Essential Skills For Early Retirement: A Thick Skin

In this multi-part series we’re looking at Essential Skills for Early Retirement.  The focus of this series is what happens after Financial Independence, and what are the skills are needed for a successful early retirement!

In part 1 of this series we looked at the essential early retirement skill, called Napping.  After writing that post, I took a nap and it was extra awesome!

This time around, I’m going to discuss the not-so-pretty side of retirement, and why every early retiree needs to develop a thick skin.  The thicker the better.

Yes, if you retire-early it won’t always be pleasant.  You’ll need a thick skin to protect you from a world that might disagree with how you live that new life.


Master Your Story

Yes, after you retire early, the pitchforks and torches do come out…  the villagers suddenly get angry about what Dr. Frankenstein has been cooking-up in his laboratory.

Whether it’s jealousy or fear, be ready for it.  The criticism will come.  Friends, family, old-coworkers, neighbors, even your dog (or cat) might question your life-choices.  Be ready to handle that lynch mob when it marches toward your door.

lynch mob
After you declare “It’s alive!”, be ready to take on the lynch mob. I suggest a thick skin, and a arsenal of awesomeness.

That said, you are the master of your own story.  What you tell people about your life, and how they perceive it are two entirely different things — but you can absolutely tailor the message you put forth into the world.

For example:  You could either be entirely open and say “Yep, I’m not working anymore, I’ve decided to retire early” OR you could say “I’m taking an extended sabbatical from work.  I want to explore some new options for my career.”

Both statements could be entirely true, but both tell an entirely different story about your life.

What story you tell will dramatically change how people perceive you.  Take some time to think about the story you’ll tell.

Pick the right story, and it could shield you from a lot of negative comments.  Pick the wrong story, and you could attract a lot of negative attention.


My Stay-At-Home Dad Story

My preferred story to tell everyone is the ‘stay-at-home Dad’ story.  I tell this story because it’s easy, and most people don’t ask questions.  

Other than this website, I keep our financial details private from friends, family, and neighbors.  If a neighbor asks why I’m not working, I simply tell them “Oh, I got laid-off and decided to be a stay at home Dad for awhile.”  

Which is entirely true!  What I don’t openly tell people is that we have millions of dollars in investments, and it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever work at a traditional job again.

But even that story doesn’t exclude me from all criticism.  In fact, I’ve found that many people think it’s wrong for a man to stay home with the kids.  

They won’t openly say it, but the frowns and questions like, “Your still not working?  How long are you going to stay home with the kids?” definitely imply they believe the man of the house is supposed to be working.

That said, I like to tell the “stay-at-home”Dad story.  It’s probably 10 times easier than telling the world I’m worth millions and rich enough to never work again.


Expect Criticism If You Share

In the online world though, I’m Mr. Tako.  I tell a completely different story here — a multimillionaire early-retiree who makes tons of money from dividends, and will probably never go back to traditional work.  The same guy who can build pretty much anything, and cook like a master chef.  

That’s the story I tell on this blog, and it’s also just as true as my “stay-at-home” Dad story.  Two sides of the same coin.

That online persona also allows me to see what happens when you share your finances with the world — the criticism really comes flying.

If you decide to tell a story like this, expect to catch a ton of crap.  Make sure to bring something to carry it all.

basket for crap
This is the basket I catch all the crap with. Isn’t it pretty? It goes right in the bit-dumpster when they’re done.

Think I’m kidding?  Here’s some of my personal favorite criticisms that have been flung my way in the last year:

“I could never deprive myself like that.  It must be tough to live a life without fun anymore.”

“I would never choose to quit working, I still have something I can contribute to the world.”

“You’ll be back to work as soon as the stock market crashes.”

“Couldn’t hack-it in the real world, huh?”

“Since you have so much money, why don’t you buy lunch?”

“Why would you ruin your career like that?”

“Only worthless lazy bums don’t work.”

Ask yourself — how comfortable would you be with friends and neighbors saying shit like this to you?  

This is what I mean about developing a thick skin.  If you’re open with people about your finances, it’s very possibly they will say nasty things.  Be ready to deal with it.


The Bad Parent Factor

If you have kids you’ll also get some extra-special criticism from the skeptics/haters too — directed at your ability to be a good parent.

“You’re setting a bad example for your kids by not working”

“You’re hurting your kids by depriving them of opportunities.”

Hearing this kind of criticism is concerning for any parent, because all parents want to do right by their children.  The tricky part here is that everyone parents differently, and there’s no hard or fast rules about how to “parent correctly”.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is being a judgy asshole.

