Why I Believe the Early Retirement Movement Could Save the World

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My financial wellness journey began, as most do, with my deeply-rooted desire to not be poor like I had been growing up. As long as I could be comfortable and secure, I knew I had the chance to be happy. This is why the less-than paycheck of a teacher didn’t turn me off to the profession at all. While teachers are seriously undervalued and underpaid in the U.S., when I looked into the typical paycheck of a teacher in my state, I saw a number larger than the amount my entire family (of 6 children) had to live off some years. Being a single, frugal woman, I knew I could easily make this work. So I had the privilege of following my passion without feeling ashamed or belittled by the paycheck, like many of my peers. In fact, I felt a deep  gratitude to be able to do what I loved and not struggle.

Of course, now that I’ve become more financially literate through sources like The Financial Diet, Ramsey Solutions, Mr. Money Moustache, and The Minimalists, avoiding poverty and struggle isn’t the goal; it’s a given. My goal right now is much higher: to not have to work for money. Specifically, I want to build enough wealth to have the ability to retire at age 45.

When I say that out loud (which I have been trying to do more often), people kind of look at me like I’m crazy. And it sounded pretty crazy to me, too, at first. But beyond the difficulty of understanding this goal in a culture that values workaholism and extravagant living, I also felt an initial guilt about exactly how self-serving this goal was. In my upbringing and circles of friends, seeking wealth was often painted as vain or misguided.

My personal version of this judgmental idea was thinking that people who majored in higher paying degrees that they had no passion for were foolish. By wanting to be a teacher despite the paycheck, I was obviously a self-sacrificial, girl-next-door goddess of frugality.

So yeah, I have been 100% guilty of thinking that chasing wealth is wrong. And I definitely judged myself when I started having these goals.

But at the same time, I entirely believed Mr. Money Moustache’s idea that “work is better when you don’t need the money.” On top of that, I was inspired by stories of people who could follow every single creative, educational, or personal passion they had ever wanted to because they didn’t need to be tied to one job for 40 hours a week.

I thought about all the passions I never followed (or followed in a limited way) because I was too driven on my one career goal or spending money in the wrong places. Personal training, art, charity, writing(!!!), volunteering, travelling, and even spending more time with the people who matter in my life.

I thought about all the ways I would be a better person if I could give more of myself to these passions. And this is coming from someone who already gets to follow one of her passions in her career.

So now I think about all the people who are stuck in jobs they aren’t passionate about or even dislike. How would their lives change if they could give more of themselves to their real passions?

And furthermore, I think about the world as a whole. What if everyone chose to work instead of having to work? What if everyone could volunteer, travel, create, and spend time with loved ones as much as they have always wanted to?

I think we would help insane amounts of people in need, because we would no longer feel our own desperation.

I think we would all feel more fulfilled in our work each day, instead of our moods being dictated by what day of the week it is.

I think we would all spend much more time in fellowship with one another, instead of feeling the need to prioritize work.

And I think we would create everything we’ve always dreamt of to make the world a better place.

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