Out of the Loop

A couple of weeks ago, a reader asked the following question in response to one of my posts:

It sounds like you are comfortably in the “Esteem” phase according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (maybe you disagree?), do you think that you will ever want to get all the way to the top? I have given this topic a lot of thought lately. For example, you are obviously a very productive member of society and I for one really appreciate the fact that you bring an income to Canada and pay taxes. Do you think you will ever [feel] this way about your contribution to society? Further, do you think that you have not achieved your potential? Finally, do you think that you are/will ever become a “drain” on society?

I have put some thought into this over the last little while and thought it would be appropriate to create a blog post as a response, as it seemed in-line with some of the topics that are discussed here. There were several questions asked, but I’ll focus on the one that I found most interesting, and the one I thought about the most – “Do you think that you have not achieved your potential?….Do you think you are/will ever become a “drain” on society?”

Like most people, I really don’t know what my potential is. If my life potential has everything to do with my career and income I can bring in – then I am definitely not achieving that. I care about my job and the work I do to a certain point, but when I leave the office at the end of the day, I’m done – I have no interest in working long hours or attempting to strategically climb the corporate ladder. I can do the best job I am capable of in my current and future jobs, but beyond that, I’m not going to “push” myself in the workplace.

The second part of the question, whether I think I am or will become a “drain” on society, is a little more ambiguous. From a social point of view, my wife and I, by choosing to not have children, have, to a certain extent dropped out of society. Once we’re gone (in hopefully 50+ years), there will (from a genetic point of view) be no record of us left. Couple this lifestyle decision, to the fact that we haven’t really bought into the whole “work until you drop” mentality that resonates in North American culture and you could say that we don’t have a lot in common with the vast majority of people we come across.

My overall goal with my Early Retirement plan is to be able to learn and carry out exactly what I would like to do in a day, without having to trade a good chunk of my waking and productive hours to making money to feed and house myself. My intention is to have enough money that I will not become a drain, financially or otherwise to society. I will have paid a substantial amount in taxes by the time I retire and will hopefully not require any assistance from the government/society to support me as I age.

So, that was kind of my long winded answer. I guess a simple TLDR answer would be I’m not sure what is entailed in reaching my potential, and no, I don’t think I am or ever will be a drain on society.

For anyone else out there, do you feel you will end up being a drain? What would happen if everyone carried out an Early Retirement plan?

6 thoughts on “Out of the Loop”

  1. Hi Dave

    My first thought in response to the questions would be to ask this question in return. In light of the upcoming “limits to growth” that are starting to show themselves in many ways, do you feel that it is fair to future generations to live the life of a super consumer?

  2. Might I suggest that you and your wife haven’t dropped out of society, just dropped out of the portion of society that is driven by rampant consumerism. Just because rampant consumerism is the most vocal and visible component of the mainstream world doesn’t mean that by not participating in that, one isn’t a contributing member of society. One can contribute well by focussing on good values. One of the best values is taking responsibility for yourself so that you don’t expect others to pay for your consumption. Secondly, you are choosing not to contribute to the pollution that is a biproduct of consumerism. Thirdly you are choosing which values you think are important and to live by them rather than having to continue being part of the drive for more consumption.

    The issue you are facing are what all retired people face. How can we be full participating members of our community when we are no longer in paid employment? Noone can give any one of us the answer. We all have to find our own answers. After years of striving to be a world class researcher with many peer reviewed publications I am very happy being a nobody with no demands to toe the party line in my findings.

    My personal goals are to be self responsible, to support my family in their endeavours, and to contribute through my volunteer work. It is also about finding contentment in the little things of life. At the risk of sounding corny or new agey its also about the spiritual and the making of one’s soul.

  3. Dave, we are alike in many ways.

    I don’t think of myself as a drain on society even though I have been retired for 5 years. Being single with no kids, I use very little in resources and will not have any descendants using any, either. I do volunteer work so I help others.

    In my 23-year career, I went up as high on the corporate ladder as I wanted to, to a low-level supervisor. I did not want any more promotions, not that I was going to be offered any. I had the respect and admiration of my peers, my subordinates, and my superiors, both within and outside of my division. There wasn’t anything more I could accomplish there. I worked on lots of important projects especially those related to the Y2K issue. In short, I got out while still on top, before I began to fade and rot away intellectually, on my own terms.

    I do not worry about the possibility that “everyone will carry out an early retirement plan.” I have a set of unique circumstances which enabled me to retire early. Most people are tethered to their jobs and have too much debt to stop working. And many of those who could retire early just don’t want to because they either like their jobs a lot or have some fear of not working. To me, it is no different from those who belittle my decision to be childfree by saying, “What if everyone decided to be childfree?”

  4. I look at retirement as actually being a series of 10 year blocks. Having taken ER at 54, I look at the first 10 years as the “selfish years”. It is probably going to be the healthiest years of retirement. After sacrificing a lot of personal time to work related activities, it is time to do the things we enjoy doing and going to the places we want to visit, especially during the off season when work prevented this.

    So far, we have done 18 trips in our first 18 months – some as short as 5 days, some as long as 5 weeks. But they have all been done on the cheap. When we camp, we always cook our own food. When we do monthly vacation rentals, same thing – it is just transferring our home grocery budget to a different local.

    Not sure what the next blocks of 10 years will entail, but as we slow down and the health declines (trying to delay that with daily exercise, yoga, meditation, and healthy eating) maybe then it will be time to “give back”. But after 29 years of “giving”, I feel no guilt with “taking” for the next 10!

  5. DougieG, love your blog and your story. My first 10 years of ER (42 to 52) will hopefully be similar to yours – living life to its utmost before the “creakies” (love the term!) set in. I especially look forward to getting in elite physical condition again… well, as elite as a 42 year old can get.

    As for being a drain on society… I could care less. The very notion amuses me actually.

  6. The last 2 months are a good example of taking advantage of life while you can. At the end of our most recent trip to central California at Christmas, I developed severe flu-like symptoms (despite having had my annual flu-shot).

    For the first 5 weeks, I had no energy, brutal night sweats, no appetite, and had dropped 10 pounds. It is likely I picked up a fungal infection of the lungs called Valley Fever (from the San Joaquin Valley) – it is actually a pretty interesting disease to google. The last 3 weeks have seen a noticeable improvement, but I am still far from 100%. Because it is such a hard disease to positively diagnose, they are testing for every other disease that could display some of the symptoms, and eliminating those. I have had numerous blood tests, 2 chest X-rays, ultrasound,seen 3 specialists, and go for a CT scan today (God bless the Canadian health care system – all this has cost me out of pocket is parking at the hospital).

    If all goes well with the CT scan, I am hoping to get the okay (from my doctor and my wife) to leave for a month in Bonita Springs, Florida. This has been a brutal winter in Ontario, and I am desperate for a break.

    So to make a long story short, don’t assume you can delay things. You never know when life can through you a curve!

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