OurNextLife.com // What Are Your Deal-Breakers? When Does Early Retirement Become No Fun or Not Worth It? Early retirement deal-breakerswe've learned

What Are Your Early Retirement Deal-Breakers?

It’s always fun to do the blue sky dreaming when it comes to early retirement, or really anything in the future. Sometimes we think dreaming about early retirement is the best part, but then we remember that we’ll actually get to live the dream soon. And we keep hearing that the real thing is even better than what we’re imagining… though, I don’t know, we’re dreaming pretty big. Either way, we love thinking about the stuff that gets us feeling all stoked and fuzzy.

At the same time, as you may have noticed, we don’t shy away from thinking about both the worst case scenarios and the not-quite-worst. Just call us preparedness nerds.

We like to plan for pretty much every possible eventuality, and given that we’ve already put about as many contingency plans in place as we can, we’re still thinking about the question, What if things don’t go as planned? But we’ve exhausted the financial answers, and so we’re thinking about the more metaphysical ones.

So we’re wondering: what about the things that aren’t worst case at all, don’t imperil our financial future in any existential way, but just make things not fun?

Is there some point at which the reality of early retirement is not worth the effort it took to get there?

That’s right, friends, today we’re talking deal-breakers.

OurNextLife.com // What Are Your Deal-Breakers? When Does Early Retirement Become No Fun or Not Worth It? Early retirement deal-breakers

Defining a Deal-Breaker

To us, a deal-breaker isn’t just an annoyance, or something not going the way we envisioned it. Heck, we hope that life is still filled with lots of mysteries and surprises, so it better not turn out exactly like we’re picturing it! Nor is a deal-breaker just another word for a first-world problem, like “We didn’t end up having enough money to spend to fly first class overseas every year, so our retirement is a letdown.”

A deal-breaker is something that fills you with a lasting sense of dread, thinking, “I did the wrong thing.” Or “I should have kept working.” Or “this is it?!” Something that forces you so far off your course that you know in your gut that the effort it took to reach early retirement or financial independence or any other big goal wasn’t worth it in the end.

Of course, it goes without saying that we hope none of us ever has to confront any of these things! But actually reflecting on your own deal-breakers can — we think — be a powerful way to help focus you on what you DO want. Or you can think of your deal-breakers as your anti-purpose. If you know in your heart that you’re meant to live a creative life, then not being able to express your creativity in any form could be a deal-breaker.

Our “Anti-Purpose” Deal-Breakers

In line with the anti-purpose idea, our deal-breakers are pretty much the opposite of the purpose we mapped out for ourselves: adventure, creativity, service.

OurNextLife.com // Our Three-Part Life's Purpose: Adventure, Creativity, Service

No Adventure — To anyone who casually asks us what we’re going to do with ourselves in early retirement (you know, because we might get bored or something), our short answer is always the same: Travel the world. It’s what we dream about most, it’s what’s been important to both of us from an early age and has carried through to this day. If we couldn’t travel — because of lack of resources or poor health or any other cause — we’d feel pretty adrift. We want to see all the corners of this incredible planet of ours — the cities and the culture and the history, and the nature and remote spots and high peaks where few have stood. If all of that was off the table, we would absolutely wonder if our hard work to save for retirement was worth it.

No Creativity — I have written a lot of words here about the importance of a creative outlet in my life, and in some imaginary scenario in which it’s possible to lose every creative outlet, I’d be pretty miserable. (What could that even look like? I go blind and lose the use of my hands? We quicky devolve into some Mad Max future with no computers or writing paper?) I think losing this one is pretty far-fetched, so it doesn’t feel like a probable deal-breaker. But it sure would be one if early retirement in some way leads to losing those outlets.

No Service — To us, service means leaving the world in better shape than we found it. It means contributing net positivity rather than negativity, encouraging others however we can, giving back to help those less fortunate than ourselves, and trying to find solutions to problems in our community and the world. If we ran super low on funds and couldn’t afford to support any charitable causes, that would feel like a huge bummer to us, and could be a deal-breaker if paired with a scenario in which we also couldn’t volunteer or coach local nonprofits because of poor health or disability. It’s really the combo that rises to deal-breaker level: if we couldn’t provide either financial support to causes we care about or volunteer in meaningful ways, then we’d for sure end up wondering what it was all for.

The Other Deal-Breakers

Of course, not every deal-breaker has to rise to the lofty level of running counter to our purpose. There are more day-to-day problems we could run into that would definitely have us wondering if this was really what we worked so hard for, like:

Having to move somewhere we don’t like — We fully accept that we could already be retired by now if we lived in a low cost-of-living area. But loving where we live is super important to us, and the things we love in a place tend to come with a higher price tag (top of that list: easy access to skiing). If stuff hit the fan and we were forced to move somewhere we don’t like just to get by, there’d be a good chance we’d regret not working longer and saving up more money.

