One Engineer’s Perspective on Early Retirement

One Engineer's Perspective on Early RetirementI’m writing this one to share my perspective on early retirement. The next time someone complains about my brand of early retirement, I’ll just point them here. First off, this is just my opinion. Feel free to disagree and define your own early retirement. There is no one right way to do it. It’s your life so you should take the reins. Now that’s out of the way, let me share what early retirement means to me.

Early retirement from a profession

I look at early retirement as retiring from my primary career. I went to college for an electrical engineering degree and worked as a chip design engineer for 16 years. Engineering was my professional career. I still see myself as an engineer after almost 6 years away from the field. It’s my identity.

Nowadays, I’m a stay-at-home dad, blogger, landlord, and investor. Those things are great, but I don’t see them as careers. They are all temporary side gigs. Blogging is a fun hobby that turned into a self-employment opportunity. It isn’t a career (to me) and I don’t plan to do it forever.  Also, I’m not looking for a new career. We’ve achieved financial independence and I prefer to work less. A career requires too much commitment at this point in my life.

If this doesn’t make sense to you, then let me offer a comparison. Let’s look at Shaquille O’Neil, a basketball superstar. Shaq retired from the NBA in 2011 after 20 years in the NBA, but he didn’t stop working after his retirement. He works as game analyst, acts in movies, promotes products in commercials, makes money on social media, and invests in many businesses. To me, Shaq is still a retired basketball player. That’s his identity, his core competency, and what he is famous for.

Engineers should consider early retirement

The FIRE movement is a blessing to engineers everywhere. I think FIRE is custom made for us. Engineers need to learn about FIRE when they’re young and keep it in mind as an option. Why is early retirement such a good fit for engineers? I have a whole post on why engineers should retire early. I need to go back and update that post soon, but here is a short summary.

  • Engineers love technical work. We all went into engineering because we love the technical aspect of engineering. Nobody goes into engineering because they want to be a manager. Technical work is great at the beginning of the career, but you can’t keep doing it. Why not? Because management expects engineers to contribute much more than just the technical work when they’ve been part of the company for awhile and move to more senior positions. Engineers need to transition to a different role after 15-20 years.
  • High stress and time commitment. Engineers are expected to work much more than 40 hours per week for no extra pay. This is fine when you’re young and single, but it really sucks when you have a family.
  • Supply is high. There are many new engineers every year. Young engineers don’t mind working long hours and they’re cheaper than senior engineers. Experience doesn’t count for much except in a few esoteric areas.
  • Good pay. Engineers make above average income. If they save and invest diligently, then financial independence is a real possibility.
  • Career change. Most of my college buddies are not in engineering anymore. They moved on to marketing, managing, entrepreneurship, and more. Engineering is not fun as you get older. Ageism is a real problem especially in the Bay Area. It gets harder and harder to find a new job as you get older. If you’re an engineer, please let me know in the comment section if there are older engineers at your company.

That’s why I think early retirement is a really great option for engineers. You can call it quits if you’ve reached financial independence or change careers as you get older. Being an engineer until 65 is much more difficult today than it was 30 years ago.

Financial Independence

There are a few ways to look at financial independence. The easiest one is to use the 4% safe withdrawal rate as a guideline. Basically, you can withdraw 4% from your portfolio and it should last for 30 years. This means you should have at least 25x your annual expense to retire early. A little less is okay if you’re willing to work for some income after retirement.

Currently, we spend about $55,000 per year. Our investible asset should be able to support this level of withdrawal. If we both stop working completely today, we’d still withdraw less than 3% from our investment. We have achieved financial independence and that gives me the confidence to say I’m retired early. At this point, we don’t have to work if we don’t want to.

Work after early retirement

“If you’re still working, then you’re not retired.” People who say this are stuck in their job or have some other issue. Working on something you enjoy after retirement is a really good thing especially when you’re young. Work gives you purpose, fills your schedule, and brings in a little active income. These are all positive things. Not working at all is just about as bad as working too much. Everyone needs to find their happy medium.

To me, work after early retirement must be very independent and flexible. That’s why blogging is such a good fit. I can work whenever I have time and nobody is looking over my shoulder. At this point in my life, I wouldn’t work for other people unless I really have to. Someday, I’ll stop working completely, but that’s way off into the future.

Being a stay-at-home dad isn’t early retirement

Sure, I can see that. Being a stay-at-home parent is a lot of work when you have young children. However, the job description changed a ton after our kiddo started kindergarten. If I wanted to go back to full time work, I could have done so. Most kids at school go to an aftercare program until about 5:30 pm.

When I quit working full time in 2012, being a SAHD was job number 1. Our son was just 18 months old and he demanded a lot of attention. Blogging took a back seat until our son started school. Now that he is in first grade, I can spend more time on blogging and other projects. Being a SAHD is much less time consuming now so early retirement is more valid at this point. Someday, our son will go off to college and that responsibility will come to an end. Life changes.

Wife still working

Mrs. RB40 isn’t quite ready for early retirement yet so she is still working full-time. I don’t see why this is a big deal. She could quit working whenever she wants. She chooses to work for her own reasons. Why does it matter anyway? Most couples retire at different times. It doesn’t make any sense to tie my early retirement to her.

Also, our life is pretty much perfect at this point. I’m not sure it will get better when Mrs. RB40 retires early. If it works, stick with it, right? Anyway, we’ll find out soon because she plans to retire in 2020. That’s not set in stone, though…

Early retirement is freedom

Early retirement is freedom to do what you want, when you want to. Early retirement doesn’t have to mean stop working completely. But if that’s your choice, feel free to relax in the pool all day. I don’t think that’s healthy.  Try it out and let us know.

What’s your question?

