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Why are we surprised when would be early retirees have second thoughts?

An image of a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis.

A bit of a kerfuffle has broken out at Retirement Investing Today. Author RIT says he’s considering stretching the “one more year” he’s already taken to another year… or possibly even an indefinite leave of extension on his early retirement plans.

In the first post, RIT revealed that:

I was just recently contacted by a very senior person in my organisation who proceeded to p*ss in my pocket for half an hour about how much of a contribution I make, how much they value that contribution, how essential I am to the organisation, blah blah blah. […]

I was offered what I could only describe as a retention bribe, which consists of a workload reduction as well as a big chunk of cash if I stay on until the middle of 2019.

In a follow-up, he hinted he was now considering postponing the early retirement we’ve followed and cheered along for the past few years, though all options remain on the table:

I’m not for a second rolling over today and saying another one more year.

I’m just saying life is currently very good, our planned Med FIRE life is also very good and we have plenty more thinking to work through over the coming weeks.

To conclude I’ll just say that right now I feel incredibly fortunate and I have FIRE to thank for that. With my time again I’d do it exactly the same way again.

His readers have mostly left thoughtful comments, which is nice to see given the righteous fury we sometimes hear from the faction Mr Money Mustache calls the Internet Retirement Police.

And for what it’s worth, I applaud the pause for thought.

It seems clear from RIT’s posts that he doesn’t dislike his work anymore, now it’s optional. If anything he seems to enjoy it.

As for the tap on the shoulder, as I wrote on his site:

I think you can expect many more happy conversations / circumstances now you’re financially free.

Your bargaining power is turbo-charged. And now you’re off the wheel, you can look around.

It’s nearly two years since RIT broke through the portfolio target he’d set himself. He has the war chest he needs to quit work and to fund his escape to the Mediterranean.

But more than that he’s got a choice.

Optional extras

Personally I don’t think it’s any great surprise that the sort of people who are able to work and save hard to achieve financial independence often decide not to stop working.

From Mr Money Mustache to UK blogger Sex Health Money Death, it’s common to see would-be early retirees continuing with some form of money-earning activity long after they have to.

Even the doyen of the modern FIRE movement – Jacob Fisker of Early Retirement Extreme – famously ended up accepting the 9-5 job of his dreams.

Workaholic Tim Ferris of 4 Hour Work Week fame is another prophet of taking time off who seems to be forever on it.

And none of the several people I know in real-life who have achieved substantial wealth early through work – and thus the ability to quit it – have done so. Quite the opposite.

Others seem uncertain – the Our Tour bloggers that @TA follows are a good example – and I see nothing wrong with that.

Uncertainty is another luxury afforded by financial freedom.

Of course, would-be retirees who decide to keep working don’t always take a conventional job. But they may do a plethora of jobs on the side.

This is what leads to charges from those Internet Retirement Police of copping out, of not really being retired – or even of hoodwinking their readers.

To me though the side hustles, speaking gigs, consultancies or full-on second careers are to be celebrated, not scorned.

Such changes of a plan are not a bug but a feature of financial freedom.

Fire your boss… and interview for a new one

I’ve explained before why I don’t use the term FIRE much. I find the nailed-on ‘Retire Early’ part far too limiting.

What’s the point of pursuing financial freedom if your only option at the end is to pull the ripcord? There are many, many ways to live.

Partly I think there’s a problem where people become habitually angry wage slaves. They dream of early retirement as a solution to all their work-related problems.

But plenty of the bugbears they cite – control, a lack of free time, not being able to do more of what they actually want to do – can be fixed not by retiring at 45 to a beach or a garden, but by having the power and freedom to change their working circumstances to suit.

Ideally we’d all love our work lives from our early 20s. But in reality dream jobs and paying mortgages don’t always go hand-in-hand.

Become financially free though, and you are far better able to pursue the productive life you want.

That might well involve pottering around the greenhouse or playing golf or learning an instrument or any of the cliches of early retirement.

If that’s what you think will make you happy, go for it.

But I’m sure for many people, being part of the working world – on their own terms – is hugely satisfying.

You see it again and again. Not just in our little corner of the world, but also with the billionaires who continue to work 15-hours a day or the rock stars who remain on the road into their 70s.

If you’ve ever not worked for a while – by choice or circumstance – then you’ll know that feeling of missing out on something beyond money.

