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Retiring Early, and Some Philosophy

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By PoorBloke
September 3, 2003

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This is my first post on this board, as far as I remember, but as someone that has retired early then maybe some of my vague spluttering may be of at least some value to you. The lessons that I learnt are only referred to in retrospect. I didn't know what I was doing at the time.

I was an average student at school, but after getting some decent A-level results (I'm a Brit), I decided for a course that I thought suited my skills, rather than would be of the most monetary reward. I was always good at Physics and Math, so decided to opt for a Degree in Electronic Engineering and Physics.

I liked certain parts of it a lot, and was fairly good at electronics, and got a 2:1. The course entailed working in industry for a year, and I got a job at STL (a top R&D place) in Harlow. That was enough to convince me that I didn't want to spend the rest of my life learning more and more about less and less.

Lesson 1: Pick a degree that suits your skills, and work all you can at developing those skills, rather than one which you think will lead to riches.

So after University, I started hunting around for jobs, not really knowing what I wanted to do. I applied for 29 jobs, thinking that that would narrow the choices down for me. They were in accountancy, systems engineering, sales, manufacturing, R&D (yes, I know...).
It didn't, since I was offered 27. I was very lucky, since the job market in 1984 was great for engineers and technical graduates in general.

I chose Intel, because I liked the people that interviewed me. They were professional, but friendly, and didn't play stupid tricks like the people at Mars and Shell. The salary was about half what I could have earned at Mars, Shell or IBM, but I liked the company's attitude, and all the people that interviewed me impressed me.

Lesson 2: The companies who try and intimidate you at interviews probably aren't going to be successful in the long run. Better to accept a job with a company that you respect, and think has bright employees, than accept a high paying job that entails working with people that you essentially dislike.

My first job was in internal sales, which was OK. I broke my balls supporting the field sales guys, but they loved the fact that they could rely on me to do all their drudge work, and never complain. They made me a star internal sales guy. I soon got promoted.

Lesson 3: The easier that you can make the jobs of your managers, or their managers, the more you will be rewarded (Caveat: that does mean that you need to work for a well managed company. If I thought that I was being shat on, then I would have left).

I had a successful career in field sales (visiting customers) because I didn't try and bash my head against a brick wall trying to sell them stuff they didn't need. Many of my colleagues spent so much time trying to break the "Big Account", while I looked for companies that actually needed our products. I found them by doing what now seems to me to be a virtually inept analysis of the competitive landscape, and showed them how our products could help their business. My small companies then did well, and generated more business in toto than the "Big Accounts".

Lesson 4: Don't try and sell stuff to the big companies that don't need it. Instead, find out who the small companies are, and show them how they can beat the big companies using your product. (Caveat: If you don't understand how your product can make them successful, then find another company to work for).

So, then I moved into marketing, and had a successful career, which I can't really talk much about, since I still respect the retirement NDA agreement that I signed with Intel, but I retired at 40, after 17 years sterling service. The smartest move I ever made was to spend a lot of time with industry analysts (Not the financial analysts, but guys from Gartner, IDC, Giga etc), and to sign up to TMF. I managed to see the bubble for what it was, in time to get out before it burst completely.

Lesson 5: Be very cynical, and only listen to the advice of experts that you can question, rather than the talking heads and pundits on TV.

Anyway, I told you that this was a long post.... bear with me:)

The philosophy of retiring early:

I am not the richest man in the world, but am now living in Prague, which is one of the beautiful cities I have ever seen, and I have seen a few, and it's also one of the lowest cost places to retire to.

Why not Hawaii, the Caribbean, or Monte Carlo, or some other "Paradise"?

Because when you look at life, I think that you need to consider what you want, and read a few books on Philosophy.

Personally, I don't find great value in spending lots of money on clothes, food, cars, hotels or any other fleeting pleasure. Never did, and never will.

I will spend a decent amount of money on a good flat (apartment), but what matters to me is friends, conversation, love and friendship, and I have plenty of that here. If you want to retire early, the primary question for you should be "What sort of lifestyle makes me happy?" That will lead you towards calculating the amount of expenditure you feel you have to make, or is necessary, and then balance that with what your income from your savings will be.

Epicurus is often mislabeled as some sort of poster boy for conspicuous consumption, which is totally inaccurate. He wanted to obtain pleasure, but that has been completely misinterpreted as wanting "Luxury". A completely different goal.

Have a look at http://www.epicurus.net/

Before I bore you to sleep, then I would heartily recommend two books by Alain de Botton, both of which have influenced me more than I can explain, because they put into words what I thought that only I believed.

Try "The Consolations of Philosophy" and "The Art of Travel"

Anyway. I warned you that this was a long post, but hope that it has or will be of some use to you all. I realize that I have been incredibly lucky, but maybe, just maybe, you might be too.

I hope so.

Cheers, PB


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