Alright, now let’s hear it. What’s your question? Tell me your criticism and I’ll respond to it here. This way, I don’t have to explain myself via email anymore. Anyone can read this and see my perspective on early retirement. Let’s keep it PG with the comments, though. My site, my rules. 😉

Image credit: Aaron Burden

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

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113 thoughts on “One Engineer’s Perspective on Early Retirement”

  1. If you wanted criticism in the comments you won’t find it from me. I almost felt like these words were coming from my own mouth… errr hands.

    One thing I want to add… I was 31 in the Bay Area and the oldest engineer at the company by 3-4 years. At the job interview I made the mistake of wearing a suit. In Boston we wear suits to job interviews. It’s just what you do. I also showed up to work at around 8:30AM on the first day. I had to wait until nearly 10 for the first person with the keys to show up.

  2. I also think that “retirement” is a loaded word. If we were to ask SAHMs whether they are retired, I think we’d agree that the vast majority would say no and putting the “retirement” label on being a SAHM would be insulting to many. If we were to use the same definition and apply it to a SAHD, we shouldn’t come to a different answer. That’s why I like splitting FI from RE. With FI, you have freedom to do anything you want to do including staying home to take care of the kids.

    • I think it depends on the situation. If the SAHM worked for 20 years, is financial independent, and doesn’t plan to go back to work, then I don’t see why she can’t call herself retired.

      The vast majority of stay at home parents don’t see themselves as retired because they still worry about money and/or plan to go back to work. IMO, of course.

  3. Hi Joe,

    I am not sn engineer. I work in the banking sector. I will be reaching the ripe of 40. My work condition is getting worser as the day passes. I am glad that I adopt FIRE mindset and approach since the start of corporate career in 2000. I will be reaching my 18 years of work at the end of thid year.

    I am glad that I do not have the fear of losing my current job which appears to be more reality as the day passes. Tight deadlines, unreasonable demands from the bosses are some of the existing situations which I encounter. I don’t give a damn on how the bosses think of the quality of my work although I still put in my best effort in completing the assigned tasks.

    The FU money gives me the power to quit the BS if I want to do so.


  4. I am struck at how disaffected younger workers are nowadays. I hear the sort of complaints that were typical of those well into middle age when I started 37 years ago. Convinced this is because work in general, and the corporate world particularly, has become progressively nastier, especially the last 20 years. Not that work was any bed of roses back in the day, but generally bearable. Of course tech has always had sweatshop tendencies.

    Not hard to see why younger generations are ditching the corporate world for self-employment, entrepreneurship, gig work, and the like. Whether much of this is voluntary is surely open to debate. But still heartened to see it happening.

    • I think it’s both the corporate environment and high expectations too. Young people expects more from a job. They want to work on something they are passionate about. Hopefully, it will work out for most of them..

  5. I think engineers ‘should’ prepare to retire early because career duration is so uncertain. If you work in rapidly growing areas the pace of change makes predicting the future difficult. Career trajectories that looked promising the first few years have often eventually fizzled out. Think of your career as a bet on IPO shares– did you buy the next Apple or Amazon? Or was it one of the thousands of wannabees that died trying? And don’t assume jumping to a competitor is a reliable safety net, I’ve seen entire lines of business wiped out by technological advancements.

    Your experience with being pushed into management after a decade is not happening where I work. We have plenty of engineers in their 50s and 60s who are still in technical roles. Many are great as experts and consultants and probably wouldn’t perform as well as supervisors. These people can’t be replaced by fresh graduates because there’s a huge learning curve on the stuff we make and sell. Even very bright kids hiring in fresh out of school take years to master the nuances of our complex systems. Put another way if your work can be done as well or better by someone who is 20 years younger, you can’t justify earning more than that person. It’s not age discrimination, you aren’t entitled to a higher wage simply by length of tenure– you can expect to earn only according to the value you add to the business.

    Engineering has an income trajectory that is conducive to reaching financial independence. By that I mean in most places I’m aware of, you start earning good pay in your early 20s and salary growth is fastest during your early years. This short latency and front-loading of raises can propel you into FI faster than higher-earning professions such as medicine or law. But the flipside is your elevated income makes you a target for replacement whether by cheaper labor or automation. That’s just the nature of business.

    So I’d say pursuing FI is almost a necessity for engineers, especially those starting out in hot fields. Whether your career takes off, plateaus quickly, or ends prematurely, reaching FI won’t be a disadvantage.

  6. I’m forty and one of the youngest engineers where I work, but it is a highly technical field. Newbs couldn’t keep up even if they worked a ton of hours.

  7. Laying the smack down! I think all the criticism is just envy. Why is the only retirement accepted by some people is when you’re a lump on a couch?

    Life keeps going in retirement but your income doesn’t come from a day job. I have so many interests and things I want to accomplish in life and my 9-5 gets in the way of them. I wouldn’t work so hard to be FI and then just become lethargic. It’s those things I want to do which motivate me to keep saving.

  8. A quick thought on identity. I was an engineer before college, an engineer for my first, second, third, etc job. I’m an engineer now even though I’m purely in management. And I’ll be an engineer when I quit to retire in 2 months. I optimize everything which is how I stumbled into FIRE. It’s just how I’m wired. I suspect it’s how most people here are wired too.

  9. I think everyone is entitled to live their life whichever way they please. It’s ridiculous that people think they have the right to nitpick about stuff that is none of their business.

    And anyway, of course you are retired. What’s this – the early retirement police monitoring the world wide web making sure people are sufficiently idle?

    I get up in the morning and go to work because I have to. You don’t. End of.

  10. Joe – I think the more you embrace your role as a Stay At Home Dad, the greater the authenticity and therefore, the more traffic and revenue that will come to your site. Hang a lantern on it, as they say!

    It’s good you’ve published this post and others, because once you address the elephant in the room regarding having a working wife and taking care of a toddler, nobody can say much of anything anymore.

    Own it! And flourish in the process.