Having to give up a home base entirely — It is still very much an open question in our minds of whether we should downsize from our medium-sized home to a small home, but much as we’ve discussed embracing a fully nomadic life, we’ve accepted that that’s not for us. We will always want some form of home base, we think, even if it’s a small, modest home. Both because we are just people who find comfort in having a physical place to call home, and because friends and community are super important to us. Mr. ONL is an extrovert all the way, and could make new friends anywhere, but I consider myself an ambivert, which means it gets exhausting fast to have to put out the level of effort required to make new friends — I can’t imagine trying to do that all the time. I think we’d both get lonely fast if we were always on the road, and we’d wonder if this was really what we’d been dreaming of.

Defining a New Dream?

Something we talk about occasionally is what happens if one of us gets seriously injured, or if I become disabled. In that case, we wouldn’t be able to do all the adventurous stuff we love, and that we definitely focus on when we’re defining our future dreams. Then would it all feel like it was a waste of time, or — worse — like we would have been better off if we’d kept working and saved more money, to be able to live a cushier life?

In those cases, we’d answer with a resounding “No!” Life is short, our time here is precious, and even if we have only a short time to climb mountains around the world like we hope to, it will be more time than we would have had if we’d stayed on the usual career treadmill. So that’s still a win.

But then what? If all the mountain stuff is off the table, living where we live would be a lot less appealing. It’s amazing in the summer, of course, but in the winter there’s all that snow. Not ideal for someone with mobility challenges who can no longer enjoy the powder. And all the stuff we want to do with our days? Some of it — the creative work — would still be on the table, but we’d have to reimagine most of the athletic activities. What then?

What then is we’d move to the beach and create a new dream! We aren’t shackled to the mountains, and much as we love them, we also realize that we probably won’t want to deal with the cold and snow when we’re 80, nor with the tourists who don’t know how to drive in the snow. So we’re already talking about our “late retirement home” in a walkable west coast beach town, one that we could love equally but for a different set of reasons. And so if we had to move that plan up, make it more real and call it the new dream, we would do exactly that.

What Are Your Deal-Breakers?

We’ve shared a lot about our deal-breakers, but what are yours? What are the things you need in your life, whose absence would make you question everything? What would your new dream look like if your path deviates way off course? Or are you one of those happy-go-lucky folks who can roll with the punches and be satisfied no matter what? We’d love to hear from you guys in the comments!

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65 replies »

  1. I think of deal-breakers slightly differently. We would have to end up in a pretty rotten situation for me to reassess pursuing FIRE as the “wrong” decision. Even if everything hits the fan, I don’t imagine regretting having taken the risk — and in the event of some insane calamity (natural disaster, war, economic collapse), I’m not sure continuing to work would make a difference anyway.

    That said, there are plenty of circumstances where we would adjust our income plan to include more work in the future. (Admittedly, I don’t feel quite as strongly as you about not being able to find work again in the future.) The biggest ones, as with yours, are the purpose-related ones. If we couldn’t afford any travel, or occasional meals out of the house, or (even worse) to see our friends and family regularly, we would absolutely prefer work to that meager existence. I would also be likely to work again if our parents or families needed financial support in their later years.

    I wouldn’t see those as failures, necessarily — just changes in circumstances that could warrant pursuing more active income in the future.

    • I need you to be my FIRE coach, because whenever you take a different view on some question, I always think, “Yeah, that makes total sense.” If we just chat before I write these posts, you’d save me a lot of writing, and everyone else a lot of reading! Hahaha. ;-) Totally with you that if some actual worst case scenario happens, we won’t regret a thing (unless that scenario happens tomorrow — then we’ll probably regret having saved our money instead of visiting Iceland and Dubai and New Zealand and Bhutan). The only things we’d really regret are if we planned badly and had to live somewhere crappy without the ability to travel. But, as usual, you provide a great reminder that it’s not like we can’t ever earn another penny ever again after we quit.

      • Ha ha, now there’s a side hustle I could get into! “Daily FIRE affirmations delivered to your blog or inbox. Act now: just $5 a day with two-year contract. Inspiration every morning for less than the price of your daily latte.” Think I’ll get any takers?

        Couldn’t agree more on not wanting to live somewhere that isn’t a good fit for us. We’re willing to make *some* compromises on that (we love San Francisco, but not enough to have to double our stash just to live there), but we would rather do more work than live somewhere without walkable streets, somewhat socially liberal attitudes, and some semblance of culture.

