Before I started this blog, I tended to be a lurker and occasional contributor to the comments sections of other bloggers that I followed. One of those that I submitted to was Guy’s blog, Early Retirement Guy, where I made an allusion to the fact that the dream of Early Retirement wasn’t always the land of milk and honey. Guy came back to me and asked me if I’d like to elaborate on the “dark side” of the dream with a Guest Post on his site. With tongue firmly in cheek, I obliged:
The Top Ten Downsides of Financial Independence & Early Retirement
Spreadsheet Forecasting Financial Mania
The fact that you’re planning FIRE means you already probably have this disease. You spend hours modeling financial scenarios on Excel. (In fact, you spend hours formatting financial scenarios on Excel.) You ask yourself questions about how to incorporate real time stock prices into a table that you spent hours creating in the first place only to decide that it doesn’t yet quite answer your needs. You have a Google Docs spreadsheet that has so many tabs and feeds it takes three minutes to open, meaning you’re about to scrap it and start again. You have fifteen financial apps on your phone and none of them have been opened more than three times before you decided none of them were suitable for your precise circumstances. You’re thinking about learning to write an app for yourself. And then selling it for millions.
How Much is Enough?
I used to taunt one of my good mates (who was earning a fortune as a fund manager in the City) by asking him how many Mercedes he wanted in his drive? I hoped, of course, that this would disguise my envy. But unless you have amassed literally millions to retire upon, the question of “How much is enough?” to have in your retirement fund is literally unanswerable. Yes, yes, yes you can work those financial rules of thumb all you like such as only allowing a 3% post inflation growth projection in your investments, but are the Greeks aware of your plans? Is Mr Osborne about to take away that 25% tax free lump sum that you had already mentally allocated into various ISA’s, properties and drawdown schemes?
Ignoring Your Other Half’s “To do” List
This can be a near fatal error because the list will materialise quite early on in your retirement. It should be taken seriously because it is a test. You’re both aware that you both need to lead independent lives in retirement and your spouse is determined to help you in this by giving half of their routine chores to you. Tasks once easily shared become firmly lodged in your itinerary. Don’t bother asking whose turn it is to take the bins out. Weeding the garden becomes a solitary experience. Cleaning the bathroom will see you trying to identify whose hair it is as ammunition for later when you try, unsuccessfully, to redress the balance.
It’s Lonely at the Top
If you’re planning to retire before you’re forty then you need to ask yourself the following question: how much do you enjoy the company of Old Age Pensioners? Because these are the people you are going to be hanging around with. At the gym, in the Voluntary Work you sign up for, in the coffee shops early on weekday mornings, shopping in Tescos, Aldi and Lidl during the quiet times, driving slowly around the town centre in the middle of the day threatening to knock you off your bike. And you know what? You’re beginning to look and act like them. Meanwhile your previous colleagues are flirting with one another back at the office, arranging social events, five a side games, mixed rounders in the park, going to festivals and spending their pay cheques. Soon they’ll be heading for drinks after work at the trendy bar you’re now too frightened to go into. Nobody will call to invite you because they’ve forgotten you exist.
Lacking Empathy with Friends Discussing Shit at Work
If those still-working friends do invite you out, you begin to notice how much of their conversation revolves around bollocks they’re having to deal with at the office. You must resist the temptation to tell them that you couldn’t give a toss as you don’t have an office any more. On the other hand, you’d like to contribute something to the conversation, but nobody else seems to have time to read books, monitor investments, take nature walks, germinate seedlings, clean a carburetor or attend Parish council meetings. And, incredibly, you watch less TV than they do. Really, what do you have in common with these drones any more?
Drinking Heavily on a Tuesday Afternoon
My neighbour is younger than me, in his early forties, has an Aston Martin and a Ferrari in his garage, a boat at the bottom of the garden of his riverside eight bedroom house and could retire tomorrow. I’ve often asked him why he doesn’t. “Because I’d drink myself to death”, is his usual response. Another friend of mine retired early to Portugal for tax reasons. He is drinking himself to death in a beachside bar as I write, bored out his coupon. When I was working I used to fantasise about heading for a lunchtime pint with colleagues and just staying at the bar for an all day session for the fun of it. These days, I can. Be careful what you wish for, that’s all I’m saying.
Your days are endless and yours to fill. You have acres of time to do what you want. You can lie in until ten every day. You have a roof over your head. The NHS will take care of your health. You have a wealth of resources and public services to investigate, from libraries to public parks. You can survive on very little income. At one point it occurs to you are living a life quite close to that of an unemployed welfare recipient. You begin to wonder that maybe you squandered all those years in the office when you could just have signed on and let the state take care of you. As you watch the government eye the potential tax on your pension pot, your investments, your dividends and the rest, you really wonder why you gave them anything and didn’t choose just to take everything for a lifetime instead.
