Mr. Money Mustache vs. the Internet Retirement Police
“It says right in the blog that he does construction work. Also he manages his own rental houses. And has a blog. That doesn’t sound like retirement to me.”
“Yes, he has a nice nest egg. But I suspect he’ll be working for a good part of the year.”
“Who the fuck“, you may ask, “are these people?”
That’s what I asked more than a year ago, when first alerted to the presence of a large number of people who I’ve never met, who were carefully and yet completely inaccurately speculating about the life and times of Mr. Money Mustache. Lucky for me, the answer came immediately, in this brilliant poem/comment that Jacob from Early Retirement Extreme posted on this blog:
In principle you can only participate in certain pre-approved retirement activities such as beach-sitting, staring out the window, and receiving visits from your grandchildren.
Traveling is also okay, as is eating “delicious food”, just make sure you don’t cook it yourself, see below. Think twice before doing anything that’s not on this list! The IRP is watching you.
The IRP does grant one exemption should you become bored with the activities above. You can work for a nonprofit organization. Make sure you’re not getting paid though even if you have to plead your case with the CEO to put in special exemptions. Accepting money obviously means you didn’t do your retirement-math and that you ran out of money a couple of years after retiring. After all, what other obvious explanation could there be? (Besides the obvious ones) If you can’t find a way to work without pay, it’s best to head back to the beach towel and sit on that.
Just to be clear: You’re most definitely NOT allowed to be a kayak-instructor in your retirement. While it may sound like a fun job that you picked yourself even if you didn’t have to, the keyword is J-O-B. You can, however, spend a Saturday morning dressed up as an elephant handing out fliers and free lemonade at the entrance. And if you really must instruct in kayaking, please avoid doing something more engaging than blogging about kayaks (and if you do blog, try not to make the blog popular… because … then the blog would be a job!).
Next, I feel like I should warn MMM readers lest they stumble into the retirement pitfall of saving money by living frugally. You can’t do that! According to the IRP saving money IS a full time job and—try to follow this—since you can’t have a job and be retired, you are not allowed to save money in retirement. You see, if you save money by doing your own cooking, you’re now WORKING as a cook, thus no longer retired.
The IRP would like you to take this to its extreme logical conclusions, e.g. you’re working as a money manager if you handle your own investments, you’re working as a gardener if you mow your own lawn, you’re working as a chauffeur if you don’t hire a driver, you’re a pro-blogger if you have a blog, and so on.
Disclaimer: All examples are taken from real world cases as presented to me by the IRP. They’re not kidding!
Jacob wrote that comment hastily in the discussion section of First Retire, Then Get Rich, but I immediately Tweeted out a link to it, sending a warning shot across the bow of the Early Retirement Police Boat. And now, at long last, we are going to sink it for good.
At issue right now, is the definition of “Retirement”.
“You’re not retired if you work on houses”. If I can somehow suppress my urge to build things and sit inside, THEN will I be retired? What about if I work only on my own house? Retired, or no?
“You’re not retired if you have a rental house”. If the tenants never call me for any reason (as has been the case for the past two years), THEN am I retired?”.. or if I sell my rental house and transfer the money to a REIT which offers equal yield, can I be retired then? What if this is less fun? What if I subsequently do a bunch of research on REIT funds and allocate my investment across several, rebalancing occasionally?
“You’re not retired if you have a blog that makes money – even if it’s about early retirement”. If I take down the remaining ads, THEN can I be retired? Or is the work involved the issue? Would I be retired if I had a robot that wrote the blog for me, but I collected the revenue?
What if I still did the writing, but I did it only while sitting on the beach while being fed intravenously. Would I be more retired than if I wrote it from my couch at home as I do now?
“It’s a shame we don’t have a better name for all this stuff we’re doing as Mustachians. Retirement doesn’t sound right. Financial independence comes closer. Can we invent a new word for it? How about Removed?”
News Flash: the perfect word has already been invented. Are you ready to hear it? Here it is:
It’s perfect just as it is. It’s just like “Financially Independent”, but it sounds more amazing and it uses 75% fewer syllables.
“Retired” means you no longer have to work for money, and you are aware of this fact. You can then proceed to do whatever you want, as long as you do it consciously and of your own accord. If you meet this condition, and you feel retired, congratulations, you are.
Retired probably does not mean you sit at home watching TV, venturing out only for medication or a motorized-cart-aided round of golf. This is a subset of retirement, but only a very special case of it, for those with very advanced age or limited mobility.
Retired means different things to different people. But one of the rules of Mustachianism is that if someone tells you they are retired, you do not question them. You congratulate them.
Retirement may or may not include any of the following lifestyle attributes:
- the complete abandonment of alarm clocks, and a soft chuckle specially developed for anyone who tries to make you be somewhere before 9AM.
- a general lack of awareness of what day of the week it is
- a work ethic that ebbs and flows with your natural human cycle. There may be times of extreme productivity and late nights, and other times of dormancy.
- work and areas of interest that change over the years, some of which might earn you money, and some of which might be neutral or even involve spending instead of earning money.
Or it can be completely different. The only rule is that you theoretically must have sufficient savings (or other assets) that you could live indefinitely off the passive income they provide, and these savings must give you the freedom to realize that any work you do is totally optional. You don’t actually have to live off the income, it just has to be there.
So there it is – the official definition of Retirement, of which Early Retirement is just a special case.
Why does Mr. Money Mustache get to define it? Because I have the biggest Early Retirement blog. If the Internet Retirement Police would like to supersede my definition, they will have to start their own blog, calling it something like www. mrmoneymustacheisnotreallyretired.com, build it up to be more widely read than this one, and then propose their own definition. Only at this point would the torch be passed and the definition of Retired be up for discussion.
Thousands of the Mustachians who read this blog are already Retired. Most of them still do some sort of “work”. And all of them have fists brandished in case the Internet Retirement Police dare to show their faces around the Internet again.
Further Reading: Jacob @ Early Retirement Extreme responded to this article a few days after publication.
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