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When Friends or Family Don’t Support Your Early Retirement Dreams

Retiring early, despite the profusion of blogs on the topic, remains a rare thing in non-blog life, and something that most people in the world have never known anyone to do. And that means that the entire concept, for most people, is entirely unfamiliar.

Of course, some people hear that early retirement is a thing and immediately jump at the chance to learn more. (Hi! That was us all the way. And maybe you too, since you’re reading this.)

But it’s not true for everyone. Some greet the concept with skepticism, concern for those willing to take the risks inherent in early retirement, and maybe even disdain.

While those of us pursuing early retirement may not be the people who react the latter way, we may have friends and family who are in that camp.

When we share our plans with them, some of those loved ones may gradually come around as they come to accept that it’s not a decision any of us are making lightly, while others may never see things our way. Or they might react in a host of other ways: jealousy, disproportionate concern, passive aggressive “congratulations,” and any number of other reactions.

While we’d all prefer to have total support from those we love, we’re not powerless in this, and there are a number of ways we can cope.

OurNextLife.com // When Friends or Family Don't Support Your Early Retirement Dreams

Many of Us Have Unsupportive People in Our (Early Retirement) Lives

I put the question out on Twitter of how you handle it when people in your life don’t support your early retirement goals:

@our_nextlife Question: Anyone have friends or family who aren't supportive of your FIRE plans? How do you handle it?

In response I got a ton of interesting answers:

Tweets

Of course, there are the lucky few who mostly experience support:

Bob

And there are those who can’t help but go for comedy:

ChooseBetterLife

And there are those whose answers give insights into how we can deal with that lack of support.

Dealing with Unsupportive Loved Ones

It’s so important to pace ourselves on the journey to early retirement, and that means not spending too much mental energy defending our life choices to those we love, especially if they just want something very different from their own lives. But there are a number of ways we can deal with those unsupportive folks:

Try to Convince Them

While not everyone jumps up and down at the idea of forsaking regular income for the rest of their lives, that doesn’t mean that they can’t come around.

Caren

Project Forward

Even if everyone isn’t supportive of you now, imagining a future state when they’ll envy what you did might give you the resolve you need to keep going.

Frugal-millennial

Find Something Else to Talk About

If someone refuses to be supportive, it might make sense to avoid the subject, or to decide how much you value that relationship in the first place.

Leigh

Just Don’t Tell Them

Sometimes the best way to cope is just not to make a potential point of conflict part of the relationship at all:

Not-Telling

I’m an open book and doubt that I could keep something so huge so quiet, but it’s clearly working for some folks.

Tune Out the Haters

Sometimes you just gotta stick to your guns and tune out all the noise, even if it comes from someone you love.

Carrie

Listen More

The most humbling response was this one from Ryland King:

Twitter exchange with Ryland King

It makes total sense — especially when we’re talking about a huge and unconventional life decision — that we all want to explain ourselves, to be be understood, or even to bring others around to our way of thinking. But what if, instead of trying to convince others, we just listen?

And remember this life advice to applies to any situation: If all else fails, laugh. 

Our Story of (Mostly) Supportive People

We’ve been downright amazed that we’ve been greeted with virtually total support from everyone we’ve told about our plans. (It’s still TBD what our employers and most of our work friends will say, since we haven’t told them yet. That’s happening this fall when we give notice.)

But, there is this one person, a person who has an important role in our lives and isn’t someone we can just write off for lack of support. This person asks about our plans regularly, interestingly enough, but then always makes it a passive aggressive thing. Stuff like: “Oh, you’re so much younger than me. But you’ll be retiring first. I guess you just don’t want to work hard like the rest of us.” Yep, super fun.

While I can’t say for sure, I’m guessing there’s some jealousy there, and the truth is that this person has not prepared especially well for retirement, and has a minimal safety net in place should something catastrophic happen. And that’s not something we can nor should fix. But it does mean that those remarks are likely to continue. (Sarcastic yay!)

We feel grateful to have such overwhelming support from friends and family alike — including those urging us to quit sooner than we plan to when they see how exhausted we sometimes are from work and work travel — so it’s easy to keep this one person’s lack of support in perspective. And we deal with those passive aggressive moments without taking the bait or feeding the self-pity that’s behind them.

In response to a remark like what I wrote above, we’d just respond, “We’re super excited,” and leave it at that. We don’t try to defend our decision or the soundness of our logic, and I highly recommend that approach if you find yourself in a similar spot.

Does Your Social Circle Support You?

It seems like everyone falls somewhere on the spectrum between total support and zero support from friends and family — I haven’t yet heard from anyone who has support from literally no one outside of early retirement blogs, nor have I heard from anyone who has no one who is skeptical in the least. But maybe folks on one or the other end are out there, and I’d love to hear from you!

And for everyone else who falls somewhere in the middle: Do you feel mostly supported or mostly unsupported? For those who aren’t at least initially supportive, what are their reactions like? Are they acting out of concern for you or out of something more like jealousy? How do you handle that lack of support? Had any success bringing folks over to your side after they initially weren’t onboard with your plans? Let’s discuss it all in the comments!

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125 thoughts on “When Friends or Family Don’t Support Your Early Retirement Dreams

  1. We’ve never experienced anything negative, at worst it’s skepticism. That said, unless it’s your partner or someone else very close to you, is their support or understanding even necessary?

    I think Ryland King’s approach is probably the first one I’d take if I ran into “resistance” – if someone is willing to tell you they don’t support/understand it, it’s a big risk for them too. They could just nod quietly but they’re sticking their neck out to tell you their disagree. It’s important to listen and see why but they are coming from a good place.

    1. Love this, Jim. Heard a quote from a friend last night that went something like, “You will accomplish what you want in this life as soon as you stop caring what other people think.”

