Philip Greenspun has an posting about the problems with early retirement. It’s hard for people to sympathise with the problems of a guy who has enough money that he can buy fun airplanes and not work 9-5, but I have to say that nearly every word of his posting rang true for me. Like a lot of people, I did well consulting during the dot.com boom, so when the tech market dried up earlier this decade, I was in a good enough financial position that I could basically stop working and take a two-year sabbatical until the market picked up again.
I imagined that I’d come up with a brilliant business idea, invent something important, or at least figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I did learn to fly and buy a (really cheap, old, slow) airplane, but otherwise, those years stand out as probably the least fun of my life. A bit of leisure, like a bit of chocolate, is nice, but retirement — or, in my case, a extended sabbatical — is like an all-chocolate diet. I’ve been busy again for the last couple of years, and I’m much happier this way. I also find that I’m more creative and get more personal stuff done (exercise, reading, etc.) precisely because I have less time to do it. I’m more organized, more motivated, and, I think, nicer to the people around me.
I no longer dream of early retirement and a life of leisure — work, as long as it’s not stupid or excessive, really is the only path to happiness. +1 for the Puritan work ethic (though we could have done without the Maypole-felling and witch hunts).