Early Retirement Can Be A Mistake… If It's For The Wrong Reasons
- Unlock the real reason behind your motivation to retire early (it may not be what you think!).
- Why it's critically important to have realistic expectations about what life after retirement looks like.
- The dilemma early retirees face and the two choices they must make.
It's a seductive facade.
It's supposed to be about freedom and success, but my experience shows it's usually an avoidance mechanism that cleverly hides a more important issue.
It's self-deception at a deep level.
Consider Bill and Janet's situation. They're in their 30s with an aggressive retirement goal – they want to be financially independent in just 5 years.
As we designed their wealth plan, it became obvious their goal was unrealistic given their values, lifestyle, and competing goals.
Early retirement forced impossible savings objectives and required investment strategies that were too risky. Something had to give.
Once we began to rework their plan so reality matched their goals, new questions emerged revealing underlying issues:
- How long would they have to remain in jobs they didn't like to reach their goal?
- What about the dream business they wanted to build? They didn't want to wait years to pursue it, but couldn't take the leap without financial security first.
- Should both work full-time to accelerate the process even though it would require other family sacrifices?
- What other dreams would be put on hold and sacrifices made while they focused on early retirement?
- Was it worth it? Did it even make sense?
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The Real Issue Behind Early Retirement…
For most people, an aggressive early retirement goal is an escapist fantasy that masks a much more important issue.
Consider the following questions…
- What's motivating your desire to rush toward financial freedom in the first place?
- What does financial freedom mean to you and why do you need it now?
- What will you do with your life after you achieve financial freedom?
For most people, the answer is they dislike their careers and just want to end the pain so they can do something they really want.
They're prostituting their time for money and want to change life paths ASAP. It's not satisfying. It's a means to an end, and the only end they see is retirement – the faster, the better.
Unfortunately, this is all an illusion. The goal isn't to retire. It's a lie. Bill and Janet have no intention of “retiring” in the true sense of the word.
Their real goal is to have sufficient financial security so they can give themselves permission to do what they really want with their lives.
They're in a rush to retire because they want to end their current careers and get a new life. They have entrepreneurial dreams and goals they're ready to pursue.
Unfortunately, they labor under the myth they need financial freedom to do it, and that myth will cost them dearly.
What Are You Going To Do After You Retire?
Think about the above question for a moment because it's critical.
Retirement implies the cessation of productive work, but that's not what most early retirees seek.
Instead, they're motivated to retire by what they're trying to escape from – work drudgery and obligations.
Few people are motivated by what they're retiring toward – a better life, entrepreneurial dreams, encore career, hobbies, etc.
Is your financial freedom goal driven by what you're “moving toward” or by what you're “running away” from?
This is a critical distinction because “going away” goals lead to momentary satisfaction – a honeymoon period – before dismay and discontent set in. “Going toward” goals are what lead to happiness and fulfillment.
Early Retirement Done Right
Here's a simple but powerful idea…
Rather than retire early from a career you don't like, why not build an incredibly satisfying life that includes work you never want to retire from instead?
There's no need to put a formidable obstacle like achieving financial freedom between you and your life goals. If you have other dreams that conflict with your current career path, then live them now and skip the whole retirement thing.
Live happily, enjoy your life's work, and save enough to cover the few years very late in life when you're infirm, out of energy, and suffer from diminished health so that savings is necessary.
This may sound idealistic, and I'm not claiming you won't pay a serious price to follow this path. You may have to reduce lifestyle, or maybe one spouse will need to work in a dissatisfying career temporarily until you can make ends meet.
It's not necessarily any easier, but is this alternative (and all its consequences) any worse than spending your days doing something you don't like?
Instead of trying to climb the financial freedom mountain, why not transform your retirement dream into a lifestyle business that provides you with the flexibility to live life on your own terms while providing enough income to support expenses?
You may be able to achieve the lifestyle business a lot faster and with more joy than the early retirement dream. It's at least worth considering…
The Financial Problem With Early Retirement…
Most people have no realistic understanding how much money it takes to retire early.
