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WTF: Not everyone wants to retire early?

So recently, I had a bit of a unexpected revelation… not everyone wants to retire early.  Which just kind of blew my mind!  I was talking to a work friend, who is just a few years older than me and also recently had a child.  Its bonus time at our company, so despite the announcement of impending layoffs, everyone is still walking around with that bonus-high.  Anyways – I was commenting on how I had forgotten how much of the bonus gets taken my taxes… I had honestly been hoping to invest a little bit more of the bonus after topping off my daughter’s 529 account, and so I was a little disappointed that Uncle Sam is taking roughly half the money.

OK, so, I was having a light hearted discussion about this with a work friend of mine, who often mentions that her goal is for her husband to get promoted two more pay grades so that she can retire. (Spouses of people at that paygrade get a stipend… yeah ridiculous!)   With her occasional comments of early retirement, I thought that maybe she had one foot in the FIRE boat (despite the fact that her husband just traded in his Porsche for a Mercedes SUV). I mean I know that they don’t live frugally. They have a mansion, and every latest technology. But -we have even occasionally discussed ways of trying to lower bills, or baby gadgets… but now I am beginning to suspect that she brings these topics up with me just because she knows I am interested in living more frugally.

We are chatting, and I wish I could remember what I said, but it was harmless – just something along the lines of “Yeah, I had forgotten how much taxes take out, now I’m just hoping to have about $10,000 to invest for early retirement”  To which she just snaps at me “Not everyone’s goal is to retire early!!!”  And that just confused me.  For two reasons:

  • given the choice to work or go have fun, who would choose work?  Even if you love your work, there are still like tons of meetings and paperwork and crap that go along with it. I would rather find a way to do my work without dealing with the corporate BS.
  • She talks about early retirement when her husband gets promoted – like ALL THE TIME!  I rarely mention my plans.


Anyways – It just confused me. Maybe she said it in spite, maybe in jealousy (She thinks I plan to retire in 12 years, not 3-4!), maybe she isnt sleeping much with a new baby around and is just cranky.  In any case – it just made me think “Are there really people out there who don’t want to retire early????”

Mr. SSC side note:
I have also run into this. The person in mind had worked at the company for 36 years, and had a husband that was a pharmacist, who was already retired. They had no kids, drove modest cars, had a modest house, but she did not want to retire. When I asked her why, she said, “Well, I want to stick it out to 40 years and get an emerald pendant!” My response, “You realize you can afford a much better emerald than this company will ever get you. Hell, I’ll buy you a nice emerald if that’s all you’re waiting for.” She looked puzzled and said, “But I like working…” Her goal was to hit 40 years, and now that she’s on her 41st year, she’s decided to cut back to 3 days a week, but still doesn’t want to retire. On a family note, My Granddad didn’t want to retire. Not from a financial worry or love of work stand point, but as I’ve mentioned before, his relatives retired and died within the year. He was scared of “death by retirement” so he worked until he was 72. He lived to see 80, but “death by retirement” was his big fear.

Have you ever run into someone who wouldn’t retire early if they could? Did they have a reason for it?

22 thoughts on “WTF: Not everyone wants to retire early?

  1. Steve Adcock

    I’m actually working on an article about this topic. It’s true, not everyone’s goal is to retire early. I don’t necessarily understand why people want to keep themselves working substantially longer so they can buy more “stuff” either, but hey, to each their own I guess.

    But, I also respect that decision if it’s made intelligently. There are two types of people on the other side of the aisle as us.

    1: People who don’t care about their future and want to live it up now, even knowing that they will be working much longer into their elder years, and

    2: People who would retire early if given the chance, but refuse to make the lifestyle changes necessary to make it happen

    If someone chooses #1, it’s tough for me to argue with. They are adults. It is their choice whether or not they value their future selves enough to live more frugally now. If those people want to screw over their future lives, that’s cool. It’s up to them.

    It’s the people in the #2 category that represent the problem in my view. I believe that everyone knows how to retire early, but only a few people do what’s necessary to make it happen. It’s easy to let your lifestyle grow out of control. You get frustrated. You get stressed. You get confused. These are #2 people.

