Early Retirement, Early Mid-Life Crisis?
Just a quick “re-blog” of an interesting article I stumbled upon on theatlantic.com:
It’s quite long so here is the tl;dr summary in bullet point form:
- There is a large body of research to show that the mid-life crisis is a “real thing” that most of us will experience in some degree
- It follows a general life satisfaction U-shaped curve, which bottoms out (i.e. least satisfied) around the ages of 45-50
- This U-curve is consistent across research done across many countries, cultures, and even with other primates
- The feelings of the mid-life dip can often be the feeling of dissatisfaction despite success in life, combined with feeling ungrateful about the whole damn thing
- These feelings generally alleviate as you age into your fifties, perhaps because you realise time is getting limited
Personally, I don’t want to go through a mid-life crises, but it strikes me that there is a potential for early retirement to cause an early mid-life crisis, perhaps because you suffer from a feeling of loss of purpose when you finish your job, amongst other factors.
On the other hand, it could well completely short circuit this whole psychological effect, especially if you really get into the whole FIRE scene with gusto.
Overall, I think the second of these two scenarios is far more likely to play for most early retirees, and one of the reasons for that is further on in the article, where there is an excellent section on wisdom:
“…I started wondering whether the life satisfaction we were seeing in older people was related to their becoming wiser with age, in spite of physical disability.”
“All across the world, we have an implicit notion of what a wise person is.” The traits of the wise tend to include compassion and empathy, good social reasoning and decision making, equanimity, tolerance of divergent values, comfort with uncertainty and ambiguity. And the whole package is more than the sum of the parts, because these traits work together to improve life not only for the wise but also for their communities. Wisdom is pro-social. (Has any society ever wanted less of it?) Humans, Jeste says, live for an unusually long time after their fertile years; perhaps wisdom provides benefits to our children or our social groups that make older people worth keeping around, from an evolutionary perspective.
I get the feeling that most seeking to FIRE are also those that will try to seek as much wisdom as possible at a young age, and therefore will either completely bypass any potential mid-life satisfaction dip or at the least fast forward onto the wisdom-enlightened upward slope of the curve.
I would also hazard a guess that being free to spend your time as you wish, and not having to worry about earning a wage to pay the bills helps enormously with these sort of matters 🙂