Perspective

I’ve heard stories before of people who have retired, and soon after retiring they experienced some type of misfortune that resulted in their death. I remember working with a guy a few years ago who told me a story about his grandfather who died of a heart attack a few months after retiring. These have always just been anecdotal examples, and I’ve never actually personally known someone who experienced this type of regrettable fate.

Until now.

As part of my job, which is working as a service advisor at a car dealership, I have to undergo continuous training which is designed to keep me fresh and knowledgeable with the product and techniques to improve my customer service skills. I’ve been doing this job now for over five years, and as such I tend to see the same instructors at these classes. It’s a small world. One instructor, we’ll call him “Bob”, has led two classes I’ve attended. He was an affable guy, and fairly personable. One nice thing I always liked about Bob was that he usually let class out early. That’s always much appreciated.

Bob seemed to really love his job. He’d been doing it for many years. He knew the product inside and out and always seemed to stay on-topic. We, as dealership personnel, were there to learn techniques to help us do our job better and Bob usually provided us the tools to do so. From what I can remember he’d been a trainer for our manufacturer for at least 10 years, but I do believe it was actually much longer than that. It was perhaps approaching 20 years.

I learned very recently that Bob retired a few months ago. I was actually a bit surprised to hear that, as he seemed to be one of those guys that really loved his job and would perhaps continue to work at it in some form or fashion for as long as he could. From what I’ve heard he actually wanted to spend more time with his family. The type of training he does requires a lot of travel and leaves little time to spend with loved ones. I can imagine that it’s a tough life living out of a suitcase, traveling from city to city and spending that much time in airports and hotels. He decided to give it up.

The sad news about this story is that he recently passed away. His memorial service was this past Thursday. He was a fairly young guy, and I believe he was not much over 60 years old. He retired just three months ago. I don’t have all the details, but it seems his death was sudden and completely unexpected. That’s truly sad, and I wish his family the best.

What’s the point of this story? How is this relevant?

Well, this blog is all about retiring early in life. As such, I believe it’s important to maximize your limited time here on Earth doing the things you want to do. If you want to work, work. If you want to sleep, sleep. If you want to sit on a beach all day, then grab your chair. Don’t let tomorrow wait, because it’s not guaranteed to you. Do whatever you need to do so that you can do what you want to do. I’m living far below my means now so that I can live my life on my terms down the road. I’m living like no one else will now so that I can live like no one else can later.

I heard of Bob’s fate through a co-worker who also knew him and trained with him. He was going to the memorial service. I expressed my condolences as I always thought Bob was a good guy. I told my co-worker that this type of story is exactly why I’d like to retire early in life. I can think of few tragedies worse than dying soon after retiring. His response to me:

“Really? I think this just goes to show you that you should work as long as possible. I think once someone stops working, they don’t have a purpose anymore. I think their body and mind knows this. I’ve seen lots of people who die after retiring because they just don’t feel a purpose anymore”

Perspective.

I really find it amazing that people think one’s only purpose in life is to work. This is quite sad. I suppose it has something to do with our consumerist culture. I’m writing this post today, which is quite personal, to give you all a little perspective. What’s your purpose in life? If you found out you only had three months to live, would you continue to work until the end? My co-worker clearly would. It seems Bob really liked his job. However, I’d be willing to bet that if he could go back in time he’d retire earlier in life so that he could spend more time with his family and accomplish some of the personal things he always set out to do. He was clearly already professionally accomplished.

Perspective. Please keep it alive. Please don’t lose it and keep your eye on whatever goals you want to accomplish in your life.

Thanks for reading.

Comments

  1. says

    A tragic story indeed. Thanks for sharing DM, but it wasn’t something I enjoyed reading to start off the week.

    I’d live like I was dying if I had 3 months to live. There’s a country song about this subject. If you haven’t heard it, please listen. The lyrics are very empowering. “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw.

  2. says

    Hey Mantra,

    Great post on “perspective.” It’s a hard question to think about (since it’s so sad) but I feel it’s a good exercise for one’s mind. I know many people who use the “live for today” mantra as an excuse to splurge and live above their means, and sometimes I do wonder if they are the ones who have it right as opposed to future thinkers and frugalists like us.

    If I had only 3 months to live, I would fly to France, rent a road bike, and ride up all those famous mountains that I see the cyclists do in the Tour De France, like Alpe d Huez (I’m an avid cyclist).

    Thanks,

    Mike

  3. says

    Sorry to hear about your instructor. Indeed a good reminder we don’t live forever! Steve Jobs realized this and went on to make amazing products!

    I believe one should always retire to a purpose. Could be anything, pursue something different or focus more on your hobbies.

  4. says

    Henry,

    Sorry to bring you down. This post wasn’t really meant to depress anyone. I actually wrote it for inspiration. I find inspiration in tragedy, because you can learn from others’ experiences and make the most change.

    I think it’s most important to maximize your life and really go for what you want. It’s stories like this that provide me the drive I need to excel and achieve early retirement. For all the detractors of early retirement who say to delay retirement for as long as possible I look at experiences like this to keep me on target.

    Best wishes!

  5. says

    Mike,

    I think, if anything, this experience is a good reason not to splurge. I think balance is always important in life, and even in my frugal ways I still have a lot of fun. I’m living with no regrets to be honest. I think this provides me with all the reason to sacrifice just a little now to get so much more out of my life. Time is limited, and I’d much rather “save it up” and live life on my terms than “spend it” at malls, restaurants and car dealerships. Those things just keep you on a treadmill to nowhere, caught up in a rat race with everyone else…and just when you are ready to get off and live life at your pace you may have no time left.