Is it all an illusion – a trap set by The Man?

I think it can be, sure. And if that feeling of missing out is balanced by a load of other things you’d rather be doing – and if you’ve achieved the freedom to spurn work – then great, get on with them.

But if you’re not sure you want to pursue a radically different lifestyle with several decades of life still to go, there are other paths to follow – all supported by your hard won FU-fund.

You simply don’t have to take the nuclear option of quitting work forever – and life on a tight budget indefinitely – to improve your quality of life.

People may rarely wish they’d spent more time at the office on their death bed, and that’s a clarion call to quit work.

But it might also be a reason to find a better office.

Find a money making activity you like and you can purposefully enjoy all the benefits of continuing to earn, save, invest – and spend – for many more years to come.

How to let your new life crowd out your old

Nobody wants to be trapped in the rat race. But the key word is trapped.

If you’re a rat who has figured out how the maze works, then there’s free food and a stimulating mental challenge on offer.

The scientific experimenter playing with the parameters is also having a better time than a hapless trapped rat that’s banging its head against the wall.

For my part, if and when I ever decide it’s time to consider not working, I’ll transition slowly to that new way of life.

And I’d do it the same way I’ve changed career lanes in the past.

I certainly wouldn’t go from working RIT’s 70-hours a week to none overnight. A 12-hour workday on Monday, and goodbye forever drinks on the Friday. It might work for some, but it seems like psychological self-warfare to me.

People often write it’s “just psychology” or “just emotional”, about everything from one more year at work to dollar cost averaging to surviving a bear market.

Newsflash! We’re all people with feelings, hopes, fears, and emotions. There is no “just” here – those things are the whole point.

My transition strategy would involve:

  • Reduce the amount of time I work at my current occupation. That might be fewer days of the week in a traditional role, lower targeted monthly earnings if a freelancer, and so on.
  • Start to add more of the things I want to do into my schedule – whether fun activities, sleeping in the afternoon, or even (gasp!) some new side hustle.
  • If I’m still not satisfied, I’d let the new things squeeze out more work time. So I’d drop another day at work, knock my earning expectations down again, and so on.
  • If this sounds fanciful remember you are already financially independent in this scenario. It’s like a super power!
  • At some point, my non-working life would presumably become more interesting than my dwindling work life and I’d let it wither naturally. Or else I’d discovered that it wasn’t, in which case I’ve still left my bridges intact.

Some people might retort: “No, no, to go and live a life of full leisure you NEED to pull the bandage off, move to the middle of nowhere, get used to being 20 years younger than everyone around you, toughen up on the existential question of what your role is now in society as a 40-something retiree, and concentrate on getting by on one-third of what you earned before.”

To which I say… no you don’t.

Not unless you want to – in which case go for it!

Freedom is the goal

The kind of people with the drive, talent, and mathematical skills to understand that early retirement is possible have plenty of options.

But it seems to take achieving financial freedom for some of us to appreciate it.

When you’re head down and charging towards the goal line, it isn’t easy and maybe not even desirable to pause to look up and wonder what’s going on in the bleachers.1

You may get the sense from all the cheering that they’re having the time of their lives. But how many of them would love to be down there in the thick of it with you?

Hardcore work refuseniks like friend of the blog Ermine will tell you to find something bigger than a vestigial Protestant work ethic to motivate you. It’s certainly worth hearing them out.

But again, don’t overlook the context.

When you’re financially independent halfway through your life, you can do far more of what you want to do – as opposed to what other people say you should do, or perhaps what you thought you should do 20 years ago when you faced working forever.

A castaway on a tropical island building a raft from vines and driftwood and pushing it out into the surf is trapped and desperate.

A financially independent worker-by-choice is floating by on a lilo on holiday.

  1. Excuse the US terminology, but it’s so much snappier! []

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{ 87 comments… add one }
  • 51 Neverland April 12, 2018, 3:00 pm


    The reason a lot of doctors have been retiring early is the way the lifetime allowance for final salary pensions works. Any doctor over 50 has will have a pension above the LTA as they only switched over to a career average scheme in 2015.

    And a good thing too. I don’t want to pay to further gold plate their retirement.

