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The Social Good of Quitting Your Job

Talking about early retirement tends to be a fairly self-serving affair – we’re talking about your money and your aspirations, after all. But there’s a huge part of all of this that’s anything but self-serving. And today we’re going to talk all about the social good that can and does come along with leaving the workforce.

But first: two quick admin notes.

1. The first Tahoe meetup will be Saturday, April 28, at 1 pm at Alibi Ale Works in Truckee. And if you’re local or frequent the area, please join the Facebook group to get info on future meetups.

2. I’ll be sending out an e-newsletter next week (the first in a while!), and I’ve cleaned up the list to remove folks who didn’t open multiple prior newsletters. That means that if the newsletter went to spam for you and you therefore didn’t see it, you’ve probably been deleted. So feel free to resubscribe (or subscribe for the first time!), and then be sure to check your email for the automated verification note you’ll receive to confirm you want in.

Now back to our topic!

When I started sharing some of my posts on MarketWatch last year, which is well outside of our happy, cozy, supportive blog community bubble, I started seeing a different though not-unexpected critique:

That by not working, we are drains on society.

I wasn’t surprised that strangers on the internet would accuse us of being lazy for not wanting to work until 65, but their level of anger and vitriol went far beyond what I anticipated. We’re all that’s wrong with the world today, y’all. In case you didn’t already know.

So let’s actually dig into that argument instead of just dismissing it out of hand. Are we drains on society as early retirees, or are we contributing more to the greater good this way?

OurNextLife.com // The Social Good of Quitting Your Job // Financial independence and early retirement give each of us the incredible opportunity to volunteer more, be philanthropic, be better caregivers and even create jobs!

Part 1: Are We Drains on Society? (Spoiler: No.)

The “you’re a drain on society” crowd has a few key problems with what we’re doing, many of which are not factually correct, but I’m including them to be complete:

  1. We’re probably going to run out of money and end up on welfare, at public expense.
  2. We’re using community services without paying taxes.
  3. We’re getting subsidized health care despite having a high net worth which is obviously an abuse of the system.
  4. We’re selfish and lazy if we aren’t contributing to the labor force. (I won’t even get into the raging ableist bias in this one.) And also not wanting to have jobs makes us morally rotten.

Let’s go through them one by one:

We’ll end up on welfare – We along with nearly every early retiree I know care deeply about self-sufficiency. We are also resourceful, we’ve built in 5000 contingencies (only a slight exaggeration) and if we don’t get hit by bad sequences of return, then we very well may have oversaved. Plus we have most of our assets sitting untouched until we reach age 59 ½, so that we don’t accidentally spend too much in our early retirement years and screw over traditional retiree Mark and Tanja. While not true of all early or traditional retirees, we’re not even counting on Social Security!

We’re using services without paying taxes – Oh how I chortle at this one. Let’s see… we pay property taxes to the tune of $5000 a year to fund schools and local services, we pay California’s sky-high gas taxes to pay for our roads (reminder: electric vehicle owners are using the roads for free, subsidized by poorer folks), we’re still paying into Social Security and Medicare on our passive and side hustle income as well as federal and state income tax, and there’s sales tax on everything we buy. We’re also no longer claiming a mortgage interest deduction since we paid off our house, and we’ll probably never itemize again. Sure, some retirees like Jeremy focus on getting out of paying any tax whatsoever, but he and his family also live abroad and aren’t demanding much from U.S. services. Most early retirees we know are still paying taxes multiple ways.

Our health care is subsidized and that’s not cool – To me, this is the most legitimate complaint folks raise, and I understand that there is something inherently icky about high net worth people getting a tax credit to pay for their health insurance. But we subsidize all kinds of things rich people spend money on, and drawing the line here is completely arbitrary. First, though, let’s smack down any accusation that we’re in some way abusing the system to do so. We’re following the law to the very letter, and estimated a higher income than we expect to have to get a smaller subsidy (which could actually mean getting money back at tax time next year, though that’s not our goal). Folks who have a problem with this need to take it up with their lawmakers, because the law says that health care premiums are based on income, not on assets, and there’s nothing shady or manipulative about honestly reporting our expected income. But to the larger point, most of those things we subsidize for wealthy people that have little to no demonstrable social value. Wealthy investors get a huge tax break on the capital gains tax rate, which is much lower than the rates for equivalent earned income. The fact that high earners have a cap above which they no longer contribute to Social Security makes Social Security one of the most regressive taxes possible. We let all kinds of rich people write off mortgage interest on their second homes. We let billionaires write off interest on their yachts! To say that those are fine but getting more people covered by health insurance – which reduces costs for all of us, because uninsured people don’t usually pay their bills, and that puts taxpayers on the hook – is bonkers. (And, it goes without saying that we’d prefer a truly more affordable health care system so that our subsidy wasn’t necessary. We haven’t actually reformed health care, only health insurance, and all the political threat-making is only creating market chaos and driving costs up for everyone, including taxpayers.)

