10 Years Of Fake Retirement Later: The Most Important Takeaways

In February 2012, I decided to negotiate a severance to break free from corporate life. By mid-June 2012, I had received a severance check and the last of my three months of WARN Act pay. Ten years of fake retirement later, I want to share with you some of my biggest takeaways.

Overall, it's been an incredible journey. However, I'm also melancholy I'll never get back these past 10 years. The greater your appreciation of time, the less you will want to waste it.

For those of you thinking about permanently leaving your day job to go on a great adventure, this post is for you.

Why Use The Term Fake Retirement?

Let's start with the obvious question. Why I used the words “fake retirement” in the title of this post?

I consider myself a fake retiree because consistently publishing three-to-four times a week for 13+-years takes work. Even though I enjoy writing, I'm still spending about 14 hours a week creating instead of consuming. Then I spend another six hours a week responding to comments and e-mails. Due to my writing hobby, money comes in. Hence the term ”fake retirement.”

Since retiring from a day job in 2012, I also did some consulting work at several startups for three years. Although I only consulted for 15-20 hours a week, it's still work. I had this itch to experience the tech startup life given I had lived in San Francisco since 2001.

Another reason why I use “fake retirement” is that since 2017, I've been a stay-at-home dad. Despite working in banking for 13 years, I think being a stay-at-home parent to two young children is at least 100% harder. You've got to always be on, otherwise, something bad might happen. The amount of patience needed to raise toddlers with kindness is monk-like.

Finally, starting in early 2020, I spent two years writing a new personal finance book called Buy This, Not That. During this stressful time period, I would often wake up by 5 am in order to write in peace. Once the little ones woke up by 8:30 am, it was family time for much of the day.

Very Busy In Retirement!

The combination of being a parent and writing every day since the pandemic began has burned me out. Real retirees shouldn't feel burned out. Real retirees should feel way more relaxed than when they had day jobs! Hence, another reason why I’m a fake retiree.

The thing is, I haven't told anybody I'm retired since 2013, my last year of extensive traveling and goofing off. True retirement was nice for a year. But it sure got boring real quick as a thirty five year old.

Lessons Learned After 10 Years Of Fake Retirement

I've been writing about achieving financial independence since July 2009 when I launched Financial Samurai. Since then, the financial independence movement has become more mainstream.

Terms such as Coast FIRE, Lean FIRE, and Barista FIRE have popped up to help those still far away from financial independence feel better about their progress. Achieving financial independence takes discipline. And if you can use a term that fits your situation, this may help motivate you to keep trying.

When the going gets tough, it's sometimes easier to quit saving and stop investing aggressively. However, after all these years, I still maintain that to be financially independent, you must have enough passive income to at least cover your basic living expenses.

If your passive income does not cover at least your basic living expenses, you are not financially independent. And that's OK! You just have to keep working on your financial journey.

This brings me to the first lesson I've learned after 10+ years of fake retirement.

1) Only you will know whether you are truly financially independent or not.

We can come up with terms to make ourselves feel better about our progress. However, deep down, only you know whether you are financially independent or just faking it. Faking it until you make it can sometimes work at your job or entrepreneurial endeavor. But faking it ultimately doesn't work when it comes to living the life you want.

If you run a podcast about achieving financial independence, but had to ask for donations in 2020 to support your business, you are probably not financially independent. A reader brought this interesting example to my attention.

If you retire with only $600,000 but have to relocate to another country and teach English, you probably aren't retired either. You're probably more like me, a fake retiree, who is on a new adventure.

If you are a man who retires with $4 million and two kids but has a working wife who makes over $400,000 a year, some may just smirk at the situation. Despite all the talk about equality and inclusion, society still has a difficult time accepting a stay-at-home dad as a retiree.

The thing is, it really doesn't matter what anybody thinks about your financial situation. All that matters is whether you are doing what you want or not. If you are able to do what you want without fretting about money, then you are financially independent. You know your situation the best.

2) Your financial needs and desires will change over time.

One of the main reasons why I've published posts such as 401(k) by age and target net worth by age is because time is a huge component of wealth. You can't compare a 25-year-old's financial situation with a 45-year-old's financial situation. Instead, it is more relevant to compare the financial situations of similar ages.

When I left work in 2012, I was happy with $80,000 a year in passive income. My next goal was to generate $150,000 in passive income by the time my wife joined me in early retirement in 2015.

We made a pact that if things worked out with me fake retiring at age 34, three years later, she could also retire from work at age 34. Our passive income goal was achieved and she retired as planned with a nice severance as well.

However, after we had our first child in 2017, my desire to earn more passive income increased to $200,000+. If we wanted to raise a child in an expensive city like San Francisco, we needed to earn more to pay for rising healthcare and preschool tuition expenses.

