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The Anti-Greed Manifesto // Early Retirement Is About “Enough”

we hit a big blog milestone on monday — the 1000th reader comment (2000th if you include our responses). we’ve been at this for about nine months, and never could have anticipated connecting with you guys in such a big way in such a short time. so thank you. we hope you all know how much your comments, questions and friendship mean to us! 

lately, in perusing new blogs, we’ve both come across a seemingly frequent but also puzzling (to us) phenomenon. when aspiring early retirees are telling people in their lives about their plans to retire early, they’re getting negative responses. some of it is the usual stuff (“isn’t retirement for old people?” and “but won’t you get bored?”), some of it is the typical incredulity (“impossible!” — i like to imagine that they shout that one with a french accent), but the last one has us utterly befuddled:

the assertion that the accumulation of assets required to retire early constitutes pretty much the worst quality we can imagine: greed.

never mind that we can’t totally fathom this negativity that so many other bloggers are experiencing, and have found pretty much everyone we’ve told to be supportive, and maybe even a little envious in some cases (and i’m sure there’s some healthy amount of doubt in there, too, about the feasibility of it all, but folks tend to keep that to themselves) — that’s a post for another day.

the idea of early retirees being greedy just seems to misunderstand the nature of early retirement so fundamentally that it requires not just a rebuttal, but a manifesto. over the top? maybe. but let’s go with it. :-) tell us in the comments what you’d add!

Early Retirement is About "Enough" -- the Anti-Greed Manifesto // Our Next Life -- financial independence, simplicity, minimalism

early retirement is about “enough.” not too much, not more, enough. with greed, there is never enough.

early retirees determine the smallest amount we can save to sustain ourselves for life, we save that amount up, maybe we downsize, and then we stop trying to earn more, for good. with greed, it’s forever upsizing.

greed is about hoarding more than you need, for status or ego, or trying to quench an insatiable thirst. early retirement forces us to take a long, hard look in the mirror, let go of that need, and extinguish that thirst. it’s not always easy. we’re forced to change ourselves in big ways. but it’s worth it.

greed means working forever, striving forever, for goals that don’t change the world or make people’s lives better. early retirement means working for money only as long as necessary, and then refocusing our life force on things that truly matter to us. things that are neither monetary nor material.

greed is taking from others, trying to push to the front of the line. early retirement is getting out of the way entirely, making space in the line for someone else.

greed is throwing money at problems. early retirement means investing our hands, our hearts and our time in making the world a better place.

greed is “want.” early retirement is “need.”

greed means seeing money as the end. early retirement means seeing money as the means to a very different end, a life of freedom and fulfillment and fun.

greed is paying people to do everything for us, becoming helpless. early retirement is doing things our selves, becoming self-reliant.

greed is status and symbols and titles. early retirement is giving up all of that. we measure our worth by who we are as people, what kind of friend we are, not what our business card says, or by what kind of car we drive.

early retirement is about enough. when we’re old and gray, looking back on our lives, we aspire to know that we had enough time, because we spent our limited supply of days well. we spend as many of them as possible not reaching for more money. focusing on family and friends and joy and love instead. measuring our wealth in smiles, hugs and laughs, not strictly in dollars and shares. unlike greed, that’s something worth aspiring to.

what would you add to this manifesto? and who’s with us?

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85 replies »

  1. While I don’t expect to have an early retirement (I’m aiming for 57. My dad retired at 54, so this doesn’t feel “early” to me), what I don’t understand is the constant judgment that people show one another. Particularly when it can be anonymous online!

    On another note, a few years ago there was a yacht docked at a nearby inlet. The yacht was owned by someone who was clearly quite wealthy- I think the man may have been an attorney. (My recall isn’t great.) The name of the yacht? “Never Enough”. To each his own, I suppose….

    • We’re with you on the negativity — what’s the point?! It’s not the same thing at all, but it reminds me of the Thoreau quote: “As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.” With negativity it’s the same big picture idea: How can you expect to put out negativity and then by sad that there’s so much negativity in the world?!

      OMG — That yacht name is crazy. Think it was ironic? Or just completely lacking in self-awareness? Wow.

    • I agree completely with you, Mrs. C, about not understanding the negativity & judgment that is “shared” with people who are making positive steps in their lives and that the anonymity of the internet just gives them license to be even more vicious. If only they put half the effort into improving their own lives instead putting down others…..sad, really.

