I Want to Be Me When I Retire

I recently came across a really interesting post in the NY Times called “I Want to Be a Millennial When I Retire.

It’s worth reading first and then coming back to finish this post. I’ll wait.

The general premise is that a man who by all standards is the epitome of success contrasts his life to that of his son’s who is a singer/songwriter in his mid twenties.

His son gets to travel, do what he wants, and as the author describes it at the end he says his son’s success is “Off the Charts. He’s living like a millionaire retiree.”

I’ve got some thoughts on this that I wanted to share, as I think this directly relates to the choices that both I, and many readers of this blog have made.

Success Isn’t Necessarily What It Used to Be

First off, it’s great to see someone of an older generation recognizing that success isn’t necessarily what it once was.  $2 mil in the bank, a couple rental properties and an annual trip to Hawaii is no longer the only definition of success.

As the author points out, his son gets to do what he wants, when he wants, and for so many people, that’s worth more than money ever could be.

I’ve talked to so many people that don’t get this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been berated over the last few years due to the unconventional path I’ve taken. So many have said it “won’t last” or that I’m “just on vacation until I run out of money and have to get a real job.”

Between the economy collapsing and technology advancing, all bets are off. If you were raised during my generation (I’m 28), you’ve seen a completely different set of rules.  You’ve seen your parents who you once thought were invincible fall upon hard times, you’ve seen tech startups sell for over a billion dollars, and you’ve seen just how quickly new ideas can be adopted.

When you look at the realities of what we’ve seen during our 20s, it’s no wonder our view of success and what’s possible is completely different than that of our parents.

The Common Critique of the Millennial Lifestyle

In the article, there were hundreds of comments and many pointed out one very obvious thing: You don’t have to worry about money when you’re younger, but as you age, you have to deal with growing responsibilities.

This is a very valid point, and unless Max strikes it big, it could be something that he’ll have to answer to in a few years.

It’s worth noting though, that what Max is doing isn’t anything new. For decades people have traveled around with little money, trying to make it as musicians. It can be a lot of fun, but then most of those people end up throwing in the towel at some point and getting a more stable long term job.

That doesn’t have to be the case though.

I know hundreds of people that are living the exact same lifestyle as Max, but have just as much financial security as his parents.

Here’s what my year has looked like:

I’ve done all of this while working less than 40 hours a week, and making nearly $150,000 this year.

You know what the most unique part about this is? It’s not that unique.

There are thousands of people doing their own variation of this.  They get all of the benefits to Max’s life, without the financial worry.

How is this possible?

Because we grew up in a different world than those before us.  We grew up in a world where if you come up with a solution to a problem, you have an unbelievable amount of resources at your disposal to spread that solution and create an asset for yourself, while potentially helping thousands of others.

You don’t need money, pedigree, or skills to get started.  You just start. Get stuck along the way? Google is a powerful tool. Want a roadmap? Try Location Rebel.

Tristan makes web themes.

Liz is a freelance writer.

Derek teaches people how to write copy.

Dane and Andy help people build software businesses.

Steve helps people get in shape.

I could go on like this for days, telling stories of amazing people who get to live life on their terms, help other people, and make more money than they would at a day job.

The statement “When I grow up I want to be a millennial” is flawed in the sense that – you don’t have to be a millennial to do this stuff.  I’ve seen everyone from teenagers to retirees recognizing what’s possible simply be using technology to solve a problem.

It doesn’t have t be risky.  You can start these things while continuing to work a day job, touring around as a musician, or collecting unemployment.

It’s great to see Max and his lifestyle getting some credit – but the reality is, it’s not that unique. And frankly, if he got a little more creative, he’d be able to support his music with a business rather than odd jobs.

So who do I want to be when I retire? I guess I just want to be me.

What do you think about this? Agree? Disagree?

Rain San Martin November 22, 2013 at 7:40 am

Agreed. Lets remove the boundaries of age! We should not limit the possibilities of life as we grow older.


Leigh November 22, 2013 at 8:26 am

Absolutely agree!

At the moment I am travelling around Europe and earning money from SEO writing, something that I never would have even heard of it I didn’t join Location Rebel.

Admittedly, I don’t earn much at the moment but what I do earn is paying for my accommodation and food each week as I travel and I’m currently working on building some niche sites that I’m hoping in the long run will support my lifestyle and give me a bit more financial security.


Sean November 22, 2013 at 10:02 am

See I look at this and I think of this as “successful”. You’re doing exactly what you need to support the life you want. When what you want changes, then you can put more effort into the work, but for now, it’s awesome to hear that you’re doing your thing :)


Vincent Nguyen November 22, 2013 at 8:30 am

Agreed! I’ve only been in the Philippines working with Justin and Joe for a bit under three weeks but already I’m seeing how unconventional can give you the world. There are entrepreneurs and amazing thinkers who understand success can be more than just a “stable” job in an office. It can be working from the beach whenever you want or working 2 hours a day.