  11. Hey Joe,

    But for whatever burnout we’ve experienced over our Engineering careers you and I noth know we’re still a bunch of latent hypocrites. Can you imagine the uproar if GD, LMT, INTC, Lazy BA or UTX halved their dividends, dialing back their schedule-driven mentality in order to give employees their work-life balance back?

    Investors with pitchforks and burning torches springs to mind…baying for CEO blood…

    Enjoy your retirement on your own terms….as am I.


  12. I just read your post quickly, and I think its kind of sad. First of all, I think every one should focus a lot more on enjoying life, rather than dreaming about retirement. And I also think you worked a a place no one would enjoy working at, as opposed to myself (also being an engineer, but not having the same opinion on employers hating older engineers). Br.

    • Thanks for your input. Focusing on enjoying life and working on early retirement is not mutually exclusive. You can do both. I enjoyed my life when I was an engineer. I just didn’t spend all the income I made.
      Can I ask how old you are?
      I enjoyed working at Intel when I was young, but it changed. It’s not only me that notice engineering isn’t a good fit for older workers. Many comments agree with me.
      Take care.

  13. Retirement is a word that means different things to different people. You are definitely retired Joe.

    My definition is that you do not need to work to support the lifestyle you want. So you can work if you love it (if you really, really love your job then it doesn’t count as work), and you can kick back and do nothing if you want. After 30 years as an engineer I was ready financially and mentally to ‘retire’. You are spot on when you note that engineering is a career that is constantly filled with younger, harder working graduates. After a certain period of time, management just becomes frustrating and political.

  14. I’m a not-working person (AKA “retired”) who worked in technical jobs most of my life. So I was interested in the comment[a] about “technical” things.

    I think one way technical people can adjust to not working is to have some technical-type hobbies. Not everyone is suited to do this, but there are plenty of opportunities. Volunteer work in technical capacities can scratch this itch, so can setting up computer networks for oneself or others. In my case sometimes I write software for my own home-based projects. There are plenty of things if you look around. Another pursuits to look into are amateur radio, rocketry, raspeberry pi/arduino, even food: pickling, canning, hydroponics/aquaponics, metal detecting, and so on. There are a ton of things one can do and still keep one’s technical gene engrossed in satisfying activities.

    • Thanks for your comment. I think having technical hobbies is good too.
      However, I lost my love for tech after the years at Intel. Technical stuff just aren’t fun anymore. There are technical aspect to blogging, but it’s pretty minimal these days. Maybe I’m not a techie at heart? 🙂

  15. I’m glad you and the family are doing well and living the life you want to enjoy. It’s what a lot of people dream about.

    My husband is a specialized ceramic engineer. When I asked him about retirement, he said he will never retire. Due to job loss, he’s been trying to start a business but it hasn’t taken off. Even his buddies from college have seen similar fates. He applies to many jobs a week, but has been working at a supermarket for several years now. I don’t know that retirement is best for engineers in particular, as I think it depends on the person. He always said how much he loves engineering and creating new products/ designs. Early retirement is dependent on individual choices and mindset. I always hope he finds a job in engineering as it’s his passion. Would he retire early if he could? I dunno. He loves working and being busy and active.

    • Good luck to your husband. I hope he find success soon. Ceramic engineering sounds interesting. I think it’s good that your husband likes being busy. Early retirement isn’t for everyone and it shouldn’t be. Your husband sounds like Mrs. RB40. She likes to be busy and contributing to the economy.

  16. Love your posts, Joe. However, in terms of how to look at FI you stated, “The easiest one is to use the 4% safe withdrawal rate as a guideline. Basically, you can withdraw 4% from your portfolio and it should last for 30 years. This means you should have at least 25x your annual expense to retire early.”

    As you noted, the 4% rule is geared toward individuals who anticipate a 30-year retirement. Depending on the age, though, early retirees might have to plan for a 40, 50 or maybe even a 60 year period. Assuming no other sources of income outside of, maybe, social security (no real estates, side hustles, etc.), should these individuals feel comfortable with the 4% rule?

    Personally, I’m thinking anywhere from 3-3.5% makes the most sense in these case.

    • From what I’ve seen, 4% is pretty good for over 30 years as well. You need to be extra vigilant and may need to decrease withdrawal if the stock market drops early in your retirement. A big drop at the beginning can ruin the 4% plan. A little side income after ER would help a lot as well.
      I think 3-3.5% is a lot safer, but 4% is already a good starting point.

      • Responding to a post on the Physician on Fire blog (, Big ERN from Early Retirement Now stated, “The 4% would have run out of money even over 30-year horizons (1965 and 1966 start dates, for example). Even in the cases where the 4% rule “worked” over 30 years, the portfolio would have run out only a few years after. So, 4% is too risky for the early retiree with a 50 or 60-year horizon!”

        While this is just another viewpoint, Big ERN has studied and blogged about this extensively.

  17. Nice post! No criticism from here. Your blog helps inspire me to break free from the shackles of the corporate world. You’re retired if no one owns you, and that sounds like the case with your family. Your wife works because she wants to. That’s fine. You manage rentals and blog because you want to and it pays. You owe no one explanations.
    While we’ve looked at life outside the US, today we leave to go check out some places in NM and southern CO. Staying in the US would allow working at times if we want, without the legal headaches of foreign work permits. As with you, we realize FIRE may mean some jobs on occasion because they sound fun. Staying in the US also makes taxes easier. Friends think we’re nuts as where we’re looking isn’t where people necessarily want to be (yet.) But we were laughed at for buying where we are now, an old mining town in the mountains, just 7 years ago. It’s since been discovered and prices have soared. So, time to perhaps cash out and move on. Not listening to the crowd is the best way to live. And it sounds like that’s how you live your life. Kudos to you. Thanks for the discussion.

    • Good luck with your search! The old mining town sounds like a great adventure. It’s really neat that you discovered it before other people. Maybe you can leverage that into something lucrative. That’s really cool.

  18. Nice post Joe. You set out what works for you and your family which, after all, is what counts. You got to FI and that has given you the opportunity to make these choices. It doesn’t really matter ig you call it early retirement and someone else wants to call it something different, because at the end of the day you’re doing what makes you happy. That’s very cool.

  19. Not an engineer here but have surveyed your last question to silicon valley engineers. Some of their feedback was young start ups are definitely a young mans game but there are also more mature companies niche area (esoteric u say) that are not as intensive (over 40 hrs but not 80hours. More like 50-60 hrs before a release for instance) and there’s also mentoring more junior colleagues and code checking.

    Unless a person does transactional work (I do for instance) then anything project oriented really can’t be compensated by piece meal or by the hour when there can be tons of revisions and improvements before a hard deadline .

    Agree with your points tho and mad respects for your background and experience. I’m a big fan girl for engineers and technical logical thinkers.

    • Thank you for taking it up. 50-60 hours per week is still too much. That work/life balance is broken. It’s okay if you’re a workaholic, but most people don’t like spending that much time working.
      The hard deadline is also very stressful. 60 hours/week get thrown out the window then. All hands are expected to be on deck and no weekends for a while. I went through that too. It was fun when you’re young, but really hard on the family when you’re older.

      • Especially when you consider that research consistently shows overtime has sharply diminishing returns after exceeding 40 hrs/week. But since overtime is “free”, management will continue to squander it with unrealistic deadlines and expectations.

  20. This is a great post Joe.

    Although I am not an engineer, I work in IT as a business systems analyst and know exactly what you’re talking about. Our shelf-life is very short, and we constantly have to re=invent ourselves…or as my managers keep telling me, “the bar has been raised..”.

    The high pay that comes with our careers affords us the high probability of retiring early, but it is also the bonds that tie us down. I’d like to exit my current lucrative and easy peasy job that no longer excites me, but I find it extremely hard to give up the large paycheck and annual bonuses….not withstanding that I’m reading your blog on Mondays dreaming about about Calgon taking me away from Pleasantville.


    • That’s one thing nobody told me when I was young. I thought I could be an engineer my whole career. That’s not true anymore unless you’re very lucky. Good luck saving and investing!

  21. I like your Shaq comparision on retirement. As a basketball fan, Shaq can do all these gigs like a NBA analyst, doing commercials and some acting but I still view him as a retired basketball player because that’s what he did that stood out to everyone and that goes for all these retired athletes.
    It’s pretty much like what your going through Joe, your a retired engineer although doing other stuff now like blogging and a landlord but you viewed yourself as an engineer because that was your career.

    • Right. It’s about how you view yourself. If blogging is a full time job, then I might consider myself a real blogger. It’s just a fun side gig for now and I don’t plan to do it forever. Thanks!

  22. I love this and it has been something on my mind a lot lately as I take a sabbatical from software engineering for a bit. I’m in my early thirties. We aren’t quite FI yet, though we are FI for one person, so we have no life insurance on me and just the basic my spouse’s employer offers. I would say that I’m about 75% FI personally. My spouse loves his job and is working, which allows us to have wonderful health insurance and continue to save quite a bit, such that we should be fully FI for both of us by our mid thirties. I burned out very miserably though and I don’t know how long it will take to fully recover from this. I’m thankful I always saw my engineering income as a windfall and saved a large portion of it, as did my husband.

    I really resonated with your first paragraph. Regardless of in what form I’m employed, I still identify as an engineer and I’m sure I will for a long time. People recognize it quickly listening to me talk through problems.

    • Taking a sabbatical is the right choice. I hope you get better soon. You should explore other careers. Engineering isn’t a long term career anymore. See if you can find something more enjoyable to do.
      Good luck!

  23. Great post outlining life outside the shackles!

    Early retirement isn’t just about golfing … it’s about finding alternative ways to fill your days on your OWN TERMS! I think mine is at least 6 years away.

  24. Hi,

    I’m new reader of your blog and just wanted to say you’re such an inspiration. Coming from an engineering background and now 4 years in, I’m making strides to achieve FIRE.

    BTW, I spent two summers interning at Intel Ronler Acres in Hillsboro, Or . in 2010, 2011. Loved it up there!

    Keep up the great content. I plan on creating my own blog soon to document my progress.

    Best regards,

  25. Joe, thanks for another provocative blog article.

    I think that something many people forget as they age in retirement is how important it is to be in service to others. In my own retirement story of 25 years, my first ten years were devoted to my bucket list of completing goals I’d dreamed about when working ten hour days, like bike camping across the USA for three months, and then another trip three months across New Zealand, and then Europe all followed by building a dream home on three acres. After ten years, however, I went back into teaching to be in service to others. Fortunately, it was overseas in ESL so each day was an adventure. Once home again RVing around the USA and Canada, my wife and I found volunteering in the Oregon State Parks one our annual highlights which then extended into Arizona and volunteering for Habitat for Humanity.

    I personally believe that your blogs are a contribution towards serving others. Of course, I realize you are making money from them, but by personally going out on a limb and bravely sharing the ups and downs of early retirement, your readers can learn and prosper from your own experience. As compared to our current el presidente, it’s great to hear someone speak the truth in their sharing. That’s one of the positive benefits of the internet. Keep up the good work!

    • Thank you for the encouragement. I really appreciate it. I think service is very important as well. It gives you purpose. Blogging is the best I can do for now with a son. I will try to do more once our son is an adult.

  26. I think blogging should be considered retirement.

    Yeah, you’re still working, but typing while you’re in pajamas on the couch or under the glorious sunlight is pretty damn awesome. If I could do it full-time, I’d be ecstatic.

    I guess to me retirement is happiness, and blogging sounds like just that to me :).

  27. I admit I used to think you weren’t retired at all, you just said that to cope with being a SAHD. My wife is currently a SAHM with our two kiddos and it’s real tough for her to convince herself she’s retired and living the good life when she’s wiping pee of the bathroom walls.

