When early retirement goes mainstream, its destitute!

55 thoughts on “When early retirement goes mainstream, its destitute!”

  1. Wow Steve – I have no idea how you live in those conditions 😉

    From my experience, the word “retirement” is the thing that causes all the issues with the general public. Everyone’s thoughts on retirement is that all you do is sit around, play golf, and lose your sense of being. Obviously this may be what some people would do (which is exactly why you said early retirement isn’t for everyone) but to use that as a reason to not even seek out financial independence is troubling.

    I do agree with you – if Corporate America continues to squeeze out increased profits at the expense of their employees, it will continue to push a change in the culture. People can only be pushed to increase “productivity” so much before they realize that it isn’t worth it and there are better options for them out there.

    1. Absolutely spot on, Thias – and the sad part is the things that companies do to squeeze out more productivity often do precisely the opposite. People are more productive when they are happy and at peace, not stuck at work because their boss wants them to work an extra few hours.

      Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  2. Steve if you ever need to come over for a meal or to watch some television let me know my house is always open. 🙂

    It’s amazing the backlash. When our Debt Free story got pick up by Business Insider I wasn’t prepared for the negative comments, even the personal attacks. The silver lining were the positive results, the e-mails asking for help and how did you do it. Those far out weighted the negative.

    More people need to be thinking in terms of FI, instead of dreaming of social security and retiring after working for someone else for 35 years.

    1. It’s true, Brian – more people do need to prioritize financial independence. While early retirement isn’t necessarily in everyone’s best interest, I can think of a single reason why FI would harm any of us. The freedom and flexibility alone is worth the effort that it takes to achieve.

      As always, thanks for reading!

  3. Keep on keeping on Steve! Ignore the negative nellies. I think jealousy/defensiveness is probably the primary driver behind their comments. Early retirement/financial independence comes down to three things in my mind – hard work, discipline, and tradeoffs. The negative nellies are unwilling to admit they fail on one or more of these aspects.

    1. Hey Kristin – I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it was jealousy and defensiveness. The “it can’t be done” excuse is how these people rationalize their own inability to make it happen. If it’s impossible, why even try?

      Fortunately, it is possible, and people are doing it every day. 🙂

  4. In many areas of our life, people tend to think that there is just one path to follow. To me, if someone wants to save hard, retire early, then go for it. If someone else loves the C Suite, all good. If someone wants to offer voluntary work at a reduced salary and work 75 hours a week, works for me. We need to move to a more supportive attitude and stop thinking there is just one path for all. I bowed out of the “Corporate” life 8 years ago. Yes, I still have a job with a large company but, I work out of the house, take my kid to school each day and pick him up, in the gym at 3 most days. The flexibility I have makes it doable for me to continue to work. Oh ya, forgot one thing, I golf every Friday at noon. Jobs that offer a balance in your life are awesome and hopefully the wave of the future for many…….Steve

    1. That’s awesome, Steve – you have definitely developed an excellent work/life balance. It probably helps you to keep doing the best job that you can while at work, too. Put in an honest day’s work, then take time off and enjoy your time while young and healthy.

      It’s perfect!

  5. The comments section of any mainstream site is always awful.

    I firmly believe the reason why there is such a vitriolic response has to do with how the average person thinks and how ER challenges what they believe. Many people want a silver bullet, a pill they can take to lose weight and retire early. They don’t like being told it’s hard work because they see the pill ads on TV all the time. So the idea of cutting back and retiring early is an affront to their senses… that’s why they react the way they do.

    The reality is that our financial system relies on those people. If everyone cut back on spending and stopped borrowing money, the ER folks would be in trouble because our investments would go down. 🙂

    So… it’s kind of good they’re like that. 🙂

    1. It is very true that our investments very often depend on their spending. It’s ironic that some of us are retiring based on THEIR level of spending, and they are the ones who believe it is impossible or “too tough” for normal people to retire early…so they keep spending!

      It’s a wicked cycle of insanity that many of us are utilizing for our own benefits. 🙂

  6. Yeah, business insider can be brutal, but that is the world of anonymous online comments. I remember at one of my early jobs at a media company 11 years ago we pitched the idea of online comments to engage viewers/audience and “get more clicks.” One of the worst things I have ever come up with in my career.

