Last night my oldest son came home from preschool after a particularly rough day. The first thing out of his mouth was he wanted to retire. Now obviously as any parent would, I found this quite cute and described to him what retirement actually means. However, after he went to bed that night I started to think about what he said in the context of what I see in the personal finance blog verse. These thoughts led me to a question, is it healthy for millennials to consider early retirement?
Now before I raise the ire of the entire community, let me first state this is not an article like the disturbing one 2 years ago on Elite Daily. I see the value of saving in your 20s. I even find it commendable that someone in their 20s would be targeting financial independence. My concern is more with the mindset of someone in their early 20s that wants to “Early Retire”.
Are Millennials Entitled?
A lot has been written by various bloggers about millennials being entitled or not willing to pay their dues. On every one of these posts I usually post a comment that goes something like the following: “Every time a generation is young the older ones believe they are entitled, slackers, or want things handed to them”. Look back a few decades and Gen-X were called the slacker generation, latch key kids, or the MTV generation by Baby Boomers. Baby Boomers were called flower children by the greatest generation. In every case as the generation gets older they straighten out, take over, and then judge their kids the same way they were. It’s the way of the world.
So needless to say I am not concerned about the entitled in the millennial generation or those not willing to pull their weight. They will eventually come around and give Gen Z a hard time, whatever they will be called. So, I am not concerned about the average Millennial, but I am concerned about those seeking early retirement. Right about now your probably going, Wah?
Typical Early Retirement Story
Many tales of Early Retirement you hear about these days have similar back stories. Someone works for 8-10 years in a financially responsible way. Then they realize they are starting to approach early retirement. At the same time they decide they do not like the rat race or their chosen profession in general. Instead they maximize their savings until they retire and pursue a different passion. I see nothing wrong with this approach, even if I do not personally follow it.
The key here though is they enter the work force like most people, bright eyed and full of hope. They attempt to make their impact on the world and get ahead only to find they do not enjoy their day to day. In that time they might have engineered some major improvement in the world, cured someones disease, or even just enabled a better world. When someone is just out of college, or even still in college, none of this has happened yet. At 22 or 23 you have not even had enough time to determine whether you like your chosen profession or just were stuck with a s#it boss for your first job.
Life Changes who you are
I know at 36 my personality and life is nothing like when I was 22 or 23. I have completely morphed my life in adaption to my experiences. At 22 you have yet to have these experiences. That was really the point of the Elite Daily article everyone criticized so much. At 22 you need to live and enjoy life and experiment. Things are usually not real yet, you do not have kids or other responsibilities. Likely there is no house to be responsible for. The costs of mistakes are much reduced and you are working on discovering what you really enjoy in life. That enjoyment may be your chosen work path, or it might be early retirement and pursuing some different passion. However, I am pretty sure at 22 you do not know the answer to this. You really should be focusing on enjoying life and not squandering the most precious commodity in the world, time.
Early Retirement’s Societal Cost
So why do I care? Ultimately it is someone else’s life. On a person by person basis I don’t. Everyone is entitled to their pursuits. Surfing to Millennial Early Retirement blogs or listening to them talk can even from time to time provide a different perspective then my own. On a societal basis though it makes me nervous. Those who are pursuing early retirement and Financial Independence are likely motivated, otherwise they would not be considering such deep thoughts. They are also likely intelligent. Combine those 2 and you have someone that can make massive improvements and innovation to our society. And yet their pursuit of early retirement means they will likely focus on high paying jobs simply to retire as soon as possible. This may deflect them from some life altering lower paying persuit where they might make a major difference on society.
Millennial Early Retirement, and Indictment of society?
Even more concerning, what does it say about society when the first thing a college senior thinks is I can not wait to retire. If one or two bloggers on the web are thinking this, I suspect it makes up a much larger portion of society then is otherwise visible. After all those that self select to be personal finance bloggers are likely a much smaller portion of population then those who actually feel this way. What has changed in society to lead to so many no longer entering the world from college feeling like they can make a difference? Is it too much college debt? Over indulgent parents? Instant gratification? Poor working environments?
What do you think? What is driving millennials to consider early retirement? Are you concerned, as I am, about what this means for the future?