My wife doesn't think she's a retiree either given how much she works taking care of the kids. She also ensures all the accounting and other backend requirements are done properly for Financial Samurai.

The reason why I share my passive income figures is because it helps to have some transparency. I'm on a financial journey as well.

Latest Retirement Passive Investment Income

Our current goal is to consistently generate at least $300,000 in passive income to live a relatively middle-class lifestyle in San Francisco or Honolulu with two children. Whether you believe we're financially independent or not doesn't matter. The numbers are the numbers.

Financial Samurai passive income investments 2023

Just because you think you'll need X amount of passive income to retire early doesn't mean that amount will stay static forever. Family sizes change. Health issues arise as we age. Accidents happen. Tastes change. With inflation eating away at our purchasing power, the need to generate more income has increased for everyone.

Be open to generating supplemental retirement income once your day job is done. If you can do something you enjoy that brings in extra income, you dramatically increase your chances of living a comfortable retirement life.

Not only do you generate income by doing something purposeful, but the income generated also alleviates the need for you to spend down your capital as quickly. Ironically, it's easier to generate more passive income in a bear market.

3) You will adopt a dynamic safe withdrawal rate and be more flexible overall.

Because your financial needs and desires will change over time, you should also be flexible with your safe withdrawal rate. The best safe withdrawal rate is a dynamic safe withdrawal rate that changes with the times.

Contrary to what academics might say, there is no one fixed safe withdrawal rate to go by. As a practitioner who let go of a day job's security in 2012, I'm telling you staying flexible is important.

One way is to follow and use the 10-year bond yield as your withdrawal rate guide. This economic figure is an important starting point that tells you the state of the world. In general, as the 10-year bond yield increases, so can your safe withdrawal rate and vice versa.

However, every economic situation is different. For example, you might think the Fed will go too far in raising interest rates, leading to a devastating and prolonged bear market. If so, you may want to lower your safe withdrawal rate to be more conservative. Your dynamic mind will make adjustments accordingly.

4) You will eventually take your freedom for granted.

The hedonic treadmill is the main reason why achieving financial freedom won't solve all your problems. Even though it feels amazing to do what you want whenever you want, you will gradually begin to stop appreciating your freedom.

For example, while you were working, you might have felt giddy leaving work at 3:00 pm to have a drink with a colleague. Getting paid to drink is awesome! However, once you have total independence, you might actually get annoyed meeting up so late. Why not be more efficient and booze it up during lunch instead?

You will naturally create your own routine once you are financially independent. This routine will replace your old routine while you had a job. If you have to make commitments outside your normal routine, then you might feel agitated.

For example, I love to take a nap any time between 1 pm – 3 pm. As someone who always wakes up by 6 am, I'm always sleepy after lunch. Therefore, it's a bummer when a friend wants to play tennis or a prospective online partner wants to do a call during these hours. I usually won't say no because I try to accommodate friends or prospective partners who have less flexible schedules. However, I am still annoyed.

Just like how eating too much cake isn't good for your body, having too much freedom may not be good for your soul. The path of least resistance is to do nothing. Therefore, having some structure and commitments in your daily life are important.

5) You will likely have a recurring desire to return to work.

Once you leave your day job you will most likely start to second-guess your fake retirement decision, especially if you retire very early. If you don't retire to something purposeful, the greater your desire to return to work will be. After years at the office, you may miss the camaraderie and working on a mission.

Since 2012, I've battled the urge to return to work at least three times. The first was within the first six months after I left my job. I interviewed with competing firms just to make sure I hadn't made a grave mistake.

The second time was in 2018 a year after my son was born. I felt I needed to start earning again to better take care of my family. Getting subsidized healthcare insurance was also something that crossed my mind. At the time, we were paying about $1,850 a month in healthcare insurance. Today, our healthcare insurance bill is about $2,200 a month.

I also thought going back to work might feel like a nice vacation! You might scoff at this notion. But I truly felt like working 60 hours a week in banking is easier than working 40 hours a week as a father.

I was trying my best to always be present for my boy. However, during his first two years of life, he would often rebuff me for his mother, probably because she was a main source of food. Therefore, if I could earn more money while feeling more relaxed and less disappointed at being a father, I thought this would be a win.

Working From Home Rocks

I fought my desire to go back to work one year into the pandemic. Given so many people were able to work from home, it no longer felt as special for me to work from home. There were people working only two hours a day and still getting paid full time! Meanwhile, there were others making double pay working two jobs from home.

Before 2020, I could always play tennis between 10 am – 2 pm because there were always free courts. Today, I usually have to wait 15-30 minutes. Many of my friends who made handsome amounts of money were hitting me up to play in the middle of the day.

On warm weekdays, the beaches are always crowded with people working from home. Therefore, I figured, if I could work from home and not really work much, I might as well get a day job again!

