Retiring Early Is Un-American

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Tim Iacono via The Mess That Greenspan Made blog,

It wasn’t immediately clear that the usage of the word “Un-American” in the title above was appropriate, that is, until reading this definition at Wikipedia:

Un-American is a pejorative term of U.S. political discourse which is applied to people or institutions in the United States seen as deviating from what are widely perceived to be fundamental American cultural and political values

Now, there are clearly no politics involved here. Rather, it is the deviation from well established cultural values, namely, ratcheting up your lifestyle at least as fast as your income rises, that makes those who choose to spend much less than they earn during their working years a candidate for retiring early as detailed in this USA Today story.

As with most journeys, retiring early starts with a few simple steps, the most important being this: You have to calculate - there’s no getting around it, really - how much you’ll need to fund your lifestyle for as long as you (and your partner) will live. This won’t be easy because you don’t know just how long that will be.


But what you do know is this: Retiring early means calculating more years into the equation - say, 30 instead of 20. For the average American household, that could mean saving an extra $400,000 or so on top of what you might already need for a traditional retirement plan.


Once you know your “number,” there are only two other steps to commit to memory: Start saving and stop spending. Put another way: Live not just within your means, but well below, says Rick Miller, president of Sensible Financial Planning in Waltham, Mass.

Living “well below” your means really is un-American – it goes against the fundamental American cultural values of consumerism and debt.

I’ve often said that a large part of the U.S. economy is driven by people buying things they don’t need with money they don’t have and, while some may point to that as being a great post-World War II success story, it results in millions upon millions of people who might never be able to call it quits as part of the traditional work force.

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Oldwood's picture

Of course that number is changing. Soon below your means will mean below the ground, as in dead and buried. There is a base level of "means" required to sustain life.

Vampyroteuthis infernalis's picture

Mmmm, I will never get the chance to retire since there is nothing left to build a retirement nest egg. Does that make me a good American?

NOTaREALmerican's picture

Stop yer whining.   

If  go massively into debt like my generation did  you can have all the wealth in the world.

MillionDollarBogus_'s picture

If more folks lived withing their means, and debt was paid off, sites like ZH would have nothing to report, and would go away........

Anusocracy's picture

Dying early is totally acceptable, though.

666's picture

I'm very un-American. My rule in life was never get into debt and always put something away in savings with each paycheck, no matter how small. Because of this, I'm now retired with few worthless possessions (aka junk), a roof over my head, food in my pantry, bullets in my ammo can, etc.

Oh, I'm also very un-American because I absolutely despise our current government.

Omen IV's picture

nonsense there would always be fresh hate Putin to report 

Meat Hammer's picture

If I go into $50,000 worth of credit card debt, which I don't plan to pay back, in order to buy PM's, what does that make me?

BKbroiler's picture

smarter than the company that granted you the card.

McMolotov's picture

Someone with a boating accident and some pissed off creditors in his future.

Meat Hammer's picture

Ooh, I should charge me a boat, too!  I-I-I mean, I need more debt for a reason to keep working and be more 'Merican. 

Thanks, McM!

Keyser's picture

That's a good little lemming, now back to work or no soup for you!!!!


pakled's picture

It would seem to make you bulletproof to the 'un-American' charge.


Can't possibly be accused of living under your means.

layman_please's picture

with that you would expanded US money supply by $50,000. looks like a work of a central banker or a government official.

AGuy's picture

A long vacation in debtor's prison? At least you have a three meals and a roof over your head with top notch security.




Honey Badger's picture

Have more than you show, speak less than you know.

himaroid's picture

I think I'll make some labels to stick on all my whiskey bottles.

Loucleve's picture

The Four R’s:
Rejection:   Quit paying, quit obeying, quit playing
Revolution:   It is inevitable, so prepare, as they are.
Retribution:   The guilty must answer for their crimes against the American people and the Constitution.
Restoration:   Restore the American people, country and Constitutional republic

NOTaREALmerican's picture

You left out Redistribution.  

You ARE going to take the loot of the rich people who are "guilty (and) must answer for their crimes against the American people and the Constitution" and then give it to the Liberatians.  Right?

