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Is Early Retirement a Good Example for Your Kids?

by retirebyforty on December 16, 2013 · 52 comments

in stay at home dad

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Last week, I got an email from a new reader asking a thought-provoking question about leaving Corporate America.

What sort of signal does it send to my kids?  Will I still be a good role model?”

It’s a conundrum. We all want our kids to work hard, right? I don’t want my kid to grow up to be a slacker so is quitting my job to be a stay at home dad sending the wrong message? This is an impossible question to answer because every situation is different, but I think spending more time with your kids can only be a good thing. This is one of the major reasons why I became a stay at home dad. We didn’t want our kid to spend 50-60 hours/week at the daycare.

We used to drop him off at 7 am and pick him up at 6 pm when he went to full time daycare. After we got home, we’d feed the baby and then it’s time for bed. That’s A LOT of time with strangers and not a lot of time with his parents. Sure, the daycare workers were very nice, but I wanted to be more influential in my kid’s life.

be a positive influence to your kids

Harvesting some peppers in Grandpa’s backyard.

Some history

My parents both worked when I was growing up. They were always busy and relied on babysitters to help raise the kids. My dad in particular didn’t spend much time at home. He was always out socializing and I don’t remember spending much time with him as a child. My mom worked too, but she was the primary caretaker and was always there when the kids needed her.

Was the fact that my dad didn’t spend much time with us influenced my decision to become a SAHD? Not consciously, but more bonding time with my dad would have been nice. To a little kid, it looked like he’d rather spend time with his friends than his family. I don’t want my kid to feel that way.

Role model

As for not working a traditional job anymore, I will show him the benefit of working hard and investing early. I didn’t just quit my job on a whim. I saved and invested a large portion of my salary for 16 years before I could even contemplate such a drastic change. The goal of retiring by 40 formed when I was 36, but I laid the foundation from the time I graduated from college.

RB40 Jr. would be able to see the benefit of financial freedom. Most middle class families never even contemplate financial independence and they let their jobs enslave them. Our kid will have a big head start toward becoming financially independent just by seeing my example and knowing that there is an alternative to Corporate America. I want my kid to be entrepreneurial and choose his own path through life. He may choose to work a traditional job, but at least he’ll know there are other ways to live. Life isn’t about collecting as much crap as you can. It’s about finding your own happiness.

I’m still working

Early retirement doesn’t mean you have to stop working. Mrs. RB40 said she didn’t realize how much time and effort it took to blog as a business.  It was like learning a completely new language. I plan to keep blogging until it’s not fun anymore, and then I would move on to do something else. I will keep busy and I won’t be sitting around the house watching TV all day. I might even go back to work for other people someday if I really believe in the cause (i.e., Peace Corps) or if it is a really fun job. My kid knows I have to get away to work once in a while and he is learning to live with that. I also want to be more involved with his education as he gets older and that would take time, too.

Anyway, being a good role model is about how you conduct yourself when you’re around your kids. Kids will mimic what grownups around them do. If they spend a majority of their time around strangers, then they will pick up their character and habits. I’m not perfect, but I know I’m a good influence for my kid for the most part. Of course, now he’s going around saying “shoot!” and “bang it!” You really do have to watch yourself around your kids. At least he hasn’t drop the F-bomb yet, unlike his cousin…

Do you think being a stay at home parent is a good example to your kids?

Bonus – random stuff found on the internet

Here are some examples of how not to behave around  your kids.   

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{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

Holly@ClubThrifty December 16, 2013 at 5:49 am

My kids go to daycare while I work from home. Even though they don’t stay home with me, our time together is much higher quality since I quit my 9-5.
I’m not sure what they think I do all day but I know my daughter told her old daycare lady that I don’t really have a job. =/ She’s four so she doesn’t really understand.

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retirebyforty December 16, 2013 at 9:17 am

You’re right. I forgot to talk about all the stress you’re bringing home from your job. I’m much more patient now and it’s much better for everyone.

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SavvyFinancialLatina December 16, 2013 at 5:50 am

I don’t think it’s a bad example at all. I think it’s a great example, as long as the parents are not stressed about money when they retire early. Any stress the parent has will rub off on the kids.

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retirebyforty December 16, 2013 at 9:18 am

When we were growing up, we knew our parent didn’t have much money. It was enough to get by though and that was good. We had food and shelter and learned how to save.

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The Warrior December 16, 2013 at 5:52 am

Often, people don’t see the difference between working hard and working smart. Working hard can still be done whether you work 90 hrs/week or 20. As long as you show your son focus on a task no matter how short or long it takes, they are learning the right lesson. Working smart is much better than working hard. I “worked hard” growing up through college, but that took time away from my studies thus highly impacted the field I could go into thereafter. It wasn’t smart to work so hard in college when I should have applied that “hard work” towards a different, more lucrative major.

Teaching your son focused, meaningful work is vastly more important to me than the meaning of hard work.

The Warrior

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retirebyforty December 16, 2013 at 9:20 am

I’m terrible at working smart. It’s much more difficult for me than working hard.

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Andrew@LivingRichCheaply December 16, 2013 at 6:34 am

I think it is great to be able to stay home with a child. I think stay at home parents can be great role models. It’s not like you’re staying home to watch t.v and play video games all day. I’m sure your son appreciate the father son time he gets. As for watching what we say…my son is too young to speak but yep, I definitely parents have to watch themselves. My little nephew who is 5 dropped the F-bomb and I was shocked. I think he learned it in school or from his older siblings.

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retirebyforty December 16, 2013 at 9:21 am

Luckily, we don’t swear much. Kids pick up things so quickly. It’s funny to hear a little kid swear, but that’s not going to work at school.

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Pretired Nick December 16, 2013 at 6:44 am

I’ve been thinking about this a lot as well. Totally agree with your conclusion. In addition, I think the traditional work model is slipping a little bit. By the time our kids are grown, I think there will be many ways to earn income without heading to some boring job every day. Showing him there’s another way to approach things is going to give him a huge advantage.

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retirebyforty December 16, 2013 at 9:22 am

Yeah, changes are in the air. Work will be much different in 20 years. I didn’t think about that and thanks for raising that point.

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Dave @ The New York Budget December 16, 2013 at 6:51 am

I absolutely respect the SAHD role. I also think the world and the idea of what “work ethic” means is going through a dramatic shift. Those who don’t go into an office and work 9-5 are not necessarily lazier than those who do, and I think your kid’s generation will grow up understanding that better than we do.

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retirebyforty December 16, 2013 at 9:24 am

It will be interesting to see what work is like in 20 years. Hopefully we’ll prepare our kid to handle it. Freelancing will probably be the norm in the future.

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Kali @ CommonSenseMillennial December 16, 2013 at 6:55 am

I think as long as you teach him that you’re still working hard, you’ll be setting a good example. A great one, really, if the lesson you can teach is that he doesn’t have to do what everyone else does to be successful – you can work hard outside of an office and have a better time doing it. Of course, this is coming from someone in her twenties who believes in the entrepreneurial spirit and that hard work can get you anywhere you want to be, whether that is in an office in a city or in an office in your own home.

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retirebyforty December 16, 2013 at 9:24 am

It’s great to hear from younger folks. :) Good luck with your venture.

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Justin @ RootofGood December 16, 2013 at 7:49 am

As an early retired father of 3 (age 8, 7, and 1), I don’t think they really care if you are retired. I recently asked my oldest 2 kids if they would be okay if I got another job. They said “no!!!!”. I walk them to school, I walk them home from school. I volunteer with their classes or have lunch with them at school a couple of times per month. I have time (and energy) to set up play dates and host play dates here at our house. If they get sick at school, I can be there in 2 minutes to pick them up.

As for the question of “what will kids learn if you lounge around all day”? Do early retirees really lounge around all day? I’ve never heard of any that don’t do productive things at least some of the time. Whether it is blogging or some other part time hustle, learning a new skill, working on projects at home, perfecting a skill like cooking, or just taking care of the kids and the house. My kids see me doing some or all of these things routinely.

Even at 7 or 8, our kids understand how money works. You work for money, and money makes life easier. It provides the house we live in, the food we eat, the cars we drive around town. You can save money (like we did) and then spend it slowly over the rest of your life. My kids even get investment returns (on a basic level). We own itty bitty tiny pieces of companies like McDonald’s and Walmart. These companies of ours earn money and pay us that money. They get it – working isn’t the only way to make money.

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retirebyforty December 16, 2013 at 9:26 am

Thanks for your input. It’s great that your kids are supportive. I’m sure they love having their dad around more.
Yeah, early retirees are too restless to sit around all day. :)
It’s great that you can enjoy being a dad to your kids. It seems like the previous generation never had that chance or inclination. I guess it was just cultural.

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Justin @ RootofGood December 16, 2013 at 9:35 am

Sometimes it is challenging to take care of the little one (as I’m sure you have ample experience!). I don’t have that maternal instinct.

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Moneycone December 16, 2013 at 7:57 am

As you say, you are not whiling away your time! You are working! That is the difference.

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This Life On Purpose December 16, 2013 at 8:06 am

I think as long as you explain how you achieved your situation, you are setting a great example. Since your son is young he may think you don’t work and that you have it easy, but once he gets old enough, he wil understand that you worked hard, saved a lot and now are able to live an alternate lifestyle while still supporting your family.

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aB December 16, 2013 at 8:08 am

It’s just the value of working hard, not necessarily working at a job, that I think kids need to see, especially for younger kids.

I’ve started to schedule house chores when my (2 year old) son is around, because he likes to help out (as much as he is able anyways). Even if it just pushing the button on the vacuum cleaner, or helping to stuff clothes into the laundry machine, he just likes to help. (Of course, doing everything bent over does nothing for my back.) Just trying to instill that, helping out, doing work attitude.. seems to be working I think.

Regarding, F-bombs, for about a week I thought my son was saying something else.. of course it turned out to be ‘Fak you’ .. He is now able to say thank you more articulately.. and in Chinese.

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Done by Forty December 16, 2013 at 8:40 am

Joe,

I think about this quite a bit as my future children will probably not remember the short time I was working in a corporate job full time. Or at least that’s the plan. So I want to set them up properly for the inevitable-but-hopefully-short period of time in which they’ll work full time and build up their FI nut. Will they have a good work ethic if their memories are mostly of mom and dad leisurely spending time with them? Will they value education as much if we don’t dangle “a good career” as the carrot?

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Squirrelers December 16, 2013 at 9:46 am

I think you’re setting a good example by being there for your child, while simultaneously focusing on your household’s finances and happiness. Nothing wrong with that at all. Kudos to you.

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Kurt @ Money Counselor December 16, 2013 at 9:48 am

For what it’s worth Joe, I think you’re setting a stellar example for RB40 Jr. He’ll be a better adult because of the time you two spend together now.

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Nick @ Step Away from the Mall December 16, 2013 at 10:28 am

I think what you show them is more important than whether you work or not. If you’re lounging on the couch eating chips all day it might not be a good thing, even if you’re independently wealthy. But if you show them by example how to be a responsible person, giving, saving and spending wisely and earning and managing money, the fact that you happen to be a SAHD earning money from home is either irrelevant or great in that they’ll see another side to the work equation. They’ll get enough “work at a company” in school. It’ll be good to let them think outside the box a bit.

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retirebyforty December 17, 2013 at 7:14 am

I’ll teach our kid about finance to give him a leg up. It’s such a big hole in the formal education system.
Thinking outside the box is a great thing. The problem is that’s it’s just a slogan for most companies.

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Micro December 16, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Really interesting questions but I don’t think it would be much of an issue. If you are able to retire early, that gives you the time to spend with your kids to teach them and give them a solid foundation. You will still be working so it’s not like they will see you being lazy and not doing anything in life (you don’t get to retire early by being lazy and being a hard worker is a very hard habit to break). Finally, you got to early retirement by being frugal so you won’t exactly be spoiling the kid with consumerist purchases and therefore he will grow up not needing to surround himself with pointless crap.

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retirebyforty December 17, 2013 at 7:17 am

He does have a lot of toys… We are selling his old stuff on Craigslist though so some stuff get cycle out.

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Green Money Stream December 16, 2013 at 5:50 pm

I agree with you that spending more time with your son, especially in these formative years, can only be a good thing. As a mom of a young son, I may always have regrets about not staying home with him. But I was concerned about being able to enter the workforce again at a later date. I wish I would have started the journey to financial freedom a little sooner, but I should be able to quit the corporate world in 5 years or so. My son will still be pretty young then.

I believe you can model a good work ethic to your kids whether you are working inside or outside the home.

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retirebyforty December 17, 2013 at 7:18 am

Good luck! It’s a race. Once the kid hit the teenage years, it will be tough to influence him much. Work ethic – that’s the word I was looking for. :)

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Dividend Mantra December 16, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Joe,

I don’t have any personal experience here because I don’t have any children. However, if I were to have children I couldn’t imagine how spending more time with them would be a bad thing. My parents left me at a very young age, and while I turned out pretty good…not all kids in such situations do.