    Worked example here: https://www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/sites/default/files/2017-04/Lifetime%20Allowance%20Charge%20examples%20V1%20%2804.2017%29.pdf

  • 52 John April 12, 2018, 3:50 pm

    RIT is a thoughtful, logical person. When so many such people come to the conclusion they want to retire whilst poor, then that they want to keep working once rich, the natural conclusion is that it’s fear or greed that drove the change. Some of the police are responding to that, others are just disappointed not to be able to read about retirement.

    Speaking of which, when are we to hear about your house buying psychology @ti? I’m quite happy with the explanation “I’m loaded and want one”.

  • 53 The Rhino April 12, 2018, 3:55 pm

    I too am very keen to hear about using an interest only mortgage to cover a portion of the house purchase

  • 54 IanT April 12, 2018, 5:58 pm

    An excellent post, and very interesting replies fellow Monevators.

    If I could be allowed to add my twopenn’orth.

    I’m 52, and three years ago was diagnosed with a medical condition that has drastically reduced my life expectancy. My dad died when he was 62 (not the same condition) and the average age of death from my condition is 54.

    So, not great prospects.

    But, y’know what? It hasn’t *really* changed my attitude to financial independence, and I’m still on track to be able to retire at 54….which has been the plan for many years anyway.

    I changed career in my 30s. I was once a hard-working, over-stressed, under-paid management accountant….but for the last 15 years I’ve been a train driver. It’s a great job, with a lovely Defined Benefit pension to boot. The hours are long, and the shifts can be murderous, but it’s virtually stress free, surprisingly well paid and I was able to move my previous company pension into the DB scheme to buy me extra years service.

    I’ve always wanted to retire early, and always planned to spend my retirement travelling the world. But, with my health holding up for now, and having done a lot of travel anyway, my retirement at 54/55 is now becoming *much* more of a flexible thing in my mind. Will I work on?

    I currently work an average 6-day-week, in an effort to build up my SIPP to a level that will allow me to have the same lifestyle as I enjoy now. I keep saying “I”, when in reality it’s a “we” including my good lady wife. Anyway, I’m contracted to do a 4-day-week, which would *feel* like semi-retirement….but there has also been a development which allows us overworked train drivers to go part-time and work a 2-day-week, as long as we can find a buddy prepared to do the same.

    With an annual leave allowance of 15 days, that would mean 89 days work in a year.

    Or 276 days off.

    Now, health permitting of course, that seems like a lovely way to ease myself into retirement over the next few years…

  • 55 marked April 12, 2018, 8:17 pm


    with regard to Doctors, I’ve got some experience there of why they retire through my family contacts. Invariably on or approaching £100K or £150K so in the 62% tax bracket, have maxed out their pension Lifetime Allowance at around the age of 50 to 55 and getting dumped on with more and more red tape and pressure by the state.

    I did read somewhere a school of thought to allow Doctors to have an increased LTA. My initial thoughts are that won’t fly, but it depends how bad we (excuse the pun) bleed doctors. There are, for example, other pension incongruities such as being a sports star and being able to take a pension in your 30’s.

    My personal take on this is the state are taking too much from the 10% ers, in which case you’ve got two choices. You find financial freedom or start up your own company/consultancy/whatever for more generous tax considerations. Of course financial freedom can be both.

  • 56 The Accumulator April 12, 2018, 9:05 pm

    To those who want to keep working: Would you do your job for no pay?

    If the answer to that is no, and you’re FI, then why not spend your time doing the things you’d happily do for no money?

    Where I’m coming from:
    Jacob Fisker of ERE fame, outlined a vision of FI as the life of a Renaissance Man / Woman. Having the freedom to devote yourself to fulfilling pursuits. For Jacob that meant, among other things:

    Becoming a crewman on a racing yacht.
    Fixing up bikes for a woman’s shelter.
    Learning how the stock market operates on a systematic level
    Making furniture
    Playing centre-forward for a street hockey team
    Blogging / writing a book about FIRE

    Some of those activities may fall under someone’s definition of ‘work’. He didn’t do any of them for the money.

    I’ve come across a couple of FI bloggers recently who’ve said there’s something about receiving money for tasks that makes doing them worthwhile. They say they’re FI. They work. The job is OK. They don’t mind it, but they wouldn’t do it save for the money. I don’t get it. I’d like to understand this more. Can anyone shed light?