The savings required defies intuition because you must build a perpetual income stream in excess of expenses and inflation.
You can't spend principal when your retirement time horizon exceeds 30 years. This makes the savings burden surprisingly large.
When you add in the problem of long-term inflation eating away at the value of your assets, it becomes a challenging financial goal.
Is it achievable? Yes!
Will you pay a price in terms of lifestyle choices and self-imposed limitations to reach the goal? Yes, and that's the problem.
The relevant question is, “Why bother?”
After all, the goal is perpetual income in excess of expenses. This might be achieved more easily through a lifestyle business that provides you with social connection, contribution to others, life meaning, and still leaves plenty of time for recreation and personal interests. What more do you need?
Why not just skip the whole retirement thing, pass go, and get on with living your dreams?
The Fundamental Problem With Early Retirement
I lived the early retirement game, and it's not as great as it sounds.
The pro-leisure circuit, endless travel, and umbrella drinks on the beach seem like paradise when you're unhappily slaving away.
But why is every early retiree I've met less happy living this lifestyle than the goal-oriented life that preceded retirement?
The “Catch-22” reality is when you're intelligent, driven and goal-oriented enough to achieve the early retirement dream, there's almost no chance a leisurely lifestyle will result in happiness or fulfillment.
That's why you see so many early retirees launch new ventures and get back to work in one way or another (myself included).
The prospect of endless years of permanent leisure doesn't equal happiness at a deep level. It's a short-term panacea best saved for vacations where it can be appropriately enjoyed.
It begs the question, “Why bother with early retirement at all?” Why not just skip the whole thing and move straight to the new venture that's motivating you in the first place?
It may be cliche, but happiness is about the journey – not the destination. It doesn't wait for you when you end this slavish career and retire.
It results from creatively living your dreams by pursuing goals that honor your values – today, tomorrow, and every day thereafter.
Notice there's nothing in that definition of happiness that's premised on financial freedom, money, retirement, time freedom, lack of work, leisure, or anything else implied by “retirement”.
I've been miserable with total freedom and I've been blissfully happy working very long hours. There's no correlation between the two.
The goal is happiness – not money, leisure, or anything else that's supposed to “lead to happiness”.
Happiness isn't a second-order event premised on something else occurring first. It's a first order event that happens when you live your truth.
And the problem with so many peoples early retirement dream is it masks your truth. It deceives you by putting an obstacle that appears real between you and what you truly want.
It becomes a mirage you chase only to realize it was never able to quench your thirst.
I retired at age 35, and it ushered me into one of the most difficult periods of my life. I was living the lie when I thought I was living the dream. I've worked with clients doing the exact same thing.
It's a common error I'm trying to help you avoid.
You Pay The Price Either Way
It's really just a choice. You'll pay a price no matter which path you choose.
Neither path in life is easy. This isn't about less work or more work. It's about getting what you want out of life – sooner rather than later.
If you don't love your work already, then you face two choices.
- Your first choice is to stay where you are long enough to build sufficient wealth so you never have to work again. Save as much as you can, learn everything you can about investing, and pursue your goal with abandon. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this path if that's truly what you want out of life.
- The second choice is to decide life is too short to spend years stuck in meaningless work and to start doing something you're passionate about that's congruent with your values and interests.
My experience is most people pursuing early retirement aren't consciously choosing a leisurely life. They have other goals or ambitions more akin to an encore career or lifestyle business, but aren't willing to take the leap.
If that's your goal, then don't put a formidable obstacle like financial freedom between you and living your dream. Get started now instead.
Why I Coach You To Live Your Dream
Nobody ever regretted living their dream.
No matter how bad (or good) it works out, you'll move your life forward and experience your next level of growth.
There's no guarantee you'll reach your goal, but you're guaranteed to move past stagnation and take the next step in your personal evolution.
This is usually good enough to justify the price of admission.
