15 Aug 2016, 12:40pm
living intentionally reflections:
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  • work as a limiting belief post FI

    We all go through life accumulating experiences, and, inveterate pattern-matchers that we are, all too often we infer the general from the particular of those experiences. In the search to impose order and meaning on our world, we frequently conflate correlation with causation, and build up a mental map of the world at odds with the territory. Some of these beliefs about the world gained from experience are just plain wrong or get overtaken by events after they are formed. To take one

    “You need to work”

    When I left university I had no money and therefore needed to work. I hadn’t come across the option of dropping out and possum living, and it probably wouldn’t have appealed, a young buck must run with its kind 😉 Peer pressure is strong for young adults.

    But in that first year I built a limiting belief, by inferring the general from the particular. I needed to work, at that time and for a significant time afterwards. But not for all time. I needed to earn enough to pay the capital cost of some of the necessities of life. I didn’t think that deeply about buying a house, though I left London because it was clear that I wouldn’t be able to buy a house there and maintain a decent lifestyle. I really should have thought more about buying a house at a market high, but that’s another story. There’s a pattern developing here, an across the board intentional living fail.

    A considerable amount of luck saved me from myself – I was enterprising enough to shift myself from boring jobs until I found one that loaded the grey matter enough to be congenial, I was fortunate enough to end up in a company where I was looked after pension-wise and the pay was decent enough. And then got on with the job of spending too much but not more than I earned on consumer crap, partying, beer and travel.

    And so across the intervening years, the world globalised and loads more people joined the capitalist workforce, and it started to arbitrage towards cheaper countries. I was protected from that from a long time but eventually the erosion came to my door. There’s an argument that the Millennium Bug work of the year 2000 accelerated this erosion of developed world work in the IT world. The Firm opened a BPO joint in Mahindra and a couple of the localised Big Cheeses instrumental in setting it up benefited handsomely from their shareholdings in that.

    I wasn’t passionate about IT although competent, I moved into it and out of electronics engineering because that was what The Firm did. Some people did jump ship at the time, fearful that their electronics skills would atrophy. In the first glimmerings of intentional living I came to the conclusion that I worked to live not lived to work, I was in serious negative equity so I adapted and retrained. I suspected electronics design would go to cheaper countries, and it did – the tide would have gone out on me faster in electronics that it did in IT. 1

    Limiting Beliefs

    Steve Pavlina has a pretty decent summary of limiting beliefs –

    Limiting beliefs can seriously hold us back in life. But most of the time such beliefs are invisible to us. They control some of our thoughts and behaviors behind the scenes, enough to curtail our results in some area of life.

    His article also proposes a method of eliminating these. I don’t have his particular brand of materialist rationalism, so while I am prepared to acknowledge some limiting beliefs, I won’t fight all of them. One of mine is that something snapped in me mentally in the last few years at work, and that once something like that has broken it will never bear that load again. Since I’m rich enough not to have to challenge this by finding another job, I don’t have to go through the pain of challenging it, or indeed find out that it is in fact true. The evidence that countermands that belief is that people overcome much greater mental challenges than having a really shitty experience of working for a year.

    The way this belief limits me is that I will never be able to feel safe enough to deploy any money that I earn in working again to increase my lifestyle, because I will be afraid of losing having the FU nuclear option on work. So while I might well appreciate more baubles and jaunts, no consumer shit tastes as good as financial freedom feels. And I’ve gotten used to owning my own time. So I’ll pass on the extra money and enjoy the extra time.

    Over at SHMD Jim has returned to work. While that wouldn’t be right for me I tip my hat to a fellow who concluded a 0 hours week wasn’t enhancing his quality of life, and took the obvious corrective action – go get a job. I’d actually read Jim’s article before it was cited on Weekend reading and just thought good for you Jim, about time too 😉

    When I read the phrases selected by Monevator from Jim’s post I thought blimey, did I read the same article? Monevator is a much more pithy and concise writer than I am, but the precise extract and reformatting together with the extra narrative in his post I think says something about both the observer and the observed:

    I was struggling a bit with the retirement lifestyle, and finding the change from a full on, full time working week to a zero hour one quite difficult to handle.

    I just couldn’t shake the notion that I was too “young” to put my feet up, that I should be working and that I should be out there earning money.

    I might not have “needed” the latter, but it never quite felt that way.

    SHMD as cited by Monevator

    Jim’s evocative description of the problem shows to me an incongruity between his map of how things should be compared to the territory of how they were. He doesn’t need the money, but he needs things to be different to how they are to feel happy about it. This looks like a limiting belief to me, largely because Jim “shoulds himself” twice in one sentence. Two different takes on this issue, one from Psychology Today and the other from the A0M seem to indicate this limiting belief is from an external locus of control in the affected topic. He is measuring an internal state by a yardstick written by other people. Since humans are a social species some of this is inevitable, and there was an easy and obvious solution. Make the territory more like the map and go back to work.

    Monevator admits his gut belief later on

    But I believe almost everyone will benefit from having an ongoing economic relationship with society while they can – even if only for a day or two a week.

    Sadly, by the time most people reach the point of having options, they seem to feel too burned out by the workplace to explore all the various other ways of making money more freely.

    Protestant work ethic detector goes off. You don’t have to work to have an ongoing economic relationship with society. I allocate capital, society pays me for the pleasure of using it 😉 Heck, on the other side of the coin the consumers of Britain racking up unsustainable credit card debt have an ongoing economic relationship with society, even if they are on the dole, or reality TV show aristocrats.

    Reality TV show aristocrats

    Reality TV show aristocrats in an ongoing economic relationship with society

    I am thinking of buying a Naim 272 to replace my 30-year old preamplifier, tuner and audio streaming box, surely I still have an ongoing economic relationship with Salisbury then? I don’t even have to worsen Britain’s consumer debt mountain because I have the money.

    Now I am a case of the burned out husk Monevator refers to, although I have to say that the proposed alternative of endless hucksterism of selling your wares as a freelancer/contractor gives me even more the heebie-jeebies than the thought of going back to work for The Man. But I’ve already confessed to the potential limiting belief in my case, so far be it from me to criticise either of these two good people for tolerating theirs 😉 We can all afford to pay the cost of our limiting beliefs – I will be poorer by the opportunity cost of the money I could have earned, they will be poorer by the opportunity cost of the time spent working after financial independence. Conversely, they will be richer in money, I will be richer in Time, and each to their own. Neither course is right or wrong, it can only be right or wrong in combination with the individual’s predilections and temperaments, which may change over time.

    What’s that burnout process all about then?

