The Desire to Retire: Why the FIRE Movement Needs to Cool Off

Are you looking forward to retiring? If so, then I know you don’t like your job. Only people who hate their jobs dream of retirement. If you’re, say, forty and you can’t wait for the day you can retire then that’s most likely a really long wait—which is sad. Why wait 25 years or so before you can stop hating 40 hours (or more) out of your week? Even if it’s just 5 or 10 years away, that’s still quite the wait.

People who love their jobs don’t talk about retiring. In fact, they can’t wait to do it each day. Mark Twain once wrote, “Find a job you enjoy doing and you will never have to work a day in your life” and I believe that to be true. If you’re dreaming of the day you can retire, then it’s time to reassess what you’re doing and figure out what you would like to do instead. You can learn more about how to do this in my articles 5 Steps to a More Exciting and Lucrative Career and How Not to Hate Mondays.

Of course, part of the allure of retirement means you no longer have to go to work for money and, naturally, that would be a big relief. Stressing about having enough money for now and in the future is never fun. Working because you enjoy it, and not because you have to, is a much better situation. So maybe part of the general disdain for work has more to do with not feeling financially set rather than the job itself. I will continue to post articles on what you can do about not making enough money but in the meantime, you can check out Mindful Spending and Stop Trying to Impress Other People (and Get Rich Instead.)

There’s a movement going on called FIRE (financial independence, retire early). I’m all for people being financially independent (it’s one of the reasons why I write this blog) but the problem I have with the second half of the acronym—or any talk of retiring early—is that it glosses over the reason why people would want to retire early. People who love their jobs would view retiring early as a punishment, not a gift. They may want to cut back at some point so they can spend time more with friends and family or engage in hobbies but they would never want to walk away completely.

Retiring early may cost you your life, too. A joint study that came out in 2017 from researchers at Cornell University and the University of Melbourne discovered that men who retired at age 62 had a 20% higher mortality rate than men who waited until 65. Likewise, an Oregon State University study found that working just one extra year, to age 66, gave those adults an 11% lower mortality rate compared to those who retired at an earlier age.

Retiring early also costs you when it comes to social security. For every year you delay retiring, you will increase your benefits by 8% up until age 70. And should you wait until age 70 to collect, you will receive 140% of what you would have received at age 65.

Work can also help you mentally, too. It can be a social outlet, especially if you work with like-minded people. It can make you feel needed and important and above all else, provide meaning to your life. That’s why you need to love what you do—so you’ll feel like you’re living your purpose.

After understanding these facts, we can see how retirement can be romanticized. It can literally cut our funds and lifespan short, as well as make us feel unimportant and even lonely. Knowing this, I think a better plan is to cut back to part-time or transition into a similar job with fewer demands when we’re older instead of retiring completely—and follow that path until we are no longer physically or mentally able. Of course, this all depends on each of us finding a job we love so much, we wouldn’t dream of walking away. If we could all achieve that then the FIRE movement would cool off and become the WARM movement (workers against the retirement movement). I think that’s a much better plan:)