Confessions of an early retiree: I don't envy retirement
Browsing around Twitter the other day, I stumbled on one of the coolest quotes I've ever heard in the personal finance community: Retirement is nothing I envy, I envy those who live a full and passionate life!
Before stumbling on that Twitter quote by Damn Millennial, I thought that I did a fairly decent job at simplifying the complexities inherent in early retirement, and especially how quitting your job early can totally screw with your mind.
Well, not compared to this pithy example of straightforward brilliance.
Retirement is nothing I envy, I envy those who live a full and passionate life!
I love it. Every word. Early retirement isn't about "retiring". It's about finding the time, every day, to do things that you're passionate about. That 9-5 drain on our lives kills so many of our souls from the inside out, and most of us don't even know it (I sure as heck didn't for years and years).
The more I thought about that quote, the bigger my smile got.
Nothing about early retirement is truly about "retirement". On the contrary, everything that motivates a deep-seeded desire to quit the rat race early is rooted in a sentiment that is far more primal. More primitive. More, well, natural.
Retirement is about finding your passion
In general, I enjoy information technology and the work that I do. But, I didn't enjoy doing that work for a company. My passion is the work, but the job was like this annoying little squirrel nibbling away at the bottom of my shoes until, one day, that vermin devours the whole damn thing, and I was walking on bare pavement.
I might as well not wear any shoes. Without soles, I have no support. I'm walking on the pavement, gravel, grass or whatever is underneath me.
"Steve, I don't want to retire because I'd have nothing to do!"
If that's true, then don't retire. Ever. Until you find something in your life that brings you happiness - something, you know, outside of your full-time job, then your best course of action is to stay the course and just continue working until you physically can't make it into work any longer.
Keep up the grind. If that defines passion for you, then keep doing it.
Do me a favor, though: Consider "retirement" to be switching jobs. Seriously, just for a second. Consider this for a moment. Think of retirement not as quitting work, but switching jobs.
When we voluntarily switch jobs, our work doesn't stop, does it? Of course not. In theory, our working conditions improve. Maybe the office of this new place is closer to home, cutting our commute in half. Maybe the work is more fulfilling. And, yes, perhaps the pay is better if that's what motivates us.
The work continues, but those elements that surround the work improve. Otherwise, you'd stay right where you are. In general, we don't voluntarily move to a shittier job, in a shitty part of town for shit pay. Do we?
Each move we make improves our situation. Our passion for what we do gets stronger. We approach the work with new-found vigor (yes, vigor!).
Early retirement is your next job
Coincidently, all those variables that surround switching jobs match so effortlessly to early retirement, too. Your work doesn't stop. In fact, your working conditions improve. Your commute is far better. Your motivation, whatever it is, settles in for many years of sweet, sweet bliss.
At least, that's the idea. That's what passion, outside of a full-time job, does for us.
The key here is simple: Your work doesn't stop. It just changes.
If you worked a relatively unfulfilling career in information technology like I had, it's likely you'll transition from a full-time IT stooge to working on your own stuff. Building your own IT empire. Blogging. Consulting. Volunteering to improve the network at your local library or school. Sky's the limit!
Or, if you worked as a home-builder or general contractor your whole life, you might find that volunteering for Habitat for Humanity is your next calling in life. Heck, building YOUR next house might suit your fancy. A house for a friend, or a new office space for a local charity. Or...anything!
Your passion doesn't stop once you quit your full-time job. Instead, you're freer to explore whatever it is that makes you happy, but under your terms, not the terms of a board, or seven different layers of management.
Retirement is just the beginning.
What keeps my passion flowing in retirement?
Let's face it: I'm not on vacation, here. I blog like crazy. I manage daily operations at Rockstar Finance. I contribute to CNBC and CBS MarketWatch. I've released an e-book about blogging. In other words, I'm doing stuff, but stuff I enjoy.
I'm finally getting to pursue my passions without the constraints of full-time work.
Full-time travel – As most of you know, we sold both of our homes and travel the country for a living. Full-time. Our Airstream is our home. Yes, our only home. We pulled out of the KOA in Tucson, AZ April 1st and began our new lives of travel.
This kind of lifestyle tends to keep ya busier than normal.
YouTube channel – My wife and I spend time running a growing YouTube channel called A Streamin’ Life. I’m the one filming the majority of the videos, and I’m also the guy who edits the videos and puts together the final product. Talking videos only take about 30 minutes to edit, but hiking and exploration videos can take hours to edit with music. It’s fun, though!
At over 6,600 subscribers, we are extremely excited about the possibilities of that channel and where it might go. We’ve doubled our subscriber count over the past year. It’s a sign that we’re doing something right. Lots of ideas brewin’.
I also designed a custom 2018 mini-calender that’s selling pretty well. It’s filled with the best of my photography from our travels this year. It brings in a tiny bit of income, but it was super satisfying to put together!
Not missing work – …like, not even a little. I don’t miss the presumed socialization of working a full-time job. I don’t miss the structure or the tasks. I certainly don’t miss the performance reviews, all-staff meetings or listening to mission statements or project managers stress the importance of tight schedules that are “out of their hands”, but still need to be adhered to for the good of the project.
I do not miss the intellectual curiosity that apparently surrounds many people’s full-time jobs. I suppose it was there for me at some level, but I never appreciated it because I absorbed very little satisfaction out of my work. My job was something that I had to do to fund my chosen lifestyle. That was it. Nothing more.
Proud of our accomplishment! – I admit it, I enjoy the look on people’s faces when I say that I’m retired, which is invariably followed up with “You’re too young to retire”.
Umm, no I’m not.
Sure, I could say that I work in information technology or some other more common please-don’t-ask-me-questions job function, but quite frankly, I am proud of what my wife and I have done. I am proud of the fact that we are retired, and I am definitely not afraid to tell people about it. In truth, some of the most intellectually-stimulating conversations that I’ve had since retiring early has been with folks who appreciated the financial discipline it took to retire early.
Virtually everyone appreciates the tradeoff we made. We live in a 200 square foot Airstream and travel for a living instead of hunkering down in a 2,000 square foot palace. Our homes in first world nations ARE palaces compared to other parts of the world. We have it damn good in the United States and countries like ours. Damn good. Many of us don’t realize how good we have it.
“I’m retired” opens up a whole other dimension of conversation that we would never otherwise get. We talk finances, but more than that, we talk about dedication and meaning. Happiness. “What made you choose to retire early?”
Ah, floodgates open. I can literally talk for hours about my desire to retire early. I can’t stand the burden of a full-time job, and I never truly appreciated how much of our productive lifespans that full-time jobs ruthlessly steal from us.
Like those clever words penned by Damn Millennial, I also don't envy "retirement". Retirement is too simple of a word. What I envy (and respect) is passion and the freedom to explore those passions according to our own schedules, motivations and innate desires.