      • It *is* so sad! Fortunately we’ve seen close to zero negativity here, which makes us happy. We should all keep supporting each other instead of pushing others down. :-)

  2. I would never in a million years get bored with retirement. I have so many passion projects, and mine would look similar to MMM, in that I would still probably be ‘working,” but not because I have to and only because I would be loving what I’m doing, i.e., my blog basically. To me it’s not about golf and going to Florida. I can’t understand those negative comments either.

    • We haven’t directly heard much negativity, and like you, can’t understand it at all. But we’ve read enough other bloggers talk about it to believe that it’s out there. And no way we’ll get bored. We have a looooooong list of things we want to do, and knowing us that list will only get longer!

    • 100% agree. So many passions to become immersed in. I can’t wait. I’m not really ready to.leave my.profession, but I am tired of feeling owned. Don’t like the trend of things I see c either. I thing part time might be great.

  3. I’ll admit it – this is one of those topics that literally gets my blood boiling every time that I read it. In fact, I bet my internal body temperature shot up a degree or two just reading this post! :)

    I too have come across those who believe early retirees are being greedy, and I can only guess that they are linking our ability to save money with something akin to gluttony. In its purest form, gluttony means an excess of food or drink – consuming so much at the dinner table that you’re forced to loosen your pants a bit. Eating too much, beyond the point of satisfaction – aka: “enough”, like you said.

    And with early retirees, they view our desire to save money to be “saving in excess” because, after all, who really needs a million in the bank when people are starving on the street or barely getting by, living paycheck to paycheck. We are saving beyond what THEY consider to be “enough”. The horror.

    To the untrained eye, perhaps this can be viewed as gluttony. We are “hoarding” money that we don’t actually “need”.

    Of course, many early retirees who save up to a certain point and then retire actually wind up *using fewer resources* than those who are still working. We tend to spend less on stupid stuff that were manufactured in sweat shops in China. We often drive less. We find delight in life’s simplest of pleasures, like people-watching from a comfortable seat at our local coffee shop, or hiking a new trail, or taking the long route through our neighborhood during our evening walks.

    To me, this is precisely the opposite of gluttony. We aren’t saving ridiculous amounts of money so we can retire into huge mansions, drive expensive cars, take private jets from country to country and otherwise live like a millionaire. Ironically, we are gearing up our lives so we can live with a lot LESS than what full time jobbers tend to have and use. On the whole, it’s THEM who are the consumers of glut, not us.

    And about the possibility of getting bored after retirement, I wrote an entire article on that subject, but I respect your blog enough not to plug it here with a link. If someone actually gets to the bottom of this comment (good for you!) and reads this paragraph, they can hop on over if they like and find it – after thoroughly digesting this blog post, of course. :)

    • First, I will never take offense if you link to your blog in the comments. I think that stuff is helpful, and adds to the discussion. So here, I’ll link to it: http://www.thinksaveretire.com/2015/06/15/i-could-never-retire-early-id-be-so-bored/. :-)

      On the consumption and earning point, you’re totally right. And we will need to earn far, far less than the average family over the course of our lifetimes to support our lifestyle. Sure, we’re lucky to earn more than average now, but we’ll have lots of years of zero income earned through work. We think of that as getting out of the way. Someone else will get to earn that income, instead of us.

      And on boredom — I just don’t even know where to start when people say that, but I do sometimes drop my fallback line, “Only the boring are bored.” We *still* won’t do everything we want to do, or check off everything on our wishlist, even with a lot more time on our hands!

  4. Impossiblu!!
    Strange that people might associate ER with greed. I think it is greedy to spend each and every dollar on material goods, bigger house, nicer car, finer clothing. ER usually are investing in businesses that are important for the life we currently enjoy.

    I don’t view those as negative comments, I just chalk it up to confusion. Many times when ER is presented to someone who has never heard it before, that information is rocking their world and their current beliefs of what is and what isn’t possible. I don’t think they are attacking your idea as much as they are trying to defend their belief system.

    • In full disclosure, we haven’t heard those kinds of comments ourselves, so agree with you! But then, we’re also the assertive types, so folks who have those thought might think twice before airing them aloud to us. :-) And for sure there is so much confusion out there — from those who hear about early retirement and immediately assume we intend to sit in recliners for 50 years watching the Price is Right, to those who think the finances could never work out.

