Well it was with a bit of shock last week that Jacob over at Early Retirement Extreme announced that he was unretiring and taking up a paid job again after being retired for a few years.  Of course like any big decision like this some people consider it a betrayal and decided to call Jacob a hypocrite, which is well bloody stupid.

Perhaps people like that need a little refresher on terminology.  Jacob is still financially independent, he has a enough income from his investments that he doesn’t need to work.  While the term ‘retirement’ does typically indicate that you are no longer working at a paid job, it doesn’t prevent you from changing your mind and taking up a job. You don’t need the money, but you just might like the challenge of the work or perhaps the socialization.

Sydney over at Retirement: A Full Time Job took up a consulting job after a few years of full retirement as well and I don’t recall anyone calling her a hypocrite.  Hell even for my own plans I’ve been honest that I will likely do some paid employment even when I no longer need to do so.  Just likely not a lot of it.

In general there is a misunderstanding by some people that early retirement means they will never work another day of their lives at paid employment, which of course is an option.  But the world isn’t divided into black and white, there is a lot of grey between full time work and full retirement.  This can be a happy place for a lot of people, but again it doesn’t prevent a person from going back to full time work if they choose to do so.

The ultimate freedom of financial independence doesn’t limit your choices in life.  Instead it grows those choices exponentially, including picking full time employment again.  Nothing is off the table when you get to that point of your life.  So if an unretirement works for you, go ahead and enjoy it.  I personally like the grey world of part time work but that doesn’t prevent me from working three part time jobs (like I do now) after I quit my current day job.  Heck, I might even manage to work out a further reduction of hours at my day job and stay on for a few more years.  It’s a valid choice, even if you personally won’t make it.

So in the end, don’t judge other people’s choices.  We rarely get to know everything that went into the choice, so while it might not make sense to you, it likely does to the person who made the choice.  Jacob, enjoy your next adventure in life.  While I won’t have picked that option, I’m not you.  Good luck.

11 thoughts on “Unretirement”

  1. To me, retirement is all about choices. I now have the ability to CHOOSE how I use my time. Do I WANT to work? Do I WANT to exercise? Do I WANT to sleep late? Do I WANT to play golf/take a trip/do a crossword puzzle, etc. ?

    Pre-retirement, there was little choosing of want I WANTED to do – the demands of the job were my guide to scheduling back then. Even weekends were full of marking papers, lesson plans, and calling parents.

    Of course, there is still that list of Gotta-do’s, but I can usually choose when to do them. Love it!

    As for those who use the term “hypocrite” in this situation, it sounds like they have their own clarity and perspective issues that they ought to face.

  2. I agree!

    I guess the issue perhaps is the use of the term “Retirement”. Maybe we should call it – “Dont-need-to-work-any-more-for-life” or simply “Financial Freedom for life”.

    Is Prince William “Retired”? Heck no! Does he need that job as a Search and rescue Helicopter pilot? For the money … absolutely not. To maintain his sanity and perhaps a purpose in life … absolutely.

  3. Of course you’re right that choosing to unretire does not make a person a hypocrite. However, I do worry about how little money some people seem to think will be enough to never have to work again. People change as they age, and conditions change over time. Just because you can live on $25,000 per year now doesn’t mean that you will be able to do it in a decade or two. And just because your portfolio is generating $25,000 per year now doesn’t necessarily mean that it will produce this much (adjusted for inflation) in the future. I’d rather work more now and create some margin for error than to have to look for work when I’m 70.

  4. Jacob’s unretirement was certainly a shocker, well sort of. It’s funny that we draw the line at money, isn’t it? For those of us that have been retired for a few years, it’s clear that you have to keep growing and changing even when you retire. You can’t just do the same thing day in and day out for the rest of your life.

    If you looked at a retiree, who traveled the first few years of retirement, and then took community college classes in history or language the next few years, and then immersed themselves in piano lessons the next few years and then went to another country to volunteer for a few years, you would just say, “What a great retirement!” “That person knows how to live.”

    But as soon as one of those activities includes earning money, everyone is all over them. I agree with MO, if we had a different word for retirement we wouldn’t keep coming back to these “what is retirement” argument.

