My other motivation for retiring early // What many get wrong about those who can't work -- // early retirement, financial independence, happiness, adventurewe've learned

My Other Motivation for Retiring Early // What Many Get Wrong About Those Who Can’t Work

Way back in the early, all-lowercase days of this blog, I shared one of my big motivators for wanting to retire as early as possible: the potential that I’d develop the same genetic disability that my dad has, which forced him to stop working at 43.

That’s all true, but it’s only half the story.

The other half is related, but also entirely different. People get it right away when I say, “I don’t know how long I’ll have my full mobility, and I can’t risk spending all my best years at the office.” I’m positive that my former employer took my news that I was leaving far better because I had that reason than they would have if I’d said, “Eh, I’d just rather hang out all day than do this.” A looming genetic disability that kicks in early in middle age is something people understand on a gut level.

My other reason requires a little more explanation.

My other motivation for retiring early // What many get wrong about those who can't work -- // early retirement, financial independence, happiness, adventure

The Biggest Influence on My Decision to Pursue Early Retirement

My dad stopped working when I was in seventh grade, just before my parents split up. In an especially cruel twist, his employer laid him off just before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) kicked in, which would have forced them to accommodate him, but fortunately, he was still able to receive payments from his employer’s long-term disability policy. He also started receiving Social Security disability (SSD) payments and went on Medicare for his insurance. Those payments were the only thing standing between the middle class upbringing I’d always known and abject poverty, and I’ll forever be grateful for them.

Related post: How Subsidies Make Early Retirement Possible, Even Without Obamacare

But getting those payments wasn’t a one-and-done thing. Every year an inspector from the insurance company would show up — “inspector” was my name for them, anyway — to try to catch my dad faking. They wanted to see with their own eyes that he still “looked” disabled and that he wasn’t secretly working while also drawing disability insurance payments. They’d make him take aptitude tests to try to prove that he could go back to work and get off their dole. They’d ask me prying questions to see if I’d slip up and say something incriminating about my dad, like that he was secretly drawing an income from another source. Of course, all my dad wanted was to be able to work. But that wasn’t possible, and this inspector coming in over and over and treating him like a fraud was beyond insulting. My dad had no choice but to put up with it.

And then there was the ongoing frustration of Social Security cost-of-living adjustments that seldom kept up with the cost of inflation, and the fact that a disabled parent on Medicare had no option at the time for getting their child insured. I got health insurance most of the time through my mom’s plan, but she switched jobs so often that I frequently had to endure lengthy waiting periods before I was covered, something that stressed my dad out to no end given that I have always been the sick one who got all the strange illnesses.

If you’d asked my dad at 43 if he was retired, he would have told you that was a ridiculous question. He didn’t choose retirement, at least not then, and he only came to accept the label years later. He’d much rather have been working, earning his own paycheck, contributing to society and modeling a strong work ethic to his tween daughter. Like every person I’ve ever met whose disability interferes with their ability to work, he’d rather have worked long hours in a stressful job but been completely healthy than drawn a paycheck that felt unearned while sitting at home.

And when he left the house, there were other indignities, too. The times people would chase him down at the grocery store and tell him what a bad person he was for parking in a handicapped space (legally, of course). Only people in wheelchairs are “actually disabled,” they’d insist right to his face, the face of a person whose disability is impossible to miss. Too polite to tell these people to f#@$ off, he’d feel forced to explain his medical condition to strangers, who then felt entitled to be the arbiters of whether he was truly deserving or not. Eventually, he stopped using the handicapped spaces, just to avoid the trouble.

I saw all of this, and knew I didn’t want to repeat it in my own life.

