Early Retirement Resistance – When Friends Push Back

The weirdest thing happened to me last week at work. One of the best parts of the day is when we all arrive at work and stand around for a few minutes chit chatting about the day ahead. Sometimes we stray into personal topics, which makes for a fun start to the morning. Last week, however, we received our holiday bonus pay in our checks and I made the mistake of saying that I was counting on so much more but forgot that I had x% coming out for my 401(k) contributions. When I said the percentage – they almost fell over. And thus, a heated debate over coffee and copiers ensued…

The Accepted and Expected Path

road-less-traveled1-two-roads1

I will start by saying that I have worked with these people for a decade. A decade. That is a very long time and I tend to think of them as people I know well. So the fact that my comment about my retirement savings and my desire to retire before 67 1/2 was met with such utter resistance and push back floored me.

Let’s first examine the acceptable/expected path of adulthood. You graduate high school, go on to higher education and/or get a job, work for 40+ years, and retire somewhere in your mid-late 60s. Am I right? Now, somewhere along the way you might meet a nice guy or gal and make more people for our planet. Or maybe not. It all depends what you choose to do with the time in between careers and everything else. But undoubtedly, regardless of what you do with your personal life, your professional one stretches well into your golden years. Okay, now that we’re clear on that, let’s move on.

I tend to not advertise the fact that I write this blog to my co-workers because I’m not too keen on them having access to the ins and outs of all my private financial information. Because I don’t advertise it, they weren’t aware that I was on FIRE. So I excitedly told them why I was saving so much for retirement and what else Mr. MMM and I were doing with our money. I was met with raised eyebrows and “you’re crazy” looks. I was shocked that they were shocked, but that was the way of it.

Early Retirement Movement

Hump Day 3

Cheers to early retirement!

I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone reading this post about the underground early retirement movement. I did, however, need to explain it to my glassy-eyed co-workers. Let me also state that I work in a boring scientific field and my co-workers don’t drive flashy cars or live in extravagant houses. Basically, they all live within their means, so the possibility of someone saving/investing enough to cut out before they turn 60, or 50, or even 40 should’ve seemed somewhat realistic to them. Yet it didn’t. Again. Shocked.

Even though I thought I did an excellent job of explaining how people are retiring in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, on salaries just like the ones we were making, by saving and investing more than the average bear and buying less STUFF than everyone else, they weren’t convinced. I gave great examples from the top people in our community! I talked about Mr. Money Mustache, the Frugalwoods, Go Curry Cracker, and Think Save Retire. I even quoted the Trinity Study. All to no avail. Not only were they not convinced, but they also tried to tell me what a crock of crap this supposed made-up early retirement movement was.

ACTUAL RIDICULOUS ARGUMENTS I HEARD:

-“But, I like working.”

-“I wouldn’t want to retire at age 40; I would be too young, maybe 50.”

-“I wouldn’t know what to do everyday if I retired.”

-“I wouldn’t want to deprive myself of everything to retire and sit at home.”

-“How are these people actually living? I would want to travel. I couldn’t travel if I had to live on 30k/year.”

Changing Someone’s Mind

winter hike

Blaze your own $$$ trail

After about 30 minutes of a heated debate where I felt compelled to defend the FIRE community and my decision to join it, I was able to get 1 person to ask me to send them stuff. That one person? A co-worker in her 20s – the youngest of the bunch! Success! I didn’t set out trying to convert anyone to early retirement. I just happened to mention my 401(k) savings rate. It spiraled into a discussion about how it would be impossible to live a fulfilling life without working until you’re old. Ugh. I can’t say I changed anyone’s mind. I did, I think, made them think about alternatives to their current situation. But I guess, an alternative to someone’s current living situation can be threatening when it goes against the societal grain.

