Why suffer for 30 years so you can retire at 55?

Working hard only for money will lead to misery

Related to my larger company The Learning Consultants, I was providing college counseling services to a family.  The parents were both high income earners and fanatical savers.  As we discussed their college considerations for their child, they mentioned that they would be retiring soon. “55 is the latest” – (they were in their late 40s).  “We’ve been suffering long enough.”  They both knowingly shook their heads.  They were not there for career guidance.  But if I were give some to their younger selves I would have counseled them differently.

I am happy for them if that’s their plan. But I felt a bit sad for them as well.  They essentially have worked unhappily for 30 years so that they could retire early.  That’s a lot of life.  Indeed, those 30 years are “life”.  Moreover, they still had to work 8 years more in fields they hated just to reach their plan of retiring early.  And, while I hope they can live life to the fullest – travel, take classes, immerse in their hobbies – every piece of literature I’ve reviewed and all my work running Career Counseling Connecticut indicates that early retirees are not happy.   The most obvious reason is that there are very few early retirees.  Sure they can “play”.  But with whom?

They plan on moving to a new area but who will be in their community? They are way too young to hang with retirees, the youngest in the 65-70 range, but most in their early 70s.   Those in their age range will be working.

The better solution: find a career you like/love, that gives meaning and purpose.  You might scale back your work but like the country doctor or the wise pastor, your work will be part of your happiness, not your suffering.