Living with the Fates

I think most people like the idea of early retirement (excluding those who love their jobs and don’t ever want to stop). Yet there is often a lot of hesitation about actually retiring. People often do the just one more year of work to make sure they have enough. Why? We are all too stuck up with our plans.

You see we plan our early retirements very well. We know how much we need each year and what we would like to do when we retire but we are terrified of the ‘what if”s. What if I get a horrible disease? What if inflation skyrockets? What if I spend more than I expect one year? What if I out live my money? What if the market crashes?

The truth of the matter is this. To early retire means giving up control of your income. You are no longer bringing in your income with a job and are now at the whim of the market and your plan. That is what really terrifies you.  We are so conditioned to control everything that we forget often most of our lives are beyond your control anyway.

Your job could be gone tomorrow in a downsizing. You could be competing for the same jobs as thousands of others (any one recall the Nortel downsizing?).  The control you believe you have is just an illusion.  A soothing balm of a lie that you tell yourself to forget the fact that complete strangers are deciding if you get an interview or not.  Then they decide to offer you a job or not (often for the oddest reasons).  You don’t have much for control in a job search about actually getting the job.  You can do your best and the rest is beyond your control.

So now that is out of the way and you realize you are already living with the fates.  Does retiring early really change anything?  No, it doesn’t.  Life is about change and the unexpected.  Yet the unexpected doesn’t always have to be bad.  Occasionally it brings good things as well.  So what if you get 20% returns during your first five years in retirement?  What if you get to follow your dream and send the rest of your days happy?  What if early retirement is the best thing you can do for yourself?

Break free of the lie of control.  We are living with the Fates.  Embrace life as it truly is and be happier for it.

4 thoughts on “Living with the Fates”

  1. I agree we have less control over our lives than we imagine. However, we also have a lot of control over how the uncontrollable stuff affects us. Say your retire and two years later the market takes a nose dive. That is obviously uncontrollable, but how you react to that nose dive is completely under your control. Do you keep spending like you have? Or, do you cut back? Maybe you get a part-time job, so you don’t have to pull money out of a down market.

    The part we have control over would be a good follow-up post…just a thought.

  2. You’re exactly right, and Chad hit it right on the head. It’s natural to worry about all that you can’t control. When I decided to retire, I figured out how much we “needed” to retire and hoped the market would cooperate. But the truth is, 60% of that number we “need” is totally discretionary. So yes, during the years of market turmoil, we will control how we react (spend less). We don’t have control of life’s circumstances, but we do have control of how we react to them.

  3. Chad,

    I would do a follow up post, but I think you hit it already on the head. Like Syd said, you can cut back on the spending. Other ideas are getting a job or delaying spending to other years. Do you really need to fix X right now or can it wait?

    Additionally you should have a couple of years of cash in reserve so you can avoid pulling out money in a down market. I think that is the most common mistake I’ve seen people make. They forget their cash requirement is going to be higher in retirement than during their investing life.


  4. Guilty. But I would also say that if your job is/was a large part of your identity, it is harder to give it up than if it was just a way of making money. In other words I think it’s easier to quit a job than a “career”

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