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Weekend reading: Another early retiree “de-retires”

Weekend reading

Good reads from around the Web.

I was not shocked to read this week that Jim of the SexHealthMoneyDeath blog has gone back to work.

It was obvious he found being retired early pretty boring. I was surely just one of many who suggested he should “get a job”, in kinder tones than that might be uttered.

Jim confessed:

I was struggling a bit with the retirement lifestyle, and finding the change from a full-on, full-time working week to a zero-hour one quite difficult to handle.

I just couldn’t shake the notion that I was too “young” to put my feet up, that I should be working and that I should be out there earning money.

I might not have “needed” the latter, but it never quite felt that way.

Few of us are really frustrated artists, office-caged adventurers, or wondrous philanthropists desperate to be out in the community doing good deeds for free instead of paying the mortgage.

Most of us are social creatures who like fitting in with the Joneses, even if we manage to shake off the urge to keep up with them.

And in our society, that involves somehow making money.

Even as a self-styled bohemian investor, I am fairly confident I’ll not give up entirely on “doing stuff for money” at anything younger than 80, and with luck and health not for a while after that.

On this planet, in this era, and with my mindset, it’d probably be easier to give up wearing clothes.

Many of you feel differently, of course. My co-blogger The Accumulator and I have debated this endlessly.

But I believe almost everyone will benefit from having an ongoing economic relationship with society while they can – even if only for a day or two a week.

Sadly, by the time most people reach the point of having options, they seem to feel too burned out by the workplace to explore all the various other ways of making money more freely.

If you can do it, you probably won’t

Personally, I think gaining financial freedom – the ability to say “no” to any boss or client, and to walk – is a truly worthwhile goal, but that retiring early will often prove a pretty futile outcome.

I think that’s especially true for the few who will be able to achieve it these days under their own steam.

That is, not the old 1990s way of being retired early by being shuffled out of a firm on a hefty company pension aged 55, but rather the modern, self-made save hard and invest like fury – or start a successful business or lucrative side-hustle – way.

Few people who can do that want to watch Pointless every afternoon waiting for their friends and family to finish work or school.

I know, I know, you will begin early retirement by doing an Open University degree course in archeology while making great strides in hybridizing apple trees in your back garden and teaching disadvantaged children Esperanto in your local youth center.

But most people won’t have your imagination…

So it’s no surprise to me so many high-profile personal finance bloggers who retire early go back to work – or never actually stop working.

Anyone who can create a very successful blog while generating enough money to retire at 45, say, is likely to be bored to tears by doing nothing – however much “doing nothing” is disguised by the flowering of (supposedly) constrained passions, travel, family life, or the gentle slide into somnolence.

Incidentally, I also think retiring early is bad for your health.

All my own views, yours may differ – at least until you retire early for yourself…

From the blogs

Making good use of the things that we find…

Passive investing

Active investing

Other articles

Product of the week: Nationwide has just launched its first ever current account for students. Called FlexStudent, it offers a tiered overdraft of up to £3,000, reports ThisIsMoney.

Mainstream media money

Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view these enable you to click through to read the piece without being a paid subscriber of that site.1

Passive investing

  • Remember the debt passive funds owe active managers [Search result]FT
  • Why even the best investing advice may be wrong – MarketWatch
  • Your value fund might not be of much value – Forbes
  • Do tactical allocation funds beat a 60/40 index mix? [US, relevant]A.P.

Active investing

  • Asymmetric information and the markets – Bloomberg
  • Inside Apple – Fast Company
  • Investment trusts sporting a 4% or better yield – ThisIsMoney
  • Only invest like a billionaire if you’re a billionaire – Bloomberg
  • Investors can pick good funds, but they have bad timing – Morningstar
  • Even the best investors miss many revolutionary opportunities – Medium

A word from a broker

Other stuff worth reading

  • A first-time buyer derailed by Japanese knotweed – Guardian
  • Taxpayers backed the multi-billion pound Help to Buy gamble – ThisIsMoney
  • Today’s reminder to never get married – Telegraph
  • Aviva’s property fund could be closed for eight months – Telegraph
  • Poor little rich kids: The perils of inherited wealth – Guardian
  • The other side of Warren Buffett [Misses the point, IMHO]The Economist
  • Why star premier league managers matter less than ever [Search result]FT
  • How technology is homogenizing global interior design – The Verge
  • Americans also witlessly pine for manufacturing jobs – The New Yorker
  • Greenland sharks may live for 400 years – CBC News

