Musings on Early Retirement

It’s 11:30am, and a guy in the cube diagonal from mine has been making lots of personal calls. Speaking rather loudly. There’s also a couple of people who’ve been walking around the cubes talking about measurements. And two guys down the row keep holding a conversation over the cube walls. I’m tired enough that focus is a bit tenuous to begin with, all this extra noise is making it worse. And my work has pretty much maxed out my computer’s resources to the extent that playing music would just be asking for trouble.

It’s times like this that I wonder if all those early retirement folk have it right.

Most of the time I don’t think early retirement is for me. I don’t want to scrimp and hoard every extra dollar, or spend all my time earning more, so that I can have “freedom” in ten years. Sure, 10 years isn’t all that long but who knows what will happen in that time – I could be paralyzed in an accident, get cancer, or my bone issue could cause my joints to wear down and make physical activity extremely painful if not impossible. The first two of that list aren’t terribly likely but that last one has a decent chance of happening (I was just told to avoid sports like soccer or I will definitely wreck my knee completely).

So instead of working towards early retirement I prefer to find a balance where I still save so that I won’t have to work my entire life, but still enjoy life now.

Other reasons I’m not making early retirement a goal:

I actually like working. Sure, I don’t like every aspect to working, but they’re usually worth putting up with to some extent. Instead of focusing on getting out of the workforce my plan is simply to get better jobs, whether that means working for myself or someone else.

The amount I would need to retire now and feel comfortable would be at least $2 million. Longevity runs in my mom’s family so I could possibly have 60-70+ years of retirement – that’s a lot of unexpected expenses, inflation, etc to be able to cover. I also assume that retirement means actually retiring and not earning a paycheck. To me, retiring then going to work means you’re no longer retired (with the exception of part time work done for “fun”). Theoretically I could invest in rental properties to generate income, but managing them would be a job itself and paying a manager would be expensive.

I’m not sure retirement would be good for me. I’m socially awkward on a good day and retirement would make it far too easy to become a hermit. At least while I’m working I’m forced to go out and interact with people on occasion. I hope to eventually improve my social skills to the point where this isn’t an issue but there’s no guarantee that will ever happen.

And so I still go to work. On my weekends I ski, hike, camp, do housework, or just take it easy. When I get home from work I practice music and do other hobby stuff – or just take it easy. If I wanted to I could probably fill all that non-job time with freelance work and make a ton of extra money but I would burn out quickly. The fact that I don’t have to make that extra money would make it even harder to maintain that kind of schedule because I’m not very motivated by making money for the sake of making money.

Not everyone agrees with me, the web is full of blogs and websites dedicated to retiring as soon as possible. Some of them write as though anyone who doesn’t want to retire early is an idiot. Have I delayed retirement by buying a more expensive house? Probably, but to me it was worth it. Could I retire earlier by taking on more work? Absolutely, but I’d likely be miserable until then. Maybe I’m underestimating how great retirement is and it really is worth the sacrifice to get there as fast as possible but it’s not like I’m miserable now, in fact I generally enjoy life.

Which is why I do spend money on wants. When I job hunt I look at more than just the money. I am saving for retirement and would like to be able to do so when I’m 60 but am prepared to work until I’m 70 or later if necessary (I don’t think it will be). As I get older I might change my mind but I’m not going to make drastic changes now for a future might. I’ve found a balance that works for me and that’s really what’s important.

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