Why You Should Never Retire
I recently received an anonymous email from someone who identified themself as a 70+ year-old long-time blog reader who is well past the point of financial independence. He wrote:
“I agree with the FI part of FIRE but I have no interest in the RE. I’m old enough to retire and have enough that I don’t worry about outliving my money.
My life revolves around my career. I work with great people on fascinating projects. I don’t hunt, fish, play golf, or video games. My approach to life these days revolves around the Japanese concept of Ikigai.
I’ve reached the center of that Venn diagram. When people ask me about retiring, I tell them I’ll retire when they pull the mouse out of my cold, dead fingers.
Instead of FIRE, I do FIDR (DR=don’t retire).
So, if you ever want to hear a counterpoint to FIRE, feel free to contact me.”
I challenged him to explore what was behind some of his sentiments. In turn, he challenged some of my deeply held beliefs.
I hope our exchange will prompt you to consider why you are pursuing retirement, what retirement means to you, and what you want to do with your life when needing more money no longer drives your actions….
(Editor’s notes: For clarity, the reader’s ideas are shared in normal font. My follow up questions are in bold. His name is not shared out of respect for his request to write anonymously.)
Financial Independence, Never Retire
I like the idea of Financial Independence (FI) but I can’t get my head around Retiring Early (RE). I’m 70+ and have been working full time or going to school or both since I was 16.
I guess I missed out on the retire early movement. My identity is tied to my profession and I’m not sure what I would do if I did retire–Probably die in a few months.
I don’t just put in a nominal 40 hours a week into work, but am involved in all sorts of professional activities and easily put in 60 hours per week. And I plan to do it until I no longer can. Why not?
I work with a great group of people, helping our customers solve their problems and they keep giving me money to do it. My well of ideas hasn’t gone dry yet. I’m still doing original, creative things on the job.
I don’t need to be employed. I have several million dollars split about 50-50 between post-tax money and tax-deferred 401(k)/IRA money. Between my wife and me (mostly me), we earn about $200K+ per year. We own our house and cars clear.
I grew up poor and watch our spending carefully. Spending wisely feels good to me. I squeeze the toothpaste tube until I get out the last molecule. My kids say I dress like a homeless person. I genuinely don’t care about fashion.
How much of a role do you think growing up poor has to do with why you still work as much as you do? Is your need for security over all else the real driver for continuing to work as much as you still do?
Do you think this has anything to do with why you have such a hard time having “fun?” Is there any sense of guilt for the financial success you’ve experienced?
Have you thought about how much would be “enough” where you can relax a bit (even if it doesn’t mean you retire fully)? Does that concept interest you at all?
I’m not driven much by money anymore. I have enough.
I published my first book when I was in my early 30s and it was a bit of a paradigm shifting work. Since then, I’ve written several books and hundreds of journal papers and conference presentations and serve on many important committees. As one woman put it, I’m a “rock star” in our industry.
Yet, while I’m a small-niche celebrity, I blend in seamlessly in my hometown. Why would I want to stop contributing to my profession and the world in general, and instead spend my time trying to get to the next level in Mario brothers?
Publishing another journal paper that advances the state-of-the-art is more “fun” to me than killing a deer. Having a foreign graduate student approach me at a conference to ask for my autograph while giving me a small gift is more “fun” than lying on the beach getting sunburned.
I have all the “stuff” that I need, and my biggest problem is where to put it all. I doubt we’ll outlive our money and “you can’t take it with you”, so we’re really just working to give the money to our kids (and some charities) that they hopefully won’t waste.
What would I do if I retire? I spend between 30-60 min per day running (slowly these days) or biking. After that, what?
I don’t hunt or fish or golf or boat or play video games. There is almost nothing worth watching on TV. During my career, I’ve travelled just about every place I would ever want to go. If you see the inside of one plane, you’ve seen them all.
I have a nice group of friends and relatives that I can call and visit. The only things on my bucket list are things I can’t directly control (e.g., have more grandkids).
Related: Living a Purposeful Life After Retirement
Are there any new skills you would like to learn, places you would like to see or experience? There’s much more to travel than the inside of an airplane such as different cultures, foods, history, architecture, natural environments, etc.
Are there relationships you would like to foster?
If nothing outside of working in your career interests you, have you considered why that is? Is it something you’re comfortable exploring?
To me travel is about 95% trying to do things like ask “Where’s the men’s room?” in Italian. And 5% “Wow, look at the leaning tower!” It’s not worth the trouble.
I’m learning new skills every day. As colleagues from my generation retire or die, I’m building new relationships with the next generation and serving as a mentor to many younger professionals.
While I admit to workaholic tendencies, not all my time is spent on work. My family is my highest priority. I wish they lived closer.
I have a lot of friends in the running/biking community. Until recently, I served on the board of directors of our local running club.
I’m on an advisory committee for a local university and the maintenance crew for our local rails-to-trails organization. Regularly I’m out there with my chain saw or shovel keeping the trails in great shape.
