“What Does Your Dad Do For A Living?”

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For today’s Mr.FireStation post, I decided to turn the space over to my 18 year old son who starts his freshman year of college on Wednesday.  Just as MRS FireStation posted her perspective on our early retirement a few weeks ago, I thought it would be interesting to hear from the other member of our nuclear family. 

“What does your Dad do for a living?”

I have quite an interesting time explaining to other kids my age that my Dad retired early at age 49.  People ask, “What does your Dad do for a living?”  and If I know the person well, I’ll tell them. Frankly, I don’t think I’ve met a single person who hasn’t been positively shocked.

I guess people just think retirement is only for very old people, CEO’s, or people who’ve won the lottery.  The inevitable follow-up question is consistently: “What did he do before that!?”  When I explain he was a pretty high-up executive at MegaCorp, they only sort of understand.  The fact is, regardless of your job, even regular people can also retire early.  How?  Six words: “live below your means” and “index funds”.

When I talk about index funds, most people look at me like I’m pitching a pyramid scheme.  There is great power in one’s ability to invest savings in low-cost funds over long periods of time.  With a $1 million invested and a 4% withdrawal rate, you can live on ~$40K a year while doing nothing for a long time. 

I’ve usually lost most people my age by this point.

If I don’t know a person well, and they ask me about my early retired Dad, more often than not I’ll just tell them that he works at MegaCorp, even though he quit. It’s much easier than to get into the whole story with them.  Additionally, there’s no easier way to mark yourself as a rich kid than by telling them your father retired before he was fifty.  There’s nothing wrong with being a rich kid, just people see you as an easy target of sorts.

“Oh, you can’t carry this heavy box? Probably because you’ve never worked a day in your life.”  Guys, my socioeconomic status is completely unrelated to my physical strength. And even if I was super strong, I expect I’d hear “Oh, he’s so strong because he can afford top of the line workout gear and can work out all day.”  (Rant over. The unwanted ‘rich kid’ attention is a small price to pay for awesome vacations) 🙂

So, what’s it like to have your Dad not working?

It’s pretty weird.  Overall, he seems much happier.  We used to do one or two things each weekend – go to the mall, see a movie, attend an event, or go out to eat. Now it seems like we’re doing something every day, and it’s awesome.  That said, one thing I’ve noticed is that my Dad gets more irritated at trivial things than he used to – usually stuff he sees in the news.  I think it’s a bit of a perspective thing – once you don’t have to worry about office politics, the more you become irritated with other things, even if they don’t impact you as directly.

I do feel lucky that I’m the second generation of parents who are financially independent & retired early (FIRE).  It feels like I get a front-row view of what an entire working life can be like.  I get a chance to learn from their successes (and challenges).

So, what have I learned from seeing my dad working for MegaCorp(s) for 25+ years?

That I want to be self-employed!

Even with my limited personal experience of only working part-time retail jobs in the summer,  I’ve decided that doing the “classic” nine-to-five won’t be my preferred approach.  Even while I am working my primary plan to go to college and to get a regular job, every step of the way I’ll be experimenting with a lot of different side-projects to see if I can get one viable enough to be a self-employed job or business. 

I think owning your own business has a high correlation with financial independence. I’ve read that self-employed people make up less than 20% of the workers in America, but account for two-thirds of America’s millionaires.

If nothing else, I’ve learned to work smart. Yes, working hard is part of that, but I’ve worked plenty hard in retail and that doesn’t stop me from making minimum wage. If you compare how hard a road worker works every year versus how hard Bill Gates works, it’s clear that working smart is much better than working hard.  Road workers have physically demanding jobs, while Bill Gates goes to meetings and meets with other executives and billionaires.  When you see the road worker makes ~$40K a year, while Bill Gates makes billions, it is easy to see the value of working SMART.  Working smart means finding a career where you can bring unique value to others – and bank it for your future!

Image Credit: Pixabay

21 thoughts on ““What Does Your Dad Do For A Living?”

