do extroverts need more to retire on than introverts?

There’s an interesting thread on Money Saving Expert’s forum that was kicked off by a fellow who works in international accountancy I believe, who is mulling over whether he should retire early. It brings it home to me that what people want of retirement are very very different things. It’s an interesting glance at the road not travelled. ML is doing this the right way round – he’s in a job he likes, it’s all going swimmingly, he was about 46 and wondering to himself whether he should retire early. And if so, when.

He’s been mulling this over for a couple of years now, and draws the eventual conclusion that his required income in retirement is €60,000 p.a.. Wow. On the plus side it sounds like with a bit of work he can do it, which is all to the good. It kind of made me think.

Ermine, say your fairy godmother rocked up tomorrow, waved a magic wand and said

here’s £60,000. What you must do is take this and spend it in the next year. No buying of capital assets. Spend it, on cookies and sweets and crisps and Fun!

Could I do it? Remember I can’t bring forward capital spend, or replacing a flat roof, or slap it in my ISA, it’s gotta be gone by Independence Day 2014. This is also a one-off – obviously. What could I spend it on?

Ayers Rock. I'd quite like to see it, preferably by teleporting there rather than flying
Ayers Rock. I’d quite like to see it, preferably by teleporting there rather than flying


There was a lot of travelling in ML’s plans, he’s already a globetrotter for work. It’s actually a very common desire for prospective retirees. If there’s one piece of advice I’d like to offer to retirement wannabees it is that for God’s sake don’t book that while you’re still working. Exotic travel is the siren song to the cubicle slave because it’s so different from your daily experience. You will change when you retire. You will probably mellow. You will get some of the relaxation you crave and you projected onto that trip. You might find that the money you spend on a round the world trip of a lifetime might be better spent after you have decompressed and know yourself more. Maybe it’s not sun-sea and sand you want, it’s more culture. or the other way round. or something different – you want to be more independent, or ride a Harley-Davidson through the Pyrenees [ref]I have no idea if you can ride a Harley through the Pyrenees, but it might be fun for some[/ref]

Of course you might well have your leaving do, wake up the next morning and go Hell Yeah, I want to do that round the world trip in which case take it last-minute and knock yourself out. You’re now flexible in time. One of the bewildering joys of retirement is just how much is now possible to you. I could finish writing this, and go ‘Bollocks, I fancy going to Moscow’ and be off. [ref]I’d probably have to get a visa so Moscow might be out ;)[/ref]

I had plans for more travelling. I found I favoured little and often was more to my taste than big and grandstanding. If I wanted to travel round the world I could do it, paid cash. I’d probably get it cheaper than these guys because I hate hot places, particularly hot and humid places. I’d skip Florida, and Malaysia, in the same way as I’d skip Hell… I can do hot and dry if need be.

Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica Pier. late 90s ISTR Hot and dry I can do. Death Valley in July sans aircon – OK Hot and humid – no

But I have no desire to, at the moment. One of the great things about being able to do something financially  is that it takes out the if-only thing of the grass is always greener. Consumerism is terrible in that it plays on that particular human frailty. Many people buy things and experiences they can’t afford precisely because their marginal affordability makes them more attractive – we are pre-programmed to value the scarce and expensive. French fashion houses have known this for years. Take the scarcity and affordability thing out of the equation and ask yourself “Do I actually want to do this?” and in my case with  the whole round the world travelling on retirment thing the answer is “Hell, No”. It’s something everybody else wants to do, but it’s not for me.

Dialling down the travel dream is easy for me, because I came to really hate air travel. I’m not scared of it – jumping out of a light aircraft with a parachute from the erstwhile Ipswich Airport was scary, getting into a passenger jet isn’t. It’s the Sartre thing, L’enfer, c’est les autres. I last travelled by air in 2007, for work, travelling to the United States. Something must’ve been up, the airport was heaving with people, stupid people at that. Pillocks who wanted to take huge bags and all their kids toys as hand luggage, despite the clear notices on number and size of bags, so they held up the queue. The whining kids generally. The stale smell of sweat and the metallic scent of human stress and low-level anger that the departure loung aircon couldn’t quite clear. The whole security theatre rigmarole. The fact that airline seats recline at all – that was a grand idea in the 1950s, but when you have a seat pitch of about two feet it means when the guy in the front row does it everybody else has to do it in a Mexican wave down the cabin. And people consider this leisure? At least I was being paid to put myself through the experience.