Life is an adventure to be lived fully, so go for it! Anything less is a toleration which is unacceptable.
I'm often struck by Martin Luther King's speech “I have dream”. Besides the fact King was a brilliant orator, I believe what made that speech so compelling was we could all identify with what he said – we all have dreams. He moved us by the strength of his conviction and the power of his message.
The difference between us and King was he had the guts to live his dream despite unimaginable difficulties and obstacles to overcome – way more difficulties than you'll likely ever experience.
Yet, he had the courage to stand at the podium and claim his dream for all to see. He led an incredibly courageous life built upon his deepest values and integrity, and we honor him to this day because of it.
We respect leaders who courageously live their truth. There isn't enough of them in the world today.
Do you have the guts to honor your truth and live your dream?
When you can answer “yes”, then you've taken the first step toward living a life so satisfying you never want to retire from it.
Early retirement?? Bahhh! It's a waste of life.
Anybody can learn to build a secure retirement -- and you don't need a financial advisor.
My course, Expectancy Wealth Planning, has been called "the best financial education on the internet" and provides all the knowledge you'll ever need to build the life -- and retirement -- of your dreams.
This is a great article that you have written. I have been following your website for quite some time but this is my first response. I can really relate to this situation currently because I am stuck in position that I do not enjoy and I am currently pursuing other options for employment. This post really sheds light on what “living” and “working” should be about. Finding a passion and fulfilling income requirements can sometimes be very daunting. I think that you have really hit the nail on the head with this article. Everyone should retire happy, not be happy to retire. Thanks for the great articles and I will continue to follow your website.
@ Shaun – Thank you for joining the conversation and sharing your thoughts. I appreciate your feedback.
This was your best article EVER. REALLY great. Going to save this one and read again and again. TONS to think about in there. Thanks! -Darlene
@Darlene – Thanks. I’m glad it struck a chord. Feel free to tell your friends with “likes” and “tweets” so we can grow and benefit more people. Thanks for your support.
Another GREAT article Todd. Thanks for sharing!
@Bridget – Your feedback is sooooo appreciated.
Thanks again for taking the time to write…
Todd, this is a great counterpoint to what I have been pursuing for the past few years. Although the “sleeping in and sipping margaritas on the beach” image seems enticing, you are right that I would need more than that to have purpose and meaning in my life.
Early retirement didn’t mean “sitting on my @$$” to me, though. I have numerous interests I would like to pursue, however I would prefer to get my finances secure enough rather than throw all caution to the wind and pursue them right now.
Another cliche that comes to mind is “happiness comes from within”. Maybe looking for salvation through any personal milestone or point of time in the future is the wrong way to look at life. Food for thought as well!
@Landon – Yes, exactly the point of the article. It is not a destination but a process.
The security issue is a strong temptation to keep from living your dream. I don’t encourage throwing caution to the wind. Be prudent, but also question what obstacles are real and which ones are more a product of your thinking.
Hope that helps…
You know, you’re about the only financial mentor that would truly understand what is driving people to go for early retirement. I LOVE that you spoke to this. This is how people operate with many goals. They don’t understand what their real motivators are and that there are infinite ways to get the true desired outcome.
You are such a rockstar coach!
@Jeanna – Yes, I call it the “second layer of knowledge” where you look past the superficial and obvious to uncover the elephant in the room. Amazingly, there is a second layer of knowledge to most things – child raising, diet, health, and building wealth. The first layer is what is common knowledge: it usually doesn’t work. The second layer is more subtle, dynamic, and usually requires more effort up-front but provides the real solution that actually achieves the objective.
It’s a fascinating process.
Thanks for sharing…
I admit that I am pursuing early retirement because I hate the idea of working a job just for money but I feel as though I have few options none of them being very good. I could:
1. Slave at a job I don’t love trying to make it to early retirement so I can do what I want
2. Do what I want to do for a career at the expense of most other things in my life
I also feel your article misses a major point: I’m not really sure what will make me happy over the long term and how much flexibility that potential choice will give me. I’ve seen horror situations where friends of mine have taken certain careers to the major detriment of most other things in their lives only to find out that now they don’t even like the career they have because it doesn’t support their family.
