Nothing wrong with retire at age 67 or later // Financial independence retire early does not define success in life

Important Announcement #1: I had accidentally messed up the mailing list the other day. If you had previously subscribed to the newsletter, please resubscribe again. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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Now back to regular schedule… for this post, I’ll start with a quote that I heard recently…

At the end of the day, it’s not about how much money you make, it’s not about how big your house is, it’s not about what kind of car you drive, it’s about the relationships that you build and the impacts you’ve made on other people’s lives.

It’s an understatement to say that the financial independence retire early (FIRE) movement is getting more and more popular. The message is spreading and people are taking charge of their finances so that they can have a better financial future. While this is great and all, I think that within the community, a reverse ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ symptom is brewing. Instead of keeping up with your next door neighbours by having a bigger house, a fancier car, or taking an exotic vacation, many FIRE seekers are now comparing net worth and savings rates with each other. Some are even comparing how quickly and how early they can retire from full-time employment.

Who is the next youngest retiree in the world? Is 18 too young to “retire” when you never even enter the workforce? Is reaching FIRE after a year of saving and investing even realistic?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for creating a better financial future, but such comparisons are not healthy, and we need to end this as a community. Rather than comparing, let’s help and encourage each other.

While financial independence retire early is gaining popularity, I wonder, is working until you are 65, 65, 67, or whatever the traditional retirement age is, still honourable?

It seems that too many of us within the FIRE community think that retiring at the normal retirement age means a failure.

Sorry, but I do not believe in that. Not one single bit.

Last month Mrs. T and I went to my high school band teacher’s retirement party. My teacher, Mr. Kevin Lee, started his teaching career in 1994 and taught at my high school for 20 years (he took a 5-year break from teaching music and worked as the school district’s music program supervisor). During those 20 years, he has created an extremely successful and well-respected music program in Canada. Despite a successful music program, what made Mr. Lee truly amazing is how down to earth he is and the countless kids he has inspired. He is loved by all of his students and dedicated his life to music and inspiring his students. I was very fortunate to have him as a teacher for 5 years. As a teacher, he didn’t just teach me about music and how to play instruments – he taught me more than that. He taught me how to treat people, how important practice is, how to be committed to something, how to respect people, how to deal with adversity, how to excel as a visible minority, and how to be level-headed.

At the end of the retirement party, another music teacher that works with Mr. Lee (who used to be a student of Mr. Lee) took the microphone and gave a speech that I quoted at the beginning of this post.

Needless to say, that quote stuck with me because it was so powerful.

Mr. Lee didn’t “retire early” in the FIRE sense, but in my books, he’s extremely successful in what he does. He has had a great career, and he had made a difference in so many people’s lives, mine included.

I truly believe that is way more important than early retirement. It’s about the relationships that you build and the impacts you’ve made on other people’s lives.

When my family and I first immigrated to Canada in 1995, I struggled with English. Back then I was quite different from who I am today. I was shy (according to some people I still am) and not talkative. I could go days without speaking to anyone. My parents enrolled me in Scouts as a way to encourage me to break out my shyness.

Fortunately for me, the lead Scouter, Mr. Stewart Schon, took me under his wing and helped me become who I am today. He taught me not only stuff about Scouts but a lot of life skills. He gently encouraged me to participate in discussions, he put me in uncomfortable situations, so I could grow as a person, and he showed me what it meant to be a good citizen of the community. Through Scouting, I met a lot of people, gained a lot of important life skills, learned a lot about myself, and developed my love with nature, camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities.

Mr. Schon passed away in May 2006 from cancer. I dug up a post I wrote about him on that day on my old blog.

Today a great man passed away. He was not a world leader, did not find a miracle cure for any illness, did not lead people to the promised land. He didn’t have millions of dollars, or invent the next energy source for cars. He, however, was a major influence in my life. Stewart was my Scouts leader for almost 10 years ago. He taught me a lot while I was in his Scouts troop and allowed me to learn a lot about myself.

Stewart found a lump in his neck at the end of August of last year and it was diagnosed within two weeks as throat cancer. It started in his tonsil and spread to his lymph nodes. He had surgery to remove the tonsil and went through radiation and chemo treatments. I visited him back in Thanksgiving after his treatments. Although he looked tired, he was in excellent spirit and seemed to be doing well and recovering. I ran into his son a few months ago and was told that the cancer had spread but with more intense radiation treatments he should be fine. I didn’t think too much about that. A few weeks ago I received an MSN message from his daughter telling me that Stewart wasn’t doing too well. I was saddened and shocked by this news. I went back home that weekend and visited Stewart with my family. Cancer had spread to his spine, causing his spine to collapse. He was on morphine at the time and was somewhat hallucinating. The sparkle that was in his eyes back in Thanksgiving was no longer there. It was really sad seeing him suffering like that. Talking to his wife, we found out that the cancer was a fast-growing type, and that Stewart might not win the battle this time…

Today Stewart lost his battle against cancer. Rest in peace Stewart. You will always be remembered. ***

Mr. Schon had a simple life. Like Mr. Lee, Mr. Schon was a school teacher. As far as I could recall, Mr. Schon was not aiming for early retirement, but I do not see Mr. Schon as a “failure” because he didn’t aim for early retirement. He helped and inspired so many people within the community, and his funeral service was well attended with people that wanted to pay their respects.