      • Um, Yes, OBVIOUSLY you need to do that. (And you need to give me a tiny kickback for helping give you the idea, right??) :-) And yeah, I totally get your love for and issues with San Francisco. You know we have similar feelings on needing to live in a place that’s at least a little bit progressive and has cultural opportunities of some sort… or at least where we’re close enough to the culture that we can get there without spending an arm and a leg.

  2. I think most of our deal breakers would be much like yours are – the ability and means to travel, not having to give up our homebase/move somewhere cheaper just to keep early retirement viable. I see FIRE as in addition to our lifestyle we have now, plus a little extra comforts such as travelling.. If we have to downgrade our current lifestyle to be maintaining FIRE then it isn’t truly successful FIRE in my eyes.

    I think our ultimate deal breaker though is pre-early retirement.. To retire early you’ve got to put in the hard yards before retiring, save your pennies and work hard towards it. If it was a choice between retiring early OR having children.. We would sadly shelf our FIRE dreams to go down whatever costly and unknown road, as we have learned on our journey trying to become parents that our only chance at biological children is IVF (expensive), if that didn’t work we would be left with pursuing expensive options for non-bio children. We would 100% give up FIRE to keep the chance alive of having a family. The idea of reaching FIRE as a childless couple feels so meaningless, we wouldn’t have achieved our biggest goal together, what is money without happiness/family/experiences.. Hopefully we can have kids and FIRE, it just might take us a little longer but that will be worth it.


    • Wow, what a beautiful story, Jasmin! I hope that your dreams of having kids one way or another come true! And I really admire you for being willing to scrap your FIRE plans for that! Fingers crossed it all works out for you and that you don’t have to scrap your FIRE plans to do it. You’re still young — I have to imagine that both are still an option!

  3. I’ve also thought about the “lack of travel due to poor health” scenario, but I don’t think it would make me regret working towards early retirement. I figure that pretty much any health malady that would prevent me from traveling or doing things that I enjoy would also prevent me from working and earning an income. In that case it is still better to leave work on my own terms than to be pushed out before I have saved enough to live as comfortably as possible.

    I also tend to tend to view regret similarly to the other Matt above. I weigh my options given the knowledge that I have, make the best possible decision at the time, and then move on. If some unlikely thing happens and throws off my plans, it doesn’t mean that I made the wrong decision.

    Reading a lot of fivethirtyeight.com has drilled probabilistic thinking into my head. If a candidate has a 90% chance of winning an election and goes on to lose, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your assessment of the situation was wrong. Unlikely things still happen and you can’t plan for every possible eventuality.

    • I agree with you — if it’s a health challenge that would make it tough to work, then thank goodness for going out on your own terms! And for having (hopefully) some quality time out of work before getting sick. And yeah, totally agree on probabalistic thinking. I’m just wired not to accept the 90% likelihood of success, but to ask more questions about that 10%. Blessing or curse? ;-)

  4. I think the deal breaker for me would be inactivity. I have grand plans for retirement that should keep that from happening. But if I wake up one day and realize I’m just sitting in my recliner all day watching soap operas, then we have a problem. :-)

    Early retirement presents a great opportunity for spending more time with family, chasing after dreams, and getting fit. There’s no way I would want to let that get away. The good news is that if inactivity became an issue, that’s something that I could fix as well.

    — Jim

    • Totally! I think of the recliner as the lead horseman of the apocalypse! Haha. Though for me, the horrible vision includes game shows, not soap operas. ;-) And you’re right that many forms of inactivity are fixable — knock on wood none of us become inactive as a result of health problems that can’t be addressed!

  5. What a neat way to look at your priorities. Travel, giving time & money, and family are all a must for us. We will definitely spend more because we have children, but we hope to reach ER before they leave the nest so we can do some awesome travel and service with them.

    • Thanks, Kalie! Your priorities pretty much match ours if you swap family for creativity — and we do get creative when it comes to making time for family! Haha. Fingers crossed for you guys that everything works out and you get to take some awesome trips with your kids. They will forever be grateful for that!

  6. I think the housing could be the one and only real deal breaker for us. If we had to move to somewhere we didn’t like we would be unhappy. Mr BOTRA and I have talked this through a lot and we think we have enough options left to us, even having down-sized to such an extent that it is difficult to go any smaller. There is rental, house sharing, living in the campervan full-time or moving abroad where housing is cheaper (although not sure how that option will work now with Brexit) still open to us if for some reason we have to move. But none of us have a crystal ball and we know that the housing situation in the UK will certainly change in the next 20-years so planning is almost impossible and we’re ready to just take the leap with our fingers crossed.

