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Early Retirement versus Laziness


Look at all those crazy retired people. They are so lazy as they sit there on top of a mountain they climbed.

Pete over at Mr. Money Mustache does not publish as often as he once did. I still check in now and again to see what Pete is up to. Even when there are no new posts people still comment on previous posts. A few days ago a comment grabbed my attention. In short, the commenter stated she thought Pete was anything but lazy. This got me thinking.

The post in question was actually written by Mrs. Money Mustache. (I’ve been in the mustache house. She really does have a mustache. Damndest thing I ever saw.) She said she felt like a “Lazy Log” compared to Pete who is “extremely self-motivated”. As their accountant I can attest neither are lazy. On a fairly consistent basis Pete contacts me on a tax related topic he is working on.

As most of you are aware, MMM retired at 30 and is living the good life. The argument over the years has revolved around ‘Is Pete really retired?’ The answer, of course, is yes. Mr. and Mrs. MM are retired and living the life they want. The next question then is “Are all these early retire people lazy asses?’ That is the topic of today’s discussion.

Busier Retired than when Working

I have noticed in my office that when many people retire they end up busier than when they were punching a clock. For some reason a job screws up your personal life so there is no time for major projects that sooth the soul. Once you put ‘organized labor’ behind you (don’t confuse with union labor) you are now free to pursue the things you want. Most people are like me, brimming with thoughts and ideas racing through their mind. Once the floodgate is opened it is unstoppable.

As I write this, Pete tweeted (his Twitter feed is on the front page of his blog) a picture of a bike storage area project he just completed. He was proud of the work (he should be) and proud it cost under $100 and was constructed from mostly scrap materials he already had on hand. When you don’t have a 9 to 5 demanding your time and mental energy you have time to think about and construct an awesome bike rack.

When I was over at Camp Mustache III in Seattle, Doug Nordman made a comment that stuck with me. He said, “You think you don’t have enough to retire, but you do. You have more than you think.” Of all the people at CM III, Doug made the greatest impression. His words resonated with me. He makes the rounds of personal finance conferences so if you ever get the chance be sure to chat him up. A remarkable man. I’m hyper, jumping around and speaking 1,200 words a minute. Nords sits back comfortably and says what needs to be said, then stops talking, and smiles. His point sinks a lot deeper.

Pete, Nords, and all the other personal finance bloggers/gurus share this confidence. They are very comfortable in their skin. It is important to listen to a wide variety of these people because they each have something to teach. Their different styles mean different things sink in as you listen to each of them. All their messages are the same: spend less than you earn, invest, enjoy life. After half a million words on this blog my message is still the same short phrase.

Guys like Pete are great to bounce ideas off of. I am lucky because I have Pete’s ear. The deluge of emails and requests from clients and blog readers make it hard for me to handle individual cases. I take some, but most are unanswered due to sheer time constraints. All you can do is keep reading and rereading their work.

Lazy Log

Personality plays a large role in how we handle retirement. Your favorite accountant doesn’t know how to sit still. Pent up energy has me bouncing non-stop. Guys like Pete and his wife are better able to relax. And Nords makes it look so easy. He just enjoys the moment. I’m working on it; I really am.

Reading a book is not lazy! Mrs. MM said she felt like a Lazy Log because she was not as self-motivated as Pete. I know the Mustache household enjoys the comfort of books. Pete spends plenty of time researching. I know because when he comes to me he has this whole laundry list of things he has already checked out.


Aw, heck! Now Mr. Money Mustache ruined my vision of retirement.

Ryan Holiday says reading is work. Warren Buffett goes to the office and reads most of the day. Neither is lazy because they spend significant amounts of time reading. Holiday is right; reading is work if you are reading the right stuff and taking notes. You can still be retired and working! Please, for the love of god, do not stop reading because you managed early retirement.

Early retirement, any retirement for that matter, is not about sitting around doing nothing all day. Many people travel. Pete loves building things; Nords loves surfing. Both write, and I assume, read a lot too. People who achieve goals should step back and teach. You only early retire once. Now you can share your story.