    But then I realized that, of course, FIRE with kids also means being a stay at home parent. It can mean lots of other things too, ranging from sitting around all day doing nothing to working harder than ever. Raising kids, especially before they start school, is definitely a ton of work. And that’s okay, FIRE just means you don’t need a job to pay the bills, not that you are sipping on margaritas listening to Jimmy Buffet all day.

    In other words I’ve seen the light. I like your blog because you don’t always paint early retirement as all sunshine and rainbows. It feels more real and keeps me grounded. So yeah, keep doing what you do!

    • Thanks for the honesty. 🙂
      Being a SAH parent isn’t easy, but it was a lot better than the rat race. It got a ton better after our son started school full time. Good luck!

  28. I am a chemical engineer and while I could have retired early I chose to only retire slightly early because work was so much fun! Which is why I disagree with statements like “engineers should retire early”. Maybe some should, maybe even most but I wouldn’t change anything about my choice if I could do it over. I think all engineers should shoot for financial independence because it gives you options and security, but if work is a favorite hobby who are we to deride that choice? Currently I love my retirement side gigs which are engineering related and very lucrative though I just do them for entertainment.

    • Thank you for your input. You’re probably right. All engineers should shoot for FI and some should retire early. 🙂
      Maybe your work as a chemical engineer has more variety to it.

  29. I was a software engineer for 30 years, but FIREd in December of 2016. I’ve spent most of the time since at home, just taking it easy. Can’t say I regret it, can’t say I miss the daily grind or all the BS that goes with it. If you’re a programmer, there are always some new punks coming through who think they know it all. Keeping up with the latest new language or framework is also a drag after a while. Frankly, I just got bored with the whole thing and it all seemed quite pointless.

    • The corporate BS is unbearable. 30 years is a great accomplishment. I don’t think many engineers last that long anymore.
      How are you doing after ER? Some people has a difficult time adjusting to the unstructured lifestyle after so long in the corporate world.

      • ER suits me. I can’t say I feel super rich in terms of cashflow, but my bills are covered, I still manage to invest a little each month and my time is my own, so in that sense I do feel rich. I don’t have any problems keeping busy with various activities, hobbies, errands, etc.. I’d say the only thing I do miss about work is the social aspect, which is something very few FIRE bloggers talk about.

        • After 37 years as software developer also packed it in, although mine was involuntary (a few years premature). Never been bored over school summer vacation or during unemployment stints, so knew retirement would be great. Much more likely to have been bored at work or school than on my own. Not feeling rushed all the time is a huge relief.

  30. “The FIRE movement is a blessing to engineers everywhere. I think FIRE is custom made for us. ”

    That about says it all there… amen!

    Usually, you’ll find the critics of early retirees like you are going to be the ones who will find themselves working until they die. That’s up to them, but it’s not the way folks in this community want to live.

    Once you’re FI, it doesn’t mean you have to sit on your butt all day long and complain about the news and the weather. Congrats to you on your pivotal success!

    — Jim

  31. At the end of the day it’s your life and your rules. I do feel a bit weird saying I’m retired but at the end of the day I might doing what I want at present and have the flexibility to pivot to something new if need be

    What a person does for work should not define you.

  32. Hi RB40,

    I studied Electrical Engineering, worked in the field for less than 2 years, realized I can’t do this for my entire life and switched my career. I started my financial independent journey from the day one of my job. May be I hated my EE job or FIRE is in my mind..

    I noticed that there are so many early retires/FIREs are Engineers. I will be one of them in the next few years 🙂
    Best Regards,

  33. Joe, phenomenal post as usual.
    Don’t take anything personal (especially on the job) from anyone, especially people who do-not-matter. And believe me, they don’t.
    I sense jealousy from your critics. Enough said. Thank you.

  34. There’s a woman in my mom group who identifies herself as “retired.” She worked as a teacher for 20 years before her son was born but has since quit. I think she’d agree with you 😉

    And my mother in law is a software engineer (went part time a number of years ago and is fully retiring this year). She didn’t even start that career until after my husband and his brother were in middle/high school as she was a SAHM for something like 15 years.

    • Thanks! I think it’s just how you look at it. The lady probably doesn’t intend to go back to work and that’s how I feel too.
      Man, starting a career in software must be difficult when you’re older. It sounds like she did well, though. I’d love to learn more about her. You should write a post. 🙂

    • Curious how your mother-in-law went part time as software engineer. I’ve never seen that anyplace in my 30+ years as a software developer.

  35. I’ve read blog posts that say you are not really retired because you generate an income from blogging and/or your wife is working.

    I just don’t understand why people have the time and energy to do that. You have 2M, and you see yourself as retired, period. I think you have something many people are jealous of. I’m not because I’m one of your biggest fans (together with Lily too I think) :D.

    • Thanks for the encouragement. Everyone has to define their own life.
      My lifestyle is so much different (and better) than when I was an engineer. Blogging a couple of times per week is retirement in comparison to being an engineer.

  36. Joe, I think you nailed it! I’m a FIREd engineer similar to you and I see things exactly as you do.

    I’m older and my two sons are adults now so I don’t have the same parenting responsibilities as you, but I wish I could have retired sooner so I could have spent more time with my young sons. I was too busy, freelancing and working those long engineering hours that you mention.

    • I’m very grateful that I could be a SAHD while my son was young. He will grow up soon enough. Life would be a lot different when he’s an adult and I’m looking forward to that too.

  37. What Tom said. It’s annoying when people challenge what we call our life. There’s too much talk about divisive nonsense and it’s taking away from the real conversation about financial freedom. We use vocabulary to describe what we mean, but words have different meaning to different people. So be it. If you don’t agree, move on to something or someone else!

    Keep doing what you do!

