In a lot of ways I think that I’m so much better off for being so active in my own finances and early retirement planning. All around me I see people who have not taken control of their financial future – and it devastates them.
They are stuck working at jobs they hate until well into their golden years. They have to miss family engagements. They are under the servitude of others until their health no longer allows them or qualifies them to be.
It’s a sad way to go out, and it’s not something that I will ever allow for myself or my family.
But despite my best intentions to achieve what others feel is unachievable,
Is there a dark side to my obsession with planning for an early retirement?
I ask this question with the sincerest of curiosity because at times I feel like I’m creating a monster. Just like in the story of Doctor Frankenstein, he became so obsessed with the goal to create life that he failed to see through the eyes of others that he had created horrific creature. Sometimes I wonder if I’m beginning to fail to see what my own ambitions are doing to me.
Could the very thing I believe will deliver me into financial freedom also be an unhealthy distraction from the life I’m supposed to lead? Are the things I’m doing now becoming counter-productive and will ultimately bring about the collapse of the very retirement that I’m trying to prepare for?
The Pitfalls of Early Retirement Planning:
Where this all stems from is work.
No – this post isn’t a declaration to quit my job or to whine about whatever work I have to do. It’s not like that.
This post is about something different; something that you don’t find often in personal finance blogs when it comes to career: Ownership of responsibility for the way you feel.
You see the question I’ve been asking myself lately is: If I do achieve an early retirement, how will I feel about the career I achieved? Will I look back with regret at the opportunities I had missed? Will I have spent my last few years in contempt when I should have been reaching higher and higher?
When I was younger and first starting out in my job, I wanted nothing more than to go up the corporate ladder. I was a newly minted professional who wanted to work his way into leading the whole group and making the important decisions.
Like most young people, the reasons why you want to are simple. There’s more money in management. Not only can your salary go up, but so can your chances for bigger bonuses and compensation. Then you add on the power, respect, perks, prestige, and a whole lot of other benefits that comes with working your way up.
But as this story often goes, the higher up you work, the more B.S. you have to put up with as well. And at times that level of crap you have to deal with is not always proportional to your compensation or what you’re getting out of it. Life becomes frustrating, and so the quest the fund an early retirement picks up more and more steam as your plans become more concrete and realistic.
Before long, you want nothing more than to finally cross the finish line and declare to the world that you finally have enough F.U. money to say goodbye to it all. And, hence, this is where early retirement planning could become a killer.
They Will Know:
My first concern to this whole situation is: Won’t people notice? Usually when you’ve decided that you’re ready to move on to another phase of your life, you tend to start ignoring the previous one now that it’s old news. That is a concern to me.
I don’t want to become complacent or unenthusiastic about what I do. First of all, it would reflect in my work. That gold star standard I hold myself to would crumble down to a good-enough benchmark. And that’s not me.
Secondly, if my performance did erode, is it any wonder that my pay-scale or opportunities would also suffer? No one wants to reward someone who’s just doing okay. No one wants the guy who moves at a medium pace to lead this next big thing.
Wouldn’t those actions compromise the very thing we’re trying to do: Create more income and more opportunities for me to save so we can check out faster? What if things got really bad and your raises or bonuses ceased? What if you ultimately lost your job? Now you’ve really thrown a wrench in your retirement planning strategy.
Is It All About the Race or Finishes It First?
This is the part that concerns me the most: What if getting the most out of your career was supposed to be one of the defining experiences of your life?
Some people like to think back to high-school or college or the military or whatever as being one of the greatest phases of their lifetime. I think we could all agree that building a career is also one of those areas. The guy who works in the office next to me is in his 60’s and he is full of thousands of stories all throughout his career. He can tell you all about the different people he’s met (most of which he still talks to), the places he’s been, successes he’s had, big mistakes he’s made, etc.
What if a consequence to early retirement planning is cheating ourselves out of those experiences?
Having worked over 10 years now at my current job, I can assure you that my perspective on what I do is completely different than when I first started. When I meet people, they’re not just a customer or a person from another company. They are potential allies or people I can network with.
When I learn a new skill, it is not so I can just get this thing done that I have to do. I really do want to understand what it is I have learned and why it is important. Do I understand it well enough to show others? If not, then I really don’t understand it as well as I thought.
And finally – what have I done for my colleagues? Have I increased the chances of success for any of my junior staff? Have I given them everything they need to succeed above and beyond where I have? Selflessness can be a very high level of currency for the soul.
Since no one looks out for you the way that YOU do, I think it’s important that we ask ourselves the question: How much of this are we sacrificing or compromising in our early retirement planning ambitions? It’s not an easy question to answer, but one that you could possibly be faced with – perhaps after you’ve already crossed the finish line. The very thought of this will remind me that day to day is where the action happens, and what we do now is what’s important. There won’t be any notice of a great event or great opportunity that’s going to occur. It happens when you make it happen. And even if you are plotting your own early escape, remember that there are still plenty of good times ahead and things that are left un-finished. You just have to ask yourself the very personal question of where you think those best opportunities lie and what you honestly think you’ll get out of them.
- How Do You Compare to the Average Retirement Savings of Other Americans?
- There Are No Shortcuts to Early Retirement Planning
Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net