      Very in tune with Byron Katie’s The Work, where you’re reminded to ask yourself, “Am I in my business right now or am I losing myself in someone else’s business?”

      1. I like that sentiment – though I’d amend it to only caring what the most important people in your life think. Not because you need to cater to them necessarily, but along the same lines of your original thought, it’s good to get feedback from people you love and trust.

        1. I think all that feedback is super helpful, even if it’s not what we want to hear. If we find ourselves having a kneejerk negative response to something, it probably means we have some more thinking to do!

      2. Not sure why, but this all reminds me that I should have clarified in the post that there’s a big difference between telling someone what you’re doing and asking for their input. We NEVER ask people’s opinions, and instead just tell them our plans. I do think part of our positive reception is that we say what we’re doing with confidence, and make clear that it’s not a debate, and that tends to stop people from going to that criticism place in their heads. :-)

    2. I think that’s the perfect way to approach it. Even if their skepticism is baseless, it can only strengthen your own plan to listen openly and think through your responses, right? But I also agree that ultimately you don’t need anyone else’s permission or approval — we tackle that by not asking for it. ;-)

  2. So far, only a select few family members know of our plans to FIRE in about five years, and they’re just as excited as we are. Once it happens, those who find out then will assume we’ve burned out or lost our jobs. The majority of people out there can’t comprehend how to do it, because they’re too busy focused on the road blocks. Or spending their entire paycheck.

    1. That’s so awesome that your relatives who know are excited for you guys! Wohoo! The sad thing is that I really do think a lot of people *would* be interested in changing their ways if they knew all of this was an option, but they have no good way to hear about it, and with so many of us not talking about it, those folks won’t get the chance to do what we’re doing.

      1. That’s a great point. Although I don’t talk in detail about my own plans, I do share the stories of the FIRE community with people I see living the drone life. Let them know there’s a way out aside from working until you die to pay for things you never use, etc. Thanks for being one of those stories and sharing on this blog!

  3. My dad still works full time at 76. He’s cut back a bit but never wants to retire. As a lawyer in his own firm, he has that prerogative as long as his health holds up.

    It took a long time to admit to him that we weren’t really planning on going back to full-time work, that seasonal work+real estate rentals+investments and low-cost lifestyles were allowing us to do what we do and we had no plans to change that. Dad watched my brother dither away whatever he had, so he has been quietly skeptical. especially since he doesn’t really understand investing and has had poor to fair results instead of good. He knows we’re in a very different place than my brother, but not pursuing a career is just weird to him.

    1. I come with a similar story, Emily. My dad worked till he was 72 (last year) as a baggage handler for an airline company. 42 years. When we talk about FI, I know my dad got to fly around the world for free from age 25 to 43 skiing and hiking and diving. When I think of his story that way, I like to think he caught on to the FI path back when Vicki Robbin’s — Your Momey or Your Life author, was teaching the concepts in basements and churches, but just using earned income/job benefits to get it.

    2. I really admire people who can keep working beyond age 70 because they’re so invested in what they do. Kudos to your dad. BUT, that doesn’t mean he should judge your choices since you are clearly not your brother, and you’ve set multiple income streams in motion that provide you a lot of diversification.

  4. It took me close to 6 years to come around to the idea fo FIRE from when Prof SSC first introduced it to me. Yep, I was skeptical as hell and didn’t want to trade our cushy gigs and nice paychecks to go live in a van down by the river. :)

    So far, the most common responses from the few who know our plan, is positive support. Even the 2 work peeps that know are really supportive and non-snarky at all. One in particular knows 2 other couples that did the exact same thing and retired pre-50 so she’s supportive and non-judgy about it.

    Prof SSC’s family was fairly skeptical at first until they realized we’d be retiring with more money than they have in their retirement stash. That and talking about all the what ifs with them for the last 3-4 years has changed their stance a LOT. They’ve gotten really supportive and see the positive upsides with our Lifestyle Change. Even when we looked at property they met us out there and oddly enough didn’t even freak out when we went under contract for our “retirement” property.

    Her dad’s response was, “well I see this as a realistic 5 yr plan, not a 2-3 yr plan. Building a house takes a LOT of planning and you guys deciding on a house layout, and everything else will take at least a year…”

    Side note, even if it took 5 years, I’d be retired before I’m 45… Wow. It still amazes me just typing it. :)

    1. You raise an interesting point which is that the skeptical people almost universally assume that none of us have thought this through. We’re just going to quit our jobs, go on welfare and eat cat food… or live in a van down by the river. Which is pretty insulting, if you choose to see it that way. Hahaha. I think your example is great, and how informing folks more and more of your plans helps bring them around. And, on the house subject, I hope it doesn’t take 5 years! Fingers crossed for you guys that 2-3 years really is more like it!

  5. My partner and I are contemplating a cross country move to give ourselves a better work life balance, and it seems like no one in our family is on board. Both sides of our family are from the ‘work hard your whole life then retire and die’ tradition, which just doesn’t mesh with us (millennials are the worst right?!). I know that they will miss us if we move, but I’m having a hard time not seeing their negativity as selfishness. We just have to remember that it’s our life and we can’t expect everyone to be on board with the choices we make!

    1. Mr. 1500’s newest post “Free” mentioned at the end that this FI journey isn’t about never working again, it’s about moving from formal work to gratifying work — where you’re never committed to be somewhere to do something you don’t want.

      Since you’re a FIRE’r I bet you’re not planning pina coladas on the beach from 35 to 70. Maybe Mr. 1500’s perspective could help you and your family see more eye to eye. :)

    2. I love your last sentence — it IS your life, and the only people who need to be on board with your choices are you guys. I suspect you’re right that they just don’t want you to move far away and are having trouble expressing that in more affirming ways. But I’m sorry that’s happening!