  38. You are bang-on about engineering career. After 15-16 years expectations are very different.
    I am about 16 years into my engineering career in the same field as you – IC design. And am already feeling the urge to FIRE.
    I have accumulated little more than 25 times my annual expense. However, I have a few doubts, if you could please clarify –
    1. Is 25 times inclusive of real-estate (not primary residence). Btw, here real estate is land & not an income generating asset.
    2. I think you have added your retirement accounts (and other ill-liquid stuff) into this networth calculation. But, you wouldn’t be able to withdraw from it, untill you turn 60/65. So incase you need to start drawdown, where would you start ?

    I am still jittery about FIRE, as of now, as in the place I live official inflation is above 5%. However, inflation in medical and kids’s education expenses are actually much more.
    So just hanging around for a couple of more years. I think 40-50x annual expense is more safe in my case. Your say?

    • 1. 25x is inclusive of real estate. You can sell it and use the money, right? That guideline works in the US, I’m not sure how it would adjust to high inflation or other economic problem in other countries.
      2. There are ways to withdraw from our retirement account before 60. Check this out for more.

      I think 40-50x annual expense is probably safer in your case. There are more uncertainties. Good luck!

      • 25x inclusive of real estate? I personally exclude my real estate. Let’s round up numbers on a what-if.; $1M dollars and $500K House (let’s assume it is paid off). Total worth = $1.5M. Suppose you are 59.5 yrs old, so you can take money from retirement w/o any complications.

        You are not supposed to draw $60K a year (4%). To follow the 4% SWR, you are supposed to withdraw $40K a year, right?

        • Personally, I think we should include real estate too. You can always liquidate it or take out a reverse mortgage. It’s part of your resource. It’s up to you. If you’re more conservative, then just count the investible asset. Cheers.

  39. No issues Joe. It is annoying when people challenge whatever it is we call our life. My wife and I are FI by most numerical definitions. We both work in second careers. I teach part time and she is a full time librarian. Both were life long aspirations of ours. What are we? Not sure. Happy and satisfied and financially secure come to mind and that’s all that really matters. Tom

  40. First- I agree that you’re blog rules. It opened me up to the world of FIRE and I’ll be forever grateful.

    You’re free and entitled to call your life anything you want to. I agree with many of your points here including “retired from engineering.”

    Personally, I just think saying “retired” to the general public has a connotation of having no responsibilities. I doubt most stay at home parents with a kindergartener say they are retired. I doubt most bloggers in a different nitche working many hours and making good money would say they are retired.

    I’ve written that I’m focused on FI and not FIRE. I’d love to emulate what you’re doing. Become FI. Quit a job I don’t want to do forever and work in a space that is fulfilling and makes me happy. I just think there should be a more descriptive word for that path than retired. Work you like is still work. Would Mark Zuckerberg say he’s retired because he enjoys his work? In the end, we are arguing about semantics though. You’re winning at life and that’s what’s important. Keep it up!

    • I personally think it’s brilliant to call yourself “retired” when your youngest is in elementary school if you are a SAHP. Everyone expects one to go back to full time work, and for us it just isn’t worth the sacrifices for the extra income. We won’t be FIREing anytime soon, but both my husband and I really enjoy me being semi-retired. (I still do a bit of freelance as a graphic designer)

    • Thanks! I kind of agree with you about stay at home parents with little kids. They are a ton of work. Once our son started school, it was much easier.
      Focusing on FI is great.
      The problem with your definition of retirement is that it means stopping work completely. That’s no good when you’re young. Anyway, I’m enjoying my life much more than when I was working. Cheers.

    • To each their own. I do understand Jason’s perspective. But the common belief that retirement means staying idle is somewhat convoluted. What do you expect the retirees to do as they also have 24 hours in a day? They need to kill time and enjoy their life. Staying home all day or spending everyday on the beach will also be boring after a while. Afterall, almost everyone of them are highly productive individuals from their past (working) life. They can’t just stop being productive all of a sudden. If retirement means not doing anything, then there are/will be hardly any early retirees. We might as well just retire that term for good.

  41. Spot on. As an Engineer and as a person pursuing early retirement, I completely agree with you. I enjoy being an Engineer but I don’t see me enjoying it until I am old. Good thing is that engineering pay will help you retire early if you really want.

    It is also true that there are not many older engineers. Either they are in management, or are working on coordinating project teams and supervisory roles, and not doing the nitty gritty details Engineers do everyday. Also the few that are actually regular Engineers, they don’t seem to be enjoying their job as much.

    • Thanks for sharing. That’s my experience as well. The older engineers tend to be curmudgeons. I can’t think of any older engineers that were upbeat and happy with work. The corporate environment is unfriendly to older engineers.

  42. Joe, love your posts. As a later in life engineer I see mostly younger engineers working now, I agree. I’ve been in engineering for 13 years and am looking to get out of it. Either by retiring early or finding something else more enjoyable to do.
    To answer your question about older engineers (I’m call them experienced). When I worked in utilities and government there were a few experienced engineers working there. The ones that knew everything. They were happy to do the same thing day in and day out. Boring to me but to each there own. That being said, management at both facilities tried to push them out typically. Only a few hung on. I will add many came back as contractors after retiring and made 100% more as contractors. Seemed like a great gig. Paid more, work when they wanted and leave when they wanted. Overall I think engineering has worked out very well for me as it does for most.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience with us.
      Management trying to push older engineers out is a real problem. Intel is doing that too. Doing good technical work is no longer enough.
      Coming back as a contractor sounds like a good idea for a few years. Many companies are marginalizing older engineers.

  43. Nice rant about being true to yourself and having a thick skin.

    (BTW, I’m also an engineer in a completely different market, and in general I agree with most of your engineering summary points.)

    I’ve had plenty of discussions with others around me about the definition of retirement, etc. The Internet (and real-world) Retirement Police are out in force (obviously, considering today’s post!), but it really comes down to making your own choice on how to live your life.