  • 57 The Accumulator April 12, 2018, 9:12 pm

    @ IanT – thank you for sharing. The book your Money Or Your Life casts the money-time relationship as a straight trade-off. The more money you earn / spend, the less time left over for the rest of your life. In retrospect, would you change anything about your journey to FI?

  • 58 The Accumulator April 12, 2018, 9:22 pm

    A few here have cast work vs FIRE as a choice between doing something dynamic with your life vs pottering around the garden / sizzling on the beach. Given how informed this audience is, perhaps they’re doing it with knowing irony, but I still think this kind of cliche hampers the debate. It’s a spectacular failure of imagination to think that unpaid pursuits can’t be at least as stimulating as whatever it is you can get paid for.
    I wonder if partly this comes from feeling the need to have competence or mastery in a field? You’re probably pretty good at something if you’re paid for it / been doing it for 2o years. Hopefully anyway. Give all that up for a smorgasbord of fresh pursuits and you’re probably pretty crap at most of them initially and don’t have the easy yardstick of money to measure your chops in any of ’em. Perhaps that devalues activities for some?

  • 59 The Accumulator April 12, 2018, 9:27 pm

    While I wait for The Investor to take my main comment out of moderation…
    A fair few retirement writers emphasise the importance of preparing yourself for your new life i.e. visualising how you’ll fill your time, gunning up your new pursuits before taking the retirement plunge, reactivating some of the things you loved to do as a kid but were forced to shelve by real life. Plunging straight into it like a cold bath seems to be a major mistake.

  • 60 wephway April 12, 2018, 10:02 pm

    Ahem, yes perhaps doctors aren’t the best example of what I was trying to say. You’d think directly improving other people’s lives would be very rewarding, but I guess even that can be outweighed by too much stress and paperwork. (And the cynic inside me suspects some people become doctors not because they want to help other people but because of the money and prestige involved…)

    Maybe I’m simplifying things here, but if you’re financially independent and you continue working, then aren’t you effectively working for free? I mean not technically of course, but if you don’t need the money and aren’t going to spend the extra money then that is basically the case. Take Jacob from ERE, if he earns, say $140k in a year in his new job, and his expenses are only $7k a year, then he’s bought himself another 20 years of freedom from that job. But he already had that freedom and he doesn’t feel the need to spend all his money, so why is he working? He must really love that job to do it for free is all I’m saying.

    In any case I know a few people at work who could retire straight away, but they continue to work and I’m not sure why – they don’t appear to enjoy or find that much meaning in their jobs. For sure when I’m able to FIRE I would probably ease into it by dropping my hours down, but I’d like to think I could think of better things to do with my life than give it to a bank.

  • 61 John B April 12, 2018, 10:48 pm

    Its the driven who want to excel at what they do, academically, professionally, in their hobbies. They can be lost if they look for a new opportunities at 50 and realise their bodies are failing, and there is not enough time to get good at anything again.

    But most people are plodders, who aren’t great at anything. They end up in some work niche, which they may love or loathe, but don’t have the drive to change to something different. If by luck or frugality they become FI, and they give up work, they don’t need a new challenge, to do a new degree, run a charity or write a novel. They might be happy enough flitting between the things they enjoy without mastering them, and let the days roll by. It was a successful recipe for my Dad’s 30 year retirement, and I hope to repeat it. Time spent pottering in the garden is not wasted.

  • 62 Fatbritabroad April 13, 2018, 5:01 am

    Being in a goal orientated job (sales) i do wonder where my motivation would come from to work after i was fire. Im struggling with that already.i was talking to another fire blogger about this recently. I worked really hard to get to the stage i am(probably trying to emulate my dad who was a chief exec) but got the rewards very very quickly (my salary tripled over two years) suddenly i could afford everything i had wanted. The nice new car the 4 bed house etc. I suddenly realised i guess like alot of people that none of that stuff really means sh*t and wasnt ultimately going to make me happy. around the same time i got divorced (not i dont think due to the hours my ex and i worked wed met as kids and i think just grew apart). So i was left with the house the car etc. I can afford to put enough away in my pension (i habe always done this) to likely have almost a million in there by 55. I can also save on top not max my isas but do share saves put a decent amount in s and s isas etc drive the nice car (though im going to ditch it as soon as i can for a second hand cheaper to allow me tk save more) so im really struggling at the moment tk do more than maintain my current account size and grow a couple of % a year. I know in my head if i grew my account 10%and got 10%more salary i could retire quicker but i just cant motivate myself like i used to. I have ‘enough’ . I can only see that getting worse as i get closer to my goal. Not good at 37 when i still have along way to go and a big mortgage to pay!
    For me my main love has always been travelling and something i do now despite the cost to early retirement plans. I want enough to continue seeing the world and be young enough to still do it. That’s my goal

  • 63 IanT April 13, 2018, 5:30 am

    @TA, I can genuinely say I wouldn’t have done things differently.