I could be way off base on this one but I feel we all have a major choice to make when we are fairly young in our late teens-early 20’s. Do something you love or do something that pays the bills. I have seen FAR fewer people succeed at something they love rather than the people who pay the bills. Think of it this way, over 80% of accountants start out making about 50k a year, that gives them alot of options and flexibility even if they don’t love thier work. Whereas the same guy who wants to do his garage band full time only has about a 1% chance of being talented enough to reach lady gaga level fame. I have seen this type of situation play out over and over so I feel the real question is not “should I do what makes me happy?” it should be,” would I be happier in that 80% of accountants making 50k a year doing ok work or in the 99% of poor garage band guys barely surviving?”. I feel that the choice to take the job that pays well gives me way more options than the guy with the garage band. Not to mention that the garage band guy ends up taking crappy jobs just to…pay the bills
I loved the article I just feel like a false choice is being presented and I’m curious what you think of it Todd:)
@Dustin – Thank you for your thoughtful comment. You make some excellent points.
The key distinction is I don’t view this as “either – or”. Doing what you love and making a decent living are not mutually exclusive in my experience.
Again, I’m not claiming either path is easy. You pay a price regardless (as you accurately pointed out). I’m just saying don’t use financial security as an excuse to not live your dreams now. Even if you’re not sure what will make you happy just take the next step toward your best guess and learn from the experience because that is the only way you will find out.
Staying with your example of accountant vs. garage band, you could choose to become really good at taxes and make a whole lot of money working long hours from February to April during peak tax season while doing your band gig the other 9 months out of the year. This would allow you to live your dream and still be responsible.
In other words, don’t be reckless. It doesn’t have to be either/or. In the scenario above you could earn a decent year’s income because you would have no overhead, lost time to client relations, or other wasted energy that goes into running a business if you just hook up with an already established practice and help out with the overload during the busy season. Every hour would be revenue producing so it would be very efficient – and you could still pursue your passion.
Alternatively, you could get really good at producing CD’s for garage bands and provide a one-stop solution to their recording and production needs. Maybe charge 2K for 1,000 CD’s in the case ready for sale. You produce the recording, print the labels, and burn the CD’s. 1 deal every two weeks provides 50K per year and works seamlessly with your garage band passion.
I could probably come up with 10 other ideas off the top of my head but the point is already clear – there are creative solutions. It is not an either-or, mutually exclusive thing where you can’t live your garage band dream because your accountant gig takes out all your time.
Live your dream now. Life is short. Financial security is an excuse to succumb to resistance and avoidance.
Is it hard? Yes!
Is there a lot of work involved? Absolutely!
But in the end that is what life is about – living your dreams. Neither of the solutions I provided above are perfect because life isn’t perfect. Trade-offs must be made.
The key point I’m trying to convey is too many people put their “true” life on hold for financial security – including myself. It is a cop-out. It is a form of prostitution.
My experience is most people are not consciously choosing. They are following a societal prescription for happiness and security that is not true for them. They are chasing a mirage that will never quench their thirst. This article was intended to be a wake up call to consciousness that motivates a critical assessment of a false assumption.
I just wanted my readers to see the choice in front of them and to encourage creative thinking. It’s not a right/wrong thing. As long as the choice is conscious and the individual chooses prostitution for all the benefits involved then no problem.
My experience is most people blindly follow the prostitution path for no other reason than because that is what everyone else is doing. There is no support system for alternative thinking, and it takes effort to see your way out of it. Conversely, most people, once they see the reality of the situation choose to live their dreams.
Again, I appreciate your thoughtful comment and how it added to this discussion. Hopefully this reply clarifies, and I look forward to hearing more from you.