    I think one key thing is transparency, which you do very well on your blog. If someone calls himself retired then starts a blog or a writes a book or does some other activity that generates substantial income, then I can see how most people would consider that a career change rather than retirement. If that person isn’t open about the income he’s generating, then he is in fact duping the people who think he’s retired. Retirement implies not working, but this hypothetical person IS working (albeit at something he enjoys because he wants to.)

    However, by being completely open about your family situation and how much you make and how you make it, it’s no longer about “retirement” or “semi-retirement” or “SAHD”, or whatever, but about your CHOICE and how you’re implementing it. The label becomes irrelevant (except from a marketing perspective, I suppose!)

    I wish more people realized that they also have a CHOICE in how to build and live their lives, and are not just defenseless victims of the government or the corporate world.

    Keep up the good work, Joe, even if others disagree with your labeling! 🙂

    • Thank you for the encouragement. Readers asked for transparency early on and I’m glad for that.
      Blogging didn’t generate substantial income when I started. It has changed quite a bit since 2010.
      You’re probably right about the label. I started Retire by 40 with the intention to retire or semi retire.
      I don’t want to change the name now. Beside, Semi Retire by 40 doesn’t sounds as good. FIRE by 40? That domain is taken…

  44. I like the comparison to Shaquille O’Neil. Like other famous pro athletes, he’ll always be what he was, but he found ways to keep making money at things he no doubt considers hobbies.

    What becomes an actual “profession” versus a hobby is probably very personal to each person. Some ex athletes have been broadcasting for so long now they no doubt consider themselves broadcasters.

    • Shaq is a standout. He has a lot of projects going on and he’s making very good income after retiring from the NBA.
      Good point about the length of time in another profession. Maybe I’ll think of myself as a blogger once I spent more than 16 years on it.

  45. Joe, Congrats again on early retirement and living the life that works for you. You are bang on with this. I did information systems w/ my undergrad degree in that area. I got tired of the planned obsolescence of the technology and the continued hours required to “level up”. That’s actually how they pitch coursework these days. Some of that’s ok, but changing direction has kept it fresh. Wife still works and enjoys it, but our life is so much less stressful since I decided to take a break 2 yrs ago. My most recent blog post is on “Back & Hip pain”. I was inspired by your site and Sam’s over at Financial Samurai by a piece he pointed me to about “You probably need less than you think to retire.” My ratio isn’t quite there, but I do intend to either go back or cobble together some side hustles for the next 10 to 15 years, by choice. The other point was that it’s taken me 2 full years (just like Sam observed) to ease into the idea of fully applying myself to a new path. That’s been the hardest part, because it’s a little bit of wasting time. I see age discrimination in a whole new light now, and think we’re headed for a big wave of problems with that potentially. I urge young people to follow sites like yours all the time. I’m glad you see flexibility in your future. That’s the true blessing in gaining financial independence.

    • Ugh. Level up? Do we have to gamify everything?
      I had a plethora of physical problem when I was spending all day in front of the computer. It’s much better now.
      Being an engineer is really hard on your eyes. Good luck with everything. I don’t think you need to be financial independence to retire either. You can make some active income after ER and the number should still work out.

  46. Ha, I have an Electrical Engineering Degree that I got in 1973. Long ago, I disconnected from being an Engineer. I graduated with an MBA in 1986 and don’t even identify with my MBA. To me MBA stands for “Means Bugger All.” Nowadays I never advertise my B.Sc in Engineering or my MBA in my bio.

    I decided to semi-retire when I was 40 years old and had a net worth of MINUS $30,000 due to student loans. Most people said this was impossible but I proved them wrong. After I made that decision, I was able to work only four or five hours a day (granted, I usually did this seven days a week) at my own pace and on my own terms. Sure, there were several years when I lived under the poverty line. For the last three years, however, I have earned a higher income than 99 percent of Canadians earn and I have only had to work one or two hours a day. I also have accumulated a nice retirement nest egg because I am much better at handling money than 95 percent of people in Canada or the US.

    In short, nowadays I consider myself a creator. That’s why I often tell my friends, “See, there is no off-switch on this Genius machine”, whenever I come up with a brilliant idea on how to earn or save money.

    Regarding freedom,, in the Preface of How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free, I state:

    “The way I see it, you will have attained true freedom in this world when you can get up in the morning when you want to get up; go to sleep when you want to go to sleep; and in the interval, work and play at the things you want to work and play at — all at your own pace. The great news is that retirement allows you the opportunity to attain this freedom.”

    Of course, one must have an adequate income in one’s so-called “retirement” or “early retirement” to really appreciate being retired.

    As I say on page 205 in “Life’s Secret Handbook:




    You can’t be one — without the other!

    • This is the key – “nowadays I consider myself a creator.” I’m starting to think of my self as one. I have been reading more about “creatives” recently. It’s a pretty good label for people who don’t fit into the traditional career narrative. Thanks!

  47. Joe, as someone in a very similar boat as you, it’s great to read your take because it resonates clearly with me.

    Like you I “retired” from a traditional 9-5 and spend a great part of my week as a SAHD. My son is nearly 4, and my daughter is already off to Kindergarten. So, it’s much easier than the days of bottles and diapers! I even get to go fishing more. 🙂

    From one SAHD to another, do you miss the days when you had more time with your son (i.e. Pre-kindergarten)?

    • I should put that into the main post – retired from the traditional 9-5. Not having to spend time in the office and avoiding the commute are great benefits.
      I don’t really miss those younger days. Life is so much easier now. We still have spring breaks and summer breaks. We’ll have fun then. 🙂

  48. Joe is roaring like a lion today. I should do something like this…an ultimate “I’M SAYING IT ONCE” Q&A blogger chain for people within the community.

    My husband really looks forward to being a stay at home dad. He likes his work enough to stay but not if we do have kids. I also think it’s amazing that Mrs RB40 likes her job. That’s a rare feat: driven by passion to work for someone instead of money.