    • Yeah, we’re with you all the way! There are probably a huge number of places where we would be happy living, but there are definitely quite a few places where we don’t want to be. :-) (Like flat places! We need beach *or* mountains, we’ve learned.) I sure hope the Brexit doesn’t limit your future mobility. Fingers crossed for you that things go smoothly!

  7. I’m one of those happy-go-lucky folks who can roll with the punches and be content in most situations. I’m only 38 but my life looks drastically different than what I thought it would look like 20 years ago, and there are numerous things that I’ve given up along the way. A big one is my hobbies. I thought summers couldn’t exist without softball leagues and endless rounds of golf, but once I stopped doing those things I realized life goes on and it can still be enjoyable. My faith is another one of those big ones. I wouldn’t say I’ve given up my faith, but it looks VERY different than it did years ago. I figured having a church family was a non-negotiable for me, but it turns out it’s not…at least for this season of life. 28-year-old me never would have guessed that I’d be where I’m at with my faith today. Those are just a couple examples from my life. I enjoy discovering new hobbies, ideas, perspectives, etc and watching myself evolve. I’m at my best when everything is on the table.

    • Thank goodness for the happy-go-lucky folks like you, who balance out the more neurotic ones like me! Haha. I love how well you’ve rolled with the punches and embraced a life that looks different than you’d imagine, especially around things that had felt like pillars of your life. We should all strive to be so open about the things that come our way!

      • No, people like you aren’t neurotic! Us happy-go-luckies greatly admire people like you who can commit to something and see it through all the way to the end! Because it’s not always the best decision to roll with the punches – sometimes life requires us to hunker down and finish what we set out to do. Keep doing your thing!

      • After you meet me someday, then tell me I’m not neurotic! Haha — jk. I prefer the term “overthinker.” :-) But let’s just agree to some mutual admiration in both directions here. :-)

  8. We actually did some planning around “new dreams” as we got ready to purchase a second home. We chose a one-story condo in a building with an elevator so that we could be in the location we wanted, even if mobility became an issue. Our plan is to hit the road and travel when the youngest goes to college next fall. We want to do as much as we can that requires travel and activity while we are still able (not that we are old by any means, but we are older than many of you – and know some of the effects of time). Yet we are going to strive to be the happy-go-lucky folks you describe here. There are many things in our control, but we’ve been witness to those who have fallen to things very much out of their control. We need to be happy each day for what we have and strive to give what we can and anything else is just bonus after that.

    • I love how you put it — striving to be those happy-go-lucky folks. That’s definitely true for us, too, and Mr. ONL will probably be naturally better at that than I am. ;-) And I don’t blame you for trying to front-load your retirement travel! It’s definitely the same for us, too — even though we’re nowhere near old, we know we won’t be able to do all the sporty stuff we want to do for many decades, and we figure we can do the touristy travel when we’re a little older. But I love your overall world view of being happy for what you have each day and viewing the rest as bonus. :-)

  9. For me, it’s not really an early retirement deal breaker, so much as one of the reasons why we aren’t totally pursuing this full throttle. Right now, I feel like I can do most of these things to varying degrees (if I’d learn to stop squandering my summer breaks for $3k). But the service part especially. Once I feel like I’m no longer making an impact, adios work. I’m fortunate in the sense that I get so much fulfillment from what I do. As always, I love the honesty in your posts!

    • We have often said that if we had summers off, we could probably keep going at work a lot longer. Seriously, more companies need sabbatical policies! And yeah, you absolutely have the “making the world better” stuff baked into your work, which is awesome. And thanks for the honesty note! I don’t know how NOT to do that. :-)

  10. For us, things would have to get pretty bad before we decided to re-enter corporate America once again. Like you, if we don’t feel a sense of purpose after we call it quits, then we aren’t doing it right. But, we also don’t view these situations as deal breakers as much as, simply, time to try something new.

    We’ve put a ton of time and effort into making our current living arrangement work, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right decision for us down the road (pun intended!). Once we feel that nagging feeling that something is missing, we try something else. Also like you, living on the beach has definitely got our interest.

    I hesitate to say that there “are no deal breakers” for us. We just look at things a bit differently I suppose. We *KNOW* that working traditional corporate jobs doesn’t satisfy us, so even if early retirement someone doesn’t work out as we had anticipated, going back to something that we’ve already tried, and thoroughly abhorred, isn’t the solution either.

    For us, it just means that we need to try harder to find our niche.

    • You know we’re right there with you on not wanting to work the corporate gigs any longer than we must! And it doesn’t surprise me at all to know that you guys have more of a “no dealbreakers, stay flexible” attitude. If you decide down the road that you are sick of the Airstream life, you’ll figure things out, and I’m sure you’ve built into your plan the ability to pay rent somewhere if need be. So the fact that you have flexibility built into not just your mindset but also your finances makes a huge difference in being able to roll with the punches!

