Early Retirement Isn’t for Us

Before becoming immersed in the PF blogosphere, I never realized there was such a thing as truly early retirement.  If you had said “early retirement” to me, I probably would have thought of retiring at 55 instead of 65.  Similarly, I heard “financial independence” to mean independence from parents, not independence from work/active income!  I just had no idea that anyone would want to stop their primary career/gainful employment in his 30s or 40s.


silhouette beach sunsetNow I’m aware that there is a community of people striving for early financial independence (whether or not that translates into a classically recognizable “retirement” right away).  They talk about reaching the cross-over point where their yearly sustainable passive income eclipses their yearly living expenses, after which they have achieved financial independence (FI).  Of course there are squabbles over what counts as passive income and whether you can truly consider yourself FI if you still generate active income that you spend on increasing your lifestyle.


However even after learning a lot more about the crazy ambitious goals of this community and reading about how people on the other side of FI live, I can say it’s not a compelling goal for me and Kyle at this point.  We don’t want to retire (at least permanently) particularly early, nor do we see FI as a current objective.  Our reasons for this will probably seem terribly bourgeois to people in the FI community and like lame excuses, but I think they add up to a reasonable argument!  Some of them are specifically against early retirement, some are against financial independence, and some are just reasons why we likely won’t be lounging on a beach long-term.


1) We (and you) are investing a LOT into our educations – to stop using that education would be to at least partially squander that investment.


By the time we finish our PhDs, we will have each sunk 10+ years into postsecondary education in STEM fields.  In grad school we have experienced extreme opportunity cost in terms of the salaries we could make elsewhere.  And guess who’s paying for our educations?  You are – the taxpayer.  How would you feel if we took hundreds of thousands of dollars each in training and then pursued retirement from scientific endeavors as soon as humanly possible?  Our educations have enriched us – at a high cost – and they have also imbued us with responsibility to give a return on investment back to society.  In Kyle’s case, that may be designing therapeutic proteins.  In my case, it might be creating effective drug delivery systems or perhaps transferring my knowledge and skills to the business world.  But we (and I hope you) do think that this investment of time and money should be used somehow later, hopefully for a lifetime of contributions to medical therapeutics research.


2) Our income is not high and who knows if it will ever be.


Those who pursue early FI generally have at least a nice income in comparison with their local cost-of-living.  Science is not exactly known for being lucrative.  If we go into business or the private sector maybe we will have nice incomes too, but if we stay close to research and academia it’s much less likely.  So no matter how (reasonably) low we keep our lifestyle, we may never have the kind of differential needed to save 50% to 80% of our income.


3) We like our middle-class lifestyle.


Reaching FI is all about the difference between your income and lifestyle while you’re working and then keeping lifestyle low forever.  Our income is not necessarily going to be high and we’re not interested in going to extremes to keep our expenses low.  You won’t find us living in a van or eating only rice and beans.  We expect our kids to go to college and that want to contribute to the cost of their educations.  We like live entertainment and traveling to visit friends and family.  All of these things are ‘wants’ that we want in our lives!


4) We want to live in southern California.


If we wanted to retire early we would stay in Durham or move to an even lower cost-of-living area.  But we really want to live in southern California for the weather/lifestyle and to be near family (and for job opportunities).  But since it’s such a wonderful popular area, the cost of living is quite high!


5) Kyle loves his research; I love being in the creative class.


We just like our work, more or less.  We want to keep doing what we’re doing or at least translate our skills to something related and productive.  While there are certainly vocations and skills that translate well to volunteer work, science isn’t really one of them.  To keep doing what we do, we will continue to have jobs, and that sounds good to us.


6) We want children.


Kids are expensive.  Some early retirees have children; most bloggers I see striving for it are unmarried men.  Just sayin’!  If the name of the early retirement game is maximizing income while minimizing expenses and then keeping expenses low for a lifetime, kids are not only extra mouths to feed but also introduce an element of uncertainty.


7) We give at a high rate.


This is just anecdotal, but I’ve never come across an early retirement blogger who is committed to tithing.  (If you know of a person striving for early retirement who gives away 10% of his income, please leave a comment/link!)  It’s honestly just harder, numbers-wise, to pump up savings when at least 10% off the top is given away.  I’m not begrudging the practice at all because I think there are non-monetary benefits for giving regularly at a high percentage, but it’s just a reality.  10% off the top might not impact a budget hugely when you spend nearly all of what you made, but how many years would it add to the time to FI?


8) We were created for work.


I’m not convinced that the retirement of an able-bodied/minded person is consistent with a Christian worldview.  Even in retirement we plan to give back to our families and communities, but we’ll probably keep up more industrious work as long as we are mentally able to.  We believe that humans were made by God for productive work – it was part of God’s perfect pre-Fall creation.


These reasons may sound like feeble justifications and perhaps they are.  I’m just not that interested in early retirement as we have found enjoyable and rewarding work; I also think it’s less feasible for us given the choices we have/would like to make in our life.  The early retirement community doesn’t try to convince everyone that they should live the same way and for that I’m thankful.  Personal finance is personal, after all – and we’re just more typical/middle-class than that crowd.


