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A Quiet Life

Kristine Hayes

IT’S CLEAR LIFE experiences shape how we behave. But what role does temperament—the innate personality traits embedded in our DNA—play in how we navigate our personal and financial lives?

I began exploring my personality in my mid-40s. Amid a midlife crisis, I wanted to better understand why I act the way I do. I was recently divorced, living alone for the first time and determined to do some in-depth self-reflection.

I was aware my personality was the result of both inborn and environmental influences. Studies estimate 30% to 60% of human personality is heritable. I began to reflect back on my childhood to examine the behaviors I still have as an adult.

The most obvious lifelong trait I possess: my desire to spend time alone. In elementary school, I spent far more time reading than I did playing with other kids. I was happiest when I could sit in the corner of a room surrounded by a pile of books. When I wasn’t reading, I was writing. I frequently gifted handmade books filled with stories and poems I’d penned to my parents and teachers.

As a teenager, I was quiet and nerdy. Other girls my age enjoyed having sleepovers and reading Seventeen. I preferred to hang out with my farm animals and spend my allowance on issues of Dell Pencil Puzzles & Word Games.

In college, I spent my days in class and my nights studying. I was more interested in getting good grades than partying. I struggled to make small talk with my peers but enjoyed having in-depth conversations with my professors.

In my 30s and 40s, I frequently felt out of place. I wasn’t interested in climbing the corporate ladder, networking or socializing with coworkers. Working in laboratories meant I never earned a six-figure salary. But I did it so I could spend the better part of a 30-year career working in solitude.

In 2012, the book Quiet was published. Reading it, I began to understand how and why my introverted personality affected the way I viewed the world. It’s also helped me understand why I may feel so content in retirement.

HumbleDollar is filled with the life stories of retirees. It can feel overwhelming to read about the many issues they face. To move or stay put? To spend money on experiences or save for the future? To travel the world or stay closer to home?

Not even two years into my own retirement, I’m still a novice at navigating my post-work years. But the longer I spend in retirement, the less I seem to worry. I’ve come to realize that the lifestyle my husband and I have adopted plays a large role in keeping us stress-free.

We prefer quiet to chaos. To be sure, having four, large working-breed dogs sharing our home means some chaos is inevitable. But our ultra-simple way of living helps maximize the amount of peacefulness we have each day.

When we sold our house in Oregon and moved to Arizona, we left most of our furnishings behind. We have no dining room table. We have no sofas, coffee tables or curio cabinets filled with knickknacks. The floor space is mostly open, sans the eight or nine dog beds randomly distributed among the rooms. I appreciate the simplicity. It’s easy on the eyes and easy to keep clean.

Our days are filled with the activities we enjoy. For me, reading, writing and tackling small home improvement projects often keep me busy for a few hours each day. My husband spends time each morning meditating, studying history and working out.

Most days also include a bike ride or walk around our neighborhood. At least a couple of hours is spent training and playing with our dogs. A trip to one of the grocery stores in our community is sometimes the only time we get into a car. Dinner is followed by spending a couple of hours streaming the TV shows, movies or mixed martial arts fights we enjoy watching.

Our finances are equally simple. Our income is automatically deposited each month and our bills are automatically paid. Our retirement investments sit in just a handful of accounts. Our income is low enough we don’t feel compelled to find ways to minimize our tax burden.

Any large expenditures we make are based more on practical considerations than aesthetics. Our kitchen is straight out of the 1980s. But the cabinets are in great condition and the appliances all work. Rather than spending money to replace items that are still functional, we chose instead to have 4,000 square feet of artificial turf installed in our backyard. The joy we get watching our dogs romp and play in our personal dog park is far greater than the pleasure we’d get from admiring a new cooktop.

For me, retirement isn’t all that different from childhood. There have been very few other times when life felt relatively carefree. These days, I solve puzzles on my phone, rather than in a magazine, and I write my life stories using a Chromebook, not a notebook. The quiet life isn’t for everyone. But it suits me just fine.

Kristine Hayes Nibler retired in 2022, and she and her husband now live in Arizona. She enjoys spending her time reading, writing and training their four dogsCheck out Kristine’s earlier articles.

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