No one’s asked. Not a one. Not one single person in my entire office.
I’m now just days out from my retirement – December 31, 2018, is my last day of work. I gave my notice in early summer and we kept it low-key in the office for a little bit while we worked out the game plan.
However, I officially made the announcement to my engineers in a meeting on August 13. And as many of you know, the grapevine in almost every office spreads like wildfire.
We have just over 35 people in my office and I think everyone knew the scoop within minutes.
That means it’s been well over three months and no one’s asked.
Ok, Jim – we get the teaser – stop messing around and tell us what is it that no one’s asked?
That’s fair – here’s the thing that’s been on my mind lately…
Not one person has come up to me and asked the specifics of how we got to the point where we can retire early.
People have asked about our plans and what I’m planning to do for work once I leave. But when I tell them that I’ve saved enough that we shouldn’t have to work again if we don’t want to, there are no follow-up questions.
I’m no spring chicken at 43, but that’s also pretty darn young to be retiring. It seems like something that would pique some people’s curiosity.
I know some folks don’t care about leaving the 9-5. They’re content with their routine and don’t mind the day-to-day. And maybe each of them has their plans laid out for a sound traditional retirement (though the numbers say otherwise!).
But, out of 35 other people in the office, you’d think there would be a small percentage interested in how we’re pulling this off.
Maybe an inquiry just to be able to figure out how they could apply some of this in their own lives. Or perhaps just curiosity striking to know how a regular guy like themselves is making this happen.
Moreover, with FIRE (financial independence / retire early) starting to be a little more trendy in the media lately, it seems like something people might want to talk about.
The closest we’ve come was at our office holiday party this past weekend. The wife of one of the guys I work with (both great people!) talked to me quite a bit about how they’re working toward their own path to freedom… I love to hear that!
But why aren’t there more people chomping at the bit to understand this more? Those who know me would tell you that I’m an approachable, outgoing guy so I don’t think that’s the issue. On top of that, I absolutely love talking about personal finance in general – get me started on it and I turn on ready to party!
Here’s why I think no one’s asked…
In all actuality, I know that most people don’t give a crap about my future. They’re focused on going their own direction with their lives and that’s absolutely fine with me.
However, I do believe that there are a number of folks out there who would love to get on the right page financially but just need a little guidance. So after realizing that one of their peers is retiring at the ripe age of 43, why wouldn’t they approach me on this?
I think the reason that no one’s asked me any real details boils down to some different possibilities…
1) They might be embarrassed by the current state of their own finances.
A lot of folks are just inundated with so much debt and little to no savings that they just don’t even know where to start. The problem is that they might be embarrassed about their financial status and they don’t even want to talk about it… that’s not good!
Pride is the enemy of learning and growing.
2) They don’t actually understand where they’re at financially.
Not everyone’s a financial expert (myself included!), but it’s worse when you don’t know where you stand financially and start digging yourself a monetary grave because of it.
Unfortunately, most of us didn’t learn about assets, liabilities, and investing for our futures when we were in school. And if you don’t take the initiative to dig into these kinds of things yourself, you might just be making a big old mess of your finances.
I was in that same boat for years. I’ve talked about how I ran up about $30k of credit card debt and didn’t even know I was hurting that bad. That really sucks!
The good news though is that I had my wake-up call in 1999 and got on the right track. Many folks still haven’t had their wake-up call yet and just continue to make their situation worse by not knowing where they stand with their money.
3) Talking about money is unfortunately still taboo.
This one drives me nuts. We talk about intimate things all the time like it’s nothing (sex anyone?!), but we still can’t seem to discuss specifics of money without people squirming.
If we had more people discussing salaries, folks might eventually start to make what they’re worth. If we started talking about the details of what we’re contributing to our retirement plans and what they’re worth, we might see some motivation for others to up their game.
Money shouldn’t be a taboo subject, but unfortunately for most of our society (at least in the U.S.), it still is.
4) They just think I’m ultra-frugal.
Everyone I know is generally aware that I’m not a spendthrift. I don’t give a hoot about fashion, new cars, or fancy meals. I also don’t try to hide that fact either in what I eat, wear, drive, or in what I say.
So it’s very possible that the reason no one’s asked me about the specifics of how we got to where we are is that they just figure I’m cheap. Many people equate frugality with the sole way to become rich. They may feel like I had to give up everything “fun” in life in order to make this happen.
They would be wrong, of course, as we just choose to spend our money differently. However, my thought is that some people don’t want to change anything and possibly miss out on the latest and greatest toys in order to pave the way for their future.
5) They don’t really care.
Of course, maybe they just don’t care at all. Perhaps they just want to continue down the path they’re going and figure things will work themselves out later. The government will save ’em, right?
Here’s why you should ask!
First off, realize that this isn’t really about me. It’s about how we as a society act in general.
It’s time to get past all these excuses and insecurities and get on the right track financially. And one of the best ways to get better at anything is to learn from others.
I was able to grow our finances in part from learning from my financial mentors. Although we had the co-worker title in common due to us working together and we talked as friends at the office, that was about it. However, once I realized the amount of knowledge they each had in the areas I wanted to improve in, I started asking questions – I wanted to learn more.
It’s important to realize that financial mentors will generally not seek you out – you need to find them.
Why is that? Because it would come off as rude or pompous to go up to someone to talk about how much money they’re making. So you need to listen for clues in general conversation and realize when someone knows more about something than you do.
Once you do, you’re golden. People love to talk about their lives and tend to be gracious in sharing knowledge. Buy them a cup of coffee or a cold beer and some wings (I like the latter!).
Not only will it be nice to talk with someone who shares a similar interest, but you’ll end up growing from this friendship – whether you want to or not. Surround yourself with people smarter than you are and you’re bound to become a little smarter over time.
Although we’re in a good financial position, we aren’t bulletproof and could do some things better. And that’s one of the reasons I enjoy talking to my mentors – I continue to get ideas to help maximize our financial future.
I don’t know everything, but I know enough that I’ve been able to help bring our family to a position of FIRE. It’s my hope that others who have a desire to do the same can lean on me or others who know more in this area to find a path to follow.
Knowledge is power and it’s important that we learn and grow from one another.
As a side note, it’s not just co-workers that haven’t really wanted to pick my brain. I’ve only had a couple of my friends ask for some guidance and my cousin has asked for some help as well (thank you barter system!).
It doesn’t hurt my feelings that so not many people have approached me about the subject, but it is perplexing to me. If I knew someone in this position that was financially stable enough to retire in his or her early forties, I’d be sticking to that person like glue trying to learn what I could to improve.
Should I be surprised that no one’s asked how we got to the point of being able to retire early?
Thanks for reading!!