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If You Haven’t Retired by 30 You’re a F—— Failure

Watch what you say. The world is listening.

When I first discovered the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) community I didn’t even know it was a community. Always eager for a good read, I mentally grazed on the offerings of blogs around the internet.

Intrigued by frugality I was naturally drawn to these blogs and news articles. Poverty was well in my past, yet habits die hard. My reasons were many. I wanted to leave as light a footprint on the planet as possible as good steward of the world I inherited. My natural competitive nature also drove me to compete against myself in lowering my consumption and needs.

Before the FIRE community caught my fancy I was living a frugal life and had attained FI. It was common to see me turn out light not is use and to turn the water heater off except for the times of the day when hot water was needed. Keeping my house 60 degrees F in the winter doesn’t appeal to Mrs. Accountant or the girls, but dad sure loves seeing if he can lower this year’s heat bill over last year. Every heating season is a competition to find a way to cut energy costs.

Eventually I ran across Mr. Money Mustache (Pete). Other blogs were interesting, but Pete roped me in like no other writer. Before long I introduced myself to Pete, ended up his accountant and discovered our philosophy had a few areas of disagreement.

Today the newsfeeds are stuffed with articles on people who retired by 30 or 35 or 40, quit their job and traveled the world. When I started this blog I became an apologist for people who loved the work they did and didn’t care about retirement.

Making excuses about why I am 53 and still not retired got old fast. Eventually I used some colorful language (read: cuss words) to punctuate my desire to continue running my tax practice. If I retired I would end up filling my time doing exactly what I’m doing now. So why retire!

Blame it on Pete

This post was in my queue for a long time. I am finally writing the post the night before it is published (unless I am murdered by the Illuminati before I can get the thing formatted and scheduled in WordPress).

When I came up with the idea and saved it in my queue I emailed Pete to ask him if he would edit the post to avoid offending him with my “retirement sucks” shtick. He agreed he would edit the post. (I kept the original title and decided to publish without Pete’s blessing or awesome editing skills.) My original intention was for this to be a very edgy post with many of the aforementioned colorful language. Time (and a promise to refrain from my tendency to write very dark essays with four-letter words) healed some of my original fervor, but here goes anyway.

A gathering of Mustachians in Seattle.

You are NOT a failure if you don’t retire by 30, like Pete! Get it. Stop introducing yourself to me with an apology for not retiring yet at the ripe old age of 37. Remember who you are talking to.

True to the original concept of this post, I blame Pete and his blog for starting the whole darn thing. It wasn’t actually his fault. Early Retirement Extreme came before Pete and I’m sure there was somebody before that. Hey, we all came from someplace; all started as something different.

Yes, Pete retired at 30. No, he is not lazy. He does a lot of other productive activities vital to a better community. He writes his blog (he doesn’t write much anymore, but most of his work is still available at his blog and he graces us with a post or two each month), has a new HQ in his hometown and performs the most important task any man can: he spends quality time with his son and wife. His new headquarters hosted a business school recently to great acclaim if social media is any indication. I call that a productive retirement.

Pete did make one very serious mistake, a mistake so huge I’d kick him in the tail if he weren’t a client. His mistake was to convince people they can retire young. Many people took that to mean they had failed if they didn’t repeat what Pete accomplished.

Knock it Off!

You are NOT Pete! You’re not the Wealthy Accountant either. Stop trying to live in either of our shoes!

Of course, my life is awesome. So is Pete’s. But you can’t have my life! You don’t want it either. The price I paid to have what I have is a price you are unlikely to enjoy paying yourself. When I hear readers tell me they want a farm (just like mine) and a tax practice (just like mine) and a blog (just like mine) I want to scream, “Live your own life!”

Don’t take it personal. It’s not you; it’s me. You will be unhappy living my life. My life juices me. You need to find your own way. Pete and I can provide plenty of fodder in your thinking process when building the life that juices you. But you can never be Pete. There is only one Pete. There is only one me. (And thank God for that.) For fans of Vin Diesel let me quote from the Chronicles of Riddick: “Sister, they don’t know what to do with one of me.”

People sit across the desk from me after reading Mr. Money Mustache and The Wealthy Accountant in tears as they explain how much they failed in life because they are 32 and still punching a clock.

My life on the farm. Not yours.

Let me add one more piece of perspective. You probably ran across this demographic from a newsfeed blaring yet another story of some guy who retired at 30 something and is living the good life. To keep readers clicking—and paying the bills—they have to keep upping the ante. One guy retires at 40, the next guy at thirty. The next guy better blows the rat race at 28 if he wants a slot on Business Insider or MarketWatch. I fully expect any day to see an article scroll through my newsfeed of some kid from Tupelo who retired at four months old and started traveling the world. To keep the article family friendly the infant helped mom and dad retire and travel with the little snot-nosed kid. Remember, you heard it here first.

How do you top that?


It’s sensational journalism and I hate it. There is nothing wrong with a productive life.

People have been BS’ed into thinking they have to hate their job. Not all jobs or work is that hated! I love my job even on a bad day. Sure, there are days that make my head hurt. I work with government, for Christ’s sake! But I wouldn’t trade it for any other job in the world.

