Why Retire at 35?

RetiredJeepTireCroppedI’m pretty nonchalant about using Financial Independence and Early Retirement interchangeably. They aren’t the same thing of course, and achieving financial independence doesn’t mean you have to quit your job. However, as far as our goals are concerned, one leads to the other.

Why Retire Early?

Deciding whether or not to stop working once you no longer need to for financial reasons is not a problem for some people, like the DJ. Not working has long been a goal of hers, and all the prerequisites, such as school and work, are in a sense a means to an end.

As for me, I’m not sure it’s that clear. Seeking financial independence as a goal is naturally attractive on its own: the sense of security, and freedom that comes from the idea of not having to rely on an employer to fund your life. Early retirement on the other hand is a lot more ambiguous, and maybe scary, but that is what makes it exciting.

There is nothing I am running away from: I don’t hate my job, usually 🙂 I like the work I do, if not all aspects of the job (I think it’s important to differentiate between the work you do, and the job you have). Without the need to work for a living, I could see myself continuing to find reasons to develop, create, and improve things for fun, if not for profit (though I am sure that could follow). Even now with a full-time job, I have been known to find excuses to escape away for a weekend of hacking in order to try playing with a new technology or do something I think would be cool.

It’s the traditional job aspects that I realize I dislike: things like paperwork, meetings, mundane tasks, and schedules exist for their own reasons, good and bad. I respect why these things may be necessary in order to make something profitable or use-able by a customer on time, but attending to those details is not what excites me.

It might be that I’m being overly optimistic about the things I enjoy now and what I’ll want to continue doing. If it turns out we achieve financial independence, quit our jobs, and I spend my days puttering around in the garden, walking the dogs, and taking a few extra naps, that wouldn’t be a bad way to spend life at all. In fact, I’d probably be doing more of that now, if it wasn’t for having to be in an office during certain hours so that the right TPS reports can get filled out.

With that in mind, I view Financial Independence and Early Retirement as opposing sides of the same coin. Financial Independence represents security and freedom, while Early Retirement represents flexibility and a source of new challenges.

Retire at 35: In Pursuit of Nice Round Numbers

Retiring at thirty-five happens to be a nice stretch goal that works well for us financially and personally. Just as importantly, everyone likes nice round numbers. Moreover, in this case it’s nice to have a goal to strive to, however arbitrary it may be.

I think that by thirty-five you can have sampled different aspects of life and ways of spending your time. This leaves you in a good position to decide how you want to structure your life.

Assuming, for the sake of round numbers, you finish childhood and mandatory education at 20 that gives you:

  1. Five years for college
  2. Five years for grad-school
  3. Five years for working

Don’t you love nice round numbers? Of course you might distribute those years differently but the idea remains the same. By thirty-five you would have spent your time and energy in different situations, institutions, locations, and working towards different goals. You should thus have an idea of what motivates you, what you are good at, and what you want to do with the next phase of your life.


I am sure my thinking on the subject will evolve over time. I would love to know what others think, and how they decided when/if they will be ready to retire, independently of financial independence.

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4 Responses

  1. We’re like that comic strip — always ready to retire! The power of round numbers is funny, too. Even though we’re planning to retire at 38 and 41, we also think of it as an average age of 39.5, which we can then call “under 40.” Retiring by 40 (sort of) feels like a really solid an important goal to us, even if it’s not really in the cards for the older one of us.

    • The MC says:

      Taking your average age is a good way around that.
      We settled on 35 as a nice round number to aim for and then realized we never specified if it was when the older or younger one of us turns 35. Thankfully we have about four months of overlap where it’s true for both of us, hence the vague target of Q1 2018.

      Arbitrary round numbers FTW

  2. Mrs. Pomodoro says:

    Just curious, did you guys have to unlearn anything? For us, it’s after getting a house, being unsatisfied with corporate jobs, and some frivolous spending (mostly me) that we realized we want something else. It took us maybe 5 years (or more?) to figure out what we really want out of life and learned to not follow the crowd/expectation from family. I guess that brings us to the next round number 40. 🙂

    • The MC says:

      That’s interesting, I’d like to hear about some of the things you had to unlearn.

      I don’t want to speak for us both, but for me I don’t think there was that much unlearning; the social and status spending never got on my radar, I don’t know if it’s an oblivious thing, or being raised in Canada where it’s not as obvious (I think).

      Learning about FIRE at the time I did (in grad school) might have changed the path I took career wise. If I didn’t know about this possibility, I would have probably taken an academic track because of the option of more long term freedom and flexibility. Once I realized those things were still possible with a corporate job and the right decisions, it opened a lot more options.

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