And we still have time for social friends. For example, I still regularly see my oldest friend. We lived across the street from one another when we were born and went through grade school, little league, etc. together.
When I try to have “fun”, I have to ask people around me “Am I having fun yet?” While when I solve problems at work, I think, “This is fun.”
Occasionally the grass may look greener on the other side of the fence, but I’ve found it almost never is.
This realization that the “grass isn’t always greener” is a key lesson for those on the fastest path to FIRE. It’s something I’ve shared openly in my writing.
However, I’ll push back a bit and ask if you’re putting in 60 hours a week, how much of that time is devoted to the “fun” part? Is there truly nothing in the world you would rather be doing?
I try to be the person who brings fun to our work environment. I’m sort of the Dilbert on our team. I try to leave people smiling when I interact with them. The amount of time I spend on administrative BS is tolerable.
But if you’re on this site, you’re interested in my investment strategy. It’s simply “be lucky and don’t do anything stupid.”
Mainly, I’ve been in the right place at the right time. I worked for an established privately held company that gave out stock options. When they went public, I moved to the next level of financial independence.
As far as my current investment strategy is concerned, I’m trying to gradually divest from my company stock because I need to increase my diversification in general. It’s a good stock but I own too much of it and I lost a lot of money in the recent market downturn because of it.
I’m generally investing in low risk stocks, like utilities and Vanguard funds. To get through any short term downturns, I have over $100K in FDIC insured CDs with varying maturity dates. I’m more interested in protecting assets than growing them.
While Medicare costs are high because of our income, we have received more than we have paid in. My wife has survived cancer, a heart attack (with a life-flight helicopter ride), bunions, knee replacement…. and living with me! We have paid almost nothing out-of-pocket for deductibles or co-pays some time now.
Unless there is a general collapse of society or we do something really stupid, my wife and I can probably go about 50 years before we run out of money.
That was an interesting answer to that question. I appreciate your willingness to share some financial details, and certainly some readers will as well.
But what I’m really fascinated by is the idea that you emailed me about originally, that there is nothing in your life that you would want to do aside from the job you’ve always done.
I suppose that could mean you were one of a very fortunate few who stumbled into THE thing they were meant to do in life. Or maybe it means that you’ve never been willing to explore deeper questions and take on bigger challenges.
Or maybe as with many things in life, the truth lies somewhere between these two extremes. Any thoughts on that?
All I really want is to watch my kids and grandkids grow up to be successful and happy. If I can leave them a few dollars, all the better.
After that, my next biggest goal is to be a multiple organ donor, but I can wait for that. It’s sort of a one-way street.
Bottom line is that you don’t need to retire to be happy. I have reached the state that the Japanese refer to as ”Ikigai” (see the image at the top of the post) where that which:
- you love to do
- you are good at
- the world needs
- you get paid for
All come together.
Once you reach Ikigai, the question is “why stop?”
I want to thank this reader for sharing a different viewpoint than what you normally read here, where the motto in the header reads “Save More, Invest Smarter, Retire Sooner.”
You may be surprised to learn that, while this reader’s values and the path he chose are far different than the one I have chosen, I agree with a good bit of what he says. He offers important insights to consider.
The Important Role of Work
In my original career as a physical therapist, I had the chance to work with many people who were dealing with age related mobility, medical, and cognitive issues. My observations caused me to question my assumptions as I was heading down the path to early retirement.
Many of the people who I admired and who were vibrant into their old age were still doing meaningful work into their 70’s and even 80’s. At the same time, many others in their age cohort who retired had withdrawn from society. They seemed to lack purpose and declined into old age more rapidly.
I agree with this reader’s idea that we should find activities, which may include paid work, that challenge, engage, and fulfill us into traditional retirement age and beyond. Being paid for these activities can have a second benefit, creating a mindset of abundance, rather than one of scarcity. That sense of scarcity is common amongst those who are natural savers and need to spend from a portfolio.
Related: Retirement Mindset Shift — Saver to Spender
At the same time, I can’t imagine being so consumed by my work that I would want to continue to put in the type of work schedule that this reader maintains into his 70’s. I specifically did not want my life to revolve around work in my 40’s. I have a young child, my health, and a number of things outside my original career I want to explore and accomplish.
It’s Not All or None
Often, we get caught up in the notion of working as hard as we can and saving as much as we can to retire as soon as we can. Then we get to our goal, and realize that it is not what we were hoping for.
This reader’s point about the grass not always being greener is spot on. I thank him for calling out this fallacy and challenging readers pursuing the fastest path to FIRE.
I also agree “you don’t need to retire to be happy.” The idea that retirement will make you happy is another fallacy that needs to be debunked.
However, I’m not sure how many people can reach the state of “Ikigai” that this reader ascribes to. It is especially rare to find this type of work at a young age and do it your whole life. For most, this creates unrealistic expectations of a job.