If I hadn't been required to come into the office five days a week or travel twice a month on average, I'm pretty sure I would have worked until at least age 40, instead of leaving at 34.

One of the main reasons why I left work was because I truly felt I was wasting about 50% of the time sitting in the office. But I had to be there because my bosses were there.

Today, I'm highly considering giving up on retirement and returning to work again. My son is in kindergarten full-time and my daughter will be attending preschool three days a week this summer. If all goes well, she will start attending five days a week by the end of 2023.

With now a void to fill for eight hours a day, going back to work to earn money for college sounds prudent. The pandemic is also finally over.

6) You appreciate time more, not less.

You would think having more time would make you become less appreciative of time. After all, increased supply generally leads to a decline in prices. Instead, the opposite happens once you become financially independent and achieve fake retirement status.

Because you can do whatever you want, you're no longer forced to do things you absolutely don't want to do. Therefore, every minute that is wasted has a greater opportunity cost.

For example, while I was working, clients would sometimes show up 30 minutes late. To me, it was no big deal because I couldn't go anywhere else. My only choice was to continue waiting.

However, today, if a person shows up 30 minutes late, I am agitated because I could have spent that time playing with my daughter, writing on Financial Samurai, playing tennis, or napping.

You might be playing the world's smallest violin right now. But I assure you the value of your time goes up, once you have more freedom. When you're able to optimize your time by only doing what you want, spending your time sub-optimally starts to feel especially bad.

7) You realize how strange it is to take instruction from other adults all day.

The longer I'm away from work, the more peculiar I think it is that over a billion people voluntarily listen to other adults for 40+ hours a week. Then, once the work hours are done, we are all equal outside of work.

You can see your scary boss at the supermarket one Saturday and feel at ease saying “what's up.” He doesn't get dibs on the ripest mangoes in the aisle! Yet, come Monday, you will fly out to Denver to meet with a client last minute per his request, even if you have a sick child at home.

Obviously, the reason why many adults toe the line at work is due to the need for financial security. Hence, the questions I ask all of you are:

  • What would you do if you were already financially secure?
  • What are you burying inside to conform?
  • Which truths have you suppressed so you don't jeopardize your status?

One of the biggest benefits of FIRE is being able to be who you are without as much fear of persecution. You'll always fear a little bit of judgement. However, you will be able to live much closer to your true self once you don't have the need to do anything for money.

Living with less fear of society is one of the best benefits of fake retirement!

8) In fake retirement, you will lose and then regain your identity.

Given our work is a big part of who we are, once you leave your job, you will lose a part of your identity. The longer you work, the harder the transition to retirement or fake retirement will be. The negatives of early retirement can be debilitating during the initial transition.

If you are truly retired, you might start feeling useless to society. And if you start feeling useless, the chances of feeling sad or depressed go up. At the end of the day, we all want to feel like we're contributing something meaningful. This purpose keeps our happiness meter high.

Therefore, nobody really retires early and does nothing. Instead, early retirees eventually find something they would do for free because they enjoy it. In my case, that something is writing and connecting with people online.

Sooner or later, you will develop a new identity that will replace your old identity due to gaining a new purpose. And when you do, your highs will feel higher than while you were working because money has become less of a factor than what you do.

9) You start thinking more about what type of legacy you want to leave.

Along with wanting a sense of purpose during fake retirement, you will also want to accomplish something you are proud of. In other words, you will want to leave behind a legacy.

Buy This Not That Book Best Seller On Amazon

One of my main goals is to help people live better lives by achieving financial freedom sooner. Over the years, it's felt great to get positive feedback from readers. Sharing blindspots to help people make more optimal decisions on their journey is important to me. Losing money is really about losing time as time is the most valuable asset of them all.

My instant Wall Street Journal bestseller, Buy This, Not That: How To Spend Your Way To Wealth And Freedom, will help readers build more wealth and make more optimal life decisions. Now that the book is finally published, I can also die easier knowing I did everything possible to try and help others with their finances. Financial independence is worth fighting for!

When looking back on your life, you want to have some defining moments you'll always remember. Such wonderful moments might include graduating from high school or college, getting your first job, starting a company, winning an award, and having a baby. Further, the more difficult the environment, the more you want to create fond memories.

When I look back on the pandemic period, I will happily remember three things. 1) my wife birthing our daughter at the end of 2019, 2) keeping our kids safe and providing them with lots of love and attention, and 3) publishing a personal finance book that positively impacted everyone who read it.

10) Nobody really cares what you do, so make sure you live for yourself.

The only people who may criticize your fake retirement are members of the Internet Retirement Police. They'll try to arrest you for doing anything that generates income. Even if you say you are a fake retiree, they might still lob grenades, especially if you spend any time on social media.

