It’s ironic that despite all the financial columnists and bloggers who write about early retirement, when push comes to shove, few actually retire “early.”
“Early” usually means at 55 years of age – the numeral immortalized by London Life (now Freedom 55 Financial). In practice, only career government workers who joined defined benefit plans upon graduation actually experience such early retirement.
There are a few “extreme” frugal types who live like Thoreau on his pond and claim to “retire” in their 30s, but this is not practical for normal people with spouses, children and mortgages.
Increasingly, I’m seeing financial planners describe a sort of retirement that resembles my own definition of financial independence.
See for example a recent item on the Fabulously Broke in the City blog:
“I don’t expect to stop working ever. On the other hand, what I really want to get rid of is the ‘obligation’ to work … I don’t want to be forced to work or have to be there from 9 to 5. Therefore, my definition of retiring is being able to do what I want to do when I want to do it. This is closer to financial independence than retirement.”
That’s exactly my vision. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise that when I left the Financial Post shortly before my 59th birthday (in April 2012), I did not take an early retirement. Yes, I could have done that: my wife and I have achieved a modicum of financial independence by practicing the concepts preached in Findependence Day.
But there’s plenty I still want to accomplish in financial journalism, and I’ll need a good chunk of my 60s to do it. That’s why I embarked on the editorship of MoneySense magazine. This is consistent with the principles of financial independence described in the book: you work not because you must, but because you want to.
Still, I had to chuckle at an email sent by my former boss when co-ordinating my farewell bash: “Come say farewell to Jonathan Chevreau who after writing longingly of his retirement for the past 19 years at the FP is NOT retiring!”
Ironic, yes, but the whole point of a “good” job is that if you’re really engaged, it doesn’t really feel like “work” at all.
When I do have free time on weekends, evenings or vacations, I tend to engage in similar activities as when I’m technically “working.” I’ll read financial books or histories or biographies, get on my iPad to read various magazines or financial blogs and comment on them on Twitter or other social media.
In fact, the year I wrote the book, I didn’t have a real vacation: I used up all my five weeks of vacation plus a few more unpaid ones.