    Someone said earlier that it feels like floating on a cloud, and I can definitely relate to that. Although I’m not FI quite yet, my health has forced me to take a different perspective on things. I’m not as frugal as I once was, for example.

    The idea of having a 3 month-a-year job driving a train out into the countryside or blasting it up the West Coast main line at 110mph isquite appealing when I don’t *have* to do it. Quite a nice way to spend a day actually.

    I guess I’ve come to realise that, for me, aiming for FI isn’t about buying early retirement, it’s about buying the *option* of early retirement.

  • 64 Slow Dad April 13, 2018, 6:24 am


    who’ve said there’s something about receiving money for tasks that makes doing them worthwhile. They say they’re FI. They work. The job is OK. They don’t mind it, but they wouldn’t do it save for the money. I don’t get it. I’d like to understand this more. Can anyone shed light?

    There is line of thinking I’ve frequently observed amongst IT freelancers and building contractors that if they have to work at all, then they might as well maximise the financial reward received for investing their time.

    Once they have “enough” some grow out of it, pursuing more fulfilling (if not financial rewarding) uses for their time. Obvious examples include the often cited extended travel, further study, looking after grandkids, or charity/volunteer work. Less obvious examples include high powered programme managers dropping back to a less stressful life as a humble business analyst, enterprise architects returning to the code monkey ranks, or people continuing to perform their same role on a part time/reduced hours basis.

    The rest just keep soldiering on making money because they don’t know what else to do with their time.

    I suspect there are many people out there who genuinely have no idea how they would fill in their days if it weren’t for an externally imposed routine (and associated social life) provided by work. The clichéd example is the directionless teenager who gets steered into the armed services so they will always have someone to tell them what to do. Another example is the vivid image SMHD painted of a bored and lonely middle aged man rattling around an empty house doing crossword puzzles while waiting for his family to return home from work/school/wherever. Or those pensioners who queue up at opening time outside their local Wetherspoons.

    For people who genuinely have nothing better to do, perhaps the sense of identity and structure provided by a job is better that the alternative?

    Financial freedom gets achieved by folks running towards something, and those who are running away from something. The towards lot usually have a grand plan of pursuits that working full time gets in the way of. The away lot just want off the hamster wheel, escape the commute or evil boss… which leaves quite the voids for them to attempt to fill once they escape.

  • 65 PC April 13, 2018, 7:40 am

    The running away lot would be better to focus on understanding what it is that’s really troubling them and what they can do to fix it now. As someone once used to remind me ‘this isn’t a dress rehearsal’

  • 66 PC April 13, 2018, 8:00 am

    Yes I would do my job for no money and have done from time to time. I am very lucky to found something that I enjoy doing that happens to pay.

    I like the idea of renaissance man , although I wouldn’t describe myself as that .. I do spend a lot of time doing other things for nothing that some people make a living from – curing and smoking food, baking bread, surfing (badly).

    What the money I earn gives me is the opportunity to do the things that don’t pay. It almost feels random to me which things I do that I get paid for.

    I am very lucky that there is something I enjoy doing that more than pays the bills. If I were on a minimum wage zero hours contract in a warehouse, I’m sure I would want to escape asap.

  • 67 PC April 13, 2018, 8:02 am

    There’s a lot to be said for partial FI or short term FI – I think that sums it up for me.

  • 68 Bill G April 13, 2018, 9:10 am


    That is what FI buys you and the great news is that if you struggle with those choices, then all the available options will be good ones.

    If you are approaching FI in a cauldron of corporate burnout, or a teacher who dreads the sound of your alarm clock, then it’s probably a no-brainer that you will quit. But if you enjoy your work the choices are a risk free change of pace/ direction, or continue in a job you enjoy, possibly with reduced hours or responsibilities.