    Like Monevator, the younger me didn’t understand the burnout mechanism. I saw burnout in enough other people at The Firm, but had been fortunate enough to occupy specialisms slightly removed from the ritual slaughter and yearly cull of too many project managers as the number of projects to manage dropped. I was offered enough PRINCE2 training but I’d rather drink my own urine than be a PM. I have respect for the job and the difficult balances to be made, but I don’t want to be it, and particularly for the Firm. I didn’t realise then that  the The Firm employed the same techniques as some Japanese companies on some of these guys – because there were technical reasons why compulsory redundancies were expensive for them, so they needed to mind-f*k people. They created a Redeployment Unit, which was ostensibly to re-educate some of their dead wood old fossils superfluous headcount. It had a terrible success rate – more than 50% of people eventually left on voluntary redundancy terms, because they couldn’t stand the endless Jobcentre style filling in CVs. You had to fill in so many a week, just because. It drove a fair number of people round the bend. In many cases they had been pulled from overworked teams to match headcount targets, it seemed to be a particular irony to then go for a coffee with their ex-team-mates and hear that deliverables were slipping because there weren’t enough boots on the ground. Which conveniently meant they could pull the project, outsource it to India and send the rest of the team to the RU, while marking down their performance management results. Conveniently you were barred from taking voluntary redundancy if your performance management score was needs improvement, so they saved money by sending people round the twist. Nice.

    Performance management clobbered me because for the first 20 years at The Firm, appraisal was roughly about how well you did the job. I was okay with that. For an engineer their work usually speaks for itself. However, performance management was a way of introducing arbitrary extra elements, FFS like giving 5 minute seminars at all hands meetings whose tedium was increased by 5 minute presentations on random stuff to tick the box, and it was a bewildering mishmash of capricious targets. Basically you had the choice of meeting the targets or doing the job.

    I pre-empted this with the last vestiges of energy I had in reserve in 2009, and fired off speculative applications because there was an opportunity to use some of my legacy electronics engineering skills for the London 2012 Olympics. I was fortunate enough to win that lottery and sweat out three years doing something interesting, time-bound and rewarding. I got a decent sendoff and the guy in charge of delivering the Olympics said I was leaving on a high, and in terms of what I did, yes. But I formed another belief about working then. Which is that working in the modern world of professional jobs is all consuming, over-controlled pissing match that hurts, and I want no more of it in my life.

    It took time before freedom from became freedom to, and I realised the value of the prize I had unwittingly taken with me on the way back from the pub at that final leaving do. Eight precious years of my life that I will never live again, and in decent wealth and health, and indeed I still have a few to go before I reach 60 where I’d join the original track of my retirement from work. What’s the point of burning them up working? As Arnold Zack said to Paul Tsongas

    Nobody on his deathbed ever said, “I wish I had spent more time at the office.”

    Tsongas retired on (physical) medical grounds and cashed in his chips at 55.

    It is the privilege of youth to think you will live for ever in perfect health – in general this squares with your experience of life so far, but as they say past performance is no guarantee of future success. I got a long way into middle age on that assumption, and I am still to be to the best of my knowledge in good physical health. But when something existential that you took for granted fails in service, then the knowledge that can happen changes you. I like to think I got some wins out of the negative experience – I deepened, and took the opportunity to jump the tracks of the assumptions I had never challenged since first starting work. I took the glittering prize of my time back with me, but I only unwrapped it and saw its gleam after the first phase of decompression had passed after two years. I had to switch off so much of myself to get through the last three years of working that I had to train myself to see beauty and appreciate music again. It is all the more amazing because I know the emptiness of the burned out years. I have more gratitude for it. It is sweeter for having known the loss, and to discover in the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. 2.

    I hazard that Monevator hasn’t had that experience in the work area of life and I hope he never has, and Jim took corrective action much earlier in his journey out of work, or had greater resilience. Indeed, the younger Ermine knew the feeling of Monevator’s surprise at people’s passivity in the face of an adverse work environment –

    Sadly, by the time most people reach the point of having options, they seem to feel too burned out by the workplace to explore all the various other ways of making money more freely.

    It’s always a puzzle, why the hell don’t people sort their shit out and improve their situation? The reason it so often happens is that while mental stress may manifest in an obvious breakdown, the seeds are sown and grow in tiny incremental stages beforehand. It is in these days, months and years beforehand that the fightback must commence.The breakdown is the result of feedback mechanisms that are trying to compensate for the stress finally being overwhelmed. While they work OK these feedback mechanisms minimise the visibility of the problem by trying to maintain the norm. So by the time people realise something is wrong they have passed the point of no return, they do not have the energy to start the fight. I was fortunate in having good people around, and doubly so in having a rare legacy skill that was needed for the last three years it took me to buy my way out. There is much more luck than judgement in that narrative. Some judgement, yes – in the switched off nature where I had lost most of the function of the emotional centre I still had the intellectual centre working at half cock. I was able to see with unclouded vision that buying into a shattered market of 2009 might be a good idea 3, and the nonfunctioning emotional elements did not jam that with the ‘run for the hills’ response. But it’s probably the luck that won it. I learned from that experience, charging into the markets in 2011 during the Summer of Rage and again earlier this year. Last year I was into EMs, which was probably jumping the gun, though the addled brains of my fellow countrymen destroying the currency have helped buy me out of that trigger-happiness and even these dogs are starting to perform.

    Work meant more for me when I was younger, it was part of how I saw myself, and it took the long process of individuation to de-identify myself against external values and own my values.  There is a lot of existential value associated with work for many people – take Ruth Graham’s rebuttal of the deathbed quote. It’s also not terribly surprising that people who suffer burnout break the link between meaning and purpose and work. After all, if I felt like Jim about work I would have to go back into the fray, risking the burnout again. It is easier to change myself than the toxic world of performance management and meaningless metrics.

    Jim doesn’t have that link broken. There are hardly that many terrible consequences of working when you don’t need to. But it isn’t totally cost-free. Those are years you won’t get to live again. Work is a way for finding challenge and interest. But it’s not the only way.

    How to go nuclear on your career

    This is a bigger change that gradually inching down, or switching to a different type of work. If you have any lingering doubts, then don’t do it. Go for the slowly reducing your hours if you can, or alternative employment. After all, that’s the point of being financially independent. You can choose not to work, but you don’t have to. If you are reducing your hours, things are simpler, you probably want to stay in the same location.

    But if you are aiming to finish work, or do something else, then you have more options. Moving is one of them – of course if you have a partner/children and particularly if they are not retiring at the same time then this is out, unless moving closer to their work. For many people FI roughly coincides with their children coming of age, which I hear is also a big life change for the parents. It’s a good time to re-evaluate what you want out of life.

    Anybody living in London should seriously consider their options on reaching FI. It’s a young person’s city and no place for old men IMO – and you may as well leverage the closeness to massive pool of employment premium on the value of your house or reduce the rent you’re paying. It’s an opportunity to reduce costs, unless you value the lifestyle more than the cost.

