Financially Independent Retire EarlyAre you still working even though you can retire if you wanted?

I started the Rock Your Retirement show in 2016.  Since then it has been downloaded over 220,000 times. Potential sponsors have reached out to me.  And I've asked many times why I started the show.

It started as a personal project but has grown to much more than that.  But since you asked, I'll try to explain it.

I believe in the FIRE movement.  In case you haven't heard of it, FIRE stands for Financially Independent, Retire Early.

I've had good examples of this. My dad was able to retire when he was fifty but kept working until fifty-five to provide more of a cushion. So I've seen people in my life retire early according to US standards.

And he was so glad that he retired when he did.  He and his wife were able to travel the world for many years.  They were spending our inheritance and we didn't mind.  Literally cruises around the world that lasted for months.  They were Rocking Their Retirement for sure.

He taught me to save 10% of my income no matter what.  Save it for retirement. So I did. And I became a financial planner and tried to teach others to do that also.  But honestly, most didn't.   I had more money saved and invested than most of my friends.  While my friends were buying new cars every few years and drinking $15 glasses of wine at expensive nightclubs I was being frugal.  Squirreling money away for a rainy day.

But there wasn't a FIRE movement when during my younger years. It's weird.  No one could understand why I didn't want to buy a new car.  When I found the FIRE movement I got shocked.  Many of these young people are saving 30, 40, or even 50 percent of their incomes.  I hadn't even thought about that.  But even if I had, I wonder if I would have retired.

I could have retired many years ago.  If you look at what the FIRE movement says, which is to save 25 times your living expenses, we are way beyond that.  But I'm still working.  And I don't know when I will stop working.

I've been self-employed since 1990 so I don't work for “the man”. Many people in the FIRE movement use the word retirement to mean that they stop working for someone else. I'm using the word retirement to mean stop working for pay.  Not to use the income you bring in for living expenses. And that's not what's happening.

Is it because I'm self-employed that I can't retire?  I asked some other people who can't seem to retire the same question.  Why do you continue to work?

Julia Menez of Geobreeze had this to say:

At first, my husband and I didn’t even realize there's an official name like “FIRE (financial independence retire early)” to describe the direction of our lifestyle. I spent my early twenties studying for actuarial exams and rarely made time to go out to parties or restaurants, so my salary largely ended up in savings. Even after I finished up exams, we lived a frugal lifestyle since I enjoy cooking at home and our main source of entertainment is traveling for next to nothing through travel hacking.

My husband and I are both fortunate enough to have high salaries; we live off of the lesser of our two incomes and invest the rest. As our net worth grew, we discussed the idea of early retirement, and how we might spend our time if we quit our day jobs. Neither of us even disliked our jobs — I had just landed my dream role at work and leaving the workforce after only a couple of years as a credentialed actuary felt like a waste of all of that exam effort. However, the idea of FIRE was fascinating, and we figured having a high savings rate couldn’t hurt.

We already lived off of one income; we could even live off of just our investment income if we moved to a lower-cost area. To test out the early retirement lifestyle, I transferred to a full-time work from home arrangement.

That first year of working from home in Boulder, Colorado was the loneliest year of my life.

It's apparent that we needed a change before my pent-up energy drove us both insane. Given that now neither of us had any intention of retiring for some time, we decided it would be ok to try out a higher cost-of-living area, and my husband requested a transfer to his company’s New York City location. I was still working from home (even prior to the age of COVID-19), but there were many more opportunities to expand my social circle.

One of my attempts to meet new friends led to an unexpected gig as an event planner with a nightclub promoter team, culminating in my hosting an after-party for Women’s Travel Fest right before the Coronavirus outbreak. These days, I fill my evenings by networking with other travelers and content creators as I blog on geobreezetravel.com about how to hack time, money, and productivity by using skills learned through travel hacking. 1

Travel hacking. That's another term that I didn't know about. Travel hacking is where you try to travel for free or through low-cost methods.  Typically travel hackers sign up for credit cards to get the bonus points, and put all of their charges on one card that gives them points, then they take the trip they were “saving up for” using those points.  I used to do that before Les and I got married.

He HATED the idea of it.  He said he didn't want to deal with the accounting because it created too many credit card entries in Quicken.

Try as I might, I couldn't get him to agree to it until a couple of years ago.  I do this very sparingly, and he's more open to the idea after we took a completely free trip to Costa Rica a few years ago.  I had some airline miles that were about to expire, and then we used my Marriott points.  We both enjoyed taking a trip that we didn't have to pay for.

Another way to travel hack that you've probably heard me talk about house sitting.  I use Trusted House Sitters to do this.  For under the cost of one hotel night stay, you can get a whole year's membership.  Learn more about it at What is a house sitting service?: Episode 120

And to save 25% off the cost of your membership, use the link http://RockYourRetirement.com/THS  You'll get 25% off, and I'll get two free months added to my membership.  So we'll both win!