  11. When I review the significant changes in my life, I am thankful for all of them. A last minute work assignment change led me to the man who has been my husband for 27 years!

    A smaller home would be easier to look after, a new location would be fun to explore, and limited mobility would give me time to read the books I’ve not been able to get to.

    Health issues preventing me from being active wouldn’t make me wish I had worked longer but would make me thankful that I took the time in early retirement for daily exercise. Though it might push me to consider working again. I could craft an accounting role that wouldn’t require a lot of mobility.

    • I completely love your grateful attitude! That’s so inspiring. :-) There’s definitely no world in which we’d regret retiring early if we lost our mobility, but more the other dealbreakers, especially living somewhere we don’t like. But of course we hope to be able to manage things well in advance of that ever becoming an issue.

  12. outside of injury or medical issues preventing us from traveling, doing fun stuff outside my deal breaker is pretty simple. If money is the only reason we aren’t doing things we want to do, then something is wrong. Obviously we aren’t going to be flying first class around the world staying in 5 star hotels – just as long as we can get there we would be happy. We are roll with the punches on execution.

    • That’s a great way to put it — rolling with the punches on execution. Sounds like your dealbreakers overlap with ours, and certainly there’s plenty we can do to NOT run into dealbreaker scenarios. So I’m really talking natural disasters + sustained stock market crash type scenarios only. :-)

  13. Before I retired, I would have been able to provide you with quite a list of deal breakers. I would have given the matter serious thought, and decided that retiring to a place I didn’t want to be simply because of the cost of living, or retiring with one or both of us facing serious, long term health issues, or retiring somewhere where the only employment I could find should I need to return to work wouldn’t be doing something I loved, or being hours away from the kids and grandkids, or owning a large, high maintenance home, would all be deal breakers. Fortunately, I’d be wrong on all counts. When Mr. AR and I found this home, we’d been to several states and on multiple overnight journies searching for our ideal retirement home. Most of what I’d imagined just didn’t pan out. Small, energy efficient somewhat newer homes had no personality and were grossly overpriced, and tended to be in areas with too much congestion. Snowy areas, while lovely, were out of the question due to mobility issues. We ended up somewhere we both said we’d never be, and we love it here and can’t imagine anywhere else that could possibly have turned out better. We are facing long term, progressive health issues with Mr. AR, but we’re coping, and we have the time to navigate the medical insurance, Medicare and health care provider system to provide the best possible care for him. We’ve also realized there are steps we can take here, such as hiring people for yard maintenance and installing a stair chair or special bath tub, should the need arise and that day come. We live here all the time, and we’ve realized we can make this house work for us as we age without having to relocate unless we want to. We could even house fulltime help here with their own living quarters should we decide to do so. Local employment ended up being a non-issue, as I decompressed from the working world and opted to cut expenses rather than seek employment, and I’m so glad I did! Not just because we’re saving money every month, but because we are spending time together. One of my biggest fears was that we’d just have each other most days, and we’d grow weary of the repetition and routine of it all. But that was the old me, accustomed to a frantic pace and constant issues, worried that serenity would bore me to tears. That hasn’t happened, and I doubt it ever will. Having the kids and grandkids hundreds of miles away is a regret, and there’s no sugar coating that. They need to be where the jobs are, and that comes at a very high price tag, both monetarily and emotionally. We don’t want the noise, the traffic, the crowds, the rudeness and impersonality of it all. What a luxury to have the choice to leave the over priced, congested Bay Area for the sierras! We feel like the two luckiest people on earth most of the time. Challenges? Of course. Change isn’t easy, and it’s rarely without regret. But everything, the year of looking for a home, the move that took three months, the race to get the old house ready to sell, the hundreds of miles of trips back and forth, the chaos and hassle and fear, all of it was so, so worth it and I’d do it again in a second. Has everything gone our way? Absolutely not. Have there been some land mines? You bet, I tripped on one just recently with yet another expensive home repair (gutters and downspouts this time). But that’s life. No place is perfect, no plan is perfect, and when it comes to money, you (and everyone you know) can always use more. But for us, the overall decisions, even those made in haste or under duress, have worked out better than we ever dreamed they would, and we are very, very grateful every day for whatever time we have left on this bountiful earth together. Giving up even one more day to spend together because of some misplaced fear? Now that’s a real deal breaker.

