Early Retirement Isn’t For Everyone

I don’t believe in absolutes. Absolutism is especially unattractive when speaking in context to humanity and the human mind…which is prone to consistent fallacy. Absolutism is prominent in many areas of our society, including broader subjects like religion or politics. I find it disappointing when people truly believe that if you do not follow their religion that you’ll suffer some kind of eternal punishment in an afterlife or if you are from a different political affiliation that you are inherently ignorant. This “I’m right and you’re wrong” type of thinking is humorous to me. The fact that people actually believe they know who created the universe when they can’t name the top 5 ingredients of their morning cereal is troubling to me. If you can’t master Corn Flakes, you likely have less of an ability to master the meaning of life. I believe people suffer from egos when it comes to their own intelligence.

Where is all this going?

Well, I also don’t believe that I’m any more right in dedicating my life to retiring by 40 years old than someone who wants to work until they are dead. I do not believe in rights or wrongs, only differences. I occasionally get emails questioning my sanity for wanting to quit work so early in life. This article is designed to dispel future emails and questions and make known my opinion on people who don’t want to live frugally, invest or stop working at a young age. Honestly, and no sarcasm meant, I think that’s a fine choice of living if that’s what makes you happy. I believe most in being happy in life. If your current life is perfectly fulfilling and you love going to work for 40 or more hours a week then I say more power to you. It’s simply not a life that I desire.

My opinion on common questions regarding retiring at such a young age are as follows:

“Won’t you get bored staying at home all day? I would be incredibly bored if I didn’t have a regular job to go to.”

If your imagination is bound by getting up early to go to work, working for 8 or more hours, driving home from work, eating dinner, relaxing after a long day at work, showering so you’re clean after a sweaty day at work and then going to bed so you can be rested up for another grind at work, then you probably would not do well at early retirement. I would advise you to keep working.

“I love my job. I would keep on working even if I had a ton of money stashed away.”

That’s fantastic. I actually envy someone who loves their job that much a bit. If you really go to work everyday smiling and glad that you have such a wonderful job, then I don’t know why you would want to quit. I’d love to get paid to do something I find incredible joy from. I don’t find joy from my job. I go because I’m compensated well and it allows me to fund my ticket out of the rat race. If you really, truly love your job and it is making your life and the world a better place then I would say early retirement probably has little to offer you.

“I don’t want to live frugally my whole life. I’d rather work than suffer until I’m dead.”

I don’t find all that much suffering in living frugally, but if it’s something you’ve tried and you despise then you’re probably better off working. I’m not here to try and change anyone’s mind. Living frugally and saving most of my income works for me. It may not work for you. Living frugally, financial independence, saving, investing and everything else that’s involved in trying to retire early isn’t a one-size-fits-all life event. If you find that saving a large part of your income is “suffering” and trading away an extremely large portion of your available life energy for money is not suffering then early retirement likely is not your bag.

“What if you run out of money?”

Money can always be made. If I was to quit my job at 38 years old, I’m fairly certain that at some point in the next 30 years I could find some type of paid employment or other means to exchange my time/talent/labor for income. On the other hand, time is finite and it passes by every second. You cannot make up for lost time. Once time is gone, it’s gone forever. Every minute, day and month that passes will never come again. I find time a much more valuable commodity than money and I’d be glad indeed to have much more of the former and less of the latter.

Early retirement isn’t for everyone.

If everyone was the same, life would be extremely boring. I find the differences in people, cultures and geography stunning and just some of the many things that makes life worth living. If early retirement isn’t for you, then that doesn’t make you a bad person and it certainly does not make you “wrong” and me “right”. There is only happy and unhappy. I find more time comforting. I find “stuff” cumbersome and heavy on my shoulders. I like having less stuff. If you like having a large house, two cars, exotic vacations, lots of furniture, weekends out on the town and you don’t mind working to pay for that lifestyle than by all means you should continue down that path. I find peace and happiness in less.

What about you? What do you find comfort in? What brings you peace?

Thanks for reading.

Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos

Comments

    • says

      I like this article as well. We have short time on earth, which is why we need to make the best of it. I somehow have a feeling that being chained to a desk for 30- 40 years is not equivalent to ” making the best out of ones life”. Your article was particularly timely, as I just had a 27 year old co-worker die yesterday after a 1 month illness. He has never been sick his entire life. If you know you have limited time on earth, spending 3 years worth of salary on a fancy new car does not seem as appealing…

    • says

      DGI,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      That’s particularly sad and troubling that such a young guy up and passed like that. Very unfortunate. At the same time it’s events like that that can provide the extra motivation and push to keep going and claim the rest of your life for your own. In my opinion, even if you have a job you really love your life and time isn’t your own if you have to be there for great portions of your time.

      Spending 3 years of salary on anything other than funding my freedom must be met with extreme diligence and thought. A fancy car simply won’t make the cut, especially if I’m not free yet. I can’t imagine spending a lot of money on objects if you don’t even have your own life to yourself yet.

      Best wishes!

  1. says

    Great post.
    To me it all boils down to Financial Independence, when I reach the ‘crossover point’ I know that I can do whatever I want. Whether that be a job change to something that I want to do vs doing something I am well compensated. If I were artistic I could sculpt, paint, build, etc. Maybe generate income that way, but alas I am not.

    I feel that I could easily work part time at my current job. Work 3 days, travel explore the US of A on my days off. Whatever *I* want to do!
    To quote an early retiree: “I don’t want to spend my entire life at work. I deserve more.”

    • says

      me myself and I,

      I like your idea. I have thought from time to time about semi-retirement, and it’s something I wrote about a while back. Getting to the point where passive income is covering 30-50% of your expenses would allow you to work part-time and enjoy more of your time now. Not a bad idea if you really hate your job and can’t do the 10-year trek to early retirement.

      Best wishes!

  2. says

    I think we speak the same language, so I can definitely relate to your post. In some ways, I think having an early retirement / financial independence epiphany at such a young age is a blessing.

    That is, people like us quickly grasp the importance of time over money… For others, maybe the realization comes later (or too late) in life. This is what I’m thinking is the cause of why so many people have a mid-life crisis… wondering where all the time went.

    As an early starter, and planner, the days of freedom will arrive much sooner. As such, you will be able to live your life, on your own terms, and essentially slow down time altogether. When you finally reach mid-life crisis age, you won’t be wondering where the time went at all.

    With all that said, I agree with you that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in all this. Though in some ways, I feel like more people would be accepting of this type of lifestyle, thinking, if mainstream society didn’t influence (brainwash) people into thinking they always needed to spend more $$$ and work until they dropped.

    • says

      FI Fighter,

      Thanks for the great comment!

      I can agree with you on your mid-life crisis point. I think it’s also funny that people deal with this by buying a bunch of stuff to compensate for emotional distress when perhaps the lack of free time and life meaning is what got them there in the first place.

      Good stuff. Makes you think!

      Best wishes.

  3. says

    I like you, want to retire (or be financially independent) very early. While retiring early may not be for everyone, I think almost everyone except for the most argumentative people would agree financial independence is a worthy goal.

    The only problem with it is again the sacrifices in relation to spending. For me it is a small price to pay but I understand that iPads are pretty cool, and seeing the Alps would be awesome. For me, my time may be worth more, and there is no reason I can’t save for the very best things after I achieve FI.

    • says

      Poor Student,

      Time is worth more than fancy gadgets to you. I agree with you there.

      But, to some people fancy gadgets and a big house are more important than time. Although that may not make sense to you and I, it’s what they value. I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with that but I just choose to live differently. It takes all kinds to make the world go ’round.

      I think a lot of people would agree that trying to achieve financial independence is a worthy goal, but I also think a vast majority of people would agree that trying to have a successful career, big house and nice cars is a worthy goal as well. It’s all perspective.

      Best wishes!

  4. says

    Nice post, DM. One of your strongest points is that living frugally should not be equated with suffering. I also live a relatively frugal lifestyle but I do not think I’m suffering. I just don’t have many material needs and wants, which makes it easier for me to live below my means and save money to invest for eventual retirement. My lifestyle might change at some point, but for now I might as well benefit from my current lifestyle and position myself for a financially secure future.

