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This Is the Biggest, Most Underappreciated Benefit to "Early Retirement"

By Brian Stoffel - Mar 12, 2021 at 7:00AM

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It has very little to do with money.

Let's define something that's pretty insidious: work theater. That's what you do when you're at work and trying to look busy, without actually being busy. At its best, it's "innocent fakery." But taken a step further -- because it involves projecting a false image into the world -- it can lead to estrangement...from yourself

In this Motley Fool Live recording from Feb. 23rd, The Collaborative Fund's Morgan Housel talks with Pete Adney. Better known as "Mr. Money Mustache", Adney retired at the age of 30 from his corporate job to focus on his family.

In the clip below, they discuss the role that work theater can play in our lives, and how retiring early can set you free from this type of behavior. At the end, Housel pinpoints the true benefit to early retirement.

Morgan Housel: Pete, this is a philosophical question, but do you think that when you were working your corporate job, you were playing an act, playing a part in a way that you got to leave behind after you retired in the sense of like, do you think you're the same person today as you were back then or you were playing a part back then that got to be left behind, and the last 15 years of retirement have really brought the real Pete versus the corporate Pete?

Peter Adeney: I think because of the nature of my job, it wasn't the case because I wasn't a sales guy or a businessperson or a leader so much. I was mainly just a guy who would solve technical problems at work and then work with a bunch of other techies so we would have interesting conversations around that. It was very much a doer and solving job, and there was actually a lot of writing in it, too. So when I hung up that keyboard, I just moved on to the same type of stuff, but it's just a more physical world now, like a lot more on building of houses and outdoor stuff.

It feels the same inside my brain like writing English words, and solving construction problems, and solving software problems, they're all the same thing, they're just using different parts of your mind or your body. It really feels the same, except I just like the complete freedom now, and I love how it's Tuesday and I'm still at home. Really, I'm not a rules person so it best suits my personality quite well.

Morgan Housel: I've met so many people over the years that when you meet them for a work engagement, whatever, whether it's a coworker or someone else you're working with, and you get to know them, and then if you get to know them better, you go out and have a beer with them, you become friends with them, you realize that everything from the tone of their voice to the things that they talked about, the values they expressed talking to the work person is totally different from the real person.

That's part of what the early retirement mantra has brought out for me that I'm most interested in. It's like, how much of that is innocent fakery that gets to be left behind once you have independence and autonomy in life?

I have a full-time employed salaried job. But what's so important to me about money and building wealth and savings is independence and autonomy, and just being able to work where you want for as long as you want, doing the work that you want, and being 100 percent who I am without any fakery, whatsoever. I've been fortunate enough to have that, but I'm always interested in how much people are living lives 40-plus hours a week that's not really them. In a way, that can be really stressful when that builds up over time, when you spend a huge portion of your life not actually being the real person you are.

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