A Hollywood producer spent over a year figuring out why millennials all want to retire early, and the reason should worry the rest of us

Travis Shakespeare produced the documentary ‘Playing with FIRE,’ about the community pursuing financial independence and early retirement. Courtesy of Travis Shakespeare
  • Early retirement is picking up steam because younger people are panicking about the future, according to a Hollywood producer who recently directed a documentary on early retirement.
  • The Emmy nominee Travis Shakespeare said the “social safety nets” of Social Security and healthcare programs were evolving and could be “in jeopardy,” encouraging more young people to take control of their lives by retiring early.
  • This aligns with the various reasons early retirees have told Business Insider they retired early, none of which have to do with money.

Retiring early may evoke dreams of whiling away the days on the beach, but that’s not the biggest reason it has become so appealing.

Instead, early retirement is picking up steam because younger people are experiencing a general panic about the future – at least, according to the Emmy-nominated Hollywood producer Travis Shakespeare, who recently directed the documentary “Playing with FIRE.”

The film follows a 30-something couple navigating the financial independence and early retirement, or FIRE, community and explores the trend through conversations with more than a dozen early retirees.

“Because of the internet, and we’re constantly bombarded with all these information all day every day, there’s a sense of insecurity about the future – I think greater than we probably have ever had as a society,” Shakespeare said in a recent podcast with Brandon of The Mad Fientist, who retired early at age 34.

He added that the “social safety nets” of Social Security and healthcare programs were evolving and could be “in jeopardy.”

How close are you to being able to retire? Find out with this calculator from our partners:

He continued: “Also, the financial-services community – I was about to get conspiratorial – they have forced the individual into a position of responsibility with their own financial future. And we are woefully unprepared to face that because we don’t teach financial literacy to anybody.”

Instead, he said, American culture has taught society to be consumers under the belief that you make money to spend it. “And that’s a lie,” Shakespeare said.

“So, there’s a sense that all of these is just crumbling I think,” he said. “And so the idea of being able to have some control and some knowledge and some agency over one’s own life I think is very attractive.”

This notion isn’t far from the various reasons that early retirees have listed to Business Insider about why they retired early – none of which have anything to do with money.

“Money has been the primary motivator for my entire adult life, but now that I have enough, I’ve had to find new sources of motivation,” Brandon previously told Business Insider.

Grant Sabatier, who retired at age 30 with $US1.25 million and is featured in Shakespeare’s documentary, has said financial independence has always been about time, not money. In a post published on Business Insider, he said time becomes more valuable as we age because we have less of it left.

“If you view money as the goal, then you miss the point,” he wrote. “Money is infinite, but time is not.”

He added: “To me, early retirement simply meant having enough money so that I didn’t have to worry about money and could finally follow my passions and find new passions.”

This exemplifies the desire for control over one’s life that Shakespeare spoke of. But will this desire be enough to inspire people to push back against the standard narrative and jump into early retirement?

As Shakespeare puts it, “I think that would be radical if we could get 10% of the broad population on board with what we’re up to here.”