Thought Leadership

FIRE - Financial Independence, Retire Early?

"Unless a person has a goal, or a new mountain to climb, his spirt will die" - Richard Nixon

I recently read an article posted on Yahoo Money about retiring early. This article was not discussing retiring at 55 or 60; no, it outlined a goal of retiring at 40!

What! Yes, that's correct...a goal of retiring by 40 years of age.

I also discovered from this article there is a movement of young adults working very hard, even working more than one job, to achieve this milestone. The acronym that describes this movement is FIRE - Financial Independence, Retire Early. The FIRE journey is to save at least 50% (in some situations up to 70%) of one's income to reach the goal of financial independence and not work by the age of 40. I'd say that as a goal, this is not too smart, and potentially unhealthy.

I started this piece with a quote from the former President Richard Nixon. While he was a polarizing figure, his quote sums up my view of the idea of not working. Don't do it. Nixon was the only President in history who resigned from office in disgrace, but even he managed to reinvent himself after leaving office. He wrote ten best selling books and became an elder statesmen on foreign policy issues. He was also an informal advisor on foreign affairs to most of the Presidents that succeeded him, according to the recently published book After The Fall, by Kasey Pipes.

Having a goal to retire early in not negative in and of itself. The issue is what happens next. The Yahoo Money article recognized this as a significant downside to retiring early. The question is what does one do to occupy their time following retirement. Another significant downside to the FIRE journey is sacrificing too much too early to achieve this goal. The stress of focusing on this goal can be psychologically unhealthy. According to the article, many individuals on the FIRE path soon realized this downside, and changed course.

What can be learned from this?

Regardless of when you plan to retire, at 40, 50 or 60, have a plan! Remember, retirement is turning the page to a new chapter. My advice, instead of retiring, redirect!

What does that mean?

First, complete retirement, and doing nothing, can lead to unintended consequences. These unintended consequences can include boredom, lack of intellectual stimulation and reduced social interaction with others. All of which can lead to unhappiness, depression and possibly a shortened lifespan.

Second, it's important to have an action plan after retirement to provide a road map for next steps. This is critical. Remember, retirement in and of itself is not bad; doing nothing is bad. This is what redirection is all about, having a plan to be engaged in something.

According to a recent Willis Towers Watson study on the Future of Work, Baby Boomers are retiring at a rate of one every nine seconds. This means that millions of professionals will be at a crossroads about what to do next? Some will quietly depart the work place to the golf course and be content. However, my guess is that many will look for that next mountain to climb. The type A personality/hard charging professional can't just go away quietly. That's not in their DNA.

What is your goal, or your next mountain to climb? Have plan to do something. Find your passion! Start a part time business, do volunteer work, or turn a hobby into more than just a hobby. A friend of mine was a successful insurance executive who took an early retirement package at age fifty to pursue his passion of making custom wood furniture, something he had done for years as a hobby. He turned his hobby into a successful business.

The late Fredrick Hudson, in his book The Adult Years, discussed the concept of the "self-renewing" person. The concept is to embrace the opportunity that comes with each transition in life, more importantly retirement. This is an excellent time to turn the page to the next chapter and redirect to an entirely new challenge.

Until next time...

Jim Ward