On the 37Signals blog, David Heinemeier Hansson posts about why he thinks the desire to retire young is misplaced. If that’s the case, then I have the same misplaced desire. When I was laid off from my job in 2001 I made a deal with myself that I would be retired no later than 20 years from that point, which would put me at age 53. (Admittedly, that’s not really retiring young. If I could feasibly retire at 45, I’d do it then.) My main reasoning is that when I get into my 50s, I don’t want to be in the position of having to find new jobs in a panic if I get laid off or decide I can’t bear the one I’m at. I’ve long thought and still think this is quite a sensible goal.
I run into reactions like DHH’s with people when I mention this desire. I think it comes from the over-interpretation of the word “retirement.” I’d like to be retired at age 50 or sooner but that doesn’t mean my desire is that all activity ceases. When my bills are paid regardless what I do, that frees me up to do things I want to do that may not be marketable enough to pay for themselves. This could include more podcasting, blogging, open source development or any number of things that seem fun but have to fight for resources with the rest of the activities of life. Regardless, suppose my idea of retirement is sitting on the couch watching QVC everyday. What’s it to you?
There is some sort of Puritan work ethic implicit in the retirement pushback. DHH has to stuff the strawman with statements like “work isn’t evil” and the like. There seems to be a romanticization of the act of spending your days doing things for some external organization that pays you. I like what I do, I like the job I have but I’d rather not be doing it 20 years from now. It has more to do with freedom and directing my own time, not that I think “work is evil.” I don’t think getting paid by someone else automatically makes your actions more morally correct than living off your savings. Simmer down, you retirement haters.
You can keep showing up at the office until you get too old to make it in but that’s not the kind of choice I’m making for myself. I think it’s a perfectly fine choice and that I don’t owe anyone my time indefinitely nor any apology for my outlook. There are plenty of ways to approach a life and I’m going to do this one my way, thanks.