At his funeral, I told myself that if my own funeral was this well attended, that would only mean that I had a successful life, regardless of how much money I have in my bank account or how big of a house I have. I would know that I am loved.

If you’re still reading this now, you are probably wondering where exactly am I going with this post…

As we are on the FIRE journey, I truly believe that we all need to put things in perspective. Getting out of debt, starting to save and invest, and growing net worth are all successes that we should all celebrate. Don’t put financial independence retire early on a pedestal. Don’t convince yourself that you will only become happy when you reach the FIRE milestone and give your employers the middle finger as you hand in your resignation letter.

Financial independence does not equal success in life.

Early retirement does not mean extraordinary in life.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with retiring at age 67 or later, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with continuing to work past the normal retirement age.

Money shouldn’t be the ultimate goal in life. Rather, we should focus on building meaningful relationships, helping people, treating people like you want to be treated, and making an impact on other people’s lives.

I never dream of this blog making it big, becoming mainstream, or generating piles of money. And because of that, I don’t write search engine optimized posts, I don’t pump out click-bait articles, I rarely write reviews unless I find them helpful. Instead, I write because I enjoy writing. I dream that through my writing, I am making a small difference, teaching and helping people things, and opening opportunities for them.  

*** On a side note, Mr. Schon was a regular blood donor, and he was one of the key reasons why I donate blood regularly (I’m at #64) and have a goal to hit 100 donations one day (one blood donation every 56 days, so the quickest way to to hit 100 donations takes about 15.5 years).

P.S. Sorry that I have written so many posts about deaths and my reflections lately.

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14 thoughts on “Nothing wrong with retire at age 67 or later // Financial independence retire early does not define success in life”

  1. Very thoughtful and touching post. The concept of FI and working toward that goal had an enormously positive impact on my life, providing not only financial but also mental tools to implement a much better work-life-balance. Having time with loved ones and having more control over my time, well I‘d say these are ingredients of a purposeful, successful life. FI is not a goal in itself. The path towards that dream is a process of growth and even more after that state has been achieved.

  2. “Don’t convince yourself that you will only become happy when you reach the FIRE milestone and give your employers the middle finger as you hand in your resignation letter.” THIS is so good.

    I occasionally find myself stuck in this type of thinking and have to remind myself that FIRE and the entire journey is about creating options for myself. In the end, all i really want to do is live a fulfilling life that has a positive impact on the world around me.

    • Thank you Melody. I have to remind myself from time to time too. FIRE is all about creating different options so you can have more freedom in life.

  3. Hey Tawcan – nice post and a reminder to keep this whole FIRE thing in perspective. We tend to over-emphasize the importance of those things that everyone is talking about. Surrounded by FIRE aficionados – as wonderful as they are – it’s easy to start thinking that savings rates are a proxy for the quality of a human. Frugality may be a value we share, but there are many people I love, respect, and admire who couldn’t care less about it. In fact, I will be disappointed if at my funeral people are talking about how financially responsible I was – ugh! ~Matt

  4. Perhaps the FIRE movement is just another symptom of the growing divide (really a return to feudalism) between the ruling class and the working class: there’s so much wealth sloshing around at the top that the middle classe can take advantage of the dribbles and retire early. But the middle class is shrinking and it is the working class that will bear the brunt of raising retirement age to 67 and I say that as a working class person trying to retire early because thirty-five years of working outdoors and night shifts is not going to let my mind and body make it to 67

    • Not sure if it’s true that FIRE movement is just another symptom of the growing divide. As I stated in other posts, we need to focus on working together, helping each other, than divide people into different subgroups.

  5. Of course, if you’re enjoying work and making a difference in someone’s life, then retirement shouldn’t be rushed.
    That should be the primary goal for all of us. To help improve the world.
    However, if you’re just hanging on to a job that you don’t like and aren’t really contributing, then I’d shoot for early retirement.
    FIRE shouldn’t be secondary.

    • That’s very true, if you don’t like what you’re doing at your job, you shouldn’t continue. Look for alternatives so you can be happy rather than staying at the job and continue to be miserable.

  6. Touching tribute to two influential people in your life.

    You are right that there is always a “comparison game” that can be made about anything these days. This ultimately leads you to being unhappy as there is always someone who is higher up than you.

    It is only when you are happy with the rung you currently in on the ladder of life can you actually look around and enjoy the view.

    I do not think it is a failure to retire at the traditional age and it should not be chastised by the FIRE community. For me I do want to retire early because I have become increasingly dissatisfied with the direction the medical climate is going. Reimbursements are getting slashed and there is more and more time waster things they make docs do that take away from the thing that made them want to go into medicine in the first place, taking care of patients.

    The hamster wheel I am on is starting to be at full tilt so I am definitely eyeing and earlier exit. But I hope that I can continue something meaningful afterwards, whether it is continued writing on my blog or even teaching/writing a book.

    • Thank you. It felt really good to pay tribute to these two influential people in my life.

      I think there should be less comparing and more helping within the FIRE community. And yes, we shouldn’t focus too much on when one retires, rather, we should focus on the overall financial wellness.


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