Early Retirement

By Gabrielle. Les Nageuses by Florence Douyrou.

Ed Hawkins retired at 33, pressing pause on his prime earning years and choosing play instead. He’s tended to his fireplace and read books all winter, looks forward to sitting by the pool in the summer, and by September his petanque game will be marvelous. It’s all much simpler now: no more rushing deadlines, blinking for hours on end at an endless screen of information, or checking his Blackberry for urgent updates. He is, in his words, relishing his temporary freedom.

Of course, he doesn’t have kids or a wife. Just an equally bold girlfriend who thought this was an awesome idea! Because it is.

What do you think about flipping the concept of retirement? Diving in to a life of leisure while everyone around you is still swimming laps? Consider this: If you were born in 1960 or later, your full retirement age is 67. Will you still look cute in your bikini? ;) Or is this something better left to those without a lot of responsibilities and dependents? Do you know anyone — or, better yet, any other family — that has opted out of the usual life sequence and lived in a different order? I would love to hear HOW and why they did it! (I hope it was you who did something wild and crazy, and that it is working!)

53 thoughts on “Early Retirement”

  1. Love this! I quit my job and went back to school. It’s the best, not sure I’ll be ready for the actual work once I’m done though. I adore working my own hours on my studies… Maybe I can work just part time on my career and do something else fun and independent on the side.

  2. I’ve long-maintained that we (in the US) should get Social Security when we’re young and raising families, then work until we die! But, barring that, retiring early sounds great. However, I have kids who will go to college, and I’d like to be solvent enought to educate them and then help them get started once they are out of college, so I am in no position to stop my work. And, frankly, in the US, money does help as we age. It can buy a single room vs a shared room in the hospital or nursing home, the ability to hire home aids, or just to hire someone to clean your home and help cook or drive when those tasks become difficult. We have friends who did basically what Mr. Hawkins and his girlfriend did. Living in a major US city, they sold everything and moved to a cheaper country. About a decade into their experience, I wouldn’t say they are particularly happy, though. The wife often expresses that she feels intimidated by her contemporaries who have bettered their skills and expanded their educations and responsibilities throughout the years while hers have stayed the same or decreased, and they both seem a little self-centered in that their lives are based on what makes them happy, rather than by practicing servitude (giving back) of any stripe. By skipping the intense mid-life years, they get the retirement without the hard stuff, which is like eating dessert all the time. Maybe I am a Puritan! But, to each his own and I wish them all happiness.

    1. I love your comment, Amy! It feels like you’ve given this topic a lot of thought. I can see how early retirement wouldn’t be the right fit for every personality.

      1. Gabrielle,

        I HAVE given this a lot of thought. We had kids when we were older, so some of our contemporaries are retiring because they are taking buy-outs in their mid-to-late 50s. We can’t do that. Plus, I’m a fan of Suzi Orman, who advocates working as long and as hard as you can before retiring.

        Also, I have closely observed our friends who did the early retirement thing (early/mid-40s). They were ecstatic the first couple of years. But they have to be extremely frugal, which is not the adventure it is when you are younger. Their job skills have stagnated so they would have to take much lower-level positions than they had if they could actually get a job, or they would have to start at the bottom of the ladder with a new career, their parents are aging in distant cities, their siblings are far away, etc. etc.

        I realize some people have enough money to live well by quitting work early or, even, never working. But, realistically, it takes millions in the bank to retire in your early 30s (if you have a family that needs housing and education and soccer cleats and you want to retire well).

  3. I left work at 51, not that young compared to some, but well ahead of my scheduled 67.5. I never had kids of my own, but I did help raise 6 children for over 25 years, so feel I made a contribution in that direction. I love not working, though I stay busy and am still learning new things. Being very frugal helped pay off debts and a couple of rental properties and not working allows me to be even more frugal, in a different sort of way. I can recommend this lifestyle and think in the ideal world a couple could manage on two part time jobs.

    1. Go Shelley! I think retirement at 51 sounds wonderful. You still have a lifetime of adventure ahead of you, and the aches and pains of old age are still far in the distance.

  4. My family and I aspire to do just this…we lovingly call it “ditching out” :) Currently we are in savings mode and aspire to take off to live aboard a boat with our son for a few years before he reaches junior high school age-we have a 5 year plan. We formed our blog (recently) to hold us accountable for our dream (which is now our goal). We follow lots of sailing blogs of people who seem to have retired early-but the coolest thing (in most cases) is that they are also working along the way to fund their adventure. This dream turned goal is the best way to live-with purpose. Thanks for this post~


    1. Steph,

      Kudos to your plan and dream. Do you by chance follow Log of Delviento?
      If you don’t, you should! Our longtime friends Mike and Windy are living your dream! They had a five-year plan and are now on year two of living on their boat with their two daughters. Things seem to be working well for them thus far. It can be done!