  6. All things are relative. I plan on retiring twenty years from now at the ripe age of fifty five. That’s not financially driven but life choice driven. And yet the few family and friends that know respond with skepticism to what, in term said of this community, is not so extreme. They are supportive at least. I try my best to help them with some financial advice but most are just not interested. As such the conversation is usually fairly short and quickly forgotten.

    1. It’s so unfortunate that retiring at 55 seems so unattainable for so many! Obviously we all here know the low savings rates that most people maintain, and then there’s the financial advice that makes people think they need $10 million to retire. I don’t blame folks for being skeptical. BUT, it’s still crazy to me that people think you won’t be able to retire at 55 with 20 YEARS OF FOCUSED SAVING.

  7. We have not told our families anything, outside of ” I am not going to work forever” – it is a little to early for us to broadcast our long term plans.

    I have been thinking, what if in x number of years we announce we are retiring – will someone be mad that we didn’t share our plans/strategy earlier? Maybe we could have been the bump in the right direction for a close friend or family member?

    Tough to say, but I sometimes feel weird writing about FI without letting people close to us know and leaving the option up to them if they want to join.

    1. I think “we’re not going to work forever” is great code to start warming people up to the idea. I said that to a friend once, and then a year said something about our plans, and the friend was utterly non-plussed given the earlier hint. ;-) And your Q is such a good one! And a good reason why it’s thoughtful to share your plans with those you trust not to blab too widely about it. I know we’ve inspired some friends to think differently, and I think any of us have that power. If it were me, I’d listen to that weirdness you feel and spread the good word. ;-)

  8. I love Rylan’s responses! So much wisdom there. It is hard when someone close to you doesn’t support any decision you make. Even though that isn’t going to change your course, you’d hope that difference of opinion wouldn’t cause distance in a close relationship. When I think about the people in our lives responding if we one day retire early, I can imagine some might feel disapproval, while others would be celebrating along with us. It’s hard to say, so I guess we’ll cross that bridge when it comes and remember to listen!

    1. Totally! He really took me by surprise, in a good way. I know I don’t know you guys personally, but I have to believe that folks around you wouldn’t be too surprised if you decided to retire early, because you’d spend more time doing purpose-driven service, which is a wonderful contribution to society. But yes, great reminder to listen throughout all of it!

  9. My family and friends have been mostly supportive. The older they get, the more skeptical they are. My coworkers that know have been mostly skeptical with a few who are supportive. If they dislike me, they tend to patronize me and tell me it can’t happen, so I just stopped talking about it because who likes being treated like a 5 year old?! Not me, that’s who.

  10. I like the way you did this post integrating feedback from the community!

    I’ve kept my early retirement plans somewhat low-key. However, those that I have told definitely resonate that feeling of disbelief or judgement. I haven’t had a lot of negative feedback though, but that’s probably because most of my circles don’t think this is something that’s even possible to do.

    It’s definitely something that’s going to be difficult to tackle as we get closer though. I’m a little more “who cares” when people are not supportive, but my wife will probably struggle with this a little bit.

    — Jim

    1. Thanks for that feedback! It was a fun one to do. That’s too bad that folks in your circles don’t believe this is possible. I think, though, in that case, it’s a good thing that you don’t care too much what they think. And I’m inclined to guess that your wife might struggle a little, but that will quickly be outweighed by the joys of freedom. ;-)

  11. Thanks for including my tweet :)

    When I stumbled across FIRE a few years ago, I immediately knew it was something I wanted so I told everyone. Nobody ever came off as disapproving but many didn’t understand how it was possible. Although I’ve provided information, most still don’t believe it or they blame their kids on not being able to FIRE. It makes me laugh since they and their spouses have combined incomes 2x or 3x mine. Pretty sure kids aren’t that expensive!

    1. I loved your tweet! And yeah, we’ve had similar experiences! People have often wanted to know more, but then it’s kids or the expensive place they live or whatever other reason why they can’t do it. And hey, that’s their choice — if it was their priority, they’d find a way, kids and all!

  12. As time goes on, I tell more and more people (in real life), but I’m careful who I tell. FIRE isn’t something I’m going to discuss with a friend that is living paycheck to paycheck. I discuss it with friends who make a similar amount to me, and are interested in personal finance. If you have a higher income I think it is easier to understand how to make that gap between your expenses and income grow. So far I’ve already got two friends that are above-average earners and now they are starting to realize that they are in a good position to retire before 50 and so we openly chat about our plans.

    I also found, people who are in high stress jobs are more inclined to understand (anecdotal), as they want to get out and now have found a way that seems at least somewhat reasonable.

    I haven’t told my parents yet, but they are pretty aware I don’t want to be in corporate world forever. But since my FIRE plan changes on the regular, and I still have years to get there, I don’t think there is any rush in telling them. I assume (and hope) they would be supportive.

    1. Yeah, totally! It’s so important not to be tone deaf when talking about this stuff. Likewise there are folks we don’t tell either, for similar reasons. And yes as well to high- stress job people understanding all of this innately — so I don’t think it’s just anecdotal. And if you aren’t dying to tell your parents, no rush! You have time, as you said. And you have bigger life events in front of you in the more immediate future. ;-)

  13. Thanks, ONL! We all can learn so much from taking a deep breath and listening to the skepticism, the worries, and the alternative advice. And beyond the benefit we get in the form of learning, we just might find that through listening and understanding we are able to open their mind to the concept of FI too. A win, win.

    Simple, yes. Easy no. :)

    1. I totally agree — we’ve realized that when we give a knee-jerk reaction to something someone says, it almost always means we’ve shortcut our thinking and have some more pondering to do. So it’s good to have those critiques as thought starters, if nothing else.