 

What do you think? Is it possible to help someone see the light and accept that early retirement is possible? Have you done it? Or have you found yourself engaged in a conversation like I had last week? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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  • kindoflost Apr 6, 2017, 10:07 am

    It’s not easy to revert years of indoctrination so it’s not a coincidence that the youngest “saw” it. So what’s your percentage? In my last two or three working years I maxed-out my 401k and I remember how fun it was to recalculate my percentage when I got the mid-year “merit increase” when I usually had to drop my contribution a couple points so I didn’t get over the limit. I didn’t want to get in trouble with the IRS or, worse, with HR…

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 6, 2017, 1:35 pm

      My percentage is equal to the annual maximum allowable contribution for a 401(k) plan. My co-workers and I are all around the same income, so when I stated my percentage, they knew how much that equated to. It’s definitely fun to watch it grow!

  • Jane @ Cash Fasting Apr 5, 2017, 3:00 pm

    This is such a good post! I feel like I get a lot of blank stares because I’m still in my 20s. I made the mistake a few months back by mentioning to my manager that I’d love to retire before 40, and it was awwwwkkkward.

    Recently, my co-workers were stressing out about figuring out what our new company matching percentage was. They were surprised I wasn’t stressed out about it because they wanted to make sure they were getting as much free money as possible (which is, of course, important). I said that we’d automatically get as much as we could if we maxed out our contributions. I was laughed at because they didn’t actually think I was maxing out. Because, in their mindset, who could possibly do that while living in NYC? I definitely didn’t push the discussion further, but I definitely keep my discussions within the FIRE community now.

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 5, 2017, 4:24 pm

      It’s so crazy how people react to the idea of early retirement! I was floored. Obviously. Awesome job on maxing out your 401(k)! When I mentioned that, they were absolutely shocked and almost a little irritated. I keep it to myself now – other than the blog and this cool little niche community we have here 🙂

  • Junctionite Mar 20, 2017, 12:00 pm

    My husband and I are planning to retire in three years when he is 60 and I will be 57. This will be my first eligiblity to collect a modest defined benefit pension from my current employer. Even with what seems to me to be only slightly early retirement I’ve gotten negative responses, mostly related to how much larger my pension would be if I worked another 10 years, this is true my pension could be twice as much, but I will be 67 and my husband will be 70. We have other things we want to do, I don’t want to spend another decade in a cubicle. It’s odd to me how people don’t get that?

    • Mad Money Monster Mar 20, 2017, 6:13 pm

      This is a perfect example of what I experience when I talk to my friends about early retirement. It amazes me how many people aren’t willing to think outside of the traditional trajectory box. I hope you guys have a blast when you clock out and start your post-work adventures! Thanks for sharing your story!

  • azu612 Mar 6, 2017, 10:21 am

    Even when I discuss the smallest life changes I’ve made to become more frugal and move towards FI I get strange reactions and comments. I was talking about my $35 phone plan and my friend said, well mine is only $70. So you get the same thing for twice the price and you’re fine with that? I don’t understand people sometimes!!!

    • Mad Money Monster Mar 6, 2017, 11:40 am

      Hahaha! Right! I am constantly amazed too. That’s an awesome example!

  • divmeup Feb 17, 2017, 2:12 pm

    I think a lot of people just are used to being in the Matrix 🙂 sort of speak. It’s kind of sad that most wouldn’t know what to do if they didn’t have to go to work…

    T

    • Mad Money Monster Feb 17, 2017, 2:52 pm

      You’re right. I hate hearing the excuse that someone would be bored if they didn’t work. I think they would be able to find other things to fill their time. Sad. Just sad.

  • Crispy Cabbage Feb 10, 2017, 6:45 am

    I have no idea what I’d say to my coworkers. And I don’t share at work for much the same reasons you gave. The blanks stares, “you’re crazy” looks. There’s one guy at work I’m pretty close with who would probably get it. Not surprising, he’s an engineer. We “joke” together about becoming minimalist, even though I’m actually serious about it. I think if I had a beer outside work with him I’d spill the beans, but these kind of conversations are just so awkward at work. Even though there are countless conversations about “normal” life that just make me cringe.