I have to say that I appreciate you taking so much time to address my comment. To be frank, you are right that there isn’t really a support system for alternative thinking but you might be surprised to know that most college students go through this very dilemma we’re discussing. I think we are fundamentally on the same page as far as what the choice is. You think its a fairly fluid thing where you have many more options than just working a job you don’t love or doing your dream. I concede that you are right you do have more options than I said but I don’t think the major underlying choice is any different. It doesn’t matter if you choose to go 100% working for money, 100% doing a dream job or some amalgamation of the two you have to find a balance in order to survive. You brought forth some creative ideas of how to do something within an industry that could generate a satisfying income but I still think that the possibility of generating a nice income through a new business like that is relatively low.
That being said I feel striving for financial freedom early by working a professional job in something related to finance gives you the highest possibility of success of the options available to us because no matter who you are those financial skills will be a major asset.
You know, as I write this I suddenly understand something. How we strive towards a goal has little to do with a right or wrong way to do something and everything to do with what kind of person you are. The person who only goes after their dream in a direct way very early on seldom feels bad about coming up short because they love what they do and feel great to have the chance. Another person has a dream and see’s all the obstacles in place and strives toward thier dream with just as much resolve but strives for a path with the highest probability of success. Those are the extremes but you catch my meaning.
I feel like the person who pursues their dream is much more likely to fail but much more likely to feel in harmony with who they are whereas another person might spend years on an elaborate plan with a higher chance of success but feel emotionally unfulfilled the entire time. Its head vs. heart. If you know yourself you know which one you should choose. Its been hard for me to understand the idealist position but I must say that I very much admire them.
@Dustin – The only thing I can add is, “State your limitations and you shall have them.”
You clearly understand the issues. I think the biggest difference in viewpoint is what you consider the “idealist” I consider the most practical solution of all. My main point is just to live your life fully.
Be financially responsible, but don’t allow early retirement goals to get in the way of living dreams.
Thanks again for you thoughtful additions to this discussion. I’ve enjoyed your input.
An extremely well-written article. I actually went through this thought process recently and consciously made the decision to NOT aggressively pursue early retirement as I had been doing. I decided the sacrifices were probably not worth it.
@Joshua – You are wiser than me.
I had to reach the goal before I could realize my mistake. You seemed to have grasped the core issues without having to experience them personally.
Oh well, at least it’s been a grand adventure! Thank you for contributing to the discussion.
This is definitely one of your best! My favorite quote which I am going to put on my facebook page and link it to your article is ” Happiness is not a second-order event that is premised on something else occurring first. It is a first order event that happens when you live your truth.” Yes this means business. This is also what makes our country so great. I pity all of the people on earth that are trapped in societies that do not support or allow this kind of thinking. And yet this is the kind of thinking that is causing revolutions as we speak. We have no excuses with the freedoms that we possess to not live our truths and achieve all that we desire.
Thanks again and keep up the great work!
@Steve – Yes, that is one of my favorite lines from this article as well. It’s fun to see you pick that out.
Also, I appreciate your support by spreading the word through Facebook and linking to this article. It really helps.
And thanks to everyone who tweeted this article but may not appear in the comment discussion.
Congratulations on coming up with this article. If I may add my two cents’ worth, we are becoming a planet populated by people whose sole purpose in life seem to be to only seek pleasure and pursue comfort. We put too much focus on easy (and luxurious) living instead of going deeper and asking ourselves why we were put by God on this earth in the first place. Many great people in the past did not become great by being soft and pampered. They underwent great hardships and learned to do without worldly comforts. This, in turn, strengthened their characters and honed them into greatness. And we are a better and richer world because of their selflessness.
What’s the pleasure in living if there’s nothing to live for anymore? One day, I sat down and thought of the things I would do and buy if I were a billionaire. As I was doing my “to-do” list, an overwhelming sense of loneliness overcame me and I realized that having everything I need and want at my fingertips made me sad. The struggles and process of “getting there” was part of the thrill of the process. Early retirement complete with margaritas by the beach wastes both energy and talent. Certainly not the way to live.