Misty Spears November 22, 2013 at 8:41 am

I agree, age has nothing to do with it. When I was in my 20s, I DID have to worry about money. I had 3 kids by the time I was 25. Responsibilities have nothing to do with age, but more about life choices. I am one year away from being 40 now, and am in a place where I have financial security. I have a great 6 figure salary job..but it’s a job. 9-5 Monday thru Friday job. Am I financially secure? Absolutely. Am I happy and satisfied with where I am in life? No.

My responsibilities now that I am older, are far less than they were at 25. To be honest, I am glad I am working on creating my own business now rather than at 25. I am wiser now, and like you mentioned, the resources available to me now is so much greater than it was 15 years ago. You just didn’t hear about this stuff back then. You were expected to go to college, get a job, raise a family, vacation in Florida and other standard boring things. I wanted it back then, I don’t anymore.

I want to start living my life on my own terms as well. I don’t care if it’s unique, or ground breaking, I just want it to be me and what I want to do.


Jessica November 22, 2013 at 8:58 am

This: “Because we grew up in a different world than those before us. We grew up in a world where if you come up with a solution to a problem, you have an unbelievable amount of resources at your disposal to spread that solution and create an asset for yourself, while potentially helping thousands of others.”

Also, we’re growing up in a world where the “real jobs” aren’t offering enough in the way of pay and benefits to provide the same type of lifestyle our parents were able to enjoy. Many of these “real jobs” have been shipped overseas or have been eliminated altogether by technology. I think that more and more young adults are taking the path less traveled because there aren’t many other options. I wonder what else Max would do if he wasn’t a musician? All of the butthurt individuals commenting on that article assume that he’d be able to find a traditional job that would offer a comfortable lifestyle, but statistics show that wouldn’t be likely.

tl;dr : Young people are starting their own businesses and pursuing nontraditional careers in greater numbers, perhaps due to a systemic lack of opportunities in “traditional” careers. So I don’t understand why people are begrudging them for finding success and happiness along the way.


Sean November 22, 2013 at 10:04 am

I think this is a really good point, not only are the “real jobs” harder to come by, but they aren’t nearly as rewarding or fulfilling. Many people aren’t doing this out of choice, but rather out of necessity, and coming out better in the end anyway.


Kyle Derstler November 22, 2013 at 9:06 am

After coming across that article last week I was blown away by its awesomeness. It is refreshing to see someone that has been deemed successful in the eyes of the outside world make such a claim. The truth is, as you alluded to above, the definition of success is changing and I am thankful for that. My whole life I have been told getting a degree, having a house, raising a family, and working a 9-5 is what my definition of success should look like. Not that those are horrible things, but the definition of success should not be a one path fits all ideal. Unfortunately I allowed myself to let others define what being successful means to me and that was a mistake. The important thing is that I realize that now, but what is even more critical is making sure I begin to do the things that push me towards what true success means to me and not further away from it.


Financial Samurai November 22, 2013 at 10:09 am

The thesis of the NYT article is good, and like the Mexican Fisherman parable and banker.

The question really is on the future of what happens when responsibility for others kicks in.

The internet has made life easier for us, and for that I’m grateful!


Eliot Wilson November 22, 2013 at 10:18 am

It’s been pretty obvious for a number of years that success is a personal measuring stick and nobody should have the same idea of success as the man next to him. This hasn’t changed since the beginning of time. Only ignorant people (or maybe the lemmings you encountered who critiqued you on your lifestyle) would deny this. That being said, having a steady paycheck, a vacation a year and a few houses is still a perfectly acceptable and in fact desirable type of success. The only difference from 20 years ago is that this type of success is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve.


Sean November 22, 2013 at 10:23 am

Eliot, couldn’t agree more. For the people that still want a steady paycheck/vacation/houses that is awesome. That’s not a bad life at all, as long as it makes you happy. The only concerns I have is there are a lot of people who never actually stop to ask the question “what will make ME happy.”


Pam November 22, 2013 at 11:35 am

I have been examining the definition of sucess, while asking myself what do I really want?

I have to admit, I have had “the grass is always greener” envy over those with stable, full time jobs doing what they were trained for. I have not been so lucky. For reasons too complex to get into, I have been cronically underemployed my whole life. Even with 2 degrees.

Now, at 47, I seem to be completely invisible to the world when it comes to job hunting. I’ve all but given up. I’m starting to think that my only chance of survival is to create something for myself, which is what I’ve always wanted all along. But the romance of the “stability” seems to always pull me away. Yet I am shocked as I start to speak to those that I envied. The grass wasn’t really all that green after all.

I suppose for me, the best question to ask myself is what are my priorities? and what am I willing to do to have that happen?