Snow days
Obviously I’m a bad parent — Instead of working all day I spend time with my kids. We do fun stuff together like play in the snow. Horrible isn’t it?

I happen to reject this kind of criticism as completely baseless.  I think I’m setting an excellent example for my kids —  I worked hard to escape the rate race, so I could spend more time with my family.

Work was simply a means to an end.  I didn’t want to be stuck in an office 9 hours a day, commuting another hour, and then working weekends because my boss required it.

That was my work reality, and I never got to see my kids.  On a scale of 1 to 10 suckiness, it was a 9.

Now, I spend a lot of time with my kids, and I never have to work weekends.  Now I have the time to give them real opportunities.


Dealing With It

Criticism and social pressure isn’t fun.  The world wants you to conform to the standard way of doing things…but you wouldn’t be taking this path if you didn’t see the incredible benefits of early retirement.

Don’t let some silly comments bring you down!  Be proud of what you’ve accomplished!

Haters are always going to hate.  Friends and neighbors will get jealous.  Family might get judgy.  People are going to fear what’s different.  None of that is going to change when it’s your turn to FIRE.

With any luck, you’ll be the sort of person that can let it slide right off your back.  If not, tailor your story to a level of criticism you’re comfortable with. 

You don’t have to take on the whole world until your thick skin is ready.


[Image Credit: Lynch MobFlickr]

37 thoughts on “Essential Skills For Early Retirement: A Thick Skin

  • March 29, 2017 at 5:14 AM

    It sickens me that people judge you for being a stay-at-home parent. What is this, the 50s? Good lord, people. I guess it’s so easy to judge other people and dish out criticism. I predict that many of the haters will work until they’re 75 years old and get to barely enjoy retirement before it’s too late. That’s sad to me.

    Anyway, sorry you’re bombarded with all of that crap. People are so judgmental.

    • March 29, 2017 at 7:34 AM

      Thanks Mrs. PP! I’d be surprised if they even get to 75. That much hate *has* to shorten a person’s lifespan!

  • March 29, 2017 at 5:27 AM

    I’ll definitely have to give some thought to my story, I don’t want to deal with the judgy-ness and prejudice. I’m the type of person that doesn’t care what others think and can let most stuff just slide, but close friends and family matter the most to me. And maybe that means having a close and tight circle that understand us. Easier said than done, I’m sure!
    The Green Swan recently posted…Our Retirement Lifestyle

  • March 29, 2017 at 5:46 AM

    The actual hard choice came long ago. A job that “rated 9 in suckiness” versus a job you enjoyed but would not allow you to set aside enough earnings to FIRE. You already PAID the price. Imagine having the job that sucked with no end in sight? Those employees may as well be sheep waiting for slaughter.

    Yes, a job should be a means to an end for more people.

  • March 29, 2017 at 6:24 AM

    Unhappy people judge. Happy people are just happy.

    Usually those comments come from people who are trying to justify something they aren’t happy with in their own lives. It’s much easier to take you down than make a change.

    Now that I’ve been retired for 2 years, the comments don’t bother me at all. I find the best way to defeat the criticism is just to be obnoxiously happy :P. Because you KNOW that whatever the haters say are wrong. If they’re were right how come you’re so happy and they’re not? The only way the comments could get to you is if you actually BELIEVE them to be true. But since you know they’re not true, you just ignore and move on.

    I’m actually pretty happy that there are haters. They can stay ignorant, continue working and spending, so we can stay retired. Seems like a pretty sweet deal to me!

    • March 29, 2017 at 7:35 AM

      Love your perspective on this FIRECracker! It *is* a pretty sweet deal!

  • March 29, 2017 at 6:45 AM

    Sorry to hear that you receive this abuse, and your attitude is very good to this.

    It reminds me of a story of the Buddha where a person in the town is heaping abuse on him and calling him a fraud and deceiver, etc. The Buddha turns to him and says, “Excuse me but if a person tries to give a gift to the receiver but the latter doesn’t accept it, who does the gift finally belong to?” Another expression is “How people treat you is their karma. How you accept it is yours.” I guess early retirement really helps you to put these principles into practice.

    I’m looking forward to that day myself. I’m the only breadwinner supporting a total of five people (including me) so it will take me a wee bit longer.


    • March 29, 2017 at 10:41 PM

      A five person family huh? Well, keep up the good fight! It’s definitely not impossible!

