What I Mean By Early Retirement

Telling people you want to retire soon when you’re in your early 30’s really bugs people.

I’ve been spending a fair bit of time these days getting my financial house in order and making plans for the future. One of the ideas I’m investigating is to “retire” in 3 years. The most common reaction when I’ve tried to talk to people about this is outrage (“how dare a guy in his early 30’s even THINK about retirement!!!”).

Part of this comes, I think, from our society’s protestant work ethic and the idea that its just plain wrong for someone not to want to toil for 40 hours a week to secure the necessities of life. Working hard is placed on a pedestal in Western society, with near universal contempt for those who inherit wealth and decide not to work (or that super-small, ultra-minute, potentially-imaginary subset of homeless people who just decide not to work without having an inheritance).

Another part of it probably comes from jealousy (“Why should I have to work hard when you don’t?”) and part of it comes from the expectation that you follow the proscribed path through life in a Western country (high school in your teens, university in your early 20’s, crappy jobs as you start working leading to ever higher quality/paying jobs and eventual retirement at 65). Shaving a few years off of any one of these stages is noble, but forging your own path is viewed with great suspicion.

A while ago a woman called in to Suze Orman and said that her parents had retired young (at around 40), blown through all their savings, and at 65 were basically impoverished. They then told their daughter that she had to support them in their golden years (since they’d raised her). The woman asked Suze what she owed her parents. Suze’s response, which I agree with, is that the parents behaved quite foolishly, and the daughter has ever right to tell them they have to get by on social security if they don’t want to get part-time jobs.

The unfortunate aspect of all this hostility is that I think people misunderstand what I’m after. I’m not planning to spend the next 70 years wearing a wife beater and watching Matlock (which is what, I’m lead to believe, retirement mostly entails). My goal is basically to escape wage slavery (I’m a capitalist who believes in wage slavery – go figure!) and to be able to live life on my own terms without having to feel dependent on anyone else for the necessities of life (or for a large enough pay-check to purchase the necessities of life). I hate to feel beholden to anyone (I’d make an awful trophy wife) and most 9-5 jobs and contract work makes me feel exactly this way (“if I upset this person they may fire me and make my life unpleasant”). Basically I want to have a “welfare-eque safety net” of monthly cash payments that will cover the necessities of life that I’ve provided for myself rather than relying on that provided by society.

If I get to the point that I can cover my cost-of-living from passive investments, my first action would probably be to put on a wife beater and spend the next 2 months watching every episode of every Star Trek series, in order (see, I’m not going to waste my life!!!). After that I’ll probably spend another 2 months drinking coffee and reading. Once I’m bored of that, I expect I’ll spend the rest of my life alternating between three things:

1) Working short-term, interesting work (this could be doing things like preparing tax returns, working as a barista and letting hot women pick me up, becoming a grad student again, etc) in order to purchase luxuries (travel, a nicer place to live, materials for some hobby, etc) or increase my standard of living by increasing my passive income

2) Pursuing knowledge for its own sake and enjoying the process (go get a PhD, spend 6 months in Buenos Aires learning Spanish and how to surf, etc)

& 3) Starting new businesses (probably with low capital requirements) and get them running such that they can operate with minimal over-site (such as rental properties, a franchise with a more active partner, writing a book, selling copies of software that I’ve written, etc) or selling them outright (same as any of the earlier ideas but with no ongoing commitment or royalties)

Not the worst way that I can imagine spending the rest of my life, but (almost) everyone else seems to disagree.

8 replies on “What I Mean By Early Retirement”

So what I am curious about is your plan to get there. I think 3 years sounds very very soon, and I am wondering if you would mind sharing what steps you are taking to get to retirement. Feel free to point me to posts on this topic if I have missed them 🙂

I like your retirement ideas though. I agree people have misconceptions about retirement though- they think of idle days doing nothing. Personally I have no problem filling up my days if I am not working, and I mean doing more than watching tv. It would be nice to have the freedom to pursue other things other than feeling obligated to work for work’s sake.

I really liked your post. You are really talking about the freedom to do as you choose in life! I think it’s great if you are able to live beneath your means, save money, have passive income coming in, and then pursue the things that really interest you, such as traveling, graduate work, drinking coffee on a beach, etc. Not everyone can do this or wants to change their life to do this, hence the jealousy and nay-sayers!

Great post! I definitely support your goals!

Wow, you HAVE to read “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferris!

It is basically about what you’re talking about and something that I agree on! Our western society has this ‘deferred life plan’ (terminology from the book) that says we should just work hard for the 40 years and then when we retire we can do a bunch of fun stuff… that isn’t how life is supposed to be.

I think you’ll love the book. The author is living his dream, and he is only 29 years old… He walks the talk.

I agree and plan on retiring ASAP as well. Not ‘retirement’ per say, but to be free of 9 to 5 and able to do whatever I want… I’ll still do things with my life, I just won’t be doing the boring things as much.. lol.

Just like you, most of my ‘retirement’ activities will probably make money. I guess ill be a serial entreprenuer of micro businesses and neat ideas/innovations to help the world, myself, friends/family… and, you know… doing things that interest me.

Of course, lots of travelling is on the menu, but cheaper travelling and I’ll still work on internet biz related things while on extended vacations… besides, in some countries the rent is extremely cheap and it can be done…

You think you have contempt… I’m early 20’s, so when I talk about this stuff… *grin*… well, you know!!!

I think the problem is that you also have to explain that you are willing to retire on a lower income than most people expect (have?) to live on.

The fact is that if you retire under the age of say…60. You pretty much always have the option of getting a new job – might not be what you had before but it will pay the rent if necessary. I think this is a pretty good backup plan in case things don’t work out exactly as planned.

People who wait until 60+ to retire don’t have the same employment options so if their retirement plans don’t work out then they generally have to lower their standard of living to meet their new scenario.


Another get rich quick scheme.
Good for you if you can get money with out working for it .
Internet is full of bums like you looking for a free lunch.

Jealous , well , some might be but they would be bums like you wanting to leech on others.

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