It is not my parents’ world anymore. My Dad is a first generation Canadian who was very successful by traditional standards. The hardest part for me is to redefine sucess as it pertains to my standards, and stop chasing something that I think I “should” have. And start going after that which I really want.


Victor Agina November 22, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Hi Sean,

Once again this is a great piece from the extract on the NYT. I have been following your blog posts and I must thank you for affecting my live. I hope to affect the lives of others as well.

For me I believe one can be termed successful when he does the things that gives him joy and happiness, walking through a laid down path that when you wake up every morning you are elated and just want to do more. You are also successful when you can make a positive impact on the lives of people from the kind of life you live. For me Sean I will say you are successful, you have touched a life here.

I kept a day job for 3 years, I was underpaid and was made to do the most irksome duties on the job. The Company got bankrupt and my appointment was terminated. Did I freak out? NO I did not, it felt like a heavy burden was lifted off my head because I had wanted to quit but wasn’t sure if I could sustain myself. The realities of life set in and life went on… I found your blog and got motivated to start my own blog here http://www.victoragina.com

I would love you to take a look at it and also any other person who would want to give me a review and critic.



Helen November 22, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Great article thank you. I completely agree about the changing job landscape but feel that young peoples definition of success if lagging behind this change and possibly won’t catch up for another generation (once they have seen how the alternative path can pan out). Really well timed as I am one of those who is quite trapped by the traditional definition of success and therefore finding it difficult to judge my recent decisions. I have just taken a sabbatical from work to pursue freelance work and really work out what I want to do next. Thanks for your thoughts, really helping me to see things from a different perspective.


Floris November 22, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Nice to read about some like minded people.

Stable has never been my thing. but anyhow stable jobs are not stable anymore.

Going your own direction normally brings you more (both financially and with happiness etc.) then following the crowd. It defenitely brings me more.

Put your money where your heart is:
Why would you buy a big car, which you can only drive some hours in the weekend. Because the rest of the week you are staring at it while standing under your office window.

How much do you really earn.
Take your net income and then subtract cost for unwinding, getting some fun or meaning of live in the weekend and costs for get aways.
You will notice that your are poorer then the guy earning half of you with a laptop ‘on the beach’


Scott November 22, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Sean inspired me as well to FINALLY just head to the airport…

…and this is just the first couple of weeks!

Thanks Sean. Scott


Michael Ten November 22, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Great post Sean. Maybe Generation Y isn’t really suffering all that much, or at least we don’t have to be.


Chas November 23, 2013 at 12:50 am

If I were not in agreement, I would not continue returning to your blog. I am glad that you pointed out that it is not a generational thing to have the desire to live life on your terms. (Great article you linked to, by the way). “Oh, yeah, that’s right. That’s what’s it’s all about, all right. But, talkin’ about it and bein’ it, that’s two different things. I mean, it’s real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace. Of course, don’t ever tell anybody that they’re not free, ’cause then they’re gonna get real busy killin’ and maimin’ to prove to you that they are. Oh, yeah, they’re gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom. But they see a free individual, it’s gonna scare ‘em.”~ Jack Nicholson (the character, George Hanson, in ‘Easy Rider’).
I like this definition of ‘success’.~
“He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who has left the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who has never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty or failed to express it; who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had; whose life was an inspiration; whose memory a benediction. ” ~Bessie Stanley, 1905, commonly misattributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson.


Jan Koch November 23, 2013 at 6:16 am

Couldn’t agree more with you Sean.
In fact, I’m having this discussion with my family right now. I quit my job in order to build my business and right now I’m making some money building websites – whereas residual income is the goal.

It’s a generation conflict (I’m 24). My parents where told to “get good grades, work hard and get a safe job”. Now we have the situation that jobs aren’t safe anymore. At least most jobs aren’t. So we need to build something on our own and to take control over our income – otherwise we won’t achieve the lifestyle of retired millionaires (or just pay the bills).

This time is the first time ever, that people can build something great out of nothing with just a PC and the Internet. Older generations have a hard time understanding this, my parents luckily support me even though they don’t get what I’m doing.

I think mindset is a very huge part in this puzzle. We (the entrepreneurs) have to keep going, even though being told that what we’re doing won’t last.



Naveen November 24, 2013 at 12:12 am

While on the subject of being successful, thought I’ll share an interesting read: http://teremity.wordpress.com/2013/10/02/21-ways-rich-people-think-differently/


Jackson Anderson November 24, 2013 at 12:28 am

Awesome post Sean and I’m also glad you linked the original post, it was extremely refreshing to see someone from an older generation acknowledging his sons achievements and not all on the basis of a college degree and financial stability!

With every post comes more fuel to the fire to create my own sustainable business. Coming up to my 2 month blogging mark at end of Nov, guest posts to start publishing and the pitches for paid work!

