The down side is I work 10-12 hour days, but I get a performance bonus between 400k and 800k every year. I'm hoping I can retire in my late 30's, but I do miss out on a lot of time with my son and I always ask myself is it really worth it... Who know's though, I'm going to ride out the HFT route as long as it exists.
Also anecdotally I know several people who planned/hoped to retire in their late 30s/early 40s. None of them did and are still working now in their 50s and even one in their 60s. Mixture of reasons from health problems in the family to financial issues to just not knowing wtf to do when not working now their kids are adults and living their own lives.
I wasn't able to stop. Applied my savings in day trading, everything went well until 2009 happened and most of it washed away. Applied what remained on the tuition of a top university to up my academic credentials and then went on try other tech industries (e.g. aerospace). Today have a small startup (Europe). Life is hard (empty bank account at the end of the month) but the plus side is that your brain keeps active.
If you really like writing technology, in my opinion it gets difficult to stop doing what you naturally enjoy doing.
You could develop software to largely automate the municipal bureaucracy of a village in your nation. It takes a surprising amount of paperwork, and manual labor, to perform even the minimal amount of compliance work to maintain a village.
You could work with leaders in each tax levying jurisdiction to agree to publish tax data in a standard online format.
You could develop a backyard automated chicken coop, Creative Commons the plans and see what improvements everyone else comes up with.
You could develop a vanadium redox battery-powered lawn light, and save landfills from the garbage disposable lights the big box stores inflict upon us today.
There is simply an endless sea of opportunities to imbue life around you with increased cognitive density.
My head fills with an idea or two every day (usually about improving something I run across in daily life), that acts like an earworm, which I have to write down to "purge out of my mind". It got much "worse" with the advent of search engines; when I was "stuck" with school/university libraries, I would often run into dead ends researching ideas, and could quell the earworms with the thought that I gave an honest effort to run down a thread of an idea. I thought everyone thought like this, but was just better at focusing upon the task at hand and banishing these idle thoughts. I much prefer the situation today with search engines: I'm much faster at running down enough of an idea and putting it into writing to purge it out than before.
"Man's Search for Meaning" by Frankl graphically illustrates the importance of having a sense of purpose, which I think a lot of people lack when they retire to live the dream of doing nothing.
I think the key is to be able to choose not to have to work for some asshole boss, or do work you don't generally enjoy.
I've become very disillusioned by the dream of insane wealth and the ability to retire early. Instead, I want to work on something I feel will make a difference and that interests me for the foreseeable future.
"The habit of thinking in terms of comparisons is a fatal one. When anything pleasant occurs it should be enjoyed to the fun, without stopping to think that it is not so pleasant as something else that may possibly be happening to someone else.
With the wise man, what he has does not cease to be enjoyable because someone else has something else. Envy, in fact, is one form of a vice, partly moral, partly intellectual, which consists in seeing things never in themselves, but only in their relations. I am earning, let us say, a salary sufficient for my needs. I should be content, but I hear that someone else whom I believe to be in no way my superior is earning a salary twice as great as mine. Instantly, if I am of an envious disposition, the satisfactions to be derived from what I have grows dim, and I begin to be eaten up with a sense of injustice.
For all this the proper cure is mental discipline, the habit of not thinking profitless thoughts. After all, what is more enviable than happiness? And if I can cure myself of envy I can acquire happiness and become enviable. The man who has double my salary is doubtless tortured by the thought that someone else in turn has twice as much as he has, and so it goes on. If you desire glory, you may envy Napoleon. But Napoleon envied Caesar, Caesar envied Alexander, and Alexander, I daresay, envied Hercules, who never existed. You cannot, therefore, get away from envy by means of success alone, for there will always be in history or legend some person even more successful than you are. You can get away from envy by enjoying the pleasures that come your way, by doing the work that you have to do, and by avoiding comparisons with those whom you imagine, perhaps quite falsely, to be more fortunate than yourself."
My aim is not to work for someone else, so I can decide to spend my limited time doing what makes me happy. When I'm getting paid peanuts there is no prospect of being able to have that choice.
I find it very difficult to just try to be happy with whatever "the man" has decided he wants me to do today.
But you're absolutely right; it's not enough to "just try to be happy." I may be reading too far between the lines - apologies if I am, but it could be that you need to start looking for new opportunities. That said, even if you are mostly happy where you are, the best way to get a substantial raise is to have another job offer in-hand. It's the clearest signal there is to your employer what the job market thinks your value is (as opposed to what you think it is). This is where networking comes in.
Ultimately, it comes down to the question, "What can you control?" You can control how much value you provide (how hard you work, what you work on, how much initiative you take, ...). You can control your living expenses (cheaper rent, home cooking, no partying, no tv/video games, ...). You can control how you spend your free time / what you learn about in your free time (How much do you know about investing? Tax law? Corporate/economic/governmental trends?) Anything you can't control, is not worth fretting over.
At the end of the day, beating the system is hard fucking work. Sometimes it seems like the universe conspires against you, and others, if you have the mental clarity to see it, it hands you golden opportunities. I'm not "there" yet, but in my experience, confidence and positivity are the first steps. (I quote "there" because as Emerson and others have said, "Life is a journey, not a destination." And that applies equally to happiness.)
Anyways, hopefully there's something in there that's helpful :)
> You can control how you spend your free time / what you learn about in your free time (How much do you know about investing? Tax law? Corporate/economic/governmental trends?)
Good advice, there is always stuff to learn. It feels like my problem is that work drains so much out of me that I am too tired/unmotivated to do anything else when I get home. I know it's a discipline issue but that doesn't make it easier. It's hard to come from a day spent working "for the man", straight into more work for yourself at night.
Good luck, I hope we both end up beating the system.
Without really knowing what you want in the long term to make you happy, it's gonna be a struggle to figure out how to get to that point in your life. :)
I'm not 100% sure, because I haven't lived it, but I'm pretty sure I don't need that much. I like quiet and space, the city's not for me. I need a very quiet property quite far from the hustle and bustle (and goddamn leafblowers!). Also a couple of thousand per year for gadgets/technology. I'm a people person but I hate the fakeness and superficial contact with people that seems to come with jobs in the city ("how are you today?" grrrr), so I feel like a sour puss most of the time, which is actually not my personality so it feels dissonant.
At the end of the day I've just kept the machine running for another day. I work in an important industry, so my job is indirectly important, but I can't ever point to a physical thing that I've created or a particular person that I've helped, and most people don't even understand what I have achieved. I think that makes me feel a bit empty. It's just other people's problems all day with a lot of irritating bureaucracy and "professionalism" but a bag of money attached.
Maybe I'm just lazy but I don't want to work as some people seem to. I have many hobbies that could easily occupy all my time, so I don't feel I need work to be happy. I have heard about studies that say that people are happier working but I really don't think that I am (or maybe I just haven't found the work that makes me happy yet).
Unfortunately I haven't worked out how to make an income away from the city yet, but I have thought about quitting and getting any menial job I can find in the country because the rents are cheap in rural areas. Just can't bring myself to pull the trigger, my current job has a lot of pluses and good pay, and I'm not sure if I could come back to the IT industry if I did ever want to after leaving and getting behind.
But who knows? Maybe after a couple of years with a quiet rural lifestyle I'd miss the city. I don't think so though...
I hope you found something else to do that you enjoy/get paid appropriately for.