The Paradox of Growing Up So We Can Avoid Growing Up // For those of us pursuing early retirement so we can be kids forever, there's an interesting paradox: we have to grow up to avoid growing up and early retire.we've learned

The Paradox of Growing Up So We Can Avoid Growing Up

We can rationalize early retirement all we want (modern work is unnaturally demanding! we have other things we can do that better align to our purpose!), but the truth is something much more elemental, something that, deep down, we all know:

Going to work every day is way less fun than not going to work every day.

And beneath that is an even bigger, deeper truth:

Being a grown-up is way less fun than being not a grown-up.

Anyone want to argue with that? Of course not. It’s why “Youth is wasted on the young” is a famous quote (and also an incorrect one, traced back indirectly to George Bernard Shaw). Or, my favorite, “I’m not young enough to know everything,” from a play by J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, a reference that will keep coming up in this post.

Autonomy and spending power are all lovely features of adulthood, but I’m pretty sure we mention those things only so we don’t lament how much we miss the freedom and sheer joy of childhood. (I understand that not everyone had a great childhood, so I’m speaking in the abstract here, or of an idealized growing up period. Certainly not everyone would wish to repeat their specific childhood, but it’s interesting to note that many folks who had a rough upbringing talk about their “lost youth” — so we all long for it one way or another, either our actual childhood or the childhood we feel we missed out on.)

No point yearning for something we can’t get back, right? Except:

Early retirement is in many ways a chance to turn back the clock. To reclaim big aspects of that childhood that may have felt long behind us.

Which is why we believe: We’re in the crazy lucky position to be able to escape much of the adult world and live like the Peter Pans we’ve always aspired to be.

Early retirement — for us, anyway — is ultimately about going back to being kids in as many ways as possible.

So while I still have to figure out the party line when I give notice in a few months, and Mr. ONL does too, the truth couldn’t be simpler:

It’s more fun not to go to work every day than it is going to work.

We’ve been able to save enough to not need the work. 

So we’re gonna do the more fun thing instead and go back to being kids from now on.

Why overcomplicate this argument?

Because, of course, only ever doing the fun thing instead of the responsible thing is not the recipe for being able to live like a kid on summer break forever. To live this life of the best possible form of arrested development, we actually had to grow up fast, and act like total adults way before lots of people figure things out. Which is a weird paradox.

To live like kids forever, we made ourselves into the adultiest adults possible. 

Today, we’ll explore that paradox.

The Paradox of Growing Up So We Can Avoid Growing Up // For those of us pursuing early retirement so we can be kids forever, there's an interesting paradox: we have to grow up to avoid growing up and early retire.

The Most Grown-Up Grown-Ups

Depending what context you meet us in, you could come away with a very different sense of who we are and what we’re into. One of my first bosses likes to tell me that I was the adult in her life when I was her very junior underling. But then we have friends who can’t believe that we have the titles we have at work because they don’t see us in that context at all. But I don’t think it would surprise anyone to know that we have our $#!% together, especially when it comes to our finances.

It wasn’t always this way, of course, especially for me. Mr. ONL started maxing his 401(k) early on and was less dumb about debt than I was, but we’ve both had plenty of idiotic money moments. I have always had the problem of wanting to say yes to things — you know, like a kid — even if I couldn’t actually afford to do those things. And that put me in some bad places with spending and credit cards.

But what finally put me in the right head space about money was the realization that getting my act together would let me spend less time in the adult world, with its early alarm clocks, endless meetings and uncomfortable shoes, and more time in the kid world. Of course, I was also the person who wrote my first will and got life insurance at 23, so on some level I was always willing to go full-on adult. That was a good start.

Ever since that realization that we could work shorter careers and have more time with minimal responsibilities, we’ve adulted the hell out of our lives, and it’s all gone to plan so far. That’s meant getting super duper ultra real about our finances, our spending, our views on marriage and money, our estate plans, all of it. And it’s meant working with total commitment, no matter how many all-nighters or exhausting trips come with that.

