Top 4 misconceptions of early retirement to ignore

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When it comes to early retirement (or just about anything controversial), there will be a ton of junk information thrown around. Unfortunately, the business of financial independence and early retirement is no exception.

In the fitness world, we often call this junk information "Broscience". It's when something gets said like it's gospel, but truly, it isn't.

With early retirement, it's just commonly-uttered nonsense.

Top 4 misconceptions of early retirement to ignore

I've written before about misconceptions of early retirement. As I crowdsourced this question by asking other early retirees to weight in on the subject, there were just too many to pack into a single article.

In that article, we discussed 5 misconceptions:

  • Early retirement is only for the rich
  • Early retirees will get bored
  • Early retirement ruins relationships
  • Early retirees are living in trailers and eating raman
  • Early retirees don't (can't) earn money after quitting

While there are examples of these misconceptions in practice, they also don't tell the whole story.

In this post, we'll get that story told. The right way.

1: Retirement is the end of productive life

I am a huge believer that retirement is nothing more than a dramatic improvement in our careers.

"It’s actually the start of a new chapter; mentally, financially, physically and more," blogger Millionaire Mob told me.

I agree. It's the start of something new and exciting. It's a chance to continue your work outside the confines of a J.O.B.

Here's the remarkable thing about your job: It simply enables your work. Your work is what you do. It's what you love. That's right, it's damn close to your purpose in life.

And, when you're financially independent, we no longer need to rely on a job to connect us with our work. We can explore that work on our own.

We can volunteer. Or do that work as a hobby. Or heck, even start a little business if the opportunity presents itself.

2. Early retirement is selfish

Imagine working in a highly-desired field, being genuinely good at what you do, and then quitting early even though you could make a significant impact.

Is that selfish?

Consider this: Without the confines of a job (meetings, performance reviews, mission statements, general corporate B.S.), many of us have more opportunity to explore our passions.

And, that includes making an impact in our communities.

"A person and their values are not defined by their jobs," Merry For Money told me. "I was in the sheep herd soooo deep, it didn’t occur to me that a great counter-argument is simply personal value can (and should) be found outside of the job."

This reminds me of fellow early retiree Brian Brandow who is making a serious impact in his community after retiring early. Through volunteer efforts, he's bringing financial literacy to his local school district.

"I have volunteered my time for the last three years as a part of several committees – all with the personal goal of promoting financial literacy."

He continued, "Last year I became the chair of a financial literacy committee, and we were approved by our BOE to implement a three-year plan to introduce financial education in all 10 of our schools within our district K-12."

Brian is just one example that reinforces the idea that holding a job isn't the only way to drive progress and make an impact.

3. It's easy to transition from a job to retirement

"Retiring, early or otherwise, can be quite hard," Jim Wang from Wallet Hacks said.

Imagine going from a lifetime of holding a job to a lifestyle that's suddenly completely open. It's all yours. The buck now stops with you, and we no longer have the structure of a job to keep us in check.

"If your work gave you a sense of purpose and/or achievement, leaving it at any age can be a difficult transition. This is something “regular” retirees face on a regular basis but don’t often talk about."

My wife is a perfect example of this. She never disliked her job before she officially quit in 2018 after taking two sabbaticals. She derived a lot of her purpose from the work that we did at her job.

And without the job, she was forced to fill the "purpose void" with something that's equally meaningful. For some of us, that's much easier said than done.

"Some find themselves unable, at least for a time, to find meaningful things to do and that’s made worse when everyone thinks the retiree has it made because they don’t have to work."

4. Early retirees are all "smart cookies" who got rich quick

As you learned in another article, I suffered from what the public school system labeled a “learning disability” when I was in grade school.

In Fairfax County, Virginia, I took up residence in what they called the “LD Program” – LD = Learning Disability.

That meant I took what was called a “Basic Skills” class during the school day. It was designed to allow “disabled” kids like me additional time to do my homework with at least one teacher – sometimes two, in the classroom.

I was never one of those "quick learners". Especially with math, it always took me much longer to understand concepts that the rest of my classmates seemed to magically "get".

Though I'm not "dumb", I'm also not one of those natural smart people.

Early retirement doesn't require straight As.

Here I am…a solid B/C student who was sent to remedial classes in grade school due to a “learning disability”. My reading comprehension skills downright sucked. I struggled through so many classes, especially math.

But yet, I worked 12 years in information technology and found a partner in crime to retire early with. In our mid-30s.

Like I wrote in the FAQ, we had a lot of help. We grew up in loving families. We had support. Then again, we made decisions that were in support of our goals. We spent our careers working high-paying jobs in a highly-marketable career field.

It’s not lost on me how much I’ve accomplished even through the mental struggle. More than ever, I’m so damn convinced that it doesn’t take a straight A-type of person to accomplish huge goals, like early retirement or financial independence.

But, early retirement is not about perfection. Or doing everything right.

After all, we're just people. We make mistakes. That's okay. The business of early retirement is about a couple key principles:

Motivation, dedication and drive.