Over Saving and Fear

I read a lot of stories in forums and blogs about people who retire early.  I often notice is in a few years after they leave work and they reflect back on what they did to retire early they often conclude they over saved.  So if this is often the case, and people know this, why do people who pursue the early retirement goal keep over saving?

While I’m not a mind reader, so I actually don’t know I think the thoughts in peoples head I think it goes something like this: they are afraid.  I think fear is driving many of them to keep working past what they actually need.

Now what is causing that fear can obviously very from person to person.  For some it is the fear of losing their primary identity (aka: their job),  while others it is fear of not having enough saved (or running out of money).  Yet I think the biggest fear of people who do early retirement is having the plan fail and then having to go back to work.  That scenario chills their blood in their veins and drives them to keep doing the very thing they are afraid of work.

Sort of ironic right?  That a fear of working, causes people to keep working longer than they need.  So why is that?  Well I would guess their thoughts go something like this:

Once I stop working I’m going to fall in love with all that free time and after a few years I don’t think I could even entertain the idea of coming back to my job to earn more money.  So I rather spend another year working now and be sure I never have to come back.

I actually understand their logic, but at the same time there is a bit of flaw to that sort of thinking.  Who said you ever have to go back to your current job?  Even if you retire and the stock market tanks 20% and you need to go back after two years, you are not required to go back to your current workplace.  Actually depending on how fast your particular industry changes you may not even be able to go back.

Instead you can likely pick up some other kind of paid employment, and with your current savings you could likely do very well on a term position or even part time hours.  If you are 80% financially independent you have a lot more options than most people.  And even if you for some reason came back to your current workplace you would know going in it won’t be forever.  Heck you might even be able to estimate down to the month how long you have to be there.  My point is work itself isn’t evil.  Granted your current job may feel that way, but like I said you don’t have to go back to it.

Once I realized this myself I actually went back to my assumptions in my calculations for early retirement and cut back a lot of my padding based on fear.  This is why I shifted my aim to doing semi-retirement sooner rather the putting in the extra few years to be fully early retired.  I don’t fear work anymore.  I understand it is me trading my time for money and all the emotional baggage about work: disliking paperwork, tasks I don’t enjoy or working with people I don’t care for all exist in my head.  I can let it bother me or not.  I can always quit at anytime.  So with that particular safety cord in mind, just about anything gets easier to deal with.

So do you fear work?  If so, why?

2 thoughts on “Over Saving and Fear”

  1. Very interesting article Tim. I think a lot of people may be afraid of the unknown. For example, stocks have returned 10%/year, and dividends have been paid and growing for decades ( at least in the US). But we may experience 0% real returns and/or dividends might get cut.

    The thing that those fears forget is that early retirees build up some skills with their free time, which could help them do well.

    In my case, I don’t think I would be able to come back after I retire. However, I could always do some seasonal tax work for 3 – 4 months of the year if push came to shovel.

  2. I fear it overtaking my life. I am in an industry where work/life balance does not exist. Outside of that, I fear working min wage – waste of life energy. So yes, I do fear work.

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