You Will Not Learn The Guitar
Nor the piano. Nor a foreign language. You do not have a book inside you. You will still be cooking the same five meals you always did. The six pack stomach has not replaced the middle aged spread. Your golf handicap still sits at twenty, you haven’t managed any additional sports training, you are not running five miles a day and the Lotus Position gives you piles. You find yourself pondering the fact that mastery of anything takes 10,000 hours of practice and you’ll be dead by then. Why didn’t you retire at ten years old?
The End of Holidays
I used to ache for holidays from work. I’d spend hours planning them, budgeting for them, researching them. I was earning enough that the world was my oyster. We could go almost anywhere. I relished having quality time with the family, discovering what they’d been up to while I wasn’t around. Delighting in their company. Saving a pot of money that you were going to blow with no regrets whatsoever on enjoying yourselves. How you recall the sheer bliss of expectation promised by even a Bank Holiday Weekend. There was nothing better about work than the holidays from it. Now? Now you realise that what you really, really appreciated about holidays was the break from work. It was work that made holidays so special. In retirement you realise that they’re an event that everybody else loves to bits while for you, it’s just another day in the office.
You Become Jaded with Previous Gurus
Mr Money Moustache. Mr Positivity himself, riding his bike through the streets of Longmont Colorado with nary a care in the world, the sun shining, the air crisp, and all’s well in the world. That’s because his blog’s generating a six figure income.
Jacob Fisker. So happy with his Early Retirement, reading Greek philosophy, cooking lentil surprise and resoling his hiking boots and yachting shoes. So happy. So happy that he went back to work for mental stimulation.
Financial Samurai. So caught up in your blog that you start to talk about really capitalising it into a global venture. There’s another word for that. “Work”.
Travel Bloggers: What they do might not be work, but reading their output often is.
Dave Ramsey: if you mention the financial advice to be gleaned from the Bible once more, I will personally fly to Nashville and force feed it to you.
27 thoughts on “Top Tens”
Great read. I worry that when I reach FIRE, it will feel like when I passed the bar exam. My god, what have I done?
Thanks for posting the very first comment on my site! Much appreciated.
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I was first? Neat! I look forward to reading more.
Read this first on Guy’s site. It was so funny to read, loved it.
Sums up some of the thoughts I have been having since I took a ‘freedom’ break.
Ha, loving the cynicism in this post! Will come again 🙂
I wish I hadn’t read that – there’s far too much I recognise here….
Very funny! Am looking forward to more ….
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Brilliant ! and how very true 😀 😦
very good very funny
ive come to the conclusion you should work until you physically can’t any more
you just have to find your calling, something your naturally gifted to do and then you will find pleasure in your work . we are all individually needed to contribute our talents to make society run smoothly
if you get to this point in your thinking you will be happy in your work and all the advantages of having work to do will be blessings.’
as your rightly pointed out in your article above what you’ loose’ when you escape from the workplace.
I love your blog, please keep it going! Especially your writing style (very funny but not just that) seems to strike a chord with me more than other similar blogs.
I retired early myself five years ago at the age of 41. I used to work in the City of London and decided to spend my retirement in the South of France (I am French) with my partner who conveniently works mostly from home (However I am now thinking about moving to Barcelona as, just as much as I highly value my tranquility, I’ve realized I do miss the buzz of a big city.) My original plan was (very conservatively) to retire around the age of 50, but my decision was precipitated by a redundancy and very low motivation for finding a new job and soldiering on for another ten years.
I don’t have a blog as I can’t be bothered really and also I probably can’t write as well as you. It seems potentially very time-consuming and I’m not quite sure what I would get out of it (even emotionally – not talking about anything financial), and of course I’m not bored otherwise. Anyway. Make sure you continue yours, though, as I enjoy it!
I do wonder a lot whether my situation is common or not in the UK, US and other Western countries, as I find very few echoes of it on the Internet. I find it difficult to relate personally to good (and therefore successful) bloggers on topics like early retirement and financial independence because I don’t share their drive for one all-consuming hobby like writing or related online businesses. Instead I have enjoyed slowing down my life, which was the point of early retirement for me. Perhaps there is a large community of people like me all around us, but it’s mostly silent and invisible?
All this to say that I do feel a bit lonely as per one of your points above, but not painfully lonely (I’m quite happy in my new life on the whole), more perplexed about questions like whether I am an exceptionally wise guy or a fool who sabotaged his previously “successful” life.
With already five years’ experience of early retirement, I can say that your list of top ten downsides above is really spot on (even if it is in jest to a degree, but I’d say there is really more depth to it than it seems), and hilariously written, BUT, in my opinion, it is really not that bad at all compared with the horror of full-time work in an office!