The Most Child-Like Children

I recently came to the realization that blogging about early retirement makes you talk or write so much about it that you start developing scripts for things. Here’s my “what we’re doing to do after we retire” narrative, and our “how we’ll fulfill our purpose” message points. When the truth is that we really just want to do all of this because it’s more fun than any other alternative we can envision.

And why isn’t that enough of an explanation? Why do we feel such a need to rationalize things to people when this isn’t an entirely rational aspiration? This is about thinking that our lives were better in many ways before we started working, and we have this magical, amazing opportunity to combine the best parts of childhood (free time, ability to follow the fun) with the best parts of adulthood (autonomy, financial resources). Why would we not grab a hold of that opportunity and never let go?!

While it’s true that I’m concerned the months or years could drift by without us noticing if we don’t have some kind of plan or structure for ourselves, I am also crazy excited to be able to follow our curiosity each day, to be completely and wackily spontaneous, or even to waste whole days just because we can. Maybe one day we’ll wake up and have a strong feeling that we need to play 72 holes of Wii golf, and who are we to ignore that feeling? Another day we might feel the need to recreate the tamer parts of Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas (because I have a mild Hunter S. Thompson obsession), and hit the road for Vegas, and we’ll do it, whether or not it makes for a good Instagram story.

I had a great childhood. I got to do tons of rad stuff, travel to interesting places, and learn so, so much that has made me a deeply curious human. But I also overscheduled the crap out of myself from as young an age as I could, and it thrills me to think that, very soon, I get to live a very different kind of childhood: the unscheduled kind, the kind not concerned about how something will look on a future college application, the kind totally concerned with fun above all else.

I’m sure other people have dreamed bigger dreams, and reached greater heights in their lives, but I can’t imagine any goal I’d be more excited to achieve.

The Paradox Of Growing Up to Avoid Growing Up

So I think our interests are clear. We have some noble goals in retirement, but we’re not ultimately doing this for noble reasons. We’re doing this for the entirely selfish, self-absorbed and self-agrandizing reason that we want to put fun first and go back to being kids.

Of course, to make that possible, we had to embrace our adultiest inner adults, and have succeeded at adulting at a high level. If we’d tried to act like kids all through our 20s, none of this would be possible. If we’d refused to stand on our own two feet, or to take responsibility for our finances, or to truly commit ourselves to work, we wouldn’t be blogging to you today about how we’re going to retire in a few months, before I turn 40, and only a smidge after Mr. ONL hit it.

The irony is that those who take their time embracing adulthood often have to remain in that world longer. But by hurrying up and achieving peak adulthood earlier, you give yourself as much time as possible in the kid-again world. It’s the same idea as ski bumming: if you do it when you’re young, you might be at your athletic peak, but you’ll end up having to work longer than you would if you went straight to work, saved up, and became a self-sponsored athlete, as we soon plan to be.

None of this matters in reality, of course. It’s just interesting to observe. And it could make for some interesting reactions when we give notice in a few months. We’ll certainly have some colleagues who might understand innately the value of early retirement, but who can’t see us doing it, because we’re just so into working. Or maybe we’re more transparent than we think we are. Peter Pan never was so good at hiding.

Who Else Is With Us?

I can’t believe we are the only ones straddling this paradox. Surely others of you have had similar motivations and similar means to the end. Who else out there became your most excellent adulting self in pursuit of returning to your most perfect childhood? Raise your hand, friends, because you’re not alone! You’re safe to share your secret here. :-)


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83 replies »

  1. When people ask me what I’m going to do when I retire, I always say I have no idea, or watch Netflix all day long. I really have no plan for my day, other than to spend some of it with my wife.

    With the kids at school most of the day, I’ll have plenty of time to explore a new life as a gentleman of leisure.