Book of the week: For my own esoteric reasons, I found myself studying the holdings of a UK fund called the CFP SDL UK Buffettology fund this week. The manager, Keith Ashworth-Lord, is sometimes dubbed the UK’s Warren Buffett, not least by himself – though by his own admission he’s very much a Buffett disciple rather than an original thinker like the genial grandfatherly billionaire. I also found out Ashworth-Lord published a book last year – Invest in the Best – which rather than being dozens of photographs of the author holding a placard saying “Pick Me!” seems to be a more subtle investigation into why Buffett’s methods work. (And also, by implication, Ashworth-Lord’s…)

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  1. Note some articles can only be accessed through the search results if you’re using PC/desktop view (from mobile/tablet view they bring up the firewall/subscription page). To circumvent, switch your mobile browser to use the desktop view. On Chrome for Android: press the menu button followed by “Request Desktop Site”. []

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{ 74 comments… add one }
  • 51 Tom August 15, 2016, 11:47 am

    I think the wisdom of Office Space applies


  • 52 William III August 15, 2016, 3:57 pm

    Delightful thread. Any case studies of people who’ve done an art/lit/history degree after FIREing, which allowed them to subsequently carve out a part time role that greatly enhanced life satisfaction?

  • 53 Financial Samurai August 16, 2016, 7:05 am

    It’s true. I’ve got a pretty popular post called, “It’s Impossible To Stay Retired Once You Retire Early.” It’s linked in the Website field above.

    Financial Samurai is one of the older early retirement blogs since 2009, but nobody ever figures FS for an early retirement blog or me as an early retiree because it’s just too difficult to just chillax and do nothing after so much hustling.


  • 54 John B August 16, 2016, 8:07 am

    @Financial Samurai I agree that if you’ve hustled to get rich quick, you might need to accept new challenges. But I’m a plodder and got rich not by earning lots, but having a dull career with good financial management and low desire to spend money. If you keep new graduate spending patterns as your income rises, the saving margin can grow even if you are not a high-flyer, and those patterns allow retirement on a reasonable sum.

    I want to know more about the world, and see more of it, but don’t really have the urge to change it. Without ambition, why would I want to have the hassle of engaging with anyone who’s not a friend?

  • 55 John August 16, 2016, 9:31 am

    @Sheep “I think my point is that you don’t necessarily have to wait until you have your 3.4659% (or whatever) Safe Withdrawal Rate sorted before changing your life – the chances that you will not be able to earn yourself a few pennies when your time is your own are very slim.”

    Like many things it depends completely on your personal preferences; a great number of people could stop working full time much sooner, it doesn’t mean that for all of them it is a worthwhile decision. Obviously in your case you disliked work enough, wanted to travel enough, and are willing to do ad-hoc online work enough that the choice made sense for you 🙂

  • 56 PC August 16, 2016, 12:58 pm

    You don’t have to stop work to change your life, to me they are 2 separate things.

  • 57 ermine August 16, 2016, 3:52 pm

    @PC Agreed you don’t have to stop work to change your life, there are many other ways. But I would say that conversely stopping working does change your life. Vastly for the better in my experience, but as this post tells us, that is not a universal feeling.

    I don’t think Jim would say retiring didn’t change his life. It is more that he didn’t like the change. Which is fair enough, he’s gone out and done something about it.

  • 58 Sherrie St. Cyr August 18, 2016, 2:42 am

    I missed the “early retirement” window for myself, but I’ve worked as a psychotherapist with many retirees and a few early retirees. Most of them had a difficult adjustment to the retired lifestyle and many of them chose to unretire, at least part time. While I appreciate freedom and independence, I also realize work provides benefits other than the financial ones. Many find they miss the social aspects, the status, and the intellectual stimulation. For many of them, retirement was wonderful at first, but people generally adjust to a new normal fairly quickly and the “glitter” wears off. Once days without any commitments become normal, they aren’t nearly as attractive as they were when they were viewed from the vantage point of “having” to go to work every day. Everyone has to find their own answer to this, obviously.

  • 59 The Investor August 18, 2016, 9:15 am

    Yes, I think it’s notable that the people who are most adamantly advocating full retirement / not another second in the office / deathbed regrets are people who seem to dislike if not truly hate every moment of their current *working* lives.

    Really I feel there’s multiple solutions besides retiring early to that predicament. Some that are likely to deliver far sooner than compounding the savings of a very frugal life over two to three decades. We only live once.

    But as you say, everyone has to find their own answer that works for them.

  • 60 old_eyes August 18, 2016, 12:18 pm

    @TI @ermine

    As I have said before I guess your attitude depends whether FIRE is running towards or away from.

    I am interested in the FI part rather than the RE part because I want choice. [Indeed at my age it is barely retiring early at all. Somewhere between the corporate early retirement of a previous generation and the extending state retirement age.]