We’re selfish and lazy if we don’t work – I bet we can all name some people who are selfish and lazy and do work. One thing has nothing to do with the other. ;-) But I believe strongly that we can do a lot better job of being unselfish by not working, and that’s what part 2 of today’s post is all about.

Part 2: Can Retiring Early Be a Social Good? (Spoiler: Yes.)

I’m not trying to talk everyone in the world into retiring early. Some people feel fulfilled by their work or love it for other reasons, and for plenty of people, it’s just not realistic and no amount of frugaling will make it so. But especially for those who care about leaving the world in better shape than they found it, early retirement offers a long list of ways to do good.

Some of those are:

Quitting your job is essentially job creation – We all talk about wanting to leave our jobs, but I wish we’d talk more about freeing up space for someone else. I’d argue that Mark and I continuing to work two six-figure jobs with good benefits when we no longer needed more money would be the epitome of selfishness. When you have enough, you move along and give someone else a turn – and a chance to earn that paycheck. I think of quitting our jobs as the equivalent of creating two high-wage, high-skill jobs. We’re job creators, even in retirement! And so is everyone who makes space for someone else earlier than the traditional schedule says you’re supposed to. Creating jobs is clearly good for society and the workforce.

The ability to volunteer more time and with more substance – When we were both working, we volunteered some, but not as much as we wanted to. We each sat on boards of local nonprofits, but we didn’t have a ton of time to be more involved, and then we’d plug in on one-off projects for other organizations during our limited free time. Now, though, we can do so much more and truly contribute at the level we’re capable of contributing. We’re each now president of the board of the nonprofits we work with (avalanche center for Mark, and a conservation group for me), and we can take on bigger, more in-depth projects for other organizations we care about. And that’s just us! We know early retirees who are doing all kinds of cool projects across philanthropy, and who are using their career knowledge for the benefit of charitable causes. Super rad.

The freedom to be a better caregiver – Our society massively undervalues caregiving, and people who need to cut back on work or quit work altogether to care for kids or aging loved ones are massively punished for it. But when you don’t need to earn money, you can take care of kids, elderly relatives or anyone in your life who needs some special attention without penalty.

The calmness to be a kinder, more considerate person – When we were working, I was often not the best version of myself. Though I tried hard to be kind to airline and hotel employees, taxi drivers and every person I encountered whose job it was to do something that served me in some way, I know I often didn’t live up to that aspiration. It’s embarrassing how many people I must have been rude to because I “had” to be on a work call while trying to do something else. Or how many people I snapped at because air travel delays or client drama pushed me over the edge. It’s not hyperbole to say I’m a lot nicer now, and (almost) all the time, not just some of the time. If more of us were free of work stress and able to be kinder and more compassionate, society would absolutely be a better place.

Not adding to rush hour traffic – It’s the former Angeleno in me speaking, perhaps, but this is something! ;-)

What’s Your Take?

Your turn to chime in! Do you think early retirees are drains on the system in any way, or providing more social good? Does it depend on the person, or is the social good of freeing up your job for someone else enough all by itself to count? What would you add to this list of ways in which quitting your job contributes to the greater good? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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52 replies »

  1. Points 2 and 3 (not paying taxes and getting cheaper healthcare) are perhaps true for the US, but not in other countries.

    By the way, I personally feel that by 1. working until I have everything I need 2. not needing as much as others (which allows me to have a high savings rate) and 3. getting out of my job as soon as I personally don’t need the income anymore – I’m doing the world a lot of good.

  2. Some people like to complain and will find any reason to do so. Being alive is a drain on the system regardless of financial and retirement status.

    • That is so true and is a fact! The way I see it is if you work really hard (or get lucky) and have a HUGE sum if money in your account, you should use the same logical sensibility on how you got it into how you can sustain yourself and redistribute it to those who need it whether that’s right down your street or on the other side of the world.

  3. Look into the Lump of Labor Fallacy. It’s more common in Europe than here, but leaving a job does not create a full job spot. There’s strong theory and countless empirical papers on this misconception. Laura vanderkam also has a good explanation on her blog. The way I think about it is that there’s frictions to replacing someone so as a whole the economy loses (Though the economy can gain if the person goes to a better job match). When people are productive in their jobs, that can create more jobs. There’s not a fixed number of jobs in the economy. Again, I don’t explain this concept well because my mental proof starts backwards from the way most people think, but there are much better explanations geared to noneconomists online. It’s not like married women entering the labor force replace men 1 for 1, or even necessarily at all. Studies on immigrants continually find that they increase jobs via productivity, not take them away from natives. (Some early studies by found the opposite for unskilled immigrants, but people who redo them with modern techniques find no negative effects.)

