Early Retirement is NEVER Easy

During my post last week I had an excellent comment from Paul N which cover a lot of ground (so go read it), but I did want to focus on one of his points:

I think people come to your blog and look for guidance to some degree then may get frustrated by realizing it’s not as easy to retire at a young age as you may make it sound at times.

While I like to think I’m as honest with you all as I can be, I will point out something very important: early retirement is NEVER easy.  While I do try to positive and encouraging to others to go after your dreams and live your own life, I also don’t want to sugar coat it: it’s also a hell of a lot of work.

I think perhaps the disconnect on what people might think it is easy is I’ve got years of experience under my belt on thinking about these issues, so I don’t beat a dead horse on the difficulty involved.  To me the difficulties are so obvious that I often don’t dwell on them, but perhaps that is the flaw.  I tell you about the dream and my efforts to get there, but I don’t mention so much the negative side.

So with that in mind, what are the downsides?  In no particular order:

1) Sell Out Your Dreams First (Then Buy Them Back) – Ok, confession time.  I picked my chemical engineering degree mainly based on how much I could earn and I had some interest in it.  What I really wanted to be was a writer, but I knew the ability to make money in that career was limiting so I focused on a career with a better pay back to the investment of my education.  Now ironically I’m going for early retirement to be able to write more.

2) Get Uncomfortable – I realized something critical very early in life: I will never fit in.  This isn’t to say I won’t belong in some places, but I never fully fit it.  It’s just not in my nature to do it.  I’m me and I refuse to sacrifice that to gain acceptance so I’ve always been a little on the outside looking in.  So the result is yes I’m uncomfortable in all sorts of situations and going for early retirement only makes it worse.  For example, I don’t watch much TV so when people talk about the latest Big Bang Theory episode I have a completely blank look on my face.  I’ve learned not to dwell on it or limit my social interactions.

3) Saving is Hard Work – While my net worth statements on this blog show the good progress towards my goal, it does tend to gloss over all the little decisions behind those results.  For example, I don’t owe a cell phone.  My wife has one that I sometimes borrow.  Yet there are still times that come up where I wonder if I should get my own phone.  The debate happens every few months and ends up in a similar spot.  Do I really want to invest that much money into something I only have a use for every two months or so? The answer to date has been no.

4) Family Time – Perhaps the most obvious thing that doesn’t come up some weeks is yes I work three jobs (day job, school board and writing) which means some weeks I barely see my own kids.  Do I feel guilty? Yes, but as much as I dislike leaving them they are my motivation to be on the school board.  I want them to have a great education and the current system isn’t there yet.  Also I really enjoy writing and it is my passion in life so I’m not willing to give that up.  The result is I’m a very busy guy, but I’ve chosen this.  No one is forcing me to put in these hours and I don’t have to do it to pay the bills.

5) Goodbye Senior Management – While I do make good money via my day job I will never make huge amounts of money from a senior management job.  I know this and frankly so does my workplace.  I know I could work longer and have a much more comfortable standard of living, but I personally don’t need it.  Other people might, so they might want to spend the time climbing the corporate later.  In my case, I might move up one last level at most.

The end result of all of these things should be obvious, there is always a price to be paid for any decision.  Yes I can retire decades early, but I am paying for it.

12 thoughts on “Early Retirement is NEVER Easy”

  1. So many things to comment on in this post Tim!! I think I’ll use it as inspiration for a post (or two) later.

  2. From reading his comment I think you missed the point of it. Yes you explained how it is not easy from the quotation you took, but I got from his comment that he believes people are frustrated by your idea of retirement.

    The comment points out how he wants to be able to travel and have a hot tub and a nice car. Paul’s frustration stems not from you making early retirement seem easy, it is because he envisions a different retirement than the one endorsed on blogs in your niche.

    The disconnect may come from the difference in retirement and financial independence. The two terms are often used interchangeably. He wants a classic retirement but he wants it early. The retirement espouse by you and others is one where you specifically have it in your budget to not go out, or only go out once a month for dinner, where your finances may not allow the freedom for a road trip on a whim, or to fly to Mexico for a friend’s wedding. He wants to be able to do those things.

    Early retirement often is dependent on rock bottom expenses. This is hard like you say, but I argue most do not desire it. As wrong as it may seem, lots of people like seeing movies in the theatre even though it is no different than waiting 6 months for it to come out so you can rent it. I like being able to hop in my car and go for a drive without really worrying about the gas I will need to buy after. Early retirement is not worth it to a lot of people if they have to give up things like this that make them happy.

