What Does Early Retirement Open the Door To?

As long time readers of my site know, my first introduction to the concept of early retirement –, even the possibility of it — came from reading about Benjamin Franklin. For those who don’t know, Ben is the first American to retire early at the age of 42 through an immense work ethic and a radical approach to frugality. “Rather go to bed supperless than wake up in debt,” is just one example. The true inspiration came from his answering the question: what does early retirement open the door to?

I was lucky to have the full picture presented to me from the beginning. As I mentioned in my 2 Rules to Avoid the Dark Side of Frugality article on Monday, there are elements to pursuing financial independence that can be damaging to our long term health. Ben Franklin demonstrated a life of giving back to his community, before and after reaching financial independence.

I came across a section from a book I was reading recently by George Leonard called Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment. The section did a better job than I ever could at describing what early retirement opens the door to.

As the book’s title suggests, it is about mastery — gaining knowledge to the point of developing an intuitive feel for what must come next.

Pursuing financial independence is not always an easy path, but it is much easier when we have a clear picture of what lies ahead.

I trust this section will inspire you in much the same way it inspired me.

What Does Early Retirement Open the Door To?


“What is interesting to note, is that many masters who come to possess this high level intuitive power seem to become younger in mind and spirit in the passing years. Something that should be encouraging to us all. They do not need to expend a great deal of energy in order to understand phenomenon and can think creatively with increasing speed.

Unless debilitated by disease, they can maintain their spontaneity and mental fluidity well into their 70’s and beyond.

The quintessence of this phenomenon would have to be Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin had always been an acute observer of natural phenomena but these powers only increased with the years.

In his 70’s and on into his 80’s, he continued with a series of speculations that are now considered uncannily ahead of his time.

Including advanced ideas on health and medicine, weather, physics, geophysics, evolution, the use of aircraft for military and commercial purposes, and more.

As he aged he applied his renowned inventions to his growing physical weaknesses.

Trying to improve his eyesight and quality of life, he invented bifocals. Unable to reach books, he invented an extendable mechanical arm. Needing copies of his own work, and not wanting to leave his house, he invented a rolling press that could make an accurate copy of a document in less than two minutes.

In his last years, he had insights into politics and the future of America that made people think of him as Seer, as someone with magical abilities.

William Pierce, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, met Franklin near the end of his life. “Doctor Franklin is well known to be the greatest philosopher of the present age, all the operations of nature he seems to understand. He is 82 years old and possess an activity of mind equal to a youth of 25 years of age.”

It is interesting to speculate what depths of understanding such masters could have reached if they had lived even longer.

Perhaps in the future, with life expectancy increasing, we will witness examples of the Benjamin Franklin variety stretching to even more advanced ages.”

What are you hoping early retirement will do for your life? Are you like me, and not 100% sure, but just look forward to having more time and energy to devote exclusively to your hobbies and passions?

Master Distiller

16 comments… add one
  • Jon @ Be Net Worthy Oct 26, 2016, 5:18 am

    That’s good stuff! For me, I had a glimpse of early retirement when I was laid off at the end of 2014. I was tied down because the kids were in school, but it went something like this:
    – get up early and hit the gym
    – get caught up on the news of the day
    – research businesses to buy / look for work
    – leisurely lunch with the Mrs.
    – practice guitar for an hour or so
    – spend about an hour on Coursera (free online classes on various topics)
    – pick up kids from bus stop
    – chill with the family for the rest of the day

    Not sure what early retirement will bring, but my early taste of it was delicious!

    • Distilled Dollar Oct 27, 2016, 10:14 pm

      Sounds like a great schedule – I love that you included practicing an instrument. That’s also on my future bucket list.

  • Jay Oct 26, 2016, 6:51 am

    Wow, thanks for sharing this example! I didn’t know Franklin was the original FI trail blazer. Amazing!

    I think like you, I’m eager to have more time to focus on what I want to do. The lifestyle outlined by Jon above sounds just about right. Thanks again for the great post.