    Tl:dr. It is absolutely not true that someone leaving the labor force work means there’s a full job for someone else in the general equilibrium.

    • In my company where the average length of employment is almost 20 years, rare I know, there is a lack of mobility when people don’t retire. And with the baby boomer generation finally starting to retire we’re seeing a 1 for 1 replacement here. Many times there are promotions from within, and replacement at the “bottom”, other times they hire from outside.

      Also in this area I’m seeing this at public schools, teachers are retiring and they do have to hire to replace them. It’s not always the case in all companies and professions, but companies and especially the public sector have limited budgets regardless of job productivity.

      • Think about a mom entering the labor force. She’s making more money now. That means her family is able to put the kids in pre-school. They eat out more. They are able to buy more things. This additional spending (along with others like her) expands the economy so there are more jobs for service workers or high tech people to design things. Her additional productivity may mean that the product her company makes becomes less expensive (this will depend), meaning that people are able to spend less on it and are able to spend more on other things, or that more people buy the product meaning they can expand production and possibly hire more people whose labor complements hers.

        You can argue that more stuff and more outside-the-home production is a bad thing, but it is absolutely not true that people leaving the labor force leave exactly same the number of job openings behind.

        Also: It is completely not a 1-1 replacement EVEN IN SCHOOLS where there are tenure lines. Sometimes when a person retires or leaves, they just close the line. Sometimes they replace the person with two aides. There’s actually quite a bit of turnover in schools so there’s flexibility, generally with the entry-level teachers. I work in the government with tenure lines– when times are good we get more likes, when times are bad they take them away. We get hiring freezes. We replace people with adjuncts. During the last recession they even replaced our cleaning staff with contract workers so they wouldn’t have to pay benefits.

        I really don’t want to get into an argument about this (I get paid to teach econ and blog comments don’t pay– see also me not getting into internet arguments about the hot hand in sports), but I will reiterate that I think that Laura Vanderkam’s explanation on her blog is better than the wikipedia page on the same topic. (Yes, there is a wikipedia page.)

        • I’d like to think of it as a open discussion and not an argument either. I do know in some cases it’s not 1 to 1.
          So in some cases people leaving the workforce doesn’t present opportunities for others. However, I think Tanja has a point that for people who can afford it it can benefit others allowing them to get promotions. And she is still a “productive” member of the economy buying things.
          Whereas, if she had left the workforce due to forced “retirement”or at a struggling institution this would not be the case. Be that the topic was about if early retirement benefited the social good, I tend to agree with what she has stated. In most cases people in the FIRE community may not have even received tenure, or been in the running for that type of position due to age and what the economy looked like when they entered it.

  4. 1) The electric car tax exemption REALLY bugs me 2) While the job thing may not be 1:1 as mentioned above, the fact that boomers have stuck around at jobs past “traditional” retirement age is seriously hurting the people trying to come up behind them. Locally, I’ve seen it very intensely in the city sector, and it is starting to cause problems 3) Maybe you should take up that suggestion to get even more involved in your community… ;)

    • here’s what this fiddy year old has noticed and experienced: i work in manufacturing and so many boomers held onto those gravy jobs so long that we gen-x er’s with skills were blocked in many cases and got discouraged. i and many of my peers just threw up our hands in the proverbial “f’ it.” in our place the new workers replacing the retirees are making much less with the new tier system.

      as far as the online haters: they can pound sand. haters gonna hate. i’ll bet you could find 10,000 people online who would criticize a person handing out puppies and $1000 bills to sick kids.

  5. Good post.

    To me, being retired means I have the time to focus on what matters most, including spending time and energy on things of value to others.

    We still pay way too much in taxes, but we’re comfortable, and we can focus on what we really want to do to give back. Doesn’t seem like we’re a drag on society, in fact the exact opposite.

  6. Great article Tanja. It does make me think that if a group of motivated early retirement folks wanted to start working on improving the health care system they could have more influence than other folks. (similar to groups of investors that were asking to pull money out of pro-gun investments.) As a community you have the pull, time and smarts to pull it off. Somewhat off topic I know, but think of the social good.

  7. I agree with a lot of this, and its unfortunate that people so quickly assume (and say) the worst when they don’t know the whole picture.

