Sunday, November 20, 2011

Radical Retirement

I was reading an article the other day that stated people are going to have to work well into their 70s and even 80s before they’ll be able to afford to retire.

Like that’s going to happen for most people. Are they crazy? Sure, if you are the CEO of a big company and have a small army of assistants, working until 80 doesn’t sound too bad. Heck, it’s the sort of work you do if you are king. Your hands never get dirty and people kiss your butt all day long.

How many 80 year old professional Firefighters do you see? I think back to all the guys I worked with back when I was a Firefighter. Many are dead, mostly from cancer and heart disease. By the time these guys get into their 50s and 60s, they are getting knee and hip replacements. One of the guys on my crew has had 5 knee replacements and his current ones aren’t doing very well. Many of us suffer from COPD and other vague debilitating conditions the doctors have a hard time classifying. There’s a reason the profession has early retirements. If they didn’t, almost everyone would either die on the job or retire through disability.

A handful of professions allow early retirements. If you do retire at the earliest possible opportunity, it’s usually at a greatly reduced income level. For example I’m friends with a guy who retired at the minimum age with 50% of his former income. After paying for medical insurance, his income is closer to about 40% of what it once was. He’s adjusted. His house, fishing camp, and vehicles are paid for. The house is heated with firewood he cuts himself. There’s very little he can’t fix or build from scratch. His hobbies are fishing and hiking; both are pretty inexpensive.

Then there is this guy at Early Extreme Retirement. He lives on a bit over $7,000/year and does not suffer. Lots of good advice on his site.

I’ve another friend who works a factory job in KY. He’s socking money away like crazy to the point where he’s living on much less income than his peers. They make fun of him, but he’s going to retire well before they will -if they ever do. His aggressive savings plan does two things. It provides him the money to retire on, and he gets used to a lifestyle that requires a lot less money.

There are people who sell everything and move to places with a very low cost of living. Some are moving onto cheap sailboats. There are people who are putting their funds into things that reduce their cost of living: solar panels, gardens, small livestock -the whole back to the land gig. Other people have moved into old trailers on junk land.

People move to places that don’t require a car in which to function. They either bicycle, walk or use public transportation. Expenses are cut to the bone so they can live on savings, tiny pensions, or maybe a minimum wage part time job. There are plenty of creative solutions out there if only you look outside the box a bit.

Why do it? Freedom. The ability to do something else with one’s life. Maybe a chance to ponder life’s big questions. Some do it so as not to contribute to a corrupt system. Nothing wrong with that motive. Life is too short to spend the bulk of it satisfying the whims of other people.



  1. I think I was lucky when I picked drafting as my profession. CAD allows me to work indoors year round (no extra $ fir special clothing) and I work with my mind, not my body, so no wear / tear on it. The more experience I get, the more valuable I become to an employer. Age becomes an ally in my case.

    The bad - well, drafting isn't a high paid profession. The economy can tank and no one builds - durn, that sux! If you can't take hours at a time at your desk, comcentrating on task at time, drafting cvan become an ordeal - many folks need lots of 'face time' to be happy.

    My aunt lives in San Diego and has it pretty good. She lives in a tiny apartment and really does not have to drive anywhere - everything is within blocks and walking distance. Shes pared down her belongings to a very small space.

  2. I'd have to get a lot poorer than I am to return to "Work." At times I think it'd be nice to dress up a bit instead of wearing shorts & tee-shirt in summer, flannels and tee-shirt in fall/winter. It'd be nice to go to lunch & talk shop or look forward to that three day weekend. It'd be nice to turn in mileage slips, have a housekeeper again, drive a new car that smells great and reflects my size 12 figure in it's finish.

    Are you kidding? I must be having a nightmare.

    For everything that seemed good there are a hundred that were not. Most memorable were the personalities, the time away from my children, the office politics and the high fuel consumption. All so I could remain on the treadmill and be part of the status quo.

  3. I'd "retire" now if the wife would go along. Lord knows I've tried. $14K per year I could make standing on my head, with more than plenty enough time for other things. She wouldn't have to work at all. But you can lead a horse to water...

  4. Craig: fortunately my lovely wife has never been motivated much by money.

  5. Being alone, I didn't have to answer to anyone when I retired. I chose to go early, but I don't need much and the time was more important than the money!

    I feel for the folks that have to continue to work, when they would be better off retiring!

  6. The article I saw was in Bloomberg and was citing a Wells Fargo VP interview.

    I have written a post on it, but not put it to press yet (so to speak). I guess I'll post it tomorrow while it is still a hot topic.

    But since I work in construction (now in the office) and you were a fire fighter, our reactions were somewhat similar. My only added point was that an awful lot of people are only marginally useful in the prime of their life (after all it is a statistical truism that half of the employed are below average)- what are they going to be like at 80?

  7. ..we heard a similar article aslo talking that people have oodles of $$ owing on houses when they are 65..the wife and I live very frugally now and we love it..and when we heard the news article I said to A* "..we might not live an extravagant lifestyle..but one thing I guarantee you is we will be retired at 55"..6 months to no debt!..and we are not motivated by $$ either..I think many times people upgrade houses to have a place to store all th stuff they buy, personally I have never been happier and much of it is due to not pursueing 'things'.

    great post