“I never want to retire.” 

My husband is someone who wants – and expects – to be busy and productive all of his life. He joined the Marines at seventeen and has never shied away from a hard day’s work since that day. 

My uncle is in his late 60s and still working as a self employed handyman on a variety of different construction projects. My husband looks up to him and wants to be doing the same when he’s that age. Because he looks out 35-40 years into the future and sees himself still working, financial independence hasn’t been a specific goal of his. 

He’s someone who has always lived within his means and been careful to have savings for the future, but the burning desire to drop his tools and walk away forever just isn’t there. 

Learning the tools just like his daddy

And honestly, it isn’t there for me either. I may have days that I’m bored/tired/frustrated with my job or the people I have to deal with, but I have no desire to quit. Veronika at Debts to Riches asks Would I choose this job over any job? And I can honestly say that yes, I would, and I have. A few years back, I had the opportunity to turn my the second job that I loved into a full time career (that would have even paid more). 

As much as I enjoyed my time as a park ranger, it didn’t give me the fulfillment and purspose I experience as someone involved in building affordable, sustainable communities in one of the most expensive areas of the country. I have chosen the career – and particular job – that affords me the greatest opportunity to affect climate change as well as make a huge difference in the lives of people who would otherwise be priced out of our beautiful city

When others in the personal finance community talk about retiring early to pursue their passions, I already get to pursue mine with the work I do. 

“I love my job but I wish I could work part time.”

Before I became a mom, I spent 45-50 hours a week at my job and didn’t feel terribly pressed for time. I was able to run or bike home within an hour and generally get things done that I wanted to. Though it probably helps that I’ve never watched much TV. Honestly, working fewer hours wasn’t even on my radar. 

This completely changed once I had my son, and it only took six months to realize that I needed to cut back my hours, at least until he was in school, or at least that’s what I expected at the time. Now that I’ve been part time for a year and a half, though, I realize that I have no desire to ramp my hours back up in the future. 

Much like my coworkers who went from a 2 hour each way commute to living on the property, I didn’t realize how much time I was missing until I suddenly had it back. I was so used to working and going to school for so many hours (and then working two full time jobs during the transition to my current job), that “just” working 45-50 hours a week felt like a mini retirement itself. 

Once I got a taste for less than that though, I realized how much happier and balanced my life became. Even once my son becomes more self sufficient, I don’t want to go back to full time or more. It will just mean I will have time for the other things I want to do in life. 

Like more time to work in the garden

However, wanting to work less certainly does not mean that I want to quit altogether. I find joy and purpose in my career, and I want to continue doing so for as long as I am able. But just because I don’t want to quit, it doesn’t mean that I don’t care about financial independence. 
FIRE doesn’t have to be about early retirement. 

Financial independence for me is about retiring from the obligation of having a job in order to just pay the bills and survive. Once I don’t HAVE to go to work for the sake of an income, it becomes a CHOICE I make every day, that the work I’m doing is important and worthwhile. Like Liz at Frugalwoods says, I have the job I’d write for my dream biography

And just in case I ever change my mind, I can always quit. 

32 thoughts on “Why We’re Pursing Financial Independence, Not Early Retirement

  1. I just love this post. You hit it right on the head. This paragraph was going to be my comment if you didn’t include it at the end:

    “Financial independence for me is about retiring from the obligation of having a job in order to just pay the bills and survive. Once I don’t HAVE to go to work for the sake of an income, it becomes a CHOICE I make every day, that the work I’m doing is important and worthwhile”

    It is the freedom and the flexibility that FIRE allows that is unparalleled. If you want to retire…great. if you want to use the freedom to pursue a job or passion….just as great.

    Man what a great read!

    Bert, one of the Dividend Diplomats

    1. Thank you! I think the “early retirement” part of financial independence sometimes does a disservice to FIRE, especially since it seems almost no one wants that “traditional retirement” of sitting in an armchair, watching tv, and waiting to die. Not everyone wants to retire, but everyone should want to be financially independent.

  2. This post is spot on! I find FI way more appealing than the RE. Because of my wife’s current job we are overseas, There are few job options for me, so I’m currently a stay-at-home dad. I guess I’m getting a taste of what early retirement could look like without actually being FI. I am very happy with my current situation, but I do miss some aspects of having a ‘real” job. I’ll miss this life when we have to move back to the States, but I am looking forward to a job that pays, and hopefully get us to FI faster.

    1. I know that staying home after my son was born (and even working VERY few hours a week for the first six months) have me a taste of it, so I know that’s not something I want to do yet. Though I’m certain it would have been a different experience if I was just not working without the kid 😉

      The biggest thing for me though is that I’m a very social person and it was hard when everyone else was working all day long and I wasn’t.

  3. Thank you for this, it’s given me food for thought. I work a part-time day job that I enjoy, and I work with nice people, but I would not continue if I didn’t *have* to – if you took money out of the equation. I do have a side hustle (and now new blog!) that I would most likely focus my time on if I didn’t have to work for money. Add in some community volunteering, and I am confident I will be able to fill my time 🙂

  4. The park ranger career sounds like a dream! I feel the same way, I’m not working hard saving to never have to work again. What I’m working towards is being free from a rigid 9-5 corporate job where I don’t feel like I’m adding value to the world. My dream is being able to not choose a job by salary, but by it’s meaning. I would love to work for a non profit and not worry about the pay cut. I dream that by the time we choose to have kids we can work part time and have plenty of time for family as well as keeping our minds active doing good for the world.

    1. It was, and it wasn’t. It’s amazing how much boring down time there is as a park ranger. Hence why I chose green building as my main career and not the other way around 🙂

      But yes, I am so glad to have cut my hours to have more time with my son. Can’t ever get that time back.

  5. great realization. I definitely use my job as a means to fuel my FIRE. Four pillar freedom wrote about something in the same vein but the opposite conclusion… it’s what I like about reading all the different blogs… we can find a little bit of ourselves in different parts of people’s stories 🙂

    1. That’s why I would never discourage someone from writing their own blog. We all have such different stories.

  6. With all the focus in the community on retiring early, I sometimes feel like I’m “doing it wrong.” I can easily see myself continuing to work, moving along the corporate ladder, because I’m really passionate about my career. I always enjoy reading/listening to other people who feel the same. It’s not “all or nothing.” I think a big part of it comes from all the people in the community who get to the end of the rope at work and are like “what now? How do I get out?” And they’re just louder than the rest of us, who actually are content. But if they figured out something they’re passionate about, they could likely pivot their career instead, and find much more fulfillment.

    1. Honestly, I have a hard time understanding the choice of white knuckling through a career you absolutely hate for anything more than a year or two. I would much rather find something I enjoy doing instead, even if it didn’t pay as well. Life is too short to be that unhappy for that long.

  7. This blog makes me so happy. I am reading my way from the beginning and I feel such a kinship with you! I am early in my career (only 23, just hit 6 months in my first FT job last week!), but also find it very meaningful – I work in community development finance and hope to one day transition to climate finance. I am saving 50% of my income so that I can work part time once I have kids, like you! My mom has worked part time and from home since I was about 8 years old, and I realize more and more how amazing it was to have her home and done with work by the time my brother and I got off the school bus. My dad works full time, but he’s a college professor, so he has always had flexibility in taking time off, occasionally working from home, etc. I want to get to where they are, with lots of flexibility and time with family and such – just a few decades faster 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! It sounds like you are well on your way to living a very intentional life – thanks for following along with mine! 🙂

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