Going against Convention

This is a guest post by Dave, who is also looking to retire no later than 45, but unlike Tim has no kids and doesn’t want any.  Dave is from Ontario and is working towards his CGA certification.

I generally don’t do things just because that’s the way that it’s always been done.  If I can find a better way of doing something or a method that makes more sense to me, I will make a switch in what I’m doing rather than continuing down the path I am on.  There are a few areas where I think I do things drastically differently than most people (perhaps not most people here, but most people that I interact with):

Early Retirement: This is an obvious one, being a writer for this site but I think it differentiates me from most people.  My goal is to exit the workforce as soon as possible, hopefully by the time I’m 45.  I have no disdain for people working past this point, but generally they are doing it not by choice but because they have bought so much “stuff” over the years that they are unable to afford to retire.  By the time I am in my early 40s, I hope that I am able to choose whether I want to work or not.  Most people don’t really think this way or have a real exit plan from the workforce.

How I eat: In the past year or so, my diet has changed significantly.  I have eliminated everything from my diet but fruits, vegetables and meat.  Conventional wisdom (at least in the past couple of decades) generally states that a diet that is high in saturated fats or cholesterol is the next thing to eating poison (as I did a year ago).  Reading study after study showing positives of eating fat I feel comfortable with the dietary changes I have made, and altering my diet to contain only things that can be grown will hopefully allow me to live a longer, healthier life.

No kids: I wrote about this in my first post on this site and haven’t really revisited it on this blog since.  My stance on having children hasn’t changed in the past year or two – my wife and I still don’t have children or have any plans to in the future.    Not having children really goes against convention, and it has taken a while for my wife’s and my families to realize that we really aren’t going to have children.  I think we would be great parents, but we really have no interest in giving up approximately 20 years (or more) of our life, it just really doesn’t seem worth the time or resources for us.

Those are three areas (of many) where I don’t necessarily follow the conventional way things are done.  I am happy with the choices that I have made, but at times these choices create some very interesting discussions.  I generally don’t start these discussions with other people and tend to avoid talking about my choices, as people seem to get very defensive when questioned about why they’re doing what they’re doing (mostly because they haven’t really thought about it).

What do you do that is contrary to the “normal”?

17 thoughts on “Going against Convention”

  1. I drive an 8 year old, beat up minivan. It looked like that when we bought it second-hand two years ago. It’s very relaible and pretty good on fuel, but it’s an eyesore. I am a little envious of my friend who drives a late model BMW, but he’s taking a different path through life. I could trade my dream for a big house and a fast car… I just don’t think it would really make me happy.

  2. Your being childfree is a big reason as to why you car retire early. It has been my biggest reason for being able to retire in 2008 at age 45.

    Being a single man probably protects me from getting bingoed (a term we childfree use to describe the many tired, overused comments and insults we receive from the childed) the way women and married couples receive. But being around people (friends, relatives, etc.) who know this is a personal issue is also helpful. And remember, I do volunteer work with several area schools so I am around teachers and kids, none of which have ever asked me about my personal status.

  3. No children is definitly a personal decision and being a father of 2, I would trade 40 years more work for the joy they bring us and will continue(hopefully) to bring us, and as we get older and older and less independent, I am sure they will be there to help us out.

    So, I guess my decision was that kids are worth every penny they cost, and yes, they do cost a lot, but to see the world through their eyes is really good for putting things into perspective!

  4. Now c’mon deegee. I don’t think it’s very fair to say that the reason you are able to retire at 45 is because you had no children. How about this: I have four children and I am targeting 40 for retirement (3 years from now). Some psychologists recently wrote a paper about how parents are less happy, have less money, etc than the childless which got me a little enraged on my blog. Bunkeroo!

    It’s your choice of course.

    I would guess that the real reason you are able to retire is because you saved and probably had a decent job or business. Say it isn’t so …

  5. Our family and friends always assumed that my wife and I would eventually succumb to the norm and have a child or two… we are now in our late 30’s and we feel little desire to have a family “before it is too late”. Friends our age with kids used to look upon my wife and I with a sort of fascinated pity… now, as little details have emerged about our level of savings and our plans for retirement in our 40’s, there can now be detected just a little bit of envy… but I will readily admit that one day I expect a pang of regret that I never had children.

  6. Oh, Dave: I got distracted by deegee and his claim that childlessness let him retire.

    It’s about the eating. I came across an article that said protein is one thing that ages us. I have tried a low-carb diet and it is awesome for weigh loss, and totally easy to stay on, but it is quite high in protein. The article says that to lengthen life most we should reduce protein, getting most of our calories from fat. I don’t remember where I saw it, but might be worth a google.

  7. > but I will readily admit that one day I expect a
    > pang of regret that I never had children.

    Taking care of mom’s finances ever since she turned 87 (she’s now 91), my pang is that there isn’t an obvious person to have do the same for me when I’m that age. Not that one’s children can automatically be trusted to handle a parent’s finances, but having no children doesn’t give me a choice in the matter and I must plan accordingly.