Retiring early from a career that pays well but does not fulfill you does not mean you have to retire fully from all paid work for the remainder of your life. Maybe it allows you to shift to more meaningful but lower paid or even unpaid work. You could also continue your current work at a more sustainable pace (part-time, sabbaticals, etc.). Decisions can look different when not driven by the need for more money.
Related: Taking Stock of Your Life and Finances
Many people can find a happy middle ground between the dichotomy of retiring as early as possible OR having your life revolve around work into your 70’s and beyond. But it requires thinking outside of the box.
That box you’re stuck in may be the standard thinking of consumerism, achievement, and/or never having enough. Or it may be the box of FIRE thinking that says we need to save and invest every dollar to retire as soon as possible.
Either can be a trap. It is easy to wake up one day and realize life has passed you by. I hope this blog serves as a frequent reminder to not let that happen.
Related: Redefining Retirement
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[Chris Mamula used principles of traditional retirement planning, combined with creative lifestyle design, to retire from a career as a physical therapist at age 41. After poor experiences with the financial industry early in his professional life, he educated himself on investing and tax planning. Now he draws on his experience to write about wealth building, DIY investing, financial planning, early retirement, and lifestyle design at Can I Retire Yet? Chris has been featured on MarketWatch, Morningstar, U.S. News & World Report, and Business Insider. He is also the primary author of the book Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence. You can reach him at email@example.com.]
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I retired at 58 and even though the pandemic has ruined my travel plans, I do not regret it.
I feel free, so free! I get up at 0400 (No alarm clock) and fully enjoy my day.
I sold my house and got rid of my car. No debt and no financial worries.
My life goal has always been “Peace and Tranquility” and I have exactly that.
I still enjoy doing what I did at work (Tech) but now I do it because I want to, because I love it and not because I am told to do it.
Most of all I do not miss the people; The drama, the politics, the power games, the nastiness.
I can see that people that hate the thought of retirement most likely are workaholics, money obsessed, have a deep need of the people interaction a workplace brings, cannot stand to be next to their significant other all day, or simply have no interests outside of work. To each its own.
Financial independence, by the way, does not mean you have to be a mega-millionaire.
My number one advice, stay out of debt. Live (And enjoy life) within your means. Otherwise, it is all live now and pay later.
The younger you apply it the better, but don’t despair, I did not follow this until my early 50’s. Then I saw the light and still managed to retire early (And live happy and comfortably).
Congratulations to the 70 year old never retiree. However, I would venture to guess he is less than a tenth of 1 percent of the rest of us. Sounds like he doesn’t have office politics or “woke” BS to put up with. I loved my position too, but after 45 years in manufacturing working for a large well known corporation I had enough of the stress, politics, etc. If I could consult on a part-time basis I would, but afraid it would lure me back to the 60+ hour week and similar situation. I enjoy awakening at 8 am instead of 4 am and not missing the commute either. Anyway to each his own. My 2 c.
I don’t necessarily disagree with this person and he shouldn’t be criticized for the path he’s chosen. I held a traditional full-time W-2 employment position until I was 68 and followed that up with a few years of consulting work until the pandemic hit. The main reason I “retired” from my regular job was because I was forced out since my employer was able to hire 2 millennials for what I was getting paid after about twenty years with the company. Had that not occurred, I would have very likely continued to work as long as my health allowed, hopefully well into my late 70s or later. I like to work, and I liked my project management work but I’m not a workaholic. I never liked going on long vacations (especially during my years of self-employment because I was not able to bill when on vacation) and much prefer multiple 3 to 5 day trips throughout the year to get recharged. I’m about to turn 74 and am still passively looking for the perfect position or consulting gig to come along.
Great point of view. It makes me wonder if he has developed this relaxed job attitude because he no longer HAS to work. The stress of debt and paychecks takes a lot of fun out of work.
Excellent point. My thoughts exactly. I can attest to this from personal experience. I can put up with a lot of BS at work now (and I do) because I am no longer living paycheck-to-paycheck. You hit it right on the head. A lot of daily stress when one HAS to work.
Great discussion from an interesting perspective! In setting my goals, I always wanted to “be able to” retire if I want at an early age or said a little simpler, not HAVE to work. I am at a point of FI, but not abundance enough to not worry about whether it is enough, mostly from current age 59, until 65 due to healthcare costs.
I just don’t want to be working after 62, however, just recently discovered that I haven’t got enough purpose in my life to leave the workforce and stay vital and engaged. So, now that stresses me out more than having enough money. Go figure! Your damed if you do and if you don’t!
That will need to be my focus the next two years, to find or rediscover interests that will keep me vital during retirement.
Thanks for the interesting post!
This is an absolutely brilliant discussion. The first thing I would like to point out is, having grown up outside of this country, I am always struck by how much everything here revolves around money. When we asses a person’s finances, we call it his/her “net worth”. Well, “net wealth” should be the appropriate term, why are we trying to connect the bank account with the worth of a person? People worry about their retirement accounts, but in the end they have either more than they need or their kids should get, or not enough, and neither of them is of course optimal.