  5. Yeah I can’t see how it’s greedy. I plan to spend that time visiting friends and family. The parents will be older so I’ll be able to be around more to help with anything they need. Maybe I’ll teach a seminar to high schoolers about financial literacy. Now I won’t lie, a lot of the traveling and hobbies and projects will be for my happiness but not all.

    • As Go Curry Cracker told us in a comment once: “I’m a way better person when I’m not working.” So even if we’re all just seeking out our own happiness, that undoubtedly makes us better people, which can’t be a bad thing for the world. :-)

  6. Dickens said “enough is a wonderful world” in A Christmas Carol, and I agree. While most people that I’ve talked to about early retirement are positive, but a do sense a certain amount of envy or “I don’t want to hear it” from a few. I’m not sure it would be any different if I worked another 10 years and bought a bigger house, new Porsche, or Florida condo with the money. Some people are always going to be jealous. I think your manifesto is right on. (and congratulations on 1K comments – you’re doing great!)

    • You’re quoting Dickens, I just quoted Thoreau in a comment — it’s 19th Century throwback day! :-) Maybe that’s telling us something…

      I think you’re right that there will always be some people who just can’t fathom choices different from their own, but thankfully we haven’t experienced much of that ourselves (except for on the topic of not having kids — whole nother story!).

      Thanks for the congrats! We thought when we started this little blog that we’d basically just chronicle our journey for our own memories later, but it has turned into so much more. Love our PF community!

  7. I think I might be a little greedy… but it’s not for money or things. I want time. I want time to spend with my family, time to take up hobbies that I would never get to otherwise, and time to travel and explore the world.

    On the flip side though, I’m not able to be greedy now. Like you said – you need to realize the point of “enough.” My family is happy but we do make a lot of smart choices and don’t spend money on a lot of wants. For us, the wants aren’t strong enough to justify working the day-to-day any longer than we need to.

    Also, most folks who can earn there way to early retirement have setup some passive income streams… and that takes work and time to make happen. Whether it’s dividend stocks, real estate, or starting a business you can step out of, you need to put in the work to make this happen. You just can’t go on day after day and expect it to happen for you… that to me is being greedy – greedy with your time today.

    — Jim

  8. I’ve asked myself whether our goals are greedy, mostly because I wonder whether we are neglecting our family, friends, and community by pouring so much of ourselves into making money to pay off our debt and achieve financial semi-independence. However, I just finished reading The Total Money Makeover (I know, it was about time). Ramsey makes a good point about how attaining wealth will allow us to help others in ways that would never be possible when we were in debt. We may be missing out on some things now, but the tradeoff will be freedom to spend time with, and the ability to help others in the long run.

    • We haven’t read or watched much Dave Ramsey, so can’t speak to his whole philosophy, but his point sounds right on. Retiring early will let us volunteer more, and even the earlier stuff like getting out of debt made us kinder, less stressed out people — that for sure matters in terms of what kind of energy we put into the world! I think you can hold your head high knowing that you’re on a good path. :-)

  9. This is very interesting! Maybe I do not read enough blogs that are working towards early retirement to see that negativity (and I am also glad you have not experienced it first hand)! Greed is such a strong feeling…I could imagine a lot of it stems from the fact that early retirement (the planning, the “why,” the how to, etc.) is uniquely different than what most people experience. We all know that throughout life any form of “differences” lends itself to greed, insecurity, inferiority. I just don’t understand how people would waste their time reading something & responding in terms of negativity & in a berating fashion? It boggles my mind! I’m digging the manifesto, and I am very thrilled you brought up the concept of “enough.” This is something that seems to be a struggling aspect in many parts of people’s lives. We are constantly question whether we are enough, what we are doing is enough, how are parenting/friendships/relationships are enough. Once you are comfortable & confident with your “enough” – you can accomplish anything! Like early retirement. :)

    • I always love your wise and thoughtful comments, Alyssa! :-) Yeah, the negativity is not something we’ve heard directly, so it boggles our minds too to hear others talk about it! And broadly, the idea of spewing negativity or trolling online is just so far outside of what we can comprehend! I think you’re right, though, that it’s about differences. And yes, “enough” is kind of everything! :-)

  10. I have clients ask me all the time when they can retire and I always answer “whenever you want.” And they look at me like I’m crazy but then I follow up and say that it’s completely up to them what they need in life. The less they need to be happy, the less they have to work for the man. It’s counterintuitive to most financial planning sites that propose having a massive nest egg to tide you over through retirement. It’s so much more liberating to think about retirement as enough rather than will I have enough.