  2. Having kids was that paradox for me.

    I have always been relatively adult with money, but I had to be adult with all responsibilities. As Bill Murray’s character said in Lost in Translation, “Your life, as you know it… is gone. Never to return….”

    However, as they start to grow up, I am remembering what childhood is like. To borrow your Peter Pan analogy, it’s a lot like Hook.

    The rest of Bill Murray’s speech is reflects this, “… But they learn how to walk, and they learn how to talk… and you want to be with them. And they turn out to be the most delightful people you will ever meet in your life.”

    I don’t know how to tie this into FIRE. It was always common sense to me that by getting the adult stuff away out early, you can spend more time being a kid. I think you had a nice graph about this a previous post.

    • I was thinking about how different things might be if we had kids as I was writing this. Obviously I can’t speak for you and the many others for whom that’s true, but it seems like we couldn’t necessarily be as spontaneous or irresponsible with kids, but the flipside would be getting to see the world through their eyes, which is the part we miss out on. And you were ahead of the curve if you always had the vision for getting the adult stuff out of the way. I think most of us see that stuff as inevitable and inescapable, so it’s quite a revelation to realize you can actually compartmentalize the adultiest stuff to a fairly short window of life.

      • Having kids is a huge x-factor in all this. I think without kids I’d be on the early retirement train. At the same time, you make a great point about seeing the world through their eyes. That’s the best part. We try to be as spontaneous and adventurous as we can with them. We also try to show them by example that work is also valuable and, at times, fun.

        Kids help me remember that childhood is full of ups and downs and growth. I’m sure you’ll experience that even as you avoid growing up … :)

      • I have no doubt you’re right about the ups and downs. ;-) We’re under no illusions that we can avoid all responsibility or chores or all that stuff. Hahaha. And it’s great you’re instilling in your kids the value of work — so important!

  3. You’ll be fine! No structure necessary unless you choose it.

    If you really wanted plans or structure then you could always take on a work commitment, but you’ll find plenty to do and never enough day to do it all.

    The months “drift by” because you’ll have more happy months to look back on than you do now. Time seems to speed up as we age because of the greater number of years we’ve lived (and the memories we’ve accumulated) compared to the years we have left (and new memories to gather). Or, as philosophers and sociologists have noted, “Time flies when you’re having fun.”

    FI really is like a second childhood, but this time you get to decide whether or not you’ll take a nap.

    For those FI’ers who are still parenting, just keep on plugging until you’re empty nesters. The empty-nester second childhood is even more fun than FI because you get to scare your young-adult offspring with your newly immature behavior… or so I’ve heard.

    • Hahaha — I love that: “But this time you get to decide whether or not you’ll take a nap.” ;-) I’m sure we’ll figure out the balance between enjoying the kid stuff and still accomplishing some things — and at least we know the journey to figure it all out will be tons of fun!

  4. Timely, as ever. For some reason, heading into the summer months always makes me long for those vast stretches of unscheduled time I’d have as a kid during summer holidays. Waking up in the morning without much of a plan, other than: go outside and see what happens. Like you, I was really lucky to have a happy childhood, but also like you, I felt the pressure to start padding those college applications early on.

    I love the idea of going back to a less scheduled, more childlike state. For someone like me, who’s inclined to be a slight worrier, it’s almost like the FIRE path preempts worries. Like I can say to my brain: it’s OK to relax and enjoy this moment and stop striving so hard all the time; you’ve thought this through and it’s all going to be OK. :)

    • I was going to say the same thing :) Most of my favorite memories from childhood are those over breaks from school, where I had no idea what I was going to do that day but I always found something and the days would fly by. I miss those days so much.

      I tend to be a rule follower by nature, but it drives me crazy to follow a structure determined by my employer. I’m hoping that ER will help ease my rule follower ways and take away the stress and anxiety that goes with it.

      • We need summer holidays as adults!

