I know it isn’t officially summer, but with Memorial Day behind us, it feels like it. My kids only have 1 and a half days left of school. Actually, one kid is done with school because he tested positive for COVID this past weekend. He’s fine – enjoying the freedom. This school year went by quickly.
I was recently reading Joe from Retire by 40’s ten years of early retirement. It’s a great read. Check it out if you haven’t already, I’ll wait.
Did you read it? Well, I bet most of you didn’t. That’s okay.
In a lot of ways, I consider Joe my west coast twin. We both had engineering jobs, got burnt out, and transitioned to stay-at-home-dad status. He’s a couple of years older than me, so I like to check in with him now and then to see what I can expect coming down the pike for me.
There is one big difference between Joe and me though. His family reached a certain amount of wealth and decided he could retire from his engineering job. He did just that and started a blog that makes a little income. His wife still works a government job (as mine does), but she doesn’t need to. They live a frugal life and they have enough money from saving and investing over the years.
In contrast, I was let go from my engineering job in 2007 but just continued to earn some money with my blog. I was doing well enough back then – enough to make half of my engineering salary. I occasionally took on some other jobs such as advanced tech support because they paid well. In some ways, I reached my definition of retirement. However, the longer I continued to run the blog, take tech support gigs, and add a dog boarding side hustle, I realized that I was really self-employed.
Some people say that if you put a frog into boiling water, it will immediately jump out. The same people say that if you put a frog into a pot filled with room temperature water and heat it to boiling it will stay in the pot and boil to death. I feel like Joe jumped out of the boiling pot to freedom. He could probably tell you the day he retired (or at least look it up). On the other hand, I’m boiling in the water of self-employment.
Fortunately, the water still feels fine… I think. During times of high inflation and down markets, it helps to have income coming in. It does make me think though, “Should I ever get out of the water? When would be a good time to get out of the water?” The money from this self-employment is very useful, especially since we spend about $100,000 a year between housing, other necessities, education, and a few wants. Perhaps when the mortgages are paid off and the kids are no longer it school it becomes easier to “retire.” Perhaps I’ll never retire and just keep doing the same kind of work as long as it provides value to others.
That’s today’s insight. Retirement can be boolean, either on or off, for some people. For others it can be like a volume knob with infinite gradients. There’s no right or wrong definition, is there? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.