    I have a couple of friends who openly admit that the way they live now is forcing them to work longer. They are okay with that because they get the newest cell phone, or the best computing equipment, or the nicer cars, bigger homes.

    They want that now. They are willing to work longer to pay for it all.

    To which I say: Have at it!

  2. Lee

    My first time commenting:)

    I love my job but c’mon, I can’t wait to be financially free! I was talking about early retirement to some friends (mid-30’s, with children, same as myself), and they looked at me like I was a nutcase. They bring home about 5x our household income but early retirement is simply not on their radar. They were all “but what would you DO?!” Umm, whatever I want… that’s the point. Even if I stay at the same job, it would certainly be fewer hours and half the stress bc I wouldn’t NEED to be there! Be with my kids. Live life. They were so not on the same page… I truly lacked the words I needed to explain my point of view; I was so caught off-guard that retiring early was so unappealing to a couple who made SO much money. Shrug! To each their own, right?

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      That is the same reaction I get – lots of people don’t even really know how much they spend to even begin to calculate what they might need for retirement. I find this particularly true for people who make more money – because they don’t need to watch their budget, so they truly have no idea how much they spend. I asked one of my friends how much she would need – and her husband said $150,000k/ year, and I just laughed, because I know how they live – and I bet tops, they would need half that.

  3. Heather M

    I understand those who continue to work because they enjoy what they do. I had a coworker whose spouse was retired. She worked because she enjoyed her job. She did however move to part time so she enjoy time with her husband too. For me FI means that if I have a job I enjoy I have the freedom to work part time and gain flexibility. Continuing to work doesn’t have to be about fear or about affording more.

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      I agree – if I could work part time, I might work more years, because my job isn’t horrid. But, I’ve realized in my company people who work part-time aren’t taken seriously, so its off the table for me.

  4. Even Steven

    It’s strikes me as funny that some of us knew nothing about retiring early(I thought this meant 55 up until a year ago) and now when other people say they do not want to retire early we look at them as if they prefer garbage over steak.

    Some people think it cannot happen for them, some are jealous of the idea that you may retire early, and some are just non-believers. Sip the kool-aid people, I am!

  5. Jason

    I fully admit I am one of those people that struggle with this issue. My goal is financial independence, not early retirement. Now I have a lot of paperwork and crappola with my job, but I also have a job I love. Everyday is different. I get to think for a living, write on the things I love, talk about the topics I find most interesting, and get paid to do it. Plus, my job affords me the ability to do the one thing I love more than anything and that is travel. I love going to conferences and getting energized by hearing smart presentations, along with visiting sites. However, I do admit the idea of leaving it behind is appealing, but I think I will always work in some capacity and teaching is a passion and a love. It is a difficult question.

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      I understand your struggle. While I talk about ‘retiring’ in a few years, really I want to retire from the office job I have, spend a few years with my kids, then start teaching part-time… So much seems to come to how you define ‘retirement’.

  6. Hannah

    It’s tempting for people in the early retirement space to think, “It’s impossible to derive meaning and purpose from marketplace work.”

    It’s tempting for extreme entrepreneurs to think, “It’s impossible that derive meaning and purpose anywhere outside of marketplace work.”

    I think both are equally ridiculous statements since the best way to live out your life’s calling is going to be highly dependent on your current life circumstances.

  7. Gen Y Finance Guy

    It could be that most people don’t believe that early retirement is even possible. To me early retirement means you no longer NEED a JOB.

    Instead you can spend your time doing what brings you joy and fulfillment. I think for most of us bloggers, that likely means we will still find ways to be productive and make contribution to the world. But it will be on our terms.

    And you may be “early retired” and still be under employment. But it’s because you want to be there, not because you have to be there.

    I personally am looking for 7 things in life to get maximum fulfillment:

    1 – Time Freedom
    2 – Location Freedom
    3 – Financial Freedom
    4 – Connection
    5 – Contribution
    6 – Vitality
    7 – Serendipity

    And in my view the only way I can have my cake and eat it too is if I don’t HAVE to work for the man anymore. Early retirement is a place where I get to work on MY DREAM and not at a JOB.