In my case it will likely be the former, and by a wide margin, also because my wife’s income is similarly high as mine. Together our “net wealth” is approaching eight figures, half pre-tax and half post-tax, but essentially all self-made, with a retirement “strategy” of saving what we don’t immediately need in index funds and “not doing anything stupid”. So we simply don’t even really worry about it, and largely don’t care about that aspect at all, except that now we have to worry a bit how to put these funds to the best use for humanity later.
My profession, and my status about ikigai, match very closely that of the original poster, so I can fully understand what he means about the fulfillment that comes in the center of that diagram. I also have hundreds of publications and many books to my credit, have seen most corners of the world, raised many smart and nice new PhDs who are now carrying on the torch of research life, and really enjoy my work as something deeply meaningful and enriching and worth doing.
I differ a little with the original poster about experiencing other cultures, which is something I have also already done very extensively as part of my career travels, but which I personally want to do more of in the coming years (Covid hasn’t helped with that at all, unfortunately). I am also very interested in classical music, both actively and passively, and want to pursue more of that. But again, the key point is that I simply want to continue doing what I am doing. In my case, it is actually not so much measurable in hours, and both in my work and my private life, I rather feel like somebody walking along a beach all day long, curious to see what the last high tide has washed ashore. Most of my good work ideas come from such leisurely drifting and tossing around thoughts that float in and out of consciousness, and I don’t really separate “work hours” and “fun hours” at all. My thoughts flow freely during these beach walks, and they latch onto whatever my brain is currently interested in, be it “work” or “private”.
It is also worth noting that ikigai for the Japanese themselves is a bit richer and broader than that diagram seen frequently in Western circles suggests, and it can have very different manifestations for different people. My wife is Japanese and in the same profession and work group I am in, so we pretty much have reached our own ikigai together, working on the same things, and spending our “private” time chatting about both the “private” things and the “work” things that interest us at the moment. But I see lots of different ways to reach such a state in her relatives over there, and each in their own environment, are close to that center. From what I gather it is rather tightly connected to the wider cultural thinking rooted in Buddhist tradition, with the appreciation of nature, awareness, and general appreciation that Shinto brings to play mixed in, and the whole concept of leading a good life (achieving high “net worth” in the true sense) is more naturally instilled into people by relatives and schools.
As was said by one person here, to each his own. But I’m gonna be blunt on this subject. The only good reason to work past a certain age is that you need the money. Two things I experienced when I “retired” a year ago. One, I had a lot of time not to problem solve because work is largely problem solving. Paradoxically sitting still, letting go of that mode of thinking is harder. There are a lot of smart people who can’t sit still and come up with seemingly sane answers why they shouldn’t. I am telling them to learn to sit still and then you can make healthy decisions about what you want to do with your life.
Second is basking in being a “rock star.” I was tops in my profession. When I retired there was no longer a chorus of people telling me how amazing I was. So I worked through that and came out the other side.
These days I volunteer for things I enjoy. I live in Colorado, at 75 I go to the gym 3-4 times a week, I hike, I’m learning to fly fish, we travel to NM, AZ, Utah. I don’t think my wife and I will run out of active things to do in these 4 states alone.
My bottom line here is if you don’t learn to be still, need to problem solve a lot and get mucho kudos for that, and don’t want to look at that behavior, you will work till you drop.
I think I agree with you more than not, with a few caveats.
1.) I don’t believe it is my job, your’s, or anyone else’s to “tell them to…” anything. We’re all different and we all need to make our own decisions. I’m just trying to prompt people to think at a deeper level and have better conversations.
2.) I agree with the importance of learning to be still. But I think you make this sound easy. It may be for you, but I suspect doing the inner work it requires would be the hardest thing many people have ever done in their lives, and often not something we can do without a great support system and/or possibly professional help as we start to peel back the layers and truly find what is underneath.
Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.
I thought about not using the “tell” word, so agree with you on that. On the difficulty of learning to sit still, it’s never been easy for me, but I’m motivated because the alternative comes from a place I don’t want to feed. We remain a can do culture, where perhaps the only sanctioned “ism” is workaholism. But it’s still an ism.
I don’t go out of my way to “tell” people anything, but this guy so gleefully shared his rationale I couldn’t hold back this time. In truth, once you’re a make it happen person, you can never really turn it off. Believe me, this I know.
Your experience is similar to my wife and my own. Speaking for myself I also worked through the notion of no longer being a rock star, although in all honesty I had checked out of work mentally years before retiring, regardless of success. It has been 8 years now and I still work out every day if possible, we travel 4-5 months out of the year mostly to SC, FL, NC, LA, and our home state of TN, do all my own investing, and all the work I can handle on our large property before needing the pros (for example, I do electrical and a lot of plumbing among all the routine tasks, but I won’t do something like replace the roof). We go out to eat a lot and generally stay busy doing as much as possible. The need to work is not there and baring some total collapse it never will be.
