Different Minds

A very common assumption people make is that other people think like you.  Thus if you present them with the same facts they should come to the same conclusion as you.  This is utterly and totally a false assumption.  Everyone’s mind is a unique thing that while it might share some similarities to yours as a culture backdrop, emotional response to information might overwhelm a logical conclusion.

I’ve seen this more times than I can count at my various jobs and heck even I’ve made the mistake sometimes when pulling together a report.  I think the conclusion is so obvious that you don’t need any more information to backup the conclusion and then you get a response from someone that doesn’t make sense, because I’ve overlooked the assumption that people think differently than me.  On the internet front the classic example is trolls, who have a completely negative response to your writing and lash out at you.

So with that firmly in mind, I was curious about something the other day: what makes early retirees minds different?  What common threads weave through our minds that we will consider doing the ‘impossible‘ by most people’s standards?  While some early retirees are good at real estate investing, other do well at stock analysis, while others don’t have any particular talent than being a good saver.  While each of these may help on the journey of early retirement, they are not the common thread that I’m looking for since that is more of talent than a common thread.

While I might has discussed some particular considerations that are common to early retirees in my book, Free at 45, I realized I might have miss something during my research.  What if the common thread is really just an awareness of how you think?  A self awareness of your own flaws, strengths and habits.

While this might seem somewhat mundane on the surface, it is an essential skill in order to hack your own cultural programing.  Since if you can do that you can replace the desire for ‘more’ with ‘enough’ which then allows you an out of the consumer mindset (and that leads to HUGE savings since you no longer give a crap what everyone else has).  So in that regards my biggest asset in my retirement planning might have nothing to do with money, but in fact might be being an expert in my own mind. For example, I know how I react to stress over a longer period of time.  So I try to build in the odd ‘relax’ evening into my ‘oh my god I’m busy’ weeks to balance myself out to avoid an excess of spending on food/wine/entertainment after the fact.

So far this is just a rough theory I have so I would appreciate your feedback.  What common threads do you see in those involved in the early retirement community?

14 thoughts on “Different Minds”

  1. I have found that those who ER or are well on their way to ER are outliers in some way(s). That is, they behave in certain ways which do not conform to what everyone else does or thinks. Many are frugal, often unusually frugal. Others such as myself are childfree, not interested in having children, and that large reduction in expenses makes it a lot easier to ER (even if we decided to be childfree well before we knew we could ER).

    In the same outlier vein, I wonder how many of us in the ER world are atheists. I am one, too.

    Childfree, debt-free, god-free, job-free. A terrific combination!

  2. Interesting thought line…not an atheist but a humanist,worldist,pacifist etc…I follow the path that we are all different in attitude lattitude and beer. So goes it with thinking and ER. My Dad “retired” – I call it retreading as we do not get thrown away just repurposed- at 46 . Not rich not poor just happier . He had a mission to get out of the corporate crap and politics and succeeded. His peers thought he was looney or depressed and could not grasp that his thinking was not the same as their herd mentality. Personal experience tells shows me that people have bought into the “buy it -i want it-I need it” syndrome. I am no different except I research , bargain wait and then get the best deal. If I cannot pay for it I do not buy it. This goes for major purchases (car cash 19000$ ) etc. we are Debt Free 56 and ready to pull the corporate plug. expenses are in line and minimized except for the love of Guiness and Scotch ( recreational folks not addictive!) We have been life long self sufficient and savers- thanks parents!!- and have 3 kidz who are graduating this year debt free from higher learning . Must be a genetic continuity going on here. Net assets are over a million but we do not feel “rich” or privileged. We worked and saved just liek our parental units and minimized debt . Key difference is we still had fun , possessions etc. Motorcycles( early mid life at 29) sports carz , trips but all within the cash parameter and affordability. Just my thoughts. sign me Pull the plug June 2012….off to that bicycle ride across Canada…..Morgan you were way later with your “bucket list” I have been working on this one since the 70’s I just lost my way and got sidetracked for a while!

  3. Forgot to add that Dad checked out @ 54 due to heart issues… made a hell of an impression on me that life is not fair sometimes – only the good die young!- and I plan to be an “bad” oldster…hate that term Zoomer Moses…..sounds like we should all be wearing whirly beanies and getting hairpieces…I still have my humour , wits and long hair….

  4. Being ex-military, I have a disproportionate number of acquaintances that have retired early. The pension, although relatively minuscule, is enough when added to a few years of good saving, investing, and frugality.
    The one thing that I have noticed is that we are very much loners, and very comfortable to be so. Ironically, I think when someone chooses the path of ER, and embarks on that journey, they become more and more separated from social norms, and the mass of people who inadvertently support them.