  5. John McDonald’s Travis McGee took his retirement “in chunks” and I thought that sounded like a grand plan when I first encountered it in high school. I’ve been to graduate school, worked part time in retail/restaurant work to finance my writing, and taken months at a time to do minimal part time work or none at all. (I’ve had regular jobs, too. ) I lived in garage apartments, studios, and aging rentals in high-dollar areas and saved every way I could. My non-negotiables: accessories and travel. What was the point if I scrimped on *everything* Also, good accessories (and good manners) got me into a lot of places that had free champagne and hors d’oeuvres. Life is pretty cheap if you decide you don’t need a lot of stuff, pay cash for what you buy, and get a relatively inexpensive reliable car (thank you, Honda Accord!) Public libraries have saved me over and over again!

    At 35, I left nine months of “recovering from foot surgery” and a few months of part-time subbing to work at my current office job. Married at 38, kids at 40 + 42…I’m pretty much doing things the regular way these days. But I did it MY WAY. And now I am married and we do it OUR WAY. :)

    And to Amy’s comment above: I always volunteered somewhere. Blood donation (free snacks, too), coaching youth sports, Sunday school teacher, mentoring inner city kids, organizing canned food and/or clothing drives, literacy projects/book drives…those things are all fun and give texture to life. I’d be sad without them.

    Interesting: I think women not playing by the rules, not being focused on either end of the mother/work balance FREAKS OUT PEOPLE. Just my observation through experience. We’ve been sold the idea that marriage/career/kids/some or all of the above is the endgame – someone who is just soaking up life is unsettling. People want to know, “for what prize are you playing?” Relationship. Peace. And maybe books and shoes. :)

    1. “someone who is just soaking up life is unsettling”

      That’s such a fascinating observation. And I agree, it’s hard to see people outside the standard paths — we want so badly to be able categorize people and organize our world. : )

      I adore your attitude and style, Barchbo!! I think you need to write a book.

    2. I love this! I agree that women who choose a different path freak people out. I’m a personality that needs “structure,” so I need to work or I’d be a blob all day, but I’m content with what some would call a lackluster (albeit steady, and with decent income) career, I’ve never felt like I “had” to get married, and I don’t want kids. Funny story, my former (male) boss was asking me about myself and asked about kids. When I said I didn’t think they were for me, he was shocked – like, “Look me in the eyes and say that!” kind of shocked.

      I have heard of “reverse retirement” where people work more later on than earlier. I do find the idea of working – or really doing anything – when i’m middle-aged horribly depressing. While taking a break from work isn’t in the cards for me, there are some things I do: I bought a red convertible at 25, bc I think it’s so sad when i see old women finally getting to cruise around in their cool car. I also travel quite a bit. Once on a flight to London, i sat next to this elderly couple (I’d say 80’s, but they were from nyc, so….maybe just 75. ;) ) , and I had to open their water bottles for them on the plane (much to the chagrin of the husband). Anyway, all I could think was, what business do they have shuffling around London? At that age, i just want to sit on the porch and drink lemonade. :)

      Side note on the traveling: I can’t hear “I like that old time rock and roll” song without thinking of Mexico. I felt like so much was catered to the baby boomers, but there were just as many, if not more, Gen X/Gen Y vacationing.

  6. My husband and I have done breaks in stages– doesn’t count as retirement but works for us. In college we both took a year off – me to live in Europe he to hike the Appalachian Trail. Then in our later 20’s when we found out we were pregnant we both quit and traveled around Europe/Eastern Europe for 9 months. Then in the 11 years since we had our first child we have said yes to almost every international job/project offered, which has added adventures while still having a “normal” life of 3 kids, jobs, saving for college, homework, sports etc etc –a different country intrinsically adds variety and learning opportunities for the whole family.

  7. My father’s brother fully retired at 45. He and his wife have 5 children, and they’ve loved his choice. He worked long hours for many years at a firm in California, then moved back home to take a lucrative position with a small oil company. When that company was sold, he was solvent enough to retire instead of needing to continue working for the new bosses. Now, 10 years later, they’ve spent lots of quality time with their children — including wonderful vacations and even getting to know their grandchildren. Their youngest child is currently a senior in high school, and I don’t envision them returning to the workforce. They’ve filled their time with service positions — serving in the local schools and and on community boards and committees, using the talents they acquired while in the workforce. I’ve watched them and always wanted to achieve that kind of solvency for my own large family, but so far it hasn’t worked quite that way.

