That word “retired”

The word “retired” as it is commonly used and defined in the dictionary belongs to the industrial world, say the years 1920 to 2020, where it is understood in the sense of disposing of a worn out piece of machinery or employee. We can call this the social security era. This is one understanding of the word retirement.

When the world was poorer with less access to information of different solutions and all followed the same solution, as seen on TV, beginning some 30 years ago, there was a transition period wherein only some old people would reach the financial independence stage. We can call this the 401k era. This is another understanding of the word retirement.

However, with the aid of the internet people are learning how to reach it much sooner. What we have now is the beginning of a post-industrialist concept where the need for work becomes optional for those who have saved enough money and a mandatory life-sentence for those who haven’t. This is a third understanding of the word retirement.

So we have the same word trying to describe three different concepts. Having multiple concepts described by the same word is very confusing to some people. If someone reaches for the dictionary in order to think about something, you gotta realize that you’re talking to the philosophical equivalent of a wall. These people are incapable of thinking outside the box that is their “phonebook of words”.

When bloggers talk about “retirement” concepts with the intent to REACH other people, they HAVE to use the word “retirement” even if their concept doesn’t match the concept of the majority(*). They then have to explain it in detail.

However, many people don’t try to understand before they start complaining. It’s way easier for someone to say that they “somehow can’t wrap their heads around it, so therefore it’s impossible.” Now that’s a fairly ass-clownish attitude, but surprisingly it’s commonly accepted—like being bad at math is cool (rather than embarrassing like it should be…no one brags about being a bad speller for instance), having an opinion based on ignorance is cool to.

(*) If it was referred to a “Concept X” people would never find them.

As a blogger it’s not funny being on the receiving end of that. YMMV. Hence the “damnit, I wish some people would stop being so closed-minded”-responses, like the recent MMM vs the IRP post.

When MMM and I use the word “retirement”, its meaning is closer the third meaning.

Interestingly, the third meaning is actually close to the pre-industrial meaning. Back when people where more self-reliant and not the helpless consumers they are today. From a comment from Simply Rich Life on the post above:

“Retiring is a good word if you consider its other meanings which include “withdrawing from something” (in French, retirement is almost the same as “retreating”). For example there are great philosophers who “withdrew from” their primary occupations to think and write more which is how we ended up with all those books.”

MMM doesn’t think about software development anymore. I don’t think about physics anymore. At all! We’re permanently retired (withdrawn!) from that short but intense career. Just like Franklin retired (check his biography, it says retired) from book publishing only to pursue science, geography, politics, …

I’m currently pursuing trading and MMM pursues construction/general contracting, but the difference between us and most people is that we don’t need the money. Most people do. We pursue it as a hobby. They pursue it as a career. We can leave at any time. They can’t.

Tip: Don’t limit your pursuits to only those activities that industrial-world has classified as hobbies. I would be far to boring to spend 60 years under those (type 2) constraints.

We don’t need to make money because we already made enough. This is akin to the second sense of retirement—being financially independent—with the main difference of not being “old”.

We still have energy to do stuff, just not any interest in what was the career where we made our money. We’re not too worn out to do nothing ever again, like in the first sense of retirement.

We’re generally very resourceful (how do you think we figured this stuff out?!). Such resourcefulness, last seen in the pre-WWI generations, which, barring an extremely high salary, is what makes it possible at a young age for the majority of the people who “buy into it”. Hence resourcefulness is a sufficient but not a required condition.

Of course, those who keep claiming that extreme early retirement is so impossible that neither they nor I can do it will not have read this far… and with this inspirational conclusion, I sign off again.

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Originally posted 2013-02-19 09:33:04.