The weirdest thing happened to me last week at work. One of the best parts of the day is when we all arrive at work and stand around for a few minutes chit chatting about the day ahead. Sometimes we stray into personal topics, which makes for a fun start to the morning. Last week, however, we received our holiday bonus pay in our checks and I made the mistake of saying that I was counting on so much more but forgot that I had x% coming out for my 401(k) contributions. When I said the percentage – they almost fell over. And thus, a heated debate over coffee and copiers ensued…
The Accepted and Expected Path
I will start by saying that I have worked with these people for a decade. A decade. That is a very long time and I tend to think of them as people I know well. So the fact that my comment about my retirement savings and my desire to retire before 67 1/2 was met with such utter resistance and push back floored me.
Let’s first examine the acceptable/expected path of adulthood. You graduate high school, go on to higher education and/or get a job, work for 40+ years, and retire somewhere in your mid-late 60s. Am I right? Now, somewhere along the way you might meet a nice guy or gal and make more people for our planet. Or maybe not. It all depends what you choose to do with the time in between careers and everything else. But undoubtedly, regardless of what you do with your personal life, your professional one stretches well into your golden years. Okay, now that we’re clear on that, let’s move on.
I tend to not advertise the fact that I write this blog to my co-workers because I’m not too keen on them having access to the ins and outs of all my private financial information. Because I don’t advertise it, they weren’t aware that I was on FIRE. So I excitedly told them why I was saving so much for retirement and what else Mr. MMM and I were doing with our money. I was met with raised eyebrows and “you’re crazy” looks. I was shocked that they were shocked, but that was the way of it.
Early Retirement Movement
I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone reading this post about the underground early retirement movement. I did, however, need to explain it to my glassy-eyed co-workers. Let me also state that I work in a boring scientific field and my co-workers don’t drive flashy cars or live in extravagant houses. Basically, they all live within their means, so the possibility of someone saving/investing enough to cut out before they turn 60, or 50, or even 40 should’ve seemed somewhat realistic to them. Yet it didn’t. Again. Shocked.
Even though I thought I did an excellent job of explaining how people are retiring in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, on salaries just like the ones we were making, by saving and investing more than the average bear and buying less STUFF than everyone else, they weren’t convinced. I gave great examples from the top people in our community! I talked about Mr. Money Mustache, the Frugalwoods, Go Curry Cracker, and Think Save Retire. I even quoted the Trinity Study. All to no avail. Not only were they not convinced, but they also tried to tell me what a crock of crap this supposed made-up early retirement movement was.
ACTUAL RIDICULOUS ARGUMENTS I HEARD:
-“But, I like working.”
-“I wouldn’t want to retire at age 40; I would be too young, maybe 50.”
-“I wouldn’t know what to do everyday if I retired.”
-“I wouldn’t want to deprive myself of everything to retire and sit at home.”
-“How are these people actually living? I would want to travel. I couldn’t travel if I had to live on 30k/year.”
Changing Someone’s Mind
After about 30 minutes of a heated debate where I felt compelled to defend the FIRE community and my decision to join it, I was able to get 1 person to ask me to send them stuff. That one person? A co-worker in her 20s – the youngest of the bunch! Success! I didn’t set out trying to convert anyone to early retirement. I just happened to mention my 401(k) savings rate. It spiraled into a discussion about how it would be impossible to live a fulfilling life without working until you’re old. Ugh. I can’t say I changed anyone’s mind. I did, I think, made them think about alternatives to their current situation. But I guess, an alternative to someone’s current living situation can be threatening when it goes against the societal grain.
What do you think? Is it possible to help someone see the light and accept that early retirement is possible? Have you done it? Or have you found yourself engaged in a conversation like I had last week? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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