MsCreant's picture

What should one do with the ill-gotten goods that criminals have gotten through theft and fraud? Serious question? Personally I think this one issue could tear apart the entire system without a revolution if the so called laws were actually enforced.

skipjack's picture

It's mostly paper wealth. When the system dies, so will their wealth.

VegasBob's picture

I'd love to throw my hat in the ring for the retribution phase.

There are plenty of criminals out there who need to be on the receiving end of harsh, traditional justice: Greenspan, Bernanke, Blankfein, Dimon, Mozilo, etc. etc. etc.

freedogger's picture

That's one way to retire.

syntaxterror's picture

Retiring early means getting the entire Obolo Handout Lifetime Welfare Package.

Rainman's picture

Fuck saving ... gubmint will give you all you need and deserve .

q99x2's picture

I don't know where these people get all their crazy ideas. I haven't worked for 20 years and I'm going to college. By the time I get my Ph.D. I'll be past retirement age. 

RaceToTheBottom's picture

Your mind should never retire, at least before 45 minutes after you are dead.

NOTaREALmerican's picture

A few more years and the young people will be paying through the nose for MY unlimited hip-replacement surgeries too!


YEAH,  stop yer whining,  I'm ENTITLED too all the OldFart non-socialist free non-obama health care I can consume because I EARNED that!   

LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT you lazy worthless Gen-X'er,   I've got a cruise boat to catch!  

SWCroaker's picture

"Stupid" is another pejorative term that can be applied to those who think saving is "Un-American".   Two clubs I don't *want* membership in...

August's picture

>>>For the average American household, that could mean saving an extra $400,000 or so....

Now that is a real knee-slapper.  An extra $400,000 in savings... for the average household.

NotApplicable's picture

Now I know why they call it a 401k.

Bumbu Sauce's picture

Doesn't the average American have less than $500 in savings?

W.M. Worry's picture

You're forgetting about the power of compound interest. At .75% your savings will double every 96 years !

Dre4dwolf's picture

A dollar today , is worth two tomorrow, the time value of money, will wipe out any net-positive effect compounding interest will have in the long run.


Money essentially has an expiration date. . . . well Fiat money does atleast.

Oldwood's picture

I had better start taking care of myself. 96 years huh?

Dre4dwolf's picture

U know, the beach is free.

Tents are cheap.

Fishing poles, spear guns, and snorkles are highly effective.

Retirement is one Walmart trip and a bus ride away for everyone.



The only problem is, society has tried at every turn to out-law being a natural human being.

If you just setup camp at the beach, and minded your own business, people would eventually come from the government to assault you because you are not allowed to survive, the very idea that you could live like that and be more happy than them . . . drives them insane.


The simple fact of life is, "things" only bring you temporary happiness, most of the things we own, we only wanted because someone else had them, once you yourself have those things, they usually sit around collecting dust until you get tired of them and throw them away.


I guess thats why God gave us the 10th commandment, thou shalt not covet , because the very act of wanting is an illusion, you already have the whole world and everything in it, and you have no idea what to do with it all, to focus on such a small portion of the world such as a nick-nack is insane.

Oldwood's picture

Think about how much land our government owns in our name, yet its not ours. We can't touch it without permission and/or payment. And we are forced to pay for its maintenance whether we use it or not. This should be a symbol, a sign to every American to illustrate that our government, large and all encompassing, is supposed to work for us, to look out for our interests, those principally being in property and the rights to retain such, yet they instead rule us, control us, virtually own us as sure as any slave in 1840 Mississippi. They own our output and they own or property, that deeded directly to us and that which as citizens we theoretically co-own. This is NOT what our founders promised us and is NOT what Americans have been lead to believe for generations, people sacrificing their loved ones in war to preserve our theoretically freedoms an liberties.

Wait What's picture

cute. it's all fun and games 'til that 1st rogue wave, hurricane, or cold snap comes through and burst your little bubble of happiness.

a transient life seems easy, seen from far away. try that lifestyle anywhere in the continguous U.S. in January and report what you find... it will likely be brutish, miserable, and short.

HoleInTheDonut's picture

"we only wanted because someone else had them, once you yourself have those things, they usually sit around collecting dust until you get tired of them and throw them away."

