When I started on my “Personal finance” journey around when I was 16 years old, I used to say, “If I can’t retire by the time I’m 45 or 50, I’m going to be pissed off!”. That comment was born out of extreme austerity that I put in place at a very young age. That benchmark came and went and I still haven’t officially said “I’m retired.”
Now everyone probably knows someone that died at a young age, or unexpectedly and I hate to write about negative topics. However, I do like to be a dose of reality for those striving to retire early, and figuring out if there is a way to strike a balance to enjoy life while you’re doing it.
The truth is, there are no guarantees and, the older you get, the more stories you’re going to collect like this. Living in a major metropolitan area has also made that clear. In fact, in general…the more people you know and come in contact with, the more you’re going to collect “early death” stories. When recently looking for an old post, I realized other things that I’ve written are peppered with some of these examples. It’s inevitable. In fact, I think it’s my number one question to Alexa over the past 2 years. “How old is so and so?” or “When did so and so die?” I’m also obsessed with those year end “hail and farewell” pieces that they do on almost every single news channel. Me and my wife sit there and say…”oh…I didn’t know he/she died” or “I thought they died years ago.”
Make your own choices
Part of the reason for this post is really to create a commentary for “Living your own truth or path”. Maybe my blog is simply not popular enough to get negative troll comments about having a goal of retiring early, but I’ve noticed a smattering of “naysayers” around other FIRE blogs that deride people’s goal of “retiring early” or “earlier than the traditional 64-65 range”. I just don’t get that, but I’ve had my own run in with my eldest sibling who just turned 70 and is still working 3 or 4 days per week. She just doesn’t get it, or still tries to find me employment.
Heck, I don’t even consider myself early retired yet, even though I’m coming up on the 3 year anniversary of leaving full time employment. After I get through my hip surgery in 2 weeks, I’m going to reassess the possibility of returning to full time work, but based on a lot of examples of how things ended suddenly, I’m keeping my options open.
Benchmarks are all around you
The “benchmarks” that I hang my hat on, in defense of “doing things differently” are my own Father and my wife’s Father. Both dropped dead at the same age: 64. My Dad of a heart attack in 1981 and my wife’s Dad of the same, coupled with prostate cancer in 2004. These ages seemed somewhat “reasonable” when they occurred, but as you age, you start thinking…”That was young!”
I never like to scare people and don’t ever want to focus only on the negative, but these 2 guys loomed very large in both of our lives. They were respected figureheads of families and they were gone with very little warning. You might not realize it, but YOU are probably that figurehead to someone else or will eventually be. It could be the smallest person that you touched their life in some small way.
I’ve been doing “back of the envelope” calculations since my early 20’s that sound something like this….”Hmmm… if my monthly expenses are this, and I have XX in the bank…I can live on my own for XX months/years.”
A new conversation
Now, the conversation in my head has shifted to….”If I only live to be 64 (or 12 more years), what do I want to do with those years, and how can I stretch this money out further.” It’s a slight difference, but a big one. That’s where I think people aren’t thinking about it enough, at least I wasn’t.
Other things are also true, about what they say about “losing your identity” from your loss of traditional office work. Don’t underestimate this and make a serious effort at uncovering what you bring to the table. Even if it’s just for yourself. Start there. Then help others.
I have several items that I always said I would like to work on when I retire, but in 3 years, I can’t say that I’ve knocked the cover off the ball with them, and some I haven’t done at all.
It’s not over till…
I’ve never been one to “fly in the face” of “logic”. Like a cigarette smoker who says “Ya gotta die of something.” I honestly believe that there are ways that we can extend our lives through our actions. However, the truth is, THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES. So it’s best to live your life the way you want to and not be influenced by the opinions of others because, when it’s over, it’s over.