Are you attracted to or committed to early retirement/FI?  Do you think early retirement doesn’t fit with your lifestyle and why?  Do you like your work?


photo from Free Digital Photos


Written by

Filed under: choices · Tags: ,

70 Responses to "Early Retirement Isn’t for Us"

  1. #7 – One of my big motivations for reaching FI is that I’ll be able to spend time volunteering and performing services that are worth much more than what a non-profit organization is likely able to afford to pay me.

    #8 – Should I start calling you Max Weber? I think my big disagreement here comes from the fact that you seem to imply that time spent pursuing my own interests wouldn’t be productive or to the benefit of others. When in fact, I’d probably be more likely to benefit a larger number of people and do so on my own terms after FI.
    Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted..PoP Income Statement – May 2013

    1. Emily says:

      But Mrs. Pop, this post isn’t about you, it’s about us. 🙂 You probably have all kinds of practical skills that we do not. As I said at the beginning of the post, some arguments are against FI, some are against ER, and some are against sitting on a beach doing nothing for 30 years. I didn’t imagine you as someone who would do the latter! I absolutely think that it’s possible for someone who doesn’t have a traditional job to be contributing so society. One of the women in my small group has been a “housewife” for 30 years now but I’ve watched her run and volunteer with a local crisis pregnancy ministry that is frankly changing lives in incredible ways. All I’m saying is that with the training that Kyle and I have had, I think it behooves us to use it, and I can’t think of a way to use it better than through a job. (If we had become MDs instead of going the research route, that would be a different story. Those skills can be easily translated to a volunteer context.) Perhaps advocacy would be as beneficial as doing the research itself, and I can imagine at some levels that could be through volunteer work, but at the high levels I think the access is still through jobs.

  2. CashRebel says:

    Great Post Emily, it’s great to know exactly how you want to live and why. I know you mentioned that your income may never be high, but I think you’ve got an interesting opportunity that my parents had. They were both PHDs and got used to living super cheaply while in school. I bet your income is going to be much higher than you anticipate once you’re out. You guys are smart scientists who might just change the world.
    But if you don’t want to retire particularly early, that’s cool. I’m interested to see the comments on this one.
    CashRebel recently posted..What Do You Actually Want?

    1. Emily says:

      When our income goes up, our lifestyle will go up. We don’t want to INFLATE it – the dreaded word – but we want to consciously raise it. I am thankful for this low-income period of our life to show us what’s important and what’s not. I hope that we’ll never live on 80% of what we make, given that we haven’t done that in recent years when it’s so tempting. I’m not counting on terribly high salaries – there’s just too much uncertainty in what we want to do at this point. Better to be pleasantly surprised than disappointed. 🙂

  3. Emily too says:

    There are plenty of practical reasons early retirement isn’t for me. Low income and wanting kids are certainly two of them, and also, when I’ve spent time unemployed or working on research in isolated settings, I’ve just missed having co-workers to say hello to in passing throughout the day more than you would perhaps expect. Work is one of the key ways we define our identities and find our social niches in the US today, and in some ways I don’t think that’s healthy, but it has strong psychological effects (e.g. the prospect of being a stay at home mom actually scares me because I fear loss of identity, social connections, and respect, even though I admire OTHER stay at home moms).

    #7 also gets me. If you have enough reliable income that you don’t have to work, you’re rich, no matter how simple your lifestyle. From a Christian perspective, is it really right to have that level of financial security and spend it all on yourself? If you continued to work, you could easily support TWO families. Sometimes I am not sure how ethical huge personal savings are on those grounds, but I think retirement savings are something you make in part to avoid putting your family in a hard position if you can, so that’s a bit different, and tithing/donating what you can as you make the income helps keep your priorities in line.

    1. Emily says:

      Interesting point about our identities being tied to what we do. Like you said, even if it’s not a healthy practice it is something to grapple with. I don’t think stopping work would necessarily result in social isolation, but you would certainly have to work harder to create communities and interactions throughout the day. I haven’t had that experience yet but I know that I’ve developed close friendships with coworkers simply by virtue of being around them every day!

      I hate to sound cliche, but I think that balance of giving and earning is something every Christian has to work out for herself! The rich young man was called to give away all of his money and possessions, but that isn’t a command given to everyone. I certainly believe that there are people who financially “cannot out-give God” (though of course we can all claim that position in less overt ways). They will always look rich and like they have more than enough even if they give money like water. We may also need to consider how the social contract has changed. In Biblical times children were your retirement plan, and having lots of children meant security and wealth. Now that we don’t expect (or don’t want to expect) our children to care for us in our old age, maybe saving for retirement is a reasonable step toward security and not hoarding wealth. I have no answers here but thanks for provoking these thoughts!

  4. Even though I’d have enough money my 40, I don’t think I’d stop working immediately. With so many years ahead doing nothing, I’ll probably get bored. So maybe if I can, I probably won’t retire early.
    KC @ genxfinance recently posted..How to Kick Your Bad Money Habits

    1. Emily says:

      Sounds like you’re on the road to FI but not necessarily ER. I think if I were FI I might take time off but not stop work permanently.