    Take care!

  6. says

    MoneyCone,

    I can see some similarities to Jobs. I think his commencement speech at Stanford back in ’05 was a fantastic reminder of how the realization of one’s own mortality can really drive someone to achieve things they never thought they could or would.

    It’s the realization of my own mortality that drives me to do the things I’m doing. I think people are aware of death too late in life, and that’s when you can start to develop regrets.

    I hope this article provided you some inspiration!

  7. Anonymous says

    DM,

    I’d retire today if I could, but I can’t. I am 43 years old and shooting for retirement by age 52-55. If I had my head screwed on better at your age, I might be retiring at age 45. I know your going to make it by age 40. Then everyone you know will be amazed as you go about your life living it on your own terms. Your friends will be headed to work and you’ll be headed to the golf course, beach, back yard to read a book, wherever…

  8. says

    Anonymous,

    Thanks so much for your encouragement. You have my designs on life nailed down! Thanks for the support. It’s greatly appreciated!

    As for retiring at 52-55, that’s not that bad either. “Bob”, who again is a real person, likely passed before his time and I’m saddened about that. But 52 years old is still pretty young. You may even get there before then if you really put your foot on the pedal. If you take care of yourself, living to 80 is certainly very realistic and for most people it’s expected.

    Best wishes on your journey and I really appreciate your support and the fact that you “get” what I’m trying to accomplish. Take care.

  9. Squasher55 says

    Nice post,

    I retired at age 55…now I am 71. My perspective on this is that it is critical to have hobbies and interests while you work…other than work. I have lost many friends who did not, and for them retirement- was a no-man’s land….with no goals or direction.

    The worst thing you can do in retirement is watching too much TV.

  10. says

    Squasher55,

    I agree completely. I also believe it’s critical to have outside interests besides your job, and also a great idea to have a “game plan” ready before your retire. You should already have a good idea as to what you’re going to do with all your new found spare time.

    Off-topic a bit, but how has it been for you? You’ve now had over 15 years in retirement? Was it a great decision? Any regrets? Anything you’d do differently? Dream come true?

    Thanks so much for stopping by. I love hearing from people who’ve “made it” per se.

  11. Squasher55 says

    Good questions Mantra,

    No regrets at all. But I did have multiple interests…plus my wife and I moved from Canada to the U.S., now in New Mexico. We travel the world regularly, and also have many sporting interests and investing interests. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

  12. says

    Squasher55,

    Great stuff! I’m really excited to hear of success stories like this. I think it goes without saying that you had a bit more to work with in terms of a nest egg when you retired, as I’ll be a bit limited on the traveling the world options, but I look forward with great gusto to the time when I can take a nap at the beach while everyone else is slaving away at work.

    I’m extremely happy for you and I offer you my congratulations on a job well done.

    I hope your retirement continues to provide you and your wife bliss! Take care.

  13. says

    Kanwal,

    Thanks! I’m glad you liked it. I hope I didn’t depress you. Again, this was meant as inspiration. Don’t wait until tomorrow to start working on your dreams. I want to retire as young as possible so that I have much more than three months to do what I want.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  14. Anonymous says

    Hey Mantra!
    Nice blog you have. I´m from Sweden, my age 47. I think I can retire at latest 55.
    I think the most importent thing for you to focus on is almost the same problem that Bob had.
    Bob lived for his job, and you live for your early retire. Bob didn´t accustom his new situation. And I think that is something you must prepare yourself to. It´s going to be a very different life after 40 for you compared to today. But I think it´s no problem for you if you are prepared.
    Just a couple of thoughts.
    Sorry if my english isn´t the best…

    Sven

  15. says

    Sven,

    Thanks for stopping by from Sweden. Your English is great!

    I agree with you on preparation. It’s very important to have a clear and concise plan for (early) retirement, but just as important to prepare yourself for the transition from full-time work to a life with little or no work.

    I’m nowhere near (early) retirement, so that preparation will likely come as I find myself 1-2 years out, but I agree that that is fundamentally very important.

    Thanks again for visiting!

    Take care.

  16. Anonymous says

    There is an unknown here. 1) maybe Bob found out something (and didn’t share) and that is why he retired.

    It seems that people who retire and then seem to die quickly ‘didn’t have a focus’ but I think that maybe they are just talked about more often. Kind of like when you have a complaint (about a business or service) you tell everyone who will listen but when you have had good service you tell no one or one person.

    It is just more tragic when so and so retires and dies a few months later (after slaving away for 30 years and he had plans to do this and go here) and the story spreads where Jim retired 20 years ago and is still going strong isn’t much of a story.

  17. says

    Anonymous,

    Great point. It is unknown if maybe he found out he had some type of health problem and promptly retired. I didn’t know him well enough to say if that is true or not.

    Granted, I suppose this type of experience serves as a better “story” than someone who successfully retires for 20 years or more. But, that wasn’t why I wrote it. I wrote it because it’s the first time I actually experienced first-hand someone I personally knew that died within a very short period of time after giving up work.

    Ultimately, what I take away from this story is that tomorrow is not guaranteed. There are a lot of people who are totally ok with putting off retirement until 65, but I’m not because I don’t know with certainty that I will live that long. I want to live as many “todays” as possible, and I can live them to the best of my ability when I’m not at work.

    Best wishes!

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