We Don’t Want Everything

I was reading a book the other day which had an interesting scene between the villain and the heroine where basically she was offered anything and everything she could want to which she replied: “I don’t want everything that I want.  Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if I just got everything I ever wanted? Just like that, and it didn’t mean anything.”

That scene struck a chord with me in regards to how a lot of people approach retirement planning.  They plan to have everything they want in their retirement.  They want two trips a year, a summer cottage, a bigger boat…and so on.  The build a fantasy of what they think they want, but here is the kicker: the don’t even really want it.  They just think they do.

For some people their retirements have become substitutes for everything that we don’t have in their lives.  They place every desire they have ever had there so it becomes a place of ‘wants’.  Yet most people don’t connect the world of wants to the amount of work it would require to get there.  We live in a perpetual disconnect between this fantasy of wants and what people really need.

I suspect that this disconnect more than anything separates early retirees from the rest of the world.  We aren’t interesting in playing the same game as everyone else and thus appear to ‘throwing it all away’ in the conventional sense of giving up our highest earning years complete with higher level jobs because we really don’t want everything that we want.  Instead we often are on the hunt for meaning in our lives which often can’t be obtained with just money.  Often that meaning involving going after dreams of working in another field, starting a business, or helping others.

In the end, I suspect most people would find both retirement planning and life in general a lot easier if we all stopped wanting it all and settling for wanting more meaning.  At the same time, I don’t think that will happen anytime soon.

8 thoughts on “We Don’t Want Everything”

  1. It’s not possible to tell people: “You don’t really want what you think you want.” But at the same, you make an excellent point. I recently met with a couple (he’s Australian, she’s Canadian) who are relieved their investments have finally recovered. But during the market crash, they rethought what they wanted. Do they really want to spend $80,000 and winter in Australia? Or could they be happy with $60,000, spending winters in the U.S.?

    I think you’re right that it’s a realization that it’s not “stuff” that makes us happy, but finding the mix of people and activities that do make us happy. Great post.

  2. It’s easier said than done but I made it! Just want to share my experience – set 2 or 3 achievable (very important) material goals for yourself, like buying a piece of pretty furniture or jwellery, and after achieving those goals, tell yourself your life is rich and be happy with it. And then set off to a real simple life, like Tim said, looking for meaing rather than stuff!

  3. Great post Tim. I think finding the balance of your life is key. If you can waiver on what you want when circumstances change then you aren’t doing what you really want. Our die hard passions and dreams should never change no matter what happens. The problem is people seem to lack confidence to admit what they really want out of life. Until they do this, no amount of money will bring them happiness.

  4. Good post. The extension to what you say is that people put things off. If you want 80K worth of lifestyle later, then you have to work longer at your sub-optimal lifestyle now to save up. It doesn’t make sense to want a better lifestyle later than now. Just have about the same, don’t kill yourself for the majority of your years to have a few great ones (or so you think).

  5. @Robert,

    Oh I agree you can’t tell people they don’t want things. They have to figure that out themselves, but at least I can bring the concept forward.

    Thanks for the comments everyone.


  6. This is a great post. I see so many people racking up thousands in debt buying stuff that for the most part they only thought they wanted.
    I hadn’t even considered that the same would be true for people’s retirement goals, but it’s absolutely true, I’m sure.

  7. I decided I’d rather retire early on a reduced pension than spend two more years working. I can’t put a price on having two extra years to follow my dreams. In doing so though I had to make some compromises. One was deciding to move to PEI where homes and land are the least inexpensive in all of Canada. I bought a house there last summer and will move there permanently in 3 years when I retire.
    Enjoyed your post!

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