    For many people work is a huge part of the amount of day-to-day intellectual stimulation they get, they are too busy in their non-work time making all the trappings of a middle class life happen and wrangling kids. Pull the plug on work in that sort of lifestream and there’s going to be a great big instant hole.

    If you are going to quit then you have to step up to the bigger change. You have greater opportunities too, simply because you now have all your time to allocate to living your unique life. In no particular order I toss these out as things worth considering, they work for me. I’m not saying they have to work for you

    Look to your social circle post-retirement

    Early retirees, very early retirees, men, those who move on retirement all have a particular issue with this and ideally want to start addressing it before they leave work. To stereotype shockingly in the interests of brevity

    Early retirees (30s-40s) and men often have a lot of their social circle connected with work. Retire early and half your social circle is still working and will be for the next 20 years. You want to at least think about backfilling this, and you’re probably going to have to make most of the effort.

    Those who move on retirement may face having to start anew in a different place. If you have an idea of where you are moving to, there’s a case to be made for cultivating social connections there ahead of time.

    Retiring is also an opportunity to leave behind people who have become toxic in some way, it’s not all bad 😉

    Toss your TV.

    Slightly tongue in cheek, but it is a particular form of a general principle. Create, learn and be intellectually active rather than a passive consumer. TV is great escapism to switch off from work. You don’t need that any more. And too much of TV is vapid attention-grabbing pabulum whose main purpose is to be a carrier wave to ram consumerist messages into your head.

    Learn something new every day

    You probably had to do this at work. If you are retired, then you have the freedom to cover new ground. Learn about new things just because. It doesn’t have to be useful. I am thinking of making a bull-roarer today. It is the diversity of what you learn that makes you a more rounded person, and exposes you to more viewpoints. Read at least two papers from the opposite sides of the political spectrum. Try and open your mind to points of view that you don’t agree with. Are they at least internally consistent? Are your views? Are your views perhaps wrong?

    Read books as well as the Web

    The Web is a fantastic resource for learning something new every day. But it is shallow, it is bad for your attention span, it is often unreferenced and unauthoritative, and there is always the vile commercial imperative in a lot of writing, which favours the attention-grabbing and the short form. I found too much web reading damaged my ability to take in information from books, I had to slightly relearn that

    When I say books, I mean books that have at least some print format that is not self-published. If a publisher had to take a risk on the book it is more likely to have merit. The massive swathes of ebooks written by money-grabbing incompetents are a way of trying to ‘monetise content’ and from my experience that content isn’t worth my time. There isn’t a book in everybody, leastways not a book worth anybody’s time. I wish there were a way of screening out the output of ebook content mills on Amazon. Using your public library to borrow real books is one way round that.

    Walk/bike everywhere

    I’m a walking guy on this front, but that’s because Ipswich is a relatively compact market town. most places I want to go are within two miles. Over distances like that walking wins over cycling by not having to park your legs outside your destination and worrying some scrote is going to pinch them. I’m of the opinion no retiree needs to use a gym 4. The trouble with walking when you are working it it wipes out a huge amount of your small amount of free time, after all if I want to walk somewhere two miles away and come back it’s going to wipe out an hour and a bit of my day. That’s tough if I only have four hours free time. But it’s no beef for a retiree. It’s good for you, and thinking while walking is somehow a different and more lateral experience too.

    Obviously there’s space for the car as well, if you are going to haul stuff. But don’t go nuts on it. I walk a mile and a bit to recycle glass, carrying it in a rucksack. You can easily carry 10kg in a backpack, more in panniers on a bike.

    Create experiences, don’t buy them

    Climb hills, learn about Nature, invent, carve, repair, originate before consumption. Many ‘attractions’ are simply commercial enterprises designed to separate parents from their money because they don’t have enough energy or imagination to distract/entertain their kids themselves. I personally avoid places like this like the plague. But there are similar joints for adults, and, I am sad to say, particularly targeted at men who have a weakness for extreme this and that. There are general trends to commercialise, professionalise and monetise recreation. What did kids do before Go Ape? They climbed the trees and built their own tree-houses from scrap wood. BTDT

    Do hedonism, but vary it. Prize diversity and  quality over quantity

    There’s nothing wrong with going to a decent restaurant every so often, but it should cost you more than £100 for two (Londoners probably need to think £300). Do better, but less often. There are vast swathes of middling and low end joints which aren’t worth your custom, go big or go home, but go infrequently. And spin it out with other sorts of hedonism.

    Travel alone sometimes

    You see far more of a place when you travel alone. Conversely the experience of travelling with your partner is a more congenial experience and gives you shared stories. Make space for both.

    Be insanely curious

    Poke about in the cornucopia of variety that is our world. Take things to bits, turn them over and wonder why. Lift stones and see what’s underneath 5. Play

    Do one thing at a time, and do it well

    There’s a trend towards multitasking – looking at your phone while listening to an audiobook etc. Humans haven’t suddenly become great multitaskers over the last 20 years. If it’s worth doing it’s worth doing well.

    Leave the smartphone at home

    This is a personal bugbear of mine. I decommissioned my smartphone when I realised it was simply pissing me off for no good reason, and swapped it for a dual-SIM plastic Nokia 150. Why? Dual SIM gives a better chance of getting a signal in the countryside if they are on different PAYG bearer networks, plus I can route outgoing calls and SMS via the cheapest option. I couldn’t stand the touch keyboard, and prefer predictive text SMS. The RF performance of a basic phone is so much better than a smartphone, people can actually hear me and I get to hear them (if they aren’t using a smartphone outside an urban area). Every photograph I’ve taken with a mobile phone is a little bit shit and makes me wish I hadn’t taken it or had used a real camera. I don’t regularly do Facebook, twitter and all that cobblers. A smartphone is a really crappy satnav, because again the RF performance of the GPS is poor in urban areas, which is of course where you really need detailed navigation and good responsiveness. They are great in the open, on motorways and A roads, the sort of places where it’s easy to navigate using map and road signs 😉 I bought a Garmin satnav after realising that I was going to more places I hadn’t been before even in Suffolk and was spending too much time and fuel overshooting, then turning round to back up. It performs properly in urban areas, uses DAB to update traffic reports rather than spying on me by using the mobile network. A smartphone does a load of things, all of them poorly, and I got sick of that in the end.

    Reduce unnecessary interruption in your life

    Most of these come from electronic devices and social media. You can probably still swim with the hive-mind by connecting every three hours and then disconnecting, and the old saw about connecting to email once or twice a day is also worth noting. Even if you are a social media maven, well, connect every hour or half-hour if you must, and then give your full attention to whatever you are doing. If you can’t be bothered to give it your attention, then perhaps just cut it out of your life altogether. You don’t have this choice at work, because obviously you are being paid to do what others want.