What People Get Wrong

Maybe it’s because the American Dream is based on the idea of working hard, but we seem to have a collective sense of revulsion at people who don’t work in this country. We assume they don’t want to work, and that they’re living large on some magically enormous welfare check, as if that’s actually a thing (it’s not). My experience says it’s exactly the opposite: as humans, we are driven to do work that matters, and we feel compelled to contribute to society. When you believe you can’t contribute, it’s not a blessing, it’s a curse. And that’s before you have to deal with all the people who will tell you — because they will — how ashamed of yourself you should be for taking hand-outs.

(PF Geeks wrote an excellent post about gaining a new perspective on this topic that you should check out.)

Then there are the notes like this that we now receive fairly often:


Never mind that the “USA! USA! USA!!!” in the middle of the email kind of undermines his credibility, he’s sharing a sentiment that many people who apparently think it’s a good use of their time to email strangers on the internet seem to believe (and which plenty of others no doubt believe, too):

That by not working, we’re not only deadbeats, we also hate America. 

This guy with nothing better to do thinks we’re deadbeats for not contributing to the U.S. GDP. (Seriously, bro. Get a hobby.) Others have said it’s because we receive a discount on our health insurance, which should only be for the poor (though they often go on to disparage the poor in the same note, so it’s clear they just don’t want anyone to have help, ever). Still others don’t believe that we could possibly have saved as much money as we did without some massive inheritance, so must also be liars with ulterior motives. But for all of them, the central thesis statement is fundamentally the same: You don’t work, so you’re a deadbeat.

And that’s where they are dead wrong.

Not only is “deadbeat” the most offensive and false way to describe someone who’d much rather be healthy and working, but I saved for early retirement exactly so that I’d never have to rely on anyone else to pay my bills.

It Was Never Only About Potential Disability

In all of those indignities I saw my dad suffer — the insurance inspectors who believed he was a fraud and treated him accordingly, the people who felt they were entitled to be the judge and jury about his health status based on where he parked, and the every-single-day wish that he could be working and contributing instead — I saw powerlessness.

Which was all the harder to witness because of who my dad is. Honest to a fault, driven by integrity, deeply curious about the world around him and committed to sharing what he knows, my dad is the last person I ever expected to see made powerless by circumstance. He’d worked his way out of poverty in the South to college at West Point, and then proved himself as fast-track management material in the corporate world. He’d even made good money decisions before his disability ended his career, though my mom took advantage of that in the divorce and weakened his financial footing considerably. To me, he was a superhero. And it crushed my soul to see a superhero feel like he wasn’t in control of his own destiny.

Though seeing all of that didn’t translate into ideal money decisions from day one, I always carried with me a sense that I wanted to be in control of my own life. And when I hit my late-20s and realized that I might only have a decade or so before I had less say in the matter, my priorities shifted almost immediately.

I could have easily said, “I don’t need to save money because there’s a disability check in my future that will cover me.” Because here’s something I’ve always known but never shared here before: I was always going to retire early, one way or another. I wanted it to be on my own terms, and to come from a place of power, not powerlessness. I could feel that clock ticking, and knew that a day would very likely come when I’d have to stop working and accept assistance, if I didn’t create another option for myself soon. And this isn’t an abstract notion. I’ve had more pain and mobility challenges this year than ever in the past, despite subtracting work stress. (Because early retirement is not a cure-all, and anyone who insists it is is selling snake oil.) It’s now clear that I’m unlikely to get my dad’s particular manifestation of our genetic disease, but I am facing down a whole different set of challenges that will only ever get worse, not better. It may very well be that I retired just in the nick of time.

No one chooses to be powerless, or to stay powerless if they have any choice at all. But plenty of people still end up there, often through no fault of their own. I’ll forever be grateful that I got a glimpse into my potential future, and that I had the opportunity to create for myself a very different path. That’s something not everyone gets, and I know exactly how lucky I am to be in this position.

Share Your Thoughts

Did you have any experiences growing up that gave you more of a sense of urgency to retire early, or at least to put yourself on solid financial footing? Have you had any learning moments, like PF Geek’s, of seeing things from a different perspective and realizing that the way we talk about something is incorrect? Any other thoughts to share? Let’s chat in the comments!