    • says

      Deedubs,

      I think you make a great point there. Living frugally now while you accumulate a large number of assets is fun and worthwhile, but if you choose to change your lifestyle at some point in the future you’ll still have those assets as well as the experience and comfort in how to “live with less” if you end up in a financially distressed situation.

      I think that’s one of the best things about pursuing financial independence. If you one day find a job you love and decide to keep working until old age you still have hundreds of dollars coming in every month for the rest of you life which you can use to supplant a possibly-lower income (assuming a job you love would pay less).

      Best wishes!

  5. says

    We are clearly on the same wavelength here. At 26, I’m still in my first job out of college though. I do wonder if I just haven’t yet found the perfect job for me. Maybe there is some job out there that I would find incredibly fulfilling, that I would be excited to go to every morning. Since I have a feeling that the types of jobs I’d find fulfilling would also pay incredibly poorly, I think saving a huge portion of my paycheck now is incredibly important. It will give me the freedom to explore other options and actually find something that I really enjoy doing, instead of grueling away at my desk job until I’m 65.

    • says

      Gen Y Finance Journey,

      I agree with you. Saving money now and accumulating income producing assets will give you a lot of flexibility down the road as those assets compound over time.

      I wonder the same thing as you. Would I be pursuing financial independence so feverishly if I loved my job? Maybe, maybe not. I do know, however, that I’m glad I’m doing it because it will give me that flexibility we are talking about.

      Take care!

  6. says

    I have know one thing for sure. Success personality main thing is to have a goal and go for it. You have one, you go for it and you will succeed :) That the most important thing.

    • says

      Financial analysis,

      Success, however you define it, should absolutely be something an individual wants to attain. I absolutely agree and wish you the best in trying to achieve your own definition of success!

      Take care.

  7. says

    Good post.

    Ultimately, it seems that having the option to retire is the key ingredient, regardless of whether it is exercised or not. Few would argue with the rationality of desiring to be job-optional.

    • says

      Matt,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      I agree. Having the option to do what you want in life is really the ultimate point. Whether or not your exercise it, because you found a great job or you want to keep accumulating assets, is ultimately up to you and the choice is imperative here. That choice is expensive as it takes many years of saving and investing to attain, but to me it’s worth it. To others it isn’t worth it. I would agree with you, however, that few would argue with the rationality of it…but rather the value of it. How much is that choice worth?

      Good stuff.

      Best wishes!

  8. Anonymous says

    you never mention tithing in you budget.One should pay tithing if you go to church or not.Just give 10% of your income and everything is fine.You will still make it retire at 40.Just try it for a few years and see what happens. Thanks Quentin

  9. says

    I thought this post was excellent — almost as if it was a hard-hitting, take it or leave it-style column with a “no frills” kick to it. Certainly an excellent read.

    Definitely loved the “op-ed” style of this post!

    • says

      Pey,

      Thanks for the compliments! I’m glad you appreciated the article. It was a bit different than my usual inspirational/helpful style of writing, but I thought it was important to make my opinion on those with opposing viewpoints known.

      I truly believe that if you’re happy then you must be doing something right!

      Best wishes.

  10. says

    Agreed! The one size fits all, my way or the highway outlook many people have is one of the reasons that I have left the western world. Having the ability to humble yourself is a great skill and will save a lot of heart ache. Great message and a great post.

    • says

      The Kechi One,

      I agree with you. The my way or the highway attitude that a lot of people have is disappointing and frustrating. I’m not sure if this is only in western culture, as you get a lot of religious/political extremists in many parts of the world.

      I’m totally with you on being able to humble oneself. It was my ability to be humble and totally honest about my financial position that allowed me to start this journey.

      Take care!

  11. says

    I could retire right now and move to some place like Costa Rica where the cost of living isn’t that high, yet you can live a life of luxury for much less.

    There are always ways and means if you are willing to step out of your comfort zone.

    • says

      MoneyCone,

      I think if I were you I’d be investigating visa/residency information on Costa Rica! All kidding aside, it must feel great to know that if it came down to it you could be financially free. That’s a wonderful feeling. I haven’t gotten to that position where I’d be able to move to a lower cost country and retire, but I’m getting there.