And I decided I’m not going to do that again. But apparently according to Blink I can charter a private jet from RAF Wattisham (EGUW) to Geneva (GVA) and back for two weeks in August for £12k all in. And if I had a yearly income of £60k I’d consider something like that every other year to get somewhere civilised I could switch to a long-haul flight. There are probably much more intelligent ways to do it – after all a retiree has control of his time so why not fit in with someone else’s schedule and act as a seat-filler on a jet and be open-minded on destination. Commercial air travel ceased to be any fun after 2000 IMO.

What does living life to the full mean to you?

And then it dawned on me. When ML expresses what living life to the full means to him, it has a lot to do with what he is able to do, and that usually involves spending. It was common in many of my ex-colleagues – they had a fixed idea of how much they needed, and they couldn’t retire early because  they wouldn’t have the money to do stuff, like city-breaks and weekends away. These discussions used to puzzle me, because I was always thinking ‘yes, but the price of those city breaks you need to get away from work is that you don’t have the time to do a lot of other things, because you’re in front of that screen?’ Two weeks of respite for 50 of drudgery seems a crap deal to me even if you can do all sorts of fancy stuff in the two weeks.

For me, living life to the full is more about what I am, and what I master, it’s less of what I do, particularly external experiences. I derive my values more internally focused than is probably typical is society. Jacob ERE had an article called everything explained where he called out how the different personality types valued different things in life. However, I’m still a member of a social species, and when soemone says living life ot the full means spending a lot more than I do, it does cause me to ask myself

Ermine – have you stitched yourself up? Have you financially cut yourself off from living life to the full, because you made yourself too poor?

In which case the obvious thing to do would be to follow Monevator’s sage advice, ease back from the big red nuclear button, and go git myself a job. Assuming I could get one, that is, after all I am probably one of the finished at 50 😉

Murona atomic test. I've always wanted ot be able to use this as an illustration, I used ot have it as a poster on my wall at university ;)
Murona atomic test. I used to have it as a poster on my wall at university 😉 It’s beautiful, in a dark sort of way…

Hell, no. Bollocks to that. It’s been over a year so far, and you know what? I haven’t missed a single bit of working. It really is overrated as a reason for living. Don’t get me wrong, I’d prefer to have a nice £60k p.a. retirement income and take the odd private jet. But it’s not worth even thinking of going back to work for! Guess what did most of the heavy lifting of living life to the full for me?

gaining control of my own time

I am Myers-Briggs type INTJ  – this wasn’t as clear while I was working. Work favours extroverts big-time. It’s not surprising, because a business needs to marshall people to get their shit together and do stuff, so people who are more externally focused are far better suited to work in a company. They motivate people better, they are better salesmen, they are better leaders of men. Coincidentally, I suspect it can also foster a desire for amazing experiences and Stuff – so these talented extroverted employees will also be locked into the system a little bit, because they need the money that work provides to live life to the full in their own terms

Jacob called it out well – addressing the INTJ reader

  1. You do not get much out of amazing experiences or have no particular desire to have your picture taken while snowboarding down a rock.
  2. You do not find an uncluttering a reflection of your personal growth and a statement of your spiritual detachment from “things”.
  3. You do not see the point in work for work’s own sake and you find idea of working for 30 years somewhat crazy when there is clearly no need.

It’s not surprising I couldn’t find a way to spend ML’s £60,000 in a year – because I am not like him (I would hazard a guess he’s in the group of what Jacob called artisans). It puzzled me  what he called “living life to the full” because I would find doing that sort of thing a maelstrom of activity, the centre would never hold.

