The positives and surprising negatives of early retirement

High school teachers Tara and Bradley Finn of West Islip on Long Island managed to erase $189,000 in debt by cutting cable, refinancing their student loans, not eating out as much, downsizing to the house where Bradley grew up, picking up shifts bartending and tutoring, along with brewing their coffee at home.

The pair describe themselves as members of the so-called “FIRE Movement,” standing for Financial Independence Retire Early. 

Now saving more than 60 percent of their combined income, the Finns, like many others in the movement find themselves on pace to retire well before the age of 60. 

However, the couple, who still profess to loving their jobs, say they interpret the “Retire Early” half of FIRE not as a mandate to go sit on a beach somewhere as soon as they are financially able, but instead as an emancipation from the shackles of debt and uncertainty.

A study distributed last year by the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that Tara and Bradley are smart to begin considering possible side-hustles and not to retire just because they can. Many who mortgage their 20s and 30s to stop working in their 40s appear to find retirement disappointing.

“The main thing they’re sacrificing, I’m afraid, is their purpose in life,” said Dow Jones columnist Mark Hulbert. 

Hulbert points to an amendment to the Social Security Act, passed in the middle of last century, that allows people to retire at the age of 62 that correlated with a jump in mortality among men at that same age, suggesting that doing nothing in retirement does bad things for our changes of living to enjoy the phase of life we worked so hard to achieve. 


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“A lot of people are sitting around, watching television on their sofa and drinking too many beers,” Hulbert said.

“That’s what leads to a lot of early death and a lot of depression later on because you don’t know who you are if all you did is work,” said psychologist and radio host Cooper Lawrence.

Lawrence stresses the importance for everyone developing an identity outside of your career.