Good morning and happy Wednesday! Today, I bring you a guest post from a newer blogger in the Personal Finance blogosphere, Cody from Dollar Habits. He and I have something in common – we both hate the idea of working until 65. Cody, take it away!
Limited Exposure to Early Retirement
Growing up, I didn’t have many examples in my sphere of influence of anyone who retired early. My older relatives, for the most part, all worked up to the traditional retirement age before pulling the plug on a 40+ year working life. My mom retired almost 6 years ago at age 58 (thanks to a government pension) and I remember thinking that was the coolest thing ever. Soon after, I adopted the goal of retiring by 58 as well.
Side note – I am super proud of my mom for being able to retire as early as she did, especially with as many odds stacked against her as she had. She’s now busier in retirement than she ever was when she was working. Grandkids certainly help with this. Out of curiosity, I frequently ask her if she misses working or regrets retiring when she did. She is always quick to reply that she could not be happier with her decision and would have retired even earlier if she could have. Noted.
A few months after I graduated from high school, I was recruited and “sponsored” to join a well-known multi-level marketing (MLM) organization. Fresh meat. I bought in (literally) hook, line and sinker. Despite my best efforts, I spent a bunch of money and didn’t make a dime, but all was not lost. First, I was exposed to books and other personal development materials I likely would not have come across on my own. At a young and still impressionable age, these were life-changing. Second, at the conventions (oh yes, I went), the speakers spoke of a lifestyle which seemed foreign to me.
“Get rid of your J-O-B, your boss and your commute.” “Travel the beaches of the world.” “Don’t wait until you are old and gray to have the freedom to live life.”
Hold the phone!
“This is possible?!” I remember asking myself. The propaganda fulfilled its mission because the thought of that type of freedom and the ability to kill my 9-5 lit my fire and I doubled down, although, again, to no avail.
And Then There was the Internet
Fast forward about 6 years or so … I had recently been laid off and was pretty jaded on jobs at the time. I had been reading personal finance blogs since about 2007, but I wasn’t a regular reader of any with a slant toward early retirement. Thanks to some divine intervention, early last year, I inadvertently stumbled into the beautiful world of early retirement blogs.
Cue the amazement and bewilderment. My mind was blown. I couldn’t believe the stories I was reading. People walking away from full-time, high paying corporate gigs in their 30s?! Yes, please! I was hooked and have pretty much been obsessed ever since. For the record, we are a long, long way from reaching FIRE, which brings me back to the title.
I recently turned 30. This means if I work until the (current) traditional retirement age, I have another 37 years or so left to go. Couple this with the fact I’ve been working since I was 16 and all in, I will have worked for a total of 53 years. NO.THANK.YOU! The mere thought leaves me with a knot in the pit of my stomach.
53 years of work breaks down like this:
* Assumes two-week vacation each year and a conservative 8-hour workday. All in, I’m currently committing around 10-10.5 hours per day to my job, including my commute.
What it all primarily boils down to for me is a matter of opportunity cost and fear of loss.
To be more specific, here’s why the thought of working the next 37 years of my life sends shivers down my spine.
- Missing out on my kids growing up. Feel free to skip over this bullet point if you don’t have kids or don’t want ‘em. For me, this is the leading driver for pursuing early retirement, or at a minimum, creating a lifestyle with freedom over my time. I remember when I was approaching graduation from high school and people would tell me time flies after you get out of school. I thought they had lost their marbles because that made no sense to me at the time. Little did I know, they were right and having kids provides tangible evidence of just how quickly time does pass. I didn’t choose to have kids so I could spend 10+ prime waking hours away from them every day. I have a love/hate relationship with the early retired bloggers with young children. I envy the amount of time they have to spend with their kids.
- The best hours of the best days of the best years of my life traded for dollars. Youth is wasted on the young. Today was a gorgeous day: not a cloud in the sky and temperatures in the upper 80s. Was I outside with my shades on soaking up some vitamin D? Nope. I was pushing paper in a dimly lit interior office choking on the aroma of burnt microwave popcorn (the same dude burns it every.single.time. It’s not rocket science, Bro.). I can think of a million and one things I would have rather been doing on such a beautiful day instead of working. I hate with a fiery passion the whole YOLO thing, but in this case, it does apply. We only get one shot at life. I don’t want to squander mine working any longer than I must.
- Family members and co-workers died shortly before, or just after, retiring at traditional retirement age. This is heartbreaking. I have several aunts and uncles, as does my wife, who worked their entire lives and passed away within weeks of retirement. I do not want this to be me. This is actually a big one for me. I want to have as much time as possible to live the life I want to live, on my terms, before checking out.
- Inability to reach full potential due to constraints of a job. We’ve established that jobs take up a ton of time. With so much time devoted to a job and factoring in other responsibilities and time commitments, there’s not a whole lot of time left to allocate to becoming the best possible YOU. Physical, emotional, financial, spiritual. We could devote all our extra time to improving just one of these quadrants, let alone all four, but they are what make us whole and keep us in balance. Many of us could become great and do great things if we had the time to focus on reaching our full potential, whatever that may be.
- Too focused on making a living to focus on making a life. It takes a lot of energy and effort to focus on earning an income to provide for ourselves and our families, so much so that at times we inadvertently lose sight of what’s truly important in life. Couple this with the societal pressures we face, it can be easy to find ourselves in this position. After I’ve accomplished my goal of becoming a centenarian, and I see the light at the end of the tunnel, I do not want to look back on my life with the regret of spending too much time and mental energy on making a living, no matter how pure or noble the motive. I cannot forget to build a life.
Using Fear as a Motivator
Motivation can stem from both positive and negative factors. In fact, negative motivation can be equally as effective as positive motivation, if not more so. Fear is one of the primary “negative” emotions, but if harnessed and used correctly, fear can be a powerful tool.
It is fear – my fears of working in a job for the next 37 years – which motivates me the most. Sure, the positive motivation for retiring early is awesome and certainly lights my fire. Things like control over my time, no more boss, no more commute, the ability to travel more, etc. are all incredibly motivating. However, far more motivating for me to get my financial house in order to pursue an early retirement are the fears and negative motivation outlined above.
My sincere hope and desire is these fears will never materialize and we will be able to, at some point, retire early (no small feat as a one-income family). I am now quite aware of just how early you can retire if you truly put your mind to it. While my framework for early retirement has evolved, I will still be happy as a clam if I can retire by 58, like my mom. However, knowing now what is possible, I plan to reach that holy grail far sooner. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.
How did you come to find out about the online early retirement community? Did you have any offline examples of early retirement in your life? Do any of these fears resonate with you?