@Betsy – Well said. I would love to hear other reader’s thoughts on this as well…
I DO want it all. I want the billion, the challenge of achieving success, the margaritas, the deep connection with myself, Universe, relationships that are fulfilling…PEACE is at the core of it all…AND I want to get there in a joyful way.
I think I’ll toast to that! 😉
Very provocative post! And well written, as well. I plan to link to it at my own blog because it enforces some of my own writing on this issue.
I believe the word “retirement” and the term, “early retirement,” are both often misused by bloggers in the financial community.
True “retirement” is when you are out of the labor pool for earned income. Anything other than that and you are not retired. And “early” retirement is just wrong for reasons you write and the fact that the phrase is seldom defined by the user.
I define “early retirement” as true “retirement” before the age of eligibility for age-based Social Security — 62. But before that age, someone in good health is almost never ready for the rocking chair.
What most people want, I think, is a better balance between work and not work. The five-day workweek just isn’t a very good “fit” for most of us.
I, too, thought the answer was total financial independence and I achieved it. But, then, like you, I realized I missed some aspects of work and I am now “working” to create my most ideal work/life balance which, I think, should be a sort of seamless integration of the two and not some artificial 9am to 5pm construct. Thanks.
@TMGBooks – Thanks for adding those distinctions and definitions. I agree 100% and welcome more of your input in these discussions.
It seems that you have decided that 2011 is going to be the conscious year!! Thanks for that!!.
The article and the comments are full of useful thoughts. I must admit that early retirement is not my goal (because I am 48 y.o. and I have started “too late” to retire in my 30’s, 😉 but not too late to learn how to be more wealthy when I retire. (By your posts and ebooks I am opening my mind and changing my point of view or beliefs about wealth).
I also feel trapped in the either/or dilemma of fulfillment vs postpone dreams until having got financial security, but it’s a good hint to point it as an excuse, because financial security for most people is more an emotional place than an objective amount of money or assets. Many times the more you own is not equal to feeling safer
As I told you in another comment, thanks to your help and kindly “rudeness” I am committed this year to clarify in a realistic way my goals and to learn how to pursue them.
Thanks for your great work!!
@Pedro – “Kindly rudeness” is my specialty. Who knows? Maybe I will make it my new tag line:-)
Haaaaaaaa!!! I love it, “Kindly Rudeness”. That IS you, Todd! You tell people the hard truth but you do it to be in service of what they say they want.
@Jeanna – Oh, oh! It’s catching on. I could be in trouble….
I am really enjoying reading everyone’s posts on this. I think it hits a nerve for many of us. Yesterday I came across this TEDTALKS – on work – life balance. It reminded me of this post – that early retirment may not necessarily be life on the beach, but in fact a combination of things. This speaker get right to the heart of the matter by saying to define your life in this way – right now. Work a little AND play a little. He learns this after the extrems of working too much and then taking a year off.
Search Ted.com for Nigel Marsh.
@Darlene – That was exactly the way I learned the same lesson – by working too hard and then taking a prolonged period off. The two extremes taught me that happiness exists somewhere in the middle — life balance.
You are far wiser to take this lesson to heart now than to have to spend years living the extremes to get it like I did.
Hi Tod, I’ve found this site from Doug Short’s web site. It’s almost just unbelievable what is free on the interweb. I’m 44. Four years ago we sold our house in the city and moved to a rural town, in New Zealand. In doing so we got rid of our mortgage and had some money left over. Other good things about the move were that we live next to extended family, I can walk to work, we had very low financial pressure and because I am self employed I can manage my time as I like giving plenty of opportunity to engage with my family.
Bad things about the mover for me were the lower socioeconomic environment, the non status symbol house, the removal from sources of higher level professional reward and recognition.
