Remember this post where I announced my retirement from my career? Well, I’m about to commit some “light ERE treason” and “retire” from my retirement. In particular, I’m going back to work, in particular employment. I got a job offer I can’t, that is, won’t refuse.
I kinda let the secret out at the Chicago meetup last Sunday and everybody there understood and accepted it gracefully. (At the time I hadn’t gone for the interview yet, so I wouldn’t give away more details than the fact that I was in town for a job interview.)
Some have told me that they couldn’t imagine a retirement without traveling. I get that. I also get that not everybody likes to travel, particularly not me. The point of retirement is not that everybody does a particular thing. It’s that YOU do what YOU want and I do what I want.
So let’s generalize this and say that retirement without doing what excites you is not a good retirement. What we actually need to understand here is the different perceptions of retirement: To some retirement means sitting in Florida and staring at a wall, to others it’s hang gliding in Tahiti, and to some it simply means not having to work. I’ve discussed how different generations perceive the “retirement”-concept in my podcast interviews.
Hence, what the site is really about is not “retirement” but financial independence. Thanks for understanding that. People at the Chicago meetup got it right away and I’m sure long term readers see it too.
Financial independence allows you to do what you want whether that’s travel, raising children, saving the world, or playing golf. That’s what’s important.
What I like to do is solving impossible problems. Or just “hard problems”—problems that people don’t want to wrestle with. I did this in physics and learned a lot. I realized that I wouldn’t learn very much from solving a similar problem in physics and that’s why I quit physics. The challenge would not have been the same. Fortunately, I realized this quickly and I had the money to quit or “retire from my career“.
ERE is another one such “hard” problem solved (it’s only hard, because it’s somewhat out-of-the-box and thus more a question of shifting your perspective than it being any kind of technical challenge). I’ve written enough material here on the blog and in the book to show you how it’s done. I have the same problem with ERE. The challenge is gone for me. Many others are currently on the road towards financial independence and this is exciting for them but for me it’s just vicarious living. Becoming financially independent, the subject of this blog, is a period of transition and obviously one can only transition once. This is why fresh blood is needed.
I’ve been in a blog funk for quite a while, but I’ve held on because for the longest time I felt I was the only one (sorry if I offend anyone) with a persistent voice and enough presence for people who had similar aspirations towards financial freedom as I had. I was paying forward to others what I found lacking in my early 20s—someone that gave an alternative to the standard path of student loans, college degree, career, and waiting 40 years to have fun. Still, I had run out of material and put the blog on autopilot, mostly reposting old posts. To my surprise, readership didn’t drop off. Apparently the blog was still relevant. So I stayed on even though I didn’t enjoy running ERE as much as I used to. Curses.
However, if I may be so bold. I think we’ve found a successor: Mr. Money Mustache, who for many is “more like my situation and not as extreme as Jacob”. So if there is a “torch” of extreme early retirement, it’s yours MMM. My personal endorsement. However, this does not mean that there are no other good blogs for extreme early retirement, see e.g. Brave New Life, my blog roll in the side bar and several others. What I’m saying is that if you like ERE and you don’t already know MMM, that’s where I recommend going. The only potential problem [for some] is that MMM had a rather high income (dual income programmers) and thus were able to save more in the same timespan without spending as little as is discussed on ERE. If you earn less you may have to modify your approach to lean more towards ERE tactics than MMM and vice versa. The principles, however, remain the same in that it’s ALL about the savings rate. A higher income simply lets to spend more with the same savings rate => same number of working years.
Here’s the deal. Going forwards, I don’t intend to support ERE nearly as much as I’ve done so far. I need to move on! While administrating ERE doesn’t take much time, it does take a lot of mental energy. It’s a constant energy suck which always sits in the back of my head taking up space. What’s worse is that while I like solving hard problems, thanks to the Peter Principle ERE problems have turned into tech-support and public relations management. To put it bluntly, I hate being a public figure and having words put in my mouth and people making up presumptions on various news sites (like a mild form of libel, see the comments on this yahoo article for a prime example of how far humanity has come). This happens about once a week by now—it’s not easy to ignore. Walk a mile in someones shoes. (Based on my limited but finite experience I’m now of the opinion that “celebrity news” ranks very high on the list of evil things in the world.)
Maybe about a year ago, ERE was still known only to a few [thousand] “insiders” who knew it well and it was great. Lately it has become widely known (I suppose partially this has been my own fault for wanting to get the message out) and thus I have become sort of a public figure [at least on the internets 😛 ].