    • I LOVE that answer. We did a post a while back lamenting that most retirement calculators don’t even give you the opportunity to enter how much income you think you’ll need in retirement, only what you earn now (which is obviously a lot more than we actually spend!), and so the result of what they say we “need” to save is some ridiculous number. Thank goodness you’re out spreading the good word. :-)

  11. I had a conversation about your blog and the whole ER idea with my new mentee today. She replied, “what, why earn all that money and not have fun, and end up eating Ramen?!” I thought, “OMG, it’s me from a year ago. We’re going to get along brilliantly!”
    Then I was explaining that noooo, it’s not all about not having fun, but exactly what you guys pointed out, it’s about finding “enough” and doing things on your terms. She said, “well I don’t know what I’d do all day. Actually I have a lot I’d rather do all day…” And I saw the spark of “huh, what would I rather be doing?” in her eyes.
    In the spirit of quoting folks today, “Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that godd*mn mountain.” Jack Kerouac
    To which I’ll add – whatever that mountain may be for you.

    • We have zero ramen in the house, I swear! :-) You can tell your mentee! And tell her that it is ALL about fun, and making time for as much of it as possible. I love knowing that you’re out there, creating the spark for others — at the office, no less! How ballsy!

      I love that Kerouac quote. Climb that goddamn mountain! (Ours would probably be, you know, an actual mountain.)

  12. Early retirement seems to be getting a bad vibe lately. Maybe it’s because the topic is being covered more and more by the mass media. Perhaps the general public still has the idea that early retirement means sitting on your butt all day on a beach somewhere. Early retirement to me just means gaining freedom and having more options in life. :)

    • Hi Tawcan. It’s exactly the same for us — more freedom and options (and more time for skiing! It’s almost time!). And yeah, the bad wrap ER is getting is super weird to us, but there have been so many (poorly reported) stories lately talking about what a bad idea ER is, how bored you’ll get, how the finances can’t actually work out… do you think the big investment banks are behind this? They want to scare us all into working longer than we need to and investing more than we must, in order to line their pockets??? :-) (Kidding about the conspiracy, but it is weird for sure.)

  13. Thank you for posting this thoughtful manifesto. I admit that I have wondered a lot about exactly what early retirement means (I mean, it’s clear what it means mathematically, just not always philosophically). I think “early retirement means investing our hands, our hearts and our time in making the world a better place” was the most helpful one for me in understanding where you’re coming from.
    Also: I totally, totally get the anonymity thing, but can I ask if these posts and comments are usually written by just one of you, or if you trade off writing? Just curious to know if I’m talking to one person or two. :)

    • In truth, views of ER vary from person to person, and I’m sure there are those out there who dream of spending their early retirement on a yacht, popping Cristal. But most of the people we know through blogs view it as an endeavor to pare back the inessential to figure out what you truly need in order to live comfortably, without spending more time working to save than necessary. And for us, the mission to help make the world better is strong, but I wouldn’t say that’s a universal idea. :-)

      Re: who writes, no worries asking. 90% of posts are written by me, the Ms. half of the equation, and I also do all of the tweeting for us. :-) We expect that to change once we have more time on our hands, since the Mr. is a great writer!

  14. I think the EARLY of early-retirement invokes the greed-guns the most. Maybe the thinking goes that if we get out early, we’re selfish and not doing our full duty. We’re not paying our consumerism and 9-5 dues like everyone else. If we’re not following the herd, we also seem to be saying that we’re better than everyone else. Going against the norm of society has never been met with applause from the majority. Doing something that most people only dream of and many don’t realize is possible (without giving up all the normal assumptions and comforts) attracts a lot of jealousy and bitterness.

    Oh well. It’s part of the hero’s journey.

    As we all know (and as your article so eloquently makes clear), early retirement is an act of courage and is not selfish. It can be the epitome of unselfishness. Once you build up your nest egg sufficiently, you are free to give more authentically and more fully of yourself, without economic restraints. It’s a beautiful thing!

