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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 }
  • 1 The Rhino April 11, 2018, 11:10 am

    Seems like a very reasonable analysis of the situation. Thats exactly what I’d do in his situation, evolution not revolution, I evolve but I don’t revolve (Alan Partridge)

    I’d just been having a similar conversation over at Accounting For Freedom

    I’m pretty convinced that what a good proportion of FI advocates are *actually* doing is simply reframing the problem that they don’t particularly like working all the time in a way that allows them to carry on working all the time. Its a deferral mechanism, pushing the problem of what to do with your life out to the right – it will all be solved when I reach FI!

    I can tell you that isn’t the case – it doesn’t work like that. Thats what RIT is finding out now.

    FI is *definitely* not necessary to do any of the things that RIT wants to do, i.e. live a more relaxed pace of life somewhere hot with a nice view.

    However, being financially independent *does* give you more options and a lot of leverage in choosing what to do, but *critically*, it doesn’t choose what to do for you and then make sure it actually happens.

    I do viscerally remember RITs posts a few years back describing his working week and it *was* horrific, I mean really, really horrific. Zero work-life balance. If he’s still working say 75% or upwards of what he described back then then I’m not sure I truly believe him when he says he’s now enjoying it? It just doesn’t quite ring true with the seemingly completely contrary idea of jacking it all in.

    Theres definitely some complex push-and-pull ideas going on inside RITs head that I’m not sure have been totally laid bare – although fair play to him he’s made a hugely impressive effort thus far to give a brutally honest account of the whole thing.

  • 2 Chiny April 11, 2018, 11:17 am

    Fascinating stuff; I’d never even come across the IRP. Anyway, I’m “retired” which for me was abandoning the ultra-routine of corporate life, no kow-towing to those up the chain, no corp speak. In the months before, I’d already booked travel *without* asking permission and it felt so naughty !

    I do have work-like stuff to do (4 rentals, pre-Brexit money shuffle, 2 probates at the moment) but I’m away for 6 months in a year both in Spain (learning the language) and exotic stuff (South America this year). Basically I’m trying to keep engaged with all layers in society, whilst stretching my horizons.

    I’d fall foul of the IRP for sure but I enjoy it all far better than corp-life or daytime TV.

  • 3 Accidental FIRE April 11, 2018, 11:25 am

    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.

    This is exactly what I did. I reached FI about two years back in my mid 40’s and after still working full time for another year after that, realized I needed to make the move. The slow transition is what I want too, so I switched to part time last October. And by part time I mean only 20 hours a week, I wanted to experience what it’s like to have a good chunk of time back in my life.

    I highly recommend it. I still get to keep my toe in the water of my job, which now that I’m no longer a manager has some redeeming qualities. And I have 20 hours a week back to myself, to pursue whatever.

    This to me is the power being FI gives you, to set your own rules and live on your own terms. It’s pretty sweet.

    Great post!

  • 4 John B April 11, 2018, 11:45 am

    The people who write and promote blogs are the kind of driven people that probably don’t want to fritter their lives away, hence all the side hustles and need to work. Me, I love pottering in the garden, watching tv and planning my holidays in retirement. I just don’t have a burning desire to blog about it.

  • 5 The Rhino April 11, 2018, 12:03 pm

    @John B – we’re all of us frittering our lives away one way or another – trick is being happy doing it. Sounds like you’ve nailed it?

  • 6 UK Value Investor April 11, 2018, 12:23 pm

    Excellent post.

    It’s Catch 22 really: People who want to sit on their backside all day by a pool don’t usually have the motivation in the first place to work hard and save hard, so they never get to spend all day by the pool. And people who have the motivation to work hard and save hard for early retirement usually don’t want to sit on their backside by a pool all day, so even when they do reach financial independence, they still want to keep working.

    As for financial independence giving people “the power and freedom to change their working circumstances to suit”, I think most people have that power from day one, whether they realise it or not. Paraphrasing Steve Jobs, you should ask yourself if you like your job, if you’re good at it and if it adds value your life and the lives of others. If the answer is no for too many days in a row, you should probably change something.