I think the focus shouldn’t be on whether you’re teaching your children a great work ethic, but whether or not you’re teaching your children how to be great people. If I ever have children (which is highly unlikely) I would want to spend as much time with them as possible. Being a slave to your job in the name of some misguided sense of duty, in my opinion, is a mistake. The only one who wins in that situation is your employer.

Best wishes!

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retirebyforty December 17, 2013 at 7:20 am

I agree. The first focus will be teaching him to be a good human being. Work ethic is important too, but that’s secondary.

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Insourcelife December 17, 2013 at 7:05 am

I was going to say the same thing you pointed out – you are still working! Yes, blogging might be “fun” and it does not fit the 9-5 mold, but it takes a lot of effort to maintain a blog like yours. Your level of effort is also obvious every month when you post your Income update – your online income is more than most people make working a 9-5. It’s also increasing unlike those 9-5 jobs that are stagnating. I can’t think of a better example of “hard (but fun) work pays off” for your son than this!

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Wilson December 17, 2013 at 7:45 am

This is one of the issues I’ve been thinking through too. Since our daughter is pretty much now on a school calendar at the ago of 3 for the foreseeable future, I think my end goal is to cut my office schedule back to match hers so at worst I’ll be home when she is, and then use the summer vacation to take entire days off to spend more time home with her. There’s so much to do with children at that age that beats wage-earning. Providing one does not park themselves in front of a TV for hours every day, spending quality time is not slacking just because it occurs during “office hours”. One can “work” and be productive without being remunerated, and the definition of “office hours” is amorphous anyways. In my opinion it is preferable to instill the lessons and values that we want our children to possess directly by spending time, as opposed to doing so indirectly by leaving every morning to go to work to teach the importance of work. So yes, staying at home can be a good example for your children.

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retirebyforty December 18, 2013 at 6:47 am

Thanks for your input. It’s a great idea to be home when she is. That way you’ll get to spend the bulk of your time with her.
It’s too bad most people don’t have the choice to spend more time with their kids.

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Erich December 17, 2013 at 7:52 am

I imagine these concerns also come from other people judging you as “lazy”, rather than necessarily your own concerns for setting a good example. How could it possibly be a bad example to teach your kid that you can live below your means and escape a consumerist life, only to live a MORE fulfilled, less stressful life and “retire” early to do whatever you want to do.

Most people work in a job they don’t enjoy or even hate, because they “have to”. The worst tragedy, is that they dig their own hole and don’t live below their means to limit how much time they “must” spend doing this job, to reach financial independence LONG before 65.

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retirebyforty December 18, 2013 at 6:48 am

I think you’re right. It’s a good thing I’m not overly concern about other people’s opinions.

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Bryce @ Save and Conquer December 17, 2013 at 10:24 am

It seems that teaching your son that hard work can lead to early retirement is a wonderful thing. Good for you and your family. We have been teaching our son to be frugal and that working with your mind can lead to rich benefits (i.e., we are not wanting in a high cost of living area).

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Liz December 17, 2013 at 10:59 am

My dream is to be A SAHM or work part-time. I think it sets a good example for your kids as long as you are happy. Kids know when you are happy or not.

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retirebyforty December 18, 2013 at 6:49 am

Good luck!

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Pauline @RFIndependence December 17, 2013 at 5:09 pm

You are a good role model if you are still active, teaching and making projects with your son, and not staying in bed all day. No matter whether you have a formal job or not.

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MonicaOnMoney December 18, 2013 at 6:21 am

Absolutely early retirement is an excellent example for kids! They see how important it is to work hard and then earn early retirements. Money examples like this are crucial lessons for kids to learn at all ages.

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Little House December 18, 2013 at 6:55 am

It makes a world of difference if one parent stays home with the child while they’re growing up. Although, it will be interesting to see if RB40 Jr. has a different mentality towards gender roles where women are no longer seen as the primary care givers and instead the bread winners. I think there’s a shift happening in our society that’s opening up possibilities for everyone.

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retirebyforty December 18, 2013 at 9:40 pm

I feel like we are both primary care givers. It’s hard for a working dad to bond with their kids, but mom is still mom. We’ll see how it goes.