        I so relate to that, and it’s especially frustrating to then get stressed out about trying to follow someone else’s structure that you can’t influence, and that doesn’t necessarily work for you. One of my main motivations in working towards FIRE is to be able to set my own schedule and work to my own rhythms.

      • You are not alone on this. :-) And I think you’ll have enough years of structure-following when you hit ER to be ready to reject it all and make your own rules. ;-)

    • Thanks! ;-) And yeah, 100% with you on the worrier bit. It will be interesting to see if I can actually convince my brain to let go once we get to our “eternal summer break” — I’ll keep you posted! ;-)

  5. You said “rad”! Ha! Gotta love us 80s kids. Or are we 80s/90s kids? I can never decide. I’m at a work event with Mr. ThreeYear and I feel like I have to pretend to be so adult right now, so I completely get it. Retirement is going to be so much fun!!!

    • Ha — “rad” never went away in ski towns, I think! ;-) And yeah, born in the late 70s, grew up in the 80s, actually grew up in the 90s… what does that make us?!

  6. I think the aspect of childhood that I want to get back is the ability to explore and learn whatever you want whenever you want. In modern careers we are pushed to such levels of specialization that it takes all of the fun out of learning. I want to be able to learn about one thing until I have a good handle on it and then move on to the next, even if they are not even vaguely related. I miss that childlike aspect of learning through unstructured play and uninhibited questions.

    • I completely agree! And I hope to incorporate some travel into my exploration of new topics/places too. Seeing new places and experiencing new things makes us all feel like children again.

    • I think about this a lot! On some level, it’s easier than ever to learn. I remember, pre-Internet, when if you had a question, you had to go to the library and often it was a challenge to even figure out how you’d find your answer. Now it’s 5 seconds with Google, and you’re done. But it’s absolutely true that we don’t have time to REALLY learn things while also working and keeping up with adult responsibilities, so it will be great to get to go deep and immerse ourselves in whatever holds our interest at that moment!

  7. Excellent post. I, too, became “adultish” at a young age, making my first 401(k) contribution at Age 22. Now 54, I’m 352 days from FIRE.

    It’s time to become childlike again. I might even build a treehouse (I’ve got a post coming out next Tuesday on THAT….stay tuned)….

  8. I’ve heard more than one retired person call themselves recycled teenagers and act like it too so I think you are on to something.

  9. Ha! I so relate to this. When my husband and I first made our formal FIRE plan, I made up a fun count-down calendar that was a spoof on the Stark’s motto from Game of Thrones. Instead of “Winter is Coming”, it says “Summer is Coming” and there’s a graphic of an inner tube above our “Months Left” countdown number. We know we don’t want to have so much free time that we’ll feel bored and listless, but I think we both want our summer vacations back – forever! It also helps that we met in high school and got to spend a few summer vacations goofing off together back in the day, so the fantasy feels very real.

    We definitely got to this point by jumping head-first into adulthood from day one. We both worked through college, saved everything we could, and did our best to excel at our jobs. On the other hand, sometimes I have to remind myself that “Adult time isn’t over yet!” We still have a ways to go. And when I’m constantly thinking, “When will it be summer vacation?” It’s really easy to get all whiny about the daily grind of adulthood – those meetings and uncomfortable shoes are a bitch! But I gotta keep my eyes on the prize for quite a few years yet. 59 months actually. Not that I’m counting. :)

    • I love that countdown! So perfect. And I can definitely relate to how tough it is to stay focused on continuing the adult stuff while you’re working your way toward a return to summer break. And I think it’s untrue to say it’s at least made easier by having the end goal in mind. I think it’s made POSSIBLE by having the goal in mind, but I actually think knowing what your working toward makes the adulting harder. But the good news is I’ve seen lots and lots of ER bloggers speed up their timeline, and I’d bet there’s a good chance you get there sooner than 59 months from now. ;-)

  10. Yeeeeeeeeeeees. I feel slightly guilty that we want to retire early just to have fun (my husband just wants to “be lazy”), but I try to assuage myself of that guilt by pointing out just how hard we are adulting right now! You’ve hit the nail on the head!

