Surprises of Early Retirement: Nobody Cares

As I alluded to back in June, a few things about my six months of early retirement surprised me.

I wanted to share what those were in a bit of a series of blog posts. I hope you enjoy but fair warning, I’m not sure how consistent I will be in the series. They will come though!

I was around 25 or 26 when I first discovered early retirement. I was amazed that it was even a thing. I have always been interested in personal finance and I am also somewhat of a blunt person. I try not to be rude, but I am very curious and if someone shares something about themselves with me, I will almost always ask follow up questions. I am regularly exasperated with Poopsie when he tells me something a friend of our is doing (eg. dating someone new) and I ask a bunch of questions (what’s their name? what’s their job? how did they meet?) and it turns out, he doesn’t know the answers because he didn’t ask.

Back when I first discovered early retirement, I sent a very detailed email to my three siblings about it and how it could be achieved. I didn’t want to get down the road where I announced to them I was retiring and them asking “why didn’t you tell me years ago how to do this?” The reason I sent that email is because that is how I would react! I’d of course be happy for them but I’d also wish they’d told me what they were doing so I could replicate it myself. As far as I know, none of my siblings have taken on any of the advice I provided in that email, but at least they can’t ever say I didn’t tell them.

So, if someone who wasn’t “old” ever told me they were retiring, I would have asked a lot of follow up questions. I’d be so interested in how they did it, even if it wasn’t really something I wanted to do. I consider this to be very normal. I don’t think it’s prying because a) they have already volunteered the information to me and b) they of course don’t have to answer any of my questions if they don’t want to. If anyone tells me they have done something slightly out of the ordinary, my curiosity is piqued and I try to learn more.

I am naturally a very curious person.

I was genuinely surprised that of the many, many people I told I was retiring or semi-retiring, not a single one asked me any questions about how I was managing to do that at the age of 32.

Not. A. Single. One.

Now my family and a couple of my close friends were aware of how I was doing this, so they’re excused for not asking questions. But everyone else? They wouldn’t have had any idea of how I could afford to stop working and not work again for years if I didn’t want to.

The people that I told I was retiring varied in their level of knowledge about me. Some were friends who I’d never discussed money with, but who were aware of my basic life situation. Some were close colleagues, some were not so close colleagues. Some were strangers.

And no one asked.

I am not convinced it is because they all thought it would be too rude to ask. Some of them, particularly close colleagues, had never previously hesitated to make inquiries about my life, including about money and investing. And yet, none of them asked how I was able to retire.

I must admit, I was pretty disappointed in this. I was ready to inspire people to make changes to their finances so that they too could retire earlier than planned! I was ready to talk index funds, cheap mobile phone carriers and the concept of enough. But, I didn’t get the opportunity to.

While this was the biggest surprise of my retirement, it is a surprise that has little or no impact. It hasn’t changed my perception of retirement or anything like that, but it has changed my understanding of how ingrained work is with some people. The only logical assumption I can make is that people didn’t ask about early retirement because they weren’t interested in early retirement. Some of these people I would classify as highly, highly stressed and the very people I thought would be interested in at least discussing it.

Apparently not.

But it also rings true the age old adage we all, deep down, know to be true but sometimes takes us a few years to accept: nobody actually gives you too much thought. Most people are too caught up in their own lives to really care that much about what you’re doing. As we get older, I think this becomes a very freeing thing, giving us permission to do exactly what we want without worrying about what others may think. I was pleased that this discovery confirmed this for me.

Have you ever been surprised by a lack of interest or curiosity in early retirement from those around you? Share in the comments below!


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8 Responses to Surprises of Early Retirement: Nobody Cares

  1. Mrs. ETT says:

    Firstly, I did laugh out loud at Poopsie not asking for details. Mr. ETT is exactly the same. How can they possibly not ask the most basic pertinent questions?! Then again, he feels like that with me and vehicles. “X got a new car!” “Oh really, what kind?” “Ummm… red?”

    I am surprised that not a single person has asked. It could be a good thing as some of the other bloggers experience quite negative reactions, so much so they come up with euphemisms instead of the bald truth. Have you noticed any funny looks?

    I think you are right about us being wrapped up in our own lives. Certainly the older I’ve become, the more I’ve embraced IDGAF. I’m also realising that we all have different things that are important to us. I overheard a friend of mine exhorting a much younger friend to start looking after her skin now, it’s so important to build good habits while you are young, your older self will thank you. I was taken aback when I realised that if you exchanged “skin” for “finances”, I would be giving the same speech!

    • Hi Mrs ETT! Yes you’re right, no questions are preferable to being given a hard time. But still, I was surprised. As someone who is (relatively) young and takes care of their skin fastidiously, I know what you mean. I am often baffled by people not caring about things important to me but we all have things that are important to us – and sure, I definitely know best, but it may take others a while to realise that 😉

  2. FIRE for One says:

    I suspect that people just assume you’ve come into money somehow (inheritance, lotto win, etc). Very few people would believe that (seriously) early retirement is even possible, so would quite likely just dismiss the idea without question.

  3. Ozstache says:

    I too have experienced general apathy about my retirement status. I am similarly gobsmacked that no one wants to know how, as it would be the first question I would be asking if I didn’t know about FIRE. In fact, that’s precisely how I found out how to do it!

    As FIRE for one says, it is most likely that most people would assume luck, not careful planning, was the reason for your freedom windfall. If only they really knew!

  4. Ashley says:

    Interesting observation! I have not achieved the retirement part of FIRE, but I know that any time I have mentioned the goal or theory to a colleague or friend, I get hushed–very similar to FIRE for One’s comment. Response such as “Sure, we’ll see” or “yeah, you say that now” or sometimes just a chuckle and move on.

    • Oh yes, I got this allllll the time when I first started out. But now, they can see! Funnily enough, none of those people have said “oh you were right”. I periodically check back on your blog for updates – I hope you’re all settled in to your new place in Colorado!

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