  14. This is a great topic to cover! ER isn’t a typical action to take so people treat it with jealousy and suspicion. A lot of people assumed I was a trust fund baby, living in a box, or robbing banks to afford early retirement. I told my stepmom about how easily we could pay off our mortgage and she got downright angry. I’ve never been so grilled about my personal finances and general math before in my life.

    I guess people are suspicious because they’ve never heard of it and it seems too good to be true. It’s easy to talk trash about something you don’t understand.

    1. Thanks, Mrs PP! Man, if your story isn’t proof of what a loaded subject money is, I don’t know what is! All those negative emotions over this awesome thing you’re doing. I’m positive if it was about baking cakes instead, no one would begrudge you a thing!

  15. My people have been mostly supportive because I’ve talked about it for a long time. But at 51, it didn’t seem as crazy as at your age.

    I do have one snarky soul in my life who said “if I had an inheritance, I could retire too”. I wanted to strangle him because that inheritance represents less than 10% of my net worth and less than 5% of Mr. and my net worths. Though I am super appreciative of the cushion it provides, I could have retired without it.

    All we can do is live the lives we’ve worked hard for and, hopefully, be an example of what is possible.

    1. I have to say that I’m amazed that of everyone we’ve told, we’ve literally had just that one person be negative, and that’s a well established pattern on all subjects with that person. Glad you’ve had a similar situation with just one semi-hater. ;-)

  16. We’ve only told a few, and had some mixed feedback: mostly positive, but some negative. People really can’t wrap their minds around frugality, it seems. Like Fervent Finance, we’re now very careful who we tell and how much we reveal, and we err on the quieter side. I agree that it’s probably easier to accept by our friends in high-paying or high-stress jobs and those with personal finance/investing interests. (Those friends have responded really well.) It’s probably harder for friends with more debt and less savings to understand or sympathize with. I even wonder to an extent how much the negative responses are more about the person’s own situation than what we’re attempting. We’ll be keeping it mostly to ourselves from here forward, and this community — one of the big reasons our blog is under a pseudonym. And also a great reason to be here – so we can share these discussions with like-minded folks!

    1. Yeah, same here in terms of our high-stress job friends being totally supportive and the most interested in how we’re doing it. But their “why” is right at the surface in a different way because of work circumstances, just like it was for us. And I think you totally hit the nail on the head — I really do believe that most of the negative response in those cases is the person feeling insecure about their own financial situation, and it’s not about you at all. And so glad you’re in this fantastic community to get the support you need!

  17. I wonder if some people are not supportive because they ultimately think it will affect them. For instance, when you have a parent that doesn’t prepare well for retirement and ends up needing help in their later years ….I also think some people feel judged by someone who goes against societal norms. They feel like you are telling them , that they “You should be doing this too.” I found that to be true when I chose to educated my children in an unconventional way.

    1. I totally think it’s the judgment thing. Like the (small minority of) parents who think our choice not to have kids somehow means we judge their choice (it doesn’t!). I think this stuff is totally the same, and there’s really no way to counter that type of insecurity, so best not to get sucked into defending yourself!

  18. I was only 98% joking when I said I’d never tell them. I’ve kept my entire blogging life a secret for more than ten years now even though it’s an enormous part of my life because my family are on a completely different spectrum when it comes to money. They’re either really frugal low earners or profligate spenders. I wouldn’t feel comfortable telling the latter group about our plans because they go in for the peer pressure bigtime even without knowing we “have” money. Example: pushing luxury vacations during peak travel times. They routinely disparaged our choices to be frugal, passive aggressively, even in small harmless things. I’m not sure I see the need to mock our use of generic OTC meds, you know?
    One of the few people I’ve discussed money problems with is an aunt who’s still working in her 60s. She’s thinking about retirement but isn’t ready yet financially and that’s the most detail I’ve got on anyone’s retirement plans, so it’s hard to really gauge what anyone’s reactions will be beyond watching how they conduct themselves with their money, and those signs usually aren’t very encouraging.

    We do have one early retiree friend and we love that he’s taken the leap but he did it in one of those winning the work lottery type of situations so unfortunately there’s not much discussion possible there on how to execute our plan.

    Anyway, our picture has shifted drastically with our housing, so we won’t be trumpeting life plans any time soon :)

    1. I’m still so bummed for you guys whenever I think about your housing drama and being forced to move. >:-( And I totally get that plenty of families don’t talk money, and that yours has some special issues thrown into the mix. (Geez, criticizing your ibuprofen?!?!?! Get a hobby!) So I get not wanting to share some of this stuff, or at least not until you’re ready to make the big leap.

  19. The way your co-workers, friends, & family behave today around FI may not change over time.

    My spouse and I have been FI for over 15 years. Most of our former co-workers still don’t understand– or they insist that they need a higher quality of life. (And apparently they’re willing to work for it.) Most of our friends understand, and they occasionally ask for advice.

    Our daughter keenly appreciates having FI parents for over 2/3 of her life, her spouse has leaped on board, and they’re saving over 50% of their military pay. Because Navy sea duty.

    Meanwhile, after all these years my parents-in-law are ever more firmly convinced that my chronic unemployment is going to put their only daughter (and even their only grandchild) out on the streets. They’ve apparently given up speaking with me. Now that their other adult offspring is also FI, maybe they’ll come around.

    1. That’s an interesting observation! That makes me more thankful that our tribe is supportive! (And I wonder if people are supportive in part because we don’t have kids, so no one worries that we’ll put anyone out on the street but ourselves.) So awesome your daughter saves so much — she clearly learned a lot watching you!

      1. Oh, she’s motivated. She fiercely covets that lifestyle.

        When she was a teen, she asked that I not drive by her school-bus stop (in front of her friends) with my longboard strapped to the roof rack. In exchange, we agreed that she’d manage her time more effectively so that we could surf together all weekend.