  • 69 Survivor April 13, 2018, 9:52 am

    FI is like a get-out-of-jail-free card, sometimes people are so self-unaware, or the situation changes so rapidly that they don’t have time to mentally adjust let alone make a plan. If the relationship at work or home has turned brutal, one day you can just wake up & feel ”I can’t take this any more” …….with no warning – you’ll be that guy sitting on a bench all day at the station [fully booted & suited for corporate duty] in a catatonic state having just broken down with zero warning.

    But as well as a lifesaving emergency handbrake for your life, it can also be the throttle that allows you to ease into a better balance of activities for your health & happiness. A zookeeper once told me that animals who’d been caged too long also get institutionalised & if you left the door open by accident, they either ignored it or peered out fearfully but never took a step out of the routine. So when we’ve been on the treadmill for decades, after a lifetime’s grooming by society’s expectations to ‘do the right thing’, the only wonder is if we are still capable of behaving differently.

  • 70 The Investor April 13, 2018, 10:18 am

    I think a dirty secret that is rarely admitted around these sorts of parts is it’s enjoyable — as in you get a small dopamine hit or similar — to be paid money for doing something. It’s also enjoyable to get that no-nonsense recognition that you provided value, as compared to warm words (or what @RIT calls “pissing in his pocket”). And it’s satisfying in our society, where money is seen (certainly for ill as well as good) as a symbol of success.

    As I said in the initial article, one can stand aside from all that and say it doesn’t affect you, and I think we should all *try* to stand a bit aside and be affected by it *less*. But I think it will be in the mix. We live in the world we live in.

    Another way to reframe @TA’s question might be: “If you’re not in the absolute highest earning job you could possibly get then why aren’t you?”

    If you could make more money cold calling people to try to get them to lodge PPI claims (or whatever legal but soul-destroying job you’d like to insert here) but you’re carrying on being a teacher or an engineer or a writer or a doctor or a shop assistant, say, then to some extent you’re doing a job NOT for the money already.

    I know I am in that camp, and I’m sure plenty of others here are, too, especially over a total career arc.

    (Sure, you might well end up in your 40s or 50s with skills that allow you to earn more now then you could elsewhere, but was that true of your whole life? Or could you really have earned more at the back office of a bank from 22?)

    @TA and I had a big debate once that was partly about whether I actively invested for fun or money.

    I’d claimed it was my fun hobby, but on reflection I had to admit that money was part of the motivation. But I still don’t think it was purely about making more money — especially in the early days when I was compounding very little, and it’d have been more lucrative simply to work harder and save more. The money was in the mix — I was keeping score, it was satisfying — but equally it wasn’t the whole story. I do (/did?) enjoy it. It was fun.

    I think something similar is probably going on with those who would not work for no money but do decide to work / expect to work after they’re financially free (and I’d count myself in that category). Taking money out of the picture makes you think, but it’s also perhaps a straw man.

    Then we get to the issue of what financially free means. It’s all very well saying it’s a personal matter, but bringing up Jacob living in his camper van on $7K a year I’m afraid does push a button with me. I’m sure it it worked for him in the short to medium-term, and good for him for trying living that way and making the space for those other activities. But it’s a tiny amount of money to live on for the long-term, especially in the US.

    Let’s say you decide you’re financially free on a tight but far higher £20K a year.

    That for you this is a holiday-in-the-UK, second hand most things, enjoy the butterflies in summer when everyone is a wage slave, pursue your (cheaper) passion kind of budget.

    If you like your work and so in addition you keep doing a day a week for, say, £150 a day, then simplistically that’s £7,000 extra a year to spend or well over £5K after-tax.

    Your spending budget has gone up by 25%, and your free disposable spending budget (i.e. not food/electricity/essential travel etc) has probably gone up ten-fold!

    Perhaps that makes absolutely no difference to your quality of life and the *freedom* to explore more, experience more, and to have more options, but my mileage would certainly vary. I think it’d open up a hundred opportunities.

    If early retirees had found the secret to retiring on twice the average UK salary that’d be one thing, but the general mantra is retire early thanks to a super-frugal lifestyle to live super-frugally. I am not knocking that *choice* but it is just a choice, and I think there are other ways to get much of the benefits and perhaps more of others. 🙂

    This is not to even touch on the wealthy business people / city types / whoever who keep on working for the various motivations that others have covered here.