Well, I’ve found that I really don’t like being a public figure. I want my ideas to be famous and get attention but I don’t like my person to get attention. Unfortunately, the way modern media is, it’s all about the person because this “TL;DR“-world doesn’t allow for any complex ideas (Read Four arguments for the elimination of TV by Jerry Mander (totally worth reading, especially the last chapters that show how the form of the media determines the form of the message) — I’d similarly make four arguments for the elimination of certain internet sites.). The tech-support issue has to do with my getting so many personal requests to comment on this problem or that problem that I simply don’t have the energy to give people the attention they deserve.
Anyway, I don’t want to turn this into a whine-fest, because this transition is more about what I’m heading into than what I’m leaving. All I’m saying is that my reasons for putting ERE behind me are complex, it’s a discontent that’s been building for a while, and it’s better to get out sooner than later. So no talking me out of it. I just realized that I personally need to make a hard cut instead of just fading lest I still spend time thinking about ERE.
Not to worry, the site and the forum will still exist, comments and forum memberships will still be approved, I just won’t be responding to emails (unless someone is on fire) and other stuff very much if at all. I need to focus my attention elsewhere.
This does not mean you can’t get your questions answered. It just means you have to ask on the forums.
One additional issue, which is kinda how my brain works, is that I do need such a point of attention as well and for some time it’s been lacking. I had a similar problem while I worked in my previous career. I prefer to swing from vine to vine instead of having to get off and climb another tree to get going again. I’ve been looking for a tough problem to solve for about a year (since the book came out) and I hadn’t really found one. For a time we thought about translating ERE into physical reality by building an entire city. I’m not sure I’m enough of a people-person to run this although I’d love to live there. Another thing I’ve thought about is creating a self-sufficient homestead, Borsodi-style. However, I also acknowledge that I’m far more interested in building such a place and learning the skills needed to do so than actually living there. Once I had demonstrated the “proof of concept” I know enough about myself (at the ripe age of 36) to realize that it would instantly become far less interesting to me.
So what am I going to do now? Well, yesterday I got a job offer as a quant trader/researcher. I took it! I think this fulfills all my criteria. It’s a hard problem, it requires no marketing, no politics, no self-promotion, and no management. As far as I can tell, I’m safe from the Peter principle and can focus on research and development without worrying about suddenly finding myself having to sell or manage my stuff. I know that quant trading has a bad reputation in some circles. I’ll say two things: 1) If you believe this, I don’t want to hear about it, please. 2) The rabbit hole in the financial world goes far deeper than the simplified stories the media present. The media tends to paint all things black and white on the personal level. Hmm.. that reminds me of something else.
I’ve defined “retirement” as the ability to do whatever you want whenever you want within reason. Obviously accepting employment means that I’m now restricted partially on “whenever”(*), but I got reasonable assurances that “whatever” is fine as long as it makes money. I’m willing to accept these terms. (I have checked into investing my own portfolio in a more quantitative sense as less in a big picture sense, so if you want some pointers on how to do that and have the practically required hard science or finance background, let me know and I’ll tell you.) I’ve decided to join a group though.
(*) Under my own definition I’m no longer retired.
I guess it’s like the difference between getting a job offer to work on a Volvo Ocean Race crew (which is technically a job) and buying your own boat and racing it in the local beer cans. While the former is technically a job with some limitations, it’s 10x more exciting.
So sure, maybe all I need is a job I “love with a passion”. However, this does not render ERE invalid. It especially DOES NOT mean that everybody just find a “job they love”. Those jobs are RARE. I’ve been looking for this one on and off for five years. Now I like to solve big problems. Sometimes big problems pay well. Sometimes they don’t, e.g. the ERE book makes money (about $1500/month), but the blog makes practically nothing compared to how much work went into it. However, if you like to travel, you certainly do not have to find a job you love with a passion. This is why we pursue financial independence.
One size doesn’t fit all. This blog but especially the framework described in the book is general enough to fit everybody because the goal for everybody is “to do what you want whenever you want within reason” but more importantly to pick any kind of restrictions voluntarily and deliberately and not because you have to or because you don’t know any better. That is still true.
PS: If you belong to the special breed of anonymous asshats who like to leave nasty comments, don’t even bother. They’ll be deleted. Just go away and don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.