Don't miss a thing! Sign up for the eNewsletter.

Subscribe to get extra content 3 or 4 times a year, with tons of behind-the-scenes info that never appears on the blog.

No spam ever. Unsubscribe any time. Powered by ConvertKit

81 replies »

  1. Thanks for sharing your father’s experiences Tanja.

    There is much in life we can’t control, genetics and the foibles of the social security system being two big ones.

    That is why getting our finances in order is so important. Financial freedom provides more options, including: the luxury of choice in terms of healthcare options; and how much precious time we trade for money.

    I hope you genetics gods spare you a repeat of your father’s challenges, the uncertainty must be overwhelming at times.

  2. What a strong, poignant post. There really are so many insidious, hidden costs to being disabled or receiving social security. Many of which are not financial, but mostly driven by preconceived notions and social judgement. It is horrible and very disheartening.

    Your arguments for saving for your own retirement and financial future mirrors our own reasoning. We see the social security nets deteriorate all around us, and would much rather take matters into our own hands than sit back and hope for the best.

  3. We’re all just one unlucky car accident away from being unable to work. I’ve always tried to remind myself of that and tried to prepare for something like that to happen. One unlucky break is all it takes.

    My own father went through periods where he was medically disabled and unable to work too. It definitely affected his ability to lead a successful career, but what can you do?

    Just keep living and ignore the trolls. They’re only one unlucky accident away from living it themselves.

  4. Honestly for me it was watching my parents do all the wrong things financially and seeing the consequences. Realizing I didnt want to put myself or my family through those experiences. Ie sometimes the negative outcomes are outside our control, but sometimes we do it to ourselves. I was and am bound and determined to do the best I can do with what’s within my control. Not squander my gifts so to speak.

  5. Thank you for sharing this powerful story, Tanja. And we are all pulling for you to have many healthy, mobile years ahead!

  6. The stigma that comes from handicap placards for people who don’t “look” handicapped enough is so real. It’s incredible how much we will judge others based on a flash view of their lives, be it a handicapped parking spot or a cell phone while using food stamps.

    I’ve seen enough people in my life have work ripped away from them due to long term illnesses (or their lives, when that illness took even that) to think that financial independence is just about sailing off into the sunset because you don’t like your job.

    • Oh my gosh, the cell phone stigma! How dare someone be reachable, or be able to call work if they’ll be late! >:-( A cell phone is not optional anymore, folks. Let’s move on to more productive conversations. (That’s me breaking my complaint ban rule. Haha.) And yes, so well stated!

  7. Monday morning…after a 2.5 mile walk with our dog it is time to read retirement/investment blogs. So nice when you are back to your schedule of posting…I have missed you when you have been off doing other things (writing a book, enjoying life, etc.). Another good post.

    While I’m way behind most of you on this site, retiring at 58 four months ago, I too did so based on some family history. Males in my family don’t live too long. My father made it to 82 but the average before him was a dismal 63 years old. Most have liver cancer in addition to some other nasties that ultimately take them away. So I couldn’t see targeting 65 as my retirement goal as 82 seems to be our best-in-class longevity.

    I learned about money, spending, and investing from my parents. They lived a simple but happy life – my mom still does. They sacrificed for family and their future. I say sacrifice but they didn’t view possessions as important. It makes me extremely happy and proud to know that mom doesn’t have to worry about money for basics – housing, food, health care. We only really control three things with finances: how much we make, how much we spend and what we do with the rest (hopefully invest). I always saved a minimum of 30% of income but seeing examples on this and other blogs, it would have been interesting to see what could have been done. I don’t think I would have retired earlier as we have 4 kids to get through college, etc. but it would have been interesting to see.

