There are a few select people who, through some combination of high income and economical living, have achieved true financial independence by the time they're in their 50s. They have the option to retire early, no problem.
I myself retired early ... through no fault of my own. It's just that, as the old saying goes, after what my employer said to me, at age 53, I found I couldn't possibly work for them anymore. What did they say? "You're fired!"
However, despite a decent salary, along with reasonably economical living -- as economical as you can get if you have two kids -- I fell short of the threshold of "true financial independence."
|Happy at work|
But retirement is not necessarily an all-or-nothing proposition. And neither is financial independence.
So after I got laid off I decided I didn't have to go all in with a full-time job. (Besides, I got laid off during the early 2000s recession and at age 53 would have been lucky to find any job at all, even if I was willing to take less of a salary with a longer commute.) So I decided to tighten my belt and go into the consulting business. And that's what I've been doing ever since.
Meanwhile, I got a kick out of the storm of controversy that came when Yahoo ceo Marissa Mayer decreed that her employees can no longer work from home. They have to go into the office, at least several times per week. I've got the opposite problem. No one will let me come into their office.
So anyway, occasionally I take a limited-engagement job. Nothing that really pays all that well. But it does pay something. And it helps me keep financially fit.
I was inspired by a friend of mine, a few years older than me, who had been laid off by my same company a couple of years before I was. He was able to arrange for some consulting work from our old company, and he picked up a few other projects from people he knew, and he set up an office at home and soon found himself working 20 to 30 hours a week. The bonus: "As soon as I left my job," he told me, "my back problems went away. I started to eat better and do more exercise. I make half as much money, but I feel twice as good, and I'm twice as happy."
Recently I asked the same fellow, now in his early 70s, if he had any plans to truly retire. "Why should I?" he said. "I really retired ten years ago. Now I love what I'm doing!"
I do enjoy working, now and then, because it gives me some focused activity; it brings in a little money; and it makes me feel good to be engaged in work that's important enough for someone to pay me for it. It takes me out of myself, and makes me feel like I'm worth something beyond my own little life and my own family.
I don't know if I'll still feel that way ten years from now, when I'm in my 70s, but I really do feel that way now.
Besides, even retirees who are truly financially independent, the experts tell us, need to find pursuits that engage their interests. Nobody can expect to be happy sitting in front of the TV for the rest of their lives. We need activities that stimulate our imagination, connect us to other people, and help us develop a commitment to something more than our own self-interest.
Maybe one day, when I'm truly financially independent, I'll find satisfaction in golf or gardening, in photography or following the stock market. But for now, I'll keep on taking an odd job. Or, at least that's what I tell myself as I type out my replying email, saying I'd be more than happy to do the work.
All by way of saying, I'll be working for a few weeks, and may be posting less often. Somehow I think the blogosphere will survive my partial absence.
See you around ... and if I'm looking a little frazzled, it's because I'll be blogging in my off hours, with my other eye on the paycheck being dangled in front of my nose.