Why I Want to Retire Early

When I was in university and came to a point that I needed to decide where I wanted to work.  I had planned to apply with the Canadian foreign service. From talking with people in government, I found it’s very difficult to get in. After taking the exam, I wasn’t selected and I decided to work as a financial advisor with my father. I studied financial planning and investing and I will never regret my decision, because I have learned a lot and I have profited from that decision.

At this point, though, I feel that I’ve gone as far as I can. I am happy with the skills and knowledge I have, and I’m not the type of person to become a portfolio manager or to chase multi-million dollar accounts. While working with the stock market is never dull, there seems little chance that I would experience anything other than “more of the same” in future. If that’s the case, I’d rather stop working as soon as possible.

I could change careers. But with the exception of a summer between university semesters, I’ve never worked in a large corporation. I have no experience or ability with office politics, so I don’t think that finding a job with a big company would suit me. Further, I’m not an entrepreneur, so I wouldn’t consider starting my own business. Some people thrive on working longer hours and building up an empire, but that doesn’t suit me. I want to have the greatest positive impact possible and for that reason I decided to  become an elementary school teacher.

While I want to change careers, I don’t want to take risks. My wife and I will be going back to university, and retiring early means that we will be able to live on income from our investments while we’re not working. After finding work at a school, I don’t want school politics or other pressures to cause me to worry about my paycheque before thinking of what’s best for the students; being financially independent will free me of any pressure from my employer. Ideally, I would like to work in an international school in Hong Kong. My wife and I know from experience that being overseas means we can’t rely on the help of family and friends. If we’re going it alone, I want to know that we’ll be okay financially.

One of the ways I really enjoy spending my time is with my family. I’ve realized that my kids are growing very quickly. I know that when they’re teenagers, they’re going to exert their independence and have much less interest in being with family. I want to be a good influence on my kids, but I need to spend time with them now, so that later we will have the type of relationship where they can trust me and where I can trust them. Further, I have seen a couple grow apart as the kids grow up, then get divorced as soon as the kids move out. I won’t let that happen to my wife and me. That means spending time together, not spending every waking hour at work or with the kids.

Early retirement will allow me to more easily change jobs. Instead of worrying about unemployment or starting at a lower pay scale, I can make my decision based not on money, but on my values. Further, because I won’t depend on anyone else, I can focus on doing the best job possible, without trying to please supervisors or trying to climb a corporate ladder. Being financially independent means that we aren’t likely to need to rely on family or friends for help, while we’re living overseas and I can have the flexibility to spend as much time with my family as I need. Even though I won’t stop working, I still expect many benefits from being financially independent.

How about you?  Why do you want to retire?

16 thoughts on “Why I Want to Retire Early”

  1. Lots of reasons – some are push factors but some are pull factors like the desire to spend more time with my children while they are growing up.

    Interesting choice in teaching in Hong Kong. Given how highly prized education is in Hong Kong (and Asia generally) it seems to be a popular choice for expatriates.

    Have you spent much time here?

  2. I retired in late 2008 at age 45 because I (a) hated the long and sickening commute, even only 2 days a week, (b) could not do some evening hobbies on the days I worked, and (c) had trouble scheduling my weekday, midday volunteer work around my part-time work schedule.

    Retiring solved all of these problems.

  3. I like what you said, “I can make my decision based not on money, but on my values.”

    This holds true for me too.

    I’m sorry, but I don’t believe many people’s values are in commutes to work, pointless meetings, office politics, etc. Early “retirement” gives you choice to work based on values that are important to you (be with family, more time with hobbies, doing work that truly gives back to community, etc.) Today, most work is done out of economic servitude. I want to retire from that ball-and-chain so I can have choices; based on real human values too.

  4. Sorry, I’ve had to remove this blog from my RSS feed, there are just too many emotional posts about retiring. This isn’t personal finance, it’s just pure crap. Most of us made all the right choices growing up and love working and learning constantly and we like personal finance and its challenges, we’re not just trying to retire and die asap. This blog is pretty useless.

  5. Traineeinvestor, I’ve lived in Asia for a couple years, although I’ve only visited Hong Kong. My wife has some family there. I’ll write more about “Why Hong Kong” in a couple weeks, at which time I’d love to hear about your experience.

    Deegee, I can really identify with what you said about volunteer work. Doing something meaningful shouldn’t cause stress because of a scheduling conflict.

    Ryan, Thank you. It’s too bad more people can’t align their work with their values. But imagine how many people would choose different work, as an artist as just one example, if income weren’t a consideration?

    Ray, I’m sorry to hear that it was my guest post that pushed you over the edge. 🙂 I’m sure you can find more technical information on personal finance, but it’s probably in books (try the library) rather than blogs. Personal finance is very… “personal”, because everyone’s situation, environment, preferences, resources and values are different. My hope is that sharing my thought process will allow others to come up with possibilities that work for them.

  6. I think I found that I was too much of a leader to be a follower and fit into the corporate structure. In retrospect I have always been one to do things my way (and damn the torpedoes). Work started sucking once demands to adhere to career politics became too dominant.