    What an odd world we live in when those who save and avoid debt are mocked as freaks while those who live a life of debt poverty are praised for their toys and future destitute life of never ending work. At the end of the day everyone has to make a choice and live with the consequence. I have made mine.

    1. Well said, Lance. We all have choices to make in this world, and we must also live with the consequences of those choices. I personally don’t begrudge anyone who chooses to work until their 60 in a big house and expensive European car – just don’t complain about retirement being “so far off” while doing so! 🙂

  7. As you point out, we already start out with so much more than so many people. If we feel the need to have MORE, then sure… follow that life. But when we realize experiences and relationships trump the stuff, we’re all on board with getting out early and spending out time and money toward better relationships and more experiences!

    1. Thanks for the comment Maggie – yup, experiences sure do trump stuff. Memories can and do last forever. Stuff comes and goes. And for us this year, it’s been GOING more than COMING. 🙂

  8. This this this!! We are downsizing so we can save even more, and people just cannot wrap their minds around the concept of moving to a smaller house with less stuff in a more modest neighborhood. The only reason you are supposed to move is apparently to move “up” – bigger house, more stuff, more expensive neighborhood. I wonder if they secretly think one of us has fallen on hard financial times or something based on the confusion we are sometimes greeted with. Little do they know…

    1. It’s true, ID – it’s the “more, more, more” philosophy that so many in our first world country have grown to embrace. I have no doubt that some believe you just can’t afford to live where you currently are because, like you said, why would anyone choose to “downsize” their home? The horror! The destitute! 🙂

  9. Steve, in the spirit of giving to the destitute this holiday season, it would be my privilege to donate one month of cable TV access to your home. Please let me know where I can send the check.

    I’ve thought about this topic a lot after seeing the negativity that surrounds every mainstream mention of someone retiring early. Part of it is definitely the nature of internet comments. You could write a news article about a golden retriever puppy who saved Christmas and cured a cancer-stricken child, and people would still find a way to flame it. I think there’s also an element of disbelief. When you’ve been working for decades, spending unconsciously, upgrading your lifestyle with every raise, and saving next to nothing — and every single person you know is doing the same — it just doesn’t seem possible that someone your age could build up enough wealth to stop working. Therefore, you must be living a life of poverty, or you must have been making some crazy paycheck that none of us could ever match.

    1. That’s very well said, Matt – and while I definitely appreciate your offer of a month of free cable TV, believe me that my wife and I don’t need cable television, free or otherwise, to feel more complete in our home. 🙂

      And I think you’re right, there’s just an element of “it can’t happen” because it hasn’t happened to them. Just one more way that people make themselves feel better about their own decisions by attacking the success of others.

  10. Hey Steve!

    Congrats on getting picked up by BI!

    How do you plan to watch the Warriors go 82-0 though without ESPN? 🙂

    Love the comment you highlighted. Doesn’t it give you even MORE motivation? I would for me.

  11. My girlfriend and I are nearly engaged and soon to start our life together. She is a teacher, I am in IT. We both work serving jobs at night for the little extra cash. She is about paid off her car, and I just bought a house. The serving jobs aren’t sustainable anymore for us, so we will be losing that income (too many long years in customer service). We both budget and track all expenses, contribute to retirement accounts, and are starting IRA’s before the end of this month. What is the next step? and what are the future steps we can focus on? I just dont see how our meager 10k put away so far is going to turn into retirement by 45 even if we keep out lifestyle down.

    1. Hi Jon – appreciate your comment and question. First, it sounds like you’ve got your investment head screwed on straight – starting up your investments while young is absolutely critical to retiring before you hit the traditional retirement age of around 65. Good job!

      This whole early retirement thing is a process. I understand that it’s tough to see how that $10k will turn into anything meaningful NOW, but over the years of consistent saving, the growth tends to be fairly exponential. The more money that you invest, the more growth you’ll probably see. Keep investing as much as you can, and over the years, you may be surprised at the results.

