This is an apple pie. Doesn’t it look tasty?

Don't have sex with it, American Pie fans

Don’t have sex with it, American Pie fans

Excuse me for a second, I could sure go for a piece of pie. Hopefully a girl made some for me.

Rats, nothing. Oh well, I guess I’ll keep going with this post.

Okay, this is a brownie.

This is also a dessert you shouldn't try to penetrate.

This is also a dessert you shouldn’t try to penetrate.

That particular brownie is made with chunks of Oreos, which would automatically make all brownies better. If I was in charge of the world, I would make Oreo cookie chunks mandatory inside all brownies. Oh man, any world ruled by me would be awesome, at lest until the inevitable rebellion.

These two foods have many similarities. Both are considered desserts. They are both sweet. They’re both typically enjoyed after dinner, although eating either as a snack is also acceptable. Both are often enjoyed with ice cream. Sometimes, if it’s convenient, people eating both will drizzle caramel on them. Both are very common desserts served at American restaurants, but are also relatively easy for people who aren’t me to make at home. And so on.

There are many differences between the two desserts, but we only need to focus on one, the biggest difference of all. It’s simple. No matter how badly you want it to be so, a brownie is not apple pie. An apple pie is not a brownie. Are you guys still following me? If not, I’d suggest a special helmet and never leaving the house ever again. Partially for your safety, but mostly so I’m never forced to deal with you.

Okay, I just spent some 250 words explaining that a brownie is not an apple pie. What’s my point?

No matter how loudly you proclaim that an apple pie is in fact a brownie, that does not make it true. And yet, we have all these early retirement bloggers who insist that even though they work, still quite a bit, that they’re retired. (The worst of these offenders, by far, is the Retire By 40 guy, who doesn’t even make enough in passive income to cover his mortgage.) They’ve redefined the word, which apparently now means “I have so much money that I don’t need to work, but I still do.”

We all know this definition is bunk. Warren Buffett has all the money in the world, and nobody would call him retired. He’s still actively involved in running Berkshire Hathaway, and he’s now well into his 80s. Carl Ichan is almost as old, and he’s still making headlines as an activist investor. Hell, even Bill Gates is pretty clearly not retired, even though he’s spending all his money instead of making more.

Everybody who lusts to retire early always has the same goals. They want more time to spend with their kids, or to work on some project, or even tour around the world on a motorcycle. But one thing is for sure, they’re going to remain busy. And well they should, becoming a 40 year old who does nothing but golf and eat dinner early isn’t an ideal situation for any able-bodied person. An early retiree should remain busy. The world is full of opportunities, some of which aren’t so lucrative.

When I first started as a chip guy, I worked with the current driver of the route. The company knew he was retiring soon, and part of the reason I was hired was the succession plan. (The other is that the company decided his route was now too big for one person) He’s since retired, and I still try to spend time with him often.

He’s in his 60s, and even though he’s since acquired a part-time job, he doesn’t do that much. He sleeps in. He might cut the grass or do something else around the house, but that’s about it. He watches a lot of TV, reads a bit, and so on. The point is, he doesn’t do very much. And you know why? Because he’s retired, and old, and he doesn’t have a whole bunch of ambition anymore. Which is why he quit his job in the first place.

Let’s face it, arguing the definition of retirement over the internet is pretty stupid. And I heartily agree with their wealth building ways. So my beef with them isn’t so bad. But why do you think it’s referred to as “early retirement?” Could it be because of the emotions associated with the word? Or the scenarios that people imagine when they see the term?

As Seth Godin has taught us, every good brand invokes an emotional response from their customers. These early retirement guys are no different. They’ve hijacked the word, and then they’re trying to change the definition to better suit their message. The problem? No matter how many times you say it, an apple pie will never be a brownie. That doesn’t mean they’re both not delicious, or they’re not worth eating. They’re just different, that’s all. One is not better than the other. And no matter what you call it, accumulating wealth so you have options at an early age is a good thing.

Tell everyone, yo!