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.
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:
In response I got a ton of interesting answers:
Of course, there are the lucky few who mostly experience support:
And there are those who can’t help but go for comedy:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
The most humbling response was this one from 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!