  8. Tawcan

    I don’t like using the word “retirement” because people have the idea that retirement means sipping alcohol on a beach somewhere. I am working toward financial independence. Achieving FI doesn’t mean I need to quit work and sit on the beach all day, it just provides more options and freedom on what I want to do.

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      MMM just had a good post on this yesterday. We realized the same thing a few months ago. Now we try to think about it as a lifestyle change – even though the words that come out of our mouth are always ‘retirement’

  9. Mrs. Maroon

    I’m with you. I don’t understand how others could hear about this idea and not want to dive in head first. Granted, I was skeptical that it was possible when Mr. Maroon first posed the question. But do I want in? Hell yes!!

    I want to retire so that I have my time to myself to do with as I please. I would likely be happy even if I didn’t earn another dollar after that retirement. I do think I will pursue activities that could result in income. But I won’t NEED the money. I’m just ready for it to start tomorrow…

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      I feel impatient also – I just keep telling myself to enjoy the journey and not focus on the finish line! Its hard though!

  10. Kalie

    I can (kind of) understand someone loving their career and wanting to keep working. I know lots of people who “retired” and a few months later were back working as a contractor for their company. But I can’t imagine not wanting the flexibility of having the option to work or not, or being able to work on your own terms. And I really don’t understand trading in that flexibility for what most people choose instead: an inflated lifestyle that sounds stressful, busy, and unfulfilling.

  11. Mrs. Frugalwoods

    I think there are definitely folks who just aren’t interested in leaving their jobs, or, who don’t think it’s really possible. Perhaps your friend at work feels a bit sensitive about it because she realizes she’d already be retired if they didn’t buy huge houses and cars? I think it’s a complex, emotional subject much of the time. Also, seems somewhat unfair of her to want to retire while her husband will have to keep working in order to support their lifestyle. But, to each their own!

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      Yeah, I think that might be a good point. Maybe a defense mechanism from jealousy. Especially now that she has a baby, and may be thinking about how much time she works vs what she really gets for it. I know children were a big factor for Mr SSC in our mental journey to RE

  12. Cari @ My Shopping Ban

    I agree with the jealousy comment. It could also be guilt, maybe they feel guilty for living way above their means or don’t even realize that they are think they have to work for the next 30+ years.

    I was just commenting last night to my BF that it’s amazing how much people just want to accumulate stuff and will work, work, work to get said stuff rather than living on less and actually enjoying their life. Mercedes SUV? No thanks, I’ll take a ten year old Subaru. :)

    1. Lee

      Yes, I was thinking about this too. Do you think there is a way to talk to our friends (literally the ones shopping for a Mercedes SUV right now, funny enough) about the working-forever-for-all-the-stuffs without sounding judgmental or preachy? I dont like to talk about FI too much with my friends bc I am worried I will offend them… but some of their purchases make my jaw drop. They are perfectly happy and excited about these crazy purchases, and then I am the killjoy who is all “why buy a $75,000 vehicle? I dont understand.” They want to enjoy their money, and we dont see eye to eye. Shrug!

  13. Abigail @ipickuppennies

    Yep, I don’t want to retire early — even if that were possible. I lost important investing time when I was on disability in my 20s, and we’re still a single-income family. With bad luck in health and home repairs.

    But after being on a very small, fixed income for a few years… I’m wary of putting myself back in that situation. I will probably do what Mr. SSC’s coworker did and cut back when the time comes. But a paycheck is empowering, and it makes me feel secure.

    Granted, my circumstances are unique, but some people are afraid of having a set amount of money to last the rest of your life.

  14. Amber Tree

    Maybe it is the word retirement that scares of people. Personally, retirement is not my goal, it is being independent of others, having the freedom to do what I want. And that probably covers work for a part as well.

    There are indeed a lot of people that do want bthat freedom, but they either do not believe it is possible (mainly bcause they are not interested in money and investing or afraid of the risk), or they prefer to live to max now, as a consumer (buying stuff, often expensive holiday,…).

    1. Mr SSC

      Yep, the financial independence to fund the lifestyle change we want to make, is exactly what we’re going for. It’s hard not to use “FIRE” or retirement, or other similar phrases. That’s why we like FFLC – Fully Funded Lifestyle Change. :) I’d rather be a conscious consumer and get my FI sooner than later, but that’s just me.

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