Even though we aren't traveling right now, at some point we'll want to travel again.  For me, traveling's between working for now.

Leif Kristjansen likes the perks of working, as well as social benefits.  I agree.  Even though I'm self-employed, I get perks because I'm working that I won't get once I completely retire.  Here's what Leif had to say:

I have enough non-work income to stop working but I still show up for a few reasons that I think are all great.

First off, financially keeping your job is really amazing. By the time you hit retirement, you are at the peak of your career and thus your pay is at its max. So any extra days worked can really give you a lot of extra spending money. I hire tutors and cleaners without a second thought since I have the extra money coming in and I don't like doing those tasks.

To make the financials even sweeter. Keeping work perks like healthcare accounts, computers, phones, and gym discounts has a lot of value too.

During catastrophic events like COVID it's a sanity saver to have an escape route back to a job if I ever needed it. It has completely removed all stress from this recession for me. Sure, I've lost money but I don't care if my investments disappear or if my job disappears…as long as they both don't.

On a more mental note, there are a lot of enjoyable things about showing up to work. I work minimally part-time and that's because I realized I really enjoy my job, I just didn't like how much of it I was doing.

My co-workers were great friends, and it would have been a big loss to lose easy access to them.

Also, I loved my job when I first went into it and my work motivates me. Just because I don't have to do it doesn't mean I shouldn't. In fact, it makes work that much more enjoyable to know it's optional. I could walk out tomorrow and it wouldn't matter. It's hard for a job to be stressful if you don't have to show up tomorrow.2

I'm creating this piece while still sheltering in place.  Leif is right.  If I weren't talking with clients on the phone I might go insane.  I don't think I can attend enough virtual happy hours to satisfy my need to be connected with people.

And if I weren't working, my medical insurance coverage wouldn't be as good.  So that's one reason why I continue to work.  Because I'm ten years away from being able to go on Medicare.

Some people have businesses that they don't have to work in.  These are the golden gooses.  True businesses that the owner set up to pay an income to them without much on their part.  That's where Jay Smith is in his work life right now.  But he chose to drive an Uber in addition to his business.  Here's why:

My name is Jay and I'm financially independent but still keep working. This means that my living expenses are more than covered by my income, pretty much on autopilot.

I'm a former professional hockey player who turned to sales after my sports career. After 9 years in high paying sales jobs, including medical device sales, the company who I worked for became public and the atmosphere completely changed.

I had always felt like an entrepreneur deep down and I was at a tipping point in life. Not being happy at work anymore was a sign to move on to something new and exciting. I always performed at a very high level and confident about starting a new business! I used a lot of the money saved up to finance the business I currently own today.

My portfolio of activities consists of online retail sales, online advertising sales, and affiliate sales. After 2 years of building and fine-tuning my online business, it now runs 95% on its own with the help of two contractors. I'm able to bring in the same amount of money same as I'm making before. Speak to any small business owner and they will tell you that my situation is almost a miracle! I'm very fortunate and have a lot of gratitude.

Now that I have all the free time in the world, I can do whatever I wished with it right? Traveling, visiting many different countries… wait… the only problem is, I'm 32 years old and have young children…

No one around me has this much free time on their hands. My friends all have a 9 to 5 job. Am I condemned to a boring life of solitude? Not exactly.

I play close to 100 rounds of golf in the summer at a private golf course. In the winter though, since I live in Canada, it's a different story! My first winter as a “solopreneur” was very difficult. I'm a very social person and I wasn't seeing many people during the long cold winter months. The second-year around, I had promised to keep myself busy somehow.

After considering many options and receiving full-time job offers on Linkedin, I wanted to do something that would be flexible, not take up 40 hours of my week, and that I could squeeze into my current bag of business. The most important thing was that I wanted to socialize and meet amazing new people, that's all. I signed up to become an Uber driver and it's one of the best decisions of my life!

Driving for Uber on my own terms completely fills the gap lacking in my life. I get to chat with amazing business professionals and cool people all day long in my Tesla! I've made some new friends thanks to this ride-sharing service.

We take for granted many of the little things around us that actually make us happy, such as work/professional relationships. For most people, they're with colleagues and co-workers for 40 hours+ every week. I never realized how much I could miss the work environment. Maybe the job sucks, but not the people.

It wasn't a walk in the park to get to this point. Huge financial risks, crazy hours, many failures, which ended up costing me my marriage. This entire experience went full circle. I went from not wanting to work, living on passive income, to realizing I was always going to be working because I actually loved it if it's on my own terms. I need to see people and stay busy, that's the bottom line whether I'm 32 or 70 years old.

