The Great Debate.

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I’ve already touched on this subject, but questions remain.

In my post the point, I explained why even someone (like me ) who loves their job is well served by pursuing the early retirement goal.

And in carpe diem, I pointed out that saving for retirement is not really a sacrifice at all.

But I’ve been getting a lot of interesting comments, indicating that my arguments have been less than persuasive. (I’m looking at you Bob.)

And by the way, keep the comments, coming. I love them. Especially the argumentative ones.

But I thought this would be a good opportunity to list all the reasons why early retirement is a great thing to pursue.

1. The Circular Logic Argument.

This one would not win any debating contests, but that’s not what’s important to me.

The fact is that pursuing early retirement has made me happier. I will dissect some of the reasons for this below. But let me just posit from the start that something that makes you happier, that doesn’t hurt other people, is a thing worth considering seriously.

Happiness after all, is what I’m after. How about you?

2. The F-U Money Argument. 

jlcollonsnh wrote a really nice and personal post about the importance of F-U money.  (Go ahead, read it.)

The essential point here is that no job is secure.

Relationships change, organizations change, people change, the world changes. And most people hold more than one job in their career whether they like it or not.

So having a big nest egg allows you to deal with change from a position of strength.

I like to imagine my nest egg as a collection of thousands of little Joe Pesci’s from Goodfellas. Even though they generally keep to themselves, staying busy earning dividends and appreciating, they’re never too busy to stare menacingly at a problem I’m having while muttering menacingly  “Do you think I’m Funny? Do I amuse you?”

Joe_Pesci_4 (2)

You got a problem that needs talking to, Boss?

3. The Signal To Noise Argument.

Saving for retirement requires you to weigh what is important and eliminate what is not in order to cut spending.

By diverting resources away from that which does not make you meaningfully happier, you are able to fill your life with more things that do make you happy.

One could also call this the smorgasbord argument. Not aggressively saving for your retirement is like eating at an a Hometown Buffet : You eat more and taste less. Though your stomach ends up overstuffed, your pleasure to food ratio ends up very, very, low.

Extending the metaphor, the early retirement lifestyle is more like eating at a fantastic sushi restaurant. Each dish is but a few grains of perfectly prepared rice with a delicate sliver of unadorned fish atop it. But each small bite eclipses the pleasure of 10 smorgasbords.

But cutting away the unnecessary noise, the sweet sweet signal of pleasure is amplified.

4. The Pressure Cooker Argument.

Having debt, or financial insecurity reminds me of that feeling as a kid on the last Sunday night of a vacation.

All the coming assignments, busywork, homework, and boredom, created a dark pit of anxiety in my stomach.

And anxiety bred aggression.  I became a little snippy with my sister. I was less able to stop and smell the sweet aroma of vacation.

Saving money then, and creating wealth, is like slowly pressing down on the pressure release valve on a pressure cooker. Anxiety and foreboding leaves, and in their places come the feeling of progress towards a worthwhile goal.

With this pressure gone one becomes more able to relate to those around him and build meaningful relationships.

And hopefully work too can become less transactional. Less “I’m doing this for X amount of money,” and more, “I’m doing this because it has meaning.”

5. The Change Insurance Argument.

I’m not the same person as I was when I was 16 and decided to try to become a doctor.

Fortunately my career has evolved as I have, and I find I myself in a very personally rewarding niche that I love.

But what if I completely change in the next 10 or 15 years ?

What if I decide that my true passion is watercolors?

Bush-painting1 (3)

(People Change)

At that point would it be preferable for me to continue just punching the clock and making payments because medicine is my only professional skill and my self imposed financial obligations remain?

Or would it be better to have the ability to drop everything and follow my bliss?

Conversely, what if I were to still love my job 15 years from now? What would I have lost, then? Could I not continue working? Would I not have amplified my happiness in the process? Would I not have depressurized my lifestyle?