    • On the full duty point, I was wondering if we could actually crunch the numbers and show that by earning enough to be in a high tax bracket, we’re still paying our share of taxes, we’re just paying them in a short burst instead of spread out over a lifetime… an interesting Q.

      I think you’re right that there’s something about ER that feels subversive to some people, which is a shame, but that for sure colors their reaction. And the thought that we’re better than others — I get where that thinking could come from, but part of what’s motivating us to peace out of the job market is that we feel like we’re worse at our jobs than we should be, and want to make way for people who would do a better job!

      Here’s to being more fully ourselves, as you said, without the constraints! Thanks for weighing in. :-)

      • Yeah, I think relatively speaking early retirees will certainly pay plenty of taxes. But I think that thinking is also too traditional in a way. Paying taxes are one way to contribute to society. How much more would society benefit having millions of early retirees with free time to do things like raise their own kids, do jobs that pay less but have high impacts, volunteer, and stay healthier because of reduced job stress? It’s almost impossible to calculate the compounding of those benefits.

  15. How timely, Hubs decided last night that my new nickname is Greedy! Sometimes I don’t know what to do with that guy.

    The label of greed is misplaced. It became such a buzzword during the recession. Perhaps people have lost sight of what it actually means. The only thing I’m greedy about is I say I want all the money! Who doesn’t? The difference is, I don’t need all the money. It would simply be nice to have all the money now so I can speed up this whole process.

    Maybe people use the word greed because they don’t know what else to call it. Here we are hoarding cash. To the uneducated eye, that could look like greed. I’m preventing others from having a taste of my dough. The truth is that most people can’t understand the concept. Make good money, live like I don’t make good money, be satisfied with my smaller lifestyle. Then go do what I want. If that’s greedy, then my new nickname fits!

    • I’m actually a big fan of this version of greedy: http://img2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20130704154532/smurfsfanon/images/d/d1/Greedy_Smurf_%28SA%29.png. If someone wanted to nickname me Greedy Smurf, I could totally live with that.

      We purposely avoid this conversation, to avoid the greed/miser label specifically:
      Friend: So, you’re retiring early. What does that require?
      Us: We have to save until we have a lot of money or a high net worth, and then we quit our jobs.
      Friend: So you have a lot of money? Then why don’t you want to go out to eat? You’re so greedy/such a miser!
      Us: Ummmm.

      That’s the part that’s hard to explain, but we try hard to counter the perception by hosting people often and being generous (though frugal) hosts. Because you’re right — to the uneducated eye, what we are doing *could* look like greed. But even while we want all the money right now, we’re also all planning to pass on all the money for many more years, and that’s an important difference!

  16. I certainly would agree. Although “enough” can be an ephemeral subject. Sort of like ‘balance’ for me. I honestly don’t know when ‘enough’ will be, at least financially, but I can say that I haven’t had enough of work because it is such a part of me. And in some respects I think that makes me a bit greedy. So be it. But I do agree that accumulating wealth for wealth sake is stupid.

  17. I think both sentiments are something that I struggle with. On the one hand, most people haven’t had the privileged background that I have had, so my feelings really only apply to a small subset of the population, but this is still where I am.

    I love the concept of enough. I think it gives me a specific investing goal beyond which I should feel no worry about whether I’ve done “enough” to meet my needs. That’s what I love about the pursuit of financial independence.

    On the other hand, I feel that my privilege should never be used frivolously. Both my sisters have used their privilege to work in education, my brother is on track to be a nurse and my other brother an artist. For me, I the possibility that ceasing to work is fraught with opportunites for selfish endeavors.

    I want my life to be about giving generously. If that means my time, then I will know that when my working for money is getting in the way of giving my time. If it means giving away money, then I certainly think working is for me.

    I also give myself the opportunity to change my perspective. I’m only 27 after all.

    • Hannah — I love that you address privilege, which so few bloggers do! That’s one of my favorite things about your blog. I love how you put the distinction in types of giving — if you want to give time, stop working as soon as you can, but if you want to give money, then keep earning it. That’s perfect. :-)

  18. *sigh* this is why it’s not worth it for to talk to too many friends (or even family) about early retirement – they just don’t understand and a manifesto every time is tiring! But great points. :)

    • Haha — I was just picturing someone actually climbing up a soapbox and doing this manifesto! :-) I wonder if you could start with the part about what you want to do with your life instead. We often tell people, “We’re working to be able to travel and do outdoor stuff, as well as write, full time.” When we start with what we’re retiring TO instead of talking about the mechanics or the “money hoarding,” we find that folks get it quickly and don’t ask critical questions back.