      It sounds like one of your next orders of business – if you are already living *below your means* and saving as much as you can, is probably increasing your income. There are several ways to accomplish this, either through side hustles or advancements at work. I don’t know your situation or skill set, so I can’t advise you with any detail, but surveying your options for additional income might be a good next step.

      I hope that this helps; feel free to follow up if you’d like. 🙂

  12. Great article once again, Steve.
    I think this “unconventional” way of life could be catching up steam very quickly. MMM started not so long ago, and we’re seeing financial blogs about ER surfacing like mushrooms.

    FIRE *is* a complete possibility, and the internet is one of the key vectors to spread the knowledge about it. 30 years ago, someone who attempted that had no easy way to confirm it was even doable. Their source of knowledge was parents, friends, and mainstream media. Today, we have more and more proof, and more and more “tutorials” on how to achieve FI. Exciting times!

    1. I agree, definitely exciting times! And yup, it’s a great point about the proof that we have that early retirement is, in fact, possible. Not only possible, but people are doing it every single day, and earlier and earlier in life, too. It’s wonderful to see it happening.

  13. Well put Steve, but don’t get too caught up in proving how great your life is to the haters that write most of these comments. It’s a battle you can never win, but luckily the only important thing is that you’re happy with the life you set up for yourself.

    I’m fortunate enough to have discovered FI and ER not long after starting my first full-time job, I’m not sure where I’d be at this point if I didn’t discover all the great resources on the internet explaining how to invest in freedom and my future instead of perpetually bigger houses and nicer cars.

    The whole concept of a regular person “retiring” in their 30s is still a mystery to most I’ve mentioned it to. As you said, it’s definitely not a lifestyle for everyone, but I’ve found it interesting that most people don’t even realize it’s an option. It would be interesting to how the average person would handle their finances differently if they were aware from a young age what was possible.

    1. I wonder the same thing, Noah – in fact, I never really realized its possibility either until I started reading more about it online through the wonderful collection of personal finance and early retirement blogs that are popping up around here. The inspiration within this community is virtually limitless.

  14. I personally think the primary reason for the negative comments is that people have been so convinced that you can’t do anything without a McMansion and the like. Anything that is unconventional is so outside their purview and their provinciality, which is something I hate. They have no vision, no ability to adapt and it is really sad. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks Jason, appreciate the kind words. It’s true that conventional wisdom is a powerful phenomenon in this country – and quite frankly, any country. But, conventional wisdom doesn’t have to be the only way. 🙂

  15. Haters will always hate, no matter what. So just move on. 🙂

    I’ve learned that people will always question thing that are not from the typical norm. Since FIRE is so far out of the typical retire at 65 or older norm, people feel uncomfortable and become very defensive. Movin along!

    1. Amen to that, Tawcan. Truthfully those comments didn’t bother me – they just provided fodder for another article on the blog. I honestly don’t mind the naysayers. 🙂

  16. Hi, just a random guy from Eastern Europe here. I personally found your site on Business Insider as well, and I learned a lot thanks to you. I am very happy for you to be able to do all of this. I’m sure you put in a lot of work, and next year your retirement will be well deserved.

    I would like to add, however, a little tidbit of my own, that in spite of every great stuff you did to get you are right now, I consider your lifestyle to be EXTREMELY lucky.

    Earning around 10000 USD per month is something that is entirely impossible in my country, where earning even the TENTH of that is considered a very high level paygrade. I personally would really like to have the same lifestyle and goals that you do, but the sad truth is that where I live that kind of thing is unfeasable. We have the luxury of the internet to know so much about the world and how we should live our lives, and yet so little options to actually make things happen.

    So when you are writing about your lifestyle not only not being destitute, but actually quite luxurious, to me it sounds a little like gloating. A LOT like gloating. I’m sure you don’t really care about the opinion of a random dude from across the world, but all I want is you to understand, that seeing the option of early retirement from the perspective of another place where saving up only about 40% of our income is literally impossible, well, it does sound like a plan requiring desitution (and even that amount would not suffice to be enough savings for retirement).

    I’m a 25 years old guy having an average job, living already so cheaply that I see myself as lucky to be able to do so. I didn’t write the comment you are referring to, but I can wholeheartedly see the perspective of it. I also wish you happy holidays and an amazing life after retirement.