    To me, the opportunity to do more social good is a big part of what’s great about early retirement. There are so many things I want to do, people i think I can help, but i can’t fully do that with my current work schedule.
    I once had a debate about this with an acquaintance who was trying to sell me on his laidback, travel/nomad life. He said working my “soul-sucking finance job” (his words) was no help to the world and i should quit to travel and help people. I explained, and I still believe, that I can have a much greater positive impact if i work my butt off now and can make more material financial contributions to organizations that need it and then retire to devote my time to those groups without ever having to rely on government assistance or debt to offset my lifestyle.
    I’m willing to bet (or at least i hope) that the average high-earner FIRE person probably has given more to social causes than the average worker who may not have or leave room in their budget for helping others.

    I think you’re on to something here.. and you’re definitely setting a good example :)

  8. These are all great points.

    Do you have any previous posts on health care and insurance options as an early retiree? I believe this is an underserved area that many potential early retirees don’t consider. My wife has a pre-existing condition and is on expensive medication that would require hundreds of dollars a month to pay for without insurance.

  9. Your point about giving others a chance when you’ve earned enough is very germane to my situation. When I transitioned to part time last fall I opened up a senior position. The guy who applied and got it is smart and talented and has a growing family, the promotion is a big deal for him, with a substantial salary increase. I don’t really need that salary anymore, half of it is perfectly fine for me. To me this is a win-win.

  10. I so wholeheartedly agree here. Our economy would be transformed if some people who did not enjoy their jobs could be liberated to do the things that they actually find fulfilling. There is no question that many people would contribute to the economy in different, surprising ways and that many of the environmental horrors of commuting and work life would be lessened. I never even thought about the people who could then happily step into those jobs – that’s a really interesting point. I think that we live in such a short sighted culture that values all the wrong things, that in this day and age, it is a minority of people who are capable of seeing the world in this other way. It is positively revolutionary. It would mean everything they have been taught and believed their whole life could be wrong. I don’t think most people will ever be able to look at you and think, wow, I wish that were me. They are to busy thinking, wow, I wish my house was as big as that other guy’s house. Hopefully, the next generation will understand what matters in life. That is my only prayer for my children.

  11. I’ve been in an industry that has been contracting for years so a couple of executives that leave doesn’t typically result in new positions just money contributing to the bottom line performance. With that said, us in the West (world view and my view) typically have a very short term horizon and perspective on things. While Mark and Tonja leaving their jobs may not result in new positions in the short term, in the longer term it will and has been said in previous comments gives career development to those still at the company.

    The internet is a fabulous tool but it comes with some downsides as well. One, again IMHO, is that snarky comments can be made by faceless people on all sorts of things (beauty, weight, life decisions). For mature people we can shake them off but the effect on younger and less confident people the impact can be tragic.

    I think that our US tax code is a mess and has way too much social engineering woven into it. We want people to get married and buy houses (and spend all of the money that comes with those things) so we provide tax breaks for that. I agree with Tonja, follow the laws as they are written and sleep well at night knowing that you are doing the right thing.

  12. I agree with most of your post. And it is well written. I have been following your blog since the days of no capitalization and have really enjoyed it. You are a gifted communicator.
    The only small hedge I have is social security. Your position seems to be very close to that of Warren Buffet’s so you are in good company indeed. My only issue is that I don’t consider FICA deductions as a “true” (I need a better word here) tax – in the sense of like an income tax. I say that because at the end of the day, you are getting the money back.
    Now, I agree completely that it is rough on people of limited incomes. When you are working for low wages, any deduction hurts a lot. But to me the bend points in the calculation take a good portion of the regressiveness (is that a word?) out of it.
    If you work 35 years at $12,000 per year, I think your social security benefit will be something along the lines of $9,000 to $10,000 per year from age 67 on. To me, that is not a bad return. And yes, I know the lower wage folks tend to have lower life spans, increased medical costs, etc.. But still, dollar for dollar, low wages paid in get a pretty good return on social security. As every early retirement guru knows, after you get past that second bend point in social security, you do not see a lot of return on each dollar paid into the plan.
    Plus, those of us who do reach retirement and have a bit of outside income pay income taxes on up to 85% of the social security payments we receive – think distributions from your large traditional 401(K) and IRA plans. A large distribution will cause your social security payments to become taxable income. A poor person who is surviving on little more than social security will not pay any tax on the social security he receives. This too takes back a bit of the regressiveness of the plan.
    I know my reply seems heartless coming from someone in a two person household that never had kids and who both earn over the SS cap, but if they want to take away the cap and not raise the max benefit that comes back to me once retired, then that changes the whole FICA program. What that plan does is really turns at least a part of FICA into a “true” tax on some people. And if it comes to that to save the plan, fine. I’m not completely heartless. I realize my wife and I have more than we “need” and are fortunate and we truly want to help. But I would like to see it done in such a way that is “outside” of social security. Maybe come up with an additional tax of x% that starts at whatever AGI. That money flows into the treasury and it is used to cover shortfalls in the program. Or make up to 100% of social security income taxable. Or maybe use a lower annual SS COLA adjustment for people with higher incomes. It just feels wrong to say FICA is the same old FICA program when in reality some people will be paying in dollars that they never will see come back to them in retirement.
    I don’t know. There have got to be a bunch of solutions out there. “All” we need is to elect some adults who do more than just try to get their 20 second sound bites on the news. Shouldn’t be too difficult, right :)