    In some cases, sure it’s a bit sad. But I also know people like this with lives at least as rich as their bank accounts (and in may cases more colourful, explicitly because of the options money gives them.)

    We could also re-frame @TA’s question to say: “If you were retired early and financially free and pursuing your passion / learning Japanese / pottering in the shed but one day you were asked to interrupt your bliss to travel 200 miles and give up half your day to collect lottery winnings for £10,000, would you?”

    If you say “yes I would”, then we’ve established that in fact you would trade your time for money — we’re just negotiating about the price. 😉

    There are extreme ways to do anything, but I think there’s often a case for a middle-path. Unless, as I say, you know a frugal and simple life is for you for whatever reason (it could even be philosophical or environmental) in which case I’ve no argument with you. I defended heartily the famous “tin can millionaire” who collected cans for money, who was essentially homeless, and had millions in the bank. I would today.

    Again, many ways to live. 🙂

  • 71 The Investor April 13, 2018, 10:25 am

    p.s. I am saying £20K is a “tight” budget from the perspective of a Londoner who wants to live at least a bit like a Londoner. I realize in some parts of the country it’s quite a bit, and huge numbers of people earn far less. You can reinsert whatever numbers work for you, I don’t think it changes the main point that a small concession to continuing to work dramatically changes your potential financial firepower.

  • 72 Mark April 13, 2018, 11:26 am

    One factor that has been little covered in these comments is risk aversion. I suspect many people who calculate that they have sufficient capital to retire don’t do so immediately in part because they believe that such a calculation may be imperfect, largely due to the small possibility of catastrophic ‘black swan’ events that result in their savings no longer being adequate. Certainly, that’s how I felt; the result is that I kept going for several extra years.

  • 73 Survivor April 13, 2018, 11:53 am

    @ Mark – good point, there are so many possible reasons. Just one that really affected me is pressure from those you love, like a parent who made supreme sacrifices for you & then is disappointed when you ease off the pedal because they see it as you just playing/being lazy/refusing to grow up & accept responsibility. So you can mentally accept it wasn’t a choice to be born all you like & that you never agreed the contract they obviously have in their head of how you should repay their investment …..but even so, your heart always guilts you for hurting them.

  • 74 The FIRE Engine April 13, 2018, 12:43 pm

    I absolutely agree with these sentiments.

    Even running a blog called The FIRE Engine, for me the FI is far more important than the RE. While I probably will fully retire early-ish, my main goals are to scale back and change the type of work I do once I’m well on the way to financial independence, and that work will likely continue well past the point of reaching FI.

    Great post Monevator!


  • 75 The Accumulator April 13, 2018, 1:01 pm

    Loving this thread! I shouldn’t be here though. Sssh. Back later

  • 76 Neverland April 13, 2018, 1:52 pm


    You understate it. You don’t have an “average” retirement you have your own personal retirement.

    Stuff happens. Money helps.

    Going back to the original RIT post the pot is only about GBP 1.4m (plus an unspecified amount his wife has) to draw about GBP 20,000 a year from (2%) after buying a house with some

    I’m not surprised he wants to work another year to add another GBP 200k (being roughly half savings from salary and half undrawn investment returns

  • 77 The Investor April 13, 2018, 8:14 pm

    Here’s an interesting article (that I missed) from a couple of weeks back about engineers in Silicon Valley hacking an early retirement:


  • 78 Retirement Investing Today April 13, 2018, 8:36 pm

    “Here’s an interesting article (that I missed) from a couple of weeks back about engineers in Silicon Valley hacking an early retirement:…”
    – Robert and Sara intend to retire at age 25 and 29 with $300,000
    – Daniel will FIRE when he hits $15M but hasn’t even made it to $500k yet
    – Jordan is 24, less than a year into her FIRE journey and plans to retire when she’s 35

    I wish them all luck but they seem to be all at the dreaming stage of their journey at this point. Good on them for starting, a crucial piece, but let’s see if they have the risk tolerance (Robert and Sara) or determination (Daniel and Jordan) to make it FIRE.

    Articles like that almost give FIRE a bad name…

  • 79 Bill G April 13, 2018, 9:35 pm

    Almost a cockney, born at Whips Cross, and I call bullshit on London as being this mega-expensive hell-hole. I now live in the very well regarded Hampstead and a pint in the Southampton Arms, a 15 minute glorious walk across the Heath, is £3.90.