    Instead, I’ve been blessed to have my husband at home for the last 7 years to help raise our children while we both work from home. Our goal was to be able to spend more time with our children, and this arrangement has worked out beautifully for that.

    1. “Our goal was to be able to spend more time with our children, and this arrangement has worked out beautifully for that.”

      Yay! So glad you’ve found a system and lifestyle that matches your goals.

  8. What an appropriate post for me. I am retiring from my job as a college professor after 15 years. I’m 44. We are relocating to Denver due to my husband’s job as a pilot. I keep telling everyone that I’m retiring and they laugh at me and tell me I’m too young. I’m glad to see now that I’m not crazy.

    I’m going to be a mom (as always, 3 kids), artist and continue with my blog. Yay for early retirement! I can’t wait.

      1. Let me know if you move back to the Denver area, I’ll be there. We bought a house in Ken Caryl (Littleton) so excited to move!

        I’ll buy you coffee. :)

  9. My dad retired in his forties (mostly due to health reasons) and became a full-time artist, which had been a hobby until then. Not sure if this wasn’t more stressful though!
    As for retiring young, I prefer the idea of working less, say 3 or 4 days a week, but for longer, until your seventies. With such long weekends you would have plenty of free time for hobbies, family time, etc don’t you think? Plus retiring comes as such a shock for some people – they lose what makes them get up in the morning and sometimes their sense of purpose. It sounds a bit too much like being unemployed to me, which is an awful feeling.
    I think this guy will end up starting a new career!

    1. The idea of working less is appealing to me to. I see a lot of mothers here in France that do this. They work only a couple of days a week when the kids are very young, and then go up to 3 or 4 days when the kids are in school.

      I think it’s nice to stay connected to your job and career so that you can slip in and out as needed.

  10. “We wish we had done this with our children.” A comment we heard often the year we traveled around the US in a motor home visiting all 50 capitals. After living in Latin America for 5 years, my husband left his job to pursue his MBA and we motorhomeschooled state to state. We spent a chunk of our retirement to make this happen but have no regrets for the opportunity to share it with our children aged 10 and 12 at the time. Kudos to Ed Hawkins and his partner and thanks for this post to inspire others to consider the possibility.

  11. My father retired when I was 6. And my mom was a stay-at-home parent until I was 14. It felt totally normal to have both parents at home all the time, except when I compared it to other kids in my suburban neighborhood who had at least one parent gone most of the day.

  12. You must check out http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/ if you haven’t already. He has been retired for quite a while (I think by the time he was 30) and basically tells everyone exactly how it is possible to do so. I so wish I could retire now. We’re saving as much as possible right now and being frugal, but I just don’t see it happening soon enough. We’re both working full time and HATE not being with our kids more. We will get there though. We have goals and are planning/investing away and making the most out of the time we do have with them.

  13. The concept of “retirement” from work is fairly new. It did not really exist in agrarian-based societies, only developing in industrial societies when individuals began to have careers rather than livelihoods and families became more nuclear. It’s based on the idea that people would save up during a career so they can have the funds to care for themselves when they were older. This made sense in most modern societies where traditional careers might last 30 years , where the period of old age was not that long, and where was is no longer the expectation that parents will live with or depend on their children when they are older (there are a few exceptions in modern contries, notably Asian societies).

    However, there is no traditional career path anymore and many companies cannot guarantee employment for several decades. There is also no longer the expectation that anyone will do the same thing for 30 years. This both necessitates and allows individuals to have a more varied work experience. So, a single individual might now experience a series of livelihoods throughout his or her life – student, artist, builder, code-writer, parent, community organizer, author (etc.).

    There are some wonderful upsides to this evolution away from traditional careers, notably the ability to choose other livelihoods and to revel in the flexibility of a work/life schedule. However, there are also downsides as well – primarily economic. I suspect that most people can’t take advantage of this evolution because they simply can’t afford it.

    We are facing the first generation of people who are less well off than their parents. The cost of education is higher and individuals have to incur substantial debt, careers are no longer available even to those who are educated, and when they find work it does not provide long-term investments necessary for their support and medical care when they are older, especially when people are living longer and may have many years of expensive health issues.

