Early Retirement

Another Terrible Day in Early Retirement

There is great diversity in interests and personal values in the world, and what is great for one person might be terrible for another

So it is no surprise that on occasion we come across people that frown upon our life choices.  In some cases, that frown becomes a snarl

For example, this is one of my all time favorite pieces of hate mail:

….So in 2008 you lost 40% of your wealth when the market crashed, and then you had all this extra cash lying around to invest more in stocks after the crash?….. Also, you saved up your money by living like a bumb (I think they meant bum) in your 20’s to “retire” in your 30’s…..but you only traveled in 2012,’13, and ’14……now that you have a baby you are not welcome to travel and stay at many places. Nobody wants to travel with a toddler. You speak about not paying taxes and scamming for healthcare, the truth is you can’t afford to live in Seattle, your “home”.
I advice you to watch the movie “Jiro dreams of sushi” in it he extrapolates on his statement “the day I am unable to work is a very sad day” you see most people find stability, normalcy, friends, and community through workplace culture, your grand schemes of finding loopholes like a Wall St exec is so fragile. Your setting your child up for psychological issues of a Military family when you don’t have an established home with a church you go to all the time, family you see every holiday, chasing the cheapest meal…….
It’s very possible for people without families and void of responsibility to their family, or simply filled with greed of their own needs, to live an enjoyable lifestyle of travel and retirement. It’s the same question as asking yourself what if you won the lottery? Well I have a toddler I can tell you I would not travel with him, and I love my job and would not retire from it…..I speak English, I want to live in America. Traveling cheap is not as fun as you make it sound.

Where even to begin amongst the false assumptions, inaccuracies, and value judgements?

I didn’t even know we traveled cheap

I generally don’t see much point in responding to detractors.  If their persuasive critique didn’t change my way of thinking, why would a response fare any better?

But recently an article was published on MainStreet that called us out by name (without even a linkback! What happened to common courtesy? :) ) and many have asked about my thoughts.

The word article might be too generous.  Clickbait seems more appropriate

Per Wikipedia:

Clickbait is a pejorative term describing web content that is aimed at generating online advertising revenue, especially at the expense of quality or accuracy, relying on sensationalist headlines to attract click-throughs and to encourage forwarding of the material over online social networks.

As pointed out by Retire by 40 and Retire Early Lifestyle, amongst others, quality and accuracy are low.  And it would be difficult to find a more sensationalist headline, Why Retiring in Your 30s Is a Terrible Idea for Anyone (well done!) There is even a video!

The article clickbait starts out innocently enough:

A few weeks ago, Forbes shared the story of Jeremy and Winnie, a Seattle couple who downsized their living expenses and increased their investments to retire in their 30s. It’s a story of savvy investment and romantic notions of what retirement can look like

Damn right it is!  And the best terrible idea I’ve ever had

But it goes downhill rather quickly from there.  I originally only read about 1/3 of it before losing interest, but if you haven’t yet, it is a humorous and quick read.

For fun, let’s see what terrible outcomes our choices may lead to

With what could be a 60-year retirement or more, regardless of investment strategy, most financial advisers can’t get behind this plan

A more accurate statement would be: most financial advisers whom I queried to see if they were interested in being quoted in an article about why early retirement is a terrible idea can’t get behind this plan.

Quality financial advisers would look at our portfolio value, asset allocation, and withdrawal rate and conclude our plan is solid.  Even the receptionist at the Fidelity office in Downtown Seattle was able to plug numbers from an early version of our plan into the simple calculator they use and conclude it should work, and that only took 5 minutes

The financial advisers that did contribute seemed to gloss over the finances (not even bothering to contact us to ask), and simply speculated that early retirees might be bored

As with most things, I can’t say anything that Louis C.K. hasn’t already said better

louis-ck-im-bored“(Retiring in you’re 30s) you’re in a situation where you’re adding value to no one”

I suppose in some weird sense this could be true…

It’s also true of many people who have a job.  When was the last time somebody at the Department of Motor Vehicles added value to your life?  Or for that matter, did writing clickbait about why early retirement is a terrible idea add value to anyone?

Since most people read this type of article from their workplace, it seems clear  it actually provided negative value.  While writing this article may have generated income of a few hundred (or maybe even a few thousand) dollars, it is at the expense of potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in corporate time and resources

What a terrible waste.  As a shareholder in thousands of corporations, I must say, “Good sir, please stop distracting my employees!”

You might get a divorce or have a baby

Funny you should mention this, we did in fact just have a baby, our first

Pregnancy, child birth, and the first few months of child rearing have been some of the most challenging experiences of our lives.

