Why Early Retirement?
Since launching this early retirement and financial independence blog, we’ve asked a number of friends and family to take a look and give feedback. We were hoping for criticism of the writing style, web design and layout, etc. so that we could improve before getting much site traffic. The feedback we’ve gotten is actually a bit different and aimed at our message.
The common theme of the feedback has been something to the effect of “The blog is an interesting idea, but I wouldn’t want to retire early because I like (or don’t hate) my job.” This makes me feel that I need to explain the motivation behind the blog a bit better. Our byline is: Working toward financial independence and early retirement-“one bite at a time”. My early posts have focused on the idea of early retirement. I thought it would be an idea that everyone can understand and imagine for themselves, while financial independence is a more vague concept. However, financial independence is what this is all about for us.
Everyone can define financial independence differently. For us it means building assets AND lifestyle to a point where we can work if, when, where and how we want without worrying about needing more money to support us. This could mean not working at all for a period of time or ever again. It could mean one or both of us continuing to work full time if it is what we choose. Financial independence is all about having choices to live how we want.
Everyone should strive to reach financial independence as quickly as possible for the freedom it provides. You never know how or when your circumstances or state of mind will change. You may love your job completely and it could be the most important thing in your life today. Tomorrow, things could change completely. If you have achieved financial independence there is nothing stopping you from continuing on as you were. If you have not achieved this freedom, you will suddenly have very difficult choices to make.
As for me, early retirement is the obvious next step. It all comes down to simple math. There are exactly 24 hours in a day and 7 days a week totaling 168 hours.
I love my wife. I love my daughter equally, but in a completely different way and get a completely different type of fulfillment from my relationship with her. I get great satisfaction and fulfillment from being out in nature, physically and mentally challenging myself while pursuing my hobbies. I value my health and fitness. I feel that it is important to dedicate time to exercise and to prepare and eat healthy food to help preserve and improve my health. I want to become a more spiritual person and realize that this takes time and effort. I want to give my time to charitable/philanthropic causes that I care about. In addition to my immediate family, I have extended family and great friends who I love to spend time with. I love to learn and challenge myself and place a very high value on personal development.
I need 7 hours of sleep to function well and maintain good health. This means 49 hours/week are spent sleeping. This leaves only 119 waking hours/week for everything else in life. I work a relatively sane 40 hour week. I am required to take an hour lunch and spend about an hour a day on my commute. This equals 50 hours/week dedicated to work. Thus 42% of my waking hours are dedicated to work. During the week this is even more grim. Monday through Friday, 10 of my 17 hours are dedicated to work daily, or 59% of my time.
This is before accounting for the many things that, like sleeping, must be done that take time, but don’t directly add any value to life. These include showering/hygiene, grocery shopping, cooking/cleaning up after a meal, laundry, maintaining your home and car, banking/paying bills, etc. Add 1-2 hours/day (average 1.5 hours) and we’re up to 51% of my overall time and 68% of my weekday time spent before I even spend one minute on any of the other activities that add value and fulfillment to my life. Time is finite and this traditional model of work simply doesn’t make sense.
Think about it. On a daily basis, I spend 6/10 of my time on only one thing. While I like my job, get fulfillment and am compensated for doing it, it is not at the top of my list of things that bring value to my life. Even if I was able to dedicate 60% of my time to the most important thing or even two things in my life, that would place life out of balance. Each of the aspects of my life that I listed as important provides happiness, health and fulfillment in it’s own unique way.
Take a minute and think about the number of people that are overweight in our society. Does anyone doubt that obesity is linked with people being “too busy” to exercise or cook nutritous meals? Appreciate the fact that the divorce rate hovers around 50%. Do you think that a few marriages could be saved if the average couple wasn’t consumed with both working full time to support a lifestyle of consumerism? Think of how many children are starving for attention and are making destructive choices in their lives to get any attention. Could our children be better served by spending more time with them instead of working more hours to buy more video games and toys? Think of the number of people taking anti-depressants. Would the need for anti-depressant medications be reduced if people knew how to seek true happiness in life, instead of working their whole lives to buy more stuff that they think will make them happy?
I’m not suggesting that early retirement would magically solve all of life’s problems. We wouldn’t all necessarily walk around with 6% body fat, perfect cholesterol, happy marriages and perfect kids whistling the tune “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. One would still have to make conscious decisions to spend their time and money in ways consistent with their values.
What I am stating as a fact is that when so much time and energy is spent on one activity, work, one loses balance in their lives. It is simply not possible based on simple math to spend your time in a way that is consistent with your values.
Could life be better if we spent more time and energy on things that are important to us and less time working so much to make more money to buy things that we think will make our lives better? That is what early retirement is all about to us. It is not about quitting your job because you hate it. You shouldn’t pursue early retirement because you want to sit on the couch in your underwear watching T.V. all day while eating potato chips and drinking beer. It is about having the financial freedom to make the decisions about when, where and how much you work and how you balance that with the other things that bring value to your life. Stated that way, is there any other option that makes sense?
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