        But these days… two more years of sea duty. With sea pay.

        1. That’s terrific. My dad retired early, too, albeit for different reasons, and I so valued our time together when I was still home. I love that you and your daughter got a lot of that, too.

    2. Appreciate that perspective. Thanks for sharing. My daughter will be 5, possibly still 4 y/o when I work my last day this fall. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit afraid of how she will perceive our lifestyle, but am confident that we have well rounded enough plans that we will be able to have way more time to raise her on our terms while still developing a work ethic in her. We have simply accepted that all options come with risks and rewards and so we are pursuing the path that gives us the most options and the best odds for the outcome we desire. We’re lucky to have family and friends who either are very excited for us or indifferent, with no real negative reaction.

      1. Everything I’ve ever read about parenting (and our personal experience) has been that kids of that age just want more of your time. They’ll understand that you have a budget and enough money for your family. They’re thrilled that you can go on school field trips or explore the backyard world with them. RootOfGood and MrMoneyMustache have had the same results with their kids.

        Your daughter will develop a better work ethic watching you in FI rather than seeing you slog off to the office, missing you while you put in long hours as a corporate drone (or exec), and only getting the exhausted version of you on the nights/weekends. (Nobody wants to grow up to be that.) She’ll understand that you saved your money and now you have more freedom and choices. You’ll teach her everything she needs to know and you’ll help her get started. She’ll be intensely motivated to replicate your FI in her own life. When she’s a teen, you’ll help her see entrepreneurial opportunity everywhere.

        When our daughter was 10 years old, one day the girls were talking trash about the sweet rides that their parents would buy them for their 16th birthday. (Because reality TV shows.) Mustangs, Chargers, Escalades, and Hummers were eagerly anticipated with the birthday cake. Our daughter said “When I’m 16 years old I’ll have $5000 saved up from my jobs and allowance and I’ll buy whatever car I want.” Their debate shifted from rampant consumerism to a financial seminar.

        We’d already talked about earning money from side hustles and high savings rates and investing. We’d already talked about how we bought our cars. She had no idea what job or earnings she’d get, but she knew she’d save at least half of her income.

        1. I had never thought of that side, but it’s so compelling: that seeing a parent slog off to a miserable job for years could sour a kid on work altogether, or at a minimum give them very negative associations with corporate work or similar.

        2. I think I know that all deep down, but with so few role models of people who are doing what we are doing, especially with kids, it is definitely reassuring to hear and see it with these concrete examples. Thanks again for sharing.

        3. And I’ll add that I grew up in an early retiree household (albeit for disability — different from FI!), and I still grew up with a strong work ethic and (obviously) a lot of ambition. Instilling values and ethics, and good money smarts, go a long way even if you’re not modeling “good work behavior.”

      2. I love Nords’s response to you! And in terms of friend and family support, I’m so glad that’s there for you guys! You seem so down-to-earth about all of it that I’m sure the weigh you express your plans to folks feels realistic and grounded, too.

  20. We had never ever mentioned it to any family and friends before we put in our notice at work. Which made it easier during the journey, but we had to deal with a lot of shock after. Most people don’t really get it. So we just tell them we are self employed. =)

    The biggest, most direct push back we get is from the kind of work we left. Especially Mr. Mt. There are a few people who felt hurt or angry that he “left the cause” and I think it felt selfish to them. They have dealt with the stress, over consuming work life, and low pay to keep making a difference and why is he just opting out? It’s hard for anyone to leaves, even if for another job. There is a lot of guilt about the work you leave behind. Especially for the people who have been a tremendous asset because of their skill set and experience.

    But I think most people are seeing how we are leveraging our free time to do more of the work that has to be filled by volunteers because it will never get funding. How the paid spots do get filled, and we can leverage our experience, knowledge and skill to fill the gap and actually have MORE impact with less paper work shuffling.

    1. Maybe I’m just too big a blabbermouth, but I can’t imagine telling no one before pulling the plug! (I mean, obviously there are plenty of people I don’t tell, but even that is tough. And it all makes me so much more grateful for those who do know.) And I get that work guilt — we think most of our colleagues will be happy for us, but are bracing for some of that guilt just in case!

  21. While not exactly the same situation, my husband and I have made big lifestyle changes over the past two years including paying off all non-mortgage debt by living frugally and saving near 50% of our income. We (okay, I) initially set us on this path of working toward FIRE but along the way I realized that being home with our 3 young sons is more important than working for 10 more years and THEN reaching FI. So, I’m taking a break to be at home with our kids and explore some non-traditional work ideas. Announcing my retirement from my 16 year long career has been met with more scrutiny than I had prepared for. Even those who gave me such a hard time for working when our kids were born are now questioning our decision to live on one income – which is the very thing they suggested just a couple of years ago! That said, I’ve received a lot of support from other mom friends who “get it” and I agree that this is the community I can use as a listening ear.

    1. Whoa, that’s surprising to me that you’d receive that kind of scrutiny for wanting to stay home with your kids! That’s such a normal thing to want! I like that you adapted your plan to suit your kids’ timeline — you will always feel so glad that you got that time with them! And I’m so glad you have a good support circle around you to remind you that what you want makes total sense!

  22. I like to dangle it out there and listen to people’s interesting responses… some people think I’m crazy, some are intrigued, some want to know my “investing secrets”, some get defensive, some are sarcastic, some are supportive but say they could “never do that since they don’t make enough money or aren’t as cheap as I am”, and some are on the same path and we didn’t realize it (which is always fun). The defensive folks, I usually don’t try to engage too much because I’m not sure any discussion I have will be fruitful but for the folks that are anything else, I try to ask questions and listen… much like Ryland. When folks do want to engage and ask me questions, I try to focus simply on my experience and reasoning and how I want to live my life and always make sure to leave the judgmental types of language out. I may think it’s freaking crazy (and stupid) to drive a new car every 6 months because you are constantly changing your lease, etc., but I keep that to myself. I make it clear if I’m having a conversation that I my intention is not to make anyone feel guilty about the choices they make – and that I have a lot of places where I can improve. If we want more people to adopt this type of lifestyle (and I would love it if we could have a massive culture shift), then I think we need to lead through example by loving on our friends, neighbors and communities.

