Every era has its own fads. The ’60s had marijuana and hippies. The ’70s had bell bottoms and swinging. The ’80s was about cocaine and hair gel. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if something is just a fad until it’s in the rear-view mirror. And sometimes those fads remain as a part of the culture, even if they’re not a dominant force any longer. Witness the proliferation of health clubs and sushi.
So is pretirement just a fad destined to fade away or will it stick around and build into a part of our culture?
Only time will tell, of course, but certainly the movement is growing. The proliferation of “early retirement” blogs is quite significant and I personally know many people participating in the phenomenon, even though they don’t have a name for it. In fact, most of the folks I know just say they’re “taking some time off” or are simply looking for the right opportunity. The phrase “early retirement” doesn’t really capture the meaning, because it actually has a specific meaning related to taking social security and pensions. Plus the word retirement itself implies that you’re done.
I’m sure the data exists somewhere in the morass of government information about how many Americans are living off their investments, but I got tired of looking. Clearly the government is more interested in measuring poverty and worker productivity than in highlighting how many people are opting out of the system.
Aside from the dozens of pretirement blogs that have popped up on the internet, there has been a growth in interest in related topics, including tiny homes, renewable energy, home gardening and even doomsday prepping.
Obviously this is largely driven by the economic collapse, where people realized how insecure their lives had been and began searching for ways to protect themselves and their families. For others, it’s just about freedom and escaping the trap. And, it’s worth mentioning that other category: the folks who were canned by their employers and left out to dry by our uncaring society. Those who were able to construct a perpetual income source in excess of their monthly expenses have often found they found more fulfillment from doing what they want to do every day than by filling their houses with more stuff.
If the economy booms again, Americans will jump right back in to their endless pursuit of material fulfillment. They’ll bloat the economy with cheap crap from China and we’ll be well-positioned for another painful collapse.
But there will be many who will learn from the past, realize happiness doesn’t come from buying more stuff and will opt for a different lifestyle. How many? Hard to say. Will it be enough to grow into a recognized slice of American society or will it be another pass fancy? Only time will tell.
But one thing is for sure: Unlike most fads that come and go this one will actually benefit those who try it. I expect everyone who learns about this lifestyle to at least pick up a few concepts that will make their own lives better.