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 😉

18 thoughts on “do extroverts need more to retire on than introverts?”

  1. INFJ here. Suspect you might be right on this. I often wonder if I worry too much about having enough money to retire, because basically as long as I have enough money to have the heating on when needed and the library to supply reading matter then l’m happy.
    I don’t like plane travel either and the UK has lots of amazing places to see. Though I will give a shout out for Canada as a place to visit – it’s fantastic there.
    I work with an extrovert and she goes somewhere about every 6 weeks . Far too exhausting for me.
    The other reason that extroverts do well in organisations is that they are built upon having as many pointless meetings as possible where they can enjoy the sound of their own voices and invent even more stupid beauracratic hoops for staff to jump through. Busy work exists in abundance.


  2. I think one reason many people feel exhausted by too many activities is because it’s too much like work. People today are so stressed out by their jobs that they are too exhausted even to enjoy vacations. By the time retirement comes they find that the job has sucked the life right out of them.


  3. Another great article and right along the lines of ERE and MMM. The problem is always going up against people of the “I need XXX a year when I retire”.. where XXX = their current annual income!

    I tried to explain this concept to my little brother yesterday who has just started his first ‘proper’ job and proudly proclaimed he was going to work until 70. ‘Why?’ I asked, to which he responded: ‘Because then I have more to retire on!’.

    Personally, I couldnt imagine what I could spend £60k a year on every single year! Especially if the mortgage was paid off.


  4. At the risk of going against the grain, I’d suggest that the degree to which one is extrovert or introvert is not set in stone and can be changed.

    I’d expect most introverts to become more extrovert after retirement as they have more control over their lives (agency) and do the things they want to do, while extroverts may discover themselves more and move in the opposite direction. Mind you, my Myers-Briggs was very inconclusive…

    Travel is a big issue for us and features heavily in our retirment plans. I think people’s attitude to travel depends on their experiences and as we’ve both lived abroad in various countries, we really enjoy going on holiday.

    So much so that we moved to one of the main places in the UK we used to go on holiday, so it does feel like (at least after 12 months) we’re on holiday all the time. Mind you, we have family the other side of the world so inevitably there are going to be big ticket holidays to catch up with them.

    But it doesn’t really matter – ‘living life to the full’ may just mean sitting out in the garden having a glass of wine if we can’t afford to go on holiday. What is important is not worrying about it.


  5. Thanks for the kind words about the article. And I’m all for people living on their own planets… 😉

    All that said, I read your description of you as an INTJ (snap!) and I don’t see someone who couldn’t have worked better on his own. I see someone who could have! I still think you could usefully do a bit of it. But I won’t press the point. 😉

    Also, I couldn’t agree with you more about air travel. Most of life’s “luxuries” have been upgraded — we’re no longer cockahoop about a Corby trouser press or a prawn cocktail.

    Why is air travel today stuck in the 1950s?

    Actually scratch that, I think it’s probably worse.


  6. It’s about what you are used to and have been conditioned. My pension and return from investments is targeted at £250,000 and I am worried if this is enough to maintain my normal life. I am not sure it’s much to do with whether your an extrovert or not – I think I am fairly introvert – but if you have been geared up your life with things that need constant maintenance (houses and cars) and what to help the kids as they struggle to get a job in this horrific job environment for young people, let alone getting a foot on the property ladder. Great website with terrific sense.


  7. Hi Ermine
    Another good, thought provoking article. One that made me think.
    We are in the process of selling our house and are thinking of moving to one of those sheltered apartment complexes for the over 55’s.
    Looked at a few but can’t make our minds up of location. We can rent for a year, then either buy, or change locations and rent for another year, and ditto.
    But have come across an interesting site,
    “Grey Nomads Australia”

    This as got us thinking? Why stick to one location? Buy a touring caravan, renew our car. Then spend our twilight years touring Europe and head south for the winter?

    After all my pension etc is paid into the bank. Most of my contact with brokers etc is on line, so we could be anywhere.

    So this might be plan B. The only drawback so far is with the DVLC. On enquiring about my address for vehicle licence and drivers licence, they say that we need a permanent address?
    When I say that we won’t have one, will only be contactable via E=mail. They can’t seem to grasp that we plan to “not drop out but live an alternative lifestyle to having a fixed abode, paying Rates etc,”
    The Insurance Companies are fine, a face to face broker can come up with a deal for Insurance Cover for both Car, Caravan and even limited medical cover. But with the Euro Medical Insurance card covering most things we should be alright.
    One alternative to the DVLC would be register the car in another EU country for a year, or find a friendly camp site were we can renew our road tax etc for a further year. [tell porkies]


  8. @Sarah, ah meetings, fast becoming a distant memory 😉 They gradually became more and more frequent through my career, metamorphosing towards the end to those interminable telephone conferences as well. Happy days without all that crap 😉

    @g take heart. It really does get better after it stops, though the convalescence period is marked in months and years, not days or weeks!