    I am getting a fair number of questions about retiring “early”. I don’t mention the health aspect to it and leave it to “I did because I can and I want to now focus on charitable activities and family”. I hope you continue to be healthy and active

  8. I won’t react to your story specifically. I’m french, living in France: our circumstances and legal environment are quite different (health care system, social security…). But I think (no I should write: I’m convinced) that people’s reactions and behaviors in front of illness and disabilities are often similar everywhere. Though I observed that, at least in Paris, the youngest generations are less tough and rude then the eldest (yes I praise young people here).That’s why I would like to stress how important your writing and this post are. It’s not only moving, it’s educational. You have found a very good way tu be useful. That’s why I like very much your blog (that permits me to travel in another culture) and wanting to thank you.
    And for the “sad” comments you receive, I just want to give you a “tip” I gave my daughter since she could understand it: it doesn’t say anything about you, it says a lot about them, meaning their fears, their limits, their lack of intelligence, etc. It worked well, it works well.
    (I hope I’m clear, english is only my third language…)

    • Your English is perfectly clear. :-) Thank you for this comment! It’s interesting to hear perspectives from other countries, and I agree that older people are often the most judgmental and harsh when it comes to these things. Also agree that those who lash out about these things have their own demons and it’s not personal to me or my dad at all. Thanks for the encouragement!

  9. I can’t help but think that Michael Welch’s comment was a satirical comment. It is either that or a singularly stupid remark. Either way it is best to ignore it. You’ve accomplished a feat that is well worth sharing and if someone takes exception to it, then that is really their issue.

    • I just put it in here as an example of the many that have come in. Notes like this just strike me as sad, though. A person with a fulfilling life does not take the time to scold some random person on the internet.

  10. Growing up, my Dad had two autoimmune diseases — Type 1 Diabetes and Multiple Sclerosis. He was fortunate to be pretty mobile for most of his life, but the MS in particular would cause him fatigue. Every once and a while, someone would confront him about using the handicapped spots, usually with some variation of ‘you don’t LOOK handicapped.’ His response was always ‘Well, you don’t LOOK like an idiot.’

  11. Thank you for writing this. You and I have had conversations about our autoimmune diseases and how that drives us towards FIRE and I’m hoping that this post will get more people to think about their future and what could happen to them. If you’ve never been sick (and I mean REALLY sick: years long sick, chronic illness, etc.), it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’ll always be healthy. You and I have both experienced serious illnesses and it definitely makes you view the future in a different way, as well as ensure that you take the steps necessary to be able to live your life the best way possible. It doesn’t control my life but it’s always in the back of my mind.

    • I retired “early” at age 55 due to a stage 3 triple negative breast cancer diagnosis at age 50. Back in 2008, the five year survivability for this type of breast cancer was not that good, so I honestly believed I would not live long enough to take advantage of my company’s early retirement policy. Today, after five years of retirement, it surprises me that I am actually still here, in pretty good health, and about to celebrate 10 years of cancer survivorship this upcoming November 2018. There are no guarantees in live – an idiot driver can take you out or completely mess you up at any time – so take financial control of your life and buy the freedom (and the power) to live whatever time you have on your own terms sooner rather than later.

      • Thank you for sharing this, Kathy! I’m so excited for you to celebrate your 10 years very soon. :-) How wonderful that you were able to retire early after that experience — and take the quotes off “early”! 55 counts!

  12. Beautifully written post and thank you for sharing yours and your father’s story. I’m 35 (married, no kids, 1 dog, forever renters) and just discovered the FIRE/personal financial blogs within the last 2 years. I have been trying to figure out a way to tell people my goals without eliciting the typical questions/blowback…and I really like your perspective. To have the power to choose when I want to retire (working in the corporate 9-5 world, not stopping working altogether), to be able to make that choice when I’M ready…that means so much. Thank you!

  13. Growing up in poverty, with a mother who still carries credit card debt because she didn’t want me to go “without” and now having a partner who comes from the same, is my motivation to save and invest.

  14. this is a little tangential, but are you taking proactive steps to outfit your living space for decreased mobility. that’s been something i’ve had on my mind as i contemplate building one house in our lifetime, complete with ramps and bars and maybe an elevator. thinking also of a secondhand dialysis rig and iron lung for the self inflicted stuff.

    • It’s good you’re thinking about this! We bought our house knowing that I might not always be able to do stairs, so made sure there was a bedroom downstairs. If we move again, it will definitely be to a single-level home so we don’t have to worry about any of that. But it’s also worth thinking about doorway and hallway widths, as well as roll-in showers.

  15. Thank you for writing this post. I think it’s a powerful one and I know you are opening minds to what disability looks like and hopefully creating more kind and empathetic people out there.
    My son has several disabilities and they are considered ‘invisible’ disabilities. I just had a discussion with his day camp leader this morning that left me frustrated. She didn’t understand that while he was doing okay and did not need 1to1 support at the camp, he had a therapist coming to work with him for the morning. It is really hard for people to understand what disability looks like and the way it makes everyday life challenging. I feel like I didn’t know much before my son arrived.

    • Thanks so much, Rachel! I appreciate that. :-) I’m sorry that you have these frustrating experiences trying to meet your son’s needs. I know that’s common, but I’m hopeful that it’s getting less common bit by bit as more people become aware of invisible disabilities.

  16. That was touching. I haven’t really seen strangers harass people for parking in the dusabldi spot, but can see how it could happen.

    There is a history of issues in my family, and I have thought about it on and off. But not really. Need to consider that.

  17. I’m sorry both your dad and you had to go through that. My dad is a disabled veteran. He parked in handicapped parking at Walmart and someone had the NERVE to chase him down and say he didn’t deserve handicapped parking. I had another family member who was in a car wreck and used the store-provided scooters while shopping; the cashier stopped her to tell her to get off the bike because she didn’t “look” like she needed it.

    I don’t know why people feel the need to undermine others and stick their noses in other people’s business. Let’s stop being so mean to the disabled community, folks.

    • Oh my gosh, I know this happens a lot, but hearing about it makes me so angry. >:-( I don’t know why people can’t accept that most people are honest and are just trying to do their best, one day at a time.

  18. In the UK, our London transport service has introduced a badge saying ‘please offer me a seat’. I’ve had mixed reactions although nothing appalling but the anxiety levels of knowing I have to ask people, that they might react badly, that people are going to stare at me and wonder how sick I am. It actually takes a lot of mental energy every journey. I have a very short commute at the moment but that will change soon and I’m dreading it.

    I had a couple of months off last year because of a flare and when I returned my boss said that while people liked me, they found it difficult working with me because of my disability. My boss’s immediate response was to alter my job to remove responsibility for line management and give me a pay cut. It doesn’t even seemto have occurred to her to tell people to suck it up or to work with me to see the best way of doing things.

    Sometimes I wish I could stay at home on disability, but it’s not enough to live on and very hard to get if you have an illness with changeable symptoms.

    • Oh my gosh, is what your boss did not illegal in the UK?! That seems so obviously unfair. And yeah, I have mixed feelings, too, about the badge on the tube. You shouldn’t have to label yourself as defective and take on that stigma because you might need to sit down. But it also sounds like it’s coming from a good place and recognizing that not everyone’s challenges are visible.

  19. Did anyone else see news about the Florida man shooting another person….a result of an argument over a handicapped parking space. I NEVER challenge anyone about anything anymore (well I actually never did) ! So I certainly won’t start.

  20. Good point on achieving financial independence, in order to be financially independent and not rely on anybody!

    I saw my mother unhappy with her job and encouraged her to retire a little bit early. I didnt wanna go through the same thing.

    There is a story in the Los Angeles times today about a guy who is receiving $97,000 in disability checks while being filmed teaching scuba diving and doing various types of physical activity. It’s this type of stuff that gives the disabled a bad name. Disappointing.