  5. Interesting thought process. Though I’m committed to retiring early, I never thought of having to sacrifice lifestyle in order to do it. While many PF bloggers talk about minimizing expenses to get out of debt, and I talk about this as well, I never saw it as a permanent thing.

    Leslie and I also want to have kids, but are actually waiting until we can both be stay at home parents in order to do so. Family is super important to us, so we want to be able to spend as much time with family as possible. Plus, we want to be able to teach our kids values we believe in and that’s easier when you’re around them more often.

    It’s crazy you mentioned tithing in today’s post since Leslie and I just had a conversation about tithing this weekend. While we can’t necessarily tithe 10% like we want to right now, we’re working on finding how much we are able to give with the expectations of increasing it to 10% and beyond in the future.

    I do have a question for you regarding your thoughts on #8: If God meant us to spend out lives working (in the modern sense of the word) why did He create so many awesome things on the world for us to experience? Working is definitely important, because it creates value to others in society, but at what point are we sacrificing personal happiness for productivity?

    Can’t wait to hear your response, and other people’s comments as well. Great post to get you thinking this week!
    Kyle @ Debt Free Diaries recently posted..May 2013 Budget and Goals Review

    1. Emily says:

      I’m surprised you haven’t given much thought to the lifestyle side of the FI equation. If you consider the crossover point, the two elements are your passive income and your monthly expenses. You can’t expect to have a high lifestyle without a high passive income (probably from lots of assets), and to grow your lifestyle you have to grow your passive income as well (probably actively). Let me tell you, even without debt there are plenty of other expenses in life!

      I think it’s great that your goal is to give 10%+! We have experienced such gratification from our commitment to giving. Are you Christians?

      Your question regarding seeing the world strikes me as a leading question! God calls his creation good, but I don’t really take that to mean we have to see it all! Take on the other hand all the verses regarding the value of work – many in Proverbs alone! I also don’t believe personal happiness is our primary pursuit in life, unless you achieve that through worshipping God (and yes, that could be in nature).

      1. While I have thought about what I’d like our lifestyle to be like before retirement, I guess I just never assumed I’d need to sacrifice any of our biggest wants in order to achieve FI. We always planned on growing our (passive) income as we age.

        We are Christians, though I am still very new with everything, so I hope you don’t mind the questions! I haven’t met many other people who are so willing to talk about their faith and finances together and the topic is still very new to me.

        Huh, I never thought about work in that way before. Thanks for the link! I guess a lot of these thoughts depend on what you consider work. Leslie and I still plan to work, even after retirement, but the type of work we will do will shift from jobs to helping contribute in other ways.
        Kyle @ Debt Free Diaries recently posted..How We Save $24 Each Month with What We Drink

        1. Emily says:

          I guess it depends on how big those wants are! I’m just trying to point out that just because you reach a crossover point with your normal everyday expenses doesn’t mean you can sustain FI if you become a world traveler.

          I became a Christian as an adult, too, and I wasn’t raised in a Christian family so I have only figured out what I think about this stuff recently. My church has been highly influential, obviously. I started giving/tithing all in one go – 0% to 10% one month to the next and somehow it worked. 🙂

  6. Lucas says:

    Of course you figured you would get a response from me 🙂 Let me ask you one overarching question. Do you really have an issue with Financial Independance or do you have trouble with what you would have to do to get there and or your preceived notions of what people do once they are there. I think you would welcome being FI if you had your choice along the way of what to do and what to do once you were there right? Here are a couple thoughts on your points.

    1) Look into “Sunk Cost Fallacy”. Basically you never want to make a decision about future value based on past unrecoverable costs. Obviously you have invested in skills. Your skills you have, but your costs are gone forever, so you should rather make decisions based on impact going forward rather than worrying about whether your past costs were optimally spent.

    2) Income is not the primary means of reaching FI. Controlling expenses is. Having higher income helps, but I don’t see your careers as limiting your income that much. Over all your reasoning here is explicitly tied to #3 though. Our expenses have decreased over time as we have paid off our house (I count expenses to include interest, but not principal payments as those are “saved”). We live a very full life on ~$28k a year in expenses (for 5 people, not including giving or taxes). You will easily make 2 to 3 times that.

    3) Identifying what you want is a key component to FI. You reduce expenses on things that are not your priorities. Travel, time with family, etc. . are all great priorities. We just do those more efficiently than most people and especially in FI you are more flexibly with your time and can get much much better deals on travel then people who are stuck with school or work schedules can. My best advice here is probably something you already know, but that things will not make you happy. If you make having an abundant and meaningful life your goal that you will actually spend a lot less than most people as you will realize that a bunch of things that most people “need” actually detract from your life. Not having a “new” car is freeing not a burden. As well as things like not having TV! Give me one example of how cable TV has made anyones life better?? Rather it just steals your time and energy.