    • I LOVE this, because you show that so many of the things we think we NEED just aren’t that important in the end. Obviously some of this is specific to you guys, but it feels like a universally applicable lesson. I think our only real and true deal-breaker would be some far-fetched scenario in which we were forced to live in a place in which everyone was the polar opposite of us in terms of views on politics and social consciousness, and a place devoid of interesting cultural activities. And the humidity. But that’s still a pretty short list that still leaves a lot of options. :-)

  14. I would need to not feel limited by money. I’m not talking buying crazy things like a boat (well, crazy to me) or living lavishly, but mostly just the things I enjoy in life like leisure activities and travel. I would also like to be able to choose where I live as well!

    • I’m right there with you! Like I don’t need to splurge all the time, but if I could NEVER go to a restaurant or buy anything ever, I’d be pretty hardcore bummed!

  15. Agree with the the many points raised in the post and those from readers, there are many awesome things we want to do and plan to do.

    None of us can predict what is going to happen in the future and the endless possibilities of mapping out what may or may not happen becomes to a large extent an exercise in futility. And that is from a serious, serious contingency planner!

    What you may enjoy today may not be what makes you happy five, ten years from now. And that is the beauty of it all, to be able to choose what we want to do… on our terms….on our timeline. For the most part at least.

    Based on whatever is thrown at us, we will all have to navigate, adapt and find a new path. There is no deal breaker, just another turn of getting back fo the table and renegotiating the contract of living.

    • I love that you guys are big in the contingency camp, too — there are a lot of “wing it” folks in the community, and it just makes my head spin how people can leave *that many* things to chance, beyond the many things we have no control over. Haha. And such a good reminder that what we want to do could totally change in a few years. We’ve only ever worked or been in school, and so we tend to crave the things that are the opposite of that forced structure. But that could all change once we no longer need that counterbalance!

  16. That reminds me of my post “why FIRE freaks me out Man”. Mainly for a lot of those reasons you mentioned. What if it doesn’t work out, what if we didn’t plan well, what if things out of our control go south? :) I finally just accepted it and realized like Matt said, just because our plan has 90% chance of success and didn’t work, didn’t mean we didn’t assess the situation correctly. So, things out of my control, I just accepted and will deal with it as needed.

    From my perspective on your dealbreakers, a lot of those are in your control, so I see it as if you retire and see those things happening, well it’s not retirement, it’s you, or me if it happens to me. :)
    Then you just go to the bathroom, look in the mirror, and slap yourself. After recovering you just need to tell yourself, “Come on slacker, get with the program!” and quit squandering your free time eating ice cream on the sofa while drinking a beer and watching HGTV. :)

    I think barring a terminal or lifestyle limiting disability the rest of the deal breakers can also be handled with a perspective adjustment.

    If the mountains don’t work anymore and you have to move to a beach… Gasp! the horror… Hahaha You can afford to move and even more awesome, choose where you want to live – that’s a LOT of freedom. If it’s moving somewhere you “don’t like” just to save money, then why move there? There are plenty of cheap places to live that are great for entertaining, just look harder before moving. I have no clue where we’ll land, but I do know I can be happy anywhere, especially after 9+ years in a hot, muggy, flat, non-season having, flat, no snowboarding nearby, Gulf Coast environment. You just change perspective and find things to do that are unique to your new area.

    I hope that doesn’t seem too offensive or anything, that’s just my take on where most of us are.

    To answer the question, I don’t see any deal breaker worth giving up that time or freedom gained from FIRE/FFLC, especially if I ended up disabled somehow. I’d be glad I have the time and freedom to find or start a support group and try to help others or get help from others in my situation. But then, today’s a real positive day for me, so maybe this reply would be different written from “Mr. SSC in a funk”. Hahahaha

    • I was pretty sure Mr. SSC was going to say “Ramen noodles”

      I am not too afraid of failing at FIRE – because I will have tried it and had a few years of freedom in my mid-life. Having a few years of a sabbatical to spend time with my kids would be priceless, and worth it. As long as we have the money to take care of the kids, I will be just fine. In fact I am sure there will be hard years once we FIRE, but without some hard times, you don’t realize how sweet the good times are. So many people have less than we do, its kind of mental game how satisfied you are with your life and situation.

      • You raise the ever-relevant yin-yang argument: we NEED those hard times to appreciate the easy days. Always a great reminder, Prof SSC! (I’m sticking with that name for you — no use arguing.) ;-)

    • Oh, you chill, Zen people. You and your unworried minds. What is that like??? Hahaha. You’re right that a lot of our dealbreakers are within at least one circle of our control, but we’d see them arising if we lost control of other things (you know, super bad markets plus maybe natural disaster, or something like that?)