Knowing yourself is a key part of self-development of course, but as I get older the diversity in what matters to people still amazes me. We all start, of course, with the narcissistic assumption that everyone else is exactly like us, and part of the process of individuation is to differentiate and cleave closer to the things that really matter to you, and dial down the extraneous noise of all the stuff that really matters to other people but doesn’t really matter to you. There is an inherent tension, we are a social species, and striking out a little bit apart from the pack leads to some discomfort. Conversely, not doing so, living by other people’s values has a different cost, because you then live life against your nature which builds up different tensions.

There were other aspects of spending in ML’s £60k target than I don’t have. I don’t have any child-related costs/expenses. Healthcare? I did have private healthcare at work, though I am happy to say I avoided using it by, er, being lucky enough to not get sick 😉 One of the fantastic things about living in the UK is that the whole healthcare fear and loathing thing you get in the US just isn’t there. People moan about the NHS but it does pretty well for the big stuff. Yes, people grizzle and moan about the failures to keep their particularly elderly relative alive for years and years and years and mistakes do happen, but for the majority of things that can happen to you, particularly accidents and stuff like the Big C, it does okay. Even in the US their healthcare can’t stop people dying, despite the best efforts of some really weird people. You have to do it sometime, and I’m not sure I’ve convinced by the $70k call option on resurrection…

It’s also not just AXA that does health insurance. Getting on your bike or just taking a walk regularly for half an hour a day buys you health insurance too. That’s obviously a bastard while you’re working, because half an hour out of the rest of your day after you’ve sold 8 hours plus commuting time to The Man is a big lump. For a retiree it isn’t too bad. Plus you get to hear birds singing and squirrels fighting and kids playing in the park. Beats screen time earning the money to pay to Axa to make up for the fact that you can’t take the free alternatvie because you’re doing the screen time to earn the money…

So funnily enough I think extroverts need more money to live life to the full in retirement. On the upside, they are the Right Stuff for work, so they get more out of it. In America, where it seems introversion is considered a defect, you hear a lot about finding the work you love, it’s almost mandatory to derive meaning from your work is seems. I was surprised to see this ad for Susan Cain’s Quiet on introverts. I guess there must be some 😉

And this generates a genuinely exciting and stupendously effective capitalist society. Okay, not one totally without problems, for sure, but despite the conflagration of the financial crisis starting there, the first one where there is the suspicion of it staggering to its feet. It’s intoxicating –

It even almost convinced a younger me that I wanted to work in the electronics industry in California, the heady mix of American get-up-and go and a UK in Thatcher’s third  recession of the early 1990s. Or was it John Major? Let’s just say I’d probably be feeding the fish off Santa Monica pier if it had happened, I would have cracked up years ago… On the other hand, in a city full of therapists, they might have sat me on the couch, took a long hard look, and delivered the view ‘there’s nothing that much wrong with you, you just don’t fit here, bud. Nothing that a cab to LAX and an airline ticket can’t fix ;)’ I am a stranger in a strange land. I read Monevator’s excellent post about “you don’t have to go nuclear on working for a living” and figured either he or I am living on a different planet, and on reflection I think it’s me 😉 It’s been over a year since I quit. There are times in your life when you need to have the nuclear option. Nothing else will do.

Once you have the nuclear option, you may as well use it. People can’t motivate me with money to any great extent now. Across the PF blogosphere, there is a strong sense of the work ethic, that underpins and drives capitalism. This is the mastertape that inspires drives people to greater success in things financial, to be the best they can be among their peers.

I have drunk of the cup of the elixir of the Work Ethic, and found it failed me in my hour of need, but as it failed it revealed a beautiful truth, which was “Know what Enough looks like, and take appropriate action”. So I don’t have it any more. It’s also kinda nice to think that while extroverts do better at work on the whole, there’s a little price to pay. They have to work a tad longer to achieve a lifestyle that meets their needs. There is a little justice in the world 😉