But the reality is, so long as you aren't hurting anybody, everyday people don't care how you live your lifestyle. Most are too busy worrying about their own. The only people who get bent out of shape about how you describe your situation are those who want what you have.

To reduce criticism, accept your fake retirement in all its glory! Once you accept another's criticism, there's nothing left for them to criticize. But really, your main goal is to conserve as much life energy as possible to do more of what you want.

If you have the money to do as you please, please do so. Don't conform to someone else's expectations of you. Exercise your free-will to its fullest! At the end of the day, you are only letting yourself down if you don't pursue what you want.

11) Your courage will continue to increase.

The fear in your head is often worse than reality. In fact, fear is one of the key ingredients for achieving financial freedom. Without fear, you won't be motivated enough to plan for the various unknowns. Fear of failure also makes you try harder to reduce your chances of failure.

As your fear dissipates in fake retirement, your courage grows! With regards to early retirement, courage first starts with giving up a paycheck and realizing being jobless isn't so bad. You will most likely figure out a way to make things work by trying new things. Remember, your financial independence number is not real if you don't change a suboptimal situation.

Once you conquer many of your money worries, you'll find your courage will continue to grow in other aspects of your life.

I've grown a greater courage to be disliked by speaking my mind more often. I'd much rather be authentic and lose readers than act like a power-hungry politician to grow support. It feels amazing not to have to pretend to be someone you are not.

In competitive sports, I played 29 USTA tennis matches in 2022 after taking a two-year hiatus thanks to the virus. The fear and frustration of losing are still there. But apparently not enough to prevent me from competing so many times. Bring it on!

Gaining more courage to be yourself might be the most valuable personal development gift of this entire process.

Fake Retirement Is The Best Of Both Worlds

As a perennial optimist, I think fake retirement is wonderful.

On the one hand, you can assimilate with other retirees by taking things easy given you don't need to work for money. On the other hand, you can do work that's meaningful to you while also making supplemental income without criticism. In other words, you can have your mochi and eat it too!

Doing nothing all day is boring. Don't be tricked into thinking you'll want to live a leisurely life post-work. Sorry, but once you've seen five European Gothic churches, they all start looking the same! The same goes for exploring the great sweltering-hot countries in South East Asia.

Instead, the earlier you retire, the greater the chance you'll embrace the takeaways from this post. Time will go faster than you think. Please make the most of it!

If you want to plan your exit from work, you can benefit greatly by negotiating a separation package. There's no downside in trying if you plan to leave anyway. Check out my detailed guide How To Engineer Your Layoff for tips and strategies. It's helped thousands of people start exciting new chapters in their lives.

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The best way to build wealth and become a fake retiree is to sign up with Empower. Is is a free online tool which aggregates all your financial accounts on their Dashboard. This way, you can see where you can optimize. 

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Utilize Personal Capital's Retirement Planning Calculator. It uses real data to come up with various financial scenarios based on Monte Carlo simulations. You can input multiple expenses to come up with as realistic an assessment of your finances as possible.

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For more nuanced personal finance content, join 60,000+ others and sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter.

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54 thoughts on “10 Years Of Fake Retirement Later: The Most Important Takeaways”

  1. Great article!
    My husband and I call ourselves “selfishly employeed” since our break from corporate full time jobs. It may be the best way to describe the FIRE movement for us. We don’t have quite enough passive income to live off of so we work PRN. We have tons of freedom and can say yes or no whenever an office asks us to work. And it helps smooth over any dips and helps with savings. Having different income streams and living below our income is a good life.
    Good luck in your next endeavors!

  2. Thank you SAM, with your articles I ended up understanding and accepting our situation as real retirees, it’s hard to admit because me and my wife are only 40 years old. I didn’t understand why a lot of people here were looking for even more passive income, but I understand now, because simply our life situations and desires are different. As I sold all our financial, real estate and other assets in 2016 (which we no longer have bank credit to repay), and we have been pensioned for life for 2 years now with enough wealth to live and enjoy the life.

    We are definitely retired, even though I don’t own everything (no private jet for example), but I have other things like very rare, expensive, and very sought after collectibles, which are of interest to certain major museums for acquire them.

    You have Honolulu, and I also found my “Paradise Island” a little lower in the Pacific.

    In any case, thank you again for your site which is very well built and very interesting.

    See you very soon everyone, and still thank you.

    Sorry for my english ;)

  3. It really depends on your personality. For me, I have no desire to work more or make more money at all. We have one kid and we have enough to send him to college. That’s plenty, IMO. I’m just not very driven.

    The problem with FI is you can’t account for all the future problems that will come. Having more money will help so it isn’t good to retire with just the minimum.
    Anyway, congrats on 10 years and the new book!

    1. Paper Tiger

      Joe, I tend to agree with you. A lot of people got sold a bill of goods in the FIRE movement when they were convinced to work like crazy for 20 years, live like a college student, save and invest as much as they can, and then voila, retire and enjoy the rest of their life free to do whatever they wish.

