Home Build Do You Really Want to Retire Early? It May Not Be as Fun as You Think,

Do You Really Want to Retire Early? It May Not Be as Fun as You Think,

New Study Suggests. Researchers interviewed entrepreneurs after they made it big and discovered many struggled with their new lives.

By Inc.Arabia Staff
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  • Some people start businesses to improve their communities, feel more in control of their lives, or build a product they're passionate about. But many want to make, as the kids say, FU money. 

The idea is to have enough in the bank that you can do whatever you want, and the appeal of reaching this position is obvious. No more nagging bosses, demanding customers, and frantic rush periods. If you're rich enough, you can just say -- and I am putting this politely -- "get lost" to any opportunity or commitment that doesn't tickle your fancy. Who wouldn't want to be independently wealthy and semi-retired in this way? 

Apparently, plenty of folks who have already done it, at least according to new research from a pair of Insead professors and their collaborator. 

Being a ski bum is less fun than it looks

Insead's Winnie Jiang and her research partner, coach Claire Harbour, recently set out their findings from interviewing the financially independent about life after FU money in Insead Knowledge. The article probably isn't going to convince many people still working for a paycheck that being rich isn't a sweet deal, but it should serve as a warning to entrepreneurs that a big financial score isn't a guaranteed ticket to ease and happiness. 

Just as Twitter co-founder and failed ski bum Ev Williams reported that building startups is "a hell of a lot more fun than skiing every day," the research team found that their wealthy interviewees often found it more difficult than you might imagine to kick back and enjoy a life of leisure. 

"It is perfectly normal to discover that life post-financial freedom isn't as happy as one might have expected it to be," they write. "There will be challenges such as finding new identities and directions in life and dealing with negative emotions. As few friends or family members are likely to be in similar situations, it is easy to feel a sense of isolation. Interviewees reported struggling to find meaning in their new lives, and difficulties in deciding on engaging and meaningful ways to fill up their days."

Many also experience a surprising fear of failure given their apparent success. "These entrepreneurs have demonstrated their success in their previous ventures, and many know that a portion of their success was attributable to luck. They seem to worry about whether they can make the next endeavor a success as well. Such worry seems to prevent them from readily deciding what projects to pursue next," the researchers note. 

You probably still want to be rich, but ... 

These are, of course, the height of developed-country problems. No one should waste their tears on millionaires and billionaires. There are many, many people more in need of our attention and sympathy. Nor is this dispatch from the land of the independently wealthy likely to change too many people's minds on the appeal of getting rich. I, for one, would still definitely not turn down a winning lottery ticket if someone handed it to me. 

But the researchers insist their findings should spur entrepreneurs and others who dream of financial independence to think more carefully about what they would actually do with their time if money was no longer an issue. 

"It's never too early, or too late, to start thinking about what you would want to do after achieving financial freedom. What would you do with your money and time?" they suggest. "If you are someone who cares about fulfilling a bigger purpose and making a larger impact, consider what kinds of impact you would like to make. On the other hand, if you are someone who simply wants to do what you find fun and enjoyable, think about what kinds of activities you could pursue."

Those of us who are far from rich may dream of the days when all we have to do is hit the golf course or lounge by the pool. But this study underlines that, for those actually lucky enough to achieve this level of wealth, these sorts of pastimes are rarely enough. 

Humans seek meaning and structure no matter how much money they have. So rather than just daydreaming of your post-work life as a beach or ski bum, take a little time to think more deeply about what would actually bring you fulfillment if you make it to financial independence. 

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