Sorry for the long-winded comment – let’s call it a mini blog post as I don’t have a blog, and I hope you don’t mind me piggybacking on yours like this.
I am one of these silent, invisible early retirees. I retired at age 40, now six years ago. No regrets; I am enjoying it immensely. I think it depends on your personality type. I am INTP so I can quite easily manufacture my own entertainment, staving off boredom. In fact I found work boring. I am married with kids and solitary by nature anyway so I am not bothered by loneliness. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have friends who are early retirees also but since I don’t I have to seek out their blogs and blog comments and make do with that instead. 🙂 If you are very social and always looking for a mountain to climb, early retirement may not be for you. If you are more of a solitary dreamer who enjoys walks and just watching the wheels go round and round, then you may benefit from this lifestyle. Of course other types might as well, but I can only speak to myself and my experience.
Thanks for your reaction to my comment, very interesting indeed. I’ve never done the test to know my “type” but I’m quite similar to you I think, a “a solitary dreamer who enjoys walks” etc. I do also have a more sociable facet to me, but often it feels enough for me to sit at a café terrace and just watch people around me, I don’t need to actually hang out with people. Or sometimes I do yearn for friends that I could share more things with. It depends of my mood of the day, really. I run an international Meetup.com hiking group in Montpellier and this goes a long way towards providing me with the degree of social life I feel I need. It takes up all my Sundays (so people who work can attend, not just retirees, and in fact I get quite a lot of young people on my group), but this doesn’t bother me or my partner as of course Sunday is basically a day like any other for me (my partner is also at home most of the time).
We don’t have any children, or plans to have any in all probability (although I thought we might have one when I stopped working, but I didn’t care very much either way), and I always thought doing what I did would be more difficult with children because there would be a lot of pressure (self-imposed or otherwise) to earn more money beyond what’s strictly necessary in order to improve one’s descendants own prospects in life, as it were (in spite of Mr. Money Mustache saying otherwise in his blog). But I haven’t gone done this path myself, so I don’t know what it feels like.
YES I had those thoughts , have you been reading my mind . Heres another one, those quiet weekend breaks in those lovely places where you go to recharge your batteries i bet those places would be just boring lonely places. Magic post fantastic well done
Great post Jim. The grass isn’t always greener, but I’ll sit on the fence until I decide what I want from FIRE.
Will be back
Very enjoyable post with a little too much truth for comfort. The meaning of life does seem rather elusive…
Delighted to have discovered your blog (via Monevator). Great post, it might be a positive if a few folks overlook your humour and are put off FIRE – we need to hear them whinge about work to remind us what we are missing😉
Why would anyone accept a job list from their other half?
A little conversation along the lines of “If you want that done, fine go ahead and do it. I’m not doing it”.
As for Money Moustache, well that site gets 2 new posts a month. So it’s barely worth going there any more. Does this really generate 100k a year ?
Thanks for the dose of reality! Now I’m eagerly awaiting the post where you discuss how you handle each of these obstacles 🙂
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Thanks for the “dark wisdom”. Six months to go and most worried about your “It’s lonely at the top” syndrome – feeling out of place until my friends retire in 5-10-15 years.
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I’m currently in process of doing the early semi-retirement thing (about 3-4 years in after retiring at age 42). Quality of life is much better now than when I was burnt-out in the corporate world. However, I will say that finding meaningful ways to spend days is difficult. Now I’m not saying that what I was doing working in the office was highly meaningful – it was not – , but like you mention, simply having the time to pursue what I want is not a panacea. It’s almost as if a good retirement requires more discipline than I expected. I’d wager that many who retire early realize that the externally imposed constraints of a regular job mask an underdeveloped sense of self-direction. At least that’s the case for me.
It’s me, Goddamn it! Ha. After 5 years of flailing about, I started up a new business – primarily to maintain a sense of relevance and to keep my mind busy. Retirement is not for me.
Hi Jim, I know what you mean. Starting your own business. Now that’s not working for The Man, is it? That’s a positive retirement choice in my (new) book! Thanks for dropping by.
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Thanks for the vaguely horrifying insight into what awaits my FIRE. At 42 I’m 6 weeks and 5 days (want the hours and minutes?) away from my last day at Collosso Tax Dodgers Corp UK, and 5 days after that beleaguered engineer will join me. Our paid income will be zero. I can only assume my silent horror at seeing a 2.5% reduction in my net worth over the last few weeks is not a positive sign that I will relax into burning down my capital on monthly basis like it’s a comfortable chair by the fire. Maybe I need to switch the cell back ground on discretionary spend from beige to amber?