    In my case, I’ve had more than a dozen very different full-time jobs over the last 30-odd years and was always willing to jump ship if I wasn’t happy. And if you are happy with your job, why would you want to retire from it?

    So the idea of working my arse off for decades in a job I hate whilst living like a monk just so that I can retire a few years early, assuming I’m not dead from the stress, has always seemed like pure madness to me.

  • 7 Fatbritabroad April 11, 2018, 12:43 pm

    Even if youre not fi having enough in the bank to choose if everything really is horrendous to jack it in and move without necessarily having a job to go to is liberating enough. My dad always called it ‘fuckoffability’

  • 8 Slow Dad April 11, 2018, 1:15 pm

    Excellent post.

    Once I reached my financial freedom passive income number it was like a huge weight was lifted. I didn’t “have” to do the commute, the meetings, the office politics, etc. Suddenly I didn’t hate them quite so much.

    With the financial imperative removed, I opted to seek out clients with genuinely interesting tricky problems to solve, hibernating in their nice warm offices for 3-4 months over the winter. The rest of the year I spend enjoying the sunshine doing whatever I like.

    For now this is a happy medium, keeps my skills and network current while preventing me from becoming an antisocial hermit!

  • 9 Brod April 11, 2018, 1:42 pm

    Well, if someone’s earned the FI part but choose not to RE, what’s the problem? Their life, their money, their happiness, their choice.

    @FBA: ‘Fuckoffability’ – love it. Hats off to your old man.

  • 10 hosimpson April 11, 2018, 1:59 pm

    FI Police are of course ridiculous and have no business telling people what they should or should not do. Also, people change, ant that’s a good thing. Having said this, I can’t help but get a sense that – aside from the perfectly legitimate fear of change when faced with pulling the plug on work – this inability to find meaning without paid employment reveals something rather sad about the state of some people’s lives.
    There’s nothing wrong with dread of the unknown. It’s natural. We’ve all seen wildlife documentaries where they’d bring an animal to be released into the wild to a forest in a box, and then the camera crew would have to sit and wait for an hour till the damn thing chooses to come out. If anyone finds the word fear unpalatable, fine, let’s call it caution, whatever, the point stands. I don’t like either sudden or constant change myself. I’d definitely continue working for a few months after hitting the magic number on the spreadsheet, just to get used to the idea.
    And yet. I’ve worked with people who never knew what their weekend plans were (their wives would tell them as and when), who had no hobbies other than “gardening” (trimming the hedge and mowing the lawn?), and whose “free time” was filled with ferrying the kids from school to swimming to tutors to whatever other activities…. I suspected them of using work as an escape from domestic pressures. A space where they could converse with adults and be appreciated and respected for something that had nothing to do with their families. I think there might be some similarities between these people and SHMD. I may be wrong, but I don’t think I am very far from the truth there 😉
    If this was my life for 20-odd years, I doubt I’d find it possible to give up work either.

  • 11 Vanguardfan April 11, 2018, 2:03 pm

    I would never choose to work the way RIT and TEA (and virtually everyone who works mad hours in the City) do. For me the end does not justify the means if your life right here and right now is that unbalanced. Plus I had/have children who need my time. I also always wanted my work to be something I felt was worth putting my effort into. So, I qualified into a profession that seemed worthwhile in terms of positive societal impact, and found a role where I could work flexibly and less than full time while still being well rewarded financially. That kind of worked ok, although I started to feel trapped and bored after more than a decade in the same role and with limited options for progression or sideways development. So when I accidentally became FI about 10 years before my planned retirement, I had to think quite hard about what to do about work. I wasted a lot of time thinking about whether to leave, but eventually decided to ask for a substantial reduction in hours. That was actually so easily granted that I regret not being brave enough to negotiate earlier. And, my appraisals seem to be going much better, my bosses seem far more impressed by what I’m doing in 2 days than they were previously on 4! And I get to skip all those pesky meetings and roles you take on because they might ‘look good’. Win win, I’d say! While at the same time I’m building up a second string encore career, on my terms…as I feel I have a good number of years left to do things I find interesting and fulfilling.