Work is fun. It gives us something productive to do. It allows us to earn a living. We have a build-in social network to communicate with at work. Side gigs are work, a job. And there is nothing with that.

Traveling is something I hate. As FinCon gets closer I know I have to sit on a plane again and I talk about it more. It’s something I do as part of this blog, even if distasteful. Then I have a great time with readers sharing ideas.

Traveling for traveling’s sake is something I don’t care for. But does that mean readers should be like me? Heck no! If you want to travel, you should. If you want to retire early, go for it. Let me warn you I have seen plenty of people in this demographic retire early only to work more at their business or side gig later than when they were formally working. I find it poetic.

It’s not fair to Pete, me or you to expect or have you do what any of us did. These blogs are to share ideas in reaching financial independence; to retire early if you desire; to start you own business if it lights your fire.

One Good Reason Not to Retire

It breaks my heart when a client sits in my office apologizing for not reaching FI by a certain age. Then they explain medical issues threatening the life of a family member and feel like a failure because they didn’t reach retirement or FI early in adulthood.

Special treatment at the gym for a certain accountant. They know me wherever I go. What’s up with that?

Nothing is more important than your children and significant other. Nothing. If I had a choice between money and my family, my family wins hands down. There is no competition. I’d rather live poor with Mrs. Accountant and my beautiful children than have money without my family. If the demand is made, my money would be gone instantly to share more time with the girls I love more than life.

Retirement is not a goal! Finding meaning in each day of your life is what matters. Family tops the list. For those of faith, God tops the list followed closely by family.

Money is only a game, a scorecard. More stuff will not make me happy. You either.

My grandfather worked until he was in his late 80s. He enjoyed the work and had plenty of money. He enjoyed the company of co-workers and helping people. Someone explain to me what he was going to retire from.

My grandparents traveled a bit in their younger day. Good thing because my grandmother died of a stroke at 70. Granddad filled his day with meaningful work helping people. Younger people hated the job; he found happiness in all his activities, including formalized labor.

I travel now too. Mrs. Accountant isn’t as healthy as I am. That is why you see me connected to the sexy Mrs. A at conferences. We are madly in love after 29 years of marriage. Maybe the newness of marriage will wear off eventually. You know, by the time we have 80 or so years under our belts our youthful lust might abate a tad. Nah!

I live my life my way. I invite you to live your life your way. Don’t be Pete; don’t be me. Learn from both of us and other bloggers sharing their story. Learn and adopt what works for you.

Pete didn’t get a chance to preview and edit this post. He doesn’t have a clue it’s coming. Hope he’s not offended. Hope I still have a client.

Pete? Pete?




The Day Jordan Peterson Schooled the FIRE Community | The Wealthy Accountant

Monday 13th of August 2018

[…] preached a different story from the first day of this blog. Retirement is a trap! This idea of you are a failure if you haven’t retired by age 30 is insane. Yes, Mr. Money Mustache did it. As much as it hurts to say it, he isn’t the gold […]

Ember @ An Intentional Lifestyle

Monday 25th of September 2017

Yes. Yes. Yes. I have nothing else to add. Well, maybe I do. This is the truth. Retirement is for those people who don't like what they do. For us, we want to put ourselves in the position to be doing exactly what makes us happy and makes a difference for God, not for us. Maybe that means working in a traditional job, maybe not. But it's so easy to think of not getting to that "goal" as failure, not as life. Life is more important. The journey is absolutely more important. Never trade the journey for the destination. And never be so focused that you don't see that the plan isn't the right one, and it needs to be changed. God's plans are best, and ours end up making us unhappy if He's not in them. Thank you for all of this. So much.

D.J. Ryan

Sunday 24th of September 2017

Wow, what a great post. I'm so happy to see another blogger posting something as absurd as this- enjoying every moment of every day and not get absorbed in just making enough money to retire. I mean, how could someone focus so much on family and enjoying life that money takes a back seat? (Of course, some of that was me being facetious...)

Awesome! Thanks!

Keith Schroeder

Sunday 24th of September 2017

D.J., the happy medium I found in running my business is to include the family. Most business trips Mrs. Accountant comes along. My daughters have worked in my office periodically and also join gatherings. Family/work/business/side gig can work together in harmony.

Jeff @ Maximum Cents

Sunday 24th of September 2017

Excellent post Keith! I think a lot of FIRE bloggers want to genuinely help people but get carried away with the sensational headlines and advice. Just because they may have hated their jobs doesn't mean everyone does. Also, they make it sound like anyone can achieve early retirement (which brings readers), but they have to work extremely hard to be in that position. It's like one of Michelangelo's quotes I wrote about: If people knew how hard it was they wouldn't be so amazed.


Saturday 23rd of September 2017

I whole heartedly agree. I'm in a similar boat. I enjoy my job and don't intend on quitting any time soon, FI or not. Yes we'll be FI in another two years or so. But even if I left work what would I do with my time? I like to travel but my kids are in school so that doesn't work. I like to build cool things that change the way things are done.... hey wait that's my job... why would I retire again? I will probably retire early, at age fifty five. But when I do it will be because other avenues for my time open up, not because I need to retire at 55.