I have spent the last few years educating myself about investing finance and macro economics. Thanks to Amazon and bloggers like yourself I am vastly better informed now about the world at large and matters financial. Although we have saved money my investing losses about balance my investing gains. Now at least I am aware of what is realistic and the sorts of strategies that have high probability of success if executed correctly. For example magic formula and other value investment methods. I have yet to begin implementing them because I am inhibited partly by the world macro picture which I see as very bearish and partly by the cardinal sin of procrastination. I need to get an international broker account so that I can use the value investing filters…
Because I have been self employed for many years I find it easy to forget what it’s like working in a high pressure corporate environment. I forget that the satisfaction of working on prestige projects comes with other costs. My main problem at the moment is my lack of real interest in what I have been doing for years to earn a living. I have a certain amount of financial freedom but I am not passionate about my every day job. I have offset that by indulging my interests in banking economics and investing but it do miss living in the city and being part of the action so to speak. I guess I need to find a way to dip my toes back in with out being dragged under.
Excellent article! I came to the same conclusion just recently myself. After a couple of years of feeling trapped in my career, a couple of demotions due to my lack of ambition, and a pursuit of financial freedom, I came to realize the solution was not to avoid work. The solution was to find more meaningful work that is more in line with my passions and more fruitful for me and my family. How to make the transition while supporting my family is still unknown to me, but I look forward to figuring it out.
@Tim – … and I look forward to supporting you in that journey. It is a wonderful life adventure.
bitter academic refugee working in clinical medicine
Sounds very Polyanna-ish. I love the “aha!” moment when I realize I truly understand something, and can apply that knowledge to solving a real problem. The stuff I’m really good at, and that I enjoy doing, noone wants to actually pay for. And heck, a large portion of the time I cannot even convince people that they actually have a problem worth being solved “because everyone else does it that way”. It takes time and money to do real R&D, and no one wants to pay for research that might not work (or worse, might not be first). You can’t get a grant without prior success, and you can’t generate the success without time and tools to do the work. etc. Once you get married, you’re pretty much locked into needing to provide for your spouse and kids, and that kills your capacity for risk if you don’t have substantial savings.
Sooo…. I suck it up, have a job that earns money to pay for my family’s needs and insurance to cover them if I get sick or die, and slog out one tediously long day after another hoping not to get sued, and to live long enough to be able to do something fun again before I die.
Meanwhile, patients quietly suffer because institutions can’t afford to fix the problems they’re too blind to see, or are afraid to be first to admit there are problems worth solving.
I get really frustrated reading stuff like this. It sounds nice…but isn’t real unless you’re going to risk sacrificing your family’s security. The cost for failure once you are married and have kids is too high to bear. Even if it is working, the day-to-day stress on the other spouse knowing the family’s security is at continual risk just eats at the relationship.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my wife and kids. I traded the freedom to pursue a risky career for having a family. But let me have my mythical dream, that some day I can get back to doing what I love (interesting research and development) without having to depend on an endless stream of dog-and-pony shows, constantly begging for the funding to keep a lab running for another 6 months while living under the threat of increased clinical duties or dismissal if I fail to get the next grant.
@bitter academic refugee working in clinical medicine:
I’m sure Todd is going to respond but I just have to chime in here.
Life is a series of compromises, no one can stay a frat-boy party animal forever although many men give it a try.
I believe what I write about financial independence and goal setting is often misunderstood; a wife, kids, and providing them a safe and loving home is as valid a reason to work as any and more valid than most, IMO.
That you keep your nose to the grindstone to accomplish that is admirable. Is your world perfect? Does not sound like it based on what you write but whose world is? And even if you had it all, where would you store it?
But clearly defined goals that will move your life toward a place that you FEEL you would prefer more are important to giving one the feeling that change is possible, better is possible. I read once that where we are is not as important as where we are headed.
Life is like driving at night: You can only see as much of the road ahead as your headlights illuminate, but like that we get where we going; that is, only and as long as you keep driving forward.