    Great post! Really made me think maybe I should speak out a little more.

    • Mad Money Monster Feb 10, 2017, 7:58 am

      Thanks for the comment! It’s so true that what mainstream thinks is “normal” sounds ridiculous to me. I know someone who recently bought themselves a brand new luxury car and is debating getting a roommate because they can’t afford to pay the rent and the car payment. Of course, selling the car isn’t an option. Hahahah!

  • thefiteacher Feb 8, 2017, 8:52 am

    Great post. I’m a teacher, and I find that so many of my colleagues do the same thing. Maybe there is some component about trying to prove to everyone that you “can” afford to buy stuff? I think we teachers sometimes feel left behind by our engineer, manager, tech friends, and think we need to spend the same to get the same respect I guess.

    • Mad Money Monster Feb 8, 2017, 8:58 am

      Interestingly, Mr. MMM was a HS teacher for 15 years before leaving to pursue his film career. Teachers can definitely reach FI, too!

  • Rachel Feb 7, 2017, 9:17 pm

    I took a free appointment once with an adviser from my employer’s 401k plan. He looked at the % I am contributing and said, “Why would you put in so much? You mist really hate your job.” I just laughed. I have always thought giving myself more options rather than fewer was a good idea. I’d rather get to 50 & say “Hey I could retire, but am enjoying working.” Than get to 50 and be trapped by bills & worrying about being caught in the next round of layoffs. I’ve worked with far too many people in the 2nd category to willingly go down that path.

    • Mad Money Monster Feb 8, 2017, 7:23 am

      Haha…that’s awesome! I can’t imagine an adviser being baffled by your high savings rate. Good for you! I completely agree that having more is the best route to more OPTIONS!

  • justanotherdollar Feb 5, 2017, 8:55 am

    I’ve had similar reactions from co-workers, friends, and family about many different areas I live my life differently. I think it all stems from their defensive reaction that if I’m living differently, I must think their way is WRONG and consider them bad or dumb for it. Everyone has their own path and their own definitions of success, wealth, and happiness. As long as they’re thinking and dreaming about money goals, I’m happy!

    • Mad Money Monster Feb 5, 2017, 10:46 am

      That’s an excellent point; I can definitely see the defensiveness stemming from them believing I think they’re doing it “wrong”. To each their own. If they’re happy working until their old and truly enjoy their job, more power to them. I just think they don’t think of the other options available to them.

  • midtownmillennials Feb 2, 2017, 8:55 am

    Everybody has differing views regarding early retirement, religion, politics, etc. It’s too hard persuading some people that are set in their ways, and really, we shouldn’t. We’re all unique with equally unique passions and goals in life. I completely understand and respect both perspectives. That being said, I’m definitely the “save more money now to stop working sooner”, type! 🤑

    • Mad Money Monster Feb 2, 2017, 10:27 am

      I agree. And I would never intentionally try to persuade someone who didn’t ask – it just accidentally came out at work that one morning. That being said, I think if we had a hint of financial education in our public schools, we might have more people aware of all the options available to them. This community of ours might be much bigger. 🙂

  • MrsWoW Feb 1, 2017, 11:54 am

    Amen! I’ve found it very hard to talk about my FI plans to many of my friends and family and alas have heard many of the same ridiculous comments back. That’s why it is so nice to have a community online who shares the same values/ goals and “gets it”.

    • Mad Money Monster Feb 1, 2017, 11:59 am

      The problem with our community is that it insulates us from the real world. It makes us believe everywhere thinks this way 🙂

  • Physician on FIRE Jan 31, 2017, 10:17 am

    I play my cards pretty close to the chest. Most people, including me a few years ago, haven’t put thought into retiring really early.

    Also, it’s a lot easier to say you like / love your job when you’ve got no viable alternative to working.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 31, 2017, 6:01 pm

      I completely agree that most people don’t realize there is an alternative. I wish I had stumbled across the idea of FIRE a decade ago. Better a little late than never, I suppose. I’m also not afraid to change my course or take risks – most are not willing to budge. That’s been my experience.