  17. When I was 40 I declared bankruptcy the same month I retired from the Navy. I was also a single parent. I had to look in the mirror and humbly acknowledge, “I have met the enemy and it is me.” It was tough rallying back from being penniless, but today at age 58 i COULD retire if I wanted to, but I enjoy what I do and I want/need to stockpile a bigger stash. My net worth, excluding my paid off condo, is $175,000. Except for about $200 in CC debt, I am debt-free (Damn Christmas!!!)

    Yes, it took lotsa sacrifice to get here. When others were going here or doing that, i stayed home. I’ve listened to my mother ridicule me for not using the wallet she got me two years ago for Christmas. The one i use is still good. I tell her that her wallet is “in the on-deck circle” warming up. I am so frugal that when I open my wallet George Washington needs sunglasses.

    I listen to my co-workers, one woman lives hand-to-mouth and off of charity given to her by her ex-husband. Another co-worker admits to not having a dime to his name in assets. No 401k at this place. He lives with his mother, but drives a nice car. My boss likes to pretend he’s doing better than he is, but his words don’t reflect that of someone who is financially carefree.

    Me? I figure that I have at least another 75,000 miles to go on my 2004. Last payday I added $100 to some of my DRIPs, and will do more of the same next payday. Christmas shopping is holding me back this month..

    The point is that it’s all about choices. I’ve made mine and they’re making theirs. We all have to live with consequences of whatever we decide, whether that decision is an active or passive one. Not deciding is also a choice. The default choice is still a choice.

    1. Very well said, Steve. Live is all about choices, after all – the places we work and live, the money we spend, the people who choose to be friends with…we have a lot more control over our lives than many of us care to admit (or even want!).

      Thanks again for the comment. 🙂

  18. I’ve started to think of the whole FIRE concept as another version of minimalism – work minimalism. For me, that makes it easier to understand why not everyone would jump on board with the concept. Heck – I don’t personally know any true minimalists, just like I don’t personally know any other FIRE enthusiasts in real life. Its not for everyone. So what? Its just a different way of life.

    I do get amused by the more mainstream comments, but then again, sometimes it just makes me wonder how people can be so close minded that they have to lash out because someone wants a different lifestyle. If we were all the same, life would be so boring…

    1. Hey Mrs. SSC – I completely agree that early retirement isn’t for everyone. But, the issue I’m talking about here is the emotional vitriol towards those who have chosen a different way of life and assuming it’s either impossible to do or requires poverty to achieve. Of course, I don’t know if many of these people *actually* believe that or if they simply choose to attack us early retirement and financial independence folks in any way that they know how. 🙂

    1. It’s true, SavvyJ. Though the flow (conventional wisdom) may be the best course of action at times, that need not be the default way of life. That’s one way – the chosen path for many of us, but luckily…it’s not the only one! 🙂

  19. Steve,

    I think in many cases, people have preconceived notions about how to retire early – notions that seem unrealistic for them. I know I did before I really looked at that the math of it (and at its core, its a math problem to be solved). I imagined that you’d have to win the lottery or sell your Internet start up company for a zillion dollars, then you could retire. Until I sat down and did the math, I didn’t understand how much money you’d need and how it should be invested. I guess I just ASSUMED I didn’t have enough to retire, so I didn’t think about doing so. It was a real eye-opener when I set aside my assumptions and dug into the math several years ago. I discovered I was nearly there then….and am there now (at lease according to historical returns and the reviews of a couple of CFP’s).

    Granted it didn’t make it instantly easy (at least for me) to “pull the trigger” and just quit. But it did open my eyes to the possibility. I’ve slowed my work down over the last couple of years and now just do some part time contract work as a CPA. That worked better for me than just going “cold turkey!”

    Education was the key for me. And a lack of understanding of the math behind early retirement may cause many to dismiss it as a possibility for them.


  20. Powerful piece, Steve! I think oftentimes the negative nellies rely on attribution biases when leaving comments to Early Retirement stories. It’s a shame that people even feel that they should invest the energy to write something negative, which makes me upset! I am very happy to hear that there has been a lot of positive to outshine the negative. 🙂 A lot of what I have learned over the years is to approach everything with open perspective & an open mind. Even if what I read is beyond what I feel I am capable of doing, learning, etc. at the time – there is a lot to look up to and not criticize! I hope to maintain an always curious & ready to learn mindset.