    • I really appreciate this comment. I do think Social Security is progressive because of the bend points you mentioned, but I definitely agree it’s not cut-and-dry thanks to the income cap as well as the actual benefits realized by lower income contributors for the reasons you point out.
      I do think SS is regressive in the context of early retirees. Because the benefit calculation uses lifetime earnings (wages), people who earn large incomes for only a short period receive benefits similar to someone working a low wage for their entire life. Meaning the two groups both receive a proportionately greater amount of their contributions back as SS income compared to someone earning an average wage their entire life. That is to say it might be a legitimate gripe that early retirees receive a disproportional benefit from SS.
      I think it’s related to Tanja’s same observation that less tax is paid on investment earnings. An early retiree will earn most of their lifetime income from investments or other passive income, not paying any SS tax on those earnings but still supporting a comfortable lifestyle.
      If there’s an argument to be made that investment income should be taxed at the same rates as earned income, then I think it logically follows that investment income should be subject to social security taxes. Just a thought.
      Thanks for the article, enjoyed.

      • I hadn’t thought of that with my original post, but yes, to me that could make a lot of sense. Simply put a FICA tax on investment income. It would help to level the playing ground a bit and bring more money into the system. And the folks paying the tax would still get credit when they finally start receiving SS pmts. Excellent idea.

  13. As usual, education is an outlier. It is often said that getting rid of a veteran teacher (retiring or firing!) lets a school hire multiple new/fresh teachers. While the theory is sound (I’m paid far more than a new teacher with 0 years of experience and only a bachelor’s) at first, the problem in education is that as teachers retire, schools look to put that money in other places or cut costs. Class sizes go up, spending is pushed into technology, etc., etc. So it’s not like me bowing out truly opens up multiple (or even one!) position. Additionally, I would argue that, at least sometimes, the same acumen that comes with being able to develop a strategy to exit early makes for a talented teacher. Those are the people that we need to keep the very longest, IMHO. (Though that does sound like a colossal horn toot, doesn’t it?) .

    And bahaha to not adding to traffic!

  14. Something I think about often and truly struggle with. Like you guys, my wife and I are very fortunate to have jobs with absurd salaries (relatively) and combined with our savings rate have allowed us to become FI. and allow us allow to volunteer our money and time toward charitable causes.
    Since we don’t affect policy or drive change on your scale, I feel like our greatest/best contribution is through our dollars. i don’t have the network, but I do have the net worth to help make an impact. and by stepping away, while we can give more of my time, I diminish what I feel is our most valuable asset toward social good and change. :-|

  15. I love the point about now having time to volunteer. I also get the health insurance thing. Is it a little questionable (on the face of it)? Sure. But since the laws are in place, it’d be silly not to take advantage of them as they stand. Besides, who knows how much longer they’re going to be around at this rate?

  16. The resentment and despise for social programs with health care being the most notable in the US constantly makes my sad. First it would be a non issue if everyone could get on the same page. If the health care system changed and more people embraced social public funded healthcare it would be a powerful economic rocketship for the US economy in my mind. Look at all the poverty and heck, teachers strikes occurring right now because of it. I think you paying a lower premium through whatever system you have in place right now is the least of the publics worries.
    As for everything else you posted, yup totally agree.

  17. Dear Tanja, what a great post!

    Especially loved the part about making space for younger workers who now will have an opportunity to earn money. Did you know that “retirement” as known in our society nowadays was “invented” by Otto von Bismarck in Germany back in 1881? He was under tremendous pressure to provide more working opportunities to younger Germans and in order to “make space” he decided it would be best to “let go” older people into retirement – which didn’t exist before that! Retirement age was set at 70. If you look up life expectancy tables from back then: you’d be lucky if you made it to 70. Even with retirement, most people still worked until they died. What a privilege of the modern world that we can decide ourselves how much is enough. What an achievement of freedom and quality of life! Imagine you would have told your story to some guys 150 years ago…

    As life expectancy continues to increase and the middle-aged workforce is shrinking relatively, government supported retirement for everyone will get harder to achieve going forward! Retirement age will have to get adjusted upwards. Benefits will get reduced. That’s why it’s better for every- and anyone to better get their own plan together in due time.