    What I am after is the ability to choose more carefully how I spend my time.

    I have been incredibly lucky. I have never since graduating had a job I did not believe in or fundamentally enjoy. I have had rough periods where I felt I wasn’t able to do the job in the way I thought it should be done, and on three occasions that has led me to go off and do something else, but generally I have had a great time.

    Now at the end of October I am pulling the big lever and changing to basically retired. I have a bunch of stuff I want to do that looks to my partner suspiciously like my current work, but it is stuff that has built up over the years that I haven’t had the chance to execute before.

    I will also look for some interesting projects in my field that will keep me in the loop. I will try and get paid for these because my experience has been that if the transaction involves money people take it seriously. Too many of my friends who volunteer are banging their heads against the brick wall of the paid staff in a variety of third sector organisations. They want to contribute but actually suffer as much of the “abominable no-men” as they did in their working careers; sometimes more.

    I am with @ermine that learning something new every day is important, and I recognise the drivers that @Sherrie St Cyr refers to. For me the potential loss of intellectual stimulation is the scary one, and so my immediate plans focus on replacing that.

    I guess everyone’s ‘retirement’ is a function of experience, interests, capability and purpose. I have friends who have flipped completely to some new or latent interest, one who took up gardening after many years of wishing and not enough time with stunning results and a great deal of joy. Others who seem to have carried on exactly as if retirement had not happened working in the same field, but on close inspection you can see they are using the FI flexibility to choose the gigs they take on.

    We will see how it pans out for me and I will try and report back.

  • 61 Dannielle @ Odd Cents August 18, 2016, 2:15 pm

    Many people in Barbados, see retirement as the time to do the things that they always wanted to do. They travel, go to the beach for early morning swim sessions, volunteer, take classes etc. If you go to the popular beaches in Barbados early on mornings you will find the beaches filled with retirees just swimming or having breakfast. It’s the time to enjoy life to the fullest.

  • 62 PC August 18, 2016, 4:27 pm

    what @TI describes as

    “multiple solutions besides retiring early …. Some that are likely to deliver far sooner than compounding the savings of a very frugal life over two to three decades. We only live once.” ..

    I see as diversifying my “life” risk – putting everything into reaching FIRE asap seems too risky to me .. trying out other things and learning new things now and gradually reducing the need to work looks like a better bet

  • 63 Financial Samurai August 18, 2016, 4:59 pm

    @ John B – One of the key benefits early retirement is actually NOT having to ever spend another second with people you don’t like and admire.

    You’re not beholden to anybody. And that is the most beautiful thing.


  • 64 PC August 18, 2016, 5:34 pm

    bnt you can’t choose your family .. 😉

  • 65 Financial Samurai August 18, 2016, 6:24 pm

    @PC – Haha, well, the secret there is to NOT tell them you are retired or financially independent. But to instead, practice STEALTH WEALTH.

    A lot of my fellow bloggers have gone online to publicize they are millionaires etc. Good for them. But I’d rather take the stealth route so I keep the optionality of helping others and going about my own business instead of people expecting me to pay for everything.

    I’m going to a blogging conference, and fully expect ALL the millionaire bloggers and bloggers who report tens of thousands of dollars in monthly income to pay the bill! Is that so bad? 🙂


  • 66 ermine August 19, 2016, 10:56 am

    @TI > are people who seem to dislike if not truly hate every moment of their current *working* lives.

    That’s fair enough, though you can be sauntering along thinking everything is fine and that can change all of a sudden. You may be more exposed to that as an employee, but health, changes in fashion and and technological change can affect all.

    People change over a lifetime, if they individuate rather than exist. I retired early for entirely negative reasons, but for the twenty-seven years before I had work that was stretching and satisfying to do at various organisations.

    Having passed most of the decompression process over the last four years if I ask myself now “would I wave a magic wand, ice the crap bit and continue along the original track until I retire normally at 60 in a few years time”

    The answer would have to be no. It would be a waste for me, because I still have years ahead of me where I own my own time where I would be working, and there is plenty of interest to be found for me in the world outside work. I accept totally that the calculation is different for different people. Perhaps I needed the kick to jump me out of a well-worn rut. It was absolutely no fun at the time. But several years more Life at my own bidding – now that is a glittering prize. And I suspect if becomes more glittering as you get older. As a young pup work mattered dreadfully, I loved the international travel, the making things happen, and even in my heart of darkness the fact that when I directed people, more things happened than I could do myself, yes, the power.

    Change is part of Life, to borrow a phrase from Carl Jung, “the psychology of the second half of life is different to that of the first half”, though I would note that the transition is gradual.

