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!
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.
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.
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.
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.