My mother retired at 55 and most of her generation dreamt of early retirement like hers. Unfortunately by the time many of her generation made it to retirement, including my mother, they were so riddled with health problems that living the life they dreamed of became impossible. People I know in Taiwan and China are much the same, but at a different scale. They work insane hours, sometimes for great money, in the hope that in the end they can have enough money to have the freedom to walk away from the pressures of killing themselves.
I never shared this dream of working towards an arbitrary date, a date after reached that you could start living a life worth living. I had different ideas of how I wanted to lead my life, and by my parents definition, I’ve been retired for years now. It’s not been unicorns and rainbows of course, I don’t have a pot of gold, and have little interest, nor the ability, in buying the trappings of wealth like my peers. I’ve failed more times than I can count, I really wanted to work for a select few companies in China, but life has a way of changing your path. Their have been many challenges over the past few years and with a move to Prince Edward Island the greatest challenges are yet to come (how to survive in a region with little possibility of employment), but at least the battles I face are of my own choosing. And the things I have experienced!
I’m copying the following verbatim because I think it expresses much about my ideas of retirement. From Jan Chipchase’s great newsletter:
So what is retirement?
In the Bay Area, the topic of fuck-you money comes up a lot as a retirement goal. In part it’s because the conversation around income, stock and finance is so tied to the mythology of the area, and that most people know of a social or work peer who has achieved the freedom to step away from their job. What I don’t like about the phrase is that it’s a reaction to a negative, it implies earning good money and being happy cannot coexist. I’ve been around corporations most of my life, and understand what they, and the society at large, values financially and why. Not all jobs are intellectually rewarding or provide space for personal growth, but there are many that are — if you’re in the right place at the right time, skillful, and lucky.
Back to sitting on the verandah in Mill Valley — my colleague defined retirement as “doing only what you want to do”. She acknowledged she was part-way there, and suggested that I was fully retired.
So what is my retirement?
Four things provide the freedom that she described:
- The first, and most obvious is in knowing the cost of living and having the savings to breathe.
- The second is that Studio D passion projects have diversified our income streams to the point where we no-longer require consulting clients. The Handbook, SDR Traveller, retreats, expeditio
ns, plus a few other things bubbling up, all generate relatively predictable income streams; and while revenues ebb and flow, they complement each other well. It means that every consulting client project is taken on for the right reasons.
- The third is in maintaining a light footprint, including no offices or full time employees. This might change if the right opportunity came up, but there’s no rush.
- The fourth, and most important, is in recognizing how little money is required to be happy, fulfilled. I start each year with a figure in mind for the year to live comfortably; after which everything, including whether to take on more work, is optional. We achieved this year’s baseline by the end of February.
If you know me, you’ll appreciate the hours I put in to bringing these things to life, and that it always takes a team. But for all of the past four years, it has not once felt like work. Is that retirement? You tell me.