    4) We live in DC, which isn’t far behind CA in terms of costs. We have a nice 3 level 3bd townhouse in a nice neighborhood that would sell for around 300k. We also spent 3 years in Hawaii (more expensive than DC or CA), with my job but didn’t buy anything there because renting was a better financial decision. If you don’t buy tons of stuff you don’t need (so you need a huge house), and don’t fall prey to “Tiny Details Exaggeration Syndrome” (http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/12/26/cure-yourself-of-tiny-details-exaggeration-syndrome/) you can do fairly well just about anywhere.

    5) I am not sure I buy that Science doesn’t translate well to volunteer or “less” paid work. I think your scope of what you think is possible is just a little small. The problem in corporate or even funded research is that most of the problems being solved are geared towards solutions that can be monetized (universities are all about funding and money too). There is much much more money being invested in identifying/treating breast cancer than there is in actually eliminating it and that is a huge issue. Read on some of the stuff Bill Gates is doing with his foundation in targeting some huge and difficult Scientific/Engineering problems that don’t have anyone’s attention. Reading FI doesn’t mean you stop making an impact in the world. If your job affords you the best opportunity to make a difference by all means stick at it. FI just frees you from the normal bounds that everyone else is chained with and allows you to pick the best opportunity to make an impact. I guarantee your thoughts on this will evolve. Especially if you have kids, which leads to the next point.

    6) We have 3 kids and we are considering more. In reality I have found that kids are far less expensive than most people claim. There are some equipment costs upfront, but monthly maintenance (food, clothing, diapers, etc) is almost completely offset by the tax credits you get. You get $1000 per kid in tax credit, plus an additional $3800 personal exemption ($500-1000 less tax depending on your marginal rate). The biggest expenses that are difficult to quantify are increase living/transportation space requirements. I do not plan on helping my kids with college costs on the front end. My wife and I both paid our way through college with a total of $3000 debt and saw way to many people slacking off who had it paid for them. I do however plan on helping them pay off their debt and possibly a house though after they get through :-).

    * Having kids is probably my #1 reason for pursuing FI. Before we had kids we were pursuing a path similar to yours. But having kids really has made us value our time with them (training/teaching/equipping) much more than time at work. One of the biggest aspects of reaching FI is our desire to teach our kids ourselves, volunteer with them, and involve them in part time work to teach them valuable skills.

    7) We give more than 10% and plan on increasing that percentage substantially as we get closer to FI. Yes it has “delayed” FI slightly, but at a target date of 35 it still isn’t too bad 🙂

    8) I agree that we were created for work. I would argue that the most fulfilling work is managing what God has given you. Not working/managing stuff for someone else. Even if you are called directly to use your abilities for someone else or for another cause (this may be totally legitimate), reaching FI just gives you greater ability and flexibility in using your abilities to bring about Glory to God not less as you assume.

    1. Emily says:

      Hi Lucas! I did write this post in response to our previous conversation in the comments. Thanks for your detailed thoughts! I wish you had a blog so I could learn about your more systematically. 🙂

      Overarching question: I’m not against FI. I do hope to be FI at some point, it’s just not a current goal to do it particularly early. I don’t really think I have preconceived notions about what FI/ER/R looks like – as I said, some of my reasons have to do with one and some with others. As you said, FI is welcome if it’s on our terms, and I laid out some of our terms in the post. 🙂

      I’d love to see your budget, since you are doing well with some of the elements I think would slow us down! $28k for a family in the DC area is quite good! (Not including most housing though, right?) How does your spending compare to ours right now in terms of transportation, entertainment, travel, food?

      It’s certainly possible that I’m not aware of the non-job possibilities of using our training. I guess what I can say is that I’ve never worked in a lab that had volunteers and that research, at least the kind we do, is prohibitively expense to undertake outside the context of a research institution. Now, what might be interesting for us after FI would be to have the option to work for start-ups for little or no up-front salary but a lot of upside in stock, perhaps. It would be risky but risk would be affordable if we didn’t need the salaries.

      I think with the kids aspect it’s more the uncertainty that throws me than the expenses incurred when they were young. But I suppose we can deal with uncertainty as it unfolds, and if our projects turn out to be not adequate we could work actively again. But as we had our college mostly paid for we would like to pay that forward. 🙂

      1. Lucas says:

        Sorry if I got a little preachy there 🙂 I have thought about putting out a blog or something, but I honestly feel like others have done a better job of communicating the mechanics behind FI/ER. If I did something it would definitly be from a Christian perspective as I feel like Crown and Dave Ramsey , while pursuing very good goals of getting people out of debt, are not challenging people anywhere near enough. In generally I think everyone should pursue FI as a major priority (below glorifying God, and relationships with others). They then get a lot more choice and freedom in being able to serve/give/etc. .

        Here is my budget in a nutshell though if you are interested. Couple notes: I am essentially done paying off my house so that money is now in process of being redirected elsewhere (took me about 5 years to pay it off).