  • thefirestartercouk Jan 30, 2017, 1:49 pm

    As most have said I’ve barely ever bought up the idea and to those I have I don’t think anyone has really been that interested in it. Some of my friends are into saving and investing so we generally just talk about that, not about the end goal of it. But I think those guys are generally on the same page as me but still don’t think ER at 50 or less is possible (we’re all mid 30s)

    Then I have other friends who are mid to high earning and blow all their money on expensive cars, houses and toys. There is no way I’d change any of their minds! Ironically I’ve dropped down to part time wages already and they’re all jealous of course, but it doesn’t seem like anyone’s put two and two together on how I’ve done that and they certainly haven’t asked. Maybe they secretly do know but know they can’t handle the Answer… Give up your ridiculous spending and you too can buy freedom!

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 30, 2017, 2:27 pm

      I completely agree with you. It really is difficult for other people to wrap their heads around the possibility of retiring early, early as in before 50! It’s hard for me to stand by and watch my friends spend themselves into oblivion, but I can’t change someone’s mind. Everyone chooses their own path. Perhaps, they truly are happier doing their thing and working longer. Who am I to judge 🙂

  • Just Us Jan 25, 2017, 12:30 pm

    Both of my parents retired in their 40’s… How I wish they had shared some of their tactics with me while I was in my 20’s.

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 25, 2017, 12:33 pm

      Wow! Kudos to your parents! I didn’t have that, but I’m hoping to give it to my daughter!

  • Smart Provisions Jan 24, 2017, 11:45 pm

    I’ve tried to teach FI to a couple of friends and co-workers a few times, but it usually ends nowhere as they would prefer to enjoy life now and worry about tomorrow, well… tomorrow.

    After that experience, I’ve been more on the “trying to keep it down low” side and just mind my own business as I can’t control how they spend, but I can always be there to listen and give advice when needed.

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 25, 2017, 6:38 am

      Exactly! And they will come for advice, if they haven’t already done so. I have had plenty of people ask me what they should do with their finances. It makes me feel like I might actually be doing the right thing 😉 We’re totally insulated in this FIRE community. Ha!

  • Full Time Finance Jan 24, 2017, 10:30 pm

    Now let me first say, I don’t want to retire in my 30s and right now I want to work until 50-55. I enjoy working but i also enjoy having the option that its my choice. I also understand why thats not true for everyone. I also don’t say much about my financial position at work, except I have stated in the past to one or 2 people that I want to retire by 55. Even that shocks them. One wants to bet me that I won’t be able to do it. It really makes me scratch my head as to how its so unbelievable when 55 is not even that early these days. With a decent paying job, which they obviously know I have, and a modicum of financial self control an idiot could retire at 55. And yet I’m treated with blank stares. Its’ odd.

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 25, 2017, 6:33 am

      Wow, I’m shocked that even the age of 55 is getting you blank stares. I feel the same way you do, we don’t necessarily want to retire – we want the option to retire and perhaps pursue a different career. My co-workers know that’s true of me, too.
      They know I want the option to walk out of there at the drop of a hat, yet the fact that I tell them it’s possible to retire as early as your 30s or 40s makes them mock the whole idea. It’s truly unbelievable.

  • Financial Panther Jan 24, 2017, 7:58 pm

    I hear this so much whenever I tell people if like to retire early. I have one friend in particular who says they’d never want to retire early because they want to leave a legacy. I’m never quite sure why a day job is the thing that we think of as our legacy.

    The other common refrain is that you’ll get bored. I don’t think I will get bored, but I can think of far worse things then spending my day reading, writing and biking. And if I get bored, we’ll guess I’ll just go back to work.

    At this point I don’t try to convince anyone now. Saving money I think is generally viewed as universally good so that’s just what I tell people to do. We think of FIRE as so normal but 99% of the population don’t even conceive of it.