    One way to put it would be to say I was never meant to work for money. This probably sounds more arrogant than it feels like but it depends on perspective. I’m happy to work for no money at all, if the work is meaningful to me. Playing career never meant a whole lot to me even if it paid well.

  7. I’ll be ‘retiring’ in 5 1/2 years at the ripe old age of 44. Yay! 🙂

    But… retirement has different meanings for different people. For me – thanks to a nice pension – I will have the freedom to choose a job that both helps pay the bills, and is fulfilling. Something that is sorely lacking in my field of work…

    I commend you Robert, for having the courage to follow your dreams – even though it’s not something you’d ever catch me doing 😉

    To Ray, if he ever checks back here, there’s more to personal finance than just dollar signs. If you don’t know what you’re saving and investing for, then how will you know if you’ve made it?

  8. Thanks to all for sharing your thoughts. It’s nice to hear from people who agree, but it’s maybe even more helpful to hear from those who have found their own way to succeed.

  9. No, it’s my fault for adding this blog in the first place. I was trying to add personal finance blogs to my RSS and I didn’t read the purpose of this blog: A Blog About Early Retirement and Happiness. I disagree with the whole premise of this blog – why would we want to encourage people to leave the workforce? That’s ridiculous. For one, that’s most people’s place to go for intellectual growth, and it certainly doesn’t help our country if you all make just enough money to survive and then sit around on your asses until you die.

    I have no interest in retiring early and noone should. If you make the proper decisions when you get started then you’d enjoy your job and get paid for what you love to do. You’ll live longer with the intellectual stimulation that your job will provide anyways.

    Retire early – yeah right. Clearly that’s synonymous with “my job and life sucks”.

  10. There are simply too many things I really enjoy doing and “working” prevents me from doing these things nearly as much as I want to. I plan to work another 7 years (till age 45) and then I will do these things with no limits or restrictions.

    I simply can’t wait for this next phase of my life to begin.

  11. @ Ray

    Each to their own. I doubt if there are too many people who want to quit work so they can sit on their butts in front of the TV until they die. Most of the early retirees you read about have a lot of plans for when they retire – ranging from working for non-profits, further education, travel, hobbies etc. Maybe I am being voyeristic but I tend to find their stories both interesting and somewhat inspirational.

    In my own case, after 20 years the intellectual stimulation has long gone from my job and I have also come to realise that my job is interfering with doing a number of other things I wish to do with my life. It was stimulating and rewarding once – but no longer. Now the only reason for staying is the money. If I get my finances in order (which requires a focus on personal finance) why shouldn’t I look for intellectual and social stimulation and satisfaction in general outside the workforce?

    Sometime between December 2011 and December 2013 I will find out what life is like on the other side. If I get bored I can always get another job.

    Lastly, early retirees tend to live longer: http://www.early-retirement.org/forums/f27/retire-early-live-longer-14402.html

  12. @ Ray,

    Well I’m sorry you feel that way. I disagree myself. If you don’t know yourself with the touchy stuff, then how can you really be happy? I agree that the blog has drifted a bit heavy on the touchy side lately, but that happens when you are bringing on new writers who have to explain ‘why they want to retire.’ Otherwise all the numbers in the world are fairly useless without the context.

    As to sitting on our assess I literally never get to do that right now. That’s why I want to retire. To have at least some time to sit down, but certainly not all the time. I also want to do more writing, reading, house renos, gardening and of course severing in the community. There is much more to my life than my job. So I just have a plan to stop the current job, it certainty doesn’t mean I won’t be working. Just likely not full time.

    Best of luck in your life Ray. I hope you find what you are looking for.


  13. Robert, great stuff and good for you, but you worked toward it; a university education and more than 20 years of sound financial security behind you. Most folks don’t enjoy that luxury.But still, good for you – go for it. When you first talked about becoming an elementary school teacher, though, I became disengaged – that’s serious, hard and professional work. I don’t think it will be easier in Hong Kong but maybe you know something I don’t. Best wishes in your new endeavor.

  14. Lisbeth,

    Thank you for your wishes. I feel I may not have been clear above. My wife worked for two years while I was in school. We worked for two years in Taiwan. I’ve worked for almost six years in Calgary. That’s 10 years, not 20. And while we made sound decisions, it was luck that made it happen so fast.

    Teaching school can be hard work, but it can also be fulfilling way beyond the paycheque. I’m not sure why you felt disengaged, but I feel I’ve found my calling in life. Wouldn’t it be great if more teachers saw their work as a calling, rather than job security and great benefits?

  15. Hi to all.
    Another scenario to be able to retire earlier is to retire to a country where the costs are less. I know from experience. We moved to RURAL Panama, Central America. New condominiums under $80. Monthly fees just $80 per month. Food, beer (important) entertainment etc are a LOT LESS than the north America. Our newest unit to be released soon is our “casita” model. They are small but it will sell for just $15k–that’s 15 NOT 150K.
    You can only cut your costs so much at home so maybe you will do better if you find a new home. We did and we (as have lots of others) love it.

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