I certainly won’t have spent less time with my loved ones.  I won’t have gone to bed hungry or wet.  I won’t have missed out on good food or travel.  As far as I can see, all I will have lost at that point  will be a few big-ticket purchases and a bunch of wasteful spending.

And that’s a sacrifice I’m more than willing to make.

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7 Responses to “The Great Debate.”

  1. Robert January 29, 2014 at 7:29 am #

    The first argument that popped into my head as I started reading was the change argument, but then you got to it in your last point. As you may have guessed already from earlier discussions, I’m a fan of Ron Paul. He’s a man of integrity, whether you agree or disagree with his policy recommendations. Why? Because he lived within his means, he was not beholden to lobbyists. He was an ObGyn doctor who made a career change after he became interested in politics and economics and what was going on in this country that would affect his children and grandchildren. You can have a job that you love, that pays well–even including the practice of medicine–and still find something later in life that you are even more passionate about. To be in a position to pursue that without being dependent on others allows you to be true not only to yourself but to those you represent or serve or others you come in contact with.

    –What we are really talking about here is not the benefit of saving for early retirement, but the benefit of pursuing financial independence. Boosting savings and reducing spending are disciplines that pay many dividends, as you have successfully (I think) argued.

    –Allow me to add one more, and this is more philosophical. But, what ARE you living for? What is the meaning of life–your life? Is it to live comfortably and then die? Is it to serve others? (How/why?) Is it to pursue happiness? (Is that something that can be gained by its pursuit or is it gained by pursuing something else?) How/why? These are good questions to think deeply about. One’s thinking about them evolves over a lifetime, too. But thinking about them in the context of retirement is useful. i.e., Why do I want to retire? What do I want to do then? What can I do then that I can’t do now? etc. This analytical process serves at least two functions: (1) It makes you think about what you want to do in life and then do as much of it now as you can, not waiting until retirement; (2) it motivates you to do what you need to to prepare for that day when you do retire–as eventually you will, even from a career you love, barring an early death/disability. This means not only saving/controlling spending, etc., and thinking about purpose/meaning in retirement, but it also extends to other forms of preparation such as relationships (e.g., Do I want children now, or to invest time in parenting now, so that I can enjoy the kinds of family relationships I want in retirement?) or health (e.g., Am I going to be healthy enough when I retire to do the things I want to do then? If not, what am I doing about it?). There is a real risk to foodies, btw, of missing the latter. I arrived at retirement about 40 pounds heavier than I should have. I’m working at reducing that now. But why take the risk? Why wait?

    –Finally, how does one insert paragraph breaks in these posts???!!

  2. Miles Dividend M.D. January 29, 2014 at 9:42 am #

    Robert,

    Ron Paul’s career trajectory is a great example for the change argument. I wish I had thought of it myself!

    The second part of your comment, is very interesting. And the question that you raise is worthy of thousands of blog posts or even books.

    Some abbreviated thoughts on my purpose in life:

    1. Honesty: as in this above all to thine own self be true.

    2. Simplicity: as in eliminating that which does not add to happiness.

    3. Putting people first: investing in relationships, avoiding conflict when possible.

    Finally, being a foodie is not synonymous with being a glutton. It just means that I love food. Ignoring that would be inconsistent with # 1 above. But health is really important too. I’m reminded of that every day.

    And I have no clue on the paragraphs. May need a different widget to address this.

    AZ

  3. Bob January 29, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

    1. Most of the happiness research shows that we are not very good at knowing or predicting what makes us happy. In fact, many posit that the sole pursuit of happiness can lead to unhappiness. It’s good that you think and feel happier now, but that doesn’t mean you always will.

    2. F-U money is nicer in theory than in practice. There’s no doubt that money gives you financial security. But you don’t get F-U money without accumulating F-U money. Which can often involve fucking over someone, whether that’s someone else or yourself. Depending on your definition of F-U money, saving alone is unlikely to lead to F-U money. More importantly, dogmatic saving without seeing the forest from the trees assuredly fucks yourself out of some of life’s pleasures. Finally, F-U money alone rarely translates to true happiness.

    3. This is not a bad argument, but its spirit has more to do with cutting excess wants than collecting excess wants. Simplicity is golden. What that entails then, is making things as simple as possible and cutting out what is not essential. Save more than you spend is about 99% of that. Once we start talking about 6 credit applications in one day, meeting minimum spends, spreadsheets, running to Walmart, business class flights, hotels, and other bling, you really haven’t made things simpler. You’ve accumulated excess wants instead of cutting them. You have cluttered your mind and life instead of figuring out what is important and eliminating what is not.

    4. This is what I call the ‘risk averse’ argument. Being a doctor, I realize you are incredibly risk averse. Most doctors are. For things like patients’ health that can translate to excessive and unnecessary tests and procedures. Overcoming this requires realizing a few things. First is realizing that even under the most disastrous circumstances, you may be overwhelmingly risk averse. Second is that being incredibly risk averse can have negative consequences. Third is building a lifestyle and goals that rise above financials. Wealth can come and go, but your attitude and outlook can be everlasting.

    5. This is sort of a combined argument of all of the above, particularly 1/3/4. Especially when it comes to personal finance, we love to forecast into the future. Although it may not seem like it, this can really affect our outlook on the present, which is really all you have. Living in the present is such an underrated aspect of life, especially in Western societies, focusing on growth and productivity. There is a definite cost to overplanning the future, and that is not living in the present. Indeed, the time you use going to Walmart might have blossomed a passion or another career instead. As long as you are figuring out what is important and eliminating what is not you should be avoiding most big-ticket purchases and wasteful spending.

    • Miles Dividend M.D. January 29, 2014 at 10:16 pm #

      Bob,

      We’ve covered some of this stuff before so not going to go around in circles.

      Some criticisms of your criticism.
      M
      1. Increased happiness was an unexpected byproduct was pursuing early retirement. No future guarantees are required.

      2. Despite the name Fu money does not require fucking anyone over. It just requires not spending money on things that do not add value.

      3. You are conflating early retirement and travel hacking. I write about both in this blog, but not both in this post.

      4. In order to diagnose someone with the disease of overplanning or over saving, you must first define what is the correct amount of planning and the correct amount of saving. I believe this is impossible as it varies from individual to individual. The only thing that I am really advocating for is understanding the relationship between spending, saving and time to financial freedom.

      Define your vision!

      But keep the comments coming.

      AZ

  4. Walterj January 29, 2014 at 9:02 pm #

    Early retirement, investing, travel using miles and points – three topics of interest to me.

    Congratulations on finding the early retirement idea and good luck!
    I am early retired. It is not easy with kids, but I made it.

    If you can incorporate, you can setup a one person pension plan where you can put away over 100k a year, tax deferred, like a giant Ira. Check out onepersonplus.com.

    Don’t waste your time on people who don’t get it.

    Check out Paul Terhorst’s “Cashing in on the American Dream – How to retire at 35” , out of print but used copies available on amazon.

    pp
    PPP

  5. Miles Dividend M.D. January 29, 2014 at 9:15 pm #

    Thanks Walterj,

    Glad you found the site.

    I will check out your resources. Much appreciated.

    AZ

  6. Bob January 30, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

    Travel hacking (or coupon clipping, not buying lattes, packing your lunch, insert cliche here) is just a subset of saving strategy. But it can be particularly worse as it tends to increase rather than decrease your excess wants. For that reason even for joe schmoes whose time isn’t very valuable it may not be the best idea, much less for you.

    Agree with 4. Doesn’t vary only by individual, but also over time. Unless you write it out though, you won’t know. There are a few scenarios I would cover for sure: continuing as a doctor in perpetuity, and the total time you devote to travel hacking/retirement/etc.

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