Selling the Dream

I was having a conversation with a co-worker where we were speculating on the potential failure of a large project and of course the conversation shifted to just how far down the change of command people would get fired over it.  Of course I said “Oh, I don’t worry about that.”

“Oh really, don’t you have bills to pay?” My co-worker asked.

“Yes I have bills, but I have enough saved that I roughly don’t need to work for the next decade.  So I’m not ever worried about being fired.” I said.

“But what’s the point, why save so much money?  What are you going to do? Go on longer trips with it?” My co-worker asked.

“No, I’m planning to only work about 7 more years here and then I’m going to start a second career doing what I love: writing. But then I won’t have to worry about making much money at it.” I replied.

“Really!?!”  Apparently the thought of having enough money to not work here had never entered my co-workers mind.  Granted when you are in your thirties, the vast majority of people don’t really think that much about retirement.  Mmm, perhaps I should consider changing my sales pitch on early retirement to ‘second career planning.’  It seems to go down a LOT easier with people.

The same principle applies to selling ‘early retirement’ to your spouse, family or just about anyone.  You need to find a way for the concept to make basic sense to the person in question.  For example, my wife really doesn’t care so much for the freedom from work.  She loves her job (most of the time), so she isn’t desperate to stop doing it.  Instead she loves the idea of complete financial security.  The house could burn to the ground, we could both be out of work and we would still be fine financially.

So what are some other ways to sell early retirement to others? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Career change – You are going to start over a guide for hikers or other dream job or perhaps you are going to be a private wealth manager (just for yourself to start).
  • Small Business – You plan to give you long time small business a shot of being full time or start one.
  • Take care of kids or family members – You plan to help care for someone either full or part time.
  • Sabbatical – You take a leave and are doing a particular big  personal project (but forget to come back).
  • Dream Trip – You quit your job to go on the trip of your dreams (you just fail to mention your not going back to work).
  • Education – You are going back to school.
  • Real Estate – You plan to look after your rentals full time.
  • Freedom Seeking – You are far too independent to work for ‘The Man’ and you are seeking your fortune elsewhere (just fail to mention you already have a small fortune).

The point of these alternatives isn’t to lie, but rather make someone at ease with the general idea of you not working all the time.  I find if you toss out the early retirement card the conversation almost always grinds to a halt because someone can’t accept it as being even possible. Of course that is why some people prefer the term financial independence, but I find that also often a problem concept.  Since often I have to explain the concept.

So how do you sell the dream to people close to you?  Are you upfront and honest about your retirement plans or do you keep it on the low down until you pull the pin?

3 thoughts on “Selling the Dream”

  1. When I have told a select few my plans to stop working in my early 40’s they look at me like I have two heads. The concept of extreme early retirement is simply INCOMPREHENSIBLE to a vast majority of “live above their means”, debt-ridden Canadians.

    So yeah, I have since learned to continue to save and invest 80% of our income and keep quiet about it. It’s easier that way. There will be quite a stir amongst family and friends when I pull the chute – and no small amount of envy I am sure.

  2. I think that there’s some bias in these comments. If you love your job, you’re confused by people who want to quit sooner; it’s not necessarily true that they’re so massively indebted that they have no other choice than to remain chained to their iron rice bowl.

    There may also be confusion over what retirement means: historically it meant moving to florida and wearing plaid golf pants 24/7. Now I think when people like us say retirement, we just mean pursuing our own interests (business or otherwise) with no risk to our current situation.

  3. “stop working in my early 40?s they look at me like I have two heads” / “Apparently the thought of having enough money to not work here had never entered my co-workers mind”

    These sound **very** familiar. Staying very frugal with conservative assumptions about returns, I’m financially independent at 28.5. Of course, at work I say no such thing and won’t until a few years after that (for a huge buffer).

    I have, however, taken to regularly telling dates and friends about my values and ambitions; doing so really filters people into groups of those with whom I want to associate and those with whom I do not.

    “selling ‘early retirement’ to your spouse” — I think there’s a unique position that hasn’t really been addressed: those who have such values that **aren’t** hitched or otherwise committed. On one hand it’s easier since there is nothing but personal preferences to consider, but on the other hand, there’s the fact that most people go nuts when they hear about such things. But at least starting without commitments allows an eyes-wide-open choice about increasing expenses simply for the sake of others.

    “If you love your job, you’re confused by people who want to quit sooner” — I find this interesting, and tend to still lean towards the “they never even considered it” mentality (or, similarly, the “I don’t want to eat catfood the way you do” reaction). Even though I get **super**-excited when telling people about not just my job but the entire business I help support, there’s something about independence. The money will keep me around a while, but I think it really is just a difference in fundamental outlook rather than any inherent joy brought about by employment. Just look at survey results about jobs satisfaction =P.

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