    Pursue novelty. For its own damn sake

    But try to avoid paying for it 😉 In general any new experience or thing should challenge you, teach you something  or make you grow some tiny bit. Too many manufactured experiences are designed to get you to buy something or take part in the sequel, hence try to avoid paying for it. I admit that three years of frugality mean I take this a little bit too far. I should become more prepared to pay for and honour quality and distinctiveness.

    Choose diversity in what you do

    You may think you want to lie on the beach or play computer games all the time. Too much of any one thing isn’t good for you. Mix it up. You have the opportunity now your time is your own. Seize it. If you’re sitting in the same place for as long as you were at work you’re probably doing something wrong even if it is on the beach or at a computer game.

    Does retiring early kill you faster?

    Towards the end of his piece Monevator opined,

    Incidentally, I also think retiring early is bad for your health.

    This is a hard subject to get any accurate research on. For starters, people who retired early in the 1970s and 1980s tended to be be educated white collar workers, which is a shocking sample bias. These guys are going to be richer than the general population, and, surprise surprise, richer people live longer anyway. Pretty much everyone reading this will probably have a longer life expectancy than average all other things being equal, let’s face it the poor don’t read about personal finance and early retirement because it’s not relevant to their lives. There are just too many confounding factors and statistical wrinkles to establish facts with a decent confidence interval. We diverge more and more from each other as we get older – at graduation you had more in common with your peers than you’ll have with them at the reunion year when you all start drawing your State pension. There are more subtle forms of sample bias. Some people retire early for health reasons, arguably I am one of them, although for mental rather than physical health. If you retire early for physical health reasons then you’re loading the dice towards shortened longevity, I don’t know what the stats on that are like for mental health. For physical health reasons it’s probably still the right thing to do – for you, and for the same reason as retiring early was the right thing for Paul Tsongas. You gotta play the hand you are dealt.

    There’s an ESRC report that concluded 6

    “Early retirement is generally good for people’s health and wellbeing unless it has been forced on them,” the study said.

    “Those forced into early retirement generally have poorer mental health than those who take routine retirement, who in turn have poorer mental health than those who have taken voluntary early retirement.”

    A moot point for me then. Arguably it was forced upon me, although I did not retire using any formal ill-health procedure, and indeed took an active part in the decision to retire early but using voluntary early retirement mechanisms. In that case Monevator’s prognosis is right and  I will die younger than my parents. OTOH I can hardly say the ESRC’s narrative on mental health squares with my experience of life post retirement 😉

    There’s sport for both of us in Sing Lee’s interesting piece using the pension funds from several big American white-collar employers’ pension funds. I confess that I agree with Lee in that technical creativity is probably at it’s peak in the 10 years around 30. Although he took a lot of shit for it Mark Zuckerberg was probably right that young people are just smarter. If people stopped berating him for his political incorrectness and listened to what he said, he proffers a mechanism which makes a lot of sense to me

    “Young people just have simpler lives. We may not own a car. We may not have family.” In the absence of those distractions, he says, you can focus on big ideologies. He added, “I only own a mattress.” Later: “Simplicity in life allows you to focus on what’s important.”

    Looking at the other end of the working life arc Sing Lee’s 2002 talk of over-funding of pension funds sounds delightfully naive now – he didn’t realise that the developed world was going ex-growth after the dotcom bust. However, when he charted the years of retirement versus age at retirement, I think his narrative is pretty much along with the narrative what I did, although I didn’t have the strategic vision and just ended in a tactical firefight.

    The pace of innovations and technology advances is getting faster and faster and is forcing everybody to compete fiercely at the Internet speed on the information super-highways 7. The highly productive and highly efficient workplace in USA is a pressure-cooker and a high-speed battleground for highly creative and dynamic young people to compete and to flourish.

    However, when you get older, you should plan your career path and financial matter so that you can retire comfortably at the age of 55 or earlier to enjoy your long, happy and leisure retirement life into your golden age of 80s and beyond. In retirement, you can still enjoy some fun work of great interest to you and of great values to the society and the community, but at a part-time leisure pace on your own term.

    On the other hand, if you are not able to get out of the pressure-cooker or the high-speed battleground at the age of 55 and “have” to keep on working very hard until the age of 65 or older before your retirement, then you probably will die within 18 months of retirement. By working very hard in the pressure cooker for 10 more years beyond the age of 55, you give up at least 20 years of your life span on average 8

    But anecdotally I see where Monevator’s coming from. I’ve seen people retire and then pretty much switch off. My Dad did this. He retired, at 65, from his job as a fitter, and while he didn’t zone out totally he watched far too many crappy TV game shows. On the upside he was also stuck to Teletext and share prices 9, he read company accounts and went to AGMs, as well as gardening and the occasional travel. In support of Monevator’s angle, as a non-early retiree, he got to 86 before leaving this mortal coil, which is still 16 years of extra time over his allotted three-score-years and ten.

    Retiring early does hit people who get a lot of meaning and self-esteem from work. It’s not inconceivable that if they lose meaning from life they may live shorter lives, and certainly have a lower quality of life. The obvious answer is ‘don’t retire early’.

    Notes:

    1. I still indulge the passion for electronics in making instrumentation, it’s of course different from the purely analogue world I cut my teeth on as a teenager but still fascinating. But there’s no point in trying to make money from it, too niche, too much regulation and too many Chinese copycats ready to eat my lunch. OTOH I would probably still be an employable bench tech/engineer, because there is still some niche instrumentation being made in the UK. But why the hell would I want to drive to Cambridge every day?
    2. pinched from Albert Camus, Return to Tipasa
    3. I am not a passive investor, because to build my portfolio I had an extremely short timeframe of only a few years. My contributory investing career is almost done now. To me valuation matters for new money, and 2009 was a good year to apply that. I may become more passive after I have finished contributing, though I will leave my HYP in place for the zero carrying cost and the income.
    4. If you get an endorphin rush, have masochistic tendencies or simply like the stale smell of sweat and pheromones, then damn well go for it – there’s nothing wrong with gyms if you can afford the money. I just don’t think they are essential.
    5. Old World only – don’t do this in Australia, where if it moves it wants to kill you
    6. I had the devil’s own job trying to locate this. It is called “Health And Well-Being In Old Age: It’s Still Money That Counts” by the ESRC in 2009 The press can get it from Science Daily
    7. how delightfully anachronistic, I haven’t heard reference to Al Gore’s information super-highway for years, it’s so AOL Connie
    8. Sing Lee does stand somewhat charged with inferring the general from the particular. For starters his stats about longevity are typically from people who retired 30 years ago, so the pressure cooker pace of change wasn’t so bad. Some of the jobs will have been more physically wearing 30 years ago which may have taken a physical toll. There’s no good answer to the delay in longevity statistics, we will find out what early retirement really does for my age cohort in a few decades.
    9. this was pre-internet
    15 Aug 2016, 4:25pm
    by Neverland

    reply

    There is nothing new under the sun:

    ” I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous, and that what needs to be preached in modern industrial countries is quite different from what always has been preached.” Bertrand Russell, 1932

    http://www.zpub.com/notes/idle.html

    Blimey, old Betrand was a dude, eh? Thanks for that. I like the sentence

    The morality of work is the morality of slaves, and the modern world has no need of slavery.

    and indeed the pathology of the PWE is well set about in that article!

