As the name of my blog constantly reminds both you and me, I plan to retire on the 1st of January 2021, at the ripe old age of 42.
But (cue discordant music) Mr. BITA will not be retiring in January 2021.
Is it then fair for me to claim that I will be retiring early?
If I have an earning spouse is it fair to say that I am retiring early as opposed to becoming a stay-at-home parent? What really is the difference between retiring early and being a stay-at-home spouse who does the heavy lifting at home and leaves the earning of money to a significant other? I want to be clear that I am not trying to claim that being an early retiree is superior in some way to being a stay-at-home parent. However, this is a blog about early retirement – my early retirement, and so, in this context I would like to explore if it is fair for me to claim the crown of early retirement or not.
The BITA Plan
I’m going to summarize the key points from the bayalis FIRE plan:
- Stash away $160,000 a year from 2017-2020.
- I retire in 2021 (at age 42).
- Mr. BITA retires in 2026 (also at age 42).
From the time that I retire in 2021 to the time that Mr. BITA retires in 2026 we will live on Mr. BITA’s earnings. We will keep our grubby hands off The Stash. It will be left to compound in peace and (hopefully) mature from an acne ridden teenager wracked with existential angst to an adult in the prime of health.
So the question is: from 2021 to 2026, what label do I wear? A stay-at-home parent or an early retiree?
The Case for Being a Stay At Home Parent
I am a mother. By the time I retire Toddler BITA will no longer be toddling. She will be in elementary school. Elementary school timings do not match typical corporate working hours. If I were still working Daughter BITA would have to supplement normal school hours with some version of after school care. I won’t be working though, and so at the end of the school day Daughter BITA will come home. I will then hastily drop any pretense at being a retiree without a care in the world and don instead my robe of parental responsibility. I will be responsible for making sure she does her homework, and for her general feeding and care.
In addition to my parental responsibilities, I expect to shoulder more of those boring, annoying chores that constitute responsible adult life. Ensuring that dirty clothes don’t wallow in filth forever, and that edibles make their way from stores into our fridge, things that Mr. BITA and I now share in equally, will become more my responsibility. And earning the money for us to procure worldly goods and earthly comforts will be now be his responsibility.
In short, I will be doing everything that is traditionally the domain of a stay-at-home parent.
If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then why the fuck is it claiming to be an early retiree?
The Case For Being an Early Retiree
Here is my opening argument for staking a claim on the label of early retiree. Mr. BITA’s working life has an expiration date: Jan 1st 2026. I don’t plan to ‘retire’ and have us subsist off his income till he turns 65. We will live off his income just for five years. To my mind there is an abstract fairness to this plan. We both retire early, we both retire at 42. He just happens to turn 42 later.
While we will be living off Mr. BITA’s earnings from 2021 – 2026, we are not required to save any money for those years. I contend that a ‘normal’ single income family must have an income that supports both spending and saving, or else they are not destined for a particularly happy future. We, on the other hand, can be a family with a single income that is large enough only for our spending needs, with nary a thought for a rainy day. Why? Because as an early retiree I will have ensured that we already have a plan for our rainy days.
If we were a single income family, and I were a stay-at-home parent, then if Mr. BITA were to lose his job before 2026, we’d be in trouble. We would need Mr. BITA to land another job post haste, or we would need me to reenter the workforce.
However, the BITA household, in the years 2021-2026 will not be forced to work. How so? Our Stash in 2021, when I convert to being an early retiree, will be large enough to support our family in early retirement, just not in the most luxurious version of early retirement. In 2021 our Stash will not support our desired withdrawal amount at our desired safe withdrawal rate in our current HCOL location. It will support a withdrawal rate that we could happily live off in numerous cities in the U.S. and the rest of the world, if we choose to up and ride off into the sunset. Maybe we’d make Portland our new home.
Why Does Any of this Matter?
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” – Romeo and Juliet
Why does the label matter? After all, no matter what other people call me, or even what I call myself – my life will fundamentally be the same. I will no longer need a job. I will be mother to my child.
I suppose it shouldn’t matter, but I would be lying if I said that it does not.
I will have worked hard to earn the right to quit my job at 42, secure in the knowledge that my family will be well provided for, and that we can live lives of discovery and purpose. The reward for that work, the reward for the journey is the crown of early retiree. Denying myself that title detracts from the accomplishment, diminishes it somehow.
Is that childish? Perhaps. It is the truth though. If somehow I am not legitimately an early retiree that makes me a Sad Panda (well, saddish, anyway. How sad can you possibly be when you no longer need a job at 42?).
What say you, Readers? Is the Early Retirement crown something that I will have earned? Or am I, like a child, playing at Early Retirement? What are your thoughts about FIRE couples who retire at different times?