    No need to own a car, world class entertainment on your doorstep, football ranging from £100 a match at Premiership to £5 at Leyton Orient, a Middlesex Cricket membership at £155 for the year etc.

    Living in Town is very reasonable before you add in the huge opportunities made available by the firms in the City.

    Apologies for the rant but it’s really not the modern day Sodom & Gomora.

  • 80 The Accumulator April 14, 2018, 8:36 am

    @ The Investor – I agree with your dirty little secret theory. I think I’d associate the money hit with status. As you say, society signals to us that money = success. 6 figures are better than 5. 7 figures better than 6. Hell, I’ve read about millionaires in some exclusive Shangri-la somewhere that got the hump when the billionaries moved in and started claiming the best sun loungers. It’s clear that money traps people and I guess there can be a scoreboard effect that’s hard to walk away from. This thread shows there’s a whole sticky amber of socialisation that needs breaking down before people can free themselves. The status, the security, the money, the expectations, ‘what else will I do?’ syndrome. An FI spreadsheet doesn’t answer any of those questions, so if you’re not sprinting for the door due to unbearable circumstance then I think there’s a whole mental, spiritual and personal values track to work along in parallel to the money management. Managing your mind is just as important as your money.

  • 81 The Accumulator April 14, 2018, 8:55 am

    @ The Investor – I don’t share your issues with Jacob’s story because I don’t see what he did as being about the $7K annual expenses and trailer park accommodation. He was at pains to show that FIRE could scale. If you wanted out NOW, and earned a moderate income then you could redesign your life to be done in 5 years. You just had to get creative about it. Geographical arbitrage is another example of radical life design to achieve the same ends. If you want to live on more then it takes longer but the underlying philosophy and strategy is unchanged. Regardless of where we draw the line, the central tenet of FIRE is knowing what’s Enough. If you can’t settle on a vision of that, or are driven by a psychological need to keep accumulating then no amount will be enough.

  • 82 Fatbritabroad April 14, 2018, 9:06 am

    @accumulator a very astute observation. Especially coming from someone with the pseudonym ‘the accumulator’

  • 83 Mark April 14, 2018, 10:14 am

    @ Bill G, I accept it’s possible to live frugally in London, provided you don’t have to pay market rate for housing. Without a property bought way back when they were cheap, or inherited, or a social housing tenancy, I should imagine the cost of a roof over one’s head in Hampstead is not trivial.

  • 84 old_eyes April 14, 2018, 11:11 pm

    A comment on the dirty little secret idea. A lot of my post-FI activity resembles my pre FI activity because I enjoy what I do, think it is important, and am arrogant enough to believe I can add value to the businesses I work with and society.
    I do a mix of pro bono and paid work, and the critical thing about paid work is that because society thinks value/success = money, other people attach importance to what I do based on how much I get paid to do it. I have found through bitter experience that there are certain kinds of people and organisations who value help at exactly what they pay for it. So unless I charge they won’t listen. And my time is too precious to me to put up with that kind of bullshit.
    Basically I have something to say to the world of business, and some people are grateful and respectful of your time and some are not. You quickly get to recognise those without respect, and one way to get that respect and be allowed to help is to charge them.
    I don’t need the money, but I do need them to listen.

  • 85 The Accumulator April 15, 2018, 1:21 pm

    Haha. That’s a great reason

  • 86 cat793 April 15, 2018, 8:14 pm

    It seems that the problem is that the kinds of careers that pay enough to allow you to FIRE easily are actually interesting and high status and so there is less need to retire early. FIRE is not a particularly outlandish achievement if you have a much higher than average salary. The shall I fire or not of high earning people is banal. It is simply a choice of what to do with a surfeit of disposable income. If you enjoy your career then why retire? It is only worth retiring in these circumstances if you have FI and outside interests you enjoy more than working.

    To me what is more interesting is the trade offs that need to be made by people lower down the scale. It is both harder to achieve FIRE and more crucial to do so due to the poor quality of working life people are likely to have and relative insecurity of employment. It also takes a lot more skill, imagination dedication and luck.

  • 87 Fervent Finance April 18, 2018, 7:24 pm

    Anyone know if Jacob from ERE is still working?

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