    Retirement budgets are usually in terms of minimal expenses, or have a very limited “fun money” cut of it. Paul’s ideal budget is $3500 at least without a mortgage. I could look up the number you are targeting or the ones others do, but I think that is more than normal early retirers.

    He just wants something different from you, which is why his comment appeared on an article titled “You Do Not Equal Me”. For what he wants unfortunately he needs to be reading a different blog. While you are less extreme than ERE, your lifestyle is more modest than most people are comfortable with. That is why you are going to get to retire at 42 or whatever and most will be lucky to retire at 60. Different values lead to different goals which led to different methods. You are happy spending time with your family and living very modestly, so to accomplish your ideal you need to bike to the grocery store. I might want to visit Thailand one week a year, and be able to drive an hour once a week to visit family and friends so I need to work longer.

    It is just different people wanting different things. You don’t need to worry about misleading people. Your posts about budgets or saving make it clear that it is in no way easy. But you are catering to people other than Paul N.

  3. @Tim
    Well we have at least three things in common
    1. being a chemical engineer
    2. only the spouse a cell phone(I still have my landline)
    3. I am relatively frugal but nowhere near as much as you seem to be.

    I agonized over retiring just 3 months before my 56th birthday. My company defined pension provides me with 50% of my pre-retirement salary. But my mortgage was paid off 8 years before retirement, my $500/month child support ended 6 months after I retired. So 7.5 years after retirement, inspite of not having an indexed pension(except the CPP which started Jan 2011), I am still comfortable even with the car payments I have 2 more years on but I have not taken any expensive vacations.

    But you are certainly swimming against the current norm that believes the Freedom 55 dream is just that.

  4. I think that’s the problem these days – everybody wants everything – but they don’t want to work for it. Great post – you’ve pointed out you are working *very* hard and making sacrifices now for later.

  5. Excellent post!

    Can relate to the “outside looking in part” completely – have been told I’m “different” too many times to remember. But I did retire early and and all those folks who commented are now saying “Huh? how did you do that”

    He who laughs lasts laughs best !

  6. I love your point “Sell your dreams and then buy them back.” This is definitely a choice I made. I’ve occasionally wondered whether it would have been better to go ahead and live your dream and never retire, or do what we did. Yeah you’d have to work forever, but you’d be doing the thing that you aspired to do when you retired already.

    I’m happy with my choice now because, of course, I’m on the buying it back side.

  7. I have never lived an extravagant lifestyle, so I can’t say I had to “sell any dreams then buy them back.” For me, a requirement of retiring early was that my day-to-day lifestyle was not going to change in any way (other than to get BETTER!).

    I have always been “-free” in so many areas that adding “job-free” was just one more. I am god-free (an atheist), childfree (no kids, never was interested in them), wife-free (single but have a steady ladyfriend), cellphone-free (HATE those damned things), tried Facebook for a week but got rid of it, I never had any interest in smoking or drinking. I think to retire early one has to already be an outlier in some ways, otherwise one would simply run with the crowd and keep working.

    But a big goal of ER was that I never wanted to say, “I can’t do THAT because I can’t afford to now that I am not working.” Last year, my ladyfriend and I went to Atlantic City to see what it was like. She has a timeshare so she took care of the hotel and I took care of the gas and tolls and most of the food. We blew some money gambling (me more than her) and while we had a decent time there we have no desire to return. Overall, it cost me a few hundred dollars but it was not a big deal.

    I hang out with more of older crowd, many of whom are retired, so they just like my being able to be with them more often than I used to. Same for my volunteer work which is mainly midday during the week.

  8. Hi there,

    Poor student I would like respond to your post. Unfortunately I am in Florida this week and don’t want to type out a reply on my phone in a Barnes an Nobles. Plus a little under the weather. I feel that you are reading in a far more complex picture of me then I really wanted to give.
    Im going about my retirement also as always being a single. I’m pretty sure I will be just fine but I’m already past 42 but I’m fine with that because I also enjoy things here and now. My house is paid off and I put away 40% of my income every year for my retirement.
    I make some sacrifices in life but truly not a lot to do this. I have found unique ways to save because I am very handy.

    My point really is in my writing and Tim is correct. I just think everyone has to find their comfortable “spot” to retire and live within a budget. I’m not picking on anyone but personally I can’t be so frugal it makes me have to forgo many of the things in life which makes my life full. And yes it’s not that easy especially for those with families.

    I’m still working full time but I tell a lot of people I’m sort of retired already. I take a lot of smaller frugal vacations (my version of frugal). I try to do something fun several times a week. I’ll post a little more next week when I’m back in Canada if there is a point to then.

Comments are closed.