    • That’s a great point! Remembering how hard we’ve all worked will help relieve any anxiety we may later feel about being lazy. :-)

  11. I really love this post! I’m not on an early retirement track (at least not significantly early) but I’ve never wanted to push myself towards it more than after reading this.

  12. Just be aware…you might find yourselves at 70 and 73, having had lots of fun and now it’s harder and harder to get motivated. Husband is into philately and I manage a library bookstore. Both fulfilling, but NOT bold and challenging. Is fun over?

    • Absolutely. That’s why we’ll be focused on balancing some of the fun, spontaneous, kid stuff with accomplishments. See every other post on this blog. ;-)

  13. Love it! You hit the nail on the head – you have to adult like crazy to ultimately be able to indulge your inner child!

    • If only it weren’t this way, but it’s true! (And probably it’s a good thing that it works this way.) ;-)

  14. I love this idea. I refused to be an adult from the beginning, paving my own way as the silly human I am. Maybe I strategically adult. *shrugs* I’ll adult enough so I don’t have to adult again!

    • I like that — adulting strategically. That’s us, too. We’ve tried hard to do the responsible stuff we have to do without going full-on adult and getting boring. ;-)

  15. Hey if you wanna do that re-enactment in Vegas with me, I’ll be there over the 4th of July weekend! Some of the best days of my life were spent out at the local Girl Scout camp where I got to run around and do stupid fun stuff! Maybe we all grow up because we stop having no-hands pudding eating races….

    • You’re brave! 4th of July heat in Vegas?! I’ll leave you to that. Hahaha. And those pudding eating races sound marvelous — many of my favorite childhood memories involve jello fights at sleepaway camp. ;-)

  16. I’m right there with you. I was always “old” for my age and super responsible but also had a crazy side that was often repressed. As I get older, I’m finding myself less serious and more silly. My plan is to get younger with age.

    Part of this I’m sure is reaching FI which let’s me relax and be less worried. Some of it is meeting my career goals already, so that my job accomplishments are less important now. And part of it is having two young boys.

    On the one hand, as you mention in the comments, kids certainly restrict your freedom. But on the other hand, you can’t help but be sillier and more like a kid when you’re playing with them. One of the best things about kids is that you’re forced to have fun……I mean spend quality time with them. You finally have moments where you can put “productivity” out of your mind and just enjoy the moment.

    I’m enjoying getting younger as time goes on.

    Thanks for the post!

    • I so totally love that: getting younger with age. :-D And I applaud you for letting the silliness out — I’m convinced that becomes harder to do with time, and it’s why so many people seem so calcified. Makes me want to quote some Dylan Thomas: “Rage, rage agains the dying of the light.”

  17. I always expected to have to find a whole new level of adulthood after having a child. Turns out I’ve lived at peak adult mode for most of my life between working at a very early age and having dogs that I was solely responsible for at a young age. Having a kid feels like an almost similar level of adult-responsibility as a pet because I take my dogs V Seriously, so instead of just being more work, zir joy and shenanigans has opened up a whole world of childhood that I didn’t ever enjoy in my first round. Like singing out loud without reserve. Go figure!

    Just like with my spending, I’m discovering balance. Part of that exploration is knowing that while I want early retirement, we just need to fine tune and expand our good habits rather than dump everything and going 100% peak sacrifice again like I did before. I think that’s a huge part of being an adult for me, in order to run wild later :)

    • I completely love knowing this, and it all makes sense to me. Of course interacting with a kid gives you a glimpse into that kid mindset, *especially* because you’ve been a grown-up for so (overly) long. And YES to not going to 100% peak sacrifice!

