Another Odd Reaction To FIRE

Reaching financial independence & retiring early (FIRE) leads to all kinds of interesting reactions from people I meet. Some want to learn how you did it, others are puzzled over how it could be done, but most are just happy for you. Yesterday someone said simply, “I want to live your life!”

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  • Not all of the reactions people have are positive, though. I wrote a couple posts on people’s odd reactions in the past, but realized there is an infrequent, but curious reaction I had not mentioned: people who want to deny that you are actually retired. People who strangely think you are secretly living a life of full employment, or have planned out an elaborate Jimmy Buffett-like charade whereby you act like a beach bum, but are actually running a huge merchandising empire.

    This is kind of an odd bunch, but I first noticed it a couple of summers ago when I was having lunch with an old colleague at a nearby restaurant. We were eating on the patio when a friend of his came up to say hi. My friend introduced me and told his friend I was “retired” – with his fingers making air quotes, like there was something dubious about my actual status. It was as if he wanted to cast doubt on my early retirement or that it was make-believe. It was confusing to both me and his friend.

    Since then I’ve noticed it happens about once a month. When I might joke about not working, someone might say “yeah, right – we know you work”. Or, they’ll ask my wife “he’s not really retired is he?” I’ve been questioned by a lot of people who ask “It’s really only a partial retirement, isn’t it?”

    The weirdest thing related to this was when someone told me a former colleague was telling people that I was fired from my MegaCorp job and merely ‘pretending’ to be retired. Since I stopped working back on April Fool’s Day in 2016, I’m not sure how he could have thought that it was plausible to pretend this long.

    While it’s true that I serve on one paid corporate board and do an occasional consulting project for a friend or two, these activities take up very little time and are financially inconsequential for us. Whether they were paid or not, I would still enjoy doing them. As such, they are certainly not ‘work’ in any material sense of the word.

    After almost three full years of being a goof-off, I would have expected these comments to have faded away, but just the other day I got a puzzling “Oh, we know your really still work a lot” comment from someone, to which I replied, “you clearly have me confused with someone else!”

    I really wish these folks would simply look up this web site and see that we had planned for our FIRE lifestyle years before early retiring and steadily counted down the months until I left MegaCorp. Perhaps if they understood the work, savings, and decisions we made to enable this lifestyle, they would ‘get it’.

    While I find this reaction odd, what other people think about what I do with my time is really of no consequence to me. I’m plenty happy with the lifestyle we’ve been able to create for ourselves and enjoy goofing off as my ‘job’.

    As I often say, early retirement is the best job I never had!

    Image Credit: Pixabay

    13 thoughts on “Another Odd Reaction To FIRE

    1. I got similar occasionally during a two-year sabbatical.

      I managed to dig into a few conversations about why the reaction. The (very!) small sample seemed evenly split between “strict traditionalist definition of retirement” and “envy”. Basically, the comment was about the speaker not me the target.

      Neither of these I can do anything about, so I learned to simply shrug the comments off.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. We’ve run into this a lot too. It’s usually in the form of backhanded comments from acquaintances like, “It must be nice to be you and go on vacation for a few months, you must have won the lottery or had a big inheritance.” Neither of which could be farther from the truth. Like most FIRE followers, we did it the old fashioned way…a LOT of persistent saving from our careers over many years, investing in good low cost index funds and solid rental properties, and keeping our cost of living in check while we raised two kids.

      I usually just laugh and say, “Yep, I love my life, but the road less traveled to get here isn’t for everyone.” It typically stops the conversation and the conversation usually heads off into a different direction pretty quickly. For the few who genuinely want to know how and why, I gladly explain. But sadly, very few bother to actually ask those questions. I think it’s “safer” for most to simply fool themselves into thinking its impossible, and merrily drone on into the marketing and spending frenzied life most live.

      …I’ll just quietly keep loving my life! 😉

      (Cheers to those who truly get it!)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I thought as the years add up, the few ‘deniers’ would be easily proven wrong, but they are surprisingly persistent. I like your “Just quietly keep loving my life!” – that’s the best approach of all!


    3. I have told a few people over the years that i plan to retire at 40
      I am now 36 and thinking about it carefully now.
      The other week a friend wanted to talk to me about FI and it felt a bit strange- like going on a hike with someone who wants to climb one hill and you have the route planned all the way to Mt. Blanc.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am guessing not many people you’ve talked to can conceive of retiring at age 40. That means you grew up for 20 years, worked for 20 years, and will be a ‘goof-off’ for 50 years! Fantastic. Live your dreams!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I wouldn’t think that I’ve worked for 20 years without goofing off half the time. 😉
          but I think that in some jobs you go from just doing it to become married to it – the additional responsibilities, qualifications, training, mentoring of others….
          soon you’re in so deep that you can’t imagine what else you could do with your life (I’m not talking theoretically here!).

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Yes – work doesn’t need to be too serious, but in time it does become a bit of an obligation!


    4. Not sure I will run into this … but maybe … I plan to retire from pseudo-government after 5 years coincidentally April 1, 2020. My real date is January 1, 2020 but I may work through the winter here in the heartland and retire in the spring. That will put me at 56 1/2 so not really sure if I will get the comments. I do plan to continue doing some work part time in a whole different field helping my brother in his renovation/cabinet business which is more of a passion of mine than a job which the pay will be very small if any at all. Honestly after nearly 34 years of Information Technology Leadership … I’m ready and will gladly take the remarks with a 🙂 !

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Congratulations! You are almost right on your ONE YEAR countdown then. I really enjoyed my last year at work. I started this blog at just about that point, so look back at some of the old posts if you are interested. The annual work cycle has a certain seasonal rhythm to it, so I enjoyed going through the planning, budgeting, and marketing ‘seasons’ for the last time – knowing that it was my last time through them. Enjoy!


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