      1. I think too, it’s important to remember that if someone is sarcastic, negative or defensive that we need not react negatively ourselves. That’s on them… Staying positive is on us.

    1. My number one response from people who don’t immediately get it is usually, “But what will you do?” (Which I try not to take as an insult, because it implies I’m sooooo boring! Hahahaha.) I think it’s smart not to engage the defensive ones — I’ve also found that that’s unlikely to lead anywhere positive. Though I do tell them that we don’t trade cars all the time if they ask how we do it. ;-) (Like you, I don’t editorialize on how much money most people throw away on car swaps.)

        1. I’m impressed with how much time you devote to the blog given your high stress occupation. I’ve had to hold myself back on the non-work activities available since I don’t think I have the bandwidth to put another thing on my plate and still have some semblance of balance in my family life and personal fitness levels. For the record, I’m not crushing it in any of those categories (even at work – I’m officially BURNED OUT – I get joy from managing my team but dealing with clients just brings me stress these days).

        2. Bandwidth is equally an issue for me, but what it means is that I’m currently doing very little outside of work and blog. ;-) My volunteer involvement is as minimal as it can be without being nonexistent, and I see friends less than I’d like — but I figure that’s short-term because we’ll have more time starting in 8 months!

  23. Not many people know of our goals, we don’t share it with many. My family knows kind of but I just say less than 5 years and not much else. One sister makes a ton of money but spends a ton of money and has a ton of debt, another sister is a single mom with two kids – it’s just not something we talk about really.

    1. Gotcha. I can definitely see that not every family has dynamics where it can feel comfortable to talk about this stuff! I hope you’re getting the support you need for the journey in other ways! :-)

  24. We’ve had generally supportive responses about moving abroad from those few friends and family we’ve told, which has been great. But because it’s couched as a temporary move, we haven’t gotten into the ER bit much. When we’ve brought ER up with my family, they don’t seem to get it–“but how will you pay for the kids’ college?” etc. I do think sharing small bits of the plan at a time works best, because that’s about all some people can absorb. I’ve started asking questions like, “well how much would it cost you to live if everything were paid for?” and that starts the mental wheels turning…

    1. I love those questions you’re posing! And I could see that the grandparents might pitch a fit at the idea of their grandkids moving abroad permanently, so I can see why you don’t talk about it that way!

  25. When we get around to discussing our plans with anyone—and that will be just as we’re making the move—we will be taking a sabbatical of “a year or two” from our fast-paced jobs to refocus and decide what comes next. Being able to live off savings for a couple years will be far less foreign than never working again; it will explain our need to keep a modest lifestyle; and will clarify any transition we might end up making into other paying work that we’ve looked forward to trying. And if we never go back to work…it turns out the savings just held out for a good long time.

    1. Haha, I love your plan, so long as you feel supported enough in other ways to not need that support on your FI journey. But that’s a very clever way to talk about it that’s far less likely to make anyone’s periscope go up.

  26. I haven’t had these discussions with anyone except at a very high level as we’re at the very beginning of our FI journey. My husband isn’t even totally on board with things yet, but mostly because he just doesn’t think it’s possible. I think telling family is something we struggle with since we’re already so much better off financially that our parents, who have low paying jobs and massive debt. I would definitely feel guilty “retiring” when our parents are still working so hard just to make ends meet.

    1. We definitely didn’t start telling family and friends until we were fairly far along, so don’t rush yourselves! You’ll know when it’s the right time to share, and also how you’ll break the news gently. ;-)

  27. I’d have a hard time continuing to discuss a topic with someone who responded rudely or passive-aggressively, even if it did stem from jealousy.
    Do you think it would be productive to have a conversation about how these conversations make you feel and agree to stick to other topics in the future?

    1. That is a totally reasonable solution — to have that conversation — but not likely to be fruitful, given that I have had essentially that same conversation with that person on nearly every topic we’ve ever discussed. It’s clearly far bigger than just ER. ;-)

  28. This thread is interesting to me as an outsider to the FIRE community. My opinion is that money is a very sensitive, emotionally-loaded topic, particularly for those are not accustomed to talking about it regularly with like-minded peers. So, I could imagine how news of early retirement might be received by others. At the extreme, it could feel like someone throwing it in your face that they have “so much money that they don’t have to work anymore.”

    I don’t talk about my net worth with friends or family, except for my parents. Yes, there’s a lot of hard work that goes into our saving and investing efforts, but there’s also a lot of privilege and good fortune that has come our way. I’m sensitive to that, especially living in an area where a lot of people are barely scraping by.

    On the other hand, I have also reacted negatively to friends who are planning early retirement and behave in ways that aren’t aligned with my beliefs, e.g. not giving back to the community / charitable causes or expecting others to pay for things for them.

    1. Totally with you on the privilege and luck! We think (and write) about that a lot. And I think that goes into a heavy dose of sensitivity about who we tell and how. And I think you’re absolutely right, too, about how loaded any money conversation is, and how folks who hear FIRE news could feel affronted or like it’s a judgment on how they handle money, even though it’s not. And to your last point — AMEN. I feel strongly that those of us who have much have a responsibility to give back, and if folks are essentially just hoarding cash without giving to the community in some way (even with their time), or are trying to freeload in other ways, they really need a values check-in!