While we could have balanced two careers, IVF, a near miscarriage, Doctor prescribed bed rest, childbirth, breast feeding challenges, and the emotional roller coaster thereof…  it would have been a terrible 12 months

By putting 100% of our time and energy into the process and experience, our relationship, our physical and emotional health, and the health of our child have all benefited

I suppose you could say early retirement added tremendous value to the people we care about most

“Chances are I might spend 20, 30 to 40 years in retirement if I retire in my 50s. That’s a lot of time, so if I retire in my mid-30s, that money will have to last me 50-plus years, and I just don’t see how it happens.”

A word of advice:  Don’t hire this adviser

Dear adviser:  You might find our post on portfolio longevity as related to withdrawal rates or our post evaluating early retirement under worst case historical conditions educational

You won’t be able to keep up with your friends’ and family’s spending as they continue to earn

In practice, the problem is the reverse

Friends and family have expressed great interest in joining us on travels and adventures, and have on a few occasions. But much more often:

“Oh man, we would love to join you to Swim with Whale Sharks or Hike up Indian’s Nose at Sunrise, but we just can’t find the TIME”

It is always possible to earn more money.  None of us are getting younger

“What if you were supposed to be the next Steve Jobs, but because you didn’t even try, that didn’t happen?”

I have zero desire to be Steve Jobs.  For one thing, he wasn’t very nice to people. Smart guy though, and I enjoyed his commencement speech at Stanford University in which he advised people to “Remain Foolish.”  In other words, don’t listen to people who say your ideas are terrible

Perhaps a better comparison would be, “What if you were supposed to be the next Michael Jordan?”  That would be cool.

For better or worse, I’m short, old, and would rather watch paint dry.  For similar skill set based reasons, most people will never be Steve Jobs.  I appreciate this, as our Macbook Air is the most problematic laptop I’ve ever owned

Perhaps instead, society can accept that we choose to live up to our own expectations

“Unless you plan to sit at home idly once you retire, your expenditures might grow in retirement rather than shrink.”

Exactly!  It’s pretty awesome

“Working keeps you occupied and prevents you from spending money”

Why would I want to not spend money?  (FYI, it is not about the money) We spend money every day as part of living the life we dreamed of and pursuing our goals and interests.  Isn’t that why we built a portfolio of sufficient size, to support exactly this?

But let’s look at this in reverse.  What if clickbait authors around the globe became financially independent? If writing was still a source of joy, they could choose topics based on value to society and personal interest instead of just trying to make a few bucks

When editors or content managers reached out and said, “Holy cow, this article on Forbes is approaching 1 million views, we could leach on some of that traffic and cash in!” they could decline, choosing instead to focus on improving the human condition, correcting injustice, or at the very least, helping people achieve their dreams… as opposed to say… Oh, I don’t know… shitting on them

Just an idea… if writing clickbait provides you with happiness and a sense of fulfillment, by all means keep doing so.  I won’t judge


In any case, that’s probably enough… as the wise man NdGT has stated

Is retiring earlier than is conventional a terrible idea? Maybe

Is following the advice of income dependent clickbait authors and financial advisers a terrible idea? You decide

For any goal, I think it is best to find people who have done what you aspire to and see what they have to say.  Here are a few people that I reached out to

I met Billy and Akaisha Kaderli in Chiang Mai, Thailand in 2007.  They retired at the Age of 38 in 1991, 24 years ago.  Based on decades of experience of traveling the globe while eating well, they think early retirement is a great idea.  Their book, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement, was a helpful resource for planning our own itinerant lifestyle

Winnie and I met Doug Nordman in Honolulu, Hawaii in 2010.  He retired from the military in 2002 at the Age of 41, 13 years ago.  He is a hero of mine for all he has done in the early retirement community, and for choosing surfing over career.  I remember reading with awe posts about how he took out a mortgage to invest in small-cap stocks, an experiment in emotions vs statistics

Mr. Money Mustache retired in his early 30s in 2005, about 10 years ago.  Although we haven’t met yet (that will happen at this year’s Chautauqua) his blog has been a great asset.  The MMM Forum is a great place to discuss Early Retirement with like minded people

There are also some great resources in my Blogroll

My own opinion, for what it is worth, is that Early Retirement is the best idea in the history of ideas… not because Early Retirement is some noble goal, but because it is our dream.  If you don’t agree, feel free to send me hate mail.  I’ll read it as soon as I’m done watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi.