The age of early retirement is coming down rapidly. There are several blogs about retiring at 40. Mr. Money Mustache famously retired at 30. Lately, at least two bloggers beat Mr. Money Mustache and retired at 25. Do I hear 20? How about 15?
I went to my dentist last month to have two broken fillings replaced. According to a healthcare provider listing, my dentist Dr. M graduated from dental school in 1971. He’s now 70. The appointment was at 8:00 a.m. because I wanted to get on with work afterward. Dr. M was already there ready to start when I arrived. So he must have opened the office at 7:30 or earlier.
Why is Dr. M still working at 70? What gets him out of bed and into the office this early? Is he one of those baby boomers who we hear can’t retire? Does he need the money because he’s an overspender? Doesn’t he find it repetitive after having seen everything one can imagine after all these years? I’m sure he’s not learning anything new from replacing my fillings. It must be just routine — another patient, another filling to replace.
Dr. M didn’t show any lack of interest whatsoever. As always, he explained what he was about to do every step of the way. The whole procedure took him and his assistant an hour and a half. I’m sure he and his office staff will also have to do some paperwork afterward.
My insurance company and I paid Dr. M $578 for fixing my two fillings. Dr. M runs a small office. It’s just himself, his assistant, his wife as the office manager, and 3 hygienists. After paying his staff, office overhead, and taxes, was it worth it for Dr. M to get up early, drive to the office, and spend 1-1/2 hours on fixing my teeth for maybe $200 net? Especially considering that he must be beyond financially independent several times over by this time?
I doubt he’s in it for the money. He loves helping patients. I can tell when he talks to me. I see two 7-foot-tall shelves full of charts when I check in at the front desk. There’s a real person behind every chart. Dr. M puts a smile on every one of them. I imagine that’s his motivation.
Work is often described as a rat race, from which you are supposed to escape as soon as you can. It doesn’t have to be that way. It’s a rat race only if your heart and mind are not in it. It’s not a burden when you want to do it. I’m glad Dr. M didn’t quit fixing teeth as soon as he reached financial independence.
As the reason for the office’s existence, Dr. M also provides jobs for his employees. One of the hygienists has been with his practice for 22 years! No wonder his office feels like family.
Author Daniel Pink listed three elements of true motivation in his bestselling book Drive: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Dr. M has all three. He controls when, where, and how much work he takes. He’s good at what he does. He sees the positive results of his work. When you have autonomy, mastery, and purpose, you will want to keep doing it. If not, acquire them now, so you don’t have to watch the clock and count the days till you can get out.
Besides providing great satisfaction, a positive side effect of staying in your job after reaching financial independence is that it provides the financial means for all the “extras” you hesitated to spend on before. You do what you love to do. It pays for any luxury you care about. Whenever work becomes a burden, you just scale it down or stop. It’s a great arrangement.
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Mark Zoril says
Nice post and review of the dynamics that would impact an individuals decision to work later in life! I work with many of my clients who are still working well into their 70’s and 80’s. They are engaged in their work and very inspiring. A common thread among them, for the most part, is that they all feel gratitude for the opportunity to be doing their work. My plan is to work as long as I possibly can and part of my motivation is how I have seen so many of my clients staying healthy by working well into their “retirement” years. On the other hand, many people I work with are grinding in their work. They can’t wait until they can get out. They feel trapped and, in extreme cases, miserable. And they simply can get a job as a “consultant” in retirement. So it really varies from person to person, but in many respects, the “glamorization” of retirement and early retirement makes those that work in their 70’s and 80’s seem odd.
Money Beagle says
A family friend is almost 70 and works as a CPA. He has no interest in retiring. At this point he does it not because it’s ‘work’ but because he enjoys what he does, it keeps him busy, and keeps him sharp. Otherwise, as he’s said, he would just sit around and do nothing, and what’s the fun in that.
Michelle Truman says
Hello, Interesting take on the process of whether to keep working or not once one has a choice. There are a lot of choices and certainly one is about where you work. Some work for a paycheck and that’s ok. Others work for the love of it and the money follows. My personal experience with those who choose to work late into life is that it is sometimes because they did not take the time to build the relationships and bonds at home, with family and with friends, that would make non-work time more valuable. In fact, in some cases those very relationships were formed with co-workers and clients. There is nothing wrong with this. But it also doesn’t take away from the fact that others want to put their personal investment into activities and people in their life outside of work. And those people may want to exit the work environment a lot sooner if they are financially able, to reap the rewards of those personal investments.
What are the two blogs who retitred at 25? Do you mind sharing? Thanks!
Harry Sit says
Tom Jodway says
This is the same story as my dentist, who also loved his work and talking to patients. I think we talked more about money and politics than my teeth. Unfortunately for me he sold his business and went into full retirement.
Laura Beth says
Great post. While there are many people who claim to have “retired” at a certain age, most are still working.
Maybe we need to stop talking about retiring and start talking about doing work we love.
Thias @It Pays Dividends says
That is the great thing about financial independence! It allows you to do whatever you want. There is no problem if what you want is to keep working. FI just gives you the choice of making a change whenever you want. I know many people who would push off retirement as long as they can because they truly love what they do. It is just nice to be able to have that choice.
Millennial Moola says
Thanks for the shout out for my blog Harry. Those are some really great points. To be honest the job I was in that allowed me to get enough savings to walk away at 25 provided me neither autonomy nor purpose but it did help me grow towards mastery. If you are only getting 1 out of 3 of these motivation factors it seems like you’re probably in the wrong line of work. At one point in my job I had 2 of 3 but lost one after I got into a more restrictive department. The nice part about having a very high savings rate is when you don’t have these three critical elements motivating you, you can walk away and try something new. I’m very glad I left my job to start Millennial Moola. I’m writing this from the Ukraine right now where a really nice dinner is $3-$4 and a hostel room with hot showers, free internet, coffee, and tea for $5. I hope I discover the calling that gives me 3 of 3 I might be tempted to jump back into the workforce if I do.
Thanks for the shoutout Harry. I love these kinds of stories. In my mind, the idea isn’t to retire from life. It’s about retiring from a life that you hate. Most folks are stuck in crappy jobs and are miserable. They need to retire from that.
As cheesy as it is, the old adage will always apply:
If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.
It seems those who say they retire at age 35 or less are not really retired. They either live off the land, meaning spend almost nothing each year, or write blogs that provide income. Maybe what they should say is they don’t have to work at a job they hate, or they are their own boss. To me retiring at that age means they have all the money they need to survive with no income from outside activities, like blogging.
It makes no difference what you think retiring means. People who “retire at 35” are financially independent. If they get money from somewhere – blogging, gigs or investments, it does not mean they do not have enough to survive without it. Financial independence may mean being free to work on whatever you want even if you were not paid for it. Now if you get paid for it, then that would be an icing on top. Just because you get paid for it does not mean you are not retired.
Dividend Growth Investor says
Thank you for writing this refreshing post. I say refreshing, because it explores an angle that people will stay at their work after reaching FI. It does look like most websites these days are focused on early retirement, and achieving it in the 30s or early 40s. However, most of those individuals are planning on pursuing productive endeavors/hobbies with their time, which do generate more income. In most cases, these include making money from writing online about retiring early.
In my case, I am thinking of continuing working after reaching Financial Independence. I will have more life options though, which is all I am after.
Harry Sit says
As all bloggers know, blogging successfully is a lot of work. If generating more income is a goal, one might as well use the existing skills, which pay much better.
Millennial Moola says
I will second that blogging to make income is very difficult. I think the way Mr. Money Mustache does it makes a lot of sense and is the way I’d want to do it if I ever explored that avenue. Make money primarily from affiliate links for stuff you believe in and avoid making your site look like a bad series of flashy billboards. Whoever wants to make money blogging I’d say best case scenario is you break even after your first couple years before you start making any money, maybe some other folks on here could challenge that but that’s just what it seems to be like to me. Millennial Moola will not be making any money for me for a long time, but that’s the fun in it is working on something that you don’t have to. If I make money from it one day, great. If not, that’s ok too.
I find that after a normal work day, including exercising, taking care of the house, finances, going out with friends, or whatever, I’m usually more inspired to watch a movie, read a book, or fall asleep over writing content for my blog. You need to unwind at some point.
However, if your normal day isn’t demanding, then you stand a good chance of being a successful blogger.
I realize you used a story to try to make the post more interesting, but your point was that your dentist is working because he wants to, not because he needs to. But you actually have no idea if he needs to or not.
I’m a dentist, and sadly I know quite a few dentists in their mid 60’s and older who continue to work for the income. That can happen for a wide variety of reasons, poor savers, bad investment choices, late divorces, etc.
Stephen Nelson says
I like your thinking here, Harry. Two related points:
(1) It is *really* hard to retire at age 30 or 40 and get your spending truly balanced with your investment-generated income. I say this as a 55-year-old CPA working in the community where Microsoft created thousands and thousands of thirty-something multimillionaires a decade or two ago. Most of the time, I will guess, either overspending or under-performance destroys the initial plan.
(2) A surprising number of people who can and maybe have retired later decide to go back to work just to have the intellectual and social stimulation. I have heard from several good and very successful friends who retired early and wealthy the advice, “Don’t retire…”
I think that ages 35-45 are good early retirement targets. Dedicated individuals can earn enough to be financially independent and retire in a more traditional sense… even if they do decide to keep working some.
Retiring in the 25-30 range generally seems like it is making “retirement” more of a semantics argument than a financial goal.
Rule #1 to retiring at 25: Don’t have kids! Sorry, I couldn’t resist.