  18. Another winner of a post!

    I have always been seen as “the responsible one” who had everything together. Truth is that I’m just a quiet person who tends to keep everything inside (emotions, problems, excitement, etc.) So while I give off a mature, adult-like appearance, truth be told, the kid in me never left.

    I look forward to the day when I can do the fun things, but also with an adult perspective, so I can maintain a balance. Until then, I’m fitting in fun things like music and travel to balance out all the serious life stuff that goes on.

    • Wow, you pretty much described me in a nutshell, The kid inside me is raging, it just doesn’t appear that way to others. I want to find ways to make it show more, but in my 25 years of adulting since college I’ve had this veil of seriousness build up. I think part of it is that with the knowledge I have now about how the world works, it’s just so easy to be cynical about everything, I don’t go to movies because I see them as glorified product-placement tools full of artificially attractive characters, all trying to get you to subconsciously buy things or be jealous of the appearance of others. I can’t watch TV for the same reasons. I miss being a kid where I didn’t understand the motives behind all this stuff and it was just fun.

      • I totally get that pull to get cynical, but I think it’s incredibly grounding to remind ourselves that the cynical folks who pull the levers of power are an incredibly small minority of humanity. Most of us are kind and decent and not out to manipulate others. It’s like the Mr. Rogers quote, that in times of tragedy we should “look for the helpers” ( We can choose to focus on the big bad stuff, or we can remind ourselves that the bad stuff is the outlier and focus on the good.

      • GREAT point Mrs ONL and thanks for that reminder. I think I read a Brene Brown book where she says that she believes most folks are trying their best in life every day, most of the time. I’m trying to live with that attitude more each day.

    • Thanks! And it’s awesome you’re finding ways to let that inner kid out now, and not waiting for early retirement. I think it can be tough to nurture that inner child among all the sobering adult stuff, so it’s great you’ve kept yours present!

  19. Maybe because I enjoyed most of my career I kept one foot in the work world when I retired. I usually work a couple a days a week on four side gigs. Don’t need the money but it keeps me adult at least part of the time and I think I need that? Plus I have a half dozen volunteer jobs that at times are kind of demanding. I’ve never felt right about not serving when I felt I was needed. I long for zero responsibilities sometimes but I don’t think I’ll ever pull that off. Guess I’m still trying to figure it all out.

    • I think this post probably over-states our return-to-childhood aspirations, because we are absolutely going to continue engaging in adult pursuits. ;-) There is nothing wrong with needing to use that part of your brain, too! And we’re all different and not everyone has to want the same thing we want, of being able to treat at least some of our days as totally unstructured summer break time. :-)

  20. This is my all time favorite FIRE post. Like many here, I started making money at 5 years old picking berries for my Grandpa. Up at 5:30 and pick till noon. Now at 47 and 4 years to FIRE, I honestly look forward to vegging out and discovering what life is like not in school or working.
    Thank you for posting this today.
    Cheers to not having to have it all figured out.

    • Wow, nice compliment! Thanks! And yeah, you’re definitely not alone in wanting to figure out what’s possible without work and school constraints!

  21. It will be interesting to see what it’s like, after a lifetime of delayed gratification, to finally act like everyone else. I have a feeling it will take some getting used to, but I’ll manage ;)

    • Ha! Good question! In our case we don’t think we’ve delayed all that much in reality, but have instead just compartmentalized things to a high degree and can now get rid of those compartments. Can’t wait! ;-)

  22. I can’t help thinking about how, to me, Peter Pan is such a tragic character. At the end of the novel, he has forgotten Tink. I think Wendy asks him a question or tells him something about Tinker Bell, and Peter Pan can’t remember her. I think there are parts of the book where he is a bit melancholy about remembering the past and losing his mother.

