It’s pretty much the law around personal finance blogland that we must all want to retire early. Some extreme early retirees have opened up a new way of thinking that is gradually becoming, if not exactly mainstream, certainly less weird.
I mean, who wouldn’t want to leave the daily slog to work behind them? Never again feel those terrible Sunday-night blues? Or even worse, those post-holiday blues. Never again make small-talk with what’s-his-face from accounts?
This has been on my mind a lot recently. The retirement age here in the UK is now 68 and the average life expectancy around 71. You can’t help but think that almost 50 years’ work for the a three-year retirement is a pretty rubbish deal.
Against this background it’s very easy to see the appeal of early-retirement. I certainly imagine that when I retire I’ll have my full health and will use it to go on adventures, hold interesting conversations with a wide range of people, read all the books I never had chance to before and generally live a fulfilled, active and engaged life.
Wait, what? I can do all that before retiring?
Yes, apparently it’s true. I can indeed do all of these things before hanging up my apron.
Okay, so I know I’m missing the point of early retirement a little bit here but hear me out. Given that we simply have no idea how long we’ll shuffle along for before dropping off our perches, doesn’t it make sense to align our life in the present with the things that bring us true joy? Doesn’t it make sense to achieve the work-life balance we need now in order to make our lives happy and enriching?
One reason cited by many wannabe and actual early-retirees is the chance to spend more time with family and friends. I’m all for this. Friends and family are extremely important and these relationships need cultivation and nurture. But they’re not all there is to leading a fulfilling life.
Take Thing#3, just turned three years old.. He’s awesome. He really, really is. But sometimes, being of a toddlery persuasion, he has tantrums. Really massive tantrums. Sometimes, we’ll walk to a friend’s house up the road and it takes us 45 minutes, by which time my fake smile and sing-song voice are making my face hurt. Sometimes, he unravels an entire roll of toilet roll and leaves it on the stairs and thinks it’s funny. Can I admit that right now being able to go off to work and remembering I’m a separate entity and not just an extension of the kids enables me to be a better mother?
If you’ve had a read through my other posts, you’ll know that frugality is a vital weapon in my life-armory. Frugality has enabled me to walk away from jobs I have hated and have made me ill. It’s enabled me to start my own business, to not panic when income has been down. It’s enabled me to organise my own work schedule in order that I can attend functions involving my kids. In short, frugality has enabled me to be in charge of my own life and not to exist on someone else’s schedule. Yes, I still need to work, but needing to earn only £850 a month to keep our family of 5 going and having a variety of income sources to achieve this has been truly liberating.
Why I crave financial independence rather than early retirement
Don’t get me wrong, even with self-employment and our frugality schedule, there are still days that I really could do with not having to do anything at all. I’m human and my energy fluctuates according to the season and I’m female so there’s monthly fluctuations too.
While early retirement leaves me cold, financial independence is something that can get me very, very fired up.
I don’t want to leave the world of work behind me. I have a brain that I need to use and I crave challenge and growth and experimentation. I know there would be ways to meet these needs outside the economic workplace but it’s hard to see really how I would engage with the range of people on a regular basis that’s necessary to keep me young.
What I really cannot risk though is being stuck once again in a dead-end job or feeling as though my health is being endangered through work-related stress about something which doesn’t actually matter. And this is why financial independence matters.
By becoming financially independent we have the option of walking away from jobs and walking towards others. We get to continue to pick our own schedule, be that 60-hour-weeks or zero-hours. Isn’t that something to get really, really excited about?