    This post was certainly well worth waiting for. I like the way you have thoroughly analysed your own personal experience of FI and retiring early, with its pros and cons.

    I have been lucky in that I work for an employer that is, broadly speaking, decent in its approach to its employees. But even so, I find the whole dynamic of working life and the (seemingly unending) revisions and changes to working practice are doing my 59-year-old head in. This can only get worse…

    I ramped down significantly about three and a half years ago, taking a more narrowly-focussed role which I can deliver from home a couple of days a week. This was a revelation – allowing an immediate reduction in tension and the rapid adoption of a regular early-morning running and fitness regime which has made me feel lighter and stronger than I had done for years.

    But the part-time life is starting to pall. It takes just too much head space, and of course I’m not free while I am taking someone else’s money to deliver a product – even if the product is created in my own head at home.

    When I started out on the idea of trying to become FI (over 15 years ago) I had two fairly simple steps in mind:

    1. Save up enough money that I don’t have to work any more.
    2. Then do what I want.

    I still see it as essentially being those two simple steps. And for me, for now, what I want is to not be employed at all. There are just so many things that I already enjoy doing and want to do more of, and things that I really want to explore locally (hello, super-fancy climbing wall…).

    And that’s without thinking about all the trips I could make here and abroad, enjoying the company of friends and family, plus the tantalising prospect that I might become a Granny during the course of the next few years.

    It will also be good to significantly increase the time I spend just puttering about, and be able to feed my addiction to radio 4 and DIY. At the moment, I feel busy and healthy and I doubt that will change simply because I stop being employed.

    Of course I could *use* the extra money that I would continue to receive if I ramped down further to perhaps just a few days a month, but I don’t ruddy *need* it and frankly – as you have so succinctly expressed in your post – life’s just too short!

    So I shall be finishing for good an’ all at the end of the current tax year – let’s keep it nice and simple for the taxman ;).

    Jane

    Congratulations – that sounds lovely – and it definitely seems phasing is the wise way to go for retiring electively. It gives you the chance to ease into the change. Interesting finishing at the end of the tax year, if I had the choice I’d finish just after I’d earned £11k in that tax year but maybe I’m tight like that 😉

    Bill Bryson made a pithy observation in the Road to Little Dribbling that

    One of the pleasures of dotage is that you realize that you have pretty much all you will ever need, apart from a few perishables.

    so I think the marginal value of earning more money starts to fall with age, for those of us fortunate enough to be into FI territory.

    Whereas the blighters still aren’t making any more Time for us. So the whole work/time balance naturally gradually shifts away from the work end as you describe. Of course in cases where work=meaning then that shifts the balance back a bit, and there’s nothing wrong in that either.

    I’ll get me coat.

    On the way to work, I trust? And good for you, effective action is always worthy of a tip of the Ermine hat!

    @ Ermine: A thought-provoking post, on a topic so important it ties into the meaning of life and delicately handles the question of ”Why do you want to FI/RE?” …..with an elegant balance.

    I think the link to your character is the ultimate determinate in what you will feel and hence what you will do – social conditioning from birth is so strong, as is the human need to conform to the group – that it takes a [high] threshold level of independence/mental strength …..few people have this.

    I had a similar experience/career trajectory to yours, so know how it feels – to others though, it may seem extreme or exaggerated, but that is to be expected – you can easily intellectually understand the concept of pain, but that still doesn’t fully prepare you for how you feel when you actually get burned. [they haven’t been burned …..or at least not to the same extent]

    When I was still dodging bullets in my own corporate matrix years, the pressure of trying to be the character that enabled you to survive let alone thrive in that environment was exhausting. I wasn’t a good actor and hated trying to pretend to be the person that fitted the required clone-life, it changes your character as your soul is slowly sucked out. As you said in your article in answer to why people don’t just leave, by the time you realise it, your coping mechanisms up to that point have used up the energy needed to escape. You look around a meeting table one day and it dawns on you that the glassy, dead-eyed, million-miles-away stare in your colleagues eyes are also reflecting your own, reducing the room to a bunch of zombified nodding dogs in a circle. [anthropologists would have an interesting time with that one …..the cretinaceous period?]

    I felt ashamed back then at having burnt out by ~40, a bit of a light-weight, until I saw an incredibly capable colleague who was at the top of his game crash out by 30 & I never had him down as vulnerable even. A revelation was watching American beauty while flat on the couch at the end of another forgettable day/week/month/year, only made worse by recognising that I was the Lester Burnham character in the film. I made an escape plan after that because I knew I just couldn’t go on. In my stress up to then, I had already handed out enough bullets for one of the resident workplace psychopaths to manage me out for target practice, so I knew my number was up. The decompression later can take years, because you’re basically questioning every belief you had in life until that point so it shouldn’t be surprising, then you are unplugging from the matrix and reality is terrifying.

    People who can’t understand why you can just ‘pull your finger out & get on with it’ have no idea because they simply haven’t experienced how strong those feeling are. You are literally rewiring your brain with your new thinking processes, the neurology and chemistry changes, you really end up a different person – I now just can’t go back to that, the spell is broken. If the nature of a workplace isn’t too much at odds with your values/character, then you could get back in it if you change quickly – like a hamster falling off the wheel whose legs are still trashing in the air – the habits are still working.

    Given the increasing slow-burn impoverishment of ever more indebted societies, [even in the ‘richer’ countries] via institutionalised inequality, perhaps this debate will become academic – as the option to FI/RE becomes impossible to the vast majority anyway?

    The trouble with modern performance management is that in the past, people had to shaft you themselves, whereas PM lets them dream up the unachievable and have that unachieved in small bits over time – they hand out the targets by email and never have to look you in the eye. Even if they do, some was a section on generalised targets and it’s always someone else wot made them do it. It’s never really them giving you the shaft anyway, because there is always the hidden numbers game of distributions and levelling. I’ve actually been in levelling meetings on the other side as a manager where they are having the departmental bunfight, and my aim was simple. To get the best for my guys, and the way to do that is to get in the meeting, get in there first with the marks (it was a sort of Dutch auction format) and get in the face of others batting for their people. There’s nothing fair in the process at all – it’s basically a pissing match and down to who has the pushiest boss. Though an introvert I was pushy enough for my people where they had served me well 😉

    Trouble is the manager who stiffed me lacked that sort of front, but he was desperate for money because he’d just had a baby with his second wife, and the financial crisis was cutting in. What he lacked in cojones he made up for in cunning.

