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.