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Do You Really Want to Retire Early? New Research Suggests It May Not Be as Fun as You Think

Jessica Stillman
4 min readSep 19

Some people work 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 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…

Jessica Stillman

Top Inc.com columnist/ Editor/ Ghostwriter. Book lover. Travel fiend. Nap enthusiast. https://jessicastillman.com/