    After your Instagram/Twitter posts, I feel more and more… maternal oriented. And Ms FAF is expecting. J$ is expecting. Everyone having babies!!! 🙂

    • Not me! After being a SAHD for two kids I can absolutely say we are done having babies.

      Like Joe said — being a SAHD isn’t early retirement. It’s a hell of a lot of work most days. I can only blog after the kids go to bed.

      Would I ever go back to my old job though? Not in a million years.

      No matter what word I use (FI, FIRE, early retirement, etc) the important part is that I now “work” for myself.

    • Steve at Think Save Retire did something like this, it was a FAQ post. I should do more too. Writing it down once is much easier than corresponding in emails.

      Being a SAHD is great. It was busy when our kid was young, but it’s much easier now. I think he’ll enjoy it. Once the kid goes off to school, then he might need something more. Good luck. 😉

    • Joe, You’re the Asian analog of Cubert. That, or I’m the Gweilo version of RBF!

      I loved this post. You basically laid out what our situation will be in 1.5 years. Mrs. Cubert, similarly to Mrs. RBF, is choosing to continue her part time job running her Chiropractic shop. She loves helping/healing people, so who am I to tell her to quit? And at least she’s her own boss, with no cubicle, and can set her own hours.

      I’ll also be a SAHD, but our kids will have just started grade school by then. I’ll be happily renovating the rentals and writing inflammatory blog posts, before putting dinner in the pan.

      No need to apologize to anyone. You’ve got it figured out. Burn out is real, and this cubicle is a death trap. Thanks for sharing – and for reminding me to keep it PG. I struggle with that. 🙂

    • You’re right Joe. I’m an engineer too, working for a big corporation.

      Aging engineer will either move to management or take an architect type of work.

      Most becomes middle manager, which is a horrible position to be in.

      20 years should be max time for a working engineer.

      • As an ageing Engineer, I wish someone had explained FIRE to me while I still had the early cumulative interest years ahead of me. Instead, at 55 I’m playing catch-up by moving sideways into an Engineering oversight job that involves plenty of time away and less creative content.

        FIRE gives you options, optional, early or multiple retirements become real once the FU money is in place and your life becomes your own to determine. I’ve done the maths, it says I don’t have the 4% so I must stay on the hamster wheel. As a 55 year old contractor, there are younger, faster, more up to date Engineers around me. My biggest risk to reaching FI is no contract renewal – a yearly hoop jump. At my age that could be the last of the Accumulation years. This is the trap when you don’t save young. I have 3.4 years to reach lean+ FI, the savings rate is high, it didn’t have to be this way if I’d started earlier.

        The joy of Engineering/coding/designing does not persist, I no longer read Electronics magazines at bedtime. “Have an Escape Plan” would be my advice for any Engineer loving what they do, making money and rushing in to work to work on that great problem. Just because you have an eject button doesn’t mean you have to press it:

        Engineer: “Ooh a cool RED button, what does it do?” Step away from the button, Dave. “But Hal…”

        • I’m 45 and I’m a sotfware engineer working at a startup. The CTO is 29. I’m actually the olderst person in the entire company.
          I kind of like the company and I don’t hate my job (I did for a moment when I had to follow the agile process crap), but I do not have the passion for it anymore.
          I’m fortunate enough to work with the latest technologies, so I think I will be employable for some time.
          There are two main raison why I cannot retire yet: my girlfriend’s finances and the fact that we live in San Francisco
          and I would like to stay here for a little more (I originally came from a cold country and the weather/outdoors in California still seems like heaven to me).

  49. I think one reason why people may consider your retirement to be tied to your wife’s retirement is access to health insurance. It’s my biggest expense, at 20k per year for a family of 3. Combined with a huge deductible which you may not have with a company sponsored plan, my health care costs typically run close to 30k a year. With low income, one might get government subsidies, but in my opinion that is really hard to count on.

    • Healthcare is a huge issue for early retirees in the US. That’s a big reason why Mrs. RB40 is still working. We’ll pay more once she retires. With my blogging income, it’s going to be close. We may get some subsidy one year and none the next. I’ll have to figure it out as we go along. You’re right about subsidy.

    • Look into healthshare plan. I use Liberty healthshare and went from $24,000 per year to $6,000 plus a $1,500 “deductible.” I have been using this for over one year and it works out well so far. There are pre-existing condition rules and you need a clean lifestyle, but other than that it is a great way to escape the medical insurance scam.

      • I’m glad to hear it is working for you. I was looking into it some time ago and I think I will go for it when I finally retire.

    • It totally depends on where you live. If you choose to retire in a big city, or in certain high cost states, you’ll need lots more than if you retire in a smaller city or town. Do some cost comparisons. A house exactly the same plan, built the same year, in a similar neighborhood, in Chicago sells for $243,000. In my Central IL city, $89,000. We have stores, a Mall, hospitals, colleges, low crime, lower taxes and a lower cost of living. And no rush hour traffic! That $154,000 difference is important when you’re looking to retire.

    • I think that everyone over 40 should have a retirement plan in addition to a financial plan. The retirement plan should not come from your financial adviser because there is no way an adviser understands you better than you do. Secondly, what a waste of engineering skills & knowledge if an engineer only concentrates on passive income in retirement. We need more engineers to consider the opportunity of senior entrepreneurship. Also, with their design skills they are capable of creating new products and services that are badly needed to solve some of the difficult problems in our society today. In Canada we have a retired electrical engineer who invented an e-wear product or digital eye glasses for blind people to help them with their sight abilities. There are endless opportunities for retired engineers to be more creative, productive and provide some leadership to empower themselves and others to stay active in their own retirement life.

      • I think it’s great that you’re doing taking on entrepreneurial projects. Personally, I’m burned out. I don’t want to do any more engineering projects. That desire is gone.
        I support retire engineers who can do that, but it’s just not for me. Thank you for your input.


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