  19. Wow! I haven’t read all the comments before mine, but I will say that this is a serious issue that needs addressing, and I love your response.

    “Greed is paying people to do everything for us, becoming helpless. early retirement is doing things our selves, becoming self-reliant.

    “Greed is status and symbols and titles. Early retirement is giving up all of that.”

    The fact of the matter is that working longer and striving for more money and additional promotions/status/prestige once you’ve exceeded the amount that would sustain your family for life CAN be construed as greedy. Those who seek early retirement and give up additional earning potential are pretty much the opposite of that.

    • Thanks! We’re not saying there’s no greed in the FIRE world, but our experience is that it’s certainly not the norm. Most people buy a lot of junk they don’t need that ultimately goes into the landfill, and uses resources to produce that could have been left in the ground — we could just as easily call that greed! :-)

  20. I get the comment. My mom feels very strongly that our purpose in life is to make the world a better place. And for most people, that means working. She is also fine with people volunteering once they are retired. But not so fine with able-bodied people watching tv all day.

    My father has a very different philosophy and is totally on board with Early Retirement Extreme. He has worried instead about keeping himself busy and not bored.

    And they put their time where their mouths are– my mom is still working in her 70s. My father has been in and out of self-employment since I was a little kid and has always spent a ton of time traveling. They have a lot of savings. They donate and volunteer for causes that they care about.

    So I see both sides. For me, I will work because I have talents and gifts and I need to give back in exchange for those. But I don’t begrudge anybody who can afford it a life of leisure (assuming they’re not using their wealth to encourage voting against feeding kids and stuff).

    • I feel a little nauseous about sitting on my butt watching TV all day! There’s no way we’d be pushing for our early retirement goal if that’s what we were going to do with ourselves! :-) Your parents sound awesome — that’s so great that they’re still able to work if that’s what gets them fired up. A big part of our early retirement mission is giving back, mostly through volunteering. And we can do a lot MORE of that when we retire than we can now, which is a huge part of our motivation!

  21. I think it’s important to block the negativity out when it comes to early retirement. The point of working is to become self sufficient. Once you are self sufficient and can sustain it long term, why not live your dreams? Early retirement is often perceived as a desire to become lazy, yet when I look at both my retired parents, they are living the dream. They own their properties and have already spent a great deal of time traveling the world. They belong to numerous groups and do a lot for the community. Oh and guess what…they retired early. Early being age 50, but that is still early in today’s standards. We look forward to doing the same and find them to be a great example.

    • How cool that you have early retiree parents as role models! Completely agree with you about blocking out the negativity. Fortunately, we’ve encountered very little of it ourselves, except for in misinformed “news” articles, but we know it’s out there.

  22. I love this: “early retirement means working for money only as long as necessary, and then refocusing our life force on things that truly matter to us. things that are neither monetary nor material.” That’s exactly how I feel. Greed is a heart attitude–not a bank account or retirement plan. One could be more greedy by overspending and never having anything to save or give.

  23. Early retirement suffers from misconception. People assume we will do nothing, and thus we do not contribute to the system with work and tax. I can understand it creates some frustration, although I do not agree with it.

    Then there is the greedy part. I guess we are greedy, we want more time and more options. I think this can be good greed as long as it does not harm other people. Most of us will use this time and options to help via volunteer work, ablog to get others started.

    Lastly, most people will not understand the enough part. They might assume we need millions… It is more a personal number, based upon spending and security factors you need.

    • Completely agree with you, Amber! On the personal number point — if anything, we’ve seen most bloggers on the subject *decrease* their target number over time, because they find more and more ways to cut their spending, and they realize they can be quite happy with a smaller annual spending budget. This is definitely true for us!

  24. My take is that those who label people accumulating wealth with the aim of early retirement as ‘greedy’ is mostly rationalization of poor saving discipline. Spenders / anti-savers have to somehow justify their lifestyle and philosophy, and criticizing those with an opposing discipline is part of the process.