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Tortoise Banker December 18, 2013 at 12:33 pm

I ABSOLUTELY think retiring early is a good example. It shows that hard work pays off, and gives them an example of “success” to try to pursue. Thanks RB40!

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C. the Romanian December 19, 2013 at 1:50 am

I started to ask this question too and all I can hope for is that we’ll be able to give our son an example as good as possible. I work from home and we’re planning for the wife to do the same once she can actually start working again, during the first quarter of 2014.

I started to think about the influence this will have on our kid – we’ll always be at home and I’m not sure how easy it will be for him to understand that we’re actually working and not doing… nothing. I also think that it will shape his personality not to be too excited about getting a classic 9 to 5 job and I am not sure if I should encourage that. For now, working from home has been amazing for me and I love it, but it gets pretty lonely and certainly not all people are made for that. It’s a tough decision and we’ll see how it goes.

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retirebyforty December 19, 2013 at 9:40 pm

Everyone will have to find their own path. Maybe a 9 to 5 job would be right for our kids. Who knows…
Working from home is great. I don’t miss the office environment at all. :)

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Rose December 27, 2013 at 11:52 am

I realize from previous articles that you consider being a SAHD to be retired, but as someone who spent the past 18 years as a SAHM, I would disagree big time. We stay at homes work, and work hard, unless you are the stereotypical notion of the at home lying on the couch eating bon bons and watching soaps all day.

What you are teaching your kids is to go after what they believe in, even if it is a non-traditional role. You have the blog, I rehabbed houses and took the money we saved from DH’s income and multiplied it through investing. Tried going back to work a few times with the kids being older, (not that they every really need you less,) but found that the income I made was offset with taxes and the way the investment portfolio suffered without enough attention.

So now we are less than two years from both of us being retired, which will happen when our youngest graduates high school. Over the years I’ve dealt with comments from the kids about how a friend’s parent drives a much nicer car or has a much bigger house, and why don’t we. Personally, I LOVE these discussions, as it leads to talking about saving to accomplish your goals, and our goal is not a fancy car or house but to provide for their college education and get Dad out from behind his desk ASAP to play. I also point out that the trappings of wealth do not necessarily accurately show your net worth, how some get trapped and owned by the very things that they buy. The need to set goals and plan how to achieve them is also a fave of mine!

Best of all, they know I am walking my talk, not just spewing words. I guess that is a long way to say YES, we are being a good example for the kids. Saving hard, being a moderate consumer, planning ahead all are great examples we demonstrate by retiring early.

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retirebyforty December 27, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Being a stay at home dad is more difficult than I thought. Rehabbing houses is a great gig too. I want to do that once we have more time and the kid can stay out of the way.
Good point about the fancy cars. I’ll keep that in mind.
Thanks for sharing.

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Jack @ Enwealthen December 30, 2013 at 10:42 am

For our children, I’d like to reach the point where one of us works in corporate world for income stability and health insurance, while the other works from home or part time, to give more time with the children.

That said, children need socialization, so assuming you have a good daycare provider, putting them in daycare for a half day can give them the variety in mental stimulation that you may not have time to provide yourself on a daily basis.

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charlie February 2, 2014 at 5:52 pm

My father’s life goal was to retire early, and he did. He made a very good income for the area, but we lived like we were below the poverty line.

We’d have a couple of outfits each for school and drove clunkers to high school jobs that broke down often. Our vacations included camping and fishing and hours spent cooking and cleaning up. Never a motel, restaurant meal, or amusement park. A prom dress would be a borrowed bride’s maid’s dress from a relative. Trust me. That looked wrong.

We did not fit in well in the neighborhood and did not have funds to go out often although we did work (money going for gas to work or to get a pair of jeans etc). We could go on a school trip but going to a movie for fun was not in the budget.

So . . . this is the kid (or perhaps more focused on the teen years) viewpoint. I thought we were poor when the only way I could get a soda was to pick up bottles in the ditch for the deposit. Then, I got older and realized that we were not poor. We were a bother and not worth spending a cent on. Retiring early meant more to my father than his kids. It’s 35 years later, and I still stand by that.

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retirebyforty February 3, 2014 at 9:52 am

That’s interesting. Thanks for sharing. That seems a little too cheap. It sounds almost like a story from the depression era. I don’t think we have to be that frugal. I picked up bottles for deposit when I was a kid too, but we were poor for real.

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