Right, that's why I don't seriously look for a new girlfriend.

freedogger's picture

Well I have proved to myself that I can live in the back of a cargo van over the past's not as cheap as a tent but pretty close. No one knows the better. I'm pulling in good salary too at the same time. Still have the family and the acreage to pay for though.

MsCreant's picture

Living below your means is actually living within your means if you think about it. I do this, and take some flak for it at work with superiors because I am not into impressing people. Me, I'm impressed with my ability to save and help others when they need it. I don't need fancy shoes, suits, dresses, coats or jewelry. A good coat for me is the one I have had for 11 year (Northface, black). Looks great to me. Ditto my 10 year old boots.

Dre4dwolf's picture

If you dictate your means according to how much money you make, you are inevitably allowing other peoples PRICES to dictate your living standard.

So in reality, everyone who works for a living, is a slave to other peoples standards.


The issue is not living within any means, but living in a way day-to-day that makes you happy, because if you hate your day-to-day experience what does it matter if you live within any monetary bracket? the richest man in the world has enslaved himself to his own irrational desires, and the more he consumes, the more miserable he becomes, because in the end, everything you want or covet is never as pleasant to have as you imagined it would be, so in reality, reality will always fall short of your expectations and disappoint causing you to be unhappy.


That is why you find some of the simplest people who have the most earthly and natural standard of life, always seem to be happy, because their standards are standards of contentment and they are not only not disappointed with their life,  they are surprised and show gratitude for what they have at every turning point in their life.


Thats how some people can pursue an entire life of greed chasing material goods, expensive homes, cars, boats, whatever, and in the end they commit suicide once they "have it all" because they have finally run out of things to pursue.


Someone sitting on a beach in Hawaii living out of their van who wakes up and plays the guitar every morning, is atleast 10 fold happier. 

MsCreant's picture

There is merit in what you say. I am curious about your gender and age.

I fantasize about quitting work a lot, I admit it. One of the reasons I am saving is that I hope I can retire and live super cheaply. I may not be able to pull it off, but it is my hope to do so. I really know I don't need much. I work right now to insure others, to get my kid launched, and to save for later. If I don't die first like my 64 year old friend did a couple of months ago after retiring in April.

But you are right, it does make me a slave.

I think women tend to want more security (we might even be wired for it, not sure) and being a little older I don't want to be the one of the "folks" needing other people's help. I would rather bankroll that myself. I think men feel more secure that they can go anywhere and get work and have money when they need it. Thus the life you describe. If you are a woman, I'd sure like to know how you work it out!!

Rainman's picture

The only glitch in your thinking may be the kid launching plan. Four daughters here and I thought they were launched too... they keep coming back.

MsCreant's picture

I am indeed worried about the boomerang thing. I am working mightily now to prevent it, we shall see.

Dre4dwolf's picture

Im a dude, and im pretty sure I can say safely that most men really dont care about material wealth and comfort (give me a hard floor and a blanket to sleep on and im good) the only reason most men pursue material status is because women seem seem to be drawn to it like a moth to flames , but only for long term partner seeking women as nowadays most women aged 18 to 30 are quite permiscuous and giving which in reality lowers most mens drive to aquire wealth actually because you dont really need it (very few men care for comfort of fathering children) in fact I look at it as a potential form of entrapement...  ecause to fall so in love that you would do anything to keep that signifigant other from sadness sounds like madness to me, but life shows by example that given the right specimen all men will fall for the trap eventually. 

My ideal life would be me and some girl on an island home.

The ideal life for the average woman would probably some guy with a benzino a 3 story house and an unlimited credit card to use at outlets.

its not that I dont like civilization , I just think it needlessly complicates things and that the added comfort it provides does not outway the disatisfaction I get from being separated from my more primal desires.

Or something like that, I tend to be more elequint with a butchers knife in the kitche than I am with sentances and describing my "feelings".

I guess everyman at some point tosses away his own happiness to make a female happy , and with luck seeing them happy makes up for the loss in some small way.

I am almost 28 And I probably spend way more time contemplating my own existence than I should.

Sry for the random typos typing on phone atm