  • March 29, 2017 at 7:25 AM

    We’re not quite there yet. But just talking about the idea has brought some interesting comments.

    But, I tell you what. This is one of those problems I would gladly accept to see how it goes.

    Keep on keeping on! We’re all here to vent to and keep being there for your kids and enjoying your days!

  • March 29, 2017 at 8:24 AM

    Not caring what random strangers think about you is a highly underrated skill. I agree that less details are far better than more in most cases – give them an easy-to-understand (albeit incomplete) narrative and embrace their pity, contempt, or both!
    Paul recently posted…Do You Feel Lucky?

  • March 29, 2017 at 8:29 AM

    A thick skin really helps in all areas of life. People like to criticize especially on things that they are often guilty of themselves.

    If being a stay-at-home dad works for your family, then so be it. That is the decision your family made.

    If spending the day with the kids is better for you then being at work, will so be it.

    Great job. Keep up the series.

    cd :O)

  • March 29, 2017 at 8:37 AM

    I’m a new reader to your blog! Great post!

    All I can say is haters gonna hate. I am inspired by (and slightly jealous) of that the fact that you get to spend so much time with your kids. Time is something we continuously get less and less of as we grow. And I disagree with whomever told you your kids will miss out on opportunities. Quite the opposite. The time you are spending with them and the memories you are making are some of the best opportunities life has to offer, and ones that will shape their lives and that they will remember as long as they live. So, hats off to you, and I hope I can get where you are soon as well!

    • March 29, 2017 at 10:39 PM

      Thanks Chad, and welcome to the blog! It’s really great to hear positive stuff about being a SAHD,

  • March 29, 2017 at 9:10 AM

    Based on what I have read, there are four common problems that retirees (early & typical age) face:

    1) Lack of money; i.e. they didn’t save enough; sometimes exacerbated by forced retirement
    2) Lack of plans; they don’t have solid or realistic plan about how they will spend their time in retirement
    3) Societal pressure which you describe; there is an expectation that a healthy man under the age of 60 should be working and contributing to the economy, society, his family’s net worth, etc. My parents grew up during the Great Depression and they would be incredulous that anyone would voluntarily retire at such a young age or in your case, not do everything within their power to re-enter the workforce.
    4) Internal pressure – the flip-side of #3; you apply the pressure to yourself. You get laid off, you have enough money that you don’t have to work again but you feel like a bum for not working so you go back to work. A variation is many people’s identity is closely tied to their occupation or the workplace camaraderie and they cannot let go of it. Police, firefighters, military, etc. frequently feel this way but it can apply to any profession. Some people miss the sense of purpose, some miss the expense account, etc.

    Living a FIRE lifestyle requires a thick skin so early retirement shouldn’t be that much worse.

    • March 29, 2017 at 10:38 PM

      What I’m mainly talking in this post is #3….societal pressure. All the little comments and pressure from ‘society’ can build up!

  • March 29, 2017 at 12:09 PM

    I think Stay at Home Dad/Mom is the most noble thing a parent can do, as long as they can provide properly for their family, such as you are.

    I can’t get myself to say the word retire to anyone in real life, even if I was 60 years old. It just soooo does not fit my personality. I also don’t really like financially independent, because I know people with way more money than me, who think they need to stay in the workforce.

    So, I like to say ‘real estate investor’ and ‘freelancing’. It keeps people quiet and then I get to dabble in whatever I want to do. 🙂
    Primal Prosperity recently posted…You lucky bastard – you’re alive!

    • March 29, 2017 at 10:35 PM

      Completely agree, for most people ‘retired’ is a loaded word.

  • March 29, 2017 at 1:24 PM

    I love that you get to be with your kids so much. It is so beneficial in terms of their development having parents present in their lives. Kudos from the Waffle household! Keep doing what you are doing!!

    • March 29, 2017 at 10:34 PM

      Thanks Mrs. Wow! It’s great to actually here someone say something positive about stay-at-home dads!

  • March 29, 2017 at 5:16 PM

    I’ll accept people being judgemental, because I’m pretty judgemental of their life choices myself (even though I don’t criticize them publicly, I tend to do it on my blog). I’m more annoyed than anything, at the fact that some of them don’t see the light. When a friend of mine who makes more than I do, has zero kids, is very well educated, and hates his job, tells me he’s going to keep doing it for now because he’ll need $5M in retirement, it gets me fairly angry. Other folks, I get their constraints, but some of my friends are just making me angry for not seeing the “light” 🙂

  • March 29, 2017 at 5:22 PM

    I think the mere act of getting to early retirement is going to build a pretty thick skin. Even just telling someone you don’t want a coffee from down the road because you’re saving is contentious.
    LadyFIRE recently posted…Eggscellent pets: Frugal and flavourful!