    I’d have thought the way people get ground down, losing a tiny imperceptible piece of ground each and every day until the compensatory mechanisms run out of travel would be part of stress management 101 but it doesn’t seem to be. Perhaps you have to ride the tracks to know what the stations look like. It’s aggravated, of course, by the revulsion to weakness instilled in men from an early age.

    In fairness, the option to FI/RE was never one for the vast majority anyway although it’s drifting away across the generations. The flood of credit is jacking up the price of essentials (shelter, and increasingly tertiary education), globalisation is hollowing out the middle ground of jobs and the loss of guiding principles and values to show the way in a financially pathless land doesn’t help either. I didn’t grow up in a world where debt was considered OK other than mortgage debt, so I didn’t have trouble with it. Consumer credit is pretty much normalised and okay now.

    This is a great post. There is much to consider here, and pretty much all of it seems to accord with my own views, aims and ideas. I’ll just offer a couple of amplifications based on my own experiences, which seem to be pretty similar to yours; in my case, high-tech career, sufficiently successful, ultimately burned out and ready for a change.

    On gyms, or more accurately ‘leisure centres’, perhaps you can take a different perspective. I visit mine often, but major on group classes in yoga and Pilates. Both are excellent at regulating emotions and improving mental well-being, and not at all masochistic. Also a good social experience. For balance I do attend a couple of higher-impact group classes too, and try to swim a non-competitive mile at least once a week, but it is the yoga and Pilates that are doing the donkey-work here in terms of keeping me on a fully even keel. If you have ever tried meditation you will instantly see the parallels in yoga and Pilates (and if you have never tried meditation then I would recommend giving that a shot too).

    I have a mobile phone, but it has no SIM card in it. Instead it is a portable e-book reader, camera, general purpose learning device — for example, it currently contains apps to help me learn to read music, something I’ve never found time or energy to fully tackle until ending work — and so on. Having no effective mobile phone is something I like. Once out of the house I cannot be reached (or tracked!). But I can dip into a book (19th century literature, not fluff) or brush up my recognition of musical notes on a stave, whenever useful.

    I have found the constraints of modifying my photography to work within the limitations of the crappy phone camera that I generally carry around, rather than be frustrated that I don’t have a good camera with me, to be oddly satisfying. I am now forced to be more creative — I have to seek out better angles and think more about compositions precisely because I cannot rely on camera zoom, spot metering, narrow focus and so on to do it for me.

    So for me, early retirement is so far an entirely positive experience, much in the same vein as the one you describe. I don’t feel the slightest pull back to paid employment, and am fully occupied in finally learning things that interest me rather than things that benefit my employer, getting out into the outdoors, and trying to build up my ‘creative’ side as antidote to an overused ‘technical’ part of my personality.

    That’s a pretty cool mobile phone you have! I got an ipod 4 when I was doing some mobile dev work for similar reasons, no phone. I didn’t realise they end-of-lifed such things after a year with new releases of iOS. I’m still using mine 😉 It takes much less bad pictures than the phone. Hats off to you for learning to run with it.

    Know what you mean about the zoom – I started taking better pictures when I switched to a ~45mm equivalent prime lens. But I love the narrow DOF and low-light performance. It was when taking a picture of a couple on their 30 something anniversary in the pub and elegant sparkles on the lady turned into random noise that my phone photography career came to an end.

    Re gyms, I’m just a lot more lazy then you, I hated sports ever since school, and the smell of a gym still reminds me of PE. I’ll die sooner probably, but then I get back all the time not in the gym. And the thought of exercising with other people, eek… But retirement is great for organically getting a base amount of exercise through walking, biking, and I’ll hillwalk miles if there’s an interesting prehistoric stone at the end of it.

    And ever since I saw the Mike Evans 30 mins video I thought I can do that, and it’s easy as a retiree. At work, not so much…

    Interesting thoughts you have on creativity. Someone else mentioned the idea to me, roughly on the same lines of Sing Lee and Zuckerberg in that engineers and scientists tend to do their best work by the time they are 35, whereas artistic expression often continues to deepen and grow with age. Maybe I need to go take more pictures and record more wildlife and fiddle with technology less.

    On yoga, don’t get me wrong, I’m no sports jock and never was. Hated school sports, picked pretty well last for every team (except swimming), and as a consequence touched no sport activity at all from age 17 to age 52. And I only started yoga at 52 because I was looking for an ‘easy’ and non-competitive option among stuff being offered at work.

    But yoga is different. It looks physical but it is mostly mental, a ‘moving meditation’, and its mental benefits seep into everything else you do. Subtle and slow, but perceptible over time. Improved focus, attention, concentration and awareness mean that in every other activity I do now — walking, eating, even the mundane like washing up — I can be much more ‘in the moment’ and present, and so much less stressed by worrying about the future or ruminating on the past. The result is that I have more ‘life’ even though I use up a bit to do yoga, because yoga and meditation mean I can get a huge amount more out of the remainder. The increased strength and flexibility, and better posture and physical alignment, are really just happy by-products. Yoga is not easy to do but it is easy to begin, it is tremendously rewarding, and the gain-to-pain ratio is so much higher than anything else I’ve tried.

    Regarding exercising with others… in yoga and Pilates everyone will be so focussed inwards on their own activity that they won’t be paying any attention at all to you. Lighting is always well dimmed to avoid outward distractions anyway. Classes are mixed ability so that anything you don’t want to or can’t do you simply don’t — there will often be others for whom some action or another is currently infeasible, and a good instructor will always give alternatives. Everyone is a beginner at some point, since nobody is born knowing this stuff.

    And how can you dislike any class that ends with a five to fifteen minute pretty-well-mandatory lie-down and relaxation?!

    As for creativity, I’m working on it, albeit slowly. Can’t draw, so I’m learning that. Can’t play or read music, so I’m learning that. Following MOOCs on both, plus languages and psychology and philosophy. And Buddhism! I have completely disconnected from everything technical beyond fixing up my bikes, and am deliberately shifting from left-brain to right-brain (albeit perhaps somewhat against type). Life is richer now than it was, and so far I miss nothing from my former existence.

    I suppose I am a little different in that I’ve never wanted to switch away from left to right brain. I am hopeless at art and music creation, but I’ve been a geek ever since I first learned about algebra, physics and chemistry.
    I enjoy creative writing (on a blog in short doses) and photography (although I’d never use a smartphone or tablet to do it.) I’ve put away my film gear but I have a bunch of digicams.
    My inner geek gets satisfied by helping all the seniors in my neighborhood with their wifi networking, software and hardware problems. I know Linux pretty well by now but it’s hard to convince anyone else to use it, so I’m up to date with Windows 10. Apple I can support after a fashion but I don’t pretend to be a guru.
    I never got tired of being a scientist. As far as leaving my profession behind, I feel somewhat like 2nd officer Lightoller who testified at the Titanic inquest that he did not abandon the ship, the ship left him.
    It took a long time to burn out – maybe a career change back to the lab at age 40 helped me.
    And God forbid I ever had to do PERT or CPM or whatever they call that crap these days. All CPM meant was I got 2 weeks to develop the product from scratch while the packaging engineer got 12 weeks to do the graphics.

