up with you. He may find himself living an unsustainable existence. It’s hard to downsize from a weaker position. He may find himself losing more than what he had saved.
      Live and learn. That’s what I say. Even if it’s going to be a painful lesson.

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      • I read Fritz blog starting from the beginning and he did downsize and they sold a much larger suburban home where they had cared for his MIL suffering from I think Alzheimer’s and they found a care facility close to their mountain location. His wife lived in the mountain home while he got an apartment until he turned 55. He explains the change in mountain homes to go from good to,great and I’m not sure if it is larger then the original mountain home. He never really shared what percentage of his preretirement income he plan to live on in retirement. We plan on the same amount as our take home pay after the 401k contribution and the lower taxes actually covered the increase health care cost. We also built in a safety bucket to take care of 3% inflation and had an emergency fund.
        I Can So relate to your splurging on something and then going on a shopping ban. I did this too in the first fifteen years of retirement. Now I ask myself several questions when I am spending on discretionary items. Is it worth the money it cost? Does it add to my happiness?
        Will it make me have to give up anything else I love? Lara

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      • Lara, so far I am happy to announce my ‘no spend’ week is going very well. But that’s the problem. I can go. month, weeks, years of no spending and then it all just gets to me. I think the closer I am getting to death the more I am realizing I have missed out on a lot of things. I actually found myself justifying buying new clothes after years of buying my clothes only at consignment shops or Goodwill for years. I shouldn’t have had to live like that. But alas, I do. On the past money I have spent so far, did it add to my happiness? Was it worth it? A resounding YES! And I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
        As to Fritz’s mountain home, I understood it that he updid his home and living space to a house with a better lake view AND a mortgage. Both moves IMHO are anti-retirement savvy. But perhaps that’s just me.

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    • I’m hoping that this winter will be mild but it doesn’t look so. I thought propane was natural gas? We thought we were being smart & prudent by using propane (American sourced) than oil. I can only imagine what a gallon of oil cost today? (Hold on. I just looked it up)
      According to NYSERDA, propane right now is $2.58 and oil is $3.28.

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  7. Not sure if propane is natural gas but I pay $1.46/ CCF for the first 30 CCF and .27 less above the first thirty $1.19 /CCF and $15 service charge monthly. I actually turned my heat on today for an hour since the inside temperature was 62 and my hands were too cold. Lara

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    • I think I figured out what natural gas is vs propane and oil. We’re def ahead of the game here with propane but natural gas would have been even better. I pay a $5 delivery charge. We get 2 to 3 fill ups a year, about 600 gallons. (it used to be 1000 gallons!)
      Electricity here is a LOT cheaper than anything else. I supplement our heat with electric space heaters. I have 1 in LR, 1 in BR and I just put a little one in my office. A few times so far I turned all of them on for a few hours in the morning or late at night. I won’t turn our regular heat on for a few more weeks. The space heaters work great. For now. Plus I have an electric throw blanket and an electric queen-sized blanket for our bed. They work great and cost mere pennies to run.
      This is the first time I’ve been home here up north in almost 4 years. I’d usually be in Florida by now.
      Oh well.
      I’m looking forward to see how we fare out this winter. Our only break is February.

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  8. I have never understood all of these folks who become big stars making lots of money and then are miserable, start doing drugs, and take their own lives. Give me some of that money! I bet I would remain drug free and alive and would enjoy life even more. Oh, to have money to help others more, to relieve my children of their student loans, to save, really save. Having free time is wonderful but if you don’t have money to enjoy doing things, going places and being with those you love most, all that free time can be pretty lonely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you! I have lots of time but without money, the time is meaningless. At the end of life we regret not doing something or going somewhere. That takes money. Not time.
      And the debate continues.
      Thanks for your comment.

      Like

  9. OMG, I just found you and I LOVE YOU!! I am sitting here reading and laughing so hard. I have been reading a lot of the FIRE bloggers for over 4 years and I totally agree with you. First, most are not retired, they are stay at home parents with a working spouse, or a business owner or a multitude of things but retired they are not. And when I see things like “retire for 50 years on 650k in saving” the first thing that comes to mind is, welfare recipient in 20 years. Also I find it so entertaining when they write, retirement is so great!!! “my first 50 days” 50 days??? wait until 1500 days, tending to your chickens and your garden and sipping coffee at starbucks does not float your boat after 1500 days. Thanks for the morning laugh.

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  10. I actually went over and read that guy’s blog and it really is silly to tell everyone that time is the most important thing when you are someone with a GREAT deal of money.

    Many years ago the Beatles made a movie making fun of people grubbing for money. They actually filled a tank with disgusting body fluids then threw money on top of it and made fun of the people who were willing to grab the money anyway. I was really offended that these multi millionaires would make fun of people who were desperate enough to not be discerning about money coated with ……..

    I hope those young men matured.

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    • Hi Anne. Considering the poor poverty levels the Beatles grew up in, I’m surprised by their action. Not a nice thing to do. There are many people out there suffering who truly NEED that money.
      What an awful memory to have!
      Thanks for your comment.

      Like

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