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 investment 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 and I achieved this goal in 2019.
Then in 2017, I decided to coach high school tennis for three to four months a year, depending on how far we got in the playoffs. We ended up winning back-to-back Northern California Coast championships, which was a first in the schools 75-year history! The Internet Retirement Police lashed out again and said that I wasn’t able to say I’m a tennis coach because I own Financial Samurai and worked in finance for 13 years before I left for good at age 34. What a bizarre attitude from the IRP.
Since this site has grown into one of the top personal finance sites today with roughly 1.5 million organic pageviews a month, now the Internet Retirement Police say my FIRE status is really not real. 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.
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. As a parent and as a coach, I really admire teachers who spend a lot of their time trying to educate our youth for not much money.
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 three-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 surprise, 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! To be clear, I didn’t choose the title. They just republished my article.
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 over 11 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 based on this definition: have enough capital that generates enough income to cover your desired living expenses. If you can’t get ahead on your own, then it’s human nature to try and bring others down.
2) The Internet Retirement Police contain many bloggers, podcasters, and vlogggers who are trying to make money online but are struggling to make enough to leave their jobs or live a comfortable life on their online activity.
Below is another example of the Internet Retirement Police at work after I published a guest article on CNBC on 4/30/2020 discussing how my family was negatively affected by the coronavirus.
Vanessa is one of my favorite stalkers. She follows everything I do, even the comments I write in my own blog posts. Why has time for that?
And for the record, I’ve never said FS makes no money. Online income just doesn’t count towards my passive retirement income since it is active income. These words don’t write itself. Further, I clearly highlight in my passive retirement income streams that I make ~$50K a year from my severance negotiation book, which is sold on Financial Samurai.
3) The Internet Retirement Police mostly reflect the demographic of the U.S. population which is mostly white. I’ve also noticed I attracted some Asian Internet Retirement Police as well, perhaps because I am Asian. I’m not sure what’s going on here, but immigrants and minorities often have to work harder to get ahead due to language barriers, discrimination, and cultural difference that take time getting used to. I’m very used to getting hated on by the majority since I was a kid.
4) The Internet Retirement Police skew more towards women (~70%), perhaps because more women are content creators and more women spend 30% more time (2 hours) on the Internet than men according to Comescore. When I asked Twitter who do you think is meaner boys or girls, 90% said girls/women. When I ask fellow parents who have daughters and sons, all of them say their daughters are meaner, hold long-term grudges, and have a proclivity to form cliques. Now that I have a daughter, I pray to goodness I can help boost her self-esteem and be kind to others.
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 a podcast, or a Youtube station, or through freelancing, which is absolutely fine. I never fault at anybody for doing whatever they want. Yet the IRP look down on those who do so more successfully than they 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!
When you ask them directly about their income, net worth, and passive income figures, they refuse to say anything because they “don’t want to let their privilege” discourage other readers. Their logic and lack of transparency is comical.
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 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 so he constantly lashed out at people online. 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 white woman who is in her early 30s and also part of the Internet Retirement Police. She is dissatisfied when “tech-bros” get coverage about the FIRE movement. She said she suffers from tremendous anxiety and admits many things upset her. She’s trying hard to quit social media and focus on her job in order to one day retire early, but said it’s hard to stay away.
Dealing With 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.
I mostly either ignore or just try to understand where individual IRP members are coming from so I have new material for another article, like this one. I’ll have internet friends send me some of the latest nasty tweets or Reddit comments for amusement.
A good rule of thumb for anybody who faces online bullying or people like the IRP is this: ignore or try to understand their pain.
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.
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. And the more you can work at improving your own situation, the less you will find a need to tear other people down.