Am I Really Retiring Early?

early retirement stay-at-home parent

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?

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31 thoughts on “Am I Really Retiring Early?”

  1. I understand your dilemma, the brain can really play tricks on you! But, your title does not detract from the work you have done, and the stash you will then have. Get comfortable in your own skin, with what you have done to better yourself, and let the title sort itself out. And I LOVE your parting advice: ‘How sad can you possibly be when you no longer need a job at 42?’

    Keep at it!

    – The Tepid Tamale

    1. Thanks TT. It still surprises me the power that words have. They aren’t that easy to simply disregard, even when it might be in our best interests to do so.

  2. Interesting view. If I may add: maybe the biggest difference in the labels is the reason why your stop working. Is it because you want or need to stay home so you can educate/nurture/care for you kid(s)? Or is it because you are in such a financial position you do not longer need to work? (and as a bonus can spend more time with Daughter Bita?)

    Although I do agree that the title doesn’t change the situation whatsoever. This might help 🙂

  3. Why not just come up with a new label for yourself?

    Personally, I’m thinking of becoming a Financially Independent Homeless Person. Haven’t quite convinced myself to pull the trigger though…..

    1. What a grand idea. FIP (Financially Independent Parent)? FUCK (Financially Unburdened and Caring for Kid)?

  4. Bah! I think it still counts. 🙂 You’re able to not work any more thanks to eliminating debt and growing your income. Even though your partner still works, you’re still financially independent enough that you can live on one income. 🙂

  5. I’m there with you. When I hit 42 – if all goes well, we’ll be moving out of Houston, and I’ll be moving out of my current job to be a stay at home dad. So, then if Mrs. SSC is still teaching, does that make me “early retired” or just another stay at home parent? Ill be the “Default parent” at that point dealing with all the mundane even though we’ll be set up well for “retirement” similar to your family. Like you, if Mrs. SSC quits sooner than later or the markets really tank and stay there for years, then we’ll have a “mostly” funded lifestyle change and not a fully funded lifestyle change. We’re both confident we’d be able to figure something out if that event happens though. Then it gets back to which label to use. I don’t know that I can help on that account because I’m in the same boat trying to figure it out myself.

    It’s a sticky wicket trying to decide which title to use, but you’re right, it would be a lot cooler to say early retired than “stay at home dad (or mom).” 🙂

    1. My brother from another mother! That is an almost spookily similar situation to my own. Lets make a pact, decide to use the ER label and promise to beat up anybody who gives the other grief about it.

  6. I can see the dilemma, I can but the answer is obvious to me. I think you should simply state that you became financially independent so you could be the primary caretaker of your most important asset. Your daughter! You worked your butt off to do it. Claim it.

    1. Thats a neat solution BucketBabe. And she is definitely an asset that needs a ton of tending.

  7. So what if you didn’t have Daughter BITA and stopped working at 42? Would you be a bum or an early retiree? The fact that you have accumulated the money you need to live puts my vote in the early retiree column. You just happen to have a daughter to spend time with since you don’t need to work anymore.

    1. “So what if you didn’t have Daughter BITA and stopped working at 42? Would you be a bum or an early retiree?”

      Ha! Good question, and most excellent perspective. I’ll take your vote with thanks.

  8. I somehow came up with this mental image of you riding a toy horse (you know the ones that are just a stick and a horses head?) flipping someone off and shouting “It’s FIRE enough for me” and riding your fake-horse into the sunset…

    1. Hahahahahaha. It has been altogether too long since I’ve indulged in some good old-fashioned flipping.

  9. Potato, potahto. Does it matter what you call it? You’ll be home, able to pick up your daughter in the carpool line, and the other parents will make whispering references to you behind your back, “I heard she doesn’t need to work.” “How is that possible?” “Did she get an inheritance?” “I think her family was some kind of royalty back in India.” “Her husband still works.” “Oh, ok, that’s it. Makes sense now.” People will gossip, regardless of what you say, but the truth is, your path and actions, the end-result that is, will still be the same, so the semantics are just irrelevant.

