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EDITOR’S TAKE: Early retirement is not sad; it may be pointless

Today’s lengthy Treasury Committee Report on bonuses (more on which will be coming soon), contains an interesting statement from Mervyn King, who aged 61 is still working very hard as the Governor of the Bank of England.

Having spoken to various bankers, King makes the following observation –

One of the things I found somewhat distressing about the lives of many people who worked in the City was that so many of them thought that the purpose of a bonus and compensation was to give them a chance to leave the City, to do something they really wanted to do, having built up enough money to give them the financial independence to do it. I think that is rather sad.

Is this really so sad though? King’s been at the Bank of England for 18 years and shows little sign of retiring. He’s therefore not the best person to empathise with the aim of working hard until your mid-40s in order to escape the shackles of a mortgages, school fees, and pension payments.

The bigger issue in pursuing a life of leisure may be that it’s not as appealing as it seems when you’re putting in 12 hour days. Last summer, Geraint Anderson, the former Dresdner researcher turned Cityboy complained that hanging out in London parks in the rain wasn’t very exciting after all.

If you aspire to retire young, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs may signpost your route to fulfillment. It is not to be found in Hyde Park.

After catering for physiological and security requirements, Maslow implies that former bankers should set about repairing damaged relationships, seeking the respect of others, and ultimately ‘actualizing’ themselves by fulfilling all their capabilities whilst being philsophical and pleasant in the process.

Having made an undisclosed amount of money writing about his indulgences at Dresdner, Anderson now appears to be going down this route. He writes

“I [am] determined after 12 years of ‘sinning’ as a stockbroker that I now needed to engage in 12 years of ‘repentance’,

Unfortunately, this also makes retiring early from the City sound a bit pointless. ‘Repentance’ has unappealing overtones. It’s better, surely, to spend 24 years earning money for something you enjoy, and then be done with it.

Comments (17)

  1. Philosophical??

    Merchant Banker Reply
  2. Like many people I worked hard made a fair amount of money left and had my dream – I owned a nightclub full of young people with an ex pop star as my manager.
    The only problem was i had nothing in common with the people i worked with and 2 years later i was back woring in the city as a contractor happily chatting to people with a reasonable intelligence .

  3. Merchant banker – It’s Friday. Good to inject a little philosophy before the weekend.

    Sarah, Editor, eFinancialCareers Reply
  4. Very (very) long article on what makes people happy in this month’s Atlantic. They followed a large group of Harvard grads for *72* years, including JFK, interviewing them periodically. Fascinating stuff although doesn’t break them down by front office / back office.

  5. Any article that mentions that clown Geraint Anderson cannot be taken seriously.

  6. Sarah, I guess the need for an injection of philosophy depends on how you intend to spend the weekend. That aside, I empathise with Kings’ point of view. Actually, it probably is disturbing if the vast majority of people working in the financial sector cannot visualise their careers as long term (you could run a survey on that), and rather see it as quick means to an end. In fact, it is rather worrying.
    On the other hand, no sensible person with a balance view of life would want to spend 15hrs a day from home, swaping the company of their loved ones for the company of some egotistic moron, who believes you owe him your life because he’s your boss.
    This points to a wider issue at stake, i.e. the financial sector discourages the notion of a long term career. Simply put, you cannot work 15hrs a day for 40yrs. The question is whether the employers in the financial sector feel they’ll benefit from staff with a vast amount of experience, as opposed to some young workhorse who’ll last for 15 years.

  7. i will take the money thank you very much

  8. Niv – I intend to spend the weekend ruminating on the meaning of life. It helps that I’ve lost my voice.

    I agree that banks would be better off if their employees didn’t treat them as get rich quick schemes. But from an individual’s perspective it’s not necessarily sad to want to retire early, as long as you have a good idea what you want to do. It’s silly to work hard for 15 years and end up with no relationship, no life, and a guilty feeling that you haven’t done anything valuable and need to make amends.

    The very, very long article that damiendamien refers to above makes the interesting point that the happiest people are the most psychologically balanced.

    It says (as far as I can gather from skimming it) that this comes from learning ‘mature defences’ such as altruism, humor, anticipation (looking ahead and planning for future discomfort), suppression (a conscious decision to postpone attention to an impulse or conflict, to be addressed in good time), and sublimation (finding outlets for feelings, like putting aggression into sport, or lust into courtship) from difficult times in life…

    Sarah, Editor, eFinancialCareers Reply
  9. Thanks Sarah and damiendamien, I’ll check out that article……. I like the sound of channelling lust into courtship

  10. I second the idea of channelling lust into courtship.

    Recently I had been out of work for six weeks during the Christmas and New Year break (I am now working for a Hedge Fund). Whilst initially I enjoyed the time away from the office and, in fact, being able to be alone all day, I soon came to realise that a balanced life is critical to preventing severe moods of depression.

    Indeed on many occasions I found happiness in reading. But reading from 8am to 8pm each day does not constitute a balanced lifestyle. Add the lack of any social contact and the result is a lifestyle that is likely to lead you to a state of depression.

  11. I will be channelling my lust this weekend.

    Sirius the horn Reply
  12. i have been channelling my lust all afternoon

  13. @Analyst

    After a number months resting I feel I’m ready to get back in the game. Care to name the fund which was hiring or is that secret?

  14. I dilute everything I read in these comments to 30% of it’s original concentration, then and only then is the inner ‘me’ prepared to accept them at all. Just saying.

  15. It’s not just the City! It’s London that’s awful!! I can hardly find a decent place to hang out with my wife. It’s expensive, the tube is terrible and it’s dangerous. Except for a handful or rigiculously overpriced coctail bars and clubs there’s nothing to do. I can’t wait to go back to my sunny country. One more year!! I don’t think I could survive two more in this miserable place!! The money is (actually used to be) good though.

  16. Many of my colleagues would love to get out of the city, but they feel like they’re not qualified to do anything else. Fear keeps them in London as they feel they have no value to add elsewhere…it might be true in some cases, but not all. Mind you, few are in a position to retire early!
    Also…Bill, “one more year” is what I said to myself in 2002. Ooof!

  17. But I mean it!!!

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