Come on. This approach fits this person why? Because he has enough money!! I believe that many average senior Americans HAVE to keep working so they can survive in retirement. It sounds like this person has a job he loves and that it doesn’t feel like a job. For that, he must feel blessed. But again, I think a majority of people are doing a job they may like, not love, and that they dream of not having to wake up every day thinking first about what they need to do for their job. That’s my opinion FWIW.
You confuse average Americans with the average reader of this blog. When Darrow did a survey a few years ago, the average reader was in their early 50’s and with well over a million dollar net worth. So amongst this audience, I think issues like purpose, meaning, identity, relationships, etc. are often at least as big if not bigger factors when answering Can I Retire Yet? than simply asking Do I have enough money to not run out before I die? I would agree that the latter is the dominant question in the population at large.
The reader demographics of this blog and the author is why this site is so awesome. I rarely read mainstream media now since blog sites like these present much more relevant and insightful content for me.
Great read! I enjoyed the exchange of ideas. I can relate to both opinions! I’m in my early 70s as busy as I have ever been just with responsibilities I enjoy more than the ones I had when I was working full time.
A couple of thoughts as I read that. 1) He’s very lucky! 2) he wishes he family was nearer 3) no comments about his wife feels about all of this 🙂
If he wants to see his family more, seems like retirement would allow for that. They could travel w/o dealing with tourists and foreign languages, rent a place for weeks/a month, and be slow tourists in that area while affording them the opportunity to see their family more frequently or for longer periods of time.
It’s wonderful that he’s so fulfilled and active. Truly! I hope his wife feels the same way. But man, those grandkid comments make me feel that retirement would open up a lot possibilities.
I had nearly the same thoughts about being able to see family more and also about the spouse.
That said, it is possible that he has a good read on the situation. While he may desire more time, we can’t assume he would be welcome to spend weeks or months at a time. We also don’t know how the wife feels, but it was noted that she continues to work as well. I tried to prompt a bit more with my questions, but I can’t force anyone to go where they do not care to go.
Often if you check in with the spouse, children and grandkids you get a fuller picture of how things are.
I completely agree. These were my thoughts too and was scanning comments to see if someone would address this.
He wants more time with family but they don’t live close. More time would allow him to visit with them or stay close by for a time. And absolutely, does his wife share this sentiment.
I agree stay working if you love what you do and it fulfills you and nice to not be doing it because you have to financially. What a great position to be in. Would be nice to balance that…maybe consult, work less of the year or some hybrid version of that. Many people continue to contribute to society well unto their 80’s and beyond.
Awesome Chris as usual. Thanks for engaging this gentleman and getting him to go a little deeper into his journey. The different perspectives are awesome. Lots to ponder…..take what you like and leave the rest as they say.
“My identity is tied to my profession and I’m not sure what I would do if I did retire”
This is it right here. It’s all you really need to read to see this person’s perspective.
It all comes down to if you feel you can live a meaningful, fulfilling life without a boss or customer telling you what do to (and make no mistake, people who are “their own boss” are still completely beholden to their customers).
The difference is that he views his inability to do so as a point of pride.
I view it as a flaw that I’m glad I don’t have.
I just find it unusual to be so certain that there is no other setting where one could apply their skills/experience but in a reduced schedule or for a non-profit setting and be fulfilled similarly.
Working in a professional capacity 60 hours a week is a lot. That’s 12 hour days M-F or 10 hours every day of the week? I don’t care how much someone is fulfilled with a job, that does not seem sustainable for anyone, let alone in your last 1/4 of your life.
It’s wonderful to be fulfilled, regardless of how it’s done, I suppose. However, it seems impossible to know what “retirement” is like until you try. Assumptions could be incorrect.
A great alternative view I can very much appreciate and identify with. Turning 60 next week. Wife and I have been FI for several years but for the most part I enjoy the daily rat race. Looking at alternatives, part time, consultant etc. Thanks glad to know there are others that feel the same way.
Wow! Reading your 70-year-old’s comments was almost deja vu for me! I had that exact conversation with someone about 8 years ago. Once I knew I was retiring (in 2014), I had several conversations with people my age (58 at the time). One person in particular said the exact same thing: no hobbies, no golf, no hunting, no fishing, etc. He said he would never retire. Well, long story short, he never did retire. He was wheeled out of work on a gurney after having a fatal heart attack a few years later.
Maybe he was satisfied with that exit. Maybe not. We’ll never know. But it made me very sad. To think that a job made anyone happier than being on one’s own schedule, doing their own thing. Even though I retired at age 58, knowing I could have continued working indefinitely, I never looked back. Now, 8 1/2 years later, my only regret is that I didn’t leave earlier! To me, being in charge of your own time, at your own pace and answering to no one else, is priceless.
I think many people are scared to change their routine. That’s natural, especially after doing it for many years. The money part is far down the list of concerns for people that have enough. This person certainly fit that description.