  25. I think when critics of FIRE throw out the insult “greedy” they might really mean something closer to “self-righteous/privileged/obsessed with money.” These are harder concepts to pinpoint, and perhaps harder concepts for FIRE folks to come to terms with. It can feel ugly to weigh the cost of Christmas gifts for family against your monthly savings goals…Am I self-righteous for trying to get out of the rat race I think the rest of society is caught up in? How can I explain my financial goals to family and friends without seeming like I’m judging them for theirs (or their lack of financial consciousness altogether)? These are issues I am currently struggling with…Luckily my partner is now on board with trying to get rid of our debt and save more aggressively, so at least I feel like I have a teammate going forward.

    • Such good points, Kelsey! Self-righteous and privileged, and maybe self-important, too — those are all things folks could see when they look at us. And it’s true we’ve cut back on gift spending. We make a point, though, of staying generous in other ways, both because we think that’s important, and because we don’t want to look like misers. We’re all about the homemade gifts, for example, or gifts of experience, neither of which stoke the flames of materialism, but still give loved ones fun gifts to open. How great that you guys are on the same page! Good luck on your journey.

  26. Really like this – it’s not said enough. I really don’t think most of us are truly greedy, just driven and aspiring to make the most out of life and money can act as a means to provide that. Nothing else. The thing is, those who are greedy, don’t produce. Most early retirement seekers want to still produce, but only on their own terms and not for someone else. Definitely a big difference . . . nice article!


    • Thanks, DP! I love your point about producing. And it’s so true — even when we’re retired, we still won’t have time to write and create everything on our list, and I’m sure that list will only keep growing. Thanks for commenting!

  27. I am always dismayed at the negative comments I read on early retirement articles. Before I retired early the first time I purposely did a need vs greed assessment to overcome any hesitation I would have with announcing my retirement. I was concerned about staying in a job that paid well but I no longer enjoyed just to continue padding my portfolio as being more greedy than my saving and retiring early. Knowing when enough is enough and walking away from a long held career into the unknown takes courage, planning, and execution. Leaving a paid position so hopefully someone else has the opportunity as your replacement is anti-greed as far as I am concerned. I believe the hater comments are all about envy since they haven’t the desire to do it themselves.

    • Everything you said sure seems right to us! Thankfully we haven’t (yet) gotten any of that negativity here, but we’ve sure seen it elsewhere, like in our friend Steve’s recent Business Insider feature. It reminds me of the question we keep asking ourselves: what will we say when people ask what we do, after we’re retired? If we say we’re retired, will people assume we’re rich a-holes? How do you answer the question?

  28. I love this so, so much! Thank you for writing this! I may not be on the early retirement road yet, but everything you’ve written in this post is true for me as well, especially on having ‘enough’. I’m with you all the way (you know it)!

    • Hi J! You know we miss you, right? :-) Hope things are going well on your side of the planet! Thanks for this lovely comment. :-) We *know* that a lot of us relate to this idea of *enough* — and that’s why we had to put this out there, to counter some of the negativity we’ve been hearing from others (fortunately not here!). xoxo

  29. Years ago I read the book “Your Money or Your Life”. It resonated so much with me and they spoke to getting to enough. I would have loved to have retired early and enjoyed more time with my husband before he unexpectedly passed at age 52. You never know what will happen tomorrow. Good for you. With your obvious thorough planning and fabulous blog you are in the right track.

    • We are big fans of that book! Reading YMOYL was definitely a big epiphany for us on a lot of things, especially thinking about trading our life force for money — once we understood that, we definitely stopped spending frivolously. I’m so sorry that you lost your husband so early — what a terrible loss. Thank you for sharing your story — definitely affirms that we’re doing the right thing!

  30. The critics of FIRE just don’t understand. I guess it’s just the world we live in whereas there is never enough. We, as the FIRE community, really don’t have to justify our high savings rate for a more free – future life. Our lives are our journey.

  31. I’ve seen this pattern before. If you sell a business for millions and retire early, most people seem fine with that. If you win the lottery and keep working, you’re selfish. If you work a more normal job while saving and investing and can retire before 55, then you’re greedy and selfish.

    It’s most bizarre. I suspect it’s some type of odd societal thing. Where, if you are doing something like everyone else (working 40 hours or more per week for a paycheck) and retire early, it really pisses people off. I think they’re pissed because they didn’t think to do it themselves. However, if you sell a business for millions or are an athlete or invent something or yes, win the lottery, then the same people can’t really relate to those things and so they don’t really know what to do. The lottery winner still working as being selfish is also just, funny.