    Anyway, my point is that I think becoming “childlike” again in some important ways–with playing, and being in the present, and allowing oneself to let go of responsibility at the moment, like you are saying–is a good thing. Too bad we don’t have a third word to describe the experience. We’re first children and then adults and maybe then we’re chadults or adildren. Or maybe those words are so awful and that’s why we don’t use them. :)

    • Ha — I bet there’s a good word out there that we just haven’t found yet. ;-) And you’re going way deeper than my memory on Peter Pan! I DO think in the popular narrative there is something tragic about the person who never grows up. And I think that’s part of our thinking — we HAVE grown up, and we feel like we’ve earned the right to go back to being kids in many ways. (But of course we’ll also be adults all the while… we won’t neglect our bills or anything like that.) ;-)

    • What a nice compliment — thank you!! :-D So glad it all resonated so well with you! :-)

  23. What a nice post. IT is indeed contradictory that you need to be as adulty as possible as soon as possible to be as soon as possible young again! Being young to me means curious, adventure, freedom…!

    All the best in your younger years!

    • Thank you! And we do plan to enjoy our upcoming younger years — wish you the same! ;-)

  24. I definitely screwed around a bit in my youth before I got serious about “adulting”, but especially with kids, I can’t wait to join them on fun adventures and summers off. As I type on my lunch break in my office, Mrs. SSC, the kids and her parents are halfway thru their 2 week roadtrip to MT. I’ve been getting pics of them at the Cadillac Ranch, RMNP, and now they’re almost to Yellowstone. Wouldn’t be possible without summers off and having fun.

    Mrs. SSC’s summer off wouldn’t be possible if we hadn’t done so well at saving that she could take a huge paycut to work that job. Such a Catch 22. When you’re young you ahve no money to do wild and crazy things. When you’re older you have money, but no real free time to do those things you longed for in youth. Only through conscientious adulting can you put yourself in the position to finally ahve both. Fingers crossed for no early heart attacks. Or shark bites! Yipe!

    Oh and speaking of fears and news stories, I thought you’d want to read this one. ;) I’ll sum it up for you – A Fatal tick disease is spreading! lol

    • WHAAAAAT?!?!?! A NEW OUTDOORS DISEASE?!?!?!?!? This is no good, no good at all! “Long-term neurological damage.” Crikey. And now I can’t pay attention to anything else you wrote. JK. ;-) Your situation sums up the paradox pretty perfectly. Congrats on being a great adult and aspiring kid! ;-)

  25. Oh man, this one has me thinking hard.

    We’re in the process of selling our house and downsizing to an apartment, which has felt very “un-adult” – almost like a step backwards. But to be honest, I’m thrilled about the concept that I won’t need to mow the lawn, pay to replace broken appliances, and shovel the driveway anymore. I want to save my snow shovel for building awesome snow forts with the kids!

    That said, I couldn’t have gotten here without doing my best to act like the adult I thought I was supposed to be and recognizing the stuff that sounded great (because it was adultish) but turned out to be a pain in the butt.

    • You’re totally living the paradox! Yeah, that adult stuff that gets sold to us as fun is often no fun at all! I could never mow another lawn and be totally happy about it… but I also am not ready to share walls again. ;-) So kudos to you guys for being willing to do it!

  26. I’ve never wanted childhood. I always craved adulthood. More control over myself and the world around me. My pursuit of FIRE is because I look around and see that the world is largely silly. So much of everything is just a circle-jerk of performance. (even PF blogs) I’d rather get my money in order and only do things I enjoy, regardless of their gain. I don’t like performing because I have to. I love performing when it is for joy.

    • Well I totally agree with that about the adult world. When I realized that no one ever really grows up, but just learns to fake it, I felt like I’d hit on a fundamental but also deeply sad truth.

  27. Wow what an excellent post. I’ve never thought about it like this but I love this idea. As the oldest of my siblings/oldest grandchild on both sides of my family I suppose I subconsciously internalized an expectation that I had to be responsible/grown up early on, and yep, I was one of those kids who couldn’t WAIT to be an adult. Boy was I wrong-adulthood is so boring and overrated! Early retirement scares me a bit because I know I’m someone who does much better with structure in her life, but I also long to be able to indulge the spontaneous side of me that I do get glimpses of every now and then. I’m years off from being able to quit the 9-5 grind so perhaps by the time I get there I’ll have figured out a good balance between structure/spontaneity.

    Not sure what it says about me that I was always the kid who wanted to read during recess instead of play, but perhaps I can go back and do my playing once I reach FIRE!

    • Hey, I think if reading counts as play to you, then don’t see that as a deficiency. We should all define fun however feels right for us! :-) And your concern about lack of structure in early retirement is worth thinking a lot about! I don’t think people talk about this enough, and not everyone will thrive in a structure-less environment. Of course if that’s true for you, you can find other ways to create your own structure besides traditional work!

  28. I love this and also hate the feeling of needing to justify why early retirement is a goal of ours. There are very few people I know who would rather work than not work, and even they prefer to work just to feel like they are being useful… Plenty of ways to get that feeling without working!

    • Amen, brother. We plan to get much MORE useful after we’re not spending all of our time working! ;-)

  29. “It’s more fun not to go to work every day than it is going to work.” I love this – such blunt honesty. Sure, we’re making all these big statements about our big after work goals, but really we all just want to sleep in and not go to work :D

    • I think both can be true. We can be stoked to do our big life list stuff AND want to go back to being kids again. One being true doesn’t lessen the other. ;-)

  30. Interesting perspective! I always just thought of early retirement as a way to do whatever I want, tell people how I really feel and live leisurely. I guess that’s really how kids live haha!

    Good writing, enjoy retirement!


    • Thanks, Colby! I love that you added “tell people how you really feel”… that’s an interesting take on ER!

  31. An interesting and thought provoking article. I had to think on it a couple days before I commented. I retired one year and 148 days ago. I know that because I had a countdown app on my phone and now it is counting up every day. We are a little older than you as we retired at 55. We also raised three kids and put them through college so we took a little different path to becoming financially independent, or ‘self-funded’ as I like to refer it to.

    Going into retirement I thought I wanted to be more of the person I was in high school and college. I remembered the freedom and fun and I thought it would be like that again. I worked on it for the first few months and after about year I realized it would be something different than that. I have the freedom and also I have the money to do whatever I want to do. That’s not how it was back then. The people I ran with back then have all grown up just as I had and even though we are meeting and running with some very interesting people, they have these complex pasts and paths that have brought them to where they are now. Also, the world has changed quite a bit. We do whatever we want and most days are an adventure. We travel about quarterly and have time to spend with our friends and our kids. We are still excited to be free from our work lives and are amazed that we never have to work again. We are discovering new interests and having a lot of fun. But it is nothing like I remember being young.

    In some ways it is much better, but it isn’t quite what I expected just a couple years ago. However I would do everything the same if given the chance to do it over again. We are also learning how to slow down and smell the roses. I know it sounds trite but we walk five miles every morning through the Ozark hills and woods and it is stunning. We always have a book going and we are really enjoying the really cool couples we now hang out with. We are enjoying craft beers and places we never thought we would visit. There is another thing we didn’t really think about, almost all of the retirees we encounter are quite a bit older than us. We know that will catch up in time and they are great people but not exactly in the same place in life as we are.

    I will follow you and I am interested to see if things turn out the way you imagine. I suspect it will be different but still very exciting and satisfying.

    • But who’s counting?! ;-) Congrats on pulling the plug — so awesome! And thanks for sharing your experience so far. It’s great you’ve given yourselves the chance to figure things out in your new normal and to create a life that might not be what you pictured, but is satisfying all the same. I don’t think we actually picture it being like when we were kids or in college, but just the idea that we can have crazy ideas one day and actually go do them instead of thinking, “Too bad, can’t do that, gotta be an adult instead.” But I’m sure you’re right that it won’t be quite what we’re picturing — we’ve never retired before, after all! ;-)