    Achieving Financial Independence is an outstanding achievement and once you achieved it, there will be one human less to take care of by the public system. It was so necessary to write about the good sides of early retirement it for society. Thanks for doing so today.

    Cheers,
    Matt

    PS: less useless consumption, less lifestyle inflation, less lives wasted on bullshitting and selling crap to eachother

  18. As a SAHP, I’ve encountered much of the same feedback. However, I try to see the positive that is able to come from our position and the choices we’ve made and come to many of the same conclusions as you have about retiring early. My spouse and I are able and choose to volunteer and give back more, especially on the weekends, since a good portion of the home upkeep is able to be taken care of while I’m home during the week. No right or wrong answer for everyone, just different strokes for different folks.

  19. Alternatively, it’s also nobody else’s business how I live my life, whether I am a huge contributor to society or opt completely out and sit on a beach for 30 years.

  20. The ability to volunteer more time and with more substance: this is a big part of our “why” for early retirement. We got started on FIRE before it was a thing, inspired by some folks of faith, who challenged us to figure out our “enough” number. Once we have “enough,” we are free leaving our paying jobs and to say yes to ministry opportunities without asking for financial support … which frees up those charitable funds to do other good work.

    We haven’t yet fully retired; we run a hybrid model for now: we decided my salary was enough to fund our living and savings goals, allowing my husband to exit his first career a decade ago to devote more time to volunteer ministry and to caring for people around us in general – creating community – something at which he excels. This gives us additional purpose and meaning in the current season (comfort for me on the many crazy days at work) and a vision for the hopefully not too distant future when I can retire myself. We live in a world where so many people are hurting – having time to brew a cup of coffee and listen to someone’s heartbreak, show up at the hospital, cook a meal and have a single parent and family over to dinner … these simple things can make such a difference in our communities.

  21. you’re right, T. there was no health care overhaul on the absurd cost side, only on insurance. if the legislators ever went to an asset based scale vs. income based it would only punish the financially responsible and reward the others. that wouldn’t be the only case of this being true.

  22. One thing that struck me about the “We’re selfish and lazy” response is that there is an expectation to “work” until we are 65. Work for what? Work for who? This implies that any job that pays a wage is contributing more than one that doesn’t. Anyone can provide examples where this isn’t the case.

    Ultimately, the feeling of having to continue to work for the greater good bothers me. It seems very un-american. One of the greatest benefits of living in this country is having the ability to plan and execute our lives as we see fit. The freedom to pursue happiness. For those within this community, that pursuit may no longer require a job.

    P.S. If we can effectively re-brand retirement (per your brilliant previous post), these negative reactions would be tempered but do we really care?

  23. Ha! That about covers it. To add to Part 2, I would say that it is giving me the space and time to cultivate a better garden, produce more O2 and gobble up more CO2. The goal is more food for my family and neighbors (hopefully, this is an experiment and project in process)… I have however been picking the limes off my constantly producing lime tree I planted 9 years ago, leaving some out for the neighbors, juicing some and making lime ice cubes and made a killer key lime pie last weekend (margaritas, anybody?). The veggies are currently growing nicely and I’ve got a few fruit producers I’m embarking on planting this coming weekend (nectarine tree, guava, and passion fruit).

  24. More social good : our household will have two less cars on the road during peak travel times. This will help the tailgaters get to work on time, ultimately improving their performance. Win win. 😉

  25. I can understand people who says such thing, it’s mainly jealousy for most of them.

    Personally, I don’t believe it’s a drain on society at all. There are enough workers today and there are some workers without a job, so why not stop working if we can afford it and let these people work. If there is nobody to take the job you are leaving, maybe it’s not a social good, but it’s highly debatable.

  26. Disclaimer: Do I think following tax law to one’s advance is unfair? (Spoiler: No.) But I do have a distaste for hypocrisy.

    Concerning subsidized health care, your comments include,

    “We subsidize all kinds of things rich people spend money on. And drawing the line here is completely arbitrary.”

    “Most of those things we subsidize for wealthy people that have little to no demonstrable value.”

    “We’re following the law to the very letter…” & “Folks who have a problem with this need to take it up with their lawmakers…”

    These comments fall short of ethical justification. Rather, they appear to be ethical avoidance. You sound like someone who is accused of speeding and says, “Officer, I might have been going 10 mph over the speed limit, but look at those other guys who were going 30 mph over the speed limit – you should be focusing on them!” or “Officer, look at all those other people who are driving so dangerously without being held accountable. Why are you pulling me over, that is completely arbitrary!”

    Is it ethical, using “Tanja and Mark” standards, to be getting a tax credit to pay for your health insurance, considering your net worth (of which you have never disclosed, but have suggested is very high)?