    1. I’m right there with you, Alyssa! The more curious I am, the more I tend to learn and the more successful I ultimately become. Weird how that happens, isn’t it? 😉

  21. If I hadn’t read those negative comments on BI with my own eyes, I almost wouldn’t believe you (I mean I would, because you’re a straight shooter, but I would wonder how that was possible). I’m convinced that most of the people who trolled your piece have no idea where their money goes, and basically buy into the “$250K is middle class” argument, which is only true if you basically light half of your money (or more) on fire, and have no idea where it has gone. It’s so sad, because there are tons of people who would LOVE to be doing what we’re doing, but just can’t get over the mental hurdle separating them from their better future. Oh well… at least if they keep living like cattle and buying lots of stuff, they’ll keep the stock market strong for those of us who need to live off our investments. 😉

    1. I definitely agree, we need these people to keep spending so our retirements continue to get better and better. 🙂

      I actually don’t mind these complainypants commenters. It actually reminds me of where I used to be in life and how far I’ve come in the last couple of years. It has been an amazing transition.

  22. I think it’s incredibly interesting to see how many seriously negative comments there are about early retirement. I am not on the path to early retirement necessarily, but I hardly see any reason to avoid pursuing financial independence. I don’t currently have dreams that differ wildly from the average American with kids, but I certainly want to use my money more wisely than on a fount of consumer goods and services. I certainly want the freedom for both me and my husband to quit jobs simultaneously if some health issues should befall us or our parents or children.

    You don’t have to have early retirement aspirations to see the wisdom of keeping expenses low, and investing and giving high.

    1. Hi Hannah – exactly, even if early retirement isn’t your game, there is a lot of wisdom in still pursuing financial independence. You just never know when the freedom to “up and quit” will come in handy, and the closer you are to financial independence, the easier those transitions become.

      Well said, Hannah!

  23. YES! I love your response to the comments and how you broke it down into different types of people. Like you, I firmly believe that there are people who are genuinely not interested in early retirement. For example, my sister is studying to get her PhD in Biology and plans to do field research on sloths for the rest of her life. For her, that is bliss and there is genuinely nothing else she would rather be doing. Sadly, most people don’t find that same level of passion from their jobs. (Myself included)

    I also agree 100% that the world is shifting. The 9-5 until 65 lifestyle is slowly dying out, regardless of whether or not companies want to admit it. There are more freelancers than ever before and that number is expected to rise astronomically within the next few years. The Internet and the Millennial generation have changed the way the world works and in my opinion, it’s for the better. Sitting in a cubicle all day is utter BS, no matter how much you love what you’re doing. I also have no doubt that the next generation (iGen or The Founders or whatever else people refer to them as) will continue to change the way the world works for the better.

    1. Thanks Taylor! Eventually, the changing seas will lead companies to begin re-evaluating their policies at work and start to recognize that you can’t completely drain your employees of their life blood *all the time*. We need breaks. We are only human, after all. 🙂

  24. To all of you reading this who look at Steve’s (Not me. The other Steve) net worth and his age and get discouraged, all I can say is that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is today. What’s done is done. I certainly wish I would have gotten a clue earlier, but I didn’t, so here I am. And here you are as well.

    Today is the second best time to plant your tree. Get busy.

    1. Thanks Steve – it’s true, and the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Get started. It can take some time, but it’s truly not tough. 🙂

  25. When I saw the title of this post I thought you were going to talk about what happens once everyone starts living the FI life 🙂 People don’t like things they don’t understand. I mean just look at the two political parties in the US. Same thing for FIers and “normal” people.

  26. Great article. Once I mention my frugality in the real world, people do get very defensive. But like you, I am hardly suffering–I have a good life, a nice urban loft, I eat and drink well, travel, etc. I can buy pretty much anything I want. The point is, I don’t. I only make purchases that give me true pleasure and avoid purchases that will take me off course from my financial goals.

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