    1. Haha, I like the idea of people believing that I come from royalty. I could use more curtseying and bowing and off-with-your-heads in my life : )

      I struggle more with my own opinion on this subject than with what other folks think – I want to be able to claim the title of early retiree without feeling ‘fake’ about it. If I can convince myself to claim it in good conscience (and many of the comments I’ve received here have helped) I don’t think I would give a flying fuck about the other parents in the drop off line.

  10. You’re doing the work and the math to be able to retire early–own that label! If it helps at all, remember that not every couple retires at the same time, whether at 42 or 62 or 82. If you worked until age 65 and Mr. BITA had five years remaining, you’d still be retired. It’s an interesting question, but I don’t think you need to worry about not deserving the title of Early Retiree. You just get to enjoy the parenting benefits of the early retirement!

    1. You are right! It is funny how adding the ‘early’ to the ‘retirement’ label seems to change the rules – I don’t think I would be questioning any of this if I was 65.

  11. Since it’s for yourself that you’re struggling with the label, I posit the following questions, some already covered above:
    1. Would you have chosen to keep working for financial security if you didn’t have Toddler BITA?
    2. Would you or your family be in financial straits at the time of your retirement?
    3. Are you choosing to live your life in your own way because you’ve arranged your financial matters in a personally beneficial way that doesn’t turn you into a leech or are you choosing to quit working because someone else can provide?

    I’m pretty sure that all of the above point to something that feels obvious to us – you would have chosen to retire because you discovered that you could make your money work for such a situation, and not because your family needs a stay at home parent or because you prefer parenting and household work over a workplace career.

    Sounds like retirement to me!

    On that note, I didn’t realize that you were both retiring at different times. Isn’t it funny that my automatic assumption is that early retirees would do so at the same time, as a couple? It makes sense now that I think about it of course, people don’t all normally retire at the same time as their spouses. For us, I think we’d want to retire at the same time, together, but I wonder how much earlier we could move that timeline up if only I retired first. That feels like cheating though because I’m the younger one.

    1. 1. Nope
      2. Nope
      3. The former

      Those are awesome clarifying questions, Revanche.

      We would definitely prefer to retire together, but the math doesn’t seem to work quite that way. We could also reduce the gap between his retirement and mine by having me work longer, but ugh to that. We are in the opposite situation – it feels ‘fair’ for me to go first because I am older than he is.

  12. In the end, it does not matter what you call it. As long as it sounds honest and fair to you and it makes you happy. In the end, it is your definition that counts.

    My view: you deserve to be called FIRE as you stop to work. It is the call of Mr BITA not to stop working. That does not alter your status!

  13. Just because you’re officially “retired”, doesn’t mean you have to lounge around all day! You can do whatever you want – maybe turn your passion into a business (and you don’t have to care if the business makes money or not).

    1. True about the lounging. But that holds true whether I am “retired” or a “stay at home parent”. Your last sentence is key, I think: with the “retired” label I don’t have to care about whether I generate an income. T

  14. I have two labels for you. One, Awesome, you are Awesome! And Two, Lucky Man, he is a Lucky Man. Both my wife and I retired early, she years earlier than me, so I know this. She also is Awesome! I also am a Lucky Man! Nothing much else really matters compared to being a Lucky Man married to an Awesome wife. And by the way, Happy Mother’s Day!

    1. What a happy comment. I thank you for both labels and accept them with glee. Cheers to being both awesome and lucky!

      And thank you for the mother’s day wish.

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  16. I have actually been contemplating this lately from the other side: if my husband keeps working bc he wants to when do I feel okay staying home? If I quit before *we* are FIRE, when am *I* FIRE?

    I have been contemplating what my “contribution” to our finances is and I’m FIRE when it’s covered. I admit there is a bit of hand waiving involved in what is his and hers with an integrated portfolio. But i define it as my retirement plus half of our post tax portfolio covering my income. I wouldn’t cash it out, but I’d feel like my contribution is such that I’m retired without him.

    Your numbers would be different, but if your portfolio minus his personal retirement accounts would cover half your expenses I’d say you’re there.

    Convoluted, but so are the emotions involved, lol.

    1. That is a good way to look at this rationally. And yes, our portfolio when I retire would cover more than half of our desired SWR in retirement. Thanks!

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