    • Distilled Dollar Oct 27, 2016, 10:39 pm

      Glad it is your first exposure to Ben’s early career! He lived quite an admirable life, before he went into politics – so I’m happy to share that piece of history. 🙂

  • FinanceSuperhero Oct 26, 2016, 8:16 am

    I would say I’m in the same camp as you are, Matt. I don’t quite know what to expect, and that is what makes the prospects of early retirement so exciting. Every few years, I tend to pick up some new hobbies and pursuits – my blog and real estate gig are two primary examples – and I never know what is coming next. Little things tend to spark my interest in new endeavors, and for that reason alone, I think retirement will be a blast. If I have children of my own at home still at that time, or better yet, grandkids, that will be even sweeter.

    • Distilled Dollar Oct 27, 2016, 10:41 pm

      We also sound like we’re in a similar boat where uncertainty about the future is a source of excitement as opposed to anxiety. I’m similar where I always find new passions or new hobbies sprout up, but I never have the time to pursue them. I also enjoy my job and working, so I expect I’ll still do some type of work – but maybe it will be volunteer work or more family based activities.

      As someone in the FIRE community once put it, “It is much easier to retire to something than to retire from something.”

  • Financial Panther Oct 26, 2016, 10:07 am

    The old 10,000 hour rule is something that comes into play here. Malcolm Gladwell (and I’m sure others) said it takes 10,000 hours to truly master something. Most of us just don’t have the time to get to that point. If you’re financially independent and early retired, suddenly, you gain a ton of hours back that you can devote into things you might care more about. We master our day jobs because we spend so many hours per day on them. Imagine getting all those hours back and putting them into things we really want to do.

    • Distilled Dollar Oct 27, 2016, 10:43 pm

      I’m wondering if you ever caught my Four Phases of Financial Independence article? There I mention Gladwell and the book I thought did a better job of covering the 10k rule, The Talent Code Decoded.

      I think the mastery of the day job (within a career or within a specific field, as opposed to at a specific company), this mastery leads to that one-year syndrome where people have a hard time moving on. I’m not sure how we’ll react when we cross that bridge, but I look forward to facing that new hurdle.

  • Matt @ Optimize Your Life Oct 26, 2016, 2:58 pm

    This is great. I think I would use my time in early retirement similarly. I would love the ability to dive deeply into whatever interested me at the moment, work through whatever problems I could, and then move on to something totally unrelated. It isn’t really something that is possible in our current work structure, where you need to build up skills in experience in one single area to advance your career, so early retirement would be a great time to work on that wide range of experiences and varied base of knowledge.

    • Distilled Dollar Oct 27, 2016, 10:45 pm

      Well said! I think I’m in a similar boat where I feel much of my time would be spent reading and studying new topics I’m unfamiliar with.

  • Physician on FIRE Oct 27, 2016, 3:20 pm

    One of our early retirement dreams is a year in a motorhome, traveling the US, teaching our boys about science and history in the places where they can be seen firsthand. We may have to spend a little extra time on this Ben Franklin character when we hit the northeast.


    • Distilled Dollar Oct 27, 2016, 11:04 pm

      Wow that sounds incredible! I feel kids are much more visual than anything else – so it helps to show them where things happened vs read it to them from a book.

      I’ve always wanted to walk around Philadelphia and check out many of Ben Franklin’s old stomping grounds. It is on my bucket list so hopefully one day soon.

  • The Wannabe Investor Oct 29, 2016, 12:38 am

    Articles like this keep me motivated to be on track. I just started my financial journey.


  • Brian Oct 29, 2016, 10:06 am

    I think for me the purpose of retiring earlier than the conventional retirement age is to be able to explore hobbies, activities and passions without the need to have to make the big cash. It will just relieve so much pressure and I suspect will change the way I look at life going forward. Good stuff, thanks for posting.


  • Paul Andrews Oct 31, 2016, 12:44 pm

    My biggest fear is that retirement is going to be the death of me. How many stories are there of the older generation getting down to Florida, golfing/shuffleboarding/eating pudding cups, and getting so board that their will to live simply putters out? I hope that when I retire I can do something that’s still super engaging and keeps me young! As long as it doesn’t involve sky diving or wearing my pants under my butt like the hoodlums today… 😉

    • Distilled Dollar Nov 6, 2016, 9:45 am

      Very true. I like the quote, “we should retire to something, not from something.”

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