      And yeah, I know — POOR US if we *have to* move to the beach. :-) I’m not calling that a dealbreaker at all — that’s just changing the dream. ;-)

      I think the positive attitude is appropriate — you know we love to ask these kinds of questions and think about what our requirements are for it all to feel worth it. It doesn’t seem that far-fetched to me that there could be some series of cascading setbacks in retirement that could force us to move somewhere cheaper, and with all due respect, I pretty much think humidity is the worst thing in the wold, and I can’t fathom spending any money to live in a humid place again. Hahaha. So plenty of people like Florida, but no thank you! :-) That’s kinda what we mean… we’re location snobs, I guess!

  17. The obvious one that comes to mind is if you’re ill suited to it. My grandpa tried to retire 3-4 times but always started new businesses. He liked tennis and Bible studies, but if he sat still too long he had to start something new.

    Likewise, Rob and I have already discussed me going back to work full time. It’s of course a little different, but I’m a big believer in do overs and change.

    • That to me sounds like he was actually perfect for retirement so he was free to keep starting new businesses! ;-) As long as he wasn’t going back to work because he blew all his money… But doesn’t sound like that was an issue. How do you feel about going back full time? If you’re into it and it feels like good change, then great!

  18. Our plan is based, in large part, on having flexibility. We want to have more options when it comes to our lifestyle, so we’re paying off all of our debt and building up assets. But we have come to accept the fact that we will need to do some work for the foreseeable future. That being said, we’re not making any concrete plans just yet. We’ll adjust our trajectory depending on what happens in the next five or so years.

    • I love that — flexibility will never serve you badly! And work itself isn’t bad as long as you don’t do anything that’s soul-sucking or subjects you to abuse or other unhealthy conditions. I know that’s kind of heresy to say on a FIRE blog, but I don’t think we should all be lamenting any work as some inherently bad thing (and you definitely weren’t doing that!). Too much work is a bad thing, and being connected all the time isn’t good for us. And finding more meaningful work is always a worthy pursuit. But beyond that, I think it’s awesome that you guys are looking for ways to work enough to cover your expenses but less so that you can make more space for the things you really want to spend your time on. :-)

  19. I’m actually writing a post this very minute about what I want my post-FI life to look like! It actually does boil down to your 3 tenets: I want to do crafty stuff, travel, and give back to the local community by mentoring pre-teen and teenaged girls through local camps. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to do it!

    • That’s awesome that you have your purpose mapped out and now it’s just a question of execution! Let me know when that post is up — I’d love to read it!

  20. As usual, you are approx 10 years ahead of us! Good stuff…!

    Deal breakers for me would be journey towards FIRE that is miserable that I feel I have missed a lot for this one dream. I have this feelings now, when I see pictures of others that go to Mexico, Kuala Lumpur,… Then I think. What the hell, why not! Why wait till we FIRE and the kids are too old to do that.
    What if We do all of that now, feel FIRE now and work a few years longer.

    That is my real deal breaker

    (My post on semi FIRE that I mentioned before is done and due for tomorrow. It is not yet stated as strong as above)

    • We struggle with the same question — whether we are missing out on things now in the interest of getting to FIRE as soon as possible. But the flipside is that if we quit now to travel, we likely couldn’t find jobs like ours afterward, and we’d trade some current day experiences for future security. Oh well… no easy choices in this stuff! And I will check out your post — look forward to reading!

      • That answers raises a few questions in my head:

        Finding jobs like ours! How important is that? What makes this job so worthwhile, besides the money? Is there another job you can imagine that gives similar satisfaction and benefits?

        Finding the right balance is nit easy. There is a lot to take into account. We are trying to define a new balance these days. No surprise, it is in the line of FIRE later, be more free already now. Also challenging.

      • It’s a good question, and I think for most people, there would be an easier answer. But because we moved to a small town in the mountains, there are very few jobs near us, and it would be much harder to find a new job with equal responsibility and pay that would be 100% remote like ours are now. That is our big confounding factor!

  21. Great topic. This is something that has been dominating our thinking and conversations recently. When we started out, retirement would solve everything. Then as we really spent time thinking about what we valued and what would really make us happy our visions changed.

    We really want to live out west so we can be in the mountains. However, we are both very close with our families and moving away means giving up that. That is especially valuable now that we have our daughter, nieces and nephews we are very close to, and both of our parents are aging and not in great health.

    In the end, we don’t see a way to have both the mountain west and substantial time with family back east while living on a tight budget we would have with traditional retirement. However, by working a bit, me seasonally with a traveling job to provide us with a way to travel for extended periods of time, and Mrs EE continuing to work part-time from home for a while we can build a lifestyle with much more freedom and much less stress than actually retiring in the traditional sense of the word. In the meantime, I plan to continue to develop more passive streams of income to eventually transition to a more traditional not working at all retirement. However, not working at all isn’t really a big deal to either of us. We are much more worried about achieving more balanced and fulfilled lives now, even if it is a retirement deal breaker.