When I make all of this work and build my own lifestyle I have absolutely no doubt I’ll want “to be me” too when I retire :)

Thanks for a great post!



Tristan November 24, 2013 at 5:32 am

Great to see some further discussion on that post. I read it and thought it was interesting, suspecting full well that many would chime in to comment on the apparent unsustainability.

I think there are so many people out there now who can have the freedom and the financial stability and the lifestyle if they really want it (like your examples above). We’re fortunate to have many things the previous generation didn’t have.

For me, it’s about always moving forward. Whether I’m in an office, a cafe, on the beach or somewhere else, I think we always need to be moving forward – this could mean learning something new, building up skills, building business, making money, meeting new people, or something else. And I think you can move forward from anywhere, without necessarily running out of money or resources.

So — cool post and liking the discussion :)


KM Lee November 24, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Hello Sean,

Thanks for sharing such an inspirational post.

As the wise man once said: “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”

If you can provide value to people (or) help people to solve their problems, you’ll make money.


Joseph Watson November 24, 2013 at 10:05 pm

It’s important to have retirement plans which enable one live comfortable life after retirement. Your suggestions are quite nice and give a positive vision towards life after retirement.


eyeandpen November 26, 2013 at 7:06 am

I agree! Success can be a number of things! I really like your suggestions. Implementing them will allow one to progress to a comfortable living situation upon retirement.


Sean November 29, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Hi Sean,

Thanks for the info on the NYT article. It was cool to read the words of the father, he is definitely the exception.

I found it interesting that you were berated by your peers who don’t “get it.” I would have assumed this sentiment was exclusive to my generation. I retired at 43 from a career, and a lifestyle, that I couldn’t imagine grinding out for another 20 plus years. I was called many names by my peers and family.

Both generations are stuck in the mire of social norms. We are expected to follow a well-worn road, and if we deviate from this route we subject ourselves to the ridicule by the masses.

I believe that Boomers feel trapped by their successes and don’t know how to get themselves free. The irony is they have an opportunity to combine financial assets, social assets, and knowledge assets and create something amazing, but they are stuck in an old worldview.


Jules December 3, 2013 at 2:44 am

hey sean!

when you make it to munich, germany and you have time give a buzz… would be awesome to buy you that beer. left the States at 21 after graduation and have been enjoying Munich ever since with 14 straight Oktoberfests and counting! stay safe and keep enjoying life!



Chris December 7, 2013 at 11:56 am

This is “validation” for all those who are living the internet lifestyle. I’m pretty sure that if any of us, no matter the current conditions, if work enough and smart enough can make it big on the Internet.

Think about it. Each of us need each others’ services (in a certain degree).

Chris needs a coder to help him with his blog. Joe is good coder. However, Joe needs someone to guide him with his diet. Chris can just do that because he’s an expert on diet…

I’m really sure you all get the point!


Fernando Raymond December 16, 2013 at 6:13 am

Amazing article Sean. Something I’ve decided ever since I read you first days of starting this blog. I’ve finally taken the plug and moved to London where I live now running my web services and SEO company while traveling whenever I want. It’s been a great decision I made and your blog has always been place where me my team members come to read on a weekly Babs. I invite anyone who is on the same path to connect with my on http://www.fernandobiz.com or join my on Facebook and be connected in the journey.


Casey December 20, 2013 at 10:48 pm

Hey Sean,

Thanks for waiting while I read the NYTimes article, it makes me think, did you read it? Because I think a big point the author is making is that it’s not about money, it’s about finding what gives your life meaning. Just because you don’t work a 9-5 doesn’t mean you’re not miserable, and just because you do doesn’t mean your life doesn’t have meaning. I think the broader point is that we derive meaning from many aspects of our lives. Traveling doesn’t make us happy anymore than technology makes us happy. I think it’s great that you’ve helped people discover careers that they’re happier in, but I think it’s a mistake to think that work is the only part of life that matters. You mentioned that you’ve played a lot of golf and you make music and you don’t even work that much, but all this is doing in is contributing to other people’s status anxiety. If I like my work, but don’t get to appreciate my hobbies, am I doing it wrong? What if I play golf everyday, but hate my job? My point is that telling people they can have it all does them a disservice, when in reality, you and your clients are outliers. I think instead we need to change the terms of “success,” e.g. you tout your 150k income and playing the guitar everyday as success. Maybe success is coming home every day and taking care of your elderly mother, or making a meal for your family. Maybe it’s liking your co-workers, if not your job. Maybe it’s not having health insurance, but being able to go on a 10 mile run at anytime in the day.

And this is ignoring the fact that many, many people in this country have not been giving the privileges that have endowed our success. Food on the table, an education, the internet. Your success addresses a narrow portion of the population.

Many of us millenials might not reach the same standard of living as our parents. And you know what? That’s okay. What’s more important is that we have each other. We have our parents, and they have us. That’s greater than any individual benchmark


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