  • March 29, 2017 at 9:38 PM

    I had some comments when I first retired, but this hasn’t come up lately. I think I mention being retired a lot less now. I just tell people that I’m a blogger. It’s much easier and they don’t ask a lot of questions. If they’re really interested, they can read my blog. 🙂
    Good job developing a thick skin.

    • March 30, 2017 at 12:08 AM

      I think that that’s the way to go about it if you have societal pressure. Just tell them you’re self-employed – if they ask more questions talk about building potential websites, or doing a bit of buying-selling / ecommerce on the internet. Most people will just move on after that.

      Interestingly, this seems to be more a problem at the middle-class friends level. The wealthier friends/family understand FIRE much better. They understand that you’re busy with those things that provide interest or passion not a salary, so at the moment its the kids, but you might dabble a bit in a few other things. They’d understand not working for a living, since that’s what your companies / shares do. You’re a shareholder, not an employee. It’s the day to day employees that live month to month that don’t understand, and for them I do the self-employed story.

  • March 30, 2017 at 5:39 AM

    “You’re setting a bad example for your kids by not working” – yeah, I got that one from my sister in law as well. We’re not retired yet, but we’ve been working towards it for the last 5 years. Family and close friends all know about it and they have been quite supportive, even if they did not understand it at first.
    The response to the “bad example for your kids” is quite easy in my opinion. First, I’d rather it was me providing an example for my kids and not the nanny. And second, I think I will provide an excellent example by living off my investments, sort of like the richest 0.01%. I will teach my kids to make money work for them, rather than them working for the money.

  • March 30, 2017 at 5:53 AM

    I actually think that taking care of your children is better for their development, than outsourcing to someone else. I agree with Mrs.Wow’s comment above.

    I think that our culture is a little sexist. If Mrs Tako was a stay at home mom, it would have been seen as “natural”. But if the dad was a SAHD, it somehow irks people.

    I agree that having a thick skin is important. For whatever reason, people do not like when the status quo in their heads is being challenged. By striking back, these people want to defend their pre-existing beliefs. This is not a rational way to behave in life in my opinion.

  • March 30, 2017 at 10:52 AM

    People seem to get really nervous about anything that makes them question their own choices and life. I, for one, am glad you’ve decided to stay at home and work on your inspiring blog and sushi recipes! 🙂

  • March 31, 2017 at 10:32 AM

    A third narrative you could take would be to say you are now a professional investor. Which in a lot of ways is true for you. If they question you more and find out you are worth millions and no longer have to work that will force them to flip from shitty humans to being in awe of your accomplishments.

  • March 31, 2017 at 7:23 PM

    I was thinking about writing on the same topic myself. Being a new early retiree (it has been only about 8 months), I’m still in a process of growing my thick skin. Though, my situation is a bit worse than yours since I don’t have any kids, I can’t use stay-at-home dad story. Instead, I use a house husband story which is true as I’m a house husband and do some chores including cooking etc during the day.

    What bothers me is most people think that living in debt is the normal/standard of living in the US. You must take a loan or charge it to credit to buy that expensive car or that big house or that expensive vacation. If you are frugal, you must be deprived of all the good things in life. It just goes on.

    What an upside down world do we live in? It will take another financial crisis for people to learn a lesson and then few years later they will forget all about it and the cycle will keep repeating.

  • April 21, 2017 at 7:48 PM

    I truly hope that more and more dads are able to be primary parents without random judgment soon. Folks need to mind their business – especially about the example you are setting your sons. They are loved, fed, and protected. They are lucky.

  • June 17, 2018 at 6:13 PM

    My husband and I accidentally retired early. He in 05 when he “retired” on disability and I in ‘15 when I was diagnosed with advanced cancer. With DH, this has never brought any negative comments because he uses a wheelchair, but, my God, the things people say to me!!! Every once in a while I will check their thinking with the C word, but why should I have to?!

    We adjusted our lifestyle and I am so happy to be retired. I write, paint, help people, DH plays with toy trains that he funds with eBay sales.

    I never thought it would be necessary to have a thick skin because I don’t have a job. Glad for the encouragement.

    As a stay at home Mom who homeschooled my children, I can promise you that you will never regret spending time with your children!

    Thank you for your encouraging blog!


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