Grace's post today reminded me that I didn't really speak to this question in yesterday's post. The reason for that is I'm not really sure I understand the question.
Here's the part I don't get: Why would it be presumed that working for money is unselfish? Even the language that is used, "contributing," or "being a productive member of society," seems to indicate that you are giving something away. Like for free.
But you are not giving anything away. You're selling it. You are selling your time to an employer that is selling something, widgets or time, to other people. For money. I fail to see the altruistic act here.
I understand the concept of needing to work in order to have money to buy things such as food and shelter, or widgets and time. I get that part.
And I understand the part about not retiring because you don't have enough money to buy those things for the rest of your life without that incoming paycheck. I certainly don't recommend retirement for anyone in this particular predicament. (I don't write too much about money in this blog because there are so many other places to go to find financial advice. The last thing this planet needs is another financial-planning-for-retirement blog.)
I sort of understand the part about not retiring because you think you might be bored. I say sort of because, while I understand the concept of boredom, I'm just not sure I understand how people can let themselves get bored. When someone says, "I would get bored just doing (fill-in-the-blank) all day, the question that occurs to me is, "Well then why in the heck would you do (fill-in-the-blank) all day? Do something else for god sakes!"
But I really don't understand the argument that it is selfish to stop working for pay. I stop working, you stop paying me. You don't get my services, I don't get your money. Tell me again why this is selfish?
What about a person that does have enough money to retire comfortably? Isn't he selfish not to retire,not to movie aside and leave that job to someone that actually needs it?
Is it selfish for that person to take a paycheck for their services when they could, alternatively, be giving them away for free (volunteering)?
And if you love what you do, why is it less selfish to keep doing it for pay and more selfish to do what you love for no pay?
Sorry, no answers here today, only more questions.
Banish Guilt in Retirement. Or is that Really Such a Great Idea?
What Does not Having Kids Have to do with Retirement?
I am not retired yet but looking forward to it. It is not selfish to retire. Many of us are so conditioned to think that unless we are giving our ALL to others, we are selfish. I can't wait to be selfish as there are so many other things I want to do but can't because there just isn't enough time working 40+ hrs/wk (excluding commute). Hats off to you Syd for retiring early and keep doing what you want to do!!
Posted by: Bridget | May 06, 2010 at 07:47 AM
I think "being a productive member of society" refers to those who are self sufficient and pay into the tax base.
Retired folk are self sufficient and pay their own way.
There are people who through unforunate circumstances or personal choice do not work or support themselves and are pretty much wards of the state.
People who don't have children are sometimes/often called selfish by some of those who do. That is strange because if you think about it most pay hefty taxes that benefit others. It is hardly selfish.
Posted by: Patty | May 07, 2010 at 07:53 AM
syd, how do you define "early retirement"? I think of any age below 65 as early. I see Grace's blog and she thinks 61 is to late to call it "early".
Posted by: Patty | May 07, 2010 at 08:05 AM
Patty, that's a good question. I guess I would define it purely in monetary terms, being that "early" would be before you are eligible for Social Security--so she would still qualify as "early" right now.
On the other hand, you can start taking withdrawals from your retirement accounts without penalty at 59 1/2 (and I think most private pensions work that way too.) So maybe that's the cutoff?
I guess generally I think of people retiring in their 50's and younger as "early" and in their 60's and 70's as "normal retirement age.
Interesting question though, since I've been reading a bunch of articles about people in their 80's that still working (who think anything before 80 is "early"!)
Posted by: Retired Syd | May 07, 2010 at 08:19 AM
My family makes us feel like we are cheating somehow since we are choosing to retire. Of course - one sister is a widow and hasn't worked in 15 years, one sister is a business owner with her own hours and loves her business and my two brothers don't know how to save a dime. My mother says,'Oh well, it looks like you don't HAVE to work..." Sad- isn't it?