I tell people “yes, retiring is entering uncharted waters, but give yourself at least a year or two to adjust”. For those that want to fill their day with events, you’ll have no problem finding things to do, if that’s what you want. For me, I love my leisurely schedule;
Up by 7:00, coffee and morning news on tv, gym time from 10-12, followed by some assortment of a movie, spending time with grandchildren, going to the library, reading papers or magazines, grilling dinner, yard work, etc.
Pretty simple lifestyle now, but how could I ever do these things if I continued working? Did I envision this schedule before I retired? Hell no! But I adapted and now I love it. Especially the grandchildren part. I cherish every moment with them and think, if I was still working, how many, many of those moments would not have happened.
I don’t know if you’re 70-year-old mentioned anything about family, but if he did have family, then it’s even sadder, in my opinion.
My 2 cents,
Thanks for this post KingJoey — I’m 58 and plan to retire at the end of the year (at 59). I’m not really at all concerned about losing my identity — I am an IT desk jockey and am “on-call” 25% of my life for the last 20+ years. I will happily leave that behind.
Your description of your day sounds great. It made me think that all of those things were important to you before, but you had to squeeze them in along with our professional duties. I literally JUST this morning thought about taking my time to accomplish my personal goals after retirement. I was finishing up my morning walk when I ran into a neighbor walking her dog. She’s recently had a few personal and health challenges and it was nice to chat with her. I look forward to the time I don’t have to worry about being late to a meeting when having those encounters. Or taking 2 hours at the gym instead of squeezing it in before work or between work and dinner. The idea of not being in a hurry is alone exciting, lol!
One more take on your 70-year-old subject: All of us collecting social security should be cheering on all the well-set older workers like them. They continue paying 12.4% of their incomes into the social security system (6.2% each plus the employer’s 6.2%). And they’re not taking anything out! Making their stated 200k a year equals about 25k, or about what I collect each year! Keep working, please! I’ll think of you every month when my check SS is received! Thank you!
Great post, thank you Chris! It’s always good to get different thoughts even if they are different from my own. My wife and I were on a slightly less aggressive but similar path, planning to work until our late 60’s despite being FI in our 50’s as we liked our jobs and team mates. But when our parents took a turn for the worse in their later years we decided to retire at 58 so we could concentrate on keeping them in their homes, which was their desire. It worked out, with our help they spent their final years at home. Now that they’ve passed we have a reset, and have not decided whether to return to work in our early 60’s. Time will tell, but probably not anything other than volunteer work or part time paid work.
But the key point, made by others above, is that if we hadn’t been FI this would not have been possible.
One of the best things FI gives you is flexibility.
I like to think of FIRE as Financial Independence Recreational Employment meaning you work at only what you enjoy only as much as you want. The author has clearly done that- he is an inspiration to us all!
I turned 70 this week, retired from a State of Fla public school district (35 yrs) in 2014, then a one year gig at a non-profit in 2015. Between pensions, SS and our investment portfolio income, wifey and I are what I call “very comfortable”. I volunteered at my grandsons’ private school for 5 years and then got bored, bored, BORED! For the past year I’ve been a transport driver at our local car auction. I’m one of the youngest out there, with a couple of exceptions. I laugh hard every day due to our cutting up and joking. We’re a bunch of old guys acting like we are still in Jr. High. I can take off when I want for extended periods and still come back to work. We travel several times a year. Wifey is occupied with lots of activities along with her aging parents who relocated here 4 years ago. Life is good. Happy to be back in the “work/play force”.
I understand that if you’re fulfilled by your work you should keep it. I’m interested as to the fact he had it in a job, as opposed to starting his own business.
I always thought that bosses would get in the way of autonomy and therefore happiness. I’m glad to see he feels fulfilled as an employee…
Starting a business has many perks, but there is definitely something to be said for putting in your time for someone else and being able to turn it off when you go home. That may be especially true if you tend to have workaholic tendencies as the writer admits to.
Could be..sadly my workaholic tendencies make me check emails all evening and weekends as an employee…and due to the profession are a requirement of the job (investment banking), but I wouldn’t want to do it till 70. Perhaps my own aspirations of a business clouds my thinking on being an employee forever.
I would have found this more interesting if we had known what his job is. I kept looking for clues as I was reading — sales exec? Professor? Builds drones? — and that kind of distracted me from his message. I think I would have understood his interest in his job better if I had known what he does.
I agree, but it was his story to tell and he really wanted to make sure he maintained anonymity, so didn’t want to offer those types of details.
Software developer but I’ve worked as a university professor and utility manager/director.
It seems to me that in my parents’ generation, retirement began at age 65 and was viewed as the end of something. You no longer worked, and now spent time enjoying simple, but mundane, pleasures – working in your garden or your woodworking shop, or playing cards with the neighbors. In today’s society, what is called retirement may begin at almost any age, and is often viewed as not the end, but a new beginning – a new job, travel adventures or entrepreneurial opportunities. But in almost any article you read about a happy, healthy and fulfilling retirement, certain key factors are mentioned repeatedly – (1) financial security, (2) maintaining your health, (3) finding a sense of purpose, (4) fostering social connections.