    I can’t imagine people actually having the audacity to confront someone about using a disabled parking spot without knowing exactly what’s going on with the person.

    • I didn’t read the LAT piece, but it’s possible to get that kind of money legitimately from disability checks if most of it is from disability insurance that you buy or get through work. (In fact, that’s the only way to get that much. The most you could get from Social Security is $30Kish a year.) It generally replaces 2/3 of your prior working income, and if his prior income was high, then that amount would make sense. And we don’t know that guy. Maybe he has chronic depression and can’t hold down a job, but can scuba dive on his good days? I sure hope no one starts telling me that I’m only allowed to do things that make me “look disabled” even if I happen to be having a good stretch.

  21. Thanks for sharing your story, and your father’s. My wife is disabled and while she’s been fortunate in not receiving much verbalized judgment from family, friends, and onlookers, I know it still weighs heavy on her. In her most recent working years, she knew her time would be limited, and she felt fortunate to have long term disability insurance when so many others do not. Good health is not a given, as both she and I have experienced, and it’s important to do what you can to protect it before it’s too late. I wish you the best with your pain and mobility challenges, and hope you get to enjoy your retirement as you have most certainly earned it.

    • Thanks so much, Gary! I really appreciate that. :-) And I’m sorry for your wife’s challenges, but glad she’s not faced the outward judgment. But yeah, it’s still a rough thing to go through on a lot of levels. I’m glad for you guys that she had disability insurance when it counted!

  22. Such a beautifully written post, Tanja.

    “Maybe it’s because the American Dream is based on the idea of working hard, but we seem to have a collective sense of revulsion at people who don’t work in this country.”

    Ain’t that the truth. In fact, a lot of our political divide seems to hinge somewhat on that point.

    • Thanks, friend. :-) And yes, it’s absolutely true, isn’t it, that that seems to be the political divide right now. The fact that a tiny few might take advantage of the system, and therefore no one deserves any help. :-(

  23. Thanks for such a thoughtful post. I’m on my FIRE path because of the looming possibility of a health condition (e.g. when will it flare again? what if it gets permanently worse?). So, I appreciate very much that you offer a different and very honest and realistic perspective on this issue than what one generally sees in the FIRE community. My best wishes for your retirement, continued mobility, and health.

  24. Marcus’s dad’s response above made me actually laughed out loud.

    You know, though I never considered early retirement as a possible option in the early years of my disease, it definitely drove me to achieve much more than I might have felt the need to achieve in a short time frame. That progression alongside my health deterioration would have been the start to a sad story if I didn’t keep reading other people’s stories, like yours, or have my own child, but the combination spurred me forward to step away from workaholism and embrace a fuller life than the one I’d built up to that point.

    I have no idea what the future truly holds but I’m aiming us at trying to join y’all in some kind of early retirement where we are always able to pay our own way, before my health crashes, and live those later years of our lives well enough make them worth living.

    Somewhat unrelated: this also makes me question how I feel about family money. I always thought that it wasn’t necessary to pass on any family money but I am coming around to the idea that there are circumstances where having that safety net makes all the difference to maintaining human dignity while we figure out how to survive. I’m looking for a balance between providing enough for a person to have their basic needs met and not taking away their basic need to do something fulfilling.

    • I love Marcus’s dad’s response so much. :-) And I admire you for making that pivot in your career and financial focus, especially given all the family stuff you’ve dealt with over the years. And re: family money, you could take Warren Buffett’s approach: “Enough to do something, not enough to do nothing.” ;-)

  25. I’m a pretty new reader and as usual clueless. It never occurred to me that anyone would criticize another person for working hard, saving and retiring early. To me retiring early dovetails perfectly into the American dream. I never realized how lucky I am to have several friends working towards retiring early … not as early as you guys – that’s really good planning!

    • Hi Rose! I’m positive that that’s the tiny minority of folks who criticize this stuff, and it certainly says more about them than about us. But I do think the U.S. has a general disdain for anyone who doesn’t work, regardless of the reason, and that’s not a good thing.