    For me, it wouldn’t have been right to retire early at 35, because some of my lifestream still had a song to sing in the Work arena. At 45 would have been ideal, but I was totally unaware of how to go about it or that the need would turn up with the last financial crisis of 07-09. At 48 I was desperate to clear off, although arguably I still had my largest work project ahead of me. I would gladly have given that up to be able to get out of the system, because in the second half of life the focus was shifting away from the outside world largely as Jung described. That project would have been a great one to have done before 35. It was purely an enabling mechanism for me to do what I really wanted to do at 47. I changed.

    What’s great about this site is that it teaches people that they can have options younger than State retirement age, and how to go about making sure they have those options. It seems to touch an existential nerve, this ‘work is of inherent value above and beyond money’ but in the end that doesn’t matter, provided your younger self has given you the options. Mine did, sort of, and I follow the trend to zero work. Jim’s younger self gave him options too, he tried the zero option and it wasn’t to his taste, but he had the choice.

    I’ve been the place where I didn’t think I had options, and that, above all else, is the place that you don’t want to find yourself. It costs your younger self a fair amount of lifestyle eschewed to give your older self those options. Knowing that you will come to value having that choice is the key to taking the actions. How you go about that is what Monevator is all about. But it is important to also know why. So it turned out Jim didn’t need the option. I did need it, arguably RIT does. Knowing that can happen to you may concentrate the mind a little.

  • 67 The Accumulator August 20, 2016, 12:36 pm

    Heartening to read this thread after a particularly hard fortnight in the trenches. Discovering that FI is not for me is my secret nightmare, so always a pleasure to read so many fine, upstanding examples of people who are living it to the full. People who find their jobs socially rewarding and enjoyable must scratch their heads in bewilderment at those frantically tunnelling their way out. If you truly love your work then I think you are blessed but also in the minority. Someone above wisely said that it’s important to know why you want to be FI before you become so. I think that’s very true and it’s a good idea to know what you’re going to do with it too. By the time I’m out, I’m gonna have my game plan mapped like the first 100 days of a new President. It would be great to hear from anyone who’s done it, how they programmed their transition. Or not!

  • 68 The Accumulator August 20, 2016, 12:39 pm

    I dare say this isn’t the end of the Jim story either. Who knows what blend of work and play he’ll end up with in a few years. I don’t see Jim’s as a cautionary tale just a particularly honest account of life’s rollercoaster from a FIRE p-o-v. Personally, I’m predicting I’ll suffer from chronic one-more-year syndrome.

  • 69 PC August 22, 2016, 5:48 pm
  • 70 Kraggash August 22, 2016, 6:07 pm


    Moral: never go for a fight at somewhere called ‘Slaughter Bridge’ (or if you do, make VERY sure you are on the winning side).

  • 71 John B August 22, 2016, 11:46 pm

    @Accumulator after 3 years hating my job, and 2 years of one-more-month delaying tactics, I told my boss I was resigning today, and all my friends that I’ll probably not be working in IT again. All are supportive, but the ones bitten by IT ageism in the past do wonder if anyone losing an IT job at 48 will ever work in the field again. Certainly there is no suggestion that you shouldn’t stop work merely because you can.

    I don’t really have a plan, apart from tidying finances and wresting my job pension from Scottish Widows ASAP. If I had a clear idea what I wanted to do next, I’d have gone long ago.

    So I’m FI, not sure whether it will be RE yet

  • 72 Kraggash August 23, 2016, 9:38 am

    @John B
    It depends very much on your skill set, and what precisely you mean by ‘IT’ (which covers a HUGE field) but, should you wish to keep in the industry, you may find that employers are more ready to take on ‘older’ people on contract than full time. There can be a very nice career there, with a better work/life balance.

    Good luck!

  • 73 John B August 23, 2016, 10:03 am

    @Kraggash I’m a supercomputer expert, so the employers are few, but keen, but TBH I’m bored with the whole field, all too much fiddly detail. I’m FI mainly because of 4 years contracting a few years back. Consulting certainly seems popular with the FIRE community.

  • 74 abandoned cubicle November 7, 2016, 6:20 pm

    Insightful read. Makes me contemplate my own path. The “no regrets” part is what keeps driving me now – knowing I’d prefer to spend time with the kids, and be outdoors. I’m going to back to the Blue Zones studies to dig in a bit for more nuggets of wisdom. In those limited zones of elderly folks living to old age, happily and healthily, it seems none really truly “retire”. They keep working the fields or tending the flocks or tending the grandchildren. Some even perform open heart surgery (one M.D. @ 102 years old!) So, do they have regrets? Maybe. But they certainly have figured something out…

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