Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Is Retirement Inherently Selfish?

Thanks to Syd at Retirement: A Fulltime Job for directing me to Financial Sumurai's post on The Dark Side of Early Retirement.

At age 61, it's too late for Grace to retire early. But some very interesting questions are raised. Is it selfish to retire early? Are those who tout early retirement really covering up for career failures? If it requires super-frugality to retire early and remain there, does volunteerism go by the wayside?

And perhaps most interesting of all--are those who have retire early really as happy as they sound and is their life in retirement as easy as they make it seem?

Reading through the many comments left in response to Financial Sumurai's initial post, it is easy to see that others besides myself question whether the whole concept of retirement is really for us.

Syd addresses this over and over in her blog. Ultimately, she thinks it comes down to temperment.

I have to agree. And we need to be honest with ourselves as to what it will take to keep ourselves satisfied.

Some of us depend upon external stimuli to keep us in the game.

Left to my own devices, I'd happily stay ensconced at home with books and my television set, at least until the Ben & Jerry's ice cream ran out. But I know me. Heck, I got bored when I spent a month at home after my heart surgery.

That's why, even without the financial impetus my debt provides, I'd still work beyond the average retirement age. I see my retirement as requiring volunteer work of some sort just to get me out in the real world. I see the need for a schedule of sorts, even if it is a much lighter one that my work world requires.


Anonymous said...

I believe its the persons mindset. Some people need work as part of their social requirements. I love retirement. I have so many hobbies, and even after leaving work I still don't have time for them all. After so many years of structure it is really nice to sleep until 7am with no feeling of guilt.

I had a great career, and can return to it anytime I wish. Perhaps that helps my mental state.

To each his own? Nobody can make you happy but you. Good luck.

God Bless.

See Ya

Retired Syd said...

I don't know if this speaks to the selfish thing, but I just had a realization while reading your post.

I've always thought I would be volunteering by this point in my retirement (I'm into my 3rd year). I realize, the reason I don't feel like I have the time to, is because of classes and studying.

I've been enrolled in one class or another ever since I've been retired. Not only am I engaged and challenged by learning new things, unlike my past education, I'm studying exclusively what interests me. (Not what will help me get a job someday.)

I'm starting to think I may spend much of my retired years learning new things, which, since it is taking away from "giving back," may indeed be a bit selfish.

Oh well.

Anonymous said...

I don't think early retirement is selfish. I did it almost 10 years ago and that was because I was a millionaire and I accomplished all I set out to do, so I wanted out. I had a truckload of things I wanted to accomplish in retirement and now, I've done that also.

Currently, I am at a crossroad and I have come to realize that there are other things I want to accomplish BUT these new things take money. Money that my passive income can not provide. Eventually you reach the end of a bare bones and frugal lifestyle and you want some semblance back in your life.

No calculator could have taken into account The Great Recession and all those beautiful new toys from Apple Inc. As an ex-computer geek, it didn't make common sense to me to forgo man's greatest technological advancements. The world, right now, is chock full of wonderful things and I want back in!

So, thank the Lord, I just landed a fantastic job with a publisher (plan on reading one of my newly published books in the near future)and my glass ceiling just got smashed to bits. Maybe the 10 year hiatus did me a world of good. I dunno. But I do know that early retirement is a fantasy. Right now, the world is my oyster. My new boss and I will be traveling to Italy (my Italian cook book!) and in March we'll be in San Diego (woo hoo!)

I've been very honest in my blog: when I had hardships, I wrote about them. I'm not a coward or ashamed. It is what it is.

Syd, you're only starting year #3. Let's see how YOU are in 10 years. Everything you're doing, I did 10 times over. Trust me: it gets boring and your money gets tight. Eventually, it just isn't worth it (retirement, that is) anymore.

Good luck to all.

MasterPo said...

Selfish? Absolutely not!

"Selfish" implies making your wants and desires your goal is somehow bad, maybe evil, compared to some grand notion of 'greater good'. Or that you striving and achieving your goals hutrs others. Also total bull.


The expectation of retirement, it early or by age 65-69-70-whatever common age is often referenced, *might* be selfish in the sense that having the ability to in fact retire at any age is a goal, not a right or expectation.

If someone is never able to retire (or at least fully retire) that's their own doing and not because someone screwed them in life.

MasterPo's father worked until the day he died literally, both out of choice and obligation to provide for his family.

Super Saver said...


It seems like you are equating "retiring from a job" with "retiring from life." Doing the first doesn't cause the second to happen, unless one allows it :-)

Living Almost Large said...

Nope, not selfish. My mom retired early, but then again she has a super pension, free medical for life for her and my dad, and will have SS and medicare. So retirement is a life of Riley for her at 70% of her salary for life.

She adores it. She retired at age 55 and would have retired at 50 if she could have. She exercises, travels, etc.

Unlike other retirees she has no financial worries and is very secure because of the pension. I believe if that you have to fund your own retirement, that surviving is HARD. You have to be frugal and cheap.

But if you get a pension for life? Free medical insurance? She's making $4k/month net for not working. Trust me, it's easy to survive and she's happy.

I gave birth and she's come up every month to see me traveling cross country. She plans on coming another 2x over the summer. So financially,emotionally, and physically I doubt she's suffering.

She lunches out daily, exercises daily, and has fun. She does cardio kickboxing 2x/week, zumba 1x/week, 2x/week weight training.

But I agree that many early retirees probably can't enjoy their retirement with her freedom since they don't have financial security and assets.

Financial Samurai said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Grace. I personally feel if I don't give everything I've got for at least the amount of years I went to school, then I'm being selfish.

With so many people in the world not even given the opportunity for education, I think it's my absolute duty to try and make something of my life for at least 20 years.



Unknown said...

I think it's not retirement per se, whether at an early age or not, that is selfish. It is when you don't want to function as a responsible citizen doing your social duties anymore because you just want to concentrate on enjoying the compensation of your monetary retirement benefits, in a posh residence, perhaps. If I would reach my retirement age, of course I would enjoy the benefits of senior living in a Charlotte retirement community but, at the same time, I will still actively participate in socio-civic activities in which I have devoted my career for twenty years of my life.

Barb said...

With all respect to Syd-I think it depends how important your work was to you and how much your life centered on your work. It does sound from her writings like work was a huge part of her life, the main concentration. While thats not a bad thing, its not true of everyone, including professionsals. Secondly, even if it is, there are many things you can do, Including volunteering and using those skills elsewhere. In my case my social life never revolved around work and I found office parties a chore. I do have to say that the people I know who are happiest, had a few totally work unrelated interestes before they retired. My husband skiid, was a sports official on the side and was part of the local theater group, I was already active in my church, belonged to a quilting group, liked to travel, and was doing some writing here and there.

William said...

Many of the most selfless people I know retired from their professions years ago, moved to a retirement community in North Carolina and adopted full-time volunteer positions. They have devoted their retirement years to servicing society in ways that working folks don't have the time to do. "Retirement" doesn't necessarily translate to "unproductive". Retirement communities are filled senior residents who awake each morning to serve others.