I notice an underlying theme within the FIRE community about work. What is work, what is retirement? Do you ever stop working? Work is required! Not working is not optional! Is a side gig work? Is a side gig retired? I got real estate! I got a prune farm! At least the guy with the prune farm is regular. It seems the 40 somethings are most flummoxed by this retirement idea. It seems they know they are squandering their productivity and feel guilty about it while steadfastly trying to maintain the delusion. There are all kinds of virtue signaling like “I work (drink coffee) in an animal shelter half day a week” therefore I’m still somehow productive. I quit my highly productive job as an engineer and now I spend my day sending prose into the ether while my wife still slaves away for the man. It’s how we have health care man, plus she likes it! No what she likes is having healthcare while you sit on your ass pumping prose to nowhere. And it’s always some internet straw man that is harassing them about their lack of productivity.
It turns out serotonin is probably not related to depression but related to social status. Serotonin is biochemically what makes you engage in the pecking order and keeps you engaged. It happens when you reinvigorate serotonin by taking a SRI like Prozac the re-engagement in the pecking contest looks like the lifting of depression. Lowered serotonin makes you withdraw from the pecking contest and you just kind of accept your fate somewhere on the social ladder. Some people accept their pecking fates at 20, settle and just attend to living their lives. This is the hard charging 40 somethings dilemma. They want the status of being a pecker but they don’t want the hassle and they don’t like settling and they don’t like the guilt of being the dope in the jammies sending all that really important prose to nowhere regarding the blood sweat and drama of their investment hobby.
I read no less than 3 posts this weekend admonishing sitting on your ass doing nothing complete with YOU SHOULDs! and dumb assed comment like “life doesn’t just end because you’re retired”, all of it directed toward their guilt their life has ended and they are no longer relevant to the world of real productive work, the work that pays the bills, move investment portfolios forward, saves lives, wins valuable prizes. Substitutes like blogging, virtue signaling volunteer nonsense going back to school bla bla bla does not improve the GDP. I think there’s a part also related to the fact FIRE is at some level a con job and the one being conned is the FIRE bug himself.
Here is a typical age 60 retirement the area under the red line is expenditure of human capital to age 70. After 70 you’re pretty well burned out. Age 60 throws away a little of his human capital, the orange part under the red line. He amassed a fortune over his 40 years of work (purple) and will spend 30 years spending his fortune (orange) He saved so well he could afford to retire a little early and throw away some human capital because he had more than enough. The purple area is > than the orange area so his life is not leveraged. He doesn’t care about working anymore. He has the cash and doesn’t need the status or the cost of that status. He has no guilt, and goes fishing 4 days a week, golf on three.
Age 50 is in pretty good shape but he’s playing the odds. His need (green) is bigger than his pile (purple) so he’s going to need growth to survive. He threw away a pretty big chunk of human capital (green area under red line) but bought into the 4 x25 investment club narrative. If he doesn’t crap out he will probably make it. Bad SORR maybe not. At 50 he feels guilty at loosing his status so he writes a blog and keeps repeating the narrative to convince himself everything will be OK. He also buys into a new social order and reinvigorates serotonin since he can now play in a new pecking order. Being in a pecking order feels good so is investing hobby takes on greater import.
Age 40 has a high paying hard charging job so he makes a lot of dough early. He throws away a huge chunk of human capital, so much so he has to twist and turn in the wake of that waste. He is also very leveraged he has a little accumulation triangle (purple) and a big deflation triangle which needs to be filled with money. He is very leveraged but he denies the importance of that. Like prayer beads he repeats 4 x 25 4 x 25 4 x 25 but inside he knows the risk is pretty excessive. He hasn’t figured out all the vagaries of tax consequence and asset allocation and keeps quacking “diversity, I got diversity tell ya!” like that’s going to save him. This guy is so uncomfortable about his plan he is always into gigs to try and reduce the leverage. It’s kind of stupid since if this hard charger had worked another few years he’d be much closer to his age 50 counterpart but he wanted the prestige of being “retired” at 40. It’s hard to eat prestige when you’re 60 and no one cares when you retired.
Age 30 this guys delusional whether he rides his bike or not. No point in analyzing crazy.
So it’s not about work work work. It’s about understanding how you feel about your net worth and social situation and coming to terms with the situation you’ve placed yourself. I’m done with work and don’t need work to realize some serotonin driven pecker drive. I’m old enough society expects me to be retired and I’m wealthy enough to be leverage free. I retired at 58 and again after 65 and have purchased myself maximum freedom to explore or not. Not working and no money concern is a blast. It’s the end game of a plan. Telling me I “need to work” to find fulfillment just points out to me your level of insecurity and lack of insight. Homey already worked, he done with that nonsense. Be honest with yourself and you won’t feel compelled to tell me what I need to do. What you are really saying is what YOU NEED TO DO.