  • 12 dearieme April 11, 2018, 2:37 pm

    Why is “bleachers” snappier than “stands”? Almost inevitably, being American it has more syllables.

  • 13 Learner April 11, 2018, 2:40 pm

    F**koffability is a rarely mentioned luxury – perhaps taken for granted by this kind of readership. Safety nets like the NHS contribute significantly toward making that possible.

  • 14 PC April 11, 2018, 2:43 pm

    (To answer the title question) I’m not at all surprised .. thanks for the refreshing post. I prefer your approach.

  • 15 The Rhino April 11, 2018, 3:02 pm

    @HS – I am completely convinced my late father in law worked primarily to get time away from the mother in law. You’re right that work can be the lesser of two evils for many.

    @VF – I tend to agree with you I think – the price RIT and TEA have paid is enormous.

  • 16 Ermint Twizel April 11, 2018, 3:23 pm

    Good post. Freedom is indeed the goal.

    I recently retired from a business sale. I went through a few phases.

    First phase was “ok Ive been working 100 hour weeks for 20 years, what should I do next.”
    Second phase, was “hang on do I actually need to work”
    Third phase was, “wait a minute, why am I paying close to 50% tax just to live, while near on 2/3 of the population pay no tax” (50% that dont, plus all public sector employees-who pay nothing net)
    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/apr/26/barely-more-than-half-of-adults-pay-income-tax-says-report

    From there I have descended into the depths of philosophy and political theory. Plato and the Tyranny of the Majority. Albert Camus Absurd and Myth of Sisyphus. JP Satre and Existentialism. Thomas Paine, Henry Thoreau etc.

    “Camus introduces his philosophy of the absurd, man’s futile search for meaning, unity, and clarity in the face of an unintelligible world devoid of God and eternal truths or values. Does the realization of the absurd require suicide? Camus answers, “No. It requires revolt.” ”

    I now realise that the drive to work is cultural indoctrination. Nothing more. Freedom comes from realising this. “Fat FI” helps. FU money lets you break out of slavery.

  • 17 Cowboy April 11, 2018, 3:31 pm

    @Fatbritabroad – we were in precisely that situation about 18 months ago, I am more than happy we were able to quit our jobs and move away from London due to the substantial, but not FI ready, value in our accounts. It is something that can seem scary, but if you have the skills to get good work you will find it in most decent sized places

  • 18 Tony April 11, 2018, 3:41 pm

    Great post.

    I’m not quite at FI and my goal isn’t to retire early, but to remove “the stress of employment”. I’m fortunate to love my job and the company I work for, but no one knows the future. I don’t just mean Brexit concerns, but what happens if I get a new boss or my company gets bought out, my department gets outsourced, etc, etc. Rather than just having an emergency fund and ensuring I’m employable (which becomes problematic with age); better to have the freedom to do ANYTHING (whether or not that involves retirement).

  • 19 The Rhino April 11, 2018, 3:56 pm

    @ET

    I now realise that the drive to work is cultural indoctrination. Nothing more. Freedom comes from realising this. “Fat FI” helps. FU money lets you break out of slavery.

    Shame it took 104,000 hours to figure that out? Did you have an exciting time en route to that realisation though?

  • 20 Fatbritabroad April 11, 2018, 4:10 pm

    @cowboy

    We all have our own definitions of fire. I have about 50k saved so could be out of work for a year and a half and maintain my standard of living and although i am saving a decent amount (inc employers contribution to pension about 36% of salary between pensions isas and cash saving ) i still want a certain standard of living. Earning more is nice but you inevitably raise your standard of living to a certain extent even if you’re smart and save a lot too. I’m no where near fire as i want to be (IM ONLY 37) but actually in theory and i did toy with this last year i could sell my house release over 200k in equity and almost live on that plus my savings. Almost!