    In the comments section of your January 10, 2018 posting (A Love Letter to the Atypical, Unfrugal Early Retirees), you posted:

    “But to go through life without giving back and without paying a fair share in taxes without recognizing that it’s the selfish choice is just ignorant. I say, if you’re going to be selfish, own it.” & “That’s what I’d write the love letter to: owning your choices and knowing why you’re making them.”

    Use your own philosophy during self-reflection. You make a choice when you accept tax credits to pay for your health insurance, even though you (likely) have a multiple million-dollar net worth. Your ethical decisions should not rely on whether it is legal, or how it compares to other ethical issues. On this specific issue, you are making a choice that your previous ethical philosophies suggest is selfish. Now, “own it.”

  27. We watched several baby boomers stay well into their 60s at our aerospace company because they were well compensated and were scared to quite the grind as it was the only job/life they ever had upon departing college. As gen X, we aligned with this idea at first and than a funny thing happened about 10 years ago. We awoke one day and realized we wore heading down the same train track like a locomotive with a non functioning dead man switch. Next stop was being slumped over mentally dead aboard a train bound for meaningless parts of nowhereville.

    We made the mind altering switch back than to not end up like that. It was a tough couple of years sticking our head out of the self made prison but we are better for it today as we have time to be better people.

    As for anyone who thinks I am picking on baby boomers please accept my forward apology as it’s not my intention. Just what we experianced at work.

    Just some examples of pre retirement negativity that dragged us down as people:

    -used to commute 10,000 a year back and forth to work in our own car, (yes we car pooled).
    -burned more jet fuel than a standing army, ok not really but lots of pollution just the same.
    -spent alot of time watching tv after work until bedtime just filling the time until the weekend.
    -would not go to the gym and stay healthy because we were to tired from working 10 hours a day or on travel.
    -would not pass a drive thru window on the way home because we were to tired from work to cook a healthy meal after we arrived home or back at a hotel room.
    -spending to much time in doors even when we did not have to…
    -shopping for work wardrobes.
    -mentally prepping for work on Sunday night which is just wasted energy.
    -talking about work even when we did not have to..
    -not taking advantage of quality time with kids, family, pets, non work friends because we felt tired from work.
    -working harder on our marriage because we were busy with building careers.
    -over consumption in general.
    -maintaining our home with elbow grease and hard work versus feeding a load of contractors and yard landscaping folks.
    -having a garage full of camping equipment that we never used even though we had great intentions someday.
    -loads of frequent flyer miles we would not use because work was always more important than vacation.
    -not unplugging from electronics, every.
    -list goes on and on.

    It’s been less than 6 months since retirement but it feels like we are better human beings already. For us it’s truly been a life changing experience for the better.

    Being better people is our end goal as that is enough.

  28. I totally don’t think of it as a drain. I work and volunteer with several small not-for-profits and charities, who’s is doing all the heavy lifting in those organisations? People who are retired, semi-retired and stay-at-home parents. They are all making a huge contribution. I really don’t understand the fuss, if you don’t need to work and don’t want to work, why not make room for someone else?

  29. Making space for other people to take the jobs you no longer need definitely feels like a social good to me. Especially since you concentrated so heavily in the last year of employment on building up the people you supervised. You made many people’s careers demonstrably better.

  30. Great post. It took me a while to post a response because this post brought back a heated discussion I had with someone who insisted that we need to “incentivize” people to work longer for the good of society, except his incentives all sounded like things that made it impossible for people to retire. And remembering the discussion pisses me off all over again. If he ever pops back up, I’m just sending him this link. LOL. :)

  31. Couldn’t agree more with you on this topic. I tend to think early retirees (in many cases) will create MORE value after their cubicle days are over. Part of that value might be less obvious, e.g., spending quality time with your family to help guide your kids along their journey in life. Opportunity cost? That too. I’m no longer clogging up the road nor clogging up the air with my exhaust, while stuck in a commute.

    The healthcare part is tricky. Wouldn’t it be great to have universal coverage and be done with it? One can dream!

  32. I really enjoyed his post. As a Canadian some of the discussions on healthcare have me scratching my head. Shouldn’t access to health care be a basic need of every human? And if people stay healthy that keeps premiums cheaper for everyone in the plan. Access to healthcare shouldn’t be a competition.

  33. Not contributing to rush hour traffic is no small thing, well-being and environmental-wise! I can’t help but think that the world would be an overall nicer place if people weren’t so stressed out by the work/consume/work busy-ness cycle.