        More or Less Fixed Expenses
        $200 – Heathcare plan/costs
        $50 – Interest on Morgage
        $200 – Property Tax
        $150 – House/Car/Life Insurance
        $100 – House maintenance
        $200 – Utilities (water/electric)
        $60 – Internet/Phone – $45 for internet, $3 OOMA, $12 wifes cell
        $200 – Gas/Auto maintenance
        $200 – Travel/Vacation Fund
        $70 – Christmas Fund
        $1430 Total

        Cash Budget Items
        $440 – Food
        $80 – Baby Items
        $80 – Clothes
        $100 – Date/Eating out
        $40 – Home Décor
        $80 – Misc
        $30 – Beauty/personal care
        $20 – Trip-Fund
        $40 – Gifts
        $40 – Fun/Allowance
        $950 Total Cash Exp

        $2380 – Total Monthly Expenses
        $28560 – Total Yearly Expenses

        1. Emily says:

          If my objective was to explain PF better than what was already out there, I wouldn’t have started this blog! Obviously this is mostly about our experiences and my personal take on some money topics, not a sterile informational blog. I think I have a unique perspective to provide to the PF blogosphere and based on our conversations here I think you would, too! But of course blogging is tons of work so if you don’t enjoy writing and networking it’s probably not going to last.

          Do you draw a parallel between working for others and debt/slavery? That’s kind of the vibe I’m getting. Do you think self-employment is better than having a job if you aren’t yet FI?

          1. Lucas says:

            Well I am glad to get anyone to think a bit differently 🙂 Little kids and wanting to prioritize time with them mean I have not priortized time for Blogging/networking at the moment. Maybe sooner than later???

            I am definitly still sorting through my views on working for others and life style indebtedness. This doesn’t apply to everyone, but from observation, most peoples life styles are a debt to them in the sense that they are “obligated” to pay for it and are unwilling to consider changing it or saving to pay for it with income from their own assets. In a similar vein most people act like a slave in regards to a job (for someone else) in the sence that they act and talk like they are bound to it with no option for any other track in life. These appear to be self inflicted or accepted (based on what marketing would have you believe), rather than a general rule that working for someone else is always being a slave to them. Scripture would make it clear that we ourselves are slaves to Christ and everything we have is Gods to begin with so we are just stewards of it anyway. So I am trying to figure out if I am practically on base or off with worrying about trying to control more myself then I should (definitly a valid question).

            I do find it personally helps me to really focus on what is important if I view all of my non asset sustained “required” expenses as Debts that need to be paid. I use the rule of 300x in assets to support a monthly expense and incrementally save up to support them. I am about 75% funded for “required” expenses at the moment, and evaluate how much more I would need to save for each addtional one I consider adding. So if we want to add say a monthly cost of $20 for say faster internet, am I willing to save $6000 to pay that debt forever?

          2. Emily says:

            I like what you said about people being slaves to their lifestyles, not even in debt, and therefore they think they don’t have choices in their jobs or whatever. I actually think that’s a good way to characterize my parents – they don’t have any debt besides their mortgage, but they are unwilling to cut their lifestyle at all to save more for retirement.

            Thanks for sharing your thinking about ongoing expenses as debt… I don’t think I’ve heard that precise trick before!

        2. Curious says:

          Wow! How does a family of 5 eat for $440 per month?
          There are 5 of us, and my weekly trip to the grocery store is $300-350.
          I cook essentially every day.

  7. I’m committed to financial independence as an insurance policy but not really early retirement. That being said, I will say that my end game has shifted back and forth over time – usually depending on how much I like my job.

    I would certainly like a lifestyle that’s higher than can be provided by financial independence and I would probably be a bit bored if I didn’t have work (note: I like my current job).

    But it’s really easy to imagine situations where I’d prefer to retire (in the true sense, not the part time entrepreneur sense). While I don’t know what the future will hold, a corporate restructuring or a crappy boss might be enough to push me back over the line towards early retirement.
    My Financial Independence Journey recently posted..Ameriprise Financial (AMP) Dividend Stock Analysis

    1. Emily says:

      I like that you put it as an insurance policy. It would be very nice to know that you are able to live on $X per year without working, even if you choose to work so you can live on $X+Y per year. I hope you wouldn’t let one bad boss determine that you will retire, though! But I can see the advantage of having the freedom to leave a bad job without a good one in hand.

  8. Well I’m past the date probably of “early retirement” since I’m 42. At this point I don’t even know if I’ll be able to retire at the “normal age.” I’m not too upset about the early retirement, but I do have a lot of catching up to do with the normal retirement.
    Budget and the Beach recently posted..Trying to Solve the Mysteries of the Universe

    1. Emily says:

      I don’t think 42 is past the age to be considered early retirement! But keep fighting the good fight for additional income so you can become financially independent someday.

  9. This is already my favorite post of the week and its just Monday. 🙂

    I think it takes a lot of bravery to stand up and say that you DON’T care about early retirement or whatever the PF community thinks. I personally like the diversity; not the group-think.

    Being a male with a wife and two kids and a BIG goal for early retirement (which is pretty much what my whole blog is about), I can tell you that I think it is possible to pull this off while raising a family. It all just depends on your plan.