    My salary has gone up to the point where its touching 6 figures so even if you save lifestyle inflation creeps in to a certain extent and as you say the tax is a massive incentive to put a lot (nearly 20% in my case) in my pension. You have to enjoy the journey as well as the destination i still like to travel etc i just don’t buy crap

    I kind of want to aim for the point where i can virtually replace my net income but that’s going to take a million quid which is bonkers but according to my calculations ill reach at 55 at my current rate assuming no more saving

  • 21 Scott April 11, 2018, 4:30 pm

    I didn’t hate work, it wasn’t stressful, my hours were relaxed, my bosses were all good to me, but I was bored, so when I had enough money I stopped.
    I’ve framed it in different ways to different people, and to some folk I’ve said I’m retired, with a caveat that nobody knows what the future will bring and I reserve the right to return to work, albeit I don’t see me going corporate again.
    Now starting my second year of FI/RE and no thoughts of rejoining the workforce yet.
    I don’t spend my time lounging by the pool (although that’s OK if it’s what makes you happy) but nor am I out there saving the world. I pretty much do what suits ME.

  • 22 L April 11, 2018, 6:09 pm

    I hate the “IRP” phrase, it smacks of a smug refusal to accept that to some people, FI bloggers are role models.

    I’d wager that more people retire “from” than retire “to” – seeing their role models voluntarily engaging with the beast they’re struggling to slay could easily be interpreted as a cop out.

    It’s a hard thing to think of work as fun if you’ve never had any fun at work 😉

  • 23 Retirement Investing Today April 11, 2018, 6:22 pm

    “And for what it’s worth, I applaud the pause for thought.” Thanks for the support TI. This post-FI journey has certainly been something and that something I never imagined in my wildest dreams. I think it’s also one of those things that has to be experienced to be truly understood. With the Brexit withdrawal agreement now in play it appears there is no rush so why rush and regret it? After all on a good day I still have 40 or more years ahead of me. Instead we’re letting all the emotions play out and then with Mrs RIT trying to quantify them. From there we’ll make our next move.

    This whole FIRE journey has been incredible and I now find myself in a wonderful position (from a position where life was already very good, while also acknowledging TheRhino’s comment that I think am naturally built to work hard).

    If anybody asked me should I pursue FIRE as well I would now always say give it a try and see if it agrees with you. It certainly opens up more and more options the further you progress on the journey.

  • 24 SemiPassive April 11, 2018, 6:51 pm

    There is definitely something to this principle that (some) of the people most driven to achieve a combination of high earnings and disciplined saving and investment won’t be content to sit around and vegetate. But its all about having choices.
    Hosimpson has nailed a significant portion of the population who either lack imagination on how they could be spending their time, or are prisoners and slaves to their own spouse/family/employer. What a depressing way to live.

    My goal is to eventually go part time or work temporary contracts once my mortgage is cleared, even before gaining full FI, rather than pursue some distant cliff edge retirement a decade later.
    As for RIT, I feel any crash in his portfolio will cement the one more year decision for another couple of years. If dillying when markets are still near their multi year highs, there is no way he will retire after a 20-30% drop. Reducing his hours sounds good though, FI has changed the balance of power and they must know it.

  • 25 Vanguardfan April 11, 2018, 7:07 pm

    I think that we are hard wired to work – ie to do what is necessary to survive and reproduce. Wage slavery 21st century style is just the way our society is set up to deliver that for most people.
    For some lucky/hardworking folk (delete according to your personal philosophy), they can cover their survival by reaching FI. Then how you occupy your time becomes up to you, whatever gives your life most meaning, joy and fulfilment. You are restricted only by your imagination and courage, and sometimes of course, by circumstances that make your choices for you (eg looking after elderly relatives, or disabled children, might not have been your first lifestyle choice for RE).

  • 26 Lauraw April 11, 2018, 7:07 pm

    Excellent post.
    I think I’m probably wired to find work very rewarding, and am nowhere near FI yet, so that’s currently not an issue for me anyway. The whole point of FI for me at least is that you can do exactly what you want to with your time. If you get to FI and decide that you’re happy with your job and want to continue working, crack on.

    And yet… if someone in that position was told they only had another 5 years to live, would they still choose to work in that job for all of/some of those 5 years? What if they were given 1 year?

    Does this cut to the very heart of the question of whether you’re just working because the job is alright and you can’t think of anything better to do?
    Or is this question even relevant?
    How can it not be given we don’t know how many healthy active days of life we have left?

  • 27 Lauraw April 11, 2018, 7:10 pm

    PS I ask as I think I’d make the same One More Year choice as RIT given the great job conditions offered.
    But when I think of the question I’ve posed, I think maybe I should quit.

  • 28 Vanguardfan April 11, 2018, 7:19 pm

    @lauraw – I think we should be asking those questions about our life irrespective of whether we are FI or not. As Rhino points out, many changes that people seek to make to their life through FI-RE can actually be done without being FI. It’s a balance of course, between living well now and living well later, but given that we have no idea if we even have a later, then I think we should strive to live as well as we can throughout our lives.

  • 29 TheFIJourney April 11, 2018, 9:14 pm

    The closer to base FI come, the more comfortable and relaxed at work I become. I have a job I really enjoy now but I’ve been in the situation where you have an awful job and a terrible boss so I know what it’s like. If you can find a job you like and you are on your way to FI, it really can feel like you are on a lilo floating around at times!

    Chris

  • 30 Ermint Twizel April 11, 2018, 9:14 pm

    @The Rhino

    Yes it was a ride for sure. Lots of ups and downs. In effect it was required to get where I am. But there was an opportunity cost. That being said. I now have the drive and energy to do what I can while I can with the time I have, leveraging FI.

  • 31 Chris April 11, 2018, 9:19 pm

    Flipping this on its head, what is perhaps more surprising is why highly driven people who work 70+ hours/week strive towards accumulating enough money to retire early in the first place? They don’t strike me as the kind of personality types who would be happy pottering around a garden for the next forty years.

    After all, in the UK at least – if you want to stop working, you can. The state won’t let you starve.

  • 32 Survivor April 11, 2018, 9:50 pm

    Before the net allowed you to find your obscure ‘tribe’ & you were condemned to a lonely existence wondering if you were normal for having these weird ideas & feelings about freedom, I didn’t even know what FI/RE was …..if it existed back then. I had read Rich Dad, Poor Dad & that was it – even that seemed to be about still working as an estate agent forever, albeit with more option to relax as you got ‘within vague safer saved limits’.

    Then I had a friend though who went solo, after years working the corporate treadmill with me, learning skills at our employers’ expense – as a self-taught Business development guy, he enlightened me after I stalled not knowing the next step after that book. He’d paid for his own MBA & did it part-time while working at our then cretinous corporate we did time at for years; the delicious irony being that he used our employer as his case study [for the qualification] in how to run a company badly. So basically, they indirectly, slowly, financed his escape via insulting them in every which way – that may seem vile, but they couldn’t have deserved it more.

    He told me, once set up as an entrepreneur, that when you work for yourself doing something you love, it then really doesn’t feel like work – this wasn’t a cute motivational quip for me, I saw the happiness in his face & relaxation in his body language. That re-lit the spirit of FI/RE in me, it took 10 more years & is still a work in progress, [the income streams can be fragile depending on cyclical movements in the economy] but I knew it was possible after that. So those that choose to work on in some capacity, maybe do it because they don’t feel the pain only the nice parts, given how the role changes, even just in your own perception. [I remember looking back at good times & bad in the same job & realising with some surprise that the actual day-today work often had nothing to do with the lousy times, it was politics, life-stage or other factors that had soured the situation]

  • 33 YoungFIGuy April 11, 2018, 10:02 pm

    Thanks for the interesting post TI. I find it odd that whilst what work you do for a living is considered a very personal choice (“I could never do that…”), what work you don’t do isn’t; the Internet Retirement Police out in full force (now accompanied by the Financial Independence Police). Each life and journey is by its definition unique and personal. And there is great value in listening to other’s stories. I’ve really enjoyed following RIT’s story, the twists and turns, as well as his detailed and candid thoughts. It has helped me a great deal in my own journey, even though it is markedly different.

  • 34 Earlyretirefree April 11, 2018, 10:11 pm

    I was a long-term pursuer of FIRE, you can read that journey here:

    http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=2840632&highlight=wannabe

    But having achieved our financial goals …..and more. It was clear that actually, this wasn’t about stepping away from work and chilling, it was about having options.

    I love my leisure time / hobbies but like a big tub of Ben and Jerrys, it can get a bit sickly. I realised that I need to be intellectually challenged…and if I can get paid for being challenged….bonus.

  • 35 ermine April 11, 2018, 11:58 pm

    Having to earn money is a constraint. It’s a damned interesting world out there, and the fewer constraints I have the more opportunity I have to poke around in some interesting corner.

    But then I’ve worked thirty years, I can say that I’ve done my time. Perhaps it’s as simple as that. I confess I’d feel the same sadness as hosimpson with an

    inability to find meaning without paid employment

    and thankfully don’t suffer the affliction 😉

    I dunno if there’s an age aspect to this. If I’m fortunate and live as long as both my parentsgot to, I’d have another 25 years on earth, if I am particularly lucky mebbe 30. There is a turning point in a human lifetime roundabout midway. I found resonance in Carl Jung’s words

    Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.

    But I only discovered that resonance after living it. I was tickled by your Freudian slip, though

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

    Pursue a meaningful life. For you, at this current time, that looks like a productive life, there’s now’t wrong with that, I confess I was that guy fifteen years ago, I wanted to have written the papers, have the job title, and yes, the money.

    It didn’t amount to a hill of beans later on. Five years after finishing work, the only permanent legacy are a number of friendships, and of course the money 😉 You change through life, else you ossify and die inside. What was great in the morning of life will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.

    FI gives you a wider opportunity to live a meaningful life thereafter, whatever that looks like to you. Of course you can live a meaningful life while working, though perhaps not while thrashing yourself in order to become FI in your early 40s.

    I confess it still surprises me when early retirees have second thoughts. Not so much RIT, he is trying to make life decisions in the face of serious uncertainty associated with Brexit and moving to an EU country, and he hasn’t retired anyway. But once you’ve felt the relentless noise and hum fall away it beats me why you’d ever think about bringing that back into your life, not to mention all the stuff you’d need to drop – I don’t know how I found the time to go to work.

    But heck, do what you will, if it harms nobody else. I’m surprised that Calvinism gets > 50% of the vote, but happy meaning through productivity to y’all!

  • 36 arty April 12, 2018, 2:26 am

    I suspect there may be a correlation between the personality types that feel the need to tell the world all about what they are doing by way of a blog* and those that find most meaning from work and being amongst colleages.
    There are so many possible things that one might do after stopping work – infinite really – that I have to say I feel a certain amount of pity for those that can’t seem to find anything else that they might find interesting (epitomised by the many comments from collagues along the lines of “what on earth will you do all day?” on discovering that I was giving it up).

    *not meant as a criticism – after all, I occasionally read one or two of them.

  • 37 David April 12, 2018, 7:15 am

    Maybe not the FIRE police so much as concern for friends and colleagues not wasting their lives. If you follow a blog for a few years you start to care about how it turns out for them – as with a celebrity you feel you know them even if they don’t know you. I’ve seen plenty of colleagues spending years doing the same thing they clearly don’t enjoy much, when they have lots of other options. Until I semi escaped recently I was that annoying person in the office asking “well why don’t you do something else then?” in response to all the rhetorical complaints. RIT now has so many options and seems to be choosing the status quo through a combination of fear and inertia. Or perhaps even indoctrination and the Stockholm Syndrome! You’re absolutely right that he’ll likely be bored retiring to the Med and sitting on the beach all day, but there are millions of other choices between the two extremes. It’s also of course entirely up to him (and his family) but I for one can’t help wincing from the sidelines, and he does have a public blog and comments section after all!

