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Out of my control? Then get out of my mind!

After my recent post about freaking out that our early retirement plans will fail and we will be in the poorhouse by our own choices, I came across an article about people and their regrets about retirement. I found it pretty enlightening and it helped ease the worry, and caused a laugh or two at some of the answers. Ultimately, it was pretty divided between, “I should’ve planned better” and “I should’ve trusted my planning better and not worried so much about it.”

That article made me realize that I’m in the “I should’ve trusted our planning, and not gotten so freaked out about it” camp. Remember in my potato chip post, that the practical side of me that slapped me silly for spending 4 minutes debating whether or not to go with the cheaper store brand chips and save $1.50, or not? Well, my face is stinging from another slap back to reality.  I need to quit spending so much time worrying about the un-knowable. I could wallow in the land of worry if I let myself. Its so easy to just pull up a chair and have a good time in “Freak-out Land” worrying about everything from terror attacks on U.S. soil, Ebola (get the masks!), the economy crashing, layoffs (come on oil prices, creep back up…), will the kids stay healthy, and a myriad of other worries I have ZERO control over. Feel free to add yours in the comments below. These aren’t things that I typically worry about, rather things that someone could worry about, and get themselves all worked up over.

For instance, last week, I spent a good 15 minutes listening to one of my co-workers talk about how her biggest fear in our office is that our doors don’t have locks. First of all, hooray to a company that still has actual offices and doors, and not cubes, fishbowls, or any variation on open work spaces*. These are pretty solid wooden doors too, so I mean, hey, I can actually shut it, and have a private phone call if needed. Score one for those doors! Unless you’re my co-worker. She worries about not having locks, not so she can take naps, or do whatever she needs to behind locked doors at work… She’s worried about, “When someone goes postal and I hear gunshots, I won’t be able to lock the door!” This is in quotes, because that’s exactly how she said it. As a certainty, nay, an inevitability that she needs to be prepared for. She then went through her plan of tipping over the file cabinet to block the door (I’d be really surprised if she could actually do that just based on physics and basic principles of force), and hiding behind her desk… She’s really worried about it and started hyperventilating a little while talking about it. I mean, people, people, people, get ahold of yourselves. Yes, that can happen, but we’re talking about a building that has pretty decent security with badges you need to swipe to get anywhere, security guards that wander around, although they seem to be on their phones more than “securing” anything. But the point is, this isn’t even a sort of work place where you read about these types of occurrences happening. Yes it can happen anywhere, but why should I waste time, energy and emotion worrying about it?

This was when my practical side slapped me and said, “You sound exactly like this when you talk about FIRE fail, and being broke, broke, broke-ity broke due to a circumstance you can’t foresee. The only difference is, that you have actually tried to account for unknowns with cushions built in here and there. These are to lessen that emotional angst about having no contingency plan if the sh!t hits the fan. All of the simulation models show your plan working, plus you and Mrs. SSC can be WAY more effective with very little money due to your ability to know how to prioritize, budget, and get jobs if needed! Snap out of it buddy, because you sound just like her!”

Soooo, that was when I thought, “You know, I make some pretty good points!” We’ve accounted for contingencies as best as we can. Except for working for 10-15 more years to gather enough cash and savings to cover most of those extraneous contingencies, there’s just no way of knowing what the future may hold. Anyways, lets get back to different retiree’s regrets from that article I mentioned earlier… One person’s regret was not retiring sooner because he’d spent his whole life building the perfect retirement for his family only to be diagnosed with 2 types of incurable cancer, soon after retiring. He was happy his family would get to benefit from it, but regretted not spending more time with them instead of working so much, and not taking more vacations. I’ve experienced that scenario first hand with a close friend whom died 2 weeks after retiring due to some rare virus. There are lots of things we could worry about, but I’d rather be a “cross that bridge when it gets built” kind of guy than a “Let’s figure out a way to get across a bridge that doesn’t exist, and we have no idea how big it is, how wide it is, or how long it is” kind of guy.

Like Aaron Rodgers told his fans when they were freaking out, “R-E-L-A-X. Relax….” So, I’m going to try and make that my approach. I’ll be prudent, but not Chicken Little, and I’ll stop freaking out about retirement, economic collapse, stock market fails, world wars, zombie apocalypses (it could happen you know!) and any other things that could wreck our retirement financial planning.  Mrs. SSC swears that if I can stop wanting to prepare for EVERY case, and just for an average case we could knock quite a bit of time off of our working years.  Maybe that is part of the key, trusting yourself to be innovative and be able to handle the black swan events in family finances.  Maybe we will have to get a job for a year or two to make some extra cash to cover a medical situation or stock decline… but isn’t the chance of needing to work for a year in the middle of retirement better than then definitively resigning yourself to work a few extra years just to cover some hypothetical situation?

Do you have freak-outs about stuff you can’t control? What do you do to reign yourself in? Do you think there will be a zombie apocalypse? If so, how would it affect your early retirement?

I’d love to hear your comments and what you occasionally worry about.


* – A “fishbowl” is a term used to describe the offices at my last company. 2 solid thin walls on each side, a big glass window in back, and then the front of the cube is all glass. Yes, there’s a sliding door and some of it is frosted, but with it being glass, it has quite a “fishbowl” look to it.

9 thoughts on “Out of my control? Then get out of my mind!

  1. Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom

    I tried prepping a few years back , you know for the zombie apocolypse. It was a fun experiment and the doomsday prepper show was a lot of fun to watch. In the end I realized I’d still be worried if the power was knocked out in the middle of winter and that I had a bunch of canned food I’d still be eating through a few years later… I wasn’t preparing for the most likely stuff, so I wasn’t getting the most out of the experience.

    Listen to Mrs. SSC.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Doomsday preppers is fun to watch occasionally. Some of those guys get Reediculous with their prepping, but then I guess that’s the point. It’s easy to get wrapped up in worry, and not realize it.
      I’ll continue to listen to the Mrs. 🙂

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Good point. I’m glad to know it’s not just me. I’m working on getting more comfortable with less worry, and more planning and finding a healthy middle ground in the meantime.

  2. Mrs. Maroon

    From everything I’ve read about your plans, I think you are going to be fine. I’m definitely a worrier and get caught up in wanting the reassurance that everything is going to be A-OK. But, at some point for your sanity, you have to just relax and have confidence that you’ve thought through it all. What is the point of getting to early retirement if you’ve worried yourself to death so that you can’t enjoy it??

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      That was what drove it home for me. I’m getting worked up and sounding ridiculous. Especially compared to what we are planning and how we’re approaching what we need by balancing it with various comfort levels and financial cushions as deemed appropriate. 🙂 If you can’t enjoy anything why do it? But I get enjoyment out of the planning, pre-retirement house hunting and various plans to keep myself busy in a few years. I just need to start relaxing a little now.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I like the mantra – short and sweet but gets the point across. Sky isn’t falling, life will go on.
      Thanks! I’ll work on living it more.

  3. Steve Adcock

    Honestly, I used to worry a lot about things that I had no control over. It was anything that I could do to have just a relaxing night’s sleep.

    But today, that’s no longer a problem for me. In fact, if anything, I probably need to worry and care about more than I actually do. My “Don’t give two f&&ks” meter is absolutely pegged to the maximum, and I’ve found that it gives me so much more peace of mind than constantly worrying about stuff – especially stuff that is beyond my control.

    Now, I just take one day at a time – I address the needs of that day and go forth about my business, only worrying about the next day’s needs when that next day comes.

    Man, it’s a magical stress free life when we make that happen for ourselves.

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