      Best wishes!

  12. says

    Great article DM! I just finished reading YMOYL and have been re-inspired toward the goals of FI. I believe it all boils down to personal freedom. Even if I love my job, when I do it more than 45+ hours a week, its not fun anymore. I believe that nirvana would be finding a job you like that pays you well for the time you want to be there. However, I think finding this prospect is like finding a needle in a haystack.
    Really the best realization I had in reading YMOYL is to honor the value of your time and your money. You must seriously reflect on whether or not you are truly living a life connected to your values and if the money you are spending is worth all the time and effort you put into your job. ~Love this update!

    • says

      FreedomFinder,

      I’m glad you stopped by and great job on reading YMOYL. That’s one of my favorites. That book really packs an inspirational punch.

      I agree with you that the most profound message behind YMOYL is to value your time and to question whether the items you buy/money you spend is really worth the time you traded in to acquire that money in the first place. Time is finite for us and is slowly running out.

      Your idea of nirvana is also mine, but it would either be incredibly difficult or impossible to find a job like that, or it would pay little. In either case, the journey towards FI provides the flexibility and opportunity to find such positions and actively pursue them without financial regard.

      Best wishes!

  13. Soggy says

    Hey DM,

    I’m a big fan and love seeing your progress. Just curious… what’s your goal? As in, at what dollar amount (in today’s dollars) of monthly passive income are you looking for before you’d be ready to hop out of the rat race?

    • says

      Soggy,

      Thanks for stopping by and offering your support. I’m glad you’re a big fan!

      If I was able to earn $1,200 in passive income right now I’d quit my full-time job tomorrow. A lot of people are looking for huge margins of safety, money to travel or whatever else. I believe life is short so I’m looking for the quickest possible path to freedom. That’s just me. I’d hate to get the point where passive income exceeds expenses and I keep working to continue building that income stream to the point where I can REALLY “start living” and do anything and go anywhere…but I’m too old to do so or I develop an illness or some other negative life event occurs.

      If I needed more money I’d either move to a cheaper country or I’d engage in some type of very part-time work.

      Best wishes!

  14. says

    Sorry, got caught on the first line. You don’t believe in absolutes? Did you never take a science class? Life is full of absolutes! Every time I start my car, I rely on a staggering amount of absolutes to exist or the engine won’t start.

    And yeah, I am one of those religious people, but I don’t eat cereal, BECAUSE I know what’s in them.

    For the record though, not all Christians believe you will be punished for not believing. I think the Bible is pretty clear that if you don’t believe and/or want God, you’ll get your wish when you die, and for you, the first cause will not happen, and you will cease to exist, which works out, because that’s what most atheists believe will happen anyways.

    So, nothing lost, nothing gained. To me, it’s a shame to have a life with no gain, but oh well.

    No quarrels with the rest of the post after we got through the theology .

    • says

      James,

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Although you may not be a zealot or extremist, there are plenty out there. There is a large population of people that believe they are right and everyone else is wrong. It’s unfortunate and silly…and that was one of the absolutes I was referring to.

      Best wishes!

  15. says

    Hey Mantra,

    Long time no talk…glad to see the blog is going well. I haven’t been able to post for a but since I’ve been doing projects for google and part of the deal is the inability to use adsense, analytics on my own site, blah blah blah

    Anyway, I think everyone throws around the term “retire early” but its a misnomer. Go search for some studies on what happens to people when they are unable to find work – the depression is on par with major life losses and suicide. People who are able to work want to work – thats human nature.

    Now, if you’re talking about quitting a corporate hell for your own chosen work and schedule, thats great. Amazing actually. But its not retiring.

    Can you honestly say you will “retire” at 38 and never work again? No more blog…no more investing…no more anything. Just wake up, watch TV and putz around, then go to sleep? I know I couldn’t…it would take a week and I’d start something new. Maybe thats just me

  16. says

    I love your plans. It’s always early retirement. Good thing you have businesses. I was just dropping by on your post and I am inspired because as a newbie in blogging, your blog and what you have been able to do with it really inspires me to do good and pursue greatness in this field. Thank you.

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