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Some Millennials Who Achieve Early Financial Independence Opt Not to Retire Completely

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
May 20, 2024


Retirement does not seem to be all that it was expected to be for millennials who subscribe to what is known as the financial independence retire early (FIRE) movement, Business Insider reported. Many who achieved early financial independence still work part-time or give back to their communities.

The FIRE acronym was coined in the 1990s in the book Your Money or Your Life and popularized on various blogs. A person could achieve these twin goals by working hard with multiple incomes, living austerely and investing prudently, the idea went.

Then what?

Business Insider presented that question to 36-year-old Jace Mattison, who sold his lumber company for seven figures four years ago, having saved enough money that he never needed to work again.

"I was golfing three, four times a week. I was going to the lake. I was doing all my hobbies that I really cared about and enjoyed, ones that for the greater part of a decade I didn't have as much time to do," he told Business Insider.

But he and other contemporaries found themselves happiest when they had a balance of work and leisure, telling Business Insider that they are not very interested in early retirement and are creating their own versions of life after work.

Millennials often want the FI without the RE, it turned out. Of the dozen millennials interviewed by Business Insider who have achieved, or are on track to achieve, financial independence, some have retired and are enjoying it, but most believe that retirement is pointless, and they still want to build their careers or give back to their communities.

For many millennials, financial freedom goes beyond quitting a job that they don't like. Some said it offers them the ability to spend on travel or leisure without much stress. Others said it helps them lead a life of purpose.

Bill Schaninger and Naina Dhingra, partners at McKinsey, found through a study they conducted that 70 percent of people define their purpose through work. "Many people figured out one of the things that [they] get a lot of validation from is being clever, solving problems, participating, and working on something bigger than me," he told Business Insider.

A 37-year-old vice president of a building-maintenance company told Business Insider that he is about to quit his high-stress job and take a mini-retirement. He said that he has a a net worth of about $2 million but is only planning to take a few months off before returning to the workforce in a lower-stress position.

"I think a lot of traditional retirees lack purpose—they take a year or two of retirement and hate it because they do whatever and lose purpose," he said in an interview. "The ones that volunteer, continue to coach and consult, or do whatever it is to sharpen their brain and really have a purpose tend to be some of the happiest retirees."

Brian Luebben, a financially independent millennial, described having a panic attack shortly after he hit financial independence and quit his sales job. 

"If you have anxiety, financial freedom is not going to solve it," he told Business Insider. "If you have depression, financial freedom is not going to solve it. Be careful of the mountaintop moments. When you become a millionaire, when you become financially free, when you do all this stuff, no mariachi band follows you around and performs."

"The most difficult part is figuring out what you do when you have nothing to do all day," he added. "What do you choose to work on?"

Many financially independent millennials chose to balance work and fun instead of settling into a traditional retirement. Blogging and coaching were common post-FI pursuits among the would-be early retirees to whom Business Insider spoke.

Lauren and Steven Keys, who quit their full-time jobs in their 20s, are examples. Steven freelances for his former employer but spends much of his time on an online-tutoring service that he co-founded in 2023. Lauren has one social-media client with whom she works a couple of hours a month. They also run a financial-independence blog and earn rental income from a fully paid-off investment property.

"There's this misconception about early retirement that you'll never make another penny ever again and just sit on the beach all day for the rest of your life," said Steven. "We're never going to stop making any money whatsoever."