  • 38 Ms ZiYou April 12, 2018, 9:42 am

    I know I am certainly aspiring for freedom when I FIRE, rather than true retirement in a way that would please the internet retirement police.

    Once the need to earn money evaporates, I think I’ll take life in a different direction – doing lots more voluntary work and perhaps a startup or two.

  • 39 The Rhino April 12, 2018, 10:13 am

    I had the useful experience in my mid-twenties of doing exactly what I thought I wanted to be doing all day every day for a year. That was living in the sand-dunes of a beautiful hot country and surfing. Nothing else. By the end of the year I was bored as hell and going a a bit mad. It was a great lesson. I did get pretty good at surfing though..

    Just to remind ourselves what the real-deal is with RIT here’s the post where he describes what he’s been doing for the past decade:

    My morning starts early, this week it’s been 6am, 5.30am, 4am, 4.30am and 6am.

    I always try and break away for a short lunch break of 15 minutes or so because it just helps me clear my head and focus on what I need to get done in the afternoon.

    I haven’t been home before 8pm this week which then doesn’t leave a lot of time for other things, particularly as I really do function best on 8 hours of sleep. Dinner is usually a pretty simple affair with an aim to prepare in 20 minutes or less.

    source -> http://www.retirementinvestingtoday.com/2015/03/my-non-financial-life.html

    Are many others out there doing anything similar, i.e. have the stamina to keep that up year in year out? Sounds like Ermint Twizel (phenomenal name) has actually exceeded this by 20 hrs a week! It blows my mind! If you replaced the job with something like cycling or mountaineering its the sort of malaise whereby you’d be some sort of global-icon (like beaumont or fiennes) with a couple of bestselling biographies on the shelves (I guess RIT has actually had a crack at the book angle)

  • 40 Neverland April 12, 2018, 10:46 am

    @Ermine

    “My morning starts early, this week it’s been 6am, 5.30am, 4am, 4.30am and 6am… […]… short lunch break of 15 minutes… […] … I haven’t been home before 8pm this week… […]”

    That sounds like a pretty typical day for most white collar workers/business owners with a commute/off-site working/client entertaining.

    What do you think people get paid six-figures for?

  • 41 The Rhino April 12, 2018, 10:56 am

    @ NL do you mean @TR?

    Do you work NL? Whats your link with J.M. Barrie?

  • 42 Gadgetmind April 12, 2018, 11:04 am

    I spend decades working hard, travelling on business crazy amounts (18 trips to the US in one year plus a few to Far East!), and didn’t think I’d ever retire.

    But things changed, so did I, and I asked to drop to a four day week, which put the cat amongst the pigeons. A year later, I was asked to make my team redundant and then myself once that was done.

    Having achieved FI meant that I didn’t have to find new work (never done that, ever, not a single CV or job interview as I’ve always started up ventures) perhaps far from home, and could consider my options. Doing the engineering I love as a hobby, with perhaps some of it pulling in a few bob, is definitely on the radar, but I’m also doing a couple of days a week helping an old friend get a NV started.

    Is this retirement? Well I’ve crystallized my pension, and will start drawing it down if my old employer ever stops paying me (long notice period etc.) so it feels like it, but I’m far from idle. I’m not even keeping up with my New Scientist reading as there is so much else going on.

  • 43 Wephway April 12, 2018, 11:33 am

    I would question whether a lot of jobs really do provide happiness or satisfaction, at least on a deeper level. We should ask ourselves tough, soul searching questions, like what do you really get out of your job beyond a social life? With a bit more imagination could you find better things to do with your life? Imagination is something that needs cultivating I would add, I don’t think you can develop it fully if you’re working a full time job.

    I’m reasonably good at my job, but in the same way that I’m good at some computer games I probably wont look back on what I’ve done and say ‘that was a good use of all my time, I’m really proud of that’. I would guess a lot of people seeking FIRE are working in financial services, accountancy, etc and have the same underlying dissatisfaction. On the other hand you probably don’t find many architects or doctors seeking early retirement, even though they might have the money to do it.