  1. Awesome and I love that closing sentence.

    Psst…..don’t tell him this – don’t listen to your dad!! ( only joking!!)

    Very best of luck with college and have fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great perspective! This gives me hope that my three children will make good decision based on the examples I have laid out. 🙂 Good luck during your freshmen year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tomorrow is his first day of classes. I would have him respond to comments directly, but he is already on campus!


    1. A few good lessons in personal finance make up for all the bad advice I’ve given him over the years 😉


  3. An awesome post! It’s great to hear from your son as I’m sure explaining dad being retired young is a challenge! My daughter is working on a post from college for my site too. My son is in agreement with yours about the 9-5. Love his comment about working smart too! He’s got a lot of this figured out thanks to you!


  4. Hey Sparky, think your kid will do just fine. Seems to be a bright young fellow.
    There was one thing, he could also refer to his dad as a “professional investor”, for those folks that have difficulty understanding the FIRE principles;-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes – I do invest and it does pay money, so why not? ‘Professional gambler’ sounds cool too, but probably is a bit of an overreach 😉


      1. Yeah, professional gambler, that’s the one! You do need to wear sunglasses all the time, minimum requirement to make it work.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This was great to read your sons perspective (Hi Junior FireStation!).

    “Even while I am working my primary plan to go to college and to get a regular job, every step of the way I’ll be experimenting with a lot of different side-projects” – this is such a great mindset towards owning your own business and being self employed. There is way too much risk in building a business from 0 whilst having no other income on the side. Throwing yourself 100% into “make or break” on one venture is a sure fire way to have no true financial security, all those eggs in one basket makes me cringe so hard!

    I’ve watched my parents be self employed and struggle immensely, they are late 40s, selling their house just to pay off their debt (and won’t have much left after that). If they had salaried jobs they would be in a much better financial position and could still do the self employed businesses as side hustles – the money situation would turn around so fast! but they are too stubborn to work for someone else. Being self employed at all costs definitely won’t bring guaranteed success, gotta know when working for someone else is the most effective. The other benefit of having a salaried job is that you will probably have a bit of free time to work on those side hustles, but when you’re running your own business from the ground up you’re desperate for cash and spend every moment focusing on that one avenue of money.

    Getting a regular job and building up your side hustles is the way to go – isn’t there some statistic that most millionaires have multiple income streams? Would be great to hear little updates about how Junior FireStation goes with navigating the entry level of FIRE 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great comments and insights! Especially the amount of time taken up by starting a small business. I do some advising to small businesses and I am always impressed by the level of effort and commitment that takes compared to working for MegaCorp. They do seem happier, though – they call their own shots and fully realize the fruits of their labor.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. That’s a great perspective on FIRE lifestyle and one I’ve wondered about with our kids. How they could explain it, will it be a help or hindrance for them later in life, those sorts of things. To be fair, even at 39 yrs old, most people I try to explain the same basic $1 million – 4% rule concept, or even just mention index funds, look at me like I’m trying to explain something as complex as quantum mechanics and string theory.

    Then I get that look followed up with a statement like, “That’s a ways off, I don’t need to worry about that now…” Sigh… At least it sounds like your son is on a good start in regard to finances though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Funny how simple math can be so confusing to people, isn’t it? I was not a good student in algebra, trigonometry, or calculus like many friends of mine were, yet when it comes to personal finance they have s hard time putting 2+2 together.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. He’s pretty frugal with his money overall, although he did buy a big TV for his freshman dorm room. It takes up the top of his whole desk!


  7. Thanks for the incredibly insightful post! I have four sons so these words provide much food for thought.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I LOVE LOVE LOVE that you’ve given your son this perspective. That is my ultimate goal: I want my children to explain as eloquently as yours that there are options out there that aren’t the standard ones and it’s possible and awesome to create your own path!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks – He’s a special guy with a great head on his shoulders! He called me from college today to say he successfully auditioned for the college symphonic band which means he gets free fine arts credit (worth a lot of $$$).


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