  26. Tanja thanks for sharing. I retired 4 months ago at 52 not for any specific reason other than from my perspective we aren’t guaranteed another day and given that our post working days are always finite, the sooner the better. Your story reinforces that point 100%

    On my FIRE journey I can clearly say I let me health and fitness suffer during the 30 years I worked and now my new job is managing the three pillars of health – physical, emotional and financial. Believe it or not I have found in the past 120 days that doing so IS a full time job. I always believed at some point I I would trade living to work for working to live and that came for me at about year 20 when FIRE was Clearly in sight 10 years out.

    I hope everyone here does realize and learn from you that getting to FIRE is a tremendous accomplishment, it IS the American Dream personified and that those who have been able to do so are not slackers but likely among the hardest working people you will ever meet.

    Good luck with the book and thank you for sharing


  27. You are wise, honest, vulnerable, and overall – a bad-a$$, Tanja. Thank you for sharing this terrific post. I relate to this post on a variety of fronts – having close, young friends who are disabled as well as knowing people who are ignorant and frown on disability checks and those not aggressively contributing to GDP.

    My husband and I are working hard toward early-retirement. Admittedly, we are a bit scared, but looking at age 40/41 (ish) as our launch – just a few years away. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it is empowering one’s self (and others around us) to live life fully and purposefully, is what counts.This is so much broader than a paycheck!

    • Thanks so much, MNG! Made my day. :-D And I think you’ve taken exactly the right lesson away from what you’ve learned, that living fully is what matters. You never get this time back whether you’re fully able bodied or not!

  28. Thank you for this post! I’m a relatively new reader and didn’t know about this aspect of your early retirement plans. We’re similar ages and I’ve been guilty of thinking, “Oh, lucky them, they’re both healthy and can enjoy this.” It’s cool to know that it’s more complicated than that.

    My husband, age 40, has a variety of health problems that make it impossible for him to work. Those issues are one of the reasons we’ve decided not to have kids. We’ve also decided not to pursue disability benefits for him at this point, for reasons similar to what you described above. We don’t always talk about all his health issues to everyone in our lives, and even those who should understand, like his parents, give him a lot of grief for not working. I spent many years saving at a good-paying position, and he got lucky with some investments, so we’re now FI and I’m working at near-poverty wages at something I love. I feel pretty secure about our financial future regardless of what happens with his health, but I know he still worries.

    • There is often more to the story, isn’t there? ;-) And good for you guys for achieving FI with your husband’s health challenges! That’s awesome. It bums me out but doesn’t surprise me that his parents aren’t supportive. That’s how deeply ingrained our societal disdain for those who don’t work is that sometimes parents can’t even be realistic about their children’s needs!

  29. Tanja, I struggle with balancing my early retirmement goal (well on my way) with my health. My future is very much uncertain and it really makes me question whether I should spend any effort at all worrying about an early retirment that may never come. We all need to remember not to sacrifice today. Thanks for sharing your story and I hope you continue to feel well for many years to come.


    • Thank you for your well wishes, Frank! Sending them back your way! You know your situation, and depending on the state of your health, your projected prognosis and how far away you are from FI, you may very well decide to spend more of your money to enjoy today. No shame at all in that!

  30. This is the best thing I have read in a long time. I am very in touch with the possibility that I will lose my sight as a complication of type 1 diabetes (and speaking of judgement, it’s not due to eating too much sugar). In fact I go back to the retina specialist tomorrow. I may not, or it may be a swift journey or a slow journey to that. In some ways it is a gift because it has made me ask “If not now, when?” I am continuing to work for health insurance for me and my already retired (a bit early) husband, and it has generated income we did not count on in our FIRE plan. So we bought our potential retirement home in another state this week, and will visit it often, NOW. We will share it with friends NOW. We will see beautiful sunsets against the backdrop of the mountains NOW. For people who enjoy work above all else, that’s fine. But why they judge others who either cannot, or who simply realize that this life is short and work is not the most important thing is beyond me. I have a feeling I’m going to read your post more than once. Beautifully expressed!