    I’m curious as to why you think you’ll be “wasting” your Phd or won’t be able to work? I know the hardcore early retirement people think you shouldn’t work if you’re retired. I think that’s crap. In retirement you do what you want. The only difference is whether or not you NEED the money (which is my line in the sand for retired vs non-retired). In my early retirement, I have all kinds of work plans to do everything from record an album, start a business, create a product, to even being a professional financial consultant (and possibly free at that!). You could easily volunteer your PhD services to a noble cause without a return of income if that was something you’re up for …
    My Money Design recently posted..My Broker Lets Me DRIP Stocks – Why That’s Great

    1. Emily says:

      Thanks, MMD! I was a little nervous about how this post would go over but I think the comments have been wonderful.

      How do you plan for how much your kids will cost you once they are older? And what have you decided about college?

      I just can’t really think of a way to directly use our training outside the context of a job! Maybe consulting? I’m sure working would be more pleasant, though, if you don’t have to financially – though I would imagine it would still be difficult to walk away. Of course as a layperson there are many things I could do to amuse myself productively.

  10. krantcents says:

    I started my career in southern California and was able to reach financial independence by 38 years old. I still kept my family first and paid for private education. At the time, I did not earn that much, but I saved and invested in income property and did very well. I believe anything is possible, but you may have to be creative.
    krantcents recently posted..Would James Bond be eligible for life insurance?

    1. Emily says:

      You are so accomplished! Did you put all your excess money into real estate or did you invest elsewhere as well?

  11. reneeg says:

    These are all such interesting comments!

    hahaha, being a bitter ex-grad-schooler, I object to your #1. I say you’re earning your keep from the taxpayers in the here and now. We don’t owe anything after we graduate. We work hard and put in a ridiculous number of grueling hours — the equivalent amount of work would cost the taxpayer 3 times as much if it were an industry job.

    1. Emily says:

      Haha you are right – we are getting a lot out but so are the institutions!

      1. I really hadn’t thought about that part, but 4 years of my PhD were paid for by the taxpayer (though back in the day it was a pretty piddly stipend!), as were DH’s. (The remaining years were paid for by our private grad schools in exchange for labor.) Good thing I’m a giver-backer.
        nicoleandmaggie recently posted..June Mortgage update and another wishy-washy post on our uncertain money plans

        1. Emily says:

          It is pretty incredible to think about much money goes into training us. All my funding is from NIH except for 1 year of stipend support. But the stipend is just a small part of the money spent – there’s also tuition, health insurance, other benefits, and the costs of the research itself (I rack up a lot of cleanroom time!).

  12. SarahN says:

    Interesting! I’m definitely not as hard core into FI and ER as many of the blogs I read. My ‘reaction’ is usually that I’m sure they are doing without important things – like buying healthier food (coupons aren’t for fruit and vege usually). And to Lucas, TV is free entertainment, so I can see FI/ER people being on board with that (in Australia, there’s TV without cable, and shock horror, people watch it!).

    Personally, I plan to work til I’m likely 70 (knowing that retirement age keeps getting ramped up). I’m happy to work to this age, if I’m not working super hard, (you know, super long hours, poor health, limited sleep, high stress). I’d rather take a more leisurely career pace, with good remuneration and enjoy times away (holidays). I think ER people delay a lot of things for their retirement – such as travel, but courses, activities. I also know that being entertained, takes costs. Working, costs less (as in I’m ‘entertained’!!)

    To me, my $$ aims are to have minimal to no debt (ie pay off my mortgage, I don’t have any other debts!), do what I want in life (ie, travel, send my kids to private schools, donate etc). Bascially, emulate my parents 😀

    On the tithing thing. It’s far less customary to tithe 10% in Australia. I recently challenged myself to a little less than 10% a week for ‘generosity’ which was both charity, but also gifts etc. My BF thinks it’s very high, and perhaps not ideal. He’s more into ER than me, and his suggestion, which I am interested in, and thinking about, is to put all that money in a trust or similar. Then, in his example, if he was to die, or a child had a terminal illness, that money would be there. But it would be there at a later date for a bigger donation – like a library or wing at a school. I know I’d find it *so* much harder to part with a large lump sum than the smaller weekly amounts, but it’s food for thought…
    SarahN recently posted..Is shopping at a co-op worth it?

    1. Emily says:

      I think you and I have a fairly similar outlook. Kyle and I aren’t going to kill ourselves for a high income and low expenses in the name of quitting early. We would rather have that leisurely career pace.

      I guess to your last paragraph, the time value of money would work in the world as much as it would squirreled away in a trust. I guess I’d rather know my money is doing marginal amounts of good in the world now than count on it doing a lot at one time later.

