Retirement Defined

“A job is expending labor towards a meaningless goal, on someone else schedule, for money that you need.  Retirement is eliminating any two of these.”

A colleague at work while taking the normal 15 min walk in the Chicago Loop to avoid spending hours upon hours staring at two computer screens mentioned this exact quote.  I really liked it and ask him to write it down; told him to watch out their just might be a blog post about it.  Let’s break it down and see if it really defines retirement.

A job is expending labor towards a meaningless goal

You can have many reactions to this statement, but if you think of it on a personal level you are in fact expending labor towards a meaningless goal.  Here are a couple examples:

  • Working for the Man (W-2/Contractor) type of job.  Analyst putting numbers into a spreadsheet, Programmer creating code, Teacher creating lesson plans are all examples.  On a personal level your work is meaningless, you are not entering numbers into a spreadsheet to create retirement or entering code that will write a program that puts you in the Canary Islands or creating a lesson plan that maps out your future retirement.  In this definition your work is meaningless.*
  • Working for Yourself (1099/LLC) type of business.  If you were building a house as a self-employed contractor would this meaningless?  If you were selling shoes from your own shoe store is your job expending labor towards a meaningless goal?  The key to these answers are in the question: Do you need the money?  Which is mentioned in this quote later in the post.    Because if your life passion is build houses on a personal level this is not a meaningless goal, this is exactly the goal you are trying to achieve.

On someone else schedule

When I wake Monday morning I am expected to be at the office at 7:45 am promptly. While some may say this is my schedule, the reality is this is someone else schedule. As an employee you fit a need in the system, you being there fits the matrix the company has established to better improve the company bottom line. You are on someone else schedule, freedom is limited if not non-existent. As a W-2 employee you might be able to make your own schedule for small time period with paid time off, vacation days, etc. but you are asking for these days off from someone else.

Working for yourself in this situation has more freedom as you are creating your own schedule. If you are looking to work 16 hours day and take the rest of the week off, you certainly have more control of your situation. But do you? If you don’t show up the rest of the week, do customers get angry, do you get paid and make money, does your business still run without you or have you put a closed sign up on your door?

Freedom from the cubicle, the deadline, the 9-5, the customers, and most importantly do you have freedom from being on some else schedule?

For money that you need

Many if not 99% of us go to our jobs because we need money, literally. I need the money my paycheck provides. I buy food, shelter, and clothing with this money. If I stopped showing up at 7:45 am each morning and instead chose to read books all day, I would not be able to afford food, shelter, and clothing, I need the money my job provides.

We are not living paycheck to paycheck and to be quite clear this is not what a need of money is defined as. Money could come from all different aspects of your job. Some people need the cash to pay for necessities, others health insurance, but a need is in effect. Have you ever considered if you need the money your job provides?

Retirement is eliminating any two of these

“A job is expending labor towards a meaningless goal, on someone else schedule, for money that you need.  Retirement is eliminating any two of these.”

I’m going to use myself as an example to detail the process. At my current position my labor is towards a meaningless goal. One way to figure this out is to eliminate your position and see if the company would still move on without you. My team might struggle with items that I take care of day to day, but our company would be just fine.

I certainly am on someone else schedule. If I were to be extremely late or miss a day of work without explanation this would not go unnoticed. My guess is I would talk with a manager, possibly be written up. My schedule is not my own.

I need the money my paycheck provides. While my goal is to get to the point that I no longer need or care about my pay, I am not there yet. I use my paycheck to pay off my student loans, buy groceries, pay my monthly cell phone plan with Republic Wireless, and from time to time even go out and eat. If I stopped going to work all of this would stop as well.

As you can see I cannot eliminate any of these, let alone two of them. To be certain this statement of retirement is defined correctly let’s use an example of future Even Steven, let’s call him, Early Retirement Even Steven. He is 38 years old, his income comes primarily from real estate and equities, and he does not have what others deem as a job, but rather works on small projects from time to time that interest him. Many of the projects he works on he has great interest in, anything from helping volunteer, focusing on his fitness levels, and working on his blog to name a few. Some of these he gets paid for while others he does only to enjoy his time.

Early Retirement Even Steven does not necessarily have a job, but rather an income. He focuses his time on helping himself and helping others. He does not have a schedule to commit to, but rather looks for time to occupy his day. You will not find Even Steven at the unemployment office as he does not need money any income he needs comes from real estate and equities that he has built up in achieving financial independence.

Based on the examples of Even Steven and Early Retirement Even Steven, I would say our retirement definition passes the test.

*You could say that entering numbers, creating code or a lesson plan bring you happiness, joy, and satisfaction but it would be difficult to say that this carries you into retirement.

From the definition of retirement provided how do you stack up today and in the future?



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19 Responses to “Retirement Defined

  • Today I’m in the same boat as you, I can’t eliminating any of them. I am working on plans so that future me could and will. 🙂 Does your colleague have a plan?
    Brian @ Debt Discipline recently posted…Helping OthersMy Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      3 years ago

      Great question, I have slowly turned him to considering early retirement idea, however he has many excuses that you would normally hear about early retirement like I don’t make enough money, I have kids, I can’t save enough, etc but I think in some aspects we were all like that in the beginning. He’s made some significant choices to get there, so there is a chance.

  • I think the meaningless goal portion is eliminated for me, but DEFINITELY not the other two! I really like the company I work for and truly believe we are making positive change in the world. I definitely would prefer to have the option of not needing to work my job (i.e. only work because I want to) and to be able to make my own schedule. I know there are quite a few people I work with who technically could retire tomorrow because they have earned and saved and invested enough to do so, but they choose to continue working because they want to. It’s a place I want to be as soon as possible.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…How the Vision for My Dream House Changed and WhyMy Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      3 years ago

      That’s really interesting that you have a few people who could retire tomorrow, I mean that’s great motivation as well. Sounds like a positive place to work.

  • I think that is a really interesting quotation. And it actually creates a conundrum for me. I really want to reach FI, but I really like my job. I have a lot of freedom to do what I want. I control the classroom, I am intellectually stimulated, etc. When do I, if ever, pull the plug? That is a question I don’t have to worry about now, but I hope to actually want to wrestle with that question, but my big fear is I will consistently have the One More Year Syndrome. I have a colleague who is 75 and hasn’t retired yet. All they have is their job (even though she travels extensively). I don’t want to be that, but I don’t know if leaving at 50 is also in my future. I admire those who have a much clearer vision than I. So you must continue to provide inspiration to help the rest of us out.
    Jason recently posted…How to Strike A Balance Between Wants and Needs to Achieve Financial DreamsMy Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      3 years ago

      I’ve already had the “One More Year Talk” in my head internally multiple times, probably means I’m crazy, but I mean take whatever you love and enjoy and you can do it for life I mean that’s a dream scenario right, if you have found that you are ahead of 99% of people out there. I do think you would be eliminating 2 out of the 3 if you are teaching(argued both ways of course).

  • I think the quote is spot on. And like you, I can’t eliminate any of them. I know my job is meaningless – yes, it serves a purpose to my company and clients. But that’s different than having meaning. I could easily be replaced by someone else. And I certainly don’t live for it. I do have some flexibility in schedule since I work from home. Then again, my colleagues have expectations that I can be reached during the ‘normal’ business day. Another no. And I do need the money. Fortunately a lot of that need is put towards investments so that I can get to that early retirement goal.

    And for early retirement, Mr. Maroon and I will work on projects that we want. They will have meaning to us. First item eliminated. We will certainly do it on our own time. Our schedule will only be limited to school or other activities for the Minis. Second item eliminated. And we will no longer exchange my time for money that we need. We may earn money, but we won’t need to. Our carefully planned investments will provide the living expenses. Third item eliminated. Can I start tomorrow??
    Mrs. Maroon recently posted…Don’t Treat Diet Like a Four-Letter Word – Same Goes for BudgetMy Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      3 years ago

      Those who invest with a purpose whether it’s long term retirement or early retirement have found one of the true purposes of work, I love that early retirement reinforces the reason we go to work everyday, investing to reach that ER goal.

      The kids are controlling you, jk of course! You can start tomorrow just need a few more dollars right;)

  • Retirement means different things to different people. Some people work well into their 80’s yet consider themselves partially retired if they take more than 2 weeks vacation per year. I think it all depends on your lifestyle and expectations, and obviously spending habits. Personally I don’t want to work past 55 and will happily retire then assuming I’m able to
    Dan @ Our Big Fat Wallet recently posted…3 Qualities of Successful Rental ListingsMy Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      3 years ago

      Retirement does mean different things, I just liked this quote so much I thought it deserved some attention. My personal retirement is about being able to make choices which in the end fits this definition perfectly.

  • I like it. I think retirement is simply the freedom of being able to choose what you do, whether for money or not.
    Kalen Bruce @ MoneyMiniBlog recently posted…5 Pitfalls of Procrastinating to File Your Taxes (And How to Avoid Them)My Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      3 years ago

      Exactly Kalen I like the freedom of choice for retirement, that’s all I ask:)

  • That’s a nice definition, and I’m definitely very far from retirement in this case. Although despite my work not being particularly meaningful, I try and create some meaning wherever I can, and also try to create some flexibility with my own schedule, which is actually one of the best things I enjoy about my current work. Having built up some goodwill with my employer after 10 years helps with this, so you could say it’s the result of ‘investing’ in my job…

    • EvenStevenMoney
      3 years ago

      Having flexibility certainly can be a positive in your current work situation, I guess it depends on how long you plan to be there for the investment to bear fruit.

  • I’ve said for awhile now that it seems as though a lot of people who retire early tend to work an awful lot. Usually on passion projects, but it’s still work.

    As for me, I’ve got a somewhat unusual perspective. I have health problems and was on disability for a few years. I magically found a job that lets me work from home and allows me to support my family. (My husband is now on disability.)

    The job itself isn’t fun. I answer customer emails, and people can suck. But my boss is amazing. For that reason, I don’t see myself retiring voluntarily. Maybe I would go down to part-time, maybe.

    But once you’ve had to depend on a small government check to survive, it’s hard to picture giving up a paycheck. The latter brings a sense of empowerment and pride that you just don’t notice until it’s gone.
    Abigail @ipickuppennies recently posted…7 personal finance lessons from Mr. SpockMy Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      3 years ago

      I think what most early retirees dream about is building up their financial nest egg to have options. Whether it’s part-time, a passion project, or sailing the seven seas, that’s what many of work towards, having a choice.

  • Great quote. Definitely provides food for thought.
    SavvyJames recently posted…Personal Finance Concepts Wrapped in ThrillersMy Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      3 years ago

      I enjoyed it as well, allows you to think about things differently.

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