If I can provide a single piece of advice for people who wish to become financially free, it's to start a small project as a side hustle. Don't get stuck with analysis paralysis, test something small today. Make a move this year in 2020. Keep watering those flowers until they bloom, then you can decide to pull the plug on your job, which, by the way, is probably your main source of income to finance your side project. Turn a dream into a goal this year!3

Some people who are financially independent but don't want to retire, pivot.  That's to say that they don't completely retire, but they also don't continue in the same job that they were doing.  Some change jobs completely as Jay did.  Others, like Michael Sampson, just make a small change.

After 30 years’ litigating family law and business cases at big law firms and turning 55, I’d saved enough in investment assets to meet expenses comfortably. This would continue even if I made nothing on my own, worked the hours I wanted to work doing what I loved and lived to be ancient.

Handling lawsuits with novel or tricky issues for clients for whom the issues profoundly mattered led me from handling “civil” business disputes to family law matters. But the process for resolving family disputes – litigation wars – inevitably suffered from the same bad aspects common in business disputes: lawyers’ egos, uncontained fees, counterproductive positional bargaining, procedural constraints, delay, unnecessary depositions, document requests, interrogatories, and hearings, risk, and lack of imagination.

Working for big firms offers collegiality solo practice may lack. The income is more than most people make. Health insurance for excellent coverage is often much cheaper than paying for non-group coverage.

I asked what everyone should: “Do I love what I’m doing enough to keep doing this? If not, can I do something else?” I didn’t love what I was doing enough to keep doing it. I could do something else: collaborative family law practice. Collaborative divorce had been around since 1990, but I hadn’t discovered it until 2014. Starting with the New Year in 2017, I broke from the big firm life to devote my professional energy to collaborative family law matters.

The collaborative process is a confidential, interest-based, team approach that helps couples respectfully create positive, lasting solutions out-of-court. Collaborative teams typically comprise a lawyer for each spouse, a neutral financial expert, and a neutral mental health professional to facilitate team meetings.

In the collaborative process, I could use all that education and wisdom not to rip apart and inflict pain on an opponent and his or her sharp attorney, but to work with other professionals creatively to help a couple survive family challenges like divorce! If my solo practice generated no income, it wouldn’t matter, because I’m financially secure without that income. Being in that fortunate position is liberating.

I decided it right.4

Another attorney, Andrew Taylor, had this to say:

After many years of laying down multiple legal document templates onto my website, I can now sit back and just potter with updates that I find necessary, speak to individuals whom I feel I am able to directly benefit (or allow a colleague to do this) and otherwise just enjoy my golden years.

I cannot just completely remove myself from what I do, it's near 30 years of hard work and I wouldn't know what to do with myself otherwise. I have certainly met a happy medium where I do not need to endure back/mind breaking days in order to pay my way. 5

Les is convinced that this is my problem.  I wouldn't know what to do with myself if I wasn't working.  But that's not exactly true.  If you follow the Rock Your Retirement Facebook group, you already know that I'm an aspiring artist.  I've posted updates to a colored pencil drawing I've worked on.  At the time I'm creating this, the drawing is almost finished.  I'm already thinking of what I will create next.

I think Greg Githens summed it up pretty well.

I want to make an impact.  I wrote my book, “How to Think Strategically” with the intention to pay forward to the next generation of leaders. The book’s big idea is that strategic thinking is an individual competency and those who show they have it can add value to their organizations and advance their career.   In addition, I’d like to see business, non-profits, and government groups craft good strategy rather than bad strategy. There’s plenty of avoidable waste in the strategy area. More recently, I’ve explored the connection of resilience to strategic thinking and strategy. That connection is especially relevant as we consider the emergence and eventual recovery following the pandemic.

I'm also exploring ways that I can provide my expertise to the community to help it develop it's resilience.6

There it is.  Making a difference.  I suppose that's why I keep working even when I don't have to.  I want to make a difference.  And I'm doing it.  Some day I will likely retire from paid work.  But for now, I'll keep working.  I'll keep helping people find the Medicare Plan that works for them.  And I'll keep podcasting and helping you find your perfect retirement lifestyle too.

  1. Julia Menez, geobreezetravel.com, Julia Menez, email to the author on 04/17/2020
  2. Leif Kristjansen, https://FiveYearFIREescape.com, Leif Kristjansen, email to the author on 4/20/2020
  3. Jay Smith, https://webwizardmedia.com, Jay Smith, email to the author on 04/18/2020
  4. Michael P Sampson, https://www.sampsoncollaborativelaw.com, Michael P. Sampson, email to the author on 04/18/2020
  5. Andrew Taylor, Director, https://www.netlawman.com.au/,  Andrew Taylor, email to the author on 04/18/2020
  6. Greg Githens, www.StrategicThinkingCoach.com, Greg Githens, email to the author on 4/18/2020

This post about retirement and retirement lifestyle first appeared on https://www.RockYourRetirement.com

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