    IMHO, ER people also tend to be:

    1. Above average intelligence(at least one half of the couple);

    2. Self-sufficient(but also, comfortable with their short comings and willing to take the steps to minimize the impact of them);

    3. Married, and on their first marriage(divorce is expensive, and being single retards the path to ER in several ways);

    4. Righteous(and this may seem a bit mean, but its true, we tend to get up on our high horse allot. However, in our defense, I stems from a bitterness that develops between ER folk and those who will work until they are dead, and not from some superiority complex);

    5. And yes, every ER I person I know personally is an atheist. I think it is difficult for someone to be comfortable stepping out on society, and yet still need the comfort that faith in a omnipotent father figure provides.

    Just my one cent. The other penny I keep for myself.

  5. Interesting discussion! And I agree with most of the ‘common threads’,though my husband and I have 2 kids and aren’t terribly frugal by most definitions(we have the fancy kitchen,weekends in Vegas,etc.),we do live well below our means(pay cash for everything and save ~25%) which seems to be the key to the ER lifestyle.

    We’ve also had certain experiences (a child in intensive care for 3 months and a father killed by a drunk driver)that helped shape our priorities–and “work” and “more stuff” aren’t on the list.

    And yes, we are atheists too.(many religions require you to blindly follow–“have faith”–and ignore logic…so do most debt providers!!)

  6. …and in agreement with Rob’s points–on our first marriage (age 41 and married 20 years), self-sufficient (both self-employed since the ages of 24 and 25) and with higher than average I.Q.’s. But I suppose you would have to ask our friends how ‘righteous’ we are!

  7. Not an atheist, and probably not above average intelligence.

    But I am fascinated how we can be presented with the same evidence and see things so differently.

    For instance, when it comes to diet, I’m meat/dairy free. Most, and many smarter than me, totally disagree.

  8. I am not retired. Expect a year or so. In my field, most think it is impossible to retire at 46!

    We think differently. Probably combination of frugality, investing know-how, independence, and wanting something better and different.

    Thanks for a great blog…

  9. I for one can say I am not an atheist and even so I plan on retiring early. While that is a theory I think it is a little bit of stereotyping that religious folks need to blindly follow and ignore logic as one person said.

    But costs of church add up. For me I need to drive to church and then it is at least $2 in the offering plate. That doesn’t sound like much but it still pains me a little not to be saving that money.

    I think it is just a matter of placing priorities for early retirement. Most people eventually get to an age where they want to retire, just some of us either realize it earlier or are more willing to work to achieve it sooner.

  10. Self sufficiency and a desire to be in control of their own life seems to be a common thread.

    Oh, and I am not an atheist, but I am agnostic. Hedging my bets 🙂

  11. 1. The need for agency / freedom, whatever you want to call it
    2. Above average ability to delay gratification – they resist the marshmallows
    3. Introspective
    4. A disproportionate focus on the future rather than the present

    All of that fits the Myers Briggs INTJ which is disproportionately common as an ER personality type vs. in the general population.

    IMO, government or other pension type retirees don’t really “qualify” as true ER-er’s – or not for the purposes of knowing what makes them tick – (unless they saved/invested a lot outside their pension) because those types don’t have to consciously control themselves in the same way to make the savings happen.

  12. Mmm, interesting ideas everyone. Thanks for the feedback, oh, by the way, this idea might spawn a new book. I’m in research mode right now to see if there is a enough material to make it worth while.

    I’m not an atheist either. I disagree with the ‘father figure’ point as that usually implies a Christian faith background. I agree faith has costs to it, but that doesn’t really have to be much depending on the person. You can be frugal and still believe in god.

    Oh, for the record my religious beliefs on my personal Facebook account is: complicated, book off a few hours over coffee and I’ll explain. So no, I’m not going into this any further on the blog.


  13. The most important item anyone has is, just simply, time. For me, I never found my occupational calling and I felt at 45 that I simply did not want to put myself under another persons control for any longer than neccessary. I retired at 45 and have never looked back. Not serving in the Viet Nam war, marrying the woman I did, and stopping work at the age of 45. The three best decisions I ever made. If you really get a bang out of working at your job, that is one thing. Most people put the hours in to get the money. One thing that scares a lot of people is how they are going to spend all that free time? Me I have read, travelled a little bit, looked after other people and never, but never wondered what I was going to do with my day! It is my life and my time and I want to utilize it on my terms and the way I want.

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