      That all sounds good but only a very small percentage of people can actually make that work over a lifetime and a lot of luck and good fortune is involved even at that.

      To me, life is just too unpredictable to make FIRE work the way it was intended and we all know life is also a balancing act of priorities, wants, and needs. There will always be tradeoffs required to achieve an optimum life that is responsible, fun, and fulfilling.

      I retired at 57 which is earlier than the average but not really that early. We achieved FI and I feel good about what I have contributed so far in life and look forward to finding even more meaning and fulfillment with the time I have left. I spent a lot of years chasing success and now I want to focus my time on achieving significance.

      1. Not to minimize Joe’s accomplishments, but I ask you Paper Tiger. Would you not be able to retire earlier if your wife continue to work full-time and make six figures and provide healthcare insurance?

        Joe retired in 2012, but he makes money from his site and has a six-figure earning spouse. I would say that makes retiring easier. Embrace fake retirement!

        1. Paper Tiger

          Andy, I can’t really comment on Joe’s situation since I don’t know his circumstances, but I do understand the point you are making. It is much easier to “retire early” if you have a spouse or partner’s income and benefits to cover a portion of your living expenses.

          To me, if you can’t cover expenses from your investments and passive income, and you still rely on a source of active income, you can’t really claim true financial independence. That doesn’t mean you can’t have side gigs or work in retirement, it just means if you lean on those to cover expenses then “fake” retirement sounds more like it.

      2. Awesome note! Thank you for expressing what many of us feel in such concise and clear way. Best wishes on your life journey!

  4. Hello SAM, For me our frugalistic state of mind and purely of investor inevitably creates a form of estrangement, to see a sometimes very marked loneliness with our entourage and our friends (even if we all have a family). Because in reality very few people understand our state of mind (mindset), I know friends or even their own childrens reject them due that.

    Could you write about this subject in one of your next articles.

    Thanks again in advance,

    Sincerely yours,


  5. Love it – it’s always funny (in the British sense, i.e. interesting) to see other early retirees reach some of the same conclusions as what I’ve found.

    I’m about four years “retired” now – and I think the problem lies with that word itself. We tend to use it to mean do nothing – whereas even normal age retirement folk still ‘work’, it’s just on things they want to do, rather than with money as the driver.

    Loved your points on courage and authenticity – they both rand very true for me. Being able to be myself is perhaps the real freedom of financial independence – even more than time?

  6. Frederick Atwater

    Thank you for the article. Your writing over the years contributed significantly to my confidence in retiring at age 49. Fully, with a robust lifestyle without having to work for someone to do it.

    Leaving a paycheck is significant. It is risk, but can be mathematically addressed (mitigated by making passive sources of income that easily exceed monthly expenses)… that part was the easy part… engineering a portfolio that supports fun and travel beyond that takes some real thinking, planning, and discipline.

    Thank you again for sharing your journey. It helped my confidence to see that it could be done!!

    My only regret (if you can call it that) is that I didn’t think to do this sooner. I only set my mind to it when I was 35 (in 2005) and it took me 14 more years to get rid of all debts, purchase rental houses, pay them off (the 2008 housing recession HELPED!!) made and lost well in excess of a million dollars making it happen. Been REAL retired sonce 2019 and am only 52 now.. I get to be a stay at home dad by choice instead of necessity and I love it

  7. Sam,

    This post feels so much like my life for the last 8 years. Yes, being a stay at home parent is 1000 times harder than working 40 hours at an office.

    Here are some of my takeaways.

    1. You’ll definitely need more money than you think if you’re planning to FATFIRE.
    2. You’ll probably go through an identity crisis.
    3. Bragging about retiring early is ridiculous, especially when you tell it to some other dads you meet that happen to have 4x your wealth and don’t even think to say something like that.
    4. Finding a sense of purpose can feel like an existential crisis. Force yourself to take note of when you’re doing something that brings you joy and when you’re doing something that feels painful.

    Thanks again for posting this article Sam. Keep doing what you do.

    1. Hi Nick,

      Yes, on point #3, unless you are extremely insecure, then you won’t talk about your wealth or brag about being retired or financially independent. You just continue to live your life as you would. What’s the point of telling people unless you’re trying to get support or affirm your decisions.

      At the end of the day, to my point #1, only you know how much you’ll need to be FI. It’s a dynamic number that may constantly be changing.



  8. Yep…”Fake Retirement” translates to “opting out” When I was young…I “dropped out” and had adventures and worked as a musician…in the 70’s you could still do that…things were relatively cheap. I hadn’t finished college and it didn’t matter. However, after my son was born…the picture changed for me as I became a single Mom…being bright was always my ticket…went back to school and got my MA as a “poor student” cuz costs were still low…can you believe $93 a semester at my California State University? I picked a profession I enjoyed that eventually led to State licensing which allowed me to start my own business…I was never a good at being employee because middle management did not like my smarts even though top management did…sabotaged many times by that. I went totally independent in 1993 to my own biz…my husband was a university professor and held the financial fort down while I emerged my biz…my son was grown and on his own too. I “opted out” out of full time (10 years ago) and slowly shortened down my work week to two days a week and 12 hours a week. I was very frugal over the years and have handsome biz income and investments, a rental, a primary home mortgage at 2.7%, closed my final brick and mortar office in 2021. Now I am fully remote, my husband passed last year and left me with full medical and a small state pension along with my SS. My passive income is way more then my expenses. So why do I continue to work in “fake retirement” (my term “uopt out”) at age 71?…diversification in inflationary times is one reason, but the other is I love my work and the clients I work with. It gives the human connection so needed to offset the pandemic isolation and burdens of recovery. Even though the younger generations face very tough economic times and need your salient advice how to navigate the head winds, I believe the hard work and persistence pays off…I was a poor and working class woman and I know financial independence. It took me a long time but I had adventures with my husband along the way, not tourist vacations…but like time off to purchase a sailboat and go to the Straits of Juan De Fuca to Alaska.

    I believe in the younger generation leading way, while living life fully and making those right choice toward achieving financial independence and remaining joyfully human.

  9. One of your best yet, Sam.
    In terms of “Fake Retirement”, to me the term more closely resembles the phrase used by the federal reserve; “softly landing the plane”. I don’t think it’s healthy for someone in their 30’s to abruptly go from working full time to not working at all. It’s the equivalent of a plane being at 30,000 feet and in less than 30 minutes being on the ground. Not good. We all need to transition. We all need to “land the plane”. Slowly decreasing your workload, in my opinion, is actually a HEALTHY THING!
    As for me, I “fake retired” when I was 48. Then I started working on a wonderful job that allowed me to work very flexible hours and from home. In all honesty, I only work about 7 hours a week (although they pay me a full-time salary). Now! with that said, let me discuss the IRP and also the Non-Internet Retirement Police. The lifestyle that I just described is not something I would tell anyone publicly. Just like it’s a good idea to practice STEALTH WEALTH, it’s also very important to practice STEALTH FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE. If I told people how I actually lived, the people around me wouldn’t treat me too well.
    Think about rich celebrities that appear to still be working. Take Samuel L. Jackson. On the surface, it looks like he’s working his butt off. But in reality? How long does it actually take to do a “Capital One” commercial?
    In the society we live in, it’s much better to appear like you’re still slaving away than to tell everyone how well you actually have it.
    “Fake Retirement” is the way to go!

    1. And that’s why I love your Blog! This is a way that similar financially successful people can discuss their finances and compare notes without revealing their identities.

  10. jim johnson

    Thanks Sam
    One of my favorite blogs yet. You are so mindful of work /time trade off. I am thankful you have such logical thoughts regarding it. Time gets much more valuable as you near the 15th hole of your life!!

  11. Hello, I recently discovered your site and your articles, I am also a “fake retiree”, I retired at 38 with my wife, personally I had no lag with the work, because I have always worked at home (independently), I have made the necessary investments for 10 years to take our financial independence and our retirement.

    Of course, it’s unthinkable for me to stay around in circles or on the couch all day, I always have this need to negotiate and make small investments for fun (for example: I collect retro-gaming etc.), I also have the pleasure of regularly checking my investments to see the rise in the market for my artworks among other things, it occupies me (my mind), I also play sports. I enjoyed traveling around the world, cruises and others, but I’m a little bored now (maybe also because of the various covid restrictions)

    On the other hand, coming from a very poor social background with over-indebted parents almost all their lives (problem with judicial officer etc.), relations with the entourage and my friends are sometimes complicated, at 80% there is jealousy or criticism of us (so we don’t say anything), but as I have almost never worked in a company as an employee in my life, they ask a lot of questions and jealousy remains very present

    Otherwise for me, there is an essential aspect that you did not mention in your article concerning financial independence, this independence also allows us not to have to do what we do not want, for example: concerning the covid-19, 90% of my friends for keep their jobs had no choice but to get vaccinated directly, and to follow all the strict protocol at home put in place by the government. Likewise, they must follow the ambient politics and its economic system to the letter, they have no independence overall. My wife and I have the choice to do what we want (this is also that freedom), like some UHNWI (Elon Musk, Bezos,…)

    I myself was previously an elected official (young politician), I know this system of thought and its defaults, I had the opportunity to do interviews at national and international levels to denounce the growing poverty in my country, unfortunately it hasn’t changed anything today, it’s even worse than before.

    Well, I think I forgot almost nothing.
    Sorry for my english.
    Thanks. Your site is very good!
    Looking forward to reading you !

    1. Thanks for your feedback.

      “ Otherwise for me, there is an essential aspect that you did not mention in your article concerning financial independence, this independence also allows us not to have to do what we do not want, for example: concerning the covid-19, 90% of my friends for keep their jobs had no choice but to get vaccinated directly, and to follow all the strict protocol at home put in place by the government.”

      I will work harder to convey this point about doing what you want in whatever situation. I thought I articulated this well, so this is good feedback.

      Do you have children? If not, you will find they can literally soak up 100% of your time if you would like.

      1. Thank you for your reply.

        Your articles are very good written, I’m conscience that it requires a lot of work and time from you, I’ve myself sometimes done some writing such as a book (literary), screenplays and film synopses, I’ve also created several Wikipedia articles for of artists…

        Sure, the childrens require a lot of work. My wife can’t have children and for the moment we aren’t considering adopting.

        Yesterday, I forgot to mention that I’m French, so the situation for retirement and health is different from United States, because in France, we pay almost 48% of taxation, the French system guarantees a certain social protection (even if it isn’t perfect).

        Looking forward to reading you.

        Best regards.


          1. Thank you SAM, you are a good somebody, and a very interesting personn, I’m really happy to read and be able to converse with you.

            We are from 2 different countries, but we have similar points of view on the investings and life in general.

            At pleasure of you read.

            At very soon ;)


  12. Great article and a good primer. I’m well into my 50’s and planning for a more ‘traditional’ exit from the workforce in about 6 years. However, I had the opportunity this year to step away from a horrible job and take about 3 months off and really just decompress. It definitely opened my eyes wider to the treadmill that so many people grind out most of their lives and how detrimental to our mental health that grind can be. My wife and I were fortunate with a severance and other savings that I could have taken a year or more off, but 3 months was sufficient to motivate us to double-down on our efforts to plan our exit and set some goals for what we want to experience. I have been very fortunate in my career to do many things that I’ve immensely enjoyed, so I don’t regret that, but I do regret not focusing on retirement savings earlier in life. I’ve enjoyed your articles and insight.

  13. Canadian Reader

    Good post.
    I’ve been struggling with number 5- the desire to return to work. I’ve been testing the waters over the last month, and it’s really hard for me to deal with the power imbalance between employee and both regulator and employer. I guess if a person is desperate they have to deal with this, but it’s hard to reconcile these feelings when you’re motivated for reasons beyond money.
    I thought it would be pretty easy to return, but after being out for about 2.5 years, this is not the case. An interviewer recently said that my time away from active practice could not be ignored, and he would not proceed with my application because of it. It is straight up discrimination because I took the time off to have 2 babies. Anyway, I’m proceeding forward, recognizing that if it isn’t meant to be, then so be it.
    In the meantime, I’ve taken up volunteer vice-chair person role at a charity run organization for kids. I like the work and I’m meeting lots of connections with this job.

    1. Sorry to hear. But at least you’re trying and won’t regret not trying.

      And if you don’t like the job, you can always quit and find a new one if that’s what you want to do.

      But the charity for kids role sounds great!

  14. I’m not sure why the need to call it “fake retirement”. Seems you just shifted to working part-time at home for no money and part-time for money doing what you enjoy. Fake has an unnecessary negative connotation.

    You retired from the corporate rat race, not retired from working.

    I like how you put it, you never have gone to full-time “consumer.”

    1. It’s the evolution of retirement and me trying to capture how I felt and perhaps how many others will feel once they retire before a traditional age. They’ll feel a little giddy, nervous, and excited about retiring early to do whatever. And at some point, they will start doing those things they love, wondering whether they are really retire as well.

      I want to capture the emotions and feelings of the retirement and financial independence journey. And I’d love to hear your feedback on the feelings you experience once you pull the chord.

      Check out the comments from other fake retirees so far. All viewpoints welcome!

  15. Amazing post! I went into it commiserating about the fake retirement, as I too am a fake retiree. In some ways it feels disingenuous to even call myself “retired” – but the fact is that I don’t need to work for the money in the same way that others do.

    I liked your definition of FI – “If you are able to do what you want without fretting about money, then you are financially independent.” – this I guess supports calling myself “retired” even though i now run two websites and work several hours per day.

    But you hit the nail on the head in all of your other points as well. I have found the same thing with routine. No matter what you do, you inevitably shed your old routine and shift to your new one. In fact, I am even more inflexible with my time. Someone can ask me for coffee last minute, and 99% of the time I will not go, because I have already prioritized my time.

    Anyways, great post, this one really resonated. Keep on keeping all fake retirees out there!

  16. Great post overall! You really hit home how important the role of money is so deeply connected to purpose in life – where you are at the moment, where you desire to be.

    Congrats on the $340K passive income stream! It’s fantastic.. though you/your family have chosen to live in a high cost location which reduces how far you can stretch it.. so while you might be “middle class” where you are/want to be, you could truly be “rich” in a variety of places :)

    I’ve seen versions of this passive income table in some of your previous posts, and one thing I’ve always puzzled about is that it might be a bit misleading in isolation simply because it biases towards cash generating, “low risk” line items while a more balanced portfolio (especially has one’s net worth increases) would be expected to have higher risk items. For example:
    1) The stock portfolio line item would be expected to have some growth stocks, not just dividend stocks
    2) The line items for your real estate investments only capture the cash (rental) income. There could be different levels of growth (increased valuation), so the highest cash income home may not be the one with the most $ value gained
    3) Similarly, the real estate crowdfunding line would possibly have some growth / value returns very year, not just cash income
    4) And finally, there could be a whole bunch of high value investments that don’t generate any cash returns (like private equity, venture cap etc.) but might belong in a balanced portfolio

    Food for thought in a future post: would you consider giving your readers any guidance on how to think about their *overall* investment mix (growth + passive income)? Perhaps link it to how your thinking has evolved over time depending on the situation (as your overall net worth which might have increased your risk appetite, as you have had dependents, which might have reduced your risk appetite, as you get closer to retirement, as you navigate this current high inflation/recessionary risk era, etc.)?

        1. Hmm, maybe she is a blogger who got an advanced copy! I’m looking forward to reading more reviews about the book and getting more support in July. I’ve been doing podcast interviews a couple times a week so far and it’s been fun. Not too crazy.

    1. Sure! Will do.

      I have consistedly tried to be conservative and my passive income and investment forecasts.

      It’s better to get surprised on the upside rather than get surprised on the downside. For example, look how quickly public equity evaluations are getting crushed this year.

      It’s worth investing more aggressively and in growth stocks in your 20s and 30s and then slowly move more towards dividends stocks. I actually have a post on this here.

      As a retiree, you wanna focus on cash flow first and then your capital second. Both are intertwined, but I care about cash flow the most this point.

  17. I think of your situation as downshifting from an unfulfilling grind to a part-time writer after successfully saving and investing enough of your prior high income. Your found your definition of ‘enough’ to live the life you wanted at a young age. It is the dream scenario in my view – congratulations!

    1. I hope you find your dream scenario too!

      The thing is, there is always a desire for things to be a little bit better than it was. So sadly, if you’re in a perceived dream scenario, you won’t always appreciate it.

      But now that the bear market is here again, I feel a greater ability to relax and let go given the return on effort is much lower now.

      I felt the same way in 2010-2012, which is why I left.

      Being able to let go is such a relief. And I am thankful a bear market is enabling me to do so again.

  18. I want this! Even if it is “fake” the process is real. I will read and re read this. How do you suggest I teach my adult offspring about this.

    1. It takes a while to get into this financial independence mindset. But if you encourage your adult offspring to keep reading and staying connected to other people who are also on the journey, it gets much easier because it opens their mind to new possibilities and new ideas.

      You can have them sign up for my free newsletter and of course, buy a copy of my upcoming book, Buy This, Not That. It is the most comprehensive an action oriented personal finance book I have ever read. Because part of my job before writing it was to read everything else out there.

      You really got to want to achieve financial freedom to get financial freedom. It’s easy to just kick back and try to wing it here in America or another developed country that has a much better quality of life.

  19. Many words of wisdom in this post Sam. I give you major props for having the guts to take that leap of faith and then have the endurance to keep your blog going for over 10 years. And then to write two books and raise two young kids to boot. Phew! That is an incredible list of accomplishments!!

    Hopefully your work life balance will improve after your book launch and as your kids get into upper elementary school.

  20. I’m not quite fake retired yet, but I recently started moving in that direction by starting to work part time (and still remote).

    It’s pretty great! I have enough free time to not have an excuse to avoid things I should be doing, but I still have bit of structure and plenty of income to enjoy. In hindsight, I wished I made the change sooner, but it was a lot easier to take the leap with ~30 years of expenses saved up.

    1. Congratulations! Working part time and remotely is a great combination. Will probably delay your true retirement for a while because that’s an ideal scenario in my opinion. If I could work remotely for 15 to 20 hours a week, I could do that for decades.

  21. Almost everything a human can desire isn’t good for them if they get too much of it.

    Too much leisure isn’t good for most people, maybe all people. Ever notice how most rich people still work? They just tend to work at what they want to do, where they want to, and as little or as much as they want to. 

  22. “The only people who get bent out of shape about how you describe your situation are those who want what you have. ”

    I think this is a specific example of: “Those who obsess over other people’s lives don’t have a life of their own.” Celebrities live off such people, sadly.

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