  34. I think conversations (like in this comment section) on the priorities of our society, are good for our democracy. But they are also subjective, as everyone’s circumstances are different. The contention that using tax subsidies to offset the cost of privately purchased health insurance is somehow unethical (for those that living off of savings in retirement) is an argument that ignores the fact that the majority of people in the U.S. obtain their health insurance through employer sponsored plans. The premiums paid by the employer are not taxed as income to the employee. It has been estimated by MIT Health economist Jonathan Gruber, that this tax break costs our country $250 Billion in lost income taxes every year. And let’s not forget that many of the large employers (the U.S. Government included) use their economies of scale to purchase insurance at rates that private individuals can not obtain.

  35. I know it was not at all the point of your post, but I am curious about your (and some of your commenters) complaints about electric vehicles not paying the gas tax. From everything I’ve read, the subsidies for gasoline cars are much, much greater, especially when you consider the carbon impacts. And while gas taxes help pay for roads, they certainly don’t completely pay for roads. For example, I would be interested in your thoughts on this article https://cleantechnica.com/2015/12/30/electric-cars-dont-pay-gas-taxes/ . It also seems like using that logic would require folks who buy more fuel efficient gas vehicles to be charged a surcharge because they will be paying less in gas taxes… surely that’s not a “social good”.

    On the larger points in your article, I generally agree, and it certainly seems you are very much contributing to the social good. I do struggle with the health care subsidy piece, as I do think that’s not ideal – just like the entire health care policy in the U.S.

  36. I’m appalled by the accusations and completely agree with your response to them above. We had someone once tell us to our face with disgust, “go back to work” I was taken off guard and didn’t have a comeback at the time. I wish I had read this post sooner!

  37. So glad you addressed this topic. We have wrestled with the idea of early retirement because I believe there is a possibility of using that time & freedom selfishly (though the question of other resources never troubled me, for the reasons you laid out so well). To be fair, it shouldn’t really matter if someone else uses their retirement time and freedom “selfishly”, because that’s their business. But for us, we didn’t want to pursue it with the goal of lots of leisure in mind. And I doubt many early retirees–who tend to be very talented, hard-working, and creative–have that goal in mind.

    Anyway, whether and when we retire early with have a lot to do with the opportunities available to us when we reach FI. The age of the kids is a big factor–we should still have kids under our roof that we’d love to both have lots of time with. And also, extensive volunteering or working for peanuts for a nonprofit we’re passionate about is very much on our radar. The options for that will probably influence our ER decision a lot because we want retirement to have a clear purpose that extends beyond our family.

  38. I believe that retiring from the corporate world is just a natural evolution to adding even more to society. When you’re inspired in your day more than than what you get from the corporate world and allow yourself to dream a better future and a better world, that’s when the magic happens. We are all creative in our own way and using that creativity can lead to amazing things and I do believe it can be way more powerful than being a cog in a large machine. I’ve acheived a high level of responsability in the companies I’ve worked for and do work for. I have the ability to make the world better (in my way) and help improve people’s lives (in the realmy of my company and its products) and I do. However, once I reach FI, I want to use all that knowledge to go further and do better and more.

  39. This post is interesting. This is my first time commenting, but since it triggered (again) my dilemma, I felt like sharing.

    What happens when your job is regarded by most of your entourage as such an important way to provide for “social good to others”?

    You see, I’m a shrink. I am self-employed, working full-time. So, every single week day, I meet with suffering people, some in very deep life crises, some with more minor issues. Whether I’m a good or a bad therapist is not the issue here. Let’s presume that I’m average, meaning that sometimes I provide good care, but other times (way too often) I feel like the most incompetent imposter on Earth.

    So in my case, to stop working could simply be viewed as retiring from a job, but it could also be viewed as retiring from a portion of my life where I’m involved in the “social good”. When I talk about my desire to retire early, my colleagues, my friends, my relatives, they all consider this a loss to society, a loss to suffering people seeking relief. When I consider retiring early, I think of working part-time as a therapist, but even that thought feels like a burden, because deep down I KNOW how much rest I need from this job. A therapist working part-time is also locked into a weird contract. You have the responsability to accompany someone until that person gets better, you therefore cannot predict how long you will have to keep working, and you cannot decide to “close the shop” and leave them alone or suggest they go for a replacement therapist, without considering the consequences of having accepted to treat someone but to let them down in the process.

    Would I plan a few years away from clinical work, then prepare for a part-time, slower-paced comeback? Would I drop it all, definitely, and switch to something completely different? Should I pay closer attention to those relatives’ comments on me giving up on my “skills’ and giving up on people in needs? Or should I prioritize me, and listen to my fatigue? Should I keep making efforts for the good of others? Is that noble in anyway if it also feels like sacrificing part of my life in the process? This post confirms my struggle, it calls for my closer observing of my own limits, my boundaries, and be impermeable to other colleagues/friends’ critics.

    N.B.: I still don’t know how I’ll manage that transition period. This is still a though reflection, but I still have 5 years ahead of me to make a decision!

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