    Hmm, I fully understand the Titanic comment – I used to really enjoy my work as an IT contractor, but work and myself largely parted company around the dotcom crash in 2000 and the dreadful events the following year.

    I’d already started to feel the winds of change blowing before that, what with stuff being outsourced to cheaper places and the endlessly pointless meetings, etc. I had my fair share of workplace hassles (similar to those Ermine has comprehensively detailed many times before). As a contractor I could to some extent switch off and think “the contract runs a few more months and I can just get up and walk”. “We pass this way but once …” (“once, adv: enough” I think it says in the Devil’s Dictionary :-))

    I guess we all sometimes need an “event”, a change of some significance to force us to stop and look at where we’re going, and be honest about whether or not we’re happy with it.

    My girlfriend back then was a management accountant (permanent job, unlike me), and discovering (quite late on) that her view of life was get up, go to work, repeat until the nice people running the country tell us we can retire(*) and enjoy ourselves was an “event” for me (Reggie Perrin’s just popped into my head, “Time and motion, etc” :-)).

    (*) the other possibility of course is simply not making it that far and I’ve had my share of shockingly sudden news about friends I thought were the picture of health.

    I think the Mark Twain quote about “buy land …” could equally be “buy TIME …” instead !

    These days I like things that are fascinating (frequently natural), outdoors and cost (next to) nothing. I don’t know who first said “The best things in life are free” but they didn’t know the half of it. There’s still enough of ’em if you are of the right mindset.

    Ermine: I broadly agree with you on the TV – it has primarily become a means for drilling the desire for the latest consumer crap into people’s brains (Perrin’s back: “… this is the age of obsolescence, I just decided to build it a bit further in …” :-)).

    I don’t tend to watch anything live these days, tending to record some of the natural history stuff that occasionally appears on BBC Four and things of a similar “value” to me and watch them later. Like someone in a past article’s comments said I don’t SEE adverts these days, not in any meaningful, that-might-be-useful sense anyway. I’m actually happy to be of an age where I can’t understand what some of them are advertising in the first place !

    I’m also not one for faffing around with social media. On the odd occasion I want to check a company’s Facebook page for possibly useful information on them, other people’s views on their service, etc I hate the huge popup window inviting me to either register or log in – sorry, not interested, I just want to quickly check something out – that’s all ! Life, to me, simply isn’t long enough to sod about replying to hundreds of messages a day. I can’t say I enjoyed having to do that on a much smaller scale at work and I got paid for that – I’m certainly not PAYING to do it !

    I can’t remember which brand of scotch it was advertising but I liked the “glen of tranquility” one where about the only disturbance to the scene of total calm was the splash of a mobile phone being lobbed into the loch, hmm, that’s better !

    As Bill Bryson said, “… and I really mean this, have a nice day”.

    > her view of life was get up, go to work, repeat until the nice people running the country tell us we can retire

    Oh dear, that was me for most of my working life 😉 Still, rather late than never and all that. Kudos to you for picking up the straws in the wind in 2000. I can see them looking back but didn’t see it at the time.

    What an excellent handbook of practical and philosophical considerations to retirement. The items in your list, expanded education, reinforced social circles, deeper examination of life and life-supporting movement are all reasons I want to retire early. It is indeed a limiting belief that we all need to be busy to be happy. It seems quite insane, if you really think about it, especially when the work contributes very little to society. i.e. if you weren’t doing the work, there would be another to fill your shoes (whether they be highly technically competent or simply able to receive customers in a front office).

    You didn’t like working for The Man, and objected to the way that his notions infected and impaired your life, so you buggered off. Good for you.

    But you suffer from a strange intellectual limitation displayed by the remark “though the addled brains of my fellow countrymen destroying the currency”.

    Really, can’t you see that they were saying the same thing as you but at a greater level of abstraction and generalisation? They were saying “Bugger off, Brussels, and leave us alone.” Brussels = The Man. Why do you find that impossible to grasp and sympathise with?

    Why do you find that impossible to grasp and sympathise with?

    It’s easy enough to grasp. It’s being made poorer by it, and having to dive into the stock market in turmoil and throw low-risk cash assets to protect some of my money from the results of their precious sovereignty and rabble-rousing hatred of furreners that pisses me off.

    Some of those furreners were going to be staffing the NHS when I get old, some of them are helping elderly relatives with their care right now but won’t in three years time.

    But I’m not going to talk any more about bloody Brexit here. What will be will be, and I’ll ice any other comments on the subject in this thread. You’ve had your say and I’ve had mine.

    @dearieme
    “Really, can’t you see that they were saying the same thing as you but at a greater level of abstraction and generalisation? They were saying “Bugger off, Brussels, and leave us alone.” Brussels = The Man. Why do you find that impossible to grasp and sympathise with?”

    No, it’s not the same thing. In fact, it’s a very different thing. Early retirement the way I understand it implies being able to have a comfortable lifestyle after leaving work. That involves having a plan and spending years implementing it. This has not been the case with Brexit. Like a cloistered suburban middle class emo teenager Brexiters decided that Brussels was ruining their lives and ran away from home. Because the life in the slow, oppressive and overprotected EU was not worth living. Because the lovely pimps and druggies in the Big City are, like, real and, like, authentic and we’re, like, totally going to, like, make it here in the World Beyond The Wall. We don’t know what we’re going to make it as, but we’re going to hit it big, right?

    Britain hasn’t FI/RE’ed. Britain has left its job with its finances in a shoddy shape and no alternative employment lined up, and the global economy isn’t looking like it’s heading for a boom, now is it.

    I shouldn’t have really passed this one but heck, it squared with my prejudices and the emo teenager metaphor nearly cost me a keyboard. In the interest of Queensberry rules I’m ok with one return shot if it features wit or wisdom;)

    Wow. What a timely post.

    I came across this whilst I was eating my lunch and doing my usual roundup of my favourite PF/FI blogs when I latched on to one particular sentence:

    Quote:

    …endless hucksterism of selling your wares as a freelancer/contractor gives me even more the heebie-jeebies than the thought of going back to work for The Man

    Coincidentally, I’d just finished proof-reading a new post for my site about exactly how I go about supporting myself by *being* such a huckster (i.e. a freelancer who finds his own work). I’ve just posted it if you’re interested.

    I’ve been reading your stuff for years and I’ve got to say I’ve found it extremely inspiring. You have a gift for getting your feelings down ‘on paper’ and have helped to cement my views on simple living.