  29. Good to read this article, since I’ve saw your question (and the interesting answer) already cruising by on Twitter. Besides the negativity (which I almost never encounter), it’s even more about the misunderstanding. I think a lot of people don’t have much with the topic in the first place. And therefore are less open to a different way of life, and actually trying to reach FI. Some we tell react strange or don’t quite grasp it, so we just let it pass. But most I haven’t even told.

    However, I do feel fully supported. This is al due to my partner in crime, Mr. Divnomics. We started this journey together when he convinced me to step into the world of investing, and where we picked up on FI(RE) later on. For now, that’s more than enough.

    1. So glad you don’t encounter much negativity! And that you feel fully supported, despite not telling a whole lot of folks. I do think it’s a bit of a ripping someone out of the Matrix moment, to tell them what’s possible. It’s so foreign that some folks may struggle to believe it! (Though not all, of course, as all of us here can testify!)

  30. Here’s a thought: If you said “we’re leaving our careers to pursue XYZ small business/hobby business/blog business,” I think you’d be much less likely to get sarcastic snark from people. Even though, as you’ve already outlined, “going pro” with your hobby (and turning it into a business), still fits into your definition of early retirement. But people still view that as “work” and don’t feel the need to pass judgement on your being “lazy.” Since your plans are a little more nebulous (slow travel, community volunteering, charity/low paid consulting gigs, a hobby that may turn into a side gig), people may have a hard time understanding that you could spend just as much money in a year of trying to turn your hobby into a business as you could RVing around North America. This is just the early retirement police in a different form. Some people are going to tell you you’re not retired if you happen to make any money or do any sort of “traditional work” after you leave your current careers. Some people are going to consider you to be “lazy” if you only pursue travel & unpaid hobbies in retirement. People judge. I’ve judged people, but then learned more about the forces driving their life choices, and I’m still friends with those people (and the reverse has happened to me). I think you’re going to be just fine!

    1. For once, I’m not worried about us. ;-) We’re surrounded 99% by supportive people who are rooting for us, and we are super grateful for that. But reading through these comments shows that we are fairly unique in that, which makes me sad. To your point, if you say you’re just doing a career change and now you’ll be doing this small entrepreneur thing, cool, say that if it’s true. But we don’t have to have some money-making pursuit that we’re transitioning to, and it annoys me to have to pretend like it’s still all about the money. If anything, the goal of ER is to be post-money, right? So not arguing with you, just venting. :-)

        1. Of course, that said, we probably will have some backup answer for those shorthand explanations. We can’t explain it all to every person we meet, so they’ll get some “bloggers” or “entrepreneurs” answer. ;-)

  31. We’ve had a lot of support but we are in a different age range than you too. My husband retired at 55 and I will be “retiring” at 50. Our family is super-excited and a few friends are already retired – so now they will have more people to “play” with on weekdays! My younger colleagues look at me funny sometimes – (they know I just turned 50) – so they wonder how I’ve done it. They don’t come out and ask, so I don’t really tell either. Maybe I’ll share my website on my last day of work? Maybe not…

    1. Oooh oooh! Please please please share your website on your last day! What a service you’ll do them! I am ABSOLUTELY going to share this blog in my farewell note at work.

      And re: age, I feel like there is some magical number after which people can admire that you are retiring early but they don’t think you’re actively subverting the social contract… but I can’t figure out when you cross that line. Any idea??

      1. When that AARP card shows up you certainly feel like you aren’t crossing any line (mine showed up the day before the big 5-0!) I’m thinking 50 might be that number – but as early as 45? I wonder what others might say?

        1. 45 still seems like it’s on the young side of the line, but I don’t know. I wonder if it’s personal, and based on how much gray hair you have?! Hahaha.

      2. Interesting thought. I heard plenty of critical comments in my 40s (“Oh, you’re too young to retire!”) but that’s dropped off noticeably in my 50s.

        By my 60s I don’t think anyone will care when I reached FI…

        1. This is totally off-topic, but your note about the ages at which you heard different things reminds me of the comments strangers felt free to make in my 20s and early-to-mid 30s that there was “still time” to have kids, and that I’d always regret not doing it. Thankfully I now have enough wrinkles that I don’t get that comment anymore. ;-)

  32. In the beginning, I remember mentioning it to a few close friends and the response I got was anything but good. I quickly learned not to talk about it with most people, besides a few frugal friends. That’s one of the main reasons that Mr. Wow and I started our blog since we wanted to connect with like-minded people and be able to talk about these things. It is so important to have a community around you and unfortunately our “real” life friends just don’t understand our FIRE ways.

    1. Truth! The community is so important, and I’m glad you’re finding it! Have you ever tried revisiting the topic with friends, even just casually mentioning it? I know it can be jarring at first, but it’s possible folks would come around if you got them used to the idea. :-)

  33. We haven’t shared too many specifics with others outside of my mom and kids. They are supportive. I think most others aren’t sure it’s possible or they wonder why we would rather save for later than spend now. I’ll just continue trying to educate when and where possible. If all else fails, I say go with ChooseBetterLife’s advice. :)

    1. Hahahaha — I do love CBL’s advice. ;-) I’m glad your mom and kids are supportive! It’s your life, and you should do what makes you happy. :-) I get the saving question, because I think it’s easy to assume that you’re suffering to save, or think you’ll never be able to switch to spending mode. Up to you to prove them wrong!

  34. If your friends aren’t supportive, maybe they aren’t that good of friends. Generally, seeking financial advice or input from your family is fraught with peril. Or frankly any advice. I like the idea of telling them after its all done. We love our families, but unless you are surrounded by financially exceptional people in your family their opinions on the specifics of your financial life shouldn’t be held in a high regard. No higher than asking them their opinion on the performance of a sports car or 17th century art (unless they are into that). Saying that you are changing gears or career paths is about as much detail as i would give over the table. You could always just pretend you are making a fortune as a blogger so they won’t worry about you.