    • I can see what a tough decision that is! We’ve talked about whether we’d change our plan if we had kids, because we have only a little family nearby, and we can absolutely see the value in having proximity with kids! I think the more flexible mindset you’re bringing to the discussion is super smart, and the fact that you’re both willing to work a bit to make it work is really admirable!

  22. As folks have pointed out above, a lot of deal breakers that make ER unpleasant would make my current corporate work life equally or even more miserable, for example illness or a transfer to an unpleasant location. A deal breaker for me would be if right after I leave my current job, the firm lands a new mega contract or has such a blockbuster profit year that everybody gets a multi-million dollar bonus. Yeah, right, what are the odds for that?! Unlikely as it is, I would kick myself for leaving at the wrong time.

    • So totally true! Yeah, if we got sick or became disabled, we’d be super glad we had enjoyed at least some early retirement time and wouldn’t regret it one bit. And yeah, we know what you mean about kicking yourself after a banner year happens! I think that’s a good time to remind yourself about what your enough is — but we can also just hope that you never have reason to feel regret! ;-)

  23. Disability would not be a deal-breaker for me. I’m actually assuming it will happen if I live long enough. That’s why I want to buy a condo where I can age in place. I want a smallish building with an elevator and to be on the third or fourth floor max. I want any of my current friends with mobility impairments to not be trapped if there is an emergency, and I want my old knees to be taken care of in the next few decades when they reach old age.

    My dealbreaker would be not interacting with humanity enough. I’m an extrovert. I need to contribute to goodness in the world. If I was just by myself all the time, it would hurt my spirit.

    • You’re so ahead of the curve in thinking about that! We made sure to buy a house that has a bathroom and bedroom on the first floor so that we could still live here if we got injured, but we weren’t thinking about permanent disability, only temporary inconvenience. And yeah, the social piece is super important to us, too! I know a lot of folks in our community are introverts, but it’s super important to have strong social ties to maintain good health and well-being as we age!

  24. That’s a thought provoking topic. There aren’t a lot of deal breakers for me. Mrs. RB40 has more and that’s why she is still working. She needs more security. I don’t mind moving to a lower cost of living location or even giving up a home base.
    The big thing for me is health and having a good relationship with my family. Health is huge because healthcare cost is rising so much every year. I guess I’d have to go back to work if we can’t afford health insurance. Or maybe we can move to Europe…

    • We have those same thoughts — if health insurance became so expensive that we can’t afford it, we’d consider moving abroad, or maybe going back to work if we absolutely had to. Let’s hope that never happens! :-)

  25. I love traveling but if it became something I couldn’t do due to health reasons I would try to see if anyone in my church needed funds to go on a trip for missions and give a lot of money I would have spent traveling myself to help them and tell them to make sure they took lots of pictures for me.

    • Wow, what an amazing answer! That’s a reflection of a truly generous spirit that you would give the money to make sure someone could experience the adventures you’ve been dreaming of… and it’s only fair that they bring back lots of pictures! :-)

  26. What are your real risks?
    No creativity – I suspect wherever you live, most towns /cities/churches/community centres all offer low-cost/free classes for all sorts of creative pursuits. I am a member of a creative club which caters for everyone regardless of income. Cut and polish stones from the beach – free. Into metal work, well copper is far more cost-effective than silver and can be very stunning!
    Poor health – bluntly put, if it’s coming your way, there’s relatively little you can do about it, so better to have a few great years before it hits! If you become chair bound, better you have some lovely memories! And if that is in a different environment /town…, then you’ll have lots to learn about your new area.
    Give back – well that costs nothing wherever you are, and is very welcome whenever you choose to do so. It certainly doesn’t cost money.
    Travel – I have been so lucky, I’ve been in many places across the world, from NZ, India, China, Singapore, US, Canada, Ecuador, Galapagos, Peru, Spain, France, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Czech Republic, to name but a few. Plenty more to come. But to be honest,if you’re not fit, haven’t enough money, read widely, watch lots of natural history / travel programmes and just dream. They won’t be far off the mark. Dreams cost nothing from your armchair….

    However, to Dividendsand hobbies, what a lovely idea to give someone else the gift of travel that you can’t enjoy… That is such a lovely idea, one we could all learn from. Many of us could give a similar donation. One to seriously consider. Thank you

    • Completely agree on the idea of giving someone else the gift of travel if you yourself are not able to go. What a beautiful gesture that would be… something we had never considered! And definitely agree that there is always a creative outlet if you’re wired for that, and there are reasonably priced classes even in small towns.