    I’m also a techie (firmware engineer) but, apart from the similar vocations and shared interest in personal finance/investing, it seems that we have fundamentally different views of the world. I made a conscious decision to abandon my original plan to slog it out for 10 years in order to be able to say FU forever when I realised that those skills in ‘hucksterism’ I’d inadvertently picked up over the years were actually useful to set me free enough to do all of the things I wanted to do immediately, rather than deferring gratification until much later.

    As things stand, I work enough that I still get that buzz from solving engineering problems that (it sounds like) you really loved in your career, but I’m also ~60% ‘early retired’ for want of a better description. Yes, complete FI ASAP would be better, but not enough to warrant the necessary changes.

    It’s interesting that when you look out at the world as it currently stands, the thing that strikes you is the outsourcing and commoditisation of the tech jobs that used to be guarantors of solid middle-class incomes for people like us.

    When I look at exactly the same world, I see a smorgasbord of opportunities for anybody with tech savvy, basic business acumen and people skills. Of course we’re looking through completely different lenses (and it sounds like you had a hellish last few years in your career!) I’d estimate that I’m 20 or so years younger than you too so that will obviously explain some difference in our perspectives. Perhaps it’s a personality thing (or maybe I’m just horrendously naive!)

    Anyway, keep up the good work! I absolutely love the blog and would be disappointed if you decided to abandon this particular retirement hobby. I honestly think that people like you and RIT keep me on the straight and narrow sometimes.

    Andy

    Thanks for an interesting angle. I confess that I read your article on how you get clients and it did give me the vapours – cold calling is something I never, ever, want to have to do. I don’t respond well to being cold-called either, though TPS and SIP phone service are my friend. That is a clear difference in temperament 😉 Some things are life-stage differences though:

    The ask of reaching FI/RE is much bigger for someone wanting to get there in their thirties. I only shortened my career by eight years. In that respect the RE option is easier for me.

    Conversely someone younger has more human capital than I, there’s more of a return in finding a more constructive accommodation with the world of work than nuking it. Let us assume you and I both found it equally easy/hard to make the changes to freelancing – there’s less win in it for me. Hence our perspectives will be different even if we had identical views, aptitudes and temperaments.

    Another life stage difference is that as we go through life we individuate and the value we place of some activities varies. When I was younger work mattered a lot more to me because it seemed more of an expression of who I was – or I projected some of my self-image onto the screen of work and status.

    But I take the point. My mental model of working was set a long time ago and became outdated; the map and the territory drifted out. There wasn’t enough worth salvaging to sync them again, particularly if it involves cold-calling and putting the act on, schmoozing and networking. I watch other people do it and I’m amazed, and without skin in the game I can hear the change in people’s tone of voice as they try and qualify if a ‘networking’ opportunity is of any value to them or they want to move on.

    That’s not how I want to spend my days, but each to their own. I still get some reward from solving engineering problems but I found decoupling the need for money means I can be more choosy about the ones I do. It’s still a pain in the ass recording any income it for HMRC, sometimes payment in gratitude and beer is so much more rewarding.

    You’re welcome.

    I agree with you about both points you made.

    1.There’s a big difference between building your FI stash almost from a standing start and hunkering down to push yourself over the finish line early when you’re not a million miles away. TBH one of the main reasons for me deciding against ultra-early FI was that I’d literally have to save my way there. Our current approach is to (hopefully!) enjoy some of the benefits of compounding over the next 25 years. Friends still think we’re crazy to be dropping a 4-figure sum into the investment portfolio every month though.

    2. I have spent a lot of effort building human capital. It so happens that my skills and temperament suit the way the world seems to be going and so consciously deciding to preserve the capital whilst also being able to get out of the grind seemed (for me) to have the best cost:benefit profile of all of the available options. I agree that if I was in the home stretch of my career, that profile would be massively different.

    I just popped back to see if you’d left a reply and noticed your new article about the youngish guy in The Telegraph. He and his wife are a perfect example of a couple who could find most of the benefits they think FI will give them almost immediately by taking a similar approach to ours. Fair enough, his job doesn’t look fantastic but with a bit of ingenuity, he and his wife could easily use their solid foundation to set themselves up in such a way that they spend most of their time with the kids while they’re little.

    Regarding payment in beer for services rendered, I think I probably owe you at least a pint for all of the articles I’ve read over the last few years. Let me know if you’re ever in south Devon and I’ll rectify the situation. I intend to repay my debt to the FI blogosphere as a whole by putting some effort into producing some decent PF-related posts now I have plenty of time to do so. Stay tuned!

    There’s also the wider aspect – despite my approach to work now, there is some dignity in having a working life at the sharp end, earning and indeed paying my fair share of tax. Nobody can turn round and say I was a dead loss to society. And I wouldn’t criticise someone who did have the cojones to hunker down and RE – nobody gets to FI without paying a hell of a lot in, unless they inherit it. So even I have some residues of this Calvinist work ethic, it is just historical in my case.

    But if you have the skills and the aptitude then why not share this with the world and render value to get a decent life balance? As you say, if you see opportunities then go get ’em 😉 Win win.

    It’s probably worth bearing in mind that the balance may change as you get older, so aim to have options around 55. perhaps even later these days – you will probably have a longer lifespan and healthspan than me purely as a result of modern improvements in heating, sanitation and healthcare, in the same way as I have an advantage in these terms compared with the generation before me. Perhaps pitching for work being optional 10-15 years before state retirement age is a good target. After all, it’s an option, you can always leave any excess to charity/your kids/building a massive mausoleum.

    People lump together FI and RE, but RE is but one thing you can do with FI. I was fortunate that I largely got away with such a of situational awareness for most of my career, that’s a much riskier option nowadays, and some of the service the PF blogosphere can do for people is to highlight the value of having options as you get older. We diverge more and more from each other as we get older, experience and life-history shapes us in different ways.

    It was easier to get away with the default option for my generation and the one before. But the opportunities are greater now as long as you have significantly above average talent. That talent doesn’t have to be intellectual or academic, but exceptionality in something is more and more necessary in a globalising environment that is automating and outsourcing the mundane and routine that used to employ a lot of the UK workforce.

    I picked up that Telegraph article because it did seem a classic case of a limiting belief. He focused so much on the RE dream (and many of their money makeover articles focus on RE) that he ended up asking the wrong question IMO. Chasing FI/RE won’t help him see more of his family when they need him.

    Beers in Devon – you could be on 😉 Lovely part of the country, and a fair scattering of prehistoric stones which is a passion of mine!

    London’s too good to leave to the young and I could buy a lot of amazing street food for £300 ..

    Great blog. I always enjoy reading it.

    Couldn’t agree more about the value of making deliberate effort to hear opinions from all sides of the spectrum, including those you disagree with. Online it’s even more true and easy to remedy by following a wide range of people on twitter .. (we’ll have to agree to disagree about smart phones but I’m not condoning not being able to put them down)

     

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