    • Thanks so much, Carol. :-) And you already know this, but I’m so glad you aren’t waiting on the retirement house and on spending more time in your favorite place. “If not now, when?” is an important question for folks like us who KNOW we have bad health futures on the horizon, but truly everyone should be asking that question a lot more often. Fingers crossed for a good report from your retina specialist!

  31. That’s a hard story to read. I hope you can maintain your health.
    People are too self righteous. Why don’t they just worry about their own lives? Best wishes.

  32. Dating a woman with a disability for four years opened my eyes up to many things. It also helped spur me to want to get “us” enough money that I could contribute to supports she needed, but wasn’t using yet. She never wants to feel like a burden, but needed some assistance with ADLs. Money and security would have made that easier. She had a developmental disability (something acquired very young), and it was evident, but folks would still question her disability status sometimes. No one else on earth walks in the same manner as her, but a clerk at a national monument did not want to allow her to have the discounted accessible pass until she performed her disability for the clerk. It was disgusting, and tiring for her.

    We aren’t together anymore, and genetically I’ve been very lucky, but I know that disability can come to you at any time. My preparation is both wanting to be able to FIRE and wanting to buy a condo where I can age-in-place. They will mutually reinforce one another, and offer me more chances at keeping my independence and as much feeling of control as possible.

    • Ugh. The performance aspect of non-wheelchair disabilities is horrifying. A topic on an upcoming podcast episode! And I wish more folks would consider the aging-in-place priority. Because a large majority of homes won’t work especially well for someone with mobility challenges. As always, you rock for planning ahead for that stuff.

      • Most US homes don’t work well for ageing, sadly. It’s just “one” stair, but so many folks end up staying longer in rehab after an injury or surgery because of falling risk.

        Or they can no longer clean their big ole house and it slowly fills up with things to trip them or cause environmental hazards.

        There are so many things to think of and prepare for.

        I’m definitely looking forward to that podcast. These issues are incredibly important and often overlooked until someone we love is impacted. I’m definitely guilty. I did not know very much about ableism until she and I were friends. I started learning as much as I could from sources outside of her immediately.

  33. I can do relate to do many of the comments here. I have auto immune condition that at my worst made it hard to work full time yet still working too much to get disability insurance to pay for lack of income. Suspect my getting downsized was partly due to health issues. It was a blessing in disguise though as time off gave me chance to change to less stressful work environment. Medicine and diet change have helped to have only mild flares now. Saving up though in case things do change quickly. As you said it is about having control of one’s life.

  34. Wow this post! Those that hate are either jealous or so deeply unhappy that they need to destroy others joy. You do you!
    I am a mother of a severely disabled adult child… life is short and tomorrow may bring uncertainty medically or financially for anyone. My hubby and I started down the Fire path late to the game but strong because of the unknowns and our life experience this far and because we want more quality time with our children and each other while we can. Thank you for this post and your honesty. I’m sorry for what h at your family went through but thankfully you are using that experience for good. I wish you many decades of good health! 😘

  35. Just heard your interview on ChooseFI (I’m behind and getting caught up!) and was astounded at your knowledge of health insurance/policy and your focus on “doing good” after retirement which I think is sorely missing from the FIRE movement. I watched my dad go on long term disability after a mild stroke and watched my mom struggle with Type 1 Diabetes…. of which I just inherited less than a year ago at the age of 39. It was my worst nightmare but arming myself with the goal of taking care of myself (i.e. leaving an awful work environment to focus on my health) and getting as much information as I can on prescription drug policies that making medicine unaffordable for a lot of people has given me a focus I didn’t have before. I am still working FT but am ready to jump off that FI cliff. You gave me hope – truly!