The First Rule of Retiring Early

THE first rule of retiring early is: You don’t talk about retiring early. The second rule of retiring early is: You Do Not Talk About Retiring Early.

I’m of course paraphrasing the famous quote from Fight Club but that film definitely had the right idea when it came to a simple easy-to-follow guideline for members. Even if they did want to destroy our capitalist society.

Don’t tell your co-workers, or worse your boss, about your mission to gain financial freedom and quit work early. That would be monumentally stupid.

Nothing good can come of it

People are naturally jealous creatures. If they discover what you are up to, chances are they will consciously or unconsciously try to derail your plans.

Co-workers gossip. They can’t help themselves. Tell one and suddenly everyone will know what you’re up to. Even your workplace enemies.

Once they discover you are taking the simple steps to early retirement it is going to be a lot harder to achieve your goals and cross the finishing line.

Why? Well here’s a quick example.

Imagine you hear around the water cooler that one of your colleagues (someone who earns the same as you but you don’t know very well) is almost a millionaire. Do you think your co-workers will be saying to each other: “That’s amazing, I’m so happy for them. I must offer my hearty congratulations and ask them how they managed that. Maybe I can learn from them and do the same.”

Or is it more likely their attitude will be: “How the hell did that person do that? It’s so unfair. They must have inherited the money/won the lottery/done something dishonest. Hopefully soon they’ll blow all the money and be poorer than me.”

That’s right, unfortunately, it’s the second one.

Your peers are probably going to view your early retirement target with suspicion, disbelief and good old-fashioned envy.

At best in the beginning they will think you have your head in the clouds. At worst, once you start to make progress, they could sabotage you. In their eyes they’re poor and you are not allowed to be rich.

The most cynical of co-workers will begrudge the fact that every month you’ll be closer to escaping while they’ll have to toil on until they’re old and grey. That’s why they’ll run off to your boss and drip poison into their ear.

You’ll never beat the final boss

Once your manager finds out your plans, it’s pretty much game over. Put it this way, they won’t be delighted to hear that you want to quit working for them. Even if you were a valued employee, in their minds your early retirement plan means you no longer care about your job.

Might as well get a name tag that reads: Not A Team Player.

As for a wage rise? Forget it. They’ll think you don’t need the money. Besides, why should they help you now? You’ll only use the extra cash to escape work sooner. And that’s bad for business.

The same goes for promotions. They’ll give them to someone who wants to be there, who will slave away hour after hour for the extra cash. Someone they can control.

Congratulations, you’ve just torpedoed your career. Plus, your chances of increasing your earning power through wage rises and promotions have been utterly destroyed.

The chilling effect of all this means you’ll have to work for years longer before you’ll finally be able to retire.

If only you hadn’t taken that risk and had kept your mouth shut.

If only you had followed the first rule of Early Retirement Club…


Have you told your co-workers about your plans to retire early or are you keeping it a secret? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. If you found this article helpful, please share it using the Twitter icon. Thanks for reading.

Simon Saves

I'm a national newspaper journalist for hire who has a passion for personal finance. Currently saving and investing towards my first million. All comments welcome. Follow me on Twitter: @MyRichFuturecom

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8 Responses

  1. I agree 100 percent. No, more than 100 percent. If you’re planning to retire early, keep your mouth shut. Think of yourself as a secret agent living a double life if you must, but don’t tell anyone at work or related to work, or anyone who might say something indiscreet on Facebook. Fortunately, this is a temporary problem, and the payoff at the end is worth all the mystery.

  2. weenie says:

    Great post, love Fight Club! 🙂

    I’ve mentioned to my close friends and immediate colleagues that I’m planning to retire early but I don’t think they believe I’m being serious. Most of them think I’m talking about winning the lottery and in fact, when I finally do retire early, some will think I’ve won or received a large inheritance! I haven’t told them how I’m achieving a 40-50% savings rate, that I don’t buy ‘stuff’ any more, that I’m investing, that I actually have a plan. They would think I was being ‘extreme’ if they knew, hence the reason I’m keeping it all quiet, except on my own blog as I want to continue being seen as ‘normal’!

    • Simon, Editor in Chief says:

      @All. It’s a real shame we all have to keep our secret mission under wraps, but most “normal” people just can’t get their heads around what we’re achieving. I’ve gently nudged colleagues and friends towards this website if they’ve expressed any interest in learning about financial matters. However, they have absolutely no idea I’m the one writing it.

  3. Steve says:

    I’ve told some colleagues including my last CEO. Nobody seemed to care too much. Also I’m in sales so if it will help me get bigger commissions than they are all for it! I think it can be an issue if you have a year or two to go but with 5-10 years left who cares. If you stay at the same company in Silicon Valley for 5 years they will be delighted. My two cents. 😀

  4. The only people that know are my girlfriend and couple friends. I’ve told one guy at work who I consider a friend. I like my bosses to think I’m going to leave for more pay, but not financial independence 🙂 I still have many years before FI anyways.

  5. Fatbritabroad says:

    I’ve not mentioned it specifically but a couple of colleagues who have shown interest in. Managing money better I have offered to help by taking them through the basics and shown what I do I have stressed I may be totally wrong though! Dyor

  6. Happy retiree says:

    I worked for a company that dumped its pension plan after going into bankruptcy 12 years before I could retire. Rather than wallowing in self-pity like my coworkers, and with the persistence of my wife, we made a join plan for retirement with the help of a very smart financial adviser. I increased my contributions into my already existing 401K so much until it hurt, started IRAs and basically made many investments “buckets” to draw from after retirement. I felt that I found the master plan for retirement for those who didn’t have a pension. I didn’t retire early, I was just ABLE to retire.

    Here’s my mistake. I tried to give advice to my sad coworkers who thought it was impossible to retire without a “I’ll hold your hand and do all your thinking pension plan.” Without any appreciation for my advice, I got comments like, “You must have inherited wealth,” “Your married a rich woman,” “Don’t tell me what the fuck to do! You’ve got a scam going on!” My favorite comment was, “Didn’t you use to handle the Lottery Pool for about a dozen guys?” I did. I reminded him that I always provided copies of every lottery ticket I purchased in the pool. It wasn’t convincing. So if you’re retiring early don’t ever get close to the lottery tickets purchased in a workplace Lottery Pool!

    I retired at age 61. Four years earlier than originally planned. So maybe kinda early. I’m happy and feel very blessed for having a smart wife and smart financial adviser.

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