      1. Lucas says:

        Yes Free TV is better than expensive cable TV. However my main argument against most TV is that it offers almost no enrichment to your life. I will give a pass to nature/science/history/documentary programs etc. . . Maybe food network stuff too 😉

        1. Emily says:

          We waste a lot of time on TV, but at least we don’t waste money as well. 🙂

        2. SarahN says:

          Oh yeah, but there’s a lot I do that doesn’t enrich me! I’m just a rebel with the cause of fun/enjoyment (and stupidity!)
          SarahN recently posted..Zero Waste – Coffee Cups

  13. I think that we should all do what we want to do, and I applaud you both for living on your terms. In my case, early retirement never happened and retirement itself won’t happen for many years. That being said, if I had the means, I would absolutely retire – as financial independence is a long-term goal. Again, we’re all different and that’s okay.
    Tie the Money Knot recently posted..Increase in Breadwinner Moms: Is this Good or Bad?

    1. Emily says:

      What goals are you pursuing or have you enjoyed in place of early FI?

  14. Michelle says:

    Love this post! I want to reach financial independence, but in a different sense than early retirement. I would rather want to have the option to pursue things I love instead (such as working at an animal shelter and traveling). I never see myself just not working, and that is because I do like to keep busy.
    Michelle recently posted..$7,641 in May Extra Income – Side Hustles!

    1. Emily says:

      How long do you think you have before you reach FI – any projections? Are you able to estimate the lifestyle side yet or do you think you have too many variables in the future?

  15. Moneycone says:

    There is this obsession about retiring early. Not for me – I love what I do, I don’t know what I would do if I retire early. Of course, this is not about money, but loving what you do. Science & Tech is fun and double the fun if you get paid for it!
    Moneycone recently posted..Your first credit card – which one should you pick?

    1. Emily says:

      I’m glad to hear you love what you do! Do you have the double benefit of it being lucrative? Science and engineering are fun and thankfully we are paid. 🙂

  16. Thank you! I’m constantly fighting against the idea of early retirement as well. Similar to what you talked about in your last point, I’m personally against the idea of retirement at all while I’m still capable of working.
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..Net Worth Update: May 2013

    1. Emily says:

      I’m OK with other people retiring young if they are confident in the leap. Even if they want to sit on a beach that’s their prerogative. But I think we’d like to continue working until we can’t any longer, even if we intersperse some breaks.

  17. That sounds about the same for us, including the Protestant Work Ethic and the doing Good Works.

    I think I ultimately do more good in my paid job (which I chose in part because of the public service aspect) plus giving of some of that payment than I would do as a volunteer.

    Now… my husband is enjoying the freedom that lots of saving has brought us to take a risk on his career. So we kind of straddle both ways. Partial Financial Independence has been good to us.
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted..June Mortgage update and another wishy-washy post on our uncertain money plans

    1. Emily says:

      That’s how we feel about using our training vs. volunteering, too. We chose research areas that are quite applied because we feel motivated by being somewhat close to therapeutics. I certainly respect pure science and think it’s valuable but I didn’t want to stay working in that area. I think we’re doing more in our jobs than we could do as laypeople in terms of contributing to society.

      How do you define partial FI? Just that you have enough cushion to take risks, or that you could live without a salary for a certain number of years? I’d like to go that direction with Kyle’s career. 🙂

      1. Enough of a cushion to take risks. Though your definition may vary!
        nicoleandmaggie recently posted..Is it better to have loved and lost or to have never loved at all?

  18. I can completely understand your reasoning. I used to be 100% that way. I am a bit of an over achiever and could not imagine not using my training and education to the fullest. #6 changed my logic. Working 40-50 hours a week with a small child was not rewarding for me in any way. I can’t imagine not working at all, but I certainly enjoy not working all the time. Every Tuesday in the summer, the movie theater shows free kid movies, but at 11AM. I was never able to go to that or swim lessons or summer reading programs. Today we went to the movie! You have a very short window to enjoy those activities, then they are independent and don’t want you around. Financial independence will mean choices. I see myself still wanting to work, but it will be because I want to, not to pay bills.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Say No To Your Children Now So You Won’t Have to Later

    1. Emily says:

      You’ve moved to part-time work though, right? I’d say that is still using your training! I would definitely love a flexible or part-time work schedule.

      Are you pursuing FI so that neither of you has to work or satisfied with your reduced work schedule? Would you go back to full-time work if it meant reaching FI sooner?

  19. Leigh says:

    Wow, this post sure got a lot of comments! I’m not sure whether I will ER when I hit FI or not. I’m starting to become convinced that I’m drawn to it when work is frustrating, rather than sticking it out. I think that my ideal work week would be a 20 hour week, leaving me plenty of time to enjoy life, family, friends, and fitness activities.

    So I’m working on readjusting my career ideas so that I’m happier at work. I’m making more of an effort in cultivating a social community. I’ve also been unplugging a lot outside of work. That’s making a huge difference in my overall happiness. I don’t find myself needing to read Google Reader or check Facebook constantly.

    I also didn’t set out with any plan to reach FI early, though I probably will, if I maintain my current level of income. It’s mostly stemming from naturally “low” spending. And it’s not like I specifically targeted this career path for high income either – I’d been set on it since a pretty young age.