  8. Sorry to disappoint you, Perfect Dad, but being childfree IS the NUMBER ONE reason I was able to retire in 2008 at age 45.

    Being childfree meant that I could continue to live in my small co-op apartment (a studio) and keep my mortgage and housing expenses very low.

    Being childfree meant that I had only one mouth to feed – mine.

    Being childfree meant that I spent next to nothing on health insurance and medical expenses in general, even with employer subsidy, when I was working.

    Being childfree meant that my day-to-day living expenses other than housing and health insurance were very low, much lower than would have been if I had kids. I used my monthly surplus to become debt-free by age 35, setting me up to retire 10 years later.

    Besides being able to retire early, being chidlfree has greatly improved my everyday life which includes doing volunteer work with several area schools (including one I just returned home from doing earlier today).

    I am very happy for you that you are contemplating an early retirement even though you had kids. But face it, unless kids are generating more income than expenses, then they will delay or prevent any early retirement (which means you could retire even sooner if you did not have them).

    Having kids of my own would bring no joy to my life whatsoever which is why I never had any desire to have them of my own. That is what being childfree is all about. I totally agree with that paper done about how the childfree are happier than the childed.

    No kids. No debts. My recipe for retiring early.

  9. Oh, and Perfect Dad, my annual salary when I was working never exceeded $80,000, with my average annual salary in the low 40s over 23 years of working, some of them part-time.

    I saved…..because I had no kids. It was as simple as that.

  10. I think that having no kids can be a path to early retirements. However, lets no confuse A path with THE ONLY path.

    There is nothing stoping someone that has kids to retire early, provided savings are there. You only need to plan for it and spend accordingly.

    Disclaimer: I have no kids, I want some (maybe) and I also want to retire early (absolutely). Maybe I projecting.

  11. My hunch is that those who know how to enjoy having children would also find a way to enjoy NOT having children – and vice versa. Lots of miserable child-laden as well as child-less people out there. Attitude is a biggie. Personally, my wife and I are really getting off on the grandchildren (2 of whom are adopted, all 4 of whom are deeply loved).

    We were able to retire, however due to 1) a modest chunk of money inherited (mostly used for college costs for the kids), and 2) frugal habits that prompted us to thoughtfully set money aside while frugalizing (?) our lives in general. Both cars have over 100,000 miles on them and are still going strong. Our modest house is paid for. Though we do theater outings, we rarely go out for expensive dinners. Etc. Etc.

    Luck plays a big part of life – but if you don’t play your cards right, even a good hand may not be enough.

  12. Banjo Steve, I disagree with your presmise that childfree people are miserable because of that.

    Simply put, a childfree couple in their 30s or younger who wake up one morning and decide that they wish they had children can usually do something about it and fulfill that desire. But a similarly childed couple in their 30s or younger who wake up one morning and decide that with they NEVER had children CANNOT usually do something about it to fulfill that desire.

    This to me is a big difference as to why the childed are as a group less happy than the childed – they are stuck with their irreversible decision should they be unhappy about it, while the childfree are not stuck with their decision.

    Also, because having children is so much part of the so-called “life script,” it is far easier for someone to go along with the crowd even though they don’t really want to than it is for someone to go against the crowd even though they don’t really want to.

  13. My comment to this would be that life itself is not a sprint, it is a marathon. There are definitly days as a parent when you are tired,and exhausted, and feel like a zombie because of lack of sleep and all that.

    However, I find few things in life more uplifting than watching my kids learn, succeed, and grow, so I for one can promise you that kids have brought far more joy to life than I could have ever thought.

    My wife and I do recall what it was like before we had kids and there were some nice benefits, but as I mentioned before, those benefits of no kids are far fewer than the benefits that the kids bring.

  14. Never getting married is probably my biggest “against the norm” thing.
    Especially since I have 2 kids. But then I earn a lot more than deegee… And live in a less expensive area.
    I don’t think I’ve ever bingoed someone – and could really care less about whether anyone wants to have kids or not. But I think mine are awesome.

  15. Interesting article. It is amazing how much tradition and other people’s expectations govern so many lives. I think a common consensus should be that you have kids because you want them, or don’t have kids because you don’t want them, and should not be influenced on such an important (and personal) matter by others. The same idea goes for early retirement. I value leisure time in my future middle age more than a new car. The key is that just because that right for ME, doesn’t mean it has to be the right answer for YOU.

    I completely agree with Banjo Steve in that many people would be happy with or without kids, and many people would also be miserable whether they had kids or not. If you always see the glass half empty and play the victim, then you will find a way to be miserable no matter how many or how few kids you have.

  16. My non-conformist tendencies are not to have kids, and not to own a car. I also am not married to my partner of 10 years, and am a vegetarian. Hmm, I guess I am rather non-conformist after all!

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