    I’m not trying to naysay the concept of early “retirement”. I just wanted to point out that while some may be able to choose this option, most cannot. Some people have no option but to cobble together part-time work and struggle to raise families, while at the same time they have no retirement, no long-term prospects to ensure their children attend college, and a very limited security net if they suffer an unexpected illness or serious health problem.

    I am grateful that I have a flexible job that I love and have time with my two children. I have no intent to “retire” early because I love what I do, but I might choose to evolve in my livelihood at some time in the future. However, I am very mindful that I am lucky to have these choices.

  14. Oh, I forgot to ask. Who is paying for Mr. Hawkins’ health care, or his girlfriends? I assume that since they live in France, it is state-sponsored.

  15. “adultescent” is the term that I would use for these adults that refuse to grow up.
    Work provides the means for optimum enjoyment of leisure, which at its heart involves greater amounts of time in the day to be used for thinking and contemplation.
    If one hasn’t been challenged by work one can not really have leisure in the truest sense of the word, because one hasn’t experienced anything worth
    thinking about, at least for long.
    I think it noteworthy that you even mentioned that he has no wife and no kids.

  16. Again, I don’t advocate working till you, so that is why I continue to hold to the fourth commandment….so once a week, 52 times a year I take a “retirement” from life and rest from the rat race.

  17. I am 71 and happily at work and have been for 26 years! I am a career counselor and there isn’t anything more rewarding than helping young people gain the self confidence they need to apply the education they gained in college to their “dream job”. My husband and I also raised 3 fabulous children along the way. Presently I now go to every soccer game, dance performance, art show, piano recital, etc. etc. that I can for my 11 grandchildren who luckily live nearby. During the summer we have cooking classes and art classes; we have an annual back to school carnival; we go to the beach; we make quilts. I can’t imagine being luckier – no rat race for me. It’s a busy fulfilling life and retirement – well, it’s out there somewhere I imagine. In no hurry right now.

  18. How does one even go about retiring at age 33?
    On a similar note though, My husband and I had 4 children. When I was 20, 22, 24, and 26. I am 36 now and the kids will all be out on their own in 9 years. At 45 we’ll be back to the 2 of us. Feels a little like an early retirement;)

  19. Ha! My husband and I did just this at ages 31 and 28 respectively. It was completely fabulous. Supported by our savings, we packed two boxes of things (to be shipped to us when we landed an address) and off we went to Italy. We found a gorgeous home to rent with figs dangling just outside our windows, enrolled in language classes and spent the next year and a half exploring central Italy, making friends, drinking wine and learning recipes from the nonnas in our neighborhood. Most family and friends were surprised at our move, but eight sets of those same family and friends visited during our time there.

    And at the close of the year and a half, and most of our savings, we opted to not return to New York and our previous careers, but rather began volunteer work and relocated to East Asia. That was nine years ago. We are still here.

    While in Italy we joked that we should begin a club for those who took early retirement, but decided everyone was far too sensible to join….

      1. Hi, Amy,

        Thanks for your interest. We receive a small stipend for teaching that covers our basics adequately. There are so many worthy organizations out there seeking individuals with varying experiences and educations. Seems we are always learn of some new opportunity. We remained in one location for seven years and then relocated two years ago – another country but still within East Asia. It’s not a life I would have imagined ten years ago, but it is really a good fit for us.

  20. I have a problem with a life of leisure. What about giving back to society? If you spend at least some of your time giving back, then that’s great.

  21. My brother was able to retire at 47. He was an engineer in a big city. He sold his house and moved to a small town in North Dakota where all of our relatives are from. He was able to build a new house and buy a few acres of land – living expenses are much cheaper there. He is divorced and has no kids, so he was free to move wherever he wanted to. He volunteers at a local heritage center, does genealogy, and works for a farmer for several weeks in the spring and fall to supplement his income.

    My dad was able to retire at 55 – sadly he died at age 61, so we were all glad he was able to retire early.

  22. I wish!! Being expats in Scotland is an adventure in itself but it would be so nice if we had the money to retire and spend all this time together now…not later.

    My best friend is throwing caution to the wind this fall. She’s been preparing for this for a long time but she’s quitting her job and travelling the world. She’s already been to 50 countries and she said she’d rather do that for her life than work for her corporate company. She is single and doesn’t have any children so I think it makes it easier. She’s written a book and is trying to sell it now. She hopes she’ll be able to write and travel for the remainder of her life. Sounds amazing to me!

