There was an interesting post over at Canadian Dream: Free At 45 the other day, called Is Early Retirement Selfish? The conclusion he comes to, not surprisingly, is that it’s a noble thing to strive for and there’s nothing wrong with it. Was I the only one who wanted him to conclude it was? That would have been such a curveball!
If you can remember that far back, I wrote a post where I concluded that retiring early wasn’t that great. The premise of it, if you’re too lazy to click back, is that I encourage people to make smart financial decisions to reach their goals. I just don’t think that retiring early is that exciting. If you retire at 45, you could very easily have 45 more years of living left. I don’t know about you, but I’d be chomping at the bit about 3 months into early retirement.
Is it selfish? Financial Samurai seems to think so. His argument is that, if somebody spends all their time and energy on something selfish like retiring early, that’s time they could be spending helping others or doing good in the world. Astute readers should already see the flaw in that argument- which is, if one has a large glut of free time because of retiring early, then they would have plenty of time to do all sorts of good things.
Ultimately, trying to become successful is selfish. It’s just like going to the golf course is selfish, buying a big tv is selfish and doing anything else strictly for the enjoyment of it is selfish as well. We’re dirty selfish creatures, that’s why capitalism works so well for us. For the most part, we’ll continue to make the choice that benefits us the most. It’s perhaps a sad way to look at humanity, but it’s true.
Early retirement is hardly worse than any other goals you might have. Want to travel? Selfish. Want to have kids? Selfish. I don’t understand what’s so bad about making decisions that benefit yourself? I simply don’t get it.
I’m more of a fan of taking mini retirements, a concept I read about in The Four Hour Workweek. If you do something for a while and get tired of it, take 6 months off before you move onto a new job or project. Having passive or sideline income obviously makes this much easier. That way you can enjoy the time off before finding something else that interests you.
One closing thought: I think the people who can figure out at an early age what they’re going to do as a career for the rest of their lives are both lucky and unlucky. They’re lucky because what they ought to do has never been in doubt and that makes a whole score of things easier for the rest of their lives. On the other hand, I’m in my mid 20s and have worked for a variety of companies in a variety of positions, including running my own business, and learned something important each time. That experience is a fantastic one that I think everyone should have.