People were not designed to work only. This whole concept of working like a dirty dog 30 hours a day, eight days a week is an insanity that started with the Industrial Revolution. Bringing workers to one place and pounding them into the ground was a great way to increase the return on invested capital as long as you had no conscious. The concept never really worked. What made it look like it worked was a whole lot of people were abused so a few could reap the rewards. The workers were pitied, but the wealthy industrialists were admired as world class leaders.

Such work is no longer needed as technology has given all of us the opportunity to live a comfortable life without toil. Yes, we still work, but the work is different. Dangerous jobs still exist, but are fewer in number. Only a few hours a week are enough to provide our needs. Now we have plenty of time to live, really live.

Brave New World

The people who resonate the least with me are the travelers. This is in direct opposition to what resonates with normal people. I’m just one of those funny birds who is perfectly happy on his farm and could care less if he never left the acreage. Pete is somewhere in between. He travels, but not excessively (that I am aware of). I know some people are on the road more than at home when the final work bell rings. To each their own.

Traveling is also hard work! Guys, if you think early retirement is all about sitting back and working the palm, forget about it. Retirement is busier than the so-called working years. All those projects and ideas come flooding out until you are up to your armpits in work. Taxes are a seasonal job. My antsy nature coupled with a seasonal job caused me to own way too many income properties in the 90s, start a farm, run a hedge fund (two actually), expand my accounting practice, and write several blogs. Jumping Judas priest people, I stated a tax office because I thought it would give me something to do a few months of the year with plenty of free time to do as I choose the remainder of the year! What I really need to do is channel Pete and Nords so I learn to sit still for more than three seconds. It’s okay to relax, retired or not.

Retirement is hard. I see it every day in my office. People are so excited for that wonderful day when they don’t have to go into work. Some people let go and sit on the couch all day. They age fast and badly. Their life expectancy is low. For many, they have no idea how much work there is to do once the boss is not around. Take it from a lifelong business owner; you are the toughest boss you will ever have. No human on Earth will push you as hard as you will.

That is why all these blogs are so important. Have you noticed how many people who have reached their retirement goals still show up at personal finance conferences and write and read these blogs? Once you learn how to reach early retirement you now need to learn how to live in retirement. To each their own. The formula for wealth and early retirement is simple; the formula for living in retirement is much harder.

The reason retirement is so much harder is because each individual views retirement differently. Wealth is defined as “I have enough.” That is mostly a mindset. Now that you have enough, What will you do? Ahhh. I get ya, buddy. I bought rentals, expanded the tax practice, ran hedge funds, raise animals, write like a Wildman.

All I can offer is this: read. Read a lot from a variety of sources. I am grateful for the readers here. Still, read all the other blogs that trip your trigger. You are not lazy. That is why you made it to retirement or are well on your way. Now you have stuff to do.

Now I am going to sit back and read a book for the rest of the day. After I finish a few things at the office.


Wednesday 19th of October 2016

I always figured they showed up at these conferences to hype up their blog and make money off of it. But maybe I'm just a cynic.

EDIT: And I totally wrote this before reading the comments.

Keith Schroeder

Wednesday 19th of October 2016

Many do, Lightening. And why not? It illustrates my point: just because you have money and can sit around doing nothing all day doesn't mean you should or that many actually do.

Keith Schroeder

Wednesday 19th of October 2016

I like your attitude, JT. The logic that helps us retire at pretty much any age is also the mindset needed to solve many of the intractable problems in our world. Also checked out your blog. Looks great! Now I need to read more.


Thursday 20th of October 2016

Thanks so much, Keith! Blogging has been quite the adventure. My favorite part is meeting new folks like you with the courage to put themselves out there! I'm looking forward to reading more of your ideas!


Wednesday 19th of October 2016

This is encouraging! Although I've technically FIRED, my retirement is to...continue working. And a part of it is because I don't want to be bored. So I'm giving myself a new job, having started my blog ( with the goal of creating a side-hustle that exists to help parents teach their children (and themselves) about money, and to donate $1,000,000 to charities and research that solve problems I care about. I believe if we can start a movement (kind of like the amazing Mustache Movement Peter started), we can help solve big problems and make life better for our fellow human beings:

I write about it here: