Ever since achieving financial independence in 2012 – where my investment income covers my desired living expenses – I’ve run into the Internet Retirement Police at least once a month.
The Internet Retirement Police are those people online who have nothing better to do but to criticize your way of life after you achieve FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early).
Despite having enough passive income to never have to work again, as soon as you do something other than sit at home and watch TV all day, the IRP will come after you with a vengeance.
From 2012 – 2017, the Internet Retirement Police (IRP) said I wasn’t retired because I spent time writing on Financial Samurai each week. I made a promise in 2009 when I started Financial Samurai to write regularly for 10 years. Writing is something I love to do.
Since this site has grown into one of the top personal finance sites today, my FIRE status is not real according to the IRP. But if Financial Samurai remained as a small unknown site, then for some reason, I could retain my FIRE status. What strange logic the IRP have.
Then in 2017, I decided to coach high school tennis for four months a year. The Internet Retirement Police lashed out again and said that I wasn’t able to say I’m a tennis coach because I have a profitable website and worked in finance for 13 years. Absurd!
The Internet Retirement Police Can’t Help Themselves
Check out one of my Tweets that enraged the Internet Retirement Police. Most normal people would either see my tweet as a positive or at the very least, neutral and think nothing of it.
The last thing a normal person would do is try and bully and shame someone for trying to help teachers.
I empathize with the financial struggle of fellow teachers in expensive cities and wanted to help shed light on the situation using my platform. After all, Financial Samurai gets about 1.5 million organic pageviews a month and I want to do my best to help as many people as possible achieve financial freedom.
The Internet Retirement Police became incredibly angry that I wasn’t more open about my financial situation in the tweet, despite highlighting very clearly my financial situation in my About page, my Twitter bio, and also publishing yearly passive income updates since 2012.
I also published the extremely detailed post about my path to a one million dollar net worth. It’s one of my most popular posts and has been around for years.
They told me I wasn’t allowed to identify myself as a tennis coach even though that’s exactly what I identify as for the four-month long season. I define who I am and nobody else.
Instead of letting the Internet Retirement Police get me with their extremely vitriolic feedback for wanting to share new perspectives, I decided to make lemonade and write a new post called, Taking Care Of A Family On A Tennis Coaching Salary In Expensive San Francisco to highlight the importance of building investment income and alternative active income streams.
Then to my delight, Business Insider decided to syndicate my post and change the title to, I’m a high school tennis coach making $1,100 a month and my wife is a stay-at-home parent. This is how I support a family of three in pricey San Francisco, to make the Internet Retirement Police blow a fuse!
It was hilarious! For reference BI is a large website that drove tens of thousands of new visitors to Financial Samurai.
Check out some of the responses below.
Here are more examples of the Internet Retirement Police trying tell me what to say and how to say things on Twitter after my initial tweet looking for teachers to interview.
Again, this all stems from that last sentence in one tweet. I don’t follow these people and I have never heard of most of them. Yet, it seems like they somehow follow everything I do even though they don’t follow me on Twitter. Perhaps they are obsessed and have stalker tendencies, I donno.
It is truly incredible how much time people have on their hands to judge others.
Who Are The Internet Retirement Police?
After 10 years of running into the Internet Retirement Police, I’ve noticed some common factors many of the Internet Retirement Police share.
1) The Internet Retirement Police are mainly made up of people who want to achieve financial independence and retire early but are struggling to do so themselves. If you can’t improve yourself, then it is human nature to try and bring others down.
2) The Internet Retirement Police are mainly made up of bloggers, podcasters, or vlogggers who are trying to make money online but are struggling to make enough to leave their jobs. They have a relatively small following and small amounts of traffic.
3) The Internet Retirement Police are mostly white people followed by Asian people. A minority who has achieved financial independence seems especially infuriating to the Internet Retirement Police. I’m not sure what’s going on there, but immigrants and minorities often have to work much harder to get ahead due to language barriers, discrimination, and cultural difference that take time getting used to.
4) The Internet Retirement Police tend to skew mostly women, perhaps because more women are content creators than men. There seems to be a greater tendency for women to band together and create a mob to bully other people online. Perhaps there’s a reason why there’s a movie called Mean Girls. When I asked Twitter who do you think is meaner, 90% said girls/women. When I ask fellow parents who have daughters and sons, all of them say their daughters are meaner and hold long-term grudges.
5) The Internet Retirement Police are often hypocrites. They like criticizing people for not being truly retired, but they would gladly live the retirement life they are criticizing. Many IRP members are furiously trying to make money from their blog, or a book, or a course, or through freelancing, which is absolutely fine. Yet the IRP look down on those who do.
The most funny example of being a hypocrite is when they encourage bloggers to write a “transparency post.” Yet, when you click on their transparency post, they don’t reveal any details and say why they don’t want to share their numbers!
Here’s another example of the Internet Retirement Police in action on Twitter. She isn’t willing to reveal her income or net worth despite encouraging others to do so.
Unhappy People Are The Internet Retirement Police
With so much joy and love in the world, only unhappy people spend the time to police other people on whether they are retired or not. Only people who are dissatisfied with their lives would spend energy telling other people how they should define themselves.
“Hurt people, hurt people,” as Dr. Sandra Wilson wrote. ““Each one of us has been hurt to one degree or another. As that damage causes us to become defensive and self-protective, we may lash out at others. Hurting becomes a vicious cycle.”
It is almost always the case that the IRP have something bad that’s going on with them. As a result, they project their anger by lashing out at others who are minding their business and trying to live their best lives.
See below the admission by the woman above who was was trying to tell me how I should tweet and what I should say online. It is good she became more open and aware of her issues after trying to govern what I do.
I spoke to one reformed Internet Retirement Police member, who is white, and he told me he was very angry at life. He bought property right before the bubble burst and lost all his equity. He admitted at age 36, he looks more like he’s 46 because he’s morbidly obese and often depressed.
He wants nothing more than to find a girlfriend, but he can’t. It was only after he got in better shape and improved his finances did he stop trying to police other people’s lives.
There’s another woman named Angela who is in her early 30s and is also white. She is dissatisfied that most of the coverage about the FIRE movement is by “tech-bros” and other high income earning men. She suffers from tremendous anxiety and many different things set her off.
She wants to grow her retirement blog, but always comes up with excuses as to why she can’t because she’s afraid of failure. Therefore, she attacks people online who are more successful. She desperately wants to retire early to spend time with her young son but can’t for another 10 years.
Despite the hate towards me, I’m thankful to Angela because she reads Financial Samurai regularly, scans all my posts and pages, says negative things about me on social media, and helps bring in continuous traffic that sticks around and generates more revenue so I can stay retired.
Show Compassion For The Internet Retirement Police
Besides being subjected to bullying by the Internet Retirement Police, I’ve also gotten plenty of nasty comments on Financial Samurai and over my social media channels since 2009. It’s sad to see so much hate, jealousy, and resentment online.
However, I do my best to stay positive because you just never know what type of pain the reader or the IRP are going through. Yes, sometimes I have a little fun with them with some back and forth banter.
I also am adept at physical self defense from training over the past 35 years and could easily debilitate them in a fight if we met face-to-face. Further, as someone who is financially independent with no job to rely on, I do not fear getting reprimanded at work or losing a job.
But I seldom try to attack or put them down because we all have our issues. I mostly either ignore or just try to understand where they are coming from so I have new material for another article, like this one. A good rule of thumb for anybody who faces online bullying or people like the IRP: ignore or try to understand their pain.
If you can make lemonade out of the situation like I did with a new post that got picked up by Business Insider that helped generate all-time high traffic on Financial Samurai that month, then all the better. Perhaps this post will one day do great as well.
However, in some circumstances, you have no choice but to fight back. If someone is consistently trolling you and saying really nasty things about you and your family, then absolutely stand up and defend yourself.
It’s the same thing as standing up for your loved ones. Chronic bullies need to be put in their place. Personally, I will never let someone get away with saying something racist to me or to my family. They will be warned once, and if they continue then the Kraken gets unleashed.
Only an idiot who still needs a job to survive, would keep messing with someone with a large platform after being warned.
You can choose to be positive and try to lift people up. Or you can choose to be negative and try and bring people down so you can feel better about yourself.
To the Internet Retirement Police and those who have IRP tendencies, choosing to lift other people up will make you happier in the long run.