    @Reue your brother needs to meet the story of the Mexican Fisherman. Though not _too_ early in his career 😉

    @WestCountryEscapee it ain’t happened to me. My mother requested the head of my primary school take out the ‘he is a lone wolf’ part of the reference/waffle bit to the disguised eleven plus and someone at work listed ‘doesn’t suffer fools gladly’ in an APR (I never understood why fools should be suffered – if they’re worng they’re wrong!)

    You can overlay adaptive behaviour – I was able to lead teams and speak in public to moderately large groups of a few hundred, but the introverted orientation never changed.

    Spot on on this on LLTTF

    What is important is not worrying about it.


    @Monevator I’m not sure if the difference is the age difference but I was probably one of the last generation to be able to get away with a very conventional view of what work looks like. Yes, I ran out of time the end but I got away with it financially (probably).

    I look at people younger than me, and they do have a much more entrepreneurial streak – my wife has, and you clearly have. I couldn’t have built wealth that way – it was a slow process, accelerating to the end, not the opportunistic and intense periods of feast and famine. I did run a multimedia firm on the side for 10 years, but it was on the side and was limited by the fact I hate the sales process – it was a case of taking an existing customer and looking after their needs well, and at the end when technology overtook the requirement I liquidated rather than chase new buisnes. I find it hard to imagine myself as that sort of entrepreneur.

    You might be right in the long run though, as some of the fondness for the nuclear option is that I came to hate the process associated with making money. Time gradually detaches the variblees there. There’s still the problem, however, of the Mexican Fisherman. It’s hard to motivate me with money, because in the process of saving to retire early I successfully shattered the stranglehold of consumerism. I do still have some skills that may be of use in the world and may couple them with action, but what for? It’s not like I have no use for extra money, but I don’t have the deep craving for it that capitalism is predicated on. At the bottom of the cup marked consumerism is the inscription “enough”…

    @ML thank you for an inspirational and thought-provoking thread! And of course all the best for distilling the haze of options into an action plan.

    @Toby perhaps I should have qualified that I think it is easier for introverts to make the downshift that most retirement plans assume. Once you’re out of the bottom end (I would imagine in the Uk an household income matching the HRT threshold) then although someone who has had a steadily higher income will have a higher material standard of living their ability to retire early depends on their ability to live on less than their income is/was. So it is still a relative operation, and I think the change down is harder for extroverts, but on the whole they do better at work 😉

    Helping kids does seem to be delaying a lot of people’s retirement plans, I guess the human life-cycle and work-cycle combine there. previous generations could make the assumption that their children became financially independent in their twenties and this seems to be breaking down. It’s nto clear to me if that’s the recession or it is globalisation that’s damaged this.

    @Lupulco I’ve seen other campers struggle with that DVLC problem, it’s a pain even for people who take a six-month tour but are unlucky with the phasing of the tax disc. Unfortunately the camp-site option still doesn’t address the MOT problem, however, which seems to necessitate a return to the UK. Perhaps there’s an opportunity for some enterprising European garage to offer a UK MOT service 😉


  9. Thanks ermine, plenty to chew on and well referenced too.

    I’m finding “work ethic” to be something of a Hydra, “how much money do I need” is just the most visible head. Other aspects are harder to define. However I recognise it’s a well trodden path.

    Just curious, what were you getting at when you wrote “Yes, I ran out of time [in] the end …” ?


  10. @Nathan for most of my career I expected to run to 60 and retire in the Way It Was Planned By TPTB in my conventional viewpoint. I should have thought about it more but once I was in a routine I didn’t think about it too much. It pays to get into the crow’s nest and look at what lies ahead, but I didn’t do that.

    You get less resilient as you get older, I took a relationship hit in ’07, and the the career hit in ’09, where I formulated and started to carry out an exit plan, which was going to take three years.

    I miscalculated, I didn’t have three years worth of fire left in me. One day I may relate the story of how the resources were raised to pull the stick back and avoid the crash-landing after only half the three years had elapsed.

    But in a world where HR departments Google you before they offer you a job I want to be 100% sure I am not going to be applying to another company for a job. Ever. I’m only 98% sure now 😉


  11. I’m INFJ (hi, Sarah!). I tend to enjoy ‘living deep’ rather than ‘living large’, and so don’t spend that much. Having recently ‘retired’ at 56, I now work a day or so a week (though I’ve just taken a few weeks off for fun and (UK) sun). I am fortunate to get a very good day rate for what I do and so my current minimal working pattern is actually enough to cover my financial bases. Because I lived on such a small proportion of my salary for so many years, focussing madly on socking most of it away for the future,oddly I feel quite flush now and there always seems to be plenty in the piggy bank. We are planning a little more travel now, including a bit of long-haul, but everything in moderation!


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