    My feeling is that retirement is getting to think about what YOU want to think about all day long. For Jacob, that is something that I don’t even understand enough to describe, but it involves math and stocks and analysis. My guess is after a few years of thinking about that all day long, he’ll need another change, either to thinking about some other challenge all day long or going back to full-time retirement for a while to think about his own stuff all day long.

    The point is you have to have variety and growth and change in your life, and that need doesn’t stop just because you’ve amassed “enough” money to not need a job anymore.

  5. I haven’t seen anyone calling Jacob a hypocrite (but I haven’t looked very hard, either), but I have seen a lot of people praising him and claiming that he’s proven that ERE “can be done”. Actually though, he hasn’t. He lived in a very economically marginal manner, and to prove that can be done in a permanent way, takes more than doing it for 2 years. It’s great what he did, but it doesn’t prove ERE to be viable, not in the manner that he did it.

    BTW, I am an ERE person, so don’t take this as the ranting of someone who thinks it’s impossible, I certainly don’t as I have lived frugally and with minimal money and work for over 2 decades. However, I suspect that Jacob’s lifestyle would not be possible or desirable over the long haul, and he doesn’t have the experience at it yet to know that.

  6. Ever since I have known that retirement exists, I have always considered it just to be at a stage where someone doesn’t HAVE to work for an income any more, that from that point they can do what they want with their life.
    Although I do identify with the way Jacob sees most things, I don’t claim to be as intelligent or as extreme as he is. I have never met him. One thing he and I share is that we are both INTJ, and because of this we have an inner drive to solve problems or puzzles (and usually do so quite well).
    I feel that if I were in Jacob’s shoes, and was offered an opportunity to challenge myself doing something I think I’d enjoy and get paid for it? I would jump at the chance.
    As his DW stated in her comment on his blog “Only thing I care about is that Jacob is engaged and happy (anyone living with an INTJ knows that they are so much easier to live with under those circumstances).”
    Cheers to Jacob and DW for knowing how they want to live, and succeeding in doing it.

  7. When you have a working wife who pays for the bills and healthcare, why is Jacob’s story special? There are many stay at home spouses.

  8. You nailed it Joe. Jacob went on and on about living on 7k per year. Yet his wife works full time… it was probably her that told him to start pulling his weight and get a real job and that she was sick of living in an RV. I’m pretty sure Jacob’s nest egg was around 350k (based on various clues he dropped). This simply isn’t enough to retire on. He needs more money, and now he is back to work.

    Very overrated ER blogger, in my opinion.

  9. @Joe – Jacob paid his own bills, including healthcare. His wife’s bills are similar to his own in total, but reflect her interests.

    @jon_snow – $350k generates $14k/yr using a 4% SWR. Jacob did not need more money when his own expenses are $7k/yr. Additionally, the book has been bringing in $12k/yr. He also mentioned that combined, they were banking $40k/yr. As a combined couple they do not need more money. However, if one is offered a chance to do something interesting AND the remuneration is (possibly) 3x-5x greater than you’re currently getting AND there’s no interference in your thought processes, wouldn’t you take the opportunity?

  10. I thought *some* (not all – most were supportive) of the early-retirement forum people (not the people on Jacob’s forum) were a little out of line in their analysis of Jacob on the thread there.

    I’m a “soft” INTJ as well, and believe me, I miss all the “impossible problems” (esp. math/accounting problems) that I could solve every day at work too. Unlike Jacob, I miss the people that I solve them with and for too though. I just haven’t been able to find those types of quality friendships or challenges in volunteering. It would really help if I found investing as fascinating as he obviously does, but I don’t for some inexplicable reason.

    I think Jacob walked away with around $200k according to his comment on this post:
    “Inflation-adjusted, I’m slightly above Terhorst’s student model in assets” – that was $100k about 20 years ago I think – not sure on the publication date because I traded my beloved copy of “Cashing In” to Jacob for a copy of his book. 😉

  11. For the last couple of years I was put into retirement due to the fact of leaving a job and unable to find work in my field. Retirement is something that you can make fun if you want. I knew at my age of 55 I may not be able to find a job. I would be up against those younger than myself. I chose to dive right into a poker career of playing the game I enjoy. I am not rich or have a big bankroll but I am having fun. I was asked if I would consider being a dealer and I took them up on it. The paychecks are very small but I am having fun. That is what retirement means to me having fun.

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