when you tell people you’re planning to retire early, the first question that inevitably comes back is, “but what will you do with your time?” we suspect this question comes from most people never considering that a different path is possible from the usual work-til-65-then-retire model. (though, interestingly, in the recreation-focused small town where we live, we seldom get this question. people here, who have already chosen to place the outdoors above career, instinctively know the answer. their questions are more focused on the “how.”)
of course we have a response ready for the “what will you do?” question, involving travel, recreation, writing, camping, time for creativity and a little freelance work. but the real answer is:
we don’t really know what we want to do when we grow up. but we think early retirement will finally give us the time and breathing room to find out.
if you follow early retirement news, you probably saw that ridiculous msn “article” a few weeks back about what a terrible idea early retirement is. (we aren’t linking to it because we don’t want to encourage them, but you can google it if you haven’t already seen it and want to reward them for clickbait.) several great fire bloggers, like go curry cracker, have already responded, so we won’t do the same. but one assumption that’s built into the ridiculousness is this:
that people who retire early are giving up on a chance to be useful to society.
we couldn’t disagree more.
right now, our minds are so packed full of all the things we have to do for work, and work travel, and as a result all of the actual life tasks that we’re behind on because of work, that we don’t have time to really think. we are problem solvers by nature, as most people are, and we’re certain that once we have more time to hear ourselves think, we’ll actually become a lot more useful. maybe we’ll invent the next great thing, or solve world hunger, or write the great american novel. we certainly can’t do this stuff while we work high-pressure jobs.
and that’s not even taking into account the volunteering that we plan to do. right now, we both do different forms of consulting, in which clients pay our companies for our time. by definition, we’re working for people and companies who can afford to pay for us.
let’s consider this question: who are we more useful to? the people who can afford to pay us, or those who can’t?
we think we can be a lot more useful to people and organizations that can’t afford expensive consultants, and once we quit our paid jobs, we can spend a lot more time volunteering to help those folks out. and because we’ve spent many years honing our skills, we can be more useful to them than kids right out of high school can.
so while we may not yet know exactly what we want to do when we grow up/retire early, or have any clue what we may figure out once we have time to think, reflect and even philosophize, we know for sure that we’re about to get a lot more useful to society, not less.
what do you think? do you think early retirement is a waste of people’s potential? or do you have big plans for being more useful after you reach financial independence? let us know what you think!
Want extra Our Next Life content? Get the e-newsletter!
Subscribe to get our monthly newsletter with tons of top secret info we'll never share here on the blog. It's like a whole extra post or two a month!