Let’s call the subject of your interview “Lucky” – because I really think he is. (Chris, if you ever do this type of interview again, maybe you could assign a pseudonym so we can latch on to some kind of identity rather than “this guy” or “the reader.” Thanks for considering!) Lucky has (1) attained financial security for himself and his wife, providing them with options and the freedom to live life as they wish. (2) In dealing with health issues, it sounds like both he and his wife are addressing those issues as they arise and Lucky, at least, remains physically active. How many of us at his age are out clearing trails with shovels and chains saws? (Mrs. Lucky’s status, unknown.) (3) Lucky’s life has all kinds of purpose with his job at the top of the list. He remains enthusiastically passionate about the creative problem-solving that seems to be the crux of his position. He enjoys his work AND enjoys making the workplace a better one for his colleagues. I love the fact that he considers mentoring his younger colleagues an important part of his work life. In addition to “work,” he makes time to volunteer for projects that are close to his heart. That’s a win-win for everyone. (4) He has maintained a childhood friendship all these years, and he comments that he and his wife still spend time with friends. He certainly enjoys the interactions with his colleagues and remains an active part of the running and biking communities. As a bonus, his financial wherewithal will allow Lucky and Mrs. Lucky to change their lifestyle if and when they choose to do so.
I recently read an article from Johns Hopkins that noted “research has shown that leaving the working world behind can boost the risk for heart disease and other medical conditions by 40 percent in some retirees. Experts believe a lack of purpose and social connection in retirement could be a trigger for physical and mental health issues.” Maybe Lucky’s right; maybe he’s the kind of person who would die in a few months if he left the workforce behind. I’ve known a number of them.
Lucky has achieved what so many of us aspire to: a life rich in pleasure, people and purpose. He’s exceptionally, well, lucky. But much of his success is due to knowing himself and following his heart. He is the kind of person I would love to have as a friend, family member, colleague or neighbor. I appreciate his sense of humor and his attitude toward life and happiness. And I offer Lucky a standing ovation because, although he may not technically be retired, he’s living a happy and satisfying life in his retirement years that many people can only dream about.
My apologies for the long comment, Chris. I read this post yesterday morning and thought about it all day. I just couldn’t NOT put this out there.
Thanks for chiming in Mary. Your long comments are welcome.
I agree with what you’ve written for the most part, but I’m still struggling with the lack of any inclusion about his wife’s thoughts on their plans for retirement or non-retirement. Even a sentence that says “my wife is in total agreement about this plan”, would have been sufficient.
I agree that his mind/body may be much better off remaining in the workforce if nothing else interests him. Still wondering about the impact of that decision to his partner/family.
So much is written about retirement and how it impacts a relationship. Would have been different to hear how “non-retirement” impacts one too.
My wife is retired and her goal is to more closer to our latest grandchild. Now he’s two hours away. Since I work from a home office, we should eventually be able to do this.
Wow, another one. I had a boss that was a workaholic also. Even though this guy talks about family first, how is that possible working 60hrs/week and volunteer work.
One of my old bosses was the same way and unfortunately he expected everyone else to be like him. He always seemed to setup long meetings at end of the work day. It was a lousy working environment and we lost lots of good people and most like me transferred out to other departments. He came down with stage 4 cancer but still came to work while sucking on morphine straws. We expected and it may sound bad but frankly, we wished him to be found at his desk face down. But one day he went home on Friday and didn’t come back. You could feel the relief among the staff.
It still seems work is all that seems to make him feel valuable and special and he wont let let go. He talks about how valuable he is to the group but is he really? There are lots of older people kinda like that, as they get older and slower both physically and mentally they actually slow down the work process and are actually a drag on the staff workload. Maybe he is one of the few that can still keep up. But without talking to his fellow workers or his family about how they feel, we will never know.
I have seen too many people stay on at work way past their time and then they retired so late they didn’t get to enjoy much before health issues limited them or death took them .
My retirement planning was to support me and my wife after retirement not work myself to death for my kids or grand kids benefit. I grew up with not much also, I worked hard starting at 12 years old and saved as much as possible and retired at my first chance of full investment at 60 with money enough with my pensions and retirement accounts to support me and my wife and never looked back and feel that was the best decision I have ever made. No more daily stress. I do what I want when I want. But that’s me. All people are different so its his choice and I wont fault him but I would never make his choices.
I retired last Dec at age 53. This past week I went on a vacation with my father who is 81 and still working. He retired last year from a job refinishing antique furniture. After about 6 months he was so bored he went back to work, part-time 3 days a week. In fact his old employer sort of begged him to come back because he can’t find anyone who can do the work he did. We spent some time talking about work and retirement. He said he works because everyone his age is either dead or can’t do anything active, so he figured, I may as well go back and do what I love even if it is categorized as work. I told him I never really felt that way about my career and I admire that he still has a passion for his work at his age. He said it’s very likely he’ll die at work and he’s ok with that. He said “I’d rather drop dead sanding a piano I’m refinishing than die peacefully in bed.” I only hope I can develop the same passion he had for his work as I explore new interests in early retirement.
Hi Chris, I really appreciate and resonate with the story and comments. As a 54 person who’s FI+ but still loving the work I do it’s hard to separate the retirement aspect with enjoying the work I do. If my employer offered a 2-3 day a week position I’d take it in a heartbeat but I still want to contribute to my profession! At the same time having the flexibility to work as I want to would be very enticing unfortunately the employer I have doesn’t offer that flexibility. I could find that on my own but that hasn’t been my style historically. Hope that adds to the conversation.
I always tried to enjoy myself in my working years. But workplace drama reared it’s ugly head on ample occasions. Mixed in with the good were bad bosses, bad subordinates, bad customers, insufficient budgets, etc. My career experience was hardly unique.
While I miss some aspects of the workplace, I still feel incredibly fortunate to have left it behind in my late 50’s. Even on rainy days when I’m not doing much, I’m grateful not to be attending a meeting about the latest plan to cut costs and increase productivity.
I’ve been lucky. I’ve worked at 6 different organizations and at 5 I had great supervisors. One was just tolerable. For the past 20 years in the same job, I’ve had two supervisors and they are two outstanding individuals. Some of the best career advice I got early in my career was, “Don’t work for an asshole.”
I don’t have the same views about my work as this reader. But, as I like to say, this is America. Do what ya’ like.
But here is my two bits for you. You said, “My identity is tied to my profession and I’m not sure what I would do if I did retire–Probably die in a few months -” I personally wouldn’t want to be in that position. It seems a very fragile situation to be in. What if the company fails? What if you blow out a knee while running and can’t get to the conferences anymore? What if you have a health ailment? I’m guessing most readers on this blog look at FI for flexibility. Work, or not. Travel, or not. Retire, or not. Most readers here would adapt to whatever roadblocks pop up. I’m worried for you that one relatively minor roadblock pops up and…..”…Probably die in a few months.” Maybe you’re fine with that. But seems unfortunate when you have so many skills to offer other organizations and your family.
I was exaggerating about dying in few months. My situation is fragile but so is everyone else’s.
I’d bet my bottom dollar this man is an academic. I’m one myself. Many academics stay on the job forever, because it provides almost endless opportunities for intellectual satisfaction, the chance to interact with lots of young and bright people, and if you’re at the peak (tenured full prof, possibly with a chair, etc) you get a LOT of recognition among your peers. If you’re at a wealthy private university, you also have tremendous resources to do your job and not many service duties. So what he wrote makes perfect sense. But the vast, vast majority of people in this world aren’t academics, especially academics at wealthy universities, and imho, for them FIRE is the best way to go. My 2 cents.
My bet is that he works in software, although I concede that being an academic would press similar buttons.
I’m not a risk taker and I tend to have some issues with anxiety. With a job, I know that there will be a direct deposit every two weeks in my bank account.
If I worked for myself, the stress of running a company would not be fun.
Very interesting perspective, I have a grandmother-in-law who is 92, and still works 5 days a week….For food no less… Yes, she works at her daughter’s womens clothing store and chooses to get her pay in yesterdays lasagna, or 3 days ago chicken cordon blue. She’s simple, humble, and one of the greatest human beings I know. Your phantom emailers story reminds me of her, thank you for sharing it!
I could easily have been the writer of this alternative viewpoint. I was the “rockstar” founder of a software solution used by clients on every continent. Even after selling my company, I continued to be employed as part of a much larger organisation and was rewarded beyond my wildest dreams through high salary, bonus payments, equity and incredible travel opportunities to see my fantastic clients that were more like old friends.
Where I differ from the writer is that at 61 I did retire. Despite leaving my dream job, I am pleased to report that I have not for one minute regretted my decision. I guess the point is, that it is difficult to know how you will react to a life in retirement when you have no experience of living that life. It is absolutely not the same as just having a holiday from work.
My final point is that as one half of a married couple, the writer didn’t make any mention of his wife’s opinion on the life he has chosen. I know that when I retired, the life that my wife was living also changed significantly.
We all have our own path, and ‘Lucky’ has chosen one which seems to fulfill him. That success does indeed make him ‘Lucky.’ But, it’s not the path I chose, even though there are some career similarities (fulfilling professional career, well respected and very well compensated). I always viewed my career as a “stage” of my life, not the “essence” of my life. So, the FIRE movement resonated with me and I’ve moved on to the next stage, one not structured around spending 60+% of my available waking hours on work (no matter how fulfilling) or, on any ONE thing for that matter. I am now the master of my own calendar and have the freedom to expand my experiences into more areas and locations. While ‘Lucky’s’ approach was represented by the Ikigai venn diagram, I prefer to think of mine as a set of ever growing concentric ellipses. With FIRE, I am able to expand my life out into ever larger areas beyond work/career and see where it takes me. IMHO, this leads to a much bigger life.
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