    1. There is something about not telling anyone to you’re done that seems a little sad to me. We’ve never asked anyone’s opinion on what we’re doing or asked for advice, but we really value being supported by family and friends in our journey. So that’s the sad part: losing out on that potential support. And yeah, as for those folks who refuse to support you no matter what, I’m all for the rich blogger approach. ;-)

      1. i can understand that. what you are doing is fairly unique and against the ‘norm’ so a lot of folks won’t really get it. So, Rich Blogger it is.

        1. Or maybe see if they move over time? A few of our folks didn’t outright criticize our plan at first, but also probably didn’t believe we could do it. But they’ve seen how focused we’ve stayed on the goal over several years, and now they believe!

  35. I don’t tell many people at all. I’d rather no one know when I become rich enough for that. I would like people to worry about me so that I’m not being hit up to be the protector of things I don’t want to protect. I’m also in the enormous debt stage so even if folks knew the eventual plan, they would not worry that I’ll get there “too soon.”

      1. I really like the idea of stealth wealth though. Especially since I intend to keep up my business on a limited basis. Wouldn’t want clients to pretend to get hurt in my office or anything. (Yes, I have the appropriate insurance, but I don’t like the hassle either)

        1. Totally with you there! We’re stealth wealth all the way with neighbors, everyone at work, all future folks we work with in second act gigs, etc. Just not with our closest friends and family. :-)

  36. “I guess you just don’t want to work hard like the rest of us.”

    … no? Not in “forced labour” of being lethally dependent on the steady paycheck. And why would anyone? I find this a very peculiar response to give.

    But not an entirely unpredictable; like you said, it’s understandable where they are coming from, and many many people will not have thought about this topic at all. It’s new ground for them to explore. I, myself, did not think about financial independence until one of my recent raises when I realised I can start to save money and don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck.

    So I try not to blame people around me. I generally tend to not share big plans like these for various reasons, therefore I have so far been safe from any nasty comments. It’s pretty much only my partner (who is quite on board with the idea) and a good long-time friend of mine who know of these plans.

    I have zero shame about my plans and if someone were to ask me I would be happy to explain my motivation and reasoning; as well as challenge passive-aggressive responses like the quoted one. I just don’t proactively share it because it doesn’t make my life much happier to do so. There are larger, more important battles to fight than lack of imagination about FI/RE.

    1. This comment and similar ones are just par for the course with that person. I don’t take it seriously, and mostly just roll my eyes (stealthily, I hope, but probably not so stealthily). ;-) As for the people you tell or don’t tell, and your approach to the whole thing, it sounds eminently reasonable. I don’t think it’s fair for us FIRE folks to judge those who don’t immediately get on board with our way of thinking, so it’s great you don’t blame them. But I also like that you have no shame — just as it should be!

  37. As one of the twitter responders, I can say that I just don’t find any reason to create conflict while my in-laws are visiting. ER to them means 55, and that’s fine for them, but I’d like an additional 14 years of freedom, that’s not a short time frame, prior to 55 to enjoy my life like they are now.

    My wife and I were at a marriage event at church last night and we were openly joking to ourselves about our soon retirement and how strange it would be to share this with the room of, older than ourselves, married couples, all of whom were still working.

    Jealousy, you straight up have it, if someone is older and not retired, he badly wants to be in your shoes and will not like the fact that he “has to work hard” and that you somehow outsmarted him, though he’ll never admit it. Go work hard, the worst wages to earn, at the highest taxes, are work wages. That’s a losing bet in my opinion.

    1. I get that and totally respect it! And yeah, we have that conspiratorial chat a lot, too. ;-) And the jealousy — there’s nothing to be done about it except not to get sucked into that negativity! We all make our own choices in life…

  38. Man you guys get a lot of comments…. now that’s what I’ll bug you about and be jealous about hahahaha I go away on a MTB adventure for a week and come back and barely scroll to the bottom of this blog post comment section !! hahah you both rock

    On to the topic….
    I try to teach a few and the rest say I’m just leaving the dream but that comment scares me as there is so much real hard work involved and nothing is for certain. As for most people out there including my family, they just don’t realize or know how much money I have saved and that I am honestly not planning to work in a real job ever again .

    As always, huge stoke and support for you

    1. Hahaha — Each comment is a little conversation, and that’s what makes all of this so fun. :-) Thanks as always for the support, and for sharing our excitement, as we do for you guys! And I don’t think you need to share all the details with your friends and family (they for sure don’t need to know dollar figures!), so no shame there. ;-)

        1. It has been the network and resource system for all of my tough questions, strategies and of course a caring sounding board of peers. Has complete made the difference in my ability to FIRE this May

  39. Great topic. Enjoyed reading it. For my wife and me, we didn’t really take the full monte approach of FIRE. We’re bigger on the FI, and not on the RE. So when we talk to family or friends (if the topic ever comes up); it’s more about having one’s finances in order to have financial independence and freedom. Early retirement is nice, but even that we don’t really look forward to from the most purest sense (not working). Because we like working becomes it brings fulfillment. But I can see us channeling our energy into different pet projects and stuff like that other than just the drudgery of the 9-5. Unless your 9-5 fits very well with your passion in life. So again, for this type of thinking, we don’t really get a whole lot of blow back from friends and family. But I think it’s because the conversation is a bit different than the typical FIRE type conversation. It’s more around freedom. Which everyone can related to.

    1. That’s great you’re surrounded by supportive people! I do think, based on what folks have shared, that there are people out there who don’t support anything but the “norm” regardless of what you call it. So I’m glad for you guys that you don’t have that problem! ;-)

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