  23. I think it’s a great idea! To do the things you love, even if that includes dabbling in a bit of freelance work here and there, because you want to. If it were me I’d become a professional student, just studying whatever interests me! At the moment my husband works 26 weeks of the year, and still comes home every afternoon when he is working, so things are pretty sweet for now!

  24. I thought that when I quit my job to raise my first son that I was going into a very early retirement. Little did I know that I was just starting the hardest and most important work of my life!

  25. I am an avid follower of mrmoneymustache, a man who retired at 30 along with his wife so they could start their family. While they no longer have to work for a living, they do keep busy pursuing passions, some of which pay but many of which don’t.

    Mrmoneymustache writes now about personal finance and how he achieved this early retirement on his blog. What I find most striking is for him and his family, retirement is not a period of inactivity or sloth or even wild luxury, but an opportunity for continual growth and improvement, free from the worry of money.

    If anyone is curious about his story, he recently was interviewed: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/meet-mr-money-mustache-the-man-who-retired-at-30/2013/04/26/71e3e6a8-acf3-11e2-a8b9-2a63d75b5459_story.html

  26. I just learned that in France a law allowed nurses with 3 children to retire after 15 years of work. Just imagine. That law was recently revoked. My colleague was able to retire when her son was 14 years since she had him later in life, it seemed like such a good idea to be there for her teen. I think we are facing a later retirement rather then sooner.

  27. You do realize that many of these wonderful European programs so many here admire are completely unsustainable? America’s entitlement programs are headed toward insolvency too. A big part of this is the demographic crash that has taken place in much of the West. People having fewer children means fewer workers supporting each retiree. These systems were designed with higher birthrates and shorter lifespans in mind.

  28. I think we struggle with the idea of someone doing their life so far off norm, whatever the norm might be. The one big question most people have about this kind of life style is economic — how do they support themselves? And there is a related assumption — that people choosing this lifestyle must not recognize the intrinsic value work.

    It seems that most people who choose this lifestyle are not relying on friends and family to support their leisurely lifestyle. Many of them are using their savings, which means they paid the price ahead of time. And good for them! And it doesn’t seem to be that they don’t want to work — it’s more that they want time freedom, and a choice about where and how and when they spend their time. Many of them do work — they write, or create art, and many other things.

    I fully support a lifestyle that bases its economic choices on how one can support one’s family and one’s dream. There is no need to work a nine to five for fifty years to support your family and take a vacation every summer if you can achieve the same goals some other way. Chris Guillebeau’s book “$100 Startup” is FULL of stories like this.

  29. My husband and I took a mini retirement. I think for us, it became equally important to enjoy the now more than we were as to work very hard and save for later. We both have parents that have a very low quality of life due to health. In 2008 we sold our house, cars, and most all our furniture. We cashed in some of our retirement. We took a break for 10 months with our girls who were 7 and 10 and traveled. We came back decided to live a little smaller (only one car, no big house with a pool, etc.) and take more mini retirements. Other people often feel threatened that we have approached our life “different” than the norm but it really isn’t about us being better but just finding the path that made us happier and it doesn’t happen to be their path. We got quite a bit you must have won the lottery, but no we didn’t. We saved, we sold, we cashed in and we took on debt. Back in Dallas we no longer blog about it but we are doing a modified version of travel more work less.

  30. My sister went to work at a movie theater at 16 and by her early twenties worked her way up to their corporate offices. The complany got bought out and everyone got huge bonuses as their stock options were sold. She bought a big house for cash, but a few years ago she decided to simplify, sold the house, cut her expenses and retired! She didn’t have enough in savings to live like that for good, but enough to do nothing for a few years, then go to nursing school, and now she has a new career.

  31. Pingback: {Weekend Reading} Save for a Rainy Day | Dee WilcoxDee Wilcox

  32. If you are not enjoying your life now as you work but will enjoy it once you retire I find that a sad state to be in. Its all perspective and there are three ways in which to see it: the way you see it , and the way I see it and the way it is. We have a choice in our perspective.
    I do believe its our hearts desire to have a purpose in this life. When you find what your purpose is then you have meaning , fulfillment and a deep joy. That purpose can be through work or outside of work.

  33. We are finishing up a 3 month “sabbatical” and have been traveling around the southeast USA. It’s been glorious and fun in so many ways. But also stressful and exhausting in other ways. We’ve considered doing this more long term and know what changes we would make. Perhaps we will continue. Our life is and open book right now and we are loving the story we are living

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top