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 24, 2017, 8:27 pm

      You’re right. We’re so insulated in this community that it’s hard for me to wrap my head around this not being a commonly accepted practice. I forgot to mention that they my co-workers were also saying they would get bored. I assure anyone who asks, I would NOT be bored if I suddenly didn’t need to go to my day job anymore. I have so many other interests, that I wouldn’t know where to focus my attention first. To each their own, I suppose 🙂

  • ouellettem Jan 24, 2017, 2:34 pm

    It just goes to show how ignorant and uneducated the masses are on money and how to behave with it. I guess it will be our little secrete on how to make money work in our favor, living debt free and earning interest in the opposite direction as most. The information has been around for a long time. All you need to do is pick a few things called books and it will reveal all the hidden secrets on how to behave with money and living below your means.

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 24, 2017, 4:50 pm

      It is true that living below your means and investing the difference seems like a foreign concept to most people. I feel fortunate to have found this awesome community and awesome people, like you, to share it with 🙂

  • youmeanme Jan 24, 2017, 11:10 am

    I was, and to some extent, am still your co-workers :). The concept of retiring early fills me with unease because I love working, I love meeting people and getting paid to do the things I do, and I wouldn’t know what to do with myself with too many available hours. I’m a creature of habit and love it. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m a traditionalist from a family of radicals.

    So I had to flip it for myself. I don’t want to retire early, I want the freedom to get out of any situation I choose. If I’m not loving what I’m getting paid to do or I’m miserable I want the financial freedom to take leave and go find my joy again.

    If that sounds like early retirement, you’re probably right, but for me retirement sounds like I’m hanging up my working years and going on eternal summer vacation. I’ve noticed that a lot of those in our community who retire early, have left traditional jobs and are still making money in some form or fashion. They’re not retiring in a traditional sense but simply not allowing traditional jobs to hold them back.

    So the steps I take tend to be the same as yours but my language makes it more palatable to myself.

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 24, 2017, 4:48 pm

      Actually, I’m kind of on your side of the fence. I am on FIRE, not so I can walk away from my current employer and never work again; I am on FIRE so I can have options. I might not walk away at all. I can’t say it’s my perfect “job” but what I can say is that I enjoy it most days and the salary/benefits can’t be beat. So, yes, we’re also working towards freedom – not never working again. 🙂

  • less4success Jan 24, 2017, 11:09 am

    Never quite understood how people spend so much time earning money and so little time thinking about how to use it. But this is the world we live in, so I don’t discuss finances unless asked.

    However, I feel no shame or hesitation in interjecting comments about simple living (which is more socially acceptable and naturally leads to improving one’s financial situation 🙂

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 24, 2017, 4:46 pm

      Yeah, I usually don’t discuss finances, either. It just slipped out and everyone was staring at me, so I had to say something. Next time maybe I’ll take your route and just say we prefer a simple life to a more extravagant one, so we just save the difference. 🙂

  • Kate Jan 24, 2017, 9:01 am

    I’ve only mentioned my FIRE plans to a couple coworkers and that was because I drag them to all the personal finance sessions offered by our employer. One is starting to become more interested in it (and has even started forwarding online articles to me that he’s read), but the other has no interest.

    Most of my friends know what I’m aiming for and, whenever I talk about it, it comes off as it I’m trying to get them to join a cult. So I’m backing off and waiting for them to ask me questions. I really don’t think that people will believe it until someone they know actually achieves FIRE. Reading about bloggers isn’t enough to convince them.

    Even if we “fail” and don’t retire early, what’s the worst that happens? We still will have amassed far more savings for traditional retirement than we would have otherwise. Not a bad outcome at all!

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 24, 2017, 4:45 pm

      I like the way you think! Yeah, even if all the people who are on FIRE never actually reach it at a young age, at least they’re that much farther ahead. And it probably isn’t “real” to them until they can name someone who has done it within their circle. Good point!

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