Save. Spend. Splurge.

The Circular Logic of Financial Independence or Early Retirement for me

I have always wondered what the point was to set an extreme goal for financial independence and retirement.

You know, retiring at 40 with $500,000 saved. Or something similar.


It goes in a circular logic for me.. but maybe I am just not seeing the benefit because I enjoy my job too much.

People work hard now, to save all this money…

… so that they can have free time in the future …

… to do all the things that they wish they could be doing now …

instead of working.

Me, I’d rather just do this semi-retired thing I’ve been on.

Work a bit, relax. Work a bit, relax… and do it until I want to retire.

On average, it would be nice to work every other year or so, and still reach my retirement goals ($1 million at a minimum by the time I am 65), without having regretted anything, such as not having had time to spend with my children or missing out on trips because of money.

The only true way to achieve financial independence is basically to make JUST enough money so that it JUST covers your expenses each year, and you don’t drain much of your capital (if at all).

This is not appealing to me either mostly because I’d want a little extra just in case something happens.

I don’t want to save let’s say half a million and have to live on beans, taking cold showers, walking everywhere instead of taking the car or the bus, and tell myself:

But you don’t have any extra money to go on a nice vacation or eat meat.

This is your “financial independence” remember?!?

Kind of an awful way to live if you think about it.

I wonder how many people who go into early retirement end up getting jobs again at the age of 55 after realizing it was not sustainable for the long-term.


  • Roxana

    Well, I’ve been following your blog for some time and enjoying it a lot, but this is my first comment.

    I will never retire. I will die working on my job- it’s been my plan since childhood. And now, the explanation:

    1. Early on my life I discovered I HATE having bosses and I absolutely HATE working the usual 8 hours a day. I could not accept my WHOLE life will be lost between sleeping, eating and working for someone else (bosses included). So I made my plan to become a freelancer of some sort so I can work on my own, have plenty of free time when I feel like. I can work 12 h a day in a row and I have no problem with is as long as I chose when to do it and how to do it and I’m ready to commit 100% to my work as along as it is FOR ME, not for this company or that boss.

    2. This decision made me face the possibility of not having all the money I need at certain times and I decided it’s a fair trade. I’m better sometimes short of money than miserable all the time. 20 years after I graduated and started my freelance project, it turned out to be the best possible decision. I’m running my own firm now and I have 0 plans of retirement since this job/project is entirely interlapping with my life. I subcontract a lot just to make sure I have my fair share of personal life now, and not at retirement. Besides, I am not at all tired and consumed by my work. When I feel it’s just too much, I stop for a week or two and I delegate to someone else. If I feel extra-tired I work from home, on my own pace and solve everything via gsm or email.

    3. Why on earth would I want to retire?! Do WHAT? I already do what I like and what I’m good at and I already have enough free time to feel life it’s worth living. This is exactly why I chose a liberal profession: my work is not my enemy, it’s my ally. I wouldn’t want to retire, I would feel dead. Finished. 0 growing is 0 life in my book. I like to evolve all the time, discover new things, do new things. This is life for me and this is how I want to live it, not like a retired person.

    4. I have to say I’ve been lucky to already own housing so I’ve never had to take a credit. I’ve inherited the house we are living in, it’s been in my family for 90 years and it will go to my son when I’m gone.. The only thing I bought on a credit was the car I’m driving. I bought it in 2007 and I plan to use it until it literally cannot be repaired or fixed anymore. I bought it brand new to make sure it will last a long time and I’m pretty happy with it. The experience of paying the loan I took for the car was horrid. Thanks’s God it’s over- I’m happy I had this experience because now I know I will never ever take a credit again. Next time I want to buy something of some importance I will save and buy it in cash when and if I can afford it. No more monthly payments, that’s for sure. Of course, I live in Europe, we are not that “mobile” compared to our American counterparts and we don’t have credit score here so it is very likely my life solution wouldn’t work in USA. I use debit cards only and I’m very pleased with it and all the money I’m saving goes straight to personal deposits. I love owning cash and handling cash and paying in cash or by debit card.

    My parents were great achievers. They worked hard and postponed their lives to achieve things beyond their means and while they were successful and did extremely well professionally they did not live well and were not happy. They overworked and when retirement came they couldn’t enjoy it because their personal lives and health have been ruined by the amount of work they had done. Same with my grandparents. It is not something I plan to mimic during my lifetime because I know where it leads: a lifetime of frustration. No, thank you!

  • Debbie M

    For me early retirement was not to do all the things I wish I could do when I was working. I also did things when I was working–now I have time to do more of them. Instead of the things my bosses wanted me to do. I am way better at thinking up fun things to do.

    I gave up some things–most of them turned out to be no big deal and I don’t mind continuing to give up those things (shopping only for new clothes, living in a bigger place, relying on others to cook my food). I never had to give up anything important but health insurance, and that was only when I first got out of college (and not because I wanted early retirement but because my jobs were crappy).

    I do bring home a little more than the minimum I need, too. So I’m able to help out my partner while he’s unemployed and go on once-in-a-lifetime vacations with friends.

    I did enjoy at least parts of my work for a long time. And I was well-appreciated by the people I did work for, even if those who decided my raises were clueless. But when I stay at a job too long, I end up doing the work of two people (I know, because they hire two people to replace me) for not enough money (they give both new people the same or better job title than I had). Yes, maybe I should have been more assertive. But I begged for help at the last job and they kept telling me it was not possible. Then it turned out they were mistaken. I’m extremely glad to be away from all that. In fact, I know it’s time to leave when I’d rather live out of my car eating beans and rice than work there. (I’m not magical and can’t do two people’s jobs as only one person, and I really hate doing a mediocre job when I know how to be excellent.)

    So, the point for me is to make sure you’re not paying for things you don’t even want, just because that’s what you think people do. And don’t spend your money on stuff you only sort of want when you could save it for something you really want.


      Wise words: “make sure you’re not paying for things you don’t even want, just because that’s what you think people do. And don’t spend your money on stuff you only sort of want when you could save it for something you really want.”

  • Tim

    “You know, retiring at 40 with $500,000 saved.” Ouch, that hit close to home. 😉

    I do understand what you are getting at, which is why for me its about having enough cash around to pick and choose work that I ‘want’ to do rather than I need to earn money. I use the term ‘early retirement’ because most people don’t get the FI thing. I would rather do some work over the years but leave more ore time now to do what I love. Find what works for you to balance work and the rest of life.

  • Caitlyn

    I see your point. I definitely think that trying to find balance between your career and the rest of your life/passions is important and shouldn’t wait until you’re too old to enjoy that leisure time. However, I feel like the idea that being retired means you’re not “allowed” to do things in exchange for money is a misconception. It’s like people think retirement is this static state of being and any deviation from the course of endless relaxation automatically disqualifies you from that status. Yes, traditionally retired people tend to sit around their house watching TV, gardening, volunteering, or caring for young family members, but isn’t that because they fall into the category of people who worked like dogs their whole lives and are generally too tired to want to do all the things they didn’t do when they were younger? What if that 65+ year old enjoys making jewelry and sells it on Etsy? Or what if they blog or write a book that gets published? Or do occasional handy work for people in their neighborhood? Are they any less retired than someone who chooses to spend their time parked in front of a TV? In my mind, someone who works their whole life and retires from their 9-5 when their 65 and spends their time doing whatever they want is no different than someone who retires from their 9-5 when their in their 40s and spends their time doing whatever they want. If what they want to do winds up earning them money, but still affords them the flexibility to spend more time with family, or traveling, or buying expensive clothes or technology from time-to-time, that doesn’t mean their no longer retired.

  • Taylor Lee @ Yuppie Millennial

    I mean, after I reach financial independence I totally expect to continue working. But the difference is (1) I won’t be under the obligation to make big money and therefore (2) I can choose to do whatever type of work I want, how I want, regardless of remuneration. Maybe I’d feel differently if I could pick up contracts and do the semi-retired semi-working thing, but unless I hit a specific skill set in my work (which has an element of “getting discovered” or “selected” that I’m have no control over) there’s really no way for me to set up shop independently. I think that’s the case for a lot of people– you have to do full-time work always in order to get by. And the only way to get off that track, it feels like, is to do the FI thing.

    It sounds like your biggest critique, though, has to do with the extreme savings aspect and low numbers with which people retire (ERE stye?). If so, there are definitely folks who are similar in mindset but retire on more conventional numbers (I’m thinking of Bogleheads in particular).

  • NZ Muse

    I kinda tend to agree. I enjoy my work! But on bad days I do think there’s something in sucking it up, working like a dog and reaching FI early, haha. But TBH I couldn’t hack that kind of insane job.

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