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.