Every time you intend to do something out of the ordinary, your first instinct is usually to stop and think “what will people say or think about what I am about to do”. This stigma limits us from doing anything that does not fit in the societal norms. While nobody made any rules about how things should be, as a group we are all guilty of following some unwritten rules. The good thing about these unwritten rules it that we are able to move together in one general direction and solve problems that no one person alone can solve, a bit like autonomous multi-agent systems. The problem occurs when you diverge too far from the crowd. You will be all alone. But in a social setting, that is not all you have to worry about. There is also the issue of people saying things about you behind your back and sometimes even straight to your face. But the advantage of straying away from the crowd is to build something entirely new, great and immensely useful. That is how evolution made us so superior to the rest of the living things.
One of the attributes that would be good to acquire, especially if you want to retire early, is to come out of this feeling of “what will people think”. You want to achieve something? Most of the time you are alone in your quest. Others only join to celebrate, be jealous or mock you (if you fail). So why would the thinking of others really matter? When I eventually quit work for good, people wondered if I was out of my mind. Best thing is to ignore the noise, just the way you should ignore the market noise when you are investing. The noise is what is holding you back. If you have a clear understanding of what you are doing and have a good reason to do it, you will do fine.
A friend of mine asked how I handled the questions and pressure (if any) from my friends and family about my early retirement. Well, I ignored the noise :). A very few friends of mine questioned my decision to retire early. Most were either happy, congratulatory, supportive or indifferent to my decision. And the main concern for those friends (who worried about my decision) was that I may be a bother at home and my family may be fed up with me. Not so much about finances or that I will be bored or lazy. Well I did not have an answer for them, barring the fact that I did not even want to respond to such questions.
Coming to family, my parents and wife were not very concerned, may be because I sowed the seed of doing a start-up early in my career and then that slowly changed to retirement towards the end. More importantly, from the beginning and at every stage of my planning for early retirement, I shared all my numbers and my logic about how my corpus could fund my retirement. Explained the 4% rule, Sensex history and finally what I intend to do after retirement (all my projects etc). And if push came to shove, I would go back to work and I was extremely confident of finding a job. That gave them hope that the future may not be as bleak after all. My family always felt that I spent too little time with them, so, they getting fed up or bored with me at home all day was not even on the cards.
Coming to relatives, they probably think I am nuts. Nobody ever said anything to my face. Same with the rest of the society (neighbors and so called well wishers included). It never bothered me what others thought about me anyway. I never felt the strong need to adhere to society. So I feel free to make any decision. Of course, you may need to explain yourself to your close friends and family so they can understand your thought process. But for all others, I say — “I don’t care” 🙂 . To answer my friend’s question about how I handled the “questions and pressures”, I only ever answered to closest relatives and friends and for the rest, I let them think and say whatever they wanted to and it has always been that way with me. After listening to my side of the story, no one ever pressured me. Perhaps I was lucky in that sense. Finally, I always like the “road less traveled” no matter what others think.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
I shall be telling this with a sighRobert Frost
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.