I was reading an article on Marketwatch this morning. It was a reprint of a blog post by Steve from ThinkSaveRetire on debunking the popular myths about early retirement. Steve and his wife retired when they were 35 years old and haven’t looked back since. They get by on $30.000-$35.000/year, travel the US and, given their blogging and other exploits, seem to make up to 50% more than that from what he calls their “passion projects”.
He got my thinking about why Early Retirement is such a trending subject at the moment? Why does it strike such a cord with the current generation?
I don’t think this was something mainstream in our parents’ generation. My father worked right up until he passed away. He lived his job. He enjoyed it. Sure, it came with stress and business travel and time away from the family, but he truly reveled in it. It was part of his identity.
Not having a job would never have been an option for him. And it wasn’t just the financial side. Of course, he needed the money to provide for his family, but it went deeper than that. He loved the interaction with people, he loved achieving something, he loved the dynamics of big companies.
Why is there a growing group of people rejecting this traditional way and looking to save as much as they can now, to be able to stop working in corporations. I say, stop working in corporations, as most people I come cross, who have “retired early” are actually still working but they’re following their “passion projects, as Steve puts it.
So, why this wave of rejecting mainstream careers?
People are realizing that the world is bigger than we thought
There is a big world out there. Thirty years ago, the internet was still being used by universities and academics exchanging their work. The world was the community in which we lived. The schools we went to. The café’s we hung out in. The beaches we surfed at. The local news we watched on television in the evening. The companies our parents worked for. Our world was smaller. To make an impact to our world, you went and got a job, bought a nice car, gave money back to the community. You earned your respect and the admiration of your neighbors.
Today, the world is the entire planet. It stretches all the way to Japan and back.
When we wake up in the morning, the news is everything and everywhere. The famines, the wars, the royal weddings, the strikes, the mining accidents, the rainforest, the sea plastic, the air pollution, the electric cars and boring companies, the nuclear accidents, the tsunamis.
Everything that is happening in the world is happening right now in the palm of our hands as we stare at that little screen looking up at us. Our world is enormous and largely unknown. To make an impact to our world seems almost impossible. But we know that we need to.
We are now learning from more people than just our parents and teachers
Yesterday, you went to school. You listened to your teacher. He or She shaped your views on the world. You looked around you and saw what the world was. Your parents shared their experiences of the world before you arrived. They watched the same television and read the same newspapers.
Today, you learn from the blogger in Australia or the one in France. You hear the views of people from all over the world. You see how other people live. You see how other people die. You see what people spend, what they buy and want they can’t afford. You see how people dress in India and what music Swedish people listen to. You see life is shorter than your Granny’s lifespan.
Our view of the world has changed dramatically in the last few generations and so too who we learn from.
We are understanding that our time here is limited
Before lifespans were those of our parents and grandparents. We (hopefully) lived sheltered from the harsh realities of the world. Wars were things we read of in newspapers and what our grandparents may have lived.
Now, terrorists attack our towns or those towns of people who look like us. Kids kill other kids in schools. Wars are fought everyday around the world and we hear from people, who look like us, and who live those atrocities. We see families destroyed and children lost.
Spending 40 years in an office no longer seems like something worthwhile.
Our planet is dying around us
Before, plastic was an innovation that would change our lives. Now it is killing our oceans. Before, fridges would cool our food, now we realize they took away our Ozone. Before we were discovering new species all the time. Now we are exterminating them forever.
Our world is heating up and an information war is raging around us. We know we have behaved badly, but how can we change it?
We realize from our time in corporations, that nobody wakes up wanting to destroy the planet, but everyone wants cheap food for their kids and cheap clothes. We know those come with compromise, but is our compromise sustainable?
We have reached a tipping point where we are starting to realize that we need to do something different. We need to do something against this unstoppable tide.
What worked yesterday, doesn’t work today.
Following “passion projects”, de-connecting ourselves from life on the grid and on our phones, and reconnecting with those we love and cherish is suddenly seeming like a calling. An echo that some of us can no longer ignore. Are we making a difference to the lives of those around us?
Our world is too big and we are re-finding our place in it.
Technological transformation is reshaping our understanding and the way we see the world
Technological transformation is the new corporate buzzword. Everyone is doing it. We are adapting our corporate technologies to this disrupted world that we no longer recognize. People aren’t buying the same way as yesterday, people are informing themselves in the same way, people aren’t reviewing in the same way, complaining in the same way and waiting patiently for delivery in the same way. And so why would our lives outside technology be any different.
Early retirement is about re-connecting with the things that matter most, following new paths that are less trodden, breaking out from the mold that has defined us in the past and re-forging the new future.
Early retirees are the new pioneers. They are showing us how we can live our lives differently, how we can make a difference in our own way and how we can find again those things that matter most. It is not about the money, the savings, the wealth, but about so much more.
Ask yourself these questions before you click away to some other page: Is this it? Is where I am and what I am doing the best of me? If the answer is no or you’re unsure, then maybe the new path that early retirees are showing us is worth exploring.