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  • Writer's pictureKen Kowach

Two Life Lessons: What lockdown during the pandemic revealed to me about early retirement


Bottom Line Up Front

The lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic has taught me two valuable lessons about early retirement. It has shown me that I am not ready for it, since I have not found settled work (self-actualization), and it revealed to me my own inability to be a self-starter at times.


Today is my birthday.

Well, when I originally wrote this post it was. But yes, April 10, 2020. I’m 35 years old (young). Never give up ✊

It is cause for reflection, despite everything else going on in the world this year. (I told a friend that if 2020 were candy, it would be black licorice. Which is the worst.)

The point is, I have had a lot of time to think and reflect, and it also means that I have 10 years to the day until my planned retirement.

I have focused most of my effort into being able to retire at a young age (younger than most). My goal has been and continues to be to retire no later than 45.

However, if you have read my other stuff, you know that retirement to me is defined differently than the traditional FIRE movement would have you know.

Some of you know that I’m not a proponent of squirreling away as much money as humanly possible just to get to a point where I can live off of peanuts for the rest of my life just to “retire” and… do what, exactly?

Jesus of Nazareth taught a parable about the three servants. I guess you could say the third servant was all about the traditional FIRE movement… because he just dug a hole and buried the money he was given. Which if you’re curious about how happy his master was about that one, you can read it in Matthew 25:14-30.

Anyway, to sum a previous article up that I wrote, I discuss how the FIRE movement is flawed because retirement is the wrong goal.

old person sitting on a bench alone

In my opinion, as formative as that opinion may be due to my years of age, there are two goals that make more sense than to attaining retirement. They are:

  1. Settled Work

  2. Finding Fulfillment

I coined the acronym SWFF, as in… swift. (Settled Work, Finding Fulfillment) No big deal, feel free to put that in your coin purse for a rainy day, so you can throw it at glasshouses.😎

These two goals make a lot more sense and I discuss it at length in that blog post if you’re curious.

But that isn’t what lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic revealed to me about attaining personal “early retirement” or SWFF.

Kristal and I have been lucky enough to maintain our normal income for the most part. I have been fortunate enough to spend all of my time at home with the family, only requiring a daily check-in, while the entire time, maintaining my full-time military income.

The point is, I have found a lot of time on my minds, with a lot of money on my hands. Oddly, it has been somewhat of a simulation of what retirement might actually be like.

It is possible that I have experienced what some retirees call “leaping into the void”. It turns out that upon reaching retirement, something that most people strive for their entire adult lives, it isn’t as rosy as we think it’ll be. The problem is, we get there and we ask ourselves, “now what?”

This is such an interesting concept, and basically it is why my blog is named what it is, because “meaning” is infinitely more important than “happiness”.

When people reach retirement, the “void” of meaninglessness sprawls out in front of them, and I believe I may have caught a glimpse of it, during however long this lockdown will last. Maybe many of you have as well.

So here are the two important lessons that I have learned.


Lesson 1: Find Settled Work

Last Chance Podcast
Just a couple of cool cats, finding settled work.

And that brings me to what the pandemic has really revealed to me. It revealed to me that I am not ready for retirement, not in the sense that I need to keep plugging away and keep on in my current career or go dashing off into the next career.

It showed me that I am not ready for retirement in that I have not found settled work. You could say that maybe I haven’t self-actualized.

Feel free to read more about what self-actualization is and why it is so darn important in my article.

I think this blog is a very good distraction and an excellent hobby to assist me in personal development, but by no means is it settled work. Realistically, I only do a few hours of writing a week.

My endeavors into real-estate investing is not filling that void for me either, because I have discovered just how slow-moving real estate can be, especially for somebody only investing their money, and not their time. So this hasn’t quite done it for me either, to fill in the large gaps of time.

Sure, spending time with my kids, helping raise them, homeschooling them… like all us parents are doing nowadays… All of that is great, but my kids won’t always be here at home (I hope they won’t be, yikes)

In 10 years, when I’m 45, the youngest will be 15, going on 16. So raising kids isn’t the answer either.

Sure, all these things bring fulfillment and meaning, but I don’t think that is quite what I’m talking about.

There has to a meta-purpose that I still have yet to find that I can completely grasp on to when I decide to hang up my hat.

I know that for the time being, I need to continue to develop and build passive income streams in order to be able to find settled work. And that is the next lesson that the pandemic showed me.


Lesson 2: Force Yourself to Self-Start

engine ignition button

Even if I haven’t found settled work by my planned retirement age, I need to continue to strive to find and develop it, regardless of whether or not I feel like doing it.

Man, it has been a struggle to continue to be a self-starter during this time, and that’s weird for me because I am a self-starter.

But it’s gotten me in this play where I am forced to be cooped up, and it has become really easy to just laze about, get nothing done, and be completely unproductive.

Even doing things that I enjoy, like writing, it has been hard to buckle down and just put my thoughts onto proverbial paper. I enjoy doing this because I know somebody out there somewhere will glean something from all of this, and that’s the goal.

But even still, it has been difficult to just start. And starting is the hardest part. Gino Wickman explains it best, from his book Traction.

“It's more important that you decide than it is what you decide” – Gino Wickman


Final Word

For those of you that are striving to retire as quickly as possible, remember to find settled work. More than likely you aren’t going to find it overnight, and it will most likely take years, if not decades. That’s why it is important to keep a commonplace book as I have done.

You will also want to steel your resolve when it comes to your attribution of self-starting, because I thought I had it made, and I guess I have more steeling to do.

And I know, this hasn’t been a picture-perfect example of a 1/100th exact replica of retirement, because I know we can’t travel, taste new foods, see the sights, meet new people, etc. It still pointed out my shortcomings, and I hope you can use it to evaluate yourselves.

Until the next one.


The Woke Hack


Time to Pay it Forward

Comment down below about any life lessons that you may have learned about yourselves from this pandemic. (It’s a once in a 100-year chance, after all)

Also, if you’ve already jumped into the void (retired), tell me how you’ve handled it, from self-starting, finding settled work, or any other strategies that I have yet to discover.

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