    When I reach comfortable FI I might go do a PhD in philosophy, or set up an animal sanctuary, or write a book (I’m already attempting that one), or go into local politics, or teach in some capacity, and there’s probably more I haven’t thought of yet. Everyone could think up a list like this if they really thought about it and cultivated their imagination. But I sure as hell won’t be working for a credit card company, or a business hawking some plastic crap or cosmetic product or sugary foods or whatever – I don’t see much value in that.

  • 44 Fatbritabroad April 12, 2018, 11:51 am

    @wephway

    ‘you don’t see many doctors or architects retiring early’
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5337513/GPs-average-retirement-age-falls-58.html

    You sure about that.

    An ifa at our place retired last week and in his leaving speech said he considered himself fortunate as hes always enjoyed the job. Appreciating the opinion on this forum of ifas as soul sucking leaches there is a place for them and i think it would be quite rewarding to help people retire comfortably. I’ve recently done a financial review with a friend of mine helping her and found it really interesting. I work on the business insurance side but again enjoy helping protect my clients. I think you can gain job satisfaction in any career if you feel what you are doing matters

  • 45 Richard April 12, 2018, 12:38 pm

    Great read! Pretty much my take with one perverse twist.

    I want FI for two reasons:
    1) security
    2) options
    So pretty much as above.

    The perverse twist? I actually don’t want to stop work, I want to take the money I currently save and enjoy some of the luxuries I deprive myself of now (though no new debt). Two issues:
    1) can I change my mindset to actually start spending
    2) if I start living the high life will I be able to give it up again if security or options come a calling!

  • 46 The Rhino April 12, 2018, 12:51 pm

    @Wephway – have you read physician on fire or happy philosopher? – I think early retirement is rife amongst doctors, probably a combination of very high pay and ever deteriorating working conditions?

  • 47 The Rhino April 12, 2018, 12:55 pm

    @FBA – Occasional MV guest poster Mark Meldon springs to mind. Nothing leech-like there. Strikes me as a highly skilled and rewarding job if done in the right spirit.

  • 48 Fatbritabroad April 12, 2018, 1:00 pm

    @rhino fair enough comment retracted i may have been thinking about the escape artist blog now I think about it i just remember a picture of a vampire on a blog about ifas

    Like i say i definitely think they have their place. Case in point my cousin passed away last November and his widow has been left with 400k of life insurance to try and live on. without an ifa shed have been stuffed. Mind you without my intervention shed have gone with her brothers Ifa who while providing excellent advice also wanted 7k a year in feesplus a report upfront fee of a few thousand for doing it!

  • 49 weenie April 12, 2018, 1:03 pm

    Excellent post and analysis, plus I’ve enjoyed reading all the comments so far too.

    Massive respect to RIT for putting his ‘dilemma’ out there for everyone to read and to comment upon. At the end of day, it’s his journey, his (and his family’s) decision to make, his own mind to change if he wants to. After another year of working, if he chooses to pull the plug then, he’ll still be retiring far earlier than the vast majority of people and with a sizeable pot to weather anything that Brexit and wobbly stock markets might throw at him.

    For me, I’ll be in my mid-fifties by the time I’m anywhere near FI so I’d guess that RE will follow swiftly but I couldn’t rule out OMY or cutting down to part-time hours – I’ve no idea if I’ll be mentally prepared to stop working full stop.

  • 50 The Rhino April 12, 2018, 1:25 pm

    @FBA – yep, question is what % of IFAs do the job ‘in the right spirit’?

    They are an essential service in many cases but as ever, its finding the good one thats the tricky bit.

    As for TEA being a soul-sucking leech, I couldn’t possibly comment?

  • 51 Neverland April 12, 2018, 3:00 pm

    @Rhino

    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

    Rhino

    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

    @TA

    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

    @theAccumulator
    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

    Choices!

    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!

    TFE

  • 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

    @Mark

    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:

    https://story.californiasunday.com/tech-retirees

  • 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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