Posted by: Janette | May 10, 2010 at 05:06 PM
I've been thinking about this lately as my husband who loves his work and is at regular retirement age just lost his job - while I'd love to retire early and actually am semi-retired, working part time.
What makes work compelling and useful and what makes some work numbing? I just finished a book, "Shop class as soulcraft" about this topic (not early retirement). The philosophical references go beyond my 25 year old liberal arts education but address some of the issues of why many work places leave us feeling so inhuman. It really made me think about why we do and don't work and what makes meaningful work.
Beyond that, there are all kinds of work and work doesn't have to be in a structured career ladder kind of situation for it to be meaningful and useful.
Very thoughtful posts, Syd.
Posted by: Chris | May 10, 2010 at 06:27 PM
Patty, thanks for the comment about childfree people not being selfish. It annoys me a lot when we childfree people are called that.
I retired in late 2008 at the age of 45 (after 7 years of working part-time). The biggest reason was the commute. It was long, tiring, annoying, and at times sickening, even only 2 days a week. I took a big payout of company stock (before it tanked but has since recovered, I have learned) and live off the dividends from a bond fund I invested it in.
I still pay taxes, albeit a lot less than what I paid when I was working. Property (i.e. mostly school) taxes are not based on one's income so I now pay a greater percentage of my retirement income in property taxes than I did before. I am not old enough to qualify for any senior citizen school tax breaks even though I am childfree, and that annoys me a lot. I pay some income taxes but no Social Security taxes (YAY!).
Retiring early runs in my family. My dad retired at 63 and my mom retired (on disability) at 56 (she died a few years later, sadly). just took it to a new level.
Posted by: deegee | May 12, 2010 at 07:34 AM
Early retirement is selfish ? Very strange argument...I am in my thirties and still working. I don't think that with my corporate job I am serving humanity and society. I am serving my employer, so that the comany can succeed, increase profits. Profits are received, by customers paying. Yes customers do get a service. But they are paying for it with money as well. So I don't see the "benefit for society" here.
When I retire early (hopefull by mid forties), I will have earned, saved, and invested my "own" money. It's not like I will use someone else's money or retire at someone else's expense. I paid all the taxes on my earnings. And even when I retire (or semi-retire), I will pay my taxes on my stock/rental/part time work earnings each year. I am not going to be cheating anyone. With the free time that I have I will volunteer, visit the elderly, and contribute more to the community. So there can definetly be a lot more self-less acts when I retire early. In fact the earlier I can retire, the more earlier I feel I'll have time to contribute to others, to the ones I love, support my aging parents more often etc.
Posted by: loving_life | May 12, 2010 at 08:27 AM
Here's what's really selfish - people who don't save for retirement and then complain about how they can't live on their "fixed income".
To retire early one has to make a lot of sacrifices - monetarily speaking. If you're paying your own way you can do whatever you want. You can work or not work. You can blow all your savings on peanut M&M's. It's your decision!
Posted by: Carlos | May 22, 2010 at 05:31 AM
Absolutely not. It's not selfish to retire. As we grow older, we should not deprive ourselves to rest and enjoy the remaining years of our lives. We could not just work for the rest of our lives. You could be a productive member of the society for some time, but once you approach the right age to retire, then you should go for it!
Posted by: Andrews Hayes | April 19, 2011 at 12:41 AM
Interesting concept: retirement. Some are frightened of it, other's are excited. I just lost a friend of 38 yrs. to cancer. She was looking forward to retirement but died before she got there. Here's my take on it: decide what you really want to be when you grow up, then do it. I always wanted to be a writer. Well, I am a writer, but now a published one since I have time now to write mysteries about strong women in some pretty funny, if tough, situations. And, wouldn't you know, people seem to like to read them, cause my ranking on Amazon is climbing every day! So, my take on retirement? Retirement is just the beginning! Cheers!
A DEAD RED CADILLAC
A DEAD RED HEART
Posted by: RP Dahlke | August 14, 2011 at 08:20 AM