You are not stuck in ANY situation unless you believe you are. You are obviously intelligent and well-educated apply some brain power — anyone can make it because anyone can.
My dad never made it out of eighth grade and when I was born he was a seasonal crop picker in west Texas. I am a Mexican-American and did not speak English until I started school in San Diego, CA. They didn’t know what else to do with me since ESL was unheard of back then, so they placed me in with the “special needs” kids.
Today I am financially independent and have been for years. I walked away from a $100,000 a year job over three years ago. This morning I woke up at 6:30, saw my daughter off to school, and my wife and I enjoyed a leisurely cup of coffee.
Then I go to my home-office and write, which is what I love to do and what I have always wanted to do, for the next four hours. Then my wife and I have lunch, sometimes out, mostly in. This is the life I dreamed of but it did not come about of its own volition.
And if I can make my dream life a reality, anyone can! And for someone with your obvious advantages, it should be relatively easy.
@TMG Books & Bitter Academic Refugee – I appreciate “Bitter’s” contrary position. When I wrote this post I fully expected a comment along the lines you voiced. There are many who agree with you that just didn’t write it so thank you for stating the contrary position.
I also appreciate “TMG’s” thoughtful and respectful reply. My reply follows a similar line of thinking…
I’m a realist – not a Pollyanna. I think Scott Peck said it well in the opening of his bestseller, “Life is difficult”. Once you accept that the rest is easier.
I never claimed the process of pursuing your dream life was easy. It’s not. In fact, it will probably be extraordinarily difficult. I’m just saying there is really no better alternative, and that is the key point. Your statement is a perfect example. Tolerating your current situation will never bring you joy (judging by your words).
You can either tolerate your current situation and be a victim which gives away all your power, or you can struggle to reach something better and feel the power that comes from owning full responsibility for your life. I know that sentence is a mouthful so spend some time with it. It is a big pill to swallow.
My path and commitment to financial independence all stemmed from a simple realization. I was not born with a silver spoon and had to lead a productive economic life to get by. I had to struggle. I decided early on that as long as I was going to be in the financial battle that I might as well fight for an outcome worth having. From that day forward I designed my life to produce wealth and freedom. I deferred lifestyle and worked long hours to produce leveraged income and residual income. I studied into the evening to improve my skills rather than watch T.V. or waste time.
It was a struggle, but it was no more of a struggle than any other alternative. It is all hard work any way you look at it. Given 20/20 hindsight I feel thankful to know I would repeat the exact same action steps again if placed in a 20 year old body with a big future ahead. I would also do it again in my 50 year old body if the situation presented itself. No other alternative makes sense to me.
So anyway, Pollyanna I disagree with.
It is all a matter of choice. You’ve made certain choices in the past. You will make certain choices in the future. Your life situation will reflect the results of those choices. You are fully, 100% responsible. That is the only viewpoint that gives you the power to make the change you desire.
Hope that helps.
So I am a bit late to the comment party, but thank you for the article. I have been pondering this thought for several weeks now and thank you for writing it. My struggle is this: I spend so much time working, I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t working. So you are saying you should pursue a dream… what if you don’t have one? What did you do once you realized financial freedom didn’t do it for you?
@Kasia – Understanding your “dream” is a process. You just start with your best guess, learn from the experience, correct and adjust as you move forward. To do it any other way results in “getting ready to get ready” and no progress is made. Take you best guess, create forward movement, manage risk, and learn from the process. Every step is a step closer…
Jonathan Look, Jr.
I really liked this article. Yes, our early retirement was really about independence. We both work still, we just don’t work for money. It gives us choices. We travel, or actually we are planning to live in 10 countries; a year at a time. (Currently in Mexico.) Gives us time to learn, meet our neighbors, volunteer and peruse our hobbies. I like the word retirement but unchained to live life is the reality.
Thanks for the post. I am also thinking for early retirement but your post made me to think twice on my decision and would take a better decision on retirement. I agree with your all point.