    That said, I do somewhat like the idea that MMM and his wife had to have a kid and then BOTH retire rather than just one of them staying home. If I have kids, I might consider doing that.
    Leigh recently posted..May 2013 net worth update (+6.3%)

    1. Emily says:

      Yes, pursuing greater satisfaction/less frustration (Though isn’t working through the frustration satisfying? I guess if it’s work not relationships causing the frustration.) at work seems ideal. You are well enough along that it doesn’t make sense to put up with a sub-optimal work arrangement.

      I have a hard time imagining being home with Kyle and kids all day. I love him and we spend a lot of time together, but we have great “intellectual intimacy” now and I think that would suffer if we didn’t have separate intellectual/research/work pursuits.

  20. Ashley says:

    I love this post! I have always assumed everyone in the PF community wanted to retire early. It’s cool to read about reasons why you DON’T! I think the most important thing is that you guys generally seem to like what you do. If you hated your job(s), you’d probably be in the ER boat! Me, I’m definitely gunning towards FI. Not sure if that means I’d leave my job once I hit FI, but it would be great knowing that I’m not dependent upon an employer to be able to live.
    Ashley recently posted..Travel Tricks

    1. Emily says:

      The thing about the PF blogosphere is that we all have different goals and values! Early retirement is, to my mind, actually one of the less common, though financial independence is pretty common. I guess what I’m saying in this post is that certain other goals, like having kids and living in southern California, are higher priorities than FI.

      Yes, I think the key is that we like our fields!

  21. Pauline says:

    I think you make a good case and it is always a question of doing what works for you. BUT life

    happens, and you may change your mind down the road. Kids could make you want to stay at home and

    raise them (or the prohibitive cost of healthcare decide it for you), or you may be unable to work

    because one of you found employment somewhere the other can’t find work, disability, etc. I realize

    most of my scenarios still leave one of you working though. If I loved my job and planned on working

    until retirement age, I would still try to have a freedom fund, or life happens fund, should I

    change my mind later.
    Pauline recently posted..Retirement? What retirement?

    1. Emily says:

      Yes, all those things are possibilities, too! If our priorities change, perhaps FI will raise up on the list. I think we could survive fine with one of us working – I anticipate either one of us should make more than what we make together now after we graduate, even accounting for a cost-of-living increase.

  22. […] this week, Emily from Evolving Personal Finance made the reverse of this argument. She argued against early retirement because of the decade she has spent pursuing her education through bachelor’s, master’s […]

  23. Emily, I agree with you. To go into early retirement without at least working as long as you’ve gone to post secondary school would be a waste. Now if you are like some of my friends who found their mates in business school… it might be a different matter!
    Financial Samurai recently posted..Should I Get An MBA To Find A Wealthy Husband Or Wife?

    1. Emily says:

      Hm, that is an interesting goal – to work for as long as you’ve been in college/grad school. I think that might be a good payback.

      What would the difference be in which type of grad school you met your spouse – I assume you’re referring to your recent post? While I don’t think it’s a good idea to undertake degrees you don’t want for its most transparent purposes (education, employment opportunities), I do think it’s a good idea to place yourself in environment that are conducive to finding a spouse, if that is a goal. Colleges with 50%+ men were given extra weight in my metrics evaluation spreadsheet when I was deciding where to apply for college, and I ultimately ended up in a class of about 35% women (<20% in my major). And I met my future husband at that school. I didn't do it because I was husband-hunting (at 17 that was the furthest thing from my mind) but rather because I liked having lots of male friends, but it still turned out well on the marriage front.

  24. […] Evolving PF doesn’t want to retire early. […]

  25. […] Evolving Personal Finance – Early Retirement Isn’t for Us […]

  26. […] PF with Early Retirement Isn’t for Us  That’s okay, I’ll cover your spot for […]

  27. […] @ Evolving Personal Finance writes Early Retirement Isn’t for Us – Eight reasons why my husband and I are NOT currently pursuing early retirement or financial […]

  28. […] Early Retirement Isn’t Us Evolving PF – This was probably my most favorite post recently. Early retirement isn’t for everyone. I don’t want early retirement either, I want financial independence! I definitely recommend that you read this post, along with the interesting comments. […]

  29. […] my reasons for not currently pursuing ER/FI […]

  30. […] Early Retirement Isn’t for Us was featured in the Festival of Frugality #392. […]

  31. […] aggressive about saving through grad school – 17% may be a high percentage right now for someone not striving for early retirement, but its absolute value isn’t much once we look at our expected/hoped for […]

  32. […] maxing out two Roth IRAs.  I think 17.5% is a bit of a high rate since we started so young and aren’t striving for early retirement. However, as we have a tiny income it doesn’t actually amount to much in dollar terms.  I expect […]

  33. […] first time I have ever thought “Those financial independence guys might be on to something.”  I am critical of early retirement and think that financial independence is too far out of our grasp to be a current goal.  However, […]

  34. […] isn’t an ER blog